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Cloud 9: Trade Partners for a Centre

CloudNineC

To say that this is a big summer for Montreal Canadiens’ General Manager Marc Bergevin is a bit of an understatement, mostly due to last season’s debacle. There are two glaring needs for the Canadiens coming into the off-season and one of them definitely is finding one, or possible even two centres to play on the top-2 lines.

In a recent article, we explored a few options covering mostly the free agents’ market which opens on July 1st, but let’s direct our focus on teams Bergevin is possibly talking to, or perhaps should be looking towards for help at that position. Here’s how to get on cloud nine, with nine examples, in no particular order:

BUFFALO SABRES

Ryan O’Reilly

JUSTIFICATION: They have Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart is ready to take the next step. However, GM Jason Botterill denied that O’Reilly is on the market. But again, GM’s rarely say when a player is being shopped or like we’ve learned in Montreal, there’s a difference between shopping someone or listening to offers. That’s actually a GM’s job.

COST: According to TSN Insider Darren Dregger, the price would be very, very steep, which could take most teams, even a desperate Habs’ team, from getting ROR. What’s the maximum for a guy with a long term $7.5 million cap hit and who has never cracked the 65 points mark? For the Habs, I would venture to say Galchenyuk and a good prospect/pick. More than that, Bergevin will move on to something else.

CALGARY FLAMES

Mark Jankowski or Sam Bennett

JUSTIFICATION: Could the Flames be interested in acquiring the 3rd overall pick from the Canadiens, in order to select Brady Tkachuk, whose brother Matthew is a contributing member of their team? That would be the trigger for trade talks.

COST: Of course, one of the two young centres wouldn’t be enough to get the 3rd overall but could the teams make it a bigger deal by seeing T.J. Brodie heading to Montreal? The 3rd overall and perhaps Galchenyuk, something around that? It depends how badly the Flames want Tkachuk I guess.

NEW YORK ISLANDERS

Tavares
John Tavares

John Tavares

JUSTIFICATION: If the Islanders see that Tavares will explore the market of free agency, they might decide to get something in return and give someone the sole opportunity to negotiate on a new contract before other teams. I could see a conditional deal, if the Habs agree to terms with the star centre, sending a package to New York. But why not wait to sign him without giving assets I’m being asked? Because they’re no guarantee that he will pick the Habs. If he agrees to a deal PRIOR to free agency, the risk of other teams is gone and there’s a premium to pay for that.

COST: If they can agree to an extension, it would take quite a bit. It would be great to keep Pacioretty and see him play with a true number one centre but it may not be feasible. Galchenyuk? Mete? Petry? The 3rd pick overall? The Islanders first round pick(s) – they have two? It could be a huge trade…

FLORIDA PANTHERS

Aleksander Barkov, Vincent Trochek or Nick Bjugstad

JUSTIFICATION: Number one, reputable NHL insiders like Elliott Friedman (not the anonymous ones) have indicated that there was a deal being discussed between the Canadiens and the Panthers for Max Pacioretty, Trochek being the player coming to Montreal. They do have depth at centre, but not so much on the wings and that would make sense for both teams. The Habs wouldn’t target Jonathan Huberdeau, would they?

COST: The start of any talks would be surrounding Pacioretty, and go from there. Can they agree which of the two players holds more value? How I would like to be a fly on the wall listening in to those conversation.

EDMONTON OILERS

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

JUSTIFICATION: Okay here we go again. The Oilers had a terrible season. They have depth at centre and need speedy wingers. As mentioned before though, I would have believed in it before they experimented successfully with RNH on McDavid’s wing but with the chemistry found, we can pretty much scratch that one off.

COST: Had it had to occur, Pacioretty was the focus of discussions. It would take more today, in my humble opinion.

MINNESOTA WILD

Charlie Coyle

JUSTIFICATION: The Wild’s constant deception to make it further in the playoffs has triggered trade rumours and Coyle is right in the middle of them. Big, strong centre who can move, extremely versatile, he falls behind Mikko Koivu and Eric Staal in the depth chart, particularly if the Wild wants to re-sign Staal when his contract expires at the end of next year.

COST: It’s very had to gage Coyle’s value, really. Hampered with a wrist injury, I would think that the Wild would want Galchenyuk in return, with spare parts going here or there.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

brassard
Derick Brassard

Derick Brassard

JUSTIFICATION: With the lack of pending UFA’s at the trade deadline, the Penguins went out and got Brassard to add depth at centre for a playoffs’ run. The question insiders are wondering is if the Pens have any intention of retaining him for next season or do they trade him and replace him with someone cheaper and younger. They do have some depth at centre, and rumours are swirling about Brassard’s availability.

COST: On the Pens, Brassard is a third line centre but in Montreal, he would be a 2nd, perhaps even a 1B centre. One would think that a prospect, a pick and/or perhaps an experienced defenseman? The Habs do have several of those…

SAN JOSE SHARKS

Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl and Chris Tierney

JUSTIFICATION: Look at that depth at centre, and that’s not counting if they decide to bring back Joe Thornton for another season! Another disappointing exit in the playoffs might tip GM Doug Wilson to shake things up in San Jose.

COST: The price would vary depending on the player traded for sure, but a first rounder other than 2018 and a young established player might just entice the Sharks enough.

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

Tyler Johnson

JUSTIFICATION: The Lightning are very deep at centre. As a matter of fact, they’re deep on defense too. Johnson seems to be the odd man out if we believe the rumours around Tampa Bay and he might just need a change, a new start.

COST: He’s young, rather cheap, and plays a key position at centre. One has to wonder if Steve Yzerman has any incline towards Galchenyuk?

There are likely others, coming out of left field as they say, but the ones mentioned above are linked, in most part, to what we’re hearing around the NHL. Either way, we know that Marc Bergevin and the Canadiens are looking at making some changes… and those might be options. Go Habs Go!

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Cloud 9: Trade Partners for a Defenseman

CloudNineD

To say that this is a big summer for Montreal Canadiens’ General Manager Marc Bergevin is a bit of an understatement, mostly due to last season’s debacle. There are two glaring needs for the Canadiens coming into the off-season and one of them definitely is finding a defense partner to play big minutes alongside veteran Shea Weber

We have recently covered a few options in a recent article, covering mostly the free agents’ market which opens on July 1st, but let’s direct our focus on teams Bergevin is possibly talking to, or perhaps should be looking towards for help at that position. Here’s how to get on cloud nine, with nine examples, in no particular order:

ANAHEIM DUCKS

Cam Fowler

JUSTIFICATION: The Ducks have depth on the blue line with guys like Josh Manson, Brandon Montour and Hampus Lindholm, which means that they might consider trading in a position of strength. Their playoffs’ performances have been rather stagnant and the window is slowly closing in on them with a core of veterans like Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry amongst others. Fowler has been in the rumour mill on a regular basis for the past couple of years with Montreal being in the middle of them, and this might be the time they decide to make a significant move. He did however sign an extension with the Ducks until 2024-25 at a cap hit of $6.5 million with a limited NTC…

COST: Fowler wouldn’t come cheap, but he’ll never be mistaken for a Norris Trophy candidate (although some are that shouldn’t be, but that’s a different topic). It would take a young NHL player (Galchenyuk-type) and a high quality prospect/pick to get him though.

CALGARY FLAMES

T.J. Brodie

JUSTIFICATION: The Flames’ deepest position is on defense and after the acquisition of Travis Hamonic from the New York Islanders, many experts compared them to the Nashville Predators at that position. Unfortunately for them, the results haven’t been conclusive and management is looking for answers, trying to shake things up a bit. Could the Flames be interested in acquiring the 3rd overall pick from the Canadiens, in order to select Brady Tkachuk, whose brother Matthew is a contributing member of their team?

COST: Of course, the 3rd overall would be an overpayment for Brodie and something else would have to be added to make this happen. What doesn’t play in the Flames’ favour is the fact that they don’t have a first round pick to trade so perhaps, they would have to get a third team into the talks in order for the Canadiens to be able to pick in the Top-10 on June 22nd.

COLORADO AVALANCHE

Tyson Barrie

JUSTIFICATION: Is there someone who has been talked about in rumours more than this guy in the past couple of years? It’s hard to understand why but he is a solid top-4 defenseman but with one year left to his contract at $5.5M cap hit before becoming a UFA, the Avalanche could decide to move him this summer. If that’s the case, Bergevin will be there, rest assured. But do the Canadiens have the assets needed to make it happen?

COST: The Avalanche would likely want some young help on the wing and the Habs have a few NHL ready forwards at that position. They already took a flyer on Sven Andrighetto so they might very well be tempted with the likes of Nikita Scherbak and/or Mike McCarron in a package deal…

Klefbom
Oscar Klefbom

EDMONTON OILERS

Oscar Klefbom

JUSTIFICATION: There are a lot of talks about the disappointing season by the Canadiens but what about the Oilers? With all the fire power they have, the rumours are going strong and Klefbom’s name comes up regularly. Like Jeff Petry back then, Klefbom is being utilized as a number one defenseman and that’s just not his role. He is however very capable to supply good quality minutes as he has proven and would be a good partner for Weber.

COST: He wouldn’t come cheap and a young NHL ready prospect, perhaps a speedy winger, would likely be targeted by Peter Chiarelli, and Montreal’s second round picks could very well come into play.

LOS ANGELES KINGS

Jake Muzzin or Alec Martinez

JUSTIFICATION: As we touched in a recent article, the Kings have the most money tied up for next season and they could be attempting to get some cap relief as there is only one year left to star defenseman’s Drew Doughty’s contract. Both players have a cap hit of $4 million with Muzzin having two years left to his, while Martinec has one more year than Muzzin to his contract.

COST: While facing the Golden Knights in the playoffs, the Kings realized that they need to add speed to their line-up. As for the Oilers for Klefbom, could a young NHL ready speedster and throwing in one of the second round picks be enough? I would think so.

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

Ryan McDonagh

JUSTIFICATION: Could you imagine if that happened? Drafted by the Canadiens and involved in one of the team’s worst trades ever, getting McDonagh back would go a long ways in fixing the mistake. He has lost some value in recent years but he is still a very good top-4 defenseman who could look great paired with Weber. The Lighting have a lot of money tied up in cap space and they are deep on defense. We have seen that the two GM’s aren’t afraid to pull trades within their division either.

COST: The defenceman was traded to Tampa Bay along with forward J.T. Miller, sending Vladislav Namestnikov, a 2018 first-round pick, a conditional second-round pick in 2019, defensive prospect Libor Hajek forward prospect Brett Howden the other way. It’s a hefty price to pay so Galchenyuk or Pacioretty might have to be included in that deal to make it work, although McDonagh only has one year left to his contract, with a cap hit of $4.7 million.

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

Jake Gardiner

JUSTIFICATION: One bad game (okay, a terrible game) where he finished with minus – 5 rating in a key matchup, and rumours that he has played his last game in Toronto are not going away. Yes, the fanbase is bad in Montreal but it’s not much better in TO as Gardiner could easily become the Patrice Brisebois for Leafs’ fans.

COST: He’s a good defenseman, but he’s no all-star. But does new GM Kyle Dubas know that, and would Gardiner be the first trade he makes in replacement for Lou Lamoriello? It definitely would be gutsy. An established winger or a veteran defenseman might be what coach Babcock would be hoping for in his line-up, but Gardiner alone won’t give the Leafs what they truly need: a number one defenseman.

Vancouver Canucks v Anaheim Ducks
Alex Edler

VANCOUVER CANUCKS

Alexander Edler

JUSTIFICATION: Edler is a veteran on a rather young team and now that the Sedin twis have retired, the Canucks are going younger. With one year left at $5 million cap hit before becoming a UFA, Jim Benning would definitely listen to offers.

COST: The Canucks are rather thin on the blue line so a younger defenseman would be a target. But as they are deeper at the centre position, perhaps some young forward would entice them as well.

WINNIPEG JETS

Dmitry Kulikov

JUSTIFICATION: One word: Depth. Also, the Jets need to re-sign Jacob Trouba this summer, then Dustin Byfuglien and Blake Wheeler are scheduled to become UFA’s the following summer. The question mark is not only the drop in productivity in his case, but a bad back as he decided to forgo surgery last March. He has two years left to his contract which carries a $4.33 million cap hit.

COST: Because of the back issues, one would think that he wouldn’t cost too much. Prospect(s), pick(s), a mix of both? If healthy, he’s a very serviceable defenseman.

There are likely others, coming out of left field as they say, but the ones mentioned above are linked, in most part, to what we’re hearing around the NHL. Either way, we know that Marc Bergevin and the Canadiens are looking at making some changes… and those might be options. Go Habs Go!

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Top Candidates – Centre Position

Centres2018

Amongst many other things, a NHL General Manager’s Spring and Summer job is to analyse his team, his assets, and determine and draw a plan of action to improve on the season that just ended. At the end of the 2016-17 season, the Canadiens showed a great need for offense, particularly at the centre position, and there were serious question marks as to who exactly could fill in on the top-4 on defense, particularly when it was clear that Andrei Markov wasn’t coming back, choosing to go to the KHL. Unfortunately, Marc Bergevin was unable to fulfill the needs and in combination with a few key injuries and unforeseen departures, the results speak for themselves.

This summer, the Canadiens’ GM cannot afford another miss and as we recently touched on the Habs’ needs and top candidates on defense, it’s now time to see what kind of options might be available to Bergevin and the Canadiens to fill a much needed need up the middle, in hope to return Jonathan Drouin to his natural position on left wing. While there might be a few others available through trade, let’s have a look at five of the options that could buy time until Ryan Poehling, the team’s best prospect at that position, is ready to step in and be a contributor on the top lines in Montreal.

5- Joe Thornton – San Jose Sharks

AGE: 38Thornton
HEIGHT: 6’4″
WEIGHT: 220 lbs
GP: 47
G: 13
A: 23
PTS: 36
TOI/G: 18:20
+/-: -9
FO %: 52.0
STATUS: UFA

Old… slow… but still very effective. Great in the faceoffs’ dots, he is a leader with tons of experience. Once catalogued as a playoffs’ no-show, he has stepped it up in recent years for his team. In a league now known for speed, Thornton still shows that one can slow the pace down and find ways to be very effective. One of the best passers in the league in the last decade, he is extremely dangerous, particularly on the powerplay. Unfortunately however, two serious knee injuries (to the same knee) might have taken its toll on him. If San Jose doesn’t want him back, he’s a possibility. Definitely an improvement over what the Canadiens already have.

4- Tyler Bozak – Toronto Maple Leafs

AGE: 32Bozak
HEIGHT: 6’1″
WEIGHT: 199 lbs
GP: 81
G: 11
A: 32
PTS: 43
TOI/G: 15:39
+/-: +6
FO %: 53.6
STATUS: UFA

As Tomas Plekanec wore the ‘ugly blue’, Bozak could lend a hand to the Leafs’ arch rivals. Not a true number one centre, he is good on draws and he is responsible at both ends of the ice. Being a right-handed draw is something that the Canadiens could use, particularly in the defensive zone. At this stage in their respective career, Bozak would be an improvement over Plekanec.

3- Paul Stastny – Winnipeg Jets

AGE: 32Stastny
HEIGHT: 6’0″
WEIGHT: 193 lbs
GP: 82
G: 16
A: 37
PTS: 53
TOI/G: 17:02 (WIN), 18:41 (STL)
+/-: +6 (WIN), -5 (STL)
FO %: 53.8 (WIN), 55.2 (STL)
STATUS: UFA

Son of former Nordiques’ Peter Stastny, Paul was born in Quebec and his father was once quoted saying that he would like his son to play in Montreal. Well Paul, here’s your chance. But with the success he’s had with the Jets, the two sides might be tempted to make the experience last longer, depending if Stastny wants to test the market or not. At 32, he still has a few good seasons in him and would be an improvement for the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge.

2- Ryan O’Reilly – Buffalo Sabres

AGE: 27NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Buffalo Sabres
HEIGHT: 6’1″
WEIGHT: 216 lbs
GP: 82
G: 24
A: 37
PTS: 61
TOI/G: 20:49
+/-: -23
FO %: 60.0
STATUS: $7,5M until 2022-23

In my opinion, this is a very viable option for the Canadiens. O’Reilly is a complete hockey player who hustles at both ends of the ice. He can score, he can defend, he can hit, he can grind it out. Vocal against the Sabres’ frame of mind in his post-season press conference, what he was saying wasn’t much different than what Bergevin was saying about his own team. So when you look at attitude and character, this guy oozes just that. Further, the Canadiens can afford his salary.

1- John Tavares – New York Islanders

AGE: 27Tavares
HEIGHT: 6’1″
WEIGHT: 208 lbs
GP: 82
G: 37
A: 47
PTS: 84
TOI/G: 19:56
+/-: -12
FO %: 52.9
STATUS: UFA

Pipe dream or reality? Either way, there is no doubt that if Tavares hits the free agency market, he will be the Canadiens’ centre of attention. They will throw everything at him, and while Team Canada teammates Carey Price and Shea Weber will be crucial in trying to convince him, Bergevin and team owner Geoff Molson will have to put forth the sales’ pitch of their life if they hope to convince him to play in Montreal. Yes, it is a wonderful place to win but when you don’t, it can be hell in a hurry, just ask Pacioretty and others before him. Will he and his spouse be negatively influenced by the fact that Angela Price had to come out publicly to deny senseless rumours? We shall see. But the Canadiens have the cap space to make it happen.

Honorable Mentions

– Tomas Plekanec

Is there something that hasn’t been said about the Turtleneck? He’s a true pro. He’s only two games away from reaching the 1,000 games plateau in the NHL, with most of them played with the Habs’ number 14 on his back. He’s still fast and very responsible defensively, but his offense has all but disappeared. He was making $6 million but at the right price, I am convinced that Claude Julien would like to have him back. Many fans have mixed feelings about this.

– Vincent Trochek, Alexander Barkov or Nick Bjugstad

Watch Pacioretty. The Florida Panthers were apparently very hot on the Canadiens’ captain but Bergevin was asking for Trochek and more. While this deal was not consumed by the trade deadline, it is very much possible that the talks have kept going and the Panthers would be trading in a position of strength here, being very deep at the centre position.

– Sam Bennett or Mark Jankowski

Call it a gut feeling, I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if the Flames were interested in the 3rd overall pick to draft Matthew Tkachuk‘s younger brother Brady. What do they have to offer? There’s no way that they will trade Sean Monahan, they would rather pass on Tkachuk but is there a deal possible, perhaps a bigger one involving Charlie Lindgren to help Mike Smith? What plays against the Flames is that they don’t have a first, second or even third round pick this year. In order to make something happen, a third team picking between 5 and 9 might have to get involved in a three-way and we know how rare those are.

– Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

For the longest time, a Max Pacioretty for RNH deal, with spare parts here and there, was the most logical deal to not be completed. The Oilers were deep at centre and paying Nugent-Hopkins $6 million to play on the third line didn’t make much sense, when they needed a speedy winger who could keep up with Connor McDavid. But guess what? Todd McLellan decided to try RNH with McDavid and they formed immediate chemistry. Now, it’s very unlikely that Peter Chiarelli will trade him as not only does he produce with McDavid, but he gives the team options in the event of injuries. So maybe earlier last year, but as it stands today, this ship has likely sailed.

– Jonathan Toews

In the most unlikely rumours flying out there, the one about the Habs and Blackhawks trying to work something out for the one nicknamed ‘Captain Serious’ is way out there. While definitely a good player and a strong leader, Toews’ contract is too long and for too much for the Canadiens to bite… or is it? Sometimes, desperate times call for desperate measures. Let’s just hope not.

As we can see, there are some options out there but when it comes to UFA’s, the price is often way too steep. Marc Bergevin has always rightfully claimed that you don’t build a winner on July 1st. But at the NHL draft is when most of the trades occur, as every team has cap space and many have holes to fill and changes to make, whether it’s to put them over the top after a disappointing loss in the playoffs, or a rebuild/retool process. Regardless, it promisses to be a very interesting month ahead for Habs’ fans. Go Habs Go!

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Top Candidates – Partner for Shea Weber

WeberPartner

Aside perhaps for the centre position, one of the most glaring needs for the Montreal Canadiens is for a mobile, puck-moving left handed defenseman who can log quality minutes on the top pairing to play alongside Shea Weber. Of course, winning the Draft lottery would have gone a long way as a player like Rasmus Dahlin would have been the prototypical prospect to be groomed alongside Weber, but we know now that it’s not a possibility.

While Canadiens’ General Manager Marc Bergevin does have some young blueliners bringing hope to the team, finding a proven top-4 defenseman bringing experience would go a long way in helping goaltender Carey Price bounce back from a very bad season to his standards.  Without further ado, let’s have a look as some names that may be available either through free agency or through trades, perhaps some that are already in the Habs’ brass’ plans.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

Dan Hamhuis – Dallas Stars

AGE: 35Image result for dan hamhuis
HEIGHT: 6’1″
WEIGHT: 204 lbs
GP: 80
G: 3
A: 21
PTS: 24
TOI/G: 20:11
+/-: -6
STATUS: UFA

JUSTIFICATION: At age 35, Hamhuis would be a stop-gap. He still logged some major minutes last year with the Stars and on a one or two year contract, he could be helpful, also as a mentor to young Victor Mete and Mike Reilly. He can play a sound defensive game and also be used in a shutdown role. He moves the puck very well out of the defensive zone and he has loads of hockey sense. He can also fill in with a more offensive role if or when required.

Thomas Hickey – New York Islanders

AGE: 29Image result for thomas hickey
HEIGHT: 6’0″
WEIGHT: 188 lbs
GP: 69
G: 5
A: 20
PTS: 25
TOI/G: 18:04
+/-: +20
STATUS: UFA

JUSTIFICATION: Hickey is very much underrated, but he is very much appreciated by his coaches and teammates. He’s great at moving the puck quickly up ice and fairly sound in his own end. He is also extremely mobile and does not make a lot of mistakes in his own end.

John Moore – New Jersey Devils

AGE: 27Image result for john moore
HEIGHT: 6’2″
WEIGHT: 210
GP: 81
G: 7
A: 11
PTS: 18
TOI/G: 20:01
+/-: +3
STATUS: UFA

JUSTIFICATION: Moore is one of my favourite candidates as a UFA for the position. He has a big frame and owns exceptional skating ability. He is a very steady defender and he shoots the puck with aplomb. His speed is useful all over the ice.

Calvin De Hann – New York Islanders

AGE: 27Image result for calvin de haan
HEIGHT: 6’1″
WEIGHT: 198 lbs
GP: 33
G: 1
A: 11
PTS: 12
TOI/G: 18:04
+/-: +11
STATUS: UFA

JUSTIFICATION: De Haan was lost for the season in December, having shoulder surgery but he has since confirmed that he will be ready for the start of the 2018-19 season. When healthy, he is very reliable in his own end. He skates extremely well and owns good puck-moving skills. His type of low-maintenance game can register huge amounts of ice time.

TRADES

Jake Muzzin – Los Angeles

AGE: 29Image result for jake muzzin
HEIGHT: 6’3″
WEIGHT: 213 lbs
GP: 74
G: 8
A: 34
PTS: 42
TOI/G: 21:39
+/-: +10
STATUS: $4M until 2019-20

JUSTIFICATION: The Kings have the most money committed towards next year’s cap and with the way they were bounced out of the playoffs, they will be looking at making some change, possibly freeing up some salary cap in the process. Muzzin has good size and a great point shot. He moves the puck well out of danger and can log big minutes.

Alec Martinez – Los Angeles

AGE: 30Image result for alec martinez
HEIGHT: 6’1″
WEIGHT: 208 lbs
GP: 77
G: 9
A: 16
PTS: 25
TOI/G: 22:52
+/-: +3
STATUS: $4M until 2020-21

JUSTIFICATION: As mentioned, the Kings may want and/or need to make moves. Martinec is a strong, swift and well-balanced skater with two-way ability. He also has solid puck-moving and passing skills. He usually keeps things simple and limits mistakes.

Oscar Klefbom – Edmonton Oilers

AGE: 24Image result for oscar klefbom
HEIGHT: 6’3″
WEIGHT: 215
GP: 66
G: 5
A: 16
PTS: 21
TOI/G: 22:51
+/-: -12
STATUS: $4.167 until 2022-23

JUSTIFICATION: Prior to the trade deadline back in March, Sportsnet’s Elliott Friedman was saying that the Oilers were showcasing Klefbom and speculations continue. The Oilers have several RFA’s to sign, including Ryan Strome and Darnell Nurse, and McDavid and Draisaitl’s contracts kick in this upcoming season. Klefbom owns great shutdown ability, excellent mobility and sound positioning. He can log huge minutes and is a factor on both special teams, but that didn’t keep pundits in Edmonton from pointing the finger at him for the team’s disappointing season.

Kris Russell – Edmonton Oilers

AGE: 31Image result for kris russell
HEIGHT: 5’10”
WEIGHT: 173 lbs
GP: 78
G: 4
A: 17
PTS: 21
TOI/G: 19:04
+/-: -7
STATUS: $4M until 2020-21

JUSTIFICATION: If not Klefbom, Russell is another possibility. Most known around the league as a tremendous shot-blocking defenseman – his best attribute – he plays with confidence with the puck. Russell also has enough offensive instincts to play on the power play and he does move the puck with aplomb. He definitely has great wheels and is able to skate out of trouble.

T.J. Brodie – Calgary Flames

AGE: 27Image result for tj brodie
HEIGHT: 6’1″
WEIGHT: 182 lbs
GP: 73
G: 4
A: 28
PTS: 32
TOI/G: 23:41
+/-: -16
STATUS: $4.65M until 2019-20

JUSTIFICATION: The Flames keep popping in mind when I think of teams ready to make a big move, and with the Canadiens owning the 3rd overall pick, it makes me wonder what they could pitch to Marc Bergevin to bite for trading it to them, assuming that they want Brady Tkachuk, younger brother Matthew, who already is an impact player on their team. One of the players that would help the Habs is Brodie, a defenseman who moves the puck well and is an even better skater. His offensive ability seems untapped, as he can run the power play and jump up into the rush. He is definitely capable of logging huge amounts of ice time. Oh and no, I’m NOT suggesting the 3rd overall pick for Brodie, in case someone thinks that I’ve completely lost my mind.

As for the value for any of those defensemen in trades, it obviously varies depending on the target. While rumours are circulating that the Habs are in negotiation with Max Pacioretty, many still think that it is very likely that he will be traded at the deadline. Based on his production being higher than Duchene and what Colorado received, the return would have to be substantial. Alex Galchenyuk‘s name often returns into rumours as well, and we know that Bergevin is wanting to make some change. We shall see who he was pointing to when talking about “attitude” in the dressing room. Is it June 22nd yet? Go Habs Go!

 

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NHL Playoffs Format

NHLplayoffs

A few days off NHL hockey for us, fans, as we await the Stanley Cup finals, provides us with plenty of time to think. You see, many NHL fans are very much like team executives and players in the sense that until the final buzzer has sounded and the Commissioner has been booed to death when presenting the Stanley Cup, hockey is on our mind. For some, it’s a 12 months endeavour. With all of that said, what better time to look at what’s wrong with the current playoffs’ format, right?

With the current format, where the first round of the playoffs is played within the division, the NHL is losing teams who have seeded very well during the regular season every year at the expanse of other teams who have not faired quite as well. So really, aside for allowing the team owners to pocket their dollars and perhaps home ice advantage, what is the incentive for ranking higher in the standings? As Montreal Canadiens’ General Manager Marc Bergevin always says:

“The goal is always to make the playoffs. Once you’re in, anything can happen.” ~ Marc Bergevin

While some pundits don’t like it as it appears to them as aiming too low (which really isn’t the case), history is proving Bergevin right. It’s often not the best team in the NHL who wins the Stanley Cup, but the hottest team going in, with a bit of luck here and there, and being able to stay relatively healthy. Here’s a look at the teams who have qualified for the playoffs this season, and the matchups:

2018 current

Now let’s have a closer look at the number of points gathered in regular season, as well as in brackets, their league-wide rankings:

WESTERN CONFERENCE 2018

Nashville 117 (1) vs Colorado 95 (16)

This one makes sense.

Winnipeg 114 (2) vs Minnesota 101 (15)

This one also makes sense. So far so good, right?

Las Vegas 109 (5) vs Los Angeles 98 (12)

This is where it starts getting messed up, but since we’re staying within Conferences, it’s also right as LA had fewer points than both the Ducks and the Sharks.

Anaheim 101 (9) vs San Jose 100 (11)

See above comment for the Vegas vs LA series. The NHL  will never revert back to league-wide ranking and get rid of Conferences.

EASTERN CONFERENCE 2018

Tampa Bay 113 (3) vs New Jersey 97 (15)

That’s actually spot on when looking at league rankings.

Boston 112 (4) vs Toronto 105 (7)

That’s the most messed up. Both teams got the short end of the stick here.

Washington 105 (6) vs Columbus 97 (14)

The Caps got a slightly good deal in that one.

Pittsburgh 100 (10) vs Philadelphia 98 (13)

Not only should the Pens have faced the Leafs, but Toronto would have had home ice advantage! Philly got an easier matchup as they should have faced Ovy and the Caps.

But is this just a one-time phenomenon, right? No, it’s not. In the 2017 playoffs, instead of facing off with the 7th seed in the West (Calgary), the 2nd seed Minnesota Wild lost in the first round to the St. Louis Blues, ranked 5th in the Conference. The Montreal Canadiens, who had won their division, had to face the New York Rangers, a team who finished one single point behind them, and lost. The Pittsburgh Penguins finished with 111 points (2nd seed) and had to face Columbus (3rd seed) who finished only 3 points behind them, while 6th seed Boston played 7th seed Ottawa.

In 2016, the Washington Capitals won the East and should have technically played the 8th seed (Detroit). Instead, they played the 7th seed (Philadelphia). Instead, it’s Tampa Bay (6th seed) who played the Red Wings! Meanwhile, the Penguins (2nd) had to play the Rangers (4th) in the first round. In the Western Conference, the NHL was guaranteed to lose their 2nd (St. Louis) or 3rd (Chicago) seed in the first round as those two faced off against each other! How messed up is that?

FIRST ROUND IMPROVEMENT

As mentioned, there is no way that the Board of Governors and the NHLPA would ever vote to revert back to a league-wide standings to determine first round playoffs’ seeding, where the President’s Trophy winners would be facing the team finishing 16th overall regardless of conference. Too much travel, too costly and a definite advantage for teams happening to face a closer geographical rival.

As the very first step to improve the playoffs, considering that the NHL now has 31 (soon to be 32) teams, the league should revert back to the four divisions instead of six. This means that next season, you would have three divisions of 8 teams and one division with seven teams. That seven team division would be formed with keeping in mind the soon to come expansion of Seattle in the North West.

Then for playoffs, if the league went at the very least with Conference standings, keeping with the Wild Cards, three of the four 2018 playoffs’ matchups would have been different this season. The goal would be to avoid top teams being eliminated in the first round, while still giving Division winners an advantage. Here, have a look:

EasternCO

WesternCO

SECOND ROUND IMPROVEMENT

So far so good, right? I’m not quite done yet. In the current format, you could never see a Stanley Cup finals between the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs, or the Edmonton Oilers facing their arch rivals Calgary Flames in the finals. Same goes in the states, as how entertaining would it be to see the Chicago Blackhawks fighting their neighbouring state rivals St. Louis Blues in the finals? Or even better, any of you old enough to remember the hype in Major League Baseball for the 1989 World Series between the Oakland A’s and the San Francisco Giants? Imagine now the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks, within a 40 minute commute between them.

What? It wouldn’t draw enough interest nationwide, you say? And having an expansion team facing the Capitals in the finals is drawing interest outside of Las Vegas and Washington, aside for some curiosity for the Golden Knights? Think again.

But how do we achieve this, will you say? By simply adopting a system that already exists at the international level. There is no need to re-invent the wheel here. Just apply the IIHF format, with a crossover between Conferences, where the highest seed coming out of the first round in the East would face the 4th seed in the West, and the 1st seed in the West facing off against the 4th seed in the East. Just like in the IIHF, the 2nd seeds would cross over facing the 3rd seed team in the other Conference as well.

What? The cost of travel? You mean to tell me that sold out building for a guaranteed 4 home games minimum (two rounds), with all the revenue attached and no players’ salary to pay couldn’t more than cover for that travel for the eight remaining teams?!? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Teams would still fill their pockets, you better believe.

Just for the sake of discussions, let’s assume that all top teams win their first round series. I know, I know, there are always upsets but those are pretty hard to predict so bear with me here and play along. The following would have been the 2018 2nd round matchups based on seedings:

Crossover2018

The goal and hopefully results would be to give more meaning to the gruelling 82-games schedule by rewarding teams who finished with more points, while greatly improving the quality of the product on the ice by having the best teams, for the most part, make it further into the playoffs. Oh there will be upset, there has always be and it won’t change, but at the very least, you won’t see the best series at the start at the expenses of the later rounds.

 

In the meantime, have fun watching an expansion team in the finals, playing for what’s supposed to be the toughest trophy in the world to win. As you do that, I will be doing things outdoors, dreaming of a Leafs/Bruins and Canadiens Stanley Cup finals. Go Habs Go!