30 Thoughts: Making sense of the Tkachev mess


Former Edmonton Oilers general manager and head coach Craig MacTavish. (Jason Franson/CP)

If you feel like reading through the NHL’s CBA, go to Article 8, Section 9, subsections ii-iv. That’s the legalese explaining why the Oilers cannot sign Vladimir Tkachev.

For those of us who don’t speak lawyer, it’s this simple: had Tkachev not played any games in Europe — he dressed for two with KHL’s Avangard Omsk — Edmonton’s contract offer was good. But, because he did, he can still be drafted next June.

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The same thing happened to Philadelphia with Tomas Hyka in 2011. The Flyers tried to sign him, were blocked and Los Angeles drafted Hyka in 2012. Washington pulled a different move with Nathan Walker in 2013, signing him to an AHL contract before taking him 89th last June. (The AHL deal put him in their system, but did not provide the Capitals with any control of Walker’s NHL rights. They still had to select him.)

Some of the twitterites asked why this was any different from Sergey Tolchinsky, a Russian winger who went undrafted in 2012-13, but signed with Carolina. Very simple answer: he played all of that season in Sault Ste. Marie, nothing overseas.

In a small bit of irony, Tkachev’s Edmonton contract was structured similarly to Tolchinsky’s, although the Oilers gave a bit more of a signing bonus.

It’s a mistake by both the team and the agent, an unfortunate one, because there’s no guarantee this marriage happens again. Edmonton had a nice find and Tkachev was happy. When he went unselected in June, two teams agreed to bring him in on a tryout. One, obviously, was the Oilers, at director of amateur scouting Stu MacGregor’s recommendation. Agent Rollie Hedges would not reveal the other club.

Why did Tkachev choose Edmonton? “Youth,” Hedges said. “A player his age would have an opportunity.” He certainly got it, and showed legit skill. He’ll go back to QMJHL Moncton and have a chance to light it up with St. Louis prospect Ivan Barbashev, who already has three goals in two games.

But it will be nine months before we know if the Oilers do get their man.


1. There’s no questioning Tkachev’s skill, but his size (141 pounds) is the big one. Before the contract was voided, he committed to spending more time in North America during the summers, allowing his workout routine to be closely monitored and supported.

2. The New York Rangers are at the maximum 50 contracts, with Anthony Duclair making a push for the roster. Because of his age (19) and when he signed (Jan. 2, 2014), his entry-level contact will not “slide” this season. So, he will burn the first year of that three-year deal in 2014-15 whether or not he plays in the NHL. Can’t pin down who, but there is no doubt the Rangers are trying to move at least one body so there is room if necessary.

3. New York took Duclair with its third third-round pick (80th overall) in 2013. There were teams who shied away, wondering why Colorado — picking 63rd — did not take him, since he played for Patrick Roy with the Quebec Remparts. Whatever the reason, the Rangers’ decision looks intelligent.

4. The waiver dance is an interesting one at this time. Most teams will tell you, if there’s a guy you still want in your organization, try to get him through as early as possible. That way, opponents are still looking at their guys. The later you go, the more likely someone feels their own players may not be what they hoped, so they’ll take a chance on one of yours.

5. For example, Vancouver put Jacob Markstrom on waivers the first day it was possible to do so. I do believe the Canucks called a few teams (New Jersey, Winnipeg, among others) to see if they could get a draft pick for him, but once that failed they decided the best shot to avoid losing him for nothing was waiving him right away. Colorado waited a little longer with Stefan Elliott, and apparently were concerned about losing him, but you probably won’t see claims until later this week.

6. Like Vancouver with Markstrom, Toronto has asked around about Carter Ashton, trying to see if they can get a pick instead of going though the waiver route.

7. Two years ago, Florida came through Toronto late in the season, while giving Markstrom a run of starts. Their goalie coach, Rob Tallas, was excited about the opportunity for him and what it could do for his career. Last season, while Tallas never said a negative word, you could tell the enthusiasm was gone, that Markstrom did not take advantage. He’s still only 24. Will the knowledge he was unwanted give him the kick he needs?

8. One exec, watching to see what Chicago does, on Stan Bowman: “Just like Scotty, he believes you’d rather trade a player a year early than a year late.”

9. I was surprised to see the Blackhawks send down Adam Clendening, because word last summer was they thought he’s ready. He doesn’t need to clear waivers, probably a factor, but it also sounds like they’d like to see a little more improvement in his defensive game. According to several who saw him, his offensive instincts are NHL-level.

10. The Oilers still carry a pretty big group, as they are in a stretch of five games in seven nights. Barring a total meltdown, Leon Draisaitl is going to get a nine-game tryout at the beginning of the regular season. Edmonton may carry five centres, so is there also room for 19-year-old monster Bogdan Yakimov? He’s played very well, but would the Oilers want two young middlemen, since one probably has to sit?

11. Top scouting report on Draisaitl? “He doesn’t cheat.”

12. Sounds like both Edmonton and Carolina (after Jordan Staal’s injury) were approached by other teams to see if they were interested in centre help. Doesn’t seem like either club is excited about giving up an asset for what is available.

13. The night Staal was injured in Buffalo, assistant coach Rod Brind’Amour was cut by a puck in the pre-game warmup. He doesn’t usually watch them, but decided to that night. Don’t think we’ll be seeing him out there anytime soon.

14. As Columbus and agent Kurt Overhardt work hard to try and solve the Ryan Johansen stalemate, the other remaining RFA skirmish involves Dallas and Brenden Dillon. Wednesday is going to be a very important day. The Dallas Morning News’ Mike Heika reported Dillon’s agent, Jarrett Bousquet, asked for the same two-year deal ($1.9 million average) Cody Eakin got, but was rejected. Heika’s story confirmed Bousquet initially used Erik Gudbranson as a comparable. Gudbranson finished his entry-level contract with 21 points in 169 games. He played 17:58 per night last season, and signed an extension worth an average annual value of $2.5M. Dillon is at 25 points in 129 games, averaging 21:05. GM Jim Nill is using the full CBA leverage, just like St. Louis, Boston, Columbus and Dallas itself with Eakin. When numbers become public, there are hurt feelings. Dillon clearly is disappointed with how this is going.

15. Boy, that Stars’ power play. It had some sensational moments Monday against Florida. There were times we saw three right-hand shots on the left (Ales Hemsky, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza) and two left-hand shots on the weakside (Jamie Benn, Trevor Daley). Seguin scored once on a one-timer from the middle of the ice and a second when he went backdoor as Benn moved higher in the slot, taking the defence with him. Benn barely missed another after a ridiculous pass from Spezza to the crease. Coaches say you have to decide which two things you want to take away from your opponent’s powerplay. Good luck with that.

16. The Tampa Tribune’s Erik Erlendssen had some good stuff from the Lightning’s excellent owner, Jeff Vinik, at a team Fan Fest last weekend. Obviously, Steven Stamkos’ future is the big topic. After a goofy summer of stories about “favourited tweets,” you can be sure of one thing: Tampa can sign him to an extension on July 1, 2015 — and the Lightning are going to try everything possible to avoid a gong show and do it.

17. Ken Holland and Mike Babcock are going to meet soon to discuss the coach’s contract. If they are both 100 per cent convinced it’s the right time, go ahead. If not, why rush? Should they decide to wait, will it really be a distraction? If Babcock can handle winning two pressure-packed Olympic gold medals (one on Canadian soil), will he really be bothered by rumours about his future? The biggest concern I’d have for both men is it’s a changing team. Why not see how it goes? If things are good, you can still talk in November or February. My favourite Lou Lamoriello saying: “If you have time, use it.”

18. One scout on Stephen Weiss: “The biggest question will be his stamina. He’s played 43 games in two years. I’ve seen him start strong and slow down in later periods. Can he get up to speed?”

19. The scout also relayed that word is Detroit feels it owes Daniel Alfredsson some real patience. First, he chose them last year during a difficult process, led them in scoring and was a great leader in season they needed veterans to step up. Second, he could have come to them in June for a new contract, but was honest about his injury and gave them cap flexibility. They are willing to let this play out.

20. Calgary’s got an interesting prospect in goalie Doug Carr. He won the job as a freshman at UMass-Lowell, then lost it to Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck two years later. It’s not that Carr was terrible, it’s that Hellebuyck is a stud. The Flames signed him as a free agent, and just sent him to the AHL. Age (25) is against him, but he’s got some ability.

21. John Tavares had to fight to hold it together a couple times as the Oshawa Generals retired his number 91 last Sunday. Most impressive thing: Five years since his departure, he continues his JT’s Junior Generals program, which gets young players free tickets to games.

22. Islanders GM Garth Snow on Tavares: “Whatever John’s perceived weakness is, he works at it. In practice, you see a lot of players who work at the things they good at, because it gives them confidence. John works on things that aren’t his strongest attribute. That’s the one thing that stands out to me, if there’s something in his mind he needs to get better at, there’s no stopping him.”

23. New York’s director of communications, Kimber Auerbach, had a great story about Tavares’ draft. They were trying to take him to the team suite and ended up on the concourse, where they were worried he’d be mobbed by fans. So, they had to stick him into (basically) a closet while figuring out where to go. The draft was in Montreal, and when the proper route was discovered, there was absolutely no one on the concourse — because it was time for the Canadiens to pick. Lovely closet, though.

24. The Islanders brought three jerseys to the draft. One was Tavares’. The others were Victor Hedman (who went second) and Matt Duchene (third). The joke was the staff figured Tavares was the choice because the other two sweaters were in side pockets. Snow said last week Tavares was unquestionably the pick right from the lottery. Why not just say it? “There’s a reason we have a draft on a certain day at a certain time,” he said. “If you’ve seen the video of our draft party…the electricity, the place erupted. You don’t get many moments like that. Some intrigue is good for the sport.”

25. I’m big on the jersey stories. For example, learned last week that in 2003, Carolina brought three to the draft. One was for Eric Staal, who the Hurricanes took second. The second was for Marc-Andre Fleury, who went first after Pittsburgh traded up. The third? Zach Parise, in case they traded down.

26. The Islanders tried Mikhail Grabovski on the wing with Tavares and Kyle Okposo last week. Snow said they talked about it with Grabovski when he signed, because he’d played there a little with Washington. How did it look? “They were very creative,” he answered. Not sure that’s a long-term plan, and the GM added he does want to find a more permanent solution, as opposed to rotating a third player with his top two forwards.

27. Finally, Snow on Josh Bailey: “We want him to be more selfish. Shoot the puck more. When you shoot the puck, you have the ability to get assists — on rebounds.”

28. One opponent on Ryan Kesler: “He knows what he’s there for…he’s trying to agitate in exhibition games. Trying to fit in right away.”

29. The Blackhawks are facing two lawsuits from fans who were hit by pucks in non-netted areas. That led to questions about more sections being covered, but in asking around last week, I couldn’t find any evidence that’s being discussed.

30. Is there anything funnier this week than Philadelphia bringing back IceGirls because crowds booed the IceGuys?

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