- As we wrote about earlier today, Ottawa Senators forward Bobby Ryan may have pushed himself back into the discussion about expansion protection with his standout playoffs. Jared Clinton of The Hockey News doesn’t think so though as he lists Ryan among his players that have built-in protection due to their cap hits. Ryan himself thinks he’s “pretty safe”, telling the media that he doesn’t think Vegas would want his $7.25MM cap-hit. Ryan currently has a no-movement clause of sorts, but it is not the same as say, Dion Phaneuf’s clause that will force him to be protected should he not waive it. Ryan is not on the list of automatic protection, as his clause only stops movement to the minors. He doesn’t need to waive it to be exposed.
Though it doesn’t come as much of a surprise, Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion confirmed today that Craig Anderson will be the goalie protected for the team in the upcoming expansion draft. With Mike Condon set to become an unrestricted free agent, that means the Golden Knights will get a chance to negotiate with him prior to the draft, and also puts into question whether the Senators will look to retain him on a longer-term contract after the season. Anderson has just a single year left on his contract, but at 36 was one of the biggest reasons the Senators reached game 7 of the Eastern Conference final.
While protecting Anderson seems like the obvious choice after his excellent season—the veteran goaltender put up a .926 save percentage despite his personal issues—Condon looks more like the future in Ottawa should they be able to sign him. Dorion mentioned during his press conference that if they can’t sign Condon (which would confirm that they’re trying to) that Andrew Hammond could be in as the backup to Anderson, and though Hammond had a Cinderella-like run when his career started, he had a terrible season fighting injury and is already 29-years old. Dorion admits talks with Condon haven’t gone well so far, but that he will speak to his agent next week.
In terms of other players being protected, Dorion was less forthcoming. He put it simply:
We’re going to lose a player. That’s part of the deal. Las Vegas payed a lot of money to get in this league, and that’s part of the deal. Are you mad about it? No. That’s part of the deal. We’ve got enough depth that I don’t see any radical changes to this team.
There has been much speculation about the possibility of Bobby Ryan being exposed, though when Ian Mendes of TSN asked if Dorion had changed his mind during the playoffs about certain players, the GM said that they have to take everything into account. Ryan exploded in the playoffs after a dreadful season, turning into one of the team’s best forwards. After scoring just 25 points in the regular season, Ryan put up 15 in the Senators’ 19 playoff games and may have done enough to warrant protection once again. Supremely talented, Ryan has the biggest cap-hit on the team and is signed through the 2021-22 season.
In a decisive Game 6 match-up of the Eastern Conference Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Ottawa Senators have decided to go outside the box. Following an embarrassing 7-0 loss in Game 5, head coach Guy Boucher has made the call that the team needs a different look tonight, and that means rookie center Colin White will get the call. This is the third NHL game for white and, obviously, the first playoff game of his young career. Will he be a game-changer for the Senators?
White may be making his NHL postseason debut, but he’s actually played postseason hockey already this season. White signed his entry-level contract with Ottawa on April 2nd, after his NCAA season with Boston College came to an end. White, the 21st overall pick in 2015, was nearly a point-per-game player for BC this season, with 16 goals and 17 assists in 35 games, and helped to lead the Eagles to finals of the Hockey East conference tournament. However, White’s squad fell to the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, and without the automatic bid, did not have the resume to qualify for the NCAA tournament.
Since then, White has played in just five games – two scoreless outings with Ottawa and three games (with three points) for the AHL Binghamton Senators, who missed the playoffs – and he is now being called on to enter the Eastern Conference Final cold and provide a spark on offense. White’s inclusion is not so much the result of injury, although Alexandre Burrows remains sidelined, but instead a decision of pace and positioning. Ottawa dressed seven defenseman for Game 5, which was undoubtedly their worst performance of the 2017 postseason, and Bocher decided not to continue that practice. He also declined to dress slower physical veteran forwards like Chris Kelly or Chris Neil in favor or the young White, hoping that his youthful energy would help to keep pace with the speedy Penguins. White is a well-rounded prospect with high-end possession ability and good visions and hockey intelligence. However, he’s being thrown into the fire in this situation, as the Senators are desperate for all the help they can get to stay alive tonight.
Though you may not have noticed it while watching the final moments of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 7-0 crushing of the Ottawa Senators yesterday, Scott Wilson left the ice with an apparent head injury after receiving a forearm/elbow from Tommy Wingels. Mike Halford of NBC’s ProHockeyTalk reports that the league will not have a hearing with Wingels following the incident, even though he served no penalty as time expired. As Pierre McGuire exclaimed on the NBC broadcast as time was running down, Wilson immediately left the ice surface and quickly headed down the tunnel. He was not present at the morning skate according to Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, though it was optional and only thirteen players attended.
As the frustration of the lopsided affair boiled over Wingels clearly tries to inflict pain—though perhaps not injury—on Wilson as the Penguins’ forward just dumps the puck down the ice. It’s a dangerous play, and one that clearly had an effect on Wilson as he didn’t wait around to celebrate with teammates. Head coach Mike Sullivan reports that Wilson is “fine” but the injury outcome seems secondary when watching the hit.
The NHL Department of Player Safety has been criticized in the past for its apparent inconsistency when it comes to hits that contact the head, with this being the latest divisive case. While some may see it as a targeted head-shot with the intent to injure, others may view it as an attempt at a check that unfortunately contacted the head first. Either way it is a bit surprising that there is not at least a phone hearing scheduled, especially while the league is embroiled in a legal battle about how they handle head and brain injuries.
The NHL purposefully designed the rules regarding the expansion draft to give the league’s newest member the best possible chance to compete right away. Teams have two options in terms of whom to protect from their current roster: they can either choose to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and a goalie or they can go the alternate route of eight skaters and one goalie. Any player with two seasons or less of experience playing professional hockey in North America are exempt. Undoubtedly, many teams will confront some tough choices when it comes to whom they potentially lose to the Golden Knights later next month.
Rob Vollman, writing for ESPN.com, examines who among the four Stanley Cup semi-finalists Vegas GM George McPhee is most likely going to garner significant interest from the veteran hockey executive. From the reigning champion Penguins, Vollman suggests that unless the club can convince Marc-Andre Fleury to waive his NMC and subsequently trade him to another club looking for a #1 between the pipes, one of Pittsburgh’s goaltenders would be the best choice for McPhee and the Golden Knights. However, should the Penguins proactively move one of their ’tenders – almost assuredly Fleury – prior to the expansion draft, Vollman suggests blue liner Brian Dumoulin as the best choice given his penalty killing prowess and ability to play solid defensively.
According to the scribe, Anaheim, barring some shifty maneuvering, may risk losing Josh Manson or Jakob Silfverberg to their new division rivals. Manson, as a right-hand defenseman who can move the puck and plays with bite, would be an excellent addition for Vegas.
Because of their defensive depth, Nashville will likely choose to protect eight skaters, with four being blue liners. This means the Golden Knights will probably have their pick from a group which includes forwards Calle Jarnkrok, Craig Smith and Colin Wilson. Ultimately, Vollman thinks Jarnkrok would be the sensible choice given his affordable cap hit ($2MM annually through 2021-22) and his strong two-way play.
Given the lack of proven goal scorers likely to be available to McPhee in the expansion draft, Vollman wonders whether Vegas could be convinced to take the onerous contract of Bobby Ryan off of Ottawa’s hands. Ryan, who has five years – at which point the winger will be 35 – and an annual cap charge of $7.25MM, has struggled since joining Ottawa four years ago and finished with just 13 goals in 62 contests this past season. However, he has played better in the playoffs recording five markers and 14 points in 16 games. Vollman doubts McPhee would take that hefty contract on without the Senators offering them further incentive to do so but also notes the $7.25MM price tag would make it much easier to reach their targeted floor of $43.8MM in salaries. And at 30, there is hope Ryan can provide at least a few seasons of solid offensive production for a club who will likely struggle to put the puck in the net.
In other Golden Knights news:
- The Golden Knights have done well in hiring veteran coach Gerard Gallant to be the franchise’s first bench boss, at least if some of his former charges and current contemporaries are correct. NHL.com’s Brian Hedger penned an article on Gallant, who is currently an assistant with Canada’s entry in the 2017 IIHF World Championship, which included quotes from Michael Matheson and Nick Bjugstad, who each played for Gallant in Florida. Matheson, a young defenseman who rejoined Gallant on Team Canada for this tournament, said: “He’s a tremendous coach and I loved my time with him. He just gives his players a lot of confidence. He realizes that you’re going to make mistakes but that it’s not the end of the world. He’s just going to put you back onto the ice because he has confidence in you.” For his part, Bjugstad said: “He’s one of my favorite coaches ever,” and indicated he was well-liked in the room in Florida. “Everyone respected him. He had a young team with us, and it didn’t take him long to kind of push us to that next level, the next step. There’s no reason he can’t do it with the next team.” Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper also offered up strong praise for Gallant: “I think it’s a great get for Las Vegas. I got to meet Gerard at the [World Cup of Hockey 2016], and that’s a big reason he’s here with us today. He’s extremely knowledgeable about the game, the guys play hard for him and I think he’ll do a [great] job in Vegas.” Gallant’s ability to help develop young players and earn the respect from his charges should do him well in his new position. While the Golden Knights will have access to quality NHL talent via the expansion draft, the organization will still likely rely on building with youth through the draft and it may be a few seasons before they are ready to compete regularly for the postseason.
- With the probable lack of proven goal scorers available to Vegas in the expansion draft, the club will likely look for other ways to add offensive talent to the organization. The Golden Knights have already inked free agent center Vadim Shipachyov, a skilled Russian who was expected to draw significant interest from several NHL clubs this summer. He may well slot in as the team’s #1 center to begin the season. But, as talented as Shipachyov might be, he is more of a playmaker than a goal scorer and Vegas will have to add more talent around their new #1 pivot. Luke Fox of Sportsnet suggests that former top overall draft pick Nail Yakupov is just the sort of player Vegas should take a chance on as they search for impact offensive talent. Yakupov, who suffered through the worst season of his career with St. Louis in 2016-17, scoring just nine points in 40 games, has said he has no desire to return home and play in the KHL. Fox believes the 23-year-old winger is worth a short-term, small money deal for Vegas, or for another team starved for cheap offense, perhaps L.A. Signing Yakupov would certainly make a lot of sense for Vegas. The presence of Shipachyov could help ease Yakupov’s adjustment to the desert and provide the talented winger with the type of setup man that could help him thrive.
The Toronto Maple Leafs fan base has been abuzz over the last few days after seeing pictures of Mike Babcock at games 3 and 4 between Nashville and Anaheim, even being joined by GM Lou Lamoriello for the latter. His appearance immediately made many think that he was scouting Ducks defensemen eligible for the expansion draft, though Sportsnet’s Luke Fox has an additional theory.
Predators captain Mike Fisher will be a free agent this summer, and though he’s obviously tied strongly to the Nashville community—he’s married to country music star Carrie Underwood after all—the numbers might just not leave enough room for him. Nashville has a busy offseason ahead of them, with both Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson hitting restricted free agency. If Fisher were to hit the open market, Toronto would likely be interested after the comments Babcock made earlier this year about him.
- Maple Leafs fans will also be happy to see the success of their two young stars at the World Championships. Mitch Marner and William Nylander have been some of the best forwards in the tournament thus far, with Nylander especially finding incredible chemistry with playoff-foe Nicklas Backstrom. Nylander and Backstrom have a long history, going back to the latter’s rookie season in Washington when he was welcomed into the home of then-teammate Michael Nylander, William’s father. The two, almost 10 years apart, spent a lot of time together during those first two seasons playing ping-pong in the basement or mini-sticks in the hallway. It seems all that time spent so many years ago has created a sort of familiarity on the ice, that has blossomed into some incredible goals since Backstrom joined the tournament.
- The Ottawa Senators won’t get Mark Borowiecki back tonight, though he took the morning skate with the team. According to Bruce Garrioch of Postmedia, the bruising defenseman suffered a setback pushing too hard to try and get back on the ice. He still hopes to return in this series, which would stretch to next Thursday should it go all seven games. The Senators will try to take a commanding 3-1 series lead tonight as they take on the Penguins at home.
With the United States being bounced from the World Championships following a 2-0 loss to Finland, head coach Jeff Blashill was “bitterly disappointed.” Blashill and the United States had won six consecutive games before bowing out of the quarterfinals. Finland played a tight defensive game, bottling up the American attack and sending the US team home in jarring fashion.
To Detroit Red Wings fans, it may not seem like the most shocking of results. Red Wings blog Winging It In Motown released their season grade for Blashill and it wasn’t exactly glowing. Blashill received failing grades in game management and player deployment which lowered his marks to an overall of an F, but more interesting is the caveat at the end, indicating that Blashill’s coaching at the Worlds shows a coach capable of “handling young teams,” which seems to put some of the onus back on general manager Ken Holland’s team building. Regardless, the heat has to be on Blashill as he enters year three in Detroit.
- The Ottawa Citizen’s Don Brennan believes that the lack of support at Senators’ games are a myth. Citing attendance figures, Brennan points to only the first game of its second round series against New York where fans didn’t fill the arena. The other six playoff games saw capacity crowds, and Brennan writes that it’s the listing of 19,209, which used to be the sellout figure for Canadian Tire Center, prior to renovations. While he admits that the figure for the aforementioned game was 16,744, the average attendance has been 18,522, which is just 50 seats short of the new sellout figure of 18,572. Several players Brennan spoke with spoke of how loud the building has been, calling it the “loudest” they’ve heard it.
During the regular season, NHL teams are limited to having 23 players on their roster (barring injuries). Once the playoffs start, those restrictions cease to exist.
’Black Aces’ are players who are on their team’s roster, but aren’t in the lineup. Here’s a look at the current list of ’Black Aces’:
D Kevin Bieksa (lower-body injury sustained in Game 1 vs Edmonton)
C Sam Carrick (healthy scratch)
D Simon Despres (has not played since October with concussion issues)
R Patrick Eaves (lower-body injury sustained in Game 3 vs Edmonton)
G Jhonas Enroth (health scratch)
D Korbinian Holzer (healthy scratch)
R Nic Kerdiles (healthy scratch)
R Logan Shaw (lower-body injury sustained in Game 5 vs Edmonton)
D Clayton Stoner (health scratch after being injured for six months)
D Anthony Bitetto (healthy scratch)
L Kevin Fiala (out for season with broken femur sustained in Game 1 vs St. Louis)
C Vernon Fiddler (healthy scratch)
D Petter Granberg (health scratch)
D Brad Hunt (healthy scratch)
R P.A. Parenteau (healthy scratch)
C Colton Sissons (healthy scratch)
D Mark Borowiecki (lower-body injury)
C Chris DiDomenico (healthy scratch)
D Andreas Englund (healthy scratch)
G Andrew Hammond (healthy scratch)
D Ben Harpur (healthy scratch)
D Jyrki Jokipakka (healthy scratch)
L Chris Kelly (healthy scratch)
R Chris Neil (healthy scratch)
G Matt O’Connor (healthy scratch)
L Viktor Stalberg (lower-body injury sustained in Game 1 vs Pittsburgh)
C Colin White (healthy scratch)
R Josh Archibald (healthy scratch)
D Trevor Daley (lower-body injury)
R Patric Hornqvist (day-t0-day with upper-body injury)
G Tristan Jarry (healthy scratch)
D Kris Letang (done for season after undergoing neck surgery)
D Justin Schultz (day-t0-day with upper-body injury)
D Mark Streit (healthy scratch)
C Oskar Sundqvist (healthy scratch)
R Bryan Rust (day-t0-day with upper-body injury)
The NHL continues to unveil award finalists ahead of this June’s NHL Awards in Vegas. Today: the General Manager of the Year.
Edmonton’s Peter Chiarelli, Nashville’s David Poile, and Ottawa’s Pierre Dorion are the three finalists. All three men lead their team’s to great seasons, and solid playoff runs, with Nashville and Ottawa currently in their respective Conference Finals.
Chiarelli made a blockbuster trade last June, trading Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson. He also signed Kris Russell and Matt Benning to finally stabilize the Oilers’ defense. Previous Chiarelli acquisition Cam Talbot started 73 games and was likely the best Oiler not named Connor McDavid. The Oilers improved to 103 points, and finished second in the Pacific Division. However, not all of Chiarelli’s decisions worked out: backup Jonas Gustavsson allowed 17 goals in seven appearances before hitting the waiver wire, and trade deadline acquisition David Desharnais scored just three goals and eight points in 31 games between the stretch drive and playoffs.
Poile has been involved in some major trades over the last few seasons, and perhaps none were bigger than the P.K. Subban for Shea Weber blockbuster last June. Our Seth Lawrence recently took a look at the win-win trades that Poile has made while building his Conference finalist. Besides Subban-for-Weber, Poile also traded Seth Jones for number one center Ryan Johansen and acquired sniper James Neal for Patric Hornqvist. Poile is the only GM in Predator’s history; he took the helm of the team in 1998. He has been nominated four times for the GM of the Year Award.
While Poile has been GM for 19 years, Dorion has only been at the helm of the Senators for 13 months. His biggest move was the Mika Zibanejad-for-Derick Brassard trade last summer. He’s also brought in Mike Condon, Alexandre Burrows, Viktor Stalberg, and Tommy Wingels as his team posted 98 points and their first Conference Finals berth since 2007.
Pittsburgh’s Jim Rutherford is the current holder of the award.
As always, international play is a time for players to shine. While plenty of NHL regulars (Johnny Gaudreau, Artemi Panarin) are lighting the lamp quite easily, there are a few names that should be interesting General Managers out there. Prospects and lesser knowns have a chance to really prove they can be difference makers at the top tier of hockey.
- Although no longer technically considered a prospect, offensive dynamo Vadim Shipachyov is looking like a brilliant pickup for the Vegas Golden Knights. Through 5 games he has already accumulated 10 points (2 G, 8 A) and is driving possession for his Russian squad. His skill with the puck on his stick and his vision to find teammates through traffic has been mightily impressive. He may be slotted down the lineup as Capital Evgeny Kuznetsov joins the fray, but he still has a reasonable shot at tournament MVP if he keeps this work up.
- France’s Stephane da Costa has been nothing short of incredible for the home team, currently tied for the tournament lead in goals (6) and third in points (9). Da Costa is 27 years-old and went to play in the KHL following his up-and-down experience with Ottawa. He played 47 games for the Senators over 4 seasons but spent the majority of his time in the AHL’s Binghamton. Da Costa has played shortened seasons for the CSKA Moscow over the past three years, but has not entirely fallen off the radar of North American teams. He was even rumored to be linked to the Golden Knights in February by Dans les Coulisses journalist Max Truman, although there has been nothing since. This sort of performance could put him back in teams’ considerations.
- Swedish goalie (and New York Ranger cornerstone) Henrik Lundqvist survived a scary hit to the head when an opposing Danish player crashed his crease at full speed. He eventually got up and continued to play in the game. Trainers say he is all right. His injury would be huge, both for the Swedish national team’s chances, and the Rangers franchise. Although he’s just turned 35 and is signed for four more seasons on an outrageously expensive contract, Lundqvist is still a top goaltender at the NHL level. The clip can be viewed here.