NHL Free Agency: Some Thoughts

NHL Free Agency: Some Thoughts

Okay, now that the first few days of free agency are over and done with for another year, we can sit back and start to look objectively at some of the deals that were signed over the past few days. The free agent cupboard is now bare, and all that is left is some serviceable and semi-serviceable players who will probably be waiting all summer for a call to join a new team.

Some thoughts on the signings…

  • Paul Stasny to St. Louis: I like this one. Yes, $7M is too much for a player that is not even a #1 center, but he was the best free agent out there, so he got paid like it. The four years is nice, as it gives the Blues a chance to re-evaluate where they are fairly quickly, and not getting saddled with 7 years of someone who will probably end up being their second line center.
  • Brooks Orpik to Washington: Everybody has been piling on this signing as the worst one of the day. Five years for a 33-year-old is too much. The money is ridiculous. So, will I disagree, and take the other side? Nope. This is a bad deal, and quickly will be one that the Capitals regret.
  • Ryan Miller to Vancouver: Don’t like this one at all. Miller is showing his age, and demonstrated in St. Louis that he doesn’t really have the ability to help a team out over the hump anymore. Sure, he put up good numbers in Buffalo last year, but that means very little when the team was so bad. How does he help Vancouver? He is nearing the end of his career, and the Canucks are on a downward spiral. They are maybe the 8th or 9th best team in the conference, and I don’t see Miller making them any better to push them into the playoffs. Eddie Lack has similar numbers, and by bringing in Miller, they are pushing Jakob Markstrom out of the organization, which is a mistake, since he has plenty of untapped potential.

NHL: Ottawa Senators at Edmonton Oilers

  • Spezza and Hemsky to Dallas: Sure, Spezza arrived to the Stars via trade, but I’ll still count it. This is a good add for Dallas, even if they only get one year of Spezza before I could see him bolting for the West coast. But it definitely makes that team dangerous looking on paper, doesn’t it? This pair could have a really nice year since most teams will have to focus on shutting down Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin first. Although it doesn’t help their defensive liabilities at all, the Stars just got a whole lot scarier.
  • Benoit Pouliot to Edmonton: People are praising this as a win for people who love advanced statistics. And maybe it is a step in the right direction for the sad sack Oilers, who have done little aside from make poor decisions over the past few years. But my question revolves around Pouliot being able to put points on the board. Sure, his possession numbers are nice, but does that translate to success on the ice? He could be a decent addition to the third line, however. And yes, that is a lot of money to give a third liner.
  • Martin Brodeur to Nobody: I like this move. He is done. Wanting to move on from New Jersey is a huge mistake, and he should just put in one more year as a backup to Cory Schneider if he wants to keep playing. Yes, he is a legend, but the longer he plays, and if he switches teams, that legend will continue to be tarnished. Ask Mike Modano how his time in Detroit went to end his career? Or if he wishes that he just hung it up as a member of the Stars.
  • Christian Erhoff to Pittsburgh: Maybe the signing of the day, getting him for only $4M. I would have looked at signing him to a three-year deal, but this is a good chance at having him show the league what he still has left, and that was not completely sucked out of him from being in Buffalo for a couple of years.
  • Matt Niskanen to Washington: The only question that needs to be asked is if Niskanen can continue to put up points without guys like Crosby, Malkin, and Neal on the power play with him? Too many years given for one good season.

There were a lot of signings to get the whole thing started, which makes the negotiating window prior to free agency a nice idea. It makes for more interesting television when there are actually things to report, and the deals came in fast and furious over the first few hours of coverage. TSN must have been thanking their lucky stars, after a run of uneventful trade deadline days, and draft days.

Some teams made themselves a little bit better, and some of the signings were definite head scratchers, as they are every year. Of course, only time will tell if any difference will be made once the league resumes play in the fall.

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NHL Playoff Predictions- Round 1

NHL Playoff Predictions- Round 1

Here are some vague guesses for round 1 of this year’s Stanley Cup tournament. I am really liking the new playoff format, as there are some really, really good matchups in the first round. A couple of them could end up being blood baths, and that is all that NHL fans can ask for. There is nothing better than the first round, in my mind, where upsets happen, and teams who move on get beat up. It’s an exciting time to be a hockey fan.

crystallWestern Conference

Anaheim Ducks vs. Dallas Stars

  • This has quickly become the trendy upset pick, with a lot of people choosing the Stars to take down the hot-starting Ducks, who traditionally fade over the course of the season.
  • Ducks are top heavy. Not much beyond the Getzlaf-Perry line.
  • Anaheim seems to have endless stud goalies, so whether they end up with Andersson, Hiller, or Gibson, they are in good shape.
  • Love, love, love the combo of Benn and Seguin in Dallas. They will be good together for a long time.
  • Surprising depth on the Stars. They are pretty underrated across the board.

Prediction: Stars in 7. I’m going with the trends here.

Colorado Avalanche vs. Minnesota Wild

wild

  • Hugely surprising year for the Avs. Are they ready to make the next step?
  • Biggest question in Colorado is that unknown D corps. Can they stop a consistent Wild team?
  • Huge disadvantage for the Wild in net. Bryzgalov is the ultimate wild card here. He could be great. He could be awful.
  • Big bonus for the Wild: their D is very strong, led by Ryan Suter. He will be a difference maker.
  • I’m smelling upset here.

Prediction: Wild in 6. Avalanche not ready to be great just yet.

San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings

kings

  • This would be a worthy Western Conference Final matchup.
  • It’s too bad one of these teams has to go home, they are both Cup contenders. But that’s the beauty of the new playoff format.
  • Great rivalry. This is one of those series that will be an all out war. It’s going to go 7, no matter who wins. Winning team will be battered and bruised by the time they get to the 2nd round.
  • Biggest advantage is for the Kings in net, with Quick over the under-appreciated, but inconsistent Antti Niemi.

Prediction: Kings in 7. Too deep. Too relentless. Sharks love to choke. 

St.Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks

st-louis-blues-logo

  • Ugly 6-game losing streak for the Blues leading into the playoffs.
  • Ryan Miller has come back to earth after hot start after his trade to St. Louis.
  • Battle of injured teams. A lot of banged-up guys on both teams. Hawks are getting Kane and Toews back, the Blues should get Backes and Oshie back. Big difference if they are fully healthy.
  • Another bruising series. The Blues play mean, and I wonder if the Hawks have enough to fight back with.
  • It’s so hard to repeat as champs in this league.

Prediction: Blues in 7. I think they can turn it around. They are just infinitely deep and tough to play against. 

 

Eastern Conference

Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings

bruins

  • 23rd straight year the Wings are in the dance. Incredible.
  • Important injuries on the Red Wings, including Zetterberg, who won’t be back. Datsyuk always seems to be banged up now.
  • Bruins are a monstrous team. They can score, defend, and beat you up. Wings can’t match them in any department.

Prediction: Bruins in 5

 

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

pens

  • Maybe the most unappealing first round matchup?
  • Constant worry over Fleury in the Pens net. Bobrovsky is an advantage for Columbus.
  • Columbus has only been to the playoffs once before, and they were swept. Going against a team that can explode offensively.
  • Will Malkin be back?
  • Crosby has had an incredible season, and there is no reason to believe that he won’t continue it in the playoffs.

Prediction: Penguins in 7. I really want to take the Jackets in an upset, but they just aren’t there yet. If Malkin is back, they take it. 

Montreal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

  • The biggest coin flip of the first round. Both teams are evenly matched.
  • Biggest impact is Ben Bishop’s injury. Huge downgrade to have Anders Lindback in net.
  • Carey Price has had a good year. He can/will be a difference maker.
  • Love the young guns of the Bolts. Stamkos, Palat, Johnson, Callahan.
  • Big year from Victor Hedman, largely not discussed over the course of the year. Big breakout for him.

Prediction: Lightning in 6. I feel the Habs will disappoint, and not give Price enough support. 

New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers

rangers

  • Another great rivalry, both teams are real contenders coming off a terrible start to the season.
  • Huge plus having Lundqvist over Mason in net.
  • Will be a tough series, both teams can hit and mix it up. Will be a bruiser of a series.
  • Not terribly sold on the Flyers D. Not that the Rangers set the world on fire on offense, but there is enough depth to do some damage.

Prediction: Rangers in 6. 

 

There we have it. Now we can sit back and enjoy the games, as they start tomorrow night. NHL playoffs are the best time of year, after the long, grueling season. Time to get to the real games!

 

 

NHL: Goalie Trades Everywhere!

NHL: Goalie Trades Everywhere!

Some pretty big moves again today leading up to the NHL trade deadline tomorrow. Looks like the lead up will again be better than the actual deadline day. But, at least, there are some big moves to discuss.

Vancouver Canucks v Anaheim DucksBryzgalov from Edmonton to Minnesota: The Wild needed a goalie, and like Jason Gregor of TSN 1260 stated yesterday, someone like The Universe has better numbers than Martin Brodeur. He definitely lacks in playoff experience, and can’t really be relied upon, but a semi-solid vet is something the Wild needed as they push to the playoffs. The Oilers get a measly 4th round pick in return. Feels like they could have at least got a mid-level prospect. Surprised the Wild didn’t go for Jarolsav Halak.

Miller from Buffalo to St. Louis: Mentioned this one in a previous post. A strong move by a strong team. It makes the Blues better, and they are already really, really good.

Fasth from Anaheim to Edmonton: The Ducks are silly deep with their goalies this year, and they haven’t even played standout prospect John Gibson yet. Fasth was definitely the most expendable of their goalies, but it is another upgrade for the Oilers. For a team that started with the absolutely abhorrent tandem of Devan Dubnyk and Jason LaBarbera, now having Victor Fasth and Ben Scrivens is a massive upgrade.

Luongo from Vancouver to Florida: Least surprising move…if it happened a year ago. It feels like the Canucks could have, and should have, got more for Luongo, but terrible GM Mike Gillis dragged his feet for far too long. Are we going to pretend that the Leafs didn’t offer up more for Lou last season? Not even really sure why the Panthers made this move, although it will help them meet the salary cap floor for the next few seasons. Plus, I think everyone is in love with the idea of Luongo being teammates with Tim Thomas for at least a little while. Tons of tire pumping to be going on.

Now we can sit back tomorrow, and hope that some forwards are on the move.

NHL: Ryan Miller to the Blues

NHL: Ryan Miller to the Blues

With the trade deadline approaching in the NHL, we as fans are always glued to all of the rumours that swirl around the league prior to the day that is an inevitable disappointment.

There are some huge names out there this year, which has fans salivating at an active day and not a complete waste of many hours of TSN coverage: Martin St. Louis, Ryan Kesler, Ryan Callahan, Ryan Miller.

Well, there will at least be one big trade this year, as Miller and Steve Ott were traded to the St. Louis Blues for Chris Stewart, Jaroslav Halak, a prospect and a couple of picks, including the Blues’ first rounder in 2015 (the Connor McDavid draft).

millerMy thoughts on this trade is that both teams win. The Sabres get a handful of pieces that they can hang on to, or turn around and trade again for more picks and prospects. Buffalo seems to be doing this rebuild thing the right way. They have a ton of first and second round picks in the next two drafts, and this will help them build to a much brighter future. They are not a better team today than they were yesterday, but that’s not what we are expecting them to do, anyways. The players they got back aren’t scraps, as Halak has numbers similar to Miller’s, and has been a pretty solid goalie in the league the past few years. Granted, that was playing behind the Blues’ mighty D, but he’s no slouch in the crease. Stewart is a solid power forward, who has the ability to put up points if he is in the right situation. He was up and down in St. Louis, and I think Buffalo will be a better fit for him, as more will be expected of him.

As for the Blues, many people have argued that getting Miller is only a marginal upgrade over Halak, and if you are purely looking at the numbers, this is true. But the fact is, Miller was playing in Buffalo, where they are simply awful. Now, he is on a strong, contending team, with a stellar defence in front of him (the best in the league, I would argue). He will turn out to be strong for the Blues, and in my mind, is a definite upgrade. If anything, it will give the team some confidence with him back there, something they obviously lacked by trying to get him in the first place. Now the D doesn’t have to be as concerned with making a mistake, because they have a solid stopper to cover up some mistakes.

As for Steve Ott, he is a good depth addition, who makes the Blues even tougher to play against. He is a pest with some offensive upside, and he does well to fill in the void left by Stewart.

The Blues gave up a lot for two guys who could merely be rentals, but for a team that needs to get into the deeper round of the playoffs for the first time in forever, it was a move in the right direction. I am excited to see how Miller does once he settles into his new surroundings, and if this team becomes the true Western powerhouse I believe it to be.

St. Louis was my Stanley Cup pick at the start of the year (beating the Rangers, I figured), and this move does nothing, in my opinion, but help that.