Brandon Pirri

PHT Morning Skate: Bruins’ depth outclassing Hurricanes; Goalie switch won’t help Carolina

5 Comments

Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

Here’s the NBC Sports Stanley Cup playoff update for May 14

• The Boston Bruins are overwhelming the Carolina Hurricanes with their roster depth. (NBC Sports Boston)

• Stick with Boston’s depth, that and their balance up and down the roster might be the difference in the Eastern Conference Final. (Providence Journal)

• Does size matter? Not for a couple of the Bruins’ best. (WEEI)

• A quick look at what’s plagued the Hurricanes in this series. (Canes Country)

• Switching from Petr Mrazek to Curtis McElhinney may be tempting, but it won’t solve much. (The Hockey News)

Joonas Donskoi comes to the rescue of a skatepark in his hometown in Finland. (NHL.com)

• Ralph Krueger may be heading back behind the bench in the NHL… with Buffalo. (Die by the Blade)

• The Ottawa Senators began life as an expansion team with Rick Bowness behind the bench in 1992. He could be heading back there in 2019. (Ottawa Citizen)

• A look at Edmonton’s coaching carousel. (Oilers Nation)

• #MalkinWatch2019: Him going to the Florida Panthers makes no sense. (My NHL Trade Rumours)

• The Los Angeles Kings land point-per-game player from the KHL. (Official Kings website)

• The New York Rangers are in a great spot heading into the 2019 NHL Draft next month. (Blueshirt Banter)

• A look at whether or not the return of Pavel Datsyuk to the Detroit Red Wings would hinder their rebuild. (Puck Junk)

• The Washington Capitals have some work to get done this summer in regards to the cap and their roster. (Official Capitals website)

Brandon Pirri knows it all about opportunity this offseason. (Sin.Bin Vegas)

• Welcome to Bear Force One:

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

New Golden Knights GM faces big opportunities, challenges

Getty Images
2 Comments

The Vegas Golden Knights announced a passing of the torch on Thursday, as Kelly McCrimmon becomes GM, while George McPhee is no longer GM, but sticks around as president of hockey operations.

It’s a move that echoes Steve Yzerman giving way to Julien BriseBois in Tampa Bay: like the Lightning with BriseBois, the Golden Knights didn’t want to lose a respected executive in McCrimmon. There are also parallels in the job McCrimmon is transitioning into. Much like the Lightning, the Golden Knights boast a talent-rich roster, and while Vegas features some Lightning-like bargains, the bottom line is that a cap crunch hovers over all of that luxurious skill.

Let’s take a look at the road ahead for McCrimmon, McPhee, and the Golden Knights.

Flipping assets for that hair flip?

After an out-of-nowhere 43-goal, 78-point breakthrough in 2017-18, William Karlsson needed a new contract last summer. The two sides settled on something of a one-year “prove it” deal for 2018-19, and while he didn’t sustain the unsustainable 23.4 shooting percentage from 2017-18, Karlsson confirmed that his ascension wasn’t a mere mirage.

Now Karlsson finds himself as an RFA once again at age 26, and paying up for his next contract is the pivot point for the Golden Knights’ off-season.

With Mark Stone‘s (clearly justifiable) $9.6 million cap hit set to kick in starting next season, and the Golden Knights’ well-stocked with other legitimate talents, Vegas is in a congested situation even before you factor in whatever dollar amount Karlsson will command. A glance at Cap Friendly gives the impression that Vegas is less than $700K under the ceiling, and maybe some final details might tweak that, the bigger picture is that this is a challenging situation.

Here are a few players who could get moved out to accommodate this situation. I’m leaving out plenty of names such as Jonathan Marchessault, Alex Tuch, Shea Theodore, and Nate Schmidt for a simple reason: they’re all on manageable, if not outright bargain contracts, and so I’d think McCrimmon would be making huge errors in moving any of them out.

  • Cody Eakin, 27, $3.85M cap hit expires after 2019-20: No, this isn’t because the major penalty he was whistled for that turned that unforgettable Game 7 on its head.

Instead, it’s simple math. The Golden Knights have a plethora of forwards, and Eakin’s pricey for a depth player, which is how he’d fall in the lineup under basically all circumstances.

  • Erik Haula, 28, $2.75M through 2019-20: His pretty scary injury wrecked his 2018-19 campaign after his 29-goal breakthrough the year before. This would be more about dumping salary than any indictment on Haula, and Vegas would be unlikely to get fair value in such a trade. That might have to do it if teams don’t bite on other trade possibilities, though.
  • Ryan Reaves, 32, $2.775M through 2019-20: Yes, he’s an entertaining quote and menacing presence, but it’s not quite ideal to spend nearly $3M on an enforcer in the modern NHL. Not when every dime counts. Really, the Golden Knights could save big money and force Gerard Gallant to put more talent on the ice.
  • Colin Miller, 26, $3.875M through 2021-22: If I were an opportunistic opposing GM, I’d circle Miller like a (not necessarily San Jose) Shark. He’s a good, useful player on a reasonable deal, but with Miller occasionally landing in Gallant’s doghouse, he could be almost $4M used in a less optimal way. Plenty of teams need RHD, and could get a nice gem if they pounce. And if, frankly, McCrimmon makes a mistake.

There are other possibilities (Brayden McNabb maybe?) but those are generally the most feasible salary dump options in trades, with different players appealing to different mindsets.

Supporting cast calls

Remarkably, Vegas already has a strong core, for the most part. They face some noteworthy decisions around those key players, though.

There are some free agents to consider. Is Deryk Engelland going to retire, and if not, would the veteran take a team-friendly deal to stay with Vegas? Brandon Pirri deserves an NHL gig somewhere, but would he be lost in the shuffle in Vegas’ deep offense? Can the Golden Knights retain surprisingly effective fourth-line Pierre-Edouard Bellemare?

Alongside the aging pieces, you have intriguing talent looking to make a dent. Vegas must determine if Cody Glass is ready for the big time, as he could provide cheap production on a rookie deal. What will they do with Nikita Gusev and Jimmy Schuldt, who spent last season in the KHL and NCAA respectively, and need new deals?

Some of these situations are tricky, yet it’s plausible that Vegas could end up with enviable depth if they make the right moves (and get some good luck).

Beyond the flower

And, personally, I think McCrimmon really needs to take a long look at the team’s future in net.

Considering this cap crunch, it’s probably best to stick with Malcolm Subban on another short deal. He’s an RFA, and as The Athletic’s Jesse Granger notes (sub required), the team seems to think he still has potential.

As a former first-rounder (24th overall in 2012), Subban’s potential may still be bandied about for years. Yet, at 25, there needs to be more real production to go with all of the theoreticals and hypotheticals.

Instead of spelling an aging Marc-Andre Fleury with regularity, thus keeping “The Flower” fresh for the spring and summer when the games matter the most, Gallant has been reluctant to start Subban, whose career save percentage is a middling .903 in 45 regular-season games.

Part of that might be attributed to Gallant’s tendency to lean heavily on his starters, yet it’s also easy to see why Gallant is reluctant to go with other options: those other options haven’t been very appealing. Fleury is 34, and you could argue “an old 34” with 940 games (regular season plus playoffs) under his belt, so this is an area the Golden Knights can’t neglect for much longer.

(Really, it’s one they probably should have been more aggressive to address already; it’s a little surprising they never pushed harder to land someone who ended up claimed on waivers like Curtis McElhinney, among other options.)

***

This is a challenging situation, no doubt. There are potential bumps in the road, especially if the aging curve hits “MAF” hard.

Yet the upside is also huge. If you saw the Golden Knights once they added Mark Stone, you’d likely agree that this team could be a viable contender, rather than a Cinderella story.

It’s up to McCrimmon to add volumes to this tale, rather than allowing cap concerns to slam that book shut.

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.

PHT Morning Skate: Joe Thornton’s heating up; Carter Hart’s maturity

Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• The Predators have made a few trades already, but they need to be all-in before the trade deadline. (The Hockey News)

• Even though he’s just 20 years old, Flyers goalie Carter Hart has shown a level of maturity that is remarkable. (NHL.com)

Joe Thornton is healthy and playing his best hockey of the season. (Mercury News)

• Stars video coach Kelly Forbes didn’t get to spend the mom’s trip with his mother because she passed away in January. But Arlene Forbes was the one pushing for the mothers to spend time on the road with their boys. (Dallas News)

• Dick Patrick finally gets to see his name on the Stanley Cup. It took a lot of work, but he finally got there. The Washington Post has the incredible story of the Patrick family and their link to the hockey world. (Washington Post)

• Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians met before the Bolts’ game on Saturday night. (Tampa Times)

• There’s certain issues the Penguins will have to work through before the start of the playoffs. They have to figure out if they have enough depth and they need to know if they can count on their goaltending. (Post-Gazette)

• WEEI takes a deeper look at who the Bruins might add before the trade deadline. (WEEI)

• Ducks ownership sent a letter to their season ticket holders. Here’s what they had to say after they fired Randy Carlyle: “This has been a surprisingly difficult season. We supported Bob Murray’s previous decision to allow the players and staff to battle out of this situation. While no one person should take the blame for our current predicament, recent results dictated that Bob needed to make this move.” (Anaheim Calling)

• If Brandon Pirri isn’t scoring for the Vegas Golden Knights, it’s hard for them to utilize him. (Sinbin.Vegas)

• Young cancer survivor Brock Chessel got to spend a day with the Toronto Marlies. (BarDown)

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.

Newcomer Brandon Pirri making decision tough on Vegas brass

5 Comments

By W.G. Ramirez (Associated Press)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Brandon Pirri has become a welcome headache for the Vegas Golden Knights.

Since being called up from the Chicago Wolves on Dec. 20, the 27-year-old has six goals and three assists in seven games, and he’s helped ignite the team’s hottest line. He and primary linemates Alex Tuch and Paul Stastny have a combined 12 goals and 10 assists in those games.

Vegas wants to keep the party going, but that might be difficult with Max Pacioretty expected off injured reserve soon.

General manager George McPhee and coach Gerard Gallant have a difficult decision:

Send down Pirri, who wouldn’t have to clear waivers since he’s only been with the team for seven games.

Or risk losing a different player on the waiver wire in an effort to keep Pirri on the active roster.

”We want people making hard decisions for us,” Gallant said. ”Pirri’s come up here and done everything we’ve asked him to do, so when we have to make a tough decision, we’ll sit down and we’ll decide what we’re gonna do.”

Pirri, Tuch and Stastny have become a formidable trio. Stastny, a 14-year veteran, has urged his younger linemates to stay aggressive, and they’ve been finding each other all over the ice.

”He’s in the right spot at all times,” Pirri said of Stastny. ”His character is so good, he talks on the bench, he makes my life and Tuckie’s life really easy. He tells you where he’s gonna be and we get him the puck.

”We got a good thing going here and it’s a lot of fun being on this line.”

Pacioretty has skated with the team this week and could return as soon as Friday night’s game in Anaheim. Someone will have to be re-assigned to Chicago, and it could be Pirri, who was named an AHL All-Star after leading the league with 41 points.

The other likely options would all have to be exposed to waivers and could be lost to another team. Those candidates include Oscar Lindberg, Ryan Carpenter, Tomas Nosek or recently acquired Valentin Zykov, claimed off waivers on Dec. 29.

Pirri, Tuch and Stastny have outscore the team’s other active forwards by two points since Pirri’s recall.

”I gotta be consistent, make the (upper) brass’ job really difficult,” Pirri said. ”That’s all I can control, I’m just trying to work hard every day. If I’m consistent, that’s what every NHL team is looking for and it’s gonna show up night in and night out.”

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

The Buzzer: Vegas keeps their train back to the top rolling

Getty Images

Three stars

1. Brandon Pirri, Vegas Golden Knights

It’s not often we get to pick three stars from one game. But that’s all there was to glean from on a very light night on the NHL schedule.

Pirri is a name you won’t likely see here on most nights, but you might if he keeps this pace up.

Pirri had another goal on Sunday night in a 5-1 win against the Arizona Coyotes, bringing his total to five in six games since he was called up from the American Hockey League. Pirri also had an assist and now has seven points in those six games.

Pirri played just two games last season in the NHL but had three goals in those games. He just might stick around this time.

2. Paul Stastny, Vegas Golden Knights

Stastny missed a lot of action because of injury earlier in the year, but his return has come as advertised when the Golden Knights signed him as a free agent in the offseason.

Stastny had a goal and an assist to bring his totals to five goals and nine points in 12 games so far.

3. Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights

Sorry, Arizona. When you lose 5-1, you get shutout of the three stars.

Fleury, to his credit, deserves to be on here on after making 29 saves, including seven of eight on six Coyote power plays.

‘Flower’ is now 6-0-3 in his past nine decisions and is a big reason why Vegas is now tied for first place in the Pacific Divison on 50 points with the Calgary Flames.

Vegas is back.

Highlights of the night

Pirri’s goal:

Some slick passing here:

We’d be remiss not to go back to the World Junior Hockey Championships for one of these.

Every seen this before?

Factoids

Scores

Golden Knights 5, Coyotes 1


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck