PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.
Naming three teams who made the playoffs last season who might not (and three who missed it, yet might make it). (The Hockey News)
The 10 best seasons for players at age 40 and older. (Sportsnet)
A hockey historian shares some childhood memories of Ken Dryden. (Greatest Hockey Legends)
Congrats to Mark Letestu on the birth of his baby girl Blake Ashley:
The Chicago Blackhawks’ 2015 Stanley Cup run inspired this elaborate corn maze:
Want more info on it? CSNChicago.com has you covered.
Washington Capitals prospect Stanislav Galiev cannot be accused of being fearful, at least when it comes to cuisine. For one thing, he ate scorpions in Vietnam:
Think that’s extreme? Try … eating a cobra heart that was still beating.
One of the biggest fish left in free agency says more than a few lines have been cast his way.
Cody Franson, the 27-year-old UFA defenseman that’s still yet to sign, says he’s been speaking with five or six teams about possibly signing — a group that includes the Boston Bruins.
“With the trade they made with [Dougie] Hamilton and some of the other stuff they’ve done, they’re one of the teams that we’re in talks with,” Franson told TSN 1040 Vancouver on Tuesday. “Boston would be an interesting spot. It’s obviously an awesome city, and they’ve got a great organization and all those things that come with it.”
It’s not surprising Boston’s in the mix. The club’s blueline has been badly depleted since going to the Stanley Cup Final in 2013 — gone from that team are Hamilton, Johnny Boychuk, Andrew Ference and Matt Bartkowski. That’s left the B’s in a rather precarious spot; if the season started today, Boston’s top-four would be comprised of Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Torey Krug and Adam McQuaid.
Zach Trotman, Kevan Miller, Joe Morrow and Matt Irwin would (presumably) be battling for spots Nos. 5 and 6.
Franson’s also a good fit to replace Hamilton. Both are rangy, right-hand shots with offensive upside… thing is, it might not work financially. The Bruins have just under $5 million in available cap space, and it sounds like Franson is looking for a deal with a fair amount of money — and something more long-term.
“Obviously, I’d like to get something a little more than one year,” he said. “I’m sick of doing one-year deals.”
Per an earlier report from PHT’s Dhiren Mahiban, it’s believed Pittsburgh and Buffalo are also interested in Franson.
With Eric Fehr an unrestricted free agent and Nicklas Backstrom’s availability for the start of the season “up in the air” after undergoing arthroscopic hip surgery, the Washington Capitals’ situation at center is far from certain.
Washington has stated that Evgeny Kuznetsov will serve as the number two center and when Backstrom is healthy, he is the clear number one, but that still leaves the third line role undetermined.
“I think we’re going to let it play out,” Capitals GM Brian MacLellan told the Washington Post. “We could address it internally, the third-line center spot, and also depending on how the contract situation plays itself out, there’s a couple options in the free agency market that we see, and we’ll explore the trade market up until training camp. There might be something in that venue.”
Andre Burakovsky, 20, is among their internal options, but they also have veteran alternatives like 29-year-old Jay Beagle.
If they do decide to sign a center to help fill the void, then their options include Stephen Weiss, Matt Cullen, Derek Roy and, of course, Fehr.
Washington does have some cap considerations though. They have a little more than $10 million in space, but still have to re-sign restricted free agents Marcus Johansson and Braden Holtby, per General Fanager.
The Edmonton Oilers signed Tyler Pitlick and Brandon Davidson to one-year contracts on Thursday.
Pitlick (pictured) spent part of the 2014-15 season at the AHL and NHL level, at least when he wasn’t injured. The 23-year-old forward generated two goals in 17 games with the Oilers and nine points in 14 contests with the AHL’s Oklahoma City Barons in 2014-15. Pitlick was the 31st pick of the 2010 NHL Draft.
Davidson, also 23, spent time at both levels last season as well. He managed a goal in 12 games with the Oilers and 10 points in 55 games in the AHL. The blueliner was the 162th pick in 2010.
He told the team website that he’s OK with the possibility of being the team’s seventh defenseman.
“That’s very fair,” Davidson said. “That’s my goal right now, to get my foot in that door and if that’s that seventh spot then I’m going to relish that and run with that. Any chance I can be there and stay there, I’m going to take it, make the best of it and work my way to through the ranks kind of thing.”
The Oilers didn’t provide specifics regarding either contract beyond the length of the deals.
If nothing else, the Edmonton Oilers seem willing to pay to improve their defense. Did they do enough to finally see some actual results, though?
In a way, Justin Schultz symbolizes the team as a whole: expensive, hyped-up and disappointing.
His possession stats have been disastrous at times. At a glance, his offensive numbers look reasonable enough, yet he’s really been given every opportunity to produce even more. The 25-year-old’s even been a healthy scratch on a defense that’s been downright terrible at times.
The Oilers haven’t done themselves any favors by pronouncing his potential to be Norris-level and boxing themselves into a corner with bloated contracts, including Wednesday’s one-year, $3.9 million deal. All in all, it’s been an ugly start to his NHL career.
Still, a lot of people believe that he still has a chance to be a difference-maker … in a good way, that is.
Long story short, the jury’s out regarding Schultz’s potential, but what about Edmonton’s defense as a whole? PHT’s Jason Brough took a quick stab at what the Oilers’ blueline might look at, while Mike Halford also threw Griffin Reinhart’s name in the hat:
There are a few things that stand out while pondering potential pairings:
- Most obviously, that’s a pretty expensive group, especially considering the middling (at best) results. War on Ice pegs their 2015-16 defense spending at $22.92 million, and that’s assuming Darnell Nurse isn’t in the mix.
- It’s highly mercenary. As much as the narrative revolves around the Oilers being built off of high draft picks, it’s remarkable just how many of their defensemen have come from free agency (especially if you count Schultz) and trades. There isn’t much “homegrown” talent involved.
- Improvement is indeed feasible. Andej Sekera is a possession darling, while Mark Fayne came in with some solid credentials last summer. Nurse could very well be a gem, as his draft status would indicate. People continue to await Schultz’s growth. Maybe most importantly, Todd McLellan is arguably the most qualified coach the Oilers have employed in a long time.
Of course, it remains to be seen if “improved” means much, as there was a significant gap between the Oilers and the NHL’s defensive elite. Schultz remains a microcosm once more, as both the player and the group are absolutely at the “put up or shut up” juncture heading into 2015-16.