What lies ahead for new Caps GM MacLellan?

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On Monday, the Washington Capitals promoted Brian MacLellan to general manager, inheriting the role of the man he previously assisted — George McPhee, who was dismissed last month after 17 seasons on the job.

Needless to say, MacLellan has a big job in front of him.

The Capitals are coming off a year in which they missed the playoffs for the first time in six seasons and an offseason in which McPhee and head coach Adam Oates were swiftly shown the door. Former Nashville bench boss Barry Trotz will replace Oates behind the bench — a hire that’s chock full of storylines itself — but for the immediate future, all eyes will be on MacLellan.

On the free agent front, two veteran presences are twisting in the wind: UFA forwards Mikhail Grabovski and Dustin Penner, representing two of McPhee’s last acquisitions on the job. Grabovski sort of fell into Washington’s lap, inking with the club for a reasonable one-year, $3 million deal after getting bought out by Toronto last summer; he had a solid campaign, scoring 35 points in 58 games, but missed a good chunk of the season nursing an ankle injury that limited him down the stretch.

Penner also fell into Washington’s lap — Anaheim appeared to be clearing space for a bigger move that never came to fruition, and moved Penner for a fourth-round pick — but failed to find similar success. The big winger had just three points in 18 games in his first-ever stint in the Eastern Conference. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if Penner was allowed to test free agency again.

In goal, MacLellan has more questions than answers as the only two netminders with NHL pedigree are Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer. Holtby struggled to hold onto the No. 1 gig last season and while Grubauer has impressed in stints, his resume still only consists of 19 big-league contests. One would think Washington’s in the market for a veteran presence to at least compete for the starting gig, and there are those types available (Ryan Miller and Jonas Hiller, most notably.)

At the draft, Washington will select 13th overall, marking just the second time in six years the Caps have picked inside the top-15. It’ll be interesting to see what MacLellan does here — a former pro scout that used to work in the Caps’ player personnel department, he could be keen to select a player at 13…but it’s also possible he’ll look to move the pick in the hopes of acquiring a roster player for a team that, despite last year’s poor performance, is built to win now.

Finally, there’s what MacLellan plans to do with that roster, one he helped construct as McPhee’s right-hand man. Jettisoning players by conventional methods may be tough, as seven core players carry either full or partial no-movement clauses, so it’ll be interesting to see if he uses the club’s remaining compliance buyout (McPhee used one on defenseman Jeff Schultz last year.) Center Brooks Laich, who’s been chronically injured over the last two years, turns 31 in June and still has three years left on his deal at $4.5 million per and is the most likely candidate.

So yes, there’s plenty to be done in Washington. Promises to be a busy summer for the new guy in charge.

Blue Jackets sign Schroeder after trading for him

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Not long after acquiring him in a minor trade from the Minnesota Wild, the Columbus Blue Jackets signed Jordan Schroeder to a two-year contract.

The team confirms that it is a two-way deal for 2017-18 and then becomes one-way in 2018-19.

Schroeder is guaranteed $350K for the first year of that contract and then $650K in 2018-19, according to the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline.

The 22nd pick of the 2009 NHL Draft receives a fitting contract: he’s been a “tweener,” bouncing around the NHL and AHL. He hasn’t been able to make much of an impact, Schroeder at least provides some organizational depth.

That could come in handy, as Portzline indicates that Sam Gagner – not so surprisingly – is expected to garner a lot more attention this time around in free agency. Perhaps Schroeder could serve as insurance for Gagner?

NCAA star Spencer Foo chooses the Flames

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NCAA standout forward Spencer Foo decided to sign with the Calgary Flames, as The Sports Corporation and team confirmed. The signing might not be official until free agency kicks off on Saturday, July 1, but he apparently made his decision.

After managing 25 points in each of his first two seasons with Union College, Foo exploded in 2016-17, racking up 26 goals and 62 points. You can see some of his highlights in the video above.

He didn’t go drafted, so this could be a case of another scorer blossoming late.

Foo is an Edmonton native, so playing close to home in Calgary likely factored into his decision. He was connected to the Edmonton Oilers in earlier rumors while MLive.com’s Ansar Khan indicates that his final choice came down to the Flames or the Detroit Red Wings.

Calgary is already classifying him as a RW. Perhaps he’ll be that long-desired fit for Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan? There’s another positive aspect for the Flames, as this might help to soften the blow of giving up a bundle of assets in the Travis Hamonic deal.

The Sports Corporation tweeted out a photo of Foo, 23, in a Flames jersey:

Which NHL teams face toughest, easiest schedules in 2017-18?

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For NHL schedule nerds, Tuesday felt a bit like Christmas.*

On the Forecheck’s Dirk Hoag is mostly retired from hockey blogging, but he still puts out his beloved “super schedule,” and he combined with Alex Daugherty to do a 2017-18 version, which you should absolutely check out here.

Hoag and Daughtery listed all 31 teams’ total miles traveled and also their number of back-to-back games for next season.

Here are the top five teams for most miles:

1. Avalanche – 48,639
2. Flames – 47,931
3. Blackhawks – 47,926
4. Coyotes – 46,856
5. Oilers – 46,815

Note: the Panthers are the sixth-ranked team and face easily the most travel among East teams with 44,395, up from 41,891.

Now, here are the bottom five for travel time:

31: Penguins – 34,041
30: Devils – 34,052
29. Sabres – 34,175
28. Red Wings – 34,759
27. Maple Leafs – 35,689

The Los Angeles Kings tend to be frequent flyers, but not here; they face the least travel of any West team with 39,915.

That’s not the entire picture, however. These teams face the most back-to-back sets:

1 (tied) – Penguins and Senators with 19
3. Hurricanes – 18
4 (tied) Blackhawks, Blue Jackets – 17
6 (tied) Blues, Islanders, Sabres, and Devils – 16

While these teams face the fewest.

1. Jets – 9 (Winnipeg faces 43,296 miles of travel.)
2. Canucks – 10
3 (tied) – Avalanche, Oilers, Predators, Ducks, and Rangers – 11

Oh, and in their inaugural season, the Vegas Golden Knights travel 42,128 miles and must endure 12 back-to-back sets, so they deal with a pretty middle-of-the-road haul.

***

As you can see, plenty of teams see their low travel rates balanced out by high back-to-back game totals. The Penguins are a good example of that.

Then again, some teams just suffer tough draws. As much as conspiracy theorists love to harp on the Blackhawks, they face the third-most travel miles and deal with 17 back-to-back sets.

On The Forecheck’s full list can be seen here, yet they are not the only outlet to do some interesting schedule analysis. Hockey Viz’s Micah Blake McCurdy put together a list of rested/tired games for each team:

Though he also narrowed it down in a way that might make the biggest difference: a rested home team facing a tired road opponent.

Long story short, it’s difficult to really boil down who has the toughest schedule based on one metric. It’s a subjective matter, as you can weigh these “rest/tired” factors, go broad with sheer back-to-back sets, and even lean on jet lag more than anything else.

Still, if you’re the type to wear a tin foil hat, the lists above could really help you cook up some theories about the bad hand your team allegedly drew.

(Opinion: it does seem like Chicago faces more than just salary cap challenges next season, however.)

* – Or whatever holiday resonates. So, Festivus?

Report: Panthers want Jagr back (just for less money)

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Jaromir Jagr made $4 million with the Florida Panthers last season. The team wants him back in 2017-18, but at least a mild discount, according to the Miami Herald’s George Richards.

Ultimately, the Panthers may remain the best fit for the 45-year-old, although it would be awfully interesting to see what kind of interest Jagr would draw if he truly put “feelers” out there.

Jagr saw a reduction in production last season, generating 16 goals and 46 points after a spellbinding 27-goal, 66-point campaign in 2015-16.

(He actually seemed to rotate such years, as he had 47 points in 2014-15 after generating 67 in 2013-14).

Of course, beyond the production, Jagr brings name recognition. He also continues to chase history; Jagr currently ranks third all-time in goals (765), with at least an outside chance to be the third NHL player to cross the 800-goal mark. Jagr may also want to boost his second all-time points mark of 1,914 to 2,000.

For a team struggling for relevance (not to mention a clear direction), having a box office draw isn’t the worst thing in the world.

Sorting out Jagr’s situation isn’t the only key decision for (reinstated?) Panthers GM Dale Tallon, who gets to assert his viewpoint on a team with about $20 million in cap space. Then again, for the Panthers, there’s always the battle between cap space and their actual budget.

Will Jagr be worth the money? Could he leave for greener pastures? It likely won’t be long before we get some answers.