James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
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Draisaitl and other key situations for Oilers’ future with McDavid locked up

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It might not look like it with that $100 million price tag, but the Edmonton Oilers got a bargain in landing Connor McDavid‘s prime years for $12.5 million per season.

Once that became official, questions naturally pivoted to RFA Leon Draisaitl, and reasonably so. Also reasonably, Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli deflected questions regarding those negotiations.

Now, while McDavid and Draisaitl stand as the Oilers’ most important – and expensive – considerations, other moves are likely to determine Edmonton’s ceiling. So let’s look at some of those key situations.

MORE: Edmonton’s cap challenges are arguably even tougher than what Penguins, Blackhawks faced

Draisaitl a mystery

The range of possibilities are truly wild for what Draisaitl might make.

Sportsnet’s Jonathan Willis stated in May that a $6-$6.5 million cap hit would be appropriate, yet plenty of estimates place Draisaitl at making far, far more. Chiarelli has stated that the Oilers would match any offer sheet, which inspired some gloomy thoughts.

The slight bright side: if that $9.8 million poison pill happened now, it would go down to … $22.3 million.

Luckily for the Oilers, that worst-case scenario is also an unlikely situation. Either way, Draisaitl seems almost certain to be Edmonton’s second-most expensive player. Chiarelli’s job is to keep him closer to third place than to first.

Potentially elite goalie for cheap (but not for long)

Whether you believe that he deserved a Vezina nomination or not in 2016-17, the bottom line is that Cam Talbot presented glorious value while carrying the league’s biggest workload.

No one played in more games (73), faced as many shots (2,117) or stopped as many pucks (1,946) as Talbot did last season, and he did that all at a bargain rate of $4.167 million.

That cap hit runs out after 2018-19, so the Oilers will need to determine if Talbot’s worth a raise (because he’s highly likely to get one, in Edmonton or somewhere else).

Fork in the road

They might not be headline-grabbers, but some of the more intriguing situations involve Oilers with a lot to prove, and possibly a ton of money to earn.

Ryan Strome is the easiest example. Edmonton provides a clean slate – and possibly some stellar linemates – as the fifth pick of the 2011 NHL Draft tries to show that he’s worth more than $2.5 million per year.

He’s followed what seemed like a 50-point breakout in 2014-15 with two seasons around 30, so next season could have a huge impact on his back account. Even as an RFA.

Many joke that Patrick Maroon ($1.5M) provided many of the same benefits as Milan Lucic ($6) at less than a third of the price. Maroon should narrow that gap after that contract expires following 2017-18. The big-money question is whether he could meet or even exceed last season’s 27 goals.

There are some interesting questions on defense, too. Matthew Benning will be an RFA after this coming campaign, yet Darnell Nurse stands as the blueliner with the most to gain.

Nurse has work to do to justify being the seventh pick of 2013, so what better time to show that he’s more than just a solid player than in his contract year?

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These aren’t the only factors to consider. Chiarelli must continue to search for supporting cast members, and potentially people could be part of the core in Edmonton. By the same logic, he’ll need to determine if anyone else is expendable, with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins‘ $6M being the glaring question.

He’ll also root for Kris Russell and Lucic to be the kind of players that … well, aren’t punchlines across the league.

As this post mentions, the Oilers face unprecedented challenges. For outsiders looking in – particular those who love to get nerdy about building teams – it should be a fascinating process; even smaller names make for some pivotal narratives.

Check out even more of Burns, Thornton in ‘Body Issue’ (Just not at work)

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Well, wow.

Not long ago, it was clear that San Jose Sharks stars Brent Burns and Joe Thornton bared just about all for ESPN’s “Body Issue.”

It turns out that they truly weren’t shy, as this full gallery makes abundantly clear. Seriously, consider this a warning: you shouldn’t look at their pictures/video at work, and you might find if difficult to shake those images even at home.

To give you an idea of what you’re in for – kind of – this Sharks tweet goes far, but not as far as the photos and clips will.

Yep.

As you would expect, Burns provide the funniest quotes to ESPN about the “Body Issue” experience.

BB: I bet Joe has been training hard for this thing to get his body jacked. Me? I just got back from 10 days at Disney eating funnel cakes and ice cream with my kids. There was a lot of laughing during the shoot, but I think it was mostly people laughing at my body. Jumbo [Joe] is the guy who is the most comfortable naked. He’s always naked. There was a pretty popular picture of us walking around Pittsburgh, and he had his shirt off. He’s a nudist.

And you thought Thornton only took that approach to four-goal games.

“The Body Issue” also includes members of the U.S. women’s hockey team, so the sport is well-covered.

Actually, well-covered probably isn’t the right way to put it.

Maple Leafs sign Zach Hyman for four years, $9M

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The Toronto Maple Leafs signed forward Zach Hyman to a four-year, $9 million contract on Wednesday.

This represents a $2.25 million cap hit for the 25-year-old forward. Refreshingly, the team disclosed the term and financial details.

Hyman played all 82 games in 2016-17, scoring 10 goals and 28 points. He averaged a solid 16:42 TOI per night this past season.

The term indicates that the Maple Leafs expect more from Hyman.

The Maple Leafs’ work is nearly done for the summer, with Connor Brown standing as the last noteworthy RFA to lock down.

Key players from Penguins, Sabres, Lightning headline salary arbitration list

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The NHLPA released a list of players who are filing for salary arbitration during this off-season on Wednesday.

It’s important to note that arbitration hearings rarely happen, and with good reason, as they can be harsh situations that may lead to hard feelings between a player and his team. Hearings take place July 20-Aug. 2, with a 48-hour window for verdicts to be made.

Also, the deadline for club-elected salary arbitration is set for tomorrow (July 6) at 5 p.m. ET.

Another key note: offer sheets are not an option for players who file for arbitration. Now, onto the list, which began with 30 players and is now down to 28:

TORONTO (July 5, 2017) – Thirty players have elected Salary Arbitration:

Arizona Coyotes

Jordan Martinook

Boston Bruins

Ryan Spooner

Buffalo Sabres

Nathan Beaulieu

Johan Larsson

Robin Lehner

Calgary Flames

Micheal Ferland

Colorado Avalanche

Matt Nieto

Detroit Red Wings

Tomas Tatar

Edmonton Oilers

Joey LaLeggia

Los Angeles Kings

Kevin Gravel

Minnesota Wild

Mikael Granlund

Nino Niederreiter

Montreal Canadiens

Alex Galchenyuk (signed for three years; more on that here)

Nashville Predators

Viktor Arvidsson

Marek Mazanec

Austin Watson

New York Islanders

Calvin de Haan

New York Rangers

Jesper Fast (signed, read about the deal here)

Mika Zibanejad

Ottawa Senators

Ryan Dzingel

Jean-Gabriel Pageau

Pittsburgh Penguins

Brian Dumoulin

Conor Sheary

St. Louis Blues

Colton Parayko

Tampa Bay Lightning

Tyler Johnson

Ondrej Palat

Vancouver Canucks

Reid Boucher

Michael Chaput

Vegas Golden Knights

Nate Schmidt

Winnipeg Jets

Connor Hellebuyck

Canadiens get bargain for Galchenyuk: Three years, reportedly $14.7M

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The Montreal Canadiens continue to rotate between bright and puzzling moves with the announcement of a three-year deal for Alex Galchenyuk.

Galchenyuk, whose name comes up repeatedly in trade rumors and who apparently cannot thrive as a center, will carry a $4.9 million cap hit, according to TVA’s Renaud Lavoie.

(Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston and plenty of others back up that number. Johnston notes that Galchenyuk will be a UFA when this deal expires.)

At 23, Galchenyuk’s already shown some flashes of brilliance, and – on paper – could stand as a player who could grow into his contract much like newly acquired forward Jonathan Drouin.

That said, Galchenyuk’s time with the Canadiens parallels Drouin’s troubles with the Tampa Bay Lightning, making one wonder if he’ll really stick or instead be moved later. Montreal experienced a similar tug-of-war with P.K. Subban before ultimately trading him to Nashville, after all.

Also:

As it stands, this is a great deal for the Habs. Apparently Galchenyuk initially filed for salary arbitration, but that’s no longer a concern.

GM Marc Bergevin & Co. have absorbed plenty of criticism over the years, yet they’ve done well to experience savings with many RFAs, including Max Pacioretty at $4.5M per season. There’s a strong chance that Galchenyuk will continue that trend.

Of course, as significant as this re-signing is, the Carey Price extension remains the pivotal moment of Montreal’s off-season. That said, it’s been a busy time, with the likes of Alex Radulov, Alexei Emelin, Nathan Beaulieu, and prospect Mikhail Sergachev leaving town while Ales Hemsky and Karl Alzner are big additions.

The Canadiens have solid space (Cap Friendly places it at $9.16 million) remaining if they want to add, say, some defensive help.

Considering the rumblings of Galchenyuk being moved, this deal almost makes him feel like an addition, too.

For now?