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.
Jake DeBrusk scored a pair of power play goals 18 seconds apart in the Boston Bruins’, 3-2, victory over the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden on Sunday night.
Tuukka Rask (15-4-5 record, 2.31 goals against average, .923 save percentage in 24 games played) made 24 saves on 26 shots against (.923 SV%) in the win for the Bruins.
Sabres goaltender, Linus Ullmark (11-10-3, 2.80 GAA, .913 SV% in 24 games played) stopped 19 out of 22 shots faced for an .864 SV% in the loss.
Boston improved to 24-7-9 (57 points) overall and remained in command of the Atlantic Division, while Buffalo fell to 17-16-7 (41 points) and remained in 6th place in the Atlantic.
The B’s also improved to 14-1-8 at home on the season.
The Bruins were without the services of Kevan Miller (knee), Karson Kuhlman (fractured tibia), Torey Krug (undisclosed) and Charlie McAvoy (undisclosed) on Sunday.
Boston’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made a couple minor changes to his lineup from Friday night’s, 3-0, shutout in Buffalo.
Brett Ritchie returned to the lineup and was reunited with Anders Bjork and Charlie Coyle on the third line, while Sean Kuraly returned to his role as the fourth line center with Joakim Nordstrom on his left wing and Chris Wagner on his right wing.
Par Lindholm joined David Backes in the press box for the B’s as their only healthy scratches against the Sabres on Sunday.
Boston kicked things off with eight skaters on the ice for a too many skaters on the ice minor penalty at 2:50 of the first period– yielding the game’s first power play to Buffalo.
The Sabres weren’t able to convert on the ensuing legal skater advantage.
Midway through the opening frame, David Pastrnak (29) scored on a one-timer after Patrice Bergeron fed Brad Marchand with a stretch pass through the neutral zone and the two first line wingers entered the attacking zone on a 2-on-1.
Marchand (39) and Bergeron (18) had the assists on Pastrnak’s goal as the Bruins took the, 1-0, lead at 12:39 of the first period.
Moments later, Wagner tripped Sabres blue liner, Brandon Montour, and was assessed a minor infraction at 16:35. Buffalo didn’t score on their second power play of the night.
Entering the first intermission, the Bruins led the Sabres, 1-0, on the scoreboard, despite trailing in shots on goal, 7-2.
Boston held the advantage in blocked shots (9-3), while Buffalo led in giveaways (4-3), hits (16-7) and faceoff win percentage (67-33).
Both teams had two takeaways aside, while the Sabres were 0/2 on the only skater advantages of the period.
Just 15 seconds into the middle frame, Henri Jokiharju tripped Marchand and presented the Bruins with their first power play of the night.
Boston’s power play was powerless as Buffalo’s penalty kill shifted momentum towards the Sabres– culminating in a goal early in the second period.
Rasmus Ristolainen (4) flung a shot at the net that Rask saved, but Zdeno Chara bopped the puck off his own goaltender and into the twine as the puck squibbed through the Bruins netminder at 6:37 of the second period.
Sam Reinhart (19) and Marcus Johansson (11) tallied the assists on Ristolainen’s goal as the Sabres tied the game, 1-1.
Midway through the second period, Jimmy Vesey sent the puck over the glass and out of play– yielding an automatic delay of game penalty at 11:02.
Boston’s power play continued to struggle once again and couldn’t score while Vesey was in the box.
A few minutes later, Evan Rodrigues was in the sin bin for tripping Steven Kampfer at 14:11, but the B’s didn’t convert on the ensuing skater advantage.
Shortly thereafter, the Bruins tweeted that their defender, Connor Clifton, wouldn’t return to the game after sustaining an upper body injury earlier in the action.
After 40 minutes of play in Boston, the Bruins and Sabres were tied, 1-1, on the scoreboard with Buffalo holding the advantage in shots on goal, 19-13.
The Sabres also led in takeaways (7-4) and hits (23-15), while the Bruins led in blocked shots (10-7), giveaways (8-5) and faceoff win% (52-49).
Buffalo went 0/2 on the power play through two periods, while Boston went 0/3 on the skater advantage entering the third period.
Early in the final frame of regulation, Johan Larsson took two penalties– one for tripping DeBrusk and another for hooking Marchand– at 1:23 of the third period and presented the Bruins with a 5-on-4 power play for 4:00.
While on the power play, Kampfer fired a shot from the point that DeBrusk (10) redirected past Ullmark while skating through the slot for his first power play goal of the night at 2:37.
Kampfer (1) and Pastrnak (29) notched the assists as Boston took the lead, 2-1.
Just 18 seconds later, DeBrusk (11) fired a shot from about a foot before the goal line along the boards and trickled the puck between Ullmark’s leg pad and the right post to give the B’s a two-goal lead.
David Krejci (20) and Kampfer (2) had the assists on DeBrusk’s second power play goal of the game and the Bruins led, 3-1, at 2:55 of the third period.
Less than three minutes later, Curtis Lazar (2) pounced on a loose puck in the crease while on a delayed penalty call against Boston and tapped the rubber biscuit into the net after Rask made the initial save.
Ristolainen (15) and Jack Eichel (28) tallied the assists on Lazar’s goal and the Sabres trailed, 3-2, at 5:08.
Late in the third period, Ritchie tripped Rasmus Dahlin, but the Sabres weren’t able to capitalize on their last power play of the night at 15:51.
With 2:27 remaining in regulation, Buffalo’s head coach, Ralph Krueger, pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker and used his timeout to drum up a plan to tie the game.
Things didn’t go as planned as Reinhart broke Brandon Carlo’s stick with a slash at 19:43, which left a bad taste in the Sabres’ mouths– especially Eichel’s, apparently, as the Buffalo captain was ticked off and exchanging words with an official until he received a misconduct and was sent to the showers with 17 seconds to spare in the game.
At the final horn, the Bruins had won, 3-2, despite finishing the night trailing the Sabres in shots on goal, 26-22.
Boston wrapped up Sunday’s action with the advantage in blocked shots (13-10), hits (28-25) and faceoff win% (51-49).
Meanwhile, both teams had 10 giveaways aside as the Sabres finished 0/3 on the skater advantage and the B’s went 2/6 on the power play.
The Bruins improved to 17-5-5 when scoring the game’s first goal this season, 15-3-1 when leading after the first period and 6-2-3 when tied after two periods this season.
Boston finishes the month of December (and 2019) in New Jersey on Tuesday afternoon against the Devils before kicking off 2020 with a two-game homestand against Columbus on Thursday and Edmonton on Saturday.
Patrice Bergeron had a pair of goals, Brad Marchand had three assists and Jaroslav Halak had his 50th career shutout in the Boston Bruins’, 3-0, victory over the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center on Friday.
Bergeron, in the meantime, is the fifth player in Bruins history to score multiple goals in at least three straight games and the first since Cam Neely did so in the 1988-89 season (three games).
Halak (9-3-4 record, 2.22 goals against average, .928 save percentage in 16 games played) made 26 saves on 26 shots against for his 3rd shutout of the season in the win.
Sabres goaltender, Linus Ullmark (11-9-3, 2.79 GAA, .914 SV% in 23 games played) stopped 22 out of 24 shots faced (.917 SV%) in the loss.
Boston improved to 23-7-9 (55 points) and remained atop the Atlantic Division standings, while Buffalo fell to 17-15-7 (41 points) on the season, but remained in 5th place in the Atlantic.
The Bruins also improved to 10-6-1 on the road this season and have won back-to-back games.
The Bruins were without the services of Kevan Miller (knee), Karson Kuhlman (fractured tibia), Torey Krug (undisclosed) and Charlie McAvoy (undisclosed) on Friday.
B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, informed reporters ahead of the game on Friday that McAvoy is considered “day-to-day” and would likely practice on Saturday, then possibly return to the lineup on Sunday.
Krug, on the other hand, was placed on injured reserve in a move made by the organization prior to Cassidy’s updates on his injured defenders.
No. 47 in black and gold is out of the lineup through New Year’s Eve at a minimum (when Boston will be in New Jersey to face the Devils).
As a result, Steven Kampfer was recalled from the Providence Bruins (AHL) on an emergency basis. Kampfer had no points in four games with Boston prior to being assigned to Providence, where the 31-year-old veteran has four assists in six games this season.
With Zdeno Chara (infection) back in the lineup after missing Monday night’s, 7-3, win over the Washington Capitals, Kampfer slid in on the third defensive pairing with John Moore at the left side, while Matt Grzelcyk and Connor Clifton moved up to the second pairing.
Brandon Carlo was bumped up to the right side of the first defensive pairing with Chara at his left.
Chara returned to action after having minor surgery to take out the plates originally put in his jaw after sustaining a broken jaw in Game 4 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final in June.
Cassidy made one change to the lineup among his forwards– replacing Brett Ritchie on the fourth line with Chris Wagner.
As a result, Ritchie joined David Backes as the only healthy scratches for Boston against the Sabres in Buffalo.
David Pastrnak trailed behind Jack Eichel and hooked the Sabres captain at 6:38 of the first period, presenting Buffalo with the game’s first power play in the process.
The Sabres were not successful on their first skater advantage opportunity of the night and took a penalty of their own 59 seconds after their power play ended.
Buffalo forward, Evan Rodrigues, was charged with holding against Kampfer at 9:37 and the Bruins went on their first power play of the game as a result.
Boston did not capitalize on the ensuing skater advantage.
Late in the period, former Bruin, Marcus Johansson, was guilty of holding Charlie Coyle and assessed a minor penalty at 19:31.
This time around, the Bruins managed to convert on the skater advantage with a power play goal just seven seconds into the special teams play.
Bergeron (16) drew the puck back to the point off the faceoff, which then sent the rubber biscuit over to Marchand, then Pastrnak and finally back to Bergeron for the one-timer goal with Ullmark out of position and a mostly empty net behind the Buffalo netminder.
Pastrnak (27) and Marchand (36) notched the assists on Bergeron’s power play goal and the B’s led, 1-0, at 19:38 of the first period.
Entering the first intermission, Boston carried the, 1-0, lead into the dressing rooms despite trailing in shots on goal, 11-8.
Buffalo also held the advantage in takeaways (4-1) and giveaways (3-1), while the Bruins led in blocked shots (4-0) and hits (5-4) after one period of play.
Both teams were even in faceoff win percentage (50-50), while the Sabres were 0/1 on the power play and the Bruins were 1/2 entering the second period.
Late in the middle frame, Brandon Montour was charged with holding against Marchand at 14:41 of the second period, resulting in another power play for Boston.
Though the B’s did not score on their third skater advantage of the night, the Bruins did generate further momentum on their side in what was a dominant period for Boston.
Moments later, Boston’s “Perfection Line” went to work on a tic-toc-goal style play that led to Pastrnak stripping the puck from Sabres forward, Jimmy Vesey, and working it to Marchand, then over to Bergeron (17) for his second goal of the night and the, 2-0, lead at 18:26 of the second period.
Marchand (37) and Pastrnak (28) each picked up their second assists of the night as Bergeron tallied his 44th career two-goal game while crashing the net on a 2-on-1 with Marchand.
Through 40 minutes of action in Buffalo, the B’s led the Sabres, 2-0, on the scoreboard and, 20-16, in shots on goal– including a, 12-5, advantage in shots on net in the second period alone.
The Bruins also held the advantage in blocked shots (7-1), hits (9-6) and faceoff win% (57-43) after two periods, while Buffalo led in takeaways (6-2) and giveaways (8-4).
The Sabres were 0/1 on the skater advantage, while Boston was 1/3 on the power play heading into the final frame of regulation.
Early in the final frame, Clifton leveled Sam Reinhart with an open-ice hit near the boards that was perhaps a second late after Reinhart had released control of the puck.
As a result, Reinhart invited Clifton to square dance after the whistle and the two players dropped the gloves, exchanged punches and pleasantries, but only received matching roughing minors at 5:12 of the third period.
About a couple of minutes later, Ullmark tripped Clifton as the Bruins defender drove to the net with speed and tried to wrap the puck around the Buffalo goaltender in the slot.
Kyle Okposo served Ullmark’s tripping minor at 7:59 and Boston went on the power play.
Boston’s skater advantage was short lived, however, as Danton Heinen was bumped into the Sabres goaltender, who promptly fell to the ice and yielded a goaltender interference infraction as a result.
Heinen cut a rut to the box at 8:49, leaving a short span of 4-on-4 action before Buffalo had an abbreviated power play.
The Sabres were unsuccessful on the advantage and the Bruins remained in control of the game.
With about three minutes remaining in the game, Buffalo’s head coach, Ralph Krueger, pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker, but his intentions did not bode well.
Marchand worked the puck from the boards in Boston’s own zone over to Coyle, who skated the puck into the neutral zone and setup Carlo (4) for a breakaway that led to his second goal in four games as Carlo buried the puck into the open twine.
Coyle (13) and Marchand (38) were credited with the assists on Carlo’s empty net goal as the Bruins sealed the deal on a, 3-0, win at 18:06 of the third period.
At the final horn, Halak and his teammates had shutout the Sabres, 3-0, despite finishing the night trailing in shots on goal, 26-25.
Buffalo managed to have a, 10-5, advantage in shots on net in the third period alone and finished Friday’s effort leading in giveaways, 11-7, but Boston’s effort was too much for the Sabres.
The Bruins left KeyBank Center with the victory and the advantage in blocked shots (15-4), hits (16-10) and faceoff win% (57-43).
The Sabres went 0/2 on the power play, while the B’s went 1/4.
Boston improved to 16-5-5 when scoring first, 14-3-1 when leading after the first period and 13-0-3 when leading after two periods this season.
The Bruins return home for the second part of their home-and-home with the Sabres on Sunday (Dec. 29th) before wrapping up the month of December (and 2019 as a whole) in New Jersey on New Year’s Eve for a matinee matchup with the Devils.
49-24-9, 107 points, 2nd in the Atlantic Division
Eliminated in the Stanley Cup Final by St. Louis
Additions: F Brendan Gaunce, F Pär Lindholm, F Brett Ritchie, G Maxime Lagacé
Subtractions: F Noel Acciari (signed with FLA), F Marcus Johansson (signed with BUF), F Mark McNeill (EBEL), F Gemel Smith (signed with TBL), F Jordan Szwarz (signed with OTT), G Zane McIntyre (signed with VAN)
Still Unsigned: F Lee Stempniak
Re-signed: F Peter Cehlarik, F Ryan Fitzgerald, F Danton Heinen, D Brandon Carlo, D Charlie McAvoy
Offseason Analysis: After losing Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final on home ice, the Boston Bruins quickly turned the page to the 2019-20 season. Rookie camp was less than a month away and with it meant free agency for the veteran players of the game.
General Manager, Don Sweeney, followed suit with his business as usual masterplan– stay the course. Don’t overspend on any bottom-six talent and don’t rock the boat.
Boston’s impeccable leadership group of Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and David Backes has everyone in the dressing room in a collective mindset.
The Bruins remain focused on an unaccomplished goal from last season– winning the Cup.
The tight-knit roster witnessed the departure of fourth liner, Noel Acciari, and third-line trade deadline acquisition, Marcus Johansson.
Acciari, 27, brought his talents to the Florida Panthers on a three-year contract worth $1.667 million per season, while Johansson, 28, signed a two-year deal with the Buffalo Sabres worth $4.500 million per season.
Since Sweeney was named GM in May 2015, he’s adopted a new policy for the organization whereby bottom-six forwards– especially on the fourth line– are usually expendable.
Though Acciari’s physical game will be missed by the Bruins, it’s a next-player up mentality combined with the signing of Brett Ritchie to a one-year, $1.000 million contract, that will hold the B’s over for the 2019-20 season.
Excess spending in a salary cap world can get teams into cap hell and more often than not, getting too attached to players that are outside of your top line, top defensive pairing or top goaltender is more costly in the long run.
A little more here and there will hurt a team when the time comes to sign a younger, better, player to a new– more expensive– contract.
In other words, saving $667,000 on Ritchie’s services for the same role as Acciari, should yield the same result on the fourth line (in theory) and save just enough money to utilize elsewhere– like on Par Lindholm’s two-year deal worth $850,000 per season.
Lindholm and Ritchie provide more depth to Boston’s roster than Acciari alone in the simple sense that two players are more than one (especially if one gets hurt).
The Bruins weren’t going to be able to retain Johansson at a $4.500 million cap hit while having to re-sign Danton Heinen, Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo.
Though Johansson was a good fit for the B’s with Charlie Coyle and Heinen on the third line, signing Heinen to a two-year, $5.600 million ($2.800 million cap hit) deal and negotiating a bridge deal that was fair for both sides in McAvoy and Carlo’s case was more important for the future of the franchise.
Sweeney might be playing with fire as McAvoy’s three-year deal bears a $4.900 million cap hit and a surefire significant raise for the 21-year-old defender in three years from now when he’s even further into his prime, but for now, the contract is just another example of Sweeney’s mastery at keeping his team under the cap ceiling.
Carlo’s two-year extension is worth $2.850 million per season and is less likely to cause a ruckus when the defender is in the $4.000 million range depending on how Sweeney’s newest challenge plays out.
With McAvoy and Carlo under contract, Sweeney’s attention can shift to figuring out Torey Krug’s future with the franchise.
While Chara and Kevan Miller are pending-unrestricted free agents at season’s end on the blue line, Matt Grzelcyk will be a restricted free agent and a shoe-in for an extension.
Chara, 42, may retire at season’s end and Miller, 31, might be in his final days as a Bruin this season.
The oft-injured defender (Miller) won’t start the season with Boston as he’s out with a knee injury and has been replaced in his bottom-pairing role by younger and cheaper options in Grzelcyk and Connor Clifton– who signed a three-year extension carrying a $1.000 million cap hit that will kick in starting next season.
With an additional $4.500 million to work with, Sweeney could pay Krug upwards of $9.000 million per season– except Jake DeBrusk will also be Boston’s biggest pending-RFA next July and he’ll need some of that money.
So Krug could sign an extension and have to deal with Sweeney’s money saving ways, be traded while he carries enough trade value before the trade deadline or walk away in free agency, leaving the Bruins with nothing.
At any rate, Boston locked down their biggest component in keeping everything together on the ice this offseason as head coach, Bruce Cassidy, signed a multi-year extension that will begin next season after his current deal expires at the end of the 2019-20 season.
Offseason Grade: B
The reigning GM of the Year had his work cutout for him this offseason in keeping all of his RFAs on the same team without overpaying. Sweeney also managed to avoid handing out any large contracts to free agents and continued to opt for cheap, expendable, replacements to fill lower-ranked roles on the roster.
They didn’t hit it out of the park with a big name star, but they quietly went about their business signing better than average deals (for the advantage of the franchise) and still have enough of their core (despite the age factor) to remain competitive on the ice this season.
33-39-10, 76 points, 6th in the Atlantic Division
Longest active playoff drought, last playoff appearance was 2011
Additions: F Jean-Sebastien Dea, F Marcus Johansson, F Curtis Lazar, F Jimmy Vesey (acquired from NYR), D John Gilmour, D Henri Jokiharju (acquired from CHI), D Colin Miller (acquired from VGK), G Andrew Hammond
Subtractions: F Eric Cornel (signed with Rochester, AHL), F Kyle Criscuolo (signed with PHI), F Taylor Leier (signed with Rochester, AHL), F Sean Malone (signed with Rochester, AHL), F Matt Moulson (signed with Hershey, AHL), F Alexander Nylander (traded to CHI), F Danny O’Regan (signed with NYR), F Kevin Porter (signed with Rochester, AHL), D Jack Dougherty (signed with Belleville, AHL), D Brycen Martin (signed with Fort Wayne, ECHL), D Matt Tennyson (signed with NJD), G Scott Wedgewood (signed with TBL), G Adam Wilcox (signed with San Antonio, AHL)
Still Unsigned: F Jason Pominville
Re-signed: F Remi Elie, F Zemgus Girgensons, F Johan Larsson, F Evan Rodrigues, F C.J. Smith, D Jake McCabe, G Linus Ullmark
Offseason Analysis: The Buffalo Sabres are looking to be last season’s Carolina Hurricanes for the 2019-20 season and, in the process, end the current longest active playoff drought in the NHL.
Buffalo hasn’t been back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs since being ousted by the Philadelphia Flyers in seven games in their 2011 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal matchup.
The Sabres only have four forwards under contract after this season.
Of the remaining nine forwards currently under contract, three are pending-restricted free agents (Sam Reinhart, Evan Rodrigues and Casey Mittelstadt) and six are pending-unrestricted free agents (Vladimir Sobotka, Conor Sheary, Jimmy Vesey, Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson and Scott Wilson).
Thankfully, new addition to their top-nine forwards– and likely to start the season on the first or second line– Marcus Johansson (13-17–30 totals in 58 games played) signed a two-year, $9.000 million ($4.500 million cap hit) contract in free agency after spending last season with the New Jersey Devils prior to being traded to the Boston Bruins at the trade deadline.
Sabres General Manager, Jason Botterill, reworked the defense through the acquisition of Colin Miller from the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for a 2021 2nd round pick (originally belonging to the St. Louis Blues) and a 2022 5th round pick.
Miller has three-years left at $3.875 million per season and is a quality top-six defender addition to the team facing the uncertainty after this season, whereby half of the current defenders on the roster are set to become free agents.
Buffalo has three pending-UFA defenders (Zach Bogosian, Marco Scandella and Casey Nelson) and one pending-RFA blue liner (Brandon Montour– acquired around last season’s deadline from the Anaheim Ducks).
With no cap room available currently and a tighter wallet thanks to Jeff Skinner’s eight-year, $72 million extension ($9.000 million cap hit), the Sabres are going to be hard pressed to try to keep the band together.
Thankfully, a little relief will come via the long-term injured reserve at the likely career-ending expense of Matt Hunwick and his ongoing neck condition that Hunwick sustained last season, missed the first two months because of and was limited to 14 games.
The 34-year-old defender’s $2.250 million cap hit will be relieved thanks to the LTIR option, but still Botterill will have to press on to utilize his best penny pinching calculator when it comes time to ice a full-time roster by puck drop next month.
Oh yeah and Linus Ullmark only has a year on his contract, so before anyone can get comfortable with what’s likely the foreseeable future in the crease for the Sabres…
While Botterill also brought in the likes of Vesey (17-18–35 totals in 81 games played) in a trade with the New York Rangers that saw Buffalo give up a 2021 3rd round pick and trading Alexander Nylander to the Chicago Blackhawks for Henri Jokiharju, there’s yet another new face behind the bench in upstate New York.
Ralph Krueger, the Edmonton Oilers’ head coach in the 48-game lockout shortened 2012-13 season, is in charge of Jack Eichel and crew.
Nobody fully knows what to expect out of the coach that went 19-22-7 with Edmonton before being replaced by Oilers management after one season.
On paper, this is Buffalo’s best chance in at least the last few seasons– if not more– to contend for a wild card spot or better in the Atlantic Division.
The only problem is that everyone else is getting better just the same, even as Rasmus Dahlin continues to emerge as a puck moving, gifted two-way defender.
Offseason Grade: B+
The wild card factor of Krueger behind the bench takes off a few points until proven otherwise, but the Sabres did a really nice job of cleaning up guys who need a second (or third) chance (Miller) and what was better of the more affordable free agents (Johansson) to help fill out a fuller roster than ever before.
Buffalo took a gamble with Skinner’s extension, but knows they finally have a winger locked up for Eichel. Now they just have to win.
Nick and Colby recap the headlines from the last month as well as take a look at all of the New York market teams and try to figure out if any of them are actually any good as Season Six of the podcast begins.
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
- p-Tampa Bay Lightning, 109 points
- x-Boston Bruins, 105 points
- x-Toronto Maple Leafs, 91 points
- Florida Panthers, 89 points
- Montreal Canadiens, 89 points
- Detroit Red Wings, 84 points
- Ottawa Senators, 78 points
- Buffalo Sabres, 71 points
Tampa Bay Lightning: Pros and Cons
The Lightning are annual favorites among the experts to win the Stanley Cup, so it’s no surprise, really, that they haven’t yet. There’s either too many expectations to live up to or there’s too much of a casual atmosphere from season-to-season.
You know what they say when you assume.
Just like the Washington Capitals and their 2018 Stanley Cup championship, it’s better for the Bolts if nobody is talking about them. Prior to the Caps winning in 2018, there was a “Cup or bust” mantra that just didn’t work.
Nothing is willed without hard work and humility.
That’s not to say Tampa doesn’t work hard or isn’t humble, but rather, they must lose on the big stage repetitively until everyone expects them to fail. That’s when they’ll go on a run.
They’ve managed to keep their roster together (granted, RFA center, Brayden Point, is still unsigned) while trimming the fat (gone are the days of Anton Stralman and Dan Girardi on the blue line) and are still Stanley Cup front-runners, but they likely won’t get back to the 60-win plateau in back-to-back seasons.
The Lightning will still get to 50 wins for the third season in-a-row, have Nikita Kucherov set the league on fire in scoring and yield out-of-this-world goaltending from Andrei Vasilevskiy before the real season starts– the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
How would the Lightning fail?
Everyone keeps talking about the Lightning as if they’re some godsend (too much hype, remember?). That, or General Manager Julien BriseBois blows up the roster and/or Jon Cooper is fired as head coach.
Boston Bruins: Pros and Cons
The Bruins core remains strong among their forwards and as long as they’re able to negotiate an extension with RFAs Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo without any bumps in the road, then their defense is pretty sound too.
Jaroslav Halak signed a two-year deal last summer, so the 1A/1B tandem of Tuukka Rask and Halak in the crease seems fine for another run in 2019-20.
Boston exceeded expectations in 2017-18 and went under the radar in 2018-19– though they managed to amass only 10 losses in regulation since Jan. 1st, which means they were actually pretty loud in the points percentage column.
Injuries come and go.
If the Bruins are able to stay healthy instead of dropping like flies to their 12th defenseman on the depth chart, they might actually pick up a few more points than they did last season.
With Bruce Cassidy as head coach, things should remain status quo in the regular season, but Boston still needs to address their top-six forward problem.
David Pastrnak can play on the first or second line, but on any given night that leaves one of their top two lines in need of a scoring winger.
General Manager Don Sweeney managed to patch a hole at the third line center– acquiring Charlie Coyle as last season’s trade deadline loomed– and Coyle was one of their better players in their 2019 Stanley Cup Final postseason run.
But with a couple of depth signings for bottom six roles in the offseason (Par Lindholm and Brett Ritchie), everyone getting another year older and David Backes’ $6.000 million cap hit through 2020-21 still on the books, Boston’s hands are tied.
How would the Bruins fail?
There’s enough bark in the regular season, but not enough bite for a deep postseason run. It’s harder than ever before to make it back to the Stanley Cup Final in back-to-back seasons– and that’s before you consider age, injuries and regression.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Pros and Cons
Toronto has Auston Matthews as their second best center. Yes. Second best. Why? Because John Tavares enters the second year of his long-term seven-year deal that he signed last July.
That alone will continue to keep the Leafs afloat with a strong 1-2 duo down the middle.
Regardless of the Mitch Marner contract negotiations (or lack thereof), the Maple Leafs are just fine with their forwards– having traded Nazem Kadri to the Colorado Avalanche and acquiring Alex Kerfoot in the process (Calle Rosen and Tyson Barrie were also swapped in the deal).
Patrick Marleau is gone and it only cost Toronto a conditional 2020 1st round pick (top-10 lottery protected) and a 2020 7th round pick in the process, but an affordable Jason Spezza at league minimum salary ($700,000) on a one-year deal for fourth line minutes will do just fine.
By puck drop for the 2019-20 season, the Leafs will save $10.550 million in cap space thanks to David Clarkson (yes, his contract’s back after a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights that sent Garret Sparks the other way) and Nathan Horton’s placement on the long-term injured reserve.
The stars are aligning for Toronto to still need to get past the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2004.
With Kadri gone, however, perhaps they will be able to do so with or without Boston in the equation.
How would the Leafs fail?
They don’t sign Marner and they lose in another Game 7 because of it. There’s a lot of turbulence ahead for Toronto General Manager Kyle Dubas considering the Leafs have one defender under contract after 2019-20. If the team doesn’t breakout in the postseason, it’s really just status quo until proven otherwise.
Florida Panthers: Pros and Cons
The Panthers are beginning to ripen with a mix of youth and experience among their forwards, plus a defense that quietly does their job.
They also added Noel Acciari, Brett Connolly, Anton Stralman and (most importantly) Sergei Bobrovsky to the mix.
While Acciari’s $1.667 million cap hit through 2021-22 is a slight overpay for a fourth line center, at least it could be worse. Connolly’s making $3.500 million for the next four years and even Stralman has a cap hit of $5.500 million through 2021-22 when he’ll be turning 36 on August 1, 2022.
Ok, so it was an expensive offseason for Florida– and that’s before you add the $10.000 million price tag for the next seven years of Bobrovsky in the crease.
Yes, despite landing one of the better goaltenders in the league in free agency, General Manager Dale Tallon managed to make matters complicated after, say, the fourth year of Bobrovsky’s contract.
Bobrovsky will be roughly 37-years-old by the time his contract with the Panthers expires and not everyone can be like Dwayne Roloson in the net forever.
At least they drafted Spencer Knight (in the first round– a goaltending prospect curse).
Though they missed the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs by 12 points for an Eastern Conference wild card spot, the Panthers are in a position to gain more than a few wins with new head coach (and three-time Stanley Cup champion) Joel Quenneville behind the bench.
How would the Panthers fail?
Florida’s already landed the biggest prize in head coaching free agency with Quenneville reuniting with Tallon in Sunrise. What could possibly go wrong (besides Tallon being replaced by a clone of Stan Bowman and then the Panthers go on to win three Cups without Tallon in command)?
Montreal Canadiens: Pros and Cons
Montreal didn’t get Matt Duchene or Sebastian Aho in free agency, so they got the next best thing– not overspending on July 1st.
That’s not to say Duchene and Aho aren’t quality players, but rather just an observation of cap concerns for the Habs with Max Domi as a pending-RFA in July 2020 and the rest of Montreal’s future core (Ryan Poehling, Nick Suzuki, Victor Mete, Cayden Primeau and Jesperi Kotkaniemi) to consider going down the road.
Granted, Aho could’ve sped the process up a bit if it weren’t for those pesky RFA rights and compensation in the CBA, right Montreal?
The Canadiens need a legitimate number one center, but General Manager Marc Bergevin has been preoccupied restructuring the defense in the meantime.
That’s not a bad thing.
Shea Weber is 34 and under contract through the 2025-26 season, though after 2021-22, his base salary drops to $3.000 million in 2022-23 and $1.000 million from 2023-26 (meaning he could be traded with ease in a few years, despite his $7.857 million cap hit).
But Karl Alzner and Jeff Petry are both over 30 and have no-trade and/or no-movement clauses in their contracts.
At least free agent addition, Ben Chiarot, is 28-years-old, but he also carries a no-trade clause as part of his three-year deal.
How would the Canadiens fail?
Claude Julien inexplicably reverts back to his old ways and doesn’t play the kids, Carey Price is injured for most of the season and/or Bergevin overcompensates in a trade because of his failure to secure a free agent center.
Detroit Red Wings: Pros and Cons
Steve Yzerman has come home and is rightfully the General Manager for the Red Wings, but as we’ve seen in Tampa, his masterplan takes a little time.
Detroit is four or five years out from being an annual Cup contender, but that doesn’t mean the Red Wings haven’t already sped things up in their rebuild.
Trading for Adam Erne isn’t a grand-slam, but it does make the average age of the roster a tad younger.
It also means that the Red Wings now have seven pending-RFAs on their NHL roster and roughly $37.000 million to work with in July 2020.
How would the Red Wings fail?
Having Yzerman in the front office at Little Caesars Arena is like adding all of the best toppings to a pizza. The only downside is that leftover pineapple is still on the pizza from all of the no-trade clauses delivered by the last guy.
Ottawa Senators: Pros and Cons
The Senators are looking to spend ba-by.
Just kidding, they don’t plan on being good until 2021, so does that mean starting with the 2020-21 season or the following year in 2021-22?
But they do have a ton of draft picks stockpiled including two in the 1st round in 2020, three in the 2nd round, one in the 3rd, 4th and 5th, a pair in the 6th and one in the 7th.
Plus they have roughly $15.600 million in cap space currently and eight players under contract for next season that aren’t on the injured reserve.
For some reason (Eugene Melnyk) current-RFA Colin White is still unsigned and 38-year-old, Ron Hainsey, was signed in free agency, but at least Cody Ceci is a Maple Leaf now.
Oh and former Leafs assistant coach D.J. Smith is Ottawa’s head coach now. That’ll show them!
How would the Senators fail?
More importantly, how would Ottawa succeed?
Buffalo Sabres: Pros and Cons
Pro: The Sabres will probably be better than last season.
Con: Ralph Krueger is Buffalo’s new head coach and nobody knows what to expect (he went 19-22-7 in the lockout shortened 48-game season with the Edmonton Oilers in 2012-13).
Pro: Only eight skaters are under contract next season.
Con: Only eight skaters are under contract next season, including Rasmus Ristolainen and nobody is sure whether or not the club is trying to trade him.
Pro: Marcus Johansson!
Con: Jimmy Vesey! (Only cost Buffalo two third round picks over three years to get him.)
Pro: The average age of the roster is about 26.
Con: Matt Hunwick is the oldest player at 34-years-old, followed by Carter Hutton at 33 and Vladimir Sobotka at 32.
Pro: Royal blue in 2020!
Con: It’s not until 2020.
How would the Sabres fail?
If Buffalo actually finishes last in the division, instead of any improvement whatsoever.
The salary cap isn’t going up as much as everyone hoped. Also, there were plenty of trades, buyouts and extensions handed out in the last week. Nick, Colby, Cap’n and Pete examine each move and pick 2019 NHL Awards winners.