Monday, July 27, 2015

Predators & Wilson Come to Terms

The arbitration cases are falling out of the sky, like all the planes that stopped working during the Y2K scare.

The Nashville Predators now avoided arbitration with both of their potential cases, as they re-signed forward Colin Wilson to a new 4-year deal, reportedly worth $15.75 million, which works out to be a cap hit, just a wee bit under $4 million per season.

A week ago today, the Predators also came to terms with Craig Smith, who was their other potential arbitration hearing.

Wilson, a 2008 1st round pick for the Predators, has been in the league since the 2010 season and has been a fairly steady contributor for the team, since his start in the league.

In the 2015 season, Wilson set a new career-high in points, picking up 20 goals and 42 points in 77 games, bumping his ranking up to 167th overall, 116th among all forwards.  This was the first time Wilson cracked the top 200 in overall pool scoring.

He hasn't been without some injury problems, but he isn't on the Injury Prone List.  He has played in the majority of games, in his NHL career.

The Predators are not known for their run & gun offense, rather a gritty & grinding offense, which allows for a little bit more defensive responsibility.  I think in saying that, there is a bit of a ceiling in how high some players can possibly go.

For a guy like Wilson, who is now going into his sixth season in the NHL, he may already be touching the ceiling on his point production potential in Nashville or he's damn close.  He should be a solid addition to the depth on your pool team, but I don't think he's going to be the bargain player that wins it all for you.  Saying that, you might be able to snag him a little bit later, making him into a tiny bit of a bargain, if he manages a few more points past his career-best.

Stepan Avoids the Nastiness

It was Derek Stepan's turn to undergo the rigors of an arbitration hearing on Monday, as his camp was going in looking for $7.25 million on a 1-year deal, while the Rangers were going in with a $5.2 million desire.

Instead of going through the process, the two sides came to terms on a long-term deal, signing a 6-year deal, which will put the cap hit at $6.5 million, a $39 million deal, all told.

This signing pretty much clears up all the necessary free agent work, in-house, for the Rangers, as they have a few roster spots, which are up for grabs, heading into training camp, which they can either fill with some already signed players or look to fill with whatever little space they have left to make signings with.

The Rangers forward got off to a slow start to the season, suffering a broken leg, just as the season got started.  Stepan missed out on the opening 12 games to the regular season and then missed a couple of games in the season, leaving him with 68 games played in total.  In those games, he was pretty productive, picking up 16 goals and 55 points, only 2 points shy of his career-high, ranking him 88th overall in pool scoring, while missing 14 games.

His playoffs were fairly productive as well, until the Lightning shut his line down in the Conference Finals and ousted the Rangers for a trip to the Cup Finals.  In 19 playoff games, he picked up 12 points, but was held off the scoresheet in the final four games of the Conference Finals, thus ending the trip.

There is a fair assumption for gains this year, given that he missed so much time last season, so it should be thought that he'll be hitting some new career-highs in points this season and should be considered a pretty good player in the early rounds of the draft.

The Rangers appear to be fairly steady in their roster lineup, losing a major player to retirement in Martin St. Louis and moving Carl Hagelin to the Ducks in a cost-saving move, but that shouldn't affect Stepan too much.  His gains will be there, but they may not be as great as they could be, unless someone steps up and combines with his talents in an incredible way.  Expect more from him, but don't expect too much.

Salary CapWith Stepan now in the mix, I have the Rangers in with 11 forwards with locked in jobs, six defensemen and a goaltending pairing of Henrik Lundqvist and Antti Raanta.  I am not overly certain that guys like Viktor Stalberg or Raphael Diaz are locks for the team, so they're on the outside looking in, so I have their remaining cap space in at $4.18 million for three or four roster spots.  The Rangers have some stock in their reserves, including young defenseman Dylan McIlrath, so they have some entry-level deals, which they can use.  They may run with 22 players to start the season, try to exercise as much cap space as possible.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Fringe Signings (July 26)

The first arbitration ruling of the Summer was announced on Sunday morning, as Alex Chiasson learned that he was awarded a 1-year, $1.2 million deal with the Ottawa Senators, in his player-elected ruling.

With this ruling, the player has to accept the award and with the ruling coming out on the team's side, the Senators should have been very pleased with the outcome.  It was reported that Chiasson was looking for $2.475 million, while the team only offered $1 million before the hearing.

Chiasson was one of the main principles that came back in the deal that sent forward Jason Spezza to the Dallas Stars last Summer, but he had only finished his first full season with the Stars before getting dealt and his second full season was in Ottawa.  Saying that, it was somewhat of a down year for Chiasson, who went from 35 points in his rookie season, down to 26 points in 76 games.

With only a 1-year deal, he'll have something to work for, but who's to say how nasty it got in that hearing?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Larsson & Devils Avoid Arbitration Too

The arbitration date was set for July 29th, but with the trend of settling beforehand back in full swing, the New Jersey Devils and defenseman Adam Larsson were destined to be back together without that messy hearing... or something like that, right?

The former number four overall pick in the 2011 Entry Draft has signed a new 6-year deal, reportedly worth around $25 million in total, roughly a $4.16 million cap hit.  A very promising deal for a very up-and-coming defenseman in the NHL.

The 2015 season was his fourth in the NHL and he was bouncing back from a very tough 2014 season, where he didn't have the confidence of his coaches to stay in the lineup for the better part of the year.
The start of his 2015 campaign wasn't great either, as he was a scratch in eight of the first nine games, was sick in December and missed some more time, but he did finish the season strong, ending up with 64 games under his belt, 3 goals and 24 points, finishing 64th among all defensemen in scoring.

Larsson does help to make up a very decent blueline in New Jersey and it looks like he'll be there for quite a while.

A strong finish to last season, a regular in the lineup, heading into his fifth NHL season with a 6-year deal in his pocket... I think Larsson is going to be a very confident player heading into training camp and he could pose as a decent threat for points, as much as the rest of the New Jersey offense will let him.

In my early Summer projections, the Devils currently rank last in the NHL in forward points, which doesn't bode well for the likes of Larsson, Damon Severson or Andy Greene, who all have some reasonable point potential.  With one leading the other, the Devils have the 26th ranked defense today, with Larsson currently fitting into the projections.

As much as there might be some gains for Larsson individually, the rest of the team may suffer and it could be a long year in the swamp.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Fringe Signings (July 24)

I kind of had the feeling that we would see more of the Flames here sooner, rather than later, given the pending arbitration hearings coming up.  Forward Josh Jooris was expected to have his hearing on the 28th, but the player and the team had settled on a 1-year deal, worth $975,000 on Friday.

Jooris appeared in 60 games for the Flames in the 2015 season, his rookie campaign, scoring 12 goals and 24 assists.  Overall, he ranked 341st in pool scoring and with a jersey number change to something a little more traditional, it appears that he'll be a regular fixture in the lineup in the 2016 season.

The Flames now have a full 23-man projected roster and they have some players waiting in the wings on my chart, so the competition may be a bit fierce for ice-time in Calgary, which keeps Jooris' projected numbers down a bit, but he might be worth a look this year.

Friday was a good day for signings, as the Detroit Red Wings joined the party with their signing of restricted free agent forward Tomas Jurco, giving him a new 2-year deal, worth $1.8 million.

Jurco has been a product of the team's youth system over the last few years, making his regular season debut in the 2014 season, picking up 15 points in 36 games and then in 2015, he had 18 points in 63 games.  He's definitely one of those players that is just about to break out, hence a fringe signing.

Detroit is another one of those teams, which is almost done their projected roster and with very little cap space to spare.  Even before Jurco, the Red Wings only had a shade over $1 million to spend on their last roster spot of the 23 available.  Of course, things will change, but Detroit is going to be an interesting team to watch.

Caps Lock Down Holtby

The biggest free agent fish has now been landed, but he was a restricted free agent, so it should come as no surprise when Braden Holtby re-signs with the Washington Capitals.

Holtby and the Capitals held their arbitration hearing on Thursday, where the team's number one keeper went in looking for around $8 million per season, while the Capitals were hoping for something in the $5 million neighbourhood for a 1-year deal.

In the end, it was a 5-year deal signed, worth $30.5 million in total, which works out to be a $6.1 million cap hit per season.

The 25-year old keeper firmly established his hold on the number one job in Washington, coming in as the number two player in hockey pool scoring last season.  He appeared in 73 regular season games, posting 41 wins, 9 shutouts and 2 assists for 102 points.  Holtby trailed the leader, Montreal's Carey Price, by only 5 points at the end of the year, when it was all said and done.

The run did extend into the playoffs, where the Capitals netminder took the team into the second round, losing to the Rangers in seven games, but not to the fault of the keeper.

The Washington Capitals organization is doing their best to fine tune the formula, which allowed Holtby to excel in 2015, adding T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams to the mix, looking for more playoff success, more than anything.

I think it's fair to assume that the Capitals are going to let their pillar in their net take as many minutes as he likes, as they try to flex their muscle in the Eastern Conference races.

It's hard to project gains, when you're the number two guy and you play such a volatile position, like goaltending, which has as much teammate support, as it does individual skill.  If Holtby can keep his minutes up to a premium, he should be able to repeat the win totals, but shutouts are a tough thing to project.  I think he's in the mix for another stellar season, but I'm not 100% sure how high I am willing to take him... yet.

Montreal Adds Semin

Just a little over three weeks from getting bought out and becoming an unrestricted free agent, forward Alex Semin finally found a landing spot in Montreal.  The Canadiens signed the enigmatic winger to a 1-year, $1.1 million deal, which optically appears as a reasonable tryout sort of contract.

It has been widely said in the early hours of this deal, just how low-risk, high-reward this deal can be, especially since Semin has the hands of a former 40-goal scorer, possibly playing with some capable playmakers in Tomas Plekanec, Lars Eller and/or P.K. Subban.

Semin concluded a 3-year stint with the Hurricanes with a poor showing in the 2015 season, only scoring 6 goals and 19 points in 57 games, missing time with a few injuries throughout the year.

With those numbers, you would think there would be no reason why he would get his own dedicated post today, except that this deal will spark some debate on whether or not he can become pool worthy once again.

In order for Semin to have any gains in the coming season, he'll need to go back to his 1-year deal ways, which he had with the Capitals, back before the Hurricanes signed him long-term.  He'll have to care enough to earn those contracts, as the negotiations should come every Summer.

If that happens, which is a pretty big if, then there are gains to be had through the Montreal lineup.  Whichever line he lands on, there is bound to be more assists and the power play should certainly improve, which means last season's MVP, Carey Price, has a much better chance to stay on top.

Personally, I'm not prepared to gamble that much on Semin, but I am putting him back into pool-worthiness.  If I was to trip over Semin in a deep draft, taking him as a late forward option, then I'll keep my fingers crossed for a big bargain.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Flames Re-Sign Bouma

The Calgary Flames avoided the hassle of arbitration with one of their key free agents on Thursday, signing forward Lance Bouma to a new 3-year, $6.6 million deal.  Bouma was scheduled to have his hearing yesterday, on the 22nd, and it is unclear if they had the hearing or not, but the ruling wasn't needed, as the two sides came together to form a very solid deal for both sides.

The Flames still have a few restricted free agents left to deal with, including Paul Byron and Josh Jooris, who are headed for arbitration cases in the next week.

Bouma crept into the pool-worthy conversation in the 2015 season, as he finished with 16 goals and 34 points in 78 games, which had him ranked 232nd overall in pool scoring.  Of course, he'll be more of a late round pick, but he should be firmly established in that spot for next season.

The 25-year old forward has been bummin' around the Flames system since he first debuted with the team in the 2011 season and his role has increased dramatically since he didn't figure into the shortened 2013 season at all.

There may just be room for some gains in the 2016 season, although his role of a forechecking forward, somewhat of a grinder, may hinder his overall point totals, but I think his confidence and the security of a new deal should help out his cause.

The Flames are rounding out their roster on paper already and it has some real potential to be better than the year before, despite all the analytics suggesting that they could be in for a fall.  As long as the Flames have good heart players in the core, they should still head in the right direction.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Fringe Signings (July 21)

With the injury concerns to both Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen, leading up to the 2016 season, the signing of forward Teemu Pulkkinen becomes a fringe signing, as he is one of the guys, who might get a little extra ice-time, thanks to those injuries.

Pulkkinen signed a 1-year deal, reportedly worth $735,000 as a restricted free agent on Tuesday.

The 23-year old Finn played in 31 games last season, scoring 5 goals and 8 points.

There are some fairly high expectations on the young Finn and with the way that the Red Wings have been grooming some of their talent of late, like Tomas Tatar and Tomas Jurco, it shouldn't come as a surprise, if Pulkkinen develops into one of those players this year.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Hearing Gets Sides to Sign in Nashville

It sounds like the Nashville Predators and forward Craig Smith used the arbitration hearing as their way to negotiate a new deal, as the two sides came together to agree upon a 5-year deal, which works out to be $4.25 million per season.

In an arbitration ruling, either side would have expected to see a 1-year deal, but with the player looking for $4.75 million for that year and the team offering $3 million, the hearing was destined to happen.

Last season, Smith was good for 23 goals and 44 points in all 82 games with the Predators, which ranked him 149th overall in pool scoring.  His best season was the year before, where he had 24 goals and 52 points in 79 games, setting the bar fairly high, it would seem.

The Central Division is going to be a difficult one to play in this coming season and with some teams around the division getting stronger, it may hurt some of the numbers on a Nashville team, which wasn't exactly flashy last year.

Nashville isn't exactly a team that most poolies get excited about, unless you're looking for a top end defenseman or a starting goalie, so my projections for the forward aren't glowing at this point, but they are not terrible either.  I am thinking he'll still be in the 40-point range and could be a bargain, if you were to get him around there.

Datsyuk Expected to Miss Opening Night

Off-season ankle surgery is slated to keep veteran forward Pavel Datsyuk out of the Detroit Red Wings lineup, when the puck drops on the 2016 season.

Datsyuk reported underwent the surgery at the end of June and even a month on, the two-way centre doesn't believe he'll be 100% ready to go, which means he'll be out for training camp, the preseason and an undecided amount of regular season games to start the year.

Last season, Datsyuk picked up 26 goals and 65 points in 63 games, a very good scoring rate, but a disappointing amount of games played.  It looks like the 2016 season is already heading towards somewhat of a repeat performance in the health department.

One could be very confident that Datsyuk still has the hands and the magic to score a bunch of points in the NHL, even at age 37.  Like most of the other elder Red Wings before him, health has come into question and should be taken into consideration, when doing your projections for the year.

Right now, confidence isn't very high, so I have him staying around the 65-point mark, unless he can get back into his skates during training camp, then he might get a bit of a bump up.

Friday, July 17, 2015

2015 Hockey Pool Draft Date Announced!

Sure, the Stampede may just be finished, we're right in the middle of Summer, but there's nothing wrong with being prepared too soon, is there?

Last year, I wasn't quite able to get the day that I wanted, so starting just a little bit earlier ensures that we get the best day possible and as it has been for the last couple of years, the weekend seemingly works.  I haven't heard too many complaints about it, so we'll keep it going.

This year, the draft will go on Saturday, October 3rd, a 2pm start.

We'll also have a venue change this year, as I wasn't too terribly happy with last year's Wi-Fi issues at Shilaleigh's.  We'll head down to the VooDoo Lounge on 16th Avenue, not too far away from SAIT.  The VooDoo Lounge has a private area down in the basement and they will have public and private Wi-Fi that we'll be able to use, if we so wish.

I know for some friends, they will be connecting remotely, so I will be making every effort to make sure that they are good to go for the event.  +Brian will hopefully be joining us again from down under and +Chris hopefully will be joining us from the coast as well.

For those joining in person, you can check out the location and the menu ahead of time, by heading to their website here.  Their wings are excellent!

Come on out, bring a friend... we'll see if we can finally hit the 30-team mark for the 2016 season!

Need more details?  Well, there are a few changes to the program this year, hopefully to infuse a little bit more fun.  The entry fee will be bumped up to $60 this year, but with a bigger fee, it will mean more prizes and a few more ways to at least make your money back this year.

We will have three mini-games in the hockey pool this year, hopefully to keep a few more teams interested through the season, including the goalie win survivor pool, the rookie scoring pool and one more mystery statistic pool, which will be announced at the time of the draft.

The overall pool will remain the same, assuming we have 30 or less teams...
  • 14 players taken
    • 8 forwards
    • 4 defensemen
    • 2 goalies
  • most points wins
    • goal - 1 point
    • assist - 1 point
    • win - 2 points
    • shutout - 2 points
It's just that easy.  The goalie win survivor pool and rookie scoring pool will be explained at the draft and the mystery statistic pool will also be announced then.

Feel free to e-mail me, if you need any pool lists or reading materials, and keep checking up with the blog site to find out more information as the Summer progresses.  There's lots of great stuff on here.

Don't forget to add it to your Google Calendar!    Don't have a Google Calendar active?  Well, join the Facebook event.  Click here.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

2015 Draft Class Signings (July 16)

The 2015 draftees are not staying unsigned for very long, as Wednesday saw another signing. The Boston Bruins took care of the first of three picks in a row, signing defenseman Jakub Zboril to his entry-level deal, adding to their depth on the blueline immediately.

Zboril is being touted as a good all-around defenseman, who skates well, takes the body and has some real offensive upside.  What's not to like out of that description?  His work ethic is the biggest question, according to a scouting report, but at 18 years old, he's got time to mature, which would hopefully help that issue.

On Thursday morning, the Philadelphia Flyers put pen to paper with their top pick from the draft, forward Travis Konecny, who was taken with the 24th pick overall out of the Ottawa 67's organization in the OHL.

Konecny is listed as a smaller forward, likely destined to be a winger in the NHL, although he is a centre in junior.  He is said to have plenty of skill and work ethic, but can be somewhat reckless on the ice, which has led to some injury troubles.  It would take a pretty impressive showing in camp for him to make the team out of junior, but it seems more likely that he'll get another year down below.

2014 Draft Class Signings (July 16)

Sometimes, we tend to forget that there are some other key draft classes out there in recent memory and some of these players may be worth taking a look at this year as well.  Here's a brief look at some of the key signings in the off-season from last year's draft class.

The player that got this train going was the recently signed John Quenneville, the New Jersey Devils 1st round pick in 2014, 30th overall.  The strong power forward had a great year with the Brandon Wheat Kings in the WHL, going all the way to the league finals, but he certainly made a name for himself with his strong campaign.  Quenneville was signed a few days ago to his 3-year entry-level deal a few days ago.

With a few forward roster spots still open on their board, a kid like Quenneville could benefit from a long look at camp.  The Devils don't boast a great deal of quality youth in their system, but this pick here will hopefully start a new trend, with the help of new management.  Might we see some new blood in the lineup this year?

Back in May, the Detroit Red Wings signed their 1st round pick from last year's draft, forward Dylan Larkin, signing him to a deal, which will take him out of the NCAA ranks and get him to turn pro.  Last season, Larkin played at Michigan, where he excelled, he looked great for the USA team at the World Juniors and even represented his country at the World Championships in May.

Larkin is a fair-sized kid, who is still 18 years old and could still spend some time in the junior ranks, if the Red Wings thought it was necessary.  It would also give him a chance to play at the World Juniors.  The Red Wings roster might be a tough one to crack, as they have a pretty full projected squad as it is, but with a good camp, who knows what can happen?

There was one more 1st rounder signed, shortly after the regular season had ended, that being the Kings' pick, 29th overall, forward Adrian Kempe.  The Swedish born winger played with Modo in the Swedish Elite League this season and he represented his country at the World Juniors as well, having a fairly accomplished season.  Just before his deal was signed with the Kings, he joined their AHL affiliate in Manchester, appearing in a few games for them as well.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that the Kings went out and found another two-way forward, as Kempe is described as just that, a good power forward and has that certain upside that teams are hunting for.  The key point being, whether or not his game can be translated into the North American rinks.

That leaves only three 1st round picks left to be signed by NHL clubs from this draft class and they are probably not too far away from getting that job done either, unless college says otherwise.  Seven 2nd round picks from this draft year have also been signed in this off-season, some of which will likely get some long looks at camp, including Calgary's Hunter Smith and Winnipeg's Brendan Lemieux.