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By Joe McDonald at 17 June, 2013, 9:43 am
You knew the Rangers would do the right thing here. And with the hiring of Alain Vigneault, it seems like they have.
After the tough love and abrasive approach of John Tortorella, the Blueshirts needed a change and Vigneault’s soft but firm approach seems just right for the team right now, so much so that those who do sports betting on NHL may just pick the Rangers to win the Cup in 2014.
His former assistant with the Vancouver Canucks, Rick Bowness, who was recently hired by the Tampa Bay Lightning to be an that team’s top assistant, said in an interview with the New York Daily News, Vigneault was a special person.
“Ten minutes into the interview, I knew I was going to hire him, (because of) his honesty, straightforwardness, strength of character,” Bowness said to Pat Leonard of the Daily News. “You knew he was going to be very loyal, very committed and very hardworking. You could just tell.”
One of the biggest complaints of Tortorella’s regime was that he stifled offensive creativity in favor of a defensive blocking shots approach. That cost him this year with the Rangers power play going in the tank during the playoffs.
But defense wins championships and Vigneault was able to balance both offense and defense to allow the Canucks to become a powerhouse, winning two President’s Trophies and reaching the Finals once.
“You’ve got to let your players play, you’ve got to let them run, and at the same time you can command commitment to team defense, which we were able to do and then went to the Finals,” Bowness said to the Daily News. “We never lost our focus on team ‘D’, but we certainly loosened the reins up and let them run a little bit as time went on.”
Plus after coaching in hockey hotbeds like Montreal and Vancouver, Vigneault should have no problem adjusting to New York. In fact, it may be easier because unlike the Canadian markets, the pressure can be a little less in the states.
“He’s been through a lot of pressure situations,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said. “He can handle a lot of pressure. All the heat that he’s had to put up with in Vancouver, he’s handled it extremely well, and it never seemed to bother him.”
And that includes working with the New York media, which was very hostile under Tortorella.
“The media will not intimidate him one bit,” Bowness said to the Daily News. “I never saw one thing that there was something in the media that rattled him. He has thick skin, and he doesn’t care. The media will not get to him one bit.”
It’s too early to tell if Bovada sportsbook for hockey has the Rangers as the 2014 favorite, but hiring Vigneault is definitely a good start for the Blueshirts.
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Kreider, Rangers avoid arbitration; the Subban dynasty; KHL adds hybrid icing (Puck Headlines) (Puck Daddy)
By Yahoo! Sports - NHL - New York Islanders News at 23 July, 2014, 11:44 am
Here are your Puck Headlines: A glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media.
Last year the ice was gold, this year it’s a big coloring book. Summer ice at @BrdgstoneArena is awesome! pic.twitter.com/bEDINDvxwG — Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) July 21, 2014
• Give little kids the opportunity to paint ice and this is what happens. [ @PredsNHL ]
• Joe Sakic on hammering out the Ryan O’Reilly deal : “He’s a very valuable player to us and we want him long-term. That (type of contract) hasn’t happened yet, but we’ll keep working at it and see what happens.” [ Denver Post ]
• After agreeing to a one-year, $3.5 million deal with Mats Zuccarello on Tuesday, the New York Rangers also avoided arbitration with Chris Kreider as the two sides hammered out a two-year, $4.95 million contract. [ NY Post ]
• Speaking of arbitration, Lars Eller would like $3.1 million per season. The Montreal Canadiens are thinking something along the lines of $1.65 million. [ Habs Eyes on the Prize ]
• Andre Benoit heads to the Buffalo Sabres after signing a one-year, $800,000 deal. [ Olean Times ]
• How does a potential violation of Arizona’s Open Meeting Laws affect the Arizona Coyotes? [ Five for Howling ]
• The New York Islanders are probably going to trade one of their forwards to bolster their blueline; should it be Josh Bailey or Michael Grabner? [ Lighthouse Hockey ]
• Why Loui Eriksson as a first line winger for the Boston Bruins is more than all right. [ Days of Y’Orr ]
• It’s been a long time coming, but the Subban family is building their own NHL dynasty. [ Color of Hockey ]
• The KHL has joined the NHL in adopting hybrid icing. [ KHL ]
• Don’t know the backstory behind the Hartford Whalers’ logo? Today’s your lucky day. [ Icethetics ]
• Brooks Laich and Julianne Hough are in looooooooooove . [ Fashion & Style ]
• Looking at a new way to determine the NHL draft order. [ The Hockey Writers ]
• Former highly-touted prospect Angelo Espositio has signed with the ECHL’s Fort Wayne Komets. [ Komets ]
• For the first time, the World Cup of Ball Hockey will be held in the United States when Tampa hosts in September. [ Tampa Bay Business Journal ]
• Former NHLer Patrick Cote has been sentenced to 30 months in prison after confessing to two bank robberies. [ CJAD ]
• There are some NHL fighters who can help your fantasy league in other categories. Here are 10 to keep an eye on. [ Dobber Hockey ]
• Finally, here’s the latest NHL 15 video, which shows off the superstar skill stick:
Stars re-sign Roussel; Tim Peel’s day on Twitter; Lundqvist selling penthouse (Puck Headlines) (Puck Daddy)
By Yahoo! Sports - NHL - New York Islanders News at 22 July, 2014, 1:10 pm
Here are your Puck Headlines: A glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media.
• This is a really cool photo of hockey at the 1928 Olympics. [ Reddit Hockey ]
• More on the Soo Greyhounds saying goodbye to Kyle Dubas. He’ll be helping them install his replacement. [ Buzzing the Net ]
• Chris Johnston on the Dubas hire: “To deny the significance of possession stats in hockey is to be on the wrong side of history. Before Tuesday morning, the Toronto Maple Leafs were on the wrong side of history.” [ Sportsnet ]
• The Dallas Stars have avoided arbitration with Antoine Roussel, signing the feisty winger to a four-year, $8 million contract. [ Defending Big D ]
• Everybody’s favourite NHL referee Tim Peel (certainly our favourite) may have been on Twitter today. If it was really him, here’s what went down: he hopped on, then had to shut it down almost right away because the CBA doesn’t allow him to tweet. Once again, we wonder if Tim Peel knows the rules. [ Sporting News ]
• Henrik Lundqvist is selling his insane Hell’s Kitchen penthouse. It can be yours for about $7 million. [ NY Rangers Blog ]
• P.A. Parenteau calls joining the Montreal Canadiens a dream come true, which is what he was supposed to say. [ TSN ]
• The Anaheim Ducks have signed Sami Vatanen to a two-year, $2.5 million contract. [ Anaheim Calling ]
• Al Montoya hopes to be the next Cory Schneider, in the sense that he steals Roberto Luongo’s job: “The coach and the team knows what I’m capable of and when I’m called, I’m going out there to win games. I’m not just there to give Roberto a night off, I’m there to help the team move forward. I’m looking forward to the challenge. I think things are headed in the right direction. I haven’t seen my best yet.” [ Miami Herald ]
• Philadelphia laywer Andrew Barroway has reportedly made a huge offer for the New York Islanders. [ The Score ]
• The Flames have avoided arbitration with Joe Colborne, signing the big centre to a two-year deal. [ Matchsticks & Gasoline ]
• Dale Tallon on Aaron Ekblad: “”I’m really impressed with his hands. I knew he was a well-rounded player, but I’m really happy with his skills … how he handles the biscuit, how he moves it and how he shoots it.” [ Sun-Sentinel ]
• Blackhawks president and CEO John McDonough on the seventh annual Blackhawks convention: ”I think one of the missions of the Blackhawks Convention is to humanize these guys. Again, make them have a common man’s touch to professional sports. If there is any innocence left in professional sports — and I’m not sure that there is — I truly believe that it’s in hockey. [ CSN Chicago ]
• Logan Couture hypothesizes that the devastating loss to the Kings will motivate the Sharks. I should hope so. [ PHT ]
• In which Mike Modano is informed of Ronald Reagan’s untimely passing a decade ago. [ Deadspin ]
• Now in its third year, Dominic Moore’s smashfest charity continues to grow. [ Canadian Press ]
• You may remember this excellent video is from 2010, but it’s still amazingly topical. NBC’s broadcast schedule remains almost completely Canada-free, with the Leafs and Canadiens making it on national television in the States just twice each, and every other Canadian team completely shut out:
By Yahoo! Sports - NHL - New York Islanders News at 22 July, 2014, 11:32 am
You’ve got to feel for the San Jose Sharks. Not only did they see a good season wasted with yet another early-season exit, but this one may have been the most heart-breaking of all, with the team squandering a 3-0 lead to the eventual Staney Cup Champion LA Kings. Then, to make matters worse, they’ll have to open the season playing those same LA Kings and standing around trying not to look as their in-state rivals raise their second Stanley Cup banner.
It’s going to be truly uncomfortable for them, which means it’s appointment viewing for us, which is likely why NBC was all to happy to lead off their 2014-15 regular season coverage with this game.
In a manner of speaking. The game will be the second of an opening night double-header for NBCSN’s growing Wednesday Night Rivalry brand, immediately following a tilt between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Boston Bruins.
On Tuesday, NBC released their next-season broadcast schedule, which will see them airing a grand total of 103 regular-season games. As with past seasons, they know what the people want: the teams of the Northeast, minus the Islanders. From NBC:
Coming off of the most-watched NHL regular season ever on NBC and NBCSN, the most-watched Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2006 and most-watched Stanley Cup Playoffs on cable in 17 years, NBC Sports Group will deliver coverage of 103 NHL regular-season games during the 2014-15 season, featuring 14 games on NBC and 89 games on NBCSN. All games will be streamed live via NBC Sports Live Extra.
• NBC will present the 2015 NHL Winter Classic from Washington, D.C., between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Washington Capitals on January 1 at 1 p.m. ET.
• Making its return for the first time since 2012, NBCSN will present coverage of the NHL All-Star Game from Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, home of the Columbus Blue Jackets. All-Star weekend will take place Saturday, January 24 and Sunday, January 25 and will include the NHL All-Star Skills Competition™ and the NHL All-Star Game.
• This year’s regular-season coverage features 31 games spanning 14 of the 15 series from the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, including back-to-back rematches of the 2014 Western and Eastern Conference Finals on NBCSN (Blackhawks-Kings on Jan. 28, Canadiens-Rangers on Jan. 29), and a rematch of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final between the Rangers and Kings on March 24. Bruins-Red Wings, Blackhawks-Blues,
• Penguins-Flyers and Kings-Sharks are the most featured matchups, each appearing four times on NBC and NBCSN.
• 56 of NBC and NBCSN’s 103 telecasts feature at least one Western Conference team.
And as we often do, here’s a breakdown of how often each team will appear on the NBC Sports Group properties:
Anaheim Ducks: 7 Arizona Coyotes: 1 Calgary Flames: 0 Edmonton Oilers: 0 Los Angeles Kings: 13 San Jose Sharks: 13 Vancouver Canucks: 0
Chicago Blackhawks: 20 Colorado Avalanche: 7 Dallas Stars: 4 Minnesota Wild: 11 Nashville Predators: 1 St. Louis Blues: 11 Winnipeg Jets: 0
Boston Bruins: 17 Buffalo Sabres: 11 Detroit Red Wings: 15 Florida Panthers: 0 Montreal Canadiens: 2 Ottawa Senators: 0 Tampa Bay Lightning: 5 Toronto Maple Leafs: 2
Carolina Hurricanes: 3 Columbus Blue Jackets: 1 New Jersey Devils: 2 New York Islanders: 0 New York Rangers: 14 Philadelphia Flyers: 16 Pittsburgh Penguins: 19 Washington Capitals: 13
And finally, a look at some of the winners and losers:
WINNER: The Buffalo Sabres. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to predict that the Sabres are going to be bad, and yet, somehow, they’ll appear on an NBC property 11 freaking times . If the goal is rivalries, one wonders what the hapless Sabres are going to be able to contribute. It seems reasonable to assume, more often than not, they’re going to get blown out on national television. That said, maybe NBC is counting on that and wants a lot of goals? But if that’s the case, they should have opted for more than zero Oilers game.
LOSER: And speaking of teams shut out, how did the Islanders get zero appearances? It’s clear NBC cares very little for Western Canada, as evidenced by the Oilers, Flames, and Canucks being shut out here, but the Islanders are right in the thick of the Northeast. All the teams within bussing distance have at least one appearance, and most have more than 10. But the Islanders don’t even get a sniff. Clearly, NBC doesn’t see much in them. In this way they’re like every free agent Garth Snow tried to sign early.
WINNER: The Western Conference. It became very clear last season that the better hockey is being played in the West right now, which might explain why NBC seems more willing than ever to give the teams out west some dap. As they pointed out, more than half of the broadcasts feature a Western Conference club. (It probably also helps that that’s where the Cup is right now. The Blackhawks, last year’s champion and a massively popular brand still on the rise, have the most appearances, at 20.)
LOSER: The New Jersey Devils. Like the Islanders, NBC clearly doesn’t have much faith in them to be compelling or competitive, as they have only two measly appearances. It’s a shame, in a way. Their non-playoff year is the issue here, but a look at their underlying numbers from last season suggests they’re going to be much better than most expect.
WINNER: California. The Pacific Division is ruled right now by the three California teams, and unsurprisingly, NBC wants to showcase a lot of that hockey. The trio will appear a combined 33 times. Plus, not only are the Sharks and Kings arguably the big draw on opening night, but NBC is going to that well four times over the season, as many as the Battle of Pennsylvania, Red Wings-Bruins and Blackhawks-Blues.
LOSER: Canada. Just two appearances for the Leafs, two for the Canadiens, and none for anybody else. But the country probably doesn’t care too much. They’ll be watching all their games elsewhere anyhow. Still, you’d think Canada would get a few more national showcases if their teams were any good.
WINNER: The Blues. Between a growing rivalry with the Blackhawks and their continued employment of American hero T.J. Oshie, they get a lot of play. As mentioned, four games versus Chicago, and eleven overall.
LOSER: The Arizona Coyotes. New name, new lease on life, no exposure. While plenty of Western Conference teams get their fair share of TV time, the Coyotes, who could probably use a boost, almost get Canada’d, with just one game to their name. It probably doesn’t help that they’re sharing a Division with the California three, nor that they’re known for playing some pretty bland hockey.
By Yahoo! Sports - NHL - New York Islanders News at 22 July, 2014, 7:54 am
Minnesota Wild left wing Thomas Vanek says he’s cooperating with federal authorities conducting an investigation in Rochester. Local media report that Vanek was at the federal courthouse in Rochester to speak with officials. He signed a free-agent co…Read More >>
By Yahoo! Sports - NHL - New York Islanders News at 21 July, 2014, 8:26 am
( Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.)
Tanner Glass and Lee Stempniak are teammates again, for the first time since spring, and second time since 2004-05. That year, they played together at Dartmouth, with Stempniak a senior and Glass a sophomore.
Now, they’re both on the New York Rangers and highlight a particularly bizarre portion of the NHL’s annual summer free agency period.
The early days of free agency almost always come off as being woefully inefficient. Guys who sign on or around July 1 tend to be overpaid in terms of dollars and years, and that’s a secret to approximately nobody. But the weird part is that things go from laughably expensive to laughably cheap pretty quickly, and it usually happens around the start of the second week of the month. The TSN-coined term “free agent frenzy” is, as a consequence, alarmingly apt. Teams get themselves all worked up to make it appear as though they’re doing something that they pay top dollar for players they shouldn’t.
Glass is the case in point here. He’s played 337 NHL games, and in them he’s piled up 54 points. He’s also on his fourth organization in five seasons, because what Glass does — get buried in possession and occasionally fight — is available on the open market for very cheap if you know where to look, and that’s if you have to go shopping for it; most minor league teams have at least one guy who can do what Glass does.
And yet his cap hit, on a contract unsurprisingly signed on July 1, will be $1.45 million for the next three seasons. That’s too much money and too many years for a fighter who’ll be 31 in November; remember how Shawn Thornton dropped off a cliff the last two or three seasons? Glass was never as good as Thornton.
Meanwhile, his old college buddy Stempniak had to wait until July 19 to sign his deal with the Rangers. Stempniak has more points in his 637-game career than Glass has games played. For each of his three seasons in Calgary, Stempniak’s possession numbers were better than what the rest of the team was doing when he wasn’t on the ice. His career low in points (13) is three below Glass’s career high, and that’s because the season in which he bottomed out was also one in which he played just 14 games.
You don’t need stats to tell you that Lee Stempniak is better than Tanner Glass, of course. That much should be obvious. And yet no one would ever deign to call the former a highly sought-after free agent, obviously. Glass obviously was.
That’s why Glass collected a contract worth $4.35 million in total over three years — one that wasn’t worth the commitment for the Rangers the second it was signed — while Stempniak got just $900,000 for one year, and that was the end of it.
One wonders what, exactly, possesses a Glen Sather to consider Glass to be worth 1.6 Stempniaks, but “rational thought” cannot be included among the acceptable answers.
The point is, though, that this kind of thing happens all the time. From July 7 on, NHL teams have signed a total of 13 players, all but two for just one season, for an average cap hit of $1.17 million. Compare that to the first five days of July, when teams committed an average of about $7.15 million to 79 players, and the average term was about 2.3 seasons (that means an AAV of roughly $3.1 million).
Now granted, some of that is skewed by the fact that the big-name free agents tend to get signed only July 1, or maybe a few days after that. None wait around until the middle of the month to make their decisions. But then again the vast majority of players being signed in that initial rush aren’t highly sought-after, or at least shouldn’t be. You’d have to feel comfortable lumping the more recently hired guys in with most July 1 signings in terms of quality.
Were you a betting man, you might be able to make some good money betting that Lee Stempniak has a better season than, say, Dave Bolland. Since 2007-08, they’re in roughly the same neighborhood in terms of ES points per 60; Stempniak is 142nd in the league at 1.66, and Bolland is 155th at 1.61. And yet the latter, who’s more injury prone and demonstrably worse, was the one who got $5.5 million a year for the next five seasons.
You can grab a lot of headlines on July 1, no doubt about that. But you’re not likely to grab good value. Teams that sit back and wait for players to come to them — teams like Nashville, which signed Derek Roy, Mike Ribeiro, and Anton Volchenkov in an eight-day period for a total of $3.05 million, for instance — are the ones that grab the value. Were you a betting man, you might also be able to make pretty good money wagering that Volchenkov will have a better year than Brooks Orpik.
Just because you have money doesn’t mean you should spend it. Splash the cash on quality free agents all you like, but don’t mistake a Day-1 bidding war for a bargain. Unless you’re adding players to your starting lineup, it will almost certainly be far cheaper to sit back and wait.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks : Please don’t count on John Gibson being a Calder candidate . It would take a disaster for him to get a full-time starting job this season.
Arizona Coyotes : Does Ray Whitney still have something in the tank ? Possession numbers remain shockingly fine, but anyone hoping for 60-point seasons any more will be sorely disappointed.
Boston Bruins : Milan Lucic says he will not apologize for the handshake line threats he made to various Canadiens. And if you ask him about it again, he’s going to [expletive]ing kill you.
Buffalo Sabres : Remember that kid who couldn’t stick with the team last season? Put him on the first line !
Calgary Flames : The Jonas Hiller contract is off to a running start .
Carolina Hurricanes : Easy to be happy with the Hurricanes’ depth additions this summer , but wouldn’t it also be nice to get some actual good star players too?
Chicago Blackhawks : Niklas Hjalmarsson believes the the Winter Classic will once again be a “ surreal ” experience. Agreed. Absolutely unreal that this is the team’s third outdoor game in six years.
Colorado Avalanche : Joe Sakic says Jarome Iginla’s shot and leadership are good . If his legs actually work for the next three seasons, that just might matter!
Columbus Blue Jackets : Hey, they’re making strides in Ryan Johansen’s contract talks. The kid’s good but 30 goals might be a bit much to expect; I wouldn’t count on him shooting almost 14 percent next season. He’s lucky he got so lucky when he did, really.
Dallas Stars : Antoine Roussel wants $2.35 million in arbitration . The team wants to pay him $1.5 million. Let’s call it $2 million and who cares? Dallas has tons of cap space.
Detroit Red Wings : Yeah, “ bold ” is one way to put asking a bankrupt city to foot a too-large part of the bill for a $650 million downtown district that includes an arena that seats 20,000-plus. Public stadium financing is a scam to make the rich richer, and always has been.
Edmonton Oilers : Remember when the Oilers started their rebuild in 2009-10? There’s no one left from that team on the roster. What a life.
Florida Panthers : Love that Dmitry Kulikov contract. What I love even more is that he’s apparently “ inconsistent .” If having a 23-year-old who can drive possession out of his own zone against good competition isn’t good, then I don’t know what to think.
Los Angeles Kings : Justin Williams received the Key to the City of Ventnor City, N.J., when he brought the Stanley Cup back to his adopted hometown. That’s the second time he’s brought it there, but given the way the Kings are going, residents might want to get used to this kind of party.
Minnesota Wild : The Xcel Energy Center is getting a new scoreboard for the coming season. It will be about five times bigger than the previous one, giving fans a closer look at a team that will probably disappoint them this year.
Montreal Canadiens : The Canadiens haven’t done much this summer , which makes it all the more likely that this season will be like the one that followed the last time they made the Eastern Conference Final. A first-round bounce-out might actually be the best they can hope for.
Nashville Predators, America’s Favorite Hockey Team : Seth Jones remained in Nashville to train this summer. Apparently, almost no Preds actually do that.
New Jersey Devils : The Devils have a lot of good, young defensemen . And Adam Larsson.
New York Islanders : Griffin Reinhart wants to be on the Islanders next season . Someone’s gotta take all those tough Andrew MacDonald minutes.
New York Rangers : The city would burn .
Ottawa Senators : The Senators want to know how they can improve Canadian Tire Centre . One assumes most fans wrote, “Put a competitive team in it.”
Philadelphia Flyers : John Stevens brought the Stanley Cup to Philadelphia this past week, and people in Philly are apparently mad that he took it to the Rocky Steps . Does anyone want to let the city of Philadelphia know that “Rocky” isn’t even that good of a movie? Ay at least they didn’t bring it to Pat’s or Geno’s!!!
Pittsburgh Penguins : Mark Recchi was named the Penguins’ player development coach . Word of advice: Don’t ask if he wants to go to the movies.
San Jose Sharks : People are still upset about the Sharks’ new ice girls team . It’s a reasonable thing to be upset about, but the conspiracy theorist has to think this is at least partly a ploy to distract from how little Doug Wilson has done this offseason, eh?
St. Louis Blues : So cute. Doug Armstrong thinks Chris Butler is a “ qualified defenseman .”
Tampa Bay Lightning : Yeah look if you can’t squeeze Jonathan Drouin onto this roster you’re not doing a very good job of making the team better. Pretty simple.
Toronto Maple Leafs : If David Clarkson thinks last year went badly , just wait until he’s in year five of this awful contract and still has two to go!
Vancouver Canucks : A decent number of people in Vancouver still don’t like Derek Dorsett from his junior days. Can’t imagine why.
Washington Capitals : Dmitry Orlov just isn’t an offensive defenseman . Sorry.
Winnipeg Jets : Another season of missing the playoffs coming up in Winnipeg. No one gets fired! Hooray!
Gold Star Award
By Yahoo! Sports - NHL - New York Islanders News at 17 July, 2014, 4:29 pm
Dadoun takes a look at Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Florida, and Montreal.Read More >>
By Yahoo! Sports - NHL - New York Islanders News at 17 July, 2014, 11:21 am
With the first two-plus weeks of free agency officially in the rearview mirror, we can compare and contrast the dozens of UFA deals to get a true feel for which teams should be patting themselves on the back (or suffering from buyer’s remorse) and which agents might be getting a shiny new Rolex come holiday time (or settling for the gift that keeps on giving the whole year ).
The Rich Don’t Need to Get Richer
How can signing UFA forwards Adam Cracknell and David Van Der Gulik (combined 29 points in 113 career NHL games) count as having a positive impact on a team? Easy – when that team is the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings. Another reminder that although making a big splash in free agency is impressive, it’s almost always better to enjoy the luxury of not having to fix what isn’t broken.
And in the UFA poker game among the NHL’s elite teams, the cap-challenged Boston Bruins folded (none signed so far). But the 2015 Cup frontrunner Chicago Blackhawks called the two spare parts deals of the Kings (signing Cody Bass and Pierre-Cedric Labrie – combined 10 points in 95 NHL games), and raised them one former Conn Smythe winner in Brad Richards, who agreed to a one year, $2M deal.
But the reality is the Richards experiment won’t end well. Last season the highest point total by any bought out forward was 37 from Vincent Lecavalier, whose intended second/third line role with Philly was a lot like what’s probably envisioned for Richards. And since Chicago evenly spreads its PP time, Richards – who normally relies upon at least a third of his scoring via the man advantage – won’t even see close to the 3:40 of PP time (second lowest average of his career) he got last year.
From Penn Plaza to Del Boca Vista
Former New York Rangers Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman left the Big Apple for the sunny confines of Tampa Bay, where they’ll also be joined by Brenden Morrow. Is it just me, or is over $8M per season a lot to spend on three players whose points totals have headed in the wrong direction in the past few full seasons (Boyle had 35 points in 2011-12, 26 in 2011-12, and just 18 in 2013-14; Stralman had 18 in 2010-11 and 2011-12, but just 13 in 2013-14; Morrow had 56 in 2010-11, 26 in 2011-12, and only 25 in 2013-14)?
Maybe the most interesting tidbit to come from the Boyle and Stralman signings is how the advice of Ryan Callahan – he of the only 24 career games in a Lightning uniform – apparently played a large part in getting them to come to Tampa. No word yet on whether Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen sought input from UFA Dustin Penner (18 games for Washington last season) on the quality of D.C.’s breakfast fare before agreeing to their massive deals with the Caps.
Coming to a Theater (but maybe not a Rink) Near You – Dallas IR Club
Dallas Stars fans are eager for newly signed Ales Hemsky to rekindle his 2013-14 magic (17 points in 20 games) with Jason Spezza, whom the Stars acquired via trade. But prior to last season when they combined for 150 games played, you’d have to go back to 2008-09 to find the last time both suited up for 70+ games in the same campaign; and each has more seasons of missing 10+ games than not. Hopefully their suits and street clothes made the trip south from Ottawa…..
The 2014 offseason is shaping up to be all about inexpensive reclamation signings, where you can literally picture general managers saying, “For that little money – why not!?” Between Morrow, Steve Downie ($1M with Pittsburgh), Dany Heatley ($1M with Anaheim), Mike Ribeiro and Derek Roy ($1.05M and $1M with Nashville), and Martin Havlat ($1.5M with New Jersey), you could ice a fantasy hockey top six…if this was circa 2009.
Forget about Heatley making a positive impact. If he couldn’t produce when he had to earn a new contract, then he’s unlikely to be resurrected on Anaheim, especially since unlike the Minnesota Wild (who paid him $5M last season) the Ducks can afford to play him wherever they want (or not at all).
Morrow’s higher salary ($1.55M) could help his cause. But the reality is that barring injuries to other players (and – by some miracle – not to him), he’s likely to see time mostly in the bottom six, which means even 35-40 points would be a big stretch.
Ribeiro and Roy are going to perhaps the best possible landing spot, as on Nashville their offensive flair (particularly on the PP, where Roy has thrived his entire career and Ribeiro tied for the NHL lead in PP points in 2012-13) should be more than enough to compensate for their defensive shortcomings. It’s safe to count on both topping 50+ points if they stay healthy.
With Downie, he’s in line to get regular time as watchdog alongside Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin , allowing him to have points literally dropped onto his lap. Plus he had some early season traction (seven points in 11 games, 36 PIM) with Colorado during 2013-14, so clearly he has something left in the tank.
As for Havlat, to some his situation might look just as hopeless as Heatley’s; but the difference is New Jersey actually needs him (27th in goals scored last season, versus 2nd for Anaheim). And it helps that Havlat will be welcomed with open arms by countrymen and ageless wonders Jaromir Jagr and Patrik Elias. If Havlat plays in 75 games, he could tally 55+ points.
When More Definitely Is Less
Pop quiz – what happens when you mix the cap floor with two top prizes in the 2015 entry draft? You get Florida and Buffalo combining to commit huge money to some questionable UFAs.
In fact, if you remove Matt Moulson (51 points), Jussi Jokinen (57) and goalie Al Montoya, the combined 2013-14 scoring for the other seven UFA skaters they signed was 119 points in 410 games, translating to a full season rate of just under 24 points per player. So essentially they signed the equivalent of seven Kyle Brodziaks and Marc Methots, and will pay the seven in excess of $22M next season.
But hey – at least Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel will have some “character guys” to help transition them into the NHL in 2015-16.
Short, but Not Always Sweet
Other than Niskanen, no UFA this summer has been signed for more than five years, making it interesting to compare and contrast all the multi-year deals. Here are the best and worst – by number of years – in terms of impact on the signing teams.
• Best Two Year Deals : Chad Johnson by the New York Islanders Islanders and Justin Peters by the Washington Capitals. Remember how great Anton Khudobin did after coming to Carolina from Boston? Johnson and Peters have a chance to replicate that success in 2014-15, especially given the shakiness of the guys in front of them (Jaroslav Halak for Johnson and Braden Holtby for Peters).
• Worst Two Year Deals : Radim Vrbata by the Vancouver Canucks. He’ll get a shot with the Sedins; but they combined to score fewer points (97) in 2013-14 than Henrik had in 2009-10 or Daniel posted in 2010-11. Dan Boyle by the New York Rangers. He only amassed 56 points in his last 121 games while getting top minutes and responsibilities, but now will be second banana to Ryan McDonagh.
• Best Three Year Deals : Stephane Robidas by Toronto: An ageless workhorse who’ll lessen the tough minutes workload on Dion Phaneuf and Cody Franson. Mason Raymond by Calgary: He won’t forget how close to bottom he was last September , and will give the Flames everything he has. Thomas Vanek by Minnesota: The deal’s short term and the return to his college stomping grounds ensure he’ll actually remain dialed in.
• Worst Three Year Deals : Ryan Miller by Vancouver: Either he didn’t have many suitors or he decided the pressure of a top contender wasn’t for him; either way, this looks like a bad fit. Brian Gionta by Buffalo: Great guy to root for, especially since he’s literally going home again ; but 81 points in his last 160 games is a far, far cry from 89 in 82 games back in 2005-06.
• Best Four Year Deal : Paul Stastny by St. Louis. Exactly the right term and dollars from a team that makes perfect sense as a landing spot; the only concern might be keeping his dad away from a live mic.
• Worst Four Year Deal : Nikolai Kulemin by New York Islanders: By most accounts he was coveted by Pittsburgh, where he could’ve feasted by playing with countryman Evgeni Malkin; but instead he landed with the Islanders….cough cough…..money grab….cough cough.
• Best Five Year Deal : Benoit Pouliot by Edmonton. After going from being drafted fourth overall to playing for five teams in as many seasons, something clearly clicked with Pouliot on the Rangers; and that something will go a long way in helping him and the Oilers even if he never scores 30 goals or reaches 70 points in a season.
• Worst Five Year Deal : Matt Moulson by Buffalo: In his final 130 games with the Islanders, Moulson posted 122 points, while in 74 games since then he tallied only 45; anyone who thinks this’ll work out well is likely on Moulson’s payroll or works in PR for the Sabres.
Rick Roos is a Senior Writer over at DobberHockey.com where you can read his Cage Match articles every Wednesday.
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