• Could Phaneuf end up with the LA Kings?
• Why Galchenyuk may stay in Montreal after all
• Where will Joe Thornton sign?
When the return on the Travis Hamonic trade came down — a first-round draft pick and two seconds — the immediate reaction was, “Good player for a big price.” That was my sense, although I’m of the thought that when your window opens, you take your risks. Calgary, like its beloved neighbour to the north, has a window that is opening.
The team has a chance to be really good. A legitimate contender.
Garth Snow and Brad Treliving grinded through this trade. When it was done, both looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger after the first day of school in Kindergarten Cop. Snow walked by the St. Louis table, where old friend Keith Tkachuk was standing, with a “Thank God it’s over” look on his face, as Tkachuk congratulated him on the return.
Obviously, the full impact of this trade won’t be felt for several years. The Flames are the absolute winners right now. They can come at Leon Draisaitl/Connor McDavid, or Brent Burns/Logan Couture, or Ryan Getzlaf/Ryan Kesler with Mark Giordano/Dougie Hamilton, or TJ Brodie/Hamonic.
Nashville will tell you that’s not a bad setup.
There are few guarantees in the draft, but you want the lottery tickets. They have fewer — particularly in what is seen as a deep 2018 offering — and, as one GM said, “You hate to tell your scouts they will have less of an impact.” But Calgary is deep in goaltending and defence prospects.
The Islanders now own more of those tickets. We don’t know if this means a trip to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, but they have options. They also have currency, and Snow told reporters he is definitely more willing to flip those picks than he normally would be. In a cap world, teams value draft picks, so he’s got something important.
One of the things I’m trying to learn more about is how to weigh the true price of draft picks. What is a first-round pick really worth? What is a second-round pick really worth? There is zero doubt this is what the Flames were researching as they chased this move. You never want to say, “Well, we won’t know for five years.” That’s not good enough. You want to have more than that, an idea of what you are risking.
Let’s assume you think Calgary is going to pick 20th-25th. You could go back into the last decade and find Claude Giroux and Max Pacioretty in that range. This decade, there are a couple of intriguing players: Anthony Mantha and Joel Eriksson-Ek. So, we’d sit there and say, “Well, this is who they could be giving up.”
There’s got to be a better way than that.
In February 2015, Stephen Burtch wrote a story for the Sportsnet website: “Analyzing the Value of NHL Draft Picks”.
Among his conclusions: “We can see that the most significant value in NHL draft picks lies in the first three selections, and the largest drop-off in pick value occurs between picks three and four.” He also indicates that the value of first-round selections really falls as you go through the round. That decline continues throughout the draft. There are always outliers, but things stay pretty consistent.
He wrote this two years ago, but in following-up this week with a few others who’ve studied the draft (including a couple of people who work for clubs), not much has changed. The “top three theory” still holds.
Let’s take it a little further. The way people try to predict things is something called “expected value.” You try to place that value on each choice. Here’s an example: a team defines what it would consider a successful selection. Is it 200 games? Is it a certain level of production? So let’s say the 10th overall pick, over the last 10 years, had six NHLers. You’re looking at a 60 per cent success rate. And those six, as a whole, averaged 0.5 points per game. Then you multiply 60 per cent with 0.5 and you’re left with an expected value of 0.3 for 10th overall. You compare that number to the other draft slots to see how it rates.
One person took it a little farther, to say that when you are getting multiple picks, like the Islanders did, you add together those numbers. That gives the Islanders a chance for something special — “between the third and fourth pick,” he said — but it would take Calgary being worse than we anticipate.
What does it all mean? It means that Snow has something else he’s trying to do, with a lot of bullets in his chamber. He probably went out Sunday and bought one of those “My favourite teams are the New York Islanders and whoever is playing Calgary” T-shirts.
And it means that if the Flames do what’s expected of them, everyone in southern Alberta will feel very good about the trade.
1. Snow and Toronto GM Lou Lamoriello had a seven-minute conversation on the draft floor prior to Round 1. As has been reported, the name James van Riemsdyk came up. The Islanders then asked for JVR and a first, which Toronto did not want to do. This all could have been moot if he was unwilling to waive to go there.
2. Corey Hirsch tweeted last week that Sean Burke will soon be announced as GM of Team Canada’s men’s hockey entry for the 2018 Winter Olympics. One of the top contenders for the coaching job — if not the number one choice — is Willie Desjardins.
3. Meanwhile, a firm policy on NHL players who wish to participate won’t be finalized until the summer. But there was discussion about it at the GM meetings, and managers sure had the impression that NHLers (and AHLers on two-way contracts) won’t be allowed to go.
4. Ottawa GM Pierre Dorion had a lengthy conversation with Los Angeles compatriot Rob Blake during the later rounds of the draft. There is one move that could make sense for both sides: Dustin Brown for Dion Phaneuf. Both have the same cash remaining — $25.5 million. Brown’s AAV is lower ($5.875 million to Phaneuf’s $7 million), but he has five years left on his contract to Phaneuf’s four. The Senator defenceman can go to Los Angeles, but I’m not sure if Brown’s list allows him to go to the Canadian capital.
5. He’s staying low profile — and there is serious doubt he actually wants to leave San Jose — but there is a list of teams who want to peer inside Joe Thornton’s head. At the draft, there was a lot of talk it would take a three-year deal to lure him. Potential suitors include Columbus, Los Angeles, Montreal and the Rangers. I could see Toronto having interest, but I’m not certain. There was a time Detroit appealed to him, but it doesn’t seem right now for either side. It looks like San Jose is closing in on extensions for Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (both can be announced on Saturday), so we’re all waiting to see what is left for Thornton and/or Patrick Marleau. I’m really fascinated by the Blue Jackets, who are going all-in over the next two years and will try something big. Toronto is quieter about its intentions, but don’t forget that Mike Babcock has plenty of Team Canada history with both Marleau and Thornton.
6. Do not be surprised, either, if Thornton brings up the possibility of Switzerland. His wife’s from there and he’s said he will play in that country before his career is over.
7. Sam Gagner makes a lot of sense as a right-handed power play option to replace Artemi Panarin in Chicago. He was dynamite with Columbus in that role. It is believed Vancouver also has interest in his services.
8. Sounds like Edmonton and the Islanders discussed a three-way deal involving Jordan Eberle and Ryan Strome before the deadline. Not sure the third team. Ultimately, they did it themselves.
9. Started to think more and more that Alex Galchenyuk will stay in Montreal. Just haven’t seen the market for him as much as we thought. Minnesota went hard after Jonathan Drouin and were disappointed to lose him, but, even with all the rumours, I don’t think they place the same value on Galchenyuk.
10. Jordan Weal’s going to get a chance to prove he can be this year’s Jonathan Marchessault.
11. Goalie market: there is a lot of expectation of Ryan Miller to Anaheim for approximately $1 million, although I’m not sure if bonuses will be added to that. It makes a lot of sense. Winnipeg has Eric Comrie in the AHL, but the Jets are looking for a veteran to pair with Connor Hellebuyck — which indicates Brian Elliott or Steve Mason. Los Angeles appears ready to have Jack Campbell as Jonathan Quick’s backup. And I think Mike Condon’s received a few calls, as teams weren’t sure he’d be available.
12. On the blue line: the Rangers and Brendan Smith appear headed towards a deal. I never really sensed Calgary and Michael Stone were that close, so he’s likely headed to the market. There seems to be quite a bit of interest in Trevor Daley. It’s believed at least two Canadian teams — Ottawa and Winnipeg — are looking at Dmitry Kulikov as a left-handed option. He played for Guy Boucher in junior, and there’s no way last year is a true indication of his play. Karl Alzner will be an interesting one. One team indicated the price may be between $4-$5 million, and that gives him more options. And a few teams are curious to see if Buffalo makes the biggest pitch for Kevin Shattenkirk.
13. I know we’ve been hammering Shattenkirk to the Rangers, but New York seems very determined to increase the roles and responsibilities of its young players. The draft-day trade with Arizona is excellent evidence of that.
14. It looks like Minnesota, Pittsburgh or retirement for Matt Cullen, but it would not be a shock if Buffalo called him. GM Jason Botterill knows him and he’d be an excellent fit. A centre who can teach and still play is never bad. Can see the Sabres looking at Brian Boyle for the same reason.
15. Low-key Matt Duchene possibility: Pittsburgh. The Penguins have circled around him before. Both Glen Sather and Phil Jackson (before he decided to ruin the Knicks) talked about adding new players to championship teams. You prevent a staleness, and if the newcomer is popular, the group rallies around them so they can win, too. Everyone’s frustrated: Colorado GM Joe Sakic, Duchene and agent Pat Brisson. Could Olli Maatta plus more pieces get the Penguins into this?
16. In the tumultuous pre-draft days for Arizona, there was a lot of conjecture about Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s future and happiness. Let’s put the brakes on that. Ekman-Larsson has two more years on his contract and everything the Coyotes are doing is about making him happy. He will be the captain. They consulted him on the Niklas Hjalmarsson trade. (In fact, ‘consulted’ might not be a strong enough word for the role Ekman-Larsson played.) After a crazy week with Shane Doan and Dave Tippett, the Coyotes stabilized their roster with Hjalmarsson, Antti Raanta and Derek Stepan. They needed veterans to ease the burden on their young players and got some. It’s a long road, but they are determined to begin the process. It’s all about keeping number 23.
17. On the Coyotes: It’s clear now NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman wanted one owner. So, the league backed Andrew Barroway and bought out the others. When there were reports John Chayka might interview in Buffalo, one source said, “My bet is he stays and Dave Tippett goes.” Reason? Big salary and Tippett didn’t see eye-to-eye with where they were going. I looked into it at the time and was told it wouldn’t happen because Arizona wouldn’t pay Tippett $4 million per season to sit on the sidelines. Obviously, I was clueless to what was bubbling underneath the surface. The NHL brokered a deal where Tippett left a significant amount of money on the table — around $10 million — to get out of a situation where no one was happy. A key: there is no “offset language,” so he gets his full settlement even if someone else hires him. Tippett told reporters, “It was time.” Yes, it was. You could see his frustration whenever you came across him. It’s time for a fresh start — for everyone.
18. The Coyotes are going to keep this search small. As we now know, Washington will not let anyone talk to Todd Reirden, but I wonder if Lane Lambert is a contender here — as he was last summer in Colorado. Todd Nelson is on the radar. Darren Pang always pitches Brad Shaw, a smart option who may be an interview possibility. But I’m not 100 per cent on that one.
19. Arizona’s trade for Stepan puts Martin Hanzal on the market. The Coyotes will not double-back.
20. Off the ice, this is a huge year for Arizona. Bettman and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver have taken the lead on a new arena from Barroway and Suns owner Robert Sarver, who is notoriously difficult. Can they get it done?
21. Joel Quenneville was at the draft Saturday after not appearing on Friday. He stormed out of a coach’s meeting — in full view of reporters — as news broke of the Chicago trades. It would have been very tough for him to lose Hjalmarsson, one of the NHL’s underappreciated great players. I’ll be the first to admit I haven’t watched a ton of Connor Murphy. Quenneville saw two defenders go out (Hjalmarsson and Trevor van Riemsdyk) and one come in on a blue line that already was thin. It’s why the Blackhawks are linked to Alzner.
22. Don’t think I’ve ever seen a draft before with no first-round timeouts. The nearest thing to a blockbuster I could sense was Vegas made a last try to get to three (Dallas) and then to one (New Jersey). But I don’t think it was ever close to happening.
23. The Blue Jackets must have been disappointed Vladislav Gavrikov signed a two-year deal in Russia as he was visiting North America. He was traded in the KHL from Lokomotiv to St. Petersburg, a much wealthier team. That country badly wanted him for the Olympics and are very happy to keep him. That is one reason Klim Kostin dropped to 31st in the draft, as teams are always wary of this. Evidently, the Blues got assurances it wouldn’t be a problem. Also, Kostin wants to play in the AHL, not juniors. Some teams preferred the opposite, but it clearly doesn’t bother St. Louis.
24. It was lost in all the Blackhawks’ trade excitement Friday morning, but the NHL and NHLPA joined together on an interesting project. They announced a partnership with the University of Illinois to evaluate adding hockey as a varsity sport. And, both agreed to fund up to five feasibility studies that would explore the potential of adding NCAA Division I men’s and women’s programs across the United States. “We’ve had three enquiries already,” said Mike Snee, executive director of College Hockey Inc. on Monday. “That’s quite a statement when the NHL and NHLPA see the opportunity for growth, whether it’s the chance to develop more high-end players or have more people watching. If you are an interested school or a potential donor, there really wasn’t a 1-800 number to call.”
25. I’m a big believer in growing the game, expanding it to unserviced areas or allowing lower-income families to embrace an expensive sport.
What does Snee hope this initiative accomplishes? “The short aspirational answer is that many years from now, a lot more than 60 schools offering Division I hockey spread around the country. More people playing, coaching, reffing, enjoying hockey.” He talked about Alabama-Huntsville as an outlier. A successful program in an unconventional location. “That’s how you grow a hockey culture. We’d like to find 12 more Huntsvilles and have them fill in the NHL gaps nicely.” Snee grew up in Duluth, Minn., and loved the NCAA Bulldogs. “For me, it was more about the Bulldogs than the (NHL) North Stars. They got me into the game. I coached in the game, got kids in the game. There’s no NBA team in Kansas, but there are basketball fans because of (the Jayhawks). There’s no NFL team in Alabama, but they love their football. I don’t think Oklahoma or Alabama will ever have an NHL team, but let’s say you put a 4,200-seat arena in Oklahoma or Oregon — I’m certain it would work. Six-year-old girls and boys would tell their parents, ‘I want to play hockey.’”
26. Snee is optimistic this will lead to something tangible. “As excited as we were when Penn State occurred, one was not a trend. With the size of the gift and all that went with it, anyone would say, ‘We’ll add hockey if you give us $102 million.’ Arizona State occurred with less of a gift level. Two is not a trend but the start of one. Now with Illinois, you think you’re going somewhere. There’s always a little fear you don’t get five schools interested (in the study), but 72 hours later, I’m breathing a little easier.” Good luck. Success of this initiative benefits everyone.
27. Another thing that was discussed at the GM meetings: how players wear their visors. Don’t know if this will become a point of emphasis, but Leo Komarov’s is apparently too high.
28. My location on the floor put me next to the San Jose table. Nice moment when the Sharks drafted Mario Ferraro 49th from USHL Des Moines. He came to the table, where a full walkaround happened with firm handshakes, “thank yous,” “we’re glad to have yous,” and everyone looking everyone else in the eye. When I was younger, I was told I had a terrible handshake and didn’t look people in the eye when I did it. Some of that is ADD, but that shouldn’t be an excuse. I’m positive that wasn’t the only time it happened, but Ferraro and the Sharks was an example of the way that moment should go.
29. Almost as good as Jim Cornelison singing the anthem? Watching him practise it. He re-started it four or five times at the rehearsal. He puts so much into it I thought he was going to pass out. He said there are days he performs it five times at different requested appearances.
30. That is a fantastic Hall of Fame class. I’m pro-Alfredsson, pro-Zubov and pro-Cassie Campbell-Pascall, Jayna Hefford and Fran Rider on the women’s side. But how can you argue with any of those selections?