Expect a drastically different Pacific division next season

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for nabbyandmarleau.jpgIt’s safe to say that just about every NHL team will see at least moderate changes this summer. Yet, when I was putting together some free agent articles (not to mention thumbing through posts about ownership changes around the league), it dawned on me that the Pacific division – in particular – will look very, very different next season.

In fact, let’s take a look at the division team-by-team to see just how drastic the changes might be.

Phoenix Coyotes

Let’s start with the most obvious situation. Naturally, there’s the team’s tumultuous ownership situation. But even beyond that, there are some big decisions they need to make regarding their on-ice product, with free agents including Lee Stempniak, Zbynek Michalek, Matthew Lombardi (unrestricted) and Wojtek Wolski (restricted). Even if the Coyotes stay in the desert, things will be very different.

San Jose Sharks

The Sharks will have to let someone go, it’s just a matter of which players they choose to retain. They have key young players (Devin Setoguchi, Joe Pavelski) and veterans (Patrick Marleau, Evgeni Nabokov) who could depart due to free agency. I’m not sure that the Sharks reign as the dominant Pacific division team is over, but it may be threatened.

Dallas Stars

Considering the fact that the Tom Hicks ownership era is nearing an end, it’s difficult to imagine the Stars committing much payroll to getting better. The roster could look very different in 10-11, anyway, though. Marty Turco is likely on the way out, Mike Modano might retire and Jere Lehtinen is also long in the tooth. Don’t forget that James Neal is a restricted free agent. It looks like it will be an end of an era (perhaps it should be called the “Remember what happened 10 years ago?” age) for the Dallas Stars.

Los Angeles Kings

The Kings finally made the playoffs for the first time in ages and now the question is whether or not they can take “the next step” to become contenders. They seem to be the odds-on favorite to land Ilya Kovalchuk, which would certainly put them on the map. Whether he’s worth the salary cap gamble is another discussion entirely (although I think the Kings are one of the most logical destinations, beyond the big-money offer[s] from the KHL).

Anaheim Ducks

It could also be the end of an era for the Ducks. Scott Niedermayer, Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu might retire. Bobby Ryan is a restricted free agent (but I’d guess he’ll be back).

Every division will see some change this summer, but the Pacific is practically in an uproar. It should be a very interesting off-season for all five teams.

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    These 2017 NHL Draft picks lacked hype … but not swagger

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    The interview process for draft prospects must be a real beating. Then again, it’s also an opportunity or hopefuls to push back.

    In the case of two smaller prospects, it meant providing some swagger in their answers, possibly impressing their new teams. If nothing else, Kailer Yamamoto and Michael DiPietro generated some refreshingly confident quotes.

    One would assume that the Edmonton Oilers picked Yamamoto with the 22nd choice for more than just a great answer alone … but still.

    Nice, right?

    Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek related a similar story about DiPietro, who the Vancouver Canucks nabbed with the 64th pick.

    Funny story: When one team at the NHL told him “We don’t think you can play in the NHL with our team, you’re too small” at the combine, he fired back with “well, I guess you have a problem with winning, then.” How do you not like that?

    If nothing else, those two aren’t shy.

    As a bonus story, check out the bumpy path Will Reilly – aka the “Mr. Irrelevant” of the 2017 NHL Draft – took to being chosen last overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins, via Puck Daddy’s Sean Leahy. From the sound of things, there are worse feelings than going 217th.

    The 2017 NHL Draft may have been “pumped down” from a hype perspective, yet it sounds like many of these prospects at least bring some moxie to the table.

    Kings, Golden Knights labeled 2017 NHL Draft winners; Bruins, not so much

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    It’s nearly certain that we won’t be able to determine the “winners and losers” of the 2017 NHL Draft until, say, 2022. If not later.

    Still, what fun is that?

    Quite a few outlets pegged some winners and losers, though sometimes the choices were more about themes like nations or player types than specific teams.

    For example: Puck Daddy gives a thumbs down to the “green room” experiment.

    Let’s take a look at some of the consensus picks.

    Winners

    Vegas Golden Knights

    GM George McPhee was dealt a bad hand when it comes to the lottery draft, so he instead made his own luck. And then he selected three players who could improve this team going forward.

    Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek especially liked the last two of their three first-rounders (Nick Suzuki and Erik Brannstrom), viewing Cody Glass as more of a no-brainer. Plenty of others were on board.

    Los Angeles Kings

    Gabe Vilardi fell to Los Angeles, whether it was because of shaky skating or some other reason. That potential steal (and some other shrewd moves) impressed the Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy, who assembled draft profiles for PHT.

    Again, Vilardi’s loss was considered the Kings’ gain, as slower skaters were considered losers by the likes of Post Media’s Michael Traikos.

    Philadelphia Flyers

    Boy, Ron Hextall is good at this thing, isn’t he? Philly drew high marks even beyond the layup of landing Nolan Patrick. The main area of disagreement revolved around the Brayden Schenn trade, though plenty came out on Hextall’s side there, too.

    Arizona Coyotes

    Boy, that negative press didn’t last long, did it? Between landing Niklas Hjalmarsson, Derek Stepan, and Antti Raanta in trades and savvy picks, they were a popular choice.

    Themes

    Smaller players, Sweden, and Finland drew semi-serious mentions as “winners.”

    Losers

    Boston Bruins

    The perception is that they played it too safe.

    Colorado Avalanche, for now?

    OK, this was more about draft weekend than picks, but people are criticizing Joe Sakic for standing pat. That could change, but the negative sentiment is there.

    Detroit Red Wings

    Another common choice. Some believe that their draft was the worst of them all, which isn’t great considering the declining opinion of GM Ken Holland overall.

    New York Rangers

    Lias Andersson was viewed as a reach by plenty, and his connection to the trade to Arizona might intensify the scrutiny.

    Themes

    Not a great draft for Russian-born players and/or guys who don’t skate quite swiftly.

    ***

    So, those are some of the near-consensus choices for winners and losers, via the brave souls who made rapid reactions to the 2017 NHL Draft.

    Ducks ink D Holzer to two-year deal reportedly worth $1.8M

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    As the dust settled on the expansion draft, the Anaheim Ducks’ defense is coming into focus.

    Sunday continued that pattern; the Ducks signed Korbinian Holzer to a two-year contract worth $1.8 million, according to TVA’s Renaud Lavoie.

    You can break down the Ducks defense as more expensive players (Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, Cam Fowler, and Kevin Bieksa) and cheaper ones (Holzer, Brandon Montour, and Josh Manson).

    Only Vatanen, Lindholm and Holzer see contracts that go beyond 2017-18 – at least without an extension yet for the likes of Fowler and Manson – so Holzer provides a little bit of certainty.

    Is the $900K a minor overpay, though? Holzer played in 32 games for the Ducks this season after appearing in 29 in 2015-16. His impact has been pretty minimal, generating seven points while averaging 13:31 in ice time per contest (down from 14:45 the previous season).

    Granted he may get more opportunities to show what he’s capable of if the Ducks lose another piece. Then again, at 29, the Ducks likely know what they have.

    2017 Hockey Hall of Fame class to be named Monday; Selanne + who?

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    The 2017 Hockey Hall of Fame class is expected to be announced on Monday, and every indication is that Teemu Selanne will be on the list. Beyond that, well, there are a lot of question marks.

    NHL.com notes that there’s at least a possibility that Selanne will be the only NHL name to be part of this class, which would mark a first since 2010 (when Dino Ciccarelli was the lone addition).

    It’s a nice way to continue what’s been a buffet for hockey fans: the 2017 Stanley Cup Final’s conclusion, the expansion draft and then the 2017 NHL Draft. The HHOF announcements are a nice appetizer before free agency gets, well, frenzied?

    “The Finnish Flash” was also an obvious top choice in last year’s poll to see who should be in the class.

    Now, that doesn’t mean he is the only interesting name.

    For one thing, Daniel Alfredsson will be eligible for the first time, much like Selanne. “Alf” falls in the “Maybe” category with some interesting, debatable other options: Mark Recchi, Dave Andreychuk, Alex Mogilny, Jeremy Roenick, Paul Kariya, Chris Osgood, and more.

    The 2016 Hockey Hall of Fame class included Eric Lindros, Rogie Vachon, Sergei Makarov, and Pat Quinn.