PHT Power Rankings: NHL’s most impactful offseason additions so far

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In this week’s PHT Power Rankings we take a look at how your team’s biggest offseason acquisition has performed through the first quarter of the season.

Who has been an impact player? Who has exceeded expectations? Who has failed to meet expectations?

This is by no means a final grade or a definitive statement on the move itself; it is more of an initial progress report to see what the early returns are. Things can still change the rest of this season and in future seasons.

We also tried to limit this to the *big* signings/trades. Players that were involved in bigger, multi-player trades and free agents that were signed to multi-year, long-term contracts since those are the moves that carry the most risk for teams.

So let us get to the rankings.

The impact additions

1. Jeff Skinner, Buffalo Sabres — The Sabres desperately needed a player like Skinner, and they didn’t really have to give up a ton to get him. He has given Jack Eichel a legitimate front-line running mate on his wing, while Eichel has given him an All-Star playmaking center. Neither player has ever had a linemate like the other in their careers, and the early results have been stellar for a Sabres team that is starting to look … kind of good.

2. John Tavares, Toronto Maple Leafs — When you sign a seven-year, $77 million contract to join the Toronto Maple Leafs and be what they hope is the missing piece for a championship team, there is going to be a ton of pressure to go with sky-high expectations. So far, Tavares has been just what the Maple Leafs hoped he would be. Entering play on Monday he is better than a point-per-game player and has given them the luxury of still having a No. 1 center even while Auston Matthews is sidelined.

[Related: Tavares living up to hype with Matthews out]

3. Ryan O'Reilly, St. Louis Blues — A shutdown center that is, as of Monday, on a 104-point pace this season offensively. Will he maintain that pace over 82 games? No way, but he has still been the Blues’ best player this season by a mile. They gave up a lot of assets to get him, but it was a definite quantity over quality trade. It is not his fault the team has failed to meet expectations.

Better than expected so far … will it last?

4-5. Max Domi and Tomas Tatar, Montreal Canadiens — I admit it, I thought the Canadiens’ offseason was a disaster and was going to be another step backwards for the organization. Maybe in time it will still play out that way. So far, though, everything general manager Marc Bergevin touched over the summer has somehow turned to gold. A lot of Domi’s early success is tied to a 24 percent shooting percentage that is going to come down, but he has at least rebounded from back-to-back down years in Arizona.

Speaking of rebounds, Tomas Tatar is showing that he is still a really good player and that his post-trade deadline struggles with the Vegas Golden Knights were a fluke. Do not expect him to maintain this current scoring pace, but he is a proven 20-25 goal scorer in the NHL and should once again be at that level this season, even if his production regresses a bit the rest of the way.

6. Mike Hoffman, Florida Panthers — His production has been remarkably consistent through the first quarter of the season with a 15-game point streak entering the week. He has not had a truly dominant game (two points is his season high) but entering Monday he has had at least one point in all but two games this season (the first two games of the season).

[Related: Can Max Domi continue current pace?]

7. Elias Lindholm, Calgary Flames — During his time in Carolina Lindholm was a top-five pick that was just simply good, but nothing really special. His career high in goals? 17. His career high in points? 45. Certainly not a bust, but also not really an impact player. Through his first 20 games in Calgary he has erupted offensively and is a point-per-game performer and on pace to shatter all of his previous career highs. On one hand, he is still only 23 years old and should be, in theory, entering his peak years in the NHL. On the other hand, that 21.6 shooting percentage is set for a big fall in the second half.

8. Jaroslav Halak, Boston Bruins — I still think if the Bruins are going to win the Stanley Cup — or at least seriously compete for it — they are going to have Tuukka Rask in net for it. Right now, though, Halak has been the best goalie in Boston and has been a huge surprise with a .935 save percentage and a 7-2-2 record entering play on Monday. After a disastrous season with the Islanders in 2017-18, and in his age 33 season, this is a pretty stunning performance.

Not quite what we expected (yet), but still pretty good

9. Erik Karlsson, San Jose Sharks — The offensive production has not been what we have come to expect from Karlsson, but that does not mean he has been bad. When he is on the ice the Sharks are controlling more than 59 percent of the total shot attempts and more than 55 percent of the scoring chances that take place. Those are dominant numbers. The offense will eventually come and like many of the players on the Sharks at the moment he is getting crushed by lackluster goaltending. I would be willing to wager that by the end of the season he would be near the top of such a ranking.

10. Dougie Hamilton, Carolina Hurricanes — Pretty much the same story as Karlsson. Probably been a lot better than his traditional box score numbers would indicate and getting hurt by bad goaltending.

11. Ilya Kovalchuk, Los Angeles Kings — He has shown flashes of still being able to be a dominant top-line player, and also flashes of being a 35-year-old that had not played in the NHL in more than five years. He alone was never going to be enough to fix what ailed this team, but he is still on pace for 20 goals and 60 points this season. That pretty much makes him an offensive powerhouse in relation to the rest of the players in Los Angeles.

What should have been expected

12-13. Michael Grabner and Alex Galchenyuk, Arizona Coyotes — They have been nice additions for a Coyotes team that should be able to threaten for a playoff spot in a weak Pacific Division. Galchenyuk missed some time at the start of the year but now that he is healthy is on track for another season around 20 goals and 50 points, while Grabner has been a tremendous addition to the team’s lethal penalty kill unit that has helped drive their early start.

14. Carter Hutton, Buffalo Sabres — He was never going to repeat his performance from a year ago when he finished with the league’s best save percentage. While it would have been great for the Sabres if he somehow managed that, they mainly just needed him to be competent and give them a chance to win on most nights. He has done that.

[Related: The Sabres are good]

14-15. David PerronTyler Bozak, St. Louis Blues — The Blues needed scoring depth and spent big money this summer to try and find it. O’Reilly has played at an All-Star level, while their two big free agent acquisitions — Perron and Bozak — are producing at about the level you would expect David Perron and Tyler Bozak to perform at. Are they game-changers? No. But if the Blues’ goaltending situation was not the total dumpster fire it has been so far the team would would probably have a few more wins and all of their offseason additions would look a lot better.

The disappointments

16. Max Pacioretty, Vegas Golden Knights —  Pacioretty has simply not produced the way anyone expected him to. He had a down year in Montreal in 2017-18, and so far this season has seen his production fall off even more. It has to be even more frustrating at the moment for Vegas when you look at Tomas Tatar — traded for Pacioretty, along with top prospect Nick Suzuki — scoring for the Canadiens the way Vegas hoped he would score for them when they gave up a boatload of draft picks for him at the trade deadline.

17. James Neal, Calgary Flames — Just a total non-factor in every area for the Flames so far. Hopefully for the Flames it is just a poorly time slump at the start of a new contract because they are paying too much money over too many years for this level of production.

18. Jack Johnson, Pittsburgh Penguins — This was a questionable signing — at best — from the very beginning, and so far the results are everything critics of the deal thought they would be. Not good.

Jury is still out/Incomplete

James van Riemsdyk, Philadelphia FLyers — He has only played in four games this season due to injury, but he looked really good in those games and seemed to be just what they needed to improve their scoring depth. When healthy he has been one of the top goal scorers in the league for a couple of years now, and he probably still has a couple years of that remaining when he is healthy. He just has not been healthy for the Flyers yet.

Paul Stastny, Vegas Golden Knights — Along with Pacioretty he was supposed to help give the Golden Knights a second dominant scoring line to go along with their top line of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, and Reilly Smith. Pacioretty has struggled mightily so far and Stastny has appeared in just three games due to injury. He also does not appear to be close to returning. Too soon to call him (or Pacioretty, for that matter) a total bust, but the early results are not what Vegas was hoping for. Both due to bad luck (Stastny’s injury) and just all-around disappointing play (Pacioretty).

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

Wednesday Night Hockey: Golden Knights look to get back on track vs. Ducks

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Wednesday night’s matchup between the Anaheim Ducks and Vegas Golden Knights at 10:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

No team has been as consistently inconsistent as the Ducks. They’ve gone through some positive stretches, but they’ve also had to endure a seven-game losing skid already.

Like Vegas, the Ducks have also been hit hard by the injury bug. Ondrej Kase, who returned to the lineup on Monday, missed the first 18 games of the season, Corey Perry and Patrick Eaves have also missed a significant amount of time, and they also started the season without Ryan Kesler. They also lost Cam Fowler in the third period of Monday’s win against Nashville (he’s day-to-day).

The fact that they’re tied for a Wild Card spot (Colorado has two games in hand) is pretty impressive when you consider they had a long losing streak and they’ve been without key figures all season. So, how have they been able to keep their season on the rails? Simple, it’s because of John Gibson.

The 25-year-old has been extraordinary between the pipes for Anaheim. His 6-6-3 record and his 2.47 goals-against-average don’t do him justice, but his .931 save percentage shows just how efficient he’s been.

A win over the Golden Knights would allow the Ducks to string together back-to-back victories for the first time Oct. 14 and Oct. 17.

“It’s definitely a step in the right direction, and hopefully something we can build off.” Gibson said after Monday’s shootout win over Nashville. “…It seems like we’ve been able to win one here and there, but not go on a run. Hopefully we can start stringing some together, take this as a stepping stone and build from it.”

What a difference a year makes for Vegas. At this time last year, the Golden Knights were the talk of the NHL because of how dominant they were. But as of right now, they’re closer to the bottom of the Pacific Division than they are the top.

Vegas has accumulated just 15 points in 18 games, which means only the Los Angeles Kings (11) are below them in the conference standings. Some of the magic seems to have worn off from last season, but it’s also important to note that they’ve dealt with some key absences. Paul Stastny (injured), Nate Schmidt (suspended), and now Erik Haula (injured) won’t be available for this game. The good news, is that Schmidt only has two games left to serve.

“You look at how our team is playing and what we did last year, playing fast was our No. 1 thing,” Schmidt said. “I think that’s something that we haven’t done as well lately. I really think that’s what it comes down to. When you’re playing fast, you have effort, you have guys buying in, you have discipline and you have all those other things. It is the underlying factor right now. If we get back to playing fast, the other things will take care of themselves.”

Max Pacioretty, who was the team’s biggest off-season acquisition, has gotten off to a rocky start. The 29-year-old has just two goals and no assists in his first 14 games as a Golden Knight. That’s not what they expected when they gave up Tomas Tatar, top prospect Nick Suzuki, and a second-round draft pick for him right before training camp. Something has to give with Pacioretty at some point.

Pre-game coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET with a special on-site edition of NHL Live outside of T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, hosted by Kathryn Tappen alongside analysts Jeremy Roenick and Keith Jones, and NHL insider Darren Dreger. John Forslund (play-by-play), Pierre McGuire (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) and Roenick (reporter) will call Ducks-Golden Knights from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

WATCH LIVE: Golden Knights visit Predators on NBCSN

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NBC’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Tuesday night’s matchup between the Vegas Golden Knights and the Nashville Predators at 8 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports App by clicking here.

Vegas started slowly out of the gate losing four of their first five games, but seem to have righted the ship by going 4-1-1 in their last six games. Including this game in Nashville, six of their next seven games are on the road where they are 2-3-0 this season.

Meanwhile, the Predators won seven of their first eight games to start the season, but have now dropped two of their last three. Their rough patch could continue into November, as Nashville has a difficult upcoming schedule, including a west coast road trip

Reigning Vezina Trophy winner Pekka Rinne has missed the last four games with an undisclosed injury. He has been practicing with the team, but has yet to be activated off IR. Rinne, who will turn 36 on Saturday, left in a win over Calgary on Oct. 19 shortly after colliding with Kevin Fiala. Predators GM David Poile said the netminder is close to returning. Juuse Saros will start on Tuesday.

The Golden Knights will start Malcolm Subban in net, which will make for a nice sub-plot as he faces off against his brother, P.K.

[WATCH LIVE – 8 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Vegas Golden Knights at Nashville Predators
Where: Bridgestone Arena
When: Tuesday, October 30th, 8 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Golden Knights-Predators stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

GOLDEN KNIGHTS
Jonathan MarchessaultWilliam KarlssonReilly Smith
Tomas HykaErik HaulaAlex Tuch
Ryan CarpenterCody EakinTomas Nosek
William CarrierPierre-Edouard BellemareRyan Reaves

Brayden McNabbColin Miller
Shea TheodoreDeryk Engelland
Jon MerrillNick Holden

Starting goalie: Malcolm Subban

PREDATORS
Filip ForsbergRyan JohansenViktor Arvidsson
Calle JarnkrokKyle TurrisCraig Smith
Ryan Hartman – Nick Bonino – Kevin Fiala
Miikka Salomaki / Frederick GaudreauColton SissonsZac Rinaldo / Rocco Grimaldi

Roman JosiRyan Ellis
Mattias EkholmP.K. Subban
Matt IrwinYannick Weber

Starting goalie: Juuse Saros

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

NHL on NBCSN: Golden Knights, Predators meet in Smashville

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NBC’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Tuesday night’s matchup between the Vegas Golden Knights and the Nashville Predators at 7 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports App by clicking here.

After practicing for the second time with his teammates since going on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury, Pekka Rinne “feels good” and could be back between the pipes for the Nashville Predators soon. For now, it remain Juuse Saros’ net.

The 23-year-old Saros has helped the Predators to three wins in five games since Rinne went out, including the relief effort he put in — stopping all nine shots he faced — when the injury occurred in Calgary.

It’s going to be fascinating how the goaltending situation develops in Nashville. You have Rinne, who turns 36 on Saturday, coming off a Vezina Trophy winning season and off to a strong start in 2018-19 (.949 even strength save percentage), in the final year of his contract. Meanwhile, general manager David Poile recognized the value in what Saros brings, plus the 12-year age difference between his goaltenders, and handed Saros a three-year extension in July.

The Predators’ cap situation is a tight one, so it’ll be interesting to see the decision they make in the summer.

[WATCH LIVE – 7 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

An up-and-down start has been turned around swifty by the Golden Knights, who have gone 4-1-1 in their last six games. Now with six of their next seven are away from T-Mobile Arena, it’s a chance to continue to pick up points and march back up the Pacific Division standings.

William Karlsson is off to a slow start with three goals, but go back to last season and he had the same stat line through 11 games before taking off in November with 10 and finishing with a career high 43.

One Golden Knights player that doesn’t seem to slump often is Jonathan Marchessault, who leads the team with six goals and 11 points. He clinched the extra point on Sunday against Ottawa with an overtime penalty shot goal and is looking to continue building off a career season in 2017-18 when he tallied 27 goals and 75 points.

“As he goes, we go,” said Vegas defenseman Jon Merrill. “We look to him in big situations to score big goals like he did (against Ottawa), and when he’s scoring and playing his game, the team follows.”

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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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.

Vegas signs suspended Nate Schmidt to $35.7 million deal

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LAS VEGAS — Suspended defenseman Nate Schmidt and the Vegas Golden Knights agreed to a $35.7 million, six-year contract extension Wednesday that runs through the 2024-25 season.

The team announced the move late Wednesday night after losing 3-2 to the Vancouver Canucks in a shootout. Schmidt’s new deal is worth $5.95 million per year.

The 27-year-old Schmidt was banned 20 games last month for violating the NHL’s performance-enhancing drug policy. He can return to the Golden Knights on Nov. 18.

”He is the kind of defenseman that every team in this league is looking for now,” Vegas general manager George McPhee said. ”He is unique, excellent defensively and has become a shutdown defenseman for us playing against the other clubs’ top players. But he also brings a lot of pace to the game and he brings offense.”

Schmidt led the Western Conference champions in ice time last season at 22:14 per game. He had five goals, 31 assists and 19 penalty minutes in 76 games. He added three goals and four assists with four penalty minutes in 20 playoff games for the expansion Golden Knights, who lost to the Washington Capitals in the Stanley Cup Final.

In five NHL seasons, Schmidt has 13 goals, 66 assists and 64 penalty minutes in 276 career games. The native of Minnesota was selected by Vegas from Washington during the 2017 expansion draft.

”He means a lot,” coach Gerard Gallant said. ”He’s a top player for us. He’s done a great job playing defense for us last year. Obviously he got a real nice contract that he deserves, and we miss him a lot. So he’s a big player for our group and we’re happy to have him for long term.”

Schmidt insisted he didn’t intentionally take a banned substance and couldn’t have gotten any performance benefit from the ”trace amount” that got into his system.

He and the Golden Knights released statements disagreeing with the penalty, though neither specified the substance. Schmidt said one of the experts testifying on his behalf at the appeal hearing likened the amount to a pinch of salt in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

The appeal, which was heard by a neutral arbitrator, was denied.