Derick Brassard

Getty Images

Senators GM: ‘Priority’ to re-sign Erik Karlsson, ‘no rash decisions’ coming

3 Comments

As he stood at the podium on Thursday with the Ottawa Senators’ bye week over, general manager Pierre Dorion said he still had hope for the playoffs.

He also laid out the scenarios for the second half that would potentially get the Senators into the postseason. In looking at the last four seasons and the point totals of the teams that grabbed the final spot in the East, Ottawa would need 57 points in their final 39 games to hit that number of 95 points.

That’s a tall ask for this Senators team. Dorion noted they would have to go 28-11-1, 27-10-3, 26-9-5 or 25-8-7 to have a shot. But then it hit him. “We have to be patient, and I can tell you that no rash decisions will be made,” he said. “We have to be realistic and understand our situation. If we don’t make the playoffs we have to start planning for the future, and that might me to take one step backwards to take two steps forward.”

Do you see this Senators team getting 57 points from 39 games when they’ve only managed 39 points in their first 43 games? They’re a negative possession team that is bottom-five on both the power play and penalty kill and their goaltenders have combined for a .907 even strength save percentage. Doing a complete 180-degree turn would be a monstrous accomplishment. It’s time to look forward.

Mark Stone and Cody Ceci are restricted free agents this summer, and there are a couple of players making big money who will be looking for a raise in 2019 — Matt Duchene, Derick Brassard and, of course, Erik Karlsson.

[Karlsson deserves every penny he can get, and he knows it]

Brassard’s name has been out there and flipping Duchene a few months after trading away Kyle Turris for him would be an interesting development. The big one will be Karlsson, who’s already stated publicly that he’s going to get what he feels he’s worth in his next contract. That’s something that could prove tricky for a Senators franchise whose owner isn’t known for shelling out the big bucks for players.

“Our first priority with Erik is to sign him. He’s a special player, but Wayne Gretzky got traded,” Dorion said. “If a team offers you an offer you can’t turn down, you listen. But our first priority is to sign Erik Karlsson and Erik Karlsson to be a Senator for life.”

After coming within a goal of reaching the Stanley Cup Final last season, it’s all come crashing down hard for the Senators. If the slide continues and Dorion starts selling off assets with an eye toward the future, how Will Karlsson feel about that? He won’t want to be a part of a sinking ship, not at 27, and not with a monster contract coming his way within a year’s time.

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Sergei Bobrovsky’s late entry for 2017 bloopers (Video)

There’s some danger when it comes to putting together end-of-year lists before the year, you know, ends.

  • What if a game-changing movie comes out during the holiday season?
  • What if a game-changing video game comes out during the holiday season?
  • Will Beyonce or My Bloody Valentine randomly upload a new album, breaking the Internet?

Sergei Bobrovsky‘s flub against the Ottawa Senators wouldn’t make the top of a year in bloopers list for the NHL, but it’s a blunder worth noting mainly because the Columbus Blue Jackets goalie is otherwise so sturdy, and often spectacular.

(Enjoy the rest of the year’s bloopers in this handy list.)

Check out the goal in the video above this headline, and credit John Tortorella for containing (most of) his rage.

While that goal was a groaner, Derick Brassard scored an absolute beauty against his former team. Remember when he was with Columbus? That was quite a few end-of-year lists ago.

Who should Penguins trade for next?

Getty
6 Comments

The Pittsburgh Penguins got some holiday shopping done before the NHL’s roster freeze, adding veteran goalie depth in Michael Leighton and an enormous defenseman in Jamie Oleksiak.

Such trades should help from a depth perspective, yet you don’t get the feeling that those moves – nor the addition of Riley Sheahan – are really the type of swaps that will dramatically increase the Penguins’ odds of a three-peat.

Penguins fans wanting even more are in luck, as GM Jim Rutherford told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Jonathan Bombulie that these trades might open the door for more trades.

“If we were to move a defenseman going forward, I don’t get locked into having to get a defenseman back,” Rutherford said. “I have more flexibility now. If the right forward’s available, we can do it that way also.”

Note: yes, it’s difficult not to merely replace “a defenseman” with “Ian Cole.” More on that specific matter here.

This might not just be Rutherford overextending to try to keep the phone lines open, either, as Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports in 31 Thoughts that anonymous executives described the moves as “the tip of the iceberg.”

Not to be confused with their mascot. I think.

via Getty

So, trade talk is always fun, especially when there’s at least a bit of fire to go with the smoke. Let’s ponder a few possibilities for the Penguins while noting which ones are more conceivable than others.

Landing a player from other East teams who might not want to enrich their roster

OK, so let’s start with good fits that might come from teams that don’t really want to make trades to the Penguins.

  • One enticing name that gets thrown around quite often is Tyler Bozak of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The pending unrestricted free agent has come into his own as a solid support scorer after spending times as something of a lightning rod for analytics vs. traditional hockey team-building debates. He can score, win some draws, and seems reasonably versatile.

Most importantly, he’s a center, so he could fit very nicely into the spot once occupied by Nick Bonino.

[More from PHT: improvements could come from within for Penguins]

The challenge would be in finding a deal that would work for the Maple Leafs, a team that could very well face the Penguins in the postseason. That’s easier said than done, especially if Toronto isn’t sold on Ian Cole.

James van Riemsdyk would be intriguing, too. Again, the Maple Leafs might not want to make the Penguins stronger, and they also might prefer to just see where JVR and Bozak can take them, rather than worrying about recouping something for them. The extra cap space might be worth more than potentially modest returns, anyway.

  • The Ottawa Senators were a goal away from eliminating the Penguins last summer, thus making an unlikely run to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. It could be a kick to morale to ponder them making the Penguins better, then.

Still, if Ottawa views the Penguins’ offers as the most appealing, perhaps they could work out a deal featuring Mike Hoffman (or perhaps Derick Brassard, if Pittsburgh’s more interested in “need” instead of getting a more appealing player overall).

  • Speaking of teams the Penguins beat in playoffs past, what if they made another deal with the Red Wings?

Detroit seems to still be stuck in denial about the whole “not being a legitimate contender” thing, but if they saw the light, maybe they’d want to send someone like Gustav Nyquist to the Penguins?

Actually, Andreas Athanasiou would probably be even more sensible. He’s fast, his 2017-18 deal is cheap, and the hemming and hawing about his ice time is honestly starting to get a little grating. Why not just get something for a player you seem reluctant to embrace, anyway? His blazing speed makes a lot of sense for Mike Sullivan’s attacking system, and we’ve seen plenty of reclamation projects take off in Pittsburgh lately.

Other expiring contracts would considering

  • Evander Kane would make some sense. Bonus points since Sabres and Penguins management teams are likely pals on the putting greens.
  • The Golden Knights might be worth calling even if the party nevers ends in Vegas. A James Neal reunion would be intriguing (if unwelcome by management?) while Jonathan Marchessault would be cheap on the cap but likely expensive in a swap.
  • Maybe the Panthers would want to move Radim Vrbata, who’s pondering retirement?
  • If the Oilers decide to hit the reset button, the Penguins might consider Patrick Maroon or maybe hope Ryan Strome could be the forward version of Justin Schultz.

***

The Penguins could go in a lot of directions, though there are fewer lanes on the highway if you limit things based on what teams might actually want in return.

The roster freeze extends to Dec. 28, anyway, so we’d need to wait some time even if a possible deal is brewing. While we do, feel free to share your own thoughts: which player or players should the Penguins try to land in a trade?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Senators’ prospect Colin White out 6-8 weeks with broken wrist

Getty

Bad news for the Ottawa Senators today.

The club announced Tuesday that prospect center Colin White is out six to eight weeks with a broken left wrist.

The Senators selected White 21st overall in the 2015 NHL Draft. After two years at Boston College, he signed his entry-level deal in April and appeared in two regular season games for Ottawa. He also appeared in a Stanley Cup playoff game, though he only saw 2:39 of ice time.

That’s certainly disappointing for White, who could’ve had a shot to make the big club out of training camp. One of the question marks for Ottawa had been the status of fellow center Derick Brassard, who had offseason shoulder surgery with a recovery timeline of four to five months.

“I come here and worry about myself, do the right things on and off the ice, take care of my body. If I’m playing well and taking care of my game, I’ll fight for a spot,” White told the Ottawa Citizen prior to training camp.

Gorton deserves kudos for Rangers’ rebuild on the fly

Getty
3 Comments

This post is part of Rangers Day on PHT…

It’s easy for fans to demand a full-on rebuild when times get tough for their team.

It’s another matter for a general manager to actually commit to years of losing, with no guarantee of brighter days ahead.

For Jeff Gorton, a tear-it-down rebuild was never really an option in New York anyway, even when the Rangers were looking particularly old and worn down. That’s largely because Henrik Lundqvist was signed through 2020-21, and it’s tough to tell your Hall-of-Fame goalie that it’s time to tank.

So the Rangers chose instead to rebuild on the fly.

Two years after replacing Glen Sather, one would have to conclude that Gorton has done a pretty good job in that regard. The Rangers may not be the strongest Stanley Cup contenders next season, but consider:

— Last summer, Gorton was able to use a team with pressure to win now (the Ottawa Senators) to trade Derick Brassard for Mika Zibanejad, the latter of whom is five years younger.

— A year later, Gorton found another team with pressure to get some immediate results (the Arizona Coyotes) and traded Derek Stepan and backup goalie Antti Raanta for the seventh overall draft pick (Lias Andersson) and Anthony DeAngelo, giving the Rangers two more talented youngsters to add to the stable.

— Gorton, whose team’s future had essentially been mortgaged by his predecessor, has been forced to do a lot of his work outside the draft, and the results have been impressive. His most celebrated move was getting Jimmy Vesey to sign, but he’s also added college free agents like John Gilmour and Neal Pionk, and he got Russian defenseman Alexei Bereglazov out of the KHL.

Throw in the fact the Rangers actually kept their first-round pick this year, selecting Czech center Filip Chytil 21st overall, and the future is looking a lot brighter today than, say, in April of 2016.

Oh, and Gorton was also able to sign Kevin Shattenkirk, the most coveted unrestricted free agent of the summer, to a below-market contract with a term of just four years. So that was pretty good, too.

Admittedly, this path may still lead to ruin — or, if not quite ruin, maddening mediocrity. The Rangers still don’t have a future Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews, i.e. the kind of player that typically goes to teams that have bottomed out.

But on the path the Rangers have chosen to take, Gorton has done an admirable job, and for that he deserves credit.