Johnny Gaudreau

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Could Marner signing open floodgates for Laine, other star RFAs?

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As people anxiously awaited the RFA logjam to finally collapse, the belief was that the dominoes might start to fall whenever Mitch Marner signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs — at least if that impasse would clear up before the season.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Maple Leafs signed Marner for a hefty sum just as training camps began (Friday, to be exact), so now we must wonder if Patrik Laine, Mikko Rantanen, Brayden Point, Kyle Connor, and other key RFAs will start following like dominoes.

We’ve already enjoyed a taste of that with RFA defensemen. The Blue Jackets really got things rolling with a bridge for Zach Werenski, while the Flyers locked up Ivan Provorov long-term and the Jets got a proactive extension done with Josh Morrissey.

Of course, every situation is different. The Bruins haven’t inked Charlie McAvoy yet, for instance. With that in mind, let’s enjoy a quick refresher on some of the most important RFA situations that may speed up now that Marner got paid.

[MORE: Maple Leafs sign Mitch Marner to big six-year deal]

Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor

Cap Friendly estimates the Jets’ cap room at about $15.45M, and even if Laine and Connor ask for less than Marner’s reported $10.893M, it’s tough to imagine them combining for less than $16M. Perhaps Winnipeg will gain newfound momentum to move a contract, such as Mathieu Perreault ($4.125M AAV for two more seasons)?

TSN’s Frank Seravalli details why the Jets have extra incentive to sort out the Connor and Laine situations before the regular season begins. Winnipeg’s already faced a tough offseason, but this can’t be easy. Maybe Kevin Cheveldayoff could turn lemons to lemonade by convincing both to come in at a reasonable cap hit, though?

Brayden Point

Entering the summer, it seemed like Point joined Mitch Marner as one of the most logical offer sheet targets, being that, like Toronto, Tampa Bay already has a lot of commitments to big-name, big-money players.

Of course, the Lightning also have those Florida tax breaks, that Florida climate, and a heck of a roster (playoff sweep or not), so the rumor is that Point brushed off any offer sheet interest quickly, and may be the latest Bolt to take less money than he’s truly worth.

Still … you wonder if Tampa Bay might want to take this down a notch or five.

Cap Friendly estimates Tampa Bay’s cap room at a bit less than $8.5M.

Mikko Rantanen

Frankly, there are quite a few analyses that put Point and Rantanen in Marner’s neighborhood.

In both Point’s case and that of Rantanen, their respective teams have one argument that the Maple Leafs lacked with Auston Matthews and John Tavares: “Hey, you can’t make more/too much more than Star Teammate X!”

Elliotte Friedman made a point along those lines regarding Rantanen versus Nathan MacKinnon, stating that the Avalanche would rather Rantanen not make $4M more than MacKinnon’s insultingly low $6.3M. The thing is, Colorado has about $15.6M in cap space, so Rantanen could certainly argue for about $4M more than MacKinnon, especially since that would still be less than Marner’s $10.893M.

Matthew Tkachuk

Tkachuk is a rung or two lower on the ladder than some of these bigger stars (he’s probably there with Connor, but we’ll see come negotiating time), but he still might want more than Calgary’s estimated $7M-ish in space. That could be a decent neighborhood for a compromise, however, as Johnny Gaudreau carries a $6.75M AAV.

Brock Boeser

With the Roberto Luongo weirdness costing them for about $3M and expensive additions like J.T. Miller and Tyler Myers, the Canucks only have about $4.1M in cap space. That could get … awkward, huh?

Travis Konency

Considering the money Chuck Fletcher threw around in making over the Flyers, you’d think Konency would want his piece of the pie. It’s not as high stakes as situations like Laine, but getting good value is crucial in this league. Cap Friendly puts Philly’s cap space at about $6.67M.

There are some other names floating out there, but the above situations are the biggest. Feel free to discuss players like Andrew Mangiapane in the comments.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

Barzal is Islanders’ game-changer

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the New York Islanders.

The New York Islanders have their share of questions entering the 2019-20 season but there is one thing they can be sure of — they have one of the game’s most exciting young players and a franchise cornerstone in Mathew Barzal.

Even though his point totals may have regressed in year two, the 22-year-old Barzal was the Islanders’ most dynamic and impactful player during the 2018-19 season and is on a trajectory that should take him to stardom in the NHL.

He has an incredible mix of speed, vision, and playmaking ability that makes him perfect for the modern game and a force to be reckoned with when he has the puck on his stick.

[MORE: 2018-19 Summary | Under Pressure | Three Questions]

He has already become one of the best and most productive playmakers in the league and could be on the verge of taking his production to an entirely new level based on what he has already done.

Two comparisons to consider for Barzal entering this season.

1.  Over the past two seasons (his first two in the league) he is one of just 11 forwards (minimum 100 games played) that has averaged at least 0.65 assists per game, 0.89 points per game, and posted a 52 percent Corsi rating. The others on that list are are Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon, Brad Marchand, Nikita Kucherov, Steve Stamkos, Claude Giroux, Johnny Gaudreau, Mikko Rantanen, Artemi Panarin, and Mitch Marner.

Excellent company to be in, especially when you consider just how young he is and is just now entering his age 22 season.

2. It’s the latter point (his age) that is the key. Barzal is one of just 11 active forwards to average at least 0.89 points through their age 21 season in the NHL, a list that includes Crosby, Stamkos, Marner, Connor McDavid, Evgeni Malkin, Patrick Kane, Ilya Kovalchuk, Nicklas Backstrom, Auston Matthews, and Alex Ovechkin.

Marner, Matthews, and Barzal are all the same age, but the other eight combined to score at a 100-point pace in their age 22 season.

The biggest difference between Barzal and most of the players on that list is that he is not quite the goal-scorer that some of them are and is more known for his ability to drive play and set up his teammates, so a lot of his point production will be tied to what the players around him are able to do once he gets them the puck. He can definitely help put them in better positions to score, but it is still up to them to finish the play. It is also possible he could develop into more of a goal-scorer if he takes on more of a shoot-first mentality. He has never been a low-percentage shooter, and while passing and playmaking is his greatest strength offensively, he could probably put himself in a position to average more than two shots per game. Especially if he does not have elite talent around him at the given time.

No matter what direction he takes, Barzal is the Islanders’ best player and the one player that can swing a game in their favor.

His rapid development into a top-line player is one of the reasons the Islanders were able to overcome the free agent departure of John Tavares without completely falling apart. They already had a star on the roster ready to fill that No. 1 role, and his best days are still ahead of him.

This is the hardest type of player to acquire in a rebuild, and it usually takes a top draft pick to get one.

The Islanders were fortunate enough to be able to get one in the middle of the first-round and have the piece they need to build around.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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NBC Sports will air 109 games during the 2019-20 NHL regular season with coverage beginning on Opening Night, Wednesday, Oct. 2 at 8 p.m. ET when the St. Louis Blues raise their Stanley Cup banner before facing the Washington Capitals. Following the game will be a playoff rematch as the Vegas Golden Knights host the San Jose Sharks at 10:30 p.m. ET.

The 2019-20 NBC Sports NHL schedule will once again feature “Wednesday Night Hockey” on NBCSN with 14 of the 25 nights showcasing doubleheaders with stars like Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane, Steven Stamkos, Connor McDavid, Johnny Gaudreau, Nathan MacKinnon, Henrik Lundqvist, and Patrice Bergeron.

Nearly 75% of NHL teams will play on “Wednesday Night Hockey,” with multiple appearances from the Blues, Golden Knights, Tampa Bay Lightning, Colorado Avalanche, Boston Bruins, and Dallas Stars.

Some notable games on “Wednesday Night Hockey”:

  • October 16 – Sidney Crosby and the Penguins host Nathan MacKinnon and the Avalanche, followed by a clash in Edmonton between Connor McDavid and the Oilers and Claude Giroux and the Flyers.
  • December 4 – Ryan O’Reilly and the defending Stanley Cup Champion Blues face off against the Penguins.
  • January 29 – Offseason acquisition Matt Duchene and the Nashville Predators visit Ovechkin and the Capitals, followed by a battle out west between the Lightning and the Kings in Los Angeles.
  • February 19Artemi Panarin and the Rangers to face Patrick Kane and the Blackhawks in an Original Six clash.
  • February 26Jack Eichel and the Buffalo Sabres will visit the Avalanche, followed by Penguins-Kings.

66 of 109 scheduled regular-season games on NBC and NBCSN – more than 60% – will feature at least one Western Conference team.

WINTER CLASSIC: NBC Sports will present the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic between the Nashville Predators and the Dallas Stars from Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas, Texas, on Jan. 1, 2020, on NBC at 1 p.m. ET.

STADIUM SERIES AND HERITAGE CLASSIC: NBC Sports will present exclusive primetime coverage of the 2020 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game between the Los Angeles Kings and the Colorado Avalanche from Falcon Stadium at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020, at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

The Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets will meet at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Saskatchewan on Oct. 26, 2019 for the 2019 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic at 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

STANLEY CUP FINAL REMATCH: The Boston Bruins will play the St. Louis Blues for the first time since Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final on Oct. 26 at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Coverage of the Flames-Jets Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic will follow.

NHL ALL-STAR WEEKEND: NBC will present coverage of the 2020 NHL All-Star Weekend from Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Mo., home of the Blues, on Jan. 24-25, highlighted by live coverage of the All-Star Game on Saturday, Jan. 25, in primetime on NBC.

NHL ON NBCSN: NBC Sports will televise at least 97 NHL regular-season games this season on NBCSN, including the Opening Night doubleheader, 38 “Wednesday Night Hockey” games, and 22 doubleheaders, as well as NHL All-Star coverage from St. Louis. In addition, NBC Sports has left the majority of the final week of the regular season on NBCSN open to allow for the biggest games with playoff implications to be added to the schedule.

Some NBCSN games of note:

  • Thur., Oct. 17 – The top two picks in the 2019 NHL Draft clash on NBCSN, when No. 1 pick Jack Hughes and the N.J. Devils host Kaapo Kakko and the N.Y. Rangers.
  • Sat., Oct. 26 – A rematch of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final featuring the Blues and Bruins in Boston, followed by the 2019 Heritage Classic between the Flames and Jets at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Sask.
  • Fri., Nov. 8 – Live coverage at 2 p.m. ET from Stockholm, Sweden, of the NHL Global Series matchup between the Lightning and Sabres.
  • Tue., Dec. 17 – The first of four matchups featuring Auston Matthews and Toronto Maple Leafs as they host the Sabres.
  • Mon., Jan. 6 – Connor McDavid and the Oilers face Matthews and the Maple Leafs in Toronto.
  • Thur., Jan. 30P.K. Subban faces his former team when the Predators visit the Devils.
  • Mon., Feb. 10 – The Lightning face the Blue Jackets for the first time following Columbus’ sweep of Tampa Bay in the First Round of the 2019 Playoffs.
  • Tue., Feb. 18 – Auston Matthews and the Maple Leafs visit Sidney Crosby and the Penguins.

NHL Live and NHL Overtime, NBC Sports’ live pre- and post-game show with highlights and analysis of NHL matchups, will air before and after most games on NBCSN. A 60-minute edition of NHL Live will air prior to most games, while NHL Overtime will air immediately following most games.

NHL ON NBC:  NHL on NBC coverage begins on Friday, Nov. 29, at 1 p.m. ET, with the 2019 Discover NHL Thanksgiving Showdown featuring the New York Rangers and the Boston Bruins, marking the first of 12 games scheduled to air on NBC during the regular season. Beginning on Jan. 19, and continuing through the end of the regular season, NBC will present the NHL Game of the Week, generally occurring on Sunday afternoons.

NBC Sports Group 2019-20 NHL regular-season schedule (subject to change):

Wed., Oct 2 Washington St. Louis NBCSN 8 p.m.
San Jose Vegas NBCSN 10:30 p.m.
Thur., Oct. 3 Minnesota Nashville NBCSN 8 p.m.
Tues., Oct. 8 San Jose Nashville NBCSN 8 p.m.
Wed., Oct. 9 New Jersey Philadelphia NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Los Angeles Vancouver NBCSN 10 p.m.
Tues., Oct. 15 Tampa Bay Montreal NBCSN 7 p.m.
Wed., Oct. 16 Colorado Pittsburgh NBCSN 7 p.m.
Philadelphia Edmonton NBCSN 9:30 p.m.
Thur., Oct. 17 N.Y. Rangers New Jersey NBCSN 7 p.m.
Wed., Oct. 23 Pittsburgh Tampa Bay NBCSN 8 p.m.
Sat., Oct. 26 St. Louis Boston NBCSN 7 p.m.
Calgary Winnipeg NBCSN 10 p.m.
Tues., Oct. 29 Tampa Bay N.Y. Rangers NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Wed., Oct. 30 Minnesota St. Louis NBCSN 8 p.m.
Tues., Nov. 5 Boston Montreal NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Chicago San Jose NBCSN 10 p.m.
Wed., Nov. 6 Detroit N.Y. Rangers NBCSN 8 p.m.
Fri., Nov. 8 Tampa Bay Buffalo NBCSN 2 p.m.
Mon., Nov. 11 Arizona Washington NBCSN 7 p.m.
Tues., Nov. 12 Pittsburgh N.Y. Rangers NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Wed., Nov. 13 Washington Philadelphia NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Chicago Vegas NBCSN 10 p.m.
Tues., Nov. 19 Tampa Bay St. Louis NBCSN 8 p.m.
Edmonton San Jose NBCSN 10:30 p.m.
Wed., Nov. 20 Washington N.Y. Rangers NBCSN 8 p.m.
Tues., Nov. 26 Dallas Chicago NBCSN 8 p.m.
Wed., Nov. 27 Philadelphia Columbus NBCSN 7 p.m.
Fri., Nov. 29 N.Y. Rangers Boston NBC 1 p.m.
Tues., Dec. 3 Tampa Bay Nashville NBCSN 8 p.m.
Wed., Dec. 4 St. Louis Pittsburgh NBCSN 8 p.m.
Tues., Dec. 10 St. Louis Buffalo NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Wed., Dec. 11 Boston Washington NBCSN 7 p.m.
Philadelphia Colorado NBCSN 9:30 p.m.
Tues., Dec. 17 Buffalo Toronto NBCSN 7 p.m.
Wed., Dec. 18 Colorado Chicago NBCSN 8 p.m.
Mon., Dec. 23 N.Y. Rangers Philadelphia NBCSN 7 p.m.
Fri., Dec. 27 Minnesota Colorado NBCSN 8 p.m.
Wed., Jan. 1 Nashville Dallas NBC 1 p.m.
Thur., Jan. 2 New Jersey N.Y. Islanders NBCSN 7 p.m.
St. Louis Colorado NBCSN 9:30 p.m.
Sun., Jan. 5 Detroit Chicago NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Nashville Anaheim NBCSN 10 p.m.
Mon., Jan. 6 Edmonton Toronto NBCSN 7 p.m.
Tues., Jan. 7 Colorado N.Y. Rangers NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Wed., Jan. 8 Washington Philadelphia NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Dallas Los Angeles NBCSN 10 p.m.
Thur., Jan. 9 Nashville Chicago NBCSN 8:30 p.m.
Tues., Jan. 14 Minnesota Pittsburgh NBCSN 7 p.m.
Wed., Jan. 15 Philadelphia St. Louis NBCSN 8 p.m.
Thur., Jan. 16 Tampa Bay Minnesota NBCSN 8 p.m.
Sun., Jan. 19 Boston Pittsburgh NBC 12:30 p.m.
Tues., Jan. 21 Pittsburgh Philadelphia NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Wed., Jan. 22 Detroit Minnesota NBCSN 8 p.m.
Fri., Jan. 24 Skills Competition – All-Star Weekend NBCSN 8 p.m.
Sat., Jan. 25 NHL All-Star Game NBC 8 p.m.
Mon., Jan. 27 Tampa Bay Dallas NBCSN 8 p.m.
Wed., Jan. 29 Nashville Washington NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Tampa Bay Los Angeles NBCSN 10 p.m.
Thur., Jan. 30 Nashville New Jersey NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Sun., Feb. 2 Pittsburgh Washington NBC 12:30 p.m.
Mon., Feb. 3 Philadelphia Detroit NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Tues., Feb. 4 Chicago Minnesota NBCSN 8 p.m.
Wed., Feb. 5 Boston Chicago NBCSN 8 p.m.
Thur., Feb. 6 Detroit Buffalo NBCSN 7 p.m.
San Jose Edmonton NBCSN 9:30 p.m.
Sun., Feb. 9 Boston Detroit NBC 12:30 p.m.
Colorado Minnesota NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Mon., Feb. 10 Tampa Bay Columbus NBCSN 7 p.m.
Tues., Feb. 11 Philadelphia N.Y. Islanders NBCSN 7 p.m.
Wed., Feb. 12 Montreal Boston NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Calgary Los Angeles NBCSN 10 p.m.
Thur., Feb. 13 Philadelphia Florida NBCSN 7 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 15 Los Angeles Colorado NBC 8 p.m.
Sun., Feb. 16 Detroit Pittsburgh NBC 12:30 p.m.
Boston N.Y. Rangers NBC 3:30 p.m.
St. Louis Nashville NBCSN 6 p.m.
Tues., Feb. 18 Toronto Pittsburgh NBCSN 7 p.m.
Wed., Feb. 19 N.Y. Rangers Chicago NBCSN 8 p.m.
Sun., Feb. 23 Pittsburgh Washington NBC 12 p.m.
St. Louis Minnesota NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Vegas Anaheim NBCSN 10 p.m.
Tues., Feb. 25 Chicago St. Louis NBCSN 8 p.m.
Wed., Feb. 26 Buffalo Colorado NBCSN 8 p.m.
Pittsburgh Los Angeles NBCSN 10:30 p.m.
Thur., Feb. 27 Dallas Boston NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Sun., March 1 Philadelphia N.Y. Rangers NBC 12 p.m.
Washington Minnesota NBCSN 8 p.m.
Los Angeles Vegas NBCSN 10:30 p.m.
Tues., March 3 Boston Tampa Bay NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Wed., March 4 Philadelphia Washington NBCSN 7 p.m.
Anaheim Colorado NBCSN 9:30 p.m.
Thur., March 5 Carolina Philadelphia NBCSN 7 p.m.
Sun., March 8 St. Louis Chicago NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Colorado San Jose NBCSN 10 p.m.
Tues., March 10 Boston Philadelphia NBCSN 7 p.m.
Wed., March 11 San Jose Chicago NBCSN 8 p.m.
Sun., March 15 Nashville Minnesota NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Tues., March 17 St. Louis Philadelphia NBCSN 7 p.m.
Wed., March 18 Pittsburgh N.Y. Rangers NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Vegas Arizona NBCSN 10 p.m.
Sun., March 22 Washington Pittsburgh NBC 12 p.m.
Nashville Chicago NBCSN 7 p.m.
Tues., March 24 St. Louis Washington NBCSN 7 p.m.
Wed., March 25 Pittsburgh Chicago NBCSN 8 p.m.
Arizona Vegas NBCSN 10:30 p.m.
Thur., March 26 Philadelphia Detroit NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Sun., March 29 Pittsburgh Philadelphia NBC 12 p.m.
Minnesota St. Louis NBCSN 7 p.m.
Nashville Colorado NBCSN 9:30 p.m.
Wed., April 1 Philadelphia N.Y. Rangers NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Dallas Anaheim NBCSN 10 p.m.

STREAMING COVERAGE ON NBCSPORTS.COM AND THE NBC SPORTS APP

NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app — NBC Sports Group’s live streaming platforms for desktops, mobile devices, tablets, and connected TVs — will provide live streaming coverage of the Stanley Cup Playoffs via “TV Everywhere,” giving consumers additional value for their subscription service, and making high quality content available to MVPD customers both in and out of the home and on multiple platforms.

NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app are powered by Playmaker Media and available on the iTunes App Store, Google Play, Windows Store, Roku Channel Store, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Samsung Smart TVs, Xbox, and Chromecast.

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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.

Goaltending, Lucic’s role among biggest questions facing Flames

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Calgary Flames.

Let’s take a look at three big questions for the Calgary Flames for the 2019-20 season.

1. Who is going to stop the puck?

There is probably no question that will impact the Flames more than this one.

Goaltending has been a constant struggle for nearly a decade now as the team has not finished higher than 15th in save percentage since the 2011-12 season, and hasn’t finished higher than 20th since the 2013-14 season. That is simply not championship caliber goaltending, and it was probably the single biggest weakness the team had this past season.

David Rittich was a nice surprise, but he struggled down the stretch and is still a bit of an unknown entering this season. Challenging him for playing time will be Cam Talbot who was brought in on a one-year deal to replace Mike Smith.

The Flames have elite, high-end forwards and a strong defense that is carried by Norris Trophy winning blue-liner Mark Giordano.

That core at forward and defense is good enough to compete for a championship right now and maybe even win one if everything goes right. Goaltending, however, is going to be the biggest “make-or-break” aspect of this team and if things do not dramatically improve in net it is going to be an impossible obstacle to overcome.

[MORE: 2018-19 in review | Under Pressure: Treliving | Talbot the X-Factor]

2. What can they get out of Milan Lucic?

James Neal‘s brief tenure with the Flames did not go as anyone could have planned it, so it is not really a surprise they were willing to part ways with a 32-year-old winger coming off of a down year.

What is a surprise is that they traded him for Milan Lucic, a player that is regarded to have one of the worst contracts in hockey.

How badly has Lucic’s career deteriorated in recent years? He scored just 16 goals over the past two years and has looked like a player that is simply not built for the modern day, faster paced NHL.

If the Flames think they can rejuvenate his career or that his size and physical presence is going to dramatically alter the success they are likely setting themselves up for disappointment. They didn’t get upset in the first round by the Colorado Avalanche because they weren’t big enough or physical enough — they lost because they were outplayed by a faster team that is quickly emerging as a powerhouse in the Western Conference. Giving Lucic a significant role and assigning him to be the muscle to “protect” their stars as a deterrent is only going to hold them back.

If they play him in the bottom-six role he should be in they are committing $6 million in salary cap space to a player that isn’t going to give them that sort of a return on their investment.

Maybe they had to trade Neal, but trading him for a worse player with a worse (and buyout proof!) contract doesn’t seem to move the needle much in the right direction.

3. Will Johnny Gaudreau‘s playoff luck finally change?

Gaudreau has blossomed into a superstar for the Flames and is one of the league’s most dynamic offensive game-changers. He is the definition of an impact player and one that can take over a game on any given night, and he has consistently done that for the better part of the past three seasons.

The problem: It has not yet happened for him in the playoffs.

In his past two playoff appearances Gaudreau has scored zero goals in nine games while managing just three assists. Not great for a player that has been one of the best point producers in the league.

It’s easy (and lazy) to write that off as him “not being a playoff player” or being “too small.”  It is most likely a lot of bad luck. It is not as if Gaudreau has lacked chances in those playoff games. He still generated shots and he still created chances — he just hasn’t had the puck go in the net. That is not an uncommon development for any player. Pick out any superstar in the league and look at their postseason careers and you will find extended stretches over multiple postseasons where they did not consistently score goals.  Gaudreau is too good, too talented, and too productive to be shut down in the playoffs.

MORE:
ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

Treliving needs to continue pushing right buttons for Flames

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Calgary Flames.

Since taking over as general manager of the Flames in 2014, Brad Treliving has done a reasonably good job. His team hasn’t made the playoffs every year under his watch, but he managed to build a team that won the Pacific Division and the Western Conference last year.

Unfortunately for Calgary, they flamed out (sorry!) of the playoffs in the first round last spring. Now, the challenge for Treliving is to find a way for him to get even more out of his roster. Given the team’s cap situation, it was difficult for him to go out and really make this team better on paper. For the most part, the core you saw last year is the core they’ll roll with in 2019-20.

Unlike last year, everybody will see the Flames coming this time around. Again, they were the class of the Western Conference during the regular season, so the rest of the league knows what they’re capable of. It’s not like we didn’t know Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Matthew Tkachuk and Mark Giordano were great players, but this was a team that missed the postseason by 11 points in 2018. They exceeded the pre-season expectations.

[MORE: 2018-19 review | 3 Questions |Talbot the X-Factor]

Now, it’s up to Treliving to continue pressing all the right buttons in order for this team to progress to the next level. He added Milan Lucic and Cam Talbot to the roster, but his work isn’t over just yet. In order for the Flames to be the class of the West, he’ll have to make sure he gets Tkachuk under contract. The restricted free agent had 77 points in 80 games and he brings that physical element that’s so key in the Western Conference.

“What we’ve tried to do a little bit this summer and even going into last year was the introduction of a lot of young players over the last year,” Treliving said, per NHL.com. “We think we’ve got some good young players here. A lot of them got their feet wet last year, and we’re looking for them to continue to grow.

“There’s young players that we feel still have room to grow. The bulk of our team is still a fairly young group. We want to give them the opportunity to continue to grab and grow their role.”

Treliving is right. His team is still young. The core forwards are all 25 or younger, so there’s room for them to grow but this is an important year for the entire team. In order for them to take the next step, Treliving will have to improve this roster throughout the season. The Flames have all their own draft picks except their fourth-rounder, which means they’ll have the ammo to make a significant deal during the season/before the trade deadline.

Can he add the right pieces as the season progresses?

The Flames’ biggest question mark is still between the pipes. Last year, the duo of David Rittich and Mike Smith helped the team collect 107 points. Now, Smith is gone and they replaced him with Cam Talbot. Is a Talbot-Rittich duo better than what they had last year? That’s very debatable. But we’ll find out soon enough.

MORE:
ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.