In Episode 7, the Beers in The Lot crew discussed the Tampa Bay Lightning defeating the Dallas Stars in 6 games to win the Stanley Cup; how much the Stanley Cup being awarded in an empty building looked and sounded a lot like a beer league championship; and how the NHL was successful in executing their return to play and bubble hockey plans.
This has clearly not been a normal hockey year, not on the calendar especially. Today marks the first day of the NHL buyout period and we are a day or two away from our 2020 Stanley Cup winner.
With the level of uncertainty around the free agent period and even what teams will spend next year, player movement will be at an all time high. You just have to find the right dance partner.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Yesterday the Pens traded away valued teammate Patric Hornqvist, for Mike Matheson and Colton Sceviour from the Panthers. GM Jim Rutherford hasn’t made major changes to the team but has made renovations to the locker room glue over the course of the last few years. When Carl Hagelin was moved it was a massive blow to the players in their words, I would imagine Hornqvist is the same. Matheson can skate and has shown offensive talent but was behind Yandle and Ekbald in Florida for power play time and quality starts in the offensive zone. The move could be a good chance for him to show his worth as a puck moving defenseman, he played a few games at forward as well. Being a player with a few different skill sets could help the pens in the coming years. Scevior will be slated into a bottom six role off the bat and they do need some help on that side of the lineup. The rotating cast on those lines has been hard since the last cup in 2017. The Penguins aren’t done as GMJR trade tally is now at 52, I’m sure he will add to that prior to next season. With a goalie on the move (hopefully) and the fact you have a log jam on the left backend now it appears that more moves are on the way.
Alexander Pietrangelo: It was reported earlier in the week by Darren Dreger of TSN that the St. Louis Blues advised Alex and his agent that free agency is a route he should pursue. As the captain of the team that seems a bit harsh since they paid newly acquired dman Justin Faulk 6.5 million. Alex was rumored to only be offered around 7.5 million. Unsure of who had that leak but interesting. Are the Blues unwilling to offer the right amount of term or money? Could they be seeing signs of a declining player on the wrong size of 30? It could also be the Blues don’t want to pay for what they see as an over priced tag on the free agent market. It’s Pietrangelo’s right at this time in his career to cash in on him being a UFA, I support his right to chase the money as he only has a certain amount of time to earn a living playing hockey.
Toronto Maple Leafs: A team that is expected still to spend to the cap in the odd times even though they already spend a ton on talent. This could be the spot for Pietrangleo in my mind. It makes sense on paper. Good solid player with experience, right hand shooting and slick skater…kinda fits all the Leafs needs. Subtract the idea of salary and the fit is perfect. It would relieve a lot of pressure on Morgan Reilly and Jake Muzzin, plus it gives a role model for their younger prospects like Sandin and Liljegren. They will have to find a willing team or two to help them with cap space. Kapanen was the first piece to move and Nylander or Kerfoot are appealing given their actual dollar amount owed to them. William Nylander carries a cap hit of 6.9 million but is taking only 2.5 million in salary and a bonus of 3.5 million. That is a savings for many teams as next season’s potential revenue is still up in the air.
Arizona Coyotes: Before you say just move the team already maybe they have a chance…….With a new GM Bill Armstrong they will be looking to re-tool for coach Rick Tocchet in a way that lets him keep whatever hair he has left. They are a team I’m sure will be looking to shed salary. Their goaltender Darcy Kuemper has been solid in the desert, he also has two years left at 4.5 million. Will he also be thrown into teams roundtable discussions for what will be a crazy goalie market. Other vets like Kessel (not again) or OLE could find themselves changing sweaters too. The plan between the new management group and ownership will depend on direction and how much they are going to invest into this season. Moving some of their contracts could help recoup some of the lost picks from their draft violations and set them up for a major rebuild.
Goalie Market: This will be a massive year for goaltenders on the market. While I don’t think anyone will be given a 10 million AAV deal like Bob was last year I do expect a few to be taken care of. Craig Anderson was told to find a new home from Ottawa, Kuemper could be moved and Fluery stated that he wanted to remain in Sin City even if it’s in a back up role. That part shocks me since his agent didn’t really mind sharing his thoughts during the cup run. Don’t forget Holtby, Markstrom, Murray (still needs moved) and a change in Minnesota most likely. This will be really made more of a mess with Khudobin, Crawford, Lehner, Griess and Jimmy Howard. Hopefully you get the point I’m making.
On Episode 6, the guys talked about games one and two of the Stanley Cup Final between the Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning; whether or not Steven Stamkos will play for the Bolts and possible gamesmanship going on with his status; a trip to Hooters for lunch with a team Eric and Jon coached; and St. Louis Blues captain, Alex Pietrangelo potentially signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs in free agency.
The NYI finally played their last game in the bubble. Another OT defeat lead to a Stanley Cup final birth in 2020. The team that survived the pay in round almost made it one more game.
The Isles have a lot to show for. They have a core that is cemented over the course of the coming years. A coaching staff that clearly has the ear of the players, this includes the goalie tandem too.
Most of their offensive group is going to return Nelson, Lee, Bailey and Eberle, with all players being under team control for the next two seasons. Matt Martin, Tom Kuhnhackl and Derrick Brassard are all UFA’s so the bottom six will get a big refresh. The shift this off season is going to RFA Matt Barzal and how will the term and dollars of that deal look. They will have roughly 9 million to spare but others are needing new deals as well, this begins the cap crunch for GM Lou Lamoriello.
On the back end the only ones needing deals will be RFA Toews and Pulock, both should get decent raises after their playoff run. The lone UFA is 37 year old Andy Greene, curious to see if he returns after playing solid for the blue and orange. Leddy and Boychuk are both league vets with a bit higher ticket for their current on ice production they too could be players on the move.
Goaltending should not be an issue. Griess is a UFA with a few years of bouncing around. They have a young Ilya Sorokin waiting in the wings and under the guidance of Mitch Korn he will most likely not disappoint.
Lou Lamoriello has his work cut out for him this off season. Many front office staff is the same boat however. Lou is never scared to make changes to his roster, this year that may work to his advantage. With Barry Trotz behind the bench though I do not expect anything to be an issue. He has a track record of success and two straight years he has gotten the most out of a team that few predict to go far. Sweeping both the Capitals and the Penguins and a trip to the conference finals within his time is setting up a strong third year.
ENJOY THE OFF SEASON NYI!
This week, the guys talked about the Dallas Stars’ Western Conference Final win over the Vegas Golden Knights; the Washington Capitals hiring Peter Laviolette as their new head coach; a couple beer league hockey stories; and how they all agree that Gary Bettman has done so much for the NHL while being a good “bad guy” for the fans.
The Dallas Stars dispatched the Vegas Golden Knights in over time to reach their first cup final since 2000. While many finally started to believe in the Stars and their “We’re not going home” attitude it left the team from Sin City looking for answers on a bubble trip that was all for nothing.
Early on the Knights looked like the best team in the West that wasn’t named the Avalanche. The Knights had the offensive depth that GM’s covet and scored at will while dictating play on the ice. The defensive side was contributing points and shutting down the teams top players in chances and quality scoring areas but even in the crease the Knights had their answer. Robin Lehner continued to shine up until the final goal in this series. Whitecloud’s penalty for delay of game in OT provided the chance to seal their fate and there wasn’t much you can fault the tender on.
In the end the VGK ran out of the asset that powered them though the early rounds and that was their offense. Dallas matched intensity but took control when it was important on the score board.
Unsure what happens with Vegas moving towards the next season. Mark Stone will be back as a key piece for the franchise moving forward. Along with the rest fo the forward group they will remain largely intact. Pacioretty, Karlsson, Stastny, Tuch, Marchessault and Smith all return. Offense did dry up in the conference finals so if changes are coming up front it most likely will have to be a subtraction of dollars and contracts due to the flat cap.
Defensively the Knights will lose only Merrill and Engelland to free agency, combined they only played in 1 playoff game. This bodes well for them as Theodore lead them in points overall during the bubble run and the rest of the blue liners chipped in timely offense too. Vegas did have some issues controlling the front of their net as the Stars got to the those spots with ease. This was a glaring issue on the first goal Jamie Benn scored in the deciding game.
As we shift quickly to the crease MAF is still under contract but recently had to forward his new to not be traded to list. You have to wonder after the great season and playoffs Robin Lehner had is flower now on the move. Allan Walsh (MAF Agent with Octagon) earlier this playoffs posted artwork with a sword going through the goalie’s chest…but the sword had the name of coach Pete Deboer. This created a riff with the goal tandem I’m sure and both goalies seemed unfazed by the twitter posting. Robin Lehner is a UFA this offseason and Vegas will have a bit lower than 5 million to spend on him if they want to keep him and the rest of the current line up. Moving MAF or another player could free up the space in the cap to make the moves. Keeping MAF could work as well with the expansion draft on the horizon but does management and ownership want a repeat of the same player agent drama that normally occurs outside of the NHL.
For a team so early on in it’s organizational history they do have a playoff tradition with a cup final birth and two trips to a conference final to show for it. Getting over the next hurdle of winning the cup I’m sure is next on their list. That will have to wait til next year however.
ENJOY THE OFF SEASON VGK!
What will the Seattle Kraken look like once they hit the ice in 2021-2022. We know what the majority of their front office staff looks like and I’m sure the coaching staff search is under way.
Yes… I know it’s insanely early but I like many want 2020 to end. Looking forward to next NHL season it will be a crunch for a lot of teams financially, but perhaps help could come from the new franchise. Some teams can unload unwanted or stale contracts from their rosters. However value is around if you look in the right places.
The Kraken will have a chance to build their squad with the expansion draft under the same rules that the Vegas Knights did. Vegas landed some key players that helped them rack up more playoff victories than Minnesota, Florida, Winnipeg/ATL and Columbus. (Currently at time of writing, behind in Western Conference Finals to Dallas 3-1) These players all at the time of the 2017 Expansion draft were hidden talents.
Lets take a quick seat at the craps table and see who they rolled the dice on
William Karlsson: When he was acquired from the Blue Jackets was a former 53rd overall pick and had up to that point only 50 points (18G/32A.) I’m sure this pick went well under the radar as it was the VGK 27TH expansion draft selection. William Karlsson has gone on to smash those numbers in his first three since moving out to the desert (180pts, 82G/98A) including a massive 43 goal campaign in the inaugural year. A lot that I’m sure was increased top 6 minutes on a new team and also an amazing 23.37%S, until that point he never got above 6.5%S. Now while he has cooled off considerably he has posted 46 or more points and his shooting percentage has hovered around 10%.
Shea Theodore: Shea was an additional trade from the Anaheim Ducks for them selecting Clayton Stoner. Shea though was the real key cog from this deal. During the first year he was moved down to the AHL several times for transactional purposes. While still playing 61 games he was able to contribute 29 pts (6G/23A), in the last two seasons though he has really stepped up. This year having a career high 46 pts (13G/33A) while also posting 18 pts during the playoff run the Knights are currently still on.
Alex Tuch: Another player that was an added bonus through some crafty trade work. Erik Haula was the player Minnesota wanted out and gave them Alex to do so. Alex Tuch while not having a great regular season 17 pts (8G/9A) has played big minutes this postseason and chipping in 11 pts (8G/3A.) He is a strong power forward many teams covet and hopefully he continues to develop and bring value for the Knights.
Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault: Florida has a history of getting rid of perfectly good talent and people, just look at the Knights first coach Gerard Gallant. That could be why he had such an eye for these two players. Smith was traded in order for the selection of Marchessault. Both have been great for the Knights. Combined in the regular season as a package they had 101 pts (49G/52A) and they didn’t slow down in the playoffs either tallying 23 pts (7G/16A.) The Panthers could have used some of that offense over the course of the last two years.
Seattle will have to use the protected list and their pro scouts to their advantage. I’m sure they have a solid blueprint from what George McPhee and his staff accomplished early on. Ron Francis helped build Carolina into a decent NHL squad and I’m sure he can take some of those lessons to the west coast.
This week, the guys discussed how they’re not great hockey players but that also means they’re probably average in the world of hockey; the Tampa Bay Lightning absolutely dominated the New York Islanders in game one of the Eastern Conference Final and whether or not Barry Trotz and the Isles can turn it around; and Washington Capitals head coach candidates Peter Laviolette, Mike Babcock, and Gerard Gallant.
In Episode 3, Aaron jinxed the New York Islanders as they tried to eliminate the Philadelphia Flyers in game 5; the guys discuss Vegas Golden Knights goalies, Robin Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury; Brayden Point is driving play for the Tampa Bay Lightning; and there are a bunch of goalies “unfit for play” in both Stanley Cup Playoffs bubbles.