Nick and Connor discuss John Tavares signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Crosby/Malkin vs. Tavares/Matthews argument, best and worst free agency signings and more. At this point, we’re also strangely optimistic about the St. Louis Blues.
The Buffalo Sabres were the lucky team that got to draft franchise-changing defenseman Rasmus Dahlin with the first-overall pick. He automatically improves the team before stepping on the ice for his first NHL game.
But, the Sabres – a team that was dead-last in the league in three out of the last five seasons – need more than just Dahlin to turn the ship around . They need to keep improving through trades like the one GM Jason Botterill made with the Pittsburgh Penguins for Conor Sheary and Matt Hunwick in exchange for a conditional 4th round pick.
Sheary, the major point of the trade, has had some solid years playing alongside one of the league’s best players in Sidney Crosby. In the 2016-17 season that saw him spend extended time on Pittsburgh’s top line, Sheary posted 23-30-53 totals, but those numbers dipped to 18 goals, 12 assists and 30 points last year while he floated between the top-three units.
The belief in Buffalo is that Sheary has the pace to skate with Jack Eichel, so he could be first-line LW this coming season.
Free agency is another way for Botterill to strengthen this team. The Sabres have roughly $18 million in cap space.
The left wing is a major void on the Sabres’ roster. Botterill tried to fill that void by acquiring Sheary, but there is still a decent hole in the left wing that they need to figure out.
In the System
If the hole can be filled from within the organization, they will do it. There are two names that stand a chance for me in this position: C.J. Smith and Victor Olofsson.
Smith had a great rookie season down in the AHL, registering 17-27-44 marks with the Rochester Americans. In fact, his campaign was so good, he would’ve been a favorite for the American League’s Rookie of the Year if he hadn’t gotten hurt and missed a couple months.
Meanwhile, Olofsson led the SHL in goals this past season as a 22-year-old. He has one of the best shots in the system, and the Sabres hope it can translate into the NHL.
Honorable mention: If Alexander Nylander has a good camp and preseason, he stands a chance for the spot. His style seems to fit the NHL more than AHL as proven in his couple games last season in the blue and gold.
Now to show my cards before I get into free agents: I hate overpaying guys on July 1 and weigh risk and reward more than anything.
Anthony Duclair is one of my ideal targets. He has to prove himself with his next contract/organization or he will be AHL-bound. Last season, he put up 11 goals and 12 assists between Chicago and Arizona.
Tobias Rieder is a fast-paced winger who could add speed to a very slow Buffalo Sabres team. He didn’t have very good numbers last year, with 12 goals and 13 assists again between two organizations (Arizona and LA).
Matthew Peca, formerly of the Tampa Bay Lightning, never got a chance to be a regular with the Bolts as they are a loaded organization at wing. He posted 2 goals and 3 assist in 10 games played.
All of these guys won’t require big contracts, but if they work out, Botterill would look like a genius for finding a gem.
The second-line center only becomes available if Ryan O’Reilly gets traded. There is a lot of speculation around him being moved, but the Sabres could move him and bump Casey Mittelstadt to the second-line if they feel he is ready. Other than him, Buffalo doesn’t have anyone ready for their second-line center position.
I have said many times that if the Sabres trade O’Reilly, Bozak could be a good replacement. Bozak and Ryan are players you use as the second-line center for half the season until Mittlestadt is ready to take over that role.
Stastny is a little different: if the Sabres overpay Stastny, which they would to land him, then he becomes theirr second-line center for a couple years.
Stat line comparison:
Stastny 16 G 37 A 53 P
Ryan 15 G 23 A 38 P
Bozak 11 G 31 A 42 P
Within the organization, this position is the total opposite of second-line center. The Sabres have this player in the system and don’t need to waste money on a free agent.
This position is either Justin Bailey‘s or Nicholas Baptiste‘s. Both guys have been trying to become NHL regulars and this is the season to do it. I favor Bailey over Baptiste, but I think either player complements Evan Rodrigues and Mittelstadt well and the pace of this line will be fun to watch night in and out.
It was no surprise to see Robin Lehner not get qualified after another poor year in the crease. Botterill says Ullmark will start off the season as the number two goalie. So, who’s the number one?
I feel goaltending this offseason is horrible as a whole; every team needed to land one of three goalies: Carter Hutton, Jonathan Bernier or Petr Mrazek. All three have had a lot of interest and I feel Hutton and Bernier will get overpaid. I also find it hard to believe two players from good teams last year would want to sign with the last-place team in the league.
So that leaves me with Mrazek, and I feel it’s not a bad thing. Mrazek posted a 14-13-6 record between Detroit and Philadelphia with a 0.902 save percentage and 3.03 goals against average. Ullmark will take the number one spot from him halfway through the year and, if all goes well, he won’t lose it from there.
Our offseason previews for all 31 National Hockey League teams continues with the Chicago Blackhawks and their outlook for the summer.
It was their worst season since before the days of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. With a 33-39-10 record and 76 points on the season in 2017-18, the Chicago Blackhawks finished last in the Central Divison and missed the playoffs for the first time in Kane and Toews’s careers with the organization.
Unfortunately for the Blackhawks and their fans, things are only going to get worse or stay the same before they get better. There is no one offseason fix-all cure for Chicago given their salary cap structure and overall prospect development.
While Kane and Toews are on the books at $10.500 million each through the 2022-23 season, Brent Seabrook is actually on the books for a season longer– albeit at a $6.875 million cap hit instead of $21.000 million combined in Kane and Toews.
The only point to make here is there’s no need to overreact and dump Kane and/or Toews– yet– but rather, Seabrook is currently 33-years-old. Duncan Keith is 34-years-old. Both have no-movement clauses in their contracts in the midst of a redeveloping defense for the Blackhawks.
2018 NHL Entry Draft
The long days of the offseason were made even longer for Chicago fans used to their team going all the way to the Stanley Cup Final– a la 2010, 2013 and 2015 when the Blackhawks won three Cups in five years– after the team was eliminated from even participating in the postseason as the days of the 2017-18 season wound down.
With the 8th overall pick in the 2018 Draft, Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman should put his focus on drafting a defenseman.
Why? Because one of their top-2 defenders (Keith or Seabrook) will have to be moved to attain pieces for the future as part of this rebuild at some point in time and since Trevor van Riemsdyk left via the Vegas Golden Knights 2017 Expansion Draft, Chicago hasn’t had a legitimate defensive prospect.
Someone like Evan Bouchard, Adam Boqvist, Ty Smith or Bode Wilde should be available at 8th overall and the Blackhawks should take a stab at one of them.
As for the 27th overall pick (from the Nashville Predators acquired in the Ryan Hartman trade)? Bowman can pursue what he sees fit for the organization’s prospect pool.
Pending free agents
There aren’t that many pending free agents on Chicago’s current NHL roster and with about $6.200 million to spend this offseason, that’s just all right.
Vinnie Hinostroza, Tomas Jurco and Anthony Duclair are the only pending free agent forwards from the end of the regular season roster. Both Hinostroza, 24, and Duclair, 22, should be re-signed with Duclair likely eyeing more dollar value or shorter term to cash in later as the two forwards are pending-restricted free agents.
Jurco was given a second chance at his NHL career in the Blackhawks’s acquisition of his skillset in the 2016-17 season from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for a third round pick in the 2017 Draft (Keith Petruzzelli), but only played in 29 games in 2017-18, spending most of his time as a healthy scratch under Joel Quenneville‘s watchful eye.
The 25-year-old forward amassed 6-4–10 totals, yielding his best point-per-game production (.344 pts/game) since his rookie appearance with the Red Wings in 2013-14 (.394 pts/game, 8-7–15 totals in 36 games). In other words, he’s not good and should not be re-signed.
Chicago only has one pending free agent defenseman– 39-year-old, Michal Rozsival— and will walk away from him this offseason, undoubtedly.
Corey Crawford, 33, has two-years remaining on his contract with a $6.000 million cap hit. The starting goaltender isn’t getting any younger and is overcoming an injury plagued season that played a large part in the Blackhawks sudden demise.
Crawford likely won’t go anywhere any time soon, but the planning for the next number one in Chicago has to start sooner or later.
Meanwhile, backup Anton Forsberg has one-year left at $750,000 as a 25-year-old. He’ll be a pending-RFA in 2019 and likely won’t see a dramatic raise unless he usurps Crawford in the depth chart.
Overall, the Blackhawks cannot afford to go after any big names this summer, regardless of the Marian Hossa outcome. Hossa’s on the books through the 2020-21 season at $5.275 million AAV even though his playing days are over.
The winger isn’t going to retire before his contract expires so he can collect his salary– which is actually only $1.000 million for the next three years– and Chicago doesn’t have to trade him if they’re fine with placing him on the injured reserve from season-to-season as they did heading into 2017-18.
It’s not that the organization needs to reach the cap floor or that they really need to rid themselves of the dead cap space to attract any talent this summer, but Hossa’s contract will be on their radar as something to move by July 2019 once the Blackhawks set a course of action for what likely has become a rebuild.
Other pending free agents throughout the organization include:
The Carolina Hurricanes are looking for a new general manager and Nick would like to be considered for the job. Meanwhile, Connor’s riding the hype train that is the Arizona Coyotes (and Florida Panthers, you know for their more realistic postseason expectations). Oh yeah, Petr Mrazek is not a good starter. Also the current playoff format is still bad.
Skater of the Week: Brad Marchand
*leans away from microphone looking off to stage right* THAT’LL BE ENOUGH OUT OF YOU, @nlanciani53! WE KNOW HE’S GOOD, WE JUST REALLY HATE HIS FACE!
Anyway, here’s how the ‘Little Ball of Hate’ earned the nod for the week.
Marchand started the week by single-handedly ruining the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday, racking up three goals and two assists (one of each on the power play) for a five-point night, and tacked on the game-winner for good measure. Then on Thursday he notched a single goal against Philadelphia, with it also being the game-winning tally. Then he capped the week with a pair of ‘apples’ on Saturday to finish off the week with a 50/50 split of four goals and four assists.
Also he possibly tried to murder Anthony Duclair maybe.
Brad Marchand, folks.
Tendy of the Week: Cam Talbot
Talbot has, like basically everyone in Edmonton not wearing #97, had a bit of a forgettable year. Currently carrying a .906 save percentage and 3.03 GAA, but sporting a near-.500 record, Talbot’s stats are basically a microcosm of the year the Oilers are having. In fact, his three-straight wins this week directly followed three-straight losses.
But for now we’re focusing on those three wins, as I’m sure all of Edmonton would like to do. Talbot carries a .949 and 1.61 out of the week with him, stopping 94-of-99 shots faced. He did start the week with three goals against on Monday when Arizona visited Rogers Place, but still managed a .914 save percentage on 35 shots. After that he basically completely shut down both the Islanders on Thursday (one goal on 31 shots) and Wild on Saturday (one goal on 33 shots).
It’s definitely a case of too little too late in Edmonton, but a strong finish to the season could give the team, organization, and fans a much-needed morale boost heading into the offseason.
Besides, regardless of where they finish in the standings, we know they’re winning the draft lottery…
Game of the Week: Florida Panthers 4 @ Tampa Bay Lightning 5 (OT), Tuesday March 6th, 2018
If you like hockey games that have a little bit of everything, go watch the condensed game highlights of this one.
Nine goals on 82 shots, 56 hits (evenly split at 28 per team), a fight, a hat trick, and a beautiful overtime winner in a tilt between two in-state rivals. Definitely a candidate for game of the year.
You’d have never guessed there would be nine goals scored if you just watched the first half of the first period. Both Andrei Vasilevskiy and Roberto Luongo were fully on their game, and both goaltenders made multiple standout saves just in the opening minutes alone. In particular, Vasi’s early denial of Nick Bjugstad on a two-on-one and Luongo’s breakaway glove snag on J.T. Miller stand out.
Also early in the first period we had a scrap between the Lightning’s Braydon Coburn, who is 6’5″ and 223 lbs., and Michael Haley, who is neither of those things. Haley, the NHL’s penalty minutes leader this season, more than held his own in a fairly uneventful scrap, but it certainly got the crowd at Amalie Arena into the game.
Finally first blood would be drawn at the 10:38 mark, when Yanni Gourde would pounce on an off-the-glass rebound at the side of the net before Luongo could locate the puck and put the Lightning on top. Vasilevskiy would make a pair of outstanding stops on consecutive shots from Aaron Ekblad and Aleksander Barkov to keep the score 1-0, eventually allowing Miller to take a Gourde centering pass from behind the goal line and roof a backhand over the glove of Luongo to extend the Tampa lead to 2-0 at the 12:51 mark. Although being outshot 15-8, the Lightning would nearly survive the first with their lead unblemished, but with just 1:37 to play it would be Bjugstad firing one from the goal line to Vasilevskiy’s left that ricocheted off the goaltender’s shoulder and into the net behind him, sending the two teams to the locker rooms with the score at 2-1.
The second period would see a much faster start, as once again Yanni Gourde (recording his third point in three Tampa goals) put his entire heart and soul into a turnaround wrist shot from the right circle that beat Luongo high glove and put his Lightning up 3-1 just 1:27 into the second. A good chunk of the second would pass rather uneventfully (sans a great save by Luongo on Nikita Kucherov) before Bjugstand would walk out from the corner with Steven Stamkos all over him, drive to the crease and bang home his own rebound to bring the Panthers within one again at the 13:35 mark. But less than three minutes later the lead would stretch again as Alex Killorn picked up a juicy rebound off of a Stamkos one-timer and send the game to its final intermission with a 4-2 score in favor of the home team.
The two-goal lead would last just 21 seconds into the third period, as Bjugstad would bury his third of the game to cut the deficit in half. After an Andrej Sustr tripping penalty a few minutes later, Vincent Trocheck would finally knot the score with a power play wrister from the right circle, beating Vasilevskiy just between the glove and left pad. 4-4 would remain the score through the end of regulation, despite the best efforts of the Panthers who would total 16 third period shots to Tampa’s 11, though a tipped Sustr point shot finding Luongo’s left goal post was probably the closest call of the rest of the third. But, alas, off to overtime we’d go.
A fairly tame start to OT would give way to serious offensive zone pressure by Tampa right around the midway point of the frame. Anton Stralman nearly ended things with a one-timer fired at a gaping net, but it would hit the outside of the post and be collected in the corner by Tyler Johnson. Johnson would give it back to Stralman, who saw an open Brayden Point (waving every available limb and utensil frantically) waiting just inside the right circle. Point would receive the pass, absolutely dance a charging Evgeny Dadonov out of his skates, then roof a laserbeam over the glove of Luongo to rid Amalie Arena of its roof and send the Bolts faithful home happy.
News, Notes, & Nonsense:
The Carolina Hurricanes are accepting job applications for their next General Manager via Twitter. Obviously we here at DTFR are biased, but I think we’d all gladly throw our hats in the ring for our own @capncornelius to get the gig.
Sidney Crosby reached 1,100 career points, which seems like a slightly obscure number to celebrate. But congrats, I guess.
…this was a slow news week…umm, hey @connorzkeith, can you throw in some sort of funny cat photo or something for filler in the edit? Thanks, buddy.
Since I did this last Monday, I suppose I’ll do it again today: including today, there’s only 15 days until the NHL Trade Deadline. Be on your toes, because things are going to start happening before you know it.
As we’ve been doing since the Olympics began, we started today’s action at 7:10 a.m. Eastern time in PyeongChang when fifth-ranked Sweden took on the host unified Korean women’s team. The visiting Swedes showed no mercy, as they dominated Korea to an 8-0 victory. That will set up a Group B-determining game between Sweden and Switzerland tomorrow.
Back home in the NHL, there’s three games on the schedule, starting with Tampa Bay at Toronto (NHLN/TVAS) at 7 p.m. Eastern time. Tonight’s co-nightcaps – Florida at Edmonton and Chicago at Arizona – drop the puck two hours later to close out the evening.
Lastly, we’ll include the first of two games going down in Group A of the women’s Olympic tournament before the sun comes up on North America’s east coast. Second-ranked Canada is taking on third-ranked Finland at 2:40 a.m. Eastern time.
Here’s the list of games that are drawing my attention:
- Sweden vs. Korea: It’s the Koreans’ second chance to defend home ice. Can they do it?
- Chicago at Arizona: W Anthony Duclair was part of the Coyotes’ future… until he was traded to the Blackhawks last month.
- Canada vs. Finland: Another regulation win by the Canadians would earn them a bye into the semifinals of the knockout round.
You’ll notice I didn’t include the Atlantic Division game between the Bolts and Leafs. Considering we’ve featured those teams a combined three times in the past eight days, I think we can let some of the other teams have a turn.
Did I sound like your kindergarten teacher there?
Anyways, of our remaining tilts, there’s only one is worthy of Game of the Day honors. Grab your coffee – and tune your TV to NBCSN if you’re in the United States – because we’re staying up late!
Oh boy, the first time the DtFR Game of the Day series has featured something outside the NHL!
After only one game played apiece by the teams in Group A, Team Canada comes into tonight’s fixture in first place. Though they’re tied with Team USA in the points category, Canada’s +5 goal-differential is three tallies superior to the effort of the Americans.
As the numbers currently stand right now (again, there’s only been six games played at the Olympics so far), Canada is employing the tournament’s second best offense by scoring five goals in one game (Switzerland is leading the way in offensive production by averaging 5.5 goals per game).
Leading that charge is none other than F Rebecca Johnston, who scored two of Canada’s goals – including the game-winner at the 1:55 mark of the second period – and provided an assist on a third against the Olympic Athletes from Russia.
F Marie-Philip Poulin (the Sidney Crosby of women’s hockey according to the CBC in 2010) was also very successful in that opening bout, as the captain provided three assists. Of those assists, two were for Canadian sniper F Melodie Daoust, who matched Johnston’s goal-scoring effort by burying two of her three shots.
Though she only has assists to her name right now, don’t think that Poulin isn’t willing to make her own plays. After all, she scored the gold medal-winning goal in both the 2010 Vancouver and the 2014 Sochi Games – not to mention the game-tying goal in Sochi as well.
Of note, the Canadian’s power play seems fully capable of taking advantage of any uneven scenarios. They managed to score on two of their seven power plays for a 28.6 percent success rate, the second-best at the Olympics.
Defensively, the Canadians are no slouches either, as they held the OAR to only 18 shots on goal – all of which were saved by G Ann-Renee Desbiens.
Meanwhile, third place Finland had its hands full against the United States in their first showing at these Olympic Games. Though the Finns scored the first goal of the game with six ticks left on the first period clock, the Americans stormed back to take a 3-1 victory.
F Venla Hovi scored that goal with assists from F Petra Nieminen and F Linda Valimaki, and that top line – not to mention the other three – will need to perform even better for a chance to beat Canada.
Of course, almost every Finnish national team of either sex has had some of the best goaltending in the world at its disposal, and that looks to be the same for this year’s women’s side. Although she ended up with the loss, G Noora Raty performed solidly against the Americans, saving 39-of-41 for a .951 save percentage. With eight different Canadians finding the scorecard in their opening match, Raty will be front and center this evening.
The last time Canada and Finland squared off was November 10, 2017 in the Four Nations Cup in Wesley Chapel, Fla. Canada dominated that game to a 4-0 victory. Both Meghan Agosta (0-2-2) and Poulin (1-1-2) registered two points apiece, and G Genevieve Lacasse posted the eight-save shutout. Raty saved 24-of-28 (.857 save percentage) in the loss.
Considering the Canadians are riding a two-game winning streak against Finland, it’s hard to imagine the Naiseleijonat pulling off the upset. Canada’s defense limiting the Lady Lions to only eight shots in their last meeting is very telling, and I predict a similar showing tonight.
Having trailed 2-0 in the third period, the San Jose Sharks came back to beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 after a shootout at Honda Center in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.
The first of Anaheim’s goals was struck only 2:39 into the game. With his 15th marker of the season, Second Star of the Game RW Ondrej Kase (C Adam Henrique and LW Nick Ritchie) took credit with a snap shot.
The Ducks’ final goal of the match wasn’t registered until the 6:28 mark of the third period, scored by a D Cam Fowler (Kase and Ritchie) wrist shot. San Jose’s comeback began 4:28 later courtesy of a F Logan Couture (F Tomas Hertl and D Marc-Edouard Vlasic) slap shot, but it didn’t level the game at 2-2 until only 54 seconds remained in regulation. With G Martin Jones pulled for the extra attacker, First Star W Timo Meier (Couture and D Brent Burns) buried a tip-in to force what proved to be a scoreless three-on-three overtime.
That forced yet another shootout in the series between these two teams this season, their third in four meetings. As hosts, the Ducks had the option of shooting first or second…
- Head Coach Randy Carlyle elected to shoot first, sending Henrique to center ice. His clapper was saved by Jones.
- F Joe Pavelski had the opportunity to earn an early shootout lead, and he did just that by sneaking his shot past Third Star G John Gibson.
- Having scored a team-leading 22 goals on the season, F Rickard Rakell seemed like a logical choice to keep Anaheim alive in the shootout. Unfortunately, his attempt found iron instead of the net, giving the Sharks a make-to-win situation.
- Who else to take such an opportunity than Couture? He added to his two-point night by winning the game with the final shootout goal.
Jones earned the victory after saving 25-of-27 shots faced (.926 save percentage), leaving the shootout loss to Gibson, who saved 33-of-35 (.949).
The Sharks’ victory means road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day have earned at least a point in four of the last five games. As such, the roadies have pulled within 25 points of the 68-40-16 hosts.
After NHLers were not allowed to participate in the 2018 Winter Games and due to the success of last week’s episode, Nick and Connor decided to create rosters with NHL players anyway for Team Canada. Also discussed, Alexandre Burrows, Max Domi and the New York Rangers plan for the future.
The Original Trio reunite for a very fun-filled podcast. The Carolina Hurricanes were sold, Jaromir Jagr is soon to be unsigned, All-Star Rosters were scrutinized, US and Canada men’s national teams were analyzed and more in this action packed episode. #HealthBeforeHockey
The Original Trio discuss the 2018 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship and more in separately recorded sessions of the podcast. Also, we’re available for hire. In memoriam: Part of Joe Thornton’s beard that Nazem Kadri ripped off (2015-2018).
The Original Trio gets carried away talking about the Vegas Golden Knights masterplan for ruining everything. Additionally, Nick, Colby and Connor discuss the recent signings and NHL headlines, as well as what to do with remaining unsigned RFAs and a 2017-2018 Atlantic Division preview that’s full of the hottest takes in the land.