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PHT Morning Skate: Armstrong winning summer; Bruins losing arms race?

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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.

• On how Doug Armstrong, not Kyle Dubas or even George McPhee, won the summer. (ESPN)

• The Carolina Hurricanes are on the hunt for a new assistant coach after Steve Smith resigned from his post on Monday. (Hurricanes)

• Why would the NHL consider reinstating Slava Voynov? That’s a good question. (The Sporting News)

Mark Giordano breaks down the Calgary Flames’ additions this summer and his potential reunion with T.J. Brodie. (Sportsnet)

• Does Matt Duchene, the man Pierre Dorion went hard after to acquire last season, have a long-term future with the Ottawa Senators? (Featurd)

Mark Stone, a very good player, is going to get paid at some point. But what will that number look like? (The Score)

• Analytics, the secondary assist and how it affects contracts. (TSN)

• The Maple Leafs got John Tavares this summer and the Tampa Bay Lightning could get Erik Karlsson. Are the Boston Bruins losing out? (The Hockey News)

• Five potential trade targets for the Dallas Stars this offseason. (Blackout Dallas)

• Islanders heading back in time? Lou Lamoriello is leading the New York Islanders into a new era, one that will be headlined by dominant and physical play from all members of the team. (Eyes on Isles)

• Luke Richardson, with over 600 games of pro hockey experience at both the NHL and AHL level, joins the Canadiens as an assistant coach. (Canadiens)

• The most talked about point-per-game player in the KHL last season not named Ilya Kovalchuk is heading to Long Island on a one-year deal. (Islanders)

• The Washington Capitals winning the Stanley Cup is going to boost the game in the nation’s capital. (Washington Post)

• Blackhawks first-round draft pick Adam Boqvist ready for anything after dealing with dyslexia. (Chicago Tribune)

• Texas boy with half a heart gets dream hockey rink thanks to Make-A-Wish Foundation. (KHOU 11)


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

Mark Stone among 44 players to file for arbitration, removing offer sheet possibility

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If you’re one of the small handful of people still holding out hope for a restricted free agent offer sheet, Ottawa Senators forward Mark Stone was probably your best hope this summer.

The combination of the Senators being a mess in every possible way, the fact they seem to be determined to keep salaries down, and the fact they could probably use some additional draft capital after having to send their 2019 first-round pick to Colorado, made Stone an intriguing possibility to get signed to an offer sheet and perhaps even sent to a new team as a result.

Now, there is no way that can happen.

Stone was one of 44 restricted free agents to officially file for salary arbitration on Thursday before the 5 p.m. ET deadline, meaning that he — along with the other 43 players to do so — is no longer eligible to sign an offer sheet with another team.

Offer sheets are incredibly rare in the NHL as one has not been signed since Ryan O'Reilly inked a two-year contract with the Calgary Flames back in 2013. That contract was matched by the Colorado Avalanche.

Before that you have to go back to the 14-year, $110 million offer sheet the Philadelphia Flyers signed Shea Weber too. That, also, was matched.

The last time a restricted free agent was signed away from a team you have to go all the way back to the Edmonton Oilers getting Dustin Penner away from the Anaheim Ducks in 2008, resulting in Edmonton having to give up their first, second and third-round picks. That also led to a pretty massive feud between then-Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe and then-Ducks general manager Brian Burke. That was also the only successful restricted agent offer sheet in the salary cap era and the only since 1997 when Chris Gratton moved from the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Philadelphia Flyers. That offer was supposed to result in the Lightning getting four first-round draft picks, but they were sent back to the Flyers for Mikael Renberg and Karl Dykhuis.

Even though he appeared in only 58 games during the 2017-18 season Stone still finished tied for the team lead in points (alongside Erik Karlsson) with 62.

According to CapFriendly, because Stone is 26 years old he can only be awarded a one-year contract if his case reaches arbitration. If that happens he would be eligible for unrestricted free agency at the conclusion of that one-year contract.

Among the other notable players to file for arbitration ahead of Thursday’s deadline:

Elias Lindholm, Calgary Flames

Mattias Janmark, Dallas Stars

Mathew Dumba, Minnesota Wild

Jason Zucker, Minnesota Wild

Brock Nelson, New York Islanders

Kevin Hayes, New York Rangers

Brady Skej, New York Rangers

Ryan Spooner, New York Rangers

Jimmy Vesey, New York Rangers

Jamie Oleksiak, Pittsburgh Penguins

William Karlsson, Vegas Golden Knights

Jacob Trouba, Winnipeg Jets

Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets

The full list of players to file can be found at the NHLPA website.

All arbitration hearings will be held in New York City between July 20 and August 4. Most players will be able to agree to contracts with their team before they have to actually get to an arbitration hearing.

One notable RFA that did not file for salary arbitration: Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson. The team hopes to sign him to a long-term contract extension soon, though.

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.

Sharks also lock up Hertl after signing Thornton, missing out on Tavares

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A day after failing to land John Tavares, the San Jose Sharks are keeping familiar faces in the fold.

Not long after inking Joe Thornton to a one-year, $5 million contract (more on that here), the Sharks announced a four-year contract for RFA forward Tomas Hertl.

The Sharks didn’t disclose Hertl’s cap hit yet for reasons, so this post will be updated when more is known about the financial terms. The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz reports that it is $5.625M per season, which would leave the Sharks with approximately $8.2M in cap space.

“Tomas took a big step forward last season, both on and off the ice, and we feel that he is just starting to hit his prime,” Sharks GM Doug Wilson said. “He has the ability to be a dominant player in this League and proved during the playoffs that he can take over any given game with his combination of skill and strength. His capability to play both center and the wing gives our team some flexibility, and he has one of the most infectious personalities in our dressing room. We’re excited he made this commitment to our organization.”

Hertl, 24, set a career high with 22 goals this past season while matching his career-best with 46 points. The Jagrloving, Czech-born forward already has two 20+ goal seasons to his name. He’s generally been a strong possession player for San Jose, although his numbers were more pedestrian in that regard during the 2017-18 campaign.

This constitutes most of the in-house moves on the docket for the Sharks, although Chris Tierney is still an RFA.

As mentioned earlier, the Sharks may also consider adding another piece or two. The free agent crop is already pretty shallow, however, especially with Thornton out of this mix and Rick Nash‘s future in question.

The trade route seems especially sensible, as wingers Max Pacioretty and Jeff Skinner could make a lot of sense, even just as stopgaps for San Jose. The team is structured to win now – Thornton celebrated his 39th birthday while signing his contract – so giving up futures for a longer rental could make quite a bit of sense.

One avenue that seems unlikely but interesting may also be firing out an offer sheet.

Considering how much the Senators are pinching pennies, would Wilson be smart in sending a “poison pill” to Ottawa’s Mark Stone?

While it seems unlikely, the Sharks rank as one of the only franchises that would at least consider it. As you may recall, they deployed that tactic against the Chicago Blackhawks when they unsuccessfully targeted Niklas Hjalmarsson during the 2010 summer when they eventually got Antti Niemi. That obviously was quite a while ago, but Wilson remains in the GM seat for San Jose, so it’s at least worth mentioning.

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.

Senators face long odds in ‘winning’ Erik Karlsson trade

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The Ottawa Senators needed to get rid of Mike Hoffman as soon as possible, even if they took a loss, which the Sharks and Panthers made sure of on Tuesday.

Maybe it’s a product of the bar plummeting incredibly low, but at least the Senators pulled off the Band-Aid quickly, by their poor standards. Losing the trade is akin to pulling off more skin than expected when removing that bandage.

[Senators land poor deal for Hoffman; Sharks then move him to Panthers]

On the scale of roster triage, the Hoffman situation was certainly important, but making the best of the Erik Karlsson situation is as close to “life or death” as it gets for an NHL franchise (beyond more straightforward issues such as bankruptcy and arena deals).

In virtually every situation, a team giving up a star player ends up losing a trade by a large margin. History frequently frowns on that side, even if context points to it being a no-win situation for the unfortunate GM in question.

Infinite crisis

This would be a desperate situation for any team, but the stakes seem downright terrifying for GM Pierre Dorion and the Ottawa Senators. Just consider the short version of their profound, gobsmacking organizational dysfunction.

  • They lost Mike Hoffman for quarters on the dollar, and he’ll still be in the Atlantic Division after the Sharks flipped him to Florida. The indication is that Ottawa was unwittingly part of a “three-team trade.”
  • Senators fans might become allergic to the phrase “three-team trade,” as the Matt Duchene swap looks awful already. Colorado made the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, got a first-rounder, and an intriguing player in Sam Girard. The Predators added Kyle Turris. Ottawa may only have Duchene for about a season and a half, as he’ll be up for a new contract after 2018-19. If you were Duchene, would you want any part of the Senators?
  • Assistant GM Randy Lee was suspended as a harassment investigation is underway. That story surfaced mere weeks before the Hoffman/Caryk/Karlssons fiasco forced Ottawa’s hand.
  • Fans really want Melnyk out as owner. Franchise icon Daniel Alfredsson feels the same way.
  • After an unlikely run to the 2017 Eastern Conference Final, the Senators endured a brutal season, and their future outlook is grim. Not great when you consider that the team is likely to send its 2019 first-rounder to Colorado.

Again, that’s the back-of-the-box summary of Ottawa’s woes. It doesn’t even touch on Guy Boucher’s strangely harsh treatment or the fairly reasonable worries that someone might actually send a rare offer sheet to excellent forward Mark Stone.

Amid all that turmoil, it’s well known that the Senators are in a bind with Karlsson, as it’s very difficult to imagine the superstar relenting and re-signing with Ottawa. They’re at a serious risk of losing him for nothing as he approaches UFA status next summer, and he’s under no obligation to sign an extension if a team trades for him. Karlsson also has some veto power via a limited no-trade clause.

So, while the Senators gain some advantages that come with trying to trade Karlsson during the off-season (possibly as soon as this week with the 2018 NHL Draft approaching), his trade value suffers because a team would only get one guaranteed run with the Swede rather than the two they would’ve landed via the trade deadline.

No doubt, Dorion balking during the trade deadline will be mentioned if this goes sour.

The Senators certainly could’ve landed a better package for Hoffman during that time, and Karlsson’s value may have been higher then, too.

Ryan only makes things more difficult

For those who scoff at there being any doubt at all about the Karlsson point, don’t forget just how much of a star he really is. Contenders may go all-out for Karlsson now that they have the room to work with, and maybe someone could even convince him to agree to terms (official or tentative) in a hypothetical deal. In that scenario, the Senators might actually land a strong deal for their crucial blueliner.

Much like during the trade deadline, there’s a major stumbling block beyond the other context clues: Bobby Ryan‘s contract.

TSN’s Frank Servalli ranks among those who report that a Karlsson deal may still need to include Ryan’s albatross deal ($7.25M cap hit through 2021-22).

No doubt, the Senators would like to get rid of Ryan’s lousy contract, but that’s where this situation could really get awkward. Ottawa could severely limit the returns for Karlsson if they attach the Ryan mistake to it. Would the Vegas Golden Knights even give up a package such as Shea Theodore plus “picks and prospects” at this point, as Servalli points to, especially if it includes Vegas’ original first-rounder Cody Glass? Is Theodore + Glass + picks good enough if it even landed Karlsson?

From a PR standpoint, the Senators would likely be wiser to get the best-looking deal for Karlsson, and then move some futures to a rebuilding team to house Ryan’s contract. One might “or they can just suck it up and deal with Ryan’s contract,” but … Melnyk.

Ultimately, it was almost inevitable for the Senators to “lose” in some way regarding Karlsson, unless they beat the odds and convinced him to sign an extension.

There are degrees of losing when it comes to managing these assets, though, and the Senators face a real risk of turning a tough situation into a full-fledged disaster. Dorion is in an extremely difficult spot here, and the Senators’ recent history points to more heartache and aggravation.

One way or another, we may find out soon if they can salvage this situation.

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.

Why Predators are so hot right now

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Last night, the Nashville Predators beat the Winnipeg Jets 3-1, reaching 100 standings points in just 69 games.

(Yes, there were a lot of “nice” responses on Twitter.)

The reigning Western Conference finalists aren’t just having a strong season, they’re also playing their best hockey of 2017-18 right now. Yes, the Jets were tired and banged up last night, yet it was another instance of the Predators sending a message that they’re for real. A 3-2 shootout loss to the Devils on Saturday ended a 10-game winning streak, but at 11-0-1, they’ve now collected points in 12 consecutive games. They have a very real chance to win the Presidents’ Trophy, as the Tampa Bay Lightning are at 100 points but have played in one more game.

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

So, which players are really driving this success? Let’s start with the obvious.

Pekka Rinne, Vezina frontrunner?

A week ago, it was noted on PHT that Rinne and other goalies were gaining on Andrei Vasilevskiy in the race for the 2018 Vezina. It’s possible that Rinne has emerged as the new leader as of today, and not solely because of Vasilevskiy seemingly hitting a wall of fatigue.

As of this writing, Pekka Rinne sports an absurd record (38-9-4) with a fabulous .929 save percentage. His backup Juuse Saros is no slouch, either, making it quite likely that Nashville’s goalies will collect the William Jennings Trophy this season, too.

Rinne’s frequently received criticism from the fancy stats community, but this season? He’s been unassailable so far:

The season’s far from over, so Vasilevskiy could regain his lead in this race. Either way, Rinne is the top reason why the Predators are running away with the Central Division crown, the first spot in the West, and possibly the Presidents’ Trophy as well.

The return

Before his 2017-18 debut on Jan. 2, a popular refrain was “Imagine how good the Predators will be when Ryan Ellis is back?”

It felt like a dangerous assumption, however, to believe that Ellis would just bounce back from knee surgery. Plenty of athletes require a year or more to recover from certain procedures, and some are never the same.

As it turns out, the Predators have indeed taken off since the underrated defenseman returned to the lineup, as Ellis has been outstanding. The 27-year-old has generated 23 points in 31 games, and he’s been especially impressive lately. Since Feb. 14, Ellis scored 15 points in 14 games, tying Taylor Hall, Matt Duchene, Anze Kopitar, Artemi Panarin, and Mark Stone during that span

Plenty of options

Ellis is a rising part of such a deep attack that Peter Laviolette is already resting players for the upcoming playoff run.

The 2017-18 season is proving that Viktor Arvidsson is a legitimate top-line forward, as he’s justified the rave reviews the Predators received for locking him down to a long-term, bargain contract that carries just a $4.25 million cap hit. Arvidsson has 16 points during the same month span that Ellis has been on fire for, and he’s on track for another 30+ goal season with 26 goals (not to mention 26 assists).

P.K. Subban is the Predators’ strongest Norris candidate with a brilliant all-around campaign that includes 15 goals and 50 points, but Roman Josi has been as explosive as ever, contributing 46 points in just 62 games.

[Earlier this season, P.K. was an even stronger Norris candidate]

Kyle Turris‘ numbers have dipped a bit since a hot start after being traded to Nashville, yet he’s been a catalyst for two Predators wingers for much of his time there, helping Kevin Fiala (22 goals) and Craig Smith (21) join Arvidsson as 20-goal scorers. Filip Forsberg‘s experienced an up-and-down season, yet he’s not that far behind them with 18 goals.

That’s the thing. The Predators boast the depth that allows for the team to navigate hurdles more comfortably than much of the league. At this current robust level, they’re simply overwhelming opponents.

***

This is all the masterwork of David Poile, who now boasts the most regular-season wins of any GM. In a way, this renaissance truly stretches back to the hiring of underrated head coach Peter Laviolette, who owns the distinction of bringing three different NHL teams to the Stanley Cup Final after last year’s memorable run.

It remains to be seen if Laviolette can help Poile win his first Stanley Cup, but if that happens, there’s a solid chance that they’ll get it done by one heck of a “committee.”

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.