NBC & NBCSN recently released their NHL broadcasting schedule for the upcoming season and honestly, it’s a schedule filled with errors and incompetence.
“Taking this much money means he doesn’t want to win”
“He’s leaving no money for them to build a —”
“This is just a selfish move by —”
Shut up. Please, shut up.
If you have said any of the above in the past week. Stop talking.
Connor McDavid has played in 127 NHL games to this point in his career. He has scored 148 points and won an Art Ross, Hart Trophy, and Ted Lindsay Award. He guided a franchise out of the darkness and helped them win a playoff round in their first year back in the big dance.
He deserves $12.5 million. He deserved $13.250 million. He deserves $20 million. This franchise was gifted him via a fricken’ lottery. He owes them absolutely nothing.
As far as I’m concerned it is their responsibility to ensure they take whatever money is left and give Connor McDavid the resources he needs to bring multiple Stanley Cups to Edmonton. It is not the job of a young superstar to make life easier on management.
It’s a problem that has existed for a while now in hockey, the idea that a superstar must take less so that the supporting cast around him is better. I see the mindset behind that argument, of course, everyone loves a good team player. Someone who puts themselves second.
But consider it from the other perspective.
Is it Connors fault that he Oilers paid Milan Lucic $6m? No.
Who’s fault is it that they had to buy out Benoit Pouliot? Hardly #97’s.
So why should he have to sell himself short to cater to the mistakes of others?
It’s something that hockey has an extreme problem with, that other sports frankly do not.
Look at the NBA, in most cases when a support player wants to join a super team and win, he takes less money. The majority of the cap is spent on the superstars.
I know the cap levels and rules are different in every league, but let’s throw McDavid’s salary up against the other 3 major leagues:
If McDavid were to hold a $12.5 AAV in the MLB, he would rank just inside the top 100.
Yup, hockey’s best young star has an annual salary that is in the same breath as players like Ricky Nolasco and Matt Garza.
Ignore the bargain that Chris Sale is on because he IS a truly special talent on a great deal. But the best young player that hockey has seen in arguably 25 years got a shiny brand new deal… that’s worth the same as a few sub-par starting pitchers.
No different in the NBA where McDavid would sit in a tie for 88th… with Miles Plumlee.
Tell me, when was the last time you heard someone say “Wow, did you see what Miles Plumlee did last night? We GOTTA find a way to watch him live!”.
Or maybe next time you walk into a sports retail store, ask if they have any Miles Plumlee gear left, or maybe it’s all sold out!
McDavid brings value to a franchise that no other player can. It’s absurd that in today’s hockey world, he’s unable to chase what he financially deserves and if he was allowed to, he would be scrutinized for doing so.
(Also just for fun, here’s the NFL salaries… seriously, he’s 63rd. WHO THE HELL IS ANDREW WHITWORTH)
James Duthie brought up a great point on TSN 1260 the other week. Give each team one exemption. Whoever the teams highest paid player is, simply comes off the cap.
It’s so simple, yet so effective. The Oilers give Connor McDavid the $25 million a year he deserves. The team doesn’t suffer. Old man hockey culture can’t say McDavid is a selfish spoiled kid.
In works for other teams as well. If you pay Player A $12 million a year, he’s exempt, but as soon as you give another player $13 million, Player A counts towards your cap again. It’s a brilliant way of keeping the parity that the NHL loves to create, while not handcuffing teams who have great players. It also allows players to earn what they are truly worth to their franchises without facing public scrutiny.
Of course, there are more layers to it, but that’s for another blog. For now, I leave you with this:
Connor McDavid deserves whatever the hell he wants, and it’s a shame hockey culture gets in the way of their stars earning what they deserve.
photo via The Edmonton Sun
We’re now in the second week of NHL free agency and one of the greatest players to ever play the game is still available: Jaromir Jagr. He is coming off a 46-point season, whilst playing all 82 games for the first time since 2014 when he was with the New Jersey Devils.
The Florida Panthers announced that they do not want to bring Jagr back to the organization, and according to Jagr, neither does any other organization.
Despite the apparent lack of interest, Jagr is no rookie when it comes to moving teams. Since returning to the NHL, after three years in the KHL, the 45-year-old has played for five different teams in six years.
Regardless of his age, Jagr’s numbers indicate one thing: he still knows how to score points.
Jagr has totaled 159 points in his last three seasons with both New Jersey and Florida – more points in fewer games than Patrick Marleau (151), who just signed a three-year $18M contract with Toronto.
Last Tuesday, another top free agent, Alex Radulov, just went off the board to one of Jagr’s former teams, the Dallas Stars. Radulov signed a deal worth $31.25M, $6.25M per year, over the next five years. In 2017 against even strength opponents, Radulov scored 31 points (goals, 23 assists) whilst Jagr scored 33 points (eight goals, 25 assists).
Numbers don’t lie. Scoring wise, Jagr can still compete with the top free agents on this year’s market yet he is still unsigned. Take away the age and your team will be getting a scoring winger, which plenty of NHL teams need.
Jagr has proven year after year that age will not define him. People can complain about his speed as much as they want, but if he keeps scoring points does it really matter?
With the list of free agents getting smaller each day, the Czech is becoming the top free agent available.
Jagr is obviously in search for another Stanley Cup ring to add to his collection, however, a team in the lower half of the standings should show interest in him as a mentor. A team like the Arizona Coyotes could be one of those teams. During his time in Florida, Jagr was a major part of the success the Panthers experienced from both Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau. The Coyotes are in a similar stage of their rebuild much like the Panthers were. The future Hall of Famer could do the same in Arizona but this time with the likes of Dylan Strome, Maxi Domi, Clayton Keller. The list of young talent is really endless in the Copper State. As previously mentioned, Jagr is in pursuit of a Stanley Cup ring, however, he would be waiting a long time in Arizona for that ring, making an Arizona unlikely destination. On the other hand, most old people eventually move to Arizona later in life so why wait till then?
Until the last few days, the Dallas Stars would’ve been a great destination for the 45-year-old. Over the summer, GM Jim Nill has made some huge moves in order to not only get his team back in the playoffs but to go all the way. Trading for Ben Bishop and signing two of the biggest names on the free-agent market, Martin Hanzel and Alex Radulov, would attract any player at the back end of their career. The Stars did lose offense at the trade deadline in Patrick Eaves, and then Patrick Sharp, Ales Hemsky, and Jiri Hudler to free agency. Jagr seems like a great fit. However, with the Stars resigning both Radek Faska and Brett Ritchie it now leaves no room for the future Hall of Famer.
Another talked about destination for him is in Western Canada with the Edmonton Oilers or Calgary Flames. The Flames seem like the more likely stop in this situation, now that the Oilers have signed Jussi Jokinen. Edmonton will likely want to give Jesse Puljajarvi another chance in Alberta’s capital after spending the second half of the season in Bakersfield.
Now as for the Flames they’ve been busy bringing in defense, resigning Mark Stone, signing Travis Hamonic, and trading for Mike Smith. Last season, the Flames ranked in the lower half of the league in goals for, meaning it is probably time for them to invest in some offense. Jagr could slide perfectly on the top line complementing Calgary’s two stars Monahan and Gaudreau.
Over in the East, the Columbus Blue Jackets emerged last season as one of the best teams in the NHL. On draft day, they bolstered their offense with the addition of Artemi Panarin in exchange for Brandon Saad. Their only real loss this off season has been Sam Gagner who left to join the Vancouver Canucks. Jagr could easily come in and fill the void left by Gagner: he’s a much better player. They are a young team on the rise with only one player over the age of 30 on the offensive side of the puck, Brandon Dubinsky. With the current Vezina winner and one of the best defensive cores in the league, Columbus is ready to go on a deep playoff run and win the cup, just what Jagr wants.
Other teams that could be potential new homes for Jagr are the Montreal Canadiens who are looking for more offense, or the Carolina Hurricanes who want to take that next step.
Personally, I would love to see Jagr back in the black and white of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The right side of their offense may be crowded with Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist, and Bryan Rust but that could work in Jagr’s favour. He won’t be forced to play in every game and with him being the age he is it may actually extend his career to 50 like he believes. Also, with the talent on the Penguins roster, he would have a great shot at hitting the 60 point mark, again. The Penguins have just won back-to-back cups, I wouldn’t put it past them to win it again and obviously, Jagr wants another shot before he hangs up the skates.
I could easily make a case for every team and why Jagr would be a good fit, but ultimately we won’t know what will work best until we see him skating next season with his new team.
After Thursday’s bombshell blockbuster that saw veteran Jordan Eberle shipped to Long Island, many Oilers fans are still reeling, scratching their heads and questioning the underwhelming return.
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.
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.
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.