5 Big Market Teams Will Be Aggressive

Reset, retool, rebuild, reload… all terms used by NHL General Managers to qualify the state of the franchise that they manage when their team is going through some fairly major changes with their on-ice product. Each one has a slightly different connotation but in all cases, you’re looking at some sort of revamp, whether it is to trade a few veterans for quality youth, completely gut the team and start over or something in between. All of those options come with some growing pains, some dry bread seasons before, hopefully, return to being a Stanley Cup contender.

This upcoming off-season is not going to be any different from any other one but there are five teams in particular that fans and media members should keep a close eye on. Five teams that can afford to spend to the Salary Cap ceiling and usually do so, but they are nowhere close as they are going through some sort of metamorphose. Those teams promise to be big players, throwing big dollars at the top pending UFAs… or even some RFAs.

5- MONTREAL CANADIENS

Projected Cap Hit$63,380,476
Projected Cap Space$16,119,524

This is the second consecutive year that the Canadiens will be trying to make a splash on July 1st. This past summer, they were planning on offering big dollars to John Tavares until he decided that he wasn’t even going to listen to what they had to say. This summer, the number of quality UFAs is much greater and Marc Bergevin is planning on being heard from by the likes of Artemi Panarin and Matt Duchene, amongst others.

4- NEW YORK RANGERS

Projected Cap Hit$61,963,609
Projected Cap Space$17,536,391

Like that’s any news, right? The New York Rangers are always a force to recon with on the UFA market as more players want to play in New York than anywhere else in the league… or so it seems. This time however, they have the cap space and just like Montreal, the Rangers are ready to throw fist-full of money to some of the key pending UFAs. Don’t count out the possibility of Jeff Gorton signing a quality RFA to an offer sheet either and something tells me that the Toronto Maple Leafs better look over their shoulder for Mitch Marner

3- CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

Projected Cap Hit$59,830,128
Projected Cap Space$19,669,872

It seems like not so long ago, the Blackhawks were strapped against the cap but it doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. Still, their core of players making most of the money is aging and their production, particularly on defense, is starting to diminish. Whether they decide to trade some of them away or not, the Hawks have plenty of cap space to add to an already pretty potent lineup and if I’m Erik Karlsson, Tyler Myers or Jake Gardiner, I’m expecting a phone call from Stan Bowman.

2- VANCOUVER CANUCKS

Projected Cap Hit$51,439,165
Projected Cap Space$28,060,835

The Canucks have been hard to read for a few years now. They’re not going through a complete rebuild, but they’re going younger while adding puzzling veteran elements, sometimes overpaying based on the market. The likes of Loui Eriksson ($6M), Antoine Roussel and Jay Beagle ($3M each) are examples of that but even then, the Canucks have tons of cap space. There seemed to be a disconnect when team owner Francesco Aquilini fired President and long term Canucks Trevor Linden citing a philosophical difference. Linden wanted to continue building through the draft while Aquilini wants to put bums in the seats by being competitive. Expect GM Jim Benning to receive clear orders to get at least one prominent player through free agency this summer.

1- PHILADELPHIA FLYERS

Projected Cap Hit$46,842,499
Projected Cap Space$32,657,501

Last but not least, keep a very close eye on the Flyers. They have shown in the past that they’re not afraid to throw offers to RFAs (Ryan Kesler and Shea Weber are two) and they will be aggressive on the free agents’ market. It’s not the willingness of spending money that’s lacking and team President Paul Holmgren will receive free reign to spend from majority owner Ed Snider who, like Aquilini in Vancouver, can’t stand the long rebuild through the draft, prompting the dismissal of Ron Hextall. Chuck Fletcher is an experienced GM with pocket loads of money and there is no doubt that they will be one of the most aggressive teams on the market this summer.

KEY PENDING UFAs

Here is a list of the pending Unrestricted Free Agents for the summer of 2019. Some will re-sign with their respective teams but the number of quality UFAs is high this year in comparison to the last couple of summers. I have separated them in groups, forwards (by points), defensemen (by ice time) and goaltenders (by wins).

Which ones would you like to see with the Canadiens, or who do you believe would accept to play under the scrutiny of the Montreal market? From looking at these lists, I personally think that there are a few forwards that could help while the elusive Top-4 defenseman might have to be acquired through trade. Go Habs Go!

Data from CapFriendly.com. * Jimmy Howard signed a one-year deal with the Red Wings today

Advertisements

An Outburst the Stars Could Regret

The state known as “The Lone Star” state is about to get very lonely for a couple of Dallas Stars’ players after being singled out publicly by none other than the team President. In an public outburst leaving the entire NHL world scratching its head, Jim Lites decided to rip apart the team’s best two players, captain Jamie Benn and his assistant Tyler Seguin… and everyone around the league has taken notes. What remains to be seen is what grade they gave Lites who, according to many, crossed the line.

First and foremost, if you were living under a rock over the last few days, let’s take a look at what Lites had to say.

“They are fucking horse-shit, I don’t know how else to put it,” Lites said. The team was ok. But Seguin and Benn were terrible.” (quote from Sean Shapiro of The Athletic)

The quotes were taken from Sportsday – The Dallas News. For your convenience, I’ll post them here:

“It’s pissed me off,” Lites said. “What nobody says is what is completely obvious to me: We are getting terrible play from our top two players.”
“We pay these players to be the best players on our team and they are consistently out-efforted and outperformed by everybody else’s best players.”
“If 14 and 91 don’t lead, we will not be successful. I think this is the most talented and deep team we’ve had in years here.
“Certainly, this is the best team that we’ve put together from a talent perspective since Tom Gaglardi’s owned the franchise. Tom has allowed us to do everything we needed to do to be successful. Whatever it’s taken, he’s done. And I am tired of getting emails from him saying ‘What the hell is going on with our best players?'”
“He’s (Seguin) playing on the periphery. I’ve been in the business forever. I’ve been with Steve Yzerman in bad seasons, and what you’ll find is goal-scoring is a dirty business. You’ve got to go to hard places. And Tyler, last year, I saw him really perform and get into the difficult spots. This year, I’ve seen him as a weak forechecker, slow to the action and not getting it done.
“And he’s hit a lot of posts. He’s had some bad puck luck. But he’s not getting dirty. I don’t know what it is. I’m not accusing him of being without character, but we’re not getting it done.”
“Jamie Benn hasn’t scored a goal from longer than 5 feet all year. He makes plays in the neutral zone that if my kid had done it in squirts, he’d be benched. Am I wrong? He turned the puck over three times yesterday on plays if Denis Gurianov had done that, he wouldn’t have seen the light of day.”
“The owner and I see this the same way. We expect our best players to perform like other team’s best players, to be accountable, to have attention to detail, to have responsibility on the ice and off and get the job done for us. And it’s not getting done. Game in, game out, the best players on other teams are outplaying the best players on our team.”
“The coach has to, the GM has to, the owner has to, the CEO has to. I have to fricken hold these guys accountable and be part of the process of getting these guys to play to their best. … We don’t question their desire to win, but they think it’s easy, and that’s what bothers me. There’s just too much complacency in their games. Lack of attention to detail, and that’s what we need. Accountability and attention to detail and hard work.”
“The frustration I have is there were times where I think ‘Geez, we’re not getting any secondary scoring.'” Lites said. “But we’re not getting any primary scoring.”
“This team shouldn’t even be thinking about missing the playoffs. It shouldn’t even be an issue. We are too talented, too good, too strong to be performing this poorly.”

My first reaction after reading those comments was one of surprise. It’s not every day that you see a professional athlete get nailed to the wall like that. It’s even less common when it comes from the team President. And when he does it to his best two players, it’s unheard of.

Then I got thinking that maybe, he had talked to them in the past and saw no signs of improvement or willingness to improve. If that were the case, it could be a last ditch effort to get them motivated and if that failed, they would then consider moving one of them, or both.

I don’t play for him

“I don’t play for him,” Benn said. “I play for every player in this room and the coaching staff. I come to the rink and, like I said, I’m proud to be a Dallas Star and proud to go out there every night and battle with these guys in games. I’ve really put my teammates first.”
“Obviously, I read the article, and it is what it is,” Benn said. “People have their opinions on the outside. All it really is is noise. I think knowing there’s a situation within the organization, I try to keep it within the organization and deal with it face to face. With that being said, I come to the rink every day and wear the Dallas Stars jersey proudly and play hard for the fans and my teammates in here.”

“A little bit of a surprise there, because I didn’t know how he felt,” Seguin said. “It came as a bit of a surprise. I said it yesterday at practice. I understand I need to be better. Jamie understands he needs to be better. We need this team to be better, the organization to be better. I think everyone is frustrated over the last few years, and it came out yesterday.”

That was until I read the questions to Benn and Seguin, and subsequently, their answers. It was the first time they had heard that the President and the owner were not happy with their performances. Never were they approached with the exception of talks with head coach Jim Montgomery. Now I’m worried that with this outing, Lites has done some irreparable damages not only to Benn and Seguin, but to the Dallas Stars’ franchise. Who in their right mind will want to sign there as a UFA with a loose cannon at the helm?

Further, Lites might have tied his team’s hands in the even of a trade, by painting his players as ones who aren’t professional in not paying attention to details. Yes, there is a chance that Benn and Seguin will up their play but there’s also a huge chance that the players in the dressing room range behind their teammates and not care anymore.

In the only game the Stars have played since the comment, a 5-1 Dallas win over the Detroit Red Wings, Benn (39GP, 15G-15A-30Pts) played 15:07, with only two shots on goal to show for. Seguin (39GP, 11G-22A-33Pts) had 17:59 minutes of ice time, only managing one shot on goal although recording an assist on the powerplay.

In my humble opinion, Lites’ outing is a huge risk, one that no President or owner should take. Can you imagine had Geoff Molson come out that way against Carey Price when his play wasn’t up to par earlier this season? My oh my… Go Habs Go!