Thursday was a whirlwind of a day for Oilers fans. With the announcement that Jordan Eberle had been traded to the New York Islanders for 23-year-old Ryan Strome, the Oilers’ “old core”, consisting of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Justin Schultz, Nail Yakupov and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, lost its penultimate piece. Many Oilers fans were immediately outraged, pointing out the clear difference in value between the struggling Strome and perennial fan-favourite Eberle in a one-for-one deal.
The Golden Knights big reveal is coming! A huge night in the NHL! The intrigue is outstand—
It’s been leaked.
Just like the big jersey unveiling, the team Vegas will announce tonight has been reported on Twitter by the elite group of NHL Insiders.
So I’ll take advantage of this and fire off some names that the Oilers could target when Vegas decides to flip some skilled vets.
WHAT THEY CAN OFFER
- JORDAN EBERLE: Skilled RW who has been run out of town. Still relatively young, could be seen as a long-term fit in Vegas as he’s usually pretty good on bad teams. If not, Vegas could up his value and flip him at the deadline.
- 2018 1st & 2nd Round Picks: Speaks for itself. Vegas wants picks, and a lot of them.
- Tyler Benson: Vegas only has so many roster spots and might be looking for prospects closer to the NHL then the ones they’ll use draft picks on. Benson is a gamble, but has a high ceiling.
There are probably a few more, but I’m doing this on the fly.
WHO COULD EDMONTON WANT
He can play either wing, loves to shoot the puck and is one of an elite group of NHLers who have scored 20 goals or more in each of their first 9 seasons.
He can contribute on the powerplay, which the Oilers could use. But he’s no slouch 5v5 either with a 0.86 goals/60 and a his 9.04 shots/60 cracks the top 40 amongst regular NHLers.
Currently has one more year @ $5million.
He isn’t as proven as James Neal, but a value contract (750k next year, then a UFA) and a player who’s coming off a break-out 30 goal season. He plays RW and his only 26 years old, which potentially lines up nicely with the Oilers core.
Will he be able to score 30 goals consistently? Doubt it. But he shouldnt cost too much and if anyone can keep him at a 30 goal pace, it’s Connor McDavid.
This would be a dream fit in my eyes. Rumors are the Leafs are heavily pursuing Miller as well, but in my eyes, Colin Miller is a top 4 d-man right now and will stay in an NHL top 4 for a long time. I know the price would be high, but if I’m Chia, I’m paying that price.
Would just a first rounder do it? What would the sweetener be? All viable questions. But expect Miller to be pursued hard by many different GM’s.
TREVOR VAN RIEMSDYK
Right handed d-man? Check. Young? Check. NHL experience? TVR has over 150 game under his belt. He checks a lot of the boxes Chia will be looking for.
He has tremendous upside, although still a little raw. Could he be a viable option to step in and replace Andrej Sekera for a good chunk of the year then stay on the 3rd pair? I like his game, I’m not sure if Vegas will want to trade a right shot with his kind of upside. The price may be high.
I don’t think Vegas will be shopping their centerman, but if there is one to move, it may be Eakin. 26 years old and is due $3.875mil over the next 3 years, Eakin is really nothing more than a 3rd line center.
I wouldn’t be going after him if I was Chiarelli, as I think he’s overpaid for what he actually brings. But this is a PC type of guy, rugged, energy, bit of offensive upside (although he scored 3 goals in 60 games last year) *pause* THIS GUY ONLY SCORED 3 GOALS IN 60 GAMES LAST YEAR.
He made over a million per goal last year. That’s horrendous. If the Oil get him at salary retained or dirt cheap, then maybe I wouldn’t be too mad. But please Peter, don’t trade Eberle for this guy.
William Karlsson: Watched him a lot in CBJ, might fit well on Edmonton’s bottom 6. Doesn’t do anything too special.
Brayden McNabb: I really like him, but he’s a left shot, so unless Kris Russell isn’t back, there isn’t room for him. On the other hand, I think he’s a great chance to upgrade on Kris Russell.
Jason Garrison: Same as McNabb in that he would be an upgrade on the left side over Russell. But Garrison brings a cannon of a shot, which Edmonton needs and he has shown the ability to quarterback a PP. A veteran presence may ease the loss of Sekera, especially if it’s Matt Benning on that 2nd pair.
Tons of activity expected, it should be a fun 3 days for hockey fans, and a busy day for insiders.
Image courtesy of Vice.com
Heading into Game 5, the Stanley Cup not only rested in the balance squared at two’s waiting for some team to take the proverbial “stranglehold” in the series – the Conn Smythe Trophy also sat waiting for some player (a star center, rookie sensation, or Finnish goaltender) to poach the award from still, likely, undecided voters.
The Pittsburgh Penguins dismantled, utterly sliced and diced the puck around Nashville skates at will in the offensive zone to the tune of a six nil drubbing to tighten their palms around the Predator’s necks 3-2 in the series. With the decisive victory, the Smythe race on Pittsburgh’s end narrowed to two players. Two players we’ve heard plenty about in the past decade.
Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby are one of the best duos in NHL history. That might appear sensational in the tone of vast-exaggeration-after-a-monster-blowout but a loss at this point wouldn’t take that distinction away. The top two NHL playoff scorers are also the two favourites for playoff MVP in my mind; both commanding multi-dimensional lines that swing the biscuit around like the puck will melt the tape off their sticks if it lingers too long on the blade, both historically excellent centers with major pedigree and accolades and adulation.
Sidney Crosby has never played angrier than in Game 5. Crosby’s picking spots more than ever before, taking the big hit and not reacting, wrestling with Subban and likely overreacting. Crosby has always been chippy, sometimes to his detriment, just ask Marc Methot’s digits, but he’s never played like a bully before. Game 5 was a bully performance that championship teams have earned or found themselves acting as when they’ve been through the rigors of long series before; in this case Sidney Crosby’s fourth Stanley Cup Final appearance.
Combined with his grace in nearly scoring the game’s first goal, splitting between Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi not thirty seconds into the contest and his wonderful backhand dish to Conor Sheary rattling the backup Saros, it was a different Sidney Crosby with many of the same features. Perhaps a player with legacy on his mind. Or just the pleasure of knowing, affirming, that his team is the best in the world. Certainly, Crosby is angry. If nothing else than in the Ray Lewis “pissed-off-for-greatness” sense.
It’s easy to forget Crosby was again in career peril after a meeting with Matt Niskanen’s bludgeoning elbow in the second round. Since then, he’s been same old Sid as Jim Hughson might say.
With Evgeni Malkin, I think you get the favourite for the MVP. However, Geno could fall victim to the success syndrome of the Penguins. The most consistent forward during the postseason, his elite skill and size seems unphased by another deep playoff run. Maybe it he benefitted sitting out twenty contests with injury.
Regardless, questions were raised (while he still was the playoffs leading scorer) that he would have to pick up the load offensively with Crosby, apparently, concussed. The Pens won that Game 4 against Washington, Geno quiet, and as you know the Penguins survived the rest of the way against the Capitals. While I’m sure the absent Crosby was noticed, the Penguins are as well equipped to handle the loss of a superstar as any team. Like when Malkin won the Art Ross in 2011-12 in Crosby’s absence, things were tickety-boo despite the difficult situation.
In Malkin’s personal agenda – the same agenda Crosby could subconsciously be after even though it’s frankly ridiculous – another Stanley Cup topped off with another Conn Smythe would prove to anyone in charge of the “Top 100 NHL Players of Ever” list that he, #71, belongs in that group, more so than many others who played before. It was silly he wasn’t included in the first place. If Pittsburgh wins, the tandem of Geno and Sid would have two Art Ross Trophy’s each, three Stanley Cups, three Hart’s, and a litany of international awards. Their personal and team successes draw natural comparisons to Pittsburgh’s other dynamic duo – Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr.
Though the verisimilitude of the four players isn’t close, the essence of how they are controlling the game is. And while there are several categories when comparing the two’s against each other that Lemieux/Jagr outgun them, the fact that Crosby/Malkin success had championships seven seasons apart with a repeat looming, is more than those stars or yesteryear mustered in their heyday.
So the Penguins win the game 6-0, one of the crux’s to another title and Crosby has three assists and Malkin a goal and an assist in easily the best game Pittsburgh’s played in weeks and the series has clarity for a moment and now you can run the stories about Nashville backs against the wall and how will they handle the pressure of elimination and all the rest (hopefully a think piece about Pekka Rinne’s mental state in regards to, well, whatever ails him in specific situations) but I’m very curious about Crosby and Malkin.
Obviously, it’s a home ice series. And, obviously, that has no bearing on this game unless the Predators win. But a waxing like that against the best defence corps in the league, home ice or not, is excellent. Excellent in ways makng your opponent go 37 minutes without a shot is excellent as well, bu you still have to win the game. Nashville has missed their chance and everything from here on in will be unchartered territory combined with having to do it against a poised Penguins squad. Pittsburgh won the cup in San Jose in Game 6 last season 3-1, I feel inclined to predict the same result in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.
Crosby won the Conn Smythe last season (Phil Kessel seemed equally deserving) but this season I hope it returns to Evgeni Malkin a player we have trouble reconciling outside of the shadow of the best player in the world.
And if Nashville comes back in sensational style to win the drink then I don’t know what the hell you’re going to do. Give it to Erik Karlsson I suppose.
A few days ago I wrote about what a new deal for 22-year-old Darnell Nurse could potentially look like.
Now I’d like to shift the focus of contract discussion to Matt Benning. Like Nurse, Benning will need a new deal after next season and is eligible for an extension.
Now, with only one year under his belt, you would imagine that both sides would wait until the year is at least half way done, but when the time comes for the ink to meet paper, what could Matt Benning’s new deal look like?
Benning is a unique case because he’s 23 years old, but he’s only played 62 NHL games. In those 62 games, he’s managed to impress those close to the Oilers and most have penciled him into this team’s long-term top 6.
In his first season, he logged decent minutes in every scenario. He was 5th on the team in 5v5 TOI, 3rd in PP TOI and played 41 minutes shorthanded (although that’s the lowest number among their regular defenders). When it came to the playoffs and injuries hit this team, Benning not only stayed healthy, he played over 20 minutes a night in each of their final 3 games vs The Ducks. He also never registered a negative plus/minus in any of those games.
He’s a solid player at both ends of the rink, and it’s completely fair to assume he’s only going to get better as he continues to gain more pro hockey experience.
Of course, it’d be easy for both sides to agree to a 2 year deal around $2million like we’ve seen in the past with Ryan Murray, Tyson Barrie, Danny Dekeyser and more. But if the Oilers like what they’ve seen and are confident he could be an impact defenseman for a long time, why not sign him to a deal with some term?
This could be a chance for the Oilers to set themselves up for a real bargain contract in 3 or 4 years. It could also be a chance for Benning to be apart of a championship team in his own hometown.
Finding comparables is difficult because of how unique this situation is, but I’ve managed to dig up a few thanks to Cap Friendly.
In 2006, Kronwall was 25, so slightly older than Benning, but had only played 66 games which is very close to Benning’s 62. At that point the Wings were confident giving the Swedish blueliner 5 years @ $3million.
In 2013, the Senators gave the 22-year old a 3 year deal worth $2million after watching him for just 50 games. This is a deal I think is the closest comparable to the Benning situation and might be pretty close to what we could see the former Spruce Grove Saints defender get when the time comes for a new deal.
At the age of 25, and after playing 155 NHL Games, the Predators inked Ekholm to a 6-year contract worth $3.75 million. If Matt Benning gets a full NHL season in, he will be 24 and have a similar number of games played.
Matt Benning is an incredible talent, bringing him in is going to go down as Peter Chiarelli’s best move in my eyes.
Matt Benning is also not stupid, and I’m sure he can see his potential to be a top 4 d-man down the road, but I also think he knows how fast things can change in pro sports.
I could see these two sides agreeing to a deal close to the one Ekholm got. I think $3.75m isn’t a horrible overpayment now, and a 6-year term means the Oilers could be getting a real bargain in the final 3 years of the deal.
It’ll be interesting to see how things play out this next season. Benning could dip-off like Brandon Davidson did, or he could break through like Oscar Klefbom did this past season. Either way, an extension is likely coming for Benning, and it’s another piece of the puzzle that GM Peter Chiarelli needs to carefully consider.
If he plays this right, there’s a chance the Oilers have their future top 4 of Larson, Klefbom, Benning and Nurse all locked up long term for around $15million. Which give them tremendous flexibility when it comes to signing their core forwards.
When Oilers fans are taking a break from their figurative “tug-of-rope” game, that is the future of Jordan Eberle, the talk will usually shift to contract extensions.
Connor McDavid needs a shiny new deal, that will likely be agreed to with some form of a blank cheque. Then Leon Draisaitl will be signed to a long-term deal, just how much that deal will cost Katz is still very unknown.
But what most seem to be ignoring right now is that there are two defenders, both RFA’s after next season, who’s next deals will have massive impacts on this franchise as they attempt to win multiple Stanley Cups.
I’ll get to Matt Benning is a piece later on this week, but for now, I want to focus on Darnell Nurse.
22 years old, only 115 NHL games under his belt, yet he has impressed most who watch the Oilers regularly. He can skate pretty well and doesn’t hesitate to jump up into the play, but at times he makes some decisions that cause Oilers fans to wonder what’s really going on between his ears.
He finished 6th amongst Oilers d-men in total ice time this past season and wasn’t asked to do much defensively.
At 5v5, he was third in points/60 with 0.81, so as I said earlier, he doesn’t struggle with the offensive side of the game, although there is still room for improvement.
The big worry comes with him on the defensive side of things. This past season he ranked sixth amongst Oilers d-men with a 50% GF%. He was also 7th with a 2.51 GA/60. Although those are pretty basic numbers, they do show his struggles defensively.
THE NEXT DEAL
When it comes to Darnell’s next contract, he might be more inclined to take a short-term bridge deal and gamble on himself in the next 2-3 years the way we saw PK Subban do when he took a 2 year/$2.85 million deal in 2012.
Some other examples of this are Tyson Barrie signing for 2 years at $2.6million in 2014. Cody Ceci and Ryan Murray also took 2 years at $2.8 million coming out of their entry-level deals.
Although I’m sure the Oilers won’t complain about having Nurse on a contract under $3million, with the big contracts to McDavid and Draisaitl and future raise coming for guys like Kassian, Maroon, Caggiula and eventually Puljujarvi, they might want him on a longer term deal.
Of course, the obvious comparable is the deal just signed between the Leafs and Nikita Zaitsev, who got 7 years at $4.5m. But some other notables include Travis Hamonic signing for 7 years at $3.875 when he was also 22. When Roman Josi was 23 he got locked down to a 7 year/$4m deal.
ALL THINGS CONSIDERED
I think Darnell Nurse will anchor this team’s 2nd pairing for a long time, so with that said, I would feel very comfortable going long-term with him.
So that will mean having to overpay in the short-term, similar to most long term deals given to young defenders. If I had to put a number on this that I think is a good even ground for the two sides, I would say it’s right in line with what the Oilers gave Klefbom back in 2016 and what Adam Larsson make right now: $4.167 million on a 7-year deal.
I think this balances things out well and allows them to lock down their future top 3 for around $12.5 million as a group. An incredible bargain, which would allow them to make sure they don’t lose any key forwards as a result of insufficient cap space.
Now, there is still time for things to change over the next 5-7 months, but Darnell Nurse’s next deal is definitely something to keep in mind as we enter the summer of Leon and Connor contracts.
Image courtesy of NHL.com
The Ottawa Senators are the darlings of the 2017 NHL playoffs. They are the last Canadian playoff team standing and have pushed the defending Stanley Cup Champs to a deciding 7th game. Awaiting them are the Nashville Predators, a team most of the hockey world is also sweet on.
The Senators are a strange organization. They reside in a small Canadian market in between the dogmatic, religious fandom of Toronto and Montreal, their current arena-ticket-sellout woes are well-documented (I mean, really well reported) and their roster doesn’t spark any fear into you on paper. They were projected to be a mediocre-to-average hockey club at the beginning of the year. The reality is, they just played good hockey and finished second in their division.
As someone who’s always observed the Senators from the outside for my hockey watching career, my central feeling is they’ve always been up to stuff. Something has always been happening with the Senators. Whether it’s regular appearances in the postseason, the 2007 Stanley Cup Final, or these newer more resilient teams who’ve gritted and battled their way to spring success (such as the Paul Maclean Jack Adams trophy year and the Hamburglar Andrew Hammond run of 2015) the Senators play good hockey.
The thing that’s continued to baffle me is how many stars have played for this franchise from the 2000s to today that have left in suspicious or dramatic fashion, yet the Senators go along tickety-boo, fire and hire a new coach, and win another playoff round next season. Alexei Yashin, Marian Hossa, Dany Heatley, Zdeno Chara, Ray Emery, Jason Spezza, and even the beloved Daniel Alfredsson all had bittersweet exits, many requested, many sending shivers down the spine of the Sens faithful. But some of those most recent moves haven’t hurt the Senators like anyone thought they would.
The lightning rod Dany Heatley trade ended up working out for Ottawa, many even believing they won the deal with Heatley’s fall-off-a-cliff second act, despite getting little market value at the time. The Jason Spezza departure (which player-wise still looks horrible) hasn’t crushed their scoring ability despite his dynamic presence gone from the top-six.
In fact, the Ottawa Senators have always struck me as a wheeling-and-dealing franchise that has lost and won deals, but continues to make them all the time. They make things happen for better or for worse.
The Bobby Ryan trade has looked ugly for a while as Jakob Silverberg’s development as a nice two-way forward with sick sniping ability (when he wants) has grown steadily. And I personally didn’t like trading Mika Zibanejad for Derick Brassard who I think is of similar ability.
But the Dion Phaneuf nine player trade has been fine despite his lucrative cap hit, the Mike Condon trade kept the season afloat with his 40 appearances and Burrows/Stalberg added depth for the team at the deadline. Not to mention the sneaky good deal of acquiring Kyle Turris for David Rundblad in 2011. (Rundblad has not turned into one of the great defensemen of the modern era despite the high billing all those years ago. He’s a just a guy).
The Sens gambled on Nikita Filatov, traded for Ben Bishop even though their crease was packed, traded him for the one-hit wonder Cory Conacher, danced with Ales Hemsky for a couple months, and after winning the David Legwand free agency sweepstakes, shipped him and Robin Lehner to the Sabres for the Colin White first-rounder. White appears to be a good young player.
Like it or not the Senators dabble and without stacking how many transactions they’ve made compared to other teams, to me they’ve always been this way. Bryan Murray was always staying competitive and turning over players in a market that isn’t spectacular.
So the question is, how have the Senators really done it. How have they climbed to the near zenith of NHL hockey despite a relatively ho-hum roster with a few huge upsides?
No one really has an answer.
They haven’t looked spectacular but that 5-1 win in Game 3 against Pittsburgh was filthy, and their overtime heroics from Pageau (who I’m certain scored another playoff OT goal against the Habs with a piece of stick in his face back a few years ago) and company have kept the train-a-rolling towards…a Stanley Cup berth?!
In a league where the Washington Capitals can’t get past the second round, the Sens despite an out of town arena, an owner who loves to put his foot in his mouth, a new GM who looks and acts smug, a lack of corporate support in the city and everything else that isn’t hockey related, Ottawa is 60 minutes away from returning to the Stanley Cup Final and having home ice advantage.
Obviously, the biggest reason for successis their best player is otherworldly. Erik Karlsson is doing yeoman’s work again and is the current favourite for the Conn Smythe. The soon-to-be 27-year-old could walk away with his third Norris Trophy if the voters snub Brent Burns but could win a few more and finish his career with 1000 points plus if health reamins.
Karlsson skates like Kyrie Irving handles a basketball, jumps into the rush seamlessly, and through slicing pain in his foot, still plays at a near point-a-game pace this playoffs; a season which started many months ago for Sweden at the World Cup. He also somehow was second in blocked shots behind Kris Russell which is just one of those things that boggles the mind. When I think Ottawa Senators and blocking shots immediately the mind jumps to Anton Volchenkov, not Erik ”fantastic hair” Karlsson.
Karlsson is the crown jewel of a core which the Senators have been forced to develop because of those major names wanting out. Their response to that adversity has worked. Mike Hoffman rips a puck quicker than Radek Bonk ever could, Mark Stone is a consistent 50-60 point producer, and J.G. Pageau is a smart, young third line centre.
Deep down though, these players know this might be their only chance at the drink. Considering, how volatile success is becoming, who knows what could happen – good or bad. But a trip to the final for a player like Erik Karlsson could raise him to a new pantheon of greatness. And a title would also mean “Canada’s” drought is over.
The chance is right here for Ottawa. A loss is crushing, but through my limited outsider’s perspective, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if two years from now we’re talking about another surprising Senators first round victory with a similar, yet different cast of characters.
Oilers fans are split.
In one corner, you have those who watched Jordan Eberle this past season and are upset. So much so that they want him left unexposed and shipped off the Las Vegas during the June 21st expansion draft (or sooner if at all possible).
In the other corner, there are the fans who have a soft spot for Ebs and look past his poor playoffs, soft board work and lackluster defensive play. Those fans point to the hard numbers and show that he still produces at a very good level (whether or not he produces those points against good teams is beside the point).
Then, somewhere in the middle, are those who have been hollering for years that Jordan Eberle is not a player that fits here long-term (myself included). Although he scores, he really doesn’t do anything else, and for someone in his spot, he should be scoring a lot more. Yet his value has never been lower.
Image courtesy of ESPN
Not again you were thinking. The Washington Capitals aren’t going to be knocked out before the conference final AGAIN! Sure enough, you wake up to the same story.
Caps ousted by Pens…What will Capitals do after another early exit? Ovechkin to…Vegas?!
Everyone’s autopsy report of the Capitals situation shows something different even a week later. Fire the coach. Trade Ovechkin. Do very little or nothing. But with a number of free agents – restricted and unrestricted – change is coming. What the change will look like however, is anyone’s guess.
The Capitals trading Troy Brouwer for T.J. Oshie in the summer of 2015 proved to the hockey world Washington had a two-year window with this new core of players to win a championship. The problem is they didn’t win and now comes the difficult personnel decisions. Signing players like Brooks Orpik to five million dollar plus deals hurts when youngsters Burakovsky and Kuznetsov need big raises. The list of meaningful free agents isn’t that long but carry a lot of salary.
Capitals RFAs: Andre Burakovsky, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Brett Connolly, Nate Schmidt, Philipp Grubauer
Capitals UFAs: T.J. Oshie, Justin Williams, Karl Alzner, Daniel Winnik, Paul Carey, Kevin Shattenkirk, Tom Gilbert
From the free-agent list, it’s clear restricted free agents will set the tone for the Caps moving forward. Whichever contract comes first between Evgeny Kuznetsov and Leon Draisaitl will be instrumental in how restricted contracts will go this summer as the two youngsters seem to be comparable. Kuznetsov is going to want similar money, if not more than Draisaitl and vice-versa for the Oilers forward who is just coming off his 77 point season, the same career high Kuznetsov had in 2015-16 when he finished tied for 9th in league scoring.
They aren’t similar players though. Kuznetsov hasn’t scored more than twenty goals in a season, while Draisaitl nearly hit 30 goals this campaign. They should get similar deals regardless, but whichever one comes first sets the precedent for the other. I would say 6.5-7.5 million is the ballpark figure, but one thing about the NHL offseason is you can never truly know what a contract is going to look like.
Nikita Kucherov’s contract was larcenous last summer, coming off of back-to-back mid 60 points seasons, the twenty-three-year-old signed for three years at $4.7M per season. Ouch. Maybe each team can take a page out of the Lightning playbook and say you need to take a pay cut to stick around. This methodology makes sense for the Oilers as they need to sign McDavid’s extension sooner rather than later and hope you get the number in the low double-digits. But it likely won’t work for the Capitals who’ve stumbled many times on the championship path.
The Caps must consider moving someone from the veteran forward core to insulate a “new wave” of Washington playmakers. Burakovsky seems like a great asset moving forward and looked good for several shifts playing in Ovechkin’s stead on the top line. If the Capitals are wise, the 22-year-old will get a deal with term and reasonable money to set the tone. If they could get him in the high three million to low four million range, I think they’d be happy. Richard Panik is worth $2.8 Million for example and Burakovsky has tons more upside.
Any trade the Capitals pull off would appear to be bold (insert Craig MacTavish jokes) but if you need to move a forward that has value and a high cap hit, I would trade Nicklas Backstrom. As the rumour mill swirls and swirls about Ovechkin’s whereabouts in the playoffs – how about Backstrom’s? He’s been a part of all the same postseason unluckiness shall we say, does he get let out of the hook?
Backstrom has lots of value as a 29-year-old, first line center, coming off an 86 point season and an insanely consistent career as a top flight NHL player. Since entering the league Backstrom has played in 734 games and has 728 points. 2010-11 might be his worst season besides his injury ridden 2011-12 (where he put up more than a point a game). He only scored 65 points that year.
Considering the tepid free agency pool and the general uncertainty with Las Vegas, would Nicklas Backstrom wet the appetite for a team that misses on Ilya Kovalchuk or Martin Hanzal in the UFA category? Perhaps. His value should be high. Is it a deal the Capitals would look at if they’re serious about a shakeup?
The Leafs made the Capitals defense look loose often and the way the Metropolitan Division is going, they might try a straight across defenceman trade to synthesis someone else into their lineup. That appears to be the only way a new established NHLer comes into their defense.
The Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik contracts came with big prices in 2014 that won’t allow them much flexibility to bring back both Dmitri Orlov and Karl Alzner.
If it comes between the two the Capitals must side on the wave of youth if they’re serious about a team rehaul. Orlov, 25, is three years younger than Alzner and would appear to have much more upside than the plateaued first rounder from 2007. Orlov might be cheaper too depending on the general manager and whether Alzner, unrestricted, wants to test the market.
Behind teammate Kevin Shattenkirk, Alzner could be the second best defenseman come July 1. Alzner would be cheaper than Shattenkirk and doesn’t appear to have much of an attitude problem or issues in the dressing room. Teams don’t like rock-the-boat players.
My guess when it comes to Shattenkirk is the Rangers sign him because it’s July and it’s the New York Rangers. It’s what they do.
The word seems to be the Caps won’t resign Justin Williams which would clear over $3M on the books, roughly the same amount of money they need to placate the raise for Burakovsky. But big holes in the top six remain if T.J. isn’t returned. Recently, Oshie expressed he wants to stay in Washington and you’d assume there’s mutual interest. Losing your top two right wingers for nothing is something must teams couldn’t handle. But where does the money come from for Oshie who is likely due for a pay raise from four million dollars?
Washington could bring back most of their big names and again be a cap team, but they would be a top heavy roster and have to get clever quick on how to find no-name players who can plug holes for them.
Pittsburgh does it with Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust. Chicago has done it forever before them. But if the Capitals can’t win with established players, what makes you believe they would be able to do with these guys?
Frankly, the Capitals are going to need to look hard at their core group and decide if they keep spinning the tires on them.
I know nothing about the Washington Capitals fan base. But a quick search on Reddit found a thread, not a day old titled “Number of years this team has taken off your life.” Yikes.
Caps fans are ready for a shoe to drop. The boldest of them would be somehow trading Ovie/Backstrom, which is tough. A long summer lies ahead of Washington. And a team like Ottawa getting through to the third round with their talent pool and notorious owner won’t ease any frustration for an already ailing fan base.
Round one was really good. Round two got pretty close to living up to that hype. A couple of game sevens and the two best storylines in the playoffs (Nashville, Ottawa) continued onto the next round.
Here are 10 things I took from the four conference semi-final series:
1)NASHVILLE, err… SMASHVILLE IS A HOCKEY MARKET
Remember when Pittsburgh was almost relocated (I remember you Jim Balsillie) or when Chicago played games in front of a mainly empty arena. Bring some success into the picture and now you have two stable hockey markets.
Well, the same thing has happened to Nashville. They have a young, exciting team and are in a city that loves to party and rowdy. Watching the crowd erupt during their country music themed national anthems or seeing videos of fans partying in the streets has been one of my favourite parts of these playoffs.
The only thing more exciting than their fans has been their play on the ice, which brings me to my next point:
2) THE PREDS HAVE THE BEST DEFENSE. PERIOD.
They have one of the most well-rounded d-men in the league, Roman Josi. Add the electrifying PK Subban who can move the puck up the ice like few others. Throw in Ryan Ellis, who has been contributing 5v5, on the powerplay and on the PK, and doing an incredible job with it. Mattias Ekholm doesn’t make many mistakes, just gives Peter Laviolette good, honest minutes. Matt Irwin was in the minors at one point this season, now he’s anchoring the 3rd pairing in the conference finals. It’s an incredible combination of raw ability mixed with everyone clicking into their best form at the same time.
A defense like that wins you games and can cover when Pekka Rinne has an off night (even though he hasn’t had one yet) but there’s another group of defenders that I can’t say the same about…
3) THE RANGERS ARENT GOOD
Teams can overcome not having a superstar forward (Ottawa, Nashville), and teams can be brought along by a hot goalie as well. But when you have a blueline that is as poor as the New York Rangers, it’s tough to have any success.
This is not a knack on Ryan McDonaugh, who was absolutely incredible in my eyes. But this is on the old and slow Dan Girardi and Marc Staal who is a shadow of his former self. This is on a management group and coaching staff who brought in Brendan Smith to try to fix a poor defensive group. They also refused to give more minutes to two of their more competent players, Brady Skjei played less than Staal and Girardi, while Nick Holden averaged 3 minutes less per game than Girardi.
4) GOOD GUYS CAN COME IN FIRST
Man, if you want an inspiring story, look no further than the Ottawa Senators. From Bryan Murray’s health to Craig Anderson and his wife Nicholle going through an un-imaginable time right now.
Then there’s Clarke MacArthur, who was really never supposed to play hockey again, never mind be scoring series-clinching goals in round one and making an impact late in the playoffs.
It’s an incredible reminder as to why someone like myself loves to watch sports. Sometimes the stars align and everything works out, and it’s amazing to see that happen to this Senator’s family.
5) ERIK KARLSSON IS TOO GOOD
The stories on the Senators have been great, but Erik Karlsson has been THE story on the ice. Averaging over 28 minutes a game, with more than a point a game, he had his coming out party in round two, which is weird to say about a player with multiple Norris trophies.
He’s a top 3 player in the World right now, and I have no doubt about that. We throw the term “generational” around a lot, but that sums up Karlsson. His commitment to defense, while still pushing the offensive pace the way he has this year is incredible.
6) THE OILERS WILL BE VERY VERY GOOD… VERY VERY SOON
A young core with two top ten scorers almost made the Conference Finals. In fact, they were two botched goalie interference calls away from being in the NHL’s final four.
Emerging defensemen like Klefbom, Nurse, and Benning only add to the white-hot future Edmonton has. They didn’t make it this year, but you’d be a fool to bet against them being in the big dance soon, and often.
7) THE DUCKS ARE IN EXPANSION TROUBLE
Shea Theodore has been solid on the incredibly mobile Ducks defense, while up front, Rickard Rakell put up 30 goals this season and Jakob Silfverberg gave the Oilers fits during this past round. Which raises the expansion problem that the success of these three individuals will bring.
Silfverberg brings the classic power forward game, with a habit to fire the puck often. Rakell is just all around solid but has a knack for finishing plays. Theodore is a future top 4 defensemen, and one of them has to be traded, or be lost in the expansion draft. A good problem to have, but a problem none the less.
8) YOU CANT BEAT SID
Take away their best d-man, give Crosby a rookie winger, take out their starting goalie… it doesn’t matter. The Penguins and Sidney Crosby are damn near impossible to win.
As much as it might be boring to watch a repeat champion and not have a young fresh team like Nashville win, witnessing the greatness that is Crosby (and Malkin and Fleury) is quite incredible.
9) THE OFFICIALS…
Hardly needs any explaining. They call PK Subban for diving, which puzzled me. They miss calls late when Nick Bonino is given the phantom high stick from TJ Oshie. They blow goalie interference calls on the Oilers, which may have cost them the series.
The NHL Referees have a habit of giving respect to players who have been in the league a while, and this past round has taught me that is not the right way to do things.
Why have a rule book when it only applies to certain players, at certain points in the game, at certain times of the year. The game should be called the same way during game one in October, as it is in Game 7 of a playoff series. It’s sad that the officials became such a dominant story line, and it makes the NHL less pleasant to watch.
Wednesday night is the biggest game of the last decade of Oilers hockey, which is a redundant statement because every game over the last month has been the biggest game of the season.
But in the grand scheme of things, when we look back on this version of the Edmonton Oilers in 5 years time, just how big is the outcome of this game?
There are many different views on this one, so let’s start with the obvious:
It’s a game 7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with a chance to become one of the final 4 teams competing for the ultimate prize. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how many years are left in your “window”, these opportunities don’t come along very often and when you are given a chance, you need to take it.
That’s completely true. Players go their whole careers without getting a chance like this current Oilers team is getting. Teams that should be dynasty’s by this point rarely get this opportunity (staring right at you Washington). The Oilers have a chance to kick-off what most of the hockey world sees as the next modern dynasty, right now with a trip to the conference finals and maybe further than that.
But when I say that out loud, a part of my brain moves to a completely different point of view, which is the following:
This team is so young, so raw and there is no doubt in any sane person’s mind that this team will go on some incredible runs over the next decade, with teams that will be more high-powered then the one Oilers fans are currently watching. So isn’t the experience of getting to play in a high pressured game 7 already a win?
I mean, if they do come out on top, that’s incredible and they’ll have, more or less, a 25% chance at a Stanley Cup ring. But if they lose, and they look back at a series that saw them have two games more-or-less ripped away from them by poor calls, and are eliminated in heartbreaking fashion by an incredibly experienced team from Anaheim. Doesnt that come with more than enough positives?
The cliche phrase thrown around the hockey world around this time of year is “there are no moral victories in the playoffs”, but when you consider everything with this Oilers squad, isn’t every game they’ve played up until this point been a moral victory?
They lose 7-0 in San Jose and take away a great lesson on not being able to have off nights in April. Then they follow it up with a win to take a series lead and learn that momentum doesn’t carry from game to game in the playoffs, and they have the ability to bounce back from any sort of defeat.
They get massively outplayed in 3 consecutive games against Anaheim but learn that the best team doesn’t always win on any given night in the playoffs, and you can be on either side of that. Then they learn that no lead is safe, ever, when it comes to hockey in early May, but show once again that they can put anything behind them and bounce back with a 7-1 demolition of their Southern California counterparts.
When you look back at everything that this team has gone through during these playoffs, the experiences gained and what they’ve accomplished is more than I ever could have predicted at the start of this season, which brings me to my conclusion:
If would be great for them to win this game tomorrow night, and I’ll be rooting for them like crazy for that to happen, but when we look back on this team in 10 years, a loss on Wednesday in the Honda Center could shape their future in ways a win tomorrow simply couldn’t.