Using Qualifiers to enhance this postseason (it’s a breakdown of the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers and Round Robin action). Plus the Seattle Kraken!
The DTFR Podcast is back from hiatus as Nick provides a State of the Podcast, reviews a few things from the last couple of months and delves into all of the transactions leading up to the 2020 NHL trade deadline.
After giving up two quick goals in the first period, the Boston Bruins came back to defeat the Calgary Flames, 4-3, on Friday night at Scotiabank Saddledome.
Jaroslav Halak (16-6-6 record, 2.33 goals against average, .920 save percentage in 28 games played) made 18 saves on 21 shots against for an .857 SV% in the win.
Flames goaltender, Cam Talbot (9-10-1, 2.83 GAA, .914 SV% in 23 games played) stopped 19 out of 23 shots faced for an .826 SV% in the loss.
The Bruins improved to 39-11-12 (90 points) on the season and remain in 1st place in the Atlantic Division, while Calgary fell to 31-25-6 (68 points) and remained in 4th place in the Pacific Division.
Boston also improved to 18-9-3 on the road this season with the victory and the B’s have now won 11 out of their last 12 games.
For just the seventh time in NHL history, a team that gave up three goals in the opening four minutes of a game came back to win as Calgary scored three goals in a little over three minutes into Friday’s action, but lost.
The Bruins were without the services of Kevan Miller (knee) on Friday, while Connor Clifton (upper body) is still with the Providence Bruins (AHL) on a conditioning stint.
B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made a few minor changes to his lineup from Wednesday night’s, 2-1, overtime win in Edmonton– swapping Danton Heinen and Karson Kuhlman on the second and third line right wings (reuniting Heinen with Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci and Kuhlman with Anders Bjork and Charlie Coyle in the process).
Cassidy also re-inserted Anton Blidh on the fourth line left wing while scratching Joakim Nordstrom in the process.
Earlier in the day on Friday, Boston General Manager, Don Sweeney, made a trade with Anaheim Ducks GM, Bob Murray– sending David Backes, defensive prospect, Axel Andersson and Boston’s 2020 1st round pick to the Ducks for Ondrej Kase.
Boston retained 25% of Backes’ contract ($1.500 million through the 2020-21 season) in the transaction. Kase won’t join the team until Monday, when the Bruins are back from their current road trip and back to practice at Warrior Ice Arena.
Kase has not played since Feb. 7th with “flu-like symptoms”, but resumed skating on Thursday with the Ducks (prior to being traded on Friday).
Meanwhile, Nordstrom, Par Lindholm and John Moore served as healthy scratches for the Bruins on Friday.
Calgary charged into the attacking zone and fired a shot off the post in the opening seconds of Friday night’s action.
The puck rebounded right to the blade of Mikael Backlund (11), who promptly shot the puck past Halak as the Bruins netminder was committed to the initial shot off the iron and couldn’t recover in time.
Rasmus Andersson (15) and Noah Hanifin (14) had the assists on Backlund’s first goal of the game 20 seconds into the first period and the Flames had the game’s first lead, 1-0.
About two minutes later, Backlund (12) scored again on a one-timer as a result of a saucer pass from Tobias Rieder on a two-on-one break with Zdeno Chara as the lone defender for Boston.
Rieder (6) and Matthew Tkachuk (31) tallied the assists on Backlund’s second goal of the game and Calgary jumped out to a, 2-0, lead at 2:24 of the first period.
Not to be outdone, Patrice Bergeron (28) responded quickly after a shot from the point was deflected wide and caromed off the end boards to Bergeron in the slot for the backhand goal 24 seconds after the Flames extended their lead to two-goals.
David Pastrnak (42) and Charlie McAvoy (22) notched the assists on Bergeron’s first goal of the night as the B’s cut Calgary’s lead in half, 2-1, at 2:58 of the first period.
Less than a minute later, Johnny Gaudreau (15) beat Halak with a backhand shot and put the Flames back in command of a two-goal lead.
Elias Lindholm (22) had the only assist on Gaudreau’s goal at 3:23 and Calgary led, 3-1.
Then for a short period of time (less than three minutes) neither team scored a goal.
But Bergeron wasn’t done scoring for the night as the lively boards at Scotiabank Saddledome worked in his favor once more and Bergeron (29) pocketed his second goal of the night on Talbot to pull the B’s within one-goal once more.
Pastrnak (43) and Brad Marchand (53) were credited with the assists on Bergeron’s second goal and the Bruins trailed, 3-2, at 6:12 of the first period.
Less than 30 seconds after the ensuing faceoff after Bergeron’s goal, Matt Grzelcyk leveled Rieder with a huge hit in the neutral zone, but was dealt a minor infraction for elbowing– yielding the first power play of the game to the Flames at 6:33.
Calgary didn’t convert on their first power play opportunity of the night.
Midway through the opening frame, Kuhlman sent Coyle into the attacking zone on a breakaway, whereby Coyle (15) deked backhand to forehand and wired a shot over Talbot’s glove to tie the game, 3-3, at 12:20 of the first period.
Kuhlman (5) and Bjork (10) tallied the assists on Coyle’s goal as the tow teams entered the first intermission deadlocked, 3-3, on the scoreboard, despite Boston leading in shots on goal, 12-6.
The Bruins also held the advantage in blocked shots (7-2) and faceoff win percentage (62-38), while the Flames led in giveaways (6-3) and hits (7-6).
Both teams had one takeaway aside, while Calgary was 0/1 on the power play. Boston did not see any time on the skater advantage in the entire game.
Less than a minute into the middle frame, Marchand (24) redirected a shot from Brandon Carlo and gave Boston their first lead of the night, 4-3, at 52 seconds of the second period.
Carlo (14) and Torey Krug (33) had the assists on Marchand’s goal and both teams combined for seven goals in the game in the first 21 minutes of action.
Nobody scored again for the rest of the night, however.
Midway through the second period, Jeremy Lauzon dropped the gloves with Tkachuk and the two players were sent to the box with fighting majors at 10:17 of the middle frame.
It was the 14th fight this season for Boston and the first career fighting major for the rookie Bruins defender, Lauzon.
Through 40 minutes of play in Calgary, the B’s led the Flames, 4-3, on the scoreboard and, 17-11, in shots on goal.
Boston also held the advantage in blocked shots (12-6) and giveaways (9-8), while Calgary held the advantage in takeaways (5-4) and faceoff win% (55-45).
Both teams had 16 hits aside and the Flames were still 0/1 on the power play.
Early in the final frame, Bergeron tripped up Derek Ryan and was assessed a minor infraction at 5:55 of the third period.
Calgary didn’t score on the ensuing power play.
There were no goals and no more penalties scored in the final frame of regulation as both teams swapped chances and both goaltenders found their rhythm.
Flames interim head coach, Geoff Ward, pulled Talbot for an extra attacker with about a minute left in the game, but it was to no avail as the Bruins won, 4-3, at the final horn.
Boston finished Friday night’s effort leading in shots on goal (23-21), blocked shots (19-9), while Calgary ended the night leading in hits (22-20) and faceoff win% (54-46).
Both teams had 11 giveaways each and the Flames ended the night 0/2 on the power play.
The Bruins have now won 11 out of their last 12 games and improved to 11-2-6 when tied after one period and 24-1-6 when leading after two periods this season.
Boston also improved to 16-4-4 when allowing the game’s first goal this season, while Calgary fell to 17-7-3 when scoring the game’s first goal this season.
The Flames also fell to 10-10-2 when tied after one period and 7-24-2 when trailing after two periods this season.
Boston wraps up their four-game road trip (3-0-0) on Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks.
The B’s return home for a two-game homestand on Feb. 25th and Feb. 27th for meetings with the Flames and Dallas Stars, respectively, before wrapping up the month of February with a road game against the New York Islanders on Feb. 29th.
50-25-7, 107 points, 1st in the Pacific Division
Eliminated in the First Round by Colorado
Additions: F Byron Froese, F Justin Kirkland, F Milan Lucic (acquired from EDM), D Brandon Davidson, G Cam Talbot
Subtractions: F Tyler Graovac (signed with VAN), F Garnet Hathaway (signed with WSH), F Curtis Lazar (signed with BUF), F James Neal (traded to EDM), F Anthony Peluso (signed with Bakersfield, AHL), F Brett Pollock (signed with Iowa, AHL), F Kerby Rychel (KHL), F Linden Vey (KHL), D Oscar Fantenberg (signed with VAN), D Josh Healey (signed with Milwaukee, AHL), D Marcus Hogstrom (SHL), D Dalton Prout (signed with SJS), G Mason McDonald (signed with Colorado, AHL), G Mike Smith (signed with EDM)
Still Unsigned: F Spencer Foo (KHL, CGY reserve list), D Matt Taormina
Re-signed: F Sam Bennett, F Ryan Lomberg, F Andrew Mangiapane, F Matthew Tkachuk, D Rinat Valiev, G David Rittich
Offseason Analysis: After taking home the first overall seed in the Western Conference in the regular season, the Calgary Flames proceeded to burnout in five games against the Colorado Avalanche in the First Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
What are they doing to prevent another embarrassment?
They traded James Neal.
Flames GM, Brad Treliving, traded Neal to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Milan Lucic and a conditional 2020 3rd round pick. Calgary receives the 3rd round pick if Neal scores 21 goals and Lucic scores 10 or fewer goals than Neal this season. Very specific!
Aside from losing other depth pieces (Garnet Hathaway) in free agency, Treliving is fully prepared to send out his core on the ice for head coach, Bill Peters, to play as he sees fit.
The Flames weren’t bad all season until March last year, then they started losing games they shouldn’t have and went on to back themselves into the postseason without any moxie.
As such, the Avs rolled right over them.
For now, Treliving has put off the inevitable pay raise for Matthew Tkachuk.
Tkachuk signed a three-year extension worth $7.000 million per season earlier this week, which may seem like a steal for Calgary, until one considers Tkachuk’s third year salary ($9.000 million).
His next qualifying offer will at least be $9.000 million and he’s bound for a significant raise by that point if his production continues to grow, so even though he said he’s signing for less right now so his teammates don’t have to worry about not being re-signed by the Flames due to cap constraints, things may still get hairy by 2022.
For now, the Flames are the closest to returning to the Stanley Cup Final than they have ever been since losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games in 2004.
They just have to get out of the First Round to make critics start to believe that their regular season success was not a fluke.
Offseason Grade: C-
Trading Neal for Lucic isn’t a spectacular deal, but the Flames somehow convinced the Oilers to retain some of Lucic’s salary, meaning Edmonton didn’t do themselves any favors as they had hoped to in getting rid of the veteran winger.
Fans in Calgary have come to expect uneventful offseasons, but at least the city and the franchise agreed to a new arena to get everyone even more excited about the future.
The U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2019 was announced, a major shakeup in the Board of Governors may be ahead, extensions were signed, Jake Gardiner joined the Carolina Hurricanes and it’s time for our DTFR Podcast season previews (starting with the Pacific Division).
37-37-8, 82 points, 6th in the Metropolitan Division
Only misses the postseason in odd years (2013, 2015, 2017, 2019)
Additions: F Andy Andreoff, F Kyle Criscuolo, F Kurtis Gabriel, F Kevin Hayes (acquired from WPG), F Tyler Pitlick (acquired from DAL), D Chris Bigras, D Justin Braun (acquired from SJS), D Matt Niskanen (acquired from WSH), D Nate Prosser, D Andy Welinski, D Tyler Wotherspoon, G Jean-Francois Berube
Subtractions: F Justin Bailey (signed with VAN), F Cole Bardreau (signed with NYI), F Greg Carey (signed with Lehigh Valley, AHL), F Byron Froese (signed with CGY), F Tyrell Goulbourne (signed with VGK), F Ryan Hartman (traded to DAL, signed with MIN), F Corban Knight (KHL), F Jori Lehtera (KHL), F Roman Lyubimov (KHL), F Phil Varone (signed with MTL), F Mike Vecchione (signed with STL), D Radko Gudas (traded to WSH), G Mike McKenna (retired), G Michal Neuvirth (signed a PTO with TOR), G Cam Talbot (signed with CGY)
Still Unsigned: F Travis Konecny, D Jacob Graves, D Ivan Provorov
Re-signed: F Nicolas Aube-Kubel, F Scott Laughton
Offseason Analysis: It’s the dawn of a new age for the Philadelphia Flyers. Gone are the days (hopefully) of the revolving door of goaltenders in a Flyers sweater as Carter Hart’s first full season is about to get underway– and with a stable defense in front of him too.
Last season, Philadelphia set an NHL record for the most goaltenders used in a season with seven different netminders.
This season, Philadelphia’s looking to set a record for the most current/former head coaches to be behind the bench at any given time as Alain Vigneault is the new head coach, while Mike Yeo and Michel Therrien are playing supporting roles as assistants.
General Manager, Chuck Fletcher, nabbed Kevin Hayes in June in a trade with the Winnipeg Jets– sending a 2019 5th round pick to the Jets in return.
Shortly after acquiring Hayes, the Flyers “re-signed” him to a seven-year, $50 million contract worth $7.143 million per season. He’s never scored more than 25 goals in a season and just had a career-high 55 points in 71 games with the New York Rangers and Winnipeg last season.
While Hayes certainly isn’t a standout superstar, he does solidify the top-six forward group and provides a long-term foundation for Philadelphia’s core with his seven-year deal.
Claude Giroux is only 31-years-old and signed through 2021-22 at $8.275 million per season and Jakub Voracek, 30, is signed through 2023-24 at $8.250 million per season.
Any contract with a cap hit under $9 million for your best players is considered a steal in today’s NHL, but not all “steals” are good contracts.
Regardless, Philadelphia has a versatile group of forwards and upgraded their defense over the offseason– something that was badly needed to help lessen the load on a high turnover of goaltenders over recent years.
Radko Gudas was traded to the Washington Capitals in a one-for-one deal that sent Matt Niskanen to the Flyers. Though Philadelphia retained 30% of Gudas’ salary ($1.005 million) in the deal, they did not keep any of his future suspensions in the transaction.
While Niskanen alone isn’t the most impressive thing in the world, adding Justin Braun to the mix that includes Niskanen, Shayne Gostisbehere, Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Robert Hagg and Samuel Morin certainly is.
Provorov is still an unsigned restricted free agent with training camp opening later this week.
Braun was acquired by Philadelphia in a trade with the San Jose Sharks in which Fletcher gave up a 2019 2nd round pick and a 2020 3rd round pick to get the top-four defender while the Sharks were looking to unload salary now that they’ve locked up Erik Karlsson to an eight-year, $92 million extension.
The Flyers have made themselves into serious playoff contenders on paper, but the hard part still remains in front of them– actually making it.
Luckily for them, Vigneault has been to the Stanley Cup Final more recently than Philadelphia has as an organization.
Vigneault made it to the Final behind the bench of the Vancouver Canucks in 2011 and New York Rangers in 2014. His team lost in seven games in 2011 and in five games in 2014.
The Flyers lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final.
To win the Cup– sometimes– it takes a couple of hardships first before the sweet taste of victory.
Philadelphia’s in “win now” mode. Future be damned.
They have $13.417 million in cap space with Travis Konecny and Provorov to re-sign, plus Nolan Patrick in the final year of his entry-level contract this season.
Offseason Grade: A-
Sure Hayes is overpaid and Vigneault, Yeo and Therrien are behind the bench, but Fletcher built a legitimate defense, a mix of youth and quality players in their prime, plus he has a dark horse in net.
How far can Philadelphia go? That remains to be seen, especially as some of the younger players don’t have a lot of playoff experience– if any at all. However, the Flyers are playoff contenders nonetheless and as long as you make the postseason, you have a chance of winning the Cup.
35-38-9, 79 points, 7th in the Pacific Division
Have made the postseason once in the last 13 years
Additions: F Josh Archibald, F Markus Granlund, F Tomas Jurco, F James Neal (acquired from CGY), F Riley Sheahan, G Mike Smith
Subtractions: F Mitch Callahan (DEL), F Milan Lucic (traded to CGY), F Ty Rattie (KHL), F Tobias Rieder (signed to a PTO with CGY), D Kevin Gravel (signed with TOR), D John Marino (traded to PIT), D Robin Norell (SHL), D Alexander Petrovic (signed a PTO with BOS), D Ryan Stanton (signed with Ontario, AHL), G Anthony Stolarz (signed with ANA)
Still Unsigned: F Colin Larkin, F Jesse Puljujarvi (has an agreement with a Liiga team, if not traded by EDM), F Tyler Vesel, G Al Montoya
Re-signed: F Alex Chiasson, F Jujhar Khaira
Offseason Analysis: Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Edmonton Oilers have a new head coach and a new General Manager.
Dave Tippett brings his expertise behind the bench in place of Ken Hitchcock’s short tenure as head coach of the Oilers (after replacing Todd McLellan about a quarter of the way into last season), while Ken Holland is large and in charge of the reigns in Edmonton’s front office.
Tippett is fresh off of a few years without an NHL head coaching job, since being relieved of his duties from the Arizona Coyotes after the 2016-17 season.
On May 7th, Holland left the Detroit Red Wings for the Oilers after being “promoted” to a senior advisor role a couple of weeks prior– coinciding with Detroit’s hiring of Steve Yzerman as GM on April 19th.
Over the course of a generation’s time, Holland is known for making small, but deliberate, moves in the offseason to build his roster.
The additions of Markus Granlund and Tomas Jurco reflect the need for flexible top-nine depth.
While scouring the market, Holland found a perfect suitor for Milan Lucic’s massive contract and subsequently dealt Lucic to the Calgary Flames along with a conditional 2020 3rd round pick in exchange for James Neal.
Neal, 32, is a year older than Lucic and signed through the 2022-23 season, which is… just as long as Lucic is under contract for, but now with Calgary.
Oh, and the Oilers retained 12.5 percent of Lucic’s salary ($750,000 per season), because of course.
To top things off, the conditional 2020 3rd round pick becomes property of the Flames if Neal scores 21 goals and Lucic scores 10 or fewer goals than Neal in 2019-20.
Neal had seven goals and 12 assists (19 points) in 63 games with the Flames last season (down from 25-19–44 totals in 71 games with the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017-18).
Lucic had six goals and 14 assists (20 points) in 79 games with the Oilers last season (down from 10-24–34 totals in 82 games in 2017-18). The new No. 17 for Calgary had been in decline each season while in Edmonton.
Looks like it’s business as usual in Edmonton so far.
What’s more, Holland faces an increasingly difficult 2020 offseason with 14 pending free agents, including 24-year-old defender (and pending-restricted free agent at season’s end), Darnell Nurse.
Nurse is looking to have a breakout year to translate into a big payday thereafter.
Meanwhile, it’d almost be better for the Oilers to just not re-sign any of their pending free agents, but then again teams still have to be cap compliant in order to participate in the league, so…
Holland also traded defensive prospect John Marino to the Pittsburgh Penguins in hopes of landing a touchdown in a conditional 2021 6th round pick.
The “Hail Mary” pass went incomplete as Marino signed his entry-level contract with the Penguins and the Oilers missed out on the draft pick.
At least there’s some stability in the crease with 31-year-old, Mikko Koskinen (25-21-6 record in 55 games played last season, 2.93 goals against average, .906 save percentage and 4 shutouts), and 37-year-old, two-time All Star, Mike Smith (23-16-2 record in 42 games with Calgary last season, 2.73 GAA, .898 SV% and 2 SO).
The average age of Edmonton’s goaltenders? 34.
Koskinen took over the starting role, while Smith was brought in as the backup in the post-Cam Talbot Era (Talbot was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers last season and signed with the Flames this offseason).
At least the Oilers have Connor McDavid (a career-high 41-75–116 totals in 78 games played last season) and Leon Draisaitl (a career-high 50-55–102 totals in 82 games last season).
Offseason Grade: F
The whole point of trying to trade Lucic was to save money and in the end, the result was not a gain, but a loss in salary cap space. At least the only players with no-trade or no-movement clauses (for now) are Kris Russell, Koskinen and Smith.
Nothing is overnight, but for an organization to have fallen so far* while having one of the best players in the world (McDavid) on their roster is about as bad as intentionally running things into the ground while still hoping the public will pay for a new arena and threatening to move the team if your demands aren’t met in the meantime.
*Relatively speaking from that one postseason appearance in 2017.
As the entire hockey world awaits training camp action next month, let’s make some (un)educated guesses about the upcoming season that will totally pan out because everything always goes as expected. (It doesn’t.)
The projected standings below are only a forecast.
They are based on recent indications– as well as the last few seasons of stats– and cannot account for variations in roster construction (a.k.a. trades and free agency moves).
There’s a lot of variables that will turn the tables upside down, including transactions, injuries and otherwise. Anything can happen.
As always, it’s more important to remember 1) the spread and 2) the positioning.
Just how many points separate the projected division winner from the last wild card spot (the spread) and where a team is supposed to finish in the division standings (the position) can imply that things aren’t always what they seem.
A team that’s projected to win it all still has to play an 82-game regular season, qualify for the playoffs and go on to amass 16 wins in the postseason.
Projected Standings After ZERO Months
- y-Vegas Golden Knights, 101 points
- x-San Jose Sharks, 100 points
- x-Anaheim Ducks, 96 points
- wc1- Calgary Flames, 93 points
- Los Angeles Kings, 89 points
- Vancouver Canucks, 83 points
- Arizona Coyotes, 78 points
- Edmonton Oilers, 77 points
Vegas Golden Knights: Pros and Cons
Despite a colossal collapse in Game 7 of their First Round matchup with the San Jose Sharks this spring, the Golden Knights are ready for what could be another deep playoff run in 2020.
A full season of Mark Stone– plus the rest of the original and supporting cast (Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, Paul Stastny, Max Pacioretty, Marc-Andre Fleury, etc.)– should provide Vegas with enough scoring power, while Nate Schmidt anchors the defense with Shea Theodore, Brayden McNabb, Jon Merrill and adopted Vegas son, Deryk Engelland.
Aside from working on the penalty kill and the peaceful transition of power from George McPhee to Kelly McCrimmon as General Manager of the organization (effective Sept. 1st), the Golden Knights have had a quiet offseason.
Sure, they traded Colin Miller to the Buffalo Sabres which hurts their blue line depth in the event of injuries, but Vegas has a few notable prospects with the Chicago Wolves (AHL) in Jake Bischoff, Nic Hague and Jimmy Schudlt that should be ready for a taste of NHL action if necessary.
Owner, Bill Foley, has his sights set on his original vision for the franchise– winning a Cup within the first three seasons of its existence.
The only downside for the Golden Knights heading into the 2019-20 season? Goaltending.
No, Fleury isn’t in decline from his status as one of the better goaltenders in the league, but his time in the crease has to be managed.
Though he was limited to 46 games in 2017-18 due to injury, Fleury amassed a 29-13-4 record with a 2.24 goals against average and a .927 save percentage. Vegas’ backup goaltender, Malcolm Subban, managed a 13-4-2 record in 22 games played that season with a 2.68 GAA and a .910 SV% in his rookie season.
Last season, Subban’s numbers took a turn for the worse.
He had an 8-10-2 record in 21 games played with a 2.93 GAA and a .902 SV%– all while Fleury was forced to carry a heavier schedule load, seeing his stat line slip to a 2.51 GAA and a .913 SV% in the process, but improving his overall record to 35-21-5 in 61 games.
Vegas added Garret Sparks, who carries a career GAA (3.09) and SV% (.898) that’s worst than Subban in six fewer games played over two full-time seasons as a backup (Sparks appeared in 37 games with Toronto, while Subban’s played in 43 with Vegas since 2017-18).
Gerard Gallant can’t rely on a fallback plan if one of them doesn’t yield a significant turnaround at this point in their careers (because there isn’t one) and he also can’t overexert Fleury in the buildup to the postseason.
This is why you can never have too many goaltenders in the system.
How would the Golden Knights fail?
If an Uber driver records their players complaining about their special teams play and/or said Uber driver can’t do a better job at not allowing four power play goals against on a five-minute major penalty kill.
San Jose Sharks: Pros and Cons
San Jose has about $4.683 million in cap space and Joe Thornton is still unsigned. Are we really ready to live in a world where Thornton isn’t on the Sharks and it’s not 1997-2005 again?
Also, Patrick Marleau is still unsigned too, but that’s besides the point– plus he spent the last two years with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Anyway, the Sharks went all in on Erik Karlsson’s extension, shelling out $11.500 million per season for the next eight years through the 2026-27 season.
As long as Karlsson can remain healthy (and the rest of the roster for that matter, unlike in this spring’s Western Conference Final run), then San Jose’s blue line remains one of the most dynamic forces of offensive capabilities from an otherwise non-traditional source of scoring production.
Kevin Labanc is an emerging star in a Sharks uniform and will carry a bigger role this season with the departure of Joe Pavelski to the Dallas Stars via free agency.
Meanwhile, it’s officially the Logan Couture Era in Silicon Valley– if General Manager Doug Wilson is truly moving on from the days of Thornton and Marleau– with supporting roles from Tomas Hertl and Evander Kane.
While Karlsson’s cap hit tops the league on an otherwise unnerving contract if something goes wrong, Wilson managed to keep Timo Meier in teal for the next four seasons at an affordable $6.000 million cap hit.
Other than injuries, the only thing that could scare the Sharks out of the waters of contention is the inconsistency of Martin Jones and Aaron Dell in the crease.
Despite compiling 36 wins on the season in 62 games played, Jones had a career-worst GAA (2.94) and SV% (.896), while Dell also managed to have a career-worst performance as a backup with a 3.17 GAA and a .886 SV% in 25 games played (of which he won 10).
How would the Sharks fail?
San Jose has had everything imaginable happen to them in the postseason, so what seems irrational, inexplicable and/or unimaginable, because that’s probably how they’d lose (again).
Anaheim Ducks: Pros and Cons
The Ducks have about $8.500 million in cap space with a good mix of pending-unrestricted free agents and pending-restricted free agents next summer, which means they’ll only have more money to spend and reallocate to their better, younger players like Troy Terry and Daniel Sprong.
What’s the bad news?
It’s Anaheim. They’re suffering from buying out Corey Perry’s contract for the next four seasons ($2.625 million in 2019-20, $6.625 million in 2020-21 and $2.000 million from 2021-23), Ryan Getzlaf is signed through 2020-21 and has a no-movement clause, Ryan Kesler may never play again and is also signed through 2021-22 with a no-movement clause and finally, Adam Henrique has a modified no-trade clause and is signed through 2023-24.
Yes, Kesler can be place on long-term injured reserve and shelved for the remainder of his contract and/or traded elsewhere (after waiving his NMC) to free up cap space if he truly cannot return, but the fact of the matter is the Ducks are still too tied up to takeoff and fly.
The depth of prospects is sketchy with the Ducks, considering not much is known about their overall plan.
Are they overcooking some prospects for a better immediate impact in the NHL or should they just play the kids, wait around near the basement of the standings and rebuild?
Though this forecast has Anaheim tabbed for a divisional spot, they’re likely to be looking from outside the division with perhaps only the saving grace of a wild card spot thanks to John Gibson’s existence as one of the best goaltenders in the game (until the skaters in front of him let him down).
At the very least, Dallas Eakins is back as a head coach in the NHL, so all is right with the world (and he did a decent job resurrecting his career with a strong performance in San Diego (AHL) after his dismal days in Edmonton).
How would the Ducks fail?
General Manager Bob Murray holds onto his cards for too long, talent development stalls and/or Eakins turns out to not be one of those classic examples of a coach that just came into the league a little too early, then got a second chance and succeeded.
Calgary Flames: Pros and Cons
The Flames couldn’t win the Cup with two-time All Star goaltender, Mike Smith, on their roster, so they rolling with David Rittich and Cam Talbot– who joins Calgary from their intra-province rival Edmonton Oilers.
Speaking of the Oilers, that’s where Smith ended up. Goalie swap! But without any actual trading involved, since Talbot was most recently serving as a “Plan C” for the Philadelphia Flyers if Carter Hart, Brian Elliott and Co. weren’t ready to go down the stretch.
Anyway, back to the “C of Red”.
Calgary sent James Neal to Edmonton in exchange for Milan Lucic and ended up saving $500,000 per season for the remainder of Lucic’s contract (signed through 2022-23) in the process. The Oilers retained salary in the trade. You heard that right.
Matthew Tkachuk and Andrew Mangiapane are still unsigned RFAs and General Manager Brad Treliving has about $7.757 million to work with in cap space.
Get a deal done with Tkachuk and the Flames will go on without any interruption as a team that pleasantly turned a lot of heads in the regular season last year, then sputtered out in the First Round in five games to the Colorado Avalanche.
Bill Peters is ready for his second season behind the bench in Calgary and the roster looks set to remain in contention for a divisional berth, if not leading the Western Conference once again.
How would the Flames fail?
Simply put, if they flame out at the end of the regular season like they did last season– March was a bad month, which led to their demise in five games against Colorado in the First Round.
Los Angeles Kings: Pros and Cons
The good news for the Kings? Tyler Toffoli, Trevor Lewis, Kyle Clifford, Mario Kempe, Derek Forbort, Paul LaDue, Joakim Ryan and Jack Campbell are all pending-UFAs after next season and Carl Grundstrom, Austin Wagner, Sean Walker and Kurtis MacDermid are all pending-RFAs.
The bad news? Drew Doughty is signed through 2026-27 at $11.000 million per season, Anze Kopitar is making $10.000 million per season through 2023-24 and Adrian Kempe is currently an unsigned RFA.
General Manager Rob Blake has a lot to sort through this season, but he’s already made some corrections to his blunders in his first two seasons as an NHL GM.
For starters, he replaced Dion Phaneuf with Ryan in free agency, brought back his stable backup goaltender in Campbell on a one-year deal and didn’t give up on Ilya Kovalchuk, but rather hired an actual NHL head coach fit for the contemporary game in Todd McLellan.
Though Marco Sturm remains one of the best looking assistant coaches in the league, we’ll let this one slide, Los Angeles.
Are the Kings actually that much better than they were last season? Time will surely tell, but one thing’s for sure– they can’t possibly be much worse, right? Right!?!
If anything, the Kings are a wild card team at best or situated behind either Vancouver or Arizona at worst in the standings, but they should be lightyears from the basement in the division this season with some solid additions through the draft over the years in Alex Turcotte, Jaret Anderson-Dolan and Gabriel Vilardi.
Los Angeles should be able to (somewhat) bounce back from their regression last season, but at the same time, the year isn’t 2012 or 2014 anymore. It’s time to start cutting the chord with former “glue guys” turned placeholders on a roster that needs an influx of youth sooner rather than later.
How would the Kings fail?
If Jonathan Quick gets hurt in any fashion and Blake can’t get rid of at least one of the eight players on the 23-player roster over aged 30 or older.
Vancouver Canucks: Pros and Cons
The Canucks are looking to make it back into the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2015, but did General Manager, Jim Benning do enough this offseason to set Vancouver back on the right track for 2020?
Benning went out and acquired J.T. Miller from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for Marek Mazanec, a 2019 3rd round pick and a conditional 2020 1st round pick in June, then signed 29-year-old defender, Tyler Myers to a five-year, $30.000 million contract.
Miller and Myers are two quality assets compared to previous transactions made in the offseason by the Canucks. For once, Benning didn’t overpay an aging veteran player, but he also hasn’t cleaned up what might be a costly (both in price and on ice) fourth line in a league that runs four lines deep.
There’s a very real chance that none of the players on Vancouver’s fourth line any given night are making less than $3.000 million per season.
That’s unfathomable in a salary cap driven sport and only speaks to the number of misguided happenings in asset management by the Canucks.
Come to think of it, Vancouver only has five players out of a possible 23-player roster making less than $1.000 million per season. Sure, nobody’s making $10.000 million, but all those $2.000 million-plus, $3.000 million-plus, $4.000 million-plus and $5.000 million-plus contracts add up.
At least Elias Pettersson, Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser are worth watching night-in and night-out. Plus, Thatcher Demko should pan out to be one of the league’s better goaltenders.
There’s just one concern for Benning as the offseason continues– Boeser and Nikolay Goldobin are still unsigned RFAs.
And Boeser is certainly worth the four-year, $7.000 million cap hit he’s looking for. Too bad the Canucks only have $5.058 million in cap space though.
How would the Canucks fail?
By being close, but not close enough in yet another race for the playoffs. Things are heading in the right direction, however.
Arizona Coyotes: Pros and Cons
Mastermind GM John Chayka has landed this offseason’s biggest prize in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins– two-time Stanley Cup champion, Team USA representative and hot dog enthusiast, Phil “The Thrill” Kessel.
Kessel brings his goalscoring prowess to the Western Conference for the first time in his career, having been drafted by the Boston Bruins 5th overall in the 2006 NHL draft, then playing with Boston until being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2009 and then again the Pittsburgh in 2015.
No. 81 had 82 points in 82 games played last season, which was down from career-high 34-58–92 totals in 2017-18. Additionally, he hasn’t missed a game since 2010.
Along with Carl Soderberg– another offseason acquisition in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche– Kessel and the Coyotes are revamped and poised to make a run for the postseason.
Arizona’s only ranked low in this forecast because of nearly a decade of middle of the road rosters and missed opportunities since losing in the 2012 Western Conference Final in five games to Los Angeles.
The Coyotes haven’t been back to the playoffs since, but they’re trending upward.
With Nick Schmaltz, Jakob Chychrun and Oliver Ekman-Larsson locked up on long-term contracts, the core has really come into fruition while Chayka remains active in the draft and trade market.
Now they just need a little luck on their side to avoid losing Antti Raanta to the injury bug again.
How would the Coyotes fail?
If this forecast actually turns out to be true and Arizona finished 7th in the division, because otherwise who would actually want to see them fail?
Edmonton Oilers: Pros and Cons
Pro: New GM (Ken Holland) and a new head coach (Dave Tippett).
Con: Another new GM and a new head coach.
Pro: Connor McDavid!
Con: Plays for the Oilers.
Pro: They were able to trade Milan Lucic.
Con: While acquiring James Neal and retaining part of Lucic’s salary in the process, thereby spending more money than in the first place.
Pro: They should actually be better this year.
Con: We keep saying every year, even about a team that has the second-greatest player in the game behind Sidney Crosby on the roster.
Pro: There’s a lot of pending UFAs and RFAs on the roster.
Con: That means at least half of them are now going to have a career-year in a contract year and be overpaid either by Edmonton or other teams in the next offseason.
Pro: Two-time All Star Mike Smith signed a one-year deal to backup Mikko Koskinen.
Con: The average age of Edmonton’s goaltending duo is 34.
How would the Oilers fail?
How there’s any such thing as optimism besides having McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in Edmonton is incredible. If they make it to a wild card berth, it’d take McDavid playing every position, probably.
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.