Interesting parallels between Seguin, Neal trades

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Every now and then, a move seems oddly familiar, even if different teams are involved. One could make the argument that there are some interesting/amusing/possibly inane parallels between the trade that sent Tyler Seguin to the Dallas Stars in 2013 and the move that shipped James Neal to the Nashville Predators in 2014.

(Feel free to disagree with any of these comparisons in the comments, though hopefully without weird anger.)

A) Seguin and Neal

There are some parallels between the players themselves, beyond the fact that both have been paid by the Stars at some point in their NHL careers.

1. Both drew vague criticisms about their attitudes

Seguin (now just 22, somehow) received some heat for supposed partying and other issues. Neal, 26, has had more than a few run-ins with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. One might assume such “character” concerns expedited their departures from Boston and Pittsburgh respectively.

MORE: Neal: “I have to change and be better for it”

2. Each leave East contenders that may still be competitive without them

The Bruins won the Presidents’ Trophy last season. For all the turmoil in the Penguins’ organization, many would probably argue that they’re a contender for the Metropolitan Division title, if not aiming higher.

3. Higher ceilings

However you might feel about the packages the Bruins and Penguins received, most would agree that Seguin and Neal probably have more “upside.” Actually, you’d have to strain quite a bit to claim that Loui Eriksson, Joe Morrow, Reilly Smith or Matt Fraser have higher ceilings than Seguin after he jumped another level with Dallas.

Seguin is quite a bit younger and probably creates more offense on his own, yet it’s easy to forget how dangerous Neal can be; not many 26-year-old’s boast a resume that includes one 40-goal season and five other 20+ goal seasons.

4. Disappointing finishes

Despite solid playoff runs, both went out of town struggling individually in the postseason. Neal only managed two goals and four points in 13 playoff games in 2014 after scoring 10 in 13 playoff games in 2013. Seguin only scored one goal and eight points in Boston’s 22-game run to the 2013 Stanley Cup Final.

5. Cheap deals

Seguin’s $5.75 million cap hit puts him alongside the likes of John Tavares and Victor Hedman as one of the best bargains in the NHL, especially since that deal doesn’t expire until after the 2018-19. Neal isn’t far behind with a $5 million cap hit through 2017-18.

B) Solid Swedes and prospects

The Bruins and Penguins received nice packages for their young forwards, fueling more than a few quantity-over-quality arguments.

Eriksson suffered a rough season in 2013-14, yet the Bruins think he can slide into a first-line role next season. Much like Eriksson, Hornqvist is a very nice player who often gets lost in the shuffle.

He quietly scores plenty of goals, and people are reasonable if they picture him generating even more offense playing in Pittsburgh than he did in Nashville. Hornqvist has one 30-goal season and three 20+ goal seasons, including a 22-goal, 53-point campaign with the Preds in 2013-14.

In other words, the Penguins didn’t exactly get chopped liver, especially if Nick Spaling helps out in solid ways like Reilly Smith has for Boston.

C) Random stuff

  • Both Neal and Seguin relocate to “nontraditional” markets with no state income taxes, which probably makes them feel a little better about the bargain deals they’re signed to.
  • Neal and Seguin are basically “new toys” for incoming new head coaches.
  • Each could represent the beginning of a big change. Seguin’s acquisition preceded the Spezza – Hemsky additions in Dallas while Nashville GM David Poile seems keen on adding more to the mix with his team.

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There are plenty of ways these two deals aren’t alike. For one thing, Neal must prove that he can produce without an elite passer making life easy for him; few wingers get blessed with a center group that included Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Brad Richards (at or near his peak).

Even so, it’s interesting to ponder the parallels between the two moves. If you’re a fan of the Predators, you may also start to expect too much …

Humboldt Broncos reunite to honor late head coach

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Ten members of the Humboldt Broncos reunited on Wednesday night during the 2018 NHL Awards in Las Vegas. The survivors of the April 6 bus crash that killed 16 players and staff were on stage to help give out the first Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award to their late head coach Darcy Haugan.

The award, presented “to an individual who – through the game of hockey – has positively impacted his or her community, culture or society,” was voted on by the public after fans submitted candidates, and the field was then narrowed down to three finalists.

From the NHL:

Haugan left a lasting impact in Humboldt, Sask., as well as every other community that was fortunate enough to have him as a resident or involved in junior hockey. He changed the lives of many of his players, always being there for each one of them and never hesitating to give them a second chance. He fought for his team and had their backs – he was the coach and mentor everybody wanted. Haugan believed strongly that the game is not about making hockey players; it is about making amazing human beings. He did just that, building up young leaders who also developed strong hockey skills along the way. His presence would fill the room and his love for the game was undeniable. Haugan died doing what he loved, surrounded by the young people he dedicated his life to. Haugan left behind, in all of those he touched, his spirit and passion for the game, his love for his beautiful family, and his example of dedication to his community.

Haugan’s wife, Christina, accepted the award in his honor.

The other finalists were Debbie Bland of the Etobicoke Dolphins Girls Hockey League and Neal Henderson of the Fort Dupont Hockey Club.

The NHL Foundation is donating $10,000 in Haugan’s memory to the Saskatchewan Brain Injury Association, a charity important to the coach.

On Tuesday, the NHL and NHLPA announced that Washington Capitals forward Chandler Stephenson will bring the Stanley Cup to Humboldt on Aug. 24 that will involve a skills competition at the Broncos’ home rink.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Hall (barely) beats MacKinnon for first Hart Trophy

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Being that Art Ross and Ted Lindsay winner Connor McDavid wasn’t even a finalist, it’s clear that being indispensable to your team factored heavily into the 2017-18 Hart Trophy voting.

With those unspoken parameters in mind, it makes sense that the MVP race ended up being so close between runner-up Nathan MacKinnon and winner Taylor Hall. Anze Kopitar ranked a distant third, but he could take comfort in being a finalist and also taking home his second Selke.

Sometimes you need to dig deep into “With or Without You” stats to realize how much a player stands above his teammates. You merely need to glance at the gap between Hall’s scoring (93 points, sixth-best in the NHL) and the next highest-ranked Devil (Nico Hischer with 52). Hall clearly dragged the Devils to an unlikely playoff berth, scoring that many points in just 76 games.

Nathan MacKinnon, meanwhile, finished with 97 points in 74 contests, yet he enjoyed a bit more help as Colorado’s top line was rounded out by fantastic wingers in Mikko Rantanen (84 points) and Gabriel Landeskog (62).

Now, the trickier part is figuring out if McDavid deserved to either win it or at least be a finalist. Ultimately, the PHWA viewed Hall as the “player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team,” no doubt weighing a playoff appearance in their decision:

As you might expect, the deeper voting is quite interesting. Kopitar narrowly edged Claude Giroux for third place, while there’s an interesting list of players who managed a single vote: Patrice Bergeron, Sidney Crosby, Victor Hedman, and Eric Staal. Drew Doughty got a fourth place vote while Hedman receive one fifth, yet Hedman ended up the Norris winner.

During certain seasons, the Hart Trophy is an easy call. This was one of the tougher years to truly pinpoint a top season, but the beauty for hockey fans was because there were so many great choices.

However you feel about who should have been the actual winner, Taylor Hall generated an absolutely brilliant season.

For a player who was traded for flawed reasons and blamed far too often for his teams’ failings, it must be awfully sweet to receive such high recognition. It can’t hurt that this award came after his first-ever postseason appearance, either.

Naturally, Hall has his eyes on the sort of celebration that Alex Ovechkin is enjoying right now, but Hall’s 2017-18 season was “a long time coming” in its own right.

And, yes, the Oilers must weep at the thought that they voluntarily gave up an opportunity to deploy the 2018 Hart winner (Hall) and the 2018 Art Ross winner (McDavid) on the same team.

GM of the Year George McPhee adds another award for Golden Knights

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George McPhee of the Vegas Golden Knights continued a big night for the franchise as he was named 2017-18 General Manager of the Year during Wednesday’s NHL Awards show in Las Vegas. Earlier, Gerard Gallant won the Jack Adams Award for top coach, William Karlsson was named winner of the Lady Byng and captain Deryk Engelland took home the Mark Messier Leadership Award.

The NHL’s 31 GMs and a panel of League executives, print and broadcast media voted on the award following the conclusion of the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Using the NHL’s expansion draft rules to his advantage, McPhee made shrewd deals to add draft picks and impact players while creating the franchise’s first-ever roster. Success came right off the bat and the Golden Knights ended their inaugural season by becoming the first modern-era expansion team from the four major North American professional sports league to win its division. By advancing to the Stanley Cup Final, Vegas became the third team in NHL history to win multiple playoff rounds in their first season.

McPhee was presented with the award by actress Lynda Carter and Nicklas Backstrom, the player he drafted in fourth overall 2006 while GM of the Washington Capitals.

Kevin Cheveldayoff of the Winnipeg Jets and Steve Yzerman of the Tampa Bay Lightning were the other finalists this year.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Pekka Rinne finally wins first Vezina

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After being a finalist three other times and serving as the Nashville Predators’ top goalie since 2008-09, Pekka Rinne finally won his first Vezina Trophy.

Rinne delivered an outstanding season, going 42-13-4 with a 2.31 GAA, a sparkling .927 save percentage, and eight shutouts. During his previous Vezina finalist finishes, Rinne finished second (in 2010-11 and 2014-15) and third (in 2011-12).

For much of this past season, Andrei Vasilevskiy seemed to be the frontrunner for the Vezina, and he finished with strong numbers. Still, a sputtering finish allowed Rinne to pass him by.

It seemed like the Vezina voting essentially came down to Rinne, Vasilevskiy, and “everyone else.” Connor Hellebuyck ended up emerging as the third finalist, edging plenty of quality choices among the rest of the pack.

Actually, as you can see from the voting, Vasilevskiy didn’t even finish second. This might be a good time to note that NHL GMs vote for the award instead of players or the PHWA.

As you can see, 10 goalies received at least a third-place vote. Vasilevskiy didn’t get a single first-place one, while non-finalists Frederik Andersen and Marc-Andre Fleury grabbed one No. 1 nod apiece. Interesting stuff.

Much like Tim Thomas and Henrik Lundqvist, Rinne is a goalie who managed to win a Vezina despite an inauspicious start to his career. Rinne was selected in the now-non-existent eighth round (258th overall) in 2004 and now owns a Stanley Cup Final appearance, 311 wins, and a Vezina. Not too shabby.