Adam Gretz

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The Capitals would like to see Tom Wilson score a few more goals this season

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Tom Wilson is the classic “love him or hate him” type of player depending on which team he happens to be playing for.

If he is playing on your team, you probably like him. If he is not … you probably hate him.

Wilson has spent the first four years of his career playing in the Washington Capitals’ bottom-six, playing an extremely physical brand of hockey that can sometimes come close to crossing the line. He is also a very good defensive player and penalty killer, a fact that can sometimes get overlooked due to his style of play and the punishing hits.

With the Capitals roster getting ripped apart around the edges this summer due to salary cap restrictions there are a couple of openings in the team’s top-six forward group thanks to the departures of veteran forwards Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson.

Wilson would like to take one of those spots, but he knows he needs to add more consistent offense to do it.

The Capitals would like to see that from him as well.

Here is coach Barry Trotz talking about what he wants to see from Wilson this season, via Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post.

“Like all our young players, we’ve been trying to continually have growth with Tom,” Trotz said. “The next step in his evolution — he has that physical element, he’s reliable, he can kill penalties, he can play late-game situations, he’s developed that — now he’s got to find that offensive side. We’ve got to get more production out of Tom Wilson. We’re going to need some more goals out of him. He’s got to get into double digits this year.

He went on to say little improvements like that from players like Wilson are how the team can chip away and deal with the players they lost over the summer, just getting a few extra goals from players that are still on the roster.

Wilson’s production has been incredibly consistent during his career and has averaged about seven goals and about 18 total points per 82 games. He has never scored more than seven goals in a season, the mark he has reached in each of the past two seasons. He did add three goals in the first-round of the Capitals’ series win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, including a two-goal effort in their Game 4 win in Toronto.

The Capitals are going to look like a very different team this season after losing Williams, Johansson, Karl Alzner, Nate Schmidt and Kevin Shattenkirk over the summer and only bringing in Devante Smith-Pelly and Alex Chiasson on a tryout deal. Still, with a core that includes Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie, Andre Burakovsky John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov, Matt Niskanen and what is probably one of the top-three goalies on the planet they should still be a fierce contender in the Eastern Conference.

They may not bring home a third consecutive Presidents’ Trophy, but they are not going away just yet, either.

Stars will keep top pick Heiskanen in Finland, not bring him over for camp

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Dallas Stars fans will have to wait another year to get an up close look at their team’s top pick from the 2017 draft, defenseman Miro Heiskanen.

General manager Jim Nill announced on Monday that Heiskanen will remain in Finland with his team (HIFK Helsinki) and not attend training camp this season.

Part of the decision might be related to the fact that Heiskanen is currently injured. It was recently reported in Finland that Heiskanen suffered a concussion, and when the Stars opened training camp this week his name was included on the list of injured players.

His absence from camp this year isn’t a huge deal from a big picture outlook because it was always unlikely that he was going to make the team this season. The Stars’ plan all along was to be patient with him, and while they would have given him an opportunity to make the team it always seemed inevitable that he was going to end up playing back in Finland for the entire season anyway.

He spent the 2016-17 season playing for HIFK Helsinki where he scored five goals and five assists in 37 games.

The Stars selected him with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2017 draft and added him to their collection of promising young defensemen.

Dallas is already dealing with a crowded blue line situation this season with eight players under contract for this season, including offseason addition Marc Methot. The Stars loaded up again this summer with big moves, including Methot, starting goalie Ben Bishop and free agent acquisitions Alexander Radulov and Martin Hanzal.

Report: Smaller goalie chest protectors will not be ready this season

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After decreasing the size of goalie leg pads last season, the NHL was supposed to move forward with smaller chest protectors this season.

Now, that is apparently not going to be the case. At least not yet.

According to TVA’s Renaud Lavoie on Monday, NHL goalies will not have to wear the smaller chest protectors this season because the equipment is not ready yet.

Lavoie says it is “still possible” for next season.

Increasing goal scoring has been a huge talking point for more than a decade now and much of the focus has been on the size of goalie equipment.

The smaller leg pads introduced last season did not make much of a difference in goal scoring across the league.

The thing about increasing scoring in the NHL is that there isn’t one quick fix to suddenly spark it. It is going to take a combination of things. Yes, goalie equipment is bigger than it used to be. Maybe bigger than it needs to be. But goalies themselves are also significantly bigger — and far more athletic and quicker — than they used to be. They are also better than they used to be. The game itself is more systematic and defensive in the way it is coached and played, while penalties are not always called as consistently as fans and players would like to see which cuts down on the number of power play opportunities.

All of those factors contribute to the state of goal scoring in the NHL today, and some of them (the actual size of goalies, as well as their ability) can not be “fixed” unless something really drastic is done, such as making the nets bigger.

 

Lupul calls out Maple Leafs on Instagram for cheating

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For the second time this week an NHL player is accusing the Toronto Maple Leafs of some shady dealings.

The Maple Leafs announced this week that forward Joffrey Lupul failed his physical for the upcoming season, the second year in a row that has happened for him.

On Sunday night Lupul posted a picture on Instagram — apparently of himself snowboarding — and then went into the comments where he seemed to argue that he is not injured and is ready to play, saying “I’m ready … just awaiting the call” and “haha failed physical? They cheat. Everyone lets them.”

Lupul has deleted the cheating comment, but here is a screengrab, via TSN.

Lupul has not played for the Maple Leafs since the 2015-16 season and is under contract for one more season with a salary cap hit of $5.25 million.

Placing him on the long-term injured list gives the Maple Leafs an extra roster spot as well as some salary cap relief. The Maple Leafs have had a tendency to put their unwanted contracts  — most famously defenseman Stephane Robidas — on LTIR.

On Monday NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told TSN’s Darren Dreger that the league isn’t in a position to comment on Lupul’s accusation at this time but “that may or may not change when we know more.” The Maple Leafs did not comment.

Lupul, who will turn 34 later this week, has dealt with injury issues throughout his career but has been a very reliable scorer when healthy, scoring at least 20 goals five different times in his career. He has 205 goals and 420 total points in 701 regular season games as a member of the Anaheim Ducks, Edmonton Oilers, Philadelphia Flyers and Maple Leafs.

This situation comes just a couple of days after defenseman Jared Cowen called his buyout situation with the Maple Leafs “a joke of a process.”

Cowen never actually played a game for the Maple Leafs after he was acquired in a trade with the Ottawa Senators a couple of years ago and was then bought out for salary cap relief. Cowen argued that he was injured at the time and was not eligible to be bought out, but he ended up losing the arbitration case as well as $3 million.

He is in Colorado Avalanche camp this season on a tryout contract.

The Panthers have made a lot of changes and shed a lot of salary

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Dale Tallon continued his summer-long overhaul of the Florida Panthers on Sunday evening when he traded veteran defenseman Jason Demers to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for forward Jamie McGinn.

It was an exciting addition for the Coyotes and a pretty eye-opening trade for the Panthers.

First, even though he was coming off of a down year in 2016-17, Demers can still be a very good second-pairing defenseman and it creates a pretty big opening on their blue line.

Meanwhile, McGinn probably tops out as a third-or fourth-line winger. Looking at it strictly from a talent and upside perspective the Panthers would seem to be getting the short end of the trade on paper. The only thing it really does do for them is save a lot of salary over the next few years.

That is something has been a theme with a lot of the Panthers’ moves this summer.

Demers is still signed for another four years at a salary cap hit of $4.5 million per season.

The Panthers are retaining 12 percent of that salary and will pay around $575,000 of it per season.

McGinn is signed for two more years at $3.3 million per season.

So while there are only marginal savings for the Panthers in the short-term, once McGinn’s deal is finished (assuming he is not traded before then) the Panthers will shed around $4 million per year in 2019-20 and 2020-21.

That is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Panthers’ changes this past summer.

They decided to part ways with veteran forward Jaromir Jagr and opted not to bring him back after paying him $4 million a season ago. They also bought out the final year of Jussi Jokinen‘s contract, a move that saved them $2.7 million.

Along with losing Jonathan Marchessault — their leading goal-scorer last season — to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft, they traded veteran forward Reilly Smith to the Golden Knights for a draft pick, dumping his entire five-year, $25 million contract in the process.

In total, five of their top-eight point producers from a year ago (Marchessault, Jagr, Smith, Jokinen, Demers) are now gone.

When you add up the salaries from all of the trades and buyouts it ended up taking $12.45 million in salary off the cap this season alone (and that does not include not re-signing Jagr) with only McGinn’s $3.3 million coming in to replace them.

The Panthers did dip into free agency and replace some of that by paying $6.5 million this season ($4 million to Evgeni Dadonov and $2.5 million to Radim Vrbata), and they do still have a significant portion of their young core, including Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck, Nick Bjugstad and Aaron Ekblad all signed to long-term deals.

At this moment they have the third smallest cap figure in the league for this season, ahead of only the Coyotes and Carolina Hurricanes.

With Jagr, Jokinen, Demers, Marchessault, and Smith all getting shipped out, with only Dadonov, Vrbata and McGinn coming in it, seems pretty clear management was not only trying to dump some salary, but also shed away a lot of the complementary players that were a part of what was a bitterly disappointing 2016-17 season.

Will it work? That remains to be seen.

(All salary cap information via CapFriendly.com)