• Canadiens keeping their plans guarded, but could make big move
• Blues eye a top-four defenceman
• Is a Battle of Ontario brewing for Giroux?
Final written 32 Thoughts blog of the season. Thank you as always to the editors. This is not an easy piece to handle, and I’ve already driven at least one of them into retirement.
Thank you to the readers. There’s no point in doing it if none of you exist. Your interest is incredibly appreciated.
There’s a ton of stuff flying around out there, and I don’t want any fan base to feel left out. The easiest way is to do something quick on every team, and we’re going to do it by draft order.
First, however, a few items of general news:
According to Russian news reports, goalie Ivan Fedotov, who signed with Philadelphia in May, was detained in that country on Friday for evading military service. One report said he was transported to a military enlistment office.
“We’re aware of the reports and are investigating the situation,” Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher said in a statement. “We have no further comment at this time.”
The tweet above indicates the craziness and helplessness. There’s a lot we don’t know, and a lot we are trying to understand — and everything changes so quickly. Accounts tweeting from Russia say they can’t even verify the information — although it’s hugely important to make everyone aware.
Obviously, there’s a ton of concern. No one can prevent Russian players from going home to visit their families, but teams were incredibly nervous about the idea well before this story broke. Several organizations (and agents) indicated Friday they are trying to find out if their Russian players/clients owe any kind of service, hoping to avoid a similar scenario.
If Fedotov does owe military time, a possible compromise is he plays one more season for CSKA Moscow — the Red Army team where he spent 2021-22. But no one really knows, it’s just guessing.
This is not the same situation as that of basketball star Brittney Griner, but her case shows how little control North American teams and institutions have in these occurrences. Griner, who was playing in Russia, has been in custody since February, when vape cartridges with traces of hash oil were found in her luggage at Moscow’s airport. Her trial began on Friday.
On one hand, people are warned not to make a big deal about it, because it will only anger Russia. On the other, Griner’s wife, Cherelle, told CNN she’s met with families of people who have been/remain detained there. “The first thing they said was, ‘Do not be quiet about this. Do not let them forget about your loved one,’” she told the network.
Where this could have an immediate effect is on the NHL Draft. There’s been plenty of internal debate among teams about selecting Russian prospects to begin with. If prospects are assured they can go to North America once they have fulfilled their obligations, that could help. But is anyone getting that assurance by Thursday?
Websites like CapFriendly and PuckPedia do a lot of this legwork, but teams were officially informed of all overages this week. The cap is $82.5 million, but for some clubs it will be less than that due to performance bonuses.
Here are those 14 teams, and how much they are affected:
Vancouver: $1.25 million
St. Louis: $1.1 million
Florida and Los Angeles: $637,500
Hope is it would be released next week. Curious to see how many back-to-backs between two teams in the same city there are (or are not). That came up during scheduling conversations.
Several major sponsors announced last week they were pausing sponsorship or pulling support as the fallout continues from a settled sexual assault lawsuit against Hockey Canada and members of the 2018 world junior team. That’s significant, as is the fact the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage is scheduled to hold further hearings on July 27 and 28.
The NHL is serious about its desire to interview every player on the roster. It’s believed those players were advised to hire independent counsel in preparation for the league’s investigation. Things may not be moving as quickly as people would like, but, at some point, there will be more clarity than we have now. These incidents must stop.
Sportsnet’s team for this story includes Paul Grant, Iain MacIntyre and Emily Sadler. They were in Ottawa for last month’s hearings.
Back when I started in this business, former Toronto Raptors general manager Isiah Thomas gave an excellent piece of advice: “Around the draft, everyone lies.” So, keeping that in mind, here’s what’s out there.
1. Montreal: The Canadiens are doing an excellent job shielding their thoughts on who will go first overall. I’ve heard Shane Wright. I’ve heard Juraj Slafkovsky. Someone even said, “Few know Logan Cooley better than Montreal management.” It’s their job to keep everyone guessing, and so far, the Canadiens are doing just that. With one exception: there is an overriding feeling, as initially reported by The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch, they are trying to get a second high pick. Probably a pipe dream, but could you imagine a Bell Centre with the Canadiens picking one and two?
Other than that, while waiting for clarity on Carey Price’s future, the Canadiens will continue to test the market on some of their veterans: Christian Dvorak, Jeff Petry and possibly Josh Anderson. There are teams who believe they don’t want to move Jake Allen. The Canadiens wish to be more competitive, so they’re not going to strip it bare. I’d be very curious to see what it would take to get Anderson. Prior to the deadline, there were some conversations between the Senators and Canadiens on Colin White. We’ll see how things unfold, but it’s not impossible to see White beginning anew in Montreal. GM Kent Hughes was his agent.
2. New Jersey: GM Tom Fitzgerald’s made it clear the No. 2 pick is available, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. You have to go back 21 years to find the last trade of a second overall selection, so there’s some real question about whether it will actually happen. Devils fans are drooling over the possibility of an Alex DeBrincat or a J.T. Miller, but you’ve got to know you can sign them, and those won’t be inexpensive extensions. (Plus, that kind of move hands incredible leverage to the agent).
If trading for an active player is not the outcome, there are teams that suspect the Devils like the defensive options at the top of the draft, and might actually consider moving back. So, there are plenty of possibilities here. When it comes to the roster, the biggest question is probably Jesper Bratt. There are some trade rumours, and the Kevin Fiala extension will have an effect. The last negotiation between player and team was an intense grind. The deal worked out very well for both sides, but that doesn’t mean this will be any easier. In 2021, Bratt didn’t sign until the start of the season (although it was a different world then) and the Devils are doing their due diligence in case they don’t want a repeat of that timing. Next season is huge for the Devils. They are also expected to be in the Ville Husso conversation. Their goalie coach, Dave Rogalski, knows Husso well. Finally, New Jersey is believed to be among the teams interested in former Florida coach Andrew Brunette as an assistant.
3. Arizona: first, it was great to see Clayton Keller skating at the team facility. That was one fearsome injury. The Coyotes have three first-rounders (Nos. 3, 27 and 32) and word is they are prepared to use “all available options” to get another high pick. (This isn’t specific to Arizona, but one of the biggest wild-cards in this draft is Finnish Brad Lambert, and a team with multiple picks is the best bet to take him. The Coyotes certainly qualify). When it comes to Jakob Chychrun, things fluctuate. It gets hot, it goes cold, it gets hot, it gets cold. But this is the time of year when things tend to get hot.
4. Seattle: The Kraken are expected to be very busy over the next few weeks. This was a disappointing season, and nobody wants a repeat. They took a long look at Fiala, but Seattle, still building its prospect base, wisely decided against matching what Los Angeles could do. The Kraken don’t have the capital to be trading a top prospect and the fourth overall selection. There are going to be a lot of rumours: Johnny Gaudreau, Nazem Kadri, John Klingberg, etc. They’re going to be aggressive. As for the draft, one team joked that director of amateur scouting Robert Kron saw Slovak defender Simon Nemec so much, he might as well have been Nemec’s blueline partner. We will see if he’s the target. Seattle and Detroit have both interviewed Alex Westlund for goalie coach positions.
5. Philadelphia: For months, we’ve been expecting the Flyers to step up to the free-agency plate and take Ruthian swings with Comcast’s chequebook. Then came Chuck Fletcher’s pre-draft availability, when he was asked about Ryan Ellis. “It’s still difficult, if not impossible, to predict where he’ll be in two or three months,” the GM said. “The last month has been encouraging, but there’s still more work to do.” So, here’s the question: what if this means the prudent path in Philadelphia is to target two to four pieces instead of one big one — especially if Ellis needs to be replaced? At the very least, it’s been discussed, but it’s hard to predict where this is going to go. Philadelphia’s history is to go big or bust. The Flyers are one of the teams that have legitimately pitched Chicago on DeBrincat — more than just tire-kicking — and they’ve tested the market on many of their players. I’ve always assumed they were a legit landing spot for Gaudreau. It may be a draft-week smokescreen, but are they considering a late-game audible?
6. Columbus: the Blue Jackets are also picking 12th and, at the very least, will be moving players off their roster to open more room for prospects who deserve NHL time. GM Jarmo Kekalainen indicated to The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline that a Patrik Laine extension isn’t close, but he’s not too worried about it. If there’s one place I could see Columbus taking something of a swing, it’s on the blueline. The Blue Jackets will consider upgrading there.
7 Ottawa: It’s not a secret this pick is available. The Senators are believed to be targeting upgrades on right wing and right defence. When news got out that Connor Brown wanted to test free agency next summer, they had not offered him anywhere. But they did receive calls after that occurred, so we’ll see if anything tempts them. GM Pierre Dorion told Jeff Marek at the combine they’d keep three goalies if necessary, but the amount of teams needing netminders ignited some thought the Senators can move Matt Murray — if they’re willing to be creative. Looming over all of this is Claude Giroux. Does this marriage actually happen?
8 Detroit: Now that coach Derek Lalonde’s in place, the focus turns to the roster. (Under-the-radar coaching interview: Calgary assistant Ryan Huska. Not sure if he had one or two there). The Red Wings are believed to be working on an extension with Dylan Larkin. One thing to know: the final season of Larkin’s current contract has a no-trade clause that kicks in July 13. It’s not like Steve Yzerman (Lamoriello Lite) to tell us anything, but it wouldn’t be a shocker if he’s told Larkin he needs an answer before that kicks in. Detroit has room to do almost anything it wants, but there’s not a lot of intel that escapes. I did wonder if the Red Wings would be Jack Campbell’s next home, but they don’t seem to be the favourite.
9. Buffalo: Word is the Sabres and Victor Olofsson are making progress on an extension. Craig Anderson is back, but the Sabres continue to examine the goalie market — knowing his workload can’t be too heavy. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is an option, but they’re looking at all external options. You name them, they’ve thought about it. Buffalo’s got a boatload of cap room, but appear inclined to save it for its young core’s eventual extensions. Or, if something really interesting comes along.
10. Anaheim: Do the Ducks bring back Josh Manson? Nothing the big defender did in the playoffs hurt his market value, but it was believed when he was traded to Colorado that Anaheim would try it. Obviously, there will be competition (to be honest, I’ve wondered if Los Angeles would consider it). They could offer the post-Ryan Getzlaf captaincy and a place where his family is very comfortable. The Arizona skirmish convinced Anaheim to surround its young skill with a protective skin, and Manson certainly qualifies. Otherwise, the big question is in goal. GM Pat Verbeek (Yzerman lite) will want something tempting for John Gibson, and it’s not expected he’ll move Anthony Stolarz until there’s clarity with the No. 1 guy.
11. San Jose: At least one of the Sharks’ GM candidates was in the city last week for their final interview. They’ve done a good job keeping this tight, but it’s believed Mike Grier, Scott Mellanby and Ray Whitney are the finalists. At times, San Jose indicated a name getting out was automatic disqualification, which makes it harder on nosy reporters. San Jose doesn’t have an ex-player near the top of its front office. That can be OK, you should have diversity of thought, but they really think it’s missing at that level. On Friday, acting GM Joe Will argued the extremely late coaching changes couldn’t have happened any sooner; making sure the new manager didn’t want to keep them. At that point, the organization should do the firings so it isn’t the new manager’s first move. (Something went sideways at the exit interviews, too). It sounds like they prefer to keep James Reimer, although that’s not a guarantee. There’s still the Brent Burns/Erik Karlsson question: does it make sense to keep both?
12. New York Islanders: When it comes to Lamoriello, I tend to start with: what could he do that surprises us? It doesn’t sound like a Semyon Varlamov move, they prefer to keep him. It could be Anthony Beauvillier, and there are fans who want to see Josh Bailey hit 1,000 games in an Islanders uniform (he’s at 993). I could see them as a stealth team on Gaudreau, but it would mean surgery, especially if they want a long-term extension with Noah Dobson. If some major free agent remains unsigned until Week 1 of the NFL season, they’re going to the Islanders.
13. Winnipeg: Big week for the Bowness family. Ryan Bowness was negotiating to become Ottawa’s assistant GM while Rick Bowness landed as the Jets’ coach. I’d heard the possibility of Rick as an assistant, but didn’t realize he was going to be the true bench boss until Friday. Sounds like the week since Barry Trotz decided to hibernate was a scramble. Bowness is an interesting coach in the sense that Dallas played differently depending on the score. The Stars would chase when necessary, but turn games into a total sludgefest when tied or ahead. Now that he’s in place, we go to the roster. I think Mark Scheifele stays. Losing him and Pierre-Luc Dubois is not a tasty option. The Jets know they’ve got up to two years with Dubois, and GM Kevin Cheveldayoff was very patient in a similar situation with Jacob Trouba. But there are attempts to lure him elsewhere. There will be an effort — in concert with Blake Wheeler — to move the captain. Sounds like there’s interest in Brenden Dillon, too. This could go in a few different directions. Apropos of nothing, I was talking to someone about Peter MacTavish, who left as Ottawa assistant GM to go into the agent business with Quartexx. He mentioned to me that one of Winnipeg’s amateur scouts, Max Giese, is joining a different agency, CAA. So this is a trend.
14. Vancouver: Brock Boeser is exhibit A why deadlines matter. You hear all sorts of talk — they’re not close, they’re not close, they’re not close — and it’s true, but then a deadline comes and people get serious. Teammate Iain MacIntyre had a great interview with Boeser on Saturday night, and it’s impossible not to root for him. I don’t think he’s getting traded; everyone here believes he’ll be rejuvenated come September. There’s a path to a Bo Horvat extension. Hard to predict a timeline, but that’s the goal. Whether it’s the Rangers or Washington or someone else, the Canucks will aim higher than Minnesota’s return for Fiala and should get it for J.T. Miller. It’s going to be too hard to get an extension done. The Canucks could surprise us. The Tyler Myers rumours have been there forever — they’ve got a price they want paid to consider it — but a few teams have suggested they might do something we haven’t thought of yet.
15. Nashville: As said on the podcast Friday, teams that like Filip Forsberg believe there’s a path towards an extension with the Predators. That doesn’t mean it will happen, but they think it’s a legitimate possibility. (The guesstimate is eight years at around $8.5 million). If it’s in that area in a tax-friendly state such as Tennessee, think about what someone else is going to have to offer for seven years to come close. One potential hangup is this has been a tough negotiation with some hard feelings. You always worry about that getting in the way. Does Phil Kessel end up in NashVegas? It nearly happened at the trade deadline.
16. Dallas: The Stars like the fact they defend well and are hard to play against, but have to find one of the toughest things — relatively inexpensive scoring. Jake Oettinger and Jason Robertson need new contracts, but is there room to extend either long-term? They tried to keep the useful Michael Raffl, but probably can’t do it. There were rumours he was headed back to Europe, but it’s not true. He wants to stay in the NHL.
17. Minnesota: I laughed at Bill Guerin’s post-trade media conference when he was asked why he traded Fiala in the Western Conference. He seemed insulted anyone would think he’d be afraid of anything — especially anything but making the best trade for the Wild. (“Bill, are you afraid to eat plutonium?” “What? Find some right now and you’ll see!”). It sure reads like Brock Faber preferred the snow over the sun and Minnesota is happy to have him. The cap challenges are well-documented, so Guerin’s got to work around that. If it was possible, he’d already have Nic Deslauriers re-signed. But the market’s hot for the tough forward, so the Wild won’t be able to do it. Marc-Andre Fleury hasn’t made his decision, but the Wild remain interested and there will be competition.
18. Washington: The uncertainty around Nicklas Backstrom makes it difficult to pinpoint Washington’s cap flexibility, but there have been some rumblings around the Capitals. For example, that they tried to extend Conor Sheary earlier this off-season, but not sure where that stands. It’s also far from certain they will bring back both Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek, although there are mixed messages on which one goes. If Stanley Cup champion Darcy Kuemper hits the market, this could be a landing spot. They also make sense as a potential Miller home. I always assume they’re going for it.
19. Pittsburgh: As with Forsberg in Nashville, teams who that Kris Letang see a path to a Penguin extension. One exec refused to tell me specifically what he heard, but said Pittsburgh’s willing to go into “what it considers uncomfortable territory” for Letang. For me, uncomfortable territory right now is Pearson Airport, but I can’t tell you what that means for the Penguins. Word is they’ve been extremely careful about term. Evgeni Malkin? Honestly, I don’t know. I keep hearing not close, but, again, I wonder if things change once we get closer to July 13. Does a deadline nudge both sides closer? No idea. I’ve wondered about the possibility of Fleury teaming up with Tristan Jarry for some time, but, as mentioned earlier, I don’t believe he’s made a decision.
20. St. Louis: This is a team to watch. Ryan McDonagh screams St. Louis and the Blues want a top-four defenceman. I think GM Doug Armstrong has a few different ideas on how to make it work, but it might take multiple moves. This could also affect their ability to keep David Perron, which the Blues want to do. Some questions: do they feel they can have both Torey Krug and Scott Perunovich on the blueline? Is it possible to have both Jordan Binnington and Husso? Just get the sense something could happen. By the way, a few sources said Dakota Joshua could be an interesting under-the-radar UFA. Fifteen points in 16 playoff games for AHL Springfield.
21. Toronto: The Maple Leafs have indicated their top priority is sorting out their goaltending situation. Once again, I defer to the “deadlines spur action” rule, but, from outside, it seems there’s an unusual amount of inertia on the Campbell file. I think Toronto perused Murray when he was sent to AHL Belleville, but I don’t see that now. I’ve also heard that through the years, Anaheim never felt the Maple Leafs had enough to make a Gibson trade — although there’s a new GM, not that he’ll be aiming any lower. I’m curious to see how Kuemper — who has played in Minnesota, Los Angeles, Arizona and Colorado — would feel about Toronto, assuming he hits the market. It’s believed the Leafs interviewed Edmonton goalie development coach Sylvain Rodrigue for their vacant job. (Michael Leighton, now at OHL Windsor, will eventually be in the NHL). Spencer Carbery was a finalist for the Boston job, going as far as meeting with ownership.
Another situation to watch remains Rasmus Sandin. All I’ve heard is this is a trickier situation than the Maple Leafs hoped or wanted. Valeri Nichushkin is exactly what they need, but we don’t know if he’ll be available. Maybe Max Domi fits. Completely irresponsible whopper of a long-shot prediction? They take a look at Giroux, but it means someone big goes.
22. Edmonton: The Oilers are trying to create cap room. I don’t think Mike Smith is going to play, but that might be long-term injury as opposed to retirement. Don’t yet have clarity on Duncan Keith, but could go either way. Warren Foegele, Zach Kassian, Jesse Puljujarvi and potentially Tyson Barrie could be moved. It’s all about how much room they can clear. I believe the Oilers like Campbell. One player said last week that the Leon Draisaitl/Connor McDavid playoff explosions changed the way people see the organization. Edmonton’s higher on the list of places people think you can win. Evander Kane? Still too early to say, as room has to be cleared before they can get somewhere.
23. Tampa Bay: The Lightning have the 31st pick, and none in the second or third rounds. It’s not foreign to them to trade down for multiple seconds, to try and increase their draft bounty. They’ve re-signed Nick Paul, and are trying with Ondrej Palat and Jan Rutta. They’re working with McDonagh to find a trade fit, while Alex Killorn is another possibility (he has some control over his situation). It was a wild scene on the ice as the Lightning waited for the handshakes after losing in the Cup Final. Victor Hedman, as competitive as ever, was making it very clear he did not like the non-icing with about 15 seconds to go. Some of the Colorado players mentioned it, they were so taken aback by what happened. What that says: the Lightning are not satisfied and will do everything in their power to make another run. “The series wasn’t over for 20 minutes before (Julien) BriseBois was doing business,” one source said.
24. Chicago: A few months ago, I refused to believe DeBrincat would be traded. Now, with each passing day, the scales tip more in favour of it happening. One player made a good argument. “He’s two years from unrestricted free agency. If this rebuild is going to be as painful as we think, is he going to want to stay there? He wants to win.” Chicago has to know that, too. If it does happen, the bigger question might be how Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews feel. The Blackhawks have not made them available, preferring that if they wish to be moved, they come forward and make it known. There’s a way to manage this, but a DeBrincat trade for futures might just do it — although I hesitate to speak for them. There is also a lot of research being done on Kirby Dach.
25. Vegas: Going to be a fascinating summer. Reilly Smith is believed to be extended everywhere but on official letterhead. (One team said they thought he and brother Brendan wanted to play together, but I don’t know how that happens). I could see them moving a goalie (Laurent Brossoit, for cap reasons?), but something’s gotta give. One of the things they’ve discussed is which of those contracts causes the least in-room and on-ice disruption. They want (and need) some stability. Trading Nic Hague is definitely not a preferred option.
26. Los Angeles: The Kings did their heaviest lifting with Fiala. He’s exactly what they needed, the type of player they needed to target. I’d heard they like Andrew Copp, but not sure that’s still a fit. We’re waiting on an Adrian Kempe extension. Mentioned Manson before, although they need left shots more than righties. He could lighten the load on Drew Doughty. One of the things they’ll have to deal with is how the prospects feel about Fiala’s arrival. You can’t blame them for getting him, but it’s going to block someone from an eventual top-line or top-six spot. Does that mean one or two might ask to move elsewhere?
27. Boston: Now that they’ve got their coach, the next major order of business is determining David Pastrnak’s future. The Bruins are scheduled to meet with him later this month to discuss an extension. They want to sign him as first, second, third and fourth choice. But if there’s any hesitation on the player’s part, they’ll do what’s necessary. Even if both Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci return, that’s not a long-term plan at centre. They’re believed to have interest in Vincent Trocheck, although they won’t be the only ones. Boston is not expected to rebuild, despite all the injuries. If they can hold themselves above water, there are some excellent mid-season reinforcements. Not convinced a reunion is possible, but Jim Montgomery and Gaudreau won a USHL title in Dubuque in 2011.
28. Calgary: The Flames aren’t fooling around with Gaudreau. It’s believed their offer is in the eight-year, $9.5 million AAV range, with room to move. Think of what someone else is going to have to offer (on a seven-year deal) to beat that. In a perfect world, they’d like an answer next week. I’m just not sure what the winger’s timeline is. He feels loyalty to Calgary, but this is as much a family decision as a hockey one. Where does he want to spend the next phase of his life? How long will it take to truly recognize the rest of the market? Who’s in, who’s out, and what kind of contracts exist? It’s not an easy spot for the Flames, and Gaudreau’s earned his right to free agency. One of the things I’ve heard is the organization is determined not to panic buy if this doesn’t go their way. So, we’ll wait for his decision before getting a true idea of where Calgary’s going.
29. Carolina: Not sure anyone else does business like the Hurricanes. Ethan Bear has permission to shop his services, and so does Tony DeAngelo. They’re not afraid of letting players or coaches do that. Last I’d heard, they were not close on an extension with Martin Necas. Nino Niederreiter is going to test free agency and so is Trocheck. The thing about Tom Dundon is he has Jerry Jones thoughts. They don’t always happen, but he likes to be around anything that could be big. This purely a guess, but it wouldn’t be unlike him to poke around on say, Malkin. Could it happen? No idea. Would he think about it? Sure. (I always thought if Malkin ever left Pittsburgh, it would be for Florida. Don’t know the Panthers could make it work). Other than that, the Hurricanes will try what they do best — under-the-radar moves that nicely fit.
30. New York Rangers: They really like Copp, but right now it’s not a financial fit. They like Ryan Strome (and he likes it there). There were times it seemed like it was gaining momentum, but, as of now, it’s not a financial fit. So they’re looking at centres on the trade market. Alexis Lafreniere’s strong playoff ruined others’ ideas of asking for him, but no question the requests are now about Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko. There’s probably some Braden Schneider, too, but I don’t think the Rangers want any part of that. Nils Lundkvist is much more likely. If Adam Henrique had one year left instead of two, I wondered about the Ducks eating some salary and making it work. New York was asking a high price (including a non-waiver eligible prospect) in exchange for Alexander Georgiev, but teams weren’t biting because they thought the goalie might not be qualified due to the cap squeeze.
31. Florida: Hearing Anthony Duclair is out only half the year is great news. Only negative: It makes the Panthers’ cap dance more challenging, because any long-term injury usage must account for his return. Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar are a year away from big extensions. Both could be looking for eight-year deals. Mason Marchment is probably priced out now. Florida rejects the idea its laid any groundwork on moving Sergei Bobrovsky, who has a full no-move for two more seasons. Despite the playoff disappointment, the Panthers can still claim they are a rising team in tax-friendly state. As we’ve learned, that matters. They also have to take some chances and find some diamonds-in-the-rough. They are believed to be interested in Nathan Staios, the OHL’s defenceman of the year, from Hamilton. Undrafted, he’s not big, but very skilled. He’s got the good genes, as father Steve played 1,001 NHL games.
32. Colorado: The Avalanche return to work after a hilarious week of Stanley Cup-damaging debauchery — at least the front office does. (Nicolas Aube-Kubel’s girlfriend did a great TikTok of his on-ice Cup drop). They’re going to work hard on a Nathan MacKinnon extension, which would go into effect in 2023-24. That number will determine a lot of things. It’s going to be hard for them to keep Kadri, even though I think he’d like to stay. He’d be leaving a lot on the table. They’ve shown they have a limit to what they’ll spend on a goalie, so Kuemper will have to decide what he’s comfortable with. Nichushkin is another matter. The Avalanche are determined to take a real shot at it, and it’s not impossible. He knows how good he has it, and if it’s anywhere close, the odds are good for Colorado. (Fun story from the week: Nichushkin apparently lost the flip-flop he was wearing on his injured foot. I can understand how you’d lose the other one, but not that one). Jack Johnson, who had the biggest smile of anyone on the ice, was asked if he’s going to retire. He replied, “I’m not stopping now,” which was excellent. Erik Johnson, who earned his Cup after 15 hard years and has partied as hard as anyone, will return and is not going to retire. They’re still going to be a force. Cale Makar will win a Hart Trophy, perhaps as soon as next year. Bowen Byram showed he’s a stud. Another change might be at the top. Assistant GM Chris MacFarland wasn’t allowed to interview in Anaheim or San Jose. That means he’s getting promoted at some point. Does Joe Sakic move up, while at the pinnacle of his sport once again?