Ah, weddings. A time to celebrate the joining of a happy couple in matrimony. A time to reconnect with old friends. A time to sing loudly and terribly in celebration of an open bar.
The wedding of Jordan Eberle and Lauren Rodych appeared to have all of these elements, which might be bittersweet to see for Edmonton Oilers fans.
Eberle was traded to the New York Islanders in June after 507 games with the franchise. Among his wedding guests: Current Oilers like Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, as well as former Oiler and current New Jersey Devils star Taylor Hall.
They may not have won a Stanley Cup together. But damn if they can’t belt out “Wagon Wheel” at a wedding:
After the Nashville Predators lost in the Stanley Cup Final to the Pittsburgh Penguins, a few things gained clarity.
Like the fact that Nashville was the envy of other hockey towns, with an ever-expanding fan base of catfish-chucking party people (and it’s a great place to live!). But mostly, that their Western Conference championship could be a warning shot across the bow of the NHL, because with a core of players entering — or on the cusp of — their prime years, the Predators are theoretically going to be in the mix with teams like the Edmonton Oilers for several years of Stanley Cup contention.
The challenge for GM David Poile was making shrewd financial moves to ensure that core remained together, not only for another run or two with Pekka Rinne in goal but for the future.
To that end: He now has Viktor Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg, Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis signed for a combined $20.5 million cap hit through 2019. Which is rather incredible.
He got Josi (2013) and Ellis (2014) inked before the Predators actualized as Stanley Cup contenders. He signed Forsberg to a six-year, $36 million contract in June 2016 – post-Ryan Johansen trade, but two days before the P.K. Subban trade.
He’s coming off a 31-goal, 30-assist breakout season over 80 games last year, having gained just 16 points in his previous 62 NHL games. It’s no secret how that explosion happened: He clicked with Forsberg and Johansen, creating a dominant top line for the Predators. He scored 12 of his 19 even-strength goals last season with Johansen as his center.
Which is why this contract is a huge win for Nashville, and potentially a blown chance for Arvidsson.
His ask in the arbitration hearing with the Predators, that preceded the contract settlement, was one year at $4.5 million, according to Elliotte Friedman. Nashville was asking for two years at $2.75 million each.
There’s every reason to believe that he’ll be back on that line next season, and there’s every reason to believe they’ll be great again. Locking into a $4.25 million cap hit for seven years, from a player standpoint, would seem to cost him millions, considering what Arvidsson does and considering his current status in the lineup.
A bridge deal of some sort boosts his baseline price, gives him more time to build a stats case he might not be able to make over just one productive season, and extends out into (more) UFA years the Predators would have to buy up to keep him. All of that adds up to more than $4.25 million annually, a.k.a. “Craig Smith money,” for a guy that just popped 31 goals.
But I guess there’s something laudable about Arvidsson giving away money and taking term with a team that could contend – health and goaltending willing – for the next seven years. And again, give Poile this: He’s got everyone under contract for next season and $14 million in space to get Ryan Johansen and Austin Watson under contract and, maybe, figure out how to replace those James Neal goals.
The only thing that gives you pause if you’re Nashville with this contract is the way Arvidsson has played away from Johansen, but at $4.25 million and term that’s a problem you can correct via trade if it turns out he’s only a product of that line.
(Although it should be noted that Arvidsson had a better Final, post-Johansen, than did Forsberg.)
Hey, maybe if you’re Arvidsson, you take the chance to snag term while the numbers are high, rather than take the gamble that another year with RyJo increases your price tag. But wouldn’t that be an indictment of your own potential?
When Taylor Hall was dealt to the New Jersey Devils last summer, it was as though he was sent back to the end of a long, slow-moving line — right as the bouncer allowed his friends inside.
It was a crushing blow, in its proper context. While those he toiled with would soon be liberated, Hall would languish, his career dragging idly toward its halfway point despite being one of the most productive wingers in the NHL for the better part of his seven seasons.
Hall is frustrated. He’s been frustrated. How could he not? In his six years in Edmonton, and now after one in New Jersey, Hall hasn’t been on a team that finished even within 15 points of a postseason spot in a non-lockout season, let alone one that’s gained entry into the tournament.
We often question how much athletes truly care, but never with Hall. He burns for the opportunity to play meaningful games, to have the same team success he had in Major Junior. We know this because he, unlike many athletes, is willing to admit he’s unsatisfied.
“I’ve had some long summers and this summer seems to be the longest one of all,” he said Thursday at SmashFest, a charity ping long tournament in Toronto. “I’d love to get to the playoffs, the spotlight, that energy, having your team being able to compete for the Stanley Cup. That’s all I want to play for – hopefully it happens soon.”
After another last-place finish in the division, Hall’s fifth in seven seasons, time is all that’s helped alleviate the sting felt 12 months ago. But in the absence of success, Hall projects cautious optimism about the future in New Jersey.
(Hall hasn’t seen much of Hischier yet, but caught enough footage from the Devils’ development camp to come away impressed.)
But we know an assembly of lottery talent won’t satisfy him; winning is what matters. While there are no guarantees that he will experience the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time next spring, the Devils should certainly be a more competitive team in 2017-18.
In addition to Hischier, New Jersey traded for Marcus Johansson as part of this summer’s mini redistribution of talent within the Metropolitan Division. Johansson was acquired from the back-to-back Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington Capitals, who like the back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins are returning a diluted iteration from one season ago due to run ins with the salary cap.
Hall thinks Johansson can have an impact beyond the basic addition and subtraction that’s beginning to level the playing field inside the division.
“He’s a great skater, looks like he can play well on both sides of his stick. Playing with those guys in Washington, those high-skill players, when you go to another team, you’re valuable to learn (from). I’m looking forward to playing with him.”
In addition to being mindful enough to sit back and poach another top-six forward from a cap-strapped club, the Devils, as a rebooting franchise, also hold a competitive advantage in negotiations with free agents. Available capital wasn’t enough to land Kevin Shattenkirk, a defenseman that would begin to solve some of the real concerns New Jersey has on the back end, but Shero was able to nab one of the summer’s more coveted free agents nonetheless.
A veteran bottom-six center with special teams capabilities, Brian Boyle will provide the Devils with stability down the middle and protection for their fleet of young pivots, Pavel Zacha, Michael McLeod and Hischier.
“We need that depth in our lineup, and guys like Brian Boyle can play net-front on the power play or (take) a faceoff in his own end at the end of a game,” Hall said. “Those guys are huge and very valuable.”
After seven seasons spinning his wheels, Hall may soon find traction.
The Devils boast an impressive nucleus of young forwards, are in position to add through any means, and remain in the hands of an accomplished executive who has pulled the strings with patience and precision, up to this point. Things are trending in the right direction for this team.
Yet in the back of his mind Hall understands it often requires something extraordinary (in his case a fourth lottery win coinciding with the Connor McDavid draft) for a team to escape its doldrums.
Other than Sidney Crosby, no NHL player has more points over the last four seasons than Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks with 328 in 294 games, with 136 of them goals.
That was thanks in no small part to winger Artemi Panarin, whose immediate chemistry with Kane and center Artem Anisimov established a dominant top line for Chicago and Kane’s two best offensive seasons (in points per game average) in that four-season span.
‘‘I’d be lying to you if I was sitting up here saying I wasn’t disappointed when it first went down, no doubt about it,’’ Kane said at the 10th annual Hawks convention at the downtown Hilton. ‘‘Artemi’s a great kid, someone I got along with really well off the ice and had that chemistry with on the ice. It was just fun to play with him every night. I’ll miss him, for sure.’’
As for who might fill that role across from Kane, there are a few candidates. (Saad will play with his old linemate, Jonathan Toews.)
There’s Ryan Hartman, coming off a 19-goal rookie campaign. He only had 76 minutes of ice time with Kane last season. There’s Nick Schmaltz, who played mostly with Jonathan Toews but had five assists in 186 minutes with Kane last season.
There’s rookie Alex DeBrincat, an offensive dynamo, and it’s not like placing a rookie with Kane didn’t work out last time. (Although there’s a slight difference between a 19 year old from the OHL and a 25-year-old veteran of the KHL.)
There’s also 35-year-old Patrick Sharp, who was Kane’s linemate for parts of his first stint in Chicago but is coming off an horrific season (18 points in 48 games).
What does Kane think about his line next season?
‘‘Who knows what’s going to happen?’’ Kane said. ‘‘I could have better chemistry with a guy like Schmaltz or better chemistry with someone like Hartman. And I know I played well with Sharp in the past, too. I’m looking forward to the season and the next challenge.’’
The good news for Chicago is that Kane has been a point-per-game player every season since 2012. He’s not a product of Panarin.
The real question is how much Panarin was a product of Kane, but we suppose that’s for the Blue Jackets to answer.
North Dakota cut its women’s hockey program in March, in one of the saddest and most stunning decisions to rock the sport at the collegiate level.
This was a hockey-mad university. This was a program that, on the day the news hit, was touring potential recruits through campus for next season. The issue, as it always is for sports that aren’t football and basketball, was money – it didn’t matter how many UND alumni played in the Olympics when the school faced a reported $1.3 million budget shortfall.
“When you see a school like North Dakota do what they’ve done, it is scary. But more than that, it’s heartbreaking,” said Katie Million, commissioner of Western Collegiate Hockey Association, where North Dakota played. “I’m just heartbroken for the student athletes that can’t continue their careers there and have to find new homes.”
It was a decision that angered the hockey community, and it was a decision that made the WCHA reconsider its own economic future. It may not always be the apocalyptic elimination of an entire program; it might be budget cutbacks that have a trickle-down effect to the conference as a whole.
With North Dakota out of the picture, the other WCHA schools – Bemidji State, Minnesota, Minnesota Duluth, Minnesota State, Ohio State, St. Cloud State and Wisconsin – would all have to shoulder a larger financial responsibility. Which is why Million decided the time was right to be proactive, and ask those who are most passionate about women’s hockey to help ensure its stability.
What makes RallyMe interesting: Donations to the WCHA can target specific areas of need, from hockey scholarships to league operations to purchasing the postseason championship trophy. People know exactly where their money is going.
When Million was named commissioner in Sept. 2016, she was surprised to find out that the WCHA was a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. “I was baffled that we hadn’t been taking advantage of that status, accepting tax deductible donations,” she said.
So she made it a priority to think outside the box and find ways to accept donations “should we find some passionate fans that would like to support us,” she said. Crowdfunding was the answer.
It’s not that the WCHA was in financial trouble. Million said there weren’t any specific shortfalls that needed immediate attention, outside of a student-athlete post-graduate scholarship that she hopes the RallyMe funding can save.
“It’s really more of an enhancement of what we do,” she said.
But the WCHA crowdfunding is also preemptive in case other situations like the North Dakota implosion happen. Not only does it build a dedicated base of donors who share a passion for the league and its member schools, but it can also help the other member schools with their individual budget concerns.
“Them departing our league helps our cause. We can use the help, instead of potentially seeing programs drop,” said Million.
“I look at it as us being proactive. Everybody’s budgets are tightening. Schools are getting less funding. We have to help however we can so that those finances they’re paying us to run the league can go back into their own programs, their own budgets, so that we have less of a burden on these member schools.”
From the professional leagues through the colleges, women’s hockey continues to fight for financial stability and substantial investment. Million believes that crowdfunding, especially for a not-for-profit league like the WCHA, can provide both.
“I’m a little baffled that other conferences don’t utilize the status,” she said.
It is now widely acknowledged that the New York Rangers are no longer the team that we think about when we look back on their past several years.
Even within the organization itself, the front office acknowledges the need for a rebuild-on-the-fly, not that they’d ever be allowed to do a full-on, tear-it-down, tank-a-few-years demolition job. One wonders, then, what a rebuild on the fly actually looks like for this club, which for so long has had its success predicated almost entirely a good-ish offense and elite goaltending.
But the odds Henrik Lundqvist can be Henrik Lundqvist any more are now very much in doubt simply because he’s 35 and coming off what would be a rotten season by any standard, let alone his own lofty standard.
Last year, the fact that Antti Raanta played 30 games of .922 hockey is what kept the Rangers alive as a 100-point team; the club earned 34 points in his decisions, and two more in Magnus Hellberg’s two appearances (he played just 79 minutes).
But Raanta’s gone now, traded to Arizona, and replaced with Ondrej Pavelec, who’s a total wildcard in the crease. For some time now, the Rangers have been blessed with strong backup goaltending, but almost all of it was developed in-house. This is the first time in quite a while Lundqvist’s backup will be a UFA pickup, and if Mason does what Marty Biron did in the lockout-shortened season (.917) then that’s good for a backup. But that was also back when Lundqvist played the massive bulk of the Rangers’ minutes.
Lundqvist made just 57 appearances last season, down from 65 the year before, due in part to hip problems. Which, hey, a 35-year-old goalie, with Lundqvist’s kind of miles (19,300-plus minutes in a little more than a decade, plus playoffs, plus internationals), with a hip injury of any kind? That’s a major cause for concern.
And if Lundqvist isn’t effective, and Pavelec is even just pretty good, the odds this team misses the playoffs are strong. Of course, this could be a one-year blip on Lundqvist’s record too. The underlying numbers behind what made last year so ugly aren’t exactly encouraging, but this is arguably one of the five best goalies of all time, and he’s probably earned the benefit of the doubt even without taking his advanced age into account.
But the Rangers’ problems potentially go deeper than the net, which is nothing new. The defense is still a bit of a mess. McDonagh and Shattenkirk can certainly play, and Brendan Smith might be a little overpaid but that doesn’t diminish his strong middle-pairing capabilities. Brady Skjei seems promising. But what, exactly, is Anthony DeAngelo, who — whether you like it or not — was one of the cornerstones of the Raanta/Stepan trade? Tough to say. We know what Nick Holden and Marc Staal are, though: They’re bad. And if two of your defensemen are known-bad quantities, and another one is a total question mark, is that really what you need as you ostensibly keep trying to compete?
It’s just hard to see where the support comes from if the Rangers want to play up-tempo hockey. That’s also true in the forward group. Who are this team’s centers? Mika Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes, David Desharnais (oh yeah, they signed David Desharnais), maybe JT Miller? I dunno how far that gets you.
Zibanejad, by the way, is closing in on an arbitration date and probably wants a lot of money.
The loss of Derek Stepan was obviously a calculated one, but let’s not act like he isn’t a low-end No. 1 or elite No. 2. That’s tough to replace, and it seems like the Rangers didn’t even really try. They’re hoping young guys take a step this year, probably Miller in particular, but things are a little dicey here.
Not so on the wings, where the Rangers have plenty of guys who can play and, more importantly, can skate. I really like their winger group a lot pretty much up and down the roster.
Thing is, though, that this might be the Rangers’ last serious kick at the can as any sort of notable NHL team for a while. We know already that elite-level players just don’t hit unrestricted free agency, and the Rangers only have 11 — eleven! — players signed for 2018-19. Some of the people are are as yet unsigned include RFAs like Miller, Hayes, Skjei, and Jimmy Vesey; players they will have plenty of money and desire to re-sign. But going out the door are Rick Nash and Michael Grabner, guys that aren’t easy to replace. Couple that with a Lundqvist who will be another year older and a lot of the solid answers on this club over the past few years start to dry up quick.
Point is, it’s difficult to assess where the Rangers are headed. How much slack does Alain Vigneault, a good coach with a few unfortunate blind spots, have with management if this team starts to look like it might miss the playoffs? This isn’t exactly an easy division and you have to say the Rangers took a step back this summer. The odds that they lost 10 points or so in the standings aren’t significant, but one or two things go wrong and this starts looking like a non-competitive team in a hurry.
The bigger, overarching question is “What’s this club’s long-term plan in net,” especially since Lundqvist is signed for three seasons after the coming one at $8.5 million? Let’s acknowledge here their goaltending pipeline is stacked, but how much that helps the club in the next, say, three years is probably minimal.
The good news is that most of the good players already on the roster are in their mid- or late-20s, which buys them some time on the back end of a rebuild-on-the-fly. But it’s pretty reasonable to have a lot of concerns about this team’s chances to be anything other than a first-round bounce-out at best over the next two seasons.
Which, if you’re rebuilding — on-the-fly or otherwise — might not be that helpful. Picking in the mid-teens, whether you barely make the playoffs or barely miss them, doesn’t get you high-level talent. Last summer, Corey Pronman had the Rangers’ farm system as 28th in the league. You don’t improve on that much if you’re picking 16th, but you don’t get much better with a total talent sell-off. Which isn’t going to happen because that’s not what the Rangers do.
So it’s a tough situation overall, and it’s mostly because there might not be another choice for this franchise in particular.
Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.
This is a time of magic. Through our own tenacity and volume, we have the ability to will things into existence.
We can resurrect cancelled television shows. We can force major corporations to apologize for social media faux pas. We literally created a line of dialogue for Samuel L. Jackson to say in “Snakes On A Plane” and, by god, he said it.
So while the NHL has given every indication that it will not participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics – right down to the moment when Gary Bettman announced the 2018 All-Star Game would be in Tampa, and basically said “because we’re not going to the Olympics” – hope is kept alive, because hockey fans who want to see the best best-on-best tournament in existence can will it into existence, right?
The report went on to say that the NHL is facing heavy pressure from stars like Sidney Crosby to attend the 2018 Games, which is likely music to Gary Bettman’s ears since much of this is posturing to make the Olympics a huge CBA negotiation point in a few years.
Is there an Alternate Olympic Schedule for the 2017-18 season? I asked a few league sources and got a few “I don’t knows.”
And that’s with the assumption that the Olympics are still actually on the table, and there’s plenty of evidence to say they’re not.
“I know that there have been a variety of comments either from Rene Fasel of the International Ice Hockey Federation or from representatives from the Players’ Association suggesting that this was still an open issue. It is not and has not been,” said Bettman in late May.
In the next week, the NHL is going to have boots on the ground in Tampa to start cutting deals for the All-Star Game. That includes a partnership with the organizers of the Gasparilla Pirate Fest, for what should be a wild drunken time in January. They’re full speed ahead on that event in ways that would indicate that they’re not expecting to move it to 2019.
We’re also starting to see the beginnings of how these national teams will be built for a non-NHL Olympics.
The AHL this week confirmed to Steve Whyno that “teams were informed they could loan players on AHL contracts to national teams for the purposes of participating in the Pyeongchang Olympics.” That’s strictly minor league free agents, and not players on NHL contracts that have been demoted.
Also, for those keeping hope alive: Don’t read too much into the radio silence from USA Hockey on this. Like the fact there hasn’t been an orientation camp announced for the 2018 national team, like there was in August 2013 for the Sochi team. That was only going to be for NHL players; for a non-NHL player team, USA Hockey is going to create a pool of up to 150 players “based on past playing history and upcoming season expectation of Olympic availability.”
They’ll be evaluated based on 2014-18 performances, rather than coming to tryouts or some such. The rosters will be set by early January 2018.
Look, it’s OK if you want to continue to look at NHL Olympic participation through delusion-colored glasses. Most likely it’s because you’re a Canadian who knows that your third string could win gold, or a Swede that knows the Canadians have to beat someone for gold, or an American that … hey wait, we have Matthews and Eichel this time?!
The IOC and NHLPA better get to [expletive] caving so the NHL can roll out that alternate schedule…
The St. Louis Blues and 24-year-old defenseman Colton Parayko came to terms on a five-year, $27.5 million contract extension on Thursday, the day of their scheduled arbitration hearing. It carries an average annual value of $5.5 million.
One could easily understand why the Blues would want to avoid that hearing, as trying to dig up negatives on one of the best young defensemen in hockey – and, some feel, the best defenseman in St. Louis – would require a TMZ-level of mudslinging. There’s not much bad to say about him.
In two years, Parayko has 13 goals and 55 assists in 160 games. His time on ice jumped to 21:12 last season, and his numbers didn’t suffer: He had a 51.1 percent Corsi, playing most of his minutes as the better half of a pairing with Joel Edmundson.
According to the Post-Dispatch, the Blues submitted offers of $3.4 million and $3.6 million for each of two years. Parayko wanted one year at $4.85 million. So rather than risking that one-year bridge moving the bar up on a longer-term deal next summer, the Blues closed him at $5.5 million over five years.
One could argue that, after just two seasons, the Blues are already getting incredible value here, let alone three or four years into this deal. He was No. 14 in the NHL last season in individual Corsi per 60 minutes (12.98), ahead of Roman Josi (12.79), right there with Aaron Ekblad (13.19) and in sniffing distance of Erik Karlsson (13.48). (We imagine he smells of hair products and success.)
Parayko, who will be unrestricted when this contract is over, carries the same cap hit next season as Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Tyson Barrie, Justin Schultz, Nick Leddy and Jeff Petry. We’d argue he’s demonstrably better than all but the first name on that last. It’s inarguable that he’s younger than all of them.
At the five-year anniversary of the Shea Weber offer sheet from the Philadelphia Flyers, it’s interesting to see a young defenseman opt not to work the system. There would have been a market for him as an RFA, no doubt. Hell, the Toronto Maple Leafs probably had a van parked outside his house since May.
But he wasn’t eligible for an offer sheet because he filed for arbitration, and the Blues accepted it. That was one level of commitment from Parayko. Agreeing on a deal that gives the Blues stability and flexibility like this one is another. GM Doug Armstrong has to be thrilled with this. So should St. Louis fans.
On July 19, 2012, Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators was a restricted free agent. The Philadelphia Flyers were trying to work a trade angle for him, but not getting any traction, despite having the threat of an offer sheet hanging over the Predators.
There was also the clock ticking down to the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, and how that might affect the term and dollars on Weber’s big contract — a contract that the Flyers couldn’t negotiate with him on before acquiring his rights.
The contract was for 14 years with a value of $110 million. At the time, and at age 26, it made Shea Weber the second-highest paid player in the NHL behind Alex Ovechkin, who by 2012 had won the Hart Trophy twice. Weber still hasn’t won a Norris.
The Predators had the decision to match the contract or accept four first-round picks from the Flyers, losing Weber in the process.
Nashville was coming off a 102-point season and a second-round playoff exit, but their holy trinity of star players was fracturing. Defenseman Ryan Suter signed a 13-year contract with the Minnesota Wild as an unrestricted free agent, leaving behind his defensive partner Weber and goalie Pekka Rinne.
GM David Poile was mega-pissed. Suter told the team he was re-signing back in November 2011. Nashville made a competitive offer to retain him. Suter said it wasn’t about the money, but rather about family, as his wife was a Minnesota native. “The disappointing part is that’s not what we talked about all year long. I think we met Ryan’s desires on every front so today is very, very disappointing,” said Poile.
But since that ship sailed, Poile shifted his target to re-upped Weber, his restricted free-agent captain restricted. “He’s the player we want to build our team around. We want him to be in Nashville for years to come,” said Poile.
One problem: Keeping Suter would have made retaining Weber much easier.
Weber expected the Predators would match any offer sheet he signed. But he also didn’t feel comfortable committing to the team long-term without Suter there. (That was according to Bob McKenzie at the time.)
So Weber’s camp sent out feelers, looking for teams that had the desire to trade for him and the ability to offer sheet him, for leverage. The field included teams like the New York Rangers, who were hot for Weber, and the Vancouver Canucks, whose general manager Mike Gillis said that he wasn’t confident that Weber’s contract wouldn’t be matched.
“Well.” He paused, took a breath. “I guess that’s one school of thought. To me I’d rather be trying to accomplish things rather than, ‘Okay, throw something up in the air and hope that it sticks.’ “We threw around trade possibilities. We threw around every possible scenario. I spoke to him [Weber] about every possible scenario, and his agent. At the end of the day, I guess Philadelphia was prepared to take that chance.”
The contract paid him $1 million in base salary with a $13 million signing bonus over the first four years; $4 million in salary with an $8 million bonus in years five and six; $6 million in years 7-10; $3 million in year 11; and $1 million in each of the final three years.
(RIP, deep back-sliding contracts.)
If the Predators matched, they would have been on the hook for $27 million for Weber, with $26 million of it guaranteed through a lockout.
“To put that in perspective, 16.5 percent of Nashville’s entire franchise net worth ($163M as valuated by Forbes Magazine in 2011) would be paid out in less than a calendar year by the small-market team.”
The notion that the Predators would match this was, at the time, a long-shot. Nashville fans were left hoping that the threat that they might, or the Flyers’ cap considerations going forward, would net the Predators something more palpable than the four first-round picks. But the Flyers basically had all the leverage on a potential trade.
So the Predators were basically screwed, and the hockey world was Photoshopping Weber into Flyers jerseys.
And then David Poile matched the damn offer sheet.
As the organization analyzed the overall situation and worked toward a conclusion, the decision boiled down to three questions:
– Was Shea Weber the individual that this franchise wanted to lead our team, a team that would compete for the Stanley Cup every year, for the next 14 years?
– Would matching the offer sheet be in the best long-term interest of the team and organization?
– Would a decision not to match the offer sheet send a negative message to current Predators players and other NHL organizations, a message that the Predators would only go so far to protect its best players and be pushed around by teams with “deep pockets?”
The answer to each of the above questions is clearly “yes.” The organization spent the last several days analyzing all aspects of the offer sheet, from economic implications to the impact on the team hockey operations puts on the ice.
So after five years, what can we glean from this historic moment?
The Shea Weber offer sheet will go down as one of the great “WHAT IF?!” moments in NHL history, along with course-changers like the Eric Lindros trade. (The Flyers, apparently, being the League’s biggest fans of “Choose Your Own Adventure.”)
Let’s start off with the obvious: The Predators felt, at the time, that losing Weber would have been a debilitating blow to the franchise.
Is this the most important deal in franchise history? On the surface it would seem so. The Predators have finally taken out the checkbook and signed its best player to a long-term deal that will keep him in Nashville for seemingly the rest of his caerer. Rejoice, Preds fans. The captain isn’t going anywhere.
Let’s continue with the further obvious: There is no P.K. Subban in Nashville if there isn’t a Shea Weber going back to Montreal in that deal. Then again, the Flyers were sniffing around Subban as well over the years – could they have made the Weber-for-Subban trade instead?
As for the aftermath of the deals, there’s obviously no way to tell where the Flyers might have finished with Weber. But for giggles, they selected No. 11, No. 17, No. 7 and No. 18 overall in the next four drafts.
Less than a month later, Holmgren was “promoted” to team president and Ron Hextall was hired to sort this all out.
Since 2012, the Flyers have had more coaches (three) than playoff appearances (two). Since 2012, the Predators missed the playoffs in two straight seasons and then made them in three straight, losing in the Stanley Cup Final last season with former Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, fired the season after the Weber offer sheet was matched. Another domino that fell.
As for Weber, he might have seemed like a cold, calculated scoundrel at the time. Here was the team captain, chasing the money and trying to work a deal that got him out of playing in the only city he’d ever played in.
It didn’t help matters that his agent Jarrett Bousquet said Weber didn’t want to go through a “rebuilding” process in Nashville and “he’d like to play with the Philadelphia Flyers.”
Weber did damage control after the offer sheet match:
“I love the city of Nashville,” Weber said. “I love my teammates. I love the fans. It’s a very positive thing that the ownership has stepped up and they’re going to be a team that’s going to spend to the cap and brings guys in.
“The team stepped up and showed that they’re going to bend with the best of teams, and now we can focus on the season, and hopefully get some more pieces of the puzzle and build a contending team for a long time.”
It appears they will be, but not with Shea Weber. Because for all of the incredible maneuvering, massaging and masterminding of that offer sheet contract, the single most important aspect of it, in hindsight?
We were comparing eras with completely different standards of play, number of teams and quality of athletes (through advancements in coaching and training). In some cases, we were comparing the careers of current players yet to reach 30 years old, with players whose stories had already been told.
Again, any list where Dmitri Yushkevich is ranked above Slava Fetisov, and that list isn’t “alphabetical by first name,” is just hard to fathom. But here we are.
Nikolai Khabibulin over Sergei Bobrovsky seems like a temporary problem. Artemi Panarin at No. 38? Yeah, might want to wait for one season without Patrick Kane on his line before putting him over someone like Tverdovsky.
But obviously the big headline here is Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins being named the best Russian player of all-time, ahead of Sergei Fedorov and Alex Ovechkin, with Pavel Bure and Pavel Datsyuk right behind them.
Using the rigid criteria that established the list, we can see how it led to Malkin. His three Stanley Cups match those of Fedorov. They both have one Hart Trophy. But Malkin has a Conn Smythe, which apparently is weighed heavier than the two Selke trophies Fedorov has that Malkin, frankly, could never hope to win. (Malkin’s highest finish for the Selke: 46th place.)
But again: How on earth can one determine that Malkin deserves the top spot over Fedorov when “stability and durability” can be assessed for a retired player but not for a guy who just hit 30?
When Fedorov hit 36 years old, his stats plummeted. Who knows what happens to Malkin in six years? One player seemingly gets the benefit of the doubt while the other is penalized for having played a complete career. That’s tough.
But let’s take them both on the merits of their “prime” careers. Since that’s hard to determine for Malkin, we’ll just go with his first 10 seasons:
706 games, 328 goals, 504 assists, 1.18 points per game average.
Fedorov, in his first 10 seasons:
672 games, 301 goals, 433 assists, 1.09 points per game average.
Keep in mind that Fedorov played half of those seasons during the trap years, while Malkin’s entire career was post-NHL 2.0 rules changes in 2006.
Then you have Ovechkin.
If this ranking was made in 2015, before the Penguins rolled to consecutive Stanley Cups and Ovechkin’s goal production dropped last season, is there any chance he’s not at the top of this ranking? Six goals titles, three player of the year awards and three Hart trophies. But because the ranking weighs Stanley Cup wins rather heavily, and the Washington Capitals turn into quivering invertebrates every postseason, apparently Ovechkin gets knocked down a few pegs.
Where we to rank the Russians, based entirely on NHL output? I will respectfully disagree with our book’s ranking and go Ovechkin, Fedorov and Malkin – with the caveat that the definitive ranking of these three icons can’t happen until we see how the current stars finish their NHL runs.
There are always challenges in creating the official Stanley Cup Playoffs commemorative video.
There are the time constraints, as the NHL likes to turn around these things as fast as possible to capitalize on the momentum from the championship round. That means assembling the footage from several sources – the teams, the League and the NHL’s documentary series on Showtime – as well as shooting fresh interviews with players after the Cup Final.
“We jam on this thing,” said Steve Mayer, NHL Executive Vice President and Chief Content. “Within one week, we put the whole thing together. Five edit rooms going, around the clock.”
The finished product hits on July 25, as Cinedigm and NHL Original Productions release “Stanley Cup Champions 2017: Pittsburgh Penguins” on Blu-Ray Combo Pack, DVD and Digital HD.
Another challenge to making the video: Telling a new story after back-to-back championships. From the looks of things, there appears to be an emphasis on the last ride for the core group of Penguins that were there for all three Cup wins.
Mayer and his team did extensive work on material for the NHL centennial celebration, and found a new appreciation for the annual Stanley Cup videos the League produces, culling highlights and storylines from them.
“We know the main audience is Pittsburgh Penguins fans. But it’s the chronicle for everyone, for all time. That’s how we approach it,” he said. “This is the living chronicle of this year’s Pittsburgh Penguins run to the Stanley Cup, so it better be detailed and produced that way.”
(In which Ryan Lambert takes a look at some of the biggest issues and stories in the NHL, and counts them down.)
6 – Not following the NBA’s lead
If the NBA isn’t the single most popular sports league in the world — and it almost certainly is once you take out the various major European soccer leagues — it’s pretty damn close. One thing you can definitely say about the NBA is that it is exceedingly well-run and profitable.
So it probably tells you something that this is going to be the way the NBA does things, jersey-wise, in the near future:
Nike and the NBA are doing away with home and road jerseys. Each team will have four uni options and home team picks, road team contrasts it
I’ve said all along that this is absolutely how the NHL should function. White jerseys can be fine or even good (see: Chicago’s, Montreal’s, Minnesota’s, etc.), but often they’re not, and if it means we’re seeing the Red Wings play the Predators wearing red versus gold, I think that would be good.
Especially because the reason — at least anecdotally — the league switched to color jerseys at home in the first place is that they sell better.
Now obviously the idea that a team would have four jerseys in the NHL is a bit much, but three will probably do the job pretty effectively. And yeah, I think we’re like universally supposed to think third jerseys are dumb, but sometimes? They aren’t dumb.
This is definitely one of those things they should put me in charge of. I would get it right. History has proven this.
5 – Shortchanging Tomas Tatar
I touched on this the other day, but the idea that the Wings are crying poor about paying Tomas Tatar, who led a rotten team in goals last season (albeit shooting 15 percent) while giving Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm a combined $8.1 million AAV is absolutely stupid.
Like they’re drawing the “you can’t make more than this” line at Justin Abdelkader?
Remember when it was Nick Lidstrom?
That was fine, it made sense. Can’t make more than the second-best defenseman of all time. Fair enough, says I. But if you can’t make more than the seventh-best winger on his own team that’s the stupidest thing I ever heard in my entire life.
Abdelkader made $4.25 million against the cap last season to score seven goals in 64 games. Also he was bad even discounting the scoring he didn’t do, which is a hell of a thing to discount when you’re paying someone $4.25 million. Abdelkader has played almost 550 NHL games and he’s not particularly close to 100 goals. Tatar’s one goal away from the century mark in 200 fewer games. You tell me who’s more valuable.
Hint: It’s not the guy who is 30 years old and also bad!
So yeah, I mean, it’s arbitration stuff and teams are always going to try to low-ball the player. That’s how it goes. But the fact that Tatar is only asking for $5.3 million — i.e. about what Frans Nielsen makes, which seems perfectly reasonable if you’re going to suck anyway — tells you this is Ken Holland drawing some dumb line in the same that doesn’t, frankly, make any sense.
Detroit’s cap situation is bonkers. Nielsen, who’s 33, makes $5.25 million. Abdelkader makes $1 million less than that. Helm is at $3.85 million. Danny DeKeyser makes $5 million! Jonaathan Ericsson makes as much as Abdelkader. How do you explain any of this rationally? Good lord.
Just pay Tatar what he wants. It doesn’t matter. You’re missing the playoffs by a mile regardless, and even if he doesn’t score 25 goals again (he won’t) he’s going to be one of the better players on the roster. And frankly, why risk pissing him off to save a million bucks in a lost season?
It’s almost like Ken Holland is not good at this. Hmm.
4 – Shortchanging Colton Parayko
All the stuff I just said about Tomas Tatar, who I think is pretty good but not, like, great or anything, goes double for Colton Parayko. This kid is pretty close to being an elite defender if he’s not already (and I think I would lean pretty heavily toward being in the latter camp; I think he’s probably already better than Alex Pietrangelo) and the Blues are also crying poor on this.
Elliotte Friedman says they’re about $1.35 million apart on their asks — Parayko also wants $4.85 million for one year, rather than a $3.5 million AAV for two — and it’s like, “Hey man, you can’t make less than three-quarters-of-a-million less than Jay Bouwmeesster here!”
Again, I get it, you’re trying to keep the cost down for the next RFA contract and all that. Sure, makes sense. But man, no one made them give Patrik Berglund $3.85 million or Bouwmeester $5.4 million, right?
Turning out your pockets over a borderline-elite young player, or even a pretty good one, because you’re overpaying mediocre veterans seems like a “you” problem, rather than a “them” problem.
I wonder why NHL teams keep thinking they can get away with this kind of thing.
3 – Oh I figured it out
The reason NHL teams feel more than free to try to screw RFAs come arbitration time every single year is because they know that some team with a need for a good young player on a slightly-above-middling contract, and also plenty of cap room and cash to spend — like say, I don’t know, Boston — would never ever ever ever try to offer-sheet a Parayko type, no matter how much they needed him.
Let’s just stick with the thought experiment here: The Bruins are rebuilding on the fly (haha, that’s what they think) and what are their needs here? Young defensemen and good wingers. They have to re-sign David Pastrnak — who I would guess won’t go more than $6 million — and Ryan Spooner, but that’s about it. Leaves them about $5-6 million to fool around with against the cap this year.
You can get one of these two guys above for about that much, in theory. All it costs you a your next first-, second-, and third-round picks under the current compensation rules. Hell, you can go as high as $7.85 million and still lose that little. The Bruins, in theory, have had plenty of first-round picks in the past few years anyway, so why not take a flyer on a clear top-pairing 24-year-old?
Yeah, St. Louis could match, but why not give ‘er a whirl?
Ah yes, because offer sheets effectively don’t exist in the NHL and probably never will because of how dumb this league is. Right right right. Pretty cool for the teams, though. They get to jerk around their good young players for a while and who doesn’t love that?
2 – Vegas ticket revenues wink wink
I find it just about impossible to believe Vegas is already in the top sixth of the league or so in terms of ticket revenue. They say it’s because a bunch of STHs bought long-term ticket deals at an average price of $88 a head, which seems insanely high to me if you’re locking in long-term deals.
That’s especially true because the stated capacity for T-Mobile Arena is 17,368 (so says Wikipedia). That puts them sixth-smallest in the league, behind everyone but Winnipeg, Brooklyn, Nashville, Arizona, and Anaheim.
How on earth does this team make more in ticket revenue than the Penguins, who have nearly a thousand more seats? Or the Flyers, who pack an extra 2,000 in for sellouts? Doesn’t make sense. Don’t buy it.
1 – Brian Campbell
Bless up to a real modern player.
Campbell always felt pretty underrated to me, in part because everyone hated his last big contract for being too-big. But here’s a Brian Campbell stats dump for you:
A – Brian Campbell is one of only four defensemen to play at least 12,000 minutes at 5-on-5 since 2007.
B – Among the 35 defensemen to play at least 10,000 minutes at 5-on-5 in that time, he’s eighth in points.
C – Among those 35 defenders, he’s also fourth in CF%, at 53.9 percent, behind only future HHoFers Doughty, Keith, and Chara.
D – And then also look at the WOWYs with his five most common D partners over the past decade:
How many millions of dollars can you directly attribute these guys earning in their careers to the fact that Campbell made them look like superstars pretty much across the board? C’mon!
Yeah I’m a Big Hall guy, but I think at some point we might have to have a Hall of Fame conversation about this guy. Maybe that point is in the next few years.
Hope so. Happy trails.
(Not ranked this week: Not signing Jagr.
Someone sign Jagr already.)
Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.
(All statistics via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)
For the first time, we all started to really consider if this was the end of the line for the ageless one, despite 46 points and 17 minutes per game for the Florida Panthers last season.
We also all started fantasy casting ways for Jagr to continue his career in the NHL, but those options were flying off the table during free agency. The Kings addressed their old-ass right wing need with Mike Cammalleri. Carolina added Justin Williams and is stacked up on the wing. Despite Brendan Shanahan and Lou Lamoriello in Toronto, there’s probably not a fit there, either. And so on.
But that will not deter us from finding a home for Jagr in 2017-18.
We don’t offer any palpable inside information here. The man is a modern day Jedi, and Jedi are not often known for their candor. Well, except for Anakin, who couldn’t stop with the creepy proclamations of lust for Padme. And look how that ended up.
Here’s a look at some Jagr Watch possibilities, if he decides to grace this planet with his talents for another season.
The Coyotes used to be the go-to place for legendary players to ride off into the intense desert sunset (Hull, Roenick) but their recent treatment of aged veterans clearly signals a change in policy (see: Doan, Shane). That said, super stat nerd John Chayka clearly understands the possession impact Jagr makes, the team has a need on right wing and their cap space is larger than the GDP of some island nations.
See, this is an interesting one. It hits on a positional need for the Flames. It’s a team that has some cap space. It’s a team that has the type of young forwards for whom Jagr can be an inspiration.
If Jagr is expected to be a top line player, he’d almost certainly be alongside Gaudreau and Monahan – two 60+ point young forwards – and considering the way Glen Gulutzan deploys his forwards, Jagr would undoubtedly be put in a position to succeed. From there, all he’d have to do is keep up with a couple of players in their early 20s, which he’d already been doing during his time in Florida. Same stuff, different team, another year older. That’s what we’re looking at.
He could make a top 10 power play even better. And we’re all for the Adventures of Jaromir and Johnny, Hockey Rock Stars.
Detroit Red Wings
We’re not entirely sure why the Red Wings would do this, but then we’re not entirely sure what the Red Wings are doing overall. Jagr on a one-year Vanek contract? They haven’t had an immovable object on the power play like this since Johan Franzen. (Also, this would greatly increase the chances that Jagr picks up an octopus and fashions it into some kind of cephalopod mullet.)
The idea of Jagr, at this point in his career, skating with Connor McDavid is like the idea of Tony Bennett singing with a speed metal band. But if there’s one virtue Jagr has that fits here, it’s his mentorship. Having Jagr’s work ethic, and the way he uses his body, as a model for Leon Draisaitl and Jesse Puljujarvi would be great. And it’s not like they don’t have the cap space.
He owns his hometown team, having played there during the most recent lockout. If he wants to play, he can play. If he wants to help grow the game back home, he could do that too. And while Jagr might be a supporting cast member in the NHL, he’d be King Hockey back home.
Look, if you’re going to keep Tomas Plekanec around for another season, might as well bring in his Czech national team (and Kladno) linemate and do something with him, right? Plus, Jagr on the half wall of a power play that features Brendan Gallagher in front and Shea Weber on the blue line? Hey, this could work! (But please, everyone: NO ONE TELL JAROMIR ABOUT THE TAXES.)
So what is the reasoning behind signing a 45-year-old player to a team in a still-ongoing rebuild? Simply put, he makes them better right now and requires zero commitment long term. The Devils have a need at right wing, and he is hands-down the best one available at this point. And this summer, Ray Shero has made it clear that he doesn’t really want to offer term to any players if he can avoid it, making a guy like Jagr, who wouldn’t command anything past one year, ideal.
It’s hard to imagine him going to back to Jersey, especially now that Patrik Elias is no longer active. But hey, they have the roster and the money if staying in the NHL is paramount to him.
I mean, it’s already an (e4) for Jagr to the Senators:
It doesn’t matter if he’s an empty husk of a shell of himself and needs to be dragged up and down the ice by his mullet by younger, better players: Jagr on the Penguins would be the “Selanne returns to Winnipeg” moment we never got, times a billion.
Professional Tryout Contract
Life in the NHL, under the salary cap, means that plenty of star players have to go this route near the end, from Scott Gomez to Christian Ehrhoff. We all want to believe that Jagr is an actor who just gets parts but never has to audition for them, but maybe he needs to if he wants a callback. Here’s to the fools who dream. Crazy as they may seem.
San Jose Sharks
Thornton and Jagr would be the best line pairing ever put together in NHL 07.
As much as Jagr and the Sedins would be the greatest nostalgic act to hit arenas since the G’n R reunion, sadly there are only 20 minutes in a period and a good portion of that might be spent watching them skate out of their own zone. Also, with the Sedins there, Vancouver doesn’t even need Jagr as a veteran mentor.
Vegas Golden Knights
YEAHHHHHHH, we’ll bet the “Don’t Pass” line on this one.
Finally … Gulp … Retirement
Jagr deserves better than some ignominious farewell in an NHL offseason, treated with the dignity of an old car that ends up on someone’s lawn with “OR BEST OFFER” written on the window. He’s a hockey deity. The mind boggles over the notion that he won’t go out on his terms, or that he can’t help someone next season.
But if this is the end, and perhaps it might be, we’ll go back to a previous point: Sign a one-day deal and retire as a Penguin. That’s the only way we could cope with the retirement of Jaromir Jagr without a farewell tour.
They were the hottest tickets in Nashville Predators history: The 2017 Stanley Cup Final, against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the first time the franchise had ever played for the NHL’s Holy Grail.
For a seat inside Bridgestone Arena, the prices on the secondary market were extraordinary: Game 3, for example, had a cheapest-priced ticket of around $1,100. It was actually cheaper for a Predators fan to fly to Pittsburgh, book a hotel and scalp a ticket for Game 2.
So Predators fans did whatever they could to gain entrance to these historic games, from calling in favors to participating in a random contests to win free Stanley Cup Final tickets.
Andrew Fudge of Clarksville, Tenn., was one of the lucky ones. He won tickets to Game 6 through a social contest sponsored by the team.
One small problem: He didn’t realize he won the contest until five weeks after the Stanley Cup Final ended.
The Predators’ note of congratulations and instructions on how to pick up his tickets lingered in his Twitter direct message inbox until Fudge discovered it on Monday morning.
“I died inside,” he said.
Fudge has been a Predators fan since the expansion team was born, and became a die hard one over the last 10 years. But he only way he was going to brave the “ridiculous crowds” that had assembled around Bridgestone Arena for playoff games was if he could actually attend the games, which wasn’t really economically feasible.
“There was no chance in hell I was going to be able to pay to go to a game,” he said.
So Fudge decided to enter a contest presented by the Predators, tweeting a photo of himself from a Twice Daily gas station. He tried it for Game 4, and then again for Game 6 “as a Hail Mary,” he said.
(This helped break the fan voodoo Fudge had established throughout the Predators’ playoff run, in which he said they were 12-0 when he didn’t wear any Nashville swag.)
Fudge admittedly isn’t the most active user on Twitter, with 1,723 tweets since Feb. 2009. So he entered the Predators contest, and never logged back on to see that the Predators had slid into his DMs with Stanley Cup Final tickets. He watched Game 6 inside his house.
He said he wasn’t sure why he decided to hop on Twitter on the morning of July 17, but he did. And then he checked his messages.
“I thought it was some spam junk saying I won something,” he said, “and then I realized what it was.”
How did it feel to see he had won Stanley Cup Final tickets to a game that was completed five weeks ago?
“It’s gut wrenching,” he said.
(The ironic twist, of course, is that Fudge missed the Predators being eliminated and the Penguins hoisting the Stanley Cup on Nashville ice. If Fudge had decided to splurge on Stanley Cup Final tickets, he said he would have considered it for a Cup-clinching scenario for the Predators. Instead, he missed out on free tickets to see them lose the Cup on home ice.)
His screenshot of the Predators’ DM went viral, the unfortunate reality of an epic personal fail in the social media age. But Fudge is hoping that, perhaps, some good comes from it – maybe even some tickets from the Predators.
“I’m hoping maybe there could be something. I have a wife that’s pissed at me and a 2-year-old son and a 7-month-old daughter who will hold it over my head forever when they realize what happened,” he said. “But if not, I accept my misfortune and the fact that I dropped the ball … big time.”
Hopefully if the Predators make another Stanley Cup run, Fudge will try his luck again – and turn on his DM notifications.
Taylor Crosby must be asked about big brother a lot, given that Sidney is a three-time Stanley Cup champion with the Pittsburgh Penguins and, in the eyes of many, still the greatest hockey player on the planet.
Living in the rink herself, the junior goaltender at St. Cloud State University is probably never safe from inquiring minds looking to gain confirmation or insight into the life of her guarded brother.
So, perhaps in an effort to control these inquiries, Taylor uses her athlete page to verify the kinship. Only she does it in a way that knocks her superstar brother down a peg – effortlessly, like only a sibling can.
I love our Captain… but I also love how his sister's college hockey team addresses him in her team bio: pic.twitter.com/ZjjZxvQ1dW
The NHL became a more interesting place the moment that Bill Foley’s bid was accepted for the Vegas Golden Knights expansion team.
Talking to the guy a bit during the NHL Awards, there’s an air of confidence around him, the kind of effortless vibe you get from a CEO or, like, an airline pilot. But there’s also a welcome, winking hucksterism to him, which is what you’d expect from a hockey owner in a city where every buffet is “the longest in Vegas!”
All that said, Foley spoke to Forbes recently about the Golden Knights’ successes even before they’ve played a game, including that they’ve “sold 13,500 of the 17,000 seats” for games as well as all the suites available.
And then he dropped this:
“We are number five, six or seven in terms of ticket revenue in the league. That’s how good Las Vegas has been to us,” says Foley as we sit on a veranda at his Chalk Hill winery in Napa Valley. “Edmonton has more revenue in their brand-new arena. The Rangers, Toronto, Chicago Black Hawks, they’re all ahead of us. Montreal is right with us. We have more revenue than the Flyers, Penguins, the Boston Bruins. Most of our tickets are multi-year. The lower bowl is three to ten years.”
Look, this seems … all we’re saying is that in terms of ticket revenue, the Penguins just completed a second straight run of 41 home dates and four rounds of the playoffs. In 2016, that meant $85 million in gate receipts, according to Forbes. The publication also had the Boston Bruins at $69 million at the gate, which was $7 million away from the Montreal Canadiens’ number, with whom Foley says the Golden Knights are about even.
Is it possible the Knights are on track for $76 million in ticket revenue next season? Are they, in Year 1, going to make more at the gate than some of the NHL’s most established teams?
It probably comes down to how Foley and his team choose to calculate such matters. But, like we said: There’s never a dull moment with him.
Brian Campbell announced his retirement on Monday, as the former Chicago Blackhawks defenseman will now take a position with the franchise’s business operations department.
It’s a wholly appropriate transition for the veteran defenseman, who played 1,082 games with four teams from 1999-2017: Not only has Campbell been great in the community during his playing days, but his legacy is as much defined by the business of hockey as it was his incredible puck movement, offensive prowess and that time Getty Images published an image of his scrotum. Because who could ever forget that!
His tale is a perfect snapshot of life in the early days of the NHL salary cap era. How one move can affect others. The perils of a huge contract. And, eventually, how all that money in the bank comes full circle.
In 2008, Campbell was a 27-year-old blueliner with the Buffalo Sabres who had established himself as a premiere offensive defenseman who was no slouch in his own zone. (He’d finish fifth for the Norris that season.)
The problem for GM Darcy Regier was that he needed Campbell a pending unrestricted free agent, at a certain number. That’s because the Sabres blinked and matched the Edmonton Oilers’ seven-year, $50-million offer sheet on Thomas Vanek in the previous summer – a panic move made in the wake of being priced out of Danny Briere and Chris Drury, and one where Regier literally said, “[It] was to say to everyone in the National Hockey League, ‘If you want to shop this way, don’t come here.’”
(Of course, the best way to do this is to go after that team’s RFAs at a later date rather than swallow your own bad contract, but we digress…)
So he needed Campbell at $6 million against the cap, and was offering a three-year term. While Soupy wanted to stay in Buffalo, he wasn’t taking that kind of discount. So they traded him to the San Jose Sharks for forward Steve Bernier and a pick that ended up being Tyler Ennis. Bernier would play 17 games in Buffalo.
Campbell made an emphatic free-agent case with the Sharks: 19 points in 20 games, and then seven in 13 playoff games.
He hit the market as, arguably, its greatest prize, and the derby was soon down to four teams: The Sharks, the New York Rangers, the Atlanta Thrashers and the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks wanted him something wicked. They needed another puck-moving defenseman, and they wanted to make a huge summer splash with Campbell and Marian Hossa both added to a burgeoning contender. (Hossa would, of course, come later.)
Campbell was reportedly seeking a seven-year deal worth around $52 million. The Thrashers reportedly blew the market up with an offer of nine years and $62 million for him.
Which was nuts, of course, but desperate times call for insane signings. And Campbell was close to accepting that offer before Blackhawks president John McDonough instructed his front office to up their ante to eight years and $56.8 million for Campbell – $7,142,875 against the cap, with no late-contract back-sliding on salary. It ate up 12.6 percent of the team’s cap, and this was during the rookie contracts for Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
So the Hawks won the Campbell derby and then, two years later, won the Stanley Cup. He played 68 games in 2009-10 due to injury, but was a beast that season: 59.2 percent Corsi rating, 0.56 points per game average and a playoffs-leading plus-11.
But by 2011, the Campbell contract was seen as a boondoggle. He was 32. His production dropped from year-to-year. And it was hard to look at his percentage of the cap while also looking at the stream of Cup-winning talent that had to leave because the Blackhawks were capped out.
Chicago decided to explore options to move him, which was difficult on two fronts: His no-trade protection and the fact that he was making $7.1 million against the cap through 2016. For the second time in his career, it appeared Campbell might have to leave a place he enjoyed playing because of the salary cap: Only instead of the Vanek Panic in Buffalo, it was a team that was suddenly a victim of its own success (and managerial overcompensation of some players).
Enter Dale Tallon. Or, rather, reenter Dale Tallon. The Blackhawks general manager who signed Campbell had been unceremoniously fired in 2009. He bounced to the Florida Panthers as their new GM. He had the need to salary cap space to be gobbled up, and he had the need for a defenseman like Campbell, who in turn had to waive his no-trade clause and agreed to do it for his former boss. So the Panthers traded the empty husk of Rostislav Olesz for Campbell.
It was a move that, arguably, allowed the Blackhawks the necessary flexibility to win their next Cup, perhaps even their third. And it was a move that allowed Campbell to quietly redefine this career, going from explosive offensive weapon to steady, speedy all-around defenseman.
By the time he became the partner for rookie star Aaron Ekblad, Campbell’s transition to elder statesman was complete: What once was one of the NHL’s most scrutinized players as a free-agent prize was now seen as practically underrated.
Funny how that happens when you go from the financial implosion of a Stanley Cup winner to the lower cap ceiling (and lower franchise stakes) of the Florida Panthers …
The contract ran its course, and everyone assumed that Campbell was headed back to Chicago. Five years after he had to go because of the salary cap, they had to bring him back because the salary cap provided so few other options.
Hockey, in the end for Brian Campbell, being a curious business.
(Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.)
Ondrej Palat re-signed with the Lightning on Friday, effectively ending the work Steve Yzerman plans to do this summer. Time to head to the cabin.
Palat is now locked into a five-year deal that will carry an AAV of $5.3 million, so when Yzerman gets back — and, perhaps, does a little last-minute roster work –he’s going to find that he’s set himself and his team up for a lot of success over the next two years at least.
The Lightning pretty much don’t need to add anyone. Their roster now is what their roster will look like in early October, and while they have a little bit of cap space left, there’s just not much to use it on. Maybe add one more veteran forward on a cheap deal if they really need to, or a good match comes along, but otherwise they’re all all good.
Now sure, the Lightning missed the playoffs last season, albeit by a single point, and really haven’t added anybody apart from Chris Kunitz on a one-year bargain deal and Dan Girardi on a two-year questionable one. But that’s due in part to guys like Steven Stamkos missing 65 games, Tyler Johnson missing 16, and a few guys just having down years. Plus Ben Bishop was sub-average in his 32 games before they traded him.
So the odds that this team bounces back and makes the playoffs — probably in a walk — seem pretty good. It’s probably not a big reveal to say “The Lightning are good” but what really stands out when you look at this roster is that there are maybe five contracts out of 23 where you say, “Ah that’s too much money.” And most of those are offset anyway, by five or six for which there’s a very clear, high-level value if things go as planned.
Obviously the big, terrible contract for which Yzerman is responsible here is the Ryan Callahan deal (and to a lesser extent the aforementioned Girardi misstep, which he just made). Callahan’s is another one where, the day it was signed, any smart observer thought “They’re probably going to regret this immediately,” even putting aside the fact that a $5.8 million player with Callahan’s game aging into his mid-30s was going to be a guaranteed diminishing return.
Same goes for Braydon Coburn making $3.7 million(!) to be a bottom-pairing defenseman, but he’s at least a serviceable bottom-pairing defenseman for that money, I guess.
Plus Alex Killorn makes a little too much ($4.45 million through 2023) for what he brings to the table — not quite 20 goals, not quite 40 points, etc. — but it’s not the most offensive contract in the league.
In retrospect that $8.5 million for Stamkos is probably too much since he can’t stay healthy. Maybe they’d have been better off letting Toronto spend more than that instead, but it was certainly a Carey Price-type situation where Yzerman didn’t really have a choice. And besides, Stamkos took what was certainly considered less than market value at the time, so fair play all around, it just doesn’t seem to be working out right now for reasons beyond anyone’s control (even if some warning signs were there; he’s only played 213 games out of a possible 368 the past four seasons, and the whole “blood clots” thing is very scary).
On the other hand, if Stamkos plays something like 75 games next season and comes in around the 0.9 points per game he’s averaged in the last four seasons, that worrisome contract is immediately a lot less worrisome.
So that’s almost $26 million in potentially misallocated cap money (plus the $1.833 million they’re paying for the Matt Carle buyout over each of the next three years) but you have to look at how much it’s offset by reasonable or even bargain-basement deals for high-level players who litter that roster.
Yes, they’re paying a little less than $27 million for those five guys, but they’re also paying less than $31 million for the following six players for the next two seasons: Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman, and Andrei Vasilevskiy. That’s incredible, truly.
Hedman’s is by far the biggest ticket, but if you’re paying less than $8 million for a Norris-caliber defenseman, you’re fine. Anton Stralman is likewise a clear No. 1 defender, and he’s only booked for $4.5 million this coming season and the one after it, at which point he’ll be 32. That gives you a lot of foundational support for the rest of your blue line. Pair either one of those guys with just about anyone and they’re going to get results, then you only have to win a bottom-pair battle. Not a big deal at all.
The Triplets, no longer conjoined, making a shave over $15 million combined. And while Johnson’s production and health — and certainly the term on the deal — should be a little worrisome at $5 million AAV, he doesn’t have to turn into an MVP candidate again to make that deal “worth it.” If he ends up somewhere around 60 points that’s a perfectly reasonable cap hit for a second-line forward. And certainly he has it in him to do more than that if things go well.
Kucherov and Palat’s deals speak for themselves as incredible bargains: The former makes less than $5 million to be a borderline MVP candidate in any recent season in which Connor McDavid doesn’t exist, and the latter basically guarantees you first-line winger production at a second-line price ($5.3 million).
Vasilevskiy making just $3.5 million for each of the next three seasons, given his ceiling, could be a huge bargain as well.
Yzerman of course deserves a lot of credit for this, because he has mercilessly used every bit of leverage he has to cajole his various RFAs into taking what have mostly been short-money, middling-term deals.
Obviously the bill comes due at some point. Stralman and Kucherov are the two biggest bargains in this group and both have contracts that expire two summers from now. Maybe by then you figure out a way to fire Callahan into the sun (or LTIR him permanently), and maybe by then Mikhail Sergachev emerges as a reasonable and similarly affordable replacement for Stralman, who will by that point be 32. At that point the cap concerns perhaps sort themselves, since Coburn and Girardi come off the books at that point.
But while the check will drop at some point, that’s also two seasons from now, and just about every plus-plus performer on this team is 27 or younger, with the exception of Stralman. They’re in great shape for a couple deep playoff runs before things get tough again.
If they get tough. Which they might not. That’s pretty amazing.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: Honestly if they keep Patrick Eaves with Ryan Getzlaf all next year I bet he’s gonna score like 35 without a problem.
Detroit Red Wings: One thing that is smart to do is quibble with a really good 26-year-old forward over a year of term and $1 million AAV when you’re basically paying Justin Abdelkader like a franchise player. Wise.
Mike Babcock’s $6.25 million annual salary infamously reset the bar for NHL head coaches. “A new arms race among head coaches has commenced. The starting gun has gone off,” agent Allan Walsh told the Canadian Press in 2015, after the deal was announced.
That deal begot Joel Quenneville making $6 million annually and then Claude Julien getting $5 million to rescue the Montreal Canadiens and so forth.
What’s fascinating about this escalation is that there’s no stuffing the genie back in the bottle. (Although we look forward to the rap song about attempting it in Guy Richie’s “Aladdin.”) The next lockout could roll back escalating salaries, or put further controls in place to protect general managers from themselves. That’s not going to affect coaching salaries.
Which means teams with far shallower pockets than the Maple Leafs are going to have to ante up for their coaches.
Which brings us to the Columbus Blue Jackets and the guy who just won the Jack Adams Award last month.
Tortorella’s situation bears watching. He’s entering the final year of his contract, a five-year, $10 million deal signed with Vancouver in 2013. Since the Blue Jackets hired him in October 2015, they’ve paid only $750,000 of his $2 million annual salary, with the Canucks picking up the rest. In other words, the Blue Jackets have been paying less for their coach than just about any other team in the NHL. Even the $2 million figure puts him only in the middle of the pack, but that’s about to change.
… The Blue Jackets, who have never paid more than $1.5 million for a coach (Ken Hitchcock), might need to pay Tortorella $3.5 million or more per season to keep him. But these negotiations are no longer simple. It’s possible that Tortorella, who declined to discuss his contract, will go into the season without an extension in place.
First off: What a sweetheart deal for the Jackets on that Tortorella contract, huh?
What’s fascinating about Tortorella here with the Blue Jackets is a meeting of the personal and the professional.
Let’s face it: John Davidson, president of the Jackets, tossed a life preserver to Tortorella after what was, at the time, the biggest professional embarrassment of his career in Vancouver. (Later trumped by Team USA flopped in a World Cup tournament constructed so they’d meet Canada in the final on ESPN.)
Tortorella seems like an unfailingly loyal guy, and the Blue Jackets took a chance on him. So there’s that.
But at the same time, he’s a Jack Adams winner already “making” $2 million per season. All coaches are being lifted by this tide, and we seriously doubt Tortorella is going to take a steep discount at a time when his peers are all scurrying up the same compensation latter.
“I believe Phil Kessel will be traded. It might not happen this week or this month or even this offseason. But I believe it will happen sooner rather than later,” wrote Cook.
His evidence? The departure of assistant coach and mentor Rick Tocchet, since replaced by Mark Recchi; his contract paying him $6.8 million against the cap through his 35th birthday; as well as his chemistry with his linemates and his relationship with head coach Mike Sullivan.
“Rick Tocchet did do a good job with Phil. Not only Phil, but other players at different times during the season when they need that one-on-one communication. That’s something that Mark Recchi has done in the past, and he’ll be able to fill that role. He’s done some work with Phil in the past, in the first year Phil was here.
“Phil Kessel’s an important part of the Penguins. He gets a lot of points. He scores big goals. He sets up big goals. The more impact players that you have, like we have, the better chance you have at winning. It may not be on a regular basis. It may come at a certain time in a series, just like it did against Ottawa – Kessel came up with a big goal in an important game.
“I don’t want to sit here and say that a certain player’s not going be traded at some point in his career. It’s already happened to Phil. But that’s not something that I foresee happening right now.”
One of the underrated aspects of this sudden Phil Kessel saga is the support he’s received from Rutherford, who not only believed in him enough to make that controversial trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs but has consistently praised his abilities as a goal-scorer and what that brings to the Penguins.
As he said, there are no guarantees. But it sure sounds like Kessel will be a Penguin next season and have a run with Recchi as his new “Phil Whisperer.”