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PHT Morning Skate: Seguin’s future; Pacioretty on ‘horrible’ season

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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.

Jamie Benn and Snoop Dogg are now BFFs. 

• If Tyler Seguin doesn’t sign a long-term extension with the Dallas Stars and becomes available, would a reunion in Boston make sense? [NBC Boston]

• Brady Tkachuk officially signed his ELC on Monday. Where does he see his future? “I think it’s with Ottawa and in the NHL. I think I’m physically ready and mentally ready for the grind. I think I’m definitely ready and I’m going to get better as the year goes on.” [Ottawa Citizen]

• Despite all the trade rumors, Max Pacioretty is ready to return to the Montreal Canadiens after a ‘horrible’ season. [Sportsnet]

• The four options, per IIHF president Rene Fasel, for the 2022 Winter Olympics: The NHL and NHLPA agree to send players; use a similar setup as Pyeongchang 2018; use under-23 players; no hockey at all in Beijing. [Inside the Games]

• Bill Foley on the Vegas Golden Knights’ off-season and what he wants to do with the team’s pre-game intro next season. [Las Vegas Sun]

• Why bright futures are ahead for both Kyle Connor and Jack Roslovic. [TSN]

• Is it time for an NHL playoff format change? [Pensburgh]

• Why January 1, 2019 is a very important date for Jacob Trouba, Mark Stone, William Karlsson, Kevin Hayes, and Brock Nelson. [The Hockey News]

• The fans have spoken an the Vancouver Canucks will be wearing the electric skate jerseys a handful of times during their 50th anniversary season in 2019-20. [Canucks]

• Can the New York Rangers win if they don’t have elite talent sprinkled on their roster? [Blue Seat Blogs]

• How does the current Toronto Maple Leafs blue line compare to that of the defending Stanley Cup champions? [Leafs Nation]

• Why Ryan Johansen deserves your respect. [Predlines]

• How Todd Reirden’s staff in Washington will aid him as head coach of the Capitals. [Stars and Sticks]

• The Minnesota Wild and the NWHL’s Minnesota Whitecaps are teaming up. [NWHL]

Zach Aston-Reese is healthy and confident heading into the season with the Pittsburgh Penguins. [NHL.com]

• Would it make sense for the New Jersey Devils to take on a bad contract if there’s a decent sweetner involved? [Pucks and Pitchforks]

• Could Shawn Matthias be heading to Switzerland? [Swiss Hockey News]

• Hey, Teuvo Teravainen… not bad, kid:

Getting ready for the season😎 #teuvotuesday #golf #puukäsi

A post shared by Teuvo Teräväinen (@teravainenteuvo) on

How Jets can continue to contend

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Right now, it’s probably almost all sadness and anger, but eventually, the Winnipeg Jets will look back at this season with mixed feelings.

[Golden Knights eliminate Jets in Game 5]

There are a ton of entries in the “Pros” column. After years of being betrayed by goaltending during the Ondrej Pavelec era, Connor Hellebuyck finished 2017-18 as a Vezina candidate and was mostly great during the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Winnipeg went from never winning a playoff game in its Thrashers – Jets iteration to making it to the third round. They finished the season with the second-best record in the NHL and dispatched the top-ranked Predators during the postseason. Budding stars like Patrik Laine and Mark Scheifele took their next steps, while Kyle Connor joined this team’s absolutely bursting list of impressive assets. The future is mostly bright, and so is the present, thanks in part to the patience of the past.

Still, it had to be gutting to lose to the Vegas Golden Knights as a considerable favorite, especially considering how frustrating it was to try – and mostly fail – to solve Marc-Andre Fleury.

It’s easy to assume that the Jets will be a fixture in the West’s top rankings for ages, yet the counterpoint is chilling: what if this was actually their best shot?

Overall, the Jets are in a great position to contend for years. That said, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff needs to churn out some more wins, and some breaks need to go their way. Let’s consider what the Jets need to do to contend next season and beyond, along with some of the bumps in the road that could derail such dreams.

Central casting

In 2017-18, the Central Division was the general pick as the toughest division in the NHL. It’s difficult to imagine it getting a lot easier.

The Nashville Predators pushed Winnipeg to seven games, and David Poile’s not shy about making bold moves to get better. The Stars and Blues have a strong chance to improve next season, while the Blackhawks could rebound. Colorado seems like a young, modern team while Minnesota is, if nothing else, scrappy enough to make playoff spots tougher to come by.

Even if Cheveldayoff makes all the right moves, the Jets may simply lose to some very tough competition in the opening two rounds as long as that’s the playoff format the NHL chooses.

The next steps

It’s up to the Jets to continue to cultivate this robust bounty of talented players.

Patrik Laine is already a deadly sniper; can he become a more well-rounded threat? Nikolaj Ehlers looks great, but he failed to score a single goal in the playoffs. Could Sami Niku round out Winnipeg’s defense and will Jack Roslovic be another breakthrough young forward?

Winnipeg players reaching the next level won’t be easy, but it’s crucial.

And if the Jets’ prospects and greener NHL players can really climb, they might be able to shrug off some of the biggest team-building conundrums …

Restrictions coming

The Jets possess one of the best bargain contracts in the league in Scheifele, a legitimate top-line center in the meat of his peak at 25, only carrying a cap hit a bit over $6 million through 2023-24. Despite postseason ups and downs, extending Ehlers at a precise cap hit of $6M through 2024-25 sure looks forward-thinking.

Cheveldayoff’s biggest tests are coming up during the next two summers. Will he be able to maintain this team’s deadly and versatile arsenal once bargains and entry-level contracts expire?

The most immediate tests come in two RFAs heading for big raises: Hellebuyck and underrated defenseman Jacob Trouba. Things seemed a little tense at times with Trouba, so don’t expect another cheap and strange structure for his next contract. (If the NHL wasn’t such a country club atmosphere, you’d almost wonder if someone might send an offer sheet to Trouba and/or Hellebuyck.)

Anyway, Hellebuyck and Trouba aren’t likely to be cheap. The key will be to find the right compromise, whether that means a shorter deal or lowering cap hits with riskier, longer terms.

July also represents the first opportunity to extend some very big names.

Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor will both see their rookie deals go away after 2018-19. Laine’s cap hit could very well reach the teens in millions, while Connor might not be easy to retain after coming off of a 30-goal rookie season.

Wheeler’s next deal

Maybe the most fascinating situation comes with a pending UFA in Blake Wheeler. The 31-year-old’s been an under-the-radar star at a manageable $5.6M cap hit for years now and should command a considerable raise. That could be a tricky situation, as he’ll be 33 when his next contract kicks in.

All of these factors make it tough to imagine the team bringing back soon-to-be free agent Paul Stastny, who was a seamless addition. That’s especially true as Bryan Little‘s extension could stand as regrettable.

Ultimately, Cheveldayoff must make the right calls. Can he leverage RFA statuses to keep the core together? Will Wheeler and other nice, veteran players be affordable? These questions are mostly a little off in the distance, yet sometimes teams feel the need to be proactive. Simply put, players getting raises means that the Jets will most likely be forced to make choices and tough cuts.

(On the bright side, there’s some cap relief on the horizon as well. Toby Enstrom‘s deal is done. Tyler Myers‘ contract ends after next season. It’s not all bad.)

Backup plan?

When the Jets signed Steve Mason, it seemed like they’d either install him as the starter or as a platoon mate for Hellebuyck. An injury-ravaged season essentially pushed Mason out of the picture, and it’s reasonable to wonder what happens considering that his $4.1M cap hit runs through 2018-19.

Do the Jets try to move Mason and shuffle in Michael Hutchinson or a different backup?

Hellebuyck, even a richer version, is likely to be “the guy.” The modern NHL’s shown how valuable a good backup can be, especially during the 82-game grind of the regular season.

***

Few, if any, NHL teams are constructed to compete in both the present and future as well as the Jets right now. They’re likely to get better merely as the likes of Laine come into their own. (Laine still can’t drink legally in the U.S. at 20 years old, after all.)

On the other hand, promising things can go splat in a hurry, especially in sports. Injuries can happen. Bad contracts can gum up the works. Marc-Andre Fleury could stand on his head again.

It’s up to the Jets to prove that this past run was the beginning of something great rather than their best swing at the fence. They have the power to do just that, but it won’t be an easy task.

MORE:
• Conference Finals schedule, TV info
• NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub

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.

Golden Knights replace Tatar with Perron; Ehlers back for Jets

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Both the Vegas Golden Knights and Winnipeg Jets are getting some significant names back into their lineups for Game 4 of the 2018 Western Conference Final.

[CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE; Game 4 airs on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET]

The most significant addition is Nikolaj Ehlers, as expected. Interestingly, Jets head coach Paul Maurice decided to scratch Joel Armia instead of Jack Roslovic to make room for Ehlers. The Jets’ second line should be that much deadlier with Ehlers back alongside Paul Stastny and Patrik Laine; maybe this will help to solve some of their supporting cast riddles?

It’s also interesting – yet the Jets hope irrelevant – that Michael Hutchinson is dressing as Connor Hellebuyck‘s backup instead of Steve Mason.

Meanwhile, the Golden Knights get one of their leading regular-season scorers back in David Perron. While Ehlers seemingly missed Game 3 with an illness, Perron was sidelined for Games 2 and 3.

Gerard Gallant must really like what he’s seeing from his team’s pluggers, because the return of Perron apparently means that Tomas Tatar loses this game of musical chairs. Tatar scored a big goal in Game 2, yet he only logged a little more than 10 minutes in these past two contests, so he may still reside in Gallant’s doghouse.

MORE:
• 
Conference Finals schedule, TV info
• 
NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub

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.

Jets’ Ehlers expected to be available for Game 4

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Nikolaj Ehlers was a surprise scratch for the Winnipeg Jets for Game 3 of the Western Conference Final on Wednesday night due to a previously undisclosed ailment.

On Friday it was finally revealed that Ehlers missed the game due to an illness (via Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun) and that he should be available for Game 4 in Vegas. There is still no official word on whether or not he will be in the lineup, however. He has not skated in three days. In his absence rookie forward Jack Roslovic was inserted into the lineup while Brandon Tanev took his place on the second line.

Without Ehlers on Wednesday the Jets dropped their second game in a row and struggled to find a way to beat Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury’s play, combined with a lack of secondary scoring, has the Jets facing a 2-1 series deficit.

Even though Ehlers has yet to score a goal this postseason he is still one of the Jets’ most talented players and is coming off of a 29-goal performance in the regular season.

Ehlers does not get as much attention as some of the other Jets’ young stars, but his resume to this point in his career is impressive having already put a pair of 25-goal seasons on the board before his 22nd birthday. Getting him back in the lineup and getting some offense out of him would be a pretty big boost for a Jets offense that has gone cold the past few games.

MORE:
• 
Conference Finals schedule, TV info
• 
NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Nikolaj Ehlers will not play for Jets in Game 3

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Some big lineup news for the Winnipeg Jets heading into Game 3 of the Western Conference Final on Wednesday night as they will be without forward Nikolaj Ehlers.

Ehlers did not take part in warmups while rookie forward Jack Roslovic will draw into the lineup.

Brandon Tanev skated in Ehlers’ place on the second line next to Paul Stastny and Patrik Laine.

The 21-year-old Ehlers is one of the Jets’ core players and is coming off another strong regular season performance that saw him score 29 goals in 82 games. That success has not continued in the playoffs, however, as he has yet to score a goal in 13 postseason games. This will be the second game he has missed this postseason. According to Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun it is not a healthy scratch and Ehlers is dealing with some sort of undisclosed ailment.

Tanev, meanwhile, has been surprisingly productive in the playoffs and enters Game 3 with four goals and two points. In 61 regular season games he had just eight goals and 10 assists.

On the Vegas side, the Golden Knights will once again be without David Perron who will miss his second consecutive game. Tomas Tatar, fresh off of his strong Game 2 performance that saw him score his first goal of the playoffs, will once again play in his spot. Backup goalie Malcolm Subban was also not on the ice for warmups and will be replaced by Maxime Legace.

MORE:
• 
Conference Finals schedule, TV info
• 
NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.