Why Zach Parise might be a risky free agent investment

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To the delight of hockey-free summers, it seems like every off-season features at least one tantalizing “can’t-miss” free agent. This time around, Zach Parise might carry the torch from the likes of Brad Richards, Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa.

Yet for all the drooling over such an attractive, versatile target, NHL Numbers wonders if Parise should come with a buyer beware sticker.

So it is worth remembering that Parise turns 28 this year. That is past the peak for a scorer, and although players are aging better than they did 20 years ago, in recent years the fraction of players who are performing late in their career has been dropping sharply.

Obviously there is variation from player to player. Some, like Jarome Iginla and Patrick Marleau, have aged relatively gracefully and continue to post 30-goal seasons into their early 30’s. Others, like Dany Heatley and Vincent Lecavalier and Simon Gagne have seen their production drop markedly as they cross into this part of their career. Those players may still be good players, but they would no longer justify a $6M+ cap hit, particularly not on a contract that extends into their mid-to-late-30’s.

… Parise is seeing sharp drops in his goals and points, in almost exact proportion to how often he is getting the puck on net. His story almost exactly mirrors that of Dany Heatley: his power play production has been steady, but his ability to generate shots at even strength has declined, and with that has come a drop in even strength goals and points.

The name “Dany Heatley” likely makes many fans shudder and there are some obvious arguments against that comparison – mostly from a subjective “character” standpoint. Heatley’s deriders might argue that he simply doesn’t work as hard as Parise will once he gets a new deal. More reasonable types would probably point out that Parise is more defensively conscientious.

Still, the overarching risk is something that every suitor should consider.

The post rightly points out that players are aging better than ever, yet it’s also true that “hustle” and “heart” can only take you so far. When you’re talking about deals like the one Parise is likely to garner, whatever team he lands with will be pushing many of their salary cap chips to the middle of the table.

One can argue about the severity of the risk, but there’s no doubt that it’s a gamble in some form – huge free agent moves generally fail more often than they succeed across all sports. Don’t get me wrong; it’s all good fun to daydream about what kind of impact the elite (or near-elite?) forward can make, yet it’s important to note that success is far from a guarantee.

After all, Heatley looked awfully impressive back when he was dominating with Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson in Ottawa, too.

Tristan Jarry makes some history with goalie goal in AHL

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Take a break from your work day and enjoy one of the great — and extremely rare! — joys that hockey has to offer: The goalie goal.

This one comes to us from the American Hockey League on Wednesday afternoon where Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry became the first goalie in franchise history, and only the 14th goalie in AHL history, to score a goal.

He did it late in the third period of the Penguins’ 5-1 win over the Springfield Falcons, and you can see it in the video above.

Jarry was selected by the Penguins in the second-round of the 2013 NHL draft (No. 44 overall) and has spent most of the past four seasons playing in the AHL. He has also appeared in 27 NHL games during that time, almost all of them coming a season ago. He lost out on the backup job behind Matt Murray in Pittsburgh to Casey DeSmith this preseason.

Some more goalie goal history for you: Jarry’s goal is the first by a goalie in the AHL since Charlotte Checkers goalie Alex Nedeljkovic scored one in March of this past season.

There have been 11 different goalies to score a goal in an NHL game, the most recent of which was scored by Mike Smith, then of the Arizona Coyotes, during the 2013-14 season. Martin Brodeur (three) and Ron Hextall (two) are the only ones to have scored more than one.

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.

Trade: Penguins send Carl Hagelin to Kings for Tanner Pearson

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Jim Rutherford said changes could be coming to the Pittsburgh Penguins if things didn’t turn around. Things have not turned around yet, and on Wednesday he made his first change.

Just a couple of hours after the team announced that Rutherford had signed a new contract extension to remain the team’s general manager, he completed a trade with the Los Angeles Kings in an effort to shake up his struggling roster.

The trade: Sending Carl Hagelin, a two-time Stanley Cup-winner in Pittsburgh, to the Los Angeles Kings for Tanner Pearson.

Rutherford said after the trade this could be the start of more changes and that, “with the way things have gone, it’s obvious that we had make a change.”

On the surface there’s really not much separating these two players through the first two months of the season as both have struggled offensively.

Hagelin has just three points in 16 games even though he has spent the bulk of the year playing alongside one of the league’s top players in Evgeni Malkin. Pearson, who is usually good for 15 goals and 40 points over a full season, has just one point in 17 games for a Kings team that has sent offense back to the dead puck era.

But let’s try to dig a little deeper than that and see what this means for both teams.

[Related: Rutherford signs contract extension with Penguins]

First, let’s start with the Kings because this is a tough one to read. Really tough. The Kings are an old, bad offensive hockey team that managed to somehow get older (Hagelin is 30; Pearson is 26) and worse offensively. Even though Pearson is having a miserable year, he is still, in big picture terms, a better offensive player than Hagelin and will probably continue to be in future seasons.

Hagelin has speed to burn, but simply doesn’t have the hands to match it. It leads to a lot of chances that ultimately fizzle out in the offensive zone. That is not what the Kings need. At all.

The key here for the Kings is, most likely, in the dollars. Hagelin is a free agent after this season and has his $4 million salary cap hit coming off the books, while Pearson is still on the hook for $3.75 salary cap hit through the 2020-21 season. If they don’t see Pearson as a long-term fit in what should be an upcoming rebuild, it makes some sense to jettison the salary. Though, it certainly does make you wonder if there was a better return out there than this. It is not that Hagelin is a bad player, because he is outstanding defensively and on the penalty kill and every line he is a part of tends to play better. He just doesn’t seem to have much of a purpose on this particular Kings team or address any of their needs, short-term or long-term. It is entirely possible, if not likely, he gets traded again before the deadline.

The Penguins, meanwhile, needed a boost offensively, especially when it comes to their bottom-six, a group that has been completely nonexistent this season. After their 4-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night you have to go back nine games to find the last time they received a goal from their third-or fourth-line, and Pearson, in theory, could be an upgrade there.

It is also possible that coach Mike Sullivan could simply slot him into the opening left by Hagelin’s departure.

While he is not likely to be an impact player, he does seem like a pretty good buy-low candidate for the Penguins to take a chance on. His career track record suggests he is significantly better than he has shown this season, and now he gets a fresh start on what should be a good team with top-tier talent around him. It wouldn’t be the first time such a trade worked out for the Penguins.

Remember, they originally acquired Hagelin in the middle of the 2015-16 season when he was struggling in Anaheim in a similar change of scenery swap involving David Perron. Hagelin immediately rediscovered his game in Pittsburgh and played a key role in turning their season around and helping them win the Stanley Cup.

It is not likely to play out that perfectly again for the Penguins, but as Rutherford said on Wednesday, they had to try something.

MORE: Obviously unhappy GM rips Penguins’ slow start

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.

 

Skidding Blackhawks odds favorites hosting Blues on Wednesday

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The Chicago Blackhawks will win a hockey game under new coach Jeremy Colliton at some point, but they don’t offer a sterling track record as a slight favorite on home ice.

Despite an eight-game losing streak, the Blackhawks are -120 moneyline favorites against the +100 underdog St. Louis Blues on the NHL odds for Wednesday night with a 6.0 total at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Chicago, which is going into its fourth game since Colliton took over as coach after the ouster of Joel Quenneville, is just 5-13 in its last 18 home games as a favorite of 100 to -125 on the moneyline. The Blues, who come into the United Center on two days of rest to the Blackhawks’ one, are 6-3 in their last nine road games against Chicago according to the OddsShark NHL Database.

The Blues are 6-6-3 this season, having won four of their last six games with both losses coming against the Minnesota Wild. Center Ryan O'Reilly helms a strong first line in between wings Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz, while the Blues power play ranks fourth-best in the NHL at 27.6 percent. Their penalty killing is also ninth at 82.4 percent.

Believing in the Blues bucking a trend of being 4-11 in their last 15 road games against Central Division teams comes down to trusting their goaltending. Backup Chad Johnson has been picking up the slack for struggling Jake Allen.

The Blackhawks are 6-8-4 overall including an 0-2-1 mark in three games under Colliton. The top line of center Jonathan Toews and wings Patrick Kane and Nick Schmaltz is coming off a high-chance night in a defeat against the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday, while their three-line attack might be firmer now that Colliton has created a new third line led by David Kampf, in between Alex DeBrincat and Dominik Kahun. Chicago will also be getting Brandon Saad back after missing two games with an arm injury.

While the Blackhawks might be worth a hunch play – all losing skids end – it would also mean downplaying the fact they are 29th in power-play efficiency at 12.5 percent and are also 25th in penalty-killing efficiency.

The total has gone OVER in four of the Blues’ last five road games against the Blackhawks. The total has gone OVER in five of the Blues’ last seven games against Central Division teams. The total has gone UNDER in nine of the Blackhawks’ last 12 games as a favorite of 100 to -125 moneyline.

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.

Wednesday Night Hockey: Golden Knights look to get back on track vs. Ducks

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Wednesday night’s matchup between the Anaheim Ducks and Vegas Golden Knights at 10:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

No team has been as consistently inconsistent as the Ducks. They’ve gone through some positive stretches, but they’ve also had to endure a seven-game losing skid already.

Like Vegas, the Ducks have also been hit hard by the injury bug. Ondrej Kase, who returned to the lineup on Monday, missed the first 18 games of the season, Corey Perry and Patrick Eaves have also missed a significant amount of time, and they also started the season without Ryan Kesler. They also lost Cam Fowler in the third period of Monday’s win against Nashville (he’s day-to-day).

The fact that they’re tied for a Wild Card spot (Colorado has two games in hand) is pretty impressive when you consider they had a long losing streak and they’ve been without key figures all season. So, how have they been able to keep their season on the rails? Simple, it’s because of John Gibson.

The 25-year-old has been extraordinary between the pipes for Anaheim. His 6-6-3 record and his 2.47 goals-against-average don’t do him justice, but his .931 save percentage shows just how efficient he’s been.

A win over the Golden Knights would allow the Ducks to string together back-to-back victories for the first time Oct. 14 and Oct. 17.

“It’s definitely a step in the right direction, and hopefully something we can build off.” Gibson said after Monday’s shootout win over Nashville. “…It seems like we’ve been able to win one here and there, but not go on a run. Hopefully we can start stringing some together, take this as a stepping stone and build from it.”

What a difference a year makes for Vegas. At this time last year, the Golden Knights were the talk of the NHL because of how dominant they were. But as of right now, they’re closer to the bottom of the Pacific Division than they are the top.

Vegas has accumulated just 15 points in 18 games, which means only the Los Angeles Kings (11) are below them in the conference standings. Some of the magic seems to have worn off from last season, but it’s also important to note that they’ve dealt with some key absences. Paul Stastny (injured), Nate Schmidt (suspended), and now Erik Haula (injured) won’t be available for this game. The good news, is that Schmidt only has two games left to serve.

“You look at how our team is playing and what we did last year, playing fast was our No. 1 thing,” Schmidt said. “I think that’s something that we haven’t done as well lately. I really think that’s what it comes down to. When you’re playing fast, you have effort, you have guys buying in, you have discipline and you have all those other things. It is the underlying factor right now. If we get back to playing fast, the other things will take care of themselves.”

Max Pacioretty, who was the team’s biggest off-season acquisition, has gotten off to a rocky start. The 29-year-old has just two goals and no assists in his first 14 games as a Golden Knight. That’s not what they expected when they gave up Tomas Tatar, top prospect Nick Suzuki, and a second-round draft pick for him right before training camp. Something has to give with Pacioretty at some point.

Pre-game coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET with a special on-site edition of NHL Live outside of T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, hosted by Kathryn Tappen alongside analysts Jeremy Roenick and Keith Jones, and NHL insider Darren Dreger. John Forslund (play-by-play), Pierre McGuire (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) and Roenick (reporter) will call Ducks-Golden Knights from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.