Blackhawks Hoping Cheap Depth Can Compensate Offseason Losses

The Blackhawks almost seemingly run on a two year schedule — win cup, sell, off year, repeat — but this year felt different. The main reason for this was that this cap crunch for Chicago was worse than ever before. Stan Bowman has had to let go of key parts of the team after both the 2010 and 2013 Cups, but this year hurt the most. They had to say goodbye to Patrick Sharp, a long-time Hawk, Johnny Oduya, who had been with the team since the 2011-2012 season, Kris Versteeg, who was with his second stint with the team, and lastly, the one that hurt the most, Brandon Saad. Saad was coming off his entry level deal and left in a trade to sign a contract with Columbus worth six million per year. 

The question that now faces the Blackhawks is, how do they fill the holes? On top of all the losses via trade, Brad Richards walked in free agency, and Patrick Kane’s situation is still up in the air. Both Kane and Jonathan Toews are starting eight year, 10.5 million dollar per contracts this season, which is a big part of why Chicago had to trade so many players. 

The Blackhawks are turning to cheap options both up front and back on defense to help bridge the gap. They’re bringing in Lubomir Visnovsky, Daniel Paille, and Jan Hejda on professional tryout contracts, in hopes they’ll play well enough to crack the roster. The Blackhawks were able to luck out this offseason for there has been a fairly cheap pool of free agents, evident by the large amounts of tryout contracts being dished out. The Blackhawks defense could work out to be Keith, Seabrook, Daley, Hjalmarsson, TvR, and one of Visnovsky or Hejda if all goes well at camp this week. Rundblad and Pokka would service as depth. Their forward group is still up in the air with Kane’s uncertainty, but they’ll look to Paille and Garbutt (acquired in Sharp trade with Dallas) to help fill in the bottom six. 

At the end of the day, this is the fate the Blackhawks are facing. They need their cheap players to come up big behind their superstars if they want a chance to repeat, something insanely difficult to do in today’s NHL. It’ll be an interesting season in Chicago, seeing whether their front heavy team can carry them to victory or if the amount lost will be too much to overcome. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

Nelson’s Loss Could Be Dal Colle’s Gain

The contract struggle between the New York Islanders and forward Brock Nelson is coming down to the wire. The restricted free agent Nelson, drafted 30th overall in 2010, has less than a week to sign, as the Islanders have had a long term policy of sitting a player out for the entire year if they don’t sign by preseason, a rule last enforced in the mid-2000s with Sean Bergenheim and Denis Grebeshkov. 

Nelson played in his second full season last year, and was a useful but streaky player for the Isles. He put up 20 goals while in rotating positions, seeing time as the third line center, the fourth line center, and the first line left winger. With all that being considered, it’s a big deal if the Islanders don’t get Nelson signed by their organizational deadline. However, Nelson’s loss may be Michael Dal Colle’s gain. 

Dal Colle was selected 5th overall by the Islanders in 2014, and recently won the Memorial Cup with the Oshawa Generals. He was going at just about a two point-per-game pace if you include the playoffs, and seems NHL ready to say the least. The Islanders have been relatively patient with their prospects in recent history, but may be forced to accelerate Michael Dal Colle into this position if they don’t have Nelson. 

Dal Colle would burst onto the scene less than two years after he was drafted, he’d still probably only see half to three-fourths of playing time during the season. The Islanders are also bringing Steve Bernier to camp on a tryout basis. Bernier scored 16 goals with the Devils last season and is believed to be that extra insurance if Nelson does in fact not sign. Bernier could be used as either depth insurance or if Dal Colle has some problems adjusting to the NHL or has some growing pains along the way. 

It’s not the ideal situation by any means, but the Islanders are not in bad hands if Brock Nelson doesn’t sign. It would be a tremendous boost if he does, and John Tavares thinks he will, but the thought of having Michael Dal Colle in the NHL next year is certainly intriguing. 

The deadline is September 16th. 

-Kevin @TheNHLFiles

Franson Signing Will Likely Cause Dominoe Effect

It’s been a long and patient summer for Cody Franson, but it has finally come to an end. Franson was considered one of the top free agents of the 2015 class, yet to the mystery of many hockey fans across the globe, remained unsigned until today, September 10th. Franson signed a two year deal with the Buffalo Sabres today worth 6.6 million total. The western Canada native had a great start to the year with Toronto, putting up 32 points in 55 games. However, after he was traded to Nashville at the deadline, he only had four points in 23 games, and two in five playoff games. 

The longevity of the Cody Franson ordeal held teams to a standstill. Franson was rumored to be in talks with some other teams, including the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins, but nothing could be worked out and he eventually signed in Buffalo. This signing means that teams will start being more aggressive as training camp rapidly approaches, especially with all the veteran players out there for what seems to be a cheap price. Some teams have already started signing players to professional tryouts, including Brad Boyes with Toronto, Curtis Glencross with Toronto, and David Booth with Florida to name a few. The list of veterans still available for work is perplexingly long, and some names including Lee Stempniak, Sean Bergenheim, Jiri Tlusty, Andrej Meszaros, and Lubomir Visnovsky among others. 

The Franson deal is what these players and general managers have been waiting for. Although there is an obvious trend in the NHL today with younger players getting more and more ice time, no team is going to let solid roster players or depth players sit dormant for the year on the free agents list. There’s still a lot of shifting to be done in the NHL for this upcoming season, such as the Islanders signing Brock Nelson before training camp, or the Panthers trying to sign Jonathan Huberdeau. The Blackhawks have less than 500k to sign Marcus Kruger, and Patrick Kane’s status is still up in the air. I’m sure there would be mutual interest between free agent and the Blackhawks on cheap contracts, but the cap may not be there. 

All cap issues aside, the door is open now for the remaining free agents. Over the next few days you will be seeing teams announce players on professional tryout contracts for camp and those same players will likely take a cheap, short-term deal to try to build their value back up after an empty offseason. 

The first of the final dominoes has been pushed. 

You can see the full (and updating) list of PTO contracts here.

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

Notable NHL Training Camp Invites (Updated 9/17/15)

NHL training camp is just around the corner, so here are some notable names attending camps. 

Updated 9/17/15

Arizona Coyotes: Keith Aulie (D), Corey Potter (D)

Boston Bruins: Jonas Gustavsson (G)

Calgary Flames: Ryan Wilson (D), Doug Murray (D)

Chicago Blackhawks: Jan Hejda (D), Daniel Paille (F), Lubomir Visnovsky (D), Tomas Kopecky (F), Michael Roszival (D)

Columbus Blue Jackets: Antti Philstrom (F), James Sheppard (F)

Colorado Avalanche: Jack Skille (F), Andrej Meszaros (D)

Florida Panthers: David Booth (F), Martin Havlat (F)

Los Angeles Kings: Peter Budaj (G)

Montreal Canadiens: Tomas Fleischmann (F)

New Jersey Devils: Tyler Kennedy (F), Lee Stempniak (F)

New York Islanders: Matt Carkner (D), Eric Boulton (F), Steve Bernier (F)

New York Rangers: Brett Bellemore (D)

Philadelphia Flyers: Jay Rosehill (F)

Pittsburgh Penguins: Sergei Gonchar (D), Tom Sestito (F)

St. Louis Blues: Scott Gomez (F), Scottie Upshall (F)

Toronto Maple Leafs: Rich Clune (F), Devin Setoguchi (F), Curtis Glencross (F), Brad Boyes (F)

Sunday Blog: Franson, PTOs, and Al Arbour 

We’ve reached the dog days of the NHL offseason, which is a perfect time to start a new trend. I’ll try my best to post these Sunday blogs, just to talk, every week along with the regular content spread out accordingly. Enjoy. 

Cody Franson’s name is still out there, which is odd on its own, but the saga may be coming to a close. He has reportedly been offered a two year deal by Buffalo, who’s still looking for that extra defenseman. 

Franson and Buffalo are an interesting combo, but I wonder if this addition, if it happens, could put Buffalo in a spot to contend. They added a lot of nice pieces this offseason and if Robin Lehner can play well enough, I wouldn’t rule them out of competing for a wild card spot. If they squeak in over the likes of the Islanders, Jackets, or Bruins is the bigger question. 

After Franson, the long list of free agents drags on. Many veteran players are still waiting, and one unnamed NHL general manager reportedly thinks it’s because of team’s willingness to play their younger players for this upcoming season. 

As August comes to a close and in early September, I’m sure there will be a lot of training camp invites. A few have been dished out already, including Sergei Gonchar with Pittsburgh, and no NHL GM is going to let cheap talent waste away. Christian Ehrhoff got 1.5 million with Los Angeles, and he was one of the best on the market. Prices will be low. 

Lastly, it’s sad news that hit the heart of the NHL once again this past week. One of the most decorated men in hockey, Al Arbour, passed away this past week. Now, I could write a whole post about this, but I’ll leave his legacy to do the talking. He was a main instrument into making the Islanders into the dynasty they were and his dynamic coaching ideas helped shape the game into what it is today. RIP, coach. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

Seguin and Crosby are Early Hart Trophy Favorites 

The Hart Trophy is handed out annually to the league’s most valuable player, and each year the decision seemingly gets harder and harder. The names like Alex Ovechkin, John Tavares, Ryan Getzlaf, and Sidney Crosby have started to consistently find their way onto ballots, but this year, like last year with Carey Price, there could be some new names surfacing for nomination. 

One of those new names is Tyler Seguin. Seguin is starting his third year in Dallas, and he’s loaded with more firepower on his side than ever before. He has had 161 points in 151 games over his tenure in Dallas, good enough for 1.11 points-per-game. Seguin and his partner in crime, Jamie Benn, have become one of the league’s best duos, even while missing their linemate Valeri Nichushkin for a majority of last season. 

With all the skill up front, it’s not a bad guess if you penciled in Tyler Seguin to win the Art Ross as well. There is some competition, but with the likes of Benn, Sharp, Nichushkin, Klingberg, and others supporting him, it won’t be too far off. Seguin’s Hart campaign would take a significant boost if he were to lead the league in points and lead Dallas to the playoffs, which is looking more and more likely by the day. Seguin turns 24 this upcoming January and still has his best years ahead of him. 

Along with Seguin, Sidney Crosby will be up in the rankings for both points and for the Hart Trophy. Crosby won it in 2007 and 2014, and has been nominated multiple times in between. 

The big factor this season for Crosby is that he will have an already elite winger playing with him — Phil Kessel. Kessel was acquired this offseason from Toronto, and despite his defensive flaws, has been a consistent 30 goal scorer on a not-so-consistent Maple Leafs team. Crosby has made a living off making wingers better, such as Chris Kunitz, and the thought of him with Kessel, even if only on the powerplay, is something to shudder at. Nobody hit 100 points last season, but Crosby could easily do it this year. 

Although both Seguin and Crosby will have some competition, they should be in the running for the Art Ross and Hart all year. Seguin was on pace to have a tremendous, maybe even Art Ross winning, season before his injury last year, and Crosby didn’t have much help overall. Both players will look to lead their teams back to the top of their divisions, something neither the Penguins nor the Stars achieved last year. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

2015-2016 NHL Western Conference Predictions

The Western Conference proved it was the dominant conference in the NHL last season. Will it be able to continue that trend this year?

Central Division:

1. St. Louis Blues (X) 

Analysis: The Blues have always been a premier regular season club, and that will not change this year. They have exceptional depth at forward, and Jake Allen has another year under his belt. Whether or not that success will translate into the playoffs is the big question. 

2. Nashville Predators (X)

Analysis: The Predators sat atop the league for a majority of last season but fell off at the end of the year. They were kicked out in six games by Scott Darling and the Chicago Blackhawks, but still have a lot to learn. Pekka Rinne will lead them to a good finish again this season. 

3. Minnesota Wild (X) 

Analysis: The Wild started a storybook run under Devan Dubnyk last season, and will look to build on that for this year. They have enough talent in their offense and defense to get the job done, but Dubnyk needs to establish himself as a true number one netminder. 

4. Chicago Blackhawks (X)

Analysis: The Blackhawks had their seemingly annual salary cap purge again this offseason, but this one may have hurt the most since they lost Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp. They may not be a dominant regular season team this year, but the playoffs are a different story. A looming investigation of Patrick Kane will also be a huge factor for the upcoming year. 

5. Dallas Stars (X) 

Analysis: After a disappointing 2014-2015 campaign, the Stars will look to rebound. They have to starting goalies in Lehtonen and Niemi, and they will battle it out to see who reigns supreme. Their defense still needs work, but they should be able to score enough goals to counteract that. 

6. Colorado Avalanche

Analysis: The Avalanche had the regression that many people saw coming, and things aren’t looking to bright again in terms of playoffs. They’re an above average team stuck in a very good conference. Semyon Varlamov will have to stand on his head again if they want to sneak into a playoff spot. 

7. Winnipeg Jets

Analysis: Despite being last in the division, the Jets will be a good team next year. Like the Avalanche, they’re a good team in a great conference. Lucky for them, they have many solid trading assets if things go sour, like Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd. 

Pacific Division: 

1. Anaheim Ducks (X) 

Analysis: The Ducks are another team stuck in the limbo of outstanding regular season team and playoff disappointments. They added Carl Hagelin, which will help their penalty kill. Chris Stewart is also on a friendly contract which could pay off quite well. They still have to sort out their goaltending issue, as John Gibson, Freddie Andersen, and Anton Khudobin are all NHL caliber. 

2. Calgary Flames (X)

Analysis: The Flames built on their playoff success with a tremendous offseason by acquiring Dougie Hamilton and signing Michael Frolik. Kari Ramo has put himself in the position to be a number one, and the fate of Jonas Hiller still has to be decided with Joni Ortio knocking on the door. Sam Bennett is also expected to make his regular season debut. The Flames are going to be a fun team to watch again this year. 

3. Los Angeles Kings (X) 

Analysis: Los Angeles is angered at missing the playoffs, and they’ll look to rebound this year. They acquired Milan Lucic and replaced Martin Jones with Jonas Enroth. The next big item on the agenda after the playoffs is re-signing Anze Kopitar. 

4. San Jose Sharks 

Analysis: The Sharks will yet again miss the playoffs after having a quiet offseason outside of signing Paul Martin. Martin Jones is looking like an upgrade over Antti Niemi, but it still shouldn’t be enough to escape the West. 
5. Edmonton Oilers 

Analysis: Connor McDavid will have to wait for his playoff debut. The Oilers will be a good team this year and nowhere close to the bottom, but like the Sharks and the Jets, I don’t think they’ll have enough to get out of the West. Cam Talbot’s game in front of Edmonton’s shaky yet improved defense is still to be determined. Even if they don’t make it this year, the future if bright for Edmonton. 

6. Vancouver Canucks 

Analysis: The Canucks made some questionable moves this offseason and may not make it back to the playoffs. Ryan Miller, Henrik Sedin, and Daniel Sedin are all getting older, and Jim Benning already said Dan Hamhuis isn’t coming back. If Jake Markstrom doesn’t turn out to be a number one goalie of the future, what’s Vancouver’s plan?

7. Arizona Coyotes

Analysis: I think we all can agree on this one. The Coyotes will be at the cellar of the league all year, and will be praying to the hockey gods for Auston Matthews. The big concern moving forward is their future in the desert.

With these predictions, the playoffs would shake out like this: 

(P1) Anaheim VS (WC2) Dallas

(C1) St. Louis VS (WC2) Chicago 

(P2) Calgary VS (P3) Los Angeles

(C2) Nashville VS (C3) Minnesota

This was Part II. You can find Part 1 on the website. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

2015-2016 NHL Eastern Conference Predictions

Training camp for the NHL is just around the corner which means the season is not too far off, either. The East has significantly improved this year, and it’ll be a horserace up until the end just like last season. 2015-2016 predictions:

Metropolitan Division:

1. New York Rangers (X)

Analysis: Although the Rangers lost significant pieces to their core this offseason, including Martin St. Louis, they are still one of the beasts of the East. Henrik Lundqvist will look ahead to playing a full season, which he was unable to do last year after suffering a neck injury. 

2. Washington Capitals (X)

Analysis: The Capitals made some big splashes this offseason, such as acquiring TJ Oshie and signing Justin Williams. The Capitals will look to make a big jump this year behind Braden Holtby and look to make it into the third round. 

3. Pittsburgh Penguins (X)

Analysis: The Penguins have one of the most talented offenses in the league, headlined by Phil Kessel, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The turning point for them will be their inexperienced defense, especially with health concerns from Kris Letang and Olli Maatta. Marc Andre Fleury will have to be on his A game again this year, because there will be a lot of high scoring affairs in Pittsburgh. 

4. Columbus Blue Jackets (X)

The Blue Jackets showed the league what they are capable of at the end of last season with a fully healthy roster and should continue on that pace, barring any setbacks, this season. They lost the most man games in the NHL last year, and although their defense core isn’t the strongest, they’ll have Ryan Murray returning healthy which is a huge addition. 

5. New York Islanders (X)

Analysis: The Islanders stayed quiet this offseason but will rely on progression from Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson, and Anders Lee to help them take the next step. Thomas Greiss will have to play a big role because as evident last year, Jaroslav Halak plays miles better when rested.

6. Philadelphia Flyers

Analysis: The Flyers will be a cusp team this year, but have a good set up moving forward. Both Voracek and Giroux are locked up long term, and they have one of the best defensive prospect pools in the league. 

7. New Jersey Devils

Analysis: The Devils really have nothing going for them this year, beside Cory Schneider which is why they’re not listed as last in the division. It’ll be a long road of rebuilding for them but it’ll be worth it. 

8. Carolina Hurricanes

Analysis: The Hurricanes made some solid moves this offseason, such as acquiring Eddie Lack for peanuts from Vancouver. Ron Francis’ biggest concern moving into this season will have to be on what to do with Eric Staal and Cam Ward. 

Atlantic Division:

1. Tampa Bay Lightning (X)

Analysis: The Lighting made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals last year and they’ll look it build on that success and win it all this year. The ‘Triplets Line’ of Kucherov, Johnson, and Palat will make another appearance and add onto their chemistry, all while being situated behind Steven Stamkos. 

2. Montreal Canadiens (X)

Analysis: The Canadiens aren’t the most dominant team, but they have Carey Price. Price took a good chunk of the NHL’s awards this past season, and he’ll look to truly establish himself as the best goalie in the league this season. 

3. Detroit Red Wings (X) 

Analysis: Although they lost Mike Babcock to Toronto, the Red Wings are still in great shape. The health of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Johan Franzen will be a major factor into how this season plays out for Detroit. They also have the advantage of having a goalie battle between Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek. 

4. Boston Bruins

Analysis: The Bruins made a few questionable moves this offseason but will still be a good team this upcoming season. Tuukka Rask should have a bounce back year, and some of their health concerns should be gone. They could possibly slip into a wild card spot above the Islanders or Blue Jackets, or even beat out Detroit for the final division spot.

5. Florida Panthers

Analysis: Much like the Flyers, the Panthers will be a cusp team. They had a relatively quiet summer, but they will have Jaromir Jagr for a full season (or until the trade deadline at least) which is a large boost. Young talent up front in Huberdeau, Barkov, Pirri and others will set the Panthers on a good track for the future. 

6. Buffalo Sabres

Analysis: The Sabres added Robin Lehner in net this offseason, which will assist them in jumping up from the basement of the league. Jack Eichel is also on board, and Sam Reinhart will likely play the full year in the NHL. They also added Evander Kane last season, but he hasn’t played a game yet for them. The Sabres will be a force to be reckoned with in the near future, but not quite yet. 

7. Ottawa Senators 

Analysis: The Senators didn’t make a big splash this offseason either, although they did acquire another first round pick for goaltender Robin Lehner. If Craig Anderson considers to have injury issues, the Senators better hope Andrew Hammond will be able to continue his remarkable play, which is unlikely. It’ll be an interesting season in Ottawa. 

8. Toronto Maple Leafs 

Analysis: The Leafs are commencing their rebuild, evident in their trade of Phil Kessel. Toronto is in a good position to flip players on one year deals like PA Parenteau and Shawn Matthias at the deadline for prospects or picks. Toronto is expected to be at the bottom of the league for the whole year. 

With these predictions, the playoffs would shake out like this:

(M1) Rangers VS (WC2) Islanders

(A1) Tampa Bay VS (WC1) Columbus 

(A2) Montreal VS (A3) Detroit 

(M2) Washington VS (M3) Pittsburgh

This is Part I. Stay tuned for the Western Conference predictions in the near future

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

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. 
Read the rest of this entry


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