With most of the media attention drawn towards the Toronto Maple Leafs’ signing of John Tavares, many people didn’t notice that the team didn’t really address their defensive issues this last offseason. The main reason for that is that general manager Kyle Dubas feels the answers to their defensive problems are more likely to be found within their own organization.
The Star’s Mark Zwolinski writes that the team has their top four of Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner, Ron Hainsey and Nikita Zaitsev, but they also have an overabundance of talented blueliners who are ready to step in and fill in those final two spots as well as help out if one of those top four struggle next season. The team can look to a number of defensemen, including Travis Dermott, Igor Ozhiganov, Connor Carrick, Timothy Liljegren, Justin Holl, Jordan Subban, Andreas Borgman, Calle Rosen, Martin Marincin and Andrew Nielsen, who all have the capabilities of checking in if needed.
The scribe writes that one major advantage for all these players is they’ve had at least one year (except for Ozhiganov) of experience with defensive coach D.J. Smith, who was voted in a players’ poll as the assistant coach best suited to become a head coach.
- After seeing Calgary Flames defenseman Noah Hanifin sign a six-year, $29.7MM deal ($4.95MM AAV) on Thursday evening, The Athletic’s Joe McDonald (subscription required) wonders what it might end up costing the Boston Bruins to lock up defenseman Charlie McAvoy, who is playing out the final year of his entry-level deal this season. If Hanifin makes that much, McAvoy, who has been quite an impact for the team already in just one-plus season, should be able to get an even bigger deal. The scribe writes that the Bruins had already started extension talks at $6MM over seven years, but are more likely to work out an even longer-term deal after this season, which could be an eight-year deal between $7.5MM and $8MM.
- In a team preview, The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa (subscription required) writes that it looks like a rookie will be centering the Boston Bruins’ third line next season after having Riley Nash centering it last season. It just comes down to who wins that job between Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Trent Frederic and Jack Studnicka. All are expected to have significantly better offensive skills than Nash, but all have no NHL experience so far. The 21-year-old Forsbacka-Karlsson was inconsistent in his first season in the AHL last year. The 20-year-old Frederic is considered to be more of a grinder after two seasons at the University of Wisconsin, while the 19-year-old Studnicka still lacks both size and strength and may not be ready for an NHL role yet, despite excellent offensive skills. If none are ready, Sean Kuraly or Chris Wagner would have to assume the role.
- Patrick Hickey of the Montreal Gazette, in a series on key players the Montreal Canadiens need to get a better season from, suggests that the team must get a major improvement out of center Jonathan Drouin this season. One reason the highly-touted Drouin struggled was because the 23-year-old spent the previous summer training with Max Pacioretty with the assumption they would be linemates, but learned early on that they weren’t very compatible together as well as the fact that some within the organization felt he would be a better winger, while others wanted him playing center. Now, a full-time center, Drouin has been training for this season all offseason. “Last year, I came in and I had no feel for what was going on,” Drouin said earlier this week. “As the year went on, I felt more comfortable knowing what do in some areas, at some points in the game. At the end of the year, things were starting to work out and I want to continue like that.”