Sunday, July 05, 2015

Kadri Sticks Around in Toronto

It was a pretty quiet weekend in the NHL, given the American holiday and probably some GM's wanting to enjoy some Summer, before getting cooped up for the Fall.

The Toronto Maple Leafs did get some important business done, as they have re-signed forward Nazem Kadri to a 1-year deal, reportedly worth $4.1 million, keeping him in the fold for a little while longer, it would seem.

Kadri has been the target of a lot of the team's individual criticism over the years, but being as though he isn't one of the highest paid players, he hasn't been a prime target for those, trying to usher players out of town, a la Phil Kessel or Dion Phaneuf.

The 24-year old forward has yet to realize a lot of his potential at the NHL level and his 2015 season was not one to write home about.  In 73 games, Kadri finished with 18 goals and 39 points, good enough for 189th overall in pool scoring, 131st among all forwards.

Kadri has been a 20-goal scorer once, in the 2014 season, where he also posted 50 points, but the downward spiral that the Leafs were in affected his numbers as well.

The changes that have already been made in Toronto may actually play as a blessing for Kadri or it could quite easily be a larger burden.  With the team trading away Kessel in this off-season, there will be more time in key situations for a player like Kadri.

The trouble with being a key player in Toronto is that spotlight burns.  Team management is trying its best to curb expectations for the 2016 season and with some of their moves already, they should meet those lowered expectations easily, but the paying customer will certainly have some greater expectations and those cheers and jeers will be the first thing the player hears in a game.

I have Kadri in for a gain in 2016, but with the overall skill level (on paper) diminishing this offseason, I'm not convinced he can reach his career-high numbers, but I don't think he'll be too far off.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

2015 Draft Class Signings (July 4)

Maybe in terms of a "generational" draft, all of these NHL teams feel a big rush to get their prospects under contract. With how fast some of these signings have been coming already, we could see a serious influx of rookie talent in the 2016 season.

Later on Friday, the Philadelphia Flyers announced that they had signed their 1st round pick, 7th overall, defenseman Ivan Provorov, to his 3-year entry-level deal.  Provorov was one of the leading defense prospects in the draft class, some scouts arguing that he even had a better upside than Noah Hannifin, who the Hurricanes selected with the 4th overall pick.

I would be very hesitant to rate Provorov very high at this point, as the numbers suggest that not many drafted defensemen make the jump into the NHL right away, some needing at least a year or two of development.  Until training camp actually happens, I would put too much stock into Provorov right now,.

The Blues have also announced that they have signed a 5th round pick, goaltender Luke Opilka, to his entry-level deal on Friday.  There isn't much of a book on this kid yet, but if the Blues are high enough on him to get him a deal before they sign anyone else, then kudos to him and to them.  The Blues didn't have a 1st round pick, so that's likely why they are dropping down some rounds early on.

Friday, July 03, 2015

2015 Draft Class Signings (July 3)

The second player from the 2015 draft was signed on Thursday, as the Detroit Red Wings put pen to paper with their 3rd round pick, Finnish defenseman Vili Saarijarvi. Saarijarvi is listed as a 5'9", 161 lbs. defender, who has plenty of international experience at the junior level, played one season in the USHL and has apparently impressed those magical Red Wings scouts, so much so, that he has his entry-level deal, just behind Jack Eichel in Buffalo.  I don't think it's fair to compare, but that's moving awfully darn fast, for an undersized kid in the 3rd round.  I think I'll be keeping my eye on him.

Of course, it wasn't going to be long before the Edmonton Oilers signed Connor McDavid. On Friday, the Oilers came to terms with the number one overall pick, opening up the door for the dynamic centre to play in the 2016 season, which is expected to take place.  McDavid is already skating in Edmonton with the team, during their orientation camp and it is now more about how many points he will get in the 2016 season, more than the questions about whether or not he'll even play.

Contract Extensions (July 3)

When the Buffalo Sabres acquired Ryan O'Reilly from the Colorado Avalanche, it was because O'Reilly's contract demands for an extension were so great, that the Avalanche didn't want to commit that much cash to him.  On Friday afternoon, the Sabres announced the signing of the extension, a 7-year deal, giving him the maximum 8 years in total, and the extension is worth $52.5 million.  This works out to be a cap hit of $7.5 million, starting in the 2017 season.

O'Reilly was good for 55 points in all 82 games with the Avalanche in the 2015 season and his early projections are around the same mark, feeling the expectations of the 2016 Sabres to be still in the fledgling stage.

Joel Ward to Swim in San Jose

Possibly the biggest unrestricted free agent signing of the day comes out of San Jose, where the Sharks inked forward Joel Ward to a 3-year deal, which has been initially reported to be $9.825 million in total, which works out to be a cap hit of $3.275 million per year.

Ward, a strong power-forward, was playing in Washington for the last four seasons of his 8-year career, to date.  In the 2015 season, he finished 230th overall in pool scoring, 159th among all forwards with 19 goals and 34 points in all 82 games with the Capitals, making him into a decent depth option for the Sharks.

The big physical presence of Ward could go a long ways on the 3rd line for San Jose or even have him bumped up on the 2nd line, when the team is in need of some traffic in front of the opposition net.

There is certainly some upside to this signing for Joel Ward, especially if he can get that net front presence on the Sharks' power play, where there is a bucket load of talent working the puck on the perimeter and the points.

The downside to Ward, however, is that he is 35 years old and saw a a slight decline in his offensive output from 2014.  The Sharks depth doesn't really have the same kind of grind that the Capitals depth did last season, which could also be a problem, if Ward ends up in the bottom six for extended stretches, so I'm thinking the decline may continue in 2016, because I just don't see him playing much in the top six, in five on five situations.

Saad Officially In Blue

The Columbus Blue Jackets put pen to paper with their big off-season acquisition, forward Brandon Saad, who they picked up in a pre-free agent frenzy trade with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Saad was going to be too expensive to re-sign for the Blackhawks, so their best alternative was to get something for him and the deal that was signed, was exactly what the Blackhawks expected.  On Friday, the Jackets signed Saad to a 6-year, $36 million deal, a very heavy $6 million a year cap hit.

In the 2015 regular season, Saad finished 103rd in pool scoring, 72nd among all forwards, picking up 23 goals and 52 points in all 82 games with the Blackhawks.

It was in the playoffs, where he was a real beast, as he raised his game to another level, helping the Blackhawks win another Cup.  He scored 8 goals, 11 points and 2 game-winners in 23 playoff games.

Where will Saad fit into this Blue Jackets lineup?

Ryan Johansen, Nick Foligno, Brad Dubinsky, Scott Hartnell and Cam Atkinson can be figured in to playing with the new acquistion, all of which are good options.  Until there is a better indication, as to whether or not he ends up on the top line, maybe the second line, will we most notably adjust his projections.

The Jackets were not necessarily a high-scoring team in 2015, so for now, I have Saad at some average regular season numbers, but if the Jackets were to make the playoffs, he may just end up in a killer box.

Blues Re-Sign Allen

The St. Louis Blues have re-signed goaltender Jake Allen to a new 2-year deal, which will pay him in the neighbourhood of $4.7 million over the next couple of years, a $2.35 million cap hit per season.

Allen's new deal will take him into one more year of restricted free agency, as he'll be 26 when this deal expires and the Blues will have the comfort of some added protection in making a goalie decision over the next couple of years.

Allen combined with Brian Elliott for one of the more reliable tandems in the NHL last season, with the 24-year old appearing in 37 games for the Blues, picking up 22 wins, 4 shutouts and 2 assists for 54 points last season.  Those numbers had him ranked 23rd among netminders, which is better than some starters in the NHL last season, as he was designated the 1B goalie on the team.

With the Allen signing, the Blues only have a couple more restricted free agents to take care of, including the hefty deal that is expected for Vladimir Tarasenko.

The debacle that was the coaching decision for the starting goalie in the playoffs in St. Louis has cast a huge, dark cloud over the team's winning ability and who is going to be the 1A and who will be the 1B guy.

Going into last season, it seemed a little more clear, as Elliott was tapped as the 1A guy and got the starts, minus his injury, but when the playoffs rolled around, Allen got the nod and confusion reigned supreme.

If the Blues are going to ride the hot hand, this could be a long season upcoming and the projections between the two keepers will be split and the recommendation is that you avoid the confusion, as best you can, unless you have to take that gamble on one or the other.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

2015 Draft Class Signings (July 2)

It didn't take very long at all. Jack Eichel has his deal in place, choosing the NHL over returning to the NCAA and likely rightfully so.  The number two overall pick in this Summer's Entry Draft will make the jump into the NHL or at least give it a pretty good try.  His contract details are below, but it is just boiler plate kind of stuff for one of the top picks in the draft.

The Sabres are going to be a very interesting club in the 2016 season and having a talented kid like Eichel lining up for your squad is definitely going to help.  He will be one of those fun players to try and put a projection number next to, as the team, as a whole, is so much different.

Fringe Signings (July 2)

It looks like the comeback trail for Cody Hodgson will go through Nashville, as the former 1st round pick signed a 1-year, $1 million deal, only days after being bought out in Buffalo.  Hodgson's career trajectory is going in the wrong way, so he is in desperate need of a quick reboot and with the Predators, there is a chance that he could find some ice-time with some talent, but then again, at only $1 million, he could be fodder for the AHL as well.

Last season, Hodgson had 6 goals and 13 points in 78 games with the Sabres.

Again, from the buyout column, the Toronto Maple Leafs are taking a flyer on PA Parenteau, only a few days after he was bought out by their rival club in Montreal. Parenteau has never really seen the same kind of success that brought him out East from Colorado, a couple of seasons ago, but he should still be able to provide the Leafs some quality minutes along the wing.  With the changes already happening in Toronto, there should be some openings in key positions, perfect for a guy in need of bouncing back.

How about a blast from the past? After playing the last two seasons in the KHL, it was decided that Alex Burmistrov would return to the NHL, signing again with the Winnipeg Jets, a 2-year deal, worth $3.1 million.  His best season in the NHL was a 28-point effort in 2012 and his efforts in Russia were decent, so he might be ready to be a pool worthy player in 2016.  The Jets will be an interesting team, so if Burmistrov can fit into that lineup, he could be a good sleeper pick.

A kid to keep an eye on in the 2016 season will be Boston forward Ryan Spooner, who finished the season with the big club, playing in 29 games, scoring 8 goals and 18 points in that time.  His scoring rate was very respectable, given the short span that he played and with the Bruins' cap problems, his new deal with a low cap hit of $950,000, will be beneficial to the team going forward.  If you're struggling for forwards at the end of the draft, have a peek at Spooner.

The rebuilding Maple Leafs were busy on Wednesday, as they also added forward Mark Arcobello to the roster, signing him to a 1-year, $1.1 million deal.  Arcobello was a pretty good player on a number of teams last season, but will now join a club that will need his services all year round.  But being as though this Leafs franchise is in rebuilding mode, I can't see the points being very plentiful at this point, so I've dropped Arcobello down from pool worthy to fringe, someone to still consider, but don't jump for joy, if you get him in the draft.

This post is quickly being dominated by the Maple Leafs, as they were stocking up on some hard working talent on opening day of the free agent frenzy. Being added to their list was Daniel Winnik, who signed with the club last Summer, but was moved to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline. Obviously, the team liked what they saw out of the grinding forward, so they brought him back for another turn, this time for a couple of years.  Between Toronto and Pittsburgh, Winnik was good for 9 goals and 34 points, but my complete lack of faith in the side will likely drop his projections slightly.

There has been a definite decline in Shawn Horcoff's offensive output over the years, as he'll go down for a couple years, have a small spike up, then down again and last year was a slight spike again in Dallas. Well, the Ducks are hoping for a bigger spike, as they have signed the veteran centre to a 1-year, $1.75 million deal, looking for a big bargain in this off-season.  The Ducks have definitely shaken up their roster already this Summer, but the jury is still out on whether or not it is for the better yet.

The early projections on Horcoff are going to be lower again, as he lines up as the team's 3rd centre on the depth chart and he'll likely be employed more in a checking role.  A definite fringe player.

Capitals Acquire Oshie

2015 2016
To Washington POS Age G/W P Cap
T.J. Oshie F 28 19 55 $4.2 mil
To St. Louis POS Age G/W P Cap
Troy Brouwer F 29 21 43 $3.7 mil
Pheonix Copley G 23 0 0 $705k
2016 3rd Round Draft Pick

The Washington Capitals were able to add a little bit more punch to their lineup on Thursday, with the acquisition of forward T.J. Oshie from the St. Louis Blues, sending a package back that included forward Troy Brouwer.

In Oshie, the Capitals get a speedy, dynamic winger, who will bring a few more points to the table.  The 28-year old American has been known to show some offensive flair on occasion and now joins Justin Williams as two offensive players who have been acquired by the team, changing the face of the attack.

The Blues pick up a pretty good asset in Brouwer, who has a nose for the net and no fear against the physical game.  The deal also offers them a little bit more space underneath the salary cap ceiling, with Vladimir Tarasenko's deal still being negotiated, which has to be good news for St. Louis management.

Both St. Louis and Washington have been excellent teams for top end talent in the hockey pools and this swap should make either side a little bit better, so be sure to adjust your projections accordingly.

St. Louis Retires

It doesn't appear that there was very much incentive for Martin St. Louis to keep going, as free agency is less than two days old.  The 40-year old winger, instead of opting for retirement and heading off into the sunset.

St. Louis leaves the game with one Cup ring, an armload of NHL trophies, an Olympic gold medal and a number of other All-Star honours.  In total, he played in 1,134 regular season games with Calgary, Tampa Bay and New York, scoring 391 goals and 1,033 points, winning the Art Ross Trophy twice.

In terms of the hockey pool, St. Louis finished in the top 10 in pool scoring five times since 2004 and was a main stay in every draft.  He even took the top honour in the 2013 shortened season, with 60 points.

This past season, St. Louis still was a useful players, scoring 21 goals and 52 points in 74 games, ranking 105th overall in pool scoring, 74th among all forwards.  He leaves on a solid note, that's for sure.