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Tough road ahead for Red Wings: October schedules in Atlantic Division

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On Friday, PHT pondered the opening schedules for the Pacific Division teams.

Let’s continue with the Atlantic Division, since they boast cities with alphabet-friendly names. (Very scientific way of deciding these, agreed.)

Don’t be surprised if these schedules prompt follow-ups as the season goes along. In some markets, a tough draw might be ignored while people wonder “What’s wrong with Team X?”

If the Red Wings can navigate their specific challenges, then “Detroit might not be so bad” stories might actually end up being justifiable.

Check out an in-depth preview for the Atlantic Division here.

Bruins (opened with win against Predators)

Schedule

Mon, Oct 9 vs Colorado
Wed, Oct 11 @ Colorado
Sat, Oct 14 @ Arizona
Sun, Oct 15 @ Vegas
Thu, Oct 19 vs Vancouver
Sat, Oct 21 vs Buffalo
Thu, Oct 26 vs San Jose
Sat, Oct 28 vs Los Angeles
Mon, Oct 30 @ Columbus

Odd start for the Bruins, eh?

It’s strange to see a team skip the opening weekend, but that’s what is happening here, as the Bruins see an early-season break between Thursday’s opener and their second game on Monday. Considering their injury woes, perhaps it will serve as a serious benefit, particularly for guys who might just be day-to-day.

Even with a back-to-back coming next weekend, this is light overall, with another substantial gap in games between Oct. 21 and Oct. 26.

This opens the door for the Bruins to ease the likes of Patrice Bergeron in and out of the lineup, if needed. Heck, it might not be such a bad idea to spell Zdeno Chara here and there, either (if he’d allow it). November gets tougher for the B’s, however.

Sabres (lost in shootout to Habs)

Schedule

Sat, Oct 7 @ NY Islanders
Mon, Oct 9 vs New Jersey
Thu, Oct 12 @ San Jose
Sat, Oct 14 @ Los Angeles
Sun, Oct 15 @ Anaheim
Tue, Oct 17 @ Vegas
Fri, Oct 20 vs Vancouver
Sat, Oct 21 @ Boston
Tue, Oct 24 vs Detroit
Wed, Oct 25 @ Columbus
Sat, Oct 28 vs San Jose

Looking at Buffalo’s wider schedule, there could be some tough times, with February standing out as maybe their friendliest month.

Some rough waters loom up ahead, including in October. Their first back-to-back is part of the California tour (maybe amend that to Cali-Vegas run going forward?). They face four road games in that Oct. 12-17 stretch, including a back-to-back and three games in four nights.

The Sabres then follow that up with two back-to-back sets.

For a team trying to cement itself as a contender, they’ll be tested early.

Red Wings (opened new arena by beating Wild)

Schedule

Sat, Oct 7 @ Ottawa
Tue, Oct 10 @ Dallas
Thu, Oct 12 @ Arizona
Fri, Oct 13 @ Vegas
Mon, Oct 16 vs Tampa Bay
Wed, Oct 18 @ Toronto
Fri, Oct 20 vs Washington
Sun, Oct 22 vs Vancouver
Tue, Oct 24 @ Buffalo
Thu, Oct 26 @ Tampa Bay
Sat, Oct 28 @ Florida
Tue, Oct 31 vs Arizona

Ouch. Hopefully the Red Wings enjoyed that home-opener, because they will see the road more than home for a while. Tonight begins a four-game road trip and stretch of five of six away from Detroit. That trip includes a back-to-back, but at least that veteran-heavy team only faces one such set in October.

An end of October/beginning of November stretch could do a number on this team’s dim hopes.

From Oct. 24-28, they play three road games, then they get that Coyotes home match, and then begin November with a four-game trek through Western Canada. So that’s seven of eight games on the road, with a back-to-back nestled (against Oilers and Canucks) in that four-game trip.

With that opener in the books, only four of the Red Wings’ next 16 contests take place in Hockeytown.

Panthers (lost opener against Lightning)

Schedule

Sat, Oct 7 vs Tampa Bay
Thu, Oct 12 vs St. Louis
Sat, Oct 14 @ Pittsburgh
Tue, Oct 17 @ Philadelphia
Fri, Oct 20 vs Pittsburgh
Sat, Oct 21 @ Washington
Tue, Oct 24 @ Montreal
Thu, Oct 26 vs Anaheim
Sat, Oct 28 vs Detroit
Mon, Oct 30 vs Tampa Bay

Emotionally, the Panthers have to really want to get back at the Bolts to close out this home-and-home. If not, they’ll need to wait until Thursday to try to win their first game of the season.

After that, Florida faces what could be a harrowing five-game stretch. Four of the contests are on the road, two games against the Penguins (making that one home game potentially feel like a road one), and a back-to-back against the Penguins and Capitals.

The Panthers have an opportunity if they can weather the early storm. That Oct. 26 date against the Ducks begins a five-game homestand.

Canadiens (won opener vs. Sabres)

Sat, Oct 7 @ Washington
Sun, Oct 8 @ NY Rangers
Tue, Oct 10 vs Chicago
Sat, Oct 14 vs Toronto
Tue, Oct 17 @ San Jose
Wed, Oct 18 @ Los Angeles
Fri, Oct 20 @ Anaheim
Tue, Oct 24 vs Florida
Thu, Oct 26 vs Los Angeles
Sat, Oct 28 vs NY Rangers
Mon, Oct 30 @ Ottawa

Counting Thursday’s season-opening win, the Canadiens start 2017-18 with a three-game road trip and play six of their first eight on the road. They play their first back-to-back set this weekend against the Capitals and Rangers, providing intriguing barometers for all three teams.

That Oct. 30 visit to the Senators also kicks off a four-game road trip, so Montreal faces some early challenges.

They’ll be rewarded in November, though. After that late October/early November trip, they play six straight and nine of 11 at home. So the Habs just need to grind through this early bump in the road. At least they have fresh legs to start, right?

Senators (lost opener to Capitals)

Schedule

Sat, Oct 7 vs Detroit
Tue, Oct 10 @ Vancouver
Fri, Oct 13 @ Calgary
Sat, Oct 14 @ Edmonton
Tue, Oct 17 vs Vancouver
Thu, Oct 19 vs New Jersey
Sat, Oct 21 vs Toronto
Tue, Oct 24 vs Los Angeles
Thu, Oct 26 vs Philadelphia
Fri, Oct 27 @ New Jersey
Mon, Oct 30 vs Montreal

The Senators need to brush off injuries and early stumbles soon, because their early schedule opens up with a lot of home games once they get through that Western Canada kick in mid-October.

As you can see, there’s that five-game homestand starting on Oct. 17. It goes deeper than that; the Senators play 11 of 13 games in Ottawa from Oct. 17 – Nov. 18.

That’s about a quarter of their home games for the regular season. Botching that could really make life difficult for a team some expect to regress.

Lightning (beat Panthers in opener)

Schedule

Sat, Oct 7 @ Florida
Mon, Oct 9 vs Washington
Thu, Oct 12 vs Pittsburgh
Sat, Oct 14 vs St. Louis
Mon, Oct 16 @ Detroit
Tue, Oct 17 @ New Jersey
Thu, Oct 19 @ Columbus
Sat, Oct 21 vs Pittsburgh
Tue, Oct 24 @ Carolina
Thu, Oct 26 vs Detroit
Sat, Oct 28 vs Anaheim
Mon, Oct 30 @ Florida

The Lightning will take care of their in-state rivalry, as they’ll end October having played three games against the Panthers, continuing with tonight’s road contest.

Tampa Bay gets to avoid some of the extremes that many in the Atlantic seem to endure early on. Only facing one back-to-back set is nice. That’s not to say it’s a cakewalk, as that early three-game homestand comes against three potentially potent opponent in the Capitals, Penguins, and Blues.

Still, it seems pretty manageable early on.

Maple Leafs (dominated Jets in opener)

Schedule

Sat, Oct 7 vs NY Rangers
Mon, Oct 9 vs Chicago
Wed, Oct 11 vs New Jersey
Sat, Oct 14 @ Montreal
Tue, Oct 17 @ Washington
Wed, Oct 18 vs Detroit
Sat, Oct 21 @ Ottawa
Mon, Oct 23 vs Los Angeles
Thu, Oct 26 vs Carolina
Sat, Oct 28 vs Philadelphia
Mon, Oct 30 @ San Jose

After quieting the crowd in Winnipeg, the Maple Leafs play three consecutive games in Toronto in front of what is certain to be an exhilarated fan base.

There’s another three-game home run late in October, so the month now stands as friendly: seven home vs. four road games. That Oct. 30 game against the Sharks does begin a four-game road trip, however.

Scanning the full season, things seem balanced early. The big challenges (road-heavy) come in December, but then comparable opportunities come with a robust home slate to begin 2018 in January.

Predators land another steal in signing Saros, Rinne’s heir apparent

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Nashville Predators GM David Poile hasn’t lost his knack for signing promising young players to outstanding value contracts.

Monday represents the latest coup, as goalie-of-the-future Juuse Saros signed a dirt-cheap deal: three years, just $4.5 million overall (so a $1.5M cap hit). That’s truly fantastic stuff for a goalie whose career save percentage is a superb .923.

Now, obviously, the sample size is small for the 23-year-old. That save percentage was accrued over 48 games, with all but one of those appearances happening during the last two seasons. Still, his numbers are promising at other levels, so there’s some credence to the notion that he could end up being a strong NHL starter.

Considering some of the money being thrown around at backups this summer, the Predators landed a great deal even if Saros doesn’t reach his considerable ceiling.

One would think that this only solidifies the passing of the torch from Pekka Rinne to Saros, but we’ll see. Rinne’s $7M cap hit expires after 2018-19, and at 35, you have to wonder if a decline is looming.

The beauty of getting three years of Saros’ services at such a cheap price is that the Predators aren’t boxed into a corner, though. If they feel most comfortable with a slower transition from Rinne to Saros, possibly morphing into a platoon, that’s an option (especially if, after fattening his bank account, Rinne signs his next deal for a palatable price). There are also some other scenarios: Saros could give the Predators 2-3 years of starter-level work at a cut rate, or Nashville could pivot to a different paradigm in net altogether.

(Honestly, would it be that shocking if Saros ends up being a better goalie than Connor Hellebuyck, for instance?)

Simply put, most – if not all – of the NHL’s other GMs should be jealous of Nashville’s unusual mixture of potential production and flexibility at the goaltending position. Those other GMs should take notes.

[It’s been a great day for Nashville, who also signed Ryan Hartman for cheap.]

Speaking of masterful GM work, this signing swings back to one of Poile’s greatest strengths: locking up promising players to team-friendly deals either before a breakthrough happens or right as it begins.

Consider some of the beautiful contracts he’s put together, leveraging RFA situations and tax-related perks:

  • Again, that Saros salary is sweet, and Rinne’s $7M goes away when Nashville needs to lock down other pieces.
  • Ryan Ellis is about to end a five-year contract that carried an almost comically low $2.5M cap hit. He’ll get paid on his next deal, and deft moves like these make it more feasible for him to stick with the Predators. Ellis is 27, so Nashville landed some of his peak years.
  • Filip Forsberg is a legit game-breaker. The 23-year-old’s cap hit is just $6M through 2021-22 (he’s three years into a six-year contract).
  • Viktor Arvidsson‘s bargain contract is no secret. He’s a top-line, 25-year-old winger making $4.25M per season through 2023-24(!).
  • Nashville boasts two 28-year-old defensemen also on enviable contracts. Roman Josi‘s ridiculous $4M contract ends after 2019-20, a seven-year deal among the best in recent NHL memory. Mattias Ekholm ($3.875M per year, six seasons, ends after 2021-22) is right there with Josi and Ellis as great blueline bargains.
  • Just about anyone can sign a first-rounder to an entry-level contract, but it’s worth noting that Eeli Tolvanen didn’t burn a year off of his rookie deal. If he can live up to the hype, the Predators would get three seasons of his sniping at a ludicrous price.

It almost feels like cheating, right? Most NHL front offices would pop open some champagne if they nabbed two of those steals, let alone the litany of bargains Poile has landed.

Now, sure, there are some expenditures. P.K. Subban absolutely ranks as elite, but $9M isn’t cheap. (He’s worth it, but that isn’t cheap.) Ryan Johansen‘s a little rich at $8M and $6M for Kyle Turris looked a little shakier when he was something of a non-factor during the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Even then, it’s not outrageous to picture Johansen and/or Turris delivering at a nice level, especially since those deals will account for less and less of each season’s cap percentage.

Once again, it looks like the Predators knocked one of the park with a signing when it comes to Saros.

For all we know, the conglomeration of smart moves could net the Predators a Stanley Cup, and possibly more than one. That said, a lot can happen, so you never know if all of this promise will come to fruition during the rigors (and thanks to the randomness) of the postseason.

Either way, other GMs could learn a lot from David Poile, as this is a masterwork of team-building.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Henrique’s great fit with Ducks pays off with $29 million extension

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As the New Jersey Devils went through a transition this season, it became clear Adam Henrique’s role had changed, and his production took a hit. A late November trade and a new role with the Anaheim Ducks fueled a turn in the right direction — one that has resulted in a five-year extension for the 28-year-old forward.

The Ducks announced on Monday that Henrique, who still has one year left on his deal, signed on through the 2023-24 NHL season with a total contract value of $29.125 million. The $5.825 million cap hit, per The Athletic’s Josh Cooper, puts him fifth-highest on the team beginning with the 2019-20 season.

(Now that Henrique has signed an extension with the Ducks, per the conditions of the deal New Jersey will receive a 2019 third-round pick from Anaheim.)

In 57 games in Anaheim during the regular season Henrique scored 20 goals and recorded 36 points. He found great chemistry on a line with Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase as the trio put up terrific numbers together. The trade was one that filled needs for both sides and both Henrique and Sami Vatanen, who went to New Jersey, immediately found fits in their new locations.

“With us, it puts him back into a more offensive role, which I think he’s going to love,” said Ducks general manager Bob Murray earlier this season. “He’s not old by any means. Sometimes when teams rebuild or reboot, or have this process, maybe it’s time for people to get a change of scenery. It doesn’t mean they’re bad players.”

The work continues for Murray, who has Henrique’s restricted free agent linemates and Brandon Montour to re-sign this summer. Then there are extensions for Jakob Silfverberg and John Gibson, who both have one year left on their current contracts, to figure out. Add all that to the fact that Murray vowed changes after a disappointing playoff exit, plus Ryan Kesler‘s questionable status for next season and a roster re-shaping could be in the plans.

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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.

Flames make fascinating bet with Elias Lindholm contract

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The Calgary Flames’ pivotal decision to trade Dougie Hamilton to the Carolina Hurricanes for a package including Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin was tough to immediately call. Maybe it makes sense, then, that Lindholm’s contract also seems divisive.

At least the terms of the deal are clear: six years, $29.1 million, which calls for a $4.85M cap hit. That’s official from the Flames, while Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that Lindholm isn’t receiving any sort of no-trade/no-movement clauses.

Some criticisms

Whether you love or loathe the terms, it’s clear that the Flames are making a big commitment to Lindholm. If the results are middling, one can bet that people will note that Dougie Hamilton’s cap hit ($5.75M, through 2020-21) doesn’t cost a whole lot more than Lindholm’s new mark. Considering that the Flames still need to sign tough-to-gauge Hanifin to a new deal, the bill for this trade could end up being steep.

For what it’s worth, 55-percent of PHT voters believed that the Hurricanes won the trade, at least on the day it was made.

Despite five seasons already in the NHL (although he was limited to 58 games as a rookie in 2013-14), Lindholm hasn’t yet reached the 20-goal plateau. His career-high so far is 17 goals, while his peak for points so far was 45. He’s falling into a price range with some really nice players, such as Nazem Kadri and Sean Couturier. Looking at the simplest stats, Lindholm seems like a gamble.

And, again, people will beat up on the Flames if Hamilton – and to a lesser extent, Micheal Ferland – go on a tear in Carolina.

With another interesting yet even riskier investment in James Neal, the Flames are really rolling the dice this summer. If those gambles end up looking foolish, Calgary could be stuck for a while. That would bring back unpleasant memories of the albatross deals that hampered the Darryl Sutter era.

The good

At 23, some growth is conceivable, although some might remark that Lindholm probably is what he is after logging 374 regular-season games.

Of course, Lindholm could very well put up impressive numbers if he hits the linemate lottery with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. In that scenario, the Flames’ longer commitments would be a blessing rather than a curse, as a shorter deal would have opened up greater risks for Lindholm to excessively inflate his value.

Even a more modest good-cause scenario would be that Lindholm might give the Flames the sort of supporting scoring they’ve desperately needed beyond Gaudreau – Monahan and the possession monster trio of Mikael Backlund, Michael Frolik, and Matthew Tkachuk.

Speaking of possession stats, Lindholm checks out in that area, for the most part. (The Hurricanes hog the puck so much that sometimes it’s easy to take a guy like Lindholm for granted.)

At $4.85M, Lindholm is a fair enough value. The Flames are probably crossing their fingers that such a contract looks like a steal in hindsight. Such a scenario is far from outrageous.

***

Overall, it seems like a pricey but reasonable decision. If nothing else, we can’t accuse the Flames of being cheap, as Lindholm + Hanifin are poised to be more expensive (possibly a lot more expensive) than Hamilton + Ferland, although Adam Fox clouds that situation.

Again, that trade is something fans of the Flames and Hurricanes will be chewing on for years, so it only seems right that Lindholm’s value may also fuel some fun/nerdy hockey debates.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Police: Drowning of NHL goalie Ray Emery not suspicious

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HAMILTON, Ontario (AP) — The drowning of former NHL goalie Ray Emery does not appear suspicious, police said.

The 35-year-old player whose career spanned 11 seasons drowned in Hamilton Harbour on Sunday.

He jumped off a boat near the Leander Boat Club to go swimming, and friends called emergency services at about 6 a.m. when he didn’t resurface, police said. Inspector Marty Schulenberg called it a ”case of misadventure.”

Emery’s body was found at about 2:50 p.m. Sunday, about 20 yards from where he went into the water, Schulenberg added. He said first responders were not able to locate Emery right away so they called the dive unit. The search took longer than anticipated because of concerns for the dive team.

”It’s a lengthy process and safety is paramount to our divers,” he said. ”We need to take the time do it safely and that’s what the delay was.”

A post-mortem was to be completed Monday.

”Mr. Emery was taking a swim this morning and the circumstances around that are a part of the investigation,” Schulenberg said. ”Those details remain to be uncovered by our investigators.”

Emery played for Ottawa, Chicago and Philadelphia. He helped the Senators reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2007 and won it as a backup with the Blackhawks in 2013.

The Blackhawks lauded him as a ”fierce competitor, a good teammate and a Stanley Cup champion.” Flyers President Paul Holmgren cited his ”talent, work ethic and determination,” calling him an ”outstanding teammate and an extremely gifted goaltender.”

Emery battled avascular necrosis, the same serious hip ailment that ended two-sport star Bo Jackson’s career. He and fellow Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford combined to win the William Jennings Trophy for allowing the league’s fewest goals during the lockout-shortened 2013 season and finished seventh in Vezina Trophy voting.

Emery played in 326 NHL regular-season and playoff games. He went 145-86-28 with a 2.70 goals-against average and 16 shutouts.

He faced issues off the ice, including an incident of road rage, assault of a trainer in Russia and behavior that led to his dismissal from Ottawa’s training camp.

”Ray had many highs and lows in his personal life and his career,” longtime agent J.P. Barry said. ”He never let things that would derail most of us stop his forward momentum. He had a big heart and a fun loving personality. He was someone we all rooted for to succeed.”

Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas knew Emery from junior hockey and the American Hockey League. He said Emery’s ”smile and intelligence made him a magnetic personality.”

Emery played in a charity hockey game Saturday night organized by Zac Rinaldo of the Nashville Predators. After word of his death spread, condolences poured in.

”I will always remember Ray as a good person first & foremost,” friend and former teammate Dan Carcillo wrote on Twitter. ”I envied his demeanor. He had a contagious personality.”

Former teammates pointed to Emery’s mentorship and leadership, especially in his final professional season in the AHL in 2015-16. Enforcer-turned-analyst Paul Bissonnette, a teammate with the AHL’s Ontario Reign, said Emery would treat other players to dinner almost every night.

”I’d heard nothing but great things before meeting him,” Bissonnette said. ”And it was true.”

AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno and The Canadian Press contributed to this report.