Vancouver is not in a “Win Now” Mentality 

Last year, I wrote an article on how well things were looking in Vancouver under Jim Benning and Willie Desjardins. They acquired a good haul for Ryan Kesler, who likely wasn’t returning once he was a free agent. They picked up Linden Vey for nothing, along with shedding salary with trading Jason Garrison to Tampa Bay. Radim Vrbata was signed to a cheap deal and turned into an all-star. They made the playoffs but got knocked out in the first round, but now it’s turning into a big mess again. 

The Canucks kicked off the offseason during the draft by trading Eddie Lack to Carolina for a third round pick and a seventh round pick. Lack is 27 and played in 41(!) games last year for Vancouver, posting a .921 SV% and 2.45 GAA. Along with that, he played in four of Vancouver’s six games during the playoffs. Lack was also a fan favorite, and the trade was criticized by many. This leaves Ryan Miller, who has faltered more and more as he’s gotten older, at age 35, and Jacob Markstrom to guard the net this upcoming season. Markstrom has had success in the AHL, but hasn’t been able to translate it over to the NHL just yet, but time will tell. 

This all leads up to the most mind-boggling move of all. 

The Canucks traded Nick Bonino, Adam Clendening, and a second to Pittsburgh for Brandon Sutter and a third round pick. 

Yes, the Canucks somehow managed to give up a defensive prospect and an upgraded pick, just to move DOWN in quality from Nick Bonino to Brandon Sutter. 

Bonino was a Canuck for just one year, being the main piece in the Ryan Kesler trade. Bonino had six more points in five less games than Sutter had last year, and Bonino’s advanced stats blow Sutter’s out of the water. Clendening also adds to a depleted prospect pool in Pittsburgh, but they’re set up to win now so it doesn’t matter. That second round pick could also wind up being in the 31-40 range at the rate Jim Benning is going.

When the dust all settles, it doesn’t appear that the Canucks have a “win now” mentality. Even before the season even started, Benning emphasized that by labeling Hamhuis and Vrbata as trade deadline bait. The Sedin twins turn 35 in September. The goal of this offseason — or any offseason for that matter — shouldn’t have been to downgrade, but rather upgrade and deal away some prospects to help the Henrik and Daniel get a Cup. 

Things are looking bleak in Vancouver, but we’ll have to wait until October to see how it all shakes down. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

Adam Larsson Could Mimick Victor Hedman’s Success

When Adam Larsson was drafted fourth overall in 2011, there was a lot of hype surrounding him, and rightfully so. It was the second time in three years that a Swedish defenseman went in the top-five, with Victor Hedman preceding him in 2009. Larsson, however, hasn’t translated all of his success into the NHL, but that could change very soon. 

Like Hedman, Adam Larsson jumped straight into the NHL the year after he was drafted. He played in 65 games, registering 18 points. The Devils went 48-28-6 that year, reaching the Stanley Cup Finals, but fell to the Los Angeles Kings. Since then, Larsson has spent time in both the AHL with Albany and the NHL with the Devils, and now has 51 points in 192 career games. He was a healthy scratch a few times this past season, but that could be attributed to the poor management by coach Peter DeBoer, who is no longer with the organization. In between all the cracks, Larsson still earned a six year, 4.16 million per contract, which is very similar to what Victor Hedman got in 2011 (4 million per). 

Let’s focus in on the first three years of Hedman’s career in comparison to Larsson’s first three years. Hedman played in 214 games over that three year span, and had 69 points. This pace is ahead of Larsson, who had 27 points in 128 games, but the track record could indicate that he’s in store for a big breakout season. Hedman’s fourth year (2012-2013) was a big turning point, when he was almost on a .50 point-per-game pace in a full season. Larsson’s fourth year, this past season, was at just about .40 points-per-game, and he was severely underused at times. 

Adam Larsson is still miles behind Victor Hedman, but he has the possibility to become the top-four defenseman the Devils envisioned him to be still. He turns 23 years old in November, and he still has the best years ahead. Defensemen generally take longer to develop than forwards, and it sometimes doesn’t happen until a new system or coach comes into play, which is exactly what is happening in New Jersey. The old Lamoriello and DeBoer regime is coming down, and Ray Shero and John Hynes are there now. Hynes took Wilkes-Barre to the AHL playoffs all five years of his tenure, and his style is perfect for the Devils. He still preaches defensively minded hockey, but he doesn’t limit his forwards or defenseman from pitching in on the offense. That mix might be all it takes to ignite a spark in some of New Jersey’s struggling players, including Larsson. 

If he continues on his pace in development, the Devils could have themselves a steal on their hands in a few years, even if they have to go to the bank after its all said and done. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

Relocation a Possibilty to Fix Conferences After Expansion

Only two cities applied for expansion into the NHL by the league’s deadline, leaving Gary Bettman and the NHL brass with a divisional alignment obstacle. 

Las Vegas would be in the West, possibly accompanying Dallas in the Central Division. Quebec City, however, is located in the Eastern portion of Canada and is due to be in the same division as Ottawa, Montreal, and Toronto in the Atlantic. This leaves the West with 15 teams and the East with 17. One idea to fix this issue would be relocation to Seattle (so they can be in the Pacific) in a few years, coming from either Carolina or Florida. 

The first scenario is if Carolina relocates, but that faces its own issues. The Hurricanes were second to last in NHL attendance last year, averaging 12,594 or 67.4% (numbers via ESPN). This is a drop from 17,558 or 94.0% in the lockout shortened 2013 season. It is also known that a potential buyer was in Carolina this past month, although nothing is imminent. The issue with this idea is that Quebec City would be in the Metropolitan Division, which would take away from the potential Canadian divisional rivalries. This would leave the divisions as (a) NYI, NYR, WSH, PIT, CBJ, PHI, NJD, QBC (b) MTL, DET, TBL, FLA, BOS, OTT, BUF, TOR (c) STL, NSH, CHI, DAL, MIN, WPG, COL, LVG and (d) ANA, CGY, LAK, SJS, VAN, EDM, ARZ, SEA (assuming CAR/FLA hypothetically moves to SEA in a few years). 

The second scenario is moving Florida. Florida ranked last in NHL attendance last season at 11,265 or 66.1%. This move would get Quebec City to be in the Atlantic, which is should be, but is more unlikely due to Gary Bettman’s praise for Panthers owner Vinny Viola. The Panthers are also a team on the upswing, being a cusp playoff team last year. The likes of Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, and Nick Bjugstad are all getting better, and they should make the playoffs in a few years at the most, if all goes well and that’ll help ticket prices. 

The fact of the matter is, the NHL will have to play with the cards it’s dealt because it’s still unlikely that any relocations will happen soon unless something drastic changes in the near future. The Seattle ownership group, like many others, may have been scared away by the two million non-refundable fee for expansion, especially running the risk of not getting a team. This gives them a few years to get everything, including an arena, in order. The NHL has also said it will continue to have open dialogue with the Seattle ownership groups, which is a good sign for the city. 

Unfortunately, this is how it’s played out, and the NHL will either have to deal with uneven conferences for an extended period of time, or deal with Quebec being in the West, in a situation like Winnipeg when they first got a team back. 

Only time will tell how this plays out.

Note: Any relocation ideas in this article are purely hypothetical. Carolina and Florida are in no risk of it as of now, and Seattle is not close to getting a team just yet. This is just a discussion of possible fixes to the conference balancing issues for the future. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

Patience is the Most Important Virtue for the Islanders

The 2014-2015 Islanders season was a successful one that ultimately ended in a Game 7 heartbreaking loss to Washington in Round 1. The young team came together with the likes of John Tavares, Ryan Strome, Anders Lee and Nick Leddy leading the bunch. Now, as free agency is entering its stagnant period, it’s more evident than ever that the Islanders are sticking to their belief of internal growth and will go into next season with what they have already. However, their Metropolitan counterparts haven’t done the same. 
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The Five Best Contracts in the NHL

In the recent history of the NHL, there have been a lot of bad contracts, mainly in free agency. Dave Bolland makes 5.5 million per year and David Clarkson got a contract that had him at a 5.25 million cap hit for seven years. But, amidst all that, there have been some great contracts, but they mostly come from re-signings. It seems like the general managers have learned from their mistakes this summer however, because all contracts given out have been very modest. Either way, these five players should probably find new agents.
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How Every Team Faired in Day One of NHL Free Agency

How each NHL team did on day one of free agency.
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Both Edmonton and New York Won the Reinhart Trade 

There’s been a lot of debate over the trade that the Islanders and Oilers made on Friday night. The deal sent former Oil Kings captain Griffin Reinhart to Edmonton in exchange for the 16th and 33rd overall picks. The trade is in question mainly because of Griffin’s draft pedigree, as he was taken 4th overall in 2012. 
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Frolik Generating Tons of Interest

Among forwards, Michael Frolik from the Winnipeg Jets has been garnering some of the most interest heading into the free agency period. 
The 27 year old forward is about to enter his 8th NHL season after being drafted 10th overall by Florida in 2006. It is believed that Frolik and his agent met with over 10 teams down in Florida over draft day weekend. He is seeking a deal up to five seasons long and will likely get in the 5 to 6 million range. 
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Trades Highlight Day Two of 2015 NHL Draft

Although nothing will out-do the hours leading up to the draft yesterday, day two was no bust on the trade front. The GMs worked tirelessly to improve their teams whilst trying to find gems in the later round of the draft. Day two saw the trade of Cam Talbot finally, but still no Patrick Sharp or Phil Kessel. 
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Winners and Losers of Day One of the 2015 NHL Draft

It was an exciting first day of the 2015 NHL Draft, one of the most exciting in years. It saw played such as Robin Lehner, Dougie Hamilton, and Milan Lucic traded before the draft even started, and a bunch of other deals during the draft. Some deals left us scratching our heads, but others were great and out of the blue for teams. Here are our winners and losers of day one. 
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Big Name Players Set to Be Moved at the Draft

This draft is regarded as the best draft since the Sidney Crosby one back in 2005, for right reason. The depth of this year is great, and it is all capped off by two generational talents in Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel. We know McDavid is going to be an Oiler and Eichel is going to be a Sabre, but what is unclear right now is what shuffling is going to take place in between all of the selections. Not only are the prospects spectacular in this draft, the possibility for big name players to be moved is very high. As of less than 48 hours before draft time, no general managers have dipped their toes in the trade water yet, but we should have an exciting next few days. 
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Could Toronto Trade Down with New Jersey?

The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of the most heavily covered teams headed into this draft. They have multiple big names on the trade market, including Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf. But, the Leafs first and smartest move could come via the trade board itself. 
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