Toronto wins lottery, Jets move up to No. 2 

The annual NHL draft lottery was held on Saturday night and for the first time in six years the team that finished last in the league won the lottery. That team was the Toronto Maple Leafs, who will have the chance to choose either Auston Matthews or Patrik Laine with the pick. 

There will be internal debate, but Auston Matthews is Toronto’s man. The center, currently playing in the Swiss league, will be ready to jump straight into the NHL in sheltered minutes behind Nazem Kadri (at least to start). 

Interest will be there from teams to move up, especially Arizona, but I do not foresee it happening. The Maple Leafs endured a tough season and waited a long time for this to happen, and to relinquish the ability to make the first overall selection would come at a high price. 

In other news and notes, the Winnipeg Jets moved up from #6 to #2. They’ll likely get the chance to take Patrik Laine, the Finnish winger that has drawn comparisons to Alex Ovechkin. 

I think there was a shot that someone like Buffalo or Calgary would have taken Laine first overall, but I don’t think it’ll happen now. 

Most of the teams remained in the spots they were originally at. 

Edmonton is picking at #4 and Jacob Chychrun or Matthew Tkachuk would be nice fits. 

Montreal got the #9 pick and will have a number of options to look at. Can things shake out so that Alex Nylander falls down to them? Entirely possible. 

New Jersey is at #10. Clayton Keller would be good for them. 

The months leading up to the draft will be full of preparation for the fourteen teams involved in the draft lottery plus many more as they are eliminated from the playoffs. The top three players in this year’s draft makes it an exciting one. With things like the salary cap and the expansion draft in play, there’s a lot to look forward to in terms of player movement come June. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

The Rangers have questions to answer this offseason 

The Rangers were eliminated in five games by Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon, and the season brings upon a lot of questions to general manager Jeff Gorton and the entire Rangers organization. 

The Rangers made a big splash at the trade deadline by sending two second round picks and top center prospext Aleksi Saarela to Carolina for Eric Staal. In hindsight, the trade proved to be as disastrous as it looked on paper with Staal mustering only six points in 25 games in the Big Apple. 

Now comes the long and winding offseason for the Rangers. They face the possibility of having a completely new-looking roster next year with Eric Staal, Keith Yandle, Dominic Moore, and Dan Boyle all being unrestricted free agents. Boyle, a healthy scratch in the 6-3 loss, could possibly retire. Keith Yandle has long been a source of controversy and it is uncertain the route the Rangers will take with him. Dominic Moore has bounced from team to team but he and the organization seem to have a good relationship, so expect that to continue. 

The likes of Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes, and JT Miller all need new contracts as well, although they are restricted free agents. Miller came into his own in the regular season but did not have a strong playoffs and did not score. That’s not to say Miller was bad, because almost every Rangers player did not have a strong playoffs. 

Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes both struggled with inconsistency this year. The culmination of all that was Alain Vigneault healthy scratching Hayes in the last two games of the playoffs. 

The Rangers need to undergo a serious re-evaluation of their roster this offseason. Letting go of Eric Staal and doing all they can to re-sign Keith Yandle is a must. The Rangers cannot afford to mortgage any more of their future, but a re-tool is in order. 

Henrik Lundqvist doesn’t have much time left in the league, and if the Rangers want to see him win it all in their colors, serious actions have to be taken. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

The NHL will miss Pavel Datsyuk 

With the Tampa Bay Lightning defeating the Detroit Red Wings last night, the Red Wings were eliminated from the playoffs and legendary center Pavel Datsyuk’s NHL career is in all likelihood coming to an end. The “Magic Man”, as he came to be known, provided us with many spectacular goals and memories and will leave a large hole in Detroit and in the league itself. 

Datsyuk took the long road to the NHL. A sixth round pick in 1998, he didn’t make his NHL debut until 2001-2002. Datsyuk made the playoffs with Detroit in all 14 years of his NHL tenure. In the process, they won two Cups. He is also a recipient of four Lady Byng trophies and three Selke trophies. In his career, which was just under 1000 games, Datsyuk finished with .96 points per game. 

The NHL will miss Pavel Datsyuk’s presence. It’s hard to put into words his impact on Detroit’s franchise and the league itself. His mystifying, unique moves are something that we may never see again, at least not in the same sense. This is almost like writing an obituary, but that’s the impact Datsyuk had. The league will lose a great player next season. 

There’s not much else to say, but they say a picture is worth a thousand words.   (Photo from: thedetroithustle.com)

Good luck back home, Pavel. 
-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles 

Sharks, Islanders, Panthers and Capitals have chance to erase ugly history in 2016 playoffs 

The 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs have provided a number of teams with a chance to change their past. The Sharks, Islanders, Panthers, and Capitals all have a shot at a redemption of sorts, but the road getting there won’t be easy. 

The Sharks have gotten a chance to face bitter foe Los Angeles in the playoffs once again, and more importantly for the first time since the historic 2014 collapse. In that series, as we all know, the Sharks were up 3-0 before the Kings stormed back on their road to their second Stanley Cup in three years. The Sharks yet again are up 2-0 this year with a chance to make it 3-0 tonight. 

Both rosters have changed and evolved since the 2014 bout, especially San Jose’s. Players like Joel Ward and Joonas Donskoi are new to the mix as well as head coach Peter DeBoer behind the bench. 

Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau don’t have much time left in the NHL unfortunately. The Sharks have a chance to do something special this year and erase the 2014 meltdown from memory and finally move on.  

The Islanders and Panthers are two teams going head to head that have some disappointing history within their respective franchises. The Panthers haven’t won a playoff series since 1996, however they are outdone by the Islanders who haven’t won one since 1993. Both are young, hungry teams looking to make the leap to legitimate contenders. 

Garth Snow and the Islanders are certainly closer to the threshold for change than the Panthers are, despite Dale Tallon’s trade deadline extravaganza. One team will undoubtedly go home empty handed and disappointed, but one will head back to their home city with a changed history. 

The Capitals have some ugly history to vex also. They had the most points in the league again this year, a feat they also accomplished in 2009-2010 when the Montreal Canadiens eliminated them in round one. The Capitals have never won the Stanley Cup and have only advanced to the finals once in their history. That year, 1998, was also the last year the Capitals made it past the second round. 

Ovechkin and company have their best chance at making a run at the Cup this year for the first time in far too long. The first step is getting to the third round, though. 

Plenty of teams have the chance to re-write history in the first round (or beyond) this year. The playoffs are a new animal and there’s never any rhyme or rhythm with how things will shake out. The fate of these four teams can only and will only be decided on a game to game basis. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs Predictions 

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are a mixed bag filled with ebbs and flows and many surprises. It can be tough to predict who will win it all, although Chicago and Los Angeles have made that fairly easy over the past few years. Who will take it all this year? My predictions:

ROUND 1

#1 Washington vs WC2 Flyers 

Verdict: Capitals in 6

The resilient Flyers will certainly put a beating on the Capitals, and vice versa, but the Capitals are likely to prevail. It’ll be a battle of superstar against superstar in Ovechkin and Giroux. The series will be won or lost on defense, which Washington has the upper hand. Ovechkin and company will have fun tormenting Nick Schultz and Andrew MacDonald for four of the seven (possible) games of the series. 

#2 Pittsburgh vs #3 NY Rangers

Verdict: NY Rangers in 7

Just like last year, the Rangers will defeat the Penguins in Round 1. The Penguins are the hottest team heading into the playoffs, but you can’t count out a team with Henrik Lundqvist backstopping them. I feel the Rangers will kick it into overdrive, at least for this series, and squeak out a win. 

#1 Florida vs WC1 NY Islanders 

Verdict: NY Islanders in 7

This series is a toss-up. Both the Panthers and Islanders, in my mind, are evenly matched. It’ll come down to goaltending and injuries. If Jaroslav Halak can make it back by the end of the series, that’ll be a gamechanger. Still, I think the Isles take this one. Barely. 

#2 Tampa Bay vs #3 Detroit

Verdict: Tampa Bay in 6

Another rematch from last year, I give the upperhand to Tampa Bay once again, even without Anton Stralman and Steven Stamkos. The Bolts have better goaltending and better depth in my opinion, plus will be hungry to return to the finals. 

#1 Dallas vs WC2 Minnesota 

Verdict: Minnesota in 6

The Wild have faced and triumphed over some tough opponents over the past few years and that does not change here. The Wild have a better overall game in my opinion, especially on defense. Devan Dubnyk can steal some games as well. This will be a high flying, goal fest of a series. 

#2 St. Louis vs #3 Chicago

Verdict: Chicago in 6

The Blues will continue their playoff woes as they fall to Chicago in six games. The battle tested Blackhawks will try to solidify their dynasty, and it starts by taking down the Blues. Goaltending health will play a big factor in this series. 

#1 Anaheim vs WC1 Nashville

Verdict: Ducks in 5

The Ducks battled back from a horrendous start and found their way atop the Pacific Division, but still face a tough Predators opponent. Pekka Rinne hasn’t been stellar this year, so his abilities will factor in largely in this series. The Ducks also have fantastic special teams with both their powerplay and penalty kill being #1 in the league. 

#2 Los Angeles vs #3 San Jose 

Verdict: Los Angeles in 6

Facing Californian rival San Jose as well as former goalie Martin Jones, the Kings are in for a tough series. That goes for the Sharks as well. This series could go either way, but the edge has to be given to the Kings given the history. 

ROUND 2 

#1 Washington vs #3 NY Rangers

Verdict: Washington in 6

The Capitals cannot be contained, even with Henrik Lundqvist in goal. Their offense and defensive core sate too lethal. The Rangers back end with Boyle, Girardi, and Staal will have a tough time containing them. 

#2 Tampa Bay vs WC1 NY Islanders 

Verdict: Tampa Bay in 6

The Lightning continue on their quest to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals by edging out the New York Islanders. Ben Bishop returns to form and leads Tampa Bay to the next round. 

#3 Chicago vs WC2 Minnesota 

Verdict: Chicago in 6

Another year, another Chicago versus Minnesota series. The Blackhawks prevail again. The quad-threat of Toews, Kane, Panarin, and Hossa is too much for the Wild to handle as they lose yet again in disappointing fashion. 

#1 Anaheim vs #2 Los Angeles 

Verdict: Anaheim in 7

Now, wouldn’t this be an amazing series? The Ducks and Kings meet in the semi-finals and beat each other to a pulp, however the Ducks get the series win. 

ROUND 3

#1 Washington vs #2 Tampa Bay

Verdict: Washington in 6

Tampa’s bid to return to the finals falls short at the expense of the President’s Trophy winners. The Capitals remain a force to be reckoned with. Steven Stamkos could return by this point, but it’s up in the air. Still, I don’t see him being enough to turn the tide of the series in Tampa’s favor. 

#1 Anaheim vs #3 Chicago

Verdict: Anaheim in 7

A rematch of last year’s Western Conference Finals, however this time Anaheim takes home the win. The Ducks get an added boost from their superb special teams to win the series. The weak bottom half of Chicago’s defense will have a tough time keeping up with Anaheim’s depth. 

STANLEY CUP FINAL

#1 Washington vs #1 Anaheim 

Verdict: Anaheim in 6

The Anaheim Ducks are your 2016 Stanley Cup champs!

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

Under the microscope: which teams have the most pressure on them this postseason?

There is obviously a tremendous amount of pressure on each team as they enter the Stanley Cup playoffs. Some, however, have more than others. 

1. Washington Capitals: The Capitals already have a target on their back after winning the Presidents Trophy, but their lack of playoff success over the past few seasons magnifies that. Can Barry Trotz’s team do what Bruce Boudreau’s team never did? There’s no doubt a severe sense of disappointment will be felt throughout the organization if Alex Ovechkin leaves June without raising the Cup over his head. 

2. Chicago Blackhawks: The reigning Stanley Cup champions always have pressure weighing down on them as they enter the next year of playoffs. The Blackhawks face another impending cap crunch as well, with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane making 10.5 million each and Artemi Panarin due for a big pay raise. This could be the last run with core players such as Andrew Shaw. 

3. St. Louis Blues: The Blues have had their fair share of playoff disappointments over the last four years, which have only included one second round appearance. Captain David Backes is an unrestricted free agent this summer, and GM Doug Armstrong will want to make some big moves with the core if another playoff flop happens. 

4. New York Rangers: The Cup window for the Rangers is closing fast as Henrik Lundqvist is already 34 years old. The Rangers also face uncertainty moving forward on defense with Dan Boyle’s and Keith Yandle’s future undecided. 

5. Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks had an awful start of the year but turned it around, although the struggle is far from over. The Ducks were one win away from advancing to the finals last year, and Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry haven’t been back since they won it all in 2007. 

6. Tampa Bay Lightning: The young, energetic Lightning made it to the finals last year, but haven’t had an easy road back to the top this year. With the drama of Jonathan Drouin and Steven Stamkos becoming a mainstay, there’s no indication if either will be on Tampa Bay’s roster next year. The Lightning, luckily, have an easier route to the conference finals than most, but unluckily have lost captain and superstar Steven Stamkos to a bloodclot. It’ll be an interesting postseason for the Bolts. 

7. San Jose Sharks: Much like the Blues, the Sharks have had very little playoff success in the recent past. They made some nice offseason acquisitions this offseason, like Martin Jones and Joel Ward, but it’s still yet to be seen what they’ll do in the playoffs. Time is potentially running out in teal for Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. 

8. Pittsburgh Penguins: The Penguins haven’t seen much playoff success since they went to back-to-back finals in 2008 and 2009, although they look to be back in form this season. Can Sidney Crosby help break the idea that the Penguins are playoff chokers? It remains to be seen. 

9. Los Angeles Kings: After missing the playoff last year, the Kings came back with an impressive season. The Kings are not a low seeded team this time around, like they were when they won the Cup (#6 seed and #8 seed). The Kings will be looking to defeat the Blackhawks and become the class of the west once again. 

10. New York Islanders: The Islanders and captain John Tavares head into this playoffs looking for their first series win since 1993. Garth Snow hasn’t made any major moves since acquiring Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy in October 2014, in belief that the current roster is good enough. If he’s wrong, the consequences could be severe with new owners stepping in on July 1st. 

11. Dallas Stars: Dallas missed the playoffs last season but has survived the hell that is the Central Division so far this year. It remains to be seen if they’ll play Chicago or Minnesota (it’ll be decided tonight) but the high flying Stars won’t have an easy road regardless. 

12. Detroit Red Wings: The likes of Datsyuk, Zetterberg, and Kronwall are getting older. However, they have a good crop of young players such as Mantha, Larkin, Tatar, and Nyquist to take over. The Wings get Tampa Bay in Round 1, a rematch from last year. Seems pretty sure fire to go 7. 

13. Nashville Predators: The Predators are a good team, but will have a tough time escaping the West. If they can claw their way to a round or two, or even more, good for them. They’re in almost an underdog role in that conference. 

14. Minnesota Wild: The Wild have had a rough year but have been playing well under new coach John Torchetti. They need Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville to step it up big time during the playoffs. Are changes looming? Regardless, I don’t think many are expecting a Cup run out of this Wild club. 

15. Florida Panthers: The young Panthers surprised some people by being atop the Atlantic Division this year. They’ll get either the Rangers or the Islanders in the first round. They are a good team who can squeak out a series of two, but I don’t think many will be overly angry if the playoffs end quickly. They’ll be back for sure with Barkov, Ekblad, and company with playoff experience. The Panthers are in a good spot. 

16. Philadelphia Flyers: Let’s be honest, midway through January, when the Flyers were behind New Jersey and Carolina in the Metro, did anyone really expect them to be here? I definitely didn’t. The Flyers get Washington in Round 1 and are the heavy underdogs. But as we saw a few weeks back, the Flyers can beat them. That’ll be an interesting series for sure. 

This list isn’t meant to put a knock on any team saying that they don’t have any expectations. Everyone does. But, some have more than others. We can expect a fun playoffs like usual filled with exciting endings and thrilling upsets. 

Once the matchups are decided, I’ll put out predictions. In the mean time, join The NHL Files’ bracket challenge: 

http://bracketchallenge.nhl.com/api/leagues/nhlbcg/og/league/119556

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

Random thoughts: NHL suspension issues, goalie interference, and rubber rats 

Random thoughts:

1. The NHL has faced a lot of scrutiny, much like the NFL, over concussion and head issues in recent times. Why isn’t the NHL changing anything? The Duncan Keith situation is not a concussion issue, per say, but it’s a good example of the ineptitude of the league. The ruling hasn’t been given yet, but it’s rumored that the suspension could be lighter due to the “impact” of playoff games versus regular season games. The NHL department of player safety needs to bunker down and set a precedent, at the very least on the next illegal head contact issue, if not on this Keith situation. 

Look at the OHL for example. Max Jones leveled fellow and unsuspecting player Justin Brack with a hit in Game 4 of their playoff series.

You can see the hit here.

Jones was suspended for 12 games for this hit, nothing less even though it’s the playoffs. The NHL needs to take this route. Not suspending players based on what point in the season it is, but rather based on what they deserve.

2. I was watching the Capitals-Flyers game this past Wednesday night and saw the “penalty” Sean Couturier took late in the game. They called goalie interference for it, despite it looking like Couturier was trying to stop plus was just driving the net. That’s what irks me about goalie interference calls. If the player is driving the net and no major harm is done, like Holtby being knocked over slightly in that instance, I don’t think there should be a penalty. I am not taking about players going flying full speed into goaltenders, but driving the net and bumping them shouldn’t be a penalty, especially in critical times of the game. If the play is going the other way or out of the zone, let it continue. If the team who bumped the goalie has a good scoring chance or possession of the puck in the zone while the goalie is still reclaiming his position, blow the play dead, but don’t give a penalty. Players driving to the net more is what the league needs and may also help increase scoring. Just an idea. 

3. I tweeted about this last night, but it’s absolute garbage how the Panthers were penalized for fans throwing rats on the ice last night. Yes, the fans shouldn’t do it during play. I completely understand that. But the fact that Florida, fighting for a division championship, was put on the penalty kill twice in a game due to a rubber rat being hurled into the ice is a little ludicrous. If the Panthers didn’t hold on to win and wound up losing the division to Tampa Bay by one or two points, I’m sure we’d look back on this situation with more seriousness. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

Four potential suitors for Nail Yakupov

News came out yesterday that Nail Yakupov requested a trade from the Oilers prior to February’s trade deadline. The former first overall pick has seen his fair share of struggles in Edmonton, but has nonetheless proved to be a skilled player that can thrive in the correct situation. Many teams will be lining up to try to get Yakupov’s services for their team. 

Ottawa Senators 

The Senators have had a very disappointing year. Although they sit in the top-ten of goals for per game, they still are in need of another weapon up front. If they lose out on Jonathan Drouin, Yakupov would be a good option to fall back on. Ottawa may also be losing key offensive forward Mike Hoffman this offseason, so Yakupov would help fill that hole. 

Montreal Canadiens 

As yet another team up north struggling, Montreal needs to heavily re-evaluate their supporting cast around Carey Price this summer. Would coupling up Nail Yakupov with his half-Russian brethren Alex Galchenyuk, who was taken two picks after Yakupov in 2012, help spark their offense? They run the risk of another failed experiment, like Alex Semin, as there is no guarantee Yakupov will regain his mojo in a new city. 

Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres are loaded up front with young forwards such as Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, and Evander Kane, but Yakupov would be a nice addition to the middle six. The Sabres have dealt with serious depth issues this year with little to no production being brought in by Tyler Ennis, Matt Moulson, and Brian Gionta among others. 

New York Rangers

The Rangers have a lot more scoring prowess and depth than the aforementioned teams, but Nail Yakupov still could be a fit in the big apple. Slotting him into a second line role would potentially bump down the likes of Kevin Hayes, Jesper Fast, and Oscar Lindberg, but it adds another threat to the Rangers lineup and makes them more dangerous on the wing. 

There will be plenty of suitors with interest in Yakupov, the question that remains is if the Oilers will be willing to sell him for lower than what his ceiling may be. Edmonton has placed themselves in a tough situation, but regardless of what they get in return, it is clear that Yakupov and them both need to move on from each other. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

No movement and no trade clauses will be expansion’s kryptonite 

The potential NHL expansion draft is rapidly approaching and a big factor for it has yet to be determined. No trade clauses and no movement causes have become far more prevalent in NHL contracts over the last half decade. They put the NHL and NHLPA in a tough situation regarding the use of the players who have them in the expansion draft.

Option #1: players with clauses cannot be taken in the draft, but do have to be protected by their team 

This means that anyone with a no movement or no trade clause (or whatever/whichever they decide) would be required to remain on their team at the expense of a protection spot being taken. This means that, for example, the Bruins would have to protect Zdeno Chara if he is still around. Also, the Penguins would be forced to protect Marc-Andre Fleury, meaning prized prospect Matt Murray would be available for the taking. Another example is Ryane Clowe, who technically has a no movement clause, as he is signed until the summer of 2018. Would New Jersey be forced to protect him?

I highly doubt teams want this option. Owners and management personnel do not like these clauses to begin with, so being stuck with them won’t be too appealing. 

Option #2: players with clauses cannot be taken in the draft, but do not have to be protected by their team 

This seems like a better option, but it still has it’s loopholes. For one, a team like Chicago for example, would not have to protect Hjalmarsson, Keith, Crawford, Toews, Kane, or Seabrook. Same thing with Crosby, Malkin, Kessel, Letang, and Fleury in Pittsburgh. This leaves those two teams eligible to protect more depth players, a luxury teams like Edmonton with only Sekera and Talbot and New York with only Boychuk would not get. 

The use of this tactic would also see the number of no movement clauses increase in the upcoming years since general managers and players alike will know that they won’t have to waste a protection spot on a player with said clause. 

Option #3: players with clauses are still eligible to be taken in the expansion draft 

The NHLPA and it’s player representatives will fight this one. It seems like the most reasonable option from a business and fairness standpoint, but a contractual agreement is a contractual agreement. This option would leave certain names like Dion Phaneuf, Joffrey Lupul, and Alex Burrows, to name a few, eligible to possibly be taken. 

There is no indication to believe that any expansion team would want these players, but it largely affects the teams these players currently play on. 

Nothing is written in stone, at least not yet. Gary Bettman, Donald Fehr, and the NHL brass will have a lot of thinking to do before they decide what to do about these clauses, albeit time is at a minimum. The decision they make will have gigantic implications on how the next few offseasons and the expansion draft itself play out. 

It’s an issue that needs to be sorted out sooner rather than later. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

A look into the Islanders and the potential expansion draft 

Although we do not know a date for certain, NHL expansion is right around the corner. With the system of protecting seven forwards, three defenseman, and one goalie or eight skaters and one goalie in place, teams will be faced with tough decisions to make. That includes the New York Islanders. As a young and upcoming team, they have plenty of good assets that they will have to risk losing. 

The expansion could happen before the 2017-2018 season, meaning professional (NHL and AHL) players who started their careers in 2015-2016 or 2016-2017 will be exempt. If the league decides to expand by two teams, each team will face potentially losing a maximum of one player. If it’s a one team expansion, teams lose a maximum of one player. Here is my outlook on the Isles expansion draft possibilities:

Protected forwards: John Tavares, Anders Lee, Frans Nielsen, Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome, Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck

A few players here, like John Tavares, Frans Nielsen, and Ryan Strome, are practically givens. Lee and Nelson are borderline, but both are good players that should be protected, granted they are on the team by the time 2017-2018 rolls around. The last two players may come as a surprise, but I believe Cizikas and Clutterbuck bring an essential element to the Islanders that they would miss severely if one or both of them were to be taken. Both players kill penalties and hit almost everything that moves, all while pitching in energy and offense. The Islanders rely heavily on both of these players. 

Notable unprotected: Nikolay Kulemin, Mikhail Grabovski, Matt Martin, Josh Bailey 

Josh Bailey is someone the Islanders will likely want to protect, but he may need to be sacrificed. He is the most likely to be taken in the draft out of the mentioned forwards. Matt Martin is the other third of the Islanders’ fourth line with Cizikas and Clutterbuck, but let’s be honest, is anyone really going to take him. Grabovski and Kulemin are unlikely to be taken, but they’ll be reaching the last year of their deals anyways. They were here to help win now and bridge the gap until Dal Colle, Barzal, and others were ready. 

Protected defensemen: Nick Leddy, Ryan Pulock, Calvin de Haan

These three players being taken is assuming Travis Hamonic gets his wish of being traded this offseason. Anyways, Leddy is the only for sure pick here. There is a zero percent chance he reaches the draft. Ryan Pulock will be available to be taken, and the Islanders have waited too long and have been too patient in developing him to see it all go to waste. Calvin de Haan, barring another disaster of a season like 2015-2016, should be protected in my eyes. 

Notable un-protected: Thomas Hickey, Johnny Boychuk, Adam Pelech

Boychuk and Pelech are tough pills to swallow. Pelech luckily may be overlooked for more established defensemen in the draft which would be fantastic for the Isles. He still has a good chance of being taken though as a young, reliable defenseman. Boychuk will be 33 years old, almost 34 by the time the expansion draft rolls around. He will also be heading into the third year of his massive seven year, six million per year deal. Boychuk will inevitably start to decline. I am positive the Islanders want to keep him, but will they risk losing a younger defenseman like Pulock or de Haan to keep him? Will an expansion team risk taking a declining defenseman with a huge contract despite him being a great leader? These are all questions the Islanders will have to answer. 

Granted, the Islanders could chose to protect Boychuk, Leddy, de Haan and Pulock, but would only be left with four selections at forward. 

Also noteworthy, Johnny Boychuk has a no-movement clause, and he is the only Islander to have one of those. It is still yet to be determined if he will even be able to be unprotected. 
Thomas Hickey, the other name on the list, is a good defender but not protection worthy. 

Protected goalie: Jaroslav Halak

Notable un-protected: Thomas Greiss

Despite Greiss playing so well this year, this should not come as a shock to anyone. There will be a contingent of fans wanting Greiss to be selected over Halak, but it’s not going to happen. Halak is entering the final year of his deal in 2017-2018. 

Notable players exempt: Michael Dal Colle, Josh Ho-Sang, Mat Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier, Parker Wotherspoon, Ilya Sorokin, Mitch Vande Somple

All of these players are still playing in juniors currently, so they’ll be exempt. This is fantastic news for the Islanders. 

The Islanders will face a lot of tough decisions when the day of reckoning for protecting players comes around. In all, I could see Bailey and one of Pelech or Boychuk being taken. It is what it is, and the Islanders will make out better than other teams like the Chicago Blackhawks or Washington Capitals will. 

A lot can change between now and the 2017 offseason. Until then, it’s all speculation. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

Shayne Gostisbehere for Calder 

I am officially on the Shayne Gostisbehere for Calder train. 

The rookie Flyers defenseman has been making headlines ever since his call up on November 12th. His résumé this season includes 38 points, including 15 goals, in 49 games, highlighted by the fact that he had a fifteen game point streak in the middle of the season. 

Don’t get me wrong, Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Artemi Panarin, and others are all fantastic choices in their own right, but few players have had the impact on their team like Gostisbehere has had on the Flyers. Before his re-call, the Flyers were 5-8-3, a points percentage of .406. Since then, they have gone 27-15-9, good for a points percentage of .618. 

If he were to win, Gostisbehere would be the first Flyers player ever to win the Calder Trophy. 

As of now, I’d pin my Calder candidates as Connor McDavid, Artemi Panarin, and Shayne Gostisbehere. McDavid was injured for a large portion of the year which will hurt him in this race, but he has still been such an impactful player that it is hard to turn away. Panarin may lose some voters due to his age being 24 and his prior professional experience in the KHL. 

On top of all the goals, assists, and crazy stat-lines, Shayne Gostisbehere has also propelled the Flyers, almost single handedly, back into the playoff race. If they do wind up kicking out the Penguins or Red Wings for that final spot, it will be hard to argue against him. You have to wonder what would have been made of the Flyers season if he did not get the call-up when he did or even at all. 

Ghost Bear for Calder. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

Running analysis of the 2016 NHL trade deadline 

TRADE: 

To Arizona: Alex Tanguay, Conner Bleackley, Kyle Wood

To Colorado: Mikkel Boedker

First domino of trade deadline day has fallen. Mikkel Boedker was traded to Colorado in the first big deal of the day with just under two hours until the deadline. 

For a rental, it was a huge package to give up. The veteran Tanguay is a tough piece to lose for the run but he hasn’t been good enough this year. Bleackley, a former first round pick, is having another great season in the WHL. Bleackley currently has 41 points in 47 games. He has been in the range of point-per-game for all three years he has been in the WHL. 

I have to chalk this up as a win for Arizona. Getting a first round pick from two years ago plus a veteran presence to mentor the kids is huge. Kyle Wood isn’t a stud prospect, but he has put up good numbers in the OHL. Boedker hasn’t been impressive this year but he does bring a large amount of speed to his game.  

TRADE: 

To Colorado: Eric Gelinas 

To New Jersey: third round pick 

Colorado got their defensemen just minutes after trading for Mikkel Boedker. They acquired Eric Gelinas for a third. They now have no third or forth in the draft. (edit: third is in 2017, not 2016. Avs still have their 2016 third)

Gelinas’ time in New Jersey was obviously done. The former second overall pick in 2009 has 6 points in 34 games this year and 54 points in 156 games total. 

This is a solid trade for both teams. Shero gets a third for a depleting asset while Colorado gets an analytically sound young defenseman. However, only time will tell how this deal truly works out. 

TRADE: 

To Calgary: Jyrki Jokipakka, Brett Pollock, second round pick 

To Dallas: Kris Russell

The Flames get a nice haul for Russell here, who was not going to re-sign. Jokipakka is serviceable and a second is nice. Pollock, a forward prospect and former second round pick in 2014, is a point-per-game WHL player. He currently has 67 points in 63 games for the Edmonton Oil Kings. 

I think Hamhuis would have been a better option for Dallas. Russell blocks a lot of shots, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. He could really be hung out to dry in Dallas with the explosive offense and lack of defense. 

It is still possible Dallas gets Hamhuis, but they need the price to drop big time. 

This deal is a win for the Flames in my opinion. They got a lot for Russell, who’s price was dramatically dropping, especially in the eyes of analytically based teams. 

TRADE: 

To Anaheim: Bradon Pirri

To Florida: sixth round picks 

Going to start right off the bat saying that this is a win for Anaheim. Pirri is only 24 years old and has 24 points in 52 games this year. After acquiring Purcell and Hudler the other day, Pirri was the odd man out in Florida. 

I am surprised Pirri did not get a larger return. Yes, he is a defensive liability at times and not a strong skater, but he has a wicked shot and can score with it. He would’ve looked nice on a team like New Jersey. 

For Anaheim, it’s more depth. Pirri can slide nicely into a middle six role with the Ducks. The Ducks are not shy to slower forwards since their defense is so active. Good deal for them. 

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