Puck Daddy Countdown: Voynov, Blue Jackets and a potential Kessel trade

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Slava Voynoy is a scumbag and shouldn’t be allowed back in the league. (Photo by Juan Ocampo/NHLI via Getty Images)
Slava Voynoy is a scumbag and shouldn’t be allowed back in the league. (Photo by Juan Ocampo/NHLI via Getty Images)
8. Bringing back Slava Voynov

If you’re an NHL GM and you’re thinking about bringing back a solid No. 2 defenseman who got kicked out of the country for assaulting his wife, here’s some advice: Walk into traffic instead.

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For all of hockey’s talk about Being Good In The Room and Having Character Guys, the fact that this is even being discussed is sad and upsetting, but not particularly surprising.

I mean look, the league itself is currently passing the buck on the Ottawa Senators’ assistant GM getting an order of protection served against him because he allegedly did some very gross stuff toward a hotel employee (and it might not even be the most drama-y story coming out of the Sens organization this week; things are going great up there). The idea that they’d allow a path back for Voynov, who should be viewed as an irredeemable piece of garbage within the sport, totally sucks.

Hopefully everyone smartens up here, but if the immigration issue weren’t an issue at all here, you can say for sure he’d have been back in the league well before now.

The league loves to talk a big game about inclusivity, but that apparently entails including domestic abusers.

7. Oliver Ekman-Larsson

Yeah one of OEL’s top skills as a borderline-elite defenseman is his decision-making. Off the ice? Not so much. I don’t care that the Coyotes are reportedly giving him the captaincy, $8.25 million for eight years plus a no-move. Why would you commit to staying with that franchise?

This is likely to be a Jarome Iginla-level waste of a career. What a bummer.

6. Hard decisions

It was pointed out on The Athletic yesterday that the Blue Jackets may soon face some seriously tough personnel decisions.

This summer they need to re-sign RFAs Boone Jenner, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Ryan Murray, who might cost them a little bit (Jenner in particular) but aren’t likely to break the bank. They will have no such luxury next summer.

Sergei Bobrovsky will need a new contract and probably expect a raise from his $7.425 million cap hit.

Artemi Panarin will need a new contract and you can guarantee right now he’s gonna pull $8 million.

Zach Werenski will need a new contract and he’s a future No. 1 D if he isn’t one already, and those aren’t cheap.

Columbus has relatively few cap commitments for 2019-20 and even if you err on the expensive side of their current RFAs, they’re probably not going to have more than $50 million locked in. That gives them, potentially, a few dozen million dollars to mess with. They can, conceivably, add all these guys and dip into some bargain options or ELC guys to fill the gaps.

Nonetheless, as much as the team would never root for its players to do badly, every Panarin primary point, Bobrovsky 30-of-31 performance, and exemplary Werenski shift ticks that cap number up just a little bit higher. Which is what makes having, say, Nick Foligno and Brandon Dubinsky and David Savard on too-big contracts a bigger issue than it is currently. Potentially much bigger.

This is a team on the rise, but they might have to start making harder decisions soon, and that’s no fun.

5. That rumored Jack Johnson contract

One contract Columbus won’t have to worry about? They’re not gonna bring back frequent healthy scratch Jack Johnson, in no small part because Bob McKenzie said yesterday that he’s expected to pull a $6 million AAV this summer, and hilariously, the Canadiens might be the team to give it to him if their rumored interest pans out.

Imagine thinking in the year of our lord two thousand eighteen that Jack Johnson is anything other than the McKenzie tweet about Deryk Engelland. “That’s per year.” If you wanna give Jack Johnson two years and $3 million AAV or three years and $2 million AAV, I mean, there are probably better options but you’re not making a huge mistake. If you give him $6 million for any non-zero number of years, you’re giving out one of the worst contracts in the league that you’re gonna have to buy out in like three seasons.

All of which could have been avoided if GMs weren’t compelled to just give out the dumbest contracts imaginable because they have the cap space.

4. Phil Kessel maybe

Turns out that rumored rift between Mike Sullivan and Phil Kessel, which may or may not relate to how Kessel feels like he “should be” coached, might not be a rift at all.

Of course, it’s hard to pull off trading a guy making Kessel’s money at Kessel’s age even after he put up 90-plus points. But nonetheless, if you’re like, “He’s a coach’s nightmare!!!!” it’s also a good kind of nightmare to have because he put up 90-plus damn points.

Plus, it’s kind of in Jim Rutherford’s best interest to say, “Ah we love the player! He might have had a disagreement with the coach but no one is mad! In fact, they’re laughing.” Especially because he added the classic, “But if someone made me a good offer dot dot dot.”

So I dunno, that’s something to keep an eye on, especially because it seems like all this cap space has a huge percentage of the GMs league-wide geeked up to do a million trades. The next couple weeks are gonna rule.

3. Draft prep

This is my time of year, baby! Ask me about Brady Tkachuk’s relative 5v5 HQCF%!!!!!!!!! (It’s insanely good.)

2. Adding Ilya Kovalchuk?

Coming to a team near you on July 1: The third-leading all-time scorer in the KHL.

A ton of teams understandably have heavy interest in a winger as good as Kovalchuk, with maybe the most intriguing being Boston (assuming they move on from Rick Nash). But here’s one that doesn’t make a lot of sense, though: Detroit.

Why in the world would the Red Wings look at this guy and think, “This is someone we need to add,” y’know?

Like, okay, Kovalchuk’s stated goal is to actually win a Stanley Cup, and while you hear that kind of talk a lot before a guy signs with I dunno, Ottawa or something, you kinda get the feeling that’s actually Kovalchuk’s goal, actually. After all, why come back to the NHL at age 35, from what is assuredly a lucrative career in his home country, to pull like $6 million before taxes?

Based on his overall record as a player — point a game in 800-plus NHL games, well above that in almost 300 KHL games, a Rocket Richard, two Gagarin Cups, gold at U-18s, the world championships and the Olympics — anyone can see he’s at least a borderline Hall of Fame case. You get a Cup? Or even get close? That’s probably going to be worth a lot for the voters.

But to circle back to the Detroit thing: Why would the Red Wings want to add this guy? Leaving aside a reasonable lack of interest on the player’s part, this team should be rebuilding, doesn’t need to add salary to meet the cap floor, and doesn’t seem like any sort of team that could reasonably claim to push Kovalchuk toward anything resembling a Stanley Cup.

1. Getting plastered

The best thing I saw from the Caps’ parade after a nice, long weekend of getting falling-down drunk? It’s definitely this:

(Not ranked this week: Bashing Ovechkin still, somehow.

The good news is that I haven’t seen many anti-Ovechkin takes. The bad news is that I saw any. Get lost with the negativity!)

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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