Marian Gaborik

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David Pastrnak is a star and the Bruins should be willing to pay him like one

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As training camps draw closer all eyes in the NHL are starting to turn to the situation in Boston where restricted free agent David Pastrnak remains unsigned.

According to general manager Don Sweeney, there is no timetable on when a deal is going to be reached and there seems to be a bit of a gap between the two sides when it comes to the type of contract Pastrnak is going to get.

The Bruins have reportedly offered a seven-year deal worth around $6 million per year, while Pastrnak would reportedly prefer a deal closer to the eight-year pact Leon Draisaitl received from the Edmonton Oilers. Given their ages and overall production to this point, as well as the market for RFA’s of that skill level, it is not a completely unreasonable ask.

There are a couple of problems for the Bruins here, and a big one is simply the optics of the situation.

The Bruins have a 21-year-old player that appears to be on the verge of stardom in the NHL. He not only can be a young, cornerstone offensive player, he already is one. They also have more than enough salary cap room to fit him in.

What keeps the Bruins from getting the benefit of the doubt in this situation (at least from this perspective) is the track record they have in dealing with young, cornerstone offensive players. They tend to toss them aside, having traded Joe Thornton, Phil Kessel, Blake Wheeler, Tyler Seguin and standout defenseman Dougie Hamilton all within the past 12 years (and with three different general managers completing those trades). It creates the perception that the organization as a whole doesn’t properly value high end talent and would rather trade it away — often times for pennies on the dollar — than pay market value to keep it.

The argument against paying Pastrnak a deal similar to the one Draisaitl received, for example, is that the team is paying for potential. He might not pan out. It might not be a great value.

Pastrnak at this point in his career has one monster season and a couple of half seasons where he flashed star potential.

But his production puts him in some pretty rare and special company when it comes to impact players.

Over the past 20 years there have only been 10 players that have appeared in at least 170 games and scored at least 59 goals by the end of their age 20 season: Sidney Crosby, Ilya Kovalchuk, Steven Stamkos, Marian Gaborik, Jeff Skinner, Evander Kane, Jordan Staal, Vincent Lecavalier, Nathan MacKinnon and … David Pastrnak. The only player on that list that really didn’t continue on the same path that they showed early on has been Kane, and a lot of that has been due to injury and health.

What stands out about Pastrnak on that list is how little ice time it has taken him to reach that level compared to some of the others. Via Hockey-Reference.

On a per-minute basis his production is off the charts for someone his age.

Players that produce at this level at this age tend to be good enough to sustain it.

It’s not paying for potential. It’s paying for what a player will do for you instead of what a player has done for you.

The Bruins have been fortunate to get some tremendous bargains with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron over the years, and giving Pastrnak $7-8 million per season right now might look like a little bit of an overpay. But not every contract has to be below market value. Plus, if Pastrnak continues on his current path — and there is every reason to believe that he will given what he has done so far, his ability to generate shots and his possession numbers — that contract, too, could look like a bargain in the near future.

Daunting Drew Doughty decision looms for Kings

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This post is part of Kings Day on PHT…

Out of context, re-signing Drew Doughty is as close to a no-brainer as it gets in the NHL.

A resounding resume

The Norris Trophy winner and elite defenseman has been a rock for the Los Angeles Kings, and his significance might only become more pronounced as the franchise deals with big changes (and losses on the blueline) in 2017-18.

Now, $7 million is undoubtedly a lot of money, but Doughty would command a (flinches) king’s ransom on the open market. So, when that cap hit expires in 2018-19, Doughty will get paid. It’s remarkable that, considering his robust resume of accomplishments, Doughty is now just 27 and will be 29 when his current deal expires.

Fixer upper

The question the Kings face isn’t really about re-signing Doughty.

Instead, it’s the difficult riddle of trying to squeeze out more runs with this current core or giving a rebuild a bold shot in the arm by – wait for it – trading Doughty sometime during the next season or two.

Los Angeles could conceivably gain a lot in trading Doughty, especially if GM Rob Blake is creative. In making such a courageous move, the Kings could enjoy some combination of:

  1. Salary cap relief, in convincing a trade partner to eat ugly deals in Dustin Brown ($5.875M through 2021-22) and/or Marian Gaborik ($4.875M through 2020-21) as part of a Doughty deal.
  2. Gain precious draft assets and/or prospects. Much like other contenders, the Kings’ farm system took some hits as they angled to contend with this current group. It was generally worth it, but now Blake & Co. need to pick up the pieces.
  3. Trading for roster players who are young and cheap.

Why they must ponder the seemingly unthinkable

Let’s not forget just how old this team looks. By the end of Doughty’s contract, Brown and Jeff Carter will both be 34. Anze Kopitar, who just turned 30, will be 32. Jake Muzzin will be 30 and will only have one year remaining on his bargain $4M deal. Alec Martinez will be 32. Jonathan Quick will be 33. Gaborik will be 37 and, barring a buyout or move, will still be on the books for two more seasons.

We’ve already seen Kopitar struggle, and while Carter’s been resoundingly productive at a great rate, Father Time seems to punish snipers as much as anyone.

Even Doughty would be close to 30 by then.

It’s unclear how many of these Kings deals are easy to move, and to some, that might serve as a signal to just go for it and then suffer through a rebuild.

Still, you wonder how desirable it would be for Doughty to stay if Los Angeles really starts to slide, although it wouldn’t be surprising if he remained loyal to a squad he won two Stanley Cups with.

A matter of time

On the bright side, the Kings have a full season before they can even sign Doughty to a contract extension, so 2017-18 could serve as a helpful barometer for this situation. Even so, you never know when an optimal trade offer might come; a team could conceivably be willing to give up far more for Doughty if it means getting him for a season or more at such a valuable rate.

It’s all a lot to take in, and trading Doughty would almost certainly stand as a wildly unpopular move with Kings fans, even if the returns were solid and the logic is sound.

At minimum, it’s something management should think long and hard about. It could be one of the most fascinating situations to watch, especially if you’re the type of hockey fan who pines for rare big trades after seeing that mammoth Kyrie Irving – Isiah Thomas trade in the NBA.

It’s Los Angeles Kings day at PHT

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With two Stanley Cup rings in tow – the only Stanley Cup rings this franchise has ever won – it must have felt unfair to Dean Lombardi and especially Darryl Sutter when they were catapulted from their posts with the Los Angeles Kings.

To some extent, Lombardi’s ouster makes sense, as his loyalty/poor forecasting skills set the stage for some brutal contracts to Dustin Brown and Marian Gaborik and some shaky ones to Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Quick.

Honestly, it felt like Sutter squeezed as much as you could expect out of this roster.

Sutter took over for a Kings team that was in danger of missing the playoffs, only to win that treasured first Stanley Cup in 2011-12. He did it again in 2013-14, but beyond that, Sutter helped Los Angeles become a dominant possession team until the bitter end.

Then again, maybe that’s the point.

Perhaps the Kings got as much as they could out of the approaches that Lombardi and Sutter take. Thus, Los Angeles is taking a gamble that new GM Rob Blake can clean up the salary cap messes while John Stevens took enough notes as a long-time assistant to bridge the elements of Sutter’s style that work with some tweaks that bring this team to a more modern approach.

So far, the results have been positive, although they’ve been taking baby steps to push forward.

The Kings faced challenges in signing Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson to affordable deals, and Blake managed to ace those difficult tests. Los Angeles made a nice, solid bargain move in bringing back Mike Cammalleri for just $1M, a signing that ended up becoming part of an off-season trend of veterans accepting cheap reunions. (Scott Hartnell going back to Nashville for that same price is just one other prominent instance.)

There’s also some excitement if they indeed got a steal in 11th pick Gabriel Vilardi, who slid in the 2017 NHL Draft because of skating concerns.

Now, not every change was positive. Losing quality defenseman Brayden McNabb to the expansion draft has to sting. Matt Greene also officially retired, so this blueline could be thinner in 2017-18.

Overall, things seem a little dour for the Kings, though it’s probably hasty to assume that this core’s window is totally closed. On the other hand, Blake must also think long and hard about closing the window himself by moving assets while they still have value to jump-start a rebuild.

The Kings are a fascinating and challenging team to observe, so today should be a fun one on PHT.

Kings seem to have no interest in adding Jagr

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The Los Angeles Kings are in need of offense, and Jaromir Jagr, the No. 2 scorer in NHL history, is still in need of a new team for the 2017-18 season. Despite that potential match the Kings have no interest in adding the 45-year-old future Hall of Famer to their roster for this upcoming season.

General manager Rob Blake said as much during a question and answer session with Kings fans this past week, via Lisa Dillman of NHL.com.

Here is Blake talking about the possibility of adding Jagr…

“Obviously [Jagr] is a tremendous player, been a tremendous player for a number of years, a [future] Hall of Famer,” Kings general manager Rob Blake said during a Q&A session with season ticket holders on Thursday. “When you get to a certain age, you have to be a certain fit on a team.

“We’ve looked at lot of different free agents in the summer and where it fits in in our projections. … There was also the equation of the salary cap and how things fit in. We didn’t go in the direction of Jagr this year. But again, he’s a tremendous player and I’m sure he’ll surface somewhere.”

Goal scoring was a major issue for the Kings in 2016-17 (they were 25th in the NHL) and in recent years they have not been afraid to add older, veteran players to their roster. They still have 35-year-old Marian Gaborik, they added 35-year-old Mike Cammalleri this summer on a one-year deal and even traded for Jarome Iginla late last season. Still, Jagr doesn’t seem to be the “certain fit” the Kings are looking given his age.

Jagr didn’t look quite as good as he had in recent year this past season but he was still able to finish with 46 points (16 goals, 30 assists) while playing in all 82 games.

Even though Jagr has remained in peak physical shape and has maintained a high level of production, he is still going to turn 46 this season, and while he has remained durable enough to play in at least 77 games in every season after turning 40 he has shown signs of really starting to slow down as each season has progressed. He can still be a useful asset on the power play and he still has the hands to make plays and contribute offensively. The best scenario for him might be on a team that paces out his workload over the course of the season with occasional nights off (like in back-to-back situations) and limits his minutes to where he can really excel offensively. But that doesn’t seem to be the sort of thing Jagr would be interested in. So it might take him a little longer to find a team that is willing to give him the salary, and playing time, that he desires.

Report: Kings among several teams in contact with Joe Thornton

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Yesterday, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported 12 teams were in contact with San Jose’s Joe Thorton who, on Saturday, will become an unrestricted free agent.

Now, it’s been revealed that one of those teams is also one of San Jose’s biggest rivals — the Los Angeles Kings.

Per LA Kings Insider, the Kings have “been in contact” with Thornton, who just wrapped the last of a three-year, $20.25 million deal with a $6.75M average annual cap hit.

More:

On top of Thornton’s abilities are his relationships with key figures in Los Angeles’ front office. He played with Kings General Manager Rob Blake in San Jose, while Senior Advisor to the General Manager/Development Mike O’Connell was Thornton’s general manager when he played in Boston.

On top of these relationships, Thornton also remains very close with Glen Murray, a figure in Los Angeles’ player development, and I’m told the two, who played together with the Bruins for three and a half seasons, regularly communicate.

LeBrun reported that staying with the Sharks remains Thornton’s No. 1 option, but it’s pretty clear interest in him is sky-high — and coming from a number of different places.

Los Angeles has been making moves to clear cap space, recently buying out the remainder of defenseman Matt Greene’s contract. The Kings also lost blueliner Brayden McNabb to Vegas at the expansion draft.

What happens with Marian Gaborik‘s $4.875M cap hit remains to be seen. The veteran winger underwent an offseason procedure for a “chronic” knee issue and, depending on his recovery, could open the year on long-term injured reserve.

Thornton would give L.A. a formidable one-two punch at center along with Anze Kopitar (and a truly formidable 1-2-3 punch with Kopitar and Jeff Carter, for that matter). It’s also worth noting that as he’s gotten longer in the tooth, Thornton has successfully platooned as a winger — most notably during San Jose’s Stanley Cup run in 2016.

Update: The Kings are the most interesting team connected to Thornton thanks to their location and status as San Jose’s rival, but Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman notes some other interesting suitors: the Columbus Blue Jackets, Montreal Canadiens, and New York Rangers.

5. He’s staying low profile — and there is serious doubt he actually wants to leave San Jose — but there is a list of teams who want to peer inside Joe Thornton’s head. At the draft, there was a lot of talk it would take a three-year deal to lure him. Potential suitors include Columbus, Los Angeles, Montreal and the Rangers. I could see Toronto having interest, but I’m not certain. There was a time Detroit appealed to him, but it doesn’t seem right now for either side. It looks like San Jose is closing in on extensions for Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (both can be announced on Saturday), so we’re all waiting to see what is left for Thornton and/or Patrick Marleau. I’m really fascinated by the Blue Jackets, who are going all-in over the next two years and will try something big. Toronto is quieter about its intentions, but don’t forget that Mike Babcock has plenty of Team Canada history with both Marleau and Thornton.

Friedman also makes passing mention of Thornton eventually leaving for Switzerland. Interesting stuff.