I thought the Oilers competed hard without their Captain last night, but his absence put an even brighter spotlight on the lack of offence Peter Chiarelli has compiled around him. The major concern is I don’t see a quick fix. The stats and odds suggest the scoring droughts of many Oilers forwards should end, but it is far from a guarantee, and even if some start to produce I doubt they can score at a consistent rate. Anyone who tried to suggest Chiarelli has built a competitive team beyond McDavid got a dose of reality watching last night’s game.
While the Oilers struggle to score, the NHL is seeing an uptick in offence, especially a few teams and individuals.
1. We are only about one-third of the way through the season, but five teams are currently averaging 3.62 goals/game, which has all five in the top-nine most goals/game since the 2000/2001 season.
1. Tampa Bay (2019) 3.82 goals/game
2. Washington (2010) 3.82
3. Ottawa (2006) 3.80
4. Detroit (2006) 3.67
5. Colorado (2019) 3.67
6. Buffalo (2007), Ottawa (2019) and Toronto (2019) 3.63
9. Washington 3.62 (2019)
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Often we see the offence slow down as the season progresses, so those five teams might not stay there, but seeing more offence is a welcome change from my vantage point.
2. Mikko Rantanen leads the NHL with 45 points. His start should end any debate that Nathan MacKinnon should have beaten Taylor Hall of the Hart last season. Rantanen scored 84 points last year and has the fifth most points in the NHL dating back to last season. His 129 points trail Claude Giroux (132), MacKinnon (140), Nikita Kucherov (142) and Connor McDavid (143).
3. I’d argue the best player in Tampa Bay is not Kucherov, but instead 22-year-old Brayden Point. Point has 20 goals and 37 points in 28 games this season. As a rookie, he scored 40 points in 68 games (.58 points-per-game), last year he tallied 66 in 82 games (.80ppg) and this season he is clipping along at 1.32 ppg. Point is the best bang for your buck in the NHL with 37 points and a $686,667 cap hit. He will be in line for a major raise this summer.
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4. Point, Kucherov ($4.76m) and Yanni Gourde ($1m) have a combined cap hit of $6.453 million. Next year Kucherov’s deal jumps to $9.5 million, Gourde’s will be $5.16m and Point likely starts, at the low end, at $7million. They will jump to $21.6million. Yesterday NHL commissioner Gary Bettman projected the salary cap would increase to $83million, a bump of $3.5m, which will help Tampa and other teams, and the Bolts will lose Dan Girardi’s $3 million cap, but new GM Julien Brisebois will have to make some moves. I’m sure he will try to rid himself of Ryan Callahan’s $5.8m cap hit, but I suspect he will have to move one of Alex Killhorn, Tyler Johnson or even Ondrej Palat for draft picks. Many teams would be interested in those players.
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5. Jeff Skinner scored his 20th goal last night. He has 20-8-28 in 28 games for the Sabres. Some early contract speculation had him asking for $9 million. I like Skinner as a player, but he’s never produced more than 63 points. He might this year, but once in nine seasons would have me very leery of signing him to a long-term $9 million contract. He will be 27 next season. Maybe he is just hitting his stride, but after seeing so many veterans on long-term contracts not coming close to living up to them I wonder if GMs will be hesitant to go any higher than $7.5 million. Evander Kane signed for $7 million last year after nine years in the NHL. Is Skinner worth $2 million more than Kane? Edmonton resident, and Sabres GM Jason Botterill will have an interesting negotiation on his hands if Skinner finishes with 40+ goals and 75 points.
6. Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas has to go for it at the trade deadline. The Leafs are very competitive already, but they will never have this much cap space to add key pieces at the deadline again. They have over $8 million in cap space, but Mitch Marner, unless he gets hurt, will max out his $850,000 bonuses. Auston Matthews could max out at $2.85 million in bonuses. If he is top-five in goals (Richard trophy) he would receive $2 million. Or if he is top-ten in points-per-game having played a minimum of 42 games. So let’s say they have $5 million if they want to avoid bonus overages next year. That is a still a massive amount of space at the deadline. Dubas has to go for it this year. Matthews, Marner, and Kasperi Kapanen all need new deals next season. I thought Dubas erred not bolstering his blueline last year at the deadline. He can’t repeat that this time.
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7. The issue for Dubas and other GMs who will want to add a rental D-man is there aren’t many available. Jay Bouwmeester, Alex Edler, Niklas Kronwall, Carl Gunnarsson, Adam McQuaid, Ben Lovejoy, Jan Rutta, Alex Petrovic and Robert Bortozzo would be the best from teams who are unlikely to be in the playoff hunt near the end of February. The Lightning and Leafs have five UFA bluelines themselves in Girardi, Anton Stralman, Brayden Coburn, Jake Gardiner and Ron Hainsey respectively. It will be interesting to see who the Leafs and Lightning target as they seemed destined to meet in the Atlantic division playoffs. In fact, I could see Florida moving Petrovic sooner than later.
8. Seattle was officially announced as the 32nd team in the NHL. They won’t start play until the 2021/2022 season. When they come in Arizona will move to the Central. The other option was moving Edmonton and Calgary to the central and Colorado to the Pacific with Seattle. Arizona to the Central makes the most sense, because I’m still not convinced hockey will remain in Arizona long-term. I could see them relocating, and if they did it would be to a central or Eastern time zone. For the diehard and loyal Coyotes fans, I hope their team never leaves, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they relocated.
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9. The Prince Albert Raiders of the WHL are in Swift Current tonight looking for their 20th consecutive win. They are 26-1 this season. They’ve had a remarkable start. Winning 20 straight regular season games in the CHL is very rare. The QMJHL has only seen it three times:
The Sorel Eperviers won 25 in 1973/1974.
The Hull Olympiques won 24 in 1995/1996
The Saint John Sea Dogs won 22 in 2009/2010.
The OHL has had three also:
Kitchener Rangers won 25 in 1983/1984
London Knights won 24 in 2012/2013
Barrie Colts won 22 in 2009/2010.
The WHL has had two.
The Estevan Bruins won 22 in 1967/1968
Portland Winterhawks won 21 in 2013/2014.
The Raiders play three games in three nights this weekend, and then they lose their starting goalie, Ian Scott, and leading scorer, Brett Leason, to the World Juniors camp, but if they win all four games this week they could set a new WHL regular season record winning streak.
10. I’m a huge fan of the creativity of the Oil Kings and their Teddy Bear jersey. It is awesome.
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11. Many Oil Kings fans are wondering why Trey Fix-Wolansky wasn’t invited to the World Junior Camp. It is a valid question, but it doesn’t have to do with a bias against the WHL. If there was any bias it might be from the fact Fix-Wolansky hasn’t been on their radar for under 17 etc. But mainly it has to do with there being a lot of good players to pick from. I asked three different scouts and they said Fix-Wolansky was in the mix, but didn’t make the cut. Points are one thing, but there are other factors. I suspect Fix-Wolansky will use this is a motivation. His 57 points are second in the entire CHL trailing only Leason, who has 60.
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12. The interesting thing to watch regarding Fix-Wolansky is if the Oil Kings consider trading him. They have only won three of their past ten games, and while they are competitive and currently sixth in the Eastern Conference, they aren’t a top team. Will GM Kirt Hill consider moving Fix-Wolansky closer to the trade deadline in early January, if the Oil Kings continue to slide down the standings? They could get a big return for him, and build for the next few seasons when they should be very competitive. If he does consider trading him I wouldn’t be surprised if the Raiders were interested. They are very deep, but could use another top-six scoring winger.

MONTH OF GIVING

Thank you to Gary for his great bid yesterday and to the Glendale Golf and Country Club for the awesome one-year membership package.
Day 2: The Ultimate Made to Measure experience.
  • A custom made suit. Or you pick any suit in store up to $1500.
  • Additional $500 in GCs towards shirt, ties or accessories at Mr Derk. Pick whatever you want.
  • Includes all the tailoring for your suit and all the clothes you purchase.
  • In store consultation with Sterling Derk to ensure you fill out your wardrobe properly.
You can bid by calling 780.444.1260  or text 101260 between 2-6 p.m. today.
Thanks in advance. All proceeds go towards Santas Anonymous.

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