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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.

Would Duchene for Murray, Jenner trade make sense for Avs, Blue Jackets?

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With Colorado Avalanche training camp looming on Thursday, the urge to trade Matt Duchene might rise. For some Avs fans, it could be as much about getting some closure as anything else.

Now, it’s important to note that there’s no word on a trade being close.

Really, there are plenty of reports that indicate that Avalanche GM Joe Sakic continues to hold out for a great deal, whether you believe his aims are reasonable or not.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported in “31 Thoughts” that the Avalanche may have at least discussed P.K. Subban with the Nashville Predators, and updates back up the notion that Sakic is shooting high:

Wow.

So, to reiterate, it could be quite a while before the Avalanche trade Duchene. It’s really difficult to tell, especially since moves can come together quickly after laying dormant for what seems like ages.

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So, again, this isn’t to say a trade is coming. With training camp nearing, it’s fun to break down the facets of a possible move, anyway.

On Tuesday, PHT pondered the Hurricanes giving up Noah Hanifin for Duchene. Such an idea didn’t seem particularly well-received by Carolina fans.

The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline reports that the Columbus Blue Jackets have not offered up the combination of Boone Jenner and Ryan Murray to try to nab Duchene, but in a Wednesday newsletter, Portzline reported that such a combination could possibly meet the Avalanche’s needs.

Even beyond this post’s earlier disclaimer, it’s important to note that Portzline reports Jenner is a little banged up, so that would likely hold up a move even if Sakic would bite:

Let’s explore the logic of a possible move, though.

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A game-breaker for Columbus?

The Hurricanes and Blue Jackets have at least two things in common that could make a Duchene trade more feasible and palatable: each franchise boasts a nice prospect stockpile and lack a true top center.

Now, you can argue that Duchene isn’t an “elite” No. 1 pivot, but he could really flesh out Columbus’ group (and take some pressure off, say, Alex Wennberg).

It’s easy to fixate on Duchene’s rough 2016-17 season, but at age 26, it’s fair to argue that last season was an anomaly. The Avalanche were a borderline historic disaster, and even if Duchene could have played better, it’s absurd to pin too much on the speedy scorer.

Look at his previous four sesaons and you’ll see evidence of a gamebreaker, especially in the low-scoring, modern NHL.

Duchene generated at least 20 goals in three straight seasons from 2013-14 to 2015-16, and he almost hit 20 (scoring 17) during the 48-game lockout season of 2012-13.

The Blue Jackets, to some extent, score by committee. Adding a little more dynamic skill could really help Columbus find that “extra gear.”

Murray, the mystery

Reports have already surfaced that Ryan Murray wouldn’t be enough of a showpiece to pry Duchene away from Colorado.

Portzline indicates that a package involving Murray and Jenner could move the needle more, so let’s ponder Murray for a moment.

Considering that the Avalanche are shooting high for a Duchene return, they’d have to figure that Murray, 23, needs a fresh start. Management might even see the potential for a high-draft-pick turnaround that parallels how Erik Johnson‘s enjoyed a nice run with the Avs.

Because, yikes, it’s been a bumpy ride. Injuries derailed his early development, and Murray seemed generally overwhelmed in 2016-17:

via Domenic Galamini

Yep, that would require a leap of faith … or the Avalanche would really need to be smitten by Boone Jenner.

On Jenner

Jenner is an interesting test case in perception.

Yes, he scored 30 goals in 2015-16, but nine of them came on the power play. Jenner was limited to 18 goals in 2016-17, with none coming on Columbus’ locomotive man-advantage. Realistic expectations probably place him at 20 goals with modest playmaking.

Jenner brings nice size and is only 24, so there are selling points.

Still, it’s possible that Blue Jackets management views his strengths as redundant. He averaged less than 30 seconds of power-play time last season after logging about two minutes per night in 2015-16, for instance,

Some conclusions

Jenner ($2.9M, RFA after 2017-18) and Murray ($2.825M, RFA after 2017-18) and Duchene ($6M, UFA after 2018-19) all have their strengths and weaknesses. They’re all at or approaching a fork in the road in their careers with little time on their current contracts.

A Jenner + Murray combo could make some sense for the Avalanche, especially with both being at prime ages. You’d think that the Blue Jackets might need to sweeten the deal with a prospect, at least considering how big Sakic is seemingly dreaming.

Personally, from a Blue Jackets perspective, this seems like a great deal.

It would set the stage for a potentially fascinating summer of 2019, as Duchene, Artemi Panarin, and Sergei Bobrovsky would all be eligible for unrestricted free agency. On the other hand, that would allow Columbus to assess where the franchise is at over a season or two, and pivot if they feel that this group just can’t get it done.

One understands the lure of hoarding prospects, especially with how fans can sometimes get attached to the daydream of production that may never come. Sometimes you have to swing for the fences, though, and the Blue Jackets might want to do that with Duchene.

You know, if they can actually convince Sakic to accept a reasonable deal.

David Pastrnak is a star and the Bruins should be willing to pay him like one

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As training camps draw closer all eyes in the NHL are starting to turn to the situation in Boston where restricted free agent David Pastrnak remains unsigned.

According to general manager Don Sweeney, there is no timetable on when a deal is going to be reached and there seems to be a bit of a gap between the two sides when it comes to the type of contract Pastrnak is going to get.

The Bruins have reportedly offered a seven-year deal worth around $6 million per year, while Pastrnak would reportedly prefer a deal closer to the eight-year pact Leon Draisaitl received from the Edmonton Oilers. Given their ages and overall production to this point, as well as the market for RFA’s of that skill level, it is not a completely unreasonable ask.

There are a couple of problems for the Bruins here, and a big one is simply the optics of the situation.

The Bruins have a 21-year-old player that appears to be on the verge of stardom in the NHL. He not only can be a young, cornerstone offensive player, he already is one. They also have more than enough salary cap room to fit him in.

What keeps the Bruins from getting the benefit of the doubt in this situation (at least from this perspective) is the track record they have in dealing with young, cornerstone offensive players. They tend to toss them aside, having traded Joe Thornton, Phil Kessel, Blake Wheeler, Tyler Seguin and standout defenseman Dougie Hamilton all within the past 12 years (and with three different general managers completing those trades). It creates the perception that the organization as a whole doesn’t properly value high end talent and would rather trade it away — often times for pennies on the dollar — than pay market value to keep it.

The argument against paying Pastrnak a deal similar to the one Draisaitl received, for example, is that the team is paying for potential. He might not pan out. It might not be a great value.

Pastrnak at this point in his career has one monster season and a couple of half seasons where he flashed star potential.

But his production puts him in some pretty rare and special company when it comes to impact players.

Over the past 20 years there have only been 10 players that have appeared in at least 170 games and scored at least 59 goals by the end of their age 20 season: Sidney Crosby, Ilya Kovalchuk, Steven Stamkos, Marian Gaborik, Jeff Skinner, Evander Kane, Jordan Staal, Vincent Lecavalier, Nathan MacKinnon and … David Pastrnak. The only player on that list that really didn’t continue on the same path that they showed early on has been Kane, and a lot of that has been due to injury and health.

What stands out about Pastrnak on that list is how little ice time it has taken him to reach that level compared to some of the others. Via Hockey-Reference.

On a per-minute basis his production is off the charts for someone his age.

Players that produce at this level at this age tend to be good enough to sustain it.

It’s not paying for potential. It’s paying for what a player will do for you instead of what a player has done for you.

The Bruins have been fortunate to get some tremendous bargains with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron over the years, and giving Pastrnak $7-8 million per season right now might look like a little bit of an overpay. But not every contract has to be below market value. Plus, if Pastrnak continues on his current path — and there is every reason to believe that he will given what he has done so far, his ability to generate shots and his possession numbers — that contract, too, could look like a bargain in the near future.

Report: Blackhawks sign Franson to PTO

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Two years ago, Cody Franson didn’t get a contract signed until Sept. 10,  finally inking a deal with the Buffalo Sabres.

On Thursday, with the summer once again almost completely over and one week remaining until training camps open up, the 30-year-old defenseman signed a professional tryout with the Chicago Blackhawks, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, which added that Franson turned down offers from other clubs in favor of this opportunity with the Blackhawks.

Playing on a two-year deal worth a total of $6.65 million for the Sabres, Franson had three goals and 19 points in Buffalo last season. He had 17 points the previous season.

With the losses of Brian Campbell, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Johnny Oduya, there has been significant change to the Blackhawks blue line throughout this offseason.

That said, there will be competition for spots on defense.

Prospect Gustav Forsling looks to maintain a full-time position on the roster after impressing during camp and splitting his time last season between the NHL and the minors. Same goes for Jan Rutta, who has spent the last few years playing professionally in the Czech Republic before he made the decision to come to North America.  He signed with Chicago in June.

The ‘Canes will have a captain in 2017-18

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For the first time in over a year, someone on the Carolina Hurricanes roster will have a “C” on their jersey when the season begins next month.

The ‘Canes, who haven’t had a captain since trading Eric Staal away in Feb. of 2016, used four alternates last year (Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner, Victor Rask and Justin Faulk).

Although we don’t know who the captain will be just yet, head coach Bill Peters wants the decision to be made by the group, not just one person.

“It will be a group decision,” Peters said, per the News & Observer. “I think it’s important to get everybody’s ideas. When you ask people, not only do I ask them but I also ask them why? Give me an example of why you picked that guy. Give me another one. Give me an example of how he showed leadership.

“Someone is going to wear one, for sure. Our leadership group is fine and we’ve got real good candidates. They’ll all provide leadership whether they wear a letter or not.”

Staal, Skinner, Rask and Faulk are all quality candidates, but free-agent acquisition Justin Williams might also be in the mix. Williams is new to this group of Hurricanes, but this is his second go-round with the club. He was a big part of the Carolina team that won the Stanley Cup in 2006.

A decision is expected sometime before the start of the season.