The NHL has yet to hit the dog-days of summer for me. There is still plenty to talk about, and while the banter isn’t as frantic or fast-paced as the previous ten months there is still much to discuss.
Let’s get to some rapid fire thoughts, notes and stats.
1. I don’t understand why some suggest Tampa Bay shouldn’t give up Mikhail Sergachev to acquire Erik Karlsson. Yes, Sergachev had an excellent rookie season scoring 9-31-40, but I doubt he is going to become the next Karlsson. Karlsson is the best offensive defenceman in the NHL. Over the past five seasons he’s scored 355 points. That is 80 more points than every defender except Brent Burns (326). He’s scored 80 more points than Victor Hedman, 92 more than PK Subban and 97 more than Roman Josi, who are ranked 3rd to 5th among D-men in points the past five seasons. Karlsson is an incredible skater, but his ability to play huge minutes without getting fatigued is what amazes his teammates. NHL players call him a freak when it comes to his on-ice cardio. Add Karlsson to Tampa Bay alongside Hedman, Ryan McDonagh and Anton Stralman and they are easily the best defence corps in the NHL. It will cost more than just Sergachev, of course, and I’m told the hold up on a deal is trying to figure out a way to trade one of the high-priced Lightning forwards who has a NMC; Ryan Callahan, Tyler Johnson or Alex Killhorn. If the Bolts acquire Karlsson they will become a Cup favourite for the next five seasons. Sergachev could become an elite defender, but he isn’t elite now and over the next five seasons I doubt he matches Karlsson’s contributions.
2. I’d love to know what happened in Patrick Maroon’s contract negotiations. He switched agents this past week going from Allain Roy to Ben Hankinson. Did Roy give Maroon bad advice, or did the offers many expected not arrive. I do know Maroon wanted to play in St.Louis so he could see his son regularly, and he was willing to take less with the Blues so he could be around his son more, but changing agents suggests something went awry. Many felt Maroon would get at least a three-year deal, but he ended up with a one-year deal at $1.75 million. The Blues will free up $8.3 million next summer when Jay Bouwmeester and Carl Gunnarson’s contracts expire and there are talks Maroon and the Blues will discuss an extension in January, but he will need a good first half for that to happen. The Blues have a solid top-nine with Maroon, Ryan O’Reilly, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn, Alex Steen, David Perron, Robbi Fabbri and Tyler Bozak. The Blues revamped their top-nine adding four players, but Maroon will have a lot of competition for icetime. You know he will be motivated, and I won’t be surprised to see him have a great year because he gets to see his son more frequently.
3. Kevin Chevaldayoff will be the busiest GM in the league over the next two months. Today, the Jets only have 30 players signed. They have eleven RFAs including five you filed for arbitration: Connor Hellebuyck, Jacob Trouba, Adam Lowry, Brandon Tanev and Marko Dano. He also needs to sign Josh Morrissey, Tucker Poolman and depth players like Eric Comrie, Nic Petan, JC Lipon and Nicolas Kerdiles. The Jets have $26.8 million in cap space so signing main players like Hellebuyck, Trouba and Morrissey shouldn’t be too difficult, but it is unique to see a team with only 30 players signed on July 11th.
4. I understand at times you need to write something controversial to keep readers engaged. Generate a reaction is key. But the Athletic’s recent NHL power rankings have the Toronto Maple Leafs at #2 in their power rankings. Come On Man. The Leafs lost in the first round. They gave up 28 goals in seven games. Adding John Tavares was a good move for them, but please tell me how that helps their goals against. Is he that much better defensively than Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk? I don’t see it. The Leafs will be entertaining to watch. They were last year and I don’t expect that to change. I think Tavares’ presence will help Auston Matthews (takes some pressure off him), but until the Leafs upgrade their blueline they are not a legit contender in my eyes. I love offence and wish we had more of it in today’s game, but you still need solid defence to win and the Leafs blueline isn’t good enough compared to top teams.
5. I’ve felt it for the past four months, and unless Vegas lands Erik Karlsson, I believe they will be taking a big step back this season. The Pacific Division is wide open.
6. With reports Marc Bergevin will be trading Max Pacioretty instead of re-signing him, I put the Sharks at the top of the list of trade partners. The Sharks haven’t added anyone this summer. They re-signed Evander Kane (who they acquired at the trade deadline) to a seven-year deal as well as re-upping Joe Thornton (1 x $5m), Tomas Hertl (4 x $5.625m) and Logan Couture (8 x $8m). They bought out Paul Martin, but Doug Wilson hasn’t added to his roster. They were in on John Tavares and they have $7.3 million in cap space with 22 players signed. They have the room to add Pacioretty’s $4.5 million cap hit and Wilson is never shy to add 30-year-old players.
7. Every year many people write extensive articles about RFAs and potential offer sheets. We haven’t seen one since Ryan O’Reilly signed a two-year offer with the Flames and the Avalanche matched. Until they change the compensation we won’t see many offer sheets. Teams aren’t going to put “the screws” to another team, because they could be in the exact same position in the future. And if they offer sheet a player, they have to make it a significant raise over what the player is currently making to force a team not to match. Most targets would be just coming out of their entry-level deal and without arbitration rights. Sign them to a major raise, and it will alter the salary of many players. I get why teams don’t do it.
8. Connor McDavid could join a very exclusive club next season. Only one active player, Alex Ovechkin, is in the club and he is the only player to do it since 1994 and the club only has 17 players in it. Do you know what the club is? Players who have scored 100 points in three consecutive seasons.
Wayne Gretzky: 13 consecutive seasons
Bobby Orr, Mike Bossy, Peter Stastny, Steve Yzerman and Mario Lemieux: 6 seasons.
Phil Esposito, Marcel Dionne, Bryan Trottier, Jari Kurri and Dale Hawerchuk: 5 seasons.
Brett Hull: Four seasons.
Ovechkin, Bernie Federko, Paul Coffey and Jeremy Roenick: 3 seasons.
Ovechkin did it in 2008-2010 and prior to him was Roenick in 1992-1994.
9. McDavid can also join the even more exclusive three-in-a-row Art Ross trophy winners if he leads the league in scoring in 2018/2019.
Jaromir Jagr won four in a row between 1998-2001.
Wayne Gretzky won seven consecutive scoring titles between 1981-1987.
Guy Lafleur won three from 1976-1978.
Phil Esposito won four between 1971-1974.
Gordie Howe won four from 1951-1954.
10. Go Croatia. It is great to see a small country with a population of four million in the World Cup Final. They are the underdog against France (66 million people), but I’m hoping we see the upset.