Adam Larsson

Devils sign top pick Adam Larsson to three-year entry level deal; Will he play in NHL this year?

Not since 1991 and Scott Niedermayer have the Devils had a top prospect defenseman come along with as much hope and hype as 2011 top pick Adam Larsson has. Larsson was the top defensive prospect in the draft and when the Oilers, Avalanche, and Panthers all passed on him Devils GM Lou Lamoriello was more than happy to grab him fourth overall. Now they’ll get to see what they’ve really got on their hands as the Devils have signed Larsson to his three-year entry level contract.

The Devils had a bit of a time crunch to get a deal done with Larsson now as if he made it past 5 p.m. ET today, his contract with his Swedish pro team would’ve kicked in meaning the Devils would’ve had to pay out to bring him over. Instead, he signs his three year contract and avoids both costing the Devils extra money and potentially spending one more year in Sweden.

The other unique thing about Larsson’s deal is that it comes without the usual bells and whistles of performance bonuses that you see in draft pick entry level deals. Those bonuses, regardless of what they are, are included as part of the salary cap hit for the player and it helps the Devils out immensely to have Larsson agree to signing without those kickbacks. Larsson’s salary cap hit for the three seasons he sees time in the NHL will be $925,000. Larsson’s agent J.P. Barry says the deal is unique for a top ten pick.

“Everything is maximum except obviously he doesn’t have individual ‘A’ bonuses,” Barry said.

Barry said he’s never previously had a top 10 pick not have an individual bonus package as part of his entry-level contract.

“We’ve had several players in the top 10 and we’ve always had bonuses packages and even into the top 20 in many instances,” Barry said. “That’s the way the system is designed. At the same time, Lou has never given individual bonuses at any time. Obviously, the difference here is he’s never really had a top pick (since the entry-level cap system was put in place).”

 

Larsson joins a Devils team that’s in need of a solid, puck moving defenseman that can play great at both ends of the ice. Fortunately for New Jersey, Larsson fits the bill to be one of those players and they might need him to be that right away. Taking a look at the Devils defense for the upcoming season, one thing they’re severely lacking in is high-end talent.

New Jersey has Anton Volchenkov, Andy Greene, and Henrik Tallinder penciled in as their top three defensemen. With guys like Colin White, Mark Fayne, Jay Leach, and a still hurting Bryce Salvador filling out the roster for now that’s a very blue collar and not overly gifted set of players.

With the sort of game Larsson can bring to the ice, the Devils can get that solid two-way play they’ve been missing since Scott Niedermayer left town. While Larsson didn’t put up big offensive numbers, he’s got the skills to do well there as a pro and Hockey’s Future believes he’ll be a top pair defenseman in the NHL. While Larsson likes to look up to Nicklas Lidstrom (what Swedish defenseman doesn’t?) if he can make fans in New Jersey start thinking of Niedermayer, he’ll be a favorite there for a long time to come. For now, he’ll have to prove himself in training camp to see if he can earn a spot on the team.

While the Devils don’t have a head coach yet, if there’s anything we’ve learned during Lamoriello’s years running the Devils it’s that nothing is given, everything is earned. If Larsson can earn his spot in the NHL right out of camp, it’s doubtful he’ll be giving it up any time soon.

Lightning, Islanders make East playoff races even more confusing

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01: Ben Bishop #30 of the Tampa Bay Lightning makes the third period save as Ryan Strome #18 of the New York Islanders looks for a rebound at the Barclays Center on November 1, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Whenever you groan at what seems like a quiet trade market, take a step back and ask yourself this: “Who is really out of it?”

For a while there, it felt reasonable to dismiss the chances of teams like the Florida Panthers, New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning. Now? There’s probably only a handful of teams that can really be comfortable, at this very point, with calling themselves sellers.

The Islanders took care of their business with a 3-1 win against the fading (probably selling?) Detroit Red Wings, even with Petr Mrazek making a save like this.

Meanwhile, Ben Bishop might just be putting his game together (while Nikita Kucherov‘s game remains very much together) as the Tampa Bay Lightning throttled the Edmonton Oilers 4-1. Bishop might just end up being indispensable – or at least not worth trading – as he’s on a five-game winning streak.

With those wins, the races for the last seemingly available Eastern Conference playoff spots just get that much muddier.*

Third place in the Atlantic: Maple Leafs – 67 points in 59 games, 28 wins, 27 ROW

Second wild card: Panthers – 66 points in 58 GP, 28 W, 25 ROW

Bruins – 66 points in 59 GP, 30 W, 28 ROW
Islanders – 66 points in 59 GP, 28 W, 27 ROW
Flyers – 63 points in 59 GP, 28 W, 23 ROW
Lightning – 62 points in 59 GP, 27 W, 25 ROW
Sabres – 62 points in 60 GP, 26 W, 25 ROW

Wow, that’s crazy-close. Naturally, teams like the Islanders and Flyers lack the luxury of having a third spot in reasonable reach – unless things get truly wild – but that’s quite the congested group of playoff hopefuls.

And, sure, the Bolts are among those facing longer odds, but the way things keep swinging wildly this season, who knows? Especially with a team with a track record of success and high expectations like the Lightning.

* – We’ll arbitrarily cut off the East race at the Devils, but just in case you’re wondering, they have 60 points, the Red Wings have 58 and the Hurricanes have 56. Also, the Ottawa Senators hold the second spot in the Atlantic with 70 points and the Montreal Canadiens lead the division with 72, so that group could see quite a bit of movement over the last quarter of the season.

Forsberg’s hat trick, own-goal highlights Predators’ wild OT loss to Flames

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If you want to summarize the kind of night the Nashville Predators experienced, you could do worse than to draw parallels to Filip Forsberg‘s experiences.

The highs were quite high, you see. Forsberg & Co. carved away at the Calgary Flames’ 4-1 lead as his hat trick (see above) eventually gave the Predators a fleeting 5-4 edge.

We all should have seen more drama coming … and it did. Forsberg ended up being at the wrong place at the wrong time in overtime; the Flames’ 6-5 overtime winner ended up going off of his foot. Ouch.

Mark Giordano ended up being credited with that goal. The game was just a barn-burner.

While it was an up-and-down night for both the Flames and Predators, Pekka Rinne‘s evening was pretty much uniformly dismal.

Rinne was pulled early in the second period after giving up four goals on 13 shots, making way for Juuse Saros (who actually ended up gtting tagged with the loss).

The Flames can breathe a sigh of relief after winning the game despite coughing up a big lead, improving to 64 points and strengthening their grip on the second wild card spot. That “charity point” comes in handy for Nashville, leaving the Predators with 65 points and a game in hand on the Flames.

Serious performance: Blackhawks gain on Wild thanks to Toews’ five points

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If the Chicago Blackhawks are going to make up some serious ground and overtake the Minnesota Wild for the Central Division title, they’ll need wins like these.

It’s only fitting that “Captain Serious” Jonathan Toews did the heavy lifting, generating a hat trick and two assists as the Blackhawks beat the Wild 5-3 on Tuesday.

Yes, Toews was involved in every goal. And yes, the Blackhawks won this one in regulation after beating the Wild in overtime last time around. It’s a nice swing for Chicago:

Central Division title chase

1. Wild – 84 points in 59 games (39 wins, 36 ROW)
2. Blackhawks – 79 points in 60 games (37 wins, 35 ROW)

Yeah, that’s still a substantial edge for Minnesota … but this is a significant swing.

Even beyond the name recognition that comes with Toews & Co., the Blackhawks’ push shouldn’t be surprising. They’re red-hot in February so far, going 7-1-0 despite playing seven of eight on the road (strangely losing that lone home contest).

The Wild have played reasonably well in their own right, yet this loss sends them into a bye week with some frustration … and maybe some questions about whether they can hold the Blackhawks off.

Also, tonight marked a nice milestone for Joel Quenneville:

Matthews, Leafs get last laugh in OT vs. Laine and the Jets

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Hockey fans tend to get their radars up about over-hyping things, particularly promising rookies.

Is it hasty, then, to wonder if there’s something to a rivalry between Auston Matthews (and the Maple Leafs) vs. Patrik Laine (plus the Jets)? If nothing else, the two have come up big in two very exciting games.

Back in October, Laine generated a hat trick as the Jets beat the Maple Leafs 5-4 in overtime. This time around, it was another 5-4 overtime decision … only Matthews and the Maple Leafs took this round.

This isn’t to take anything away from Laine’s performance, mind you. He scored two goals on Tuesday, becoming the rare modern rookie to muster 30 goals. He reminded hockey fans that he only needs the smallest window to make you pay with his deadly, world-class shot.

MORE on that goal and the violence that ensued here.

But Matthews wouldn’t be denied, either, and fittingly did so in a quieter fashion. (Virtually everyone seems a little quieter when Laine’s around, it seems.)

The Maple Leafs’ outstanding rookie managed three assists in this game, giving him 52 points in 59 games. He also has six points in a three-game run and eight in his past five.

Laine? He now has 54 points in 55 games, extending is own point streak to five games (seven goals, three assists).

In other words, it’s really close … just like the games when these two budding stars (and their young, promising teammates) meet.

You might even be tempted to believe the hype.