Author: Ryan Dadoun

Juuse Saros

Preds sign Saros, Rinne’s backup at Worlds


The Nashville Predators announced that they have signed goaltender Juuse Saros to a three-year, entry-level contract.

Saros, 20, was taken with the 99th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. He’s coming off of a strong season in the Finnish league where he posted a 2.14 GAA and .929 save percentage in 47 games with HPK Hameenlinna. That’s after he was 2013-14 Finnish Elite League Rookie of the Year with a 1.76 GAA and .928 save percentage in 44 games.

On the international stage, Saros led Finland to a gold medal in the 2014 World Juniors. He also was Pekka Rinne’s understudy in the 2015 World Championship. That role didn’t lend itself to much playing time, but when he was called into service against Slovakia, he earned a shutout by turning aside 22 shots.

Rather than once again become Rinne’s backup, Saros is more likely to be given a chance to adjust to North American hockey while honing his skills in the minors during the 2015-16 campaign. Nashville already has Carter Hutton inked to a one-way contract, although the 29-year-old goaltender’s deal will expire after the 2015-16 campaign, so if Saros has a strong season then perhaps he’ll be viewed as a serious candidate for the backup job at that time.

Have we seen the Blackhawks at their highest point?

Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane

The Chicago Blackhawks have already been named as an early favorite to win the 2016 championship. That would be their fourth in seven years.

As good as the Blackhawks have been, with Patrick Kane just 26 years old and Jonathan Toews only two months removed from his 27th birthday, is it really a stretch to say that Chicago’s run has plenty of strong years left in it? Maybe not, but it’s far from a foregone conclusion.

The single biggest roadblock at this point is the Blackhawks’ cap situation. In the short-term, Chicago is likely going to have to make some sacrifices as it has about $64 million committed to 14 players, per General Fanager.

That’s not including 22-year-old Brandon Saad, who has now completed his entry-level contract and is in line for a considerable raise. Chicago also has to prepare for the fact that Brent Seabrook, who only has one year left on his contract, will likely demand more than his current $5.8 million annual cap hit.

Perhaps Patrick Sharp will be moved to give the Blackhawks the flexibility that they need. Maybe Chicago will find a way to keep him, although doing so would likely come at the expense of the Blackhawks’ depth.

Which brings us to the other part of their cap situation. While Kane and Toews just demonstrated once again — as if further proof was required — why Chicago had to re-sign them at any cost, in the salary cap era it’s the team that gets the best value that has the edge. Having Kane and Toews at $6.5 million cap hits each was a big part of the Blackhawks’ strength as it allowed them to support a rather large core, making the burden on the supporting cast somewhat less. The duo will continue to be enviable players, but their days of being under market value are over.

Now Chicago might find itself in a similar situation to Pittsburgh, which has struggled to build around Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby since they starting making what they’re worth (when the Penguins won the Cup, Malkin was still on his entry-level contract).

Then there’s the matter of Marian Hossa, who has had a tremendous career, but will be 37 in January. He nevertheless comes with a roughly $5.3 million annual cap hit through 2020-21. If Sharp gets traded away and Hossa declines, then suddenly Chicago starts to look a little thin offensively after Kane and Toews.

That’s not to suggest that Chicago’s decline is inevitable. Just because Pittsburgh hasn’t been able to make its cap situation work doesn’t mean that Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman can’t. After all, he’s been dealing with ceiling issues since he took over and they’ve stayed competitive. In part that’s because they’ve been able to draft and develop talent like Saad to help fill the gaps while keeping costs down. It’s also possible that Hossa has several good years left in him.

The salary cap by its nature pushes great teams down. Chicago has been remarkable in its ability to work around it. Time will tell if the Blackhawks will eventually succumb.

source: AP
Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane

Oddsmaker: ‘Hawks, Rangers very early 2016 Cup favorites


The 2015 playoffs are officially in the books and it didn’t take long before the focus started to shift to the 2015-16 campaign. Online bookmaker Bovada released its odds and they’re putting the chances of the Blackhawks winning their fourth Stanley Cup in seven years at 7/1.

It goes without saying that it’s always hard to successfully defend a Stanley Cup championship, but Chicago’s task will be particularly daunting as it will have to navigate some rough waters this summer. With Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews matching eight-year, $84 million contracts set to kick in, the Blackhawks have about $64 million committed to 14 players for 2015-16, per General Fanager.

After reaching at least the Conference Final in three of the last four years, the New York Rangers ranked second with 8/1 odds. The Anaheim Ducks, which took Chicago to seven games in the Western Conference Final, are third at 10/1. The St. Louis Blues and Tampa Bay Lightning rounded out the top five with matching 12/1 odds.

At the bottom of the pack are the Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, and Arizona Coyotes at 100/1.

Here’s how all 30 teams stack up:
Chicago Blackhawks 7/1
New York Rangers 8/1
Anaheim Ducks 10/1
St. Louis Blues 12/1
Tampa Bay Lightning 12/1
Los Angeles Kings 14/1
Minnesota Wild 14/1
Montreal Canadiens 14/1
Pittsburgh Penguins 14/1
Boston Bruins 16/1
Nashville Predators 16/1
Washington Capitals 18/1
New York Islanders 22/1
Winnipeg Jets 25/1
Columbus Blue Jackets 33/1
Detroit Red Wings 33/1
Edmonton Oilers 33/1
Calgary Flames 40/1
San Jose Sharks 40/1
Vancouver Canucks 40/1
Ottawa Senators 50/1
Colorado Avalanche 66/1
Dallas Stars 66/1
New Jersey Devils 66/1
Philadelphia Flyers 66/1
Toronto Maple Leafs 66/1
Florida Panthers 75/1
Buffalo Sabres 100/1
Carolina Hurricanes 100/1
Arizona Coyotes 100/1

Championship-clinching Game 6 draws big ratings

Brent Seabrook

There was no shortage of people watching the Chicago Blackhawks win their third Stanley Cup championship in six years last night. Monday’s game drew a 5.6 overnight rating, which is the third highest mark for a Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final since 1995, per NBC Sports PR. It’s also the fourth-best overnight rating ever for an NHL contest.

The Chicago market topped the list with a record-setting 41.0 household rating. Tampa Bay came in second with a 15.2 household rating. Buffalo (10.5), Milwaukee (7.9), and Denver (7.6) rounded out the top five.

Every game in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final was fiercely competitive as the first five were decided by just one goal while Chicago managed to end that trend with its 2-0 victory last night. The win also caused the dynasty debate surrounding the Blackhawks to heat up.

After a rough start, Crawford delivered in Stanley Cup Final

Corey Crawford

Corey Crawford’s start to the 2015 playoffs was hardly idyllic. He was yanked after just 20 minutes in Chicago’s playoff opener because he surrendered three goals on 12 shots. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville put him back in for Game 2, but after Chicago suffered a 6-2 loss, it was Scott Darling that got the nod for Game 3.

Thus began a goaltending controversy that spanned the first round of the playoffs. Quenneville made it clear that Crawford would start in the second round against the Minnesota Wild and that was the end of the drama between the pipes.

From there the 30-year-old goaltender led the Blackhawks past Minnesota and Anaheim before coming up big in the final three games of the Stanley Cup Final by turning aside 80 of 82 shots. With that Crawford has now won the Stanley Cup twice in three years. He has a 2.23 GAA and .921 save percentage in 76 career playoff games and his 45th postseason wins puts him in a tie with Tony Esposito for the most in franchise history.

“We know who he is,” Brandon Saad told CSN Chicago. “He’s a big time player. He anchors our team and we love him. He’s a great goalie and obviously the rings speak for themselves.”

Crawford might go his entire career with his worth being questioned at every misstep, but it’s hard to deny what he meant to this franchise. All the Chicago dynasty talk exists because players emerged to help fill the void after Chicago’s cap situation forced them to make tough choices following its 2010 championship. Of all the players that have become regulars since the summer of 2010, Crawford has been the most vital.