Check PHT every day until June 30 for a new pending unrestricted free agent of the day. Today’s UFA of the Day is…
Canucks GM Jim Benning said yesterday that Matthias would probably test the market on July 1. The club doesn’t have the cap space to re-sign the 27-year-old forward, who came to Vancouver as part of the Roberto Luongo trade.
Matthias is coming off a quietly productive season. Following a slow start, he finished with a career-high 18 goals, and he did so in a bottom-six role with barely any time on the power play.
In fact, his 17 even-strength tallies ranked second on the Canucks, behind only Radim Vrbata’s 19.
“I would love to be back,” Matthias said in April, per the Vancouver Sun. “But, in the business side of things, you never know what could happen. It’s a salary cap world. I mean, if I go to July 1st, I’m going to do what’s best for myself. So we’ll see what happens.”
Matthias’s expiring contract came with a cap hit of $1.75 million. Safe to say he’ll be looking for a good-sized raise.
Matthias is listed as a center but spent much of 2014-15 on the wing. His most common linemates were center Brad Richardson and winger Zack Kassian.
CHICAGO — It’s hard to believe now, but in 2007, when John McDonough was named president of the Blackhawks, the franchise had devolved into an afterthought in the Windy City.
Monday at the United Center, right before Jonathan Toews hoisted the Stanley Cup for the third time in the last six years, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman proclaimed to the fans, “I’d say you have a dynasty.”
Funny what assembling a core of four future Hall of Famers — Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, and Marian Hossa — can do for a franchise’s fortunes.
Add secondary stars like Patrick Sharp, Brent Seabrook, and Niklas Hjalmarsson, get a good coach, a smart general manager, draft well, develop well, throw in a little luck, and the result is the first team worthy of the “dynasty” label in the salary-cap era.
“We’ve had to fight through some things, but it was worth every second of it,” said McDonough, speaking to reporters at center ice while the players and their young families celebrated around him.
“To see these guys mature into young adults, into grown men. Most of our guys when I started here were single. Now there’s babies all over the place.”
There will be those who question whether these Blackhawks are truly a dynasty. They haven’t won four straight Cups, like the Montreal Canadiens did from 1975-79, or the New York Islanders from 1980-83. They haven’t won five in seven years like the 1980s Oilers. Twice in the past six years Chicago has been eliminated in the first round.
When asked to weigh in on the dynasty debate, Kane replied, “I don’t know what that means. We’ve got three in six years. I know that’s pretty good.”
Similarly, general manager Stan Bowman deferred to others.
“I don’t think that’s really for me to say,” he said. “That’s really for other people to make those proclamations. All I know is that we’ve got an amazing group here, they’ve accomplished a lot together, and I’m really proud of the effort they’ve given year after year. It doesn’t always go your way, but they’ve accomplished quite a bit and we’re not finished.”
Bowman has another tough summer ahead. The Blackhawks won’t be back in their entirety next season. Some will be forced out due to the salary cap. That’s the “reality” of the situation, as Johnny Oduya put it. That reality is why the likes of Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, Brian Campbell, Dave Bolland, Troy Brouwer, and Antti Niemi are playing elsewhere now.
“I think we’re going to enjoy this one for a bit,” said Bowman. “I’ve been thinking of that stuff for a long time. It’s not like it’s going to surprise me. We’ll make it work. We’ve got a plan in place. That’s really for another day. Right now we’re pretty thrilled with this whole scene in here.”
A decade ago, the Blackhawks were playing games before a half-empty arena, an Original Six franchise ignored.
Monday, they kicked off one of the great sports celebrations in this city’s history.
For three of those players, they can thank all the losing they’ve done. The Panthers were able to draft Huberdeau with the third overall pick in 2011, Barkov second overall in 2013, and Ekblad first overall in 2014.
The Panthers also have the third overall pick from the 2010 draft in defenseman Erik Gudbranson. Even if the big, tough 23-year-old has yet to become a star, the club still considers him “one of the building blocks for our team.”
On top of all that, the Panthers have the 11th overall pick in the upcoming draft, of which they’ll be the hosts.
“We view this as one of the last pieces that we’re going to acquire at the draft that could really help us get to the next level sooner rather than later,” Panthers director of scouting Scott Luce told the Sun-Sentinel earlier this week.
“We’ve got a good young corps, so we feel that with this draft we can take that final step and add one more final piece to the core that will be our core for hopefully close to the next 10 years.”
In a lot of ways, the Panthers look like their state rivals from Tampa Bay did a few years ago. Remember that the Lightning were able to translate losing seasons into drafting Steven Stamkos with the first overall pick in 2008 and Victor Hedman second overall in 2009.
Obviously, there’s no guarantee the Panthers will have the same success as the Lightning, who’ve done a lot more to build a contender than just draft Stamkos and Hedman.
But Panthers fans have every right to believe a winning team is around the corner, even if most of the national focus on the franchise has been negative.
Quenneville thinks Hossa ‘could be’ the next Jagr or Selanne
In reality, I meant it as a compliment. Hossa is 36. He can’t play forever, because nobody can. It’s the same argument I’ve made when it comes to Zdeno Chara in Boston.
Some players are so important to their teams that when they get to a certain age, it’s only natural (for me at least) to question how much longer they’ve got as elite players.
Well, last night, Hossa showed that he’s still capable of an elite performance. Even if he did miss an open net, the oldest forward on his team played the most of any forward (23:56). He also finished with two assists, including a perfect pass to set up Brandon Saad on a one-timer for the Blackhawks’ second goal.
So, given how he played, and given what I’d written, I asked coach Joel Quenneville today if he thought Hossa could be the next Jaromir Jagr or Teemu Selanne, the rare forward that can play at a high level into his late 30s, or even into his 40s.
“He could be,” said Quenneville. “He loves the game. He does a nice job of taking care of himself, preparing so he can go into games and be great, do the best he can each and every night.
“He had the puck a lot last night. Had an outstanding chance early. Stayed with it. I thought that line was dangerous at times. He was very effective last night.”
For the record, I stand by my argument. Hossa proved last night that he remains a very good player. However, he also remains human. Among active players, only Jagr (202) has appeared in more playoff games than he has (191).
Hossa fans should take it as a compliment when people wonder how long he’s got left as a great player. It means his importance has been appreciated.