Tag Archives: Antti Niemi

Look To The Rafters: Chicago Blackhawks (Part II)

In the early days of DTFR, we made an educated guess as to who each team might honor in the future regarding retired jersey numbers. Since then, the Vegas Golden Knights came into existence and more than a few jersey numbers went out of circulation across the league. 

It’s time for an update and a look at who the Chicago Blackhawks might honor by hanging their name and number from the rafters at United Center someday.

Chicago Blackhawks Current Retired Numbers

1 Glenn Hall

3 Keith Magnuson/Pierre Pilote

9 Bobby Hull

18 Denis Savard

21 Stan Mikita

35 Tony Esposito

Did Anything Change In The Last Five Years?

No! As a matter of fact, the Blackhawks haven’t retired any numbers since Keith Magnuson and Pierre Pilote’s No. 3 on Nov. 12, 2008, but they’ll soon have a plethora of jersey retirement ceremonies because winning three Cups in five seasons will do that.

Possible Numbers to Retire Someday

2 Duncan Keith

There’s a trend among all the possible numbers to retire in the near future in Chicago– they all won at least two Stanley Cup rings with the Blackhawks. You’re probably quite familiar with them if you’ve been watching the NHL in the last decade.

Keith broke into the league in the 2005-06 season with the Blackhawks (who drafted him in the second round, 54th overall, in 2002) and has spent his entire career with Chicago across 15 seasons so far.

In that span, Keith has won three Cups (2010, 2013 and 2015) and has amassed 101 goals and 509 assists in 1,138 career regular season games played and ranks 10th all-time in points in franchise history with 610.

His team friendly $5.538 million cap hit expires after the 2022-23 season, when the defender will be approaching 40-years-old and may or may not even still be playing by then. Oh and he won the James Norris Trophy as the league’s best defender in 2009-10 and 2013-14. Keith was also named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner after the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.

Anyway, for most of these Blackhawks players it should be pretty self-explanatory.

7 Brent Seabrook

Seabrook was originally selected in the first round by Chicago (14th overall) in 2003. He broke into the league with the Blackhawks in the 2005-06 season and has spent all 15 seasons of his NHL career thus far with Chicago.

He’s also a three-time Stanley Cup champion, having been a member of Chicago’s 2010, 2013 and 2015 rosters. In 1,114 career NHL games, Seabrook’s amassed 103-361–464 totals from the blue line. Along with Keith, he’s been a long-standing pillar on Chicago’s defense and deserves acknowledgment in his own right for the longevity of his tenure that somehow made it as far as it did– and as durable– until he had season ending surgery on his right shoulder on Dec. 27, 2019.

There’s no doubt the Blackhawks will honor both workhorses on their defense that single handedly defined Chicago’s championship style from their own zone out.

10 Patrick Sharp

Compared to the rest of this list, it might be a harder time to argue for Chicago to send Sharp’s No. 10 up to the rafters of United Center, but if you want to make the argument, first there’s the number of years and dedication spent with the team and city (11 seasons across two stints) and second, there’s the fact that Sharp had 532 points in 749 games in a Blackhawks sweater (or .710 points per game while with Chicago).

He spent parts of three seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers and two seasons with the Dallas Stars, which contributed to his 287-333–620 totals in 939 career NHL games, which– if you can’t do the math– means that Sharp had 88 points outside of Chicago in 129 games (.682 points per game outside Chicago), which means (“eye test” aside) that he spent his prime with the Blackhawks and was able to give his all to the team that he won three Cups with in 2010, 2013 and 2015.

So… yeah… maybe don’t forget about Sharp in the “potential numbers to retire” conversation.

19 Jonathan Toews

A year before the Blackhawks drafted Patrick Kane, they selected their centerpiece for the future in Toews with the 3rd overall pick in the 2006 NHL Draft. He made his league debut with Chicago in the 2007-08 season and produced 54 points in his rookie year. Two seasons later, he raised the Stanley Cup above his head as the first Blackhawks player to do so since 1961, after defeating the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final.

Toews was named the 2010 Conn Smythe Trophy winner and has won an award in each of his Stanley Cup winning seasons– winning the Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015 with the Blackhawks, while taking home the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2010, the Frank J. Selke Trophy in 2013 and the Mark Messier Leadership Award in 2015.

He’s fast approaching 1,000 career NHL games– all with Chicago– as he’s already appeared in 943 contests for the Blackhawks since his rookie season, amassing 345-470–815 totals.

There’s no doubt Toews will see his No. 19 raised to the rafters when he hangs up his skates.

50 Corey Crawford

Crawford is the reason why the qualifier “at least two Cup rings with the Blackhawks” had to be used for this list because– spoiler alert– he was not Chicago’s starting goaltender until the 2010-11 season, and thus, only won the Cup in 2013 and 2015.

Antti Niemi led the Blackhawks to their first Cup in 49 years, but Crawford doubled Niemi’s Cup wins in Chicago and led many to forget about the goaltender that ended the Cup drought for the Blackhawks, then went to arbitration, but couldn’t reach a deal to keep him as the home goaltender at United Center and finally signed a deal with the San Jose Sharks before the start of the 2010-11 season.

Meanwhile, Crawford’s amassed 260 wins in 488 games played for Chicago– yielding a 2.45 career goals against average and a career .918 save percentage, as well as 26 shutouts in that span.

He’s been around for parts of 13 seasons with the Blackhawks and is the modern Tony Esposito for the franchise, so it’s only fitting that Crawford’s No. 50 becomes the next jersey number belonging to a goaltender to be raised to the rafters in Chicago.

81 Marian Hossa

Three Cups with Chicago and he gets in the Hockey Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility? Might as well complete the journey with retiring No. 81 for the Blackhawks this upcoming season– whenever it happens (if it happens) in 2020-21.

After missing out on the Cup in 2008 with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Hossa signed a one-year deal with the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings for the 2008-09 season. Detroit met up with the Penguins in a rematch of the 2008 Stanley Cup Final, but in the 2009 edition of the Stanley Cup Final. Once again, however, Hossa drew the short end of the stick and was defeated by his former teammates on his quest for his first Cup.

In the summer of 2009, Hossa signed a mega-deal worth $5.275 million per season over the course of 12 seasons through next season. After a debilitating skin allergy to his hockey equipment cut his career short, Hossa’s contract currently sits on the books of the Arizona Coyotes, but that’s besides the point.

In his first season with the Blackhawk’s, Hossa won it all. The long, torturous, journey to three consecutive Stanley Cup Final appearances paid off with Chicago’s defeat of the Flyers in 2010.

Then Hossa won two more Cups in 2013 and 2015 with the Blackhawks and amassed 186-229–415 totals in 534 games with Chicago from 2009-17.

Anyway, he scored a bunch of clutch goals for the Blackhawks, so I’m sure that alone will be good enough, right?

Since he’s still under contract with a team for 2020-21, does this mean the Blackhawks will have to wait until the 2021-22 season to retire his number– or are they going to have to wait until then anyway due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

88 Patrick Kane

The 1st overall pick in the 2007 Draft, Kane was selected by the Blackhawks as the planned counterpart for Toews in the overnight redefinition of a basement dwelling franchise to Stanley Cup contending club from season-to-season for a decade.

In 973 regular season games with Chicago, Kane has 389 goals and 633 assists (1,022 points), as well as lots of hardware.

For starters, he’s won three Stanley Cups with the club in 2010, 2013 and 2015. Oddly enough, his best season didn’t even come until after he won three Cups in five seasons with the Blackhawks. In 2015-16, Kane took home the Art Ross Trophy with 106 points, and won the Hart Memorial Trophy, as well as the Ted Lindsay Award that season as the league’s regular season MVP both as determined by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association (PHWA) for the Hart and by the rest of the league’s players for the Lindsay.

Oh and he won the Calder Memorial Trophy in his rookie season (2007-08) and picked up a Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

So there’s that.

Oh plus he scored the goal that ended Chicago’s 49-year Cup drought.

So there’s that too.

Final Thoughts

Now is the perfect time to get rid of the biggest disgrace in franchise history. Unretire No. 9.

Montreal Canadiens 2019-20 Season Preview

Montreal Canadiens

44-30-8, 96 points, 4th in the Atlantic Division

Missed the postseason for the second straight year

Additions: F Riley Barber, F Nick Cousins, F Phil Varone, D Ben Chiarot, G Keith Kinkaid

Subtractions: F Daniel Audette (signed with Springfield, AHL), F Nicolas Deslauriers (traded to ANA), F Andrew Shaw (traded to CHI), F Hunter Shinkaruk (signed with Charlotte, AHL), D Jordie Benn (signed with VAN), D Brett Lernout (signed with VGK), G Antti Niemi (KHL)

Still Unsigned: None

Re-signed: F Joel Armia, F Charles Hudon, F Artturi Lehkonen, F Michael McCarron

Offseason Analysis: The Montreal Canadiens didn’t even get a meeting with John Tavares last offseason and they tried to ask out a couple of potential suitors to the prom this offseason, but were ultimately rejected.

Before Habs fans try to claim that technically Sebastian Aho accepted their offer, but was then taken back by his… still current romantic partner (Carolina), let’s remember that this is only a terrible attempt at a metaphor or whatever.

The bottom line is Canadiens General Manager, Marc Bergevin, wanted to get Matt Duchene in free agency this offseason, but lost out to the Nashville Predators– which was inevitable given Duchene was building a house in Nashville anyway.

Then Bergevin turned to his next option– becoming the “villain” among his peers by submitting an offer sheet to another team’s restricted free agent.

That RFA happened to be Aho, the Carolina Hurricanes forward who remains a Carolina Hurricanes forward after signing a five-year, $8.454 million per season offer sheet from the Habs that was officially matched by the Canes about a week later.

If Bergevin was really comfortable with paying a steep compensation price, he likely offered more in cap hit, length of the deal and, well, just about everything else.

Instead, Carolina wasn’t fazed by the $8.454 million annual cap hit, despite a little more than $21 million front loaded in the deal in signing bonuses and Hurricanes owner, Tom Dundon, simply wrote a cheque for Aho to cash in and avoid a long offseason of “uncertainty” as many other RFAs faced around the league.

While Bergevin may have done the Hurricanes a favor, Tampa Bay Lightning center, Brayden Point is still unsigned, so…

Actually, on second thought, Montreal only has about $4.045 million in cap space now since missing out on Aho and signing defender, Ben Chiarot, to a consolation prize, three-year, $3.500 million per season contract.

It’s not that Chiarot isn’t a durable defender, but rather, that the Canadiens really could use a young, promising forward to shore up a legitimate top-six– especially with pending-RFA Max Domi in a contract year.

Montreal wants to get back into the postseason, but they don’t just want to make it– they want to make a splash and go on a deep run. Especially since they’re the most recent Canadian team to win the Cup, having done so in 1993, which seems like ages ago, right?

Seven teams have joined the league since a Canadian market last hoisted the Cup high above their heads in a celebratory skate.

Head coach, Claude Julien, transitioned his style from a more veteran dependent coaching style to a more contemporary “play the kids” approach last season and it got Montreal to finish two points outside of the playoffs thanks to the Columbus Blue Jackets’ defeat of the New York Rangers in the last weekend of the regular season.

The good news for Julien? His roster is about the same, so there’s a lot of familiarity in the room in their quest for progress.

Keith Kinkaid signed a one-year, $1.750 million deal to backup Carey Price this season and can be useful in offsetting Price’s workload, though Kinkaid’s looking to bounce back from a dismal year with the New Jersey Devils last season.

Kinkaid amassed a 3.36 goals against average and an .891 save percentage in 41 games played while New Jersey transitioned from Cory Schneider to Mackenzie Blackwood (when healthy) in the crease as their starter.

One thing’s for sure for the Habs this season– if they don’t make it back to the playoffs in 2020, there’s going to be some change coming.

There just has to be.

Offseason Grade: C

Nothing spectacular walked into Bell Centre in the offseason and nothing spectacular walked out. That’s not terrible, but might not be up to the expectations of a fanbase and front office that expects to win every season.

That said, Montreal is due for a resurgence in the standings sooner, rather than later. It’s just going to take a little more work than… whatever was done this offseason.

DTFR Podcast #146- Cory In The [Win Column]

The St. Louis Blues just keep on winning (11 straight, to be exact). Can they win it all? The Tampa Bay Lightning are not Stanley Cup favorites according to Nick– nobody is! Did the Edmonton Oilers win a trade? Cory Schneider won a game! and other milestones from the last week, as well as whatever happened in the Boston Bruins vs San Jose Sharks game on Monday.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes)Stitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

DTFR Podcast #142- Chia’s Pets

The Edmonton Oilers fired their president of hockey operations and General Manager, Peter Chiarelli (April 2015-January 2019). The club officially made the announcement after the DTFR Duo finished recording this week’s episode.

There won’t be a 2020 World Cup of Hockey and there were a few milestones to go along with a bunch of minor trades made this week.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes)Stitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

DTFR Podcast #140- All-Star Finnish Trivia

Thoughts on the conclusion and controversies of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship, as well as a look at the schedule around the league as we near the All-Star Weekend festivities and bye week(s). Nick puts Connor on the spot and asks him some trivia questions that only went so well.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes)Stitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

Dallas Stars 2018-19 Season Preview

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Dallas Stars

42-32-8, 92 points, 6th in the Central Division

Additions: Head Coach Jim Montgomery, F Blake Comeau, F Erik Condra, D Joel Hanley, G Anton Khudobin, F Michael Mersch, D Roman Polak

Subtractions: Head Coach Ken Hitchcock (retired), D Andrew Bodnarchuk (signed, DEL), F Brian Flynn (signed with STL), D Dan Hamhuis (signed with NSH), G Mike McKenna (signed with OTT), F Curtis McKenzie (signed with VGK), D Greg Pateryn (signed with MIN), D Brent Regner (signed, Austria), F Antoine Roussel (signed with VAN)

Still Unsigned: G Kari Lehtonen, D Andrew O’Brien, F Cole Ully

Re-signed: G Philippe Desrosiers, F Jason Dickinson, F Remi Elie, D Dillon Heatherington, F Mattias Janmark, F Devin Shore, F Gemel Smith

Offseason Analysis: After missing the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs by a few points, Ken Hitchcock finally hung up the pen and paper(?) behind the bench. Hitchcock’s one-year reunion with the Dallas Stars proved two things– that the Stars weren’t a playoff caliber roster in the long run and that Hitchcock’s coaching style had run its course in the contemporary NHL.

Outside of John Klingberg and Marc Methot, Dallas’s defense didn’t scream high-caliber. Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov and Tyler Seguin alone couldn’t generate enough offense to ease the barrage of pucks Ben Bishop faced in net.

Whatever the reasoning, the fact of the matter is the Stars didn’t have a complete team in 2017-18, so General Manager Jim Nill had some cracks to fix.

First, Dallas brought in 49-year-old head coach, Jim Montgomery, out of the University of Denver and into the National Hockey League. Montgomery expects to bring a new-age pace to the Stars, but there’s always a catch– rookie NHL coaches rarely exceed expectations in their first season, especially if they’re coming from college hockey straight to the NHL level of the professional game.

Second, Nill didn’t make any trades. Instead he opted to let Antoine Roussel and his 17 points in 73 games last season walk in free agency, along with Curtis McKenzie and other bottom-six role forwards. Also gone are Dan Hamhuis– once thought to be a steal from free agency not so long ago– and Greg Pateryn, who, after all things considered, played a durable bottom-pair worthy role on the Dallas blueline.

Nill signed 32-year-old Roman Polak to a one-year, $1.300 million contract to appease veteran presence on the backend with a friendly short-term deal while the Stars look to implement Miro Heiskanen in the North American game.

Blake Comeau, Erik Condra and Michael Mersch will all file down the line of bottom-six “glue guy” roles on the depth chart all the way to being a healthy scratch most nights– let alone emergency call-up go-tos.

The fact of the matter is the Stars need to get younger and it could start with Heiskanen, but it should also include Jason Robertson among the forwards. Past that, there’s not much going on in the Big D.

After Kari Lehtonen, 35, couldn’t hold his weight as a starter, Dallas brought in Ben Bishop– a surefire number one goalie– to lead them back to glory. Bishop’s year didn’t fully go as planned, but Lehtonen actually improved from 2016-17 to 2017-18 in his more limited role.

Lehtonen’s 2.85 goals against average and .902 save percentage in 59 games played in 2016-17 dropped to a 2.56 GAA and rose to a .912 SV% in 37 appearances last season. The Atlanta Thrashers 2nd overall pick in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft rebounded quite nicely and is still unsigned.

Meanwhile, Nill brought in Anton Khudobin, 32, most recently from the Boston Bruins on a two-year contract to become become Bishop’s backup. Khudobin’s can be streaky at times, but when he’s good, he’s great good. Just good.

Case in point, Khudobin bounced back from a 2.64 GAA and .904 SV% in 16 appearances with the Bruins in 2016-17 while bouncing back-and-forth between Boston and Providence (AHL) to a 2.56 GAA and .913 SV% in 31 games last season with the Bruins.

Khudobin’s GAA last season was the same as Lehtonen’s in six fewer games. He faced almost 100 fewer shots than Lehtonen and allowed seven fewer goals. His save percentage was .001% better than Lehtonen.

If Nill’s getting really technical, he “improved” Dallas’s backup option. Sure he’s not paying a guy $5.900 million to play fewer than 40 games, but Khudobin’s making $2.500 million for… pretty much the same results if he’s playing well.

If Lehtonen was going to re-sign, he surely was going to have to sign for much less than what he was making ($5.900 million) and wouldn’t have been able to capitalize as much as Khudobin did on his comeback (Khudobin more than doubled his salary from his last contract with Boston to his current one with Dallas).

I mean, Lehtonen improved much like his former teammate with the Stars, Antti Niemi did, but without the immense failures in Pittsburgh and Florida before being picked up off waivers by the Montreal Canadiens.

But enough about subprime goaltending, lack of offense and not enough drive from a mediocre defense outside of John Klingberg.

The Stars aren’t on the rise and that should concern fans deeply.

You see, there’s another guy wearing No. 91 in the NHL that’s a pending-UFA in July 2019 and nearly every armchair GM has already set their sights on him. His name is Tyler Seguin and he’s Dallas’s biggest star.

After talking about an extension before the 2018 NHL Draft– conveniently held in Dallas– Seguin’s heard nothing from the Stars front office. Another season without a postseason might just be enough to push the 26-year-old center over the edge and into the waters of free agency next summer.

Offseason Grade: D+

There’s areas of concern that go further than just shaking things up behind the bench in Dallas. It’s not that Montgomery won’t be a great coach, but rather that Nill hasn’t pulled off the necessary moves with the roster to really set them over the bar and into the playoffs.

Betting on other teams regressing to the mean, while counting on your stars to perform better than they did last season isn’t safe if you’re not actually improving. Plus there’s the whole “they might lose Tyler Seguin for nothing next offseason a la the New York Islanders and John Tavares“. First impressions for the future are everything, and Nill and the Stars aren’t sending the right one(s).

2018 Offseason Preview: Dallas Stars

Our offseason previews for all 31 National Hockey League teams continues with the Dallas Stars and their outlook for the summer.

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Ken Hitchcock reunited with the Dallas Stars for one last ride in 2017-18, amassing 92 points on the season, finishing 6th in the Central Divsion with a 42-32-8 record. Despite missing out on a wild card spot by three points, Hitchcock announced his retirement from the NHL as a head coach.

General Manager Jim Nill brought in Jim Montgomery from the University of Denver Pioneers as the next head coach and the Stars are looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016 next season.

With names like Ben Bishop, Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov, John Klingberg and Marc Methot on the roster, Dallas is looking for more than just another exit in the Second Round like in 2016, but they’ve got some work to do this offseason to make the jump from playoff bubble team to Cup contender.

2018 NHL Entry Draft

Nill and the Stars have the 13th overall pick at this year’s draft and won’t have far to travel, thanks to American Airlines Center playing host to the 2018 NHL Entry Draft in a week.

Dallas will have plenty of talent to choose from in any of the best available players with a mid-first round pick in Isac Lundestrom, Joel Farabee, Ty Smith, Bode Wilde, Barrett Hayton, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Joseph Veleno or Serron Noel.

Similar to 2017 3rd overall pick Miro Heiskanen, the Stars won’t expect their 2018 first round pick to make the roster coming out of training camp this fall.

Pending free agents

The Stars have about $17.700 million to spend this summer, keeping in mind the salary cap ceiling is expected to rise.

By how much? That’s to be determined, so at least account for a little extra money to work with in all of these offseason previews, if you haven’t already figured that out on your own by now.

Nill has one pending-unrestricted free agent forward to consider re-signing in 28-year-old Antoine Roussel. His production was down 10 points from 2016-17 to 2017-18, notching 5-12–17 totals in 73 games with Dallas this season.

The Stars should likely pass on another year of Roussel, unless they view him as a fourth line winger with the potential to snag a third line spot from time-to-time.

Dallas has three pending-restricted free agents to sort out this summer in Gemel Smith, Devin Shore and Mattias Janmark.

Smith, 24, had six goals and five assists (11 points) in 46 games. That’s good enough over the course of a season as a fourth liner, but also might not be enough to stick around at the NHL level, depending on the team and how serious of a playoff contending run they intend on pursuing.

One good thing for Smith’s future with the organization is that he’s still young enough to sign on a small, bridge deal and give one more chance at NHL success (or scratch every night/send down the Texas Stars (AHL) if necessary).

Shore, 23, had 11-21–32 totals in 82 games played this season, falling short of last season’s offensive outcome by one point. If Dallas’s front office comes down to deciding between Shore and Roussel the choice is clear this offseason. Keep Shore for his consistency alone, let alone his five additional years of youth.

Janmark, 25, scored five points more this season than his 29-point rookie season. He had a career-high 19 goals and 15 assists for 34 points in 81 games played. It should be a no-brainer to keep Janmark around.

There’s two pending-UFA defenders in Dallas with 35-year-old, Dan Hamhuis, and 27-year-old, Greg Pateryn, possibly hitting the open market.

Hamhuis had his best season since 2014-15 with the Vancouver Canucks, scoring three goals and 21 assists (24 points) in 80 games with the Stars this season. At 35, he isn’t getting any younger, but he’s worth having as a veteran presence on the blueline.

Pateryn, in his first legitimate full-season, had one goal and 12 assists for 13 points in 73 games. If Nill is content with Pateryn as a top-six defender, then he should be back. Otherwise, there might be other options within the organization or outside of Dallas for the bottom-pair defense.

Pending-RFA Stephen Johns is the only pending free agent of the restricted variety on Dallas’s blueline. Johns set career highs in goals, assists and points with 8-7–15 totals in 75 games.

The problem with the Stars is they have a lot of lower pair defenders, meaning while Johns deserves a new contract, how new head coach Jim Montgomery envisions utilizing his defensive corps may play a hand in who gets renewed and who doesn’t.

In net, the Stars are looking at Ben Bishop as their presumptive starter through the end of his contract after the 2022-23 season with a cap hit of $4.917 million.

Bishop, 31, posted a 2.49 goals against average and .916 save percentage in 53 games played in his first season in the Big D, compiling a 26-17-5 record.

Backup netminder, Kari Lehtonen, 34, is a pending-UFA this July and secured a 2.56 GAA and .912 SV% in 37 games this season– his first as a full-time backup in Dallas. Lehtonen had a 15-14-3 record and improved in GAA and SV% as a result of the decrease in workload.

In fact, over his last few seasons as a starting goaltender, Lehtonen’s goals against average and save percentage were all over the place (2.94 and .903 in 2014-15, 2.76 and .906 in 2015-16 and 2.85 and .902 in 2016-17).

The main purpose of a backup goaltender is to stop pucks and give your starter a rest, while hopefully stealing more wins than losses in the meantime.

If Dallas can tighten up their defense, then Lehtonen can easily surpass the .500 mark as a winning backup goaltender next season– if he gets an extension, that is.

Considering how the Stars don’t have someone readily available in the system and the potentially weak market for goaltenders this summer (ignoring the hot commodity that is Stanley Cup champion Philipp Grubauer), Lehtonen should be back.

Other pending free agents throughout the organization include:

Curtis McKenzie (UFA), Andrew Bodnarchuk (UFA), Andrew O’Brien (UFA), Mike McKenna (UFA), Brian Flynn (UFA), Dillon Heatherington (RFA), Cole Ully (RFA), Jason Dickinson (RFA), Remi Elie (RFA), Philippe Desrosiers (RFA), Reece Scarlett (UFA), Brent Regner (UFA)

Buyouts on the books: Antti Niemi— $1.500 million through the end of 2018-19

2018 Offseason Preview: Montréal Canadiens

Day 1 of our offseason preview series reaches a close with the third lottery-winning team, the Montréal Canadiens.

After finishing the season with a 29-40-13 record good enough for fourth-worst in the NHL, there’s little doubting the league’s most-storied franchise is in a bit of a funk right now. The offense was anemic (averaging a third-worst 2.52 goals per game), the defensive zone was equally as bad (allowing a seventh-worst 3.15 goals against per game) and the defense did little to make G Carey Price‘s life any easier (Montréal allowed a 12th-worst 32.3 shots against per game).

What can General Manager Marc Bergevin do to fix this mess?

2018 NHL Entry Draft

I’m of the firm belief that, barring select and rare circumstances, teams of any sport should always draft the best player available. Should Bergevin – as well as Buffalo and Carolina with their own selections – prescribe to that theory, I’d bank on Czech W Filip Zadina continuing to study his French after a season with QMJHL side Halifax.

Having played only one season with the Mooseheads, the 18-year-old was far and away the brightest rookie in his league. In 57 regular season games, Zadina posted wildly impressive 44-38-82 totals for 1.44 points per game, the fifth-best mark of any player in that league that played at least 51 games.

The tough predicament with Zadina is figuring out if he’ll join the Canadiens and begin his rookie season immediately, or if he’ll return to Halifax to develop another year in juniors. He certainly has the talent on his own, but the answer to that question has a better chance of being discovered after taking a look at how Montréal tackles free agency.

Pending free agents

The Habs have five forwards with NHL contracts that expired at the culmination of the regular season, but only RW Ales Hemsky is of the unrestricted variety. LW Daniel Carr, F Phillip Danault, F Jacob de la Rose and F Logan Shaw are all RFAs.

Turning 35-years-old before the 2018-19 season gets underway, there’s a chance Hemsky’s playing days could be behind him. In the last two seasons, he’s appeared in only 22 NHL games and hasn’t registered a point since his goal against the Devils on March 26, 2017. If anything, I’d expect the Oilers to offer him a one-day deal so he could retire with the team that drafted him 13th-overall in 2001.

Without a doubt, Carr and Danault should be seeing some of the Canadiens’ available $12 million slid their way, as the club’s struggles were far from a result of their play.

In the contract year of a $1.825 million, two-year deal, Danault posted decent 8-17-25 totals in 52 appearances (made only better in light of Montréal’s overall poor offense) for .48 points per game. At 25-years-old, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him sign another two-year deal – this one worth at least $1.5 million per year.

In a similar strain, I’d also be just fine with seeing Carr sign for $1 million, even if it was only a one or two-year contract. Carr only played in 38 games this season, but he posted 6-10-16 totals to average .42 points per game. Carr may never develop into a top-six player, but most teams will gladly take that kind of production from a third-liner.

Back on the blue line, there’s exactly zero pending NHL free agents. That’s not exactly a good thing for Montréal considering its miserable defensive performance this season, so I would expect at least one of the Habs’ D-men to be on the move.

Even though he’ll turn 33-years-old this August, D Shea Weber is still the Canadiens’ best defenseman, but his attractiveness on the trade front is severely hampered by the eight remaining years on his $110 million contract (yes, your math is correct: Nashville signed Weber until he is 41-years-old).

Instead, D Jeff Petry might fetch a very nice return from a team lacking defense but wants to win now. He has three years remaining on his $5.5 million AAV contract and would likely fetch a similar, if not higher, price the Habs paid for him three years ago (a second and fourth-round pick).

Similar to the defensemen, Montréal has little to worry about in the goaltending department. This season is the first of Price’s eight-year, $84 million contract extension, and G Antti Niemi still has one year left on his sub-$1 million deal. Especially in light of Niemi posting a .929 save percentage in 19 appearances with the Canadiens last season, I doubt much will be changing here.

The only way this situation might be altered is if a team wants to trade for Niemi, but my guess is that sort of transaction is better suited for the trade deadline given his lackluster performances over the last few seasons.

March 21 – Day 161 – Fallin’ for Dahlin

It’s a Wednesday, so the NHL doesn’t have too many games on today’s schedule.

Like most nights, this evening’s action finds its start at 7 p.m. with two tilts (Arizona at Buffalo and Montréal at Pittsburgh [RDS/SN]), followed an hour later by Boston at St. Louis (NBCSN/TVAS). Finally, Anaheim at Calgary (SN360) closes the night out with their fixture at 9:30 p.m. All times Eastern.

Throughout the season, I’ve jotted down some notes about a couple of tonight’s games.

  • Montréal at Pittsburgh: It’s rare that a player can be so remembered in only three games with a club, but every Pens fan can tell you about G Antti Niemi‘s short three-game tenure with the squad to start the season.
  • Anaheim at Calgary: Playoff rematches from a year ago aren’t so important at this point in the season, but this is the Flames’ last chance to exact any revenge against the Ducks this campaign.

Now, there’s certainly important games in terms of playoff implications being played tonight (looking at you St. Louis and, to a lesser extent, Calgary). However, for the last few days, my eyes have been drawn to the bottom of the league standings to what should be a better game between the Coyotes and Sabres than meets the eye, even if both clubs have a good chance at snagging the first-overall draft pick.

 

While the 24-37-11 Coyotes are still a ways off of challenging Vegas for the top of the Pacific Division, they have not been playing as poorly as their position as second-to-last in the Western Conference would indicate. In fact, Arizona has posted a 6-3-1 record in its 10 games this March.

The biggest reason for the Yotes’ most recent success goes by the name 16-16-6 G Antti Raanta. Even in the face of a defense that has allowed 31.3 shots against per game this calendar month (the 14th-fewest in the league in that time), Raanta has posted an impressive .941 save percentage and 2.01 GAA. This solid run has improved his season marks to a .925 save percentage and 2.41 GAA.

Even with the Coyotes traveling to Raleigh after tonight’s game for a tilt against the Hurricanes tomorrow, it appears Raanta will man the pipes tonight as Joe Yerdon reported he was in the starter’s crease at this morning’s skate.

Similar to Arizona, 23-37-12 Buffalo also hasn’t been as bad as last in the league would indicate lately. Not only have the Sabres posted a 3-4-1 record since March 2, but they’ve done it in light of facing a tough schedule (at Florida, vs. Toronto, vs. Calgary, vs. Vegas, vs. Toronto and vs. Nashville) that even the best of teams would struggle with.

That being said, the biggest reason Buffalo still has a losing record over this eight-game run has to be its struggling defense. Even with F Ryan O’Reilly (10 takeaways in his last eight games) and D Rasmus Ristolainen (three hits per game and 1.8 blocks per game since March 2) pouring their hearts out on the defensive end, the Sabres are still allowing 36.75 shots against per game since March 2, the third-worst mark in the NHL in that time.

As would be expected when faced with that kind of assault, the Sabres’ goaltenders have struggled to keep up. In his last three starts, 8-11-3 G Chad Johnson – tonight’s starter – has managed only a .9 save percentage and 4.11 GAA. While that save percentage is slightly better than the .897 he’s managed for the entire season, the sheer quantity of shots faced means his recent GAA is well over his 3.27 season mark.

It’s at this point where we turn this preview on its head. I’m almost always of the opinion that players have little to no interest in tanking or improving draft odds, hence my struggle with the idea of tanking. Unless they’ve given up on their teammates, players and coaches are always going to put 100 percent effort into their play.

However, I’m very certain General Managers Jason Botterill and John Chayka are keeping a close eye on this game and hoping that things go their clubs’ way… by things not going their clubs’ way. With that in mind, let’s discuss how much winning this game can do to impair either team’s chance at drafting first overall.

As things currently stand, the Sabres are 31st in the league and have the best shot at the first overall pick (in other words, they have an 18 percent chance of drafting Rasmus Dahlin, Andrei Svechnikov or Brady Tkachuk whomever they think is the best fit for their organization). However, it’s still a tight race at the bottom of the NHL, as the last three teams are separated by only one point. Should Buffalo win this game, it will vault Arizona and Vancouver into 29th in the league. Third-to-last has a 10.5 percent chance of drafting first overall.

Speaking of 29th-place, that is exactly where the Coyotes currently reside since they’re winning (or losing, depending on how you look at it) a games-played tiebreaker with Vancouver. Should Arizona win tonight’s tilt, it will pull within two points of 28th-place Ottawa, the team that has a 9.5 percent chance of drafting first overall.

The last time these teams squared off was November 2 at Gila River Arena, and it was an incredibly entertaining affair. Even though First Star LW Benoit Pouliot had scored two goals and tacked on another assist to give Buffalo a comfortable 5-1 lead, the Sabres allowed Arizona to score three third period goals. Buffalo was saved by the final horn and escaped the Grand Canyon State with a 5-4 victory.

Based simply on defense, it looks like the Coyotes have the upper hand in this game. Mix in the fact that their offense has averaged 2.6 goals per game in March to Buffalo’s 2.25, and it becomes a no-brainer.


In desperate need of two points, the Dallas Stars still sit on the outside of the playoff picture after losing yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day against the Washington Capitals 4-3 at Capital One Arena.

The game started exactly how the Stars would have liked, as they entered the first intermission with a 1-0 advantage. With 3:56 remaining in the first frame, F Tyler Seguin (RW Alexander Radulov and Third Star of the Game D John Klingberg) took advantage of C Nicklas Backstrom getting thrown into the penalty box for tripping Klingberg to score a power play snap shot.

However, it didn’t take long after the start of the second period for the Capitals to take a lead of their own. F T.J. Oshie (C Lars Eller and Second Star W Alex Ovechkin) got Washington on the scoreboard at the 4:07 mark of the frame with a wrist shot, and D Matt Niskanen followed him with an unassisted wrister only 1:25 later to give the Caps a 2-1 lead.

Scoring subsided until 8:12 remained in the period when Radulov (Klingberg and LW Jamie Benn) leveled the game with a snapper, but Ovechkin (First Star D John Carlson and Oshie) regained a one-goal advantage for the Caps on a power play slap shot only 1:53 later. Benn completed the period’s scoring with a wrister, tying the score at 3-3 1:45 before the second intermission.

As would be expected from a a tie entering the final 20 minutes of regulation, there was tons of action at both ends of the ice. In total, 21 shots on goal were registered between the two teams in the third frame – split as evenly as possible. Unfortunately for Dallas, the Capitals take credit for the remaining shot on goal, and it proved to be the game-winner.

With 4:59 remaining in regulation and the teams playing under four-on-four conditions (C Radek Faksa and D Brooks Orpik were in the penalty box for respective slashing and roughing infractions against one another), Ovechkin collected a centering pass to nobody by Eller in the left corner. After advancing towards the trapezoid, the captain returned the puck to Eller waiting in the opposite corner, who saw Carlson wide open above the right face-off circle and delivered him a perfect setup pass. The defenseman one-timed a nasty clapper over G Kari Lehtonen‘s glove shoulder to set the 4-3 final score.

G Braden Holtby earned the victory after saving 24-of-27 shots faced (.889 save percentage), leaving the loss to Lehtonen, who saved 28-of-32 (.875).

Home teams are trying to reclaim their dominance in the DtFR Game of the Day series, as they’ve now earned points in three-consecutive games. As such, the 89-52-20 hosts now have a 35-point advantage over the roadies.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #97- The One Without Connor McDavid

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.

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