- Despite not playing at all in 2016-17, Ladislav Smid has signed a two-year contract with his former Czech team, Liberec. Still just 31-years old, Smid is coming off a four-year $14MM deal with the Calgary Flames after being traded from Edmonton in 2013, but spent the entire final season on LTIR. In 583 games, the defenseman scored just 72 points but was a physical force at times. After several neck injuries, he was forced to sit out this entire year but apparently is healthy enough to contribute in his home country. His time in the NHL seems to be over, at least for the immediate future.
After putting up another excellent AHL season, restricted free agent Linden Vey may be headed overseas. It had been reported that the Calgary Flames forward has signed with Barys Astana, and now multiple others are hearing the same including Pat Steinberg of Sportsnet.
Vey was selected in the fourth round by the Los Angeles Kings back in 2009 and performed exceptionally well in the AHL before garnering a second-round pick in a trade with Vancouver in 2014. Now 25, Vey has never been able to stick in the NHL playing in just 138 games so far. He has scored 228 points in 278 AHL contests, and may find more success in the KHL.
The undersized forward wasn’t given a qualifying offer last summer, but earned a two-way deal with the Flames for the 2016-17 season. He got into four games, but failed to register a point. He was likely headed for another two-way deal this season, but will apparently instead take a one-year deal in the KHL to try to build his value back up.
- The Flames continue to search for a goaltender and Eric Francis of Postmedia writes about all of their options. In discussing the new deals for Ben Bishop and Scott Darling, Francis lists veterans like Marc-Andre Fleury and Ryan Miller as possibilities to bridge the gap to their young prospects. He also touches on other successful backups like Antti Raanta, who could try to follow the Cam Talbot-path from the shadow of Henrik Lundqvist to the ice in Alberta. In one way or another, the Flames must solve their goaltending issue, as both Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson will be free agents come July 1st. Interestingly, that adds the Flames as a landing spot for a goalie before the expansion draft, as they currently have none to protect.
- One other name that is mentioned in regards to the Flames is Philipp Grubauer of the Washington Capitals, who Stephen Whyno of the Associated Press also goes in depth on. Grubauer knows that he is a target for the Vegas Golden Knights, and teammate Braden Holtby believes he’s ready to become a starter somewhere in the league. It’s not just Calgary and Vegas who will likely check in on Grubauer though after his performance this season. The 25-year old registered a .926 save percentage in 23 games and should be on the radar of several other teams—Whyno includes Winnipeg, Philadelphia and Colorado as teams possibly looking for an upgrade this summer.
One of the bigger names has taken his name off the open market as Ben Bishop, who arguably would have been the top option for teams looking for goaltending help, has inked a six-year agreement to remain with the Dallas Stars. Of course the Stars had acquired the veteran netminder earlier this week, sending a fourth-round draft choice to Los Angeles to secure exclusive negotiating rights to Bishop. The club and Bishop concluded negotiations fairly quickly and it’s evident given the terms of the arrangement that both parties believed this was a perfect match. Dallas clearly feels they’ve solved their longstanding issues between the pipes and Bishop has decided he wants to be a Star for what should amount to be the rest of his career. Let’s check in on reactions from around the league on the deal.
- Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News calls the deal “team friendly” considering the cap hit comes in under $5MM annually. Bishop accounted for almost $6MM per season on the soon-to-expire contract he signed with Tampa Bay two years ago and likely could have exceeded that number had he reached the open market. Instead he chose the security of a long-term deal with a Dallas team he feels is “primed to win now.” Heika goes on to write that Dallas is expected to go with a Bishop-Kari Lehtonen duo in goal, suggesting that the team will likely buy Antti Niemi out if they can’t find a trade partner for his services. That plan doesn’t come without its flaws as the Stars would have more than $12MM tied up in its goaltenders for 2017-18; a figure that accounts for roughly 17% of the salary cap. While goaltending was certainly the team’s Achilles heel last season, the Stars will also likely be on the lookout for a blue line upgrade this summer. Even after extending Bishop and with Niemi still on the books, Dallas will have roughly $15MM to spend and that should be enough to bring in some competent help on the back end.
- TSN’s Scott Cullen takes a look at the deal through the lens of statistical analysis and concludes that Dallas is taking a risk while betting big on Bishop. Using Corsica Hockey’s “expected goals” metric, Cullen notes that Bishop ranks 23rd of 54 goalies to have played in 80 games over the last four seasons in expected goal differential per 60 minutes and in all game situations. Ironically, incumbent starter Kari Lehtonen ranked slightly higher than Bishop using that metric. Cullen also cites Bishop’s age – he’ll turn 31 in November – as a concern given the overall length of the pact. Additionally, even with an expected Niemi buyout, Cullen argues that the Stars “goaltending fiasco has been expensive.”
- Lastly, Jared Clinton of The Hockey News writes that the Calgary Flames, one of the teams expected to show strong interest in Bishop had he reached free agency, still have plenty of options as they look to upgrade their goaltending situation this summer. Clinton lists Detroit’s Jimmy Howard, Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury and the Islanders Jaroslav Halak as potential trade targets. Additionally, the scribe mentions Steve Mason as a possible free agent fit. Interestingly, Clinton also suggests re-signing Brian Elliott, writing: “Elliott had been so very good over the three seasons prior to coming to Calgary that it’s hard to imagine he’s going to struggle as mightily once he takes the ice in 2017-18.” He also points out that Elliott’s poor 2016-17 would conceivably lower his asking price, making the veteran netminder the least expensive option on the market. That’s no small consideration for a Calgary team that rarely spends to the salary cap ceiling and may want to allocate their resources to upgrade other positions as well.
Ultimately, the Flames best bet may be to re-sign Elliott on the cheap and bring in another veteran on a short-term deal, perhaps Mason, to compete for the #1 job. Mason, who has battled inconsistency and injury during his career, has displayed flashes of being an excellent goalie at times. Given his up-and-down play, the former Calder Trophy winner should be amenable to a one-year, prove-it type of contract. Elliott, meanwhile, has been at his best in a timeshare situation and could again thrive while competing against a veteran such as Mason.
With a flurry of upcoming moves that is likely to come in the coming weeks before the NHL expansion draft, many teams are looking at the move that the Carolina Hurricanes made when they traded for the rights to Chicago Blackhawks’ backup goaltender Scott Darling. That allowed Carolina to negotiate with the unrestricted free agent at that moment and the team signed him yesterday.
After Carolina’s successful maneuver, The Hockey News’ Lyle Richardson writes that several teams may be looking to make a similar move for Los Angeles Kings’ goaltender Ben Bishop, who is also an unrestricted free agent and the No. 4-ranked unrestricted free agent this offseason by The Hockey News.
Richardson writes that TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported on May 1 that a couple of teams had inquired about Bishop. While he didn’t name any teams, it is speculated that the Calgary Flames and the Dallas Stars would be two teams that would make sense to have interest in the 30-year-old netminder.
Los Angeles has no interest in Bishop as they have veteran Jonathan Quick locked up long-term. The team traded for Bishop at the deadline when Quick went down with an injury with hopes that Bishop could get them into the playoffs, which did not happen. However, the Kings wouldn’t complain about picking up some assets for the soon-to-be free agent. Chicago was able to net a third-round pick in this year’s draft for Darling. Why not something similar for Bishop?
The Flames are not a surprising option for Bishop as they tried to acquire Bishop last June, but instead traded for Brian Elliott, who they are now looking to move on from after a season with a 2.55 GAA and a .910 save percentage. His playoff performance was even worse as he averaged a 3.88 GAA and a .880 save percentage as the Flames were swept in their first-round series against the Anaheim Ducks.
Dallas, on the other hand, has both Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi under contract for one more year, but neither goaltender had a good season and they may be looking to net a replacement and move on in some way from one of the other two. Lehtonen, 33, had a 2.85 GAA and a .902 save percentage in 59 games, while Niemi (also 33) finished his season with a 3.30 GAA and a .892 save percentage in 37 contests.
The Calgary Flames announced via Twitter this afternoon that they have signed General Manager Brad Treliving to a multi-year extension. No specifics about term or salary yet, but PHR will update as soon as more details become available. Treliving has been Calgary’s GM since April 2014.
Treliving’s future in Calgary grew muddied this offseason when he finished the season without a contract. The Flames bowed out of the 2016-17 playoffs without winning a game, creating question marks as to whether the team moves in a different direction.
The Buffalo Sabres will now cross off another candidate in the team’s GM search. It was speculated that had Calgary not signed Treliving that Buffalo would go after him.
Goaltending is perhaps the most under-appreciated position in all the world of sport. While it is true that a team doesn’t need a dominant goaltender to win a Stanley Cup or even compete for one, a poor performance by a tender can absolutely destroy a season or a series. There are still a number of teams with question marks in net, and the premier talent isn’t exactly in abundance. The expansion draft further complicates matters for a number of teams, who will need to make a determination as to who will be the tender going forward. Here are three teams which desperately need solutions to their issues in the crease this off-season.
Winnipeg Jets – The team had three goaltenders this season. None of them played well. Michael Hutchinson is a dime-a-dozen depth goalie who is likely to be exposed, and the former starter Ondrej Pavelec is without a contract and never earned another. The 23 year-old Connor Hellebuyck will be protected, and shows great promise. That said, his .907 save percentage and overall streakiness left a lot to be desired. Perhaps many of his struggles can be blamed on the lackluster defensive efforts in Winnipeg, but will Hellebuyck be ready to ascend to the next level next season? If not, will Jets fans be content with another year without hockey in mid-April? GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has always been reserved in terms of transactions, but perhaps now is the time for decisive action. In the ultra-competitive Central division, the Jets need to find a way to win tight games.
Calgary Flames – Brian Elliott looked like he had finally put it together under new coach Glen Gulutzan in the new year. And then it all fell apart. His first-round series against the Ducks was shockingly bad (.880) – he made simple point shots complete adventures and lacked any rebound control. With his team’s season on the line in Game 4, he ceded only one abysmal goal before being pulled. In light of his consistent struggles in St. Louis prior to his Calgary excursion, it’s fair to assume he will start as a backup elsewhere next year. Actual backup Chad Johnson, also not under contract, will likely be headed elsewhere. This team needs two goalies, and it’s difficult to foresee a route that doesn’t involve a trade. Marc-Andre Fleury will still be available, and Ben Bishop is sure to tempt many. The starter situation needs to be sorted immediately, and if need be, they can always circle back to Johnson for a short-term backup deal.
Dallas Stars – How can you spend so much money on goaltending and still have none of it? Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen. Niemi posted a .892 save percentage for $4.5 MM, and Lehtonen posted a .902 for $5 MM. The defense has been shored up (to a degree), but the goals still hit the twine with depressing frequency. With one season remaining on either goalie’s deal, one needs to be shipped out this off-season in favor of a more cost-effective (and hopefully generally effective) netminder. Under a new coach, a resurgence from either is possible, but it seems dangerous to gamble on that possibility. It’s possible that Vegas might want an extra large contract to hit the cap floor or veteran backup with a ring, but with the better options likely to be available, that seems unlikely. Perhaps a financially struggling franchise would be willing to take on an expensive backup, if the deal were sweetened.
The Score’s Josh Gold-Smith is one of many to report that the finalists for the Jack Adams Trophy are Mike Babcock, Todd McLellan, and John Tortorella. The award is given to the league’s best coach. All three choices are hardly a surprise.
After a vicious performance in the World Cup of Hockey, Tortorella was expected to be one of the first
coaches on the hot seat, especially with a Columbus club few expected to be anywhere out of last place. Instead, Torts and the Jackets responded with a 50-24-8 record, good for third in the Metropolitan Division and 108 points. The Jackets also went on a tear in December, stringing together sixteen consecutive victories and putting the NHL on notice that they were for real. Though they ended up losing to Pittsburgh in five games during the first round of the playoffs, the Blue Jackets certainly made a case for being a threat in the Met and the Eastern Conference.
Babcock left the Detroit Red Wings after the 2014-15 season and joined the Toronto Maple Leafs, an original six team searching for its first Stanley Cup since 1967 and trying to make its way out of the hockey wilderness. Though he said the rebuild would be “painful,” it was a lot shorter than anyone expected. Paced by Calder Award candidate Auston Matthews, Babcock showed why so many teams sought his services, guiding the Leafs to their first playoff appearance since 2012-13, and taking an enormous step in the rebirth of a once dominant franchise. The Leafs were recently knocked out by Washington, but they proved to be a “tough out” and will certainly be a force to reckon with in the coming seasons.
McLellan has been a consistently good coach since taking the reins in San Jose,
and after moving to Edmonton, it was expected that he would turn around a franchise seeking a playoff run after being absent for nearly a decade. After missing last season, McLellan steered the Oil into the playoffs, posting a 47-26-9 record, 103 points, and a second place finish in the Pacific Division.
It was the Oilers highest point total since 1986-87, when they had 106 points and won the Stanley Cup. He turned around a franchise annually criticized for not capitalizing on its success despite netting numerous number one draft picks. Though it won’t factor into voting, McLellan has the Oilers in the second round of the playoffs as well.
Photos Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
Eric Francis writes for the Calgary Herald that Troy Brouwer is expected to be one of the forwards exposed in the upcoming expansion draft for the Flames, and with it could be leaving the organization almost as soon as he joined it. Francis points out that Vegas GM George McPhee has traded for Brouwer once in the past, acquiring him for a first round pick from Chicago in the summer of 2011.
If you’d been following along, it was clear the Flames couldn’t protect Brouwer after acquiring Curtis Lazar at the deadline, giving them at least seven young forwards that would be ahead of him on the list. While it doesn’t mean for certain that the Flames will submit their protection list on June 17th with Brouwer exposed, it certainly looks that way right now. The 31-year old is coming off his worst point total of his career, but still would add a veteran presence to a weak Vegas squad should he be selected.
- The Montreal Canadiens announced today that Clement Jodoin has chosen to leave the organization after his latest stint. Jodoin has been an associate coach for the team for two different five-year periods, and also worked as the Hamilton Bulldogs’ head coach and in the Canadiens’ player development department over the years. New head coach Claude Julien will meet with his other assistants in the next few days to decide what’s next for the coaching staff.
- Tyler Seguin apparently was playing with a damaged labrum in his right shoulder for much of the season, and the team announced today that he underwent surgery yesterday to repair it. His recovery timeline is set at four months, meaning he’ll be lucky to be ready for the start of training camp next fall. Seguin was criticized for his play much of this season, but still ended up with 72 points despite the injury. He’ll be expected to take another step forward and help the Stars return to the playoffs next season, or there may be even bigger shakeups in Dallas next summer.
The Hockey News Lyle Richardson believes Calgary Flames goaltender Brian Elliott’s tenure with the team is over. After a season of struggles, culminating getting pulled in Game 4 of their playoff series against the Anaheim Ducks, the team is expected to look elsewhere for help behind the net next season.
Elliott, who was acquired last year from the St. Louis Blues for a 2016 second-round pick (Jordan Kyrou) and a 2018 third-round pick, never put up the kind of season the Flames had hoped for. He finished the season with a 2.55 goals against in 49 contests and a .910 save percentage. Those numbers were way below his usual numbers. Last year for the Blues, he played in 41 games with a 2.07 GAA and a .930 save percentage. However, Elliott’s 3.88 GAA in the four playoff games against the Ducks left a lot to be desired by Calgary. A soft goal by Anaheim’s Patrick Eaves at 5:38 in the first period of Game 4, which was enough for Calgary head coach Glen Gulutzan to remove him in favor of Chad Johnson.
While Johnson, also an unrestricted free agent, may be retained by the Flames, both writers believe they will have to look at either the free agent or trade market to find their next goaltender.
Los Angeles Kings goaltender Ben Bishop may be at the top of their wishlist. Bishop, who is an unrestricted free agent, is the top goaltender on the market and Calgary came close to trading for him last offseason before choosing to trade for Elliott instead. He is coming off a two-year deal in which he made 4.76MM this year and was traded to Los Angeles in February. He fared well in 2015-16 in Tampa Bay, playing in 61 games and finishing with a 2.06 GAA and a .926 save percentage. However, he didn’t play as well this year, allowing a 2.55 GAA in 32 games with Tampa Bay and a 2.49 GAA in seven games with Los Angeles. Despite those struggles, many experts believe his price tag may be in the $7MM range as there are several teams on the market looking for goalies.
Other free agent options, according to Richardson are Philadelphia’s Steve Mason, Chicago’s Scott Darling and Ottawa’s Mike Condon. Mason, who had a monster rookie-year in 2009-10, has never been able to duplicate that (with the possible exception of the 2014-15 season). Darling has been a veteran backup for the Blackhawks and never had an opportunity to start full-time, while Condon has had some success, but also was both waived and traded for a fifth-round pick only a year ago.
The trade market could be another option for the Flames, as the Pittsburgh Penguins will likely look to move Marc-Andre Fleury after the great rookie season from goaltender Matt Murray. The 32-year-old netminder has shown he still has it, leading the Penguins to their first-round playoff series win over Columbus. However, his numbers don’t stand out that much as he finished the season with a 3.02 GAA in 32 contests this season.
The price for any goaltender may be high as many believe that the Winnipeg Jets, Carolina Hurricanes and the New York Islanders could be looking for a netminder.