When the regular season ended and the free agency class began to take shape, you could be forgiven if you chuckled at the possibility of the Calgary Flames signing Cam Talbot and the Edmonton Oilers signing Mike Smith. Neither guy set the world on fire in their prior spots, so switching spots would be pretty wacky.
Well, it looks like that’s actually happening.
Veteran goalie Mike Smith has chosen the #Oilers. He’s more or less trading places with Cam Talbot, who as we hinted on Monday, is heading to the #Flames.
More on what that means for Lehner, Mrazek, and the rest of the goalie market on @SportsCentre at 6pm ET.
Smith turned 37 in March and had a rough go of things in Calgary following a lower body injury he suffered in mid-February 2018. That led to him losing the starting job to backup David Rittich, who cemented himself in that job with a strong first half of the 2018-19 season before suffering a knee injury on Dec. 31 that he valiantly tried to work through.
As also reported by our pal Pat Steinberg, Rittich will be goaltending buddies with Talbot. Talbot is five years younger than Smith – he turns 32 on July 5 – and doesn’t really have the same mileage on his body that Smith has. We’ll dig into Talbot’s underlyings in more detail in the coming days, but he’s going from playing on a fairly defensively porous team to playing on one with several promising young players and the reigning Norris Trophy winner so it’s reasonable to hope that his numbers will bounce back from his rough final season split between Edmonton and the Philadelphia Flyers. Talbot is technically Flyers property, but he was Edmonton’s big foundational goaltending acquisition several seasons back while the Flames went with a series of half-measures in net.
Per Steinberg, the cap hit for Talbot is expected to be around $2.5 million for the 2019-20 season.
Expectation is Mike Smith will be in neighbourhood of $2 million base salary with potential to earn up to $2 million more in performance bonuses on a one-year deal with #Oilers, to be announced tomorrow.
While the Flames and Oilers aren’t actually trading their netminders so to speak, this free agent swap might be the first wacky shoe to drop in what could be a pretty interesting opening to the free agent season in the National Hockey League.
Previous Contract: Seven years, $5,500,000 Cap Hit
Projected Contract: Seven years, $6,055,556 Cap Hit
If you’ve talked to hockey fans in Vancouver recently you’ll know there’s been an overwhelmingly negative response to speculation the Canucks are targeting Tyler Myers in free agency. Most of the outrage isn’t around the player, but rather around the contract.
.@renlavoietva: I do believe Myers will be a 7 year contract. it could be $8 million per season. $6 million might be a bit low. GM's are looking at the cap being lower and demand for young players – could be less money spent in FA but there's a lot of demand for defensemen.
Myers is a feasible No.4 or bottom-six blueliner. Unfortunately, he’s going to get paid like he’s top-two. He’s an intimidating presence and a good source of offensive production, but his defensive game isn’t at the ideal level. The Canucks would get some solid years from Myers, but with the direction the team is heading in, they need to be careful before committing long term to a player who is almost 30.
Our friends over at JetsNation wrote a review of Myers’ 2018-19 season. There’s certainly things to like about Myers and what he brings to the table. There’s also reasons to walk away. They ended up giving him a ‘B’ grade for his performance over 80 games last season. You can read the full post here.
Projected Contract: Seven years, $6,820,761 Cap Hit
With Erik Karlsson re-upping in San Jose, Gardiner is likely the best defenseman that will be available to the Canucks on July 1st. The left-shot defenseman is a potential casualty of Toronto’s impending salary cap squeeze.
Gardiner had his turnovers and mistakes amplified in Toronto, but he’s a solid defenseman with great offensive upside. He’ll probably land more money than Myers in free agency and be the highest paid UFA blueliner. Comparing Myers and Gardiner, a look at advanced stats indicates both players are good at exits and entries, while Gardiner has the clear advantage in entry defense.
Myers has been declining since his rookie season, while Gardiner has taken steps forward and developed into one of the better offensive blueliners in the game. He missed time this year due to back issues, but he recorded a career-high 52 points just one season prior. With Alex Edler re-signed for two more years and Quinn Hughes arriving on the left side, Gardiner may not be an ideal fit for the Canucks at this time. But if it came down to Myers or Gardiner, it’s clear which defenseman is heading in the better direction and has more offensive upside.
Projected Contract: Three years, $4,475,273 Cap Hit
Anton Stralman is a tier below Jake Gardiner and Tyler Myers, but he’s still a serviceable two-way defenseman. He saw around 22 minutes of ice time in his five-year stint with the Lightning and has averaged around just 25 giveaways a season throughout his NHL career.
If the Canucks are looking to avoid going long term with a top blueliner, Stralman would be worth considering at lower term and less money.
A number of teams reached out to pending UFA RHD Anton Stralman today. His agent Marc Levine says next step is to iron out the interview schedule.
Hainsey will be the oldest option available to the Canucks on defense July 1st. A seasoned NHL veteran with over 1,000 games played, Hainsey would bring leadership and experience to Vancouver’s blueline. The 38-year-old has logged 20-plus minutes a night over the past 10 seasons and consistently averages around 20 points a season. He also consistently manages to stay healthy, with the last time he missed more than 10 games in a season being 2012.
Rumours of UFA D Ron Hainsey potentially retiring are premature:
“When the phone stops ringing, Ron will retire, but it’s been ringing plenty so he will keep playing,” his agent Matt Keator said today.
At this point in his career, Hainsey doesn’t offer much outside of reliable defensive play. You have to go back to his time with the Thrashers for the last time he put up more than 25 points in a season. Hainsey is on the decline, but he still has a few quality years left to give.
Toronto wants to bring him back for a reason. While it’s unlikely that happens due to the team’s cap problems, Hainsey put together decent back-to-back years with Toronto. He recorded 23 points in each of his two years with the Leafs and is a plus-42 during that period. His defense partner last season was Morgan Rielly — and they were counted on to shutdown opposing team’s top lines.
As pointed out by LeafsNation, Hainsey’s stats were inflated to a degree by playing alongside Rielly, who exploded for a career-high 20-goal, 72-point season.
Hainsey, of course, spent the majority of the season as the stay-at-home defender alongside the more offensively-oriented Morgan Rielly. The two played 1066:45 together at even strength and produced a 49.6 Corsi For percentage and a 58.8 Goals For percentage. In the 293:31 even strength minutes the two didn’t play together, Rielly put up superior numbers both in terms of shot attempt and goal differential while Hainsey’s numbers diminished substantially.
You wouldn’t want more than a two-year contract for a player such as Hainsey, but he’s an option to bring leadership and defensive stability to the Canucks’ second or third pairing.
Previous Contract: Three years, $1,100,000 Cap Hit
Projected Contract: Four years, $3,489,088Cap Hit
Jordie Benn is coming off of a career-season where he put up 5 goals and 22 points in 81 games. He’ll be looking for a nice little raise after making $1.1 million the previous three years.
Benn has been a steady defensive presence throughout his NHL career. He isn’t viewed as a puck-moving blueliner or an impact player offensively, but he’s a reliable blueliner who could slot in nicely on your third defensive pairing. He had 124 hits, 128 blocked shots and a plus-15 rating last season.
If the Canucks aren’t planning on bringing Ben Hutton back as a UFA in free agency, Benn could be a good choice for taking that third spot on the left defensive side behind Quinn Hughes and Alex Edler. It also doesn’t hurt that he grew up in Victoria, BC.
The Canucks could sign a big-name blueliner in free agency or go for a cheaper option. If they avoid signing Tyler Myers or Jake Gardiner, there’s always a chance they could try and sign prized RHD Tyson Barrie if he makes it to free agency next summer.
There are plenty of options for the Canucks come July 1st, and it’ll be interesting to see what they do to try and improve the team heading into next season.
As a marketer, we have to make these decision at work all the time: is this a job that can be accomplished internally or externally? In other words, do we have a person with the skills already working for us that can accomplish what we need to accomplish or do we need to outsource the job and pay an external party? For NHL teams when it comes to free agency, the stakes are much higher and the decisions affect a lot of lives, but the question is still the same: is this a job that can be accomplished internally or externally?
At this moment in time, the Detroit Red Wings are not a playoff team, nor are they trying to be. Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither are champions built in an offseason. Steve Yzerman isn’t trying to build a winner for this season. His focus is 3-4 years down the line when the prospects he’s inherited and just drafted are coming into their primes.
While that’s all fine and dandy, there is still NHL hockey to be played as these players develop and Yzerman will still need to ice a competent roster for a few reasons. First and foremost, a hockey team is a business and a business has to make money. If the Red Wings are going to lose every night, then fans will stop going to games. When fans stop going to games, they’re not buying jerseys or concessions or… I think you get the point. Second, some of the building blocks for Detroit’s future contender may already be in place and you don’t want the early years of their NHL careers to be plagued with a losing culture. Once that infiltrates your psyche, it can be very hard to shake free from it. You want your young guys to be in close and competitive games, not throwing in the towel because they feel they don’t stand a chance.
So Stevie will need to spare some of his offseason focus for next year’s actual roster and making sure it can compete with other NHL teams. As it currently stands, the Red Wings are one forward and one defensemen short with the departure of Thomas Vanek and the pending status of Niklas Kronwall. This is where Yzerman’s big decision lies. He’s already stated that he’s going to try to fill any gaps via free agency instead of by trade, but when you look at the Red Wings salary cap situation, it certainly feels like one will lead to another.
Take the blue line, for example. Dennis Cholowski and Filip Hronek both played significant time in the NHL last season and made a good case for being permanent additions to the D-corps. As it currently stands, even without Kronwall in the lineup, there isn’t room for both of them. If you a throw a Jake Gardiner into the mix, then Yzerman will have to ship someone out and create space for these NHL-ready prospects.
I do think that the Red Wings have some very moveable contracts on the back end, but Stevie will have to be sure that he can move them before bringing another body into the mix, even if that external body immediately becomes the best defenseman on the team.
As for the forwards, this is where Stevie has more flexibility. With Evgeny Svechnikov’s last few seasons, they may want to start him in Grand Rapids and see how he does. Filip Zadina is still young and may want to get a truly dominant season in at the AHL level before making a full-time jump to the NHL. And what about Michael Rasmussen? He struggled in his rookie season last year. Maybe it’s not a bad idea to stick him in the AHL for a bit and give him big minutes.
What I’m getting at here is I could see a situation where external help is sought from a forward free agent while these three prospects compete for the final roster spot that belonged to Rasmussen permanently last season. The Red Wings could use the kind of depth scoring that Ryan Dzingel or Gustav Nyquist would bring, but they do need to be careful about handing out too much term, as unrestricted free agents are normally on the higher end of the age spectrum.
The real hard part about icing a competitive roster now while trying to build a real contender five years down the road is that the decisions you make for the former could really affect the latter. That’s why these free agency decisions tomorrow are such big ones. If you sign Gardiner to a five-year deal now, are you going to have to offload it in four years to fit in everyone else coming down the pipe?
There is a certain amount of “cross that bridge when you get to it” philosophy that you have to have. Player development is such an unpredictable thing that acting as though your five-year vision will come true exactly as you see it is a dangerous thing. Every team has a bad contract or two. Yzerman’s handed out a few in the past, too.
These are the big decisions that come with being the general manager and it’s what makes free agency so exciting. Personally, I always like to take the internal option when presented with the choice. And I would do the same for this year’s Red Wings.
Sekera is signed for two more seasons at a $5.5-million cap hit. A buyout will carry a cap penalty over the next four seasons.
Buying out Sekera immediately opens $3 million in cap space. The Oilers must have plans in free agency as they now have a little over $12 million to play with according to PuckPedia. Sekera is coming off another injury-plagued season after two significant injuries in back-to-back seasons.
Sekera was one of the Oilers’ best defencemen in 2015-16 and 2016-17. Unfortunately, an injury in the playoffs against Anaheim held him to just 60 games over the past two seasons. The Oilers have a somewhat crowded left side on defence with Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse. A younger player like Caleb Jones now has a clearer path to an NHL spot.
The Oilers already have money dedicated to the buyouts of Benoit Pouliot and Eric Gryba, making another buyout less than ideal, however, it does afford Ken Holland and co more freedom to address the roster this summer. Gryba’s buyout ends after next season, while Pouliot’s extends to 2021.
The Boston Bruins lost in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals but have a first round pick this season, after making their first selection at No.57 overall last year.
Over the years, Boston has done a strong job drafting players that made the jump to the NHL rather quickly.
2014: David Pastrnak (No.25 overall) — 320 Games Played
2014: Danton Heinen (No.116 Overall) — 162 Games Played
2015: Jake DeBrusk (No.14 Overall) — 138 Games Played
2015: Brandon Carlo (No.37 Overall) — 230 Games Played
2016: Charlie McAvoy (No.14 Overall) — 117 Games Played
Others who they’ve drafted recently who have played in the NHL sparingly but could be on their radar for 2019-20 include:
— Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson – C (No.45 Pick in 2015)
— Trent Frederic – C (No.29 Pick in 2016)
— Urho Vaakanainen – D (No.18 Pick in 2017)
Jakub Zboril (No.13 Pick) and Zachary Senyshyn (No.15 Pick) being selected ahead of: Mathew Barzal (No.16), Kyle Connor (No.17), Thomas Chabot (No.18), Brock Boeser (No.23) and Travis Konecny (No.24) was a blip on the radar for Boston but they’ve mostly done a good job over the years.
With the No.30 Overall Pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, the Boston Bruins select…
Egor Afanasyev — LW — Russia
Afanasyev spent his draft year with the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the USHL, where he led the team in goals (27), assists (35) and points (62). As for the league, he was 15th in goals, tied for 14th in assists and 10th in points. Afanasyev will make the move to the CHL next season, as he’s committed to play with the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL.
Scouts are torn on Afanasyev, as he’s ranked as high as 24 but as low as 59 depending on where you are looking. One thing is for sure, he is a big 18-year-old. Afanasyev stands at 6-foot-4, 201 lbs. but the Russian-born winger handles the puck like he’s much smaller. Afanasyev is one of the craftier players in this draft class while also being one of the biggest forwards, a pretty rare combo. Obviously, there are some red flags or else he wouldn’t drop to the bottom of the first round or further. He’s not the best skater or playmaker but those could improve as his game matures. It always comes back to his hands. His hands are outstanding, maybe even ridiculous and that’s why he’s a first-round pick for me.
The Bruins like to have size, always have and Afanasyev is a great blend of size and skill that would fit perfectly in the Bruins system. Turn on the highlight reel below and just marvel at the mitts on this kid.
What’s immediately noticeable about Afanasyev is his 6-foot-4 frame and his high skill level. He’s a very coordinated puck handler for a big man who can make the flashy, between-the-legs play and toe drag. He gains the zone with skill quite often. Afannasyev also has a very hard shot, and is able to finish chances and ring iron from mid-distance. He’s not a perfect player by any means, but his strengths standout, make him valuable and could lead to him scoring in the NHL. — Corey Pronman (The Athletic)
Moments after Elliotte Friedman came out with his report that the Leafs and Ottawa were discussing a deal, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston tweeted that it’s believed that RFA defenceman Cody Ceci would be coming back the other way.
What Does This Mean?
Ceci’s perceived value in Ottawa, like Zaitsev’s in Toronto, is a point of contention within the fan base and, with that in mind, many in Leafs Nation could be scared away by this potential trade. The thing is, however, it’s more likely than not that the Leafs will flip Ceci to another team immediately upon acquiring him. Right-handed defencemen are a hot commodity these days, and surely the Leafs would have no shortage of suitors for Ceci.
In fact, Ceci probably has a higher trade value than Zaitsev at the moment, given how he’s a pending restricted free agent and two years younger, and as the Leafs try to add more right-handed defenceman to their blue-line (right now, Justin Holl is the lone right-shot on the backend), Ceci could conceivably garner them more than Zaitsev.
If the Leafs were to trade Zaitsev for Ceci, and then flip him for, say, a depth defenceman and some sort of pick or prospect, that would be a heck of a lot better than having to staple some sort of hot commodity with Zaitsev in order for a team to take on his contract.
If this deal does come to fruition, and Toronto (inevitably) finds a suitor for Ceci, this could turn out to be a huge win for the Leafs. Stay tuned.
The Winnipeg Jets announced this afternoon that they’ve made qualifying offers to goaltender Eric Comrie, forwards Patrik Laine, Andrew Copp, Kyle Connor and to defensemen Nelson Nogier and Neal Pionk. Missing from the list of players receiving qualifying offers are Nathan Beaulieu, Marko Dano, Joe Morrow and AHLers Ken Appleby and Jimmy Oligny.
Despite not receiving qualifying offers, it’s important to make the distinction that these players are not necessarily being let go from the organization, rather they may still receive offers at a later date and at a lesser rate than their current contracts. This has been done in the past with players like Joe Morrow, and could likely be done again with defenseman Nathan Beaulieu.
In addition to today’s announcement of qualifying offers, the Jets have also released the 2019-2020 schedule, which includes a season opener with the New York Rangers on October 3rd, their home opener on October 10th with the Minnesota Wild and the Heritage Classic in Regina on October 26th. In addition to these notable dates, they will also face off in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche for the New Years Eve game. Promotional/special events days have not yet been announced.
If that wasn’t enough excitement in one day, it was also announced that Matt Hendricks has made the decision to retire from the NHL with the 2018-2019 season being his last. Over the course of his 11 year NHL career, Hendricks played for the Jets during the 2017-2018 season as well as 4 games in the 2018-2019 season after being acquired at the trade deadline in February. While his production left much to be desired, Hendricks is always talked about fondly as a great locker room guy, and someone the team enjoyed having around. He will be joining the Minnesota Wild’s player development program.
The Calgary Flames kick off their annual development camp next week at Winsport. In addition to the many prospects that readers are familiar with, the club has invited 15 players on try-outs. We’ve dug into these players to let you know who these mystery men are.
A teammate of Filip Sveningsson’s last season with IK Oskarshamn of Sweden’s secondary pro league, HockeyAllsvenskan, 22-year-old goaltender Christoffer Rifalk has a contract for next season with the SHL’s Rogle BK. That said, he’s coming off a superb season with Oskarshamn – he posted a .929 save percentage and 1.94 goals against average in the regular season – and helped his team win the promotional playoffs to get into the SHL. Four of the goalies in the Flames’ system have expiring contracts after 2019-20 and will be restricted free agents – Artyom Zagidulin, Nick Schneider, Jon Gillies and Tyler Parsons – so it makes sense for them to keep their options open.
Formerly of Timra IK, the team that IK Oskarshamn knocked out of the SHL, defenseman Johannes Kinnvall will be playing the upcoming season with HV71. He had 22 points in the SHL last season as a 21-year-old, leading his age group in points by a defender and placing eighth among all skaters in his age group.
On the blueline, the Flames have invited Brown University senior (and captain) Zach Guittari and Michigan State red-shirt senior Jerad Rosberg. Guittari had 20 points in 34 games as a junior. Rosberg missed his entire freshman season with an injury and had 16 points in 36 games last season. Both players are 23. They’re joined by Michigan State junior Tommy Miller (20), who had four points last season in 36 games.
University of Connecticut senior (and captain) Ben Freeman leads the college forward groups. The 6’5″, 205 pound right winger had 16 points last season and attended Flames development camp last summer. Brown University sophomore Tristan Crozier (21) and Ohio State senior Ronnie Hein (22) round out the college skaters.
As you might expect given that they own a WHL team, the Flames are bringing in a lot of undrafted junior players – five of the six invites are from the Dub.
Edmonton Oil Kings forward David Kope, Baie-Comeau Drakkar blueliner Christopher Merisier-Ortiz and Calgary Hitmen defender Jackson van de Leest all went undrafted in the latest draft, which was each of their first time through. Kope’s a good two-way player with size (6’5″, 165 pounds), Merisier-Ortiz is rangy and played with former Flames prospect D’Artagnan Joly, and van de Leest (6’6″, 223 pounds) did everything but score a ton for the Hitmen last season.
Forward Andrew Fyten just aged out of the WHL after stints with the Hitmen, Oil Kings and Swift Current Broncos, where he played with Flames farmhand Glenn Gawdin on a WHL Championship squad. He could be looking for an AHL gig and while he might not have supreme skill, he brings a great motor and could be a fourth line fit for Stockton. Hitmen forward James Malm played with Milos Roman in Vancouver before being traded to Calgary. He’s small (5’9″, 174 pounds) but plays the game at full speed and is a great forechecker. Kamloops blueliner Montana Onyebuchi has size (6’3″, 209 pounds) and plays a smash-mouth style. He played with Dustin Wolf in Everett.
As a reminder, under the CBA any of the junior players with remaining draft eligibility can be signed by an NHL club (like the Flames) as a free agent before the first day of the junior season.
Keep an eye on…
The two Swedes, Rifalk and Kinnvall, are legit prospects. Of the remainder, it’ll be interesting to see if Fyten can stand out against the older college players and if the towering van de Leest can make an impression as one of the youngest players in the camp.