PHT at Wachovia: My first day in the media

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Everyone has a first time. First step. First day at school. First day
at college, away from the parents. First sip of a brewski. First..well,
you know.

Yesterday was my first day as a member of the
credentialed media.

Despite what they might say, most members of
the hockey media were one-time hockey fans just like you and me.
Covering the sport from the vantage point of the media means entering a
world you never thought you would have had the chance to. Despite
outwardly being as calm, professional and as even-keeled as possible
it’s still amazing to think you have access to speak with players you’ve
been watching, playing the sport you’ve devoted so much time to.

I
had the opportunity to attend yesterday’s game between the Philadelphia
Flyers and the Detroit Red Wings as part of NBC’s Game of the Week
coverage. It was a two-part trip; for one, I had the chance to meet with
and visit with the NBC production crew with whom Pro Hockey Talk has
been working so closely with each week. I also had the chance to cover
the game for PHT from the press box and the locker room, getting some
inside access to a big game with major playoff implications.

First
off, I want to point something out. I know that the NBC broadcast
catches a fair amount of flak from hockey fans, but I can tell you that
this is a group of people that truly care about putting the best product
they can on your screen. It’s not easy to cater to the hardcore hockey
fan while trying to present the game to the casual viewer as well.

Of
everything that happened yesterday, getting to meet Doc Emrick was
easily the highlight. The man has command of the room, despite how
low-key he is. Everyone around him has tremendous respect for the man
and it was easy to see why: he treats everyone exactly the same. He
knows everyone’s name and he acknowledges every person he comes across.
Truly and honor and a delight to meet the man.

The other part of
the trip was covering the game from the press box. For every fan that
may be jealous of the media getting to see every game, know that they
aren’t seeing the game from the best viewing angle. We were pretty much
looking straight down on the ice from the highest spot in the arena; I
couldn’t see the ice unless I put my laptop screen down and leaned
forward. Not complaining, far from it. Just saying.

Aside from the
free popcorn and coffee, not much else to share about the press box.
Some observational notes: the Red Wings scouts sitting behind me were
very vocal, and it made watching the game that much more interesting.
They were outwardly critical of anything happening on the ice; very
entertaining. It was also great to get to see a number of long-time
media members in person, after following their work for so long.

After
the game, came the part of the day I was dreading: the locker room.
I’ve covered a number of NHL events before, but never a game, and was
unsure exactly what the eitiquette was for approaching players in the
locker room after the game. Obviously, they’re tired, sweaty and just
want to take a shower and go home but we also want to get some nice
quotes from them. That’s just how it works. And post-game generally
isn’t the best time to get good stuff from players, unless you’re just
looking for some stuff about the game that was just played. Or if you’re
talking to R.J. Umberger, I hear he’s great for post-game quotes.

I
needn’t worry, however. With a such a big game being played, in Philly
no less, there was a large contingent of media present. When I got down
to the locker room, there was already sizable crowds around Dan Carcillo
and Chris Pronger. So I just joined them. What I found funny was that
as soon as Pronger started talking, after Carcillo had talked for a bit,
he was instantly deserted for the defensemen. It was just a mass exodus
from one side of the locker room to the other.

I couldn’t get close.

Pronger.jpg

Everyone is
crowding around Pronger, while Brian Boucher quietly takes his pads off
right next to them. No one even approaches him.

When everyone left
Carcillo’s locker, I stuck around to see if I could get some extra
one-on-one stuff. He was very talkative, and I was able to get some
great quotes from him about what was going on during the scrum he was
having with Tomas Holmstrom. I headed back up to the press box to type
up the quotes for the recap, only to find out that my recorder didn’t
record anything. Not a sound, not even static. The file was there, when I
was recording the red light was one, I could see the time ticking
away…just no sound. That’s what I get for using a brand new recorder, I
guess.

I took notes, but the last thing I wanted on my first day
with credentials was to get accused of mis-quoting a player. So I used
what I had, and was unable to use what I wanted.

To finish, here
are a couple of lessons I learned yesterday:

-If you dress nicely,
you will not be mistaken to be a member of the media. Nope. In fact,
you will constantly be asked if you are the PR director for the Flyers.

-Ever
been the brand new kid at high school, starting at a brand new school
in the middle of the semester? Everyone knows everyone, everyone knows
where to go and you don’t know jack. I’ve been there when I was 16, and I
was right back there again yesterday.

-If you get lost, ask
someone. They’re helpful.

-Carcillo is nowhere near as big as I
thought he was.

-Never, ever bring a brand new recorder to the
biggest day of your life.

-If you dress nice, act professionally
and keep to yourself…players, PR and the team will treat you just
fine.

Photo: Fan goes extra mile with Connor McDavid tattoo

via Connor McDavid's Instagram
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Fan comes from the word “fanatic.” Sometimes it’s easy to forget that amid milder displays of sports interest … and then there are those times when that term almost seems insufficient.

Edmonton Oilers superstar Connor McDavid has already encountered awkward fan love in the form of that wonderful photo that went viral. That hasn’t scared him off, yet, as he praised a fan’s very detailed tattoo of McDavid via his Instagram account.

Again, the level of detail is really … something:

How about those Oiler fans… Shoutout to @kyleghostkeeper and the great work by @q_tattoos #crazy

A post shared by Connor Mcdavid (@mcdavid97) on

It’s been a busy time for McDavid, who recently posed for a photo with star Canadian athletes Eugenie Bouchard and Aaron Sanchez:

Good time yesterday with the @rogers crew! ⚾️🎾🏒 #RogersCup

A post shared by Connor Mcdavid (@mcdavid97) on

TSN has a fun cross-sports video of McDavid teaching them to shoot pucks, if you’re interested.

Predators spend big on Ryan Johansen: eight years, $64M

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Much was made about Ryan Johansen really establishing himself as a No. 1 center who could compete with the likes of Ryan Getzlaf and Jonathan Toews during the Nashville Predators’ 2017 Stanley Cup Final run.

The Predators will pay him as such, as they announced a whopping eight-year, $64 million contract on Friday. That’s $8M per season for Johansen, who turns 25 on July 31.

It’s the largest deal signed in franchise history, although that can feel a touch misleading in how it really functions. After all, P.K. Subban‘s cap hit is higher at $9M and they once matched that massive Shea Weber offer sheet. The bottom line is that Johansen joins Subban and Pekka Rinne ($7M) as Nashville’s most expensive players.

The trio of Johansen, Filip Forsberg ($6M), and Viktor Arvidsson ($4.25M) carries a combined cap hit of $18.25 million.

News of Johansen signing a new deal first came from The Tennessean’s Adam Vignan.

Check out this post about how impressive the Predators’ salary structure looked before Johansen’s deal came down. Cap Friendly estimates that Nashville’s cap space goes down to $5.44 million after the signing, which adds some risk to this group but still looks wisely constructed overall.

The good and bad of Canadiens’ cap situation

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Whether you view Mark Streit as Andrei Markov’s replacement or not, the bottom line is that the Montreal Canadiens didn’t bring Markov back.

That decision closes the book on one of the Habs’ biggest mandatory decisions, though with a Cap Friendly estimate of almost $8.5 million in cap space, GM Marc Bergevin’s work may continue.

Even so, saving money on Markov seems like a decent excuse to examine the team’s salary cap situation as a whole, so let’s do just that.

A cheap, impressive group of forwards

Alex Radulov will be missed; there’s little doubting that.

Even so, handing that much term to an aging forward doesn’t seem to be Bergevin’s M.O. If nothing else, the best thing about his work is how affordable Montreal’s high-quality forwards are.

That’s especially true if Bergevin resists the urge to trade Alex Galchenyuk, who still has room to grow at 23, and who’s likely to be a bargain at $4.9 million for three seasons. Along with providing serious talent, Galchenyuk could take some of the heat off of Jonathan Drouin, who carries a lot of pressure for a 22-year-old making $5.5M through 2022-23.

Personally, those two seem like prime candidates to parallel Max Pacioretty‘s sublime steal of $4.5M, though maybe not to the same splendid degree.

Pacioretty’s contract began in 2013-14, and the fun continues until it expires after 2018-19. He’ll be 30 and a UFA by then, so that could be quite the headache for Montreal … but at least they’re enjoying huge savings before that problem comes.

And, hey, maybe it will be time for “Patches” to step into a calmer atmosphere by then, anyway …

The Habs feature two other significant forward contracts: Andrew Shaw (26 years old, $3.9M through 2021-22) and Brendan Gallagher (25, $3.75M through 2020-21). While Shaw has the rings, Gallagher is the most enticing of the two, at least as far as how high one’s ceiling can go.

A void down the middle?

Looking at shorter-term deals, Tomas Plekanec‘s $6M expiring after 2017-18 is especially fascinating.

Center is a weak spot for the Canadiens, and that could linger if Claude Julien can’t make things work with Galchenyuk and/or Drouin. Plekanec is already 34, so what would the future hold, especially if he wants something close to his current salary again?

Again, while there are certainly questions to answer, the Habs have done a commendable job putting together an affordable fleet of quality forwards.

Now to the scarier stuff.

On Aug. 16, Carey Price turns 30. The 2017-18 season represents his last at a relative bargain clip of $6.5M. After that, the Canadiens are betting big that he can remain an all-world goalie; he carries a $10.5M cap hit from 2018-19 to 2025-26. Yikes.

Oddly enough, Shea Weber‘s birthday is Aug. 14, when he’ll turn 32. Weber’s 14-year pact still has long legs, as he’ll carry a $7.857 million cap hit through 2025-26. Yikes again.

Slow burn

When it comes to the defensive side, the Canadiens might not be the most … mobile bunch, especially after parting ways with solid depth guy Nathan Beaulieu and prospect Mikhail Sergachev.

At 39, Mark Streit doesn’t exactly add fresh legs to a group that could get old in a few years. Your mileage will vary regarding how positive an impact you expect from Weber and new signing Karl Alzner. If things go awry, one would expect some serious griping about the exits of Markov, Alexei Emelin, Beaulieu, and even Sergachev.

(At least there’s Jeff Petry, who seems to gain approval from just about everyone. Just about.)

For the next three seasons, the Canadiens are on the hook for Weber, Petry, Alzner, and David Schlemko for about $20 million combined. Beginning in 2018-19, that defense and Price would cost about $30.5 million.

That combination could turn into a real problem, really fast.

***

Then again, it’s not as bad if you look at the situation in a more “instant gratification” way.

Weber still has value now, and Alzner adds experience at a reasonable age. Few coaches can optimize such a defense like Julien can, and things could really cook if Price is Price and those forwards get at least some room to breathe.

And, hey, that $8M and change could be put to interesting use. Did you hear that Jaromir Jagr wanted to be a member of the Habs not so long ago?

It’s easy to see gloom and doom in the forecast, yet for next season, the outlook is fairly sunny. Bergevin’s made his mistakes, but this should be a fascinating team to watch in 2017-18.

Hobey Baker winner Will Butcher would consider offer from Penguins

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Instead of signing with the Colorado Avalanche – the team that drafted him – Will Butcher will reportedly test free agency starting on Aug. 15.

The Hobey Baker Award-winning defenseman would make sense for an array of NHL teams, really, with the Chicago Blackhawks and Toronto Maple Leafs mentioned among early considerations.

So, what about the Pittsburgh Penguins, a team that’s lost some talent on the blueline and has enjoyed some success with NCAA products? Well, it remains to be seen if the defending repeat champions would be interested in Butcher’s services, but the defenseman’s agent told Josh Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that they would certainly listen.

“If they happen to call,” Brian Bartlett said. “I’m sure we’d answer the phone.”

Mackey notes some of the successful college players the Penguins have deployed.

There’s familiarity here, too: Bartlett also represents former college players and current Penguins Bryan Rust (Notre Dame), Scott Wilson (UMass-Lowell) and Josh Archibald (Nebraska-Omaha).

Bartlett also claims that Butcher, 22, wouldn’t demand an immediate spot on an NHL roster. That’s nice to hear … although you wonder if a team offering as much would get a better chance to land him, especially since entry-level contract limits mean that a “bidding war” would come down to what team, situation, and location he’d prefer.

Considering the possibility for a nice reward and the fairly limited risk involved, plenty of teams should be interested in Butcher. It sounds like the interest would be mutual if the Penguins were one of those suitors.

One way or another, we’ll likely learn more in a bit more than two weeks.

Update: The Athletic’s Craig Custance reports that the Detroit Red Wings are interested in Butcher, too.