A quick mix of the things we gleaned from the week of hockey, serious and less so, and rolling four lines deep. Your No. 1 source for No. 1 bull----.
1. Buyout season is open.
General managers are now permitted to buy out contracts of their undesirables — with ownership’s blessing, of course. The first buyout window shuts on July 27.
Understand that exercising a buyout is an absolute last resort that embarrasses everyone involved and often doesn’t save the franchise much actual money. It’s an emergency measure to salvage cap space, which is all the more valuable under a flat ceiling.
“Keep in mind that the burying threshold is now $1.125 million. So, if a player is buried in the minors, [his team only] saves the first $1.125M of cap space. The buyout savings there needs to far exceed that,” says Hart Levine, founder of PuckPedia.com.
Levine breaks the 2021 buyout candidates into three categories.
• The “no-brainer buyouts,” Levine says, are a couple of under-26 players that not only underperformed but became off-ice distractions last season. The Canucks’ Jake Virtanen and the Rangers’ Tony Deangelo are only subject to a one-third buyout as opposed to two-third for players aged 26 and up.
Expect Virtanen and Deangelo to become free agents sooner than later.
• James Neal and Martin Jones compose his second tier. If the Oilers and Sharks cannot swing a retained-salary trade and they plan to use their saved cap space, a buyout is “probably the best option,” Levine says, for these fading veterans.
I feel certain Ken Holland plans to spend to the cap; I’m less certain if Doug Wilson plans to be aggressive as, say, Erik Karlsson wants him to be.
• Vancouver’s Braden Holtby, Tampa’s Tyler Johnson and Montreal’s Paul Byron — each an interesting case — make up Levine’s “could be convinced” third tier of candidate.
“If the team will use the cap space for good, instead of evil, and there really isn't a retained trade option, these buyouts wouldn't be the worst idea,” he says.
There is also the Seattle factor. Was the Kraken impressed enough by Johnson’s Cup performance to take him in the expansion draft, if Julien BriseBois adds a sweetener? Do they want a goaltender with a Cup on his résumé to help set a cultural tone?
And Marc Bergevin will have a tougher time cutting ties with Byron after he watches this speech from Friday:
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) July 9, 2021
PuckPedia also provided a ranked list of its top 20 most popular buyouts fans have searched in the past 30 days.
Let’s just say fans in Western Canada have been making good use of the tool:
1. Zach Parise, Minnesota; 2. Duncan Keith, Chicago; 3. Neal, Edmonton; 4. Mikko Koskinen, Edmonton; 5. Loui Eriksson, Vancouver; 6. Jeff Skinner, Buffalo; 7. Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida; 8. Shea Weber, Montreal; 9. Virtanen, Vancouver; 10. Antoine Roussel, Vancouver; 11. Milan Lucic, Calgary; 12. Andrew Ladd, Islanders; 13. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton; 14. Deangelo, Rangers; 15. Jones, San Jose; 16. Braden Holtby, Vancouver; 17. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona; 18. Johnson, Tampa Bay; 19. Jay Beagle, Vancouver; 20. Carey Price, Montreal.
2. Less than three months removed from the Anthony Mantha trade, the possibility of the Detroit Red Wings moving Tyler Bertuzzi is an intriguing one.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have interest in the 26-year-old left winger, Elliotte Friedman reported (listen below).
Bertuzzi is three years younger than impending UFA Zach Hyman and, as an RFA, still under club control.
The skilled and bruising forward went to the 2020 all-star game and through with arbitration in that off-season. One can only imagine what debating Steve Yzerman over your worth is like.
They settled on a one-year, $3.5-million pact, closer to the $3.15 million filed by the Wings than the $4.25 million Bertuzzi requested on the strength of back-to-back 21-goal seasons.
Hurt feelings sometimes linger from these cases, but Bertuzzi downplayed that, telling the Detroit Free Press there was "nothing personal at all."
Bertuzzi injured his back on Jan. 28 against Dallas but a troubling recovery pushed him to seek a second opinion and he had an operation on April 30.
"You never want surgery, but I thought I was honestly going to be a little bit more immobile after," Bertuzzi told reporters in May. "I'm feeling really good right now, so I'm happy I ended up doing it.
"Honestly, it was a really tough year and I'm looking to just put it past me and get ready for next year."
Bertuzzi, a net-front presence, vowed that his rehab won’t alter his hard-driving game.
"It's just a slow process initially after surgery and gradually ramp things up," Yzerman said on locker cleanout day. "Tyler, as you know, is pretty quiet. He doesn't say a lot. He is very upbeat and positive. We expect him to be full steam ahead in September."
Bertuzzi, a Sudbury, Ont., native, is again heading towards RFA status at the end of this month. Again, he is arbitration-eligible. How much can he command coming off a down year in which he played nine games and scored five goals?
Fascinating case, regardless of the Leafs’ interest.
@tylerbertuzzi love what you’re doing for the NOFCC! Sadly, I think my kids rock the look better than you!! Click the link to get yours and support a great cause. https://t.co/ZUFs02SoLg pic.twitter.com/qFLH6Pjbr5
— Nick Foligno (@NickFoligno) August 31, 2020
3. Great point by Montreal Gazette scribe Stu Cowan on pending free agent Phillip Danault.
There was a significant uproar in Montreal this season when the Canadiens played their first game without a single Quebec native on the ice. (Danualt was sidelined by a concussion, and Jonathan Drouin had left for personal reasons.)
Being the last Frenchman standing, Cowen noted on Lead Off, could be used as leverage in negotiations.
“Danault leaves, there’s nobody else — and there’s nobody coming up. So, I think [owner] Geoff Molson has that in his mind also,” Cowen said.
“They need to have some French content on the team, and at this point, Phillip Danault is the only guy. His agent knows that. I think Phillip Danault knows that.”
Danault admitted Friday to reporters that early leaks of negotiation details affected him and that stalled talks in-season were related to feeling undervalued in his role.
"I was scared [Nick Suzuki] and [Jesperi Kotkaniemi] would take more minutes, but if you see around the league, you need two-way centres,” Danualt said.
“I found my game. I know what I am, and I know what I can give."
4. Vladimir Tarasenko wanting out of St. Louis, where he won a Cup, makes for a challenging hockey trade.
All indications are that GM Doug Armstrong isn’t ready to tear things down, so how do you get a decent return to help the present?
Since ripping off five consecutive 33-plus-goal seasons, the sniper has scored just seven goals in 34 games over the past two seasons.
Serious debate over whether his shoulder will ever be healthy enough to rip the puck like the good ol’ days after all those surgeries.
How much is Tarasenko’s dip in production a call for a change of scenery? How much of it is a body wearing out?
In a flat cap, a $7.5 million cap hit is not an easy move.
That said, the Islanders — who gave the Lightning the hardest push but needed a few more goals — should at least consider this.
5. Sergei Mozyakin will go down as the greatest hockey player of his era to never play in the NHL.
The Russian legend has called it a career at age 40.
His resume features an Olympic gold medal, two world championship golds (plus four more medals), two Gagarin Cups, eight KHL scoring titles, four KHL MVP trophies, and 12 consecutive all-star game appearances.
Mozyakin was passed over twice as a draft-eligible prospect before eventually getting selected 263rd overall (ninth round) in 2002 by the Columbus Blue Jackets. And yet — outside of four games for the QMJHL’s Val d’Or Foreurs in 1998-99 — he never played in North America.
Columbus tried to sign its prospect but it never happened.
Mozyakin hangs them up as the all-time leading Russian goal-scorer and points-collector.
It's the Hockey Hall of Fame, not the NHL Hall of Fame.
6. This exchange between Carey Price and Shea Weber was wonderful.
Dealt a hand of heartbreak, the two Montreal Canadiens leaders were asked what made the difference in the series.
Price: “At the end of the day, I just don’t think I played well enough at the start of the series.”
Weber, interjecting: “I don’t think that’s the case at all, to be honest. I think that we weren’t good enough in front of Carey. Give them credit. They’re a heck of a team, they’re here for a reason, and they were better than us in the end.”
7. It speaks volumes that in the dying seconds, with their season on the line, the Canadiens had taxi-squad graduate Corey Perry on the ice and supposed stud centre of the future Jesperi Kotkaniemi in the press box.
Perry’s visceral impact in these playoffs far exceeded his $750,000 salary. You gotta wonder if he re-signs. Or if Perry’s UFA stock has risen to the point where he can get a little bidding war going for his services.
The morning before the Habs lost the Cup, Cole Caufield was asked about Perry. He began smiling before the reporter had finished the question.
“He’s unbelievable,” Caufield beamed.
“He’s a guy that I really look up to. The other day, Nick [Suzuki] and I were talking that he was our favourite player to watch growing up, so it was just kind of crazy that you get to be on the same team as him, do the same things, eat together and just spend time with each other. He’s been great to us, he’s a good mentor and he’s been an unbelievable player for us this postseason.”
8. In Tampa, they’re calling it the Pat-Trick.
Three consecutive Stanley Cups for Patrick Maroon, who became hockey’s first threepeat champion since players from the New York Islanders dynasty of the early ’80s.
When it was asked of coach Jon Cooper to explain the value of guys like Maroon, who aren’t the star players but important nonetheless, the coach’s response was a home run.
"I'd be leery to start throwing the [phrase] like 'wasn't the star player.' Guys are stars in different ways. And you can't sit here and judge a guy because if he doesn't get 100 points, he's not a star player,” Cooper responded.
“There's guys that are stars in the room. There's guys that are stars on the bench. And when you get to the situation we are in — and Montreal's in — guys pitch in different ways. Patty, guys gravitate to him. He's always saying the right things when it's needed, and he's got swag to him. I don't know. He's a star in our book. He was a star back then, and he's a star now."
Maroon arrived at the podium and slapped a wrestling-style Lightning championship belt on the table. The Big Rig said it was difficult to put into words what winning three straight Cups feels like.
“I was basically crying on the bench with 1:40 left,” Maroon said.
“I love the game of hockey.”
9. There was some poetry in the Stanley Cup finale’s lone goal.
A grinding puck battle along the wall was won by Steven Stamkos, who’d been limited to a grand total of 2:47 of ice time in Tampa’s run to the 2020 title.
The puck went back to Ryan McDonagh, arguably the best skater of the final series, who faked a shot and fed the puck to deadline acquisition David Savard.
Savard — painted as the stay-at-home, shot-blocking type — made a beautiful pass to rookie Ross Colton, who’d fought off big Joel Edmundson to gain position in the paint.
So, the Cup-clinching goal came off a connection between the only two Lightning who’d never won it.
“When you're with a group where pretty much everybody on the team has a ring from last year, I think you kind of feel a little bit left out. I know guys are pulling for him,” Cooper said of Savard. “He's really been great for us. He's a popular guy in the room, and so players are naturally pulling for guys like that to enjoy the success that we had last year."
"They're hoping he gets one. They're cheering for him. There's no doubt about that."
10. “Warrior!” Stamkos blurted in the post-championship press conference, dousing Alex Killorn’s head with champagne.
Killorn revealed that when he kicked out his left leg in Game 1 to block a Jeff Petry blast, the puck busted the fibula. He had undergone surgery last week and a rod was inserted into his leg.
(Stamkos knows all about what Killorn went through.)
And yet Killorn was back skating this week, he was strong enough to hoist the Cup and go for a celebratory twirl. Killorn went so far as testing his injured leg in practice and warmups Monday.
“I tried for Game 4, but more clearly it wasn't good enough, and then it got worse after trying it,” Killorn said.
“If it came down to it, I would probably play the next game or Game 7, but the boys didn't let that happen.”
“He’s got his fingerprints all over this team,” Blake Coleman said. And all over Lord Stanley’s mug.
11. On any other team, Killorn’s next-man-up replacement would not be the 13th-best forward.
Laval native Mathieu Joseph was excellent in these past four games, setting up two beautiful and timely goals for the fourth line.
“Yeah, Jo’s been great,” Coleman said. “He’s been fast. He’s been physical. He brings a lot of energy into our lineup. It’s great when you can rely on a guy who’s got the experience that he does and the skill that he does to come in and do a job like that. I think everybody is pleased with what he’s done for our group.”
Scratched in the 2020 final, Joseph savoured every moment of this. He was the last regular to leave the Bell Centre ice after every optional Lightning practice in Montreal.
“It means a lot. I'm not going to lie to you. I've been in this organization for five years now,” Joseph said. “Being part of that last year in the bubble was definitely special, even though I didn't play. I consider these guys my family. Being part of it and on the bench is different than when you're off the ice, so definitely happy to be part of it.”
12. Sweet touch by Columbus Blue Jackets fans, who gathered at local watering hole R Bar upon learning of the death of goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks.
They honoured the promising 24-year-old talent with 80 seconds of silence, a nod to his sweater number.
A beautifully gesture in response to this random and cruel heartbreak.
Immersed in the Stanley Cup final, former Jacket David Savard learned of Kivlenieks's death in a text message from Nick Foligno.
"That was a brutal wakeup this morning,” Savard said, in French. “He was a good kid with a lot of talent who was going to be a part of the team next year or in the future. It's extremely sad."
Rest in peace, Matiss.