The 2019-20 season has begun, so naturally we handed out awards in our 4th Annual Participation Trophies After One Game ceremony.
Tampa Bay Lightning
62-16-4, 128 points, 1st in the Atlantic Division
Eliminated in the First Round by Columbus
Additions: F Pat Maroon, F Chris Mueller, F Gemel Smith, D Kevin Shattenkirk, D Luke Schenn, D Luke Witkowski, G Mike Condon (acquired from OTT), G Spencer Martin, G Curtis McElhinney, G Scott Wedgewood
Subtractions: F Andy Andreoff (signed with PHI), F Michael Bournival (retired), F Ryan Callahan (traded to OTT), F Gabriel Dumont (signed with MIN) F Adam Erne (traded to DET), F Mitch Hults (signed with Stockton, AHL), F Kevin Lynch (signed with Laval, AHL), F J.T. Miller (traded to VAN), D Dan Girardi (retired), D Anton Stralman (signed with FLA), G Connor Ingram (traded to NSH), G Edward Pasquale (KHL)
Still Unsigned: G Marek Mazanec (ELH, TBL reserve list)
Re-signed: F Danick Martel, F Cedric Paquette, F Brayden Point, F Carter Verhaeghe, D Dominik Masin, D Ben Thomas
Offseason Analysis: Despite tying the NHL record for the most wins in the regular season, the Tampa Bay Lightning couldn’t even win a playoff game and were swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the First Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Every year, a lot of people pick the Lightning to win the Stanley Cup and every year, a lot of people are disappointed.
On paper, this team is like the San Jose Sharks– really good and should win every season. In reality, this team is nothing like the San Jose Sharks, because Tampa has at least won the Cup before in 2004.
Bolts GM, Julien BriseBois, had one primary focus this offseason– re-signing Brayden Point.
Everything else was just excess.
Anton Stralman became expendable at his high cost and Dan Girardi aged out of Tampa’s system.
In their place– veteran defenders in their prime and on one-year contracts– Kevin Shattenkirk and Luke Schenn are fully capable of taking on top-six defensive roles with the Lightning. Shattenkirk is yet another former New York Ranger to head join Tampa– this time on a one-year, $1.750 million deal– and Schenn costs the Bolts a league minimum, $700,000.
BriseBois also brought in a revolving door of backup goaltenders with Curtis McElhinney as the main course behind Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Tampa’s starter himself (Vasilevskiy), signed an eight-year extension worth $76.000 million ($9.500 million cap hit) that goes into effect next season.
BriseBois negotiated a team-friendly bridge deal with Point, keeping the 23-year-old center in a Lightning sweater for three more years at $6.750 million per season (the same cap hit as Patrik Laine’s new deal with the Winnipeg Jets, but with an extra year).
In the third season of his current contract, however, Point’s salary will be $9.000 million, which means Tampa will have to tender a qualifying offer of at least $9.000 million to re-sign him three years from now.
Point’s going to get paid big money on his next deal and the Bolts are banking on the salary cap to go up with increased league revenue thanks to a new U.S. TV broadcasting rights deal that will have to be signed by then too.
For now, head coach, Jon Cooper can continue to relax and coach his casual style for the regular season, at least.
Come playoff time, he’ll have to tighten the reigns a bit in hopes of driving Tampa’s compete level to an all time high for what’s expected to be a deeper run than a First Round embarrassment.
To keep the band together for the time being, BriseBois shipped J.T. Miller to the Vancouver Canucks for Marek Mazanec (since signed with a team in the Czech Republic), a 2019 3rd round pick and a conditional 2020 1st round pick in June, dumped Ryan Callahan’s contract and a 2020 5th round pick in Ottawa for now former Senators backup, Mike Condon, and a 2020 6th round pick in July and traded Adam Erne to the Detroit Red Wings for a 2020 4th round pick in August.
In the end, Point signed a team friendly cap hit, but with the long-term cost of having to rebalance the books in 2022.
Offseason Grade: C+
For a team that didn’t meet their high expectations, the Lightning met their goals for this offseason– don’t overreact and re-sign Point.
They made some minor moves and understand the core of the roster still has enough in it for at least a few more years together until bigger philosophical questions must come into consideration.
The Board of Governors meeting gets underway next week involving the Seattle expansion vote, Bill Peters took a puck to the jaw and Rick Middleton and Vic Hadfield are having their numbers retired this week.
The Chicago Blackhawks and Arizona Coyotes made another trade with each other, Karl Alzner is being Wade Redden’ed, Ron Hextall got ousted as the Philadelphia Flyers GM, the Buffalo Sabres win streak reached double digits and the Winnipeg Jets brought back their Heritage Jerseys.
Nick and Connor also encourage all of Long Island to go to the New York Islanders game at NYCB Live (it’s the Nassau Coliseum) this week and quickly plan a hopeful trip to see Sporting KC play in Atlanta.
44-30-8, 96 points, 4th in the Atlantic Division
Subtractions: F Chase Balisy (signed with OTT), F Connor Brickley (signed with NSH), F Gregory Chase (signed with Wichita Thunder, ECHL), F Alexandre Grenier (signed with Laval Rocket, AHL), D Linus Hulstrom (signed, SHL), G Harri Sateri (signed with DET), D Edward Wittchow (signed, Liiga), F Curtis Valk (signed, KHL), F Radim Vrbata (retired)
Still Unsigned: None
Offseason Analysis: Despite losing their leading scorers from 2016-17 after trading Reilly Smith to the Vegas Golden Knights and leaving Jonathan Marchessault exposed in the expansion draft, the 2017-18 Florida Panthers almost made the playoffs. Almost.
The 44-30-8 Panthers earned 96 points on the regular season and finished one-point shy of a wild card spot in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Florida tied the record set by the 2014-15 Boston Bruins for the team with the most regular season points to miss the postseason.
General Manager Dale Tallon replaced Marchessault’s scoring ability this offseason by acquiring Mike Hoffman and a 2018 7th round pick (207th overall, Santtu Kinnunen) from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2018 4th round pick (123rd overall, Jack Gorniak– drafted by MTL), a 2018 5th round pick (139th overall, Mikael Hakkarainen– drafted by CHI) and a 2019 2nd round pick. The Sharks subsequently flipped the fourth and fifth round picks at the draft.
Hoffman had 22-34–56 totals in 82 games for the Ottawa Senators last season– his third straight season of 50 or more points– before it was revealed that his fiancée allegedly harassed Erik and Melinda Karlsson on social media.
Ottawa General Manager Pierre Dorion specifically did not want to trade within the division, so he sent Hoffman to San Jose, where Sharks GM Doug Wilson was more than happy to flip the offensively gifted forward to the Panthers right back in– you guessed it– the Atlantic Division.
Tallon’s not concerned about any potential locker room quarrels and Hoffman’s already texted all of his new teammates asking if they’d be okay with him wearing No. 68– last worn by Jaromir Jagr in a Panthers uniform.
While Hoffman remains Tallon’s biggest prize and boost to Florida’s offense, Michael Hutchinson, 28, was brought in as a candidate for the backup goaltending job that is all but assured to be James Reimer‘s, unless Hutchinson can do anything about that.
Yes, it was Reimer’s inability to remain a stable starting goaltender (2.99 goals against average and a .913 save percentage in 44 games played last season, 22-14-6 record) that pushed 39-year-old Roberto Luongo (2.47 GAA, .929 SV% in 35 GP, 18-11-2 record) into not only saving the season, but nearly bringing the Panthers into the playoffs on his back.
The future of goaltending in Florida remains shrouded as Luongo is under contract at $4.533 million per season through 2021-22 (by then Luongo will be 43 at season’s end), Reimer, 30, is signed through 2020-21 at $3.400 million and Hutchinson (the youngest goaltender of the three) is on a one-year deal.
But Florida’s top-six forward core is stacked with Evgenii Dadonov, Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad on the prospective first line and Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck and Hoffman filling out line two. That leaves February acquisition from the Bruins who’s looking to prove himself in a full-time role with the Panthers, Frank Vatrano on the third line.
Right about where he was on Boston’s depth chart before their youth movement– yes a youth movement, despite Vatrano only being 24– forced him out of the lineup.
Despite the existence of Aaron Ekblad and Keith Yandle on the blue line, Tallon still has work to do in finding another legitimate top-four defender, let alone fixing the drastic drop-off in talent from Ekblad and Yandle to MacKenzie Weegar and Ian McCoshen likely on the third pair.
Then again, it’s really head coach Bob Boughner‘s job to figure out the right matchups to maximize potential and win games, so perhaps Michael Matheson or Mark Pysyk will be paired with better suitors as the season progresses.
Overall, between the defense and goaltending, the Panthers have to improve their plus-two goal differential from 2017-18 to be a lot more in the black.
Florida’s on the cusp of making the playoffs and turning a few heads, but they really aren’t built for a Cup run. They might be ahead of last season’s Eastern Conference wild card teams (the Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils) in both development and talent, but they don’t have all the pieces as thing stand to go against the powerhouses in the league– including their intrastate rival, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Offseason Grade: B-
The Panthers didn’t yield a huge harvest in the offseason, but they certainly got the most out of filling their need for a top-six forward in Mike Hoffman on the second line.
While Tallon was rumored to have had conversations with Montreal regarding Max Pacioretty (now traded to the Golden Knights) prior to acquiring Hoffman, Florida made the better move for their organization in that they didn’t have to give up any current or future roster pieces for the services of a goal-scorer.
External factors might have driven Hoffman’s price down, but a prospective deal with the Canadiens for Pacioretty would have meant parting with a guy like Huberdeau and that cannot happen if the Panthers are serious about making a playoff run.
Somebody get Tomas Plekanec a new turtleneck for under his uniform, his current one is out of style.
On Sunday, the Toronto Maple Leafs acquired F Tomas Plekanec and F Kyle Baun from their arch-rival– the Montreal Canadiens– in exchange for F Kerby Rychel, D Rinat Valiev and a 2nd round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.
Plekanec, 35, has six goals and 18 assists (24 points) in 60 games with Montreal this season.
The veteran NHL forward made his NHL debut with the Habs in the 2003-04 season and has been with the Canadiens for his entire career, amassing 232-373–605 totals in 981 career games played.
The 5’11”, 193-pound native of Kladno, Czech Republic ranks seventh on Montreal’s all-time games played list, 13th in assists and points and 17th in goals. He is a seven-time 20-goal scorer and is a pending-UFA this July.
Originally drafted by the Canadiens in the 3rd round (71st overall) in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, Plekanec has 16 goals and 33 assists (49 points) in 87 career postseason games.
Baun, 25, has four goals and 12 assists (16 points) with Montreal’s AHL affiliate, the Laval Rocket, this season. The 6’2″, 209-pound native of Toronto, Ontario has 19-40–59 totals in 171 career AHL games between the Rockford IceHogs and Rocket from 2015-present.
He has yet to score a point in the NHL and appeared in five career NHL games from 2014-2016 with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Rychel, 23, has ten goals and 20 assists (30 points) in 55 games with the Maple Leafs AHL affiliate, Toronto Marlies this season.
The 6’1″, 207-pound Torrance, California native has 2-10–12 totals in 37 career NHL games with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
He was originally drafted by Columbus in the 1st round (19th overall) of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
Valiev, 22, has 5-10–15 totals in 40 games with the Marlies this season and 10 career NHL games (during the 2015-16 season) under his belt with the Maple Leafs. The 6’3″, 215-pound defenseman is a native of Nizhnekamsk, Russia and was originally drafted by Toronto in the 3rd round (68th overall) in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
As a result of this trade, Montreal now has four-second round picks in the upcoming NHL draft in June.
The last time the Maple Leafs and Canadiens made a trade with each other was on July 3, 2008. Montreal acquired D Greg Pateryn and a 2010 2nd round pick (32nd overall, Jared Knight– drafted by Boston after the pick changed hands several more times) in exchange for F Mikhail Grabovski.
The Montreal Canadiens traded D Jakub Jerabek to the Washington Capitals on Wednesday in exchange for a 5th round pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
Jerabek, 26, had one goal and three assists (four points) in 25 games with Montreal this season. He had one goal and ten assists (11 points) in 17 games with the Canadiens’s AHL affiliate, Laval Rocket this season as well. The 5’11”, 200-pound, native of Pilsen, Czech Republic signed as a free agent with the Canadiens on May 1, 2017.
In 308 games with Plzen HC in the Czech League, Jerabek had 16-83–99 totals. He also had 5-29–34 totals in 59 games with Podolsk Vityaz in the KHL.
Poised to make a deep run (save your Second Round jokes for now, folks), Washington solidifies their defensive depth with this trade.