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Monday Musings…

Change can be fun. The Stanley Cup Final starts in two days, the WHL and OHL league finals are still ongoing and the Memorial Cup will be handed out AFTER the Stanley Cup. The NHL and CHL are hoping next year to return their trophies being handed out in mid-June and late May respectively, but this year we will see the Stanley Cup, Memorial Cup and NHL Entry Draft and NHL free agency occur within a 16-20 day period.

It will be great few weeks for diehard hockey fans.

1. We haven’t had a Stanley Cup Final with two teams that many expected to be there, and possess this level of elite star power, in quite awhile. Would the last time be the 2009 Cup final between Pittsburgh and Detroit?

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This is a classic battle of high-powered offence of Colorado v. the stingy defence of Tampa. Colorado is averaging 4.64 goals/game while Tampa has allowed only 2.41/game, and in their last two series wins over Florida and New York they’ve only allowed 1.7 goals/game. In those two rounds the Lighting had one shutout, allowed one goals six times, and then two, three and six goals once. In 70% of their games they allowed one goal.

2. Colorado is a different offensive beast, but they have lit up Connor Ingram, David Rittich, Jordan Binnington, Ville Husso, Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen. None of them are in the same category as Andrei Vasilevskiy. And Nashville, St. Louis and Edmonton didn’t have the same size and skilled defence core. At the same time, Tampa hasn’t faced a team as fast and as deep as the Avalanche. The Avs haven’t allowed many goals either, 2.86/game. They aren’t just all offence. They are so fast, and attack and defend with speed all over the ice. Can Tampa keep pace?

3. If Tampa wins three games then lock them in to win four in the Cup Final. In their last eight series Vasilevskiy is 8-0 with a .991sv%, 0.25 GAA and six shutouts. That is ridiculous. The Lightning and Vasilevskiy have been outstanding in series-clinching games.

4. Oilers 2021 first round pick, Xavier Bourgault, had an excellent regular season with Shawinigan scoring 36 goals and 75 points in 43 games. He’s produced 12 goals and 22 points in 16 playoff games to help the Cataractes win the QMJHL this weekend. Bourgault turns 20 in October and he will turn pro next season. He will come to Oilers camp, but likely starts the season in the American Hockey League. He is Edmonton’s best right-winger prospect.

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5. After writing my goaltending options article on Friday, I had a few NHL people reach out and suggest John Gibson could also be a trade option. Gibson has a $6.4m cap hit for the next five seasons. He turns 29 in July and he will be 33 in the final year of his deal. People told me they believe he is willing to be traded, and he only had a 10-team no-trade list. So he could be moved to 21 teams, and if he really wants out he might even waive to one of the teams on his list. Gibson is American, and most, not all, prefer to play in the USA when they have the choice. His numbers haven’t been great the past three seasons. How much of that was his play, the team’s play or his frustration with not being on a competitive team?

His numbers in October-December (.915sv% and 2.69 GAA in 25 starts) were much better than Jan-April (.895Sv% and 3.63 GAA in 31 starts). His back up, Anthony Stolarz, had better numbers in both splits. In Oct-Dec he had .932Sv% and 2.13 GAA in nine starts (.909Sv% and 2.99 GAA in 14 starts) in Jan-Apr. I had a goalie coach tell me Gibson has incredible natural skill, but he needs to make some changes to his game. Add more structure and rely less on flow and feel.

Five years remaining on his deal is good if he plays well, but what if he doesn’t rediscover his play in his first four seasons in the NHL? That is the balance and debate teams will have when discussing acquiring him and at what cost.

6. We have discussed a Zack Kassian buyout before. It opens up $2.5m in cap space this season and $1.2m next year, before having $967K of dead cap space in years three and four. I’m not a fan of dead cap space, but I understand why the Oilers would want to free up the cap space the next two seasons. Frank Seravalli had a list of the 10 most likely buyouts, and no surprise, Kassian is on the list. He’s #1. The first buyout window opens up July 1st. There is a good chance Kassian gets bought out. Kassian can play in the NHL, he just wasn’t giving the Oilers great value at $3.2 million.

Kassian is owed $5.8m over the next two years. In a buyout, he’d get $3,866,677. If he signs for two years at $1m/season he would make slightly more than he was due with the Oilers. Kassian would be sought after at that price point and could sign for more. If he is bought out, I’d be surprised if he lost any actual real dollars. He had solid possession numbers at 5×5 and his GF with Connor McDavid was 7-6 (128 minutes) and in his other 528 minutes he was 23-23. He struggles with consistency, but there will be interest from many teams if he is bought out and they can sign him to a salary that begins with $1m.

7. The Edmonton Elks couldn’t have had a worse season opener. They allowed the most points in franchise history, 59, and trailed 42-6 at halftime. It was an ugly game defensively. The Elks haven’t won a game at home since October 12th, 2019. They didn’t play in 2020, and lost every home game last season. They host Saskatchewan this Saturday, then Calgary on July 5th, Winnipeg July 22nd and the Riders again on August 13th. Will they win any of those games? I didn’t expect the Green and Gold to make the playoffs this year. They were bad last season, 3-11, and despite a new coaching staff, it is rare you can turn it around in one year. But they need to win.

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8. While the Elks are struggling, the Edmonton Stingers had their first sellout in franchise history on Sunday. They’ve won consecutive CEBL titles, and they’ve done a great job making their games entertaining and creating a great in-game atmosphere. If you haven’t gone, I recommend you do.

9. Mason Marchment could be the most intriguing UFA on the market this summer. The most goals he scored in junior was 20 in 61 games when he was 20 years of age. He battled injuries in three seasons playing for the Toronto Marlies in the AHL, never playing more than 44 games. He did score 13 goals in 24 games in 2020 with the Marlies. The past two seasons be played with the Florida Panthers. He scored 2-8-10 in 33 games in 2021 and then exploded with 18 goals and 47 points in 54 games this season.

He’s a very hard worker, and he’s overcome numerous injuries, but he got banged up in the playoffs and only played four games for the Panthers. He’s 6’4 and 210 pounds and turns 27 on June 18th. He’s shown he has the ability to be a solid player, but also hasn’t been able to stay healthy. There aren’t many skilled forwards with his size and grit in the league. He’d be a great fit for the Oilers, as well as many other teams, and I’m curious to see what salary and term he could command in free agency. He made $800K last year and will get a significant raise. How much and how long is the question? I could see him getting close to $4m, maybe more, on his next deal.

Last September Joel Farabee got a five-year, $5m AAV after scoring 20 goals and 38 points in 55 games. This March, Jared McCann signed a five-year deal for $5m AAV. He finished this season with 27 goals and 50 points in 74 games. Teams aren’t afraid to sign guys who produce, even if it was only for one season.

10. Do you think Corey Perry is a Hall of Famer? He won a Hart, scored 50 goals once, 30 goals six times, averaged one point/game in two seasons, and has a career 0.73 points per game. He’s won one Cup with Anaheim, and could win his second with Tampa. He’s won two Olympics gold medals as well. I think he’s right on the cusp. He’s been a solid player, and been on good teams, but I see him similar to John Tonelli. A very good player, who was a key contributor on good teams, but not a Hall of Famer. What say you?

ULTIMATE SPORTS FAN

After a two-year hiatus due to COVID, I’m happy to say our 10th Ultimate Sports Fan package in support of charity is here in support of the MS Society.

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Here’s how it works: You make a $125 donation and you get one entry. If you make a $250 donation you get two entries, and so on.

We only take 100 entries and we will raise $12,500 for MS. The draw will occur once we sell out, which is usually in three days. It is a reverse draw and last name in wins.

This year’s winner will win the following prizes and more.: The final package is valued at over $5,000.00

  1. The “Oilers experience” at the Oilers home opener in October, which includes tickets, parking, dinner and a behind the scenes tour.
  2. A pair of Edmonton Elks season tickets in the lower bowl.
  3. Twenty tickets, and $300 in Oil Kings bucks (Enough for a pizza/hot dog and drink for each person) to an Oil Kings home game. Also, you will get an Oil King player of your choice to come to your backyard rink or minor hockey practice for an hour.
  4. $500 in gift cards (essentially cash) at United Sport and Cycle.
  5. Two floor seats for remaining Edmonton Stingers home games.  Also two personalized (your name or any nickname you want on back) Edmonton Stingers jersey. And one hour court time rental at the HIVE. You can play a game with your friends on the Stingers home court.
  6. $500 GCs at Vivo Ristorante. 
  7. We will add a few more cool packages this week.

Get in while you can. You can make your donation here. (click the Support Me button to the right of my name). If you want one entry donate $125, if you want two then $250 and so on.

Thank you for supporting MS and good luck.

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