Ryan Lambert at Puck Daddy 10 hrs ago
BUFFALO, NY – One of the more important games in Toronto Maple Leafs history, as far as myth-building goes, didn’t actually involve the Maple Leafs.
Or maybe it did. Auston Matthews honestly can’t remember.
Matthews was maybe two or three years old the first time he went to a Phoenix Coyotes game, likely in the 1999-2000 season. “I don't really remember much,” the presumptive No. 1 pick said on the Buffalo waterfront, on the eve of the NHL Draft. “I was so young. I just remember it being extremely loud. I don't really remember who they were playing or what the score was, but I just found it very intriguing, just watching it. I started playing a couple years later and just fell in love with it.”
The rest, of course, we know. He dominated the sport basically everywhere he played, such was his work ethic and overwhelming talent. But growing up in Scottsdale, Ariz., one can easily understand that there wasn't exactly a lot of opportunity to play against his peers. So he played pickup games against just about anyone he could, including players a few years older than him, just to get the ice time.
The chance increases significantly thanks to the expansion effort.
Ryan Lambert at Puck Daddy 16 hrs ago
The days before the draft brought important moments for NHL teams, especially those who traded for the rights of outgoing free agents.
Arizona, after giving up a low pick for his exclusive negotiating rights, quickly locked up Alex Goligoski on a five-year deal that will pay him a little less than $5.5 million against the cap. Solid deal.
Then late Thursday night, word started to get out that the Panthers were able to sign Keith Yandle, whose rights they also acquired for a low pick, for seven years at $6.35 million per. Not as solid a deal, but he can clearly still play and his time in New York is painted with far less flattering strokes than it probably deserves. At worst, you have to think this is one of those "perfectly fine for the first few years, but unlikely to be anything other than ugly on the back end” deals. Fortunately, the CBA has an opt-out before the 2019-2020 season, and that might mean another round of amnesty buyouts after Yandle Year 3.
(All statistics via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)
[Breaking down the plausibility of the week's biggest rumor.]
The Columbus Blue Jackets are in a tough spot.
They're a really bad team, first and foremost. They finished fourth from the bottom of the league last season, and that was a number that felt more or less correct, to be perfectly honest.
But perhaps a worse problem they now face is the fact that, in terms of cap commitments for next season, they're currently second in the league(!!!!!) at more than $68 million. That's against a likely cap of no more than $73 million or so, and with a little-known free agent called Seth Jones still unsigned.
Clearly, this is the first order of business for Jarmo Kekalainen. He has to put very little thought into the draft in a lot of regards — pick Jesse Puljujarvi at No. 3 and then figure the rest out — but he has a lot of rotten contracts that need to be cleared out ASAP.
I mean, you look at this list and there are, what, seven deals where you start to get flop sweat just thinking about signing them?
So it's a real problem.
So now we're down to bad deals for Clarkson, Foligno, Hartnell, and Tyutin.
The NHL draft is this week, and that means every hockey media outlet is doing a mock draft and trying to make sense of 20-plus teams effectively trying to throw darts at a dartboard with one eye closed and the other one held kinda squinty
Drafting is an inexact process, and even now, with all the data we have about prospects that we didn't used to get, teams can still make serious missteps. Sometimes they draft for positional need (rarely a good idea!). Sometimes they simply misevaluate a player's talent level (especially if that player is big!).
So here we go. We'll try not to make your favorite team pick the guy you don't want them to take.
1. Toronto Maple Leafs select Auston Matthews (center, Zurich, Swiss league)
Yeah a lot of people are acting like “Oh maybe Patrik Laine will go first overall instead!” But hey that happens every year. The Leafs aren't going to pass up the chance to draft a franchise center. Sorry.
2. Winnipeg Jets select Patrik Laine (right wing, Tappara, Finnish league)
3. Columbus Blue Jackets select Jesse Puljujarvi (right wing, Karpat, Finnish league)
6. Calgary Flames select Logan Brown (center, Windsor, OHL)
Maybe it's Stockholm Syndrome. Maybe I'm softening in my old age. Maybe (probably) it's greatly diminished expectations. But so help me, this awards show tonight — and I can't believe I'm saying this — wasn't terrible.
Don't get me wrong: It also was not good. There were still plenty of jokes that got less than nothing from the routinely dead crowd. There was a little too much filler. A little too much joke-explaining. Way too much going back to the well on jokes that didn't work.
But let's say we're grading on a curve here — like maybe the curve on a hockey stick!!!!!!! Hire me to write for this show next year I'm telling you I'm great at this — you have to say that if last year's best-in-recent-memory show was something like a C+, this was at least a B.
It really started to drag in the second half, which I guess isn't surprising because you can only work so much magic to inject actual entertainment into this show. There's no way you make it watchable for two straight hours.
Oh my, yes. A lot, lot, lot, lot, lot, lot worse.
5. Actual celebrities
4. Jacob Tremblay
3. Michael Keaton
1. The In Memoriam
Ryan Lambert at Puck Daddy 2 days ago
(Ed. Note: The column formerly known as the Puck Daddy Power Rankings. Ryan Lambert takes a look at some of the biggest issues and stories in the NHL, and counts them down.)
7. That Cam Ward contract
You gotta be out of your mind to think this ends any other way but badly for Carolina. The only thing I can imagine is that this is a goalie they will not be protecting in the expansion draft. Which, who cares, honestly?
The deal is bad. The goalie is bad. There's no real justification here, other than he's a nice guy who has been around a long time. One thing Ron Francis said after signing the deal is that the Hurricanes' D is getting better than it used to be, and Ward's numbers would likely improve as a result. Tough to buy that logic.
More likely, this is another example of NHL teams having no idea what to do with goaltenders, or how to evaluate them properly.
6. The Leafs
Speaking of which!
The real problem with the deal is that they didn't necessarily need to make it, and that they dramatically overpaid on the contract, rather than the trade itself.
Ryan Lambert at Puck Daddy 3 days ago
(As the NCAA hockey season is done, our own Ryan Lambert needed something on which to opine. Say hello to a special Tuesday series from yer boy RL, PUCK LISTS, in which he arbitrarily lists hockey things.)
The problem with needing to unload a contract is that you need to find a willing party to take it off your hands. In the NHL these days, that's not always easy. And when that contract is for a 31-year-old goaltender with three years left on a deal paying him $5.75 million in AAV, it gets even harder to find a buyer.
But that's the problem Marc-Andre Fleury now poses to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Conventional wisdom says that he'll be moved at some point in the next week or two, as the newly minted Cup champions are already over the likely salary cap next year (somewhere in the $73 million range). That's with a few RFAs to re-sign, and a few pending UFAs to replace.
But we must nonetheless examine the five teams that seem most likely to employ Fleury next season:
5. Toronto Maple Leafs
This will, flatly, not be happening.
4. Ottawa Senators
Tough to see it as a realistic fit.
3. Dallas Stars
2. Calgary Flames
Whether Fleury is the answer to those questions, well, I dunno.
Ryan Lambert at Puck Daddy 4 days ago
As if hiring a coach who is demonstrably outmoded were not bad enough, the Anaheim Ducks' climb back up the mountain only gets steeper from here.
Sami Vatanen signed a four-year, $19.5 million contract over the weekend, which is good because he's the kind of defenseman you simply cannot allow to walk. Among all defensemen with at least 2,500 minutes of ice time at 5-on-5 over the last three seasons, his expected goals-for percentage ranks 14th in the entire NHL (almost 54.1 percent). When he's off the ice, that number drop by more than 2.2 percentage points for the Ducks.
He was also a huge presence on the Ducks' power play, and somewhat inexplicably took a pay cut in terms of his AAV.
You give either guy as many years as he'll take for just about any dollar amount under $6 million, worry about the other stuff later. And if Lindholm also comes in under $5 million or so, you count that as a big ol' W.
Ryan Lambert at Puck Daddy 7 days ago
When it comes to exploiting teams that are flying a little too close to the cap ceiling, buyers are going to find few sellers more eager to make a deal than Chicago.
Stan Bowman has repeatedly found over the last six or so years that the cost of winning, in terms of talent lost, is quite high. More than a few All-Stars have gone out the door in Chicago in favor of keeping the core group together. You could honestly put together a pretty strong team out of nothing but Chicago's cap casualties, one that would at least be competitive at the top end of the lineup with just about anyone in the league. It's pretty amazing, to that extent, the seller continues to have so much success. (Though the repeated cries in the last few days of “It's always worked before” really only apply until the very last straw which breaks the camel's back, and that camel's knees are starting to visibly wobble.)
Simply put, Ron Francis has this rebuild thing figured out.
Ryan Lambert at Puck Daddy 8 days ago
There are many ways in which college hockey differs from the AHL and NHL, and there's some debate as to whether that hurts college hockey's ability to attract high-end talent.
The thinking behind this is that there are fewer games (even the teams with the longest playoff runs play an absolute maximum in the low 40s each year), there's no fighting, hard hits are penalized more heavily, and so on. Basically, major junior is a lot more like pro hockey in most ways, so that might be a reason why elite players go north of the border to ply their trade before they go pro.
And to that end, it seems the NCAA Men's and Women's Ice Hockey Rules Committee has made a number of recommendations that would attempt to get the game more in line with how the pros do it.
Which is why college hockey will likely go to a five-minute 4-on-4 overtime for next season. Individual teams or leagues will also be able to use an experimental 3-on-3 overtime for an additional five minutes if the game is still tied. You'll note, by the way, that this is not in line with how the pros do it.
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