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NHL Free Agency: Three signings that will be looked back on with regret

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Every summer we see a few of these: free agent signings where it becomes immediately apparent that they’re going to hurt the team in the long run.

Some teams sign out of desperation. General managers facing increasing pressures to win, be it from not making the playoffs in the previous outing or getting bounced early on if they did, go out and try to find players who will make their teams better in an attempt to prolong their own tenure.

Others feel the need to expedite a rebuild or perhaps are getting a nudge from the man sitting in the corner office with the nicest view in the house; owners who are greedy and impatient with the slow, methodical process it takes to build a long-term contender.

Whatever the case, some players get signed to seemingly egregious pacts that appear asinine to everyone else.

Here are potentially three of those that have been agreed upon so far this summer.

3. Brandon Tanev, Pittsburgh Penguins

It’s not necessarily the money here that is shocking — it’s silly season in the NHL, of course.

No. It’s the term.

Six years (and $21 million) for a player who hits a lot of people and was propped up in a big way by his linemates seems excessive. Sure, Tanev can be an effective player when put in the right situation. He’s a pretty good penalty killer. But the running joke in Winnipeg was that you could take away Tanev’s stick and you’d probably wouldn’t see much drop off in his play.

Now, Tanev isn’t going to score 14 goals and assist on 15 others without his twig, but the sentiment is he wouldn’t have had as good a year as he did without guys like Adam Lowry and Andrew Copp carrying him in the offensive zone.

Tanev w/ Lowry, Copp – 58.27 CF%
Tanev w/ Lowry – 52.74 CF%
Tanev w/o Lowry, Copp – 38.08 CF%
Tanev w/o Lowry – 41.49 CF%

Tanev is an exciting player to watch. In of world where gas tanks empty and must be re-filled, he’s the self-recharging electric car that laughs at those with fuel caps. He’s an Energizer bunny who goes and goes and goes.

He’ll block shots and hit everything that moves (and sometimes things that don’t.) But if the right folks aren’t beside him, his effectiveness on the scoresheet (and the data ones, too) will be limited.

Six years is a long time.

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

2. Tyler Myers, Vancouver Canucks

At one point, this was looking much, much worse.

Some reports suggested that Canucks GM Jim Benning was ready to give Myers eight years and $56 million to wear the blue and green threads sporting a killer whale bursting out of the letter ‘C’.

That crisis was averted, but they still gave Myers five years and $6 million per season, at least going by the analytics, what appears to be a third-pairing defenseman with offensive upside and defensive deficiencies in his own zone. Myers is a defenseman, so that last bit is concerning, to say the least.

Myers is one of those buys at the deadline by a GM feeling the squeeze from upstairs and a squeeze from the fanbase who want a team back in the playoffs.

Again, people with an affinity for math and hockey have painted a not-very-good picture of Myers for that kind of money. A “defensively weak” defenseman is not something teams long for.

And the Canucks are in the middle of a rebuild, one where they already traded off a first-round pick for J.T. Miller and where they’re spending a lot of money to try and get good now even though they have big contracts to come, including this summer, where they have to figure out how to pay restricted free agent Brock Boeser more money than they have cap room at the moment.

You had one job…

1. Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida Panthers

The Panthers sometimes seem like the NHL’s version of a retirement home.

The accommodations are very nice, the weather is great and your breakfast is served by a man wearing a tuxedo. It’s all very wealthy and all very relaxing. And goalies seem to like it, good ones in years gone by that come to see out their playing days in the lap of luxury.

Ed Belfour, Tim Thomas, Roberto Luongo and now Bob, to name a few.

There’s no doubt that Vezina-winning, free agent goaltenders command a lot of money in free agency. So it was no surprise when Bobrovsky got $10 million per season for the next seven. He’s an effective goalie when he wants to be.

Big-name goalies coming close to restricted and/or unrestricted free agency jumped for joy when Dale Tallon signed this monster deal. So did Panthers fans. And they should. At the moment, they have a legitimate goaltender who should lead them to the playoffs.

But for how long?

Bob is 30. While goalies age well at times, Bob has played a lot of hockey over the past three years (and has a nice .922 save percentage to show for it). But will he be a $10 million goaltender in Year 3 of the deal? What about Year 5?

That’s a big chunk of change for a team that seems to have drafted well and will need cash for those players down the line.

Bob is a great goalie. His new contract, however, comes with an untraversed mountain of risk.

MORE: Most long-term contracts will end in trade or buyout

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

Five non-playoff teams that could make postseason in 2020

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The New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes, St. Louis Blues, Calgary Flames and Dallas Stars all had something in common in 2019. They all went from being non-playoff teams in 2018 to making it to the postseason last year. So if that scenario were to repeat itself next season, who would the new five playoff teams be?

There’s no denying that the current salary cap system has created way too much parity in the NHL over the last few years. It’s not difficult to envision five non-playoff teams sneak into the postseason at all, because a lot of these teams are so evenly matched.

So which non-playoff teams do we expect to make it to the postseason in 2020?

Florida Panthers: The Panthers made a couple of significant acquisitions in free agency this summer, as they added franchise netminder Sergei Bobrovsky and winger Brett Connolly. Signing Bobrovksy was huge because it addressed the team’s biggest need. Roberto Luongo couldn’t stay healthy anymore and James Reimer simply wasn’t getting the job done. The Panthers also have several offensive weapons at their disposal, including Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Evgenii Dadonov, Mike Hoffman and Vincent Trocheck. They could make a lot of noise in 2019-20.

Montreal Canadiens: The Canadiens put up 96 points last year and still missed out on the playoffs, but there were plenty of positives for them to build on. First, Max Domi‘s adjustment to Montreal was seamless. He fit like a glove. Secondly, Carey Price and Shea Weber were able to stay healthy down the stretch. That will be the biggest key for the Habs in 2019-20. Getting sophomore forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi to contribute more offensively could also propel them into a playoff spot.

Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers got off to a bad start last year for a few reasons, but none more obvious than their mediocre goaltending. Once Carter Hart came into the picture, he managed to settle things down between the pipes. Avoiding a sophomore slump will be key for him if the Flyers are going to get back into the postseason, but they clearly have a talented enough roster to get themselves in.

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

New York Rangers: The Rangers have been incredibly aggressive with their roster since sending a letter out to their fans outlining their plan to rebuild. Not only did they luck into getting Kappo Kakko in the NHL Entry Draft, they also found a way to sign the most dynamic free agent on the market, Artemi Panarin. The biggest question mark on this team is on defense, as they have big money committed to Kevin Shattenkirk, Marc Staal and Brendan Smith. In goal, Henrik Lundqvist isn’t the same player he used to be but Alexandar Georgiev has the ability to fill in whenever King Henrik needs a break.

Chicago Blackhawks: Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman has made tweaks to his roster this summer. He’s added Calvin de Haan, Olli Maatta and Andrew Shaw via trade and he also signed Robin Lehner in free agency. The core group of players is still around and they can still contribute at a high enough level to help the ‘Hawks get into the postseason. But the West is going to be competitive this year, so the Blackhawks will have to stay pretty consistent throughout the year.

Honorable mention: The New Jersey Devils have added P.K. Subban and Jack Hughes to their roster, so seeing them improve by a wide margin wouldn’t be surprising. There’s still big questions surrounding the team’s defense and goaltending, but they were a playoff team two years ago. They could definitely be one of the biggest surprises in 2019-20. For now, they’re the sixth-likeliest team to go from not being in the playoffs to making it again.

MORE: 5 playoff teams that could miss postseason in 2020

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.

Bobrovsky says he came to Florida to win the Stanley Cup

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SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Sergei Bobrovsky already has two Vezina Trophies, the award handed out at the end of each season to the NHL’s top goaltender.

He’s not looking for a third.

For the Florida Panthers’ new goalie, only one trophy matters now.

Bobrovsky and Florida’s three other free agent signings – defenseman Anton Stralman, and forwards Brett Connolly and Noel Acciari – put on their new Panthers sweaters for the first time Tuesday in their official introduction to South Florida. When they’re back to begin training camp in just over two months, the Stanley Cup will be the singular goal for the long-struggling Panthers.

”It doesn’t matter what you win individually,” Bobrovsky said. ”Hockey’s a team sport and it’s all about the Cup. Only one team can win the Cup each season. That’s my main goal. That’s what I want to do. That’s why I am here now. I believe in this team. I believe in this group.”

Bobrovsky, who spent the past seven years in Columbus, was the biggest acquisition for the Panthers this summer, at least from a player sense. Florida’s offseason began with a coaching change and the hiring of three-time Stanley Cup champion Joel Quenneville, who said having a great goaltender is ”the biggest ingredient” when putting together a team that can truly win a title.

And the Panthers think they got the best goalie in the game, someone who led the NHL with nine shutouts last season and then backstopped the Blue Jackets to a stunning sweep of Tampa Bay in the opening round of the playoffs – after the Lightning were far and away the league’s best team during the regular season.

”Sergei, we know the importance of goaltending,” Quenneville said. ”He comes in and gives us a No. 1 goalie that can play big games. He’s going to play a lot of hockey here. We know how goaltending can influence a game and we know how goaltending can win in the playoffs as well. So he’s excited about this opportunity.”

Bobrovsky was long believed to be Florida’s top free-agent target, and it was widely presumed that he would pick the Panthers. He decided last week that he would indeed sign with Florida, and a $70 million, seven-year offer got it done.

”With the bright future this team has, with the great coach, with the great management, and with the really talented group of guys I’m excited to be here,” Bobrovsky said. ”I think we can make something special here.”

Bobrovsky will replace Roberto Luongo as Florida’s No. 1 goaltender, following Luongo’s retirement. Sam Montembeault, who made his first 10 NHL starts last season with the Panthers, is likely the backup.

Florida has missed the playoffs in 16 of the last 18 seasons, hasn’t won a playoff series since 1996 and will have had 16 coaches in 26 seasons when Quenneville makes his debut. But the Panthers touted a promising young core for years, had one of the NHL’s top offenses last season and believe Bobrovsky will be the difference-maker on the defensive end of the ice now.

”It’s a process,” said the 30-year-old from Russia. ”It’s not going to be easy. Nobody says this is going to be smooth and nice. We’re going to have to overcome some adversity. But those things will make us stronger.”

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Tallon addresses Panthers’ needs, confident about playoff chances

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Dale Tallon’s quest to land both Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin fell short, but he was able to add one of them to the Florida Panthers’ roster for the next seven years.

Following Roberto Luongo’s retirement, it was clear that the main target for Tallon in free agency was a No. 1 goaltender. Enter Bobrovsky, who will turn 31 in September and has been on the Panthers’ radar since it was clear he wouldn’t be returning to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The general manager promised to be aggressive this summer and he backed that up by adding the netminder, forwards Brett Connolly and Noel Acciari, as well as defenseman Anton Stralman.

That’s $107 million in contracts handed out on the first day of NHL free agency. Panthers owner Vinnie Viola was going to spend, especially after they were able to bring Joel Quenneville to Sunrise as head coach. Having Q on board almost helped them in their pursuit of Panarin given their history in Chicago, but Monday still ended up being a good day, at least in the immediate future.

Bobrovsky’s seven-year, $70 million contract will likely look ugly in a few years considering how most goaltenders tail off once they hit north of 30 years old. But the Panthers needed a further injection of excitement after hiring Quenneville. 

“As a group we felt we needed to make some changes to our roster to get it deeper so we could make a good run for the playoffs. We addressed some needs,” Tallon said. “We have plenty of scoring ability, plenty of offense. We had to address compete, physicality and goals-against. Those were the concerns we had, and I think we did a good job of addressing those needs.”

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

Bobrovsky’s 115 wins over the last three seasons is tops in the NHL, and his .931 even strength save percentage over that span is second to only Pekka Rinne, per Natural Stat Trick.

“He’s a two-time Vezina Trophy winner who gives you a chance to win every night,” Tallon said. “He’s durable and is a very good player. He’s a student of the game. Nobody works harder so it will be interesting to see guys like [Aleksander] Barkov and Bobrovsky working off the ice like that. It will be a great example for our young players to follow.”

Tallon filled areas of need on Monday and with three months until the 2019-20 season begins, there’s still time to add. He’s confident of the strides the organization has made and how improved his roster looks at the moment — so much so that he sees the Panthers playing beyond game No. 82 next season.

“I like our chances now,” Tallon said. “I think we’ve got a legitimate chance to be in the playoffs. It starts behind the bench with [Quenneville] and then goaltending. I think our young [defensemen] will be better too with the coaching that Joel’s going to bring.

“And then our offense is going to be fine. We have pretty well the same guys. We’ll have a good power play, and we’ll have good special teams. Now it’s just a matter of 5-on-5 play. We’ve got more options in that regard and more durability longer term.”

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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.

Panthers land Bobrovsky, and now thinking big

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SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Florida won its offseason. Now it is all about the postseason.

The Panthers’ offseason transformation is essentially complete after free agency netted them four players Monday. The biggest move was the signing of two-time Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky, who signed a seven-year, $70 million deal and will replace the now-retired Roberto Luongo as Florida’s top goaltender.

Also added: defenseman Anton Stralman, and forwards Brett Connolly and Noel Acciari. All told, the Panthers committed $104.5 million Monday and general manager Dale Tallon was thrilled to add four players with playoff experience.

”All we’re trying to do is make our team better for the long haul,” Tallon said. ”And whatever that plan was, we stuck with it and we were very successful at getting it done, I think.”

The Panthers were aiming at landing perhaps the two biggest free agents on this year’s market by talking last week with both Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin. When it became evident that Panarin wasn’t picking Florida – he ultimately chose the New York Rangers – Tallon and the Panthers pivoted in other directions.

All four of the new signees will be in South Florida for their formal introductions Tuesday, joined by new coach Joel Quenneville. The Panthers’ offseason started with the hiring of Quenneville – a three-time Stanley Cup-winning coach who Tallon considers the best in the game. The Panthers now have a top-tier goalie to help the plans for a turnaround.

”It’s been great so far,” Tallon said of the offseason. ”We’ve got work to do and we’ve got to keep improving every day and that’s what we’re all about.”

A clear sign of how much better Florida thinks it can be immediately with Bobrovsky between the pipes: He led the NHL with nine shutouts last season. That’s one more shutout than the Panthers have had, total, in the last two seasons combined. And if nothing else, Florida won’t have to face him anymore – Bobrovsky is 13-1-2 all-time against the Panthers.

”He’s a two-time Vezina Trophy winner and he gives you a chance to win every night,” Tallon said. ”He’s durable. He’s a student of the game. Nobody works harder.”

So now it’s up to Quenneville and Bobrovsky to lead the way in Florida’s annual quest to shake out of its long playoff slump. The Panthers haven’t won a series since 1996, but believe they are finally in position – with an offensive core led by Aleksander Barkov, Vincent Trocheck and Jonathan Huberdeau – to become contenders for years to come.

”We have plenty of scoring ability, we have plenty of offense,” Tallon said. ”We had to address physicality and goals-against. Those were the biggest concerns we had and I think we did a good job addressing those needs.”