A look at some of the better UFA options for Vancouver's second line - David Clarkson would be at the top of my list.
Great move by the Pens to lock up Evgeni Malkin (for a below market value contract). Malkin could have hit the open market next summer... and I would have expected many offers in the $11-12 million range. The cap is temporarily down to 64 million this year, but I would expect it to rise back up year by year for 2014-15 and beyond (especially with the new CBA and how the revenue sharing is structured).
The cap will be above $70 million again in no time. And this contract is a (relatively) reasonable one. Malkin will make less per year than Alex Ovechkin, so he doesn't have the "pressure" of being the player in the NHL with the highest annual cap hit.
The Penguins are going to be top heavy, but they simply had to make this move. You can't let top five players in the world leave. Period. This places pressure on the pro and amateur scouts to find cheap players that can contribute, but that is an easier solution than trying to replace Malkin.
And I thought Malkin had a good series against Boston, all things considered. He obviously wasn't productive (at all), but he was creating offense against Zdeno Chara, which is no easy task.
Game 1 - great game - sloppy at times, but both teams showed why they were there. The one thing I really noticed that the two teams have in common is fantastic puck support. Boston is bigger and stronger (Chicago played as physical as they could, and they took it too Boston for stretches of the game in that department), and Chicago is faster and more skilled.
But both teams support the puck so well in all three zones - there wasn't a lot of "off the glass and out" plays last night. Two quick passes and out of the zone.
Nathan Horton left the game, which opened up more ice time for Seguin and Peverley (and most other Bruins forwards, too). He looked to be in a lot of discomfort when he left the ice in regulation.
Brent Seabrook in particular had a great game - he looked like Lidstrom at times with how efficient he was at breaking the puck out - he must have had a half-dozen tape-to-tape two-zone outlet passes.
The Grand Rapids Griffins have a 3-0 series lead in the Calder Cup Final against Syracuse.
Forward Jan Mursak scored the game winner, and he now has 10 postseason goals. Mursak signed a contract to play in the KHL back in May… but does his strong postseason change anything?
I don’t blame him for signing in Russia – he’s spent five years in the AHL. He has NHL talent, but needs a chance to show it.
A quick “rant” on the Penguins/Iginla/coaching:
It's amazing what great goaltending can lead to.
(This was written before Game 1 last night – so if Rask is lit up… you can skip past the next few paragraphs…).
Boston won in 2011 primarily because of Tim Thomas, but the main narrative after was how they "bullied" their way to the cup over the East and then Vancouver with toughness and grit. Thomas outplayed every single goalie significantly. Sure, the Bruins were tougher than their opponents, but if Thomas doesn’t play at an elite level, no one writes about that.
And the same thing is this year with the Bruins. Rask is outplaying other goalies significantly. Pittsburgh didn't play bad. Sounds weird considering that they were swept, but they created shots on goal, chances, and they did a pretty good job defending (save for a few meltdowns) too.
Great goaltending cures so many faults with a team. And for a team without many (Boston), it makes them damn near unbeatable. It also leads to really good teams questioning themselves.
Look at how Washington reacted to losing to Halak a few years ago. Pittsburgh was simply up against a white-hot goaltender. Sometimes you just have to take your ball and go home.
Shero may have added too much at the deadline, but you can’t fault him for wanting to make his team better. Did he disrupt chemistry? I’m not sure, and no one outside of that dressing room will know.
Today’s team to look at is the Tampa Bay Lightning (sweet jerseys)
2013-14 sleeper pick: Richard Panik
Panik is the total package – he’s big, skilled, and gritty. The Lightning really like his game, and his strong AHL postseason will bode well as he enters an important offseason for his development. If he reports to camp and performs well, there is a second line spot in Tampa Bay with his name on it. He’s a great skater for someone who is 6-2 and 220 pounds – he’s physically more than ready for NHL hockey.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see him have a 15-20-goal, 45-point season as a rookie in Tampa Bay next year.
Long term sleeper pick: Vladislav Namestnikov
Namestnikov is nearly two years younger than Panik, and he isn’t as polished or ready for NHL action. But his upside is much higher. He isn’t as big (6-0, 175 pounds), but he has elite puck skills and is a terrific playmaker. He probably doesn’t offer enough for the Lightning to give him a look on one of the bottom two lines, and Stamkos and Lecavalier will be around for a while. Expect Namestnikov to spend at least one (and probably two) more seasons in the AHL.
He will be worth the wait, though.
What does the Sergei Gonchar signing mean for the Dallas defense? My early take - I expect that this is the first of many moves that Jim Nill makes this summer.
Gonchar is a rare left-shooting defenseman who prefers to play on his "off" side (right side). I could see him pairing with Brenden Dillon, allowing Robidas and Daley to stick together. That is a decent top four, and it doesn't even include the much-improved Alex Goligoski.
The Stars also have a quartet of good prospects on the back end - Joe Morrow, Jamie Oleksiak, Kevin Connauton, and Cameron Gaunce (Morrow has the most upside, Gaunce is the most NHL ready).
Gonchar also played with Alex Goligoski (especially on the PP) back during their Pittsburgh days - not a lot of defense there - perhaps a pairing that gets a lot of offensive zone starts?
Even at 39 he still has a bomb of a shot:
In 2014 I would expect to see Fraser playing bottom six minutes for the Stars while trying to develop other aspects of his game. If he is able to develop other aspects of his game (skating, playmaking, defending, etc.) he could make a home for himself in Dallas.
Realistically it is still a long shot that he will develop to be more than a bottom six winger, but if he is going to we will likely see some of those steps taken in 2014.
I really like Hunter Shinkaruk – he’s small and pretty bad defensively, but he has great speed, he’s gritty, and he has a huge amount of offensive upside. I could see him going anywhere from pick six to 12 at the upcoming draft.
The most probable outcome for Shinkaruk looks to be a middle six NHL forward who might play on the top line so long as someone else is driving the bus. Size doesn't seem to have a negative impact, though it should be noted that most of the smaller players listed were drafted in the 80s or early 90s.
Dustin Byfuglien weighed over 300 pounds by the end of last season. According to some, that makes him untradeable. He was logging 24+ minutes a night and playing pretty good hockey at that weight? Impressive, to say the very least.
More seriously, Byfuglien can’t carry that weight around forever – as he gets older, it is going to increase his injury susceptibility tremendously. Obviously he has problems keeping weight off – the Jets need to hire a cook/nutritionist to follow him around 24/7. Eating healthy isn’t hard, especially for a well-paid athlete who can afford top ingredients. But eating unhealthy is very easy.
Tomas Tatar (sauce) is having a great AHL postseason – he should have a spot in Detroit next season. Average size, but hard on the puck and skilled. Sounds like a few current Red Wings, doesn’t it?
Tatar, a 21-year-old who played 18 games with the Detroit Red Wings this season, had become a self-described target for Griffins opponents in the first two rounds of the AHL playoffs, and rightfully so. He leads the league with 12 playoff goals and leads Grand Rapids in points with 17 (five assists).
The Wings could have a few new faces in the lineup next year, in addition to Nyquist and Andersson. Filppula and Cleary are both UFAs.
Fixing Vancouver’s fourth line – a look at some available centers.
And a look at Keith Ballard, the compliance buyout, and retaining salary in trades. This case study could be applied to a number of overpaid (but still relatively effective) NHL players.
Thomas Hickey checks in at #13 on Lighthouse Hockey’s countdown of the top 25 Islanders under 25. Score one for the waiver wire.
I think Hickey is a wild card at this point. A pleasant surprise after being picked up on waivers, we need to remember that we only saw him for what amounted to half an NHL season. He was solid defensively and moved the puck well, forming what was, at times, the Islanders best D pairing with Lubomir Visnovsky. If he can repeat his performance in 2013-14 he will definitely move up my rankings.
I am a huge Roman Josi fan. He debuted on my top 10 defensive keeper prospects list over two years ago. He is a great skater and is solid at both ends of the ice. And Nashville very likely sees him in the same light, which is why they locked him up through his prime for $4 million per season.
But GMs around the league are going to be very mad at David Poile for the contract. Josi can now be used as a comparable in arbitration cases – seven years and $28 million for 100 games of NHL experience? I’m playing devil’s advocate a bit here, as I think Josi will be out-earning the contract in a year or two (he was pretty good in 2013, especially considering the fact he was asked to step in and replace Ryan Suter on the top pairing).
The Penguins are already talking to Malkin’s agent. What is it going to take? $10 million per? $11 million? Don’t forget – Crosby signed a 12-year deal, while the longest Malkin can go is eight. That is going to drive up the AAV considerably (and don’t forget the fact that Crosby took a massive discount… he’s a max contract player very easily).
Vladimir Tarasenko was nicknamed “Tank” in Russia. And we now know why.
Latest fitness post – learning the kettlebell swing. This is a great exercise with countless benefits – size/strength/better posture/fat loss, and on and on.
Taking suggestions for summer posts - going to continue with a look at some multi-category sleepers (this seemed to be the most common request). Will also take a look at numerous buy low/sell high options in the Summer Stock Market series (set to debut in a few weeks).
As always, thanks for reading!