Other teams could make Tampa Bay miserable if Steven Stamkos reaches restricted free agency

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There are basically four big-ticket restricted free agents heading into this summer: Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, New Jersey Devils winger Zach Parise, Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos and Nashville Predators blueliner Shea Weber.

On one hand, you have two players who aren’t far from the unrestricted age of 27: Parise and Weber. To little surprise, those two are comfortable with going into salary arbitration for their last restricted season while their teams are satisfied with the idea that other teams cannot drive up their prices. In the mean time, the Devils and Predators are allowed to try to hash out a longer contract before that date arrives. From a short-term perspective, it’s a nice fix. (We’ll see if they can keep those two great players beyond the 2011-12 season before determining the long-term impacts.)

Why Stamkos could be in line for an enormous contract

While Parise and Weber’s scenarios are intriguing, Stamkos and Doughty are in especially interesting situations since they are looking for their first contracts that aren’t limited by a rookie maximum salary and each player is far from the unrestricted age. The Kings have reportedly sent a “major offer” to their superstar defenseman, but as expensive as Doughty likely will be, the forward who went before him in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft should really break the bank.*

Every time a big-name forward in his ’20s is ready to sign his second contract, it’s the kind of moment that doesn’t just impact the team and the player; those deals often establish new ceilings for the amount of money they can receive and how long those contracts go.

An unusual (and potentially trend-setting) negotiation process

The thing is, we don’t have a ton of comparable moments for Stamkos’ situation. During the last two seasons, Stamkos has entered “The Conversation” with Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, yet the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t really hesitate to lock up their stars. It almost seemed like the Caps and Pens slammed the door on other teams’ dreams basically the day they could. (Teams are allowed to sign their restricted free agent one year before their entry-level deal expires; the Penguins and Capitals did so right away while the Lightning and Stamkos haven’t reached an agreement yet.)

(That being said, if you want to know whether Stamkos’ deal should be more like Crosby’s or Ovechkin’s contract, click here.)

For team management dweebs such as myself, it’s been downright fascinating to imagine the various scenarios for Stamkos, especially if Tampa Bay fails to sign him before he’s eligible for offer sheets from other teams (by July 1, 2011). If you’re a Bolts fan with more than a slight concern about the situation, Kevin Paul Dupont’s hypotheses won’t make you feel any better.

With the salary cap expected to be close to $63 million, a bidder could spike Stamkos’s pay as high as $12 million-plus per year (20 percent of the max is the limit). And for a kid who is only 21, a 10- or 12-year deal would not be out of the question.

For discussion’s sake, let’s say someone offered Stamkos 12 years at $144 million. He would be only 33 at the end of the deal. Come the end of the 2022-23 season, if the cap were to climb at the rate it has since it began at $39 million in 2005-06, the nut would be hovering right around $100 million by then. Over the final 5-6 years of the deal, $12 million would begin to look comfortable.

As for the Bolts, what would they receive if they chose not to match? Perhaps not as much as you think.

Per CBA compensation rules, any player who receives an offer above $7,835,219 brings the maximum package in return: four first-round draft picks.

(Click here for a breakdown of the new CBA compensation rules.)

Dupont goes on to point out that the catch with those draft picks is that a Stamkos-powered team wouldn’t be as likely to produced high picks in the draft. In other words, the Lightning could end up with four mediocre prospects (plus some cap space) in exchange for their star of the present and future.

If nothing else, another team could force the Lightning to commit a brutal amount of their cap room to Stamkos. In the nightmare scenario of a $12 million annual cap hit, the Bolts would have almost $20 million devoted to Stamkos and Vincent Lecavalier. Yikes.

A lot of people are heaping praise on new Bolts GM Steve Yzerman and rightfully so. That being said, we’ll see how good he really is this summer as he faces some extremely tough personnel decisions. Re-signing Stamkos to a deal that won’t wreck the balance of this team might be the tallest order.

* – Stamkos went first in 2008 while Doughty went second. Don’t be surprised if “Stamkos or Doughty?” becomes one of the draft’s great debates 5-10 years down the road.

Avalanche’s Rantanen fined for diving

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The NHL handed out its first diving/embellishment fine of the 2018-19 season on Wednesday when it announced that Colorado Avalanche forward Mikko Rantanen, the NHL’s leading scorer entering the day, has been hit with a $2,000 fine.

Rantanen was punished for an incident that took place on Nov. 14 against the Boston Bruins.

This is the play.

Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron was giving a two-minute minor for hooking on the play while Rantanen was given a minor penalty for embellishment.

That does not seem to be one of the more egregious embellishment calls you will ever see, but his penalty on that play came after he was warned for an incident back on Oct. 16 against the New York Islanders.

His second incident is what brought on the fine. If he is cited again his fine will go up to $3,000 and will continue to increase with each incident that follows.

If he reaches a fifth violation head coach Jared Bednar will also be fined.

The NHL first started publicly citing and fining players for diving during the 2014-15 season. Only four players were fined during the 2017-18 season for diving.

Rantanen has been one of the league’s best offensive players the past two seasons. Since the start of the 2017-18 season his 116 points are tied for the sixth most in the league with Pittsburgh Penguins forward Phil Kessel. His 32 points in 20 games this season lead the league. Along with Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog he is part of what has become one of the NHL’s most dominant lines.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

NHL’s head coaching recycling bin is alive and well

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November has not been kind to NHL head coaches.

Edmonton’s firing of Todd McLellan on Tuesday was the fourth head coaching change this month and put him on a list with John Stevens (Los Angeles), Joel Quenneville (Chicago) and Mike Yeo (St. Louis) who have all been replaced over the past few weeks.

This comes after no team made an in-season coaching change a year ago.

All four of the recently fired coaches had been head coaches in the NHL before their most recent stops. History indicates all four of them have a pretty good chance of being head coaches again in the not-too-distant future. Not only because each has had varying degrees of success in the league, but because NHL teams tend to go through the same people when they look for their newest head coach. Three of them (McLellan, Stevens, and Yeo) were replaced by coaches with previous head coaching experience in the league, including Ken Hitchcock in Edmonton who will be getting the chance to coach his fifth different team (if you count his second stint with Dallas during the 2017-18 season, this is actually the sixth different time he has been hired to be the head coach of an NHL team).

Stevens was replaced by former Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins, while Yeo was replaced by former Philadelphia Flyers head coach Craig Berube.

[Related: Ken Hitchcock returns to coaching, replaces Todd McLellan in Edmonton]

The numbers on this are pretty remarkable.

Since the start of the 2005-06 season there have been (including interim coaches) 154 coaching changes in the NHL.

Those changes involved only 102 different coaches getting jobs, meaning 52 of those changes involved someone getting a second or third chance in the league.

In some cases, teams went back to the same coaches that they had previously fired.

Some examples:

  • Randy Carlyle is currently coaching the Anaheim Ducks for the second time after having been fired by the team during the 2011-12 season.
  • Hitchcock was fired by the Stars during the 2001-02 season, and after stops in Philadelphia, Columbus and St. Louis, was hired again by the Stars a year ago for one season.
  • During the 2002-03 season the Montreal Canadiens fired Michel Therrien and replaced him with Claude Julien. The Canadiens eventually fired Julien a few years later and after going through a handful of different coaches went back to … Michel Therien for the start of the 2012-13 season. After four-and-a-half years the Canadiens had seen enough from Therien and fired him. His replacement? Claude Julien.
  • Paul Maurice coached the Carolina Hurricanes from 1996 until the middle of the 2003-04 season when he replaced by Peter Laviolette. Laviolette coached the team for four-and-a-half seasons until he was fired mid-season and replaced by … Paul Maurice.
  • Jacques Lemaire and Larry Robinson both had multiple stops with the New Jersey Devils throughout their coaching careers.

This is pretty unique to the NHL.

It is not that the other sports don’t often times see coaches get second and third chances with different teams, it’s that it happens in the NHL significantly more often than any other sport.

None of the other sports see teams bring back coaches they previously fired as often as the NHL does, either. It does happen on occasion — Billy Martin and the New York Yankees; Jon Gruden’s current madness with the Oakland Raiders — but it is extremely rare.

For comparisons sake, let’s look at the coaching numbers in the other three major North American sports leagues over the same time period mentioned above.

Since 2005 the NBA has seen 137 coaching changes. Those changes have included 94 different coaches, meaning 43 (31 percent of the changes) involved someone getting a second (or third) chance.

Major League baseball teams went through 114 managerial changes since 2005 involving 93 different people. Only 21 (18 percent of the changes) involved a manager getting a second chance.

NFL teams had almost identical numbers, having made 114 changes involving 92 different people. That means only 22 (19 percent of the changes) involved a coach getting a second chance.

Just a little more than 34 percent of the NHL’s changes since 2005 involved a coach getting a second chance somewhere else.

So if it seems like NHL teams keep going to the same people when they are in need of a new coach, it is because they generally do. At least more so than every other sport in North America.

This is not to say it is necessarily a bad decision to go after someone with previous head coaching experience. Any team in need of a coach that is not at least picking up the phone and giving Quenneville a call to gauge his interest, for example, is not doing itself any favors. In the end there are only 31 jobs in the league, and even when you take into account all of the assistants and head coaches at lower levels of the sport (AHL, Junior Hockey, NCAA, etc.) there is still a limited number of options.

It just seems like sometimes even those options get consistently overlooked in favor of the same eight or nine coaches that keep getting hired, fired, and re-hired by different teams.

Sometimes it works. Many times it does not.

Sometimes there is nothing wrong with a fresh voice, a new idea, or a new person breaking into the head coaching ranks. The NHL always seems loathe to explore those options in the name of playing it safe or going with experience.

Even if that previous experience was not always great.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Sabres small favorites on NHL odds hosting Flyers on Wednesday

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The Buffalo Sabres are on their longest win streak in nine seasons, and are at home against a team that has yet to prove it can beat conference opponents regularly.

The Sabres, led by center Jack Eichel, are -120 moneyline favorites on the NHL odds for Wednesday night against the +100 underdog Philadelphia Flyers with a 6.0 total at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The Sabres are 6-0 in their last six games, for their longest win streak since the 2009-10 season, and the OddsShark NHL Database shows that they are 6-3 in their last nine games against Eastern Conference opponents. The Flyers are 0-5 in their last five conference games.

The Flyers might be the epitome of a consistently inconsistent team, with a 9-9-2 record this season which includes being 3-3 as a underdog on the road. There are bright spots aplenty, including right wing Travis Konecny stepping up as a top-end forward alongside center Sean Couturier and left wing Claude Giroux. However, the Flyers have one of the worst goals-against records in the league and are also second-last in penalty killing at 68.6 percent, with the power play not much better at 24th in the 31-team in the NHL.

Media reports indicate that the Flyers will have goalie Alex Lyon make his season debut.

The Sabres are 13-6-2, including a 4-1 record as a home-ice favorite at KeyBank Centre. The -120 moneyline suggests the jury is still out on a team that is fourth overall in the NHL standings on the virtue of a 7-0-2 record in one-goal games, so the time might be ripe to back them while they still keep betting value.

The top line of Eichel with wings Jason Pominville and Jeff Skinner has been productive, while Buffalo has offensive depth for the first time in several seasons. Left wing Conor Sheary, for one, was a Flyers killer during his Pittsburgh Penguins days.

On special teams, the Sabres have been better a man down than a man up, ranking fifth in penalty killing (82.5 percent) but 22nd on the power play (17.4 percent). Sabres goalie Carter Hutton has won four consecutive starts and has a 2.61 goals-against average and .917 save percentage, and one would expect Buffalo to stay with the hot hand.

The total has gone UNDER in seven of the Flyers’ last 10 road games as the underdog. However, the total has gone OVER in seven of the Flyers’ last 10 games against the Eastern Conference.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or Spotify or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

Panthers’ Trocheck has surgery for fractured ankle

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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Florida Panthers forward Vincent Trocheck has had surgery for a fractured ankle and may play again this season.

Trocheck was hurt when twisted his right leg while chasing the puck near the end boards in Monday night’s game at Ottawa. He was taken off the ice on a stretcher.

”It’s never easy to see a player and person like him suffer an injury like this, but we are confident that he will make a full recovery and be back on the ice with our team this season,” Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said in a statement Wednesday.

The 2017 NHL All-Star has three goals and 14 points in 18 games this season.

Florida recalled forward Denis Malgin from Springfield of the AHL in advance of Wednesday night’s game at Tampa Bay.

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports