The Coyotes were in need of a big win tonight and if you had Vernon Fiddler in your non-existent pool of “who would lead the charge” tonight against Calgary to get the win, then you’d be a very hysterical gambler. Fiddler’s hat trick helped the Coyotes earn the win over the Flames tonight in Glendale 5-4.
Still-unsigned RFA Tobias Rieder is currently loving life as a member of Team Europe’s surprising World Cup entry.
His life with the Arizona Coyotes is less idyllic, though.
Over the weekend, Rieder’s agent told the Arizona Republic his client won’t attend Coyotes training camp after the World Cup is over, the latest move in what’s been a contentious negotiation that’s lasted the entire offseason.
“We’ve made them a fair offer at two years at $2.5 million a year, and they’re unwilling to do it,” Darren Ferris explained. “Tobi brings a lot of intangibles to that team. I know he’s a fan favorite.
“He loves Arizona, but it’s disappointing that they’re unwilling to compensate this kid fairly.”
Coyotes GM John Chayka called the decision ‘disappointing,’ saying that he wouldn’t comment on negotiation specifics publicly.
(Of course, Chayka did tell the Republic the Coyotes made “some real considerable long-term offers that are right on par with the longest offers we’ve ever made in this organization.” Which would classify as a negotiating specific, no?)
According to an earlier Arizona Sports report, Rieder was seeking a two-year, $5.5 million deal, one that carries a $2.75M average annual cap hit. That would be a sizeable raise from the $925,000 he made on his now expired entry-level deal.
Per that same report, the Coyotes were offering “somewhere between $2 million and $2.3 million per year on a two-year deal.”
Rieder, who turned 23 in January, would seem to have reasonably good value. He’s coming off a career year with personal bests in goals (14) and assists (23), and is a very quick skater that can play up and down the lineup.
There have been rumblings of a potential KHL move, though Ferris said Rieder’s No. 1 goal is to stick in the NHL. The next big date for the Rieder situation is Dec. 1 — if RFAs are still unsigned by then, they’re ineligible to play for the remainder of the NHL campaign.
The big NHL news over the weekend came when the agent for Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba announced on Saturday night that his client, still unsigned as a restricted free agent, is requesting a trade from the team so he can put himself into a better position to fully develop as a player.
The Jets responded by saying that they are working to resolve the matter but are going to operate with the team’s best long-term interests in mind, and that they still view Trouba as a long-term piece of their team. As we have seen over the past year, trade requests don’t always turn into a trade, even in situations where the player-team relationship seemed beyond repair as was the case with Jonathan Drouin and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
But if the Jets do end up making a trade, Trouba should be an attractive player to several teams around the NHL. He is still only 22 years old, is years away from unrestricted free agency, is already a very good player, and has the right handed shot teams covet on the blue line. Players that fit that description do not come available very often.
Let’s take a look at four potential spots that could make the most sense for Trouba.
The Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks would be an interesting spot because it’s not like they need an upgrade on their blue line, because it’s already a pretty good group. But this is still a destination that would make some sense. Here’s why: The word out of Winnipeg over the weekend is that the Jets’ asking price for Trouba is going to be a comparable defenseman to Trouba that also happens to be a left-handed shot. Part of the reason Trouba is requesting a trade is that he is right-handed and the Jets already have a couple of right-handed shots on their roster. The Ducks have that exact defenseman in Hampus Lindholm. And it just so happens that, he too, is still an unsigned restricted free agent.
Boston Bruins: Now we start getting into the teams that really do need somebody like Trouba. Once one of the top defensive teams in the NHL, the Bruins’ defense has now become their weakest link because of the talent they have lost (Johnny Boychuk and Dougie Hamilton) and the players that have gotten older and are simply no longer the players they were in recent years (Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg before he was bought out this summer and became a free agent). Making matters worse is the Bruins really haven’t done anything to address this is a meaningful way over the past two years and coach Claude Julien’s approach to fixing it seems to simply be “play better.” You know what helps teams play better? Having better players, and Trouba would absolutely be a fit here.
New York Rangers: Another team whose defense taken several steps backwards over the past two years has, especially when you compare it to the unit that was on the ice in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final. Anton Stralman is gone, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal are getting older and slowing down, and this past summer they lost the one puck-moving presence they had on their blue line when Keith Yandle went to the Florida Panthers. The obstacles for the Rangers when it would come to completing a deal like this would be finding the assets to make the deal, because they have already traded a ton of draft picks and prospects in recent years, and salary cap space. The Rangers do have a young left-handed defenseman in Brady Skjei, but he is not at Trouba’s level, even though both are 22.
Colorado Avalanche: After a couple of disappointing seasons the Colorado Avalanche are now entering the post-Patrick Roy era. They still have a promising group of young forwards that should be the foundation of a playoff team, but they still have some major question marks and holes on their defense. Until those get addressed it is going to continue to be a struggle for the team to return to the postseason. The downside here for Trouba would be that, like the Jets, the Avalanche do have a couple of right-shot defensemen on their team (Tyson Barrie and Erik Johnson), and they do have a ton of money invested in them. If Trouba’s goal is to go to a team that doesn’t have a surplus of right-shot blue liners so he can get a bigger role this might be a problem. But there is also an argument to be made that Trouba is already better than both of Colorado’s guys, and at the very least, better than Johnson.
Team Europe has already done more than anybody expected them to do at the World Cup by reaching the Final thanks to their stunning overtime win against Sweden in the semifinal on Sunday.
Just getting to this point, after beating the United States and Sweden — two of the world’s biggest hockey powers — along the way is a major accomplishment that would have seemed to be a nearly impossible task just two weeks ago.
Now they have one more seemingly impossible task in front of them: Beat Canada.
And not just beat Canada, but beat them twice.
In only three games.
For any team in this tournament that would have been a tall task in the championship round. Not only does Canada bring an insanely deep roster to the table that has multiple MVP candidates, Norris Trophy candidates, and Vezina Trophy candidates on it, but their recent play on the ice matches the absurdity of the roster on paper.
They don’t just win, they dominate teams.
Since the start of the 2014 Olympics this is what Team Canada has done to its opponents in the two major best-on-best tournaments it has played:
- They are 10-0
- They have outscored teams by a 36-9 margin
- They are coming off of a semifinal game against Russia where they nearly put up 50 shots on goal in a regulation game
- They have allowed more than one goal in just two of those games, and more than two goals just once
The games haven’t even been as close as the final scores would indicate because the final scores haven’t always reflected the level of dominance on display. A one or two goal deficit against these guys and their style of play usually feels like a 50 goal deficit.
On paper, this seems like it should already be over before it even begins.
But the beauty of a short series is that even when the two teams don’t match up on paper, random things can happen, mostly because of the X-factor that is goaltending.
It is going to take all of that and more to help Europe beat Canada two times over the next week.
They have already done what seemed to be the impossible to get to this point. Now they just have to do what seems to be the impossible again.
Jaroslav Halak is doing it again.
He is taking an undermanned team, one that doesn’t match up with its opponents on paper, and carrying it to a level nobody expected it to reach.
He did it during the 2010 NHL playoffs as a member of the Montreal Canadiens when he helped a No. 8 seed upset that year’s Presidents’ Trophy winning team in the first round, and then the defending Stanley Cup champions in the second round. The Canadiens were mostly outplayed in each series, but Halak was so good, and so dominant, that it didn’t matter. He was the single biggest reason his team reached the Eastern Conference Final that year.
He showed how much of an impact a hot goalie can make on a team a short series.
He is kind of doing it again this year at the World Cup for Team Europe as it is now in the championship series getting ready to take on Team Canada.
The team in front of him isn’t getting outplayed to the same degree that the 2010 Canadiens were in those playoffs, but Halak has still been his team’s best player and the biggest factor in its current success. His .946 save percentage through four games is among the best in the tournament, while his 37 save effort in the semifinal on Sunday was probably his best one so far (and that includes his opening game shutout against the United States).
The European team has its share of forward talent up front. Anze Kopitar is one of the best two-way players in hockey and has been spectacular in this tournament. Marian Gaborik and Thomas Vanek are former 40-goal scorers in the NHL, while Frans Nielsen has always been one of the more underrated players in the league.
But the defense, even with a great player like Roman Josi, doesn’t really come close to matching some other teams in the tournament.
It has two players that don’t currently have NHL contracts (Dennis Seidenberg and Christian Ehrhoff). Zdeno Chara is 38 years old and has clearly slowed down from where he was a few years ago.
As a team, they have the oldest roster in the tournament, and based on their pre-tournament games it looked like they were going to be nothing more than a minor speed bump for the rest of their teams in their group.
Put all of that together and it put a ton of pressure on Halak to be on top of his game to give his team a chance to even stay competitive, let alone win.
He has done that and more so far in the tournament, and it is the single biggest reason the team that opened the tournament as the biggest long shot to win the whole thing (33/1) is in the final.
From a big picture standpoint Halak is not the best goalie in hockey. But sometimes in a short tournament all you need is a good goalie to get on a hot streak. And he is still capable of putting together those streaks that can carry a team, and he is doing it again in this tournament just as he did in the 2010 playoffs.