Puck Daddy Countdown: Happy trails Alex Burrows

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Alex Burrows had himself a very fine NHL career. (Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)”n
Alex Burrows had himself a very fine NHL career. (Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)”n

7. The Habs

On the one hand, the news that Shea Weber is going to miss probably the first two months of the season is a major bummer for a team that was already dealing heavily in major bummers.

Guys want out, and who can blame them, and now any hope that Weber could be anything resembling a No. 1 defenseman after playing just 26 games last year are potentially dashed. It’s not so much that he’s going to miss a quarter of the season, so much as it is he missed like two-thirds of last year’s too.

This is just starting to feel like the Hockey Gods’ way of piling misery on a team already buried in an avalanche of it. “You want to trade the $10 million hospital donation guy for an older, worse player? Let’s see how that works out for you.” Weber’s odds of being as effective as he was before these injuries are probably pretty low. He’s turning 33 in about a month and guys don’t come back from these kinds of injuries playing the same way they used to, right? More concerning for the Canadiens is that he’s locked in for nearly $7.86 million AAV (although at much less than that in terms of actual dollars) through…….. 2026.

I did NHL Network radio last Friday and they asked what potential solutions the Habs could come up with here. Short of trading Max Pacioretty for a top-three defenseman, which would create its own problems, there’s nothing I can see. There are no particularly good defensemen left on the UFA market. You just have to bump everyone up in the lineup and grit your teeth for the first two months of the season. What a nightmare.

Did Marc Bergevin run over a witch’s dog? Like, man.

6. A reason to leave

It’s probably not a good sign when you announce a cheap four-year contract for a player and the immediate response from a bunch of hockey diehards and professional journalists covering the sport for a living is, “Who the hell is that?”

Such was the reaction when the Islanders gave Ross Johnston four years at $1 million AAV. But it’s understandable: Johnston got more years on this deal than he has career NHL goals. He’s 24, had almost 200 PIMs in just 62 games across the AHL and NHL last season, and was in the ECHL for a spell as recently as 2015-16.

This is a guy who is, uhh, bad. He’s bad. No other way to say it. An insanely ineffective player who only got signed because he averages like two hits a game and Lou Lamoriello loves guys like that.

People wonder why John Tavares left? The Leafs said they’d sign Matthews, Marner, and Nylander. Lamoriello probably said he’d get to play alongside Val Filppula.

I mean honestly, look at what Lou has done since July 1. Traded for(!) Matt Martin, signed Leo Komarov for FOUR years, locked in Filppula, extended Ross. Like, what on earth is going on with this franchise?

This team might as well not play this season. They’re gonna be bottom-three, easy. How are you not insanely depressed if you’re an Isles fan? How do you not look at Tavares leaving and go, “Well no kidding.”

5. Back and forth

I think the worst thing in the history of hockey is this Karlsson trade and all the rumors about “Tampa is the frontrunner, now it’s Dallas, no it’s Tampa again, ah it’s Dallas.”

Especially because as Steve Yzerman said on the Kucherov extension’s conference call, he never really felt like the trade was close to being done, let alone completed pending the trade call. Now, that might be a guy throwing out a smoke screen, for sure, but at the same time, maybe not.

This is going back to that thing I said a few weeks ago about not really believing all these things until things are well and truly settled. At this time of year, people have an interest in selling you these rumors, and you’re a lot more likely to bite on them because there’s less going on in the sport.

What would really be funny is if Vegas came out of nowhere and made the trade after a relatively quiet free agency period. I’m rooting for that as much as I am to see Karlsson on Tampa.

4. Being best buds

Because the Toronto media is absolutely awesome and good, they’re already ginning up controversy about how John Tavares and Auston Matthews are NOT FRIENDS AT ALL and ACTUALLY ENEMIES WHO HATE EACH OTHER.

Imagine being dumb enough to believe these kinds of rumors. Because it was like three weeks ago that they were trying to be like, “Auston Matthews is plotting to murder Mike Babcock click here for proof,” and then both of them were like, “C’mon guys,” so we’ve moved on to the Battle For the No. 1 Center Spot: This Time It’s Personal.

I hope Tavares and Matthews just start holding hands all the time so Steve Simmons and Damien Cox end up having nervous breakdowns.

3. Wanting out

So it turns out the Blue Jackets aren’t doing too good with Artemi Panarin these days because he doesn’t really know if he wants to live in Columbus and play for this particular team for the next eight years.

One wonders how much a certain coach has to do with that (ha ha ha), but also like, it’s a small market and a team that historically isn’t very good. I thought they were well above the league average this past season, thanks in large part to Panarin coming aboard, but they still lost in the first round (again) and they’ve still won a grand total of five playoff games in franchise history.

Wouldn’t you at least want to look at what your options are these days? Especially because of how much teams are willing to give difference-making UFAs a la Tavares.

Not that Panarin is Tavares, necessarily, but this is a guy who’s been in the league for three years and he’s seventh in scoring over that stretch. You don’t think a 27-year-old Panarin couldn’t push $9 million with just about any team in the league in the same kind of UFA environment?

Unless I were absolutely convinced I was on one of the absolute best teams in the league, I would 100000 percent be totally willing to go to market. It’s not even a hard decision.

2. Super team likers

Hey speaking of which, shout out to the Bolts for locking in Kucherov for eight years at a relative bargain price of $9.5 million AAV. Most of that’s in bonuses but who cares. He’s 25 and he’s second in scoring over the last two seasons behind Connor McDavid, who makes considerably more than that.

Kucherov for-sure left money on the table here, but that’s the price you pay to be meaningfully competitive for a Stanley Cup for three, four, five years. Plus the fact of the no-state-income-tax thing. Plus the fact of not having to pack up your life. Plus the fact of $9.5 million being a hell of a lot of money regardless of how much more might have been available.

But the thing with this contract, and also the rumors about Karlsson wanting to dictate his landing spot, and also the Panarin rumors, maybe we’re starting to see the NHL going in the direction of the NBA. Maybe elite talents are starting to realize they can punch their ticket anywhere they want, and they want to play with other great players and have a shot at a championship while also getting rich.

I’ve long felt hockey players are too willing to commit to bad teams long term out of, what, loyalty? Maybe they’re finally figuring out that this isn’t necessarily the best path forward. And that might be what finally shatters the stultifying parity that’s made this league so damn boring in the cap era.

1. Alex Burrows

Happy trails to a guy who didn’t make his NHL debut until he was almost 25, and still somehow managed to play more than 900 career games there. He scored 200-plus goals and 400-plus points, largely as a result of getting to play a huge chunk of his career with the Sedins.

But while I understand why people don’t like the player, for obvious reasons, you gotta respect the fact that he’s probably the best linemate the Sedins ever had and made a whole ton of money for a guy who played parts of four different seasons in the ECHL.

Plus he did the Marc Crawford impression that was so good and is probably the best ball hockey player ever. Have a good one.

(Not ranked this week: Slowing down.

Well we’re not even to July 15 and it already feels like nothing’s gonna happen for the rest of the summer. Probably the Karlsson trade will keep us all busy for a few days but otherwise what are we really looking forward to? The damn Patrick Maroon signing? Cool.)

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

(All statistics via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)

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