Aleksander Barkov

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The case for Hurricanes signing Jaromir Jagr

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This post is a part of Hurricanes day at PHT…

It’s tough to pick the perfect NHL home for Jaromir Jagr because there are just so many variables.

There are, for instance, unspoken demands. Jagr has easily earned the right to ask for a significant salary and role thanks to his Hall of Fame career. It’s his right to hold out for what he wants.

Of course, it makes him a tougher puzzle piece to wedge into a team’s bigger picture. The 45-year-old could finally totally fall off the map in 2017-18. Naturally, even if he merely continues to slip, there’s the argument that Jagr is taking minutes away from players with a brighter future.

SBNation blog Canes Country, for instance, ultimately argued against the Carolina Hurricanes bringing the legend in:

Justin Williams was brought in this offseason to help bring veteran leadership to the Hurricanes, and it seems general manager Ron Francis – Jagr’s former teammate in Pittsburgh – is done making moves. Their leadership quota filled, there’s really no place for Jagr to fit in the Canes’ lineup.

Perhaps not, but let’s trot out a few reasons why the Hurricanes should really think it over.

Star power

In Mid-July, 24/7 Wall St. reported that the Hurricanes saw the second-largest percentage drop in professional sports over the last decade. An eight-year postseason drought tends to hurt a team at the box office, after all.

Now, winning would be the best way for the Hurricanes to fill the seats. There’s no denying that.

Still, for all the hype about this roster full of young stars, that buzz might not go far enough to really draw mainstream attention. Signing Jaromir Jagr would be a way to draw eyes to the Hurricanes, and with a ton of cap space, Carolina is nicely equipped to meet his demands.

Grumpy old men?

Canes Country makes a strong point about how Jagr might not fit in with, say, Jordan Staal or Victor Rask.

Of course, part of that reasoning is based on a perfect world scenario where no one gets injured, but even assuming that’s the case … perhaps head coach Bill Peters could find some creative solutions?

For one thing, the question of foot speed could, conceivably, be mitigated by putting the few elder statesmen together. Perhaps Jagr would line up with Lee Stempniak and/or Justin Williams, thus sequestering some of the older legs and giving Peters a chance to massage situations to their advantage?

He might still provide a boost

It’s understandable to point to, say, dipping numbers for Jagr without Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau and say that he can’t do it on his own.

On the other hand, Jagr sure seems like he would fit in on a team that’s quietly building a reputation as a possession powerhouse. Even in 2016-17, Jagr’s incredible hockey IQ and puck protecting prowess allowed him to put up the sort of possession numbers that players half his age would envy.

Just consider how he compares to the HERO chart standard for a first-line winger:

If fancy stats bore you, consider this:

Maybe Jagr wouldn’t be such a bad stylistic fit, after all?

***

Hurricanes GM Ron Francis said that he’s comfortable with the team as is, yet he’d also be willing to make an upgrade. The implication seemed to be via the trade route, but the Hurricanes really might want to give some extra thought to bringing in Jagr.

It might just help them break that playoff slump.

Matt Murray’s furry dog steals show during day with Stanley Cup

via Matt Murray's Twitter feed
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There’s been some awful news this weekend, to the point that even the NHL and Detroit Red Wings were tangentially involved.

In times like these, many of us turn to photos of dogs and birthday cakes. This post aims to provide both, along with some other lighthearted fun.

To start off, we have Matt Murray‘s day with the Stanley Cup, which includes this wonderful dog:

Apparently that’s a Newfoundland or “Newfie” dog. No word yet on the name, so for now we can go with either doggo or Furry Murray.*

That breed can weigh in anywhere from 100-150 lbs., according to this wonderfully detailed entry from “Dog Time.”

The Newfoundland is a large, strong dog breed from — wait for it — Newfoundland. He was originally used as a working dog to pull nets for fishermen and haul wood from the forest. He is a capable and hardworking dog, well suited to work on land or water. He is a strong swimmer and equally strong “pack horse.” Sweet-natured and responsive, he makes a wonderful family companion as well.

Furry Murray does, indeed, look like a wonderful family companion.

/Replaces Hockey Analysis with Dog Time in bookmarks

(Should we put Murray’s dog in the pantheon with Anze Kopitar‘s Gustl? Eh, it’s probably too early to have that conversation.)

In other fun and not particularly pressing hockey news, it’s Ales Hemsky‘s birthday, so enjoy this photo of his Nutella cake and evidence of him sporting somewhat unexpected ink:

If you need further distractions, Mikael Backlund was at a wedding, Aleksander Barkov is a breakfast master, and there’s also this huge thread of dogs that aren’t immediately hockey-related.

* – Apparently the dog’s name is Beckham. Almost as good as Furry Murray, right?

Panthers’ best hope for improvement in 2017: Better health for top players

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This post is part of Panthers Day on PHT…

Whether or not the Florida Panthers made the right moves this offseason is certainly up for some level of debate.

They lost Jaromir Jagr, Jussi Jokinen and Jonathan Marchessault while bringing in Radim Vrbata, Micheal Haley and Evgeni Dadonov. On paper, that may not be a great trade off. Dadonov is a pretty big question mark, Haley isn’t going to provide any offense, and while Vrbata is still a very productive player he’s probably not a clear improvement over what Jagr or Marchessault provided this past season.

But what should make the Panthers better this season is just getting some better luck on the injury front.

It wouldn’t be fair or accurate to put all of the Panthers’ struggles in 2016-17 on injuries, but it certainly played a major role. Just consider that Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Aaron Ekblad, Nick Bjugstad combined to miss 114 man-games due to injury. That is three top-nine forwards and a top-pairing defenseman all missing close to a quarter of the season (or more). Sometimes at the same time. That is going to put a dent in any team’s potential for success.

Barkov is probably the Panthers’ best all-around player at this point and along with being a strong defensive forward, arguably one of the best in the league, he has scored at a 71-point pace per 82 games over the past two seasons. Losing him for a quarter of the season was a crushing blow.

The same is true for Huberdeau who was limited to just 31 games. When he was healthy and in the lineup he was on pace for what would have been his best offensive season ever while posting dominant possession numbers. Like Barkov, he was also on pace for close to 70 points over 82 games before the injury.

Bjugstad’s season seemed to be a lost season in general, but he has still shown the ability to be a 35-40 point middle-six player.

We don’t know yet if the Panthers’ roster moves make them a better team (an early guess might be no) but just simply getting more games out of the core players that were already in place would go a long way toward getting the team back closer to what it was in 2015-16 when it won the Atlantic Division and seemed to be a team on the rise.

Panthers’ Malgin eyeing bigger role this season

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The Florida Panthers are looking toward a bit of a youth movement this season after saying goodbye to veterans Jaromir Jagr and Jussi Jokinen this offseason. They have no shortage of options heading into the 2017-18 season, and one player that figures to get an expanded look is second-year forward Denis Malgin.

A fourth-round pick by the Panthers in 2015, Malgin was able to get a limited look with the team a year ago and was up-and-down a bit in 15 games, scoring three goals to go with nine assists.

Coming back for year two with a better understanding of what is going on around him — thanks to a better grasp of the language, as he explained to Alain Poupart of NHL.com recently — he should get a more consistent look in the Panthers’ bottom-six.

An early run of injuries forced him into the lineup probably earlier than the Panthers would have liked, but he showed flashes of skill that make him an intriguing prospect heading into this season.

Here is Panthers’ director of player development Bryan McCabe talking about his progress, via NHL.com.

“He’s a highly skilled individual,” Panthers director of player personnel Bryan McCabe said of Malgin. “He maybe played a little faster than we would have liked, but that was out of necessity, not necessarily because we wanted him here. We had a ton of injuries and he’s a really skilled player, so he was kind of thrust in the limelight.

“He maybe needed some more seasoning … that’s why [he attended development] camp. We’re trying to build him back up a little. He had an up-and-down year; we want to make sure his confidence is high when he comes into camp this year.”

Including Malgin the Panthers already have at least six players under the age of 24 on the roster for this upcoming season, while prospects like Owen Tippett and Jayce Hawryluk figure to have a chance to make the team and make an impact. The Panthers have a really strong young core built around Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck, and Aaron Ekblad, but injuries and some regression across the board this past season resulted in a bitterly disappointing 2016-17 season. They are looking to rebound this season.

First-round pick Tippett is ‘going to get every opportunity’ to make Panthers roster

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The Florida Panthers were extremely pleased to get forward Owen Tippett with the 10th overall pick in the 2017 draft because as general manager Dale Tallon said (via the Panthers’ official website), the team had a need for a “sniper” and a “pure scorer” on their roster.

They are hopeful that Tippett, coming off of a 44-goal season (in only 60 games) for the Mississauga Steelheads of the Ontario Hockey League can provide that sort of presence.

After seeing what Tallon had to say about him this week it seems as if he could be making an impact with the Panthers as early as this season. At the very least, he is going to get a chance.

“He’s going to get every opportunity,” said Tallon (again via the Panthers). “I don’t have any problem and [head coach Bob Boughner] and our coaching staff don’t have any issues playing young guys. We’re building a team that’s going to be around for a long time and we’ll give him every opportunity to play this year.”

After winning just the second division title in franchise history in 2015-16 and setting themselves up for high expectations heading into last season, 2016-17 turned out to be a huge disappointment for the Panthers. But even though it was an obvious step backwards it is still a team that has a solid foundation in place with Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Aaron Ekblad, Nick Bjugstad and Vincent Trochek as long-term building blocks. None of those players are over the age of 24 and should, in theory, still have some of their best days ahead of them.

Along with potentially adding another young talent like Tippett to the mix the Panthers were also able to snag free agent Radim Vrbata in free agency, while also bringing back Evgeny Dadonov from Russia, a player they seem to have huge plans for.