Victor Rask

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Horvat remains unsigned, but Linden’s optimistic

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We’re closing in on training camp at this point and Bo Horvat is still a restricted free agent. That’s not something that seems to concern Canucks president Trevor Linden, who feels the two sides aren’t far apart.

“We’ve had some good conversations with Bo and his reps … we’re moving along and I don’t see any issues,” Linden told TSN 1040 (H/T to the Score).

The Canucks and Horvat have taken their time exploring a lot of different options, ranging from two-year to eight-year contracts. It’ll be interesting to see what route they ultimately take.

Horvat had 20 goals and 52 points in 81 contests in his third campaign in the NHL. He only celebrated his 22nd birthday in April so it’s not unreasonable to believe he still has untapped upside left. So while a bridge contract would be the safer option, the Canucks might ultimately be better off if they can find a way to ink him to a long-term deal.

If a lengthy contract is the goal, then part of the reason it’s taken this long might be the relative lack of good comparables. If you’re talking about forwards who signed a five-year deal or longer off their entry-level contract, then you don’t have a lot to choose from. This summer the examples of that are Jonathan Drouin, Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid. Draisaitl and McDavid are obvious non-starters, but Drouin is less so given that his 21 goals and 53 points mirrors Horvat’s 2016-17 production fairly well.

Drouin is generally seen as having more offensive upside though, but he also has less NHL experience than Horvat. Drouin’s contract was a six-year, $33 million deal so it would be interesting if Horvat was hoping to get something similar, citing his similar productive last season as the primary argument.

If you went back to the summer of 2016 then you could pull on examples like Victor Rask, who signed a six-year, $24 million deal after recording 21 goals and 48 points in his sophomore season as a center. Or Vincent Trocheck, another center that got a six-year, $28.5 million contract after getting 53 points after his third NHL season and first full campaign. Those might be the contracts that the Canucks point to if the two sides are heading towards a long-term deal.

Related: It’s Vancouver Canucks day at PHT

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.

Poll: Will the Hurricanes be a playoff team this season?

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This post is a part of Hurricanes day at PHT…

It has been eight years since the Carolina Hurricanes qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs. Since then they have gone through three coaches, numerous roster constructions and a still ongoing rebuilding effort.

For the past three or four years it seems as if the Hurricanes have entered the new season as a popular sleeper pick to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, and things never quite seem to work out for one reason or another (recently goaltending has been a big reason). Those expectations are back once again this season.

They had a pretty strong finish to the 2016-17 season with an 11-5-5 mark down the stretch and have an impressive young core of players in place, mostly on their defense that is stacked with a ton of already good — and very underrated — players all under the age of 24, with several of them now locked in to long-term contracts. Up front Jeff Skinner is one of the NHL’s best goal scorers, while Sebastian Aho and Victor Rask are looking like two of the best young forwards in the league. They attempted to complement that young core this summer with some pretty significant veteran additions, including Justin Williams, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Marcus Kruger and Scott Darling.

Their young players are still at an age where they have room to improve, and they made some significant additions around them (and do not forget Jordan Staal, who is still a really good player even if he carries a huge contract). Will those improvements be enough to help the Hurricanes make up eight points in the standings and get back to the playoffs for the first time since the 2008-09 season?

Under Pressure: Bill Peters

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This post is a part of Hurricanes day at PHT…

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that Bill Peters is a pretty good hockey coach. In his three years behind the Carolina Hurricanes’ bench his teams have always played hard, they have been competitive, they have seen great growth from their young core of players during their rebuild, and they have consistently been one of the top possession teams in the league. There are a lot of positives and a lot of reasons for optimism for what might be there in the coming seasons.

One thing there has not been: A trip to the postseason. There hasn’t been one in Carolina since the 2008-09 season as three different coaches have been unable to reach the playoffs during that stretch. So it hasn’t necessarily been just a coach thing.

It doesn’t seem that Peters is starting the season on the hot seat, and general manager Ron Francis recently gave his coach a vote of confidence heading into the season saying exactly that.

“I think Bill Peters is one hell of a hockey coach, so I would not put him on the hot seat and in that category. Not at all,” Francis said this week, via the News & Observer. “This is guy who has shown he’s a hell of a coach with a very young team. I don’t think you hold him accountable for missing the playoffs the last couple of years, based on the situation we were in and what we were trying to build.”

All fair points, and he specifically points out the playoff drought and what the team was going through.

But professional sports is still a bottom line business, and eventually results will begin to matter. Especially after the offseason the Hurricanes had that saw them bring in Justin Williams, Marcus Kruger, Trevor van Riemsdyk and goaltender Scott Darling who can hopefully fix the team’s biggest and most glaring weakness in most recent years (the goaltending position). Combine those additions with a promising young core, led by Jeff Skinner, Sebastian Aho, Victor Rask, Elias Lindholm and that defense and expectations are going to start to build.

Peters has also been given a leash that most NHL coaches do not get. Over the past 30 years I found only 12 other examples of coaches that coached a single team to three consecutive non-playoff seasons.

  • Three of those coaches (Terry Crisp, Curt Fraser and Rick Bowness) were coaches of literal expansion teams that were just entering the league.
  • Seven of them were fired just after the third non-playoff season.
  • One of them (Ron Wilson) was fired late in what would have been the fourth consecutive non-playoff season.
  • Wayne Gretzky was given four consecutive non-playoff seasons in Arizona before he was no longer behind the bench. His replacement, Dave Tippett, was given five consecutive non-playoff seasons after some early initial success with the team. That run ended this offseason when he mutually agreed to step away from the team.
  • Lindy Ruff made it through three non-playoff seasons in Buffalo in the early 2000s and managed to stick with the team for another eight years. But his playoff drought followed four consecutive playoff seasons, including three years where the team advanced to at least the second round and one year where they won the Eastern Conference.

The bottom line with Peters is this: A good coach that probably isn’t to blame for the team’s recent lack of success, but given the shelf life of coaches in the NHL and how few of them get to stick around for this many seasons without the playoffs, and the offseason additions made by the front office, the team is going to have to start winning. Soon.

On the move, again: Kruger traded from Vegas to Carolina

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Marcus Kruger‘s stay in Las Vegas was a short one.

Just one day after he was acquired by the Golden Knights from Chicago, Kruger was on the move again Tuesday as the Carolina Hurricanes acquired him from Vegas for a fifth-round pick at next year’s draft.

“We were determined to bring in experienced players with winning pedigrees and Marcus is another addition who fits that mold,” ‘Canes GM Ron Francis said in a release. “He’s a solid, two-way center who has achieved success both in the NHL and internationally.”

A good defensive forward that will provide solid depth to Carolina’s bottom six, Kruger will be surrounded by familiar faces. Former Blackhawks teammates Teuvo Teravainen, Scott Darling, Klas Dahlbeck and Trevor van Riemsdyk are there, as are Elias Lindholm, Victor Rask and Joakim Nordstrom — Kruger’s teammates from the Swedish squad that captured the 2017 World Hockey Championship.

(Nordstrom is also a former Blackhawk too, for what it’s worth).

A two-time Stanley Cup winner, Kruger will add some veteran experience and know-how to a young ‘Canes group. That was one of Francis’ objectives this offseason, and a big reason why the club also brought back Justin Williams in free agency.

The Blackhawks would’ve liked to have kept Kruger. They valued his defensive play so much that they gave him a three-year contract worth more than $9 million. But for as good as he is on the defensive side of things, Kruger just became too expensive for the Blackhawks to fit under the cap — especially with all the money needed to retain their star forwards.