NHL News & Notes to 22 Apr 2019. There are three game 7’s remaining in round one.

Here are some news & notes from around the NHL. I try to publish on Monday every two weeks but was up late Sunday night watching OT between Vegas and the Golden Knights.

League-related

  • The league and the NHLPA have agreed to a one year extension for the current playoff format. The PA put the matter before their league board (31 player reps) and got agreement to extend. The league seems to like the current format as it has many intense team rivalries in round one, the fans get charged up & ratings are good plus its good for travel (less travel).
  • The league announced that former LA Kings defenseman Slava Voynov has been suspended for the 2019-20 season including the 2020 playoffs for a domestic violence incident back in October 2014. The player is appealing through the NHLPA.
  • Heard where Gary Bettman said this post-season is the first time (in the 102 year history of the NHL) that all post-season games will be broadcast on national television.
  • The month of April is designated Green Month by the league. It’s about sustainability and reducing carbon footprint where possible.

Seattle

  • Both the cost and completion date for renovations to Seattle’s KeyArena have moved. The cost is now estimated at $930 M and the estimated completion date is Summer 2021. The Seattle Group (Oak View Group & Seattle Hockey Partners) are still hoping they can host their expansion draft and possibly an NHL Entry Draft in 2021. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly was in Seattle last week and the league is fine with the revised schedule and indicated that’s why they wanted a 2021 start for the Seattle team and not a 2020 start.
  • There has been some talk of Seattle attempting to get a women’s hockey team but for now it’s just seems to be grassroots interest. The Canadian Women’s Hockey League recently ceased operations so the whole women’s hockey league area is in a bit of a state of flux right now. There is still the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) but there is no current Canadian or West Coast presence in that league.

GM & Coaching News

  • John Davidson, President of the Columbus Blue Jackets, is reportedly the front runner to be the NY Rangers new president. Glen Sather stepped aside at the end of the regular season and the Rangers have been looking for a replacement. The Rangers want the new president to set a new vision and modernize the Rangers organization. The organization entered a rebuild at the start of this season and recently (via the draft lottery) added the number 2 overall pick in this June’s draft (the highest draft selection in their organizations history). The Rangers organization also needs to re-build their AHL operation in Hartford as well as get more into sports science and analytics. Some use the Leafs organization as an example of where the Rangers hope to get to overall. Both are big market teams with big budgets for operations.
  • New Jersey Devils GM Ray Shero was signed to a multi-year extension. Shero’s head coach John Hynes was signed to an extension during the season. One of Shero’s top priorities is getting Taylor Hall signed to a new contract. Hall has one year left on his deal before becoming a UFA. Early indications are Hall has really enjoys playing for the Devils, even though he missed 49 games this season with a knee injury he suffered in practice, but he wants to win Cups. I believe contract discussions have not yet started. Hall is the reigning Hart trophy winner for league MVP (for the 2017-18 season).
  • Former Tampa Bay Lightning GM, Steve Yzerman, returns to the Red Wings as their GM. Ken Holland moves to the role of VP of Hockey Operations. Holland had been the Wings GM since 1997 and under his leadership the Wings have won 4 President’s trophies, 4 division titles & 3 Cups. The Red Wings had an incredible record of 25 straight seasons making the playoffs but since that ended in the 2015-16 season, have missed the post season 3 straight seasons. Yzerman already indicated Jeff Blashill will remain the team’s head coach. From reviewing some of Yzerman’s comments, it seems Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Bertuzzi are the Wings core group. The organization also has high hopes for Filip Zadina (forward drafted 6th overall in 2018) and Joe Veleno (2018 first rounder 30th overall). Ken Holland could be in the mix for the Seattle GM position but it’s too early to tell. Holland is from the West Coast (Vernon, BC). There has been some speculation that Yzerman may hire Tampa Bay AGM Pat Verbeek who could also be in the mix for the Oilers GM job. Verbeek is someone who is has been considered for GM positions in the past. Another name that gets mentioned as a possible future GM is Blue Jackets AGM Bill Zito. Zito is believed to be on the Oilers list of GM candidates to interview.
  • The Florida Panthers announced 3 time Cup winner Joel Quenneville as their new head coach.  His contract was reported to be 5 years and $5.25 M with post-season bonuses that could make the deal about $7 M /season. Coach Q’s long time assistant, Mike Kitchen, is speculated to join Q in an assistant coach capacity with the Panthers. The Flyers were also interested in Quenneville be he reportedly preferred the Panthers situation.
  • The Philadelphia Flyers announced Alain Vigneault as their new head coach. AV’s deal was reported to be 5 years at $5 M per season. Vigneault has been to the Cup finals twice as an NHL head coach, with the Canucks in 2011 and with the Rangers in 2014, but has yet to win a Cup as a coach. Eight of Vigneault’s last 12 teams had at least 100 points and his team’s have won the Presidents Trophy 3 times. GM Chuck Fletcher said he was always impressed with Vigneault and could not pass up the opportunity to add him to the Flyers organization. The Flyers last won a Cup 44 years ago and have missed the post season 4 of the past 7 seasons so I sense some of the fans are a bit cynical of the team’s lack of overall success in recent times. Fletcher says he looking to add a player to two that brings some grittiness / sandpaper in an effort to make the Flyers harder to play against. The Flyers also need to improve their defense as they were 29th in the league in goals against this season. Additionally, the team may also upgrade their second line center position. They drafted Nolan Patrick 2nd overall in 2017 but Patrick’s first two seasons have seen him record just 30 and 31 points. The Flyers interim head coach, Scott Gordon, who coach the Flyers to a 25-22-4 record in 51 games after taking over from Dave Hakstol, was offered the head coaching position with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the Flyers AHL affiliate. Gordon has not decided as yet on staying on with the Flyers organization.
  • The Los Angeles Kings also announced a new coach as former Oilers and Sharks head coach Todd McLellan takes over. McLellan’s deal is also reported to be 5 years at $25 M. McLellan is the 3rd Kings head coach in the past 2 seasons. Kings GM Rob Blake has personal experience with McLellan as Blake played for McLellan when both were with the San Jose Sharks organization. McLellan won a Cup as a Red Wings assistant back in 2008. He also has been to the Western Conference semi-finals twice. Both McLellan and Blake say the players will be pushed harder and the standards for practice and games will be raised a lot. McLellan said he’s watched a lot of Kings games this season and has a lot of ideas on things he’ll be looking to implement. From some of the comments I heard after the Kings season ended, GM Blake says their is a culture issue with the Kings specifically attitude & lack of accountability among the players. The team has many of the same players that won 2 Cups but the team is now needing to get younger and build a revised team identity.
  • Minnesota Wild GM Paul Fenton announced that Bruce Boudreau will return next season. Boudreau has one year remaining on his contract that pays him $2.625 M. Apparently ownership did not want to pay for Boudreau to not coach next season. At the end of the regular season, Fenton dismissed Andrew Brunette & Shep Harder who were AGM’s with the team. Also dismissed were one of the team’s analytics people. Fenton just completed his first season as Wild GM; he replaced Chuck Fletcher who is now the Flyers GM.
  • With the Oilers GM search, I heard OHL London Knight’s GM Dale Hunter had a second interview. Oilers CEO Bob Nicholson is targeting approximately May 1 to hire his new GM. Apparently there are other candidates, other than Hunter, (Vegas GM Kelly McCrimmon is one) and the Oilers may do 3rd interviews for the position. Wings Senior VP Ken Holland has withdrawn his name from consideration. Oilers AGM Keith Gretzky has said he wants the GM position.
  • Oilers CEO Bob Nicholson recently indicated Ken Hitchcock will be with the Oilers in some capacity next season but who the team’s head coach will be is up to their yet-to-be-hired General Manager. Hitchcock has 2 years remaining on his consulting contract with Edmonton. Nicholson also indicated he’s being allowed to talk to assistant GM’s with others teams who are still playing. Nicholson also said there will be more transparency with the management of the team as fans are asking for it. Nicholson plans to publicly clearly lay out the direction the organization is going in.
  • Arizona Coyotes owner Anthony Barroway is trying to sell a part of his ownership portion of the team. Recent indications are than another equity partner would be in place before the start of the 2019-20 season. It’s not clear what percentage Barroway is looking to sell. The Coyotes need a new arena but nothing is close on that front.
  • Senators search for a President of Hockey Ops- I heard the Senators reached out to the league to get some assistance with their search. The league recommended someone that is working for an NHL team but it’s not clear who the person is. Senators GM Pierre Dorion will remain as the team’s GM and he will be hiring a coach. The leading candidate for the Senators new coach seems to be Marc Crawford who stepped into the role after Guy Boucher was fired on March 1, 2019. Crawford went 7-10-1 in the Sens final 18 regular season games.
  • There have been some rumblings that Seattle Hockey Advisor Dave Tippett wants to coach again. About a year ago when he started with the Seattle group, he wanted to be something like a VP of Hockey Ops but there has been some recent talk he’s got the coaching bug back and Seattle does not start real games for 2 more years. Buffalo, Anaheim, Edmonton and Ottawa are the current teams with a head coaching vacancy.

Playoff Series Notes

  • For the first time in NHL history the top team in each conference was eliminated in the first round and, for the first time since 2014, there will be 3 games 7’s (Tuesday – Leafs/Bruins and Sharks/Golden Knights then Wednesday Carolina/Washington). Three of the four wildcard teams have advanced (COL, DAL, Columbus) and the forth, Carolina, is in a game 7 Wednesday night.
  • NY Islanders defeat Penguins in 4
    • After the Pens were swept in 4 straight games, some of the comments from the Penguins were about how the series was a lot closer than it appeared. Penguins GM Jim Rutherford observed the Penguins players never really came together as a team this season and possibly there is a bit of complacency setting in since they’ve won 3 Cups in the past 10 years. Rutherford said the Islanders were a far hungrier team overall and that’s why they won. The players Rutherford added mid-season, Erik Gudbranson, Jared McCann, Marcus Pettersson and Nick Bjudstad, all have reportedly worked out well. Forty two year old forward Matt Cullen didn’t announce it yet but it’s suspected he’ll retire in the off-season. One defenseman that’s gets mentioned in trade a lot is defenseman Olli Maatta.
    • The Islanders will play the winner of the Capitals vs Canes series.
    • The rest of the Islanders post-season games will be played in Brooklyn at Barclay’s Coliseum. Heard where Trotz say their group believes they have a strong chance to win the Cup this year as this post season has shown, anything can happen in playoff hockey.
  • Blue Jackets over Lightning in 4 games
    • TB head coach Jon Cooper indicated the Lightning were trying to win games 6-0 instead of tightening up defensively when they had a lead. The Bolts lead 3-0 in game one and went on to lose the game and the next 3 games. GM Julien BrisBrois said the feeling of disappointment from the whole organization was enormous. He cites league parity as a reason why the Lightning did not perform as well as they did the in the regular season.
    • Columbus is the 4th team in NHL history to sweep the President’s Trophy winner and the 3 other teams went on to win the Cup.
    • Jacket GM Kekalainen said the Jackets defeating the top team from the regular season shows they can beat anyone in these playoffs.
    • Blue Jackets will play the winner of the Bruins vs Leafs series.
    • The Blue Jackets were back on the ice Monday for practice and opened their practice to the public. Good idea as it gets fans involved and would grow fan interest in the team. This was the Blue Jackets first post season series win in franchise history.
  • Capitals vs Hurricanes – Game 7 Wednesday
    • The Hurricanes recent success is being felt at the box office where attendance was up 12% from last year and since the playoff have started the team is now up 20% in building attendance. The team has grown new business with season ticket holders up to $2 M over last season’s $400,000. The season ticket renewal rate was 72% last season and already at 91% this season. Merchandise sales have also increased but the business challenge is to sustain that level of growth and that is a lot about how the team performs on the ice. The Hurricanes are big on in-game entertainment and are adding a 4,000 square foot LED scoreboard to the PNC arena for the start of next season.
    • Caps forward TJ Oshie broke his clavicle and is out indefinitely. Connor McDavid had the same injury in his rookie season and missed 3 months.
  • Blues over Jets in 6 games
    • St. Louis became the first team in the post expansion era (1967-68) to win a playoff series after being the last place in the league on New Years Day. It’s really been a wild year in around the league but the NHL has to be happy as the season seemed to go really well and the post season has been super exciting.
    • The Jets lost all 3 of their home games in the series and they held a lead in each game.
    • Early indications are that Jets are not in a rush to make any decision on coaches. Captain Blake Wheeler says he doesn’t want to play for any other coach other than Paul Maurice.
    • Jets have the following UFA’s:
      • Forward Kevin Hayes (there’s talk the Rangers are interested in bringing back Hayes)
      • Forward Brandon Tanev
      • Forward Matt Henricks
      • Forward Par Lindholm
      • Defenseman Tyler Myers (says he wants to resign in Winnipeg)
      • Defenseman Ben Chiarot (also wants to stay with the Jets if possible)
    • RFA’s:
      • Forward Patrik Laine (avg 36 goals/season in first 3 season and just turned 21 years old)
      • Forward Kyle Connor (avg 32 goals in his first 2 seasons and 22 yo)
      • Defenseman Jacob Trouba (not expected back with the Jets)
      • Defenseman Nathan Beaulieu
      • Forward Joe Morrow
      • Forward Andrew Copp
      • Goaltender Laurent Brossoit
    • Jets forward Nik Ehlers played game 6 with a fractured leg. He recorded 9 minutes of ice time. Ehlers is goalless in 21 career post season games.
  • Avs defeat Flames in 5 games
    • This was a very entertaining series and the better team won but two of the games went to overtime.
    • The Avs top line of MacKinnon/Mikko Rantanen/Gabe Landeskog recorded 8 goals and 19 points in the series where as the Flames top line of Monahan/Gaudreau/Lindholm had just 5 with regular season 99 point player Gaudreau recording just a single assist. The Flames players all marveled at play of Avs star MacKinnon. Some people believe MacKinnon is one of the top one or two players in the world right now.
    • It was the first post-season series win for Colorado since 2008.
    • Calgary has one post-season series win in the past 14 seasons.
    • Avs have the the 4th overall selection is this years entry draft plus they added defenseman Cale Makar, 4th overall in 2017, during the Flames post-season series. Rantanen, 22, is a summertime RFA who is going to get paid on his this next contract (87 regular season points should place him at about $9 M /season).
  • Leafs vs Bruins – Game 7 on Tuesday
    • Teams that score first are 21-5 in game 7’s since 2013 though it does seems impossible to guess at what game 7 has in store. Each game has been different and one win doesn’t seem to translate to into much momentum for the next game.  The Leafs need to shutdown the B’s top line; when Brad Marchand scores a playoff goal, the Bruins are 20-1. The other part is Leafs need to improve their penalty kill which is just 9 for 16 or 56%.
    • If the Leafs advance, it will be their first post-season victory since 2004 and they’ll play Columbus in round 2.
  • Vegas vs Sharks – Game 7 Tuesday
    • Sharks goaltender Martin Jones has struggled a bit in this series and has a .906 SV% and a 3.23 GAA through 6 games. The Golden Knights have scored 4 goals against Jones in the first 90 seconds of a period 4 times in the series. Jones rebounded in game 6 making 56 saves. Game 7 is in San Jose. Vegas forwards Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty have combined for 20 points through the first 6 games.

NHL Awards Finalists

  • The NHL Awards show will be Wednesday, June 19 from Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas. Some of the announced finalists:
  • Selke Trophy (Top Defensive Forward)
    • Bruins Patrice Bergeron – it’s the 8th consecutive season Bergeron has been nominated for the award and he’s won it 4 times which is tied for the most wins of the award with Bob Gainey.
    • Golden Knights Mark Stone
    • St. Louis Blues Ryan O’Reilly
  • Lady Byng (more gentlemanly player) finalists
    • Flames Sean Monahan. Recorded 82 points and just 12 penalty minutes this season.
    • Panthers Alex Barkov. 96 points and 8 PIM’s.
    • Golden Knights Mark Stone. 73 points and 27 PIM’s.
  • Vezina Trophy (Top goaltender voted by league GM’s)
    • Tampa Bay Andrei Vasilevskiy
    • Islanders Robin Lehner
    • Stars Ben Bishop
  • Bill Masterton trophy (dedication to the game of hockey)
    • Blue Jackets Nick Foligno
    • Islanders Robin Lehner
    • Sharks Joe Thornton

Player Expiring Contracts

  • The Senators would like to get defenseman Cody Ceci (7 G & 19 A) signed to a deal. Ceci is a RFA who signed a one year deal for $4.3 M last summer. Contract talks are reportedly ongoing.
  • The NY Rangers are interested in extending forward Chris Kreider. GM Jeff Gorton said goal scores are hard to find and Kreider is one of the league’s better ones. Kreider has one more year before becoming a UFA.
  • Pending RFA Canucks forward Brock Boeser is hopeful to reach a deal with the team this summer. Boeser’s agent indicated they are interested in a one year or 8 deal -or something in between. Boeser is happy in Vancouver and wants to stay. Similarly Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom hopes to sign a new deal with the team. Markstrom’s agent says Jacob considers Vancouver home. Markstrom is one season from UFA status.

World Hockey Championships in Slovakia – May 10-26

  • Team Canada
    • Canucks head coach Travis Green was contacted by Team Canada but declined citing family commitments.
    • Connor McDavid was injured in the team’s final regular season game and is unable to participate.
    • Players who confirmed they’ll play for Canada:
      • Sabres forward Sam Reinhart, Flyers goaltender Carter Hart, Flyers forward Sean Couturier (Claude Giroux is still deciding), Red Wings Anthony Mantha, Wings Tyler Bertuzzi,  New Jersey goaltender MacKenzie Blackwood.
  • Team USA
    • Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill was announced at Team USA’s head coach (NY  Rangers AGM Chris Drury is GM). Blashill’s Red Wings assistant coach Dan Bylsma will act in the same role with Team USA. Also an assistant coach with Team USA is NJ Devils head coach John Hynes.
    • USA looks to have a very good roster of players.
    • Players who’ve agreed to play for Team USA include:
      • Forwards: Alex DeBrincat, Jack Eichel, Luke Glendening, Patrick Kane, Clayton Keller, Chris Kreider, Dylan Larkin, James van Riemsdyk, Frank Vatrano, Colin White
      • Defense: Quinn Hughes, Alec Martinez, Brady Skjei, Ryan Suter
      • Goaltenders: Cory Schneider, Thatcher Demko, Cayden Primeau
  • Team Sweden
    • Committed to go:
      • Henrik Lundqvist, Jacob Markstrom, Adam Larsson, Erik Gustaffson, Robert Hagg, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Oskar Lindblom, Elias Pettersson, Adrian Kempe, Marcus Kruger, Loui Eriksson, Mario Kempe, Jesper Bratt.
  • Other teams
    • Canucks Sven Baertschi was invited by the Swiss team but declined. I assume it’s due to health as Baertschi missed about half of the Canucks season with concussion issues.
    • Canucks Markus Granlund said no to Team Finland.
    • Rangers goaltender Alex Georgiev will be representing Russia as will Ilya Kovalchuk and Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov.
    • Flames Michael Frolik will represent Team Czech.
    • Jets Patrik Laine said no to Team Finland. Laine has had a back injury he’s been dealing with all season.

Odds & Ends

  • Calgary born kid Cale Makar won the Hobey Baker awarded to the top player in USA college hockey /NCAA. He is the first Canadian to win the award since 2007. Makar’s college team, the University of Massachusetts, lost the championship game 3-0 to Minnesota-Duluth. Makar joined the Avalanche for the series against the Flames, scored in his first game and played 14 minutes. The Avs signed him to a 3 year entry level contract which means he has to be protected in the Seattle expansion draft and he used the first year of his 3 year entry level deal by playing this season’s playoffs.
  • The St. Louis Blues announced they’ve signed defenseman Jay Bouwmeester to a one year extension (for next season). The one year deal will pay Bouwmeester $3.25 M.
  • Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin has tied Evgeni Malkin for most post-season goals by a Russian-born player with 63.
  • Former NHL head coach Paul MacLean is the new head coach of Cape Breton of the QMJHL.
  • Ducks forward Ryan Kesler hockey career could be over as he needs hip replacement surgery. The decision to get the surgery is suppose to happen this summer.
  • The Capitals signed forward Nic Dowd to a 3 year contract extension at an annual rate of $750,000.
  • Capitals goaltender Brayden Holtby recorded his 7th career post-season shutout which set a new Capitals record. Former Caps goaltender Olaf Kolzig had 6 shutouts.
  • Justin Brazeau agreed to a 2 year AHL with the Toronto Marlies. Brazeau was the OHL’s 2nd leading scorer in the regular season. Brazeau was passed over twice in the NHL Entry Draft.
  • Vegas signed Russia forward Nikita Gusev, 26, who is reported to be the top player not that’s not playing in the NHL. Gusev recorded 82 points in 62 games in the KHL this season. His contract with Vegas is a one year entry level deal.
  • Columbus also signed a defenseman from the KHL, Vladimir Gavrikov. It’s not clear if the player will get into a post-season game but he’s projected as a 4th or 5th defenseman and is 6’3” and 205 pounds.
  • If Dallas makes it to Western Conference finals, the Rangers get Dallas’ first round pick in the entry draft as part of the Mats Zuccerello trade.
  • American 17 year old center Jack Hughes, who is expected to go first overall in the June 2019 Entry Draft to New Jersey, was named captain of Team USA at the IIHF World U18 Hockey Championships which are ongoing (tournament started April 18 and runs through to the 28th of April in Sweden).
  • I saw an informative article about pro sports teams using sports-related branding such as building naming rights and experts confirm it’s a powerful advertising channel.
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