Tag Archives: KHL

2017 NHL Entry Draft Round 1 Recap

Friday night marked Day 1 of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft and a record (welcome again Vegas Golden Knights) 31 players were selected in the 1st Round. In case you missed any of the action, here’s how it all broke down.

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NHL Entry Draft photos via NHL

2017 NHL Entry Draft– Round 1

  1. New Jersey Devils–> C Nico Hischier, Halifax (QMJHL)
  2. Philadelphia Flyers–> C Nolan Patrick, Brandon (OHL)
  3. Dallas Stars–> D Miro Heiskanen, HIFK, (Finland)
  4. Colorado Avalanche–> D Cale Makar, Brooks (AJHL)
  5. Vancouver Canucks–> C Elias Pettersson, Timra (SWE-2)
  6. Vegas Golden Knights–> C Cody Glass, Portland (WHL)
  7. New York Rangers (from Arizona)–> C Lias Andersson, HV71 (Sweden)
  8. Buffalo Sabres–> C Casey Mittelstadt, Eden Prairie (HS-MN)
  9. Detroit Red Wings–> C Michael Rasmussen, Tri-City (WHL)
  10. Florida Panthers–> RW Owen Tippett, Mississauga (OHL)
  11. Los Angeles Kings–> C Gabriel Vilardi, Windsor (OHL)
  12. Carolina Hurricanes–> C Martin Necas, Brno (Czech Republic)
  13. Vegas Golden Knights (from Winnipeg)–> C Nick Suzuki, Owen Sound (OHL)
  14. Tampa Bay Lightning–> D Callan Foote, Kelowna (WHL)
  15. Vegas Golden Knights (from N.Y. Islanders)–> D Erik Brannstrom, HV71 (Sweden)
  16. Calgary Flames–> D Juuso Valimaki, Tri-City (WHL)
  17. Toronto Maple Leafs–> D Timothy Liljegren, Rogle BK (Sweden)
  18. Boston Bruins–> D Urho Vaakanainen, JYP (Finland)
  19. San Jose Sharks–> C Josh Norris, USA U-18 (USHL)
  20. St. Louis Blues–> C Robert Thomas, London (OHL)
  21. New York Rangers–> C Filip Chytil, Zlin (Czech Republic)
  22. Edmonton Oilers–> RW Kailer Yamamoto, Spokane (WHL)
  23. Arizona Coyotes (from Minnesota)–> D Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Charlottetown (QMJHL)
  24. Winnipeg Jets (from Columbus via Vegas)–> LW/RW Kristian Vesalainen, Frolunda (Sweden)
  25. Montreal Canadiens–> C Ryan Poehling, St. Cloud State (NCHC)
  26. Dallas Stars (from Chicago)–> G Jake Oettinger, Boston University (Hockey-East)
  27. Philadelphia Flyers (from Washington via St. Louis)–> C Morgan Frost, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
  28. Ottawa Senators–> C Shane Bowers, Waterloo (USHL)
  29. Chicago Blackhawks (from Dallas via Anaheim)–> D Henri Jokiharju, Portland (WHL)
  30. Nashville Predators–> RW Eeli Tolvanen, Sioux City (USHL)
  31. St. Louis Blues (from Pittsburgh)–> C/LW Klim Kostin, Dynamo Moscow (Russia)

Trades Made on Day 1 of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft

  • The Arizona Coyotes traded D Connor Murphy and F Laurent Dauhpin to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for D Niklas Hjalmarsson.
  • The Columbus Blue Jackets acquired F Artemi PanarinF Tyler Motte and a 2017 6th round pick (170th overall) from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for F Brandon SaadG Anton Forsberg and a 2018 5th round pick.
  • The Arizona Coyotes traded D Anthony DeAngelo and a 2017 1st round pick (7th overall) to the New York Rangers for F Derek Stepan and G Antti Raanta.
  • The Columbus Blue Jackets acquired F Jordan Schroeder from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for F Dante Salituro.
  • The Chicago Blackhawks traded a 2017 1st round pick (26th overall) to the Dallas Stars for a 2017 1st round pick (29th overall) and a 2017 3rd round pick (70th overall).
  • The St. Louis Blues acquired F Brayden Schenn from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for F Jori Lehtera, a 2017 1st round pick (27th overall), and a conditional 2018 1st round pick.
  • The Pittsburgh Penguins traded F Oskar Sundqvist and a 2017 1st round pick (31st overall) to the St. Louis Blues and acquired F Ryan Reaves and a 2017 2nd round pick (51st overall) in return.

2017 Mock Draft: The First Round

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NHL Entry Draft logos via NHL

The time has come for my annual prediction of how the first round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft will go. This year’s draft class is overall weaker than years past, but comes with a difficult choice for the New Jersey Devils, as they hold the 1st overall pick. The talk surrounding Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier is reminiscent of the Taylor Hall vs. Tyler Seguin days leading up to the 2010 NHL Entry Draft in Los Angeles.

With that in mind, let’s see how many picks I get wrong (it’s an annual tradition!)– this year’s draft is being held in Chicago.

New Jersey Devils Logo1) New Jersey Devils –> C Nolan Patrick, Brandon (WHL)

A gifted center, Nolan Patrick’s status as the long-time coming predicted 1st overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft should not be affected by his injury shortened season with the Brandon Wheat Kings. Patrick is a 6’2″, 199-pound gifted two-way player that can not only contribute in goals and assists, but brings some size down the middle for the Devils.

Philadelphia Flyers Logo2) Philadelphia Flyers –> C Nico Hischier, Halifax (QMJHL)

If New Jersey doesn’t take Nolan Patrick 1st overall, then the Flyers shouldn’t really have any complaints, because either Nico Hischier or Patrick is quite the impressive steal for the 2.4% longshots at the 2nd overall pick in this year’s draft. Hischier stands tall at 6’2″, 179 pounds, and had 38-48-86 totals with the Halifax Mooseheads in 57 games this season en route to being named the CHL’s Rookie of the Year.

Unknown-23) Dallas Stars –> C Gabriel Vilardi, Windsor (OHL)                

Gabriel Vilardi was part of this year’s Memorial Cup champion, the Windsor Spitfires, and amassed 29-32-61 totals in 49 games played this season. He’s a two-way center that remains composed in all situations while utilizing unparalleled hands and finesse in this year’s draft. Vilardi would be quite the addition to Dallas’s prospect pool at 6’3″, 203 pounds and only 17-years-old (until August 16th, that is).

Unknown-14) Colorado Avalanche –> D Miro Heiskanen, HIFK (Finland)

One can assume that the Avalanche are bound to be trading a bunch of forwards for forwards this offseason (at least), but more important than having an offense is having a defense and an offense (which Colorado has had one in recent years and I’ll give you a hint– it hasn’t been a defense). Miro Heiskanen is a 6’1″, 172-pound two-way defenseman that had five goals and five assists (10 points) in 37 games with HIFK this season and is just part one of many moves towards turning things around at Pepsi Center.

imgres-25) Vancouver Canucks –> C Casey Mittelstadt, Eden Prairie (HS-MN)

The Vancouver Canucks can begin to start thinking about their long term approach to the end of the Sedin era by assuring themselves of a strong presence down the middle. Casey Mittelstadt brings that strong presence at center by virtue of his 6’1″, 201-pound frame and tremendous skill. There’s a reason why he was named this year’s Mr. Hockey in the state of Minnesota. Mittelstadt had 21-43-64 totals in 25 games with Eden Prairie and 13-17-30 totals in 24 games with the Green Bay Gamblers (USHL) this season.

vegas_golden_knights_logo6) Vegas Golden Knights –> C Cody Glass, Portland (WHL)

For their first draft selection in franchise history, the Vegas Golden Knights are bound to select perhaps the most tactically smart playmaker of the draft in Cody Glass. The 6’2″, 178-pound, right-handed center had 32 goals and 62 assists (94 points– T-7th in the WHL) and is sure to fit right in with the Golden Knights roster and longterm plans. Vegas would be wise to let him play coming out of the draft, since Glass is perhaps the most NHL ready player besides Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier.

Unknown-37) Arizona Coyotes –> D Cale Makar, Brooks (AJHL)

The Arizona Coyotes have been stockpiling forwards (if you can believe it) in recent drafts, so this year seems to be the right time to snag a puck moving defenseman that’s committed to the University of Massachusetts-Amherst next season. Cale Makar had 24 goals and 51 assists (75 points) in 54 games with the Brooks Bandits in the Alberta Junior Hockey League this season– a 20-point improvement in as many games compared to last season.

Unknown-28) Buffalo Sabres –> C Michael Rasmussen, Tri-City (WHL)

At 6’6″, 215 pounds, Michael Rasmussen is exactly what the Sabres need to compliment the already sized up centers of Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly. Sheer intimidation could be one thing Buffalo banks on in the near future, thanks to their Goliath centers, but don’t let that be the only thing. Rasmussen has silky hands and had 32-23-55 totals with the Tri-City Americans this season in the Western Hockey League.

Unknown9) Detroit Red Wings –> RW Owen Tippett, Mississauga (OHL)

Owen Tippett has been drawing comparisons to Phil Kessel (no, not necessarily because he’s a hot dogs and hamburgers guy– though we haven’t asked him– but rather, because Mike Morreale of NHL.com says so). The 6’0″, 200-pound, right winger had 44 goals and 31 assists (75 points) in 60 games with the Mississauga Steelheads and is a natural sniper.

Florida_Panthers_logo_201610) Florida Panthers –> C Martin Necas, Brno (Czech Republic)

Martin Necas is a versatile center that can create space for the puck and generate offense with his playmaking mindset. The right-handed shot had seven goals and eight assists (15 points) in 41 games with Brno this season. Florida shouldn’t be too concerned with his 6’0″, 167-pound frame, considering they’ve got a good mix of forwards to balance things out while Necas works on adding some muscle to his game.

Unknown-311) Los Angeles Kings –> C Elias Pettersson, Timra (SWE-2)

After missing out on this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Los Angeles Kings fired their now former head coach (Darryl Sutter) and general manager (Dean Lombardi) and immediately replaced them with John Stevens behind the bench and Rob Blake as GM, so trying to predict who they’ll draft is difficult based on recent history. However, Elias Pettersson (19-22-41 totals in 43 games with Timra) might just happen to fall into their hands at 11th overall. He’ll need a year of seasoning before appearing in the Kings lineup.

download.png12) Carolina Hurricanes –> D Timothy Liljegren, Rogle (Sweden)

After a bout with mononucleosis in November, Timothy Liljegren wasn’t fully able to rebound this season with Rogle BK, however his skating remains unparalleled as one of the better defensemen of the draft. Liljegren can join the rush and pinch in from the point when needed in the offensive zone and scouts have yet to see the full potential impact of his style of play. Given the uncertainty surrounding Carolina’s money-puck strategy and how it will affect their blue line, drafting Liljegren might provide some security.

Unknown-413) Winnipeg Jets –> C/LW Klim Kostin, Dynamo Moscow (Russia)

Klim Kostin missed a lot of time thanks to a shoulder injury, but that shouldn’t stop the Winnipeg Jets from taking a chance on what might be the best Russian forward in the draft. Puck possession is Kostin’s middle name and his 6’3″, 196-pound frame certainly must have something to do with that. The Jets could use him down the middle or restructure their wingers around the Kostin model, albeit acknowledging Blake Wheeler‘s size and existence already in Winnipeg.

Unknown-314) Tampa Bay Lightning –> D Juuso Valimaki, Tri-City (WHL)       

Steve Yzerman may continue to be a master of the salary cap (in terms of carefully maneuvering around large contracts, drafting and developing talent on a consistent basis and the like), but he’s got some critical thinking to do this offseason, what with pending RFAs galore and the Vegas expansion draft. Juuso Valimaki might be just enough to help relieve some of that pressure, having been one of the best defensemen of the WHL this season and amassing 19-42-61 totals in 60 games played.
download.png15) New York Islanders –> C Nick Suzuki, Owen Sound (OHL)

Offensively skilled, Nick Suzuki isn’t the biggest player (5’11”, 183 pounds), but he is one of the best power play specialists in this year’s draft– notching 14 power play goals for the Owen Sound Attack this season. Suzuki had 96 points alone (45 goals, 51 assists) in 65 games and would be an upgrade for the Islanders in more ways than one.

Unknown-416) Calgary Flames –> LW/RW Kristian Vesalainen, Frolunda (Sweden)

Kristian Vesalainen is a 6’3″, 207-pound power forward that might be able to muster his way to a new arena for the Calgary Flames. Jokes aside, Vesalainen would be a solid draft pick by Calgary for his physical prowess and goal scoring ability. In the Battle of Alberta, the Flames could select their very own Milan Lucic, but with more of a two-way element to his game.

Unknown17) Toronto Maple Leafs –> D Nicolas Hague, Mississauga (OHL)

How could the Toronto Maple Leafs get any better than they already are with a lineup full of kids? Answer: they could draft Nicolas Hague. Toronto’s got a plethora of players waiting to insert themselves into their mix of forwards that it wouldn’t hurt them to give a little more attention to their blue line for a bit. Hague is a monstrous 6’6″, 215-pound, shutdown defenseman that can also contribute on the power play. He had 18-28-46 totals in 65 games with the Mississauga Steelheads this season.

Unknown-718) Boston Bruins –> C Ryan Poehling, St. Cloud State (NCHC)

It seems unusual to say, but the Boston Bruins have a little something on the horizon to start thinking about– what will the team look like after Patrice Bergeron (and David Krejci)? Boston GM Don Sweeney has a recent history of opting for college players and could select center Ryan Poehling with the future in mind. The 6’2″, 183-pound, playmaker has great vision and puck protection and had 7-6-13 totals in 35 games with St. Cloud State this season. Additionally, Poehling’s got intelligence (both on and off the ice) as he graduated a year early from high school and just tuned 18 on January 3rd.

Unknown19) San Jose Sharks –> D Callan Foote, Kelowna (WHL)

The San Jose Sharks have some big names to re-sign this offseason, including Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Naturally, while one might think the Sharks should use this draft to find their eventual replacements, San Jose is already in a good spot regarding forwards. Their blue line, however, could use someone like the 6’4″, 212-pound, likeness of Callan Foote. He had six goals and 51 assists (57 points) in 71 games this season and is sure to follow in the foot(e)steps of his father, Adam Foote.

imgres-120) St. Louis Blues –> LW Eeli Tolvanen, Sioux City (USHL)

A 30-goal-scorer in 52 games played with Sioux City this season, Eeli Tolvanen brings just about every offensive element the St. Louis Blues are looking for in a forward. He can shoot from just about anywhere on the ice– at any time too. Quick with his feet, Tolvanen can snipe an impressive shot. Don’t let his 5’10”, 170-pound setup fool you, this winger is ready to become even better at Boston College in the fall. After a couple of seasons of losing vital veteran forwards, the Blues get a chance for redemption by bringing in a goalscorer that could soon be skating on a line with Vladimir Tarasenko.

download.png21) New York Rangers –> LW Jason Robertson, Kingston (OHL)

In 68 games with the Kingston Frontenacs this season, Jason Robertson (6’2″, 192 pounds) had 42 goals and 39 assists for 81 points. He knows what to do with the puck and with the unwavering uncertainty of Rick Nash‘s longevity, along with the legitimacy of Jimmy Vesey and others as impact players when you need them the most (like in the playoffs, for example), Robertson is a risk worth taking. He’s only a risk because his skating game could use some improvement.

Unknown-522) Edmonton Oilers –> C Lias Andersson, HV71 (Sweden)

Lias Andersson is a mobile two-way forward that matches grit with nifty hands that generate scoring chances, as evidenced by his 9-10-19 totals in 42 games played with HV71 in the Swedish Hockey League this season. At 5’11”, 198 pounds, Andersson is the right fit for the Edmonton Oilers lineup, where he can increase his offensive skill by learning from Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, while taking a page or two from Milan Lucic in the physical game. Additionally, his father, Niklas Andersson, is currently a scout for the Los Angeles Kings and played in 164 career NHL games.

 

Unknown-323) Arizona Coyotes (from Minnesota Wild) –> C Shane Bowers, Waterloo (USHL)

The Coyotes have two 1st round picks in this year’s draft and they’d be smart to take a forward with their second pick. Luckily, Shane Bowers is just the player for Arizona. The Boston University-bound center scored 22 goals and had 29 assists (51 points) in 60 games for Waterloo this season. The 6’1″, 183-pound forward models his game after Jonathan Toews, which wouldn’t be a bad thing for the Coyotes to have in their prospect pool with a clear need for a stable, solid, two-way center.

Columbus Blue Jackets Logo24) Columbus Blue Jackets –> RW Kailer Yamamoto, Spokane (WHL)

At 5’8″ and 153 pounds, Kailer Yamamoto is not a player to overlook. Why? Because he scored 42 goals and had 57 assists for 99 points (6th in the WHL in scoring) in 65 games with Spokane this season. Yamamoto is relentless on the puck and has hands beyond his years, as well as speed and skill that make him quite the threat on the ice.

Unknown-125) Montreal Canadiens –> LW Maxime Comtois, Victoriaville (QMJHL)

After acquiring Jonathan Drouin from the Tampa Bay Lightning this offseason, the Montreal Canadiens have made great strides at improving their group of forwards. But with the uncertainty of everything panning out as planned, why not add to the plan? Maxime Comtois is versatile and ready to take the next step in his professional career with the right guidance (*ahem* Claude Julien‘s system). Best inserted on the wing, Comtois had 22-29-51 totals in 64 games with Victoriaville this season. The 6’2″, 200-pound forward could play center if the Canadiens see it fit.

 

imgres26) Chicago Blackhawks –> D Urho Vaakanainen, JYP (Finland)

Chicago is bound to have a tough offseason in a non-Cup year for the first time in a while, it seems, what with the Expansion Draft, as well as the salary cap working against their favor. While the Blackhawks may have to deal a top-4 defenseman or part of their core group of forwards (without getting too crazy, mind you, we’re not talking a trade involving Patrick Kane), Chicago can rest assured that Urho Vaakanainen is their defenseman of the future. The 6’1″, 185-pound blue liner is good at 1) getting the puck out of the zone and 2) playing his game– and a physical one at that.

 

imgres-127) St. Louis Blues (from Washington Capitals) –> D Conor Timmins, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)

An offensive-minded defenseman with a right-shot, Conor Timmins fits the bill for the St. Louis Blues. At 6’1″ and 185 pounds, Timmins can rush the ice as a two-way defenseman who contributed 61 points (seven goals, 54 assists) for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in 67 games this season. Think Colton Parayko, but not, because this guy’s name is Conor Timmins and he doesn’t already play for the Blues.

Unknown-628) Ottawa Senators –> C Josh Norris, USA U-18 (USNTDP)

A product of the United States National Team Development Program, Josh Norris had 23-28-51 totals in 52 games played this season. The 6’1″, 192-pound center could contribute to the Senators organization in a manner similar to how Colin White has been implemented into the roster. Who knows, he might be worth it, Ottawa.

Unknown-229) Dallas Stars (from Anaheim Ducks) –> RW Kole Lind, Kelowna (WHL)

Tremendous hockey sense and intelligence are part of Kole Lind’s game. A natural playmaker, Lind was also known to produce goals of his own for the Kelowna Rockets this season, amassing 30-57-87 totals in 70 games played. The 6’1″, 178-pound right winger could be a solid fit alongside the likes of Jamie Benn and Seguin in Dallas.

Unknown30) Nashville Predators –> C Robert Thomas, London (OHL)

Hey look it’s Rob Thomas from Matchbox Twenty! Again, I’m only kidding. This Robert Thomas of the London Knights had 16-50-66 totals in 66 games this season as a two-way forward. A noted playmaker, Thomas reads and reacts to the play before him beyond his years and will need some time to really come into his own at the NHL level. Yet, the Nashville Predators can afford to take their time carefully crafting the almost 6′, 188-pound, center in their system that’s produced the likes of Colton Sissons, Pontus Aberg and many more in recent years.

 

pittsburgh_penguins_logo31) Pittsburgh Penguins –> D Henri Jokiharju, Portland (WHL)

It took Henri Jokiharju a few months to really transition to the North American style of the game, but for this offensively focused defenseman, that wasn’t a big deal. He can get the puck out of his own zone with ease– not just with crisp passes, but also due to his incredible stride and speed in the transition department. Jokiharju (6’0″, 180 pounds) had nine goals and 39 assists (48 points) in 71 games for the Portland Winterhawks this season.

Other top potential 1st round prospects that should easily be 2nd round picks if they’re not taken in Round 1 of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft:

G Jake Oettinger, Boston University (Hockey East)

LW Isaac Ratcliffe, Guelph (OHL)

D Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Charlottetown (QMJHL)

D Erik Brannstrom, HV71 (Sweden)

LW Filip Chytil, Zlin (Czech Republic)

C Aleksei Heponiemi, Swift Current (WHL)

G Michael DiPietro, Windsor (OHL)

LW Matthew Strome, Hamilton (OHL)

C Antoine Morand, Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL)

LW Tyler Steenbergen, Swift Current (WHL)

So there you have it. This is how I see the 1st round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft shaking out. Be sure to tune in next Friday night (that’s one week from now) to watch your favorite team pick a teenager and hope for the best. I’ll be at work that night, so no spoilers, please. Let me believe I got more than two picks right for once.

Realistic Predictions for the 2016-2017 Season

By: Nick Lanciani

Anaheim Ducks

Unknown-1The Anaheim Ducks added Jared Boll in the offseason to help bolster Team USA’s heart and grit rating at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Oh wait. Anaheim also brought back Randy Carlyle as head coach.

So basically it’ll be Throwback Thursday everyday this season for the Ducks, since it’ll be ten years since their 2007 Stanley Cup championship with Carlyle and crew. Why not bring back the maroon and jade uniforms while we’re at it?


Arizona Coyotes

Unknown-3Youth is not just prevalent on the Arizona Coyotes roster this season, but in their front office as well, as 27-year-old, John Chayka, was hired as the youngest GM in NHL history.

Max Domi and Anthony Duclair do all they can to convince Shane Doan to become the next Jaromir Jagr and maybe then we can start talking about a potential Cup run for the Coyotes. A plethora of defensemen fight for six roster spots and are narrowed down throughout the season, Hunger Games style.

Boston Bruins

Unknown-7Big and Bad are Backes. Wait, that’s not it. The Boston Bruins added David Backes, Riley Nash and Dominic Moore to their group of forwards this offseason all while seeming to forget that they still need another top-4 defenseman (let alone an entire defense).

Like most years of Boston sports (okay, with the exception of the last fifteen years), the Bruins will probably narrowly miss the playoffs again, much to the dismay of their hardcore fan base that still goes to every game like it’s their job. Or am I confusing them with the guys on the roster? At least 63 + 37 = 100.

Buffalo Sabres

Unknown-2So the Buffalo Sabres look to do things this year. That’s a thing, I’m pretty sure. Major loss? Chad Johnson left the team via free agency and went to Calgary. Major gains?

They brought in Kyle Okposo and everything else remained pretty much the same, so they should probably be on the outside looking in again, unless they become the new Ottawa Senators (forged by youth and a backup goalie that takes over from February through their early first round playoff exit in April).

All kidding aside, the Sabres remain hopeful. Meanwhile, Rasmus Ristolainen finally got paid (at a discount, none the less— Flo from Progressive would be happy).

Calgary Flames

Unknown-4What did the Calgary Flames do this offseason? They got some goaltending. Brian Elliott was acquired via a trade with St. Louis and Chad Johnson came over from Buffalo in free agency, so that’s two new goalies for a total of about half as many goalies that the Philadelphia Flyers have played in the last twenty years (though Calgary is starting to catch up).

Johnny Gaudreau is still unsigned, so that could be problematic, since he’s like, Calgary’s entire offense. At least, that’s what the fake Kanye West account told me— just kidding, he finally signed the other day. Given the state of the Western Conference, it’s safe to say they won’t be flaming their competition in the standings.

Carolina Hurricanes

Carolina Hurricanes LogoBiggest additions: Lee Stempniak, Viktor Stalberg and Teuvo Teravainen (so basically just Teravainen, if you’re playing along with the rebuild at home). Matt Tennyson was also brought in on the blue line via free agency from San Jose, so there’s that.

Hurricanes fans, take solace in the fact that the Columbus Blue Jackets exist in your division, because at least Carolina won’t finish last with an improved New Jersey Devils team (minus their defense) looking to jump ahead of the Hurricanes in the standings.

Chicago Blackhawks

Unknown-22013, 2015— shoot, this year’s Stanley Cup Final is in an odd numbered year, isn’t it? Well, forget all of the season predictions, congrats to the Chicago Blackhawks. They’ll probably just insert some prospect alongside Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Artemi Panarin, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook or someone and be fine.

I mean, that’s been the formula since 2010 anyway. Win the Cup, trade a bunch of people because of the salary cap over the next offseason or two, win the Cup again and do it all over again. The only problem is, the Blackhawks have got the toughest division, so they’ll probably still make the playoffs, at least.

Colorado Avalanche

Unknown-1The Colorado Avalanche added two Bourques to their team (Gabriel Bourque and Rene Bourque) so they’re obviously hoping to double their efforts of their 2001 Stanley Cup championship with legendary defenseman Ray Bourque. What’s that? They’re not related? Nice try Joe Sakic.

While the Av’s were perfect in the preseason, sadly none of it counted and they’ll start 0-0-0 just like everybody else. New head coach, Jared Bednar, won’t be dismantling any stanchions this year, so that’s good news, glass between the benches at Pepsi Center.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Columbus Blue Jackets LogoZach Werenski made the team, so now they’ll have a defense. Oh, sorry, didn’t you there Ryan Murray, Seth Jones and Jack Johnson. But all kidding aside, these guys just need to stay healthy— I’m looking at you Sergei Bobrovsky.

Their group of forwards kind of have it going on. But sadly, this isn’t the year for the Columbus Blue Jackets, unlike the rest of the teams in Ohio it seems. Also, how it is possible for Werenski, a player from Michigan University, to not get run out of Ohio? I’ll wait.

Dallas Stars

Unknown-2The Dallas Stars have the same goaltending tandem of Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi, the same core group of forwards primarily in Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn and an improved defense with the loss of Kris Russell.

Somehow every year, this band of veterans impresses the hockey world by combatting speed and skill with heart and grit (minus some of the grit). But just like last year, they probably still won’t figure it out in the playoffs between their two goaltenders and fail miserably (in the eyes of Stars fans).

Detroit Red Wings

UnknownThe Detroit Red Wings added Steve Ott (grit), Thomas Vanek (heart) and Frans Nielsen (actually, kind of good), this offseason to their group of forwards that doesn’t include Pavel Datsyuk for the first time in like, forever.

Datsyuk was traded to Arizona at the draft after he announced his retirement from the NHL to go play in the KHL back home before ultimately wrapping up his professional hockey career. And with that, so ends the Red Wings playoff appearance streak this season. But at least Petr Mrazek will be their number one goalie, right?

Edmonton Oilers

Unknown-5Rogers Place looks pretty cool. Milan Lucic Bruinsinizes the team. Peter Chiarelli traded Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils for Adam Larsson. And that is all. Just kidding, Chiarelli also traded Nail Yakupov to the St. Louis Blues for practically nothing (so just like the Hall trade).

Connor McDavid was named captain and the team got worse. Kris Russell was added to the defense and Eric Gryba was not re-signed, then PTO’ed, then signed to a new deal with Edmonton, then probably placed on waivers. Sounds like things are business as usual for the Oilers.

Florida Panthers

Florida_Panthers_logo_2016James Reimer signed as the backup goaltender to Roberto Luongo for the Florida Panthers this offseason, so if you’re a fan of the 2013 Toronto Maple Leafs or 2011 Vancouver Canucks, maybe Florida is your team (until games actually matter in the playoffs).

Jason Demers and Keith Yandle were two major additions to the Panthers blue line, while they managed to finagle Jared McCann out of Vancouver in exchange for Erik Gudbranson. So basically, the Panthers are poised to dominate the Atlantic Division once again in the regular season. Can I get a Jaromir Jagr for the Hart Trophy to with it?

Los Angeles Kings

Unknown-3The Los Angeles Kings most recently added Devin Setoguchi to their batch of forwards, so that summarizes everything about their offseason. Props to Setoguchi for making a comeback in the NHL. Shouts to the Kings for having a cool arena by the way. I stopped by there in August.

Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick and Anze Kopitar all won awards last season, so that should have some indication of how they’ll do this season. They’ll probably make the Western Conference Final and have to play the Chicago Blackhawks again, won’t they?

Minnesota Wild

Unknown-2The Minnesota Wild added Eric Staal to their roster this offseason and most recently (and more important than Staal), Teemu Pulkkinen.

Chris Stewart returned to the Wild organization after a trip around the league (or so it seemed) and everything else pretty much remained the same.

So if you’re a Minnesota fan, first, good luck surviving the winter (as usual). Second, nobody knows how the Vikings are doing it, but they’re doing it. And third, the Wild aren’t going to be that great this season, so pick one of the first two options to bandwagon, if you would please.

Montreal Canadiens

Unknown-1The Montreal Canadiens traded P.K. Subban. That is all.

But seriously, how could you, Montreal? Other than that, Alexander Radulov, Andrew Shaw and Shea Weber are all part of the team now, while Carey Price will miss the first game with the flu and Mike Condon got claimed off waivers by Pittsburgh. Looks like the team’s all yours, Al Montoya.

Nashville Predators

UnknownThe Nashville Predators acquired P.K. Subban this offseason. What were the Montreal Canadiens thinking?

The Preds are letting their forwards develop and made their defense significantly better by getting rid of Shea Weber for Subban. Now if only Pekka Rinne would return to vintage Pekka Rinne form, then this could the year for Nashville. Then again, they’re in the same division as Chicago in an odd numbered playoff year, so…

New Jersey Devils

New Jersey Devils LogoThe New Jersey Devils restructured their forwards with the additions of Taylor Hall, Beau Bennett, Vernon Fiddler and P.A. Parenteau, but they still lack a defense (mostly). Brandon Gormley, Ben Lovejoy and Kyle Quincey are notable (somewhat) additions to the blue line in the Garden State.

Andy Greene remains one of the strangest trivia questions when someone asks you “who is the current captain of the Devils?” And Cory Schneider is still a highly underrated goaltender that somehow manages to survive without a team in front of him. But at least New Jersey is gearing up for the underdog of the year status.

New York Islanders

New York Islanders LogoThe New York Islanders added a lot of veteran presence to their noticeably Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum-less organization (yes, I took a shot at Barclays Center, there). Jason Chimera, Andrew Ladd and Dennis Seidenberg are now members of the Islanders and well, at least Seidenberg’s contract is only for a year.

As long as Jaroslav Halak plays like he did at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey (minus the final loss to Canada) and stays healthy, John Tavares and crew could lead this team further in the playoffs than in recent memory. Time may be winding down on their Cup contention clock, since Tavares is looking for an extension and well, everyone else on their roster is getting older.

New York Rangers

New York Rangers LogoIf winning the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes counts for anything than the New York Rangers are winners. But they probably won’t be winners of much this season. Granted, they could make a playoff run (or miss it altogether), the same tune rings true, Henrik Lundqvist cannot be a team on his own.

Josh Jooris and Mika Zibanejad are big name additions to the offense. Okay, so they’re just names added to the roster. Nick Holden is new to the Blueshirts blue line and well, they’re still an aging defense. Best of luck to the youth in the New York, like Vesey, Jesper Fast, Oscar Lindberg, Kevin Hayes and others for getting to play more than one position this year on the same shift.

Ottawa Senators

Unknown-6Chris Kelly is back with the Ottawa Senators this season after playing 11 games last year with the Boston Bruins and recovering from a broken femur. Derick Brassard was acquired from the Rangers in exchange for Mika Zibanejad and Bobby Ryan switched his number from 6 to 9 (get your mind out of the gutter, Internet).

Otherwise, the Senators remain virtually the same. On the outside looking in, but probably raising a few eyebrows for their late season surge. They’re still waiting on their youth, which is at least working better than it is for their counterparts in Ontario, the Toronto Maple Leafs (who, although contrary to popular belief, might actually be better this year).

Philadelphia Flyers

Philadelphia Flyers LogoThe Philadelphia Flyers already appear to be in midseason form, what with Radko Gudas‘s six-game suspension and their apparent preference for Steve Mason as their number one goalie, as usual.

Boyd Gordon and Dale Weise are additions (though, can you really call them that?) and Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov made the team from training camp (and the last couple of years of drafting), so the Flyers appear to be a middle of the pack team again this year.

Additionally, they’ll face off with the Pittsburgh Penguins in this season’s Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game at Heinz Field on February 25, 2017 as part of the league’s 50th season celebration of the 1967 expansion. So yeah, that’s all I got for Philadelphia.

Pittsburgh Penguins

pittsburgh_penguins_logoThe Pittsburgh Penguins have virtually the same team from Game 6 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final and look to defend their championship title without Sidney Crosby for at least game one of an 82 game regular season schedule.

New goaltender, Mike Condon, could make things interesting when comes time to decide between Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray before the 2017 expansion draft, since he could likely become Murray’s backup.

San Jose Sharks

UnknownJust like the Penguins, the San Jose Sharks roster remains virtually untouched since their loss in Game 6 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, which kind of makes you wonder, did anyone remember that there was an offseason?

Matt Tennyson jettisoned to Carolina (I was dying to juxtaposition those words), where he was now sent down to the Charlotte Checkers. Roman Polak went back to Toronto and honestly, that was probably for the better for San Jose. Aaron Dell is the new backup to Martin Jones and would someone just let Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau win a Cup this year? I mean, if Phil Kessel can, then surely those guys can too.

St. Louis Blues

UnknownThe St. Louis Blues will be consciously uncoupling with Ken Hitchcock at the end of the season in his farewell to coaching tour. Mike Yeo has already been named as his replacement and has begun barking out orders at practice, similar to his meltdown in Minnesota (though I have not confirmed that).

They lost David Backes to free agency, because the salary cap exists and good luck to the front office in St. Louis to try figure that one out in the next few years. Meanwhile they added Nail Yakupov for virtually nothing, though in their defense, they already had their own Yakupov in Magnus Paajarvi on their roster, so maybe this time they can make it work.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Unknown-3Nikita Kucherov and the Tampa Bay Lightning finally agreed to a three year bridge deal extension, so Lightning fans rejoice, your fountain of youth is still intact for now. Steven Stamkos stuck around for eight more years and GM Steve Yzerman can now take the next six months off until the playoffs when he has to start worrying about how far his team will go and what to do with Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy.

The Bolts look like geniuses here, for having developed their players well over the last few seasons and will more than likely dominant the Atlantic Division with their in-state rivals, the Florida Panthers. Sadly, Tampa probably won’t win the Cup because the Blackhawks exist and that whole 2013, 2015, 20??? pattern exists.

Toronto Maple Leafs

UnknownAuston Matthews.

(Colby told me to just write that. I think it works).

 

 

 

 

Vancouver Canucks

UnknownLoui Eriksson joined fellow Swedes, Daniel and Henrik Sedin in Vancouver this offseason. So in other news, Team Sweden, feel free to send the Canucks some of your jerseys, because after looking at the rest of the roster, I’m sure they don’t want to be associated with whatever Vancouver’s front office is doing.

Vancouver added Erik Gudbranson. At the cost of Jared McCann to the Florida Panthers. Actually, from the sound of it, it wasn’t a cost at all. The Canucks hate youths. Millennials ruin everything. Best of luck to you Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom.

Washington Capitals

Washington Capitals LogoThe Washington Capitals acquired Lars Eller this offseason, so that’s good, but they also signed Brett Connolly via free agency (so that’s bad). But let’s be honest, the Capitals will probably make the former 6th overall pick better than he’s ever been. Or at least playing on a line with Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov or Nicklas Backstrom will probably help with that.

So basically, the outlook for Washington is this: they’re a good team, they’ll do well, Braden Holtby is elite and they’ll win a lot. Maybe a Cup run is in their future.

Winnipeg Jets

Unknown-4Patrik Laine was selected 2nd overall at this year’s draft by the Winnipeg Jets, Blake Wheeler was named captain and Winnipeg finally moved on from Ondrej Pavelec (by sending him to Manitoba).

What’s that? Jacob Trouba is still a RFA? He wants to be TRADED? Forget all of the good storylines going for the Jets, the Trouba dilemma overshadows everything especially after Rasmus Ristolainen re-signed with the Sabres and began the end of the stare down between Ristolainen, Hampus Lindholm and Trouba as to which RFA defenseman would make a move first. So Kevin Cheveldayoff, who are you going to trade Trouba to? Asking for a friend. No, but seriously, he doesn’t want to miss playing time.

*Honorable mention* Las Vegas _____ Knights

Honestly, somebody just name the team already. I want to start working on coming up with a uniform in NHL 17’s Franchise Mode for you, Bill Foley.

President’s Trophy Winner

If you’re Canadian, this doesn’t matter. If you’re American, good luck. Oh, you meant the President’s Trophy, as in “the team with the best record at the end of the regular season in the NHL”? Well, probably can’t go wrong with the Washington Capitals for that one, unlike their other Washington counterparts that have marred records.

1st Place in the Atlantic Division at season’s end– Florida Panthers or Tampa Bay Lightning, basically the entire state of Florida

One of the teams in Florida will win the Atlantic Division, that’s really all I know.

1st Place in the Metropolitan Division at season’s end– Pittsburgh Penguins

It’s no cakewalk, but Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury live up to that “two is better than one” mantra (sorry Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss).

1st Place in the Central Division at season’s end– Nashville Predators

It doesn’t really matter who clinches the Central Division this season because they’re still going to lose in the 2nd or 3rd round of the playoffs.

1st Place in the Pacific Division at season’s end– Los Angeles Kings

Winning the division isn’t everything. Just ask the 2015-2016 Anaheim Ducks and the late 2000s/early 2010s San Jose Sharks. Unfortunately what this means for Los Angeles is that they’ll be out in seven games in the first round.

Reflection

By: Nick Lanciani

Five years ago, the hockey world suffered collectively from several of the greatest tragedies in the history of the sport. In the warm months of 2011, the hockey world lost Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, Wade Belak and the entire Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (KHL) team over the course of one offseason.

In the summer of 2011, I personally was celebrating the success of my favorite NHL team’s Stanley Cup championship. I had grown up dreaming of one day seeing them raise the Cup, but none of that seems to matter when you remember that at the end of the day, every player of the game is human.

Hindsight is 20/20 and we could say that there were warning signs and better ways we could’ve helped players like Boogaard, Rypien and Belak, but the fact of the matter is that nothing can bring them back and we must move on, remembering them, and committing ourselves to doing more. We have to do more.

Enough is enough when it comes to senseless fighting in the NHL. It’s not the 1970s anymore.

But even I seem to battle with the existential question of whether fighting in the NHL should be allowed to continue. In some respects it sets apart the sport from any other (but it is after all, still a penalty). In others, I can see where it is deemed barbaric.

If the league were to follow a protocol similar to the OHL’s newly introduced rules on fighting, I do not think it would be all that bad for the marketability of the sport. Hockey, in its purest form, will always go on. And the NHL will always be the top league in the hockey world for talent and superstar work ethic, skill, coaching and leadership.

Especially at the Junior level, we all have to remember, the players are just kids.

When Marc Savard suffered an estimated six concussions in his Junior days alone, we should’ve realized when to step in and step up. Sadly, new studies and discoveries about the brain are too late to repair the shattered and fragmented careers of far too many Junior players who went on or did not go on to see the days of life in the NHL.

Likewise, it’s too late to undo what’s been done to those former NHLers now suffering from Alzheimers, dementia and other debilitating diseases caused, in part, by head trauma.

In the summer of 2011, I was riding the highs of victory, but the dark shadows cast by the losses of Boogaard, Rypien and Belak cemented the fruition of what my eyes only see when I look at any player on the ice— another human.

They’re not heroes in the sense that they are far above me as an individual or that they are superhuman, but every NHL player is ultimately just another human being with a right to a life after their career. They are heroes in the sense that they get to play a game for a living that I’m sure most of us could only dream of ever doing for a living.

They are heroes in every win and every loss, but not every win or loss should come in the form of winning a lawsuit for the loss of a life.

The dark days of 2011 were only blackened some more when the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl plane crash occurred.

How could such joys of watching a team win the Cup be mirrored with the lows of tragedy?

I remember watching Karlis Skrastins, Pavol Demitra and Ruslan Salei at one point or another in person or on TV. I had never seen Brad McCrimmon play, but I remember hearing about him and his short stint with the Boston Bruins from 1979-1982.

I think of every member of that team, their families and that entire organization every September 7th. I remember how a community came together to memorialize them all and mourn as one family. I remember that so much good has come from so much bad and horrible memories of the summer of 2011.

We owe it to every player to do more. To be more as they’ve been more. To be with them as they’ve been alongside others.

Our lives are short. We never know when the last time might be.

But there is always time for a first time for a better tomorrow. And I want to see us live it well.

It sickened me when I heard last year that cocaine abuse in the NHL was on the rise. Both the NHLPA and the NHL have to do more to help their players— their colleagues, their friends, their fellow humans.

It disgusts me that NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman, continues to deny a link between CTE and head injuries. The emails that were leaked earlier this year show that Brendan Shanahan should really be commended for speaking out and starting the conversation for change.

Even the NFL is beginning to take things seriously as they give studying head injuries a second thought.

The league has to do more. I’m not interested in whether or not the league accepts blame or admits defeat at this point, but rather that they will commit themselves to doing more to protect their players and help them move forward with their lives after hockey. Let’s start talking about solutions instead of finger pointing and blaming.

Let’s always remember the good times we had with Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak.

And let us never forget the tremendous people of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, the tremendous hockey players, coaches, trainers and more, that were killed five years ago today.

As we reflect, we move forward in their memory.

Numbers Game: Top-5 Pending UFA Goalies

By: Nick Lanciani

12:01 PM ET on July 1st (precisely) marks the start of the NHL’s free agency period, so of course, you’ve found yourself scavenging the Internet for the freshest hot takes and the best indications of where players will end up. Likewise, you probably just want to know who’s available out there (and I’m not talking about Tinder).

Well fear not, because I’m here to set things straight with a short series of posts about the Top-5 free agents in every category you can think of (UFA forwards, UFA defensemen, UFA goalies, RFA forwards, RFA defensemen and RFA goalies) in this latest edition of Numbers Game posts. Also, I have bad news, if you came here expecting to find a starting goaltender, you won’t find one.

Down the Frozen River- Smaller Circular Logo1. G Chad Johnson (22-16-0-4, 2.36 GAA, .920 SV% with the Buffalo Sabres)- $1.300 million cap hit, 29 years old

Chad Johnson is the closest thing to a starting goaltender, compared to the majority of the rest of the pending UFA goalies. Goalies are weird. They have no timetable for development, they’re unpredictable and most everyone seems to make whatever conjecture imaginable about whether or not a goalie is good or not, worthy of starting or a lifetime backup (or #AHLLifer, but that might just be a running joke here).

Johnson is a solid backup (dare my circa 2010 self say it). In 45 games played for Buffalo this season, he racked up 22 wins, a 2.36 GAA and a .920 SV%. While that might not look elite compared to other goaltenders around the NHL, Johnson has been an entirely different goaltender since his 2.10 GAA and .925 SV% in 27 games with the Boston Bruins in 2013-2014. Granted, his goal against average crept past the 3.00 mark in 2014-2015 with his 19 game stint with the New York Islanders, with the right team, Johnson can solidify your crease.

If you even have a better blue line than most teams around the NHL, perhaps Johnson could be the next Martin Jones to emerge as a goalie that never really had a chance to fully take control of a number one starting job, without any competition, and run with it.

Look, at $1.300 million this season, Johnson is not much of a risk to take in the coming years if you sign him to a multiyear contract. The hope is that he continues his upswing as long as you balance his time and/or have a good enough team in front of him. Johnson is one of those underrated, feel good stories and who wouldn’t want to see him succeed?

2. G Jhonas Enroth (7-5-0-1, 2.17 GAA, .922 SV% with the Los Angeles Kings)- $1.250 million cap hit, 27 years old

Jhonas Enroth is not a starting goalie. Now that that’s out of the way, here’s why. He had his best career save percentage with the Los Angeles Kings this season at a .922 in 16 appearances and he even had his best goal against average (2.17) in 10 games played or more of his career.

Compared to the time Enroth split time with the Buffalo Sabres and the Dallas Stars in 2014-2015 when he had a 18-26-0-2 record in 50 games played with a .904 SV% and 3.07 GAA, he’s a changed goaltender when he has 1) a defense in front of him and 2) a backup role that limits him to around 20 games a season. The 2014-2015 season was his worst campaign since his first career NHL start in the 2009-2010 season, when he debuted his NHL career with a .892 SV% and a 4.12 GAA.

The moral here is that Enroth is better than most people give him credit for, however, many still question his stature in a 6′ by 4′ net. And with smaller pads coming to the league, his play is bound to be affected by that. But alas, the old days of 3.00 GAA and .800 SV%’s being tremendous might finally return if you like offense. We’ve come to know low 2.00 and high 1.00 GAA’s as standard, when in actuality, pretty much any goalie under a 3.00 is better than you would think.

Again, it all boils down to the role of the goalie and how much usage they get. Another season like this season for Enroth would be respectable if he continues to be a top-notch backup that plays in anywhere from 20 to 25 games a year.

3. G James Reimer (17-14-0-7, 2.31 GAA, .922 SV% with the Toronto Maple Leafs/San Jose Sharks)- $2.300 million cap hit, 27 years old

Don’t laugh, but James Reimer might finally be starting to turn the corner and become a good goaltender. In 40 games played with the Toronto Maple Leafs and the San Jose Sharks this year, he had a 17-14-0-7 record, 2.31 GAA and a .922 SV%. His GAA and SV% this year were both career bests in the most number of games he’s played in a single season.

Granted, his record could still use some room for improvement in the “wins” column, Reimer is ready to make a run at being a number one goalie on the right team. If Calgary tightens their defense and feels like making newly acquired goaltender, Brian Elliott, compete for his number one spot, similar to how he battled Jake Allen in St. Louis, then Reimer is their man.

Then again, they probably should stick with what they’ve got. But my point remains, James Reimer can be good after all. I’ve said it before, goalies are weird. In six NHL seasons, Reimer has had a goal against average of 3.10 or more three times, all with the lackluster Maple Leafs. Of note, his 2.31 GAA performance beat his 2.46 GAA in 2012-2013 when he played in 33 of the 48 game lockout shortened season.

Take it or leave it, Reimer is a solid choice for your net if you have the right guys in front of him. He might not be a starter (yet), but his skills can still be honed in before it’s too late. At only 27 years old, he likely has at least 10 more years of playing in front of him.

4. G Anton Khudobin (3-3-0-0, 2.69 GAA, .909 SV% with the Anaheim Ducks)- $2.250 million cap hit, 29 years old

Chalk Anton Khudobin up as another solid backup goaltender— if you have the right defense for him. He might not be stealing wins in the “wins” column, but Khudobin has shown flashes of quality stats in both goals against average and save percentage.

Last season, Khudobin made only nine appearances before the Anaheim Ducks settled on Frederik Andersen and John Gibson as their goaltending tandem. Of course, Andersen was traded to Toronto earlier this month and Gibson is now considered their number one guy, so why would they risk the chance of losing out on a decent backup when you consider their other option (they have none).

Khudobin’s 2013-2014 season campaign with the Carolina Hurricanes resulted in 36 games played with a .926 SV% and a 2.30 GAA. Since then he has not seen the same action or numbers, but there’s a good chance that with the right mix of players, Khudobin could bail a team out in a game or two and play as a backup in 20 to 25 games.

By now I’m sure you’ve recognized my trend. Backup goalies should only play 20 to 25 games, depending on who they are. If they prove more value to you, based on their performance, up their appearances to 30. But if you’re considering splitting time between your goalies, get two starters. Don’t waste your time mismanaging a position you can’t fully manage in net.

5. G Jonas Gustavsson (11-9-0-1, 2.72 GAA, .908 SV% with the Boston Bruins)- $700,000 cap hit, 31 years old

Before you start breaking out the jokes about Jonas Gustavsson, consider this; Gustavsson only has one losing season as a backup goaltender in seven seasons in the NHL since 2009-2010 with Toronto and stops with the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins. His career save percentage has hovered right around .900 and he’s only had a season that ended with a GAA of more than 3.00 once (a 3.28 in 2009-2010).

When there’s not much else to choose from, sometimes it’s best to take a stab at someone who can hold you over for a year or two as a quality backup. He should play nowhere near 40 games, nor should he only play seven, as he’s done twice in his career, both with the Red Wings (once in the shortened 2012-2013 season and again in 2014-2015). Actually, you know what? His numbers don’t really show how much you should use him one way or another.

I’ll admit, I was scratching for a fifth goaltender to include in my top-5 pending UFA goalies (no offense to Gustavsson). The fact of the matter is that the talent pool in the crease is extremely thin this offseason, so it’s best to just get what you’re money can buy to hold you over without overpaying and/or develop your guys in the system.

Honorable Mentions

G Ben Scrivens (5-8-0-0, 3.07 GAA, .906 SV% with the Montreal Canadiens)- $2.300 million cap hit, 29 years old

Ben Scrivens has never had a GAA less than 2.55— and that was when he split the 2013-2014 season with Los Angeles and the Edmonton Oilers. So that pretty much explains everything, given that he’s also played for Toronto and most recently Montreal in his career that spans all the way back to the 2011-2012 season.

He’s certainly not a starter and he’s definitely not worth $2.300 million as a back up, but if there’s no one else left, he’s going to be paid whatever amount of money to stand in the net for some team (like what Montreal did before they had Mike Condon take the brunt of the work and handle it as well he could with what little the Canadiens had going for them while Carey Price was hurt).

G Karri Ramo (17-18-0-1, 2.63 GAA, .909 SV% with the Calgary Flames)- $3.800 million cap hit, 29 years old

It appears the Calgary Flames are ready to throw in the towel on trying to develop the once considered top prospect of the Tampa Bay Lightning. In six NHL seasons, broken up by a stint in the KHL, Ramo has never had a season with a GAA better than 2.60 or a SV% better than .912.

It’s not the save percentage that bothers me, but rather, it’s that goals against average that’s a little concerning for any team that chooses to sign a goalie that made 37 appearances this season and surmounted a 2.63 GAA and a .909 SV%. Perhaps there’s one more shot left for Ramo, but at whatever price is under a million dollars and for a backup role. Again, if you had to, he’s someone to take in free agency over whatever might be left for a year.

G Anders Lindback (5-7-0-1, 3.11 GAA, .894 SV% Arizona Coyotes- $875,000 cap hit, 27 years old

In 2011-2012, Anders Lindback proved he could be a decent backup with a 16 game performance that resulted in a career best 2.42 GAA and a .912 SV% that season, despite a 5-8-0 record.

When he was with the Nashville Predators, he had blue liners in front of him to prevent chances and Pekka Rinne to play more than the majority of the games of the season. Lindback’s bounced all around the league and might have settled in with the Arizona Coyotes if it weren’t for Louis Domingue as an up and comer for the Coyotes. For a low-risk, high reward opportunity, why not take a 27 year old backup goaltender for a year or two and see if he can improve with a better team in front of him?

Ben Bishop’s Shutout and Alex Killorn’s Late Third Period Goal Help the Lightning Move On To Round 2.

The Tampa Bay Lightning finished off the series and ended the Detroit Red Wings 2016 Playoffs early by a score of 1-0 Thursday night. The Lightning were led by 6 foot 7 goaltender Ben Bishop as he made a whopping 34 saves for his first shutout of the playoffs.Unknown-1

Tampa Bay looked to close out the series and get rid of the pesky Wings in front of their insane sellout crowd at Amalie Arena. The Red Wings turned to tendy Petr Mrazek for a third straight game after going 1-1 with a .930 SV% and a 1.52 GAA in Games 3 and 4.

Detroit looked to jump out early and quickly and gain as much momentum as possible. Just 2:51 into the game Detroit youngster Dylan Larkin spotted Wings D-man Niklas Kronwall jumping up into the rush and hit him with a nice pass. Kronwall let a nifty backhander go but was easily shut down by Bishop with no problem.

The games first penalty went to the Lightning with a little close to 4 minutes gone in the first period with a two many men on the ice call. This blunder sent the Wings to their mediocre power play, coming into Game 5 Detroit were a disastrous 1/21 on the manpower advantage. So they looked to change their luck early in the game. Lucky for them, Tampa defenseman Jason Garrison took a foolish penalty and got a trip to the sin bin to feel shame. Garrison cross checked Detroit left winger Justin Abdelkader in front of the net just 46 seconds into their first PP. Detroit looked to grab the game’s first goal on an early 5 on 3 power play.

Detroit got the game’s first excellent scoring chance on that same 5 on 3 power play. Right Winger Brad Richards corraled the puck at the left side blue line and then sent a pass across the ice to vet Pavel Datsyuk who was posted up down low on the right-hand side. The Magic Man, as he’s called, received the pass and fired a swift wrister up high that beat Bishop high glove side but caught the cross bar and came right back out. This was the last scoring chance as Tampa killed the PP off with stellar shot blocking.

Now it was the Lightning’s turn to break the scoreless deadlock. Tampa 4th liner Eric Condra picked off a terrible pass from Wings D-man Jonathan Ericsson in the right corner and spotted defender Jason Garrison making a b-line to the net. Condra rocketed a pass across the slot and Garrison grabbed the puck and fired a wrist shot on net. Mrazek made an insane left pad kick out for his best save of the game so far.

Now it was Tampa’s turn for their first power play of the game. This time, it was Detroit left winger Gustav Nyquist getting the call just 9:06 into the game for slashing D-man Braydon Coburn. Nothing came from this power play as Detroit easily killed it off, but Tampa got another chance with just 38 seconds left in the first period. Lightning young buck Jonathan Drouin used his blazing speed to draw a hooking call from Wings defender Niklas Kronwall. The period ended with Tampa still on the PP.

Lightning fans were urging their team to start the second period off right with a power play goal. Nothing came from this PP because the Lightning only managed 2 weak shots. Just 2:53 later Tampa was back on the man advantage with Wings rookie Dylan Larkin getting a two-minute call for tripping Lightning defenseman Braydon Coburn. This sent Tampa to their 3rd power play of the game but they maintained no shots. They did give up a short-handed breakaway opportunity to Detroit winger Riley Sheahan as he intercepted Victor Hedman’s D to D pass and went in all alone. Sheahan tried beating Bishop five-hole, but Bishop wasn’t having any of that and turned it away.

 

Kyle Quincey of the Red Wings took the games next penalty as he got called for hooking Tampa star Nikita Kucherov 9:47 into the second period. The Lightning weren’t able to get anything going again on their PP and only threw one shot on net during the two minutes. Then with just over eight minutes remaining Detroit defender Danny DeKeyser sprung Wings left winger Darren Helm on a breakaway with a blue line to blue line pass and sent Helm in all alone. Bishop was up to the task and turned Helm’s shot away with his right pad like it was nothing.

Detroit would then get their second power play of the game. Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman got the trip to the box after holding Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg 14:01 into the second period. Just like the Lightning, it was Detroit’s turn to give up a prime shorthanded opportunity just 58 seconds into their PP. Lightning grinder Brian Boyle came down the left-hand side and picked out streaking defender Jason Garrison. He then threw the puck in the direction for Garrison to skate into. Garrison skated to the bouncing puck sitting in the slot and swatted at it with one hand and redirected the puck on goal. Unfortunately, Mrazek made a spectacular pad save to keep it tied 0-0.

Then with just 1:30 remaining in the second period, Lightning defender Matt Carle overskated the puck at center ice. Detroit’s 19-year-old Dylan Larkin grabbed the sitting puck and was off the races all by himself. As Larkin came in on goalie Ben Bishop, he tried to fool hiUnknown-1m with a little stick handling. Bishop was unfooled and stoned Larkin with his blocker. This was Detroit’s third breakaway of the second period alone. Then jus 15 seconds later, Wings Henrik Zetterberg carried the puck into the offensive zone and picked his head up and saw a cutting Pavel Datsyuk. He hit Pavel with a mini breakaway pass and for some reason Datsyuk thought he could beat Bishop high like Larkin thought. Well, this did not work as Bishop shut down Datsyuk’s chance and calmly turned it away with his blocker.

The third period got off to a very slow start, the two teams traded shots back and forth, but nothing major. The first chance came with 2:53 remaining in the game thanks to Detroit new comer Mike Green. Wings right winger Tomas Tatar came flying into the zone and laid out a nice drop pass behind him. The pass found the stick of Mike Green and he took a couple steps in and fired a laser of a wrist shot, but Ben Bishop, once again, didn’t break a sweat and easily swallowed the shot up.

Now with just 1:43 remaining in the game, the first and only goal was scored. Lightning right winger Ryan Callahan cleverly picked off goalie Petr Mrazek’s behind the net pass. He then, quickly, turned around and fired a pass to top line left winger Alex Killorn who was sitting in the slot and he slammed the puck into the wide open net to give the Lighting the late 1-0 lead. This goal was Killorn’s 13th career playoff goal and 4th goal in 5 playoff games this year.

Detroit pulled their goalie Mrazek with 1:12 left in the game desperate for a tying goal. They even got help, because Lightning D-man Jason Garrison took his second senseless penalty of the game. He cross-checked Henrik Zetterberg with 43 seconds remaining in the game and the Wings got a 6 on 4 man advantage. This advantage did not help at all as Detroit were only able to achieve 1 shot total.

Killorn’s late period goal stood as the game and the series winner. Tampa Bay now moves on to face the winner of the Florida/New York matchup that is currently tied 2-2 in the series.

Detroit goalkeeper Petr Mrazek finished the game saving 23 out of 24 shots for a .958 SV%. While Lightning goalie Ben Bishop was unbeatable stopping 34 out of 34 shots for his first perfect game of the playoffs.

The Tampa Bay Lightning’s top points leader was Nikita Kucherov with 8 points in 5 games (5G, 3A), the top geno (goals) leader was Kucherov (5G), and the top apple (assists) leader was Tyler Johnson with 5. The Lightning also had defender Victor Hedman who averaged 27:01 TOI (Total On Ice) per game, while Ben Bishop finished with a 4-1 record, a .950 SV%, and a 1.61 GAA in 5 games. The Detroit Red Wings top points leader was Tomas Tatar with 3 points in 5 games (0G, 3A), the top geno (goals) leader was an 8 player tie for first with one goal (Mike Green, Henrik Zetterberg, Justin Abdelkader, Gustav Nyquist, Brad Richards, Dylan Larkin, Darren Helm, and Andreas Athanasiou), and top apple (assist) leader was also Tomas Tatar with 3. The Wings TOI (Time On Ice) leader was Danny Dekeyser who averaged 21:48. Jimmy Howard finished with a 0-2 record, .891 SV%, and a 3.59 GAA in 2 games. Detroit’s star goalie Petr Mrazek finished with a 1-2 with a .945 SV%, and a 1.35 GAA in 3 games.

The Lightning will now wait until their next series starts while the Red Wings will start their golfing season earlier than they hoped for. Meanwhile, every Red Wings fan will be on the edge of their seat this offseason. As they await word from Pavel Datsyuk to see if he is going to play in the NHL next year, or go back to Russia and play in the KHL. Tampa Bay ended up winning the series in 5 games by a total of 4-1.

 

 

 

 

Should he stay or should he go? (feat. Loui Eriksson)

By: Nick Lanciani

The Boston Bruins have a big decision to make leading up to this year’s trade deadline. If you haven’t heard by now, there’s a lot of speculation surrounding Boston’s RW Loui Eriksson and his future with the franchise.

UnknownBased on the latest trades in the NHL, the market value of someone of Eriksson’s stature could yield more than enough to satisfy the Bruins front office for the next few years. Just think, the Toronto Maple Leafs were able to get two 2nd round picks (and Raffi Torres) from the San Jose Sharks for Roman Polak and Nick Spaling.

If the Maple Leafs could get two 2nd round picks for their fire sale, think of what the Bruins could get for a player on the verge of his best season since at least the 2011-2012 regular season and on pace to reach the 70 point plateau.

The fact of the matter is that Loui Eriksson is a very versatile player. Three years removed from the infamous Tyler Seguin trade with the Dallas Stars, Boston has finally seen what they expected all along from Eriksson on the ice. He goes to the right places, can be found on the rush and is dependable on the power play, if not deadly on special teams on a night-to-night basis.

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Could it be the end of Loui Eriksson in Black and Gold? (Photo via author)

Eriksson has 23-25-48 totals so far in 60 games played this season; already besting his 22-25-47 totals last season over 81 games played and significantly improving upon his 10-27-37 total production in an injury plagued 61 game season in his first year in Boston during the 2013-2014 run that culminated in a Bruins second round playoff exit to the rival Montreal Canadiens. In 12 career playoff games with the B’s, Eriksson has put up two goals and three assists.

The offensive upside to Eriksson’s game is crucial to his role as a top six forward. Yet, the 30-year old is on the final year of a six-year, $4.250 million AAV deal and is only expected to earn more, much more, in comparison to what the Bruins might be able to offer in an extension. Had the two sides discussed a deal much earlier in the season (prior to Eriksson’s rampage on the scoresheet), Boston might have been able to secure Eriksson to a similar deal to the one that is soon to expire.

He is a dependable forward that brings a lot more to the table than Nick Spaling will bring to San Jose. By comparison, Eriksson makes Spaling look like a fourth liner (if not a depth forward) on just about any NHL roster.

Compared to a player of similar caliber, but only a couple of years younger, Loui Eriksson could be raking in a well deserved raise similar to the 28-year old Anze Kopitar’s $80 million over 8 years extension with the Los Angeles Kings. Somewhere in the ballpark between $6.000 to $8.000 million AAV for any amount of time is well worth the chance for Eriksson to take the money and run.

And the Bruins don’t have the room for that. Granted, their salary cap crunch days are much better than last year’s numbers.

In the next two free agency cycles the Boston Bruins will have to resign a plethora of young stars including, Ryan Spooner ($950,000), David Pastrnak ($925,000), Brett Connolly ($1.000 million), Brad Marchand- who by the way is having a career year himself this year- ($4.500 million), Torey Krug ($3.400 million), Colin Miller ($600,000), Seth Griffith ($750,000) and quite possibly Alexander Khokhlachev ($800,000) assuming the Bruins don’t try to package the disgruntled Providence Bruin who has hinted at jettisoning the spoked-B for the KHL.

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Will the Bruins give up on second chances for Alexander Khokhlachev? (Photo via author)

At least for Boston, they have some comfort in knowing that Milan Lucic’s retained salary of $2.750 million is coming off the books after this season and that forwards, Chris Kelly ($3.000 million) and Max Talbot ($900,000) may not be resigned. Kelly for sure will likely be forced to search for a job elsewhere in the league or face retirement in his comeback from a fractured left femur just 11 games into the season.

So it all comes back down to what is here and now- Loui Eriksson.

Without a doubt, Eriksson has a long future left in the NHL with any team in the league. Where he might end up is not necessarily clear, but the Bruins should seek to land a 1st round pick, a prospect, and a solid forward or top-4 defenseman at the very least in an exchange for just Loui Eriksson.

The more pieces you add to the puzzle, the more things appear to stack up in favor of Boston (at least from a negotiating side). The Bruins have plenty of chips to put on the table with Eriksson, Khokhlachev and even Kevan Miller (who’s superb on the physical aspect of defense and shot blocking) to offer to a team that’s on the border or well within the cutoff of the playoff picture. Bruins GM Don Sweeney also has a couple of 1st round picks that he could dangle in front of an attractive trading partner.

So while it might be sad to see such a productive player go in one of his best seasons, it just might be one of those classic examples of a “good hockey trade”- something reminiscent of when the Bruins brought in Phil Esposito or the like. Who knows, it just might be enough to put them in Cup contention for 2016.

(And as requested by our in-house music guru, Connor, he wouldn’t let me get away with the title without alluding to this).