NHL News & Notes to 02 Jun 2019

Here are some news & notes items from around the NHL. The Bruins lead the Cup finals series 2 games to 1 and the Cup should be awarded within a week. NHL activity will continue over the summer as the buy-out window opens two days after the Cup is awarded. The Draft is June 21 & 22 in Vancouver and then UFA’s are signed on July 1. August is usually the quietest month for NHL activity.

League-related

  • Commissioner Gary Bettman met with the media prior to game one of the Finals. Some of the key points:
    • The league is in the strongest position in history both financially and in terms of competitive balance.
    • TV ratings are up in the USA & Canada. This post-season has been the most watched ever. The league digital content is also in demand.
    • Both the league and NHLPA have an opt-out clause their CBA contract that can be exercised in September 2019 effective for the following, 2020-21, season. Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly indicated discussions between the two sides are ongoing and are expected to continue over the summer. The league has been clear they want labour peace as the game is growing and revenue is growing which benefits both the owners and players. I’ve not heard how the players characterize the CBA discussions as the talks have been kept out of the news.
    • Puck and player tracking is still scheduled to be rolled out in the 2019-20 season. Should be interesting. I sense some skepticism among agents and players.
    • The NHL is interested in getting involved in professional women’s hockey but they are waiting for the dust to settle a bit on recent events including the folding of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. A second women’s league, the National Women’s Hockey League, recently canceled their plans to expand to Toronto and Montreal. There is also some talk of a third women’s league starting. Bettman said they want to help grow the women’s game but, for now, will wait to take further steps.
    • The NHL has not moved closer to Olympic participation. Their stance hasn’t changed – for the league, they see no benefit to their owners to shutting the NHL for two weeks mid-season.
    • There will be no preseason games in China for the 2019-20 season. Apparently arena availability is the reason why. China is celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Chinese Revolution and a lot of public facilities are booked up. The league is still committed to growing the game in China and plan to be back with preseason games in the 2020-21 season. Apparently a number of players will visit China this summer and the league is making a financial investment plus planning promotional work to continue the China/NHL partnership.
    • From the league’s perspective, the Seattle franchise is making good progress on all fronts from building renovations to their team name.
    • On video review and the missed Sharks hand pass that led to their game winning goal in game 3 of the Western Conference Final, Bettman said both the league and officials were unhappy the call was missed and said it was an unfortunate mistake. He added the league is looking at expanding video review but they aim to reach balance of not too much review while ensuring the calls on the ice are correctly made. The topic of expanding video review will be discussed at the upcoming Competition Committee meetings, the GM meetings and the next Board of Governors meeting. Bettman’s concern on video review is some is OK but how to strike a balance while keeping the games moving in a timely manner.
  • The Competition Committee meets next week (June 11) in Toronto. Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman and Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold were recently added to the Committee. Yzerman replaces Peter Chiarelli and Leipold replaces Flames owner Murray Edwards. Predators GM David Poile, Sharks GM Doug Wilson and Oilers GM Ken Holland are some of the members of the Committee. The NHLPA is still finalizing it’s members.
  • The next General Managers meeting is in Vancouver on June 20, the day before the Entry Draft.
  • The NHL also has a CBA with on ice officials that expires in September and the whole area of video review is an important topic with officials as well. The whole Situation Room, which is the Toronto-based location where plays are currently reviewed, is going to be included in upcoming discussions. The Situation Room rules on off-side challenge, goaltender interference or kicked in goals but these are the only areas within their jurisdiction. Will their role be expanded as part of video review and who has the final say – the Situation Room back in Toronto or the on ice officials? The GM’s, to this point, have been reluctant to make any changes to video review. If they do recommend changes, the Competition Committee and the BOG have to both sign off. Bettman does not want too many plays reviewed as it changes the flow and entertainment factor of games. How do the on ice officials feel about altering video review and taking the decision making from them? These are just some of the issues that will be discussed and changes will be made for next season.
  • The NHL is expected to sign a deal to keep the Scouting Combine in Buffalo for a few more seasons. It’s been held in Buffalo since 2015. Combine events were held at Harborcenter and KeyBank Center, which are in close proximity to each other, with good success.

Seattle

  • The Seattle franchise has narrowed their search for the home of their AHL team to Boise, Idaho and Palm Springs, California. The AHL team start date will be the same as Seattle’s – the start of the NHL’s 2021-22 season. With Palm Springs, it would require the construction of a new arena not to mention an entirely new AHL franchise starting from scratch. With Boise, they’d take over the ECHL Boise Steelheads and convert the operation from an ECHL to AHL franchise. Boise does have an arena in place.
  • NHL Seattle CEO Tim Leiweke recently said the name, logo and team colors are planned to be unveiled by the end of 2019, at the latest. Jersey’s won’t be available for sale before mid 2020. They want to strategically build momentum leading up to the start of their first season in Sept/Oct 2021.
  • Some talk Seattle may look to soon replace Dave Tippett who was in the role of Senior Adviser but essentially running their Hockey Operations Group. I’ve heard no names being discussed for a Tippett replacement.

Team Management News

  • The Oilers announced Dave Tippett as their new head coach. Tippett has 14 years of NHL head coaching experience; eight years as Coyotes bench boss and before that six years as head coach of the Dallas Stars. Oilers consultant Ken Hitchcock apparently was instrumental in the search and hiring. Tippett’s deal is for three years at an annual rate of between $2.75 M and $3 M /season. Tippett has already started to form his coaching staff for next season. The team parted ways with both Trent Yawney and Manny Vivieros (some speculate Yawney could end up on Todd McLellan’s staff in LA). Glen Gulutzan will stay on with the Oilers and will be responsible for the PP. Apparently, Jay Woodcroft, who was hired as an assistant coach by then Oilers Todd McLellan, will remain head coach of the Oilers AHL club in Bakerfield. Woodcroft just completed his first season as Bakerfield’s head coach (42 W & 21 L) and reportedly enjoyed being a head coach and running the bench. NHL Seattle CEO Tod Leiweke called Tippett someone who will always be a great friend to the Seattle organization and credited him with forming the blueprint for Seattle’s Hockey Operations Department. Leiweke indicated Tippett said he still has a passion for coaching. I heard when the Seattle start date got pushed back from September 2020 to 2021, Tippett felt he need to make change and get working for a team already in the league sooner than later. His final coaching season before being hired in Edmonton was in 2016-17.
  • Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman Paul Coffey will not be back with the Oilers next season. He was hired as a consultant last season to work with the team’s defense group.
  • With the Ducks open head coaching position, GM Bob Murray has interviewed both Dallas Stars assistant coaches Rick Bowness and Todd Nelson plus Islanders assistant coach Lane Lambert. Another name that recently emerged was NCAA Minnesota Deluth head coach Scott Sandelin. Sandelin, 54, has coach Minnesota Deluth since 2000 and has won 5 NCAA titles in that time. The final name and seemingly leading candidate is Dallas Eakins who is currently the head coach of the Ducks AHL affiliate in San Diego. Eakins record in 4 seasons with San Diego is 154-96-0-23.
  • Some talk former LA head coach John Stevens could join the Dallas Stars as an assistant coach but nothing official has been announced.
  • San Jose Sharks added former Panthers head coach Bob Boughner to Peter DeBoer’s staff as an assistant coach. Boughner was an assistant coach with the Sharks from 2015-2017 before he was named Panthers head coach at the start of this season. Rob Zettler will not return to the Sharks as an assistant coach next season. Boughner reportedly has a close relationship with Sharks star defenseman Brent Burns. Burns won the Norris for the league’s top defenseman when Boughner was running the Sharks defense group.
  • Former LA Kings head coach Willie Desjardins is the new GM and head coach of the WHL Medicine Hat Tigers.

Scuttlebutt

  • Heard the Sabres and forward Jeff Skinner are getting close on a eight year deal at $9 M / season. Some see the $9 M /season figure as on the high side as Skinner’s career high in points is 63. Seems to me 90 point players get ~ $9 M /  season not 60 point players.
  • Sportsnet reported Saturday that pending UFA Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson has given himself the next week to decide if he wants to stay in San Jose and try and reach a contract agreement or look at other teams. Karlsson wants to win a championship and apparently sees the Sharks as a contending team.
  • The Canucks are continuing negotiations with defenseman Alex Edler. The team is also trying to sign RFA Brock Boeser but the sides are apparently far apart on contract terms. It is expected Boeser’s new contract will make him the highest paid Canucks player. Loui Eriksson, at $6 M/season, is currently the highest paid Canucks player.
  • Flyer GM Chuck Fletcher recently indicated he plans to be very aggressive around July 1 free agency. Some of the Flyers pressing needs include a top 4 defenseman, some scoring help, a number two center plus a goaltender to back-up and mentor 20 yo Carter Hart. Fletcher also needs to sign restricted free agents defenseman Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, Travis Sandheim and Scott Laughton. Fletcher also recently said they are open to moving their first round draft pick (11th overall) for the right deal. I sense discontent among Flyers fans for the team’s lack of recent success. They have not won a playoff series since the 2011-12 season and have missed the playoffs four of the past seven seasons. The Flyers have won 2 Cups in their 51 seasons in the league but their most recent one was back in the 1974-75 season.
  • Penguins GK Jim Rutherford said the organization is open to the possibility that forward Phil Kessel plays for the Penguins in the 2019-20 season. Kessel would not waive his no trade clause for a deal Rutherford had worked out with the Wild. Some say it’s still possible Kessel goes to the Wild but he’d have to OK a trade.
  • Was a report this week said Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba is being shopped to teams. There’s talk the Minnesota native prefers to play in the States. Trouba, 25, is a RFA who signed a one year $5.5 M last summer. He recorded an impressive 50 points in 82 Jets games this past season while averaging just under 23 minutes of ice time per game. Trouba never seemed like he wanted to play in Winnipeg and had requested a trade numerous times including just before the start of the 2016-17 season.
  • Flames defenseman TJ Brodie is one year from UFA and is expected to get moved this summer. Brodie played with Flames captain Mark Giordano in the team’s top pairing but struggled at times.  Since he’s just the one year left on his deal, I don’t expect the team would get a lot in return for the player. Another name possibly moving on from Calgary is defenseman Travis Hamonic who has been in Calgary for 2 years and one season from UFA status. His second season as a Flame was much better than his first. He’s a rugged, tough defenseman who is popular with teammates and does endless charity work in the community.
  • The Hurricanes have generated more than $5.1 M in new ticket sales for next season as of May 30. Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon bought the team at the start of 2018 and has already turned into into a more successful franchise. The Hurricanes AHL affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers are also in the Calder Cup finals.
  • Some recent talk that offer sheets could occur around July 1 but not for higher paid players but more for the mid-tier group. Compensation due to team where their player receives an offer sheet where the dollar value is the average annual value on the newly signed contract.
    • $1,395,053 or below: none
    • $1,395,054 – $2,113,716 – 3rd round draft pick
    • $2,113,717 – $4,227,437 – 2nd round draft pick
    • $4,227,438 – $6,341,152 – 1st and a 3rd rounder
    • $6,341,153 – $8,454,871 – 1st, 2nd and 3rd rounder
    • $8,454,872 – $10,568,589 – Two 1st’s, 2nd and 3rd
    • $10,568,590 – Four first round draft picks
  • Players like Mitch Marner, who would be in the $10 M- $11 M range, are not expected to get an offer sheet but players like Kasperi Kapanen or Andreas Johnsson, in the $4 M range, are expected to.

Cup Finals

  • With Saturday night’s 7-2 win, the Bruins lead the series 2 games to 1. Since 1939 in the Cup Finals, the team winning game 3 when the series was tied 1-1 has gone on to win the Stanley Cup 78% of the time.
  • The Bruins PP went 4/4 (4 goals on 4 shots on goal) in game 3 and now is converting at a rate of 35.9% (23 for 63) this post season.
  • The Blues have taken 14 penalties in the first three Cup Finals games. They were the least penalized team after the first three rounds but are struggling in the Finals to stay out of the penalty box.
  • Bruins defenseman Torey Krug is an underrated player. Krug led the Bruins with 4 points (1-3) in game 3 and has 44 points in 58 career post-season games. He’s a steady 50 point defenseman during the regular season. Krug, 28, has one year left on his deal before becoming UFA.
  • Blues need to get a lead in game 4; their record this post season is 10-3 when they score first.
  • Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask is the leading candidate to be the Conn Smythe winner for playoff MVP. Rask has a 1.91 GAA in the Bruins 20 playoff games this year plus a .939 SV%.
  • If the Bruins win the series, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara will be the first Bruins player to captain the team multiple Stanley Cup victories. Chara is the 2nd oldest player to play in the Cup finals. Only Doug Harvey (43 years) was older than Chara (42 years).

Entry Draft Top Five

  • Experts are predicting the top 5 draft selection at the June 21,22 Entry Draft in Vancouver will be:
    • #1 Jack Hughes to New Jersey (American)
    • #2 Kaapo Kakko to New York Rangers (Finn)
    • #3 Bowen Byram to Chicago (Cranbrook, BC)
    • #4 Alex Turcotte to Avs via Ott from Duchene trade (American). Played with USA Under 18 National Team this past season where in 16 games recorded 34 points. Turcotte could go third overall as he’s from Illinois and the Blackhawks own the 3rd overall pick. Projects as an NHL number one center in due time.
    • #5 Kirby Dach to LA (Canadian). Dach has played 3 season with the Saskatoon Blades & last season recorded 73 points on 25 goals in 62 games.

Transactions

  • Ottawa signed goaltender Anders Nilsson to a two year deal at an AAV of $2.6 M. Nilsson will make $2.8 M in 2019-20 and $2.4 M in 2020-21. After a mid-season trade from Vancouver, Nilsson went 11 W & 11 L in 24 appearances. His GAA in those games was 2.90 with a .914 SV%. Nilsson was to become a July 1, 2019 UFA. Ottawa now has goaltenders Craig Anderson, Nilsson and Mike Condon all under contract for next season.
  • Dallas signed forward Joel Kiviranta to a two year entry level contract. Kiviranta, 23, won a gold medal at the IIHF World Championships playing for Team Finland. In the 2018-19 season, Kiviranta recorded 16 G & 15 A in 48 games playing in Finland. Stars have had good success with Finnish hockey players with names such as Esa Lindell, Miro Heiskanen, Roope Hintz and past players such as forward Jere Lehtinen who had his #26 jersey retired by the Stars franchise.
  • The Penguins re-signed defenseman Juuso Riikola to a one year one way contract at $850,000. Riikola, 25, played in 37 Pens games in 2018-19, his first season in the league. Before joining the Penguins, Riikola played in the Finnish league for 6 seasons.
  • Las Vegas signed Danish forward Jonas Rondbjerg to his 3 year entry level contract. Rondbjerg reportedly impressed scouts with his play in the Swedish Hockey League. This past campaign he recorded 6 points in 45 games. Rondbjerg, 20, was a 3rd round draft pick of the Golden Knights back in 2017.
  • The Red Wings signed Oliwer Kaski to a one year entry level contract. Kaski is a Finn who recently won a gold medal at the World Championships. He’s 23 years old, 6’3”, 190 pounds and shoots right. He recorded 59 points in 51 games in the Finnish league this past season.
  • The Islanders signed their 6th round pick from 2017 LW Arnaud Durandeau. This season playing for Halifax of the QMJHL Durandeau recorded 93 points in 91 games (reg season + playoffs). Durandeau turned 20 years old in January so could end up playing with the Isles AHL affiliate in Bridgeport for the 2019-20 season.
  • Ottawa signed center Josh Norris to his 3 year entry level contract. Norris, 20, was acquired in the Erik Karlsson trade and was a first round /19th overall draft pick of San Jose back in 2017. Norris played the past two seasons at U of Michigan. In the 2018-19 season, Norris recorded 10 goals and 9 assists in 17 games. His season was cut short by an ankle injury suffered at the 2019 World Juniors tournament. Norris was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award for the top player in college hockey. He says he’s aiming to make the Senators out of training camp in the 2019-20 season.

Leafs

  • GM Kyle Dubas recently said he is very hopeful the team will have a signed contract with RFA Mitch Marner by July 1, 2019. Dubas and Marner’s agent met multiple times during last weeks scouting combine in Buffalo. TSN’s Darren Dreger reported Marner could meet with teams during the courting period for free agents (June 26 to June 30) but Dubas said there was no indications from Marner’s representatives he plans to do that. Signing Marner to an offer sheet would cost a team approx 4 first round draft picks which no team would go for. I heard the team would like to keep the per year cap number below $10 M but Marner believes he’s in the same range as Matthews ($11.6 M). Leafs may have overpaid on the Matthews deal. Marner’s deal is also expected to be 5 years or less.
  • Was reported this week that forward Patrick Marleau wants to play closer to the West Coast and the Leafs are talking to  Colorado, Arizona and LA about a possible deal. Marleau played for new Kings coach Todd McLellan before, with the San Jose Sharks. With the Leafs cap crunch moving him would seem to be beneficial for the organization though he’s a possible future Hall of Fame player. It does not sound like a deal is close but more of just discussions this point. Marleau is owed $6.25 M in the 2019-20 season. The Leafs would apparently need to retain salary to move Marleau; some say as much as $2 M / season. Marleau turns 40 in September and recorded 37 points on 16 goals in 82 games played this past season.
  • Some other names being mentioned in trade include forward Connor Brown, Kasperi Kapanen and Nazem Kadri. Seems for Kadri, the talk is the Leafs are just checking his market value or possibly looking to get a defenseman in return. Kadri has 3 years left at $4.5 M which is a reasonable number but he obviously struggles to keep his emotions in check during key games.
  • Was reported this week that defenseman Nikita Zaitsev would like a fresh start with a new organization. Zaitsev has 5 years at $4.5 M /season left on his contract. He’s the team’s top right shot defenseman. The only other right shot defenseman under contract is Justin Holl who has yet to make the Leafs on the full-time basis (played in just 11 Leafs games last season). Dubas said there is a chance Zaitsev is back with the Leafs in the 2019-20 season (if they can’t get a good return for the player). He’s struggled some after signing the 7 year deal but did play well with Jake Muzzin particularly against a very good Bruins team in the post season. Zaitsev is owed a $3 M signing bonus (the remaining $1.5 M is paid in 2019-20 salary) on July 1, 2019 so that could delay a deal until after July 1 when the new team would not have to pay the bonus. Experts say both top defenseman prospects Rasmus Sandin (19 yo) and Timothy Liljegren (20 yo) are not yet ready for the NHL while Calle Rosen (25 yo) is more-so but need to earn Babcock’s trust to get more playing time.
  • There seems to be a possibility the team signs July 1 UFA Ron Hainsey to a one year deal. With Zaitsev possibly being traded and Travis Dermott out until November recovering from shoulder surgery, plus Gardiner leaving as a UFA, the team is thin on the blueline.
  • The Leafs do not have a first round draft pick in the June entry draft. Dubas said it’s not likely they trade to move up saying they are focused on their 53rd (2nd round) pick.
  • Marlies head coach Sheldon Keefe has signed a two year extension. He said he was not interested in being a Leafs assistant coach adding he feels he has a very good situation for him and his family leading the Marlies.
  • Leafs AGM Laurence Gilman is GM of the Marlies, He took over from Dubas in that position at the start of the season. Gilman was GM of the NHL affiliate in his past positions, AGM with the Canucks and with the Coyotes. Gilman also manages the Marlies relationship with their ECHL affiliate, the Newfoundland Growlers who are one win away from advancing to the Kelly Cup finals.
  • Prospect forward Martins Dzierkals (drafted in 2015 in the 3rd round) was recently nominated for the rookie of the year in the KHL. In 42 games this season, Dzierkals, 22, recorded 13 points.
  • Marlies player Justin Brazeau was named an OHL First Team All-Star. Playing for North Bay this past season, Brazeau recorded 61 goals and 52 assists, 113 points in 68 games (I’m not sure why the player was never drafted by an NHL team). Max Hollowell a forth round draft pick from 2018 was also named a First Team All-Star. Hollowell plays for the Soo Greyhounds where he recorded 77 points in 74 games on 24 goals.
  • The Leafs traded unsigned defenseman Fedor Gordeev to the Wild for a conditional seventh round pick in 2020. Gordeev was drafted by the Leafs in the 5th round of 2017. Gordeev has already signed his entry level contract with the Wild.

Odds & Ends

  • Read where TV ratings for the Raptors game one win in the NBA Finals had around 20% of the country tuning into at least part of the game and a reported 11% watching the whole game.
  • Chicago Wolves (Vegas’ AHL team) and the Charlotte Checkers (Carolina) are playing the Calder Cup championship. The series started Saturday and the teams are tied at a game each.
  • Islanders forward Cal Clutterbuck (back) and Andrew Ladd (knee) both recently had surgery. Clutterbuck is expected to the ready for September training camp while seems as though Ladd will not be.
  • Oilers new head coach Dave Tippett says he liked the idea of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl playing together on the same line. There’s been the debate is it better to have them on the same line or try and balance the forward lines by splitting them up. Tippett said he’s seen the incredible chemistry the two stars have playing together.
  • New Jersey appears to have a very good prospect in defenseman Ty Smith. He was drafted 17th overall in the 2018 Entry Draft. This recent season playing with Spokane of the WHL, Smith, 19, recorded 7 goals and 62 assists for 69 points in 57 games. Smith was co-captain of the Chiefs this season. He was also named Canadian Hockey League Defenseman of the Year an award that was previously won by players such as HOF defenseman Chris Pronger, Keith Yandle, Dan Hamhuis, Ryan Ellis, highly rated Flyers RFA defenseman Ivan Provorov plus Ottawa top offensive defenseman Thomas Chabot. Smith was also named WHL Defenseman of the Year for the 2018-19 season.
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