This week’s episode is chock full of coffee infused, Seattle inspired, artisanal Seattle expansion discussion in addition to William Nylander’s new deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Plus, waivers and trades are rampant this time of year, Tom Wilson: The Bad and the Bad Things That Happened This Week, Chuck Fletcher was hired as General Manager of the Philadelphia Flyers and a 15-year first round draft pick look back of the Los Angeles Kings.
The 2018-19 regular season has started, so let’s overreact and hand out the regular season awards already! It’s our 3rd Annual Participation Trophies After One Game presented by Nick and Connor.
31-40-11, 73 points, 7th in the Pacific Division
Subtractions: F Cole Cassels (signed, DEL), F Michael Chaput (traded to CHI, signed with MTL), F Nic Dowd (signed with WSH), F Joseph LaBate (signed with Belleville Senators, AHL), F Jayson Megna (signed with WSH), F Griffen Molino (signed with Toronto Marlies, AHL), F Daniel Sedin (retired), F Henrik Sedin (retired), D Patrick Wiercioch (signed, KHL)
Still Unsigned: D Anton Cederholm, F Jussi Jokinen, D MacKenze Stewart
Offseason Analysis: We all knew this day would come, but didn’t want the telepathy to end. Yes, both Daniel and Henrik Sedin retired at the end of the 2017-18 regular season, leaving the Vancouver Canucks with an identity crisis– well, almost.
Does Jim Benning know the definition of a rebuild?
The Canucks General Manager signed veteran forwards Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel to matching four-year, $12 million contracts (worth $3.000 million per season). Beagle, 32, and Roussel, 28, are not top-six forwards. One’s past his prime, despite winning the Cup with the Washington Capitals last season and the other, well, $3.000 million a year for not just one fourth liner but two is the definition of insanity.
Doing the same thing and expecting different results, Benning keeps patching a non-playoff contender with grizzled veterans on long-term contracts.
It’s one thing to fill some roster holes with veteran players while you rebuild in the short term, but four-year deals? Four-years!?! Especially when this seems to be a trend up and down the lineup since losing to the Boston Bruins in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.
That should be enough to convince Vancouver’s ownership group (Canucks Sports & Entertainment) that they should hit the reset button on their current front office.
One good signing– and the only good signing– made by Benning at improving the Canucks bottom-six depth was the addition of former Buffalo Sabre and Boston Bruin, Tim Schaller.
Schaller’s respectable two-year deal at $1.900 million per season is right about what you would expect to pay a top-notch fourth liner that can play third line minutes when called upon.
His 22 points in 82 games with Boston last season matched Beagle’s output in 79 games with the Capitals and was five-points better than Roussel’s 5-12–17 totals in 73 games for the Dallas Stars in 2017-18.
Schaller’s cap hit is a little more than half of Beagle and Roussel’s.
Thatcher Demko isn’t ready for a full-time NHL role yet– either in the starting capacity or as a backup netminder. Anders Nilsson had his worst season as a backup in his first year as a Canuck, amassing a 3.44 goals against average and .901 save percentage in 27 games played.
Meanwhile, subpar starting goalie, Jacob Markstrom worsened from 2016-17 to 2017-18 in GAA (going from a 2.63 to a 2.71), but improved in SV% (.910 in 2016-17 to a .912 in 2017-18)– all while making the jump from being a backup himself in 2016-17 (playing in 26 games) to being Vancouver’s starter in 2017-18 (and playing in 60 games).
There’s hope to be had in 2018-19, however, in standout prospects Elias Pettersson and Jonathan Dahlen. Both should make the Canucks NHL roster and be implemented in the lineup for added flair, coupled with the Horvat, Boeser and Virtanen regime that’s now in full swing.
Despite the rumblings of a young core, Vancouver’s still in a tough spot given the strength of the Pacific Division.
The San Jose Sharks look to be a Cup contender on paper, Los Angeles is seeking one last chance at completing a trifecta this decade and Anaheim rounds out the annual California hockey powerhouse.
Meanwhile the Vegas Golden Knights certainly aren’t slowing down.
Between the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and Vancouver– anything can happen. Edmonton should be better than they were last season, but should and in reality are separate things. Calgary, despite their revamped roster, has Bill Peters behind the bench (enough said).
So if the Canucks are looking to make any ground from 2018-19 to 2019-20, it very well might be on their Pacific Division Canadian counterparts.
What about the Arizona Coyotes, you ask?
They won’t be in last place in the division this season, so Vancouver better watch out. Unless, of course, Benning and Co. are starting to come around to the idea of tanking for a high-end 2019 1st round pick. That’d probably do them a lot of favors.
Offseason Grade: D
It’s hard to track progress when you let yourself get in the way of whatever you’ve got going. I don’t know what that means other than trying to say that the Canucks should continue to pursue a youth movement, decent depth signings (like Schaller) and abandon all hope on– oh wait, they signed Beagle and Roussel to matching four-year contracts.
If The Hockey Guy sees this by any chance– ‘sup. Let’s be friends, friend.
Our offseason previews for all 31 National Hockey League teams continues with the Toronto Maple Leafs and their outlook for the summer.
There was no competition for the remaining playoff spots in the Atlantic Division this season as only three teams were truly in contention for the top spot through divisional seedings.
While the Tampa Bay Lightning sat atop the Atlantic Division standings for about 95-percent of the season, the Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins swapped 2nd and 3rd all season long until Boston started peaking in March.
Toronto finished the regular season 3rd in the Atlantic with a 49-26-7 record and 105 points on the season, lining up on the road for Games 1 and 2 of their First Round matchup with the Bruins.
It was the first postseason meeting between the two clubs since their 2013 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals matchup and epic collapse in Game 7 by Toronto. Like 2013, however, the Maple Leafs won Games 5 and 6 in the series, forcing a decisive Game 7 back at TD Garden.
This time, though, the Bruins cruised in the third period to a 7-4 victory and won the series, 4-3.
Head coach, Mike Babcock, faced criticism from Toronto media and fans alike for back-to-back years of First Round exits, while Lou Lamoriello fulfilled his three years as General Manager.
Lamoriello’s seven-year contract with the club intended on keeping him in the role of GM for three years, then as a senior advisor for the final four years. Instead, Lamoriello resigned from Toronto and joined his son with the New York Islanders (and was subsequently promoted as General Manager).
Since Brendan Shanahan took a front office job with the Maple Leafs, there’s been another name prime for the GM job. Kyle Dubas.
Hired as an assistant GM as a 28-year-old, the prolific analytics-driven evaluator became General Manager of the Leafs at 32 as his Toronto Marlies (AHL) won this year’s Calder Cup championship.
The old regime is almost completely new-school in the 6ix.
2018 NHL Entry Draft
Dubas and his Maple Leafs scouting crew hold onto the 25th overall pick in the first round of the 2018 Draft and it’s not entirely clear cut on who they’ll likely target. There’s no immediate need to fill with a teenager, the 2018 Draft is deeper than usual and Toronto could always trade the pick.
There’s no ties to a player like Erik Karlsson, but the Leafs seem prime to make some type of acquisition this summer via a trade in addition to sticking with the plan.
Pending free agents
Toronto has about $22.340 million in cap space heading into July with some big names to consider re-signing.
Tomas Plekanec, Tyler Bozak, Leo Komarov, Dominic Moore and James van Riemsdyk are all pending-UFAs as of July 1st– with van Riemsdyk as one of the hottest players not named “John Tavares” potentially hitting the open market.
Acquired around the deadline from the Montreal Canadiens, 35-year-old Tomas Plekanec is two games away from the 1,000th in his NHL career. He recorded two assists in 17 games down the stretch with the Leafs and had six goals and 20 assists (26 points) in 77 games with Toronto and Montreal this season.
Since he amassed 54 points in 2015-16, Plekanec has averaged 27 points over the last two seasons. That kind of production drop-off is to be expected at some point in the waning days of his NHL career, but still important to the depth scoring of any organization.
He brings intangibles to the locker room, like leadership and good chemistry with Mitch Marner and Patrick Marleau that boosted Toronto’s playoff performance and helped extend the series with Boston to seven games.
The question is, can Dubas keep two 35-plus members on the roster, let along on the same line for another year or two (though nightly lineups are at Babcock’s discretion) and will Plekanec be allowed to regrow his goatee if he re-signs now that Lamoriello is gone?
Regardless, it’s been noted that Plekanec and his turtleneck have a desire to go back to Montreal, but if he truly wants to win a Cup before the end of his playing days…
Bozak, 32, is six games shy of his 600th career NHL game and had 11-32–43 totals in 81 games this season. One of Toronto’s more consistent point-producers, Bozak has only surpassed 20 goals once in his career (he scored 23 goals in 2014-15).
The veteran center has long been a playmaker, reaching 30-plus assists three times in his career– including the last two seasons.
He should get another look, but at what cost given some of the other big names potentially heading for the open waters of free agency from Toronto.
Komarov, 31, had 19 points this season. He’s never reached the 20 goal plateau in his career and– despite being a fan favorite
and Brad Marchand‘s man-crush— he shouldn’t expect a big contract from Dubas if he wishes to extend his stay in Ontario’s capital city.
Moore, 37, resurrected his career last season with Boston, notching 11-14–25 totals in all 82 games, but the fourth line center scored just six goals in 50 games with the Maple Leafs this season.
Three games shy of 900 in his career, his 12 points on the year this season doesn’t scream “extension” in a Leafs sweater, but might find work elsewhere as a bottom-6 forward in what could be his last chance at a Cup.
van Riemsdyk, 29, reached the 30-goal plateau for the second time in his career since being drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers 2nd overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. He first scored 30 goals and 31 assists (61 points) with Toronto in 2013-14.
He had 33 assists last season and 36-18–54 totals this season.
Under Dubas, the Leafs are on their way to becoming the next Washington Capitals in prospect development. The Marlies just won the Calder Cup with a mixture of grizzled former NHLers in Colin Greening and young, developing, players that are intentionally overcooked at the AHL level for an easier transition to the NHL game.
Moving on from older pending-UFAs is bound to happen and it just might be this offseason’s plan.
In his second full season at the NHL level, pending-RFA William Nylander, 22, matched his rookie season point total (61) on the heels of 20 goals and 41 assists in 82 games this season. Sophomore year went swimmingly for the top-6 forward.
Now he’s a pending-RFA and will need a pay raise with Auston Matthews entering the final year of his entry-level deal.
It might seem easy for Toronto to crunch some numbers, keep van Riemsdyk, Bozak, Nylander and the rest of the gang together, but without a little proper planning for the future, the club could easily get themselves in some deep trouble.
32-year-old pending-UFA defender Roman Polak over came a leg injury, signed a PTO and landed a one-year renewal for his fourth season as a Maple Leaf in October. He had 4-7–11 totals in 75 games last season and improved to 2-10–12 totals in 54 games this season with Toronto. He even recorded his third career point in the playoffs (an assist).
But for the St. Louis Blues’s 160th overall pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, it doesn’t seem like another year in a Leafs uniform is in the cards. Not when Travis Dermott was making waves as a potential top-6 defender next season in the playoffs and Polak was being blown past by Bruins forwards.
Connor Carrick— a 24-year-old, pending-RFA defenseman– had a career-year in goals (4), assists (8) and points (12) in 47 games this season. Why he’s not utilized more is perplexing. He was a healthy scratch for 32 games, injured for two more and did not play in the postseason.
Both Dermott and Carrick should see precedence over Polak next season– especially in today’s game and with Ron Hainsey already as an anchor veteran on the blueline at 37-years-old– but that all depends on whether Dubas makes an effort to bring Carrick back and mend whatever’s between Babcock’s viewpoint and Carrick’s play on the ice.
If the Leafs get older and more reliant on guys like Hainsey, Polak and Marleau, like they did this postseason, Babcock risks being viewed similar to Ken Hitchcock in his loss of being adaptable in an increasingly younger, faster and more skilled than ever league.
That’s not to discredit Babcock as one of the greatest NHL coaches of all-time, but rather to point out he’s got a challenge ahead of him and his staff– and Babcock likes challenges, because he usually excels at them.
There’s no need to disrupt something that’s working in net in the dynamic duo that is Andersen and McElhinney, but you can expect to see 24-year-old Garret Sparks get a few extra looks having led his team to the Calder Cup championship.
Other pending free agents throughout the organization include:
Of note, Toronto has $1.200 million in retained salary on the books (Phil Kessel) through the 2021-22 season.
The Vegas Golden Knights had 500-1 odds of winning the Stanley Cup in their inaugural season back in October. Now, they’re just four wins away.
Let’s clarify a few things here:
1. The team has a lot of leadership.
And that’s not doing enough justice to give their head coach, Gerard Gallant, some credit for the way the team’s carried themselves.
2. The team has a lot of playoff experience.
Vegas general manager George McPhee didn’t look for just a bunch of nobody’s. This is Fleury’s fifth appearance in the Stanley Cup Final– and third straight.
Entering this postseason, only the following Golden Knights regulars had zero games of playoff experience– Ryan Carpenter, William Carrier, Tomas Nosek, Malcolm Subban (their backup goaltender, not likely to see any playing time with Fleury existing) and Alex Tuch.
Fleury (115 games), Neal (80), Perron (42), Ryan Reaves (36), Engelland (28), Erik Haula (24), Nate Schmidt (21), Luca Sbisa (20) and Shea Thoedore (20) all had at least 20 games of playoff experience coming into the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Reaves, of course, was acquired prior to the trade deadline. Primarily for his scoring prowess in an elimination game, obviously. Wait.
3. The 2017 Expansion Draft was not rigged.
Nobody told Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon he had to a) leave Marchessault exposed and b) trade Reilly Smith to Vegas to ensure they wouldn’t select someone other than Marchessault at the Expansion Draft.
Let’s reword that a bit.
Marchessault was left exposed and the Panthers did not specify that he was untouchable as part of the Smith deal. Florida encouraged Vegas to take on Smith’s $5.000 million cap hit through the 2021-22 season after one down year with the Panthers.
The Golden Knights were the scapegoat for salary cap mismanagement by other NHL teams and everyone thought Vegas wouldn’t turn out to be this way.
Fleury was assured of being selected by McPhee and Co. thanks to Pittsburgh’s tight cap after winning back-to-back Cups along with their goaltending situation in which Matt Murray had rightfully taken the starting goaltender role. The Penguins even sent a 2018 second round pick in the trade to persuade Vegas to select Fleury in the Expansion Draft instead of a guy like Brian Dumoulin.
A happy accident– or more accurately, superb scouting and foresight. That same scouting led to nailing more than one needle in a haystack.
Alex Tuch? Traded by the Minnesota Wild to Vegas as part of an agreement that McPhee would select Erik Haula.
The Anaheim Ducks traded Theodore to Vegas so the Golden Knights would take Clayton Stoner and not one of Anaheim’s young core players of the future.
Finally, the talent pool is better than ever before. The Golden Knights were bound to stockpile a few good players as a result of stacked rosters (in theory) across the 30 other NHL clubs.
McPhee also worked the phones and made more than a few trades and depth signings in free agency.
Maxime Lagace and Oscar Dansk were both free agent signings that held things over for Vegas in the net while Fleury and Subban were injured for almost the first quarter of the regular season. Dansk went down with an injury himself four games into the Golden Knights third-string goaltending emergency relief plan.
When the Golden Knights turned to Dylan Ferguson in goal it was only possible because of McPhee’s deal with the Dallas Stars in which defender Marc Methot, who was claimed at the Expansion Draft by Vegas, was flipped to Dallas for Ferguson and a 2020 second round pick.
Not every selection made by Vegas in the 2017 Expansion Draft suited up for the Golden Knights.
Trevor van Riemsdyk was packaged with a 2018 seventh round pick to the Carolina Hurricanes for Pittsburgh’s 2017 second round pick (Jake Leschyshyn).
David Schlemko was flipped to the Montreal Canadiens for a 2019 fifth round pick.
Alexei Emelin was sent to the Nashville Predators for a 2018 third round pick.
Despite appearing in preseason action for Vegas, last season’s backup goaltender with the Colorado Avalanche– turned AHL backup goaltender with the Toronto Marlies this season– Calvin Pickard was dealt to the Maple Leafs for a 2018 sixth round pick and Tobias Lindberg.
Pickard’s trade was spurned by McPhee finding a better backup goaltender at no cost to the organization– Malcolm Subban.
Subban was claimed off waivers from Boston after the Bruins waited a few days after waivers went into effect to decide on sending him to Providence.
Ryan Carpenter? Another claim off waivers– midseason— from the San Jose Sharks.
It’s a professional league. It’s a free market. Something, something, stop complaining because your team has a history of letting you down. The Golden Knights will let their fans down in time, just like every other professional sports franchise in the history of all major professional North American sports.
But for now, why not enjoy the ride?
They swept a 1967 expansion team in the First Round, they defeated a 1990s expansion team in the Second Round and now they’ve beaten a late-1990s expansion franchise that relocated to Winnipeg in 2011 for the Western Conference championship.
There’s never going to be another run quite like this and if it ends in a Stanley Cup championship maybe we should all meet in Vegas for the afterparty. Celebrate the sport.
Second Round predictions, Minnesota needs a new GM, Calgary’s got a new coach, award finalist reactions, a Game 7 breakdown between Boston and Toronto, and where do the Leafs go from here? All that and more as Nick and Connor discuss on the latest DTFR Podcast.
Somebody get Tomas Plekanec a new turtleneck for under his uniform, his current one is out of style.
On Sunday, the Toronto Maple Leafs acquired F Tomas Plekanec and F Kyle Baun from their arch-rival– the Montreal Canadiens– in exchange for F Kerby Rychel, D Rinat Valiev and a 2nd round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.
Plekanec, 35, has six goals and 18 assists (24 points) in 60 games with Montreal this season.
The veteran NHL forward made his NHL debut with the Habs in the 2003-04 season and has been with the Canadiens for his entire career, amassing 232-373–605 totals in 981 career games played.
The 5’11”, 193-pound native of Kladno, Czech Republic ranks seventh on Montreal’s all-time games played list, 13th in assists and points and 17th in goals. He is a seven-time 20-goal scorer and is a pending-UFA this July.
Originally drafted by the Canadiens in the 3rd round (71st overall) in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, Plekanec has 16 goals and 33 assists (49 points) in 87 career postseason games.
Baun, 25, has four goals and 12 assists (16 points) with Montreal’s AHL affiliate, the Laval Rocket, this season. The 6’2″, 209-pound native of Toronto, Ontario has 19-40–59 totals in 171 career AHL games between the Rockford IceHogs and Rocket from 2015-present.
He has yet to score a point in the NHL and appeared in five career NHL games from 2014-2016 with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Rychel, 23, has ten goals and 20 assists (30 points) in 55 games with the Maple Leafs AHL affiliate, Toronto Marlies this season.
The 6’1″, 207-pound Torrance, California native has 2-10–12 totals in 37 career NHL games with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
He was originally drafted by Columbus in the 1st round (19th overall) of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
Valiev, 22, has 5-10–15 totals in 40 games with the Marlies this season and 10 career NHL games (during the 2015-16 season) under his belt with the Maple Leafs. The 6’3″, 215-pound defenseman is a native of Nizhnekamsk, Russia and was originally drafted by Toronto in the 3rd round (68th overall) in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
As a result of this trade, Montreal now has four-second round picks in the upcoming NHL draft in June.
The last time the Maple Leafs and Canadiens made a trade with each other was on July 3, 2008. Montreal acquired D Greg Pateryn and a 2010 2nd round pick (32nd overall, Jared Knight– drafted by Boston after the pick changed hands several more times) in exchange for F Mikhail Grabovski.
Trivia night is about to get a lot more fun when you’re asked “what three-team trade originally got rejected by the NHL, then re-worked, finalized and made official with minor tweaks?” The answer is this trade, which although it was originally rejected for “improper use of salary retention mechanism”, totally didn’t do just that in any way whatsoever… sure.
FYI source confirms that the reason the original Pitt-Vegas-Ottawa three-way trade got rejected by the league earlier today was for “improper use of salary retention mechanism”
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) February 24, 2018
At this rate, there might not be anyone left to trade by Monday’s trade deadline. Also, what is it with Ottawa and three-team trades?
On Friday, the Ottawa Senators traded F Derick Brassard to the Vegas Golden Knights and F Vincent Dunn and a 3rd round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins sent D Ian Cole, G Filip Gustavsson, a 1st round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft and a 3rd round pick in the 2019 draft to the Senators.
In addition, the Golden Knights flipped Brassard along with F Tobias Lindberg to the Penguins for F Ryan Reaves and a 2018 4th round pick (via Vancouver). Vegas retained 40% of Brassard’s cap hit as part of the three-team trade.
For the sake of making it easy to understand:
To OTT: D Ian Cole, G Filip Gustavsson, 2018 1st round pick (PIT) and a 2019 3rd round pick (PIT)
To PIT: F Derick Brassard*, F Vincent Dunn, F Tobias Lindberg and a 2018 3rd round pick (OTT)
To VGK: F Ryan Reaves, 2018 4th round pick (VAN via PIT)
*VGK retain 40% of Brassard’s cap hit in the deal.
Brassard, 30, has 18 goals and 20 assists (38 points) in 58 games this season for the Senators. In his 11th NHL season, the 6’1″, 202-pound center has 159-261–420 totals in 702 career games with the Senators, New York Rangers and Columbus Blue Jackets.
A native of Hull, Québec, Brassard reached the 60-point plateau in 80 games played in 2014-15 with the Rangers. He was originally drafted by Columbus in the 1st round (6th overall) of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.
In 78 postseason appearances, Brassard has 22-33–55 totals.
Dunn, 22, has split his time this season between the Belleville Senators (AHL) and Brampton Beast (ECHL). The 6’0″, 190-pound native of Hull, Québec has four assists in 17 games for Belleville and 7-1–8 totals in 16 games with Brampton this season.
He was originally chosen by the Senators in the 5th round (138th overall) of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
Lindberg, 22, was previously acquired by the Golden Knights along with a 2018 6th round pick in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs that sent G Calvin Pickard to Toronto earlier this season.
In 48 games with the Chicago Wolves (AHL) this season, Lindberg has eight goals and ten assists (18 points). He is a native of Stockholm, Sweden and has 25-43–68 totals in 148 career AHL games with the Wolves, Toronto Marlies and Binghamton Senators.
The 6’3″, 215-pound forward was originally drafted by Ottawa in the 4th round (102nd overall) of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
Cole, 29, has 13 points (three goals, ten assists) in 47 games played for Pittsburgh this season. He has 18-72–90 totals in 385 career NHL games with the Penguins and St. Louis Blues and is a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Pens in 2016 and 2017.
The 6’1″, 219-pound defenseman is a native of Ann Arbor, Michigan and is pending-UFA at season’s end. He was originally drafted by St. Louis in the 1st round (18th overall) of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.
In 56 career postseason games, Cole has one goal and 13 assists (14 points).
Gustavsson, 19, has a 2.16 goals against average and .917 save percentage in 18 games with Luleå HF this season in the SHL. He was drafted by the Penguins in the 2nd round (55th overall) of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.
Fans of the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship might remember that Gustavsson was Sweden’s starting goaltender and named the top goaltender in this year’s tournament with a 1.81 GAA and .924 SV% in six games.
As of this trade, Ottawa now has a possible seven picks in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft– two 1st round picks (the Senators can exercise their right to keep a potential top-10 pick in this year’s draft as part of November’s Matt Duchene trade), one 4th round pick, one 5th round pick, one 6th round pick and two 7th round picks.
Reaves, 31, had four goals and four assists (eight points) in 58 games with the Penguins and was previously acquired by Pittsburgh in a trade with the St. Louis Blues at the 2017 NHL Entry Draft on June 23rd.
He has 84 penalty minutes this season and 779 PIM in his career.
A native of Winnipeg, Manitoba in his eighth NHL season, Reaves has 31-28–59 totals in 477 career games with the Penguins and Blues. The 6’1″, 225-pound right winger was originally drafted by the Blues in the 5th round (156th overall) of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.
Connor and I discussed trading Erik Karlsson on the latest episode of the Down the Frozen River Podcast, which got me thinking about how ridiculous NHL GMs can be as to why they haven’t made any trades yet at this point in the season or why they’re holding onto players for excruciatingly long periods of time (‘sup, Super Joe? Remember the Matt Duchene saga– hey, you won the trade, I’ll give you credit).
This is DTFR Overtime and I’m going to rant about how GMs should break trade traditions.
We all know those couples. They’re dating, then they’re not. They change Facebook relationship statuses more than burgers are flipped at Wendy’s.
NHL GMs are often given a bad rap concerning their ability to make sound decisions in player transactions.
Sometimes players really just don’t have a good fit in an organization– so the player needs to be traded or not re-signed– and do well elsewhere, but more often than not, GMs are left with the blame regardless of the success that comes after the spark (trade).
Sure, not all GMs are good at general management, but I’m not here to reason with the questions of what makes a good GM and what makes a poor GM. Rather, I’m here to critique an oddity that’s been part of the National Hockey League’s 100-year history.
Why aren’t there more trades during the season?
Just break up already
The Matt Duchene-Colorado Avalanche saga is the most recent (and best) example of “why don’t NHL GMs make more trades during the season”. Avalanche general manager, Joe Sakic, had every right to stall, but did he wait too long for too little in return? That’s debatable depending on where you stand.
Ignoring what Colorado got (Shane Bowers, Andrew Hammond, Samuel Girard, Vladislav Kamenev, a 2018 1st round pick (OTT), a 2018 2nd round pick (NSH) and a 2019 3rd round pick (OTT)), what the Ottawa Senators got (Duchene) and what the Nashville Predators ended up with (Kyle Turris) in the deal, there’s some universal feelings of agony for how long it took to finally trade Duchene both in-and-out of the Avalanche fan base.
Sakic, understandably, wanted what was best for his organization and kept his demands elevated, but at what cost? Did the emotions of being part of the worst team in the NHL last season take a toll on Duchene’s play at times? Did the holdout cause any bumps in the road in the locker room?
We might not get these answers, but just about everyone around the league wondered when the dominoes would fall.
A player that doesn’t want to be part of a franchise’s future doesn’t make for a pleasant time and leaves many wondering what took so long when a deal gets done.
Fans, players and general managers alike could be all the more excited if player-front office relations go sour and result in players being traded sooner rather than later (because it’s very rare for a player to not end up getting traded after being disgruntled with a team’s front office).
Before Duchene there was the Jonathan Drouin-Tampa Bay Lightning saga. We all know how that ended after many “relationship experts” called for Lightning GM Steve Yzerman to just get it over with already and “breakup” with Drouin for better assets.
Yes, Drouin and Tampa resolved some differences, but it was only temporary as alas, Drouin got dumped to the Montreal Canadiens for Mikhail Sergachev this offseason.
Montreal didn’t fully appreciate what they had and the Lightning are happily suited in a rebound now that looks like it could be the one.
Before Drouin, it was Phil Kessel and the Boston Bruins as a high-profile “why don’t they just break up already” case. Before Kessel, one could technically make a case for Eric Lindros‘s drama with the Quebec Nordiques as the original case of “just break up already”– though the Nordiques made off pretty well with Peter Forsberg in the fold.
What is this, the NBA?
Back to that three-team trade the Avalanche, Senators and Predators made in November for a moment.
Are three-team trades an option for NHL GMs to satisfy their cravings for an improved roster midseason, while also not feeling the Catholic guilt of making a trade midseason?
Sure. It’s possible.
The Duchene trade– in its immediate aftermath and one month later– made an already good team even better (Nashville), a bad team replenish a lack of depth (Colorado) and a team that was overhyped end up with overhyped talent (Ottawa).
It was also unprecedented for the NHL.
When you think of three-team trades in professional sports, you think of superstars being tossed around in Major League Baseball, like the Manny Ramirez trade the Boston Red Sox made with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates, whereby Ramirez went from Boston to Los Angeles and Jason Bay jettisoned the Pirates for the Red Sox (among other pieces involved for all three professional baseball clubs).
Or you think of literally any trade in the National Basketball Association, like, ever. That last sentence just now might have been a stretch, but just Google “NBA three team trades” or something and you’ll get the point.
It’s not something that happens in professional hockey at the highest level.
The confusion surrounding who’s getting what in a three-team trade is something that happens to everyone, but gets worked out and well, either makes for an exciting blockbuster or dilutes the point of trading players from the beginning.
Either you’re improving organizations or you’re just maneuvering contracts for some unexplained obligation like the business of entertainment that the sport actually is (spoiler alert) via a three-team trade– or not.
Baby, I’m an outlier
Star players don’t get traded during the season because they’re too good to lose.
Well, if they’re too good to lose, why trade them in the first place?
This is where some general managers try to slip things unnoticed *ahem, in the offseason* in hopes that it’ll make their team better. You might know these guys by the names of Peter Chiarelli or Marc Bergevin, but we’ll just call them “dangerous outliers”.
They’ll save face from the embarrassment of what they got in return for consciously uncoupling with (trading) guys like Tyler Seguin, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, P.K. Subban and Sergachev in their careers thanks, in part, to the timing of all of those trades.
Seguin was part of a seven-player deal between the Boston Bruins and Dallas Stars on July 4, 2013– a day most American fans might not remember if they were celebrating their independence with a few brews.
Or the alternative to trading a star while most fans are probably inebriated at a cookout is to trade said star and talk about how you’re most excited for the upcoming season and that you believe this trade is what will make your team better.
Maybe you’ll take a shot or two at the player’s “character” or something else to get everyone talking the rest of the summer, but the focus levels off by August (when everyone in the hockey world is on vacation) before gaining steam in October– once the guy you traded away immediately makes an impact on his new team (‘sup, P.K.).
In short, if making moves in the offseason actually leads to bad trades and making your team worse (in the long run), why not avoid making offseason trades altogether and save them for during play?
The dangers of doing it in-season
Yes, making a trade, even weeks before the trade deadline can actually still do just as much harm to your team as making a trade in the offseason like normal GMs.
Case in point, the Dion Phaneuf trade.
It was a blockbuster trade that seemed inevitable when the Ottawa Senators had let it be known they were interested in acquiring Phaneuf and had talked it over with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Those talks went quickly and Phaneuf was dealt to Canada’s capital along with forwards Matt Frattin, Casey Bailey, Ryan Rupert and defenseman Cody Donaghey. The Senators gave up struggling defenseman Jared Cowen, forwards Milan Michalek, Colin Greening, Tobias Lindberg and their 2nd round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
Other than Phaneuf can anyone think of where any of the other players in the trade are these days? Greening’s with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, Michalek’s career is basically over due to injury, Cowen tried to land a spot with the Maple Leafs and earned a PTO with the Colorado Avalanche back in September (spoiler alert, he was released with one preseason game remaining) and the rest of them?
Yeah, that’s right. Nobody remembers.
Bailey’s now with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (New York Islanders AHL affiliate), Frattin’s in the KHL, Donaghey’s in the ECHL– in case you were wondering.
Of note, Lindberg was traded this October to the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for goaltender, Calvin Pickard.
Other than the lack of talent tossed around between the then rebuilding Maple Leafs and the often underpaid Senators, the biggest surprise from this move was that Ottawa was willing to take on the majority of Phaneuf’s remaining years on his contract that has a $7.000 million cap hit that runs through the 2020-21 season.
In foresight, maybe the Senators won’t have to worry all that much with a looming lockout around 2020. Then again, they do have to re-sign their best player, defenseman, Erik Karlsson, before or during the 2019 offseason and well, he’s going to cost them a lot more than $7.000 million a season.
Accepting your death– I mean, that you’ll never be good enough
Whether you’re holding out on the best possible return for a superstar or someone with a lot of “character”, the most important thing to remember whenever you go through a breakup with them is that you may never end up with someone as good as what you had (and definitely not in the immediate heartbreak– stop eyeing those free agents you’re about to overpay).
Look, at some point every NHL GM is going to have to make a trade.
Phil Esposito hated being traded from the Bruins to the New York Rangers as much as Jean Ratelle hated going from Broadway to Boston, but both teams knew it was a trade that had to be done. Brad Park led a resurgence for the black and gold, while Esposito proved he still had something in him in his twilight years.
If you want to get something in return, rather than lose a player for nothing, just know that you’ll probably be downgrading for the time being. Rebounds don’t always last, but they can be worth it if you just made a clean break.
You could end up with a guy like Antoine Vermette and win the Stanley Cup like the Chicago Blackhawks did in 2015 before he left them for his ex that summer– rejoining the Arizona Coyotes for a season (before being bought-out and swimming with the Anaheim Ducks ever since).
Or maybe you go through a weird phase of Loui Eriksson, Joe Morrow, Reilly Smith and Matt Fraser, who then became just Morrow and Jimmy Hayes before one wasn’t tendered a qualifying offer (Morrow) and the other was the victim of a buyout (Hayes) this past summer.
Sometimes things just don’t work out. We get it. You’ll find a better person. You were too good for them anyway.
You just might have to do a little soul searching and cut the cord midseason from time to time.
Shortly after the Vegas Golden Knights claimed backup goaltender, Malcolm Subban, off waivers from the Boston Bruins, they traded Calvin Pickard to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Tobias Lindberg and a 2018 6th round pick.
Hindsight is 20/20– considering Marc-Andre Fleury and Subban are both on the injured reserve and Vegas is down to their last hope (well, before they really get desperate) in Oscar Dansk— but should they have been so quick to pull the plug on Pickard? Should any team, including the Maple Leafs, be so quick to bury him as they have in the American Hockey League with the Toronto Marlies?
The short answer is no, Vegas maybe shouldn’t have traded him (considering depth in goal is imperative when at least one goalie is injured) and Toronto could probably still utilize some life out of him. The obvious answer is the Golden Knights made a pure-business decision (and it paid off, despite Subban’s current status– they got a player and a pick for one player), while the Maple Leafs added depth that comes in handy, a la Vegas’s current situation.
Pickard is a 25-year-old goaltender who was rushed in for too large of a role with the organization that drafted him 49th overall in 2010– the Colorado Avalanche.
Last season, Pickard went 15-31-2 in 50 games played (48 starts) with a goals against average of 2.98 and a .904 save percentage. He had never seen more than 20 games in a season at the NHL level and was destined to be a career-long backup goaltender– until Semyon Varlamov went down with a season-ending injury last season.
If you think Pickard should take the blame for the Avalanche’s lack of success last season, you probably also think there might be a goaltending controversy in Boston right now and should reconsider your status as a fan of hockey.
For one thing, Colorado was a mess in more than one aspect of the game last season. For another, Tuukka Rask is still the Bruins starting goaltender and there’s no question about his certainty as a statistically elite goaltender who is once-in-a-generation for his time (other than Braden Holtby, who might be the only other candidate for consideration as “once-in-a-generation” currently).
Anyway, back to Colorado.
Last season’s Avs had a league-worst -112 goal differential, which also happened to be the worst in the salary cap era since the 2004-2005 season long lockout (maybe even further than that, though the game has changed significantly since the season that wasn’t in 04-05).
Everything was working against a backup goaltender, turned default starting goaltender overnight with no offense and no defensive support.
In Pickard’s two seasons as a backup, his goals against averages weren’t spectacular (a 2.35 in 16 games played in 2014-15 and a 2.56 in 20 games played in 2015-16), but they were consistent with that of what you’d expect from a backup goaltender seeing time in only about a quarter of an 82-game season.
His .932 and .922 SV%’s in 2014-15 and 2015-16 respectively paint a clearer picture of a young backup with a seemingly reliable potential for developing into a full-time backup that could take on up to 30 games a season, significantly reducing the workload for Varlamov.
Then came last season, where the pressure mounted and the Avalanche’s next
backup goaltender of the future, Spencer Martin, rose up the depth charts.
Golden Knights GM George McPhee identified his starting goaltender months before June’s expansion draft, given the contract situation in Pittsburgh, as well as their needle in a haystack luck in finding, developing and unleashing the wrath that is Matthew Murray in goal on the rest of the league.
Marc-Andre Fleury had been penciled in on everyone’s mock Golden Knights roster from puck drop last season with the backup role left unfilled for Vegas to unveil in June.
When Colorado left Calvin Pickard available, Vegas swooped in, hoping a change of scenery would work in addition to providing the 25-year-old with a defense, let alone some scoring production that could help balance the scoreboard in a pinch, should Pickard let in a goal or two. At least, that’s what the plan seemed to be.
Until the Golden Knights had a chance to get a top-AHL goaltender who had yet to really break out in the NHL with a clogged pipeline of goalies in Boston.
Malcolm Subban will be a goaltender in the NHL. He might just be a backup, but he’ll be a good one, given enough time and the right guys in front of him.
Calvin Pickard got the short end of the stick, but sometimes taking a step back in your career leads you forward again.
Are NHL GMs guilty of looking at one bad year and sentencing a player for life because of it, especially if that bad year was last season? Yes– it happens all the time in hockey and it’s frustrating as hell.
Pickard once had a 2.47 GAA and .918 SV% with Lake Erie in 47 games played in his first full season of professional hockey (2012-13). That was when he was unrealistically projected to become a starting goaltender after never posting a goals against average below 3.05 with the Seattle Thunderbirds in four years of major junior hockey.
Through two games with the Marlies, Pickard has a 3.59 GAA and a .901 SV% this season, but it’s still early for the goaltender who amassed a 1.49 GAA and .938 SV% in seven games with Canada at the 2017 IIHF World Championship this spring.
Splitting time with Toronto’s best prospect in goal, Garret Sparks, won’t be easy, but it’s perhaps the greatest thing that could happen to Pickard. After all, he’s back in a system with lots of support and is a pending restricted free agent at the end of the season– free to regain his confidence and take his talents elsewhere in the league as a backup goaltender.
He’s better than a backup like Jonas Gustavsson, but not everyone’s a Philipp Grubauer in a league that’s more reliant on their number two goalie than everyone thinks. Calvin Pickard should be just fine.