Starting goalie: Cam Talbot
Starting goalie: Pekka Rinne
Starting goalie: Cam Talbot
Starting goalie: Pekka Rinne
One of the most optimistic scenarios was reflected in the headline: what if Edmonton tries to diversify its offense by putting Cammalleri on Connor McDavid‘s wing, possibly opening up Leon Draisaitl to try to carry his own line?
Perhaps that’s a possibility as time goes on – coaches juggle lines about as much as college kids used to love kicking around hacky sacks – but it sounds like that won’t be the case early on.
Bob McKenzie swung by the NBCSN studio on Wednesday to provide more insight, and from the sound of things, the two forwards are trading places and, essentially, roles. (His takeaways can be seen in the video above this post’s headline.)
While the Oilers want more offensive pop from Cammalleri, McKenzie indicates that he’s expected to line up with Ryan Strome and Drake Caggiula. As mentioned yesterday, Natural Hat Trick lists those two forwards as Jokinen’s most common even-strength forward linemates.
McKenzie reports that Jokinen is most likely to slot into a bottom-six role; considering that Cammalleri’s most common linemate was Trevor Lewis, it sounds like that’s a pretty clear reversal, too.
That said, the man with an appetizer-like last name did average about two minutes of power-play time per game, and that’s where things get more interesting. McKenzie posits that Jokinen will be happier with a diminished role than Cammalleri would be; that’s especially relevant since fellow aging former-high-scorer Marian Gaborik is slated to return to the Kings’ lineup.
Gabby may have bumped Cammy for a while, which may have irked, especially since Cammalleri accepted quite the “hometown” discount to return to L.A. Jokinen might be more comfortable with a humble role, and considering his lone point (an assist) this season, he can’t do much complaining right now.
Both forwards are fairly versatile, and that might be relevant to the Kings, as Gaborik was injury prone even during his most brilliant, younger days.
There might be some fluidity to Jokinen’s situation, too, as Kings coach John Stevens explained to L.A. Kings Insider’s Jon Rosen that there might be a bit of a “getting to know you” process.
“I know him as a player before. I haven’t seen him play lately, but he’s just a good, well-rounded, intelligent player,” Stevens said of Jokinen. “I recall he was great in the shootout, but I think he can play multiple positions. I think he’s a really high-hockey IQ guy with a good competitive skill package. It’ll be a good chance to get him on the ice with the guys and make an evaluation from that point.”
If nothing else, Jokinen can be around for a Young Stars reunion with Anze Kopitar:
Overall, this trade could benefit all involved, even if the Oilers seem to have fairly modest aims for Cammalleri.
Let’s cut to the chase and wrap up these division previews.
Los Angeles Kings
San Jose Sharks
Vegas Golden Kngihts
Considering how well the Darryl Sutter-coached Los Angeles Kings hogged the puck, there was a sense that he yielded as much as one could expect from a talented, but aging roster.
With a new regime in the front office (from GM Rob Blake to assistant-turned-head-coach John Stevens), there’s at least one interesting test taking place: what if modern tactics were applied to a Kings team that, structurally, often felt like a “throwback” team?
(Again, to Sutter’s credit, that throwback style worked very well at times.)
LA Kings Insider’s Jon Rosen reports that the Kings are embracing the modern approach that sometimes scares off more conservative coaches: going with four forwards and one defenseman on a power play.
The puck movement drew praise from Rosen:
There was ample movement; such positioning didn’t always remain that way. Toffoli drifted lower towards the half wall, and Doughty often was found straight away, at the top of the key. The plan? More one-time opportunities from high-danger areas closer to the net.
Of course, it’s important to note that it’s September, and the Kings could go a different way once the games count in the standings.
Even if their philosophy stays the same, injuries could force personnel changes. Then again, this alignment leaves a talented forward like Tanner Pearson off the top unit, so it’s plausible that this 4F-1D combo could weather a storm or two. Pearson could also nudge his way in if the Kings believe they need a better balance of left and right-handed shots (and so on).
Los Angeles fell in the middle of the power-play pack in 2016-17; their 19.1 percent rate of success ranked 15th, while their 46 power-play goals tied for 16th in the NHL. They only allowed three shorthanded goals, so for those other numbers to climb, they might have to stomach more risk.
When you ponder how much the Kings struggle to score at times, it might be worth it.
For more on the pros and cons of putting a forward on the point, check out Matt Cane’s 2015 bit for Hockey Graphs.
Usually, when it comes to the first day of free agency, the patterns tend to revolve around deals teams will eventually regret. On July 1, 2017, there was instead the best kind of nostalgia: reuniting successful players and the cities they once called “home.”
Remarkably, in just about every case, the contracts were solid-to-huge steals for those old teams. Let’s look at some of the biggest examples.
Come back … for $1 million
Even if skills diminished, it’s remarkable that Patrick Sharp returned to the Chicago Blackhawks, Scott Hartnell made his long-waited comeback for the Nashville Predators, and Michael Cammalleri reacquainted with the Los Angeles Kings, all on the same day.
And all three of those deals were low-risk with potentially significant rewards: they all signed for one year and $1 million.
The Blackhawks seemed to “bring the band back together” in the most obvious ways this summer, as they also regained Brandon Saad in that surprising trade that sent Artemi Panarin away. Maybe Panarin will be back in the Windy City in the future, too, then?
Finally getting paid, kind of
If you want to chart the history of a – relatively – underpaid forward, look no further than Justin Williams.
Even at his advanced age, a two-year, $9 million deal to return to the first team he won a Stanley Cup with (the Carolina Hurricanes) is a pretty sweet bargain.
It’s remarkable that a renowned two-way player who earned the nickname “Mr. Game 7” took until 2017 to pass the $4 million per season mark, as this new deal carries a cap hit of $4.5M per season. Previously, the highest cap hit he carried was $3.825M; he actually took a discount to join the Washington Capitals.
That comfort level and familiarity definitely factored into Williams’ decision.
There were other signings that might not be the purest reunions, yet they still fit with the growing theme of the day.
Kevin Shattenkirk never played for the New York Rangers, but it’s believed that he left money (and possibly years) on the table to live the dream. He’s a “New Yorker at heart,” after all.
Beyond Shattenkirk, Nate Thompson reunites with former Lightning head coach Guy Boucher. There’s an anecdote that Thompson adhered to Boucher’s advice so well that other Bolts teammates ribbed him by calling him “Nate Boucher.” One figures that played a big role in bringing Thompson to the Ottawa Senators.
Chad Johnson didn’t have a hallowed run with the Sabres, yet he’ll be a welcome backup in Buffalo once more. Anders Lindback is back in the Predators’ fold after netting the franchise some nice picks from the Lightning a few years back, though he’d likely need some luck to get reps with Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros ahead of him.
In just about every case, these reunions represented rare mutual benefits: teams get a familiar player back at a reasonable price. Said players may have already made big money elsewhere (or by getting bought out), and now they get to return to places they might not have ever wanted to leave.
Everyone wins, at least until teams start accruing W’s and L’s.
Now, without further adieu, the official song of this free agency.