PHT Morning Skate: Brad Marchand and the new breed of NHL pests

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from the NHL and around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit for the PHT Morning Skate? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Do you want details on what it’s like to cover a game at an empty NHL arena? As in, a how even your parking spot is different-level of detail? Jason Gregor has you covered in detailing his experience during an Oilers “road” game in Edmonton. [Oilers Nation]

• Speaking of minute details, what about pucks that end up making seat covers look worse during those empty-arena games? Why, you have to clean them up with … uh, pool skimmers, of course. [NHL.com]

• “We’re all pretty gross. We’re children.” Former MLB player Huston Street told ESPN as much in this pretty gross story about body fluids during games. It’s good stuff … just maybe read up on the snot rockets and whatnot after breakfast/brunch. [ESPN]

• Sure, these aren’t typical circumstances for assessing players, for an expansion draft or otherwise. But Seattle Kraken GM Ron Francis laid out what he’ll be scouting for during the NHL Return to Play nonetheless. [Seattle Times]

• Looking at Brad Marchand, Matthew Tkachuk, and other types of the new breed of pests. These pests don’t just annoy you with their antics; they also can aggravate you by beating you with their considerable skill. [Sports Illustrated]

William Nylander silenced at least some of his critics by authoring a strong 2019-20 season for the Maple Leafs. Of course, some will still have doubts until he delivers in the postseason. So, can Nylander pull that off? [The Hockey News]

• Here’s some good stuff on Vladimir Tarasenko getting back to speed as the Blues pick up the pace during the NHL Return to Play. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

• Can the Predators win their first Stanley Cup? To do so, they’ll have to answer a number of questions, including who they want to start in net. [A to Z Nashville]

• Considering how much better Ilya Samsonov was at times this season, it’s a bummer that he’s not an option behind (or in front of?) Braden Holtby. Credit the Capitals for lining up some other options, though, and it sounds like Vitek Vanecek earned the No. 2 gig over Pheonix Copley. [NBC Sports Washington]

• Back during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, it was pretty stunning to see the Flames fall apart against the Avalanche. Sean Monahan said “it’s still in my head all the time.” [Calgary Herald]

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 Morning Skate: Seattle Kraken blueprint; Peter Chiarelli, Coyotes GM?

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from the NHL and around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit for the PHT Morning Skate? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

NHL Bubble life, lineup notes

• “Safe and seamless” is the NHL’s goal in running the bubble. Judging by this detailed report from Nick Cotsonika, it sounds like the league is off to a strong start. [NHL.com]

• Could playing in the Toronto bubble actually benefit the mature, experienced Bruins? You could make that argument. [NBC Sports Boston]

• During a Monday Zoom call, Rod Brind’Amour covered a bunch of Hurricanes topics. While Dougie Hamilton was already covered, Brind’Amour also touched on distractions in the bubble, best-of-five series, and more. [Canes Country]

• As intriguing as it was, the Stars line of Tyler Seguin with Denis Gurianov and Roope Hintz didn’t last. Stars coach Rick Bowness explained that the group wasn’t getting Seguin the puck often enough. That … does honestly sound like a significant issue. [Dallas Morning News]

• The NHL released its full list of King Clancy Award finalists. They also shared the news via this handy graphic:

Peter Chiarelli, Coyotes GM? And other coaching/front office links

• Jack Han took another look at how “NHL 20” can be used as a teaching tool for hockey players. [The Hockey Tactics Newsletter]

• OK, so this article is back from May. Considering the lack of hockey since the pandemic pause, it seems timely enough after the Coyotes and John Chayka went through a bitter divorce. [J Fresh]

In case you wondered, “The Rock” is a huge human. P.K. Subban provided scale for that:

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Today, I became a man. 📹: @lindseyvonn

A post shared by P.K. Subban (@subbanator) on

• Whether you consider Chayka an “analytics GM” or not, his Coyotes run wasn’t particularly successful. Still, perhaps it could have been worse. Like, say, (gulp) having Peter Chiarelli as GM? Although, maybe Chiarelli would leave the Coyotes before he repeatedly trades away All-Star talent for mediocre returns? It all seems kind of unthinkable. [Oilers Nation]

• Travis Yost looks at how the Seattle Kraken can use the Vegas Golden Knights as a blueprint for NHL expansion success. Among the points Yost brings up is piling up assets. When you account for the potential headaches stemming from a flat salary cap, I wonder if the Kraken can exploit such opportunities even more than the Golden Knights? [TSN]

• For whatever reason, it sounds like the Golden Knights weren’t honest during the process of moving on from goalie coach Dave Prior. At least, that’s what Prior claims. [Sin Bin Vegas]

• Would you partake in the Canucks’ “penalty box patio?” [Canucks]

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.

Brent Seabrook won’t travel with Blackhawks; future and salary cap impact unclear

Brent Seabrook Blackhawks travel return to play salary cap LTIR
Getty Images

Brent Seabrook won’t travel with the Chicago Blackhawks during the next stage of the NHL’s Return to Play. It also seems unclear if Seabrook will suit up with the Blackhawks again.

Brent Seabrook won’t travel to Edmonton hub; Blackhawks won’t suffer much of a loss

Coming off of significant surgeries, Seabrook explained that he isn’t ready to return to play for the Blackhawks as the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers approach.

“I just don’t feel comfortable yet, just not as comfortable as I want to be,” Seabrook said, according to Scott Powers of the The Athletic.

As uncomfortable as this is to say, the Blackhawks aren’t losing much by missing Seabrook. The 35-year-old defenseman simply is far removed from his most productive days. Consider how lowly Seabrook ranks on this GAR Chart from Evolving Hockey, even relative to Blackhawks teammates who generally don’t score very well:

Brent Seabrook Chicago Blackhawks GAR Evolving Hockey
Brent Seabrook and Blackhawks GAR chart via Evolving Hockey

Of course, many realized that Seabrook began a pretty steep decline quite a while ago. You can see that in his historical isolated impact charts at Hockey Viz.

Brent Seabrook Chicago Blackhawks historical impact Hockey Viz
Brent Seabrook historical impact with Blackhawks via Hockey Viz

Seabrook began his career as a positive influence both on offense and defense. As the years went along, Seabrook’s defense slipped, but he was still able to contribute offensively for the Blackhawks. Then his play dropped off the map in both areas.

Seabrook admits he’s not sure about future

Then again, Seabrook might argue that he could at least make a bigger impact now that he’s healthier. If nothing else, it’s great to hear the veteran defenseman rave about an improved quality of life post-surgeries.

“Now I feel incredible,” Seabrook said, via NHL.com’s Tracey Myers. “Helping my kids tie their shoes has been nice. Tying my own shoes has been nice, getting out of bed, things like that.”

Despite that improved bill of health, these times leave Seabrook wondering about his Blackhawks future.

A trade or LTIR trip to buy salary cap breathing room?

For years, salary cap-interested people have wondered if the Blackhawks might wiggle out of Seabrook’s contract.

Even now, it’s staggering to look at it. Seabrook carries a jarring $6.875 million cap hit through 2023-24. Yikes. Over the years, it’s also been tough to tell if the Blackhawks had the option to trade Seabrook and his problem contract. After all, Seabrook negotiated for a no-movement clause. Could there have been trades shot down behind the scenes? Maybe ones barely discussed because of that NMC? For the most part, we can only speculate.

Yet, after hearing Seabrook wonder about his own future, it sounds like he’d be more likely to waive that clause. (Note: it turns into a modified no-trade clause starting in 2022-23, for whatever that’s worth.)

The tricky part is finding a trade partner. For one thing, would Seabrook be willing to go on LTIR? He stated that he believes he can still be an “impact player,” yet such a trip to LTIR wouldn’t be without credibility. Seabrook’s accrued plenty of bumps and bruises stemming from long Blackhawks playoff runs.

Sadly, Seabrook would likely be more compelling trade fodder if his $6.875M merely went to LTIR. His salary doesn’t dive as dramatically as some of the “loophole” contracts that prompted recapture penalties, but his cap hit will be larger than his actual salary going forward.

A rebuilding team might be willing to eat that salary cap headache, especially if the Blackhawks dangled Seabrook after paying off one of his larger signing bonuses.

With what’s still a pretty snug salary cap situation, the Blackhawks might be willing to bribe a rebuilding team to take Seabrook’s contract off of their hands. Looking forward, maybe it would be worth it to convince the Seattle Kraken to do so during the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft.

Either way, it’s fair to wonder about Seabrook’s future with the Blackhawks. But we at least know he won’t suit up against the Oilers during the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers during the NHL Return to Play.

More on Blackhawks, NHL Return to Play

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.

Seattle Kraken announced as NHL expansion team name; jersey design released

Seattle Kraken
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Introducing the Seattle Kraken, the expansion franchise that will push the NHL to 32 teams. The Seattle Kraken also shared their logo and team colors on Thursday.

Seattle Kraken is the name for NHL expansion team; Check out logo, jerseys

After COVID-19 prompted a delay or two, we now know that the Seattle NHL expansion team will be known as the Kraken.

Take a look at the three logos:

Seattle Kraken logo, color scheme
via the team

Early responses appear positive for this look at their sweaters:

Seattle Kraken jersey sweater uniform team name
via Seattle Kraken/adidas

If all goes to plan, the Seattle Kraken will debut during the 2021-22 NHL season. Logically enough, the Kraken will play in the Pacific Division. Meanwhile, the Arizona Coyotes will realign to the Central Division.

Climate Pledge Arena will serve as the home arena. (Yes, that’s the renovated and renamed Key Arena.)

With the salary cap expected to be flat (or close to flat), the Kraken figure to mop up at the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft. The NHL will use the same expansion draft rules as the Vegas Golden Knights did.

Naturally, this expansion club will face a significant challenge in trying to parallel the smash success of the Golden Knights. It would probably be wiser to temper expectations to somewhere between the instant success of the Golden Knights and the lengthy struggles of past NHL expansion teams.

(But, again, financial realities open up plenty of possible opportunities for this upcoming team. Their analytics-friendly perception only makes such hypothetical situations more fun to imagine.)

Hockey fans must feel a sweet release in learning the team name is the Kraken.

So, what do you think? Is there a different name that would make more sense to you?

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.

NHL Power Rankings: Teams hit hardest by flat $81.5M salary cap

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As focused as NHL teams are on the present with the ambitious return to play, the CBA extension introducing a flat salary cap for 2020-21 leaves GMs (and fans) with plenty to think about.

Sure, there are NHL teams who can take advantage of a flat salary cap. That’s a post for another day — maybe a future edition of PHT’s power rankings?

But, overall, there are plenty of NHL contenders and hopefuls who are sweating that flat salary cap far more than there are those ready to circle like vultures. At minimum, the flat NHL salary cap presents huge obstacles for 2020-21. The ripple effects of COVID-19 could affect multiple seasons, especially if the world continues to struggle to contain the coronavirus.

Let’s power rank the five NHL teams hit the hardest by the flat $81.5 million salary cap, then. While the larger future will be considered, these rankings weigh the offseason heading into 2020-21 most heavily.

Frankly, plenty of teams will sweat this situation, so the honorable mentions section is quite robust.

[At least there’s the NHL return-to-play schedule to look forward to.]

Power rankings: 5 NHL teams hit hardest by the flat salary cap

1. Tampa Bay Lightning

Even in an ideal, pandemic-free world, the Lightning would need to tighten their belts. This franchise is a lot like the dynasty-era Blackhawks when it comes to perennial cap crunches, only they sadly don’t have the jewelry to show for it. But with the NHL salary cap flat at $81.5M? That belt-tightening morphs into the potential for painful surgeries.

After all, with about $76M already devoted to 15 players (give or take), things would be snug. Then you factor in talented RFAs Anthony Cirelli and Mikhail Sergachev deserving significant raises, and … yikes. It’s the sort of thing that might make you want to jet ski out of town.

(Cirelli can’t wait tables forever.)

Infomercial voice: But that’s not all.

To make matters worse, Lightning GM Julien BriseBois faces potential hurdles in no-trade/no-movement clauses. Via Cap Friendly, supporting cast members such as Ondrej Palat, Yanni Gourde, Tyler Johnson, and Alex Killorn all own such clauses. So, it’s not just about who you’d want to move out (as painful as that already would be), but it’s also about who you could convince to leave.

Even by their frequently cap-challenged standards, the Lightning have their work cut out for them.

2. St. Louis Blues

The Lightning and Blues could really be a 1a/1b situation.

Much like Tampa Bay was expecting struggles even with a cap increase, the Blues likely knew that it would be difficult to keep Alex Pietrangelo. With about $79.45M devote to their roster, how could St. Louis afford a Norris-level defenseman like Pietrangelo? Heck, how can they make it work to keep underrated RFA blueliner Vince Dunn?

Also like the Lightning, it might come down to the Blues convincing players to waive clauses, or finding snug fits to places they’d accept.

Maybe the Blues could make it work by moving a combination of Alexander Steen, Jake Allen, and/or a more painful loss like Brayden Schenn or Jaden Schwartz. Or maybe the Blues lose Pietrangelo, still need to make an uncomfortable decision or two, and need to find a way to stay afloat?

Good thing they won at least one Stanley Cup, eh?

3. Arizona Coyotes

It’s OK if you’re doing a double-take at the Coyotes now. Aren’t they supposed to be a team barely making it to the floor? Weren’t they putting Chris Pronger and Pavel Datsyuk on their cap just to get there?

Well, over the years, the Coyotes have quietly been getting more and more expensive. They haven’t always got what they paid for, but this isn’t a wholly cheap team. (Although there’s still a Marian Hossa here or there on LTIR.)

Cap Friendly places Arizona’s cap allocation at almost $80M devoted to 17 players.

And that’s without Taylor Hall. Trading for Hall represented a statement that the Coyotes want to be taken seriously. Making him more than a rental would really cement that, but could Arizona really make that work — assuming Hall would return?

The Coyotes might deal with many of the same trade clause headaches as others (Phil Kessel, Jason Demers, Alex Goligoski, Carl Soderberg), although bribing someone to take on Derek Stepan‘s $6.5M could be key. It may not be easy to find an oasis in this salary cap desert.

4. Toronto Maple Leafs

The Maple Leafs are like a family trying to divvy up a pizza pie. You already had some hungry siblings who were going to leave little more than toppings and crust (see: expensive stars Auston Matthews, John Tavares, and Mitch Marner). Now concerned parent/GM Kyle Dubas must deal with being delivered a medium pizza instead of the extra large he was expecting before the flat NHL salary cap.

At least in this coming offseason, he doesn’t have too many overly important mouths to feed.

(Yes, that lengthy pizza parallel is my hunger staining this conversation like grease on a pizza box.)

The flat salary cap hurts the Maple Leafs hardest in trying to make more aggressive moves toward improving. Maybe they can stem the tide of losing flawed-but-featured defensemen Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci. But will they get better in hoping internal options like Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren can sink, not swim? That remains to be seen.

But Dubas would also probably be wise to get proactive, because the bill is coming soon for key players. If the Maple Leafs want to keep one or more of Frederik Andersen (contract runs through 2020-21) and Morgan Rielly (through 2021-22), it will probably mean making some painful trades during the offseason.

The long-term outlook for the Maple Leafs is bumpy. They’re placed slightly lower in these specific power rankings because other teams face even more immediate concerns, though.

5. New York Islanders

Unlike others on this list, the Islanders aren’t already almost bumping their heads on that flat NHL salary cap ceiling. That said, their almost cozy-looking space (Cap Friendly puts them at about $73.4M pledged to 19 players) could get claustrophobic quickly.

Most importantly, the Islanders need to reach a deal with pending RFA star Mathew Barzal. Back about 20 years ago (OK, March), Lou Lamoriello said that the Islanders would match an offer sheet for Barzal. That’s comforting for Islanders fans who may still smart from losing John Tavares, but that doesn’t mean Barzal will be cheap. Frankly, his talent and importance to the Islanders probably justify a salary far exceeding their cap space.

Even at a discount, the Islanders won’t have much space to retain another important player in RFA defenseman Ryan Pulock. They’ll probably need to find a way to move some shaky contracts (such as those of Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk), which is easier said than done, even for a master of the dark GM arts like Lamoriello.

Some teams below might technically face more immediate, in-your-face challenges. On the other hand, the uncomfortable thought for the Islanders is that they might face big bills with diminishing returns.

Quick thoughts on other teams likely to be hit hardest by flat NHL salary cap

You might believe that others deserve a mention, so feel free to chime in via the comments. A few quick hits before we go:

  • The Boston Bruins might rank as the biggest honorable mention. Even if you disagree, you’d likely admit that some pain may come. If they keep Torey Krug around, then Don Sweeney deserves a raise.
  • Then again, the Bruins aren’t alone in the honorable mentions. Much has been made of the Vancouver Canucks, who may feel enough of a squeeze to explain those Brock Boeser trade rumors, even if someone else ends up being the one standing at the end of flat NHL salary cap musical chairs.
  • The Washington Capitals face a conundrum with Braden Holtby, for sure. They also must try to figure out the future for Alex Ovechkin, whose lengthy contract wasn’t as lifetime as it seemed (it ends after 2020-21).
  • The Chicago Blackhawks are required to have cap issues. That’s simply the rule we must all abide by. In the latest iteration, it’s difficult to tell what might happen with their goaltending situation.
  • Again, this might be fodder for a future post, yet opportunistic rebuilding teams could feast if they’re creative. Why not take some short-term pain in the form of shaky contracts to earn long-term gains in future assets, particularly if you don’t expect your team to be very good anyway? A little further down the line, the flat/barely moving NHL salary cap could be a huge boon to the Seattle expansion team, too.

Who else will feel the crunch? Would you rank honorable mentions in the top five, or bump others out? Do tell.

MORE NHL POWER RANKINGS FROM PHT:

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.