A quick mix of the things we gleaned from the week of hockey, serious and less so, and rolling four lines deep. Thinking about hiring Barry Trotz to be my life coach.
1. Patrice Bergeron will be on the other side of 35 and in the final year of his deal in 2021-22.
The resilient and refashioned Brad Marchand could begin declining at age 33, no?
Yes, meaningful chunks of the Boston Bruins core were removed last summer, with longstanding captain Zdeno Chara and masterful power-play quarterback Torey Krug signing as free agents elsewhere.
But more turnover feels inevitable, as those sturdy pillars of the 2011 champs and 2013 and 2019 Cup finalists gradually get removed.
“Every year, as you don't achieve your goal and the further you go in your career, you get to realize it's a year closer to retirement,” captain Patrice Bergeron said Friday.
“About changes, I'm not sure. It's not up to me. You always want to keep the same group, and I feel like we have a great group here.”
That group includes the ailing 34-year-old UFA Rask, whom the organization turned to in its most important games despite a torn labrum in his needing surgery and despite having a promising young goalie in Jeremy Swayman ready to go.
If he plays again anywhere, Rask says it will be following surgery and recovery, sometime in January or February. And it will be in Boston.
“I’m not going to play for anyone else than the Bruins,” Rask stated. “This is our home. We have three kids. The kids enjoy it here. They have friends in school. We have friends. At this point of my life and my career, I don’t see any reason to go anywhere else.”
By the time Rask is ready to make his decision, will Swayman have run away with the crease? Will GM Don Sweeney have hired another veteran for his tandem (loyal backup Jaroslav Halak is also a pending UFA)?
And what will the skating roster look like?
On the back end, Brandon Carlo is due a hefty raise. Contracts for Mike Reilly and Kevan Miller are due.
Middle-class forwards Jake DeBrusk and Charlie Coyle failed to match the middle of the New York Islanders’ lineup in Round 2. UFA Sean Kuraly, regarded as one of the better bottom-six checkers in hockey, will surely get offered a raise above his $1.275 million elsewhere.
And then there is deadline prize Taylor Hall, in danger of switching sweaters for a fourth time in under three years. Hall was fantastic down the stretch for the B’s, scoring eight goals in 16 regular-season games, but was limited to one goal and one assist in the Isles series, going minus-three.
“I don't even know what my value is at this point,” said Hall, who wants to stay put. “I feel like I had two different seasons. I'm not looking to absolutely maximize my value at this point in my career.”
The highest-paid Bruin, Krejci, comes off the books. His $7.25 million share of the cap, combined with Rask's $7 million, could go a very long way to remoulding around what might be the Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak line's final hurrah.
Should he so choose, Sweeney could bid for Dougie Hamilton or Jack Eichel or whoever else hits the market.
Does Krejci himself want a (considerably reduced) chunk of that money and remain in the fold for what might be the last kick at perfection?
“I’ve obviously thought about it a lot, not just the last couple of days but the whole season, pretty much,” said Krejci, 35. “I'm not going to give you an answer right now. I’m going to need a few weeks, think about lots of things. Talk to lots of people. I love Boston. We’ll see what happens. See what happens.”
2. Has the Winnipeg Jets’ championship window closed?
It certainly feels that way, that their best shot to go the distance went unseized in 2018. Thanks in no small part to Marc-Andre Fleury. (Sound familiar, Colorado Avalanche?)
In the following three post-seasons, the Jets have won a grand total of seven playoff games. Certainly, the sudden absence of No. 1 centre Mark Scheifele in deciding series in 2020 and 2021 is no small influence on disappointing results.
But when you look back at the D corps of ’18 — loaded with impact players like Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba and Tyler Myers — you have to wonder if the Jets are capable of building a more balanced team around their Vezina-wining goalie.
Winger Blake Wheeler, the club’s highest cap hit, will be 35 when the puck drops on 2021-22. Paul Stastny might walk, and unless he’s willing to take a discount, his salary would be better allocated to the blue line.
Once RFAs Neal Pionk, Andrew Copp and Logan Stanley are all given a well-earned raises, will there be enough cap space remaining for GM Kevin Cheveldayoff to build a roster as strong as the one that reached the semifinals in 2018?
It’s a heck of a challenge.
3. If the Jets have any hope of coming back as a stronger version of themselves, Pierre-Luc Dubois (RFA 2022) must start looking like a steal at $5 million. The dangling carrot is the same one his trade foil, Patrick Laine, faced entering 2020-21: restricted free agency with the leverage of arbitration rights.
Dubois said Wednesday that one bad season will not define him.
“I’m someone who expects a lot out of myself. I’ll be the first guy to say I didn’t play how I should have,” Dubois said. “It was a disappointing year for me.
“The only person to blame is me.”
We foresaw a scenario where the Dubois-Laine blockbuster could’ve been a win-win deal for both the Jets and Blue Jackets. Thus far, it’s been lose-lose.
Despite both star forwards being in their prime, they both stumbled through the worst seasons of their careers. Laine had 12 goals, 24 points and a minus-29 rating. Dubois had nine goals, 21 points, a minus-eight rating, and failed to score in the playoffs. These are extraordinary plummets for 22-year-old talents.
Makes you wonder if John Tortorella and Paul Maurice knew the right buttons to push with their former charges.
In the case of Dubois, there is some precedent in the team getting the best offensive years from a young stud centre and dealing him.
Columbus traded an unhappy top-five draft pick in Ryan Johansen. And despite making his millions in Nashville, Johansen’s most prolific years as a goal scorer were in Ohio, where he scored 33 and 26 in the two seasons that preceded the Seth Jones trade.
4. Even though the Carolina Hurricanes have the cap space to accommodate a fair extension, it certainly feels like Dougie Hamilton has stormed his final surge (surged his final storm?).
On the assumption that Alex Ovechkin will re-up in Washington, Hamilton will become this summer’s most in-demand unrestricted free agent.
The open-market rate for stud right-shot D-men in a flat cap world was set last summer by Alex Pietrangelo, who signed in Vegas for seven years at $8.8 million. Lefty Torey Krug got a $6.5-million AAV from St. Louis.
Hamilton, 27, doesn’t come with the ring or gold medals, but he is three years younger than Pietrangelo was in 2020. In theory, he should provide better value in the final years of his big deal.
Budget-conscious Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon has only once signed off on a contract worth more than $5.5 million annually, and his hand was forced into that by the Montreal Canadiens’ offer sheet of Sebastien Aho.
Maybe we’re wrong. Maybe Dundon opens to the coffers. Maybe Jack Adams-finalist head coach Rod Brind’Amour, must-keep RFAs Andrei Svechnikov and Alex Nedeljkovic, and Hamilton all cash in this summer.
But it says here Hamilton hits the market and signs the richest deal of the 2021 off-season.
5. Here’s a Silicon Valley story.
As far as the San Jose Sharks are concerned, Bitcoin is a perfectly acceptable method of payment.
“Actually, we support payment in Bitcoin (BTC), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Ethereum (ETH), Wrapped Bitcoin (WBTC), Dogecoin (DOGE), and 5 USD-pegged stablecoins (GUSD, USDC, PAX, DAI, and BUSD),” Sharks president Jonathan Becher said.
The Sharks partnered with Atlanta-based payment processor BitPay and became the first NHL franchise ready to accept cryptocurrency for season tickets, suite leases, and partnerships. Single-game tickets, food and beverage and merchandise will be evaluated over time.
The Sharks are following the lead of NBA clubs like the Dallas Mavericks and Sacramento Kings, who were quick to welcome cryptos. Yet Becher doesn’t see it as a big leap.
“We’re accepting PayPal, so then by definition, we’re accepting cryptocurrency,” Becher told the Sports Business Journal. “Why not embrace it and make it more visible as opposed to just doing it through a third party?”
6. Sacrilegious? Perhaps.
But as far as marketing schemes go, the limited-edition batch of Molson Canadian “kissed” by the Stanley Cup is a pretty good one. Mmm… tastes like victory and the bottom of Mario Lemieux’s swimming pool.
7. Easily one of my favourite under-the-radar moments from Round 2 was Golden Knights backup Robin Lehner tossing his own cap on the ice when teammate Jonathan Marchessault completed a hat trick on home ice in Game 4:
8. Hats off to Islanders coach Barry Trotz for delivering this elite masterclass in referee manipulation between games 4 and 5 of the Bruins series:
Trotz calmly calls out Boston captain Patrice Bergeron as a cheater, but he couches his criticisms in so many compliments and sprinkles them with so many smiles that he can slips out of the Zoom undetected like a hockey Keyser Söze.
Next game, it’s Bergeron getting tossed out of faceoff circles. Next presser, it’s Boston’s Bruce Cassidy getting fined $25,000 for badmouthing the officials.
“I think he said it was a veteran play,” Bergeron said in response to Trotz’s Jedi mind tricks. “I think it’s a veteran play by him, as a coach, to go into media talk to try to get the officiating to think about it.”
You ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’.
Analyzing Instragram hashtag data to match fan-posted tattoo photographs, Leafs tats came back as easily the most prevalent, leading a top five filled with NFL franchises (Denver Broncos, Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots).
The Pittsburgh Penguins (sixth), Chicago Blackhawks (ninth), Boston Bruins (15th), San Jose Sharks (16th), Tampa Bay Lightning (17th), New Jersey Devils (18th), Buffalo Sabres (20th) and Ottawa Senators (25th) are the other NHL teams that rated in the top 25.
10. Quote of the Week.
“I came from a team where if you weren't under 25, you didn't fit in. Here, it's a little different. It's a veteran team. They play with structure. They play with commitments. And it's an easy group to come in and insert yourself because they’re all smart hockey players, they’ve been around, and they have experience.” —Travis Zajac, forever New Jersey Devil turned New York Islander
11. Very cool milestone tracked by the irreplaceable CapFriendly.com.
Sidney Crosby has now surpassed Jaromir Jagr as the NHL’s greatest career salary earner.
The site estimates that Crosby is up to $129.34 million in earnings. Jagr topped out at $128.14 million.
Weber crushes everyone in career signing bonuses with $68 million.
12. Will the captain of the new Stanley Cup favourites please stand up?