A quick mix of the things we gleaned from the week of hockey, serious and less so, and rolling four lines deep.
1. Connor McDavid‘s imminent extension, a Godzilla set to be worth $106 million over eight years, will have a ripple effect not only in Edmonton but across the league. Especially for centres. Especially for prime-time, franchise-altering centres.
So, yes, John Tavares’ asking price just got a healthy jolt. (Maybe Carey Price’s did, too.)
But the greatest parallel is in Toronto, and it features the generational talent one draft year behind McDavid.
Auston Matthews will be eligible to pen his own eight-year extension on July 1, 2018. He owes McDavid a fruit basket or something for knocking his deal out the park.
McDavid is better at hockey than Matthews (he’s the Hart and Art Ross winner, after all), but you could argue that, playing in Canada’s largest hockey market, Matthews makes just as much or more money for his franchise.
There’s no reason to believe AM34 won’t be in the $13-million-per-year range now that the bar has been raised.
The ripple effect will be drastic. It says here that any faint hope of keeping Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk beyond 2017-18 just flew out the window.
It’s good news that William Nylander’s extension is staggered one year ahead of Matthews and Mitchell Marner’s. (Quick thought: Should the Leafs lock up Nylander this month, when his value might be at its lowest?) It also helps that Nylander and Marner play the wing, which presumably could keep their rate below whatever the Oilers and Leon Draisaitl settle on.
It should be noted that Edmonton has already committed long-term to two $6-million forwards, Milan Lucic and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, while Toronto’s only big investment up front is Nazem Kadri ($4.5 million per year through 2021-22).
But can Toronto afford to commit long-term to three forwards an average of, say, $10 million each, considering the salary cap’s escalation far from guaranteed?
Look at all the serious contracts sealed by the current Leafs administration. Kadri, Morgan Rielly, Frederik Andersen, Matt Martin, Nikita Zaitsev — none of them signed bridge deals. Lou Lamoriello and Mike Babcock find their man and go deep.
Matthews is that guy. Can both Marner and Nylander be those guys too? Is three a crowd? (“Don’t forget us!” pipe Connor Brown and Zach Hyman.)
Steve Yzerman said he wanted to keep Jonathan Drouin, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat in Tampa this summer. Math prohibited it.
We all know the Leafs’ cap crunch is coming, but McDavid just made the equation that much trickier.
2. Vegas GM George McPhee has said there were two teams he believed would be more willing to strike a pre–expansion draft side deal to protect a player but decided to just let him pick away. It’s a good bet those two teams are Nashville, who lost one-third of one of the NHL’s most dangerous top lines, and Ottawa.
Methot is what hockey folks call a “warrior.” The Sens had the perfect stay-at-home partner for superstar Erik Karlsson, a top-pair guy who was instrumental in bringing that team to within one goal of the Stanley Cup Final — despite playing with nine and a half digits.
“He’s a badass for coming like he did. Props to him, because we needed him. He came back and played great,” Sens defenceman Chris Wideman said during the conference final. “He’s a huge part of our team.”
Wideman continued gushing, not unlike Methot’s mangled finger.
“He’s great. He kills penalties, he blocks shots, he’s physical. Other teams’ forwards are aware when he’s on the ice. And he complements Erik extremely well. That’s why Erik’s able to play the style he’s capable of playing. Meth’s right there with him, there to back him up. He’s been awesome for us.”
So Methot leaves Vegas for Dallas. The price: a second-round pick who’s 15 years old today and a goaltending prospect, Dylan Ferguson, who may never see the NHL.
This is a horrible look for Ottawa. Either protect four D-men or give up the pick to protect Methot. The 2018 Atlantic playoff race will be another tight one, and we could be looking back on this as the reason why the Sens missed the cut.
Or: one of the main reasons Dallas leaped back into the playoffs. Great move for Jim Nill, Ken Hitchcock, Ben Bishop, John Klingberg, and Methot’s tax rate.
(P.S. If Dorion is really thinking about swapping Dion Phaneuf for Dustin Brown straight-up, he should gently set the phone down and then light it on fire.)
3. Four of the 31 NHL teams have yet to name a captain for 2017-18, and that number could swell to five if UFA Mike Fisher doesn’t re-sign with Nashville.
A couple of those vacancies are no-brainers.
Elliotte Friedman reported Tuesday that Oliver Ekman-Larsson will take over from Shane Doan in Arizona. Derek Stepan is probably the only other realistic option, and he’s the new guy.
Matthews will be the Maple Leafs’ next captain. The only question is whether they go C-free for one more season, and the Calder winner is saying all the right things.
“If you look at the line of captains that have come before us, the players that have come before us, it would definitely be a pretty big honour,” Matthews told Prime Time Sports. “I want to be a leader regardless of if I have a letter on my sweater or not.”
McDavid — a sophomore-year captain himself — was more blunt, and we love seeing the MVP take a stance like this, even if it’s over a small matter.
“I think he’s going to wear it one day very soon, so why put it off?” McDavid told Michael Traikos.
If he wasn’t flipped in a process that irked him, Methot would’ve been a strong candidate for the first captain of the Golden Knights. Who’s left?
Not one Vegas D-man is signed beyond 2017-18, and the only forwards that look like long-term commitments are Reilly Smith, Cody Eakin and Erik Haula. We’re guessing the Knights land a veteran leader type in free agency. Doan and Jarome Iginla want to keep their playing careers alive.
This brings us to the head-scratcher that is Carolina, which has yet to name a successor to Eric Staal. Brother Jordan, top scorer Jeff Skinner, and defence elder Justin Faulk — alternates in 2016-17, all of them — seemed like solid candidates, but they waited. Does Carolina go with the leadership-by-committee approach again?
4. After the Methot trade, the Golden Knights have three second-round picks in 2019 and again in 2020. They also have extra picks in Rounds 3 and 5 in 2019.
Next spring, they’re already down to five of their seven picks total, but we’ll expect McPhee to recoup that and more. He currently has 15 players set to enter 2017-18 in their contract year, which is code for “trade deadline rental candidates.”
James Neal is the most impactful player of the bunch, but with his low cap hit ($750,000), Jonathan Marchessault should be the easiest to move. Contending teams (i.e., buyers) are usually cap teams.
As for now, Vegas will aggressively try to deal away another defenceman or two and keep stacking those lottery tickets to buy more 18-year-old maybes. McPhee would prefer to deal from his older blueliners (Alexei Emelin, Luca Sbisa) but the calls, naturally, are for Nate Schmidt, Shea Theodore and Colin Miller.
“We’ve tried to accumulate a lot of picks to hit on one of those [franchise players]. Sometimes you get those guys in the second round, like a Shea Weber, or in the fourth round, like Braden Holtby,” McPhee told Prime Time Sports this week. “I’ve got the fingers crossed.”
Unless their amateur scouts blow it, the Knights should be slaying dragons in 2024-25.
5. Five-year rear view: Of the top four forwards selected in the 2012 draft, one has been traded (Filip Forsberg), one has been left unqualified as a restricted free agent (Mikhail Grigorenko), one has been traded and left unqualified (Nail Yakupov), and the other is Alex Galchenyuk — the
centre nucleus of most Montreal trade rumours.
Draft and develop.
We saw Dallas take some grief on social media last Friday for trading up and taking the only goaltender in Round 1 of the 2017 Draft, Jake Oettinger at 26 overall. But ask Tampa Bay how it feels about drafting the first goalie in that relatively soft 2012 class (Andrei Vasilevskiy at 19 overall).
6. As the sole Arizona Coyotes representative over the past two years, Mike Smith was invited to the 2016 All-Star Game — and scored an incredible goal from his own crease. Cam Talbot, to the dismay of at least one writer, was not invited to the weekend showcase.
The Battle of Alberta is shaping up to being a strength-on-strength contest between Calgary’s defence and Edmonton’s offence, so we wonder if the difference will be in net, now that the Flames (mercifully) have committed to a true No. 1 netminder beyond one year.
Those who knock Smith’s save percentage, which has dropped to around the league average since its .930 peak in 2011-12, may be underestimating the effects of playing behind a bad team.
Though obviously joking, Smith’s snappy comment on the Coyotes forwards during a radio appearance this week gave a glimpse into his frustration during those draft-lottery campaigns:
Talbot is younger and fresher, but Smith sounds like an escaped convict. He’ll be ready.
“Cam had an awesome year. I think he’s only going to get better. What he showed this year is that he can backstop a team and when they really needed him, he carried them on his back. I was really impressed,” Grant Fuhr tells me.
I ask Fuhr, an avid hockey viewer, how he critiques modern goalies. Does he look at their positioning? Their form when making saves?
“I look more at their demeanour,” Fuhr explains. “When things weren’t going well, Cam didn’t get frustrated, he didn’t get flustered. His body language was great even if things weren’t going well.”
7. According to the fine folks at CapFriendly.com, the 2018 NHL trade deadline is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 26 at 3 p.m. ET. Plan your sick days accordingly.
One more fun 2017-18 schedule fact. The NHL has 30 of 31 teams playing on Saturday, April 7, the final day of the regular season. So, who gets out of school a day early? The Pittsburgh Penguins. Consider it a bonus for winning two straight Cups.
One you’ve mastered one craft, you have to invent a fresh challenge for yourself or risk boredom.
9. Gradually and increasingly, clubs are doing away with the middlemen and leaks and announcing the dollar value of their signings. Makes perfect sense in a cap world.
Scanning the most recent P.R. releases, the financial transparency is split right down the middle.
I count 15 teams now including contract terms upon player signings: Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Dallas Stars, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators, St. Louis Blues, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Vegas Golden Knights, Washington Capitals, Winnipeg Jets.
Fifteen release years only and still keep the money to themselves: Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Boston Bruins, Calgary Flames, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks.
The Philadelphia Flyers take secrecy a step further. When the “multi-year” Shayne Gostisbehere deal was announced, the number of years wasn’t even specified. (It’s six years, $27 million.)
With signing season about to go nuts at noon Saturday, I wonder how many of the shrinking majority are forthcoming with how much they’re spending on free agents.
10. How awesome is it that Paul Kariya found out he’d been elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame from Teemu Selanne after he got in from surfing?
Kariya put up silly numbers in an era when offensive skill was getting choked out of the game.
A 5-foot-10 forward excelling in the Scott Stevens regime reminds me of something four-time Cup champ Mike Krushelnyski told me. He wasn’t talking about Kariya specifically, but the sentiment applies.
“You never compare eras. You never compare Maurice Richard to Gretzky, Orr to Mario. Those great players would’ve found a way to be great,” he said.
“Skinny, scrawny little Gretz would’ve found a way to be the greatest player in the Gordie Howe, rough-and-tough, when-there’s-a-scrum-the-stick-goes-up-to-bonk-you-on-the-head era. Muckers like Howe and Ted Lindsay would’ve found a way to be great in this era, the 2017 playoffs.”
Imagine Kariya’s skill set transported to today’s speed game.
11. The Ducks win for this: Live footage of Teemu Selanne getting his Hockey Hall of Fame call.
12. File under “Nice, Reasonable Re-signings Just Ahead of Free Agency Hysteria”: Mike Condon in Ottawa, Kris Versteeg in Calgary, Cory Conacher and Yanni Gourde in Tampa, Brock McGinn in Carolina, Jordan Weal in Philadelphia, and Noel Acciari in Boston.
Now, let’s see who overpays an average player.