Look, John Tavares is going to get paid. And he deserves it, especially since the New York Islanders have been enjoying one of the best non-rookie-deal bargains in his $5.5 million cap hit.
There are details to work out, depending upon how much money he wants to leave to build around him and how long a commitment Tavares prefers to make.
Unrestricted free agency isn’t just about squeezing out every dime, after all. It’s as much about finally getting the chance to choose where you work and who you work with.
That’s especially relevant with the Islanders, a team that missed the playoffs in 2016-17 and has been dealing with arena issues. With those factors in mind, it’s not surprising that TSN’s Darren Dreger, Newsday’s Arthur Staple and others report that money hasn’t been the focus of conversations.
Everyone I've talked to maintains this is not about $. All about wanting to see how things progress with arena/team before committing.
Bolstering the team the Islanders put around Tavares and securing the arena they play figures to be challenging and possibly complicated. It could be months before the Islanders get some clarification about their arena situation, for instance.
The good news is that Tavares stated that he’s in “no rush” to settle this, although that does little to calm the nerves of Islanders fans right now.
Tavares is justified in wanting a stable situation for the Islanders before he signs with them, particularly considering the team has only won a single playoff series since 1992-93 (with Tavares starring, of course). You only get so many chances to sign a big deal with a team of your choice, so Tavares should do whatever he can to make the right choice.
It sounds like the Islanders will get a real chance to prove that the best option is for Tavares to stay put, at least once they move into a cozier spot.
The Edmonton Oilers were one of the biggest surprises of the 2016-17 season. No one expected them to break their 10-year playoff drought last season, but that’s exactly what they did.
Led by Connor McDavid, the Oilers proved to be an offensive force. They finished eighth in goals for (247) and McDavid finished first in points with 100. This off-season, the team handed McDavid a huge eight-year, $100 million contract.
“This may be one of the largest contracts ever given in the NHL, but I can assure you, it could easily have been a lot higher in value and shorter in term,” GM Peter Chiarelli said, per NHL.com. “Building a team to win the Stanley Cup championship was a constant discussion point in this negotiation.”
Chiarelli didn’t make many changes up front during the off-season. He swapped Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome (that move saved them some cap space) and he handed out massive extensions to McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
The Oilers also surprised by ranking eighth in the league in goals against (212). Goalie Cam Talbot was the biggest reason for that, as he turned in solid performances night after night. He played 73 games last season and won 42 of them. It’ll be interesting to see if they lighten his workload next season.
Although the defense has improved after the acquisitions of Andrej Sekera and Adam Larsson, the unit is still a work in progress. Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse have also developed into solid options for the Oilers, but they’re still lacking a true number one defenseman. Is that going to hold them back in the future?
It’s obvious that the Oilers are no longer pushovers in the Western Conference. But do they have what it takes to to make a run to the Stanley Cup Final?
Alright, it’s your turn to have your say. Vote in our poll and feel free to leave your opinion in the comments section below.
After another productive season, Cam Atkinson enters contract year with Blue Jackets
Cam Atkinson had already proven himself to be a 20-goal scorer in the NHL. It was a mark he hit three consecutive times prior to last season.
And that’s when the former sixth-round pick from 2008 really broke out.
Atkinson, now 28 years old, led the Blue Jackets in scoring with 62 points. What highlighted his point totals was the fact he scored 35 goals — leading the team in that category, as well — in a year when only seven other players in the entire league were able to best his total, Sidney Crosby leading the way with 44.
Another area where Atkinson has been so valuable for the Blue Jackets has been on the power play. Of the 62 points he recorded last season, 21 of those were with the man advantage. He finished in a three-way tie for second on the team in that category.
It is worth pointing out that with the addition of Artemi Panarin, the Columbus coaching staff may have an adjustment in mind for Atkinson, according to assistant coach Brad Larsen.
Larsen said plans can change – prospects are still a month away from leaving for Traverse City – but his first thought is to play Panarin at his familiar spot and slide Atkinson to the middle slot, one open with the free-agent defection of Sam Gagner.
“Panarin has had a ton of success on that off side with his one-timer,” Larsen said. “If I was going to say right now, I would say he’s going to start there. Cam has done an outstanding job there and we might shift him into the middle. Again, there are going to be discussions and we haven’t really gotten into it.”
While the Blue Jackets enter the season looking to build on a franchise record-setting 2016-17 campaign, Atkinson enters the final year of his current contract, which has a cap hit of $3.5 million and a total salary of $4.5 million, according to CapFriendly.
Aaron Portzline of The Athletic recently suggested market value on a long-term contract for Atkinson — who turns 29 years old next June, only a few weeks before free agency opens — may be between $5 million to “maybe” $6 million annually.
That’s a nice raise. Not bad for a player taken 157th overall in 2008. He now sits fourth among players from that draft class in career goals, behind only Steven Stamkos, Jordan Eberle and Derek Stepan.
Atkinson is now eligible to sign an extension, but for right now, the Blue Jackets still need to get restricted free agents Josh Anderson and Alexander Wennberg under contract for the upcoming season.
Weight hopes Eberle can re-discover ‘eye of the tiger’ with Islanders
Yet he still managed to score 20 goals, hitting that mark for a fourth consecutive season and fifth time in six years. (He put up 34 goals in 2011-12.)
You can understand why having a skilled winger to perhaps play alongside center John Tavares — at least that’s the expectation prior to training camp — would be intriguing for head coach Doug Weight as the new season approaches.
“Jordan, to me, is really, really exciting,” Weight recently told the NHL Network.
Eberle’s first foray into playoff hockey was a struggle, as he recorded only two assists in 13 post-season games and the Oilers made it to the second round.
And that is where Weight’s extended comments get interesting, because it sounds like the 27-year-old forward’s confidence took a bit of a hit during his final campaign in Edmonton and, in particular, during the playoffs, when his offensive production wasn’t there and the public scrutiny intensified.
Several weeks later, Eberle was traded to the Islanders.
“I want him to come in with that eye of the tiger; that fire back that sometimes gets lost,” Weight continued. “It’s tough. You can get cemented in certain roles, you can have some tough times. But Jordan still produced. He’s a helluva talent and I’m excited to get that confidence back in him and excited for him to get here.”
Adding a proven scoring winger to Tavares’ line may also help the team’s captain rebound from a season in which his bottom-line production dropped as well, which would certainly boost the Islanders’ chances of getting back to the playoffs.
“[Eberle’s] bringing a right-handed shot as a forward that can obviously shoot and score from anywhere,” Islanders forward Anders Lee recently told NHL.com.
“He’s a playmaker out on the ice and sees the ice extremely well. He can add some extra threats for us on the power play that can really help elevate us.”
The Nashville Predators qualified for the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the second Wild Card team in the Western Conference. But it’s not about where you start, it’s where you finish, and the Preds made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.
Now, it’ll be interesting to see if they’re able to translate the Stanley Cup run into regular-season dominance and more postseason success.
As of right now, they still have the same top four defensemen on their roster. They also added former Canadiens blue liner Alexei Emelin to fold.
Also, don’t forget that on top getting acclimated to his new surroundings last year, Subban also missed 16 games with an upper-body injury. If his postseason success carries over into the regular season, you can expect him to be a whole lot better in 2017-18.
Up front, GM David Poile was able to add a few interesting pieces via free agency. Nick Bonino, who is coming off back-to-back Stanley Cup championships with Pittsburgh, will add some quality depth down the middle. His two-way style should make him an ideal candidate to center the second or third line.
Poile also signed veteran Scott Hartnell, who was bought out by the Blue Jackets. He’s back in Nashville after spending the first six years of his NHL career there. The veteran winger had 13 goals and 37 points in 78 games with Columbus last season.
Are those moves enough to propel them to another Stanley Cup Final berth in 2018? Well, lets look at the competition.
The San Jose Sharks were able to re-sign Joe Thornton, but they lost Patrick Marleau to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Other than losing Marleau, their roster hasn’t changed too much this summer.
Like the Sharks, the Anaheim Ducks didn’t make a huge acquisition this offseason. They managed to retain potential free agent Patrick Eaves, who they acquired from Dallas at the deadline. Still, they should be plenty competitive in the West this season.
The Stars went into last season with plenty of expectation, but they ultimately missed the mark completely by not even making the playoffs. This summer, they added goalie Ben Bishop and winger Alexander Radulov. Those two moves should help them get back on track.
The Minnesota Wild got off to a great start last year, but they weren’t able to sustain that once the playoffs came around. On paper, they still have a very talented roster that could compete with any team in the conference.
The St. Louis Blues went through a bit of a transition phase last season, but they still managed to finish in the top three of their division. It might be a bit of a stretch to consider them as legit candidates to win the West, but they aren’t far off.
How do the Predators stack up against these teams? Are they the favorites to make it to the Stanley Cup Final?
Alright, I’m turning things over to you. Cast your vote in our poll and feel free to leave your opinion in the comments section below.