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Canucks avoid arbitration with Boucher, Horvat remains RFA

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The Vancouver Canucks still have some work to do this summer, but at least none of their players will take part in salary arbitration hearings.

After coming to an agreement with Michael Chaput, the Canucks reached a one-year, $687,500 deal with forward Reid Boucher on Monday.

Boucher, 23, has 112 regular-season games under his belt. He spent most of his career (82 of 112 games) with the New Jersey Devils before bouncing to the Nashville Predators (3 games) and then the Canucks (27 games) last season. He averaged a little more than 12 minutes per night with the Canucks, much like with the Devils in 2016-17.

While the arbitration hearings are covered, the Canucks face two lingering RFA situations: Brendan Gaunce, and most importantly, Bo Horvat.

Georges Laraque had some thoughts on the impact of the Oilers’ newfound toughness

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The Edmonton Oilers are coming off of their most successful season in more than a decade and there are a lot of theories for why the turnaround took place.

One of the more popular talking points was the addition of players like Milan Lucic, Patrick Maroon, and Kris Russell that helped bring some toughness and grit to the lineup and cut down on the number of liberties that were taken against star players like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

To be fair, players like Maroon — and even Zack Kassian who was in his second year with the team — did have really good seasons and were helpful in a lot of areas.

And while Lucic’s contract looks like it could one day be an albatross on the team’s salary cap, he is still a pretty good player for the time being.

The other theory — the one I buy into — is that fully healthy seasons from Connor McDavid and defenseman Oscar Klefbom, as well as a true breakout year from Draisaitl and rock solid play (and incredible durability) from goaltender Cam Talbot, helped carry the team. A couple of superstars, a top-pairing defender and a good starting goalie that can play 70-plus games will do a lot to improve a team.

One person that seems to be putting more stock into the first theory is ex-Oilers enforcer Georges Laraque.

Laraque was on Oilers Now with Bob Stauffer this past week and talked about the intimidation factor and how the additions of players like Lucic and Maroon led to healthier seasons from McDavid and the rest of his skilled teammates.

An excerpt, via the Edmonton Journal:

You said some of the people in the media they don’t like tough guys, and they say stuff, ‘They don’t like it, we don’t believe in this and that.’ This is the trend between people that know the game and people that don’t know the game. There’s many people in the media that cover the game that talk about hockey and stuff but they don’t know anything. And you read them and they want to make it look like they do, but they don’t. The stats you just said right there (on the health of the 2016-17 Oilers) gives you an indication right there of what’s been going on with that team. Why do you think McDavid got 100 points this year? Do you see how much room he’s getting? Yes, there’s a little bit of stuff there and there sometimes, but most of the time he was healthy because of that presence.

And More…

Yeah, they had a young team that played all the game and, yeah, they had enough toughness that prevent guys to take liberties with those guys. Look at before, the Oilers when they had Zack (Stortini) and other guys that were up and down, people were taking liberties with that team and they were always hurt. Now those days are done. People, when they go to Edmonton, with Darnell Nurse, Lucic, Maroon, all those guys there, people don’t want to take liberties with those kids because there’s a lot of guys can answer the bell… And we’re not even talking about fighting here. We’re talking about a presence that prevents guys from taking cheap shots because they know there would be retribution if they did so.”

This all goes back to the old “deterrence” argument that gets thrown around a lot, and it is no surprise that a former player like Laraque who was paid to be that sort of deterrent (or paid to try to be that) would buy into that. But arguing that Connor McDavid has space and scored 100 points this season because Patrick Maroon or Milan Lucic was on the team is quite a leap. He had 100 points this season because he is probably already (at worst) the second best player in the league and is as dominant as any player to enter the league in decades.

As we talked about when Pittsburgh acquired Ryan Reaves from the St. Louis Blues in an effort to cut down on the physical abuse they took, arguments like this one here by Laraque aren’t really isn’t based in any sort of reality. It is true that McDavid was fully healthy this season and managed to get through without the type of significant injury that cut his rookie season in half, and it is also true that happened in the same season that Lucic and Maroon arrived in Edmonton.

But that does not mean the two results are related. After all, when Lucic played in Boston alongside Shawn Thornton the Bruins were routinely on the receiving end of cheap shots that sidelined players. Just ask Marc Savard, Nathan Horton and Loui Eriksson, for example. The “Big Bad Bruins” mentality didn’t keep Matt Cooke, or Aaron Rome or John Scott from taking them out with cheap shots.

These discussions always create a bunch of misleading arguments about toughness and physical play. There is nothing wrong with adding physical players or players that can play with a bit of an edge. But you can’t expect them to keep your star players healthy because the guys that set out to do that damage are going to do it no matter what. Plus, hockey is a collision sport that is going to result in players being injured. It doesn’t always have to be a cheap shot.

But adding toughness just for the sake of adding toughness when there is no skill to go with it is not going to make your team any better.

The Oilers weren’t better this past season because a player Patrick Maroon showed up, played physical and tried to prevent teams from taking liberties.

The Oilers were better because a player like Patrick Maroon showed up, played physical and scored 27 goals for them.

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

Report: Berra leaves Switzerland without playing a game, signs with Ducks

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Back in April, we passed along word that Florida goalie Reto Berra was returning to his native Switzerland, having signed a three-year deal with Fribourg-Gotteron.

How quickly things change.

Per the club, Berra has opted to return to the NHL for next season, reportedly for a deal with the Anaheim Ducks. Fribourg-Gotteron classified it as a surprise development that led to the 30-year-old exercising the out clause in his contract.

If the report is accurate, landing in Anaheim would make sense. The Ducks are in a state of flux when it comes to goaltending — while John Gibson and newly-signed Ryan Miller are entrenched as the Nos. 1 and 2, there’s uncertainty behind them.

Last year’s No. 2, Jonathan Bernier, has signed with Colorado. Last year’s No. 3, Jhonas Enroth, is also a UFA and has reportedly received interest from a number of teams.

Anaheim still has Dustin Tokarski under contract, so it’s possible Berra’s being brought in as a veteran presence to work in tandem. He’s had some good success at the AHL level previously.

Del Zotto to get bigger offensive role in Vancouver

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In Michael Del Zotto‘s first year in Philadelphia, Mark Streit was the top power-play defenseman on the Flyers.

The second year, Shayne Gostisbehere came along, and Streit was still there.

The third year, another talented, young defenseman was added to the mix in Ivan Provorov. That knocked Del Zotto down to fourth in power-play time among Flyers d-men: just 48:46 on the season, compared to 65:16 on the penalty kill.

It also spelled an end to Del Zotto’s career in Philly. The Flyers were moving on without him. On July 1, he signed a two-year, $6 million contract with Vancouver.

For the 27-year-old, the change of scenery should be a good opportunity, given the Canucks’ blue line doesn’t have nearly the kind of offensive ability that the Flyers have built up on theirs.

Mobility was another glaring issue for Vancouver’s defense last season.

“You have to be able to move into today’s game,” said Del Zotto, per The Province. “It’s all about puck retrieval and the strength of my game is that first pass and that’s what the game has become. And I didn’t get a ton of power play time in Philly because my role there was more defensive, which is fine, because it’s about whatever it takes to win.”

Next season, Del Zotto will compete with the likes of Alex Edler, Troy Stecher, and Ben Hutton for power-play time. The Canucks were dreadful (29th, 14.1%) with the man advantage in 2016-17 — a big reason they also signed forwards Sam Gagner and Alexander Burmistrov on July 1.

“We wanted to add experienced players to help with the development of our kids,” GM Jim Benning said, per NHL.com. “These players are still relatively young, they add speed and skill, and it will help with the competition for ice time and jobs. Now our young players have to earn spots.”