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 focusing on a player coming off a breakthrough year to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Dallas Stars.
It’s Aug. 10, and the NHL season doesn’t begin until Oct. 3. So there’s still time for Tyler Seguin to strike a deal with the Dallas Stars regarding a contract extension.
That said, as of this writing, Seguin’s entering the 2018-19 campaign with an expiring contract, and it’s easy to see why he might want to ride this out. You can simplify his reasoning in two ways:
1. Seguin probably wants to see if the Stars are capable of contending.
So far, Dallas hasn’t been able to accomplish a whole lot despite enjoying five seasons of Seguin’s services at a ludicrous bargain rate of $5.75 million per season. (Seguin’s cheap contract also intersected with the last years of Jamie Benn‘s own bargain, and is also joined by John Klingberg‘s dirt-cheap deal.)
The Stars have only won one playoff series since swindling the Boston Bruins in the Seguin deal, while they’ve missed out on the postseason altogether three of those five years.
Before you come up with a convoluted explanation for why Seguin is to blame for Dallas’ disappointments, consider the outstanding work he’s put in for the Stars. In 387 games with the Stars since joining their ranks in 2013-14, Seguin ranks sixth in points with 384 (tied with Nicklas Backstrom, who played in 402 games) and second in goals (tied with Sidney Crosby, who played in 394) with 173.
That’s pretty incredible work, even if you ignore how underpaid Seguin has been. At 26, Seguin’s never received a chance to choose where he plays NHL hockey. Maybe he wants to at least explore his options?
2. Seguin might roll the dice to see if he can get a bigger contract.
Here’s where the pressure starts to really build.
If Seguin signed a deal this summer, or sometime during the 2018-19 season, it’s plausible that he’d leave some money on the table. You can certainly make that argument, with, say Nikita Kucherov.
(Imagine what a 100-point, prime-age forward like Kucherov could have made as a UFA?)
Before you paint Kucherov and other extension-signers as fools, there’s the obvious drawback of playing out your contract without a new deal: a career-altering injury could mean a massive loss in money, and the security that goes with it. Such worries can’t be totally disregarded in a violent, dangerous sport like hockey.
Still, Seguin’s about to close off his sixth year of carrying that $5.75M cap hit, which can’t feel great considering the fact that he’s essentially been a $10M player. (And probably worth more than that, if the Sidney Crosby’s and Connor McDavid‘s of the world didn’t sign deals that are relatively team-friendly.)
Seguin could really rake it in, particularly if the market falls the right way. If Auston Matthews, Erik Karlsson, Artemi Panarin, and other high-level free agents (UFA or RFA, really) end up cashing in, it could set a new high bar for someone like Seguin.
On one hand, it probably seems a little zany not to get millions when they’re guaranteed. Such thoughts surely inspired Viktor Arvidsson to accept a longer deal despite an honestly laughable $4.25M AAV.
It’s understandable if Seguin wants to follow in the footsteps of John Tavares, another star center who was grotesquely underpaid (the Islanders squandered Tavares’ Seguin-like six years at $5.5M), hit free agency, and called his shot for a nice deal.
Like Tavares, it might not be about every cent for Seguin. Instead, it could be about getting the closest answer to the best of both worlds: receiving a contract in the ballpark of what he deserves, with the team he wants to play for.
With that in mind, there’s just about as much pressure on the Stars to convince Seguin to stay, as there is pressure on Seguin to earn his next deal.
Still, it’s Seguin who will feel the heat if his gamble doesn’t pay off.
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 focusing on a player coming off a breakthrough year to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Colorado Avalanche.
After being one of the worst teams of the modern era during the 2016-17 season, the Colorado Avalanche stormed back this past season with a 43-point improvement that took them from the league’s basement back into the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2014-15 and just the second time since 2010. A lot of things had to go right for that to happen, including improved goaltending and an MVP-level performance from Nathan MacKinnon.
Another key factor: the development and breakout season from 2015 first-round pick Mikko Rantanen.
After a promising debut season that saw him score 20 goals and 38 points, Rantanen took his game to another level in 2017-18 and broke out with a season that pushed him into the top-20 in the league in scoring with 84 total points. He was dynamite all year, and alongside MacKinnon helped form one of the best top-line duos in the league.
When they were on the ice together during 5-on-5 play the Avalanche outscored teams by a 55-41 margin and held a 51 percent share of the total shot attempts. When neither player was on the ice the Avalanche were outscored 84-90 and held only a 46 percent share of the total shot attempts. The difference was even more drastic the previous season when the Avalanche were only outscored 34-39 with the MacKinnon-Rantanen duo on the ice and 53-114 without them.
As a duo, they clearly click on the ice and should be the driving force behind the team’s offense.
Individually, Rantanen has been an exciting talent and prospect ever since he joined the Avalanche organization and, to this point, has lived up to the hype and seems to be on his way to becoming a star in the league and cornerstone building block.
Summer summary: If your main complaint about the Hurricanes was about the franchise getting too stagnant – considering that they’ve missed the playoffs since being swept from the 2009 Eastern Conference Final – then the team has you covered. Ron Francis is out as GM, making way for Don Waddell. Rod Brind’Amour replaced Bill Peters as head coach. And the team will look different on the ice, too.
Cam Ward‘s finally gone, with Petr Mrazek coming in with the hopes of supporting Scott Darling after a disastrous first season as Carolina’s would-be No. 1 goalie. To avoid introducing too much change, Carolina maintained its status as analytics darlings by adding solid defenseman Calvin de Haan to an increasingly impressive group.
More to do?: The Hurricanes come into 2018-19 with a ton of cap space and an anxiousness to break the playoff drought, so you wonder if they might want to jump in, say, the Max Pacioretty sweepstakes.
That said, perhaps Jeff Skinner gets traded? The talented skater is entering a contract year, and the Hurricanes might not want to cough up a new contract, so we’ll wait and see there.
Where they stand: In a familiar place, seemingly on the precipice of a breakthrough, yet also with serious questions about goaltending.
(The more things change, the more they stay the same, huh?)
The Hurricanes boast quite a bit of talent, but also a lot to prove, especially with a new coach and Hamilton stepping in as a prominent new defenseman. Will they fall short of the hype once again?
Columbus Blue Jackets
Summer summary: Generally speaking, the most prominent talk about changes in Columbus revolve around next summer.
Both Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin are entering contract years, and Panarin in particular seems to be a tough nut to crack. The Blue Jackets might feel the need to trade Panarin rather than seeing him walk for nothing (except cap space) in free agency. It’s a disquieting situation, as Panarin showed signs of being the difference-maker the Blue Jackets have lacked ever since they climbed into relevance.
Columbus did make some nice low-risk, medium-reward plays, though. Anthony Duclair is an interesting addition considering his bargain rate, and Riley Nash could be a savvy pickup, too.
More to do?: Again, sorting situations out with Panarin and “Bob” should keep the Blue Jackets very busy.
Not much has been made of this, but Cap Friendly pegs their space at about $5.63 million, and that’s with an overstuffed roster. If the Blue Jackets decide to just roll the dice in 2018-19 and then let the pieces fall how they may when it comes to Panarin, maybe they’d be wise to try to land an expiring contract? Skinner, Max Pacioretty, and Erik Karlsson all could conceivably push this team over the top.
The Blue Jackets could justify a vacation before things pick up, generally, as most of their concerns are more forward-thinking.
Where they stand: No doubt, it must be beyond frustrating for Columbus to see the Stanley Cup winner come out of their division for three seasons in a row, yet they still haven’t won a single playoff series as a franchise. Such frustrations clearly boiled over when Torts beefed about Jack Johnson‘s perceived slights while joining the hated Penguins.
New Jersey Devils
Summer summary: If you count Taylor Hall winning the 2018 Hart Trophy, this was a solid-enough summer for the Devils.
New Jersey deserves credit for restraint, more than anything else, this off-season. Sure, it would be great to continue adding key pieces, as they’ve done for multiple summers now. Still, plenty of franchises overreact to an unexpected postseason surge by making reckless, shortsighted investments.
Instead, the Devils allowed Michael Grabner, Patrick Maroon, and John Moore walk rather than possibly giving them problem contracts. GM Ray Shero clearly prefers maintaining flexibility for the moments when he might be able to land another asset in a winning trade. Can you blame him?
More to do?: Unless the Devils are lurking on another big deal, it’s mostly smaller stuff, like signing RFAs Miles Wood and Steve Santini. It might not hurt to start battering around potential extension offers with Will Butcher, though, as he’s on a deal that expires after 2018-19.
Where they stand: Hall provided a Herculean effort to get the Devils into a surprise spot in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. To make a repeat appearance, he’d almost certainly need to be as good or better this season.
New Jersey heads into this campaign as an underdog once again, yet there’s quite a bit to like about what the Devils are cooking. They still need some help behind Hall to really scare other teams, though.
New York Islanders
Summer summary: *Cough* oh dear, this is awkward.
So, the Islanders began the summer on a relatively strong note. They enjoyed one of the best weekends at the 2018 NHL Draft and brought in Lou Lamoriello as GM, who then hired a reigning Stanley Cup winning coach in Barry Trotz. Pretty, pretty good.
All of that crumbled, of course, when John Tavares decided to leave the Islanders for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Lamoriello responded to that rebuke by clogging up an already expensive bottom-of-the-order with a blah contract for Leo Komarov, a mediocre signing in Valtteri Filppula, and trading for Matt Martin. Yikes.
At least their moves in net might help stem the tide in that regard. Jaroslav Halak‘s turbulent era is over, as volatile (but occasionally brilliant) goalie Robin Lehner comes in to compete with Thomas Greiss and others.
More to do?: The Islanders need to think long and hard about trading some valuable players entering contract years rather than risking losing them altogether, or signing them to deals that could end up being a waste of money. (Sometimes it’s better just to commit to a rebuild instead of taking half-measures.)
Jordan Eberle, Brock Nelson, and Anders Lee all see their current deals expire after 2018-19. Trading one or more of those useful forwards could give the Islanders’ rebuild another big boost.
Where they stand: Look, the dark times have outweighed the peaks for Islanders fans for decades now. Asking for patience won’t be the easiest sell.
That said, with a budding star in Mathew Barzal, the Islanders have a chance to – in a way – get the Tavares situation right this time. They merely need to look around their division to see teams that landed premium prospects in multiple drafts, made some smart moves on the periphery, and yes, enjoyed some good fortune to turn things around.
Finishing at or near the playoff bubble year after year did them very little good.
New York Rangers
Summer summary: Around trade deadline time, the Rangers embraced a rebuild much like the Islanders arguably should. They took another step in that direction by replacing polarizing head coach Alain Vigneault with David Quinn. The Rangers’ logic all seemed sound here.
Still, as an “it” destination for free agents, there might have been a temptation to, say, throw a bunch of money at Ilya Kovalchuk as the latest quick-fix.
(After all, the Rangers have been seduced by headline-grabbing moves essentially since Glen Sather started chewing cigars at MSG.)
Instead, they stood pat, and time will tell if they made the most of three first-rounders and six picks within the first three rounds.
More interesting questions loom around some other players. Would the Rangers consider shopping beloved winger Mats Zuccarello, who’s entering a contract year and might not want to stick around for a rebuild considering he’s already 30? Also, if Artemi Panarin favors a market like New York, would the Rangers be able to move closer to competing close to 2019-20? Management needs to answer questions like these.
Where they stand: This team seems fairly transparent about pivoting for at least one season. Credit management for seeing the writing on the wall, though 2018-19 could be painful to watch as a result.
It’s fascinating to wonder how Henrik Lundqvist truly feels about all of this, and how many times he’ll snare victory from the jaws of defeat (maybe to the Rangers’ short-term detriment).
Summer summary: Spending $35M over five years is a bit pricey to be called a “mulligan,” but either way, the Flyers brought back James van Riemsdyk after getting hosed in the Luke Schenn trade. GM Ron Hextall’s M.O. mostly revolves around being patient and either trading away lousy deals or letting them evaporate with time, so it should be fascinating to see how an old-fashioned, big-money Flyers signing works out in a more … stable era.
More to do?: Somewhat like Columbus, the Flyers’ biggest concerns rest on what to do after 2018-19.
Wayne Simmonds is due a big raise, and it’s plausible that JVR is penciled in to be his replacement. Both Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth are entering contract years, so the Flyers’ perpetual goalie questions seem likely to continue. Ivan Provorov’s about to enter the final year of his rookie deal, too.
Clearing up those situations – eventually – will play a big role in Philly’s future.
Where they stand: The Flyers are already translating promise to tangible results. Hyped players like Provorov are producing as advertised.
So it seems like the Flyers have “good” more or less locked down. The next step ranks as one of the toughest mountains to climb in sports: going from good to great. There’s a solid chance that the Flyers can make that leap, but it won’t necessarily be easy.
Summer summary: After falling short of a three-peat, the Penguins made some interesting choices.
The key subtraction was Conor Sheary while it seemed like the team’s machinations went into landing Jack Johnson. By just about any metric (beyond “third pick of the 2005 NHL Draft” and “Sidney Crosby‘s friend”), Johnson isn’t particularly effective. The Penguins’ front office obviously believes otherwise, and their off-season basically comes down to exchanging Sheary, Matt Hunwick, and others for Johnson.
More to do?: Pittsburgh doesn’t have any free agents left to deal with, but there are some pressing issues after this coming season. The biggest wild card is that Jake Guentzel is scheduled to become an RFA after his rookie deal expires. What to pay a player with solid stats in the regular season, but most noticeably, generating an excellent 42 points in 37 playoff games?
There are other smaller questions. There were also strange rumors about Phil Kessel being shopped (hot take: they probably shouldn’t do that). But, generally speaking, the big picture for Pittsburgh is the status quo.
Where they stand: The Penguins won the Stanley Cup twice in a row, then finished last season in the second round. Despite such an impressive run, Pittsburgh seems poised to contend once again, as they still have Crosby, Kessel, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Matt Murray.
There’s always concern about hitting a wall, though, particularly since the Penguins’ core players have so much mileage on them between deep postseason runs, international play, and in many cases a decade-plus of intense NHL play.
Crosby and Kessel are 30; Malkin and Letang are both 31. The Penguins’ window should still be open, probably for a while. Even so, fates can turn on a dime in sports. There’s always the chance that this talented group slips.
Summer summary: The summer … you mean, one long hangover for the Capitals? After years of frustration, Alex Ovechkin & Co. won it all after it seemed like the best opportunities went out the window. Repeating won’t be easy, but it’s probably the No. 1 problem the Caps always wanted to have.
The Capitals saw some losses, though smaller than you might expect from a team that just won the Stanley Cup. Jay Beagle was well-liked, but ranks as an expendable “energy guy,” while Brooks Orpik left and then returned. The toughest loss is Philipp Grubauer, an excellent backup receiving his chance to transition into a top guy with Colorado. If Braden Holtby stumbles in the regular season again, the Capitals’ grip on the Metro crown may finally loosen.
Overall, Washington did a nice job keeping players at a reasonable clip, including somewhat unexpectedly managing to retain John Carlson‘s services. Rather than falling into the trap of giving playoff heroes way too much money, the Caps generally leveraged the “we just won” factor to sign Michal Kempny and Devante Smith-Pelly to perfectly reasonable contracts.
Of course, the biggest change of all ranks as quite unusual. You don’t see coaches leave teams they won Stanley Cups with very often (Mike Keenan comes to mind; Jimmy Johnson in the NFL), yet that is exactly what happened with Barry Trotz. Todd Reirden faces the tough task of attempting to repeat as a rookie head coach.
Interestingly, Washington might actually be in a halfway-decent spot to try to land a premium rental. While Wilson will eat up a significant chunk of the available space, Cap Friendly puts Washington’s room at about $6.27M right now.
Where they stand: They’re the defending champions and they didn’t lose a major piece of their roster. In hindsight, it’s easy to see why the Capitals won: they have two fantastic centers, the world’s most lethal sniper, a reliably excellent goalie, and some other very nice supporting cast members to buoy their chances.
Like their BFFs in Pittsburgh, there’s concern about the aging curve, though both teams are more likely to worry about tougher days on the horizon rather than next season.
Still, it’s worth noting that Ovechkin is 32, Nicklas Backstrom is 30, and T.J. Oshie is somehow 31. They aren’t ancient by any stretch, but some players hit the wall sooner – and harder – than others.
Considering the victory parade that may stretch (unofficially) through the regular season, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Capitals see a slight dip through the dog days of 2018-19. It’s most likely that they’ll place themselves in a strong position to defend their title once the games start to matter quite a bit more.
The NHL’s 31 GMs and a panel of League executives, print and broadcast media voted on the award following the conclusion of the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Using the NHL’s expansion draft rules to his advantage, McPhee made shrewd deals to add draft picks and impact players while creating the franchise’s first-ever roster. Success came right off the bat and the Golden Knights ended their inaugural season by becoming the first modern-era expansion team from the four major North American professional sports league to win its division. By advancing to the Stanley Cup Final, Vegas became the third team in NHL history to win multiple playoff rounds in their first season.
McPhee was presented with the award by actress Lynda Carter and Nicklas Backstrom, the player he drafted in fourth overall 2006 while GM of the Washington Capitals.
Kevin Cheveldayoff of the Winnipeg Jets and Steve Yzerman of the Tampa Bay Lightning were the other finalists this year.
So, like the Toronto Raptors watching Lebron mercilessly crush their playoff dreams, hockey fans grow accustomed to seeing fun spending sprees fizzle away. Could it happen again with John Tavares?
TSN’s Darren Dreger reports that Tavares and his representatives are “focused” on negotiating with the New York Islanders right now. Pierre LeBrun was also involved in that segment, and rained on our speculative parades even more:
I still have no idea which way Tavares is leaning but it's uncanny how many rival team execs this week told me they thought he was staying put. That plus items on Skinner, Lucic, Carlson and more in Friday Rumblings: https://t.co/bzt3FDonag
It actually inspires a fun activity: let’s go over the next few years and ponder some of the big names who could auction off their services.
Naturally, because hockey, this list factors in the sad, cruel likelihood that the biggest names will bow out, so there are consolation prizes. Also, this list focuses mainly on would-be UFAs, as RFAs hold very little leverage (thanks, CBA).
This summer (2018)
Biggest fish who might not make it: Tavares
Would begging help?
The fascinating Ilya Kovalchuk talk is a helpful reminder of how rare it is for an impact NHL player to explore free agency. At 27, Tavares figures to be exactly that. Despite all the turbulence surrounding the Islanders, Tavares generated 84 points in 82 games during 2017-18, the second-best output of his career.
He’s also put to rest any real worries about some of the freak injuries he suffered. Tavares played 82 games twice in the last four seasons, only missing nine games since 2014-15.
Tavares hitting the market wouldn’t just change the fate of a team. If he landed in the right direction, it could create a new contender. You simply don’t see a franchise center become available often; this would be as close as the NHL gets to a Lebron-type seismic shift.
Which means he’ll probably kill all the drama with an extension soon. *Grumble*
Big name with a better chance to actually hit the market:John Carlson
Before more grumbling commences, there’s this:
“I love it here. I want to stay here. But there’s more to it than that.” — John Carlson on his approaching free agency. Washington, btw, is home for Carlson. #ALLCAPSpic.twitter.com/ytUhigqQmB
There’s evidence that Carlson struggles at time in his own end, particularly stretching backto before this past season. After a dazzling 68 points and a Stanley Cup victory, someone’s paying up, and it should be fun to witness that situation develop. You just do not see defensemen of his ilk hit it big very often, either.
Now that you mention it, hopefully a risky Carlson deal doesn’t scare off teams from next year’s incredible crop.
For some, Karlsson is the top draw (myself included). Old-school types might claim that Karlsson “can’t play defense,” even after he managed to drag a mediocre Senators team to within a goal of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final (yes, that was only a year ago). For those types – who also probably believe that Alex Ovechkin “just figured things out this year” – then Doughty is the jewel.
The truth is that both are really, really good.
They also both carry some mileage into their next deals after being remarkable bargains, as they’re both 28 and log big minutes. There’s a strong chance that Doughty might just re-sign with Los Angeles, possibly as soon as this summer, and the same could be true regarding Oliver Ekman-Larsson and the Coyotes. (Preemptive boo.)
Now, Ryan Ellis and the Predators? That could be fascinating.
Biggest fish to land: Avoiding a lockout or limiting the damage.
Roman Josi: David Poile is responsible for some salary cap wizardry, yet at some point, the Predators are going to need to make some choices.
Nicklas Backstrom: Already at 30, and with Braden Holtby also slated for possible free agency during the summer of 2020 (let’s assume Holtby re-signs), it remains to be seen if Washington can/will retain the Swedish center. He deserves an upgrade from that $6.7 million cap hit, one way or another.
Corey Crawford: Currently at 33 and the Blackhawks remain in a perpetual cap crunch. Hmm.
Holtby: Just in case the Capitals try to save money in net.
Tyson Barrie and Torey Krug: Two explosive scoring defensemen who are a bit underrated. Krug, in particular, might be tough for the Bruins to retain. Justin Faulk deserves a mention, too, although his situation could be very different in mere weeks for all we know.
Alex Galchenyuk: Will his inevitable split from Montreal happen before free agency 2020?
Of course, many of those players are likely to sign extensions, in most cases with their current teams. The same could be said for players who get traded to new teams. Some of the older guys might just retire. Restricted free agents may also add some spice to summers.
There’s even a chance that a new CBA could open the door for more movement in the future.
Looking at the lists above, it’s easy to envision fun scenarios, even if recent hockey history suggests blander solutions. Then again, re-signing players like these could force other important players to get traded, so team-building nerds should have something to chew on even if free agency isn’t as fun in reality as it can be in our heads.