Late Thursday morning, Scott Darling’s time with the Carolina Hurricanes came to an end, for now. It has been a horrible start to the season for Darling, who was out for a large chunk of games at the start of year with a lower-body injury. In seven starts, he has a record of 2-4-1, with a 3.14 goals against and an .892 save percentage.
For the most part this season, Carolina’s crease has been occupied by former Detroit Red Wing Petr Mrazek, and former Toronto Maple Leaf Curtis McElhinney, during Darling’s lengthy absence. McElhinney in particular has been excellent so far for this season. He is 7-2-0, with a 2.12 goals against and a .930 save percentage. Very impressive stuff from the 35 year-old, who was waived by Toronto at the start of the season.
I don’t think anyone saw McElhinney having this kind of a start. He was essentially a place holder until Darling got healthy again, but with the way this NHL season has gone so far, everyone’s predictions went right out the door. McElhinney is a big part of why the Hurricanes are over-achieving with 27 points in 24 games, and currently sitting in fourth place in the Metropolitan Division.
The Hurricanes had high expectations in Darling after three solid seasons of backing up Corey Crawford in Chicago. In 2016-17, the 29 year-old went 18-5-5, with a 2.38 goals against and a .924 save percentage as a member of the Blackhawks. So, he earned a big ticket in May of last year with the Hurricanes, signing a four-year, $16.6 million-dollar contract to be the guy between the pipes in Carolina. Darling struggled last season going 13-21-7, with a 3.18 goals against and an .888 save percentage, as the Hurricanes failed to make the playoffs.
This deal looked worse then, and even more so now. It’s no surprise that he cleared waivers with his $4.15 million-dollar cap hit, and is back with Carolina’s AHL affiliate the Charlotte Checkers. Darling will get lots of reps in Charlotte, in order to get his game back and hopefully make a return to the Hurricanes later this season.
On Friday (November 16th, 2018), the Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers completed a one-for-one swap, as Peter Chiarelli and the Oilers sent Ryan Strome to Jeff Gorton’s Rangers, in exchange for Ryan Spooner. Not only do these two forwards share the same name, but they each have only one goal and one helper so far this season.
This isn’t the first time that these two players are searching for a fresh start. In June 2017, Strome was dealt by his draft team, the New York Islanders to Edmonton, in exchange for five-time, 20 goal-scorer Jordan Eberle. A deal that clearly didn’t work out for the Oilers, who saw Eberle pot 25 goals and 59 points in 81 games with the Islanders last season. While Strome played a full 82 games, but only scored 13 times and finished with 34 points. However, he still received a two-year extension this summer by the Oilers, at a cap hit of $3.1 million.
The same goes for Ryan Spooner. On February 25th, the Ottawa native was dealt by the Boston Bruins to the New York Rangers, along with forward Matt Beleskey, prospect Ryan Lindgren, a 2018 first-rounder and a 2019 seventh-rounder, in exchange for forward Rick Nash. A rental pick-up for the Bruins upcoming playoff run last season. Spooner was a big part of this deal, heading back to the rebuilding Rangers, and he proved to be exactly that.
Spooner was one of the hottest players in the NHL down the final stretch last season, putting up 16 points in the Rangers final 20 games. With that kind of production, it was a no-brainer for Jeff Gorton to ink Spooner to a two-year extension, at a cap hit of $4 million. Here we are a quarter of the way through the 2018-19 NHL season, and both players are off to new teams, looking for fresh starts for the third time in their careers.
At 25 years old, Strome will get a good opportunity to be a key contributor for the young, rebuilding New York Rangers. A team who struggled at the beginning of the season, but have been turning heads as of late, with a 6-3-1 record in their last 10, currently sitting in fourth place in the Metropolitan Division. Strome can make his Rangers debut tonight against the Florida Panthers.
Spooner on the other hand gives the Oilers options, with his ability to play in the middle and on the wing. He has the ability to score goals, which have been hard to come by so far this season for the Oilers, unless your name is Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl. Spooner will be reunited with former Bruins teammate Milan Lucic, and can make his Oilers debut on Sunday, when they face the Golden-Knights.
Maybe the saying, “third time’s the charm” will apply to both of these players.
Since the 2005 lockout, the NHL has been trying to increase the amount of goals for per game on average around the league. Well, thus far into the 2018-19 season, the NHL has gotten exactly what they wanted. There are two general streams as to why we are seeing an increase in scoring this NHL season so far. First, the mere fact that it’s October. The general argument is that there is usually an influx of scoring right out of the gate for the first month or two, then, teams begin to settle into their systems and start playing defensively down the stretch heading into the playoffs. However, the second stream takes a different approach and focuses on the shrinking of the goaltender equipment. While there are surely many other reasons for the sudden increase in NHL goals, (Casey mentions the “superstar” theory in episode 9 of the podcast) these two streams seem to be the most popular among hockey analysists at this moment in time.
Being a former goaltender, I want to focus on the second stream, which is polarizing even among netminders. The NHL has attacked the size of goaltender equipment for a while now, beginning with the leg pads in 2005-06, moving on to the pants in 2017-18, and finally, the chest protectors for the 2018-19 campaign, among other minimal changes over the years.
In 2005-06, when the NHL first introduced major restrictions to goalie gear, many goaltenders saw their statistics take a massive hit (See Wharnsby table).
Goals were up from 2.57/game in 2003-04, to 3.08/game in 2005-06. From the 2006-07 season until the 2016-17 season however, goals per game steadily declined, with a few exceptions.
In 2017-18, the NHL reduced the size of goaltender pants, which resulted in another goal-spike, from 2.77/game in 2016-17 to 2.97/game in 2017-18.
This year (through just 77 games played I will add) goals have again spiked. Players are scoring 3.15/game thus far in the 2018-19 campaign, the highest rate of scoring the NHL has seen since the 1995-96 season...before I was even born (See Hockey Reference table). That year, Mario Lemieux led the league with 69 goals, while 8 players, including Mario, potted 50 goals or more. Wow. Last season, Alex Ovechkin led the league with just 49 goals. However, some feel as though this year will be different for the NHL.
Some goalies are on-board with the gear changes, which have been designed to reward athletic goaltenders rather than ‘blocking’ goaltenders. Guys like Cory Schneider and Fredrik Andersen have openly accepted the challenge of the new gear, and Andersen was quoted in saying, "If I'm relying on that extra inch, I'm in trouble already” (Joshua Clipperton).
Other goaltenders, on the other hand, have been openly opposed to the new equipment changes. Guys like Connor Hellebuyck and Brian Elliot have raised safety concerns, and Elliot was quoted in saying, “I’m getting bruised like crazy” (Rory Boylen).
Whatever the reason may be, goals are going in like crazy this season. Through just 7 games played, NHL goal-leader Auston Matthews has netted 10 bing-pots (Brooklyn Nine Nine fans will get that one) and is on pace for 117 goals and 188 points… Now, I am willing to bet that he won’t even scratch the surface of those totals, but the bottom line is, more goals are going in, and hockey is as exciting as ever. This might even be the season we see multiple 50 goal-scorers, and potentially, a 60 goal-scorer or two, who knows.
Harper Cotie and Chad Melbourne
The 2018-19 National Hockey League season is now underway for the Buffalo Sabres. A new culture and attitude has set in with the Sabres as they look to finally turn things around. After a disappointing home-opening performance, losing 4-0 to the Boston Bruins last week, the Sabres bounced back and took down the winless New York Rangers by a score of 3-1.
Think back to January 24, 2013. Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” was topping the charts, the movie “Zero Dark Thirty” was just released, and Jack Eichel was still playing for the under-18 U.S. development team. January 24, 2013 was also the last time the Sabres had a record of over .500. Wow. However, an afternoon game against the Vegas Golden-Knights at Key Bank Center in Buffalo changed. The Sabres put on a strong performance in front of their home crowd, edging the Golden-Knights by a final score of 4-2.
Newly named captain, Jack Eichel, led the way with two highlight-reel goals, and Carter Hutton had a 35-save performance between the pipes. Defenseman Marco Scandella and forward Jason Pominville also chipped in with goals of their own. With an above .500 record for the first time in over five years, this is a sign that things are finally turning around in Buffalo. This franchise needed a culture change and they sure got it this off-season.
The Sabres parted ways with a couple of core players this offseason, losing guys like Ryan O’Reilly and Robin Lehner. With those two going out the door, Jason Botterill and the Sabres brought in some fresh faces: Starting with 2018 first-overall pick Rasmus Dahlin, and others like Carter Hutton, Jeff Skinner, Conor Sheary and Patrick Berglund. Another important thing that the Sabres did this off-season was retain forward Sam Reinhart on a two-year bridge-deal at a bargain of $3.65 million annually.
With the new faces that the Sabres have brought in, along with a fresh-start for newly named Captain Jack Eichel and others, the Sabres will have a much-improved 2018-19 season. We may only be three games into the season, but the fact that the Sabres have a winning record already is a good start. I don’t see them making the playoffs, due to the strength of teams like Toronto, Boston, Tampa Bay and even Florida, but I don’t think the Sabres will finish far out.
We’ll see if the Sabres can keep their momentum going moving forward.
Harper Cotie and Chad Melbourne
Most of the chatter this NHL off-season has been focused on the Toronto Maple Leafs, and rightfully so. The Leafs are now legitimate Stanley Cup contenders, which is something we haven’t been able to say for a long time. In fact, earlier this week, EA Sports’ NHL 19 predicted the Leafs to hoist Lord Stanley’s mug in 2019. Mike Babcock is entering his fourth season as the Leafs Head Coach, with very high expectations for his group. The Maple Leafs’ five-year rebuild, starting in 2015-16, has gone way ahead of schedule.
In the last two seasons, the Leafs have made it to the post-season with nothing to lose. In those two seasons, they have lost in the first-round. This team surprised everyone by making the playoffs in 2016-17 when they gave the Washington Capitals a run for their money. Last season (2017-18), the Leafs fell apart in the seventh and deciding game against their Atlantic Division rival Boston Bruins, with the expectation of possibly making the second-round.
This season, those expectations have drastically changed. There was a lot of change in Leaf-land this summer. General Manager Kyle Dubas, who took over for Lou Lamoriello, landed the biggest free-agent available in John Tavares to a seven-year, $77 million-dollar contract. If you want to have success in this league, you must be deep down the middle. The Leafs now have depth in the centre-ice position with three 30 plus goal-scorers in Tavares, Matthews and Kadri. With the addition of Tavares, the Leafs couldn’t afford to hang on to veterans James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak and Leo Komarov. Not a big deal, considering the kind of player they brought in, obviously.
The Leafs are also strong on the wing, even with William Nylander out of the lineup, due to his contract hold-out situation. Team President Brendan Shanahan said that young players have to make sacrifices in order to have success and win. Hopefully the Leafs and Nylander can get something done very soon. With Nylander out of the lineup, this creates an opportunity for several talented wingers in the team’s lineup. To throw names out there, Tyler Ennis has been able to play top minutes alongside the American superstar Auston Matthews. Ennis has struggled in the last few seasons to find his game but playing on Matthews’ wing has seemed to give him new hope. Ennis was bought out this summer by the Minnesota Wild with one year remaining on his five-year, $23 million-dollar contract that he signed back in 2013, as a member of the Buffalo Sabres. He is a proven 20 goal scorer who has battled concussions throughout his career, but Dubas took a chance, and signed him to a one-year, $650,000 contract after he was bought out. This is a low risk, high reward kind of signing, especially if he gets to continue to play with the likes of Matthews.
A few days ago, the Leafs lost two, backup goaltenders due to waivers. Veteran Curtis McElhinney was claimed by the Carolina Hurricanes and Calvin Pickard was claimed by the Philadelphia Flyers. This means that 2017-18 AHL Goaltender of the year and Calder Cup Champion, Garrett Sparks, will serve as Freddy Anderson’s backup. Former Toronto Marlie Jeff Glass is returning to the AHL club, and will support Kasimir Kaskisou between the pipes for this upcoming season. While Pickard and McElhinney have been claimed by Philadelphia and Carolina respectively, there is still a chance that these players can end up back in the Maple Leafs organization. The NHL waiver process is complicated and confusing, so we won’t get into too much detail. The main thing to understand is rule 13:22 of the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement which states:
“When a Club claims a Player on Regular or Unconditional Waivers, and, subsequently, in the same season it requests Waivers on the same Player and the original owning Club is the successful and only Club making a Waiver claim, then the original owning Club shall be entitled to Loan such Player to a club in another league within thirty days without further Waivers being asked; provided that such Player has not participated in ten or more NHL Games (cumulative) and remained on an NHL roster more than thirty days (cumulative) following such successful claim” (NHL and NHLPA, 82). Link to full CBA in PDF here: http://www.nhl.com/nhl/en/v3/ext/CBA2012/NHL_NHLPA_2013_CBA.pdf
Basically, if the Flyers or Hurricanes place Pickard or McElhinney on waivers once their starting goaltenders return full-time, and the Leafs are the only team interested, then they can successfully reclaim the player and send him directly to the AHL without waivers. So, we’re not saying that the Leafs will for sure get one or both of these players back. What we are saying is, there’s a chance.
On Wednesday night, the Leafs’ downed the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 in overtime at their new Scotiabank Arena. Matthews had two goals, including the overtime winner, and Tavares notched his first as a member of the Leafs. This was a bit of an ugly win for the Leafs’ against a hungry and quick, Canadiens team. Carey Price stood on his head as usual between the pipes, along with impressive performances from Max Domi and rookie Jesperi Kotkaniemi. However, a win is a win, and we can expect the Leafs’ to have a lot of those this season. The Leafs take on the Ottawa Senators this Saturday night.
It will be interesting to see how it all plays out, but the Leafs’ are in with the group of teams who will contend for a cup in 2018-19. Ladies and gentleman, hockey is back!
Boys in the Booth co-host Casey Abrams said recently, that he feels the San Jose Sharks’ time to win a Stanley Cup is over. That thought process changed after Doug Wilson and the Sharks made the biggest move of this off-season, by acquiring defenseman Erik Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators only 11 days ago. The Sharks landed the superstar defenseman, along with prospect Francis Perron from the Senators for a big haul, obviously. The Sharks gave up forward Chris Tierney, prospects Josh Norris and Rudolfs Balcers, defenseman Dylan DeMelo, a conditional first-round pick in 2020, a conditional second-round pick in 2019, and two more conditional draft picks.
Before this trade, the Sharks had a pretty good off-season, locking up core players like Logan Couture and Evander Kane to long-term deals. Not to mention that the Sharks brought back veteran Joe Thornton on a one-year deal for less money than what he made last year and dumped a bad contract in Mikkel Boedker to, guess who, the Senators. Last season the Sharks suffered a second-round exit in the playoffs, courtesy of the Vegas Golden-Knights.
The year before, the Sharks were downed in six games by Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers. However, in 2015-16, the Sharks’ finally made it to the Stanley Cup finals under first-year Head Coach Pete DeBoer and a hot goaltender in Martin Jones, who won a Stanley Cup as Jonathan Quick’s back-up, with the Los-Angeles Kings. Looking at the Sharks ahead of the 2018-19 NHL season, now with Karlsson, the Sharks’ are a lock to win the Pacific Division in my opinion.
This team now has two Norris Trophy winning defenders in Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns. These two have also led the league in points by defenseman for the last five seasons. Karlsson joins a strong core in San Jose, with the likes of Burns, Thornton, Couture, captain Joe Pavelski, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. These guys know how to win and they’ve been close. There’s no guarantee that Karlsson will re-sign at the end of this season. It’s going to be tough to afford him, given the fact that this is a contract year for Pavelski as well.
Karlsson could very well be a rental, but as long as the Sharks’ have him, along with what they already have, there’s a serious chance that the Sharks’ could win this season. After all, it could be there last chance.
Last week, Detroit Red Wings’ captain Henrik Zetterberg called it a career. I’m sure it wasn’t the way he wanted to, but it appears that age has caught up with the 37-year-old. It was already a big question mark, with regards to whether we would see Henrik back with the Red Wings this season or not, and it was confirmed a few days ago, that we would not.
Henrik has been battling a severe back injury all summer, and ultimately that is the reason why the future hall of famer has decided to hang them up. Zetterberg had an amazing NHL career. He was a seventh-round pick (210th overall) in the 1999 entry-draft, who went on to play over a thousand games (1082), racking up 337 goals and 623 assists, for a total of 960 points. All of this happened, while wearing a Detroit Red Wings uniform.
The Red Wings’ organization has been truly blessed with some of the players they’ve had, who’ve played their entire NHL careers with the hockey club. Zetterberg is another one to add to the list, along with players like Steve Yzerman and Niklas Lidstrom, just to name a few. You must include Pavel Datsyuk as well, who may still be playing pro-hockey in the KHL in Russia but played his entire NHL career in Detroit. That’s some impressive company right there.
So, now the Red Wings must move on to life without Henrik Zetterberg. With a rebuild underway, we won’t see a Stanley Cup being won in Detroit anytime soon. The last time the Wings’ won a cup was back in the 2007-08 campaign, under Head Coach Mike Babcock, against the Pittsburgh Penguins. A team that was led by the three aforementioned superstars. As we enter the 2018-19 NHL season, the Red Wings will most likely miss the playoffs for the third-consecutive year. Who could forget that only two years ago, their 25-year playoff streak was broken.
It’s going to take time for the Red Wings’ to have success again, but they certainly have some pieces to work with. Starting with 2014 first-rounder Dylan Larkin, who will have to step up, on and off the ice, moving forward. Larkin had a career-year in points last season with 63. The 22-year-old is also fresh off a five-year extension, with a cap hit of $6.1 million. Joining Larkin are the likes of Anthony Mantha, Filip Zadina, Andreas Athanasiou, and Tyler Bertuzzi, who are all under 25-years of age.
By the looks of it, 18-year-old Filip Zadina is set to join the Red Wings for his first NHL season. Zadina was an absolute steal for the Red Wings at sixth-overall in this year’s draft. Zadina is coming off a monster season with the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL, putting up 82 points (44 goals, 38 assists), in 57 games. This is an exciting young player, who will be an integral part of the Red Wings’ future. Another steal was pulled off by Ken Holland and company at this year’s draft when they selected Joseph Veleno 30th overall. Veleno is a player who was projected to go in the top 10, at times, by NHL scouts. This young man has a bright future ahead of him. He received CHL ‘Exceptional Status’ after his rookie season in 2015-16 in the QMJHL.
The Red Wings’ 2017 first-round pick is an exciting one as well. There’s a good chance that we could see six-foot-six, 215-pound centreman Michael Rasmussen in a Red Wing’s uniform this season. It’s going to take time, but life without Henrik Zetterberg isn’t looking so bad with the young-core that the Red Wings’ have in Detroit.
Well, it’s official. On Monday, after months of rumours and speculation, Marc Bergevin and the Montreal Canadians have dealt captain Max Pacioretty to the Vegas Golden-Knights, in exchange for forward Tomas Tatar, prospect Nick Suzuki and a 2019 second-round-pick.
It was only a matter of time for Pacioretty to be moved out of Montreal. Back on June 22nd at the NHL draft in Dallas, we came close to seeing a trade. Many reports say that a three-way deal between the Montreal Canadians, the New York Islanders and the Buffalo Sabres fell through. Apparently, the Canadians would’ve acquired Ryan O’Reilly from the Sabres, in exchange for their third overall pick, and the Islanders would’ve ended up with Pacioretty. I’ll go ahead and assume that one of their (Islanders) two, first-round picks would’ve been involved.
In addition to that trade falling through, TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie reported that a deal between the Canadians and the Los-Angeles Kings fell through at the draft also. Supposedly, the reason being is that the Kings and Pacioretty couldn’t get a contract extension done. So, here we are a month and a half later, and Pacioretty is now a member of the Vegas Golden-Knights. The Canadians got a pretty good return for their captain in my opinion, despite not receiving a first-round pick.
The Canadians got a solid winger in Tomas Tatar, who the Golden-Knights gave up a boat-load for to pry him away from the rebuilding Detroit Red-Wings. At the trade deadline back in February, the Golden-Knights acquired Tatar from the Red-Wings, in exchange for a first-round pick in this year’s draft, a second-round pick in 2019, and a third-round pick in 2021. With that first-round pick in this year’s draft, the Red Wings took QMJHL stand-out Joseph Veleno at 30th overall. Tatar is a proven threat in the National Hockey League, however, as a rental, Tatar didn’t end up doing much for the Golden-Knights, throughout their playoff run to the Stanley Cup finals. He was a healthy scratch at times, only playing eight games and picking up two points. It was a career-low regular season for him as well. After coming off 25 goals and 46 points the year before, Tatar only managed to find the back of the net 16 times and register only 28 points.
Hopefully Tatar can bounce back in 2018-19 with the Canadians. Nick Suzuki was the other player in this deal going to the Canadians. A talented prospect, who was drafted 13th overall by the Golden-Knights, in their inaugural draft in 2017. The 19-year-old centreman is coming off a fabulous year of 42 goals and 100 points in 64 games with the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack. George McPhee and the Golden-Knights certainly gave up one of their best prospects in this deal. The Canadians organization and their fans can look forward to seeing Suzuki play for Team Canada at the 2019 World Juniors in Victoria and Vancouver.
The Canadians now have an exciting future in the middle of the ice, lead by 2018 first-rounder Jesperi Kotkaniemi, 2017 first-rounder Ryan Poehling, and now Nick Suzuki. On the other side, The Golden-Knights are showing that they’re ready to contend once again in 2018-19, by acquiring a proven 30 goal-scorer in Pacioretty. As of right now, George McPhee and the Golden-Knights are working on a long-term extension with Pacioretty. Stay tuned.
There are several notable unrestricted free agents (UFAs) still looking for NHL contracts, but Mike Cammalleri tops the list in my opinion. The sharp-shooting winger was dealt to the Edmonton Oilers by the Los-Angeles Kings back in November, in a one-for-one deal for Jussi Jokinen. At 36 years-old, Cammalleri’s production has dropped the last few seasons. In 51 games with the Oilers in 2017-18, Cammalleri registered four goals and 18 assists for 22 points.
Last year might have been a hiccup for Cammalleri. In his previous three seasons spent with the New Jersey Devils, Cammalleri had 31 points in 61 games in 2016-17, 38 points in 42 games in 2015-16, and 42 points in 68 games in 2014-15. That same year included 27 goals for Cammalleri. The Toronto native’s best years were in 2006-07 with the Kings, where he recorded 34 goals and 46 assists for 80 points. His next best year was in 2008-09 with the Calgary Flames, where he put up 39 goals and 43 assists for 82 points in 81 games.
It’s highly unlikely that Cammalleri will ever put up those kinds of numbers again, but he very well could get back to a 40-point season. Cammalleri has one of the best one-timers that the NHL has ever seen, and could really help a team’s powerplay, both on the point and on the wing. I have to say I was a bit surprised that Peter Chiarelli and the Oilers didn’t bring him back this off-season.
A veteran like Cammalleri could be a really nice fit on Connor McDavid’s wing. A centreman who could easily help him get back to the production that we’ve seen from Cammalleri in year’s past. I guess the Oilers’ feel that a player like Ryan Strome, Tobias Reider or even Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would be better suited on McDavid’s right-wing. Last year, Cammalleri signed a one-year, $1 million dollar-deal with the Kings. If a team chooses to take a chance on him, a one-year price tag would be cheap. The other route is a PTO (professional try-out offer), which a lot of teams go for.
A one-year deal at $650,000 would be perfect for Cammalleri. A low risk, high reward kind of signing. We’ll keep an eye on Cammalleri and the rest of the available UFAs for the next few weeks. The NHL’s pre-season starts on September 15th.
This week, we check in on the “dumpster fire” happening right now with the Ottawa Senators. The 2017-18 NHL season was a rough one for the nation’s capital, and it only got worse this summer. A team that was one goal away from reaching the Stanley Cup finals a year ago, ended up in the league’s basement this season. The Senators had a 28-43-11 record, which was good for 67 points and 30th place overall. Just five points above the last-place Buffalo Sabres.
Things started to go down-hill back in November, after Senators General Manager Pierre Dorion, gave up the world for centreman Matt Duchene in a three-way deal, involving the Colorado Avalanche and the Nashville Predators. The Senators coughed up 2017 first-rounder Shane Bowers, a first round-pick and a third-round pick in this year’s draft, and Andrew Hammond, in exchange for Duchene. Nashville received Kyle Turris from the Senators as the third team in this deal. So, the Predators gave up smooth-skating defenseman Samuel Girard, Vladislav Kamenev, and a 2018 second-round pick. The Senators lost in this deal, big time!
It’s important to note that the Senators chose to keep their high, first-round pick in this year’s draft and give Colorado their first-round pick in next year’s draft (2019). That fourth-overall pick, turned into Boston University stand-out Brady Tkachuk. The next bad thing that the Senators endured this season was the behaviour from their owner Eugene Melnyk. In mid-December, the Senators and the Montreal Canadians, played in the NHL 100 Classic outdoors on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. This game was huge for the Senators organization and the city of Ottawa.
Even though, the Senators desperately need a downtown arena and even though it was causing a headache in Ottawa, Melnyk spoke out before the game and said that he could see the Senators somewhere else. Not at all the right time or place to come out and say that as an owner. Let’s fast forward to this summer for the Senators. A total disaster. In June, two stories broke out, involving the wife of franchise defenseman Erik Karlsson, Melinda Karlsson, and forward Mike Hoffman’s fiancé Monika Caryk. Melinda claimed her, and Erik were cyber-bullied online by Monika. This came after the devastating news about the loss of the Karlsson’s’ new born son back in April.
Hoffman was traded out of Ottawa in a hurry, because of these allegations. Unfortunately for the Senators, Hoffman is a skilled winger, with a cannon of a one-timer, and they received next to nothing in return. The next thing was Senators Assistant General Manager Randy Lee being accused of harassing a 19-year-old male, at the scouting combine in Buffalo. Lee finally resigned months later, just last week, after nothing was done. That’s on Melnyk’s end, and quite frankly, the city of Ottawa has had enough of him.
Moving on to the fact that Erik Karlsson’s days are numbered in Ottawa. It’s very clear that Karlsson doesn’t want to be there after what’s been going on, and the fact that the Senators can’t afford to extend the Swedish defenseman long-term. Karlsson is now set on being dealt to a contender in the Western Conference. The Dallas Stars have the best shot to land Karlsson in my mind, for a Marc Methot, Erik Karlsson reunion. The Senators will most-likely have to throw in Bobby Ryan in a deal, which will hurt the value in return for Karlsson. This is due to his $7.25 million-dollar cap hit for the next four years.
Most recently, Senators goaltender Craig Anderson said that he loves Ottawa, but he’s “too old for drama”. It’s all drama right now in Ottawa. On the bright side, there are some young players to look forward to in the nation’s capital. Brady Tkachuk is fresh off his entry-level deal and will be in a Senators jersey in October. Thomas Chabot will be full-time on the back-end, along with centreman Logan Brown and Colin White. With their AHL organization, the Belleville Senators, you can look forward to seeing Filip Gustavsson continue to develop in net, along with speedy forwards Alex Formenton and Drake Batherson. It’s going to take time for things to turn around in Ottawa.
With NHL training camp only a month away, there’s a trio of notable free agents that are still unsigned. These three are all restricted free agents (RFAs). It’s important to know the difference between RFA and UFA (unrestricted free agent). After a player’s entry level deal has expired, they become an RFA, but they can’t go and sign with any team. At the age of 27 however, you become unrestricted and you’re free to speak with any team.
These three players are all RFAs and are all under 23 years old; Noah Hanifin of the Calgary Flames (21), Sam Reinhart of the Buffalo Sabres (22), and William Nylander of the Toronto Maple Leafs (22).
Let’s start with Noah Hanifin. The 21-year-old defenseman was selected fifth overall by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2015. After three seasons with the Canes, Hanifin was shipped off to the Calgary Flames in a blockbuster deal that had Hanifin and 23-year-old winger Elias Lindholm going to the Flames in exchange for blue liner Dougie Hamilton, and forwards Michael Ferland and Adam Fox. Surprisingly, Flames General Manager Brad Treliving locked up Lindholm before Hanifin, signing him to a six year/$29.1 million-dollar deal carrying a cap hit of $4.85 million.
Hanifin had a breakout year in 2017-18 with Carolina, notching 10 goals and 22 assists for 32 points. So, if you’re wondering why the Hurricanes chose to part ways with the young defender, it may have to do with his play in his own end, and the fact that it was him or Justin Faulk rumoured to be dealt. I think a contract very similar to the one that Brady Skjei signed this summer with the Rangers, would make sense for Hanifin and the Flames. Therefore, I say five times five for the Boston native.
Let’s move on to Sam Reinhart of the Buffalo Sabres. The 22-year-old was taken second overall by Tim Murray and the Sabres in 2014. Reinhart broke out offensively in his third season in Buffalo, registering 25 goals and 25 assists for 50 points. Reinhart struggled during the first half of the 2017-18 season, which was a cause for concern for Sabres management and their fan base. It even went as far as Reinhart’s name being brought up in trade speculation, but that quickly changed. Reinhart was arguably one of the best Sabres’ during the second half of the season, producing close to a point per game with Jack Eichel out of the lineup. Reinhart has shown chemistry with Eichel and that is extremely important for the Sabres moving forward, but it’s all about consistency for Sam. Therefore, a three-year bridge deal at $5 million annually, would make the most sense for Reinhart and the Sabres.
Finally, William Nylander. The 22-year-old was selected eighth overall in 2014 and has already proven to be, far and away, the better player than the number two overall pick Reinhart. In his first three seasons, Nylander has close to the same amount of points as Reinhart, despite playing less games. Reinhart has played 64 more games than Nylander in his career, totaling 140 points in 249 contests, while Nylander has 135 points in 185 games. In the 2017-18 campaign, Nylander equalled his point total from the year before, putting up 61 points (20 goals, 41 assists). Nylander is only going to get better. So, for Kyle Dubas and the Leafs, rather than giving him a bridge deal and having to pay him more money in 2-3 years, they should do everything they can to lock him up long term. A 6-year-deal deal at $6 million per, would be perfect. Since the Leafs must retain Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner after next season for a boat-load of cash, this kind of deal would be a bargain for Nylander.
We’ll continue to keep a close eye on these three over the next few weeks.
Even though NHL training camp is right around the corner, people can’t stop talking about hockey phenomes Jack Hughes and Alexis Lafreniere. Hughes is a lock to be the first overall selection in next year’s NHL entry draft (2019). This young man has been generating buzz and excitement for months with his high end talent, including videos of highlight real goals on Instagram with the US under 18 Development program. TSN’s Gord Miller recently said on TSN 1050’s ‘Overdrive’, that Hughes displays a striking resemblance to Pat Lafontaine.
Wouldn’t it be something if the 5’10, 175-pound centreman was drafted by the Islanders, who selected Lafontaine third overall in 1983? On the flip side, we could very well see Jack join his brother Quinn in Vancouver, who drafted him 7th overall this past June. Before we get ahead of ourselves, we can all look forward to seeing the Hughes’ brothers playing together for Team USA at this year’s World Juniors in none other than…Vancouver.
This past season, Hughes put up 18 goals and 39 points in 18 games with the US under 18 National Team in the USHL. There is no question that Jack Hughes is going to be a superstar in the NHL, and whoever gets to select him at the 2019 draft at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, will be extremely lucky.
Now, let’s move two years down the road to the 2020 NHL entry draft. Quebec native Alexis Lafreniere is already being talked about as Canada’s next hockey prodigy and is the projected first overall pick in 2020. Lafrienere put on a show at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in mid-August, tallying 11 points in five games, while leading Canada to a gold medal victory over Sweden. Who could forget Lafreniere’s end-to-end, highlight real goal that he scored in the 6-2 win? Just like Jack Hughes, Lafreniere is going to be special.
Lafreniere absolutely ripped it up in his first season with the QMJHL’s Rimouski Oceanic in 2017-18. He put up an astounding 42 goals and 80 points in 60 games as a 16-year-old. He was the first rookie to score 40 goals in the Quebec league since Sidney Crosby did in the 2003-04 season for…Rimouski. Go figure. That season, Sid averaged roughly 2.29 points per game. Lafreniere averaged 1.33 this season, which is more comparable to a guy like Nathan MacKinnon in his rookie year in the QMJHL, where he averaged 1.34 points per game with the Halifax Mooseheads. Nevertheless, Alexis Lafreniere is in great company with some very impressive numbers.
Wouldn’t it be something if the Montreal Canadians could snag a superstar in the making from Quebec, to be the next face of the franchise? Lafreniere will definitely crack Canada’s World Junior squad for this year’s tournament. The question is, how much will he play as a 16-year-old?
The bottom line is that these two (Hughes and Lafreniere) are going to be stars. They both possess a tremendous amount of skill and will both make an NHL franchise and their fans very happy for years to come. It’s never too early to look into the future, especially when you’re talking about these kinds of players. For two years, everyone talked about this year’s first overall pick in Rasmus Dahlin, who we finally get to see in the NHL as a member of the Buffalo Sabres this season. The prospects every year seem to be better and better. It’s only the beginning for a new generation of supreme NHL talent.