Jeff Carter

Boeser out eight weeks, injury helps explain Toffoli trade
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Canucks say Boeser could miss rest of regular season, view Toffoli as replacement

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The Canucks provided a troubling Brock Boeser update, and in doing so, explained the steep fee they paid for Tyler Toffoli.

It turns out that the Boeser injury news is worse than thought. GM Jim Benning said that they view it as an eight-week injury. If that holds true, Boeser would miss the rest of the regular season and playoff time if Vancouver makes it.

(The Canucks also ruled out Josh Leivo for at least the rest of the regular season.)

Boeser injury and how it relates to Toffoli trade

Benning explained that, yes, Boeser’s injury partially prompted the Toffoli trade. The Canucks GM believes that Toffoli does a lot of the same things as Boeser.

On one hand, Boeser may seem like a bigger name. Boeser also produced bigger point totals than Toffoli recently.

Despite playing in 69 or fewer games during the previous two seasons, Boeser generated 26 and 29 goals, along with 55 and 56 points. Toffoli’s recent numbers are far more modest, although he managed 31 goals and 58 points in 2015-16.

Those numbers stem from the days of “That ’70s Line.” Fittingly, Benning asked current Canuck Tanner Pearson about Toffoli before the trade.

Could Toffoli catch fire after leaving the Kings much like Ilya Kovalchuk with Montreal? It’s fair to ask when you compare Toffoli to Boeser with certain metrics. Take, for instance, Toffoli’s strong showings in Evolving Hockey’s RAPM charts:

Was Toffoli trade smart by Canucks?

I’ve personally argued that Toffoli was a player worth targeting because he’s better than the simplest stats might imply. If you’re looking purely at replacing Boeser, Benning indeed seems to have a point.

Of course, the other side of the argument is that the Canucks might have been risking things by adding Toffoli to a mix that included Boeser.

After all, to get Toffoli the Canucks gave up a second-round pick, conditional pick, and Tyler Madden (whom The Athletic’s Corey Pronman ranks [sub required] as Pronman’s 40th best prospect). Benning told reporters that, while he spoke to Toffoli’s agent, the team is going to see how he fits before making any sort of extension decision. This seems like a hefty price for a Canucks team with an unclear outlook.

Clearly, Vancouver remains resolute in going for it in 2019-20.

To Benning’s credit, it’s not outrageous to look at the standings (particularly in the Pacific) and conclude that it’s a decent time to roll the dice:

You can get dizzy pondering the range of possibilities, from winning the division to outright missing the playoffs.

By placing Boeser and Leivo on LTIR, the Canucks also hold significant cap space, even after adding Toffoli at his full $4.6M AAV. In other words, the Canucks could throw even more caution to the wind.

(I don’t think they’ll trade for Jeff Carter to fully reunite him with Pearson or Toffoli, though. Aw, shucks.)

MORE: PHT’s 2020 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

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.

Kings face key stages of rebuild with trade deadline, 2020 NHL Draft

NBC’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Saturday’s Stadium Series matchup between the Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings from Falcon Stadium at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

While the Avalanche hope to become true Stanley Cup contenders, the Kings wonder how to reclaim that form.

The next few months are crucial for both teams, only in dramatically different ways. After looking at Colorado’s climb to contention, let’s ponder how the Kings are handling their rebuild.

Kings get off to strong start with rebuild

Experts already rave about the building blocks the Kings have amassed.

The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler (sub required) and The Hockey Writers’ Josh Bell both ranked the Kings’ farm system number one in recent articles. In fact, Wheeler ranked the Kings first with “no hesitation.”

They seem to be combining quantity with quality. Wheeler’s Athletic colleague Corey Pronman placed six Kings prospects in his top 100 rankings (sub required), with Arthur Kaliyev finishing highest at seventh. Five of those six landed in the top 50 of that list, with Samuel Fagemo barely missing at 53.

You can nitpick elements of that pool, as with just about any. But overall, it seems like the Kings are pressing many of the right buttons. So far.

Trade deadline provides opportunities as Kings rebuild

Rob Blake could accelerate this rebuild with deft trades.

To his credit, he was already aggressive in landing a nice haul for Jake Muzzin last season, and once again extracted a solid package from Toronto in the Jack Campbell trade.

Neither Tyler Toffoli nor Alec Martinez boast the same trade value as Muzzin, but maybe the Kings can seize some opportunities anyway? This year’s deadline market seems pretty shallow, so perhaps Blake may take advantage.

Who should stick around?

Looking further down the line, it’s tough to imagine the Kings shaking loose from Jeff Carter or Dustin Brown. Moving Jonathan Quick also sounds unlikely.

(That said, the Kings should pull the trigger if there are suitors, and if Carter and others would comply.)

Ultimately, your optimism may vary regarding the futures for veteran stars Kopitar (32, $10M AAV through 2023-24) and Doughty (30, $11M AAV through 2026-27). Actually, go ahead and take a moment to wince at those contracts. That’s a natural reaction.

There’s only so much the Kings can do about the aging curve, at least since they already signed the extensions. The Kings could at least take steps to be proactive, though, with hopes that Doughty and/or Kopitar can still help out once the prospects (hopefully) bloom.

Right now, Doughty is averaging almost 26 minutes of ice time per game (25:56) while Kopitar is logging almost 21 (20:46). With the Kings far out of contention, I must ask … why would you run them into the ground? Wouldn’t it be wiser to take measures to keep them fresher for 2020-21 and beyond?

That’s where Todd McLellan creates an interesting dialogue. On one hand, there’s evidence that he’s a good or even very good coach, including in Hockey Viz’s breakdowns. That data argues that McLellan positively impacts his teams on both ends, especially lately:

McLellan HockeyViz

The Kings can’t judge their coach based on structure alone, though. McLellan received some criticism for how he handled young players like Jesse Puljujarvi in Edmonton, so Los Angeles must be wary about McLellan’s development impact.

If McLellan can’t be convinced to scale down minutes for the likes of Doughty and Kopitar (at least after the deadline, in particular), then that’s a contextual problem, too.

Kings need some lottery ball luck for next phase of rebuild

Right now, the Kings rank as the worst team in the West, and second worst in the NHL. The Senators could sink below the Kings and grab the second-best lottery odds:

via NHL.com

Shrewd moves propel rebuilds forward, but luck is crucial, too. As excited as people are about their prospects, the Kings’ rebuild could swing based on getting the chance to draft Alexis Lafreniere, landing another blue-chipper like Quinton Byfield, or slipping just out of the truly elite range.

[Mock Draft for 2020; prospect rankings heading into the season]

Up to this point, the Kings are doing a good job “making their own luck.” Even so, the trade deadline and 2020 NHL Draft represent the biggest make-or-break moments of all.

Kenny Albert, Eddie Olczyk, and Brian Boucher will call the matchup. On-site studio coverage at Air Force Academy will feature Kathryn Tappen hosting alongside analyst Patrick Sharp and reporter Rutledge Wood.

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.

Flames cough up costly loss to Kings

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Todd McLellan’s crew can argue that they are better than their record indicates. Even so, the Flames may rue a loss like this to the Kings, with Los Angeles winning 5-3 on Wednesday.

Flames could regret this loss to Kings

Calgary came into the night with a chance to distance themselves in the Pacific and West bubble races. Instead, the Flames dropped from the Pacific’s third spot, and squandered quite a bit of margin for error:

Pacific 3: Golden Knights (28-22-8, 64 points in 58 games played)

West Wild 1: Flames (29-23-6, 64 points, 58 GP)
West Wild 2: Coyotes (28-23-8, 64 points, 59 GP)

9th: Jets (29-24-5, 63, 58 GP)
10th: Wild (27-23-6, 60, 56 GP)
11th: Predators (26-22-7, 59, 55 GP)
12th: Blackhawks [in progress] (25-23-8, 58 in 56 GP)

Again, the Kings stand as a scrappier opponent than their worst-in-the-West record indicates. Really, they could carry real upset potential down the stretch.

Even so, the Kings beat the Flames in three of four games this season, with Calgary only managing three of a possible eight points. Los Angeles broke a five-game losing streak and earned just their second win in 12 games. Since Dec. 19, the Kings are now 5-15-2.

Flames missed opportunities in loss to Kings

A few factors stand out in Calgary’s defeat:

  • The Flames began the game a little flat, losing the shots on battle 13-8 during the first period. Eventually Calgary finished with an edge of 38-33.
  • Calvin Peterson was sharp for the Kings … aside from the Flames’ 1-0 goal. Yes, Calgary opened with a lead.
  • The teams combined for the first three goals in less than 90 seconds, including two Kings goals in 39 seconds. David Rittich looked incensed by the Flames’ defensive lapses during that span.
  • Calgary received a lengthy 5-on-3 power play opportunity during the third period, but couldn’t connect.

Quite a night for Kurtis MacDermid

Players stood out for both teams, even beyond Peterson. Elias Lindholm gave the Flames life with two late goals, cutting the Kings’ lead to 3-2 and 4-3. Jeff Carter nabbed an all-too-rare point, scoring the game-winning goal. MacDermid may not forget this one, though:

  • MacDermid fought with Milan Lucic early in the game. No word on if they fought because of a joke about Lucic’s frosted tips.
  • While it wasn’t the game-winner, MacDermid’s 3-1 goal was significant.
  • Overall, he finished with that goal, the fight, a +3 rating, three hits, and a blocked shot in 12:17 of time on ice.

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.

After Ovechkin who could be next for 700 goals?

GR8NESS: OVI’S CHASE FOR 700: As Alex Ovechkin approaches 700 career NHL goals, PHT is going to examine all aspects of his goal-scoring prowess. We’ll break down and provide context for his amazing stats, project if he can top Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894, and take a look at his most important goals.

Alex Ovechkin gets his next shot at reaching the 700-goal mark on Thursday night when the Washington Capitals visit the Colorado Avalanche in what could be a potential Stanley Cup Final preview.

Scoring 700 goals is obviously significant because it’s only been done by seven other players in league history (Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, Jaromir Jagr, Brett Hull, Marcel Dionne, Phil Esposito, and Mike Gartner).

It takes a nearly impossible combination of elite, Hall of Fame talent to be that sort of impact goal scorer, as well as the durability and good fortune to remain healthy and play long enough in the NHL to compile that many goals.

After Ovechkin reaches the mark, it may be a long time before we see another player hit the 700-goal mark.

Even 600  goals seems like it could be a long way off from happening again.

Here, we take a look at the top-16 active goal scoring leaders in the NHL after Ovechkin and how far away they are from the two milestones.

San Jose Sharks forward Patrick Marleau is the next closest player to 600, but his age and current goal scoring pace (15 goals per 82 games the past two years) make even that seem like an impossible task. He would need to maintain his current pace for another two full seasons (taking him through his age 42 season) after this one to reach it.

After that, who else here has a realistic shot?

[MORE: Ovechkin’s chase for 700th goal continues Thursday on NBCSN]

Ilya Kovalchuk, Eric Staal, Joe Thornton, Zach Parise, Jeff Carter, Corey Perry, Phil Kessel, Joe Pavelski, and Patrice Bergeron are probably out due to their ages and the number of goals still standing between them.

Sidney Crosby would still seem to have a track to 600, but he would need to average 30 goals per season for the next eight years to reach 700. He is a legend and one of the best all-time players, but that is asking way too much. Injuries taking out so much of his prime will keep him from joining that club. The same is probably true for his Pittsburgh teammate Evgeni Malkin, as well as Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos (both of whom would need to average at least 30 goals over the next seasons). Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and John Tavares are the other three youngest players on the list, and even they would need to average 30 goals per season over the next seven-eight years to hit the 600-mark.

This is what makes Ovechkin’s pursuit of the mark — as well as Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goal record — so impressive. He has not only been the most dominant and consistent goal scorer in the league, but he has to this point remained remarkably healthy.

The next 600-or 700-club member is probably in the next wave of NHL superstars: The group of Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, David Pastrnak, Leon Draisaitl, Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, and Jack Eichel.

Here is where they are right now.

In terms of the number of goals MacKinnon is the closest out of this group, but he is also the oldest. It took him a few years to become the superstar offensive force that he is now, but he is one of the league’s best.

Pastrnak, McDavid and Matthews are all on the right trajectory given their age, production, and long-term upside. But even they have a huge path ahead of them that is going to require consistent production and, most importantly, the good fortune to avoid injury and remain on the ice.

It is possible that one or two players on that list could do it, but we are probably more than a decade (or more) away from actually seeing it. If it even happens for any of them.

Thursday night’s coverage of Capitals-Avalanche (9:30 p.m. ET) will be the second half of an NHL doubleheader on NBCSN, immediately following originally-scheduled coverage of Flyers-Panthers, which begins at 7 p.m. ET. Pre-game coverage at 6 p.m. ET with NHL Live.

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.

WATCH LIVE: Lightning visit Kings on NBCSN

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Wednesday’s matchup between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Los Angeles Kings. Coverage begins at 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Lightning continue their post All-Star break road trip as they head west to take on the Kings. This is the second and final meeting between these two clubs this season. The first matchup came just over two weeks ago on Jan. 14 in Tampa, when the Lightning overcame a third period deficit before defeating LA in a shootout.

The Lightning have won their last seven games against the Kings. The last two matchups between Tampa and LA have resulted in a 4-3 shootout win for the Lightning.

This game will mark the first sports event held at the Staples Center since former Laker Kobe Bryant’s death on Sunday. The arena hosted the Grammy Awards on Sunday night and was scheduled to host a Clippers-Lakers game on Tuesday, but the NBA decided to postpone that game in the wake of Bryant’s death.

In their historically dominant 2018-19 regular season, the Lightning led the NHL with a 28.2% power play. This season the unit has been equally as strong, ranking seond in the league at 26.8%. However more recently it’s been a point of weakness for Tampa Bay. They went 0-for-4 with the man advantage in the loss to the Stars Monday, continuing a concerning trend over the last few weeks.

Kings captain Anze Kopitar continues to be the bright spot on the offensive end for Los Angeles. The 32-year-old leads the team in goals (17), assists (26) and points (43) as he appears on pace to top his numbers from a season ago (22G-38A-60P). Kopitar matched a season-high with three points (1G-2A) in the Jan. 16 loss in Florida but was held without a point in three of LA’s final 4 games before the break.

[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 7 P.M. ET ON NBCSN]

WHAT: Tampa Bay Lightning at Los Angeles Kings
WHERE: Staples Center
WHEN: Wednesday, Jan. 29, 10 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Lightning-Kings stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

LIGHTNING
Steven StamkosBrayden PointNikita Kucherov
Ondrej PalatAnthony CirelliTyler Johnson
Alex KillornCedric PaquettePatrick Maroon
Carter VerhaegheMitchell StephensYanni Gourde

Victor HedmanJan Rutta
Ryan McDonaghErik Cernak
Mikhail SergachevKevin Shattenkirk

Starting goalie: Andrei Vasilevskiy

KINGS
Alex Iafallo – Anze Kopitar – Dustin Brown
Nikolai ProkhorkinJeff CarterTyler Toffoli
Adrian KempeBlake LizotteAustin Wagner
Kyle Clifford – Mike Amadio – Trevor Lewis

Joakim RyanAlec Martinez
Ben HuttonSean Walker
Kurtis MacDermidMatt Roy

Starting goalie: Jonathan Quick

Liam McHugh will host Wednesday’s coverage on NHL Live alongside analysts Anson Carter and Keith Jones and NHL insider Bob McKenzie. John Forslund will call the action from STAPLES Center, alongside analysts Jim Fox and Brian Engblom.