Patrick Maroon

Perry, Spezza, and other NHL free agent forwards with uncertain futures

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When Corey Perry told the Dallas Stars website that “I know there’s more hockey left in me,” Perry was discussing being ready for play to resume. But what about next season, and possibly beyond?

Perry falls into a category of upcoming NHL free agents with uncertain futures. The reasoning is simple: they may or may not get to make the call about retirement. A lack of interest might simply force them to hang up their skates.

Let’s take a look at Perry and some of the most interesting cases of borderline players. To be clear, players most likely to decide for themselves (example: Joe Thornton) are fodder for different posts. This list also skates past players with expiring contracts who already essentially retired, such as David Clarkson and Johan Franzen.

When in doubt, I’ve also focused on NHL free agent forwards who are 30 or older.

This list focuses on forwards. Later this week, we’ll also tackle defensemen and goalies.

Perry and other forwards with uncertain free agent futures in the NHL

Corey Perry

The lasting image of Perry’s first (and possibly last) Stars season was his “walk of shame” after getting ejected during the 2020 Winter Classic.

Perry’s season got off to the wrong foot in a literal way, as he broke it before his first game in a Stars uniform. He never really got any traction from there, managing just five goals and 21 points over 57 games.

Perry’s possession stats were mediocre, and they’ve honestly been that way for a while. The difference is that his offense plummeted, with the drop-off being especially sharp these past two seasons. Combine that decline in offense with Perry being a 35+ contract, and there are a lot of hurdles.

But all it really takes is one team to consider him a low-risk option, much like the Stars did in 2019-20. It’s not that outrageous to give Perry a mulligan. If you want a nasty veteran with some scoring touch, you could talk yourself into a cheap, one-year deal for Perry.

While Perry’s production has been putrid lately, he generated 49 points in 2017-18, and 53 in 2016-17. Perry also suffered bad puck luck (6.5 shooting percentage) in 2019-20, so there’s another way teams can talk themselves into signing the 2011 Hart Trophy winner.

Jason Spezza

Once you accept that Spezza is no longer going to push 90 points, it’s pretty easy to embrace investing in the 36-year-old. No, 25 points in 58 games isn’t spectacular, but managing that many with an ice time of just 10:50 TOI per night is impressive.

Check Spezza’s historical isolated impact at Hockey Viz and you’ll notice that, as his offense has declined, Spezza’s become a responsible defensive presence.

Spezza viz, Perry and other NHL free agents
via Hockey Viz/Micah Blake McCurdy

Spezza also mostly took Mike Babcock’s Babcockery in stride, which should count for something. Spezza is a low-risk no-brainer.

Carl Soderberg

Carl Soderberg’s a little older than I realized, as he’ll turn 35 on Oct. 12. Some of his underlying stats are pretty underwhelming, so I wonder if his place in the league may involve ranking lower in the pecking order than he has with Arizona and Colorado in recent seasons?

Ryan Reaves

Honestly, Ryan Reaves seems like the type of player I’d expect to be teetering out of the league at 33. Teams want a menacing presence who can play a bit, though, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him continue to get pretty lucrative deals. And, really, Reaves checks out reasonably well in this RAPM comparison with Spezza at Evolving Hockey, too:

Reaves vs. Spezza, Perry and other NHL free agents
via Evolving Hockey

Other forwards

  • I assume Martin Hanzal will retire, being that he last played in 2018-19, and in just seven games. Then again, he’s merely 33, so maybe he’d give it another shot? Large, defensive-minded centers don’t grow on trees. At least, I have never been to such forest, and would prefer to get that image out of my head now, thank you.
  • Trevor Lewis is one of those supporting cast members from a championship team who garners a somewhat baffling level of loyalty. (See: many, many Detroit Red Wings.) It’s not that Lewis, 33, is terrible. It’s just that I’m not sure how much he moves the needle. His ice time plummeted by more than two minutes (14:01 to 11:54), too, so that’s not a great sign for Lewis.
  • NHL teams sure do love 35-year-old Nate Thompson. The Flyers gave up a fifth-rounder for him during the past trade deadline, and Montreal coughed up two picks for Thompson the year before. All for REASONS! So maybe “Nate Boucher” will remain in some demand?
  • I’m not certain about Patrick Maroon‘s health, but … can the guy catch a break? It would be sad if the 32-year-old spent another offseason twisting in the wind.
  • There’s a subcategory of “I’m surprised that person played so many games in the NHL this season.” Two of the biggest were Troy Brouwer (34, 13 games) and Chris Stewart (32, 16 games, first season in NHL since 2017-18). I’d say that they probably won’t land on teams in 2020-21 but … I’ve already been wrong about NHL free agent forwards before, and likely will be again.

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.

What is the Lightning’s long-term outlook?

Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning
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With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the long-term outlook for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Pending Free Agents

The Core

The Lightning have been favorites to win the Stanley Cup for the past few seasons due to their cornerstone pieces at every level. Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov lead the forward group and are the top two point scorers on the Bolts roster through the first 70 games. Victor Hedman is the most prominent name on a well-balanced blueline and Andrei Vasilevskiy was in the discussion for the Vezina Trophy.

In addition to the stellar building blocks, the Lightning also have secondary offensive firepower. Brayden Point is close to becoming a foundational player, if he is not there already. Alex Killorn was closing in on a 30-goal season, Anthony Cirelli, Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Yanni Gourde and others contribute in a meaningful way.

Tampa Bay also hasn’t seen the true impact of trade deadline acquisitions of Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman.

The Lightning have all the pieces needed to accomplish their goal of winning a championship but remain in limbo until society solves the COVID-19 pandemic.

Long-Term Needs

The wish list in Tampa Bay is quite short. The organization has accomplished a lot in recent years but still needs to get over the final hump and win a Stanley Cup. Ultimately, the Lightning’s regular season performance had little impact on the judgment of this team as long as they reached the postseason.

The long-term needs for the franchise are essentially the same as other teams that have a core in place and compete for a championship year in and year out. Find value in the NHL Draft process and continue to produce prospects that can contribute in one way or another to the varsity team. General manager Julien BriseBois also needs to manage the salary cap effectively and not fall into the trap of paying for past performances but rather remain focused on the future.

Long-Term Strengths

The best asset of the organization is their current core group of players. Hedman, Kucherov, Stamkos and Vasilevskiy are all locked up for the next several seasons. Point’s contract does not expire until the end of the 2021-22 season and is close to becoming an integral part of the team, if not already.

If the NHL season does not return, the Lightning will be one of the more fascinating teams to watch this upcoming offseason. Will they blow it up as if they didn’t achieve their goal? Does Jon Cooper remain coach? Or, do they take another shot at a championship next season and reevaluate at that time?

The pause in action created a murky situation for the future of several NHL teams and the Lightning are near the top of that list.

MORE ON THE LIGHTNING
• Looking at the 2019-20 Tampa Bay Lightning
• Lightning biggest surprises and disappointments so far


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

Lightning ground Flyers to push winning streak to 10

Lightning winning streak at 10 Vasilevskiy shutout
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The Tampa Bay Lightning keep making it clear: they’re back. During much of what is now a 10-game winning streak, the Lightning blared that message with lopsided beatdowns. In Saturday’s case, it was more of a suffocating affair, as the Lightning clogged things up to shut out the Philadelphia Flyers 1-0.

Lightning show versatility in pushing winning streak to 10 games

Remember when Andrei Vasilevskiy wasn’t exactly looking like a goalie worthy of an eight-year, $76 million extension? Well, Vasi is looking like 9.5 million bucks (per year) lately, as he’s now authored consecutive shutouts for a streak of 145:55. The Bolts are showing that they can win in different ways, with recent victories revolving around strong goaltending and stingy defense.

The Lightning also tied their franchise record with this 10-game winning streak.

And, hey, when you win this many games, you probably get a few bounces here or there. Patrick Maroon took advantage of such a bounce for Saturday’s only goal:

Unfortunately, Maroon’s other big bounce involved a scary bump into the boards:

The Flyers deserve credit for carving out such a close game against the Lightning, particularly with injury losses mounting. After all, Tampa Bay trounced its last three opponents by an intimidating combined score of 16-3.

Upcoming threats to Lightning streak

So, what are the most likely end points for the Lightning’s run?

“Any night” ranks as the fairest response in the parity-packed NHL, but let’s put that aside for a moment. Looking at the Lightning’s schedule, they play seven of their next eight games on the road. That stretch includes Sunday’s game in New Jersey where both the Bolts and the Devils close off back-to-back sets. Pondering it on-paper, some of the toughest matchups include a Jan. 16 date at the Wild, and a Jan. 27 road game against the almost-as-hot Stars.

(Again, though, the Devils could easily end it on Sunday … because hockey.)

Lindblom receives a warm welcome

Flyers fans gave Oskar Lindblom a standing ovation in one of the best moments of the night:

Lindblom brought some “sunshine” to a recent Flyers practice, too. Alain Vigneault beamed about the visit, which you can learn more about at NBC Sports Philadelphia.

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.

PHT Decade in Review: Most significant goals in hockey

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As 2019 comes to a close, we’re taking a look back at the past decade. We’ll remember the best players and teams, most significant goals, and biggest transactions that have happened since 2010. Let us know your memories in the comments.

What does everybody want? Goals! What does everybody need? Goals! What does everybody love? Goals!

From Jan. 1, 2010 through Dec. 23, 2019 there were 65,439 regular season goals scored in the NHL. The Penguins (2,425) had the most, while the Devils (1,892) had the fewest if you’re counting teams that played the entire decade (Vegas has 633 total).

While there have been tons of beautiful goals scored at various levels of hockey around the world, we wanted to hone in on the ones that meant the most. Not the prettiest, but the biggest, most significant goals of the last 10 years. Some won championships, others were the final part of a drama.

There’s lots to get to, so let’s begin.

John Carlson’s golden goal (2010 World Junior Championship)

Five days after Canada won 5-4 following a shootout in the preliminary round, the Americans got their revenge. Carlson’s overtime goal helped the U.S. win their first gold medal since 2004 and snapped Canada’s streak of six straight golds. It also began a decade of growth on the junior level for the program. U.S. teams at the World Juniors have won three gold medals since 2010 and seven medals in the last 10 tournaments.

Iggy! (2010 Winter Olympics)

Zach Parise gave the U.S. hope when he tied the game with 25 seconds left in the third period. But it was Crosby who delivered Canada gold as he called for the pass from Jarome Iginla and slid the puck by Ryan Miller for the country’s second gold medal in three Olympic Games. 

How much did the goal resonate? Crosby’s stick, gloves, the puck, and the net used in the game at GM Place were put on display at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

Patrick Kane‘s disappearing shot (2010 Stanley Cup Final)

At first only three people inside Wachovia Center — Kane, Patrick Sharp and Nick Boynton — knew the location of the puck. The rest of their Blackhawks teammates, the Flyers, including goaltender Michael Leighton, and the closest official had no idea, until upon closer inspection it was discovered a goal had been scored and the Blackhawks were Stanley Cup champions.

Alex Burrows slays the dragon (2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs)

The Canucks had their Stanley Cup dreams ended in Round 2 two consecutive playoffs at the hands of the Blackhawks. Both the 2009 and 2010 series ended in six games, but the third time would be the charm for Vancouver and Burrows would be the hero. Chris Campoli’s clearance was blocked by Burrows, who then fled into the Chicago zone and fired a rocket by Antti Niemi, earning himself the “dragon slayer” nickname.

Bergeron completes the comeback vs. Maple Leafs (2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs)

The Maple Leafs were looking good up 4-1 midway through the third period of Game 7 against the Bruins and eyeing their first playoff series win in nine years. But then it all fell apart. Nathan Horton cut the lead to 4-2 with 10:42 to go and a wild final two minutes in the third period ended with Milan Lucic and Patrice Bergeron scoring 31 seconds apart to force overtime.

In the extra period it was Bergeron again completing the dramatic comeback to send the Maple Leafs home and the Bruins on a path to the Stanley Cup Final.

Gone in 17 seconds (2013 Stanley Cup Final)

A few weeks after their series win over the Maple Leafs, the Bruins were on the other end of a dramatic comeback, one that would end their season. Boston held a 2-1 lead late in Game 6, hoping to hang on and force a Game 7 in Chicago. With the Blackhawks’ net empty, it was Brian Bickell tying the game with 1:16 to play. As many were preparing to see overtime, Bolland had other ideas as 17 seconds later he pounced on a rebound in front to send the Blackhawks to a second Cup win in four years.

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The T.J. Oshie Show (2014 Winter Olympics)

There was no medal on the line. The only meaning to the game was that the winner avoided the qualification round. A shootout was needed and the U.S. turned to T.J. Oshie, who scored on four of his six attempts to help the Americans beat Russia 3-2.

The game took place in the early hours of a Saturday morning in the U.S., and the reactions from around the country of fans who gathered in local bars to watch showed the impact of the victory. (It also provided us with this amazing photo.)

Poulin shatters American dreams again (2014 Winter Olympics)

The U.S. should have claimed gold. Up 2-1 with under two minutes to play, Kelli Stack’s shot toward an empty net clanked off the post and gave Canada life. Thirty-one seconds later Marie-Philip Poulin broke the Americans’ hearts for the first time that day, tying the game with 54.6 seconds left. She did it again in overtime to continue Canada’s gold medal run at the Olympics.

This wasn’t the first time Philip-Poulin shattered American dreams. Four years earlier she scored both goals to lead her country to gold over the U.S. at the Vancouver Games.

Martinez the Cup winning King (2014 Stanley Cup Final)

One overtime wasn’t enough for the Kings and Rangers, who settled the 2014 Cup Final with a second extra period. With the Kings leading the series 3-1, the fans inside Staples Center were chanting We Want the Cup! and Martinez, who scored the overtime winner in Game 7 of the Western Conference Final, delivered leading a rush into the Rangers’ zone and burying a feed from Tyler Toffoli to help franchise capture its first championship.

Islanders finally advance to Round 2 (2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs)

The eighth time was the charm. Since the spring of 1993 when David Volek shattered Pittsburgh’s three-peat dreams and the Islanders reached the conference final, the franchise could not find a way out of the first round of the playoffs. But a second consecutive 100-point season was boosted by captain Tavares’ double overtime wraparound to get the monkey off their backs.

Kunitz keeps Penguins’ back-to-back dreams alive (2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs)

It was a goal that sent two franchises in two different directions. Kunitz’s goal sent the Penguins to the Cup Final that season, which they could win in six games over the Predators to give the NHL back-to-back champs for the first time in two decades. The goal also ended a memorable run by the Senators, who topped the Bruins and Rangers to reach the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since 2007. Since that night, Ottawa has failed to make the playoffs, failed to reach 67 points and win more than 28 games in a season. They also said goodbye to players like Mark Stone, Erik Karlsson, Kyle Turris, Mike Hoffman, Ryan Dzingel, and Derick Brassard, among others.

Oops, I did it again (2018 Winter Olympics)

Her sister, Monique Lamoureux-Morando, forced overtime, so to keep it a family affair, Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson helped the U.S. women earn their first Olympic gold medal since 1998 with the shootout winner. The move was six years in the making and ended Canada’s streak of four straight Olympic golds.

Kuznetsov’s winner exorcises demons (2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs)

It seemed like the Capitals were never going to win the Stanley Cup unless they beat the Penguins. They hadn’t topped their old rivals in seven straight playoff series dating back to 1994, but this one felt different. The back-and-forth series finally came to an end when Evgeny Kuznetsov slipped the puck five-hole on Matt Murray, sending Washington on a path that would end with its first championship.

The game had it all (2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs)

After blowing a 3-1 series lead the Golden Knights were up 3-1 on the Sharks in Game 7 and things were looking good. But then Cody Eakin cross-checked Joe Pavelski, who fell awkwardly and hit his head on the ice, causing the game to stop for several minutes. Eakin was given a major penalty and game misconduct, opening the door for the San Jose power play to score four times in four minutes to completely alter the game. In overtime, Barclay Goodrow made the SAP Center roof fly off with the winning goal to send the Sharks to Round 2.

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Maroon’s goal cues Play Gloria! (2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs)

It was fitting that the St. Louisan returns home on a one-year deal and scores one of the biggest goals of the season. Round 2, Game 7 against the Dallas Stars and it was Maroon who played hero inside Enterprise Center. The goal set off wild celebrations on the ice and and in the bowels of the arena as the Laura Branigan song Gloria played over and over. Thirty-six days later the Blues would win their first Cup to kick off a summer of partying.

MORE PHT DECADE IN REVIEW FUN:
• Top NHL players in fantasy hockey
• Best players of the decade
• Favorite goals, best/worst jerseys
Best NHL teams of the decade
Biggest NHL trades

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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.

Rangers win on rough night for Lightning

For a while, it looked like the Tampa Bay Lightning would author the dreaded “costly win,” as they managed a 1-0 first period lead while seeing Victor Hedman and Patrick Maroon leave the game (and not return) with early injuries.

The New York Rangers were determined to make it a costly loss, instead, beating the Lightning with an impressive 4-1 effort.

Here are some takeaways from a hard-working win by this young Rangers team.

The costly part

After seeing a historic regular season be left in smoldering ruins thanks to a first-round sweep by the Blue Jackets, Lightning coach Jon Cooper wondered if the team wasn’t ready for adversity. Maybe this is a “be careful what you wish for” situation.

Again, Hedman and Maroon were injured on Tuesday. It’s unclear how Hedman got hurt (other than it’s a lower-body issue), while Maroon was injured after fighting with one of the NHL’s last remaining enforcers, Micheal Haley.

The Bolts were already a little banged up to begin with, as Anthony Cirelli missed the game, and Brayden Point was a game-time decision. The Lightning have to hope that Hedman’s new issue is a minor one, as they struggled mightily without him late in 2018-19, including that playoff plummet.

Of course, things weren’t perfect for the Rangers, as they won without star center Mika Zibanejad.

A nice all-around effort by New York

The only goal the Rangers allowed was partially due to the Lightning managing a very long stretch in the attacking zone, and partially based on a bad line change.

But aside from that, they managed to play a strong all-around game, bouncing back from a humbling 7-4 loss against the Bruins. Via Natural Stat Trick, the Rangers generated 11 high-danger chances at 5-on-5 while only allowing five by the Lightning.

It must be heartening that both Kaapo Kakko and Adam Fox scored goals on Tuesday. The kids will have their growing pains, but they could be alright.

Also: Ryan Strome now has a three-game multi-point streak after scoring a goal and an assist, and his overall point streak is at five games (three goals, five assists for eight points).

Great goaltending

This was a low-scoring affair until the Rangers really started to break through, in part because of sharp goaltending.

Alexandar Georgiev grabbed the win, stopping 29 out of 30 shots. Andrei Vasilevskiy couldn’t grab the W, yet he was strong, making 38 out of 41 saves.

The Rangers face an uphill battle at 4-5-1, but nights like Tuesday strengthen the argument that they’re making some strides in the right direction. Now at 5-4-2, it’s clear that the Lightning have almost as much ground to cover.

MORE:
• Pro Hockey Talk’s Stanley Cup picks.
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.