Golden Knights’ William Karlsson lands Lady Byng

Leave a comment

William Karlsson just finished a fantastic season, so it’s nice to see him take home a trophy at the 2018 NHL Awards.

Karlsson generated 43 goals, 78 points, and just 12 penalty minutes during the 2017-18 season on his way to winning the Lady Byng Trophy. The other finalists were Aleksander Barkov and Ryan O'Reilly.

(Note: it’s unclear if Karlsson edged out his competition by way of hair flips.)

Here are the voting results. Note that this was cut off at the top 20, while 49 players received at least one vote. As a reminder, the Lady Byng is “given to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”

This is a nifty factoid about Karlsson’s win:

Salary-cap increase makes for ‘more fun’ NHL offseason

Getty Images
2 Comments

Thanks, Vegas.

The Stanley Cup Final run of the expansion Golden Knights contributed to what is expected to be a healthy increase for the salary cap, giving NHL teams more freedom to make deals. With elite center John Tavares, top defenseman John Carlson and a strong group of free agents available soon, the ceiling for player spending will rise to between $78 and $82 million from $75 million.

”The higher the better,” said Brian MacLellan, whose Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup. ”It makes it a lot more fun.”

Gentlemen, open your wallets – players like Tavares, Carlson and forwards James van Riemsdyk and Paul Stastny won’t come cheap.

With GMs meeting Thursday in Dallas ahead of this weekend’s draft, trade talk is percolating before free agency opens July 1. Ottawa has already traded winger Mike Hoffman, and Buffalo center Ryan O'Reilly, Pittsburgh forward Phil Kessel, Montreal captain Max Pacioretty and Washington backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer could all be on the move.

Ottawa captain Erik Karlsson is the star who will go to the highest bidder if the Senators are willing to trade the Norris Trophy-winning defenseman with one year remaining on his contract. GM Pierre Dorion seemed to be in a tough spot after it was revealed last week that Karlsson’s wife had filed an order of protection against Hoffman’s girlfriend, Monika Caryk, alleging harassment and bullying. He solved that issue by acquiring Mikkel Boedker from the San Jose Sharks for Hoffman in the first major trade of the offseason.

San Jose flipped Hoffman to Florida soon thereafter, freeing up salary-cap space to pursue Tavares or Russian standout Ilya Kovalchuk. The Panthers got a 20-goal scorer in Hoffman, who’s just 28.

More immediate decisions await the Islanders and Capitals. New York could make a move to re-sign Tavares before he can begin speaking with other teams on Monday, and recently hired president of hockey operations Lou Lamoriello has to hire a new coach.

The Islanders might’ve gotten a fortunate bounce when Barry Trotz resigned from his job with Washington less than two weeks after lifting the Cup. Re-signing Tavares and hiring a replacement for fired coach Doug Weight go hand-in-hand.

If it doesn’t work out and Tavares hits the open market, a contract with an annual salary approaching Connor McDavid‘s $12.5 million isn’t out of the question. Nashville GM David Poile said cap situations put five or six teams in position for top-end free agents – and knock about half the league out of the running.

”We all have different commitments already of contracts,” Poile said. ”Some teams have a lot of room. Some teams don’t have very much room.”

Big-revenue teams with money to spend include the retooling New York Rangers and the rising Toronto Maple Leafs. The Rangers are among several teams linked to Kovalchuk, the 35-year-old winger who’s looking to return to the NHL after five seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League.

Former Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov, who won an Olympic gold medal with Kovalchuk, is back in the U.S. and could be on the way to returning. Voynov was convicted of domestic abuse and is suspended indefinitely by the NHL, which makes it unclear how a team will pave the way for him to play.

”Right now he’s a suspended player, and until anything changes there, I don’t think we’re in a position to comment any further,” Kings GM Rob Blake said. ”A lot of this has to take place between him, his agent and the National Hockey League.”

Dozens of current free agents don’t know where they’ll be playing next season. Beyond Tavares, Carlson is the most in-demand pending free agent after leading all defensemen in regular-season and playoff points.

Carlson plans to have his day with the Stanley Cup in Washington, but because of the uncertainty of the offseason, there’s no guarantee he’ll be there this fall.

”We’ll see what happens,” Carlson said. ”I love it here and all that, I want to stay here, but there’s more to it than that.”

Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Six players who should be traded this summer

Getty
11 Comments

Ah, yes. The offseason. That one month of craziness and mayhem after the Stanley Cup gets awarded where the NHL’s general managers get together and make the majority of their moves to assemble their teams and shape their organizations.

One of the busiest times is the four or five days surrounding NHL draft — which is less than two weeks away — where the majority of the league’s significant trades will get made.

Sometimes teams make themselves better. Sometimes teams make themselves worse. Either way it is always fascinating to watch unfold, even if it tends to underwhelm us in terms of the moves that actually get made.

Sometimes the trades that don’t get made are more interesting than the ones that do get made.

Either way, there will be trades, and they could involve significant players. With that said let’s start taking a look at some of the candidates to be on the move with six players that probably should, for one reason or another, be moved this summer.

[Related: Six players who should stay put this summer]

Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators.  Whether it happens during the summer or before the trade deadline this split just seems inevitable, even before all of Tuesday’s news broke. He is entering the final year of his contract, he was quite clearly on the trade block all of last season, and even though the Senators front office seems determined to try and sign him to a new long-term contract extension it just seems like it is a long shot at this point.

If he rejects the Senators’ offer in early July — when they can officially sign him to a new deal — the team is going to have little choice but to move him. The team itself is almost certain to stink this year so that one extra year of Karlsson isn’t going to make much of a difference, and you can’t afford to lose a franchise player for nothing as a free agent. As painful as it would be to move a player like this the Senators have to make sure they get something back in return.

Vegas made a run at him before the trade deadline and has the salary cap space, prospects, and future draft picks to deal from to try again.

Mike Hoffman, Ottawa Senators. Simply put, the Senators are a mess in more ways than one and while Hoffman is an extremely productive player and signed for two more years it would probably be best for everyone involved to just go scorched earth with this thing and tear the whole bloody thing down to the ground.

Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes. My first instinct when I hear or read speculation about a Jeff Skinner trade is to laugh about it and dismiss it because we’ve been hearing this stuff for what seems like five years now.

Every summer, every trade deadline it is the exact same thing — the Hurricanes might trade Jeff Skinner! Jeff Skinner could be on the market! Is this the year the Hurricanes finally trade Jeff Skinner!?

Hey, look, maybe all of those times he has in fact been available for trade. Maybe the Hurricanes have fielded offers or shopped him around. General manager talk. Trades get discussed. Players get offered. It is part of the business. But through it all Skinner has always still been there in Carolina. He is always still there in Carolina. And that has not been a bad thing for the Hurricanes because Skinner has been one of the best goal-scorers in the NHL at a salary cap hit that is probably a bargain.

But allow me for one year, for one time, to join the chorus of people saying … “hey, maybe this is the year?”

Because this really could be the year.

The environment is certainly right for it. Skinner is entering the final year of his contract, the Hurricanes have a new owner that seems to be looking to shake things up, and that all makes Skinner a logical candidate to be moved.

It’s a tough situation because the Hurricanes have some flaws and one of those flaws is not having players that can finish and put the puck in the net. Skinner is one of the few players on the team that has proven he has the ability to do that, so it it’s a hard sell to move him, especially when he is still in his prime years.

But all of the pieces for a trade just seem to be in place, and there are no shortage of teams in the league that could be in the market for him (looking at you, Los Angeles).

Philipp Grubauer, Washington Capitals. Grubauer is good enough to be a starting goalie but is stuck on a team that also happens to have one of the best goalies in the NHL in front of him. Braden Holtby still has two years left on his contract and is coming off of a Stanley Cup win where he was mostly fantastic, cementing his status as one of the best, most productive postseason goalies in league history (that is not hyperbole! Just look at the numbers).

He is not going anywhere.

Grubauer, on the other hand, is ready for a full-time starting job, is a due a raise as a restricted free agent on a team that will not have a ton of salary cap space and has some important players that it has to try and re-sign, and there are at least two teams in the NHL that might be a good, young starting goaltender away from becoming a playoff team in the Carolina and New York (Islanders) that should be willing to pay for him.

While there is a lot of benefit to keeping two outstanding goalies (especially when it comes to the workload over a full season) there simply may not be enough room for both of them.

Ryan O'Reilly, Buffalo Sabres. My colleague James O’Brien recently put together a strong argument for why the Sabres should keep Ryan O’Reilly (read it here), whose name has surfaced in trade speculation heading into the summer. And it makes sense. But allow me to offer the counterpoint: The Sabres stink, have holes all over their roster, and could probably get a pretty strong return on a two-way center that plays big minutes. It might also be good for him to get him out of Buffalo where the losing seemed to really to take its toll on him this season.

Milan Lucic, Edmonton Oilers. The Edmonton Oilers need salary cap space. They missed the playoffs by a mile, have significant cap space tied up in their young core, and have to find a way to not only fill out a roster around that core, but also have it be a roster that is good enough to complement them.

This is not going to be easy!

Somebody, simply, has to go.

The easy and most sensible answer is Lucic but there is one very big problem with that: Nobody is really going to want to take on that contract. He still has five years remaining on his contract (a contract that includes a no-movement clause) at a salary cap hit of $6 million per season. Who is going to want to take on that commitment for a 30-year-old winger that managed just 34 points in 80 games this past season, including only 27 at even-strength, despite playing a healthy chunk of the season alongside Connor McDavid?

To move him the Oilers are either going to have to 1) Throw in one hell of a sweetener, or 2) pick up a significant portion of the salary.

Neither option is ideal.

But neither is that $6 million salary cap hit for what Lucic is likely to produce this season.

Sometimes you just have to take a little bit of a hit to try and make yourself better.

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.

Sabres should not trade Ryan O’Reilly

Getty
7 Comments

Look, when you nab the top pick of the draft, chances are you’re in a rebuild.

Whether they wanted to be in this spot again or not, the Buffalo Sabres certainly played like a rebuilding franchise once again in 2017-18, putting themselves in a position to win the Rasmus Dahlin lottery. The Swedish defenseman stands as quite the balm after this team’s been humiliated by multiple stunted attempts at growth.

Ryan O'Reilly clearly chafes at these stumbles.

He memorably opened up after this rough season, stating that he believed that the Sabres eventually adopted a “losing mindset.”

“It’s crept into all of our games. Yeah, it’s disappointing. It’s sad,” O’Reilly said in early April. “I feel throughout the year I’ve lost the love of the game multiple times, and just need to get back to it because it’s eating myself up, and eats the other guys up, too.”

When you utter a comment like that, it’s only natural to find your name in trade rumors. That’s especially true for an expensive player like O’Reilly, who carries a $7.5 million cap hit through 2022-23.

The Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington reports that, while the Sabres are willing to listen to trade offers for anyone not named Jack Eichel or Casey Mittelstadt:

Botterill isn’t shopping O’Reilly, but the feeling here is he’s being prudent. If you call the Sabres GM these days, he’ll listen on anybody you’re asking about except Eichel and Mittelstadt. Montreal and Vancouver are well-known to be interested in O’Reilly, and Carolina is looking to completely retool its team under new owner Tom Dundon.

I must agree with Harrington’s overall point that the Sabres shouldn’t trade “ROR.” At least, not right now.

Allow me to expand among that sentiment.

Back in March, The Athletic’s James Mirtle discussed (sub required) “how the Maple Leafs’ rebuild left the Sabres’ in the dust.” Mirtle and others have praised Toronto for rebuilding in a smart fashion: tearing away the fat, keeping useful prime-age players, and then crossing your fingers that you’ll get lucky and land some blue-chip players.

In that analogy, I believe that Ryan O’Reilly could be Buffalo’s (admittedly more expensive) answer to Nazem Kadri.

O’Reilly might not be a star player, but he’s the type of two-way center that teams need in the playoffs. His possession stats and faceoff skills, all while taking on some tough assignments, point to his potential to battle for Selke nominations if he can find himself on better teams. The Sabres should make it a point that he finds himself on better teams in Buffalo.

“ROR” has generated 20+ goals in four of his last five seasons, generating at least 55 points in all five. That might not blow your mind, but that sort of production is very helpful, especially when you consider how much of a “plus” player he is from a defensive standpoint.

At 27, he’s still smack-dab in the middle of his prime, and his contract doesn’t provide too many worries from an “aging curve” perspective. It only looks bad when your team is floundering, as the Sabres have been … but might not be forever.

The most obvious upgrade is the one that inspires some level of tentativeness: Dahlin should help their defense. Considering how bad that blueline group has been, it’s not outrageous to picture the much-hyped prospect to immediately step into an important role.

There will be growing pains, no doubt, yet Buffalo’s already given up one of its few, reliable scorers in (understandably and inevitably but painfully) trading away Evander Kane. If you want to make real progress, you need to add more than you subtract. The Sabres need to get back on that wavelength rather than taking more steps back, as they’d do if they traded O’Reilly for futures.

Speaking of futures …

One thing that alleviates much of the discomfort of the O’Reilly price tag is the bountiful young talent in Buffalo.

Dahlin would be on his entry-level contract for three seasons, almost certainly burning off his first in 2018-19. Mittelstadt’s rookie deal will expire after 2019-20. If Alex Nylander can get on track and at least be an everyday NHL player, that’s another ELC to Buffalo’s benefit.

Sam Reinhart showed signs of progress lately, and it’s plausible that the Sabres will reach an affordable deal with the RFA. Buffalo also will see some problem contracts burn off soon, as Jason Pominville‘s $5.6M goes away after 2018-19 and Zach Bogosian‘s $5.1M mark mercifully dissolves after two more seasons.

Getting cheap production from Dahlin, Mittelstadt, (ideally) Nylander, and possibly Reinhart nullifies much of the hand-wringing over how much O’Reilly costs.

And the Sabres can make him more worth keeping by adding more talent around him.

They’ll need to address their goaltending situation one way or another, whether that means re-signing promising RFA Robin Lehner, finding someone else, or possibly a combination of two.

Considering that Buffalo currently only has just $55.8M committed to the cap (via Cap Friendly), it’s conceivable that they could make a big splash. How does John Carlson feel about sweaters and snow tires?

***

Now, there’s the possibility that some team would offer a truly equitable trade.

If it was a pure “hockey trade,” than Buffalo would have to at least consider moving O’Reilly. Getting a strong defenseman would possibly be worth parting ways with an effective-but-expensive second-line center.

Overall, though, the Sabres need to move forward rather than falling back or taking lateral steps. As much as landing Dahlin (er, “the first pick”) brightens Buffalo’s future, it also makes a strong argument against punting the present.

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.

Kane leads U.S. into semis, Canada knocks out Russia

Getty Images
2 Comments

HERNING, Denmark (AP) — Captain Patrick Kane scored two goals to lift the United States to a 3-2 win over the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals of the ice hockey world championship on Thursday while Canada beat Russia 5-4 in overtime.

Switzerland pulled off a surprise by eliminating Finland 3-2 and defending champion Sweden edged out Latvia 3-2.

Kane claimed the third-period winner to take the outright lead in the scoring table on 19 points, a U.S. record, with eight goals and 11 assists and set up a semifinal against Sweden on Saturday.

”It’s my job to produce,” Kane said. ”It’s always nice to contribute offensively.”

The U.S. is looking for its first medal since picking up bronze in 2015.

”We came here to put ourselves in a position to try to win the gold,” Kane said. “We’re on the right path.”

The U.S. took control with a couple of goals in the span of 1:43 midway through the first period in Herning.

Kane beat goaltender Pavel Francouz from the right circle before Nick Bonino fed Cam Atkinson in front of the net to stretch the lead with a backhand shot.

The Czechs hit back in the second period. Michal Repik reduced the advantage on a slap shot and Martin Necas netted the tying goal on a power play.

”It’s a pity,” Czech forward Tomas Plekanec said. ”We created enough chances to win.”

In Copenhagen, Ryan O'Reilly scored 4:57 into overtime to knock out Russia while captain Connor McDavid had three assists, including on the winning goal.

Hunting its third title in four years, Canada will face Switzerland in the semis.

”Canada are a great team, they always are,” defenseman Roman Josi said after his Switzerland team beat Finland for the first time since 1972.

Defenseman Colton Parayko blasted a slap shot past goaltender Igor Shestyorkin on a power play to give Canada a 1-0 lead in the first period before Ryan Nugent-Hopkins doubled the advantage on another power play.

But Alexander Barabanov and Ilya Mikheyev scored in the second period to tie the game.

Kyle Turris made it 3-2 to Canada in the third before Sergei Andronov leveled. Pierre-Luc Dubois put Canada ahead again but Russia answered with a goal from Artyom Anisimov.

Finland looked to be heading for victory after Markus Nutivaara‘s first-period goal, but Switzerland rallied with goals from Enzo Corvi, Joel Vermin and Gregory Hofmann in less than four minutes midway through the second.

”We didn’t start the way we wanted but we reacted in the second period and played very well from then on,” Josi said.

Mikko Rantanen cut the deficit to one goal in the third period.

”This wasn’t what we were looking for,” Finland captain Mikael Granlund said. ”They had the momentum in the second period and we were not able to turn it around.”

Sweden, which won all seven of its preliminary round games, beat Latvia thanks to goals from Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Teodors Blugers and Rudolfs Balcers replied.