While that defense might be one of the better ones in the Western Conference, the Flames are hopeful that Smith can help solidify a goaltending position that was a major question mark this past season and a significant weakness for much of it.
It’s not only a big move for the Flames, but it also seems to be an exciting one for Smith as he goes from a team in a clear rebuild mode that hasn’t made the playoffs in five years to one that suddenly has Stanley Cup aspirations.
On Monday, Smith was asked about what it is like for him going from a team that was constantly surrounded by uncertainty off the ice and what it will be like to play for a team that wants to keep getting closer to a Stanley Cup.
“It’s a breath of fresh air,” said Smith. “It’s something I have been begging for quite some time now. I am a competitor, and I want to win real bad. I feel like this move is an opportunity and a challenge and I am going to take it on full steam. I really respect this team, playing against them is always a challenge. I look forward to being on this side of it and helping this team be real successful.”
Smith spent the past six seasons in Arizona, compiling a .916 save percentage during that time. He is coming off of a 2016-17 season that saw him go 19-26-9 in 55 games with a .914 save percentage.
Flames goalies finished the season with a .910 mark as Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson spent most of the season splitting time in the crease. Neither goalie will be back this season making it the second year in a row they have completely overhauled the position.
With a defense that figures to be one of the best in the Western Conference and an offense led by young stars Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Matthew Tkachuk the Flames are clearly in a win-now mode. That is going to put a ton of pressure on Smith to solidify the position. That pressure does not seem to bother him.
“The position calls for that,” said Smith, via the Flames’ website. “I’ve taken it upon myself to be that guy, every time I go on the ice.
“I’m one guy who wears his heart on his sleeve. I want to win so bad that sometimes it can work against me. I think, though, with experience in the league I’ve learned how to handle that, how to be a solid force back there. I think I can bring some leadership, be a calming influence back there.”
Monday was the deadline for teams to extend qualifying offers to pending restricted free agents, and there were a number of notable ones to not receive such an offer from their teams, making them eligible for unrestricted free agency on July 1.
Among some of the bigger names to not receive offers were Washington Capitals forward Brett Connolly, St. Louis Blues forward Nail Yakupov, New Jersey Devils forward Beau Bennett, Colorado Avalanche forward Mikhail Grigorenko, and Calgary Flames forward Alex Chiasson.
Connolly scored 15 goals in only 66 games for the Capitals this season, and it sounds like even though he did not receive a qualifying offer on Monday the team would still like to re-sign him.
Playing in his first season with the Devils, Bennett set new career highs in games played (65), goals (eight), assists (11) and total points (19) but it was not enough to get him a qualifying offer so he will head to the UFA market.
Chiasson is an interesting one because he was a regular in the Flames’ lineup this past season, appearing in all but one game and scoring 12 goals.
Yakupov is notable because he was a No. 1 overall pick back in 2012 and has simply never been able to become a consistent impact player in the NHL. He played in 40 games for the Blues this season, scoring only three goals and recording just six assists.
Overall, it was a rough day for the 2012 draft class. Yakupov was one of four first-round picks from that class to not get a qualifying offer on Monday as Mikhail Grigorenko (No. 12 overall), Henrik Samuelsson (No. 27 overall) and Stefan Matteau (No. 29 overall) all joined him.
Grigorenko was originally drafted No. 12 overall by Buffalo but was traded to Colorado as part of the Ryan O'Reilly trade, a deal that has, to say the least, not worked out at all for the Avalanche.
Samuelsson to this point has only played in three NHL games.
Matteau, selected by the Devils, was traded to Montreal for Devante Smith-Pelly a year ago.
Joe Morrow was not given a qualifying offer by the Boston Bruins meaning every piece they originally acquired as part of the Tyler Seguin trade will no longer be with the organization. The only link remaining to Seguin is forward Jimmy Hayes (he was acquired for Reilly Smith, who was a part of the original Seguin trade).
Andrej Nestrasil was also not given an offer by the Carolina Hurricanes, which probably should not be a surprise given his comments back in March.
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) As Nico Hischier is discovering, being taken No. 1 in the NHL Draft has its perks.
Since being selected by the New Jersey Devils with the top pick Friday night, Hischier has flown from Chicago to New Jersey, watched the New York Red Bulls play a MLS game and gone to a New York Yankees game.
And that was just Saturday and Sunday.
The Swiss center did a radio show Monday morning, met Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, visited a famous city deli to eat a new sandwich named after him and held his first major press conference at the Prudential Center, the home of the Devils.
And if you are wondering about the 2017-18 season, general manager Ray Shero says the Devils are keeping a roster spot open for Hischier. No pressure.
At least that’s what Shero and coach John Hynes are telling the kid. There’s no pressure at all.
“It’s great,” Hischier said. “Obviously as the first pick you have some pressure, but to hear that guys that are close to you and from the organization say there is actually no pressure from them, it’s all that counts.”
Hischier plans to return to Switzerland soon and start training for next season. He has a Devils development camp on July 11.
When asked about his goals for next season, Hischier says make the team and go from there.
Hynes, who saw the Devils finish last in the 16-team Eastern Conference this past season, sees Hischier as a second-or-third line center at the start of training camp. He expects to put at least one veteran on his line, adding that chemistry may determine Hischier’s linemates.
It’s a starting point.
Hynes said Hischier is competitive, skates well and knows the game. He can also play on the power play and kill penalties.
“We’re counting on him and planning on him to be a real important part of our team,” Hynes said.
Shero was quick to point out that the Devils are not expecting Hischier to put up monster numbers like Connor McDavid of Edmonton or Austin Matthews of Toronto, the last two top picks. They were franchise makers.
“The expectation we have for Nico is to be himself and I will say it will make a difference,” Shero said.
Hischier had 38 goals and 86 points in 57 games with the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League this past season. He played the previous two seasons in the Swiss professional league.
Shero views him an unselfish player who has the ability to make the other players on the ice better.
“He is not coming here to be the savior,” said Shero, whose team won 28 of 82 games in 2016-17, and missed the playoffs the past five seasons.
Shero added it is unfair to put pressure on an 18-year-old to make a major difference in the Devils next season, joking he can’t even get his 19-year-old son to respond to the pressure of taking out the garbage at home.
“I know what I can do, but I still know I have to work hard for that,” said Hischier, who does not think he will have a hard time adjusting from living in Switzerland and Halifax to live in the New York City metropolitan area.
And if he did, Hynes offered him a solution.
“You can stay at my house and take out the trash,” he quipped.
NOTES: Hischier visited Hobby’s Delicatessen and Restaurant a couple of blocks from the Prudential Center and ate the new item on the menu: “The New Nico (hash)1. It’s grilled chicken, authentic Swiss cheese, red Jersey tomatoes with lettuce, onions, honey mustard and mayo on roll.
Paul Kariya probably had to wait a couple of years longer than he should have to get his induction into the Hall of Fame, but it was at least fitting that the wait allowed him to enter alongside his long-time running mate, Teemu Selanne.
Both players were among the class of seven inducted into the Hall of Fame on Monday. They spent several years alongside one another in Anaheim (plus one year in Colorado) and were one of the most lethal offensive duos the NHL has ever seen.
The magic they were able to work on the ice together was simply incredible, and at times jaw-dropping.
Selanne said on Monday that he played some of his best years in the NHL alongside Kariya, while added that he would not be getting the call without his years alongside Selanne.
Their production together can not be understated.
Between the 1995-96 and 2000-01 seasons, the years they spent together in Anaheim, 35 percent of the Ducks goals were scored by one of those two players.
What is most incredible about that production is that Kariya only played in 395 out of 492 games due to injury, while Selanne only played in 382 after being acquired in a mid-season trade in 1995 and then traded during the 2001 season.
While Selanne had the ultimate combination of sustained dominance and longevity in his career to make him one of the NHL’s all-time leading goal scorers and point producers, Kariya’s career came to an unfortunate and premature end due to concussion issues. While his final stat line may not stack up among the NHL’s all-time greats, he was one of the league’s most dominant offensive players for more than a decade.
Kariya said on Monday that it took him a year after his retirement to feel normal again, but that he is now no longer having headaches.
He also mentioned that while the NHL seems to be heading in the right direction when it comes to player safety, but that targeted head shots have no place in the game and he would like to see them eliminated.