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DTFR Podcast #232- Participation Trophies After One Game/One Week (Part VI) (feat. Chris Gere)

The 2021-22 season is well underway, so let’s bring back our 6th Annual Participation Trophies After One Game awards ceremony!

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsStitcherSpotifyAmazon Music and/or Audible.

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NHL Nick's Net Numbers Game

Your Team Will Rise/Fail: 2021-22 Standings Projections

It is time. The 2021-22 season is upon us.

Technically it already started, but we’ll ignore the fact that the Pittsburgh Penguins spoiled the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 2021 Stanley Cup champion banner night with a, 6-2, victory on the road before the Vegas Golden Knights held off a Seattle Kraken comeback in a, 4-3, win at T-Mobile Arena on Tuesday night.

And then Wednesday’s games happened too.

Let’s hit the “reset” button for a second and pretend the 2021-22 is about to get underway. All 32 National Hockey League teams have a chance at clinching 16 available playoff berths.

Any of the 16 teams that make the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs could etch 52 names from their roster, front office and organization on the Stanley Cup next June.

The usual divisions– Atlantic, Central, Metropolitan and Pacific– have returned as have the Eastern Conference and Western Conference. The regular playoff format is back (three teams per division, two wild cards per conference qualify, plus the Conference Finals round returns in place of the Stanley Cup Semfinals in 2021).

A full 82-game regular season schedule is slated from October through the end of April with a three-week break in February for the 2022 All Star Game in Las Vegas and the 2022 Winter Games taking precedence before a return to NHL action down the stretch with the postseason kicking off in May like last year and the 2022-23 season likely returning to the pre-pandemic timeline (2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs starting in April).

The 2022 NHL Entry Draft will be in Montréal on July 7th and 8th, while free agency begins on July 13th, but between now and then, we’ve got the 2021-22 regular season to enjoy.

Using last season’s team goals for and team goals against, plus some other “magic numbers” as part of an expected points model, we’re able to project what 2021-22 could be for all 32 teams (yes, even the Seattle Kraken, despite this year being their first season)– though you’ll have to pretend there were no transactions made in the offseason.

In other words, don’t think that any of what you’re about to see is set in stone– view it more as a suggestion for a possible outcome.

Also, please remember my degree is in communication, so any math beyond figuring out “goals + assists = season point totals” doesn’t exist.

In a normal year (like from 2017-18 to 2018-19, for example), you just take all the data from the 82-game schedule for each team plug it into a formula in a spreadsheet, then line things up accordingly in each division.

However, just like how the shortened 2019-20 season disrupted the regular process for projecting a 2020-21 standings outlook, going from last season’s stats in a 56-game schedule to projecting a regular 82-game season in 2021-22 necessitated the use of forecasting point pace as part of the formula.

As for Seattle, a simple means of taking the NHL stats from last season for every player on their roster and plugging it in for a 2021-22 result is exactly what I did.

We’re all just making it up as we go along, folks. These are projections. They are not absolutes.

For the sake of keeping it simple, here’s a look at how things could go (but probably not) in each division for the upcoming 2021-22 season.

The overall vibe of the Central Division for 2021-22 is that it’s just more of exactly what you’d expect. The Colorado Avalanche are lightyears ahead of everyone else, while Kirill Kaprizov and the Minnesota Wild continue to be on the rise and everyone else fights for what they can earn.

Meanwhile, the jury is still out on whether or not the Winnipeg Jets can breakthrough as Canada’s team and break the Canadian curse (become the first Canadian club to win the Cup since 1993).

Will Colorado finally break through the Second Round and win the Cup?

Are the Avalanche just the Toronto Maple Leafs but with a little more success? My column:

No, but really, it’s worth asking if the Avs making it back to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2002, is more like Toronto’s struggle to make it out of the First Round for the first time since 2004, or is Colorado’s struggle more like the Washington Capitals pre-2018?

The Caps won three Presidents’ Trophies in 2009-10, 2015-16 and 2016-17, but couldn’t make it past the Second Round– let alone the Pittsburgh Penguins– until they finally did and ended up surging in momentum all the way to their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

Colorado, on the other hand, has already won the Cup twice (1996 and 2001) and also has three Presidents’ Trophies to their name in 1996-97, 2000-01 and 2020-21, so if recent history has anything to tell us it’s that yet another team with high expectations for at least a few seasons now only to come up short could very well go on to win it all after winning the Presidents’ Trophy the previous year.

Either that or they’ll have to win it in back-to-back seasons like Washington did before they won the Cup in 2018.

Then again, the Tampa Bay Lightning tied the Detroit Red Wings’ record for most wins in the regular season (62), securing the Presidents’ Trophy in the process in 2018-19, then got swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2019 First Round.

The very next year, however, Tampa kicked off back-to-back Cup rings in 2020 and 2021, to be where they are now as the two-time defending champions likely standing in the path as the only other favorites outside of the Avalanche this season.

Anyway, the Avs mostly kept things the same from last season to this season, losing Joonas Donskoi to the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, Brandon Saad to the St. Louis Blues in free agency and making minor swaps among replacement level bottom-six forwards and bottom-pairing defenders.

Oh, then there’s this whole thing about how Philipp Grubauer left for Seattle in free agency too, so Colorado acquired Darcy Kuemper from the Arizona Coyotes.

Between Dallas, Nashville and St. Louis, who will realistically make the playoffs?

The Stars are projected to finish with about 94 points, the Predators sit at 92 points and the Blues are around 91 points in this one projection, but don’t let the points alone be your deciding factor.

Given the strength of the Central Division compared to the Pacific Division, you can bet on five teams making out of the Central among Western Conference playoff berths.

As such, the spread is the difference maker between these three teams expected to be in the wild card hunt– it’s going to come down to the wire one way or another.

Dallas bolstered their goaltending depth by signing Braden Holtby, Nashville traded Ryan Ellis to the Philadelphia Flyers and St. Louis is… …better than last season on paper?

I mean, the Blues signed Saad, acquired Pavel Buchnevich from the New York Rangers in exchange for Sammy Blais, let Seattle claim Vince Dunn at the expansion draft and let Mike Hoffman walk to the Montréal Canadiens in July.

You could say they took a hit here or there, but those aren’t “nobody names” by any means, however.

If Jordan Binnington and Ville Husso can stabilize things in the crease, then St. Louis has a better situation than the Predators.

The Stars, meanwhile, should benefit from a longer season where more of their core guys– like Tyler Seguin, for example– are healthy. Last season’s COVID-19 outbreak to kick things off in January really killed Dallas’ momentum as a team on the verge of being in the 2021 postseason.

Dallas should get back into the swing of things and St. Louis should be able to stay relevant for at least another year, but how hard the Preds rely on Juuse Saros as their starting goaltender will dictate whether or not they’re able to play spoiler with David Rittich as their backup since Pekka Rinne retired.

Can Arizona avoid the basement?

Anything is possible at this point. Loui Eriksson and Andrew Ladd were scoring goals in the postseason, so a fresh start could be just what both players needed for the last few years at least.

That said, Coyotes General Manager, Bill Armstrong, gave a Masterclass™️ in how to go about rebuilding by selling everything over the summer and taking on “bad” contracts with only one or two years remaining in hopes of playing just well enough to be bad enough without making it look obvious that you’re aiming to win the 2022 NHL Draft Lottery.

The Pacific Division is the new Scotia NHL North Division from last season. In other words, it’s the worst– which is great news for the Seattle Kraken as the league’s schedule allots more division play than any other opponents (though the Kraken will play every other team in the league at least twice).

Seattle’s riding the waves of new-age expansion, while the Vegas Golden Knights lead the charge for the Presidents’ Trophy campaign in 2021-22.

Wait, Seattle in 2nd in the Pacific, really?

Yes, really.

The Kraken have a great front office that goes beyond just Ron Francis as General Manager and have done their due diligence in scouting the best talent available to try to replicate the success of the Vegas Golden Knights’ inaugural season in 2017-18, as well as grow beyond just 2021-22.

That said, Seattle probably isn’t going to make it out of the First Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs, even if they have to face the Edmonton Oilers according to this projection.

It’s a best case scenario for the NHL’s newest expansion team to be in the weakest division, but aside from having recent Stanley Cup champions Yanni Gourde, Philipp Grubauer, Jaden Schwartz and Dunn on their roster, the Kraken have a plethora of players that are relatively inexperienced with deep postseason runs.

Head coach, Dave Hakstol, also hasn’t had the consistency of making the playoffs and making it out of the First Round in his NHL coaching days, but as a team that, again, is looking to develop long-term success, these are mere growing pains Francis and Co. are willing to accept as the fan base grows.

Why aren’t the Kings making the cut this year when everyone else says they’ll be the most improved?

The simple answer is that everyone’s overrating Los Angeles when it comes to the “ready now” factor.

Sure, Kings General Manager, Rob Blake, did a good thing by getting Viktor Arvidsson in a trade with Nashville this summer to solidify his top-six forward group and signed Alex Edler to fortify his defense, but Los Angeles’ goaltending leaves something to be desired.

Here’s hoping Jonathan Quick can find a little resurgence at this point in his career, while Cal Petersen continues to come into his own.

If Los Angeles has any injuries– and they already have with Arvidsson likely missing some time due to an injury in the last preseason game– they’re already close enough to the bubble that they’ll only fall further behind.

That said, if the Kings don’t make it back to the postseason hunt in 2022, there’s a good chance they make it in 2023.

Los Angeles is improving, but by how much remains to be seen.

Will winning the Presidents’ Trophy hurt Vegas?

Eh, it’s hard to say.

The Golden Knights have packed in just about every type of heartbreak since their inception in 2017, that fans of other franchises have only experienced over the course of at least 50 years, so if Vegas pulls out the Presidents’ Trophy win in 2021-22, don’t be surprised when the inevitable happens and they win the Cup instead of doing what most other Presidents’ Trophy winners in the salary cap era have done.

Only the 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings and Chicago in 2012-13, have been able to win the Presidents’ Trophy and the Stanley Cup since the salary cap was introduced ahead of the 2005-06 season.

Vegas would probably join Detroit and Chicago in doing so just so the Hockey Gods can spite us again.

It’s not easy to be in the Metropolitan Division these days because, well, let’s save that for the three questions below.

Is this the toughest division to project?

Absolutely.

The Carolina Hurricanes decided to just get rid of a few parts and pieces that helped make them good for the last few seasons, so they’re bound to regress even with Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, Teuvo Teräväinen and Martin Necas still existing.

The Pittsburgh Penguins since 2009, have always found a way to be near the top of the division standings by the end of the regular season no matter whether or not you believe they’ll inevitably miss the playoffs for the first time since 2006, so anything could happen there.

The New York Islanders have made back-to-back appearances in the Eastern Conference Final, so I’d expect them to be good.

The Washington Capitals are better than the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers, at least, but are probably the only team on the bubble if the New Jersey Devils can come out of nowhere and be competitive this season after signing Dougie Hamilton, Tomas Tatar and Jonathan Bernier in the offseason.

Meanwhile, it’s time for a short rebuild in Columbus as the Blue Jackets would be quite pleased with a top draft pick in 2022.

What if Chris Drury never was promoted as General Manager of the Rangers?

They’d still fire David Quinn and hire Gerard Gallant. I don’t think that’s such a bad idea, but they’d definitely reconsider about 90% of the roster decisions made this summer.

There’s no reason why the Rangers have to go down this path and yet, here they are, fumbling at the one-yard line and possibly plunging their franchise back into the Dark Ages of another rebuild. Or is it the same ongoing rebuild?

What about a team to watch like New Jersey, for example?

I’m big on the Devils this season for some strange reason.

Maybe it’s because a part of me deep down misses the trap game of the 1990s and 2000s that led to Stanley Cups for New Jersey in 1995, 2000 and 2003.

Maybe it’s because they signed Hamilton, Tatar, Bernier and acquired Ryan Graves from the Colorado Avalanche as a supporting cast for Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Pavel Zacha, Yegor Sharangovich, Ty Smith and friends.

Seriously, the Devils should be good in the next few seasons, but this year could be the biggest stride forward in terms of their improvement from the basement to their development as a playoff contender.

First, pour one out for Jack Eichel. Now, let’s move on and talk about everyone else.

What does this mean for the Leafs?

Just like how the Stars, Preds and Blues are all right on top of one another in the Central Division standings, the Atlantic Division is stacked from 1st through 4th, so though Toronto leads the way in this projection, I wouldn’t feel too comfortable as a Leafs fan.

The Maple Leafs played in the worst of the four divisions last year in the temporarily realigned divisions in wake of the ongoing pandemic.

No, it’s not just because they played all the other Canadian teams across 56 games, but rather it’s due to the fact that they haven’t been able to matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers and even the Boston Bruins since the 2019-20 season.

A lot and not a lot has changed since then.

Tampa is still dominant as ever, Florida has emerged as a team that’s on the rise and Boston is unpredictable in that– much like the Penguins– it could really go either way with the Bruins this season.

So now Toronto has to take on better competition within their own division and square off with teams like the Vegas Golden Knights, Colorado Avalanche, New York Islanders and others that emerge towards the top of the standings outside of the Canadian teams that the Leafs are all too familiar with at this point.

That said, Toronto still has a great chance at winning the Atlantic Division regular season title or finishing 2nd and having home ice advantage in the First Round for the second-straight postseason.

Can anyone other than Toronto, Florida, Tampa or Boston make it out of the Atlantic this year?

No. Let’s be realistic here.

The Montréal Canadiens made it to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final despite being below .500 in the standings because every division produced four playoff berths and intra-divisional play through two rounds.

In 2020, they upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Qualifier despite finishing right at .500.

In any other non-pandemic timeline, the Canadiens would still be looking for their first playoff appearance since they lost to the New York Rangers in six games in the 2017 First Round.

That’s not to say that Nick Suzuki can’t lead the Habs back to glory, but rather that they need to improve all-around in the regular season and peaking in performance in the playoffs.

Though the Ottawa Senators promised unprecedented success from 2021-25, it’s looking like it’ll realistically be anytime between 2024-25 as in the 2024-25 season itself at this point.

Ottawa’s goaltending needs to improve, their defense could use some tweaks and the Sens are banking on their offense getting their feet underneath them and bursting in production in the coming years.

A little more patience won’t hurt them.

The same can be said for the Detroit Red Wings in that Red Wings fans already know– trust in General Manager, Steve Yzerman, is paramount. He’ll work his magic.

It just takes a little time to build a solid foundation and the first floor is almost ready to start going up.

As for the Buffalo Sabres, well…

At least they’ll hopefully give Rick Jeanneret a proper send-off before he retires as their play-by-play announcer for the last 51 years on television.

Hopefully.

Will Tampa win three consecutive Stanley Cup championships?

Probably not.

I’m not ruling it out entirely, but the Lightning have a better chance of winning three Cups in four years than they do three Cups in as many years as things stand currently.

The loss of their entire third line (Blake Coleman, Yanni Gourde and Barclay Goodrow) from last season to this season is sure to leave a mark on the development and restructuring of their bottom-six forwards.

That said, Tampa’s top-six forwards still exist and, if you haven’t already noticed, they’re very good on their own, but the best teams in the playoffs have four lines that can roll without a doubt and the Bolts might just be off the ball for a year in terms of depth.


Alright, if you’ve made it this far, thanks for your patience. By now the season’s already going on a few days into the 2021-22 calendar, so the two of us (or more if you’re reading this to a group) should probably get back to watching games.

Stay tuned for more forecasts for both standings and assorted teams throughout the season.

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NHL Nick's Net Previews

Montréal Canadiens 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 24-21-11, 59 points

4th in the Scotia NHL North Division

Eliminated in the Stanley Cup Final by Tampa

Additions: F Jean-Sébastien Dea, F Christian Dvorak (acquired from ARI), F Mike Hoffman, F Cedric Paquette, F Mathieu Perreault, D Louis Belpedio, D Sami Niku, D David Savard, D Chris Wideman, G Sam Montembeault (claimed off waivers from FLA)

Subtractions: F Phillip Danault (signed with LAK), F Charles Hudon (signed with TBL), F Jesperi Kotkaniemi (offer sheet signed with CAR, not matched), F Jake Lucchini (signed with Laval Rocket, AHL), F Corey Perry (signed with TBL), F Tomas Tatar (signed with NJD), F Jordan Weal (KHL), D Cale Fleury (expansion, SEA), D Erik Gustafsson (signed with CHI), D Otto Leskinen (Liiga), D Jon Merrill (signed with MIN), D Gustav Olofsson (signed with SEA), G Vasili Demchenko (KHL), G Charlie Lindgren (signed with STL)

Still Unsigned: F Joseph Blandisi, F Michael Frolik, F Eric Staal

Re-signed: F Joel Armia, F Brandon Baddock, F Alex Belzile, F Laurent Dauphin, F Artturi Lehkonen, F Michael Pezzetta, F Ryan Poehling, F Lukas Vejdemo, G Michael McNiven

Offseason Analysis: After back-to-back miracle runs to the postseason aided by the circumstances of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Montréal Canadiens are expected to fall back to Earth in 2021-22.

The Canadiens were a .500 team that upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers, then Montréal was a below .500 team that benefitted from the four teams per division playoff format in 2021.

Any of the 16 teams that make the playoffs can win the Cup and the Canadiens almost bested the 2012 Los Angeles Kings in terms of being a long shot to do so, but the Tampa Bay Lightning had other plans in the 2021 Stanley Cup Final.

Instead, the Bolts repeated as back-to-back Stanley Cup champions while Montréal was eliminated in five games in a Game 5 that was decided by one goal– the only goal, scored by Ross Colton a little past the midpoint of the second period, as the Lightning emerged victorious with a, 1-0, win on home ice to secure their third Stanley Cup ring in franchise history.

Corey Perry lost to Tampa in back-to-back years and, as such, as taken the “if you can’t beat them, join them” mantra to heart in the offseason, signing a two-year contract worth $1.000 million per season with the Lightning.

Fear not, Habs fans, unlike when Marian Hossa bounced from the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Detroit Red Wings before landing in Chicago ahead of the 2009-10 season, Perry’s already won a Cup ring. He’s just in search of his second before the twilight of his career reaches sunset.

Montréal’s cast of characters in Perry, Eric Staal and others that joined the leadership of captain, Shea Weber– whether via free agency ahead of the 2020-21 season or prior to the 2021 trade deadline– has mostly disbanded.

Whether or not Canadiens General Manager, Marc Bergevin, planned on making an appearance in the 2021 Stanley Cup Final or not as the 56-game regular season approached last season, it’s hard to say that he didn’t give the Habs their best roster in recent years.

They replaced Claude Julien with Dominique Ducharme behind the bench after a shaky start and rode the waves of change into a fourth-place finish in the one-off Scotia NHL North Division to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2021 First Round.

They didn’t surrender when they trailed in the series 3-1, as Cole Caufield, Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi followed the examples of Perry, Staal, Joel Armia, Tyler Toffoli and other veterans that led the charge.

Montréal beat Toronto in seven games. They swept the Winnipeg Jets in the Second Round and upset the Vegas Golden Knights in six games in the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals.

Then David faced Goliath, but Goliath won.

Because of the nature of the salary cap era, Bergevin couldn’t hold onto all of his puzzle pieces.

Perry, Staal, Jordan Weal, Phillip Danault, Charlie Lindgren, Jon Merrill, Tomas Tatar, Kotkaniemi and Erik Gustafsson are all gone for one reason or another, while Mike Hoffman, Cedric Paquette, David Savard, Chris Wideman, Mathieu Perreault, Sami Niku and Sam Montembeault have all been signed to take their place on the depth chart.

The heart of the Canadiens– however recently formed– is changing. The identity of the team last season– forged with the additions of Perry and Staal to the already existent tenures of Danault, Weber, Price and Co. is in transition.

Whereas Suzuki was already leading the charge in Montréal’s new core, this offseason has solidified the inevitable. It may not be a rebuild, but it may be a few more stagnant years in-between before long term success and growth.

It’s crazy to write about how the Habs– a team that made the 2021 Stanley Cup Final– are not going to be as “good” as they were good enough to reach the Final, but it also makes the most sense.

Again, in a normal 82-game season without the pandemic, the Canadiens likely wouldn’t have even made the playoffs in the last two years.

The fact that they have has provided valuable experience for Suzuki, Jake Evans, Ryan Poehling and more, but the veteran turnover from last season to this season is palpable.

The additions of Hoffman, Paquette, Savard, Wideman and Perreault signal a distinct shift in character.

Heart and grit be damned– Montréal is wholly embracing the speed and skill era. Sort of.

Hoffman joined the St. Louis Blues on a one-year deal last season after amassing five consecutive seasons with at least 55 points or more dating back to the 2015-16 season. His play in an Ottawa Senators uniform was consistent, but his dressing room presence earned him a ticket to the San Jose Sharks in a trade before being flipped to the Florida Panthers ahead of the 2018-19 season.

After amassing 70 points in 82 games with the Panthers in his first season in Florida, Hoffman had 59 points in 69 games in the 2019-20 regular season that was cut short by the ongoing pandemic.

Then he had 17-19–36 totals in 52 games with the Blues last season after a slow start.

As a top-nine forward, Hoffman’s one-dimensional game as a sniper isn’t that bad as long as he scores.

Since being traded by the Lightning, Paquette had a little bit of a journey on his way to Montréal. First, in nine games with the Senators last season he had one goal. Then in 38 games with the Carolina Hurricanes, he amassed seven points (three goals, four assists) for a grand total of 4-4–8 totals in 47 games combined between his Sens and Canes tenure.

As a fourth liner, it’s a low-risk, high-reward move for the Habs, but that’s assuming he’ll be in the lineup from night-to-night as the Canadiens have a backlog of bottom-six talent looking to earn a regular role.

Savard might just be the best value signing this summer by Bergevin. The 30-year-old defender was signed to a four-year contract worth $3.500 million per season and had six points (one goal, five assists) from the blue line in 54 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Lightning last season en route to winning his first Stanley Cup ring.

Don’t let his offensive shortfalls fool you, Savard is a quality shutdown defender of the top-four variety.

Seriously, it’s a good signing by the Canadiens.

Wideman hasn’t made an appearance in the NHL since the 2018-19 season, when he played for the Senators until the infamous Uber ride, then was traded to the Edmonton Oilers and finally traded again to the Panthers.

In 181 career NHL games, he’s had 16-29–45 totals from the point and spent 2019-20 in the American Hockey League with the San Diego Gulls after signing with the Anaheim Ducks and missing out on the roster after training camp and spending last season in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) in Russia.

While in the KHL, Wideman reinvented his game– compiling 9-32–41 totals in 59 games with Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod.

With Niku on the injured reserve to start the season and Weber’s career in doubt, Wideman is a welcome addition to the bottom pairing as Montréal looks to hold things together in their own end with Carey Price out indefinitely (Price entered the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program last Thursday) and Jake Allen as their last resort as the de facto starting goaltender.

Meanwhile, Perreault’s arrival shores up the fourth line and Montembeault should provide an added cushion as a backup option to Allen in the crease.

By now, you’ve read almost 1,300 words on Montréal’s summer and we haven’t even gotten around to talking about the ongoing feud with the Hurricanes as a result of the Kotkaniemi offer sheet, as well as the Christian Dvorak acquisition.

Let’s try to keep this brief, O.K.?

Carolina signing Kotkaniemi wasn’t revenge (allegedly) for Montréal signing Sebastian Aho to an offer sheet, but it was an offer that was too good to refuse (for Kotkaniemi, anyway).

A one-year deal worth about $6.100 million with a $20 signing bonus (symbolism!) means that Kotkaniemi will be due for a decent payday if he’s tendered a qualifying offer next summer.

The Canadiens didn’t have the cap space and even the Hurricanes had to make a move to finagle his salary on the books. The Habs will gladly take Carolina’s 2022 1st round and 2022 3rd round draft picks, despite losing one of their better centers for the future.

It was hard enough to let Danault walk to the Los Angeles Kings in free agency, surely things only got harder for Montréal to find a replacement after Kotkaniemi left too– oh.

After swapping draft picks on the second day of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft in three separate trades, Bergevin made his only trade that resulted in a change to Montréal’s roster this offseason on Sept. 4th.

The Canadiens dealt a conditional 2022 1st round pick and a 2024 2nd round pick to the Arizona Coyotes for Dvorak and with that brought in his 17-14–31 totals in 56 games from last season to their top-six forward group.

Since making his league debut in 2016-17, Dvorak has never reached the 40-point plateau, but with teammates like Toffoli, Hoffman, Jonathan Drouin, Josh Anderson, Caufield and anyone else that might bounced around inside the top two lines on any given night– Dvorak is sure to have a more consistent supporting cast around him than in his Coyotes days.

Offseason Grade: C

It’s not a great look to have mismanaged Kotkaniemi over the years– culminating in the loss of his talent via an offer sheet, but what’s more concerning for the Canadiens is just how much of what made them pernicious in their Cinderella run to the Final last year that they lost.

It wasn’t just one or two minor moves that were made to improve from last season to this season– Bergevin made some sweeping changes, by necessity or otherwise.

The top-six forward group should be fine, but do the Habs have the same level of depth that they had last season? That’s another question entirely.

At the very least, they’re not getting caught up having an overstayed welcome with replacement level talent, yet their window in the Price era may be coming to a close.

Hopefully Price gets the help that he needs most as there’s a lot more to life than just hockey. In the meantime, time marches on as the 34-year-old goaltender is susceptible to the inevitable fallout from a goaltender’s prime.

Montréal may very well win another Cup someday soon, but Price might be in a more limited role as the club’s backup by then, if all things go according to plan with this ideally seamless transition from a team that lucked into postseason runs.

The Habs need to improve in the regular season in a division that’s already tough enough to compete in with Tampa, Toronto, Florida and Boston expected to be in the playoff hunt in the Atlantic Division.

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NHL Nick's Net Previews

Colorado Avalanche 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 39-13-4, 82 points

1st in the Honda NHL West Division

Eliminated in the Second Round by Vegas

Additions: F Darren Helm, F Mikhail Maltsev (acquired from NJD), F Dylan Sikura, D Jordan Gross, D Jack Johnson (signed to a PTO), D Kurtis MacDermid (acquired from SEA), D Stefan Matteau, D Roland McKeown, D Ryan Murray, G Darcy Kuemper (acquired from ARI)

Subtractions: F Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (signed with TBL), F Matt Calvert (retired), F Joonas Donskoi (expansion, SEA), F Sheldon Dries (signed with VAN), F Ty Lewis (retired), F Liam O’Brien (signed with Tucson Roadrunners, AHL), F Brandon Saad (signed with STL), F Miikka Salomäki (SHL), F Carl Söderberg (SHL), F Mike Vecchione (signed with WSH), D Kyle Burroughs (signed with VAN), D Ryan Graves (traded to NJD), D Patrik Nemeth (signed with NYR), D Dan Renouf (signed with DET), D Conor Timmins (traded to ARI), G Philipp Grubauer (signed with SEA), G Peyton Jones (signed with Colorado Eagles, AHL), G Adam Werner (signed with CGY)

Still Unsigned: F Travis Barron, G Devan Dubnyk

Re-signed: F Tyson Jost, F Gabriel Landeskog, F Jayson Megna, F Kiefer Sherwood, D Dennis Gilbert, D Cale Makar, G Jonas Johansson

Offseason Analysis: If next spring doesn’t bring the desired results to Colorado, it’ll be 20 years since the Avalanche last made an appearance in the Western Conference Final.

Back in 2002, the Detroit Red Wings were in the prime of their dominance and the Red Wings-Avalanche rivalry was red hot as the two teams went at it for not only regular season titles, but Stanley Cup rings as well.

Colorado had won in 1996 and 2001, Detroit won in 1997, 1998 and would do so again in 2002, as well as 2008– five years after Patrick Roy played his last National Hockey League game.

In the 2002 Western Conference Final, the defending Stanley Cup champion Avs were once again the team to beat, but the Red Wings took the series in seven games and went on to win the Cup.

Since then, both teams have had a bit of a falling out.

When Joe Sakic took over as General Manager of the Avalanche, the goal was simple– return the franchise to its glory days.

The bump in the road that was the 2016-17 season brought the team the 4th overall pick after losing in the draft lottery, yet at 4th overall in 2017, Colorado selected their biggest game-changing defender since the acquisition of Ray Bourque in Cale Makar.

Sakic turned his attention to a Makar extension when it seemed like things had gone south with keeping captain, Gabriel Landeskog, in town.

The 22-year-old defender signed a six-year extension worth $9.000 million per season after finishing second in Norris Trophy voting to New York Rangers defender, Adam Fox, for the 2020-21 season.

Makar had 44 points (eight goals, 36 assists) in 44 games– exactly a point-a-game in his sophomore campaign, limited again due to injury after amassing 12-38–50 totals in 57 games in his first NHL season in 2019-20.

Sakic signed Makar to an extension on July 24th and then in the 11th hour as free agency drew near, signed Landeskog to an eight-year extension worth $7.000 million per season.

The 28-year-old captain was Colorado’s 2011 1st round pick (2nd overall) and has 218-294–512 totals in 687 games since making his league debut in the 2011-12 season with the Avs.

Landeskog had a promising 52-point season (22 goals, 30 assists) in 82 games in his first year in the league, then the 2012-13 48-game lockout shortened season kept him to 9-8–17 totals in 36 games.

The Avalanche missed out on the playoffs from 2011-13, but in 2014, Colorado squared off against the Minnesota Wild in the First Round– only to lose in seven games.

That playoff series, however, was the first taste of playoff hockey for Nathan MacKinnon and went decently for Landeskog as well.

After amassing 65 points (26 goals, 39 assists) in 81 games in the regular season, Landeskog had 3-1–4 totals in the seven-game series against the Wild.

Then his production dropped to 59 points in 82 games in 2014-15, and 53 points in 75 games in 2015-16– coinciding with Colorado’s fall from grace.

In the dismal 2016-17 campaign for the Avalanche, in which the team amassed 48 points on the season with a 22-56-4 record, Landeskog had just 33 points (18 goals, 15 assists) and had a minus-25 rating.

But the Avs have made the playoffs every season since then– succumbing to the Nashville Predators in six games in the 2018 First Round, bowing out to the San Jose Sharks in seven games in the 2019 Second Round, losing to the Dallas Stars in seven games in the 2020 Second Round and dropping out in six games against the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2021 Second Round.

In that span, Landeskog’s had a career resurgence. He had 62 points in 78 games in 2017-18, 75 points in 73 games in 2018-19, 44 points in 54 games while battling injury and the COVID-19 pandemic shortened regular season in 2019-20, as well as 52 points in 54 games in last season’s 56-game regular season schedule.

Some say his resurgence can be accredited to the emergence of Colorado’s dominant first line with MacKinnon at center, Landeskog at left wing and Mikko Rantanen at right wing, but then how can that attribute to his own individual playoff success?

Landeskog had seven points (four goals, three assists) in six postseason games in 2018, 3-5–8 totals in Colorado’s 12-game 2019 Stanley Cup Playoff experience, 2-11–13 totals in 14 games during their 2020 Stanley Cup Playoff bubble run and 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in ten games in the Avalanche’s 2021 postseason run.

It’s plain to see that whereas MacKinnon is the superstar forward, Landeskog is the lifeblood of the organization– both as the captain and as a clutch performer when it matters most.

Landeskog’s reasonable cap hit should take some pressure off of Sakic as he negotiates extensions with MacKinnon after the 2022-23 season and Rantanen after the 2024-25 season, when the salary cap ceiling is expected to have risen due to the increased revenue from the current U.S. broadcasting rights packages.

Two big pieces were taken care of, so naturally Sakic set his sights on Philipp Grubauer… …who chose to leave for the Seattle Kraken in free agency.

Grubauer signed a six-year contract worth $5.900 million per season with the Kraken on July 28th– the day that free agency began and a week after Seattle claimed Joonas Donskoi from the Avs in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft.

Last season, Grubauer went 30-9-1 in 40 games played, had seven shutouts (tied for the most with New York Islanders goaltender, Semyon Varlamov) and amassed a 1.95 goals-against average, as well as a .922 save percentage in that span.

It was a breakout year for the 29-year-old goaltender, so why not cash in while you can?

The downside for Colorado, however, is that it left them briefly with uncertainty in the crease until they acquired Darcy Kuemper from the Arizona Coyotes later that same day.

Sakic worked the phones quite a bit this summer between agents and fellow general managers.

On July 15th, Colorado swapped defender, Ryan Graves, with the New Jersey Devils for forward, Mikhail Maltsev, and a 2021 2nd round pick (from NYI via NJD- 61st overall, Sean Behrens).

On July 27th, Sakic sent a 2023 4th round pick to the Kraken for defender, Kurtis MacDermid, whose father, Paul, played for the Québec Nordiques from 1993-95.f

After losing Grubauer to Seattle in free agency, Sakic dealt defender, Conor Timmins, a 2022 1st round pick and a conditional 2024 3rd round pick to the Coyotes for Kuemper.

Much like Linus Ullmark going from the Buffalo Sabres to the Boston Bruins via free agency this summer, it’s hard to tell what to expect out of Kuemper in an Avalanche uniform.

He should be better considering the overall quality and depth of defenders on Colorado’s blue line a la Ullmark’s upgrade from Buffalo’s defense to Boston’s defense in front of him.

That said, Kuemper hasn’t really been a starting goaltender for long. It’s a risk, like when Colorado sought after Grubauer in the first place from the Washington Capitals a few summers ago.

In his first season as a starter, Kuemper went 27-20-8 in 55 games with Arizona– notching five shutouts and recording a 2.33 goals-against average, as well as a .925 save percentage. Good stuff.

In 2019-20, he went 16-11-2 in 29 games, had two shutouts and yielded a 2.22 goals-against average, as well as a .928 save percentage.

Last season, he went 10-11-3 in 27 games, dropping to a 2.56 goals-against average, a .907 save percentage and once again recording two shutouts.

Kuemper is 31-years-old and made his league debut with the Minnesota Wild back in the 2012-13 season– the same season that Grubauer broke into the league with the Capitals, albeit two years younger in age.

How will a full 82-game schedule as the starting netminder with Pavel Francouz returning from an injury that prevented him from being the backup in Colorado last season impact Kuemper’s performance in the crease?

There’s kind of a lot at stake here. No pressure or anything, but the Avalanche are trying to win the Cup now rather than later.

Speaking of “win-now” mode, the loss of Donskoi, Brandon Saad and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare puts Colorado in a difficult spot.

They don’t have the dominant bottom-six players on paper that they had last season that made them as much of a threat as the Golden Knights or Tampa Bay Lightning.

Instead, they’ll be relying on the emergence of youth in Alex Newhook, Logan O’Connor and Maltsev mixed with a combination of young players getting better in Tyson Jost and J.T. Compher, as well as a veteran in Darren Helm.

Much like how Saad brought in Cup winning experience to the dressing room last season, however, Helm is doing so for the Avs this season as he happened to be on the 2008 Stanley Cup champion Red Wings– appearing in seven games in the 2007-08 regular season, then 18 postseason games for Detroit in their 2008 Cup run.

It was Helm’s first taste of NHL action and he already was on top of the mountain. Now 34, he’s looking for more.

Offseason Grade: B-

Sakic has a way of taking reclamation projects and maximizing their production in Colorado, though we’ll see if the same effect can be applied to Stefan Matteau and Ryan Murray on the blue line, as well as other moves already mentioned.

The Avalanche have depth, but do they have enough depth?

Despite winning the Presidents’ Trophy last season, Colorado finished the 2020-21 regular season with 39 wins– one shy of Vegas (40 wins) for the most in the league– and eliminated in the Second Round by that same Golden Knights team (the Avs won the tiebreaker with 35 regulation wins to Vegas’ 30).

That said most of the Avalanche roster remains the same and there’s the feeling that one of these year’s they’ll get over the hump and back into the later end of the postseason.

Super teams don’t always win, but having a (super) consistent performance down the stretch and in the playoffs does and that’s what the Lightning have done best for the last two years– turning it on when it counts and sustaining the pressure.

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Winnipeg Jets 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 30-23-3, 63 points

3rd in the Scotia NHL North Division

Eliminated in the Second Round by Montréal

Additions: F Michael Eyssimont, F Luke Johnson, F Riley Nash, F Austin Poganski, D Brenden Dillon (acquired from WSH), D Nate Schmidt (acquired from VAN)

Subtractions: F Mason Appleton (expansion, SEA), F Marko Dano (ELH), F Trevor Lewis (signed with CGY), F Skyler McKenzie (HockeyAllsvenskan), F Mathieu Perreault (signed with MTL), F Nate Thompson (signed with PHI), D Jordie Benn (signed with MIN), D Derek Forbort (signed with BOS), D Tucker Poolman (signed with VAN), G Laurent Brossoit (signed with VGK)

Still Unsigned: D Luke Green, G Cole Kehler

Re-signed: F Andrew Copp, F Paul Stastny, F Dominic Toninato, D Jonathan Kovacevic, D Neal Pionk, D Logan Stanley, G Eric Comrie

Offseason Analysis: After sweeping the Edmonton Oilers in the First Round to the surprise of, well, the Oilers themselves, the Jets were promptly swept by the Montréal Canadiens in the Second Round to the surprise of everyone that thought the Montréal vs. Winnipeg matchup would be a little more competitive.

The Jets, however, beat Edmonton by one-goal in three out of their four games in the First Round– with the latter two in comeback fashion and all three one-goal victories needing at least one overtime period (the series finale, in fact, needed three overtime periods).

Winnipeg bet the Oilers, 4-1, in Game 1, 1-0 (OT), in Game 2, 5-4 (OT) in Game 3 and, 4-3 (3OT) in Game 4, then played Montréal about a week-and-a-half after eliminating Edmonton.

The Canadiens beat the Jets, 5-3, in Game 1, 1-0, in Game 2, 5-1, in Game 3 and, 3-2 (OT), in Game 4 while Mark Scheifele sat on the sidelines for the majority of the series– serving a four-game suspension for his Game 1 charge that left Jake Evans with a concussion.

In addition to playing Connor Hellebuyck less and giving Eric Comrie more responsibility as the backup goaltender, Winnipeg could solve some of their problems by simply having a defense.

Whether or not head coach, Paul Maurice, has overextended his stay behind the bench with the Jets (he has), it’s getting closer and closer to “win-now or rebuild” time in Winnipeg.

Jets General Manager, Kevin Cheveldayoff, kept most of his forwards together– signing Andrew Copp and Paul Stastny to one-year extensions worth $3.640 million and $3.750 million, respectively– while adding Riley Nash and Austin Poganski to the mix on matching one-year $750,000 contracts.

Nash reached a career-high 41 points in 76 games with the Boston Bruins in 2017-18, before signing a three-year deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets where his production dropped to 12 points in 78 games in his first season with the Blue Jackets in 2018-19, then 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in 64 games and seven points (two goals, five assists) in 37 games last season prior to being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the deadline while injured.

The 32-year-old forward was drafted in the 1st round (21st overall) by the Oilers in 2007, and made his league debut with the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2011-12 season.

Nash is a low-risk, high-reward signing for bottom-six depth– especially if he can reach about 20 points in a full 82-game season with the Jets, but he’s not winning the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy in 2021-22 (or anytime soon, for that matter).

Copp had a breakout year last season with 15-24–39 totals in 55 games, which was good news for the Jets in the wake of trading Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic to Columbus for Pierre-Luc Dubois early in the 2020-21 season.

Though Copp may be a late bloomer, at 27-years-old, he is still in the midst of his prime and can only have an upward projection over the course of a regular 82-game schedule.

Dubois managed 20 points in 41 games with Winnipeg last season after scoring one goal in five games with the Blue Jackets prior to the trade.

Compared to Laine’s 12-12–24 totals in 46 games with Winnipeg and Columbus last season, the trade didn’t really spark either player in fresh change of scenery.

Roslovic, meanwhile, produced his best results– 34 points (12 goals, 22 assists)– in 48 games with the Blue Jackets, versus his 12-17–29 totals in 71 games with the Jets in 2019-20.

There shouldn’t be any distractions entering the season or disruptions during the season for Dubois to get back on track, however.

As for Stastny, the 35-year-old center is still in search of his first Stanley Cup ring after passing 1,000 career games in 2020-21.

In 1,001 career NHL games with the Colorado Avalanche, St. Louis Blues, Jets, Vegas Golden Knights and Jets again, Stastny has 263-492–755 totals, including 29 points (13 goals, 16 assists) in 56 games last season in his first year back in his second stint with Winnipeg.

He’s usually good enough for about 40 points every season, so that should help solidify the Jets’ center depth as long as he’s healthy.

Despite a plus-16 goal differential in the regular season, when it mattered most, Winnipeg couldn’t keep the puck out of their own net in the Second Round.

That’s not just something for Hellebuyck to work on by himself, but rather a defensive strategy issue in and of itself.

Luckily for the Jets, they worked the phones to acquire Brenden Dillon from the Washington Capitals and Nate Schmidt from the Vancouver Canucks in separate trades a day after one another in July.

On July 26th, Winnipeg sent a 2022 2nd round pick and a 2023 2nd round pick to Washington for Dillon and on July 27th, the Jets dealt a 2022 3rd round pick to Vancouver for Schmidt.

Dillon had a quietly productive season as a top-four defender with 2-17–19 totals in 56 games with the Capitals, while Schmidt’s production dropped from 31 points (seven goals, 24 assists) in 59 games in 2019-20 with Vegas to 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) in 54 games with the Canucks.

It’s a risk, but the Jets are hoping that Schmidt can bounce back to being a 30-point scoring defender in the mix with with Neal Pionk and Josh Morrissey, as well as Dillon.

Speaking of Pionk, he signed a four-year extension worth $5.875 million per season this offseason after amassing 3-29–32 totals in 54 games in 2020-21.

It seems like a fair deal all around for a productive defender that plays a leading role as a power play specialist at only 26-years-old.

Offseason Grade: B-

The Jets addressed a need (improving their defense), but weren’t able to be as aggressive in either the free agent or trade market, despite remaining a piece or two away from being able to be a Stanley Cup contender.

At the very least, Winnipeg could see forward progress in the postseason with better asset management, but the problem remains the same from year-to-year– over-reliance on Hellebuyck and an unwillingness to move on from Maurice’s system.

If Cheveldayoff isn’t getting frustrated by the same results over the years, then True North Sports & Entertainment better start putting the pressure on the Jets’ front office to succeed or face the consequences of insanity (trying the same thing and expecting different results).

They’re in better shape than other teams in the Central Division, but are they as good as the Avalanche or Golden Knights on paper if they’re able to get to the Western Conference Final and have to play one of the league’s more dominant teams?

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St. Louis Blues 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 27-20-9, 63 points

4th in the Honda NHL West Division

Eliminated in the First Round by Colorado

Additions: F Pavel Buchnevich (acquired from NYR), F Matthew Peca, F Brandon Saad, F Nathan Todd, D Tommy Cross, D Calle Rosén, G Charlie Lindgren

Subtractions: F Sammy Blais (traded to NYR), F Mike Hoffman (signed with MTL), F Curtis McKenzie (signed with Texas Stars, AHL), F Jaden Schwartz (signed with SEA), F Alexander Steen (retired), D Vince Dunn (expansion, SEA), D Carl Gunnarsson (retired), D Petteri Lindbohm (KHL)

Still Unsigned: F Robert Thomas (RFA), G Jon Gillies

Re-signed: F Ivan Barbashev, F Tyler Bozak, F Dakota Joshua, F Tanner Kaspick, F Jordan Kyrou, F Zach Sanford, F Nolan Stevens, F Nathan Walker

Offseason Analysis: Winning the Cup comes with a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing to win it (especially as the Blues had never won prior to 2019, since their inception in 1967) and it’s a curse because it sets an expectation for success.

St. Louis might have had a short window to win their second Cup in franchise history.

After being swept by the Colorado Avalanche in the First Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, their face of the franchise before Ryan O’Reilly’s arrival, Vladimir Tarasenko, requested a trade.

Blues General Manager, Doug Armstrong, has yet to fulfill that request and has indicated that he’s in no rush to do so– after all, he’s in control of the cards at hand and like when Avs General Manager, Joe Sakic, ultimately traded Matt Duchene, Armstrong can command a steep price for Tarasenko if he’s patient enough.

Injuries have limited Tarasenko to 34 games in the last two seasons, including 3-7–10 totals in 10 games in 2019-20 and 4-10–14 totals in 24 games in 2020-21.

From 2014-15 through the 2018-19 season Tarasenko recorded five consecutive seasons with at least 65 points– including his career-high 75 points in 82 games in 2016-17, as well as a 40-goal season in 80 games in 2015-16.

Tarasenko’s situation isn’t the only concern in St. Louis, however, as the depth of the Blues that made them Cup contenders turned champions in 2019, has withered away– leaving Armstrong with the difficult task of overhauling both the top-six forward group and experimenting with the right mixture of replacement players.

Jake Allen, Sammy Blais, Jay Bouwmeester, Vince Dunn, Joel Edmundson, Robby Fabbri, Carl Gunnarsson, Patrick Maroon, Alex Pietrangelo, Jaden Schwartz and Alexander Steen have all left one way or another since winning the Cup in St. Louis.

In their place, guys like Ivan Barbashev, Klim Kostin, Jordan Kyrou and Mackenzie MacEachern have climbed the development ladder, while Torey Krug, Justin Faulk and Marco Scandella were acquired by other means.

Some will rise and exceed expectations. Others will be gifted contracts through their prime– though their use may be time limited and the chemistry pulled apart.

At the very least, Barbashev and Kyrou’s extensions this summer lead the youth movement for the Blues in an ever-changing league.

Meanwhile, the introduction of Brandon Saad on a five-year deal worth $4.500 million per season– only a smidge more than what Mike Hoffman was making on a one-year contract that wasn’t renewed– and Pavel Buchnevich via trade and subsequent four-year, $23.200 million extension has solidified St. Louis’ top-six forward group for the foreseeable future.

Saad spent last season with the Avalanche and had 15-9–24 totals in 44 regular season games before coming up clutch in the postseason– albeit at times the only goal scorer, it seemed, for Colorado– with 7-1–8 totals in 10 games.

At 28-years-old, the Blues should have him for what’s left of his prime in what’s been a respectable career thus far with 371 points (184 goals, 187 assists) in 632 career games since making his league debut in the 2011-12 season with Chicago, winning two Stanley Cup rings with the organization in 2013 and 2015, then spending time with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Chicago again and Colorado.

Armstrong acquired Buchnevich from the New York Rangers in exchange for Blais and a 2022 2nd round pick on July 23rd in the only trade that involved roster players for St. Louis this offseason.

Blais leaves the Blues after breaking into the league in the 2017-18 season and amassing 17-18–35 totals in 119 games with St. Louis, including 8-7–15 totals in 36 games last season.

Buchnevich joins the Blues riding a productive season with the Rangers– notching 48 points (20 goals, 28 assists) in 54 games in 2020-21, as well as 79-116–195 totals in 301 career games with New York since making his league debut in the 2016-17 season.

After nine loyal seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tyler Bozak won the Cup in his first season with St. Louis in 2018-19.

Through three seasons with the Blues, Bozak’s amassed 31-53–84 totals in 170 games– despite injuries that kept him to 31 games out of the 56-game schedule in 2020-21.

At 35-years-old and in love with the St. Louis uniform, Bozak is ready to be part of the transitional plans from 2019 Stanley Cup champions to getting back to Cup contention for the Blues– signing a one-year extension worth $750,000 against the cap.

He’ll either be back to full health as a low-risk, high-reward gamble to hang onto or he’ll be trade bait for another team looking to add a touch of experience at the deadline.

It might have been a blessing in disguise for the Blues to have kept Bozak and lost Schwartz this offseason.

Schwartz’s five-year contract worth $5.500 million per season with the Seattle Kraken contains a no-movement clause in the first three seasons for a player that’s suffered from a recent decline in production at 29-years-old.

Contrasted with Phillip Danault’s two-way style that ultimately went to the Los Angeles Kings with an additional sixth-year in his contract– albeit their similar scoring totals– the Blues were never going to be able to afford to keep Schwartz and account for patching a couple of holes at the same time.

After skyrocketing to the top of the league standings and winning the Cup in 2019, Jordan Binnington’s looking to reinvent himself as a surefire starter in the National Hockey League.

On the wings of a six-year extension worth $6.000 million per season, he better prove it.

A 30-13-7 record in 50 games played with a 2.56 goals-against average, a .912 save percentage and three shutouts in that span in 2019-20, was followed by an 18-14-8 record in 42 games played with a 2.65 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage.

That doesn’t exactly scream long-term option in net if it worsens.

In five postseason games in 2020, Binnington went 0-5 and had a 4.72 goals-against average, as well as an .851 save percentage.

In 2021, he went 0-4 with a 3.59 goals-against average and an .899 save percentage. While that is better than his 2020 performance, it also means that the two postseason wins since winning the Cup in 2019, were recorded by a goaltender not named “Binnington” (they were, in fact, recorded by current Montréal Canadiens backup and former Blues netminder, Jake Allen).

If St. Louis can’t get things tamed in the crease, then they might have even more issues to resolve than already planned.

Offseason Grade: C

While Saad and Buchnevich are quality pickups for the Blues, most teams in playoff contention make one or two moves and otherwise stand pat.

St. Louis got an upgrade over Hoffman’s departure, sure, but they are limited in spending power with about $782,000 left in cap space and burdened by lengthy contracts that haven’t really gone one way or another yet.

Armstrong knows how to build a team up over a period of time, but hasn’t encountered what it means to sustain that success over the years in the postseason, as well as through the course of developing a system to supplement it while talent comes and goes in the ebbs and flows of the salary cap era.

Whereas the Blues once mastered building the foundation for a team that could contend for a decade or more, it seems as though there are cracks starting to form and if they’re not careful, serious structural damage could affect their core.

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New York Rangers 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 27-23-6, 60 points

5th in the MassMutual NHL East Division

Missed the postseason for the first time since 2020

Additions: F Sammy Blais (acquired from STL), F Barclay Goodrow (acquired from TBL), F Dryden Hunt, F Greg McKegg, F Ryan Reaves (acquired from VGK), D Patrik Nemeth, D Jarred Tinordi

Subtractions: F Colin Blackwell (expansion, SEA), F Pavel Buchnevich (traded to STL), F Phillip Di Giuseppe (signed with VAN), F Brett Howden (traded to VGK), F Patrick Newell (Eliteserien), D Tony DeAngelo (buyout, signed with CAR), D Nick DeSimone (rights acquired from VGK, signed with CGY), D Jack Johnson (signed to a PTO with COL), D Darren Raddysh (signed with TBL), D Yegor Rykov (KHL), D Brendan Smith (signed with CAR)

Still Unsigned: F Gabriel Fontaine, D Brandon Crawley

Re-signed: F Filip Chytil, F Julien Gauthier, F Tim Gettinger, F Ty Ronning, D Libor Hajek, G Adam Huska, G Igor Shesterkin

Offseason Analysis: Well, this offseason happened.

Because nobody sought vengeance for Tom Wilson’s shenanigans, Rangers owner, James Dolan, arose from his desk and remembered that he owns more than just the New York Knicks.

Heads were rolling as Chris Drury was instated as New York’s General Manager before last season ended– leaving Jeff Gorton to take a role with NHL Network during the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. Gerard Gallant replaced David Quinn behind the bench.

If the Rangers had a good thing going from the second-half of last season onward, well, they’ve surely burned it to the ground in a scorched-Earth search for guys that’ll punch other guys in the face for their 2021-22 roster.

Greg McKegg and Dryden Hunt are extra bodies to stockpile with the Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL) until somebody gets injured or booted out of the Rangers’ lineup because they’re suspended for trying to take Wilson’s head off or something.

New York was one or two pieces away from being a playoff contender and currently has about $8.872 million in cap space with almost $30 million to spend next summer when pending-restricted free agent, Kaapo Kakko, needs a new deal.

But for the time being, the Rangers decided to punt.

Sure, Jack Eichel is still available if the Buffalo Sabres ever decide to trade him one of these days (with or without letting him get his desired surgery done).

Drury’s logic, however, doesn’t necessarily see a fit for Eichel on the team– I mean, is he even tough enough?!?

Mika Zibanejad’s name is out there for some reason. He’s not too pleased by the rumor mill churning up whatever it can to excite Rangers fans about a team that took one step forward and two steps back on paper.

Pavel Buchnevich didn’t have to be traded. But he was.

Nothing makes sense anymore.

On July 17th, Drury traded a 2022 7th round pick to the Tampa Bay Lightning for the rights to restricted free agent forward, Barclay Goodrow, then signed Goodrow to a six-year extension worth about $3.642 million per season.

The 28-year-old had 6-14–20 totals in 55 games last season en route to winning his second-straight Stanley Cup ring with the Lightning, but Buchnevich, 26, had 20-28–48 totals in 54 games.

Somebody’s got to replace the scoring.

That same day, Brett Howden was dealt to the Vegas Golden Knights for Nick DeSimone’s rights and a 2022 4th round pick, but DeSimone tested the waters of free agency and signed with the Calgary Flames.

On July 23rd, Buchnevich was traded to the St. Louis Blues for Sammy Blais and a 2022 2nd round pick.

Blais had 8-7–15 totals in 36 games for St. Louis last season while battling injury and bouts on the league’s COVID-19 protocol list.

There’s still 13 points to replace to makeup for trading Buchnevich.

On July 29th, Drury listened to Gallant’s preferences for a rougher style, if not a personal request for a familiar face as New York traded a 2022 3rd round pick to Vegas for Ryan Reaves, who, at 34-years-old had 1-4–5 totals in 37 games for the Golden Knights.

Though he kept his penalty minutes relatively low with only 27 minutes spent in the box in 2020-21, he was suspended for two games in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs for his intent to injure then Colorado Avalanche defender, Ryan Graves, on an unnecessary roughing incident in front of Colorado’s own net.

But hey, an eye for an eye, right?

If you can’t beat them on the scoreboard– just beat them up instead.

It’s worked well for the Philadelphia Flyers since 1975.

Don’t want to fight Goodrow or Reaves? How about Jarred Tinordi on the defense? Maybe Patrik Nemeth?

Both were signed in free agency– Nemeth to a three-year contract worth $2.500 million per season and Tinordi on a two-year deal with a $900,000 cap hit.

Ryan Strome and Zibanejad are pending-unrestricted free agents and if Drury’s done enough to alienate them from whatever plan they bought into when the Rangers were on the rise coming out of their recent rebuild, then they’re the biggest pieces of trade bait for the team going into the deadline.

That’s not what you’d like to hear if you have aspirations of acquiring Eichel, since New York can’t guarantee that either player would want to stick around in Buffalo for longer than this season.

At the very least, Ryan Lindgren’s three-year extension with a $3.000 million cap hit looks pretty nice on the blue line and Igor Shesterkin’s four-year extension worth $5.667 million per season is good enough to foster healthy competition between Alexandar Georgiev and Shesterkin for the surefire starting goaltender role.

Offseason Grade: D

The Rangers didn’t have to do this to themselves and yet, here we are.

They were a team on the verge of something special with one or two more pieces to go and a little more experience to gain as the younger players learn and grow.

Instead, New York chose to go in the opposite direction– to overreact rather than react accordingly. A few irrational decisions means is the difference between middle of the road insanity and making the playoffs.

It seems like the Rangers are destined for the former once again in 2021-22.

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Ottawa Senators 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 23-28-5, 51 points

6th in the Scotia NHL North Division

Missed the postseason for the fourth-straight year

Additions: F Pontus Åberg, F Andrew Agozzino, F Scott Sabourin, F Kole Sherwood, D Michael Del Zotto, D Dillon Heatherington, D Nick Holden (acquired from VGK)

Subtractions: F Vitaly Abramov (KHL), F Michael Amadio (signed with TOR), F Artem Anisimov (signed to a PTO with COL), F J.C. Beaudin (signed with Laval Rocket, AHL), F Evgenii Dadonov (traded to VGK), F Jonathan Davidsson (HockeyAllsvenskan), F Ryan Dzingel (signed with ARI), F Jack Kopacka (signed with Toronto Marlies, AHL), F Zachary Magwood (ICEHL), F Matthew Peca (signed with STL), F Derek Stepan (signed with CAR), D Olle Alsing (KHL), D Mikael Wikstrand (SHL), G Joey Daccord (expansion, SEA), G Marcus Högberg (SHL)

Still Unsigned: F Logan Brown (RFA), F Micheal Haley, F Brady Tkachuk (RFA), D Brandon Fortunato, D Cody Goloubef, D Erik Gudbranson

Re-signed: F Drake Batherson, F Clark Bishop, D Victor Mete, D Artem Zub, G Anton Forsberg, G Filip Gustavsson

Offseason Analysis: Ottawa announced a multi-year extension on Tuesday for their General Manager, Pierre Dorion, that runs through the 2024-25 season and Dorion proudly exclaimed that “[t]he rebuild is done”.

Well, we’ll see.

It’s not hard to admit there’s a lot to like about the Senators’ roster. Drake Batherson is coming off of a career-year so far with 17-17–34 totals in 56 games last season and signed a six-year extension worth $4.975 million per season, which will eat up a couple of years of potential unrestricted free agency.

I cannot emphasize enough how good of a contract Batherson’s team-friendly deal is, considering he is only 23-years-old and playing first line minutes.

It was also his first full season, technically, but 34 points in 56 games is a 50 point pace in a full 82-game schedule. That’s some solid production from a first year player.

Brady Tkachuk led the Sens in scoring last season with 17-19–36 totals in 56 games and is currently an unsigned restricted free agent, while Connor Brown and Josh Norris each tallied 35 points in 56 games to round out the top-three in team scoring.

Ottawa took their time to construct a younger roster over the last few years by a combination of high draft picks and trading for quality prospects and now might see the fruits of their labor begin to blossom.

Tim Stützle left many in the crowd and press box awestruck by his spin moves, skillful hands and 12-17–29 totals in 53 games last season after being drafted 3rd overall in the 2020 NHL Draft.

Signing Tkachuk to a bridge deal, at least, is of the utmost priority for the Sens to keep their band of youth infused with experience together and striving for more this season, despite Ottawa’s roster being made up of an average age of 26.3.

Had their been an 82-game schedule in 2020-21, it’s not hard to see that the Senators’ late season surge might have put them into playoff contention with the special “top four teams per division qualify for the playoffs” playoff format for last season.

Can Ottawa make it back to the playoffs in 2022? It’s possible, but they’ll also be facing a lot more teams than just the six other Canadian teams they faced through 56 games last season.

How will the Senators stack up against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion and fellow Atlantic Division rival, Tampa Bay Lightning, for instance?

The Sens should improve, but they’re best bet might be playing spoiler with a side of forward progress.

Michael Del Zotto’s re-emergence as a solid bottom-pairing defender in the league brings experience and stability to the blue line of a team that had a minus-33 goal differential last season.

Del Zotto had four goals and nine assists (13 points) in 53 games for the Columbus Blue Jackets last season and was a plus-five rating.

Along with the acquisition of Nick Holden in a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for Evgenii Dadonov that also brought a 2022 3rd round pick to Ottawa, Del Zotto and Holden bring over 1,200 NHL games of experience to the Sens defense as a pair of low-risk, high-reward moves (though, again, not as your surefire first pairing superstars).

As a bonus in the acquisition of Holden from the Golden Knights, Dorion rid himself of Dadonov’s $5.000 million cap hit through 2022-23 and his continuing decline from 70 points in 82 games with the Florida Panthers in 2018-19, to 47 points in 69 games with Florida in 2019-20, to a dismal 20 points in 55 games with the Senators last season.

At the end of the day, the Sens are building towards something.

They should be more competitive, but they can’t quite win a Cup just yet. They could make the playoffs, but they shouldn’t make it out of the First Round.

Alternatively, they could miss and land another lottery pick.

Regardless, an important question remains in the crease– can Matt Murray rebound from his 10-13-1 record in 27 games last season– as well as his 3.38 goals-against average, .893 save percentage and two shutouts in that span– or will Filip Gustavsson emerge as the expected “goaltender of the future” in Ottawa?

Gustavsson went 5-1-2 in nine games with a team-best 2.16 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage in that span. He also had a 5-7-1 record in 13 games with the Belleville Senators (AHL) last season.

It might be throwing him into the fire, but if it’ll help keep Ottawa’s overall goals against down, then a little healthy competition for the starting job can’t hurt anyone.

Offseason Grade: B-

Dorion’s extension for Batherson could be praised as one of the best contracts in the league in the next couple of seasons for its value. That said, getting a deal done with Tkachuk is paramount for Ottawa’s young, developing, chemistry.

The Senators didn’t snatch any big names via free agency or trades, so they didn’t “win” the market in that sense this offseason, but they quietly went about patching some needs.

Now it’s a matter of whether or not things will pan out as the Sens look to improve off of last season’s late surge and gain momentum towards being a competitive playoff team with the end goal of opening a Stanley Cup window while their younger players are only just entering their prime.

If anything, Dorion deserves credit for not tearing things apart or making matters worse this offseason and that alone can get you an above average grade– stay the course and be a spoiler at worst or a competitor at best.

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NHL Nick's Net Previews

Seattle Kraken 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 0-0-0, 0 points

Making their debut in the Pacific Division

Newest expansion team entering their 1st season

Additions: F Mason Appleton (from WPG), F Nathan Bastian (from NJD), F Colin Blackwell (from NYR), F Joonas Donskoi (from COL), F Jordan Eberle (from NYI), F Yanni Gourde (from TBL), F Morgan Geekie (from CAR), F Luke Henman, F Calle Järnkrok (from NSH), F Marcus Johansson (UFA from MIN), F Jared McCann (from TOR), F Jaden Schwartz (UFA from STL), F Brandon Tanev (from PIT), F Alexander Wennberg (UFA from FLA), D Connor Carrick (UFA from NJD), D Mark Giordano (from CGY), D Haydn Fleury (from ANA), D Adam Larsson (from EDM), D Jeremy Lauzon (from BOS), D Jamie Oleksiak (from DAL), D Gustav Olofsson (UFA from MTL), D Carson Soucy (from MIN), G Antoine Bibeau (UFA from COL), G Joey Daccord (from OTT), G Chris Driedger (from FLA), G Philipp Grubauer (UFA from COL)

Subtractions: F Tyler Pitlick (traded to CGY), F John Quenneville (NL), D Gavin Bayreuther (signed with CBJ), D Kurtis MacDermid (traded to COL), G Vitek Vanecek (traded to WSH)

Still Unsigned: D Dennis Cholowski (from DET)

Re-signed: F Kole Lind (from VAN), F Alexander True (from SJS), F Carsen Twarynski (from PHI), D Will Borgen (from BUF), D Vince Dunn (from STL), D Cale Fleury (from MTL)

Offseason Analysis: The NHL’s newest franchise is set to take to the ice for their first season on Oct. 12th as the Kraken pay a visit to the Vegas Golden Knights to kickoff a five-game road trip before hosting the Vancouver Canucks on Oct. 16th in the first home game in the freshly renovated Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle.

Vegas didn’t do Seattle any favors in terms of establishing new-age expansion team expectations, since the Golden Knights found a way to make the 2018 Stanley Cup Final in their first season, but Kraken fans are just happy to have a professional hockey team competing for the Cup back in the city for the first time since the Seattle Metropolitans folded in 1924.

The Kraken are going to draw many comparisons to the Golden Knights despite adopting different strategies in roster compesition.

Vegas hit the ground running with a “win now” mentality, while Seattle’s built to grind their opponents down by rolling four lines similar to how the New York Islanders play a modified version of “the trap”.

Kraken General Manager, Ron Francis, has a great scouting department down the hall and knows how to construct a foundation for the future.

Francis’ track record as the General Manager of the Carolina Hurricanes prior to Don Waddell’s arrival saw the likes of Martin Neceas, Morgan Geekie, Jake Bean, Julien Gauthier, Noah Hanifin, Sebastian Aho, Nicolas Roy, Haydn Fleury, Alex Nedeljkovic, Warren Foegele, Lucas Wallmark, Elias Lindholm, Brett Pesce, Brock McGinn and Jaccob Slavin rise through the ranks to the NHL– whether they still remain in a Canes uniform or not.

The future is bright for Seattle, while Dave Hakstol is getting a second chance behind the bench of an NHL team after a brief stint as an assistant coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs most recently.

Hakstol’s time as the head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers followed the rollercoaster that the organization’s been stuck in since Ron Hextall vacated the net.

One year showed promise, the next year was average, but then Hakstol and the team found another gear and were on the rise again– finishing 3rd in the Metropolitan Division in 2017-18, before his ultimate downfall and firing– though Philadelphia’s revolving door of goaltenders may have been a contribution.

Yanni Gourde had 17-19–36 totals in 56 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning last season en route to back-to-back Stanley Cup championships.

He will miss the start of the 2021-22 season, though, which could put a damper on the expectations that he’ll be a breakout player in a Kraken uniform.

That said, glue guys like Joonas Donskoi, Alexander Wennberg, Brandon Tanev and Mason Appleton should compliment the roster well and help fill the void, while Jordan Eberle and Jaden Schwartz work on solidifying a top-six forward group.

On defense, Mark Giordano provides a touch of leadership and experience with Jamie Oleksiak and Adam Larsson on an otherwise young blue line filled with the likes of Will Borgen, Vince Dunn, Haydn Fleury and Jeremy Lauzon.

In the crease, Seattle signed Philipp Grubauer after selecting Chris Driedger, Vitek Vanecek (later traded back to the Washington Capitals) and Joey Daccord in the expansion draft.

Driedger was the expected starter until Grubauer came along and left the Colorado Avalanche after the last three seasons.

Grubauer had seven shutouts to go with his 30-9-1 record in 40 games played last season, as well as a 1.95 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage in that span.

While Driedger’s 2.07 goals-against average and .927 save percentage was pretty great for the Florida Panthers last season, his 14-6-3 record and three shutouts pale in comparison to Grubauer.

That said, the two should make a dynamic duo as one of the most promising goaltending tandems on paper entering the 2021-22 season.

Seattle may or may not make the playoffs in their first season, but they’re sure to be better than a lot of expansion teams before the Golden Knights came around and flipped the script.

Offseason Grade: B-

Both the Golden Knights and the Kraken benefitted from some of the most generous expansion draft rules in league history– though Seattle dealt with the aftermath of Vegas’ wrath in swindling other teams via side deals in 2017, and couldn’t make a trade at the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft itself as a result.

Admit it, you would’ve taken Alex Ovechkin, Carey Price, Gabriel Landeskog and Vladimir Tarasenko if they were made available to you in an NHL 22 fantasy draft– salary cap be damned.

But that’s just it– a fantasy.

Even Vegas was laughed at for some of their expansion draft choices, but both the Golden Knights and Kraken experienced quite a turnover between when they filled out a roster for the first time on paper and when they hit the ice.

For having to put together a team from scratch, Francis didn’t do a bad job. For trying to win a Cup in their first season, well, the jury’s still out on that one, Seattle.

In any case, the city has more Stanley Cup rings before the Kraken even existed than 11 other current NHL teams thanks to the Metropolitans winning it all as the first American team to win the Cup in 1917.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net

Let’s pretend we have any say in jersey sponsors

Apparently the National Hockey League’s Board of Governors were up to something this month as it was reported by Sportico on Tuesday that the Board unanimously approved ads on the front of NHL jerseys beginning with the 2022-23 season.

The ads will be no bigger than a 3-inch-by-3.5-inch rectangle, which is slightly larger than the ads featured on the front of National Basketball Association (NBA) jerseys.

It was only a matter of time before the NHL followed the NBA in generating additional revenue by doing what professional hockey leagues outside of North America have been doing for many years, as well as what’s been done for at least a few seasons now in the American Hockey League (AHL) and ECHL minor league levels on this side of the pond.

As always, hockey Twitter is taking the news well.

Let’s embrace the chaos for a moment and pick some sponsors for all 32 NHL teams that would make so much sense they’ll obviously be overlooked for, well, actual revenue generating streams instead.

Anaheim Ducks

What we want: Disney+ or TCL
What we’ll get: Honda

The Ducks play at Honda Center and, yeah, there’s really nothing besides Disney swooping in and sponsoring the team that they used to own as a means of cross promoting both the Ducks and The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers on Disney+, so we’re stuck with a Honda logo at center ice and on the front of Anaheim’s jerseys.

In any case, Honda’s red logo works pretty well with the Orange County orange featured as an accent color on Anaheim’s home and road jerseys.

NHL teams have a tendency to go back to the well with their partners– think of how many teams have either the same helmet sponsor as another team or just slapped on the same brand as their venue’s naming rights deal– but if we want to expand the playground a little bit perhaps TCL could be of interest for the Ducks.

Come to think of it, that’s probably a better option.

*Opens up Photoshop*

Arizona Coyotes

What we want: P.F. Chang’s or Cold Stone Creamery
What we’ll get: Fry’s or something, probably

Believe it or not the Los Angeles Chargers won’t be the only team tweeting about P.F. Chang’s for long as the restaurant chain was founded in 1993, and opened their first location in Scottsdale, Arizona, so it only makes sense to go back to their roots and toss an ad on the Coyotes’ jersey.

Also founded in Arizona– Cold Stone Creamery.

We figured that’d probably make sense on an AHL team’s jersey, though, despite the obvious cold ice, cold ice cream connection.

The Coyotes had Mountain America on their helmets at home and Dignity Health on their road helmets in 2020-21, so in reality we’ll probably get one of those two on the front of their jerseys in 2022-23.

Boston Bruins

What we want: Dunkin’ or bust
What we’ll get: TD Bank or O.R.G. Packaging, probably

What could possibly be more Boston than a Bruins jersey with a Dunkin’ logo on it?

Their AHL affiliate– the Providence Bruins– already play in the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Rhode Island and have a Dunkin’ ad patch on their jerseys. Why not call it up to the major league?

That said, with some NBA teams earning up to about $20 million in jersey ad space revenue, the B’s likely will reach for a brand with deeper pockets than doughnuts and coffee.

Delaware North likes their relationship with a certain bank from Toronto (TD Bank) and has had one of the league’s longest relationships with a Chinese company (O.R.G. Packaging) as part of the NHL’s intended growth beyond the continents of North America and Europe, so one of the two brands is more likely to appear on a Bruins jersey.

Buffalo Sabres

What we want: Super Chexx
What we’ll get: KeyBank

The Sabres could use some fun in their lives these days and you know what really helps put the mind at ease? Bubble hockey.

That’s right, Innovative Concepts in Entertainment, Inc. (ICE)– the manufacturers of the popular bar and arcade classic, Super Chexx, that your rich friend down the street growing up also had in the comforts of their home– is based outside Buffalo and would be a match made in heaven right about now.

Especially as Sabres fans are looking for something to do while the game’s on TV.

So yeah, we’re definitely going to get KeyBank, Tim Horton’s or something else entirely instead.

Calgary Flames

What we want: WestJet or Duraflame
What we’ll get: Scotiabank

If you, as an American, can name any other Canadian airline other than Air Canada, then congratulations. If you can’t, then may I introduce you to WestJet?

WestJet’s headquarters are next to Calgary International Airport and it’d be nice to prove to the world that Canada is more than just a land of Tim Horton’s, Roots, Canadian Tire, Rogers, Scotiabank and Mr. Sub.

If Duraflame isn’t available, then you might as well dip into the low-cost airline industry as a means of attracting tourists to Banff National Park, Calgary Stampede or whatever it is that sets Calgary apart from the rest of Alberta (so… not being Edmonton).

Carolina Hurricanes

What we want: Surge
What we’ll get: PNC, Diehard, maybe Cheerwine or something else

This should be obvious, but if you haven’t paid attention to the Hurricanes for at least the last few seasons now they do a “Storm Surge” celebration after every win on home ice in the regular season (and sometimes playoffs).

Surge (the soda) is one of those drinks that makes headlines every few years for being pulled straight out of the vault and placed back on grocery store shelves– speaking of which, does anyone know if it’s currently available?

If not, it’ll definitely be back by the 2022-23 season.

Yes, it’s hard to envision where an ad will be placed on the road jersey as the prime real estate is used up by the diagonal “CANES” letters and– for a few players– the captain’s “C” or alternate captain’s “A”.

Chicago

What we want: Portillo’s
What we’ll get: United

Look, between Walgreens, Sears and Portillo’s there’s a few legendary brands that Chicago could partner with as their first jersey ad in franchise history (not including practice jerseys).

Obviously only one of the three mentioned above is the right choice and its the one that might lead you to Walgreens later if you have a weak stomach. Besides, Sears is fading from our collective memory whether it is out of business already or not.

Clark Griswold would be proud of Portillo’s proudly being displayed on a, well, if a WHL team can rebrand, so can you, Chicago.

Colorado Avalanche

What we want: Chipotle or Coors
What we’ll get: Ball

Look, whether or not Nathan MacKinnon eats Chipotle is a debate for another day, but one thing’s for sure– both Chipotle and MacKinnon started their careers in Colorado.

Though Coors or Coors Light would make more sense, we have to consider the fact that kids might be wearing these jerseys to the game and we haven’t heard whether or not the jerseys that are sold in the proshops in 2022-23 and beyond will include the front jersey ad or not.

If they do, then we probably can’t market beer to children.

I’m pretty sure there’s a law about that and it’s also the reason why all my 1:64 scale diecast Rusty Wallace and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. cars from when I was a kid said “Team Rusty” and “Dale Jr.” on them, respectively, instead of Miller Lite and Budweiser.

Columbus Blue Jackets

What we want: Wendy’s
What we’ll get: Nationwide

Coinciding with the uptick in Columbus born and raised players on the Blue Jackets roster, it would be a great idea to add Wendy’s– which was founded in Columbus in 1969– to the team in such a way that perhaps Jack Roslovic and Sean Kuraly star in local commercials to the Blue Jackets viewing area during the 2022-23 season.

I know that’s assuming Roslovic signs an extension, but the pending-restricted free agent at the end of the 2021-22 season helped facilitate the Pierre-Luc Dubois for Patrik Laine trade with the Winnipeg Jets by forcing Winnipeg into trading him to his hometown team.

Unlike several recent stars that left the city via free agency, Roslovic will stick around for the long term.

Especially if there’s some goods in kind involved with a Wendy’s sponsorship. I mean, I would at least.

Dallas Stars

What we want: Whataburger
What we’ll get: AT&T

Though Whataburger would be a welcome party in the burger wars when Columbus and Dallas would “meat” up, there’s no beef to be found in this hypothetical because AT&T has already made that decision for us.

Sometimes you just can’t think too hyperlocal and AT&T fetches a more national audience than a regional chain that primarily serves Texas.

Besides, if you go to Dallas for a Stars game, you can always just get Whataburger then. It’s not like they’re going to send you a meal with a jersey if ads are on the jerseys sold to fans in 2022-23.

Detroit Red Wings

What we want: Little Caesars
What we’ll get: Little Caesars

The last few teams have all involved food and we’re going to be stuck on this theme for at least one more team after this.

Both the Red Wings and Little Caesars are owned by the Ilitch family and if you think adding one more connection between Detroit and pizza is a bad thing then you clearly don’t understand the marketing behind this.

Kids love pizza. Adults love pizza. There’s a lot of good memories involving pizza.

Plus, with General Manager, Steve Yzerman, in charge, the Red Wings are on the rise, which will only further tap into the nostalgia from when Detroit was doing what the Tampa Bay Lightning are currently doing to the rest of the league.

Edmonton Oilers

What we want: Boston Pizza
What we’ll get: Rogers

Edmonton thought they could replicate the success Ken Holland had in Detroit by hiring Holland as their General Manager and when they see that we’ve got a pizza establishment heading for the front of the Red Wings’ jersey, then the Oilers will think it’s also a good idea to snag a slice.

That’s where Boston Pizza comes in.

Whether or not they’ll get Connor McDavid to do an ad read or be left with whatever scraps surround him on the Oilers roster remains to be seen.

In all likelihood, Rogers Communications will probably just get to slap their logo on another element of Edmonton’s brand.

Florida Panthers

What we want: Royal Caribbean International
What we’ll get: Baptist Health or something

The Blockbuster guy (the late Wayne Huizenga) founded the team and almost named them the “Florida Block Busters”, so it’d be neat to incorporate an homage to the days of Blockbuster (rest in peace) with the almost Blockbuster-like colors of Royal Caribbean International on the jersey.

Plus, who among us hasn’t uttered the words “I need a vacation from my vacation” before?

If you’re an out of town fan visiting the Panthers in Florida or watching the Panthers come to your town— there’s a cruise line for you even if you wouldn’t go remotely near a cruise before the ongoing pandemic began.

Los Angeles Kings

What we want: Dollar Shave Club
What we’ll get: Anschutz Entertainment Group

Never doubt for a second that a team owner wouldn’t give up the chance to toot their own horn, which is why it’s quite possible that one of the world’s biggest entertainment entities would slap their own logo on the front of a Kings jersey.

If you’re not able to finagle a way to write things off as a deduction, then Dollar Shave Club presents a unique opportunity despite the fact that shaving isn’t something that’s in Drew Doughty’s vernacular (or any hockey player, for that matter, when the Stanley Cup Playoffs roll around).

Manscaped could also make a run here and in any case, fine.

Minnesota Wild

What we want: Target or General Mills
What we’ll get: Xcel Energy

When you think of Minnesota what’s the first thing you think about?

That’s right, the very place where you could be standing right now reading this while you’re waiting for a cash register to open up or aimlessly perusing the aisles for those impulse purchases you somehow always make at Target.

It fits the Wild color scheme well and if we’re not going to get General Mills involved then at least getting more than the standard 5% discount for having a Target RedCard via goods in kind might be enough to convince Kirill Kaprizov to stay in Minnesota long-term.

Montréal Canadiens

What we want: CCM and/or Molson
What we’ll get: Bell

CCM makes more than just jerseys, but it’s not like adidas would be just fine with a CCM logo appearing on the front of an adidas ADIZERO jersey.

So, we’re left with two obvious choices– Molson or Bell.

If there’s nothing against a Canadian team bearing an alcoholic beverage on the front of their jersey with the potential for that brand to be marketed towards kids, then perhaps Molson– whose family ties own the Habs– might make an appearance near the crest.

That or we’ll just get more airtime for Bell. Either way, Montréal would be attractive enough as a franchise to bring in more than one jersey ad sponsor if the league doesn’t have any specific rules outside of the size of the ad.

Nashville Predators

What we want: Curb Records or CMT
What we’ll get: Fifth Third Bank

The music city could attract a music label if they wanted to, but Fifth Third Bank loves investing in Nashville for some reason– like, a lot, despite being headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio and primarily serving Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, West Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida more than all of Tennessee.

In any case, good for the Predators. They’ll have some deep pockets to reach into while other teams surely will have to squabble for seven figures related to the going rate for the prime ad space.

Still feels like we’d be missing out on a sweet Curb Records patch close enough to the guitar pick on the right shoulder though.

New Jersey Devils

What we want: Honestly, just Prudential is fine
What we’ll get: Prudential

The Devils are overlooked and let’s admit it, you couldn’t think of something distinctly New Jersey either– besides not being allowed to fill your own gas tank.

Bruce Springsteen is not sponsoring the Devils alone.

Whether it’s settling on an old reliable or simply making use of what’s trustworthy and already available, Prudential and New Jersey just seem like a good fit.

New York Islanders

What we want: Gorton’s
What we’ll get: Not Gorton’s

“We want fishsticks!”

O.K., you got them. Take that, Rangers fans. The Islanders are cool now because they’re steering into the skid.

They just won’t go as far as bringing back the fisherman jersey from the dead, but alas, they’ll show a spark of creativity and even crack a smile on Lou Lamoriello’s face with the real Gorton’s fisherman making an appearance on the jersey.

Obviously this will never happen.

New York Rangers

What we want: Liberty Mutual if they’re bringing back the “Lady Liberty” jerseys as an alternate
What we’ll get: Chase for sure, maybe New York Life too

Liberty Mutual (a Boston company) on the “Lady Liberty” jersey would be a sight to see, but New York will never let it happen.

Instead, Chase, which already has quite a great partnership with the team, Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, etc. will likely just step up and foot the bill for one– if not all– of the jerseys in full.

That’s fine. The Rangers will suffer the same consequences of having a diagonal wordmark on their jersey like Carolina’s road jersey, but at least New York’s pretty much always been this way so they should have some ideas of how to work around that.

Ottawa Senators

What we want: Canada Post
What we’ll get: Bell, Scotiabank or Canadian Tire

Canada’s capital city gets the honor of having Canada Post on their jerseys because it breaks up the trend of having the same three or four companies sponsoring all seven Canadian teams (like how their helmets were for 2020-21).

In reality, we’ll probably get more of the same from the Sens and either Bell, Canadian Tire or Scotiabank will make an appearance on Ottawa’s jersey.

At the very least, Canada’s postal service sponsoring a team is more economically viable than the United States Postal Service sponsoring a team.

Philadelphia Flyers

What we want: Wawa or Audacy
What we’ll get: Comcast or GlaxoSmithKline

Remember how I said you don’t want to go too local for a jersey ad? Well, Wawa on a Flyers jersey is an exception.

That said, it probably wouldn’t have the staying power to work on a road jersey too, so Philadelphia could tap into the artist formerly known as Entercom, since rebanded as Audacy, for more.

Audacy maintained their Philadelphia headquarters and covers a broad range of Internet radio, digital content, regular radio and podcasting platforms, plus their logo is orange which fits the Flyers brand.

It’s either that or Comcast will slap their own logo on the jersey or something.

Pittsburgh Penguins

What we want: Duolingo
What we’ll get: PPG Industries

Duolingo is headquartered in Pittsburgh and as a website and mobile app, every sports league with ads on jerseys needs at least one that makes you scratch your head at first before realizing the connection between the company and the city.

The dating app, Bumble, once was featured on the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers jerseys prior to the Clippers replacing Bumble with their more jersey ad with the online browser extension coupon company, Honey.

Dating and living expenses in Los Angeles are probably harder than learning a few new languages through Duolingo, so combining Duolingo with the Penguins makes perfect sense since hockey players can come from all over and speak many languages.

Besides, it might give your team an advantage if they can communicate with one another in a setting that is more comfortable for them.

St. Louis Blues

What we want: Busch
What we’ll get: Enterprise

I know we’ve been over the whole “can they market beer to kids with these jerseys” thing, but St. Louis is the city of Anheuser-Busch, so it’s only fitting that the Blues get a jersey ad that 1) is Anheuser-Busch related and 2) works with their color palette.

If Major League Baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals play in Busch Stadium and get Budweiser by default with red as a primary color for the ball club, then the Blues naturally get Busch blue and Busch beer. I don’t make the rules.

Plus Midwesterners really like the stuff.

San Jose Sharks

What we want: Adobe
What we’ll get: SAP or Zoom

Look, we weren’t going to get away with making these in Photoshop and not having to give Adobe something— and with headquarters in San Jose it only made sense.

The Sharks have a deep relationship with SAP, though, so it’s more likely than not that the team will just go further with the brand that also is featured on their helmets at home and holds the current naming rights for SAP Center.

Plus with the uptick in the use of Zoom, San Jose could double-dip and match SAP on the home jersey with SAP stickers on their helmets with Zoom covering the road set (jersey ad and helmet ads).

Seattle Kraken

What we want: Boeing
What we’ll get: Alaska Airlines

The Kraken already have a deal with Alaska Airlines as the official airline of the franchise, but what’s bigger than an airline itself?

That’s right, Boeing, the company that makes a lot of planes and other aerospace stuff, was founded in Seattle and still has a major presence in Washington as the largest private employer in the state.

Want to see your newest expansion team take flight? Just add some Boeing engineering to the jerseys.

You might have thought Microsoft would make sense for a Seattle-based team, but the league’s agreement with Apple probably puts a quick end to that.

Tampa Bay Lightning

What we want: Accusoft
What we’ll get: DEX Imaging

Every sport with ads on jerseys has that one company that nobody’s really sure what they do, but they appreciate that they’re spending their money on their favorite team.

That just might be Accusoft’s relationship with the Lightning come time for ads on jerseys in 2022-23.

The private computer software company is headquartered in Tampa and was founded back in 1991, as Pegasus Imaging– one year prior to the Lightning’s debut season as an NHL team in 1992-93.

Toronto Maple Leafs

What we want: Swiss Chalet, Sun Life Financial
What we’ll get: Scotiabank, Sun Life Financial

Scotiabank already has a stronghold on Toronto both financially and in the sense that the Maple Leafs play inside Scotiabank Arena and proudly display Scotiabank’s logo on their helmets, so it seems inevitable that Scotiabank would also make an appearance on the Leafs jersey.

But Toronto is strong enough to maximize the value of a 3-by-3.5-inch ad and capitalize on the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) brand.

MLSE already has an agreement with Sun Life Financial on their NBA team’s jerseys and the Toronto Raptors were able to go on to win their first championship in 2019.

Perhaps the key to ending the Maple Leafs’ Stanley Cup drought lies within attracting Sun Life Financial to an NHL jersey ad.

Vancouver Canucks

What we want: Hootsuite
What we’ll get: Rogers

Remember when you’d see Hootsuite on just about every tweet with a photo? Am I the only one imagining that?

In any case, Hootsuite was founded and is based in Vancouver and still plays a major role in social media management for brands.

Whereas Rogers is accessible to most every day Canadians, Hootsuite would be more of a “corporate” target audience and you need sponsors at all levels to attract a wide base of potential clients, fans, etc.

That said, the Canucks have had a long relationship with Rogers in that they play in Rogers Arena, so it’s probably going to be Rogers.

Vegas Golden Knights

What we want: Zappos.com
What we’ll get: MGM Resorts International or Allegiant Air

Want to have fun with a local Nevada brand? Zappos is the way to go!

Want to be realistic and attract out of town fans to a destination like Las Vegas? MGM Resorts International is your sponsor and with Allegiant Air as an ultra-low cost airline that’ll gladly bring you to Vegas for a Golden Knights game…

Yeah, it’s inevitable that between MGM and Vegas’ current road helmet sponsor (Allegiant) that there’d quickly be no room for a company like Zappos.

Credit One Bank is on the home helmets for the Golden Knights, so don’t be surprised if they’re a wild card for a jersey ad too.

Washington Capitals

What we want: Marriott International
What we’ll get: Capital One, Custom Ink

Sportswriters rejoice! Your Marriott points may soon reward you with a Capitals jersey or something like that.

Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, Marriott International would make sense from a local and international brand recognition stance.

But you know what we’re probably going to get instead? Sheer confusion as Capital One places an ad on front of a jersey that already says “Washington Capitals”. The Capital One Washington Capitals– live at Capital One Arena!

Either that or Caps owner, Ted Leonsis, might like to make a connection between making custom jerseys for local adult league co-ed softball teams or something and, well, Custom Ink’s logo appearing on Capitals jerseys.

Winnipeg Jets

What we want: A&W or SkipTheDishes
What we’ll get: Canada Life or Bell

A&W was founded in Winnipeg, while SkipTheDishes is headquartered in Winnipeg.

Since it’s 2021, and not 1956, we’re more than likely to see SkipTheDishes on a Jets jersey, but if their helmet ads from 2020-21 are any indication for 2022-23 and beyond, then Bell is probably going to land a spot near Winnipeg’s crest.

Canada Life is taking over as the new naming rights holder for Canada Life Centre where the Jets play, so there’s always a chance they’ll end up with their logo on the front of the jersey too.