NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the Detroit Red Wings and New York Rangers. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
These two Original Six teams face off in the first of three meetings this season. Both clubs have been perennial contenders in this era but currently each is mired in a multi-season playoff drought. Neither team has gotten off to a strong start this season – both sitting below .500 as these storied franchises look to return to prominence, rather than extend their non-playoff streaks. Each of the last six meetings have been decided by one goal, including five of those reaching overtime and two being decided in a shootout.
The Red Wings returned home on Monday from a two-game road trip and could not turn things around. Andreas Athanasiou scored his first goal of the season 2:35 into the game but the Predators responded by outscoring the Wings 5-0 in the second period to chase Jimmy Howard (4 GA on 8 shots in 2nd per.) and added another in the third for the five-goal win.
Artemi Panarin, New York’s splashy free-agent signee this past offseason, leads the team in both goals (6) and points (12). His point/gm average is right in line with his last two seasons in Columbus when he set career highs each year. Kaapo Kakko, the second overall pick in last June’s draft, scored on Monday and added an assist for his first career two-point game.
Liam McHugh will host Wednesday’s coverage on NHL Live alongside analysts Jeremy Roenick and Keith Jones and NHL insider Darren Dreger. Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Brian Boucher will call Red Wings-Rangers from Madison Square Garden in New York, N.Y.
NBC Sports will premiere “The Russian Five” documentary, a feature on the first five Russians to play hockey together in the NHL, Wednesday, November 6, following Wednesday Night Hockey between the Red Wings and Rangers. The documentary tells the story of how Sergei Fedorov, Slava Fetisov, Vladimir Konstantinov, Slava Kozlov, and Igor Larionov were able to defect from their homeland and transform the Detroit Red Wings into perennial contenders and back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions in 1996-97 and 1997-98.
Rangers point to power play struggles after loss to Devils
The Rangers will need their power play to fire on all cylinders if they expect to contend for a playoff spot this season.
Over the past two games, the Rangers have failed on 10 consecutive man-advantage opportunities, including six missed chances against the Devils.
“That’s probably as sluggish as we looked on the power play all year,” Rangers coach David Quinn said. “You can’t alter your approach when you don’t score a goal. You can build momentum off a good power play if you don’t score. I just thought we started getting away from the things we have been doing during the exhibition season and the three games we played.”
Seemingly, the momentum can swing the other way, too. The Rangers’ power play failures began to pile up through the course of 60 minutes.
“As the game goes on, the more chances there are, the more the opponent knows what you are trying to do,” defenseman Jacob Trouba said after playing over seven minutes on the PP. It almost gets a little tougher as the game goes on and you have that many power plays.”
Four games and a handful of opportunities provide a small sample size in terms of power play production. But, without consistent offensive production on special teams, the Rangers are going to struggle to win games.
DeAngelo aims to carve out role
DeAngelo notched his first goal of the season to open the scoring at 6:02 of the first period. The offensive-minded defenseman sensed a scoring opportunity and cashed in on the rebound.
This past summer, DeAngelo was forced to sign a one-year contract due to lack of leverage during negotiations. The 23-year-old began the season knowing he would have to prove himself on a daily basis.
A right-handed defenseman with the ability to move the puck and potential to run a power play is a sought-after commodity in the NHL. Teams are often scrambling to fill that need or rearranging other pieces throughout their lineup to cover up an obvious hole.
However, DeAngelo is on a team that has multiple options at the position due to a busy summer. The Rangers acquired Jacob Trouba and added another offensive-minded defenseman in Adam Fox, essentially filling the role DeAngelo was supposed to play.
But the Rangers are doing their part to give DeAngelo an opportunity to dress consistently. In order to make it work, Brendan Smith has been playing as a fourth line forward to give the backend an extra penalty killer.
For DeAngelo, a goal is a step in the right direction, but he will need to continue to demonstrate to David Quinn and the coaching staff that he is worthy of a spot in the Rangers everyday lineup.
In a game built off rhythm and tendencies, the Rangers have had to overcome a few strange schedule quirks to open up the 2019-20 NHL season.
The Blueshirts have only played in four games over the past 16 days and have had trouble fine-tuning the specific nuances of the sport.
“We have to understand situational hockey. The good news is we get to play more hockey and understand it better, Quinn said. “It’s tough to emulate it in practice. We are going to be able to draw from what happened today and be better for it tomorrow.”
It is not often a team looks forward to a back-to-back, but the Rangers are eager to play with more regularity. On Friday, they play against the Washington Capitals before beginning a five-game homestand.
“We want to play hockey games, it’s the only way you can really get better in this league,” Quinn said.
The 30-year-old Shattenkirk, a New Rochelle, N.Y native, joined the Rangers in free agency in 2017, signing a four-year, $26.6 million deal. He struggled on the blue line in his two years on Broadway and saw his ice time cut by nearly two minutes in 2018-19 under new head coach and David Quinn, who was an assistant at Boston University when Shattenkirk was there.
Shattenkirk, who had two years left on his deal, saw his points per game also drop mightily after going home. He averaged 0.50 in 2017-18 and 0.38 this past season, which also saw him spend plenty of nights in the press box as a healthy scratch as he dealt with the aftermath of surgery on a torn meniscus in his left knee. His final stat line in New York reads seven goals, 51 points in 119 games.
That big 2020-21 charge will brings their dead money total to $7,494,444 when you include the buy outs for Ryan Spooner ($300K) and Dan Girardi ($1,111,111).
For the Rangers, this move will save them $5,166,667 on the cap this season, per Cap Friendly, and combined with the likely AHL demotions of Brendan Smith and Matt Beleskey, that will get them under ceiling. General manager Jeff Gorton needed to free up room with restricted free agents Brendan Lemieux and Tony DeAngelo left to re-sign. A Chris Kreider trade was a rumored option for their cap situation, but it’s Shattenkirk who ultimately is the one leaving town.
UPDATE: The Rangers made it official on Thursday afternoon. “Today’s decision was a very difficult one,” said Rangers President John Davidson. “Kevin is a great person and teammate and he was extremely proud to be a New York Ranger. We wish him and his family all the best going forward.”
The New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes, St. Louis Blues, Calgary Flames and Dallas Stars all had something in common in 2019. They all went from being non-playoff teams in 2018 to making it to the postseason last year. So if that scenario were to repeat itself next season, who would the new five playoff teams be?
There’s no denying that the current salary cap system has created way too much parity in the NHL over the last few years. It’s not difficult to envision five non-playoff teams sneak into the postseason at all, because a lot of these teams are so evenly matched.
So which non-playoff teams do we expect to make it to the postseason in 2020?
• Montreal Canadiens: The Canadiens put up 96 points last year and still missed out on the playoffs, but there were plenty of positives for them to build on. First, Max Domi‘s adjustment to Montreal was seamless. He fit like a glove. Secondly, Carey Price and Shea Weber were able to stay healthy down the stretch. That will be the biggest key for the Habs in 2019-20. Getting sophomore forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi to contribute more offensively could also propel them into a playoff spot.
• Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers got off to a bad start last year for a few reasons, but none more obvious than their mediocre goaltending. Once Carter Hart came into the picture, he managed to settle things down between the pipes. Avoiding a sophomore slump will be key for him if the Flyers are going to get back into the postseason, but they clearly have a talented enough roster to get themselves in.
• New York Rangers: The Rangers have been incredibly aggressive with their roster since sending a letter out to their fans outlining their plan to rebuild. Not only did they luck into getting Kappo Kakko in the NHL Entry Draft, they also found a way to sign the most dynamic free agent on the market, Artemi Panarin. The biggest question mark on this team is on defense, as they have big money committed to Kevin Shattenkirk, Marc Staal and Brendan Smith. In goal, Henrik Lundqvist isn’t the same player he used to be but Alexandar Georgiev has the ability to fill in whenever King Henrik needs a break.
• Chicago Blackhawks: Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman has made tweaks to his roster this summer. He’s added Calvin de Haan, Olli Maatta and Andrew Shaw via trade and he also signed Robin Lehner in free agency. The core group of players is still around and they can still contribute at a high enough level to help the ‘Hawks get into the postseason. But the West is going to be competitive this year, so the Blackhawks will have to stay pretty consistent throughout the year.
Honorable mention: The New Jersey Devils have added P.K. Subban and Jack Hughes to their roster, so seeing them improve by a wide margin wouldn’t be surprising. There’s still big questions surrounding the team’s defense and goaltending, but they were a playoff team two years ago. They could definitely be one of the biggest surprises in 2019-20. For now, they’re the sixth-likeliest team to go from not being in the playoffs to making it again.
A team’s “out” to a bad contract, often one that said team signed and one they regretted at some point after the ink hit the signature spot on the contract sheet.
It’s an out with a catch. You can shed cap space, but only some. While mistakes can be forgiven, they’re not forgotten for some time. The length varies from case to case. It’s like getting a divorce but still living with your ex-spouse. You’re free, but not really. It’s not ideal.
The fact is, some relationships end up in that spot, and in hockey, when a usually-high-paid player becomes unwanted — a surplus to requirements — or he’s a square peg that can’t be fit into the round holes of a team’s salary cap, it’s one way to trim off some fat.
The buyout window opens today and will remain open until June 30.
Teams are permitted to buyout a players contract to obtain a reduced salary cap hit over a period of twice the remaining length of the contract. The buyout amount is a function of the players age at the time of the buyout, and are as follows:
One-third of the remaining contract value, if the player is younger than 26 at the time of the buyout
Two-thirds of the remaining contract value, if the player is 26 or older at the time of the buyout
The team still takes a cap hit, and the cap hit by year is calculated as follows:
Multiply the remaining salary (excluding signing bonuses) by the buyout amount (as determined by age) to obtain the total buyout cost
Spread the total buyout cost evenly over twice the remaining contract years
Determine the savings by subtracting the annual buyout cost from Step 2. by the players salary (excluding signing bonuses)
Determine the remaining cap hit by subtracting the savings from Step 3. by the players Annual Average Salary (AAV) (including signing bonuses)
With that out of the way, let’s look at five candidates (in no particular order) who may be bought out over the next two weeks.
The once powerful Kings have been reduced to kingdom more befitting of Jurassic Park. They have their share of stars from yesteryear on that team, and a couple making premium coin for regular, unleaded performance.
Phaneuf is a shade of the player he used to be. It’s understandable, given he’s 34 and on the back nine of his career. He’s got two years remaining on a deal that the Kings will be on the hook for $12 million.
Trading Phaneuf isn’t likely. He had six points in 67 games last year and the Kings, who were dreadful, healthy-scratched Phaneuf down the stretch.
Using CapFriendly’s handy-dandy buyout calculator, we see Phaneuf’s buyout would save the Kings just over $2.8 million, including a ~$4 million savings next year and a more modest $1.583 the following year.
Phaneuf’s cap hit over four years would be a total of $8.375 million, with the Ottawa Senators retaining 25 percent or $2.791 million per the transaction the two teams made in 2018.
Scott Darling, Carolina Hurricanes
A lesson in a team throwing way to much money at a backup goaltender with decent numbers.
Darling has fallen out of favor in Carolina after signing a four-year, $16.6 million deal during the 2017 offseason.
Darling’s play was a disaster in the first year of the deal and Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney took over around December of this past season.
Darling was placed on waivers and was unsurprisingly not claimed and seems a shoe-in for an immediate buyout. The Hurricanes will save $2.366 million, taking a total cap hit of just under $6 million over the next four years.
Those savings can go to toward trying to re-up both Mrazek and McEhlinney, a duo that helped the Hurricanes to the Eastern Conference Final.
The Jets bet on Kulikov’s lingering back injuries being behind the Russian defenseman when they signed him two years ago in the offseason. The bet was wrong.
Kulikov’s back has a durability rating that would be frowned upon by Consumer Reports.
But his back isn’t the biggest issue Winnipeg has. General manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has a money issue. You see, he needs to spend a lot this offseason on guys named Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor, and he has more than one contract he’d like to dispose of. But while a guy like Mathieu Perreault would find suitors in the trade market, Kulikov won’t.
So while Kulikov has one year left on a deal that hits the cap for $4.333 million, a buyout would save Cheveldayoff close to $3 million in desperately needed cap space for the coming season.
Drafting well in the first round has caught up with the Jets.
Like Phaneuf not far down the I-5, Perry has seen his production nose-dive at 34 years old. There’s a lot of mileage on Perry’s skates, and regular oil changes aren’t cutting it anymore.
Perry has two years left on a deal that hits their bottom line for $8.625 million over the next two seasons.
The Ducks would have $6 million this year alone by buying out Perry, who is essentially trade proof with a full no-movement clause.
Perry’s cap hit would jump up to 6.625 mill the following year with a signing bonus of $3 million still owed, but then would only hurt for $2 million over the two added buyout years. In the end, the Ducks would save $4 million and open up a roster spot for a younger player.
I know what you’re thinking: “Hey, this guy just hoisted the Stanley Cup and played a hell of a role on the fourth line to help the Blues to their first title in franchise history.”
Indeed, Steen did all of those things. But interim coach Craig Berube put Steen on the fourth line, a role he relished in but one that can be replaced for much, much cheaper.
Steen, 35, has seen his production plummet over the past several seasons — far away from the realm of money he’s making with a $5.75 million cap hit. That’s too much for a fourth line player.
The Blues have some signings to make themselves, including a big-money extension for rookie sensation Jordan Binnington and other pieces to the puzzle such as Patrick Maroon.
Buying out Steen would come with a cap savings of $3 million, including a $6 million savings over the next two seasons. The Blues have $18 million and change to play with and a host of RFAs that need to get paid.
The above five came in no particular order. This list could extend for a while.
Some other notable names that could see their contracts bought out are: