Editor’s note: This piece was published before a statement about Hossa’s playing future was released from Hossa, his doctor and the Blackhawks on Wednesday morning. Hossa will miss the 2017-18 season.
• Allergy forcing Hossa out of the game
• Golden Knights on the verge of many side-deals
• Elliott sad to leave Calgary
This is a pretty exciting week.
It’s a tough job, but those of us on location in Las Vegas are navigating an 80,000-strong beauty products convention, hours before the Golden Knights submit (then announce) their NHL Expansion Draft selections. Thursday morning, the trade freeze will be lifted.
Friday, the focus shifts to Chicago — home of the 2017 NHL Draft.
Rumours have swirled around the Blackhawks for weeks. Most franchises would be satisfied with three Stanley Cups in a decade, but one thing that has made Chicago so successful is an insatiable appetite for more.
Two seasons without a Stanley Cup? Pffft. Time for change.
And, one of those changes could very well involve a cornerstone of all three championship teams — Marian Hossa.
According to several sources, there is a legitimate possibility Hossa has played his final NHL game. (He could not be reached for comment. Neither could his agent, Ritch Winter. The Blackhawks declined to comment.) Apparently, he suffers from a serious allergic reaction to the equipment he wears.
The sources who confirmed the allergy stressed not to make fun of it, with one saying, “It’s only funny to anyone who’s never had it.” Details are sketchy, because no one would give full information, but the medication necessary to combat the allergy is potent enough that doctors wanted his blood tested every few weeks to make sure there were no major side effects.
That’s very serious stuff, and word is doctors worried about Hossa taking the medicine for extended periods of time.
If that’s the case, it would be the end of a Hall of Fame career. No debate here, he deserves entry.
But it would not come without controversy. The Blackhawks signed him to a 12-year, $63.3-million deal in 2009, which carries an annual average value of $5.275 million. It is, however, a back-diving contract, a structure that was heavily penalized in the 2013 CBA.
Hossa is scheduled to be paid $1 million during each of the next four seasons, meaning almost 94 per cent of his contract is already paid. If he were to retire now, the Blackhawks would be hit with what are called “cap recapture” penalties — $3.675 million off their club’s cap number from next season until 2020-21. For a team already facing a crunch, that’s a massive blow.
Unless he doesn’t retire. He simply goes on long-term injured reserve.
Opponents, who won’t want to see Chicago benefit, will be angry, but there is plenty of precedent. Philadelphia (and later Arizona) benefitted from using LTIR on Chris Pronger. Toronto stashed Joffrey Lupul and Stephane Robidas. The Blackhawks could argue Hossa is no different.
Undoubtedly, some clarity is coming in the next few days. But changes are coming to Chicago in ways we did not expect.
1. Jarome Iginla, via text: “I’m preparing and planning to play again.”
2. Carey Price said Tuesday it is possible he does not have a new contract with Montreal on July 1. But before this turns into a five-alarm blaze, he re-iterated confidence an extension would get done.
3. Travis Hamonic declined to answer questions about this future, minutes before being presented with the NHL Foundation Player Award. (It is given to the player who “applies the core values of hockey — commitment, perseverance and teamwork — to enrich the lives of people in his community.) “If you don’t mind, I’m here for the charity,” he said politely, “and would like to keep the focus there today.”
Hamonic runs the “D-Partner Program,” providing support for children who have lost a parent. It comes with a $25,000 donation from the NHL. He will give some to his own charity, and some to Gord Downie’s Fund. His favourite Tragically Hip song: Ahead by a Century, “but they have so many. Whenever someone comes to my summer cottage in Lake of the Woods, I tell them, ‘You have to listen to the Hip or you’re not coming.’”
4. So, how many side-deals does Vegas have? GM George McPhee indicated six during a Tuesday afternoon media briefing, but that number is rising. Let’s go with what we think we know: Suspicion about Anaheim and Chicago has been out there awhile. Not sure what Pittsburgh is giving up for the Golden Knights selecting Marc-Andre Fleury. They are trading for David Clarkson from Columbus, likely getting another player (possibly William Karlsson) a first-round pick and a prospect from the Blue Jackets, in exchange for not taking Josh Anderson in the expansion draft. (The Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline reported the prospect would not be Sonny Milano. That was one of the names I’d heard.) Newsday’s Arthur Staple reported Vegas will acquire Mikhail Grabovski from the Islanders, getting a first-round draft pick (15th overall) as compensation. Tampa Bay is reportedly there. It sure sounds like the Knights now have something with Florida and Minnesota, too.
5. One other remote theory: Carolina. The Hurricanes have a lot of draft picks. They also have three goalies — Scott Darling, Eddie Lack, Cam Ward. There is logic to them offering a pick or two if Vegas takes Lack. I thought the Rangers would do something to protect Antti Raanta, but the information does not point in that direction.
6. That leads to Nashville and Ottawa. The difficult thing for those clubs is that they left available a player other teams desire. One of the reasons Los Angeles eyed Evander Kane was that the Kings were intrigued by a player who needs a big year for a new, big contract. From what I’ve heard, talks with Buffalo have cooled. So, doesn’t James Neal fit that description? Predators GM David Poile indicated Tuesday he expects to lose a forward. He’s got some good young ones unprotected, but how much bite is Vegas getting on Neal? Los Angeles needs scoring, and they wouldn’t be the only ones.
7. As for Marc Methot, word is there is significant interest. This is going to make Senators fans sick, but the first teams that jumped into my head were Montreal and Toronto. It would make sense for both to want him. I can’t confirm it, but it sounds like both of those clubs are on his no-trade list. So when you really think about it, Dallas makes a ton of sense. He is exactly what they need and have been looking for. If the Stars wanted to do it, they could. Sources say they have a pretty high pick. The difficulty for the Predators and Senators is, to keep these players, you have to make a better deal than someone who wants them. Competition always drives up the price.
8. McPhee also told reporters, “We’re going to have to move some defencemen because we’re going to claim a bunch.” That’s a bad omen for Washington’s chances of keeping Nate Schmidt.
9. At his season-ending media conference, Capitals GM Brian MacLellan indicated a $77-million cap would give them a shot at keeping UFA T.J. Oshie. What about $75 million? Word is: that makes it tight, but not impossible. Washington also declined permission for Buffalo and Florida to interview Todd Reirden, who went deep into the process with Calgary last summer. Afterwards, Reirden received a promotion to associate coach, with the stipulation that he could not talk to other teams. That wasn’t public at the time. With Barry Trotz heading into the final year of his contract, it takes on added significance.
10. Getting approval for a buyout of Simon Despres was enormous for Ducks GM Bob Murray. It went right down the wire, apparently very late the night before the deadline to waive him before expansion lists were due. Since Despres is not yet 26, Anaheim pays one-third of his contract over double the term remaining, not two-thirds.
Josh Manson and Sami Vatanen were left unprotected. There is zero chance Manson is going anywhere, and now I’m beginning to wonder about Vatanen, too. Initially, I thought he’d try something creative like packaging Vatanen with Clayton Stoner to clear up salary space, but the Despres buyout adds flexibility. With the extra room, Murray could offer something else to leave both alone.
11. In his article about the potential Grabovski trade, one thing Staple reported that I’ve also heard: it’s very possible John Tavares goes into next season without a contract extension, and the Islanders take their chances. There is definitely a sense GM Garth Snow is up to something big. You’ve heard all the rumours — Matt Duchene, Jordan Eberle, Alex Galchenyuk. One thing about Eberle, he and incoming Islanders assistant Kelly Buchberger had their battles in Edmonton. Not sure if that matters, as the world would be a better place if we could all tell each other to “get lost” once in a while and then go for a beer, but it should be noted as a factor in any New York decision.
12. Florida worried Gerard Gallant would take Alex Petrovic, who Gallant loved when he coached the Panthers. It is very clear the Panthers are undoing the decisions of last summer, but leaving Jonathan Marchessault exposed is a stunner. As mentioned above, they may have made a deal with Vegas to avoid losing him, but NHL teams were informed Saturday Marchessault was available. They also tested the market on Jason Demers, another acquisition from 12 months ago. Half-jokingly, I’m almost expecting them to re-acquire Erik Gudbranson from Vancouver.
13. Watch Arizona. Without Shane Doan (we’ll get to him later) and Mike Smith, GM John Chayka has a ton of room even though the Coyotes are not a cap team. He’s going to try some things. Rangers fans have speculated on an Raanta/Derek Stepan-type deal, and the Coyotes were in on Stepan last year. But that trade was dependent on something else happening. Obviously, that “something else” didn’t occur. The Rangers asked a high price for Raanta in the last few days. He did a great job for them, and the organization feels Henrik Lundqvist benefitted from the rest provided during the season.
14. The goalie market is going to be something. Vegas is taking Fleury. There were teams who wanted him from Vegas, but he’s staying. So, does this mean the Knights take fewer netminders than initially predicted? Michal Neuvirth, whom the Golden Knights know well, make sense. As mentioned, I wouldn’t be surprised if they take Lack from Carolina, but I’m not sure if he stays or gets flipped (Winnipeg?). Teams looking for goalies — Vancouver, Winnipeg, Anaheim, Philadelphia, Arizona, Los Angeles, possibly Buffalo, etc. — are going to be on a crazy merry go-round with the likes of Jonathan Bernier, Brian Elliott, Chad Johnson, Steve Mason, Ryan Miller and even Mike Condon, if he does not re-sign in Ottawa. Those are just the free agents, never mind who you could trade for.
15. There are Los Angeles connections in Philadelphia, which is why rumours of the Flyers’ interest in Bernier keeps popping up. Vancouver apparently is offering Miller an incentive-laden contract, so we’ll see where that goes. Johnson could go back to Calgary to back up Smith. You get to battle for the top spot in Philadelphia, Winnipeg and Vancouver, but the only really wide-open job is in Arizona.
16. What to make of Detroit’s decision to leave Petr Mrazek unprotected? That last season was a rough one between the player and the organization. Their contract negotiation in the summer of 2016 was tense, and it carried over. There was a ton of mutual frustration last season. It’s also clear that Jared Coreau, who won the Calder Cup with AHL Grand Rapids, passed Mrazek in the organizational structure. One year ago, Mrazek was the future star and Jimmy Howard was on the outs. Things change fast in the NHL. The big question becomes, what happens if the Golden Knights don’t take Mrazek?
17. Smith’s arrival in Calgary meant a departure for Elliott. Flames GM Brad Treliving phoned him with the news before the trade was final.
“I was disappointed for sure,” Elliott said Sunday night. “You put your heart and soul into a new team and city, knowing there’s a chance it’s only for the one year. You create relationships and friendships… fit in well, mesh well, to say goodbyes for now is kind of hard. I prepared myself for it, but it still feels like a kick in the gut when I got the call. They are going to be good, do great things. I wish them all well and wanted to be a part of that. Now I look for other opportunities out there.”
Elliott, a long shot as the 291st pick in the 2003 draft, is always at his best when challenged.
“I’m excited for this. I thrive on that type of atmosphere: if you tell me I can’t do it, I’ll be the first guy to tell you I can, and show you how I can. That’s how you get better. You have to battle your self-doubts and prove everyone wrong. I’m not going to shy away from a new city, a new team. The NHL provides you a unique ride. You can’t be mad at moving around, at the end of the day, it gives you another jersey to put on the wall.”
He and wife Amanda have an eight-month-old son, Owen, and are unafraid of moving around. Elliott added that the last time he was a free agent (2011), he had to sign a two-way contract in St. Louis. That was far more stressful.
18. Elliott had some interesting things to say about his year in Calgary and how he played. He thinks his early struggles came because he knew exactly how the St. Louis defencemen would make certain plays, and needed time to adjust to the Flames.
“Wherever I go next, I’m going to focus a lot right away on communication so I can hit the ground running. Jay Bouwmeester, Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, whether they would slide on a two-on-one, take away the back door or focus on the slot, I’d been with them so long I knew what they’d do. I knew when I could cheat a little more, or should do it less. It took a lot of video work with (Calgary goalie coach) Jordan Sigalet, but finally I felt better and could be more aggressive. It was a reminder that players aren’t going to change their tendencies in front of you, so you have to learn how to read a different team.”
I did ask Elliott about his final game for the Flames, Game 4 of the first-round series against Anaheim. The Ducks swept Calgary as he was pulled six minutes after puck drop.
“I felt good, made a couple of good saves right away. I set up to face that shot in that same situation 100 times before. This time, it went in. The nature of goaltending is that some times you don’t have the chance to redeem yourself. It’s not the successes you learn from, it’s your failures.”
Based in Wisconsin during the summers, he attends a goalie camp run by former Dallas coach Mike Valley. Among the other students: Jake Allen, Ben Bishop, Kari Lehtonen, and Darling. He joked they are enemies in the winter, friends in the summer. “You’re not doing yourself any favours if you’re not changing — goaltending evolves faster than the skaters do. We train together, talk to each other, watch video. Discuss how to play certain situations.”
19. Elliott took a couple of weeks off, and is now back preparing for next season. One of his off-season staples? Yoga. I hope I’m explaining this properly, but he says he’s a student of “Yin” Yoga, opposite the the traditional “Yang” Yoga.
“It forces you to hold stretches for five minutes. Your body wants to stop, your brain wants to stop, but you push through and open a lot of corners. I heard that Tim Thomas, late in his career, would only do yoga. He was like Gumby back there. Keeping your breathing calm helps in stressful exercises like goaltending.” Elliott paused. “Sometimes in the off-season, it’s a little harder to get going, but not this time. This is not the way I want to go out, for sure.”
20. Finally, among the players Elliott skates with is Joe Pavelski. “You stay sharp with him shooting on you day in, day out. The way he practises and works, you think to yourself, ‘I better get out there.’”
21. Free agent forward Spencer Foo from NCAA Union kept his promise to wait until after the expansion draft before making a choice. Reports are it’s down to four teams. That sounds like Calgary, Detroit, Edmonton and Vegas.
22. Word is KHL free agent Evgeny Dadonov is getting close to a deal with an Eastern Conference team. Can’t pin it down yet, but doesn’t sound like he’s going to Vegas.
23. Sounds like Jack Capuano will join Phil Housley’s staff in Buffalo. The Sabres kept goalie coach Andrew Allen, a good call because it sounds like he would have been snapped up quickly if free.
Editor’s update: Elliotte Friedman now reporting Capuano is not going to Buffalo. He headed somewhere else after a last-minute switch. Allen, however, is staying.
24. Former Bruce Boudreau assistant Bob Woods, who ran Buffalo’s top-ranked power play, is seen as the lead contender for the Scott Stevens vacancy with the Wild. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo also mentioned former AHL San Antonio coach Dean Chynoweth for the job. Another possibility is Mike Van Ryn, who played 353 NHL games with St. Louis, Florida and Toronto.
25. The message from Peter Laviolette to his players before Game 6: “Be accountable for every stride you take.” Yeah, I know they didn’t win. But I love the line.
26. Oilers coach Todd McLellan, on what he learned most about his players in the playoffs: “We’re more resilient than we thought. We lost the first game at home in overtime (to San Jose) and then we lost 7-0. Guys put that behind them. That’s good for where we need to go.”
27. Erik Karlsson took a week after the end of the season before having surgery on his left foot. He did some golfing, “although I really couldn’t turn on it. I was spraying drives, but my chipping and putting was great.” How’d you shoot? “Not that well, maybe 82 or 83.”
Seriously, don’t you just hate people like this?
28. Carolina’s Derek Ryan told a phenomenal story about the 2012 NHL Awards. Ryan, a nominee for the 2017 Masterton for perseverance and dedication to hockey, scheduled a post-season trip to Las Vegas with wife Bonnie after playing that year in Austria. He and Bonnie actually stood on the red carpet, watching the players walk by.
“I took a photo of Pavel Datsyuk,” he laughed. Wait, a selfie? “No, I was too far away.” Quite a ride for Ryan, who just finished his first full season in the NHL and admits, “You can never get too comfortable in this league. Someone always wants your job.”
29. When news came out last week that Doan hoped to return for Arizona, you could sense this wasn’t going to go well. It rarely does. It is one of the hardest things in sports, for an organization to tell an iconic player, “It’s time,” especially when that person isn’t ready to stop.
It happened with Mats Sundin in Toronto. It happened with Mike Modano in Dallas. You name them: Patrick Ewing, Joe Montana, etc., etc. One GM said he had to get a new team-based email address after such a situation, because fans wouldn’t stop letting him have it. Hopefully, everyone goes back to their corners and calms down as the both sides figure out the next step. Agent Terry Bross says Doan wants to play in 2017-18. Whether he does or doesn’t, Arizona has an opportunity to plan what kind of job they wish to offer and how to honour his career. Time can heal this wound.
30. Come on New Jersey. If the Boston Celtics can trade the No. 1 pick, you can too.