Mark Stone

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Trade: Sabres improve defense with Colin Miller; Vegas saves money

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Not long ago, I shared my belief that NHL teams are more likely to improve through savvy trades, rather than free agent spending (especially for defense). Quite a few NHL GMs seem to agree.

The Buffalo Sabres made a shrewd decision on Friday, taking advantage of the Vegas Golden Knights’ salary cap bind by landing quality defenseman Colin Miller. (It probably didn’t hurt that Miller sometimes lands in Gerard Gallant’s doghouse, making it that much more imperative to move Miller.)

Here are the terms of the trade via TSN’s Bob McKenzie, who also reports that the call has been made official.

Sabres receive: Colin Miller.

Golden Knights get: 2021 second-round pick (St. Louis Blues’) and 2022 fifth-round pick.

Again, this is a situation where the Golden Knights needed to save money. While I’d argue that Miller is well worth $3.875 million per season (quality right-handed defensemen are hard to find), Miller was lost in the shuffle a bit in Vegas. Much like with the Brandon Montour trade, the Sabres need all the defensive help they can get, so Miller is quite the boon.

Miller is in his prime at 26, and his $3.875M cap hit runs through 2021-22, so if Miller can indeed rise to a top-four level, than the Sabres might have received a nice bargain here. With Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner combining for a $19M cap hit, Buffalo needs all the value it can get.

That brings us to an interesting side note: could this also open the opportunity for the Sabres to move divisive defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen?

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

The 24-year-old struggles mightily in his own end, but there are likely those around the league that believe in his talent (and maybe their ability to improve his defensive play), so maybe someone would take on Ristolainen and his $5.4M cap hit, which expires after 2021-22? It’s conceivable that the Sabres could move Ristolainen for some help on offense, as the drop-off from the dynamic Eichel – Skinner duo to everyone else is jarringly steep.

(Naturally, if Buffalo can find a taker for Zach Bogosian‘s bloated $5.142M cap hit, that would be sweet, too.)

If not, the Sabres still stand to be better on defense, an area of glaring need. Different people can have different qualms with all of Ristolainen, Montour, and Miller, but it sure beats what they’ve slogged around the ice with before. Of course, the biggest factor remains Rasmus Dahlin, who was brilliant in 2018-19 and may only get better from there.

The Golden Knights basically had to do this, considering their cap clogging situation, what with Mark Stone‘s $9.5M and Max Pacioretty‘s $7M extension about to kick in. As fantastic as William Karlsson‘s freshly signed $5.9M really is considering this climate of escalating prices, the bottom line is that all that extra money is inevitably going to push good players like Miller out.

Miller is a luxury the Golden Knights could no longer afford, much like Erik Haula. It’s possible they have some prospects who can stem the tide.

That stings, but honestly, who would have expected the Golden Knights to be selling off talent because they have too much of this, so early in their existence?

Either way, brilliant work by Buffalo. The Sabres still have work to do, but this is another important step forward.

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 have big decisions to make after Karlsson extension

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The Vegas Golden Knights are one of the teams that are going to be hit the hardest by the lower-than-expected salary cap ceiling for the 2019-20 season.

As of Sunday the team has, quite literally, zero salary cap space and is reportedly on the verge of signing restricted free agent William Karlsson to a long-term contract extension this upcoming week. According to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun, Karlsson’s new contract is going to be a max-term eight-year contract, with TSN’s Bob McKenzie adding that the salary cap hit will come in at “a shade under” $6 million per season. That is yet another hefty contract handed out by the Golden Knights, something that they have done pretty regularly over their first two years in the league.

In a vacuum, Karlsson’s extension seems pretty fair.

The eight-year term is significant, but he is still only 26 years old and isn’t likely to fall off a cliff in his production for several years. The cap hit is also probably significantly less than he could get on the open market, which is probably a tradeoff with the longer term.

He is probably never going repeat his improbable 40-goal season from two years ago, but he showed this past season that he can still be an excellent all-around player. There is a lot of value in a possession-driving, 25-goal, 55-point forward (assuming Karlsson is able to maintain that sort of production).

Once Karlsson’s deal becomes official, the Golden Knights will have six players signed through the end of the 2024 season. That group doesn’t include the long-term contracts recently signed by Paul Stastny, Max Pacioretty, and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Given that the Golden Knights will still need to fill out three more roster spots even after making the Karlsson contract official the salary cap situation means that somebody, somewhere on the roster, is going to have to go.

That means first-year general manager Kelly McCrimmon is going to have some major decisions to make over the next couple of months.

It is probably a safe assumption that Fleury, Mark Stone, Jonathan Marchessault, and Alex Tuch are fairly secure with their spots in the organization because they are pretty clearly the foundation of the team. Fleury and Marchessault have been from day one, while Stone just signed a massive contract extension following his acquisition from the Ottawa Senators at the trade deadline. Tuch is still only 22 years old and is on a contract that looks like it could be a steal for the team.

After that, all bets should be off.

Max Pacioretty could be an option and would shed $7 million per year after the team’s cap number, but that would be a complicated deal to make work and justify. Not only does Pacioretty have some control over where he goes (he had a modified no-trade clause) but trading him after just one season would be a tough pill to swallow given the sequence of events and the price they had to pay to get him. The Golden Knights traded Tomas Tatar (after trading three draft picks, including a 2018 first-rounder) and a top prospect in Nick Suzuki to get Pacioretty and then immediately signed him to a new long-term contract that, technically speaking, has not even started yet.

It is also doubtful they would be able to come out ahead by trading him given that he will be 31 this season, carries a pretty big cap hit, and is not the goal-scorer he was during his prime. Are you going to get back anything close to what you gave up for him just one year ago?

He had a fine year in 2018-19 when he was healthy, but his days of pushing the 40-goal mark are probably in the rear-view mirror.

Sticking with potential top-line players to be on the move, Paul Stastny and Reilly Smith both count more than $5 million against the cap, but like Pacioretty also have some control over where they go with limited no-trade clauses. The other issue is that Pacioretty and Stastny were great together on a line, and Vegas probably doesn’t want to break that up (nor should it).

After that you get into the depth players. Erik Haula, Cody Eakin, and Ryan Reaves all count more than $2 million against the cap and while all have proven to be quality depth players, none of them are irreplaceable.

Defender Colin Miller is another player whose name has been mentioned in trade speculation, but his cap hit is relatively small and he has been a pretty big part of an underrated defense.

No matter who goes, and whether it is a significant core player or a bunch of smaller depth players, the Golden Knights are set to be one of the busiest and most active teams in the league in the coming days and weeks. They really have no other choice.

Related: Pressure ratchets up on cap-strapped teams

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.

 

NHL Draft: Senators, others have quality to chose from in Round 2

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The Ottawa Senators have been handed a gift.

Their biggest challenge isn’t seeing what’s right in front of them. No. That’s in plain view. The biggest hurdle for general manager Pierre Dorion and Co. is not to botch it.

Don’t overthink it.

Accept the offering that has been laid before you.

It’s been a bad season for the Senators, so getting this break at the 2019 NHL Draft should feel good for Senators fans who’ve needed one.

Losing Erik Karlsson, Mark Stone and Matt Duchene at various points was a disaster. Their owned is despised. And even on Friday during Round 1, when they should be excited about the next young, talented addition joining the club, they instead had to watch the Colorado Avalanche select at No. 4, a pick that was theirs prior to trading for Duchene.

A season to forget. And perhaps they can start doing that on Saturday morning when Round 2 begins and they’re on the clock with the 32nd overall pick. Given how the first round panned out, and how there’s still a bevy of talent available to them, there’s a reason for optimism.

Depending on who you ask and what trade board you pluck the names from, there are several names that could have gone in Friday’s first round that ended up not for various reasons.

Arthur Kaliyev is just one example.

He was ranked 13th by The Athletic and by EliteProspects.com in their final draft rankings yet his name wasn’t called on Friday.

Why? Rankings aren’t the be-all, end-all, but outside of HockeyProspect.com, seven different websites/pundits had him ranked as a first-round draft pick.

But like any player who’s highly-touted but slips, often times there are questions. And Kaliyev has a few attached to his name.

Another name that wasn’t heard over the speakers in Vancouver on Friday was Bobby Brink.

Brink, whose middle name is Orr, after Bobby Orr, of course, is still available despite most lists having him ranked inside the first round.

Elite Prospects and Hockey Prospects each had him at 15th on their lists, while others had him in the 20s and a couple had him sliding into Day 2.

Best of the Rest
Pavel Dorofeyev – LW/RW – highest pre-draft ranking – 16th (Elite Prospects)
Nils Höglander – LW – highest pre-draft ranking – 18th (The Athletic)
Patrik Puistola – LW  – highest pre-draft ranking – 19th (The Athletic)
Matthew Robertson – D – highest pre-draft ranking – 19th (Future Considerations/ISS)
Vladislav Kolyachonok – D – highest pre-draft ranking – 22nd (Hockey Prospects)
Nicholas Robertson – C/LW – highest pre-draft ranking – 25th (The Athletic)

The draft reconvenes at 1 p.m. E.T. on Saturday. Here’s the full order for the second round.

Round 2
32. Ottawa
33. Los Angeles
34. New Jersey
35. Detroit
36. Carolina (from BUF)
37. Carolina (from NYR)
38. Edmonton
39. Anaheim
40. Vancouver
41. San Jose (from PHI)
42. Minnesota
43. Chicago
44. Ottawa (from FLA-SJS)
45. Philadelphia (from ARZ)
46. Montreal
47. Colorado
48. Vegas
49. NY Rangers (from DAL)
50. Montreal (from CBJ-VGK)
51. Winnipeg
52. Florida (from PIT)
53. Toronto
54. Detroit (from NYI-VGK)
55. New Jersey (from NSH)
56. Washington
57. NY Islanders (from CGY)
58. NY Rangers (from TBL)
59. Carolina
60. Detroit (from SJS)
61. New Jersey (from BOS)
62. St. Louis

MORE:
New Jersey Devils take Jack Hughes with No. 1 overall pick
Rangers select Kaapo Kakko with second overall pick
USA Hockey big winner of Round 1
2019 NHL Draft tracker — Round 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.

Ryan O’Reilly adds Selke to 2019 trophy haul

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During his speech, Ryan O'Reilly nailed it: “this week has been a lot.” After winning the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy, the St. Louis Blues’ two-way forward won the 2019 Selke Trophy on Wednesday.

O’Reilly finished ahead of two strong finalists in Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins) and Mark Stone (Vegas Golden Knights).

The Selke Trophy is simply described as “the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game,” and ROR certainly fits that bill. O’Reilly was also a finalist for the Lady Byng Trophy, so he was getting recognition even before the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs began.

Here are the voting results. As you can see, Sidney Crosby came close to finishing in the top three:

Anze Kopitar took home last year’s trophy, while Bergeron won his fourth Selke in 2017-18.

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.

WATCH LIVE: 2019 NHL Awards

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NBCSN will televise the NHL Awards Wednesday night at 8 p.m. ET from Las Vegas, as the NHL celebrates the top performers of the 2018-19 season from the Mandalay Bay Events Center.

The 2019 NHL Awards will recognize the best regular-season players in a variety of categories, including most valuable player (Hart Trophy), outstanding goaltender (Vezina Trophy), outstanding defenseman (Norris Trophy) and outstanding rookie (Calder Trophy). The Ted Lindsay Award, which is presented annually to the “most outstanding player” in the NHL as voted by fellow members of the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA), will also will be awarded.

St. Louis Blues’ Doug Armstrong, Boston Bruins’ Don Sweeney, and Carolina Hurricanes’ Don Waddell are finalists for General Manager of the Year, while St. Louis’ Craig Berube, Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper, and N.Y. Islanders’ Barry Trotz are finalists for the Jack Adams Award, which honors the league’s top head coach. Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov and Edmonton’s Connor McDavid are all finalists for the Hart Trophy.

Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award finalists Anthony Benavides, Tammi Lynch and Rico Phillips also will be in attendance.

[WATCH LIVE – 2019 NHL AWARDS LIVE STREAM]

2019 NHL Awards finalists:
Hart Trophy
Sidney Crosby, Nikita Kucherov, Connor McDavid

Ted Lindsay Award
Patrick Kane, Nikita Kucherov, Connor McDavid

Norris Trophy
Brent Burns, Mark Giordano, Victor Hedman

Selke Trophy
Patrice Bergeron, Ryan O'Reilly, Mark Stone

Calder Trophy
Elias Pettersson, Jordan Binnington, Rasmus Dahlin

Vezina Trophy
Aleksander Barkov, Sean Monahan, Ryan O’Reilly

Jack Adams Award
Craig Berube, Jon Cooper, Barry Trotz

Masterton Trophy
Nick Foligno, Robin Lehner, Joe Thornton

GM of the Year
Doug Armstrong, Don Sweeney, Don Waddell

Actor Taylor Kinney also will present at the event. Jon Hamm, Alex Trebek and Kinney join previously announced presenters Hockey Hall of Famers Willie O’Ree and Mark Messier; NHL star P.K. Subban; broadcasters Jackie Redmond, Kathryn Tappen and Elliotte Friedman; actors Jay Baruchel (“How to Train A Dragon: The Hidden World”), Jay Harrington (“S.W.A.T.”), Thomas Middleditch (“Silicon Valley”), Kel Mitchell (“All That”) and Nico Tortorella (“Younger”); “Jeopardy!” champion James Holzhauer; Miss USA Cheslie Kryst; model Camille Kostek; Miss Universe Catriona Gray; and race car drivers Kurt Busch and Simon Pagenaud.

Trevor Gretzky, Alexa Lemieux, Lynn LaPaugh and Jesse Robitaille, family members of NHL legends Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, the late Ted Lindsay and Luc Robitaille, respectively, and special assistant to the executive director with the National Hockey League Players’ Association Mathieu Schneider, also will present.