Rink Fries: Would the NHL consider adopting the PWHL’s ‘jailbreak’ rule?

In this edition of Saturday Headlines, Elliotte Friedman discusses a potential deal between the Flames and Devils for Jacob Markstrom, a couple players holding up the trade market, and why clarity on the Coyotes arena situation may take time.

A rundown of a few observations from the week in hockey…

• Maybe it was just watching the Bruins open their game against the Vancouver Canucks with a pair of shorthanded goals Thursday night (Brad Marchand and Danton Heinen) but it very much feels like shorties are up this season.

But are they?

Maybe it just feels that way because teams are being more aggressive with their play and player selection on penalty kills.

A quick text to hockey stats guru Steve Fellin of the Sportsnet Stats group and I got my answer: shorthanded goals are up!

Only slightly though.

Heading into the weekend 0.20 shorthanded goals per game were up slightly from 0.19 last season.

• Speaking of shorthanded goals, the PWHL’s ‘jailbreak’ rule has been a huge success so far. For the uninitiated, that’s where a shorthanded goal frees the player from the box — hence a true penalty kill. The jailbreak is mentioned on every broadcast, the players love it, fans love it and it makes for some cool visuals on TV, to say nothing of the momentum swings the rule brings with it.  So far we’ve seen four shorthanded goals in the league this season.

My only grousing point about the jailbreak rule is that I’d like to see players celebrate the goal at the penalty box with the incarcerated player escaping before serving her penalty instead of the player exiting the box and skating over to the circle or joining the bench celebration train.

Like this example from the January 17 game between Minnesota and Ottawa. Minnesota star Grace Zumwinkle scored shorthanded to spring Susanna Tapani and the celebration took place outside the penalty box.

By the way, I checked with the NHL to see if there’s any appetite to bring the jailbreak rule to that league and so far the answer is no.

I do, however, have one NHL manager who not only loves the rule, but also sends me notes every time a shorthanded goal is scored in any game saying “penalty should be over.”

• One penalty idea that was mentioned to me in my NHL calls that was proposed some time ago is the concept of a “travelling minor.”  Here’s how it works:

First of all, it’s only done during the playoffs and the idea is to calm down the final few minutes when a game gets out of reach. So, let’s say a team scores with two minutes left that puts the game out of reach and the opposition responds by throwing their meat on the ice to stir things up and send messages for the next game. We’ve all seen it before. But, upon an infraction occurring, instead of handing out a minor penalty for that game, it “travels” and puts the violating team shorthanded at the start of the next game instead.

Novel concept. Sure, it could use some clarity on what is deemed to be “stirring things up” versus just a regular minor penalty (maybe hockey ops decides?), but in spirit it makes sense and adds teeth to a penalty that would otherwise be served in empty calorie time as the clock winds down.

• Congrats to Renata Fast who skated in her 100th game with the Canadian National Women’s Team Friday night in Regina at the Rivalry Series. She’s only the ninth defender and 32nd overall to hit that mark.

• Sounds like the PWHL trade deadline will be March 18. Some have mentioned the 19th as an option, but most people I speak with say it’ll most likely be the 18th (Matt Porter of the Boston Globe was first to report it as the 18th).

Even though there’s been no official confirmation from the league, one manager told me teams will not be able to trade draft picks. That will most likely change next season, but for the league’s first trade deadline nobody will be able to move their picks for players. Like you, I’m wondering why not? Does the league want to ensure all six teams build a solid foundation? Or, since the rules for the next draft have not been finalized yet, is it that trading picks could lead to problems?

• I got a text from someone this week who said “(Anthony) Mantha is going to be the Barbashev/Kempny trade this year”, meaning the final piece in a Stanley Cup puzzle.

Interesting. That’s a high bar, but I think we’ve all wondered when Mantha’s game will click together. Personally, I’m guilty of expecting that same player I saw in junior hockey to show up in the NHL. In 2013-14 playing with Val d’Or of the QMJHL Mantha recorded 81 goals in 81 games between the regular season and playoffs.  Every time the puck was on his stick you just expected it was going in the net. 

That hasn’t happened for him at the NHL level, to put it mildly, but I still look at his skill and size combination and wonder if maybe he could be the last piece for some team. He is having a good season on an expiring contract (always a motivating factor) with 16 goals in 46 games. We’ll see if any team bites and if he rewards them.

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• Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Sean Walker remains a hot topic around trade circles and, all things being equal, we expect he’ll be moved by the deadline. I do wonder if Walker would return to Philadelphia in the off-season as there does seem to be a fit there. It would certainly open that door if the Flyers moved Rasmus Ristolainen, but that’s not an easy deal to make.

• One manager I spoke with this week made an interesting point that, at trade deadline, teams tend to try to load up with size on the back end and added that as much as Walker is a valued commodity he’s not going to “bulk up” a blue line.

• On the 32 Thoughts podcast last week we talked about a conversation I had with Trinity College assistant coach Kim Weiss who wondered why the Chicago Blackhawks use white tape on their socks for gamesm but clear tape during practice? I have so far failed to find out the Hawks’ white tape origin story, but this week I had another conversation about sock tape (can you tell I have an exciting life yet?) on The Jeff Marek Show with the great Mike Rupp who dropped a beauty on me about a GM who’s not just from the old school, but from the school they burned down to build the old school: Lou Lamoriello.

Rupp used to be fanatical about taping his shin pads. He did around the top, under the kneecap, continued on the back of the sock down to the ankle and then taped at the bottom. One continuous tape job.

But one problem: He played on Lamoriello’s New Jersey Devils.

So, Rupp wasn’t allowed clear tape or cloth tape, it had to be red plastic tape for red socks, white plastic tape for white socks and you weren’t allowed to have one continuous tape job from top to bottom because Lou wouldn’t allow any tape over the stripes on the Devils’ socks.

Rupp told me he did a wrap on the top and a wrap on the bottom and it “threw my mind for a pickle for a while.”

Lou’s rules, man.

• As we get set for the NHL trade deadline on March 8 I’ll spotlight some of my favourite trades of all-time each week here.

Today we’ll reach back to 1974 and a deal that started in professional basketball.

Pat Ribble was a tall, lanky defenceman from Leamington, Ont., who played junior for the Oshawa Generals and was selected by the Atlanta Flames in the fourth round, 58th overall. Pretty standard stuff.

But, he was drafted using a pick that was traded to the Flames by the New York Islanders as compensation for Julius Erving going from the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks to the ABA’s New Jersey Nets.

How does that happen? The Hawks/Flames were both owned by Tom Cousins while the Islanders were owned by Roy Boe.

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