For all the criticisms of Phil Kessel — and we’re not saying they’re all without merit — here are some facts:
— He has 247 goals in 668 career NHL games. Among active players, that’s the 29th-most goals. And he’s only 27.
— Over the last five seasons, only Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos, and Corey Perry have scored more goals than Kessel. And Kessel’s center has mostly been Tyler Bozak. In Pittsburgh, it’ll be Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.
That’s why Penguins GM Jim Rutherford is excited to have acquired Kessel, whom he considers “right there” in a class with Ovechkin and Stamkos.
“It’s hard to find players like Phil Kessel,” Rutherford told TSN.
Not only did Rutherford get the player he wanted without giving up Derrick Pouliot or Olli Maatta, two young defensemen the Pens will need even more now, he convinced the Leafs to eat $1.25 million per year of Kessel’s salary.
Without that concession by the Leafs, the deal couldn’t have happened, Rutherford said, noting that the Penguins already have Crosby, Malkin, Kris Letang, and Marc-Andre Fleury signed to big, long-term contracts.
Oh, and Rutherford isn’t done yet. He still hopes to add another winger, as well as a fourth-line center.
Crosby on Kessel: “He's an elite scorer and has a lot of speed. I see him fitting in well with us. We’re excited to have him on our team.”
The 2019-20 NHL schedule has arrived and the 1,271-game regular season journey to the Stanley Cup Playoffs begins Oct. 2 and ends April 4. We’ll have banners being raised, old friends being reacquainted, outdoor games, games in Europe and CBA fun to deal with.
For the full schedule, check out NHL.com.
Here’s a look at some notable dates on the 2019-20 season’s schedule:
Sept. 1, 2019 – As the Collective Bargaining Agreement expiration date approaches in 2022, the NHL has the first crack to terminate the agreement as of Sept. 15, 2020.
Sept. 19, 2019 – Should the NHL pass, the NHLPA can choose to end the agreement early on Sept. 15, 2020.
OPENING NIGHT WITH A BANNER RAISING
Oct. 2, 2019 – Washington Capitals at St. Louis Blues
The defending champion Blues open their season with a Stanley Cup banner-raising party at Enterprise Center. This will be the fourth straight year that the Capitals (2016, 2018) or Blues (2017, 2019) will have been involved in a banner raising celebration.
Opening night will also feature the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Ottawa Senators, the Vancouver Canucks visiting Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers, and a playoff rematch as the Vegas Golden Knights host the San Jose Sharks.
Oct. 26, 2019 – St. Louis Blues at Boston Bruins
The last time these two met was Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. They’ll meet for the first time next season back at TD Garden in late October.
TOP PICKS DEBUT AND MEET
Oct. 3, 2019 – Winnipeg Jets at New York Rangers
Kaapo Kakko makes his NHL debut at Madison Square Garden against fellow Finn Patrik Laine.
Oct. 4, 2019 – Winnipeg Jets at New Jersey Devils
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft will make his debut as Jack Hughes plays his first regular season game for the Devils. Also debuting that night with his new team will be P.K. Subban, who will also make his return to Nashville on Dec. 7.
Oct. 17, 2019 – New York Rangers at New Jersey Devils
Jack vs. Kakko for the first time in their NHL careers.
Oct. 26, 2019 – Calgary Flames vs. Winnipeg Jets
The Western Conference division rivals meet at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Saskatchewan in the Heritage Classic.
Jan. 1, 2020 – Nashville Predators at Dallas Stars
The Winter Classic will take place at the Cotton Bowl in Texas featuring a rematch of Round 1 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Feb. 15, 2020 – Los Angeles Kings vs. Colorado Avalanche
For the second time, the NHL brings a Stadium Series game to a U.S. Service Academy as the Kings and Avalanche meet at the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
NHL GLOBAL SERIES
Oct. 4, 2019 – Chicago Blackhawks vs. Philadelphia Flyers.
Jakub Voracek and David Kampf will get the opportunity to play in front of their fellow Czechs with the game taking place at O2 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic.
Feb. 8, 2020 – Ottawa Senators vs. Winnipeg Jets; Toronto Maple Leafs at Montreal Canadiens; Nashville Predators at Edmonton Oilers; Calgary Flames at Vancouver Canucks
Hockey Day in Canada will feature all seven Canadian teams in action.
Feb. 16, 2020 – Detroit Red Wings at Pittsburgh Penguins; Boston Bruins at New York Rangers; St. Louis Blues at Nashville Predators; Chicago Blackhawks at Winnipeg Jets
Hockey Day in America (on NBC and NBCSN) will see nine games beginning at 12:30 p.m. ET and the last game starting at 8:30 p.m. ET.
ALMOST SUPER SATURDAY
We need to wait until Seattle joins the NHL for every team to be in action in one day, but the 2019-20 season will end on April 4 with 30 of the league’s teams in action. Hopefully there will be some drama left on the final day.
The San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights will exchange pleasantries in the first two games of the season on Oct. 2 and Oct. 4. Their playoff series was intense and epic, so there should be plenty of fun to be had in these two games.
Jack Hughes visits older brother Quinn and the Vancouver Canucks for the first time when the New Jersey Devils head west on Oct. 19.
Dave Tippett visits his old team for the first time when the Arizona Coyotes host the Edmonton Oilers on Nov. 24, 2019.
It might be a better reception in Edmonton when well-liked Ralph Krueger leads his Buffalo Sabres against the Oilers on Dec. 8, 2019. Same goes for Dallas Eakins when the Anaheim Ducks visit on March 23.
There’ll be shotskis and Stanley Cup memories when Joel Quenneville and the Florida Panthers visit the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 21, 2020.
Jacob Trouba, if he does indeed end up signing in New York, makes his first trip back to Winnipeg to see his old friends on the Jets on Feb. 11, 2020.
The reception will be an interesting one when Alain Vigneault goes back to Madison Square Garden as Philadelphia Flyers head coach on March 1, 2020.
SALUTE TO THE SEDINS
The Vancouver Canucks will retire the jerseys of Henrik and Daniel on Feb. 12, 2020 before their game against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Jan. 24-26, 2020 – NHL All-Star Game, St. Louis
The best of the best will head to St. Louis for All-Star Weekend, which will once again feature the divisional three-on-three tournament on Sunday afternoon following the NHL Skills event on Saturday night.
Free agency is just days away and teams have already begun talking to potential unrestricted free agents about joining their club. Franchise players don’t often hit the open market, but it looks like a superstar netminder could make it to July 1st.
Sergei Bobrovsky will likely test free agency and unless something unexpected happens, it appears as though he’ll be leaving the Columbus Blue Jackets. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few months, you’ve probably heard that the Florida Panthers are the front-runners for his services.
Whether Bobrovsky goes to Florida or not, there will only be one franchise goaltender available in free agency but there are several teams that need to add a goaltender before the start of next season. Some teams need to upgrade their starting netminder, but most simply need to add a backup that can help win them games.
Let’s take a look at which teams could stand to add a body between the pipes this summer.
• Buffalo Sabres: Carter Hutton got off to a great start last year, but he fall apart in a hurry. The Sabres have to find a proven starting netminder if they’re going to turn this thing around. Will they be able to attract a quality free agent or will they need to pull the trigger on a trade?
• Calgary Flames: Veteran Mike Smith will be a free agent on July 1st and David Rittich needs a new contract too (he’s a restricted free agent). Rittich will probably be back, but they could use another proven commodity between the pipes if they’re going to be serious about winning the Western Conference.
• Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Final with Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney, which was very surprising. But both goalies are set to become unrestricted free agents on July 1st and the ‘Canes need a capable starter to replace them should they go elsewhere. Carolina acquired Anton Forsberg from Chicago on Monday, but he’s nothing more than a backup goalie at this point.
• Colorado Avalanche: Getting Philipp Grubauer from Washington last year proved to be a great move by general manager Joe Sakic. Now, he has to make sure he gets a capable backup goalie to add to this group assuming Semyon Varlamov doesn’t come back.
• Columbus Blue Jackets: If Bobrovsky walks, they need to make sure they land a goalie that can help get them back into the playoff picture. Losing him isn’t going to be an easy pill to swallow.
• Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers gave Miro Koskinen a three-year extension during the last season so whether Oilers fans like him or not, he’s probably going to be the starter heading into 2019-20. If that’s in fact the case, they need a capable backup goalie to play roughly 30 contests.
• Florida Panthers: We already mentioned the Panthers earlier on in this post, so it’s obvious that they have a need. Roberto Luongo can’t stay healthy and James Reimer isn’t a starting goaltender. They need to do everything they can to make sure they can close a deal with Bobrovsky as soon as possible. This is a huge need for them.
• Montreal Canadiens:Carey Price is the clear-cut starter in Montreal. Will they roll with Charlie Lindgren as his backup or will they opt for a more experienced netminder. It wouldn’t be shocking to see them bring in a free agent, especially given Price’s injury history.
• New York Islanders:Robin Lehner was arguably the biggest surprise of the 2018-19 season. The Isles netminder was a Vezina Trophy finalist, but his contract expires on July 1st. Thomas Greiss has one year remaining on his deal. Greiss can be a 1B goalie, so the Isles would need to add 40 to 50 starts if Lehner decides to go elsewhere next week.
• Philadelphia Flyers: Carter Hart was impressive during a 31-game stint during his rookie season, but Brian Elliott, Cam Talbot and Michal Neuvirth are all scheduled to become free agents on July 1st. The Flyers need to make sure they find a veteran to play behind Hart.
• Toronto Maple Leafs: The Leafs didn’t trust Garret Sparks to get the job done as Frederik Andersen‘s backup down the stretch last season, so what makes them think he could give them 20-25 good starts next year? They probably won’t have the cap space to add a quality backup goalie though.
Forwards around the NHL will have one less bruising defenseman to worry about heading into next season.
On Tuesday morning, Washington Capitals blueliner Brooks Orpik announced his retirement from the NHL. After being drafted in the first round of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins, Orpik went on to play 15 seasons with the Pens and Caps.
The 38-year-old scored 18 goals and 194 points in 1035 games. He also added 972 penalty minutes during that time. Orpik skated in 156 more games in the postseason and he won two Stanley Cup titles (one with the Pens and one with the Caps).
After missing just four games in two seasons in 2016-17 and 2017-18, the veteran managed to skate in just 53 contests last season because of a lower-body injury.
“I’ve been extremely lucky to have the best job in the world for many years, but my body is telling me it is time to move on to something new,” Orpik said in a team release. “I’m excited for more family time and to experience a lot of the things that being a professional athlete forces you to miss out on. Thank you to the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins for giving me the opportunity to play against the best athletes in the world. I’ll be forever grateful for the memories and relationships that hockey has given me.”
On the international stage, he also represented Team USA on several occasions. He played for his country 2000 World Junior Hockey Championship, the 2006 World Hockey Championship and at the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympic Games (he won a silver medal with that 2010 team).
“I had the great opportunity to see up close how impactful Brooks was for our team. Spending time as his defensive partner and playing alongside Brooks was something that I will always cherish,” said Caps defenseman John Carlson. “He showed his teammates the importance of hard work, accountability and always being there for your team every time he stepped on the ice. We all learned from Brooks; he was our role model and he made us better. I wish him and his family all the best!”