Tag: Evgeni Malkin

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Six

Poll: Are the Lightning the favorites to win the Stanley Cup?


Standing still can be better than the alternative. While any improvement the Tampa Bay Lightning see will have to come from within after their quiet summer, they also haven’t endured any major losses.

Chicago was the oddsmaker’s favorites to repeat in mid-June, but since then the Blackhawks have parted ways with Patrick Sharp, Antoine Vermette, Brad Richards, Brandon Saad, and Johnny Oduya. To be fair, Chicago has also gotten some noteworthy additions like Artem Anisimov and they have some promising youngsters that might help fill the gaps like Artemy Panarin and Marko Dano.

Still, that doesn’t change the fact that the Blackhawks have made some considerable sacrifices this summer in the name of cap compliance and that’s without talking about the elephant in the room.

Tampa Bay finished two wins shy of Chicago in the Stanley Cup Final, so has the uncertainty created by Chicago’s turnover at least made the Blackhawks not quite as good of a bet as the Lightning?

Of course, even if you’re inclined to say that Tampa Bay is now in a better position than Chicago, that’s not the end of the debate. The New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens have strong teams led by elite goaltenders and either one is capable of having a standout season. Then there’s the Anaheim Ducks, which came closer to eliminating Chicago than Tampa Bay and the St. Louis Blues, which has fielded a great team for years, but hasn’t been able to put it all together once the playoffs start — yet.

You could bet on a Los Angeles Kings comeback or the Pittsburgh Penguins’ overwhelming squads with Phil Kessel joining Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Even then we haven’t covered all the teams that can legitimately claim to be serious contenders going into the season.

But this isn’t about who could win the Cup, it’s who has the best chance of doing so, even if it is by a narrow margin in a large field. Is Tampa Bay that team?

Pens sign veteran center Cullen: one year, $800,000


In an interesting move, Pittsburgh added even more depth up front on Thursday by signing veteran center Matt Cullen.

Cullen, who turns 39 in November, inked a one-year deal worth $800,000, re-uniting him with Pens GM Jim Rutherford — Cullen’s GM in Carolina in 2006, when the ‘Canes won the Stanley Cup.

“He has good leadership qualities,” Rutherford said of Cullen, per the Pens’ Twitter account. “He will play an important role on our 4th line.

“I know personally how good he is with other players. He has always been a guy that takes time to help his teammates.”

The 11th-oldest skater in the league last season, Cullen just wrapped a two-year, $7 million deal with the Preds, scoring seven goals and 25 points in 62 games. While he struggled early, Cullen eventually found his niche as Peter Laviolette’s “versatility guy,” flipping between the middle and wing, jumping up into the No. 2 center spot when Mike Fisher was injured during the playoffs.

Cullen is just the latest addition to Pittsburgh’s revamped forward group. The biggest splash came with the acquisition of Phil Kessel from Toronto, but Rutherford made other savvy moves as well — Nick Bonino and Eric Fehr were acquired in late July, while Sergei Plotnokov and Dominik Simon were signed out of the KHL and Czech League, respectively.

Cullen also provides the Pens with even more depth down the middle, as the club now has him, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Bonino and Fehr at the center position. Rutherford did say, however, that Fehr may be shifted to the wing.

How do Voracek, Giroux compare to the most expensive duos?

Carolina Hurricanes v Philadelphia Flyers

How would you rate Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux compared to the other elite duos in the league?

Once Voracek’s new eight-year, $66 million extension begins in 2016-17, the Flyers top two forwards will cost a little over $16.5 million annually in cap space. There are just three duos that are currently more expensive: Chicago’s Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews ($21 million combined), Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby ($18.2 million), and Anaheim’s Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf ($16.9 million).

That’s some pretty tough company to be compared to. Toews and Kane have led Chicago to three Stanley Cup championships while Malkin and Crosby have also won the Cup and combined for three Hart Trophies. Perry and Getzlaf have their names on the Cup too and while that was back in 2007, Perry is also a Hart Trophy and Rocket Richard Trophy winner while Getzlaf has ranked fourth in total points over the last three seasons.

By comparison, over the four seasons since Voracek was acquired from Columbus, the Flyers have only won one playoff series and neither Voracek or Giroux have claimed a major award. The closest either came was when Giroux finished third in the Hart Trophy vote in 2014.

That being said, even if the top items of their resumes don’t measure up to some of the other elite duos, they certainly compare favorably in other ways. Over the last three season, Voracek and Giroux have combined for 396 points, putting them behind Malkin/Crosby (419), but ahead of Perry/Getzlaf (379), and Toews/Kane (370). On top of that, at 25 years old (26 in August), Voracek is the youngest player of those listed, so he’s had the least amount of time to work on his resume.

Finally, there’s the matter of the team built around each set of elite forwards. Philadelphia over the last few years has suffered under the weight of bloated contracts to older players. Part of that has come from a need to use band aid solutions defensively to compensate for a lack of desirable homegrown blueline options. With some promising defensemen now developing in the Flyers’ system, perhaps that will change.

Because at the end of the day, it won’t be about how many points Voracek or Giroux accumulate in the regular season. That’s certainly is relevant, but they will ultimately be judged on what happens in future playoff runs.

Report: Canucks, Sutter closing in on five-year deal, north of $20M

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Rangers - Game One

Jim Benning wasn’t kidding when he called Brandon Sutter a “foundation piece.”

Just days after acquiring Sutter from Pittsburgh in a multi-player trade, the Canucks GM is reportedly close to inking the 26-year-old to a fairly large extension, per Sportsnet:

If accurate, the extension — which would kick in for 2016-17 — will make Sutter one of just two players on the active roster signed until 2020, the other being defenseman Chris Tanev. The estimated cap hit would also make Sutter one of the highest-paid forwards on the team next season, behind the Sedins ($7M each) and Alex Burrows ($4.5M).

Sutter’s two-year, $6.6M deal expires at the end of this season.

Given the reported money and term, it’s pretty clear Benning sees Sutter as the fix to Vancouver’s second-line center problem. Nick Bonino, part of the package sent to Pittsburgh for Sutter, looked over his head at times last year as the No. 2, and the club isn’t keen on rushing promising prospect Bo Horvat into the role.

“Horvat, the last half the year, played really well for us,” Benning said on Tuesday. “We don’t want to put pressure on him to be somewhere in the lineup that he can’t handle it going forward. We want to make sure that he keeps developing as a player.”

Whether Sutter can fill the No. 2 role remains to be seen. He was largely a No. 3 guy throughout his time in Pittsburgh, though some of that had to do with being stuck behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the depth chart.

For Pens, Tuesday’s moves were all about depth and finances up front

Jim Rutherford

Following a busy day in which he flipped Brandon Sutter to Vancouver for Nick Bonino and Adam Clendening, then signed ex-Capital Eric Fehr, Pens GM Jim Rutherford explained how those moves met two of his biggest objectives.

“The two deals went hand-in-hand so we can add more depth,” Rutherford said. “We have enough good players now that guys are going to have to compete for those spots [in training camp] and compete for them all year.”

He then addressed the money issue.

“When you look at the structure of our salaries and our cap, it’s important to get those bottom-six cap hits in better shape,” Rutherford explained. “That’s what we were able to do with these two deals.”

It’s not surprising that depth and finances were two of Pittsburgh’s biggest offseason priorities. Money allotment has been an issue — Sutter, a pending UFA potentially in line for a raise, was making $3.3 million while playing what amounted to a third-line center role.

Combined, Bonino and Fehr are a $3.9M cap hit.

(Lest we forget that, in the Phil Kessel trade earlier this month, Rutherford dealt away another relatively expensive third-liner in Nick Spaling, who makes $2.2M annually.)

Earlier, veteran depth guys Steve Downie, Blake Comeau, Daniel Winnik and Craig Adams were allowed to walk in free agency, giving likes of Beau Bennett ($800K), KHLer Sergei Plotnikov ($925K), Swedish prospect Oskar Sundqvist ($700K) and Czech Leaguer Dominik Simon ($692K) a chance to get into the rotation.

So that’s the financial side.

In terms of depth up front, Pittsburgh seems far better suited to deal with injuries — something that, you may remember, was a recurring issue in ’14-15. Kessel gives the club a bonafide scoring winger to play alongside either Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, while Fehr and Bonino, both natural centers, provide nice depth down the middle.

Fehr could even bounce outside if need be.

“Eric is definitely comfortable as a two-positional player,” Rutherford said. “He could possibly jump up into the top six, if that situation presented itself, but he’s coming off of a year where he played center.”

Pascal Dupuis is expected to return after playing just 16 games last year, and the club will get a full season of David Perron, acquired from Edmonton in January. Add it all up, and it’s easy to see why Rutherford is so pleased with Pittsburgh’s new-look forward group — it’s deeper, with a more sensible financial structure.

“If a guy falls off, there’s a guy waiting to jump right in there,” he explained. “I like the fact that we have enough guys that each guy can push each other.

“I like our depth at forward now.”