Thursday, July 30, 2015

Recent Contract Extensions (July 30)

Back-to-back days, where the Philadelphia Flyers take a notch out of next Summer's free agent fun, as they re-signed forward Jakub Voracek to a long-term contract extension, which would keep him in the fold for quite a while.

On Thursday evening, the Flyers announced that they signed the 25-year old forward to a new 8-year contract extension, reportedly worth $66 million, a whopping $8.25 million per season.  He will be under contract through the 2024 NHL season.

Last season, Voracek finished with 22 goals and 81 points in all 82 games for the Flyers, finishing 13th overall in pool scoring, 5th among all forwards and he is already projected to be in the same neighbourhood next season.

Habs Re-up Galchenyuk

The Montreal Canadiens took care of some important business before the first month of free agency came to an end, signing their last restricted free agent to a brand new contract. Forward Alex Galchenyuk earned himself a 2-year deal, reportedly worth $5.6 million over the duration, a $2.8 million cap hit for each season.

The 21-year old will now enter his fourth NHL season, after making the jump to the big leagues in his draft year, which means he finished off his entry-level deal last year.

The young pivot has seen some steady gains throughout his young career, reaching a new career-high in goals and points with 20 markers and 46 points in 80 games last season.

Those sort of numbers gave him a solid ranking of 135th overall in scoring, 95th among all forwards, up from his 13-goal and 31-point season in 2014.

Galchenyuk gives the Canadiens some depth in the forward ranks, especially down the middle, where he possesses great speed and some pretty nifty touch around the net.  He's the sort of player, who will help keep the Canadiens relevant in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

It's hard not to look at Galchenyuk's numbers and think that he will just keep on going.  27 points in the shortened 2013 season, 31 points in 2014, 46 in 2015, the gains are certainly there and if he can keep climbing, he'll be a game-changers for the Habs.

My early projections do see him in the 50's and I wouldn't be surprised if he surpassed that in the 2016 season.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Fringe Signings (July 29)

The Vancouver Canucks finished up the last of their restricted free agent work with the inking of forward Sven Baertschi, giving him a 1-year, $900,000 deal, which is believed to be a one-way deal.  Baertschi, acquired from the Flames at the deadline, played 18 games between both teams, scoring 2 goals and 6 assists.

Giving Baertschi a one-way deal is believed to be incentive for the team to keep him up in the bigs for the entire season and he'll likely get his opportunity at camp.  The depth chart is filling up quickly, so it could be an uphill battle for the 23-year old Swiss native.  If he does make it, he should work his way into pool worthiness.

Recent Contract Extensions (July 29)

The Philadelphia Flyers avoided some contract negotiations for next Summer, signing centre Sean Couturier to a new 6-year extension, which carries a value of $22.25 million for the duration of the deal and breaks down into a $4.45 million cap hit per season.

The 22-year old was heading towards restricted free agency and his new deal will now take him through the two years of eligibility for unrestricted free agency, making it a pretty solid deal for the both the club and player.

Last season, Couturier finished with 15 goals and 37 points in all 82 games for the Flyers, not quite matching his career-best numbers the year before (39 points).

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

2015 Draft Class Signings (July 28)

The last of the top five picks from this Summer's draft is now under contract, as the number four overall pick in June, forward Mitch Marner, signed his 3-year entry-level deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday, part of a busy morning.

Widely regarded as an up-tempo scoring winger, he has a skating skill, which is hard to catch on the ice and as much as he may be a bit smaller, there is some expectation that he'll still fill out to a very acceptable NHL-sized frame.

It's unclear how quickly Marner will end up with the big club and with the team going through somewhat of a rebuilding phase, there shouldn't be any rush to have him in the lineup right now, unless his development in junior is already done.

Pens Add Fehr

Shortly after the Penguins announced the acquisition of Nick Bonino from the Canucks, the announced the signing of unrestricted free agent forward Eric Fehr, giving him a new 3-year, $6 million deal.

It was noted that in the post-deals press conference, that the Penguins needed the Bonino deal, which saw them open a little bit of cap space up, in order to get the deal done with Fehr and in that, they got to add two roster players, not to mention some depth on the day.

Fehr, 29, is thought to be a bottom-six player, with the ability to fill in among the top-six, if needed.  With the Capitals in the 2015 season, he was a pool worthy player, scoring 19 goals and 33 points in 75 games, ranking him 170th among all forwards.

There is a fair chance that he could end up on a line with his newly-acquired teammate centre, Bonino, drawing up a reasonable checking/depth scoring line.  But that's something we won't know exactly, until the end of training camp.

Unless Fehr draws Crosby or Malkin as his centre in the regular season, I don't think he'll see tremendous gains in his offense, but I would move him up a bracket or possibly two, giving him a little bit more value at the pool draft in October.

Fehr's focus should be on the defensive side of the puck, especially since the Pittsburgh defensemen will likely have the green light to carry the puck forward and they'll need adequate cover, when they go.  With that being said, I'm not going to get too carried away with giving him an enormous boost to his projections to the year, but I would be fairly tickled, if I was to get a guy like him later on.

Canucks & Pens Deal Pivots

2015 2016
To Vancouver POS Age G/W P Cap
Brandon Sutter F 26 21 33 $3.3 mil
2016 3rd Round Draft Pick
To Pittsburgh POS Age G/W P Cap
Nick Bonino F 27 15 39 $1.9 mil
Adam Clendening D 22 1 4 $760k
2016 2nd Round Draft Pick

The Vancouver Canucks and Pittsburgh Penguins confirmed a bit of a shuffle in their respective lineups with a deal on Tuesday morning, as the Penguins sent forward Brandon Sutter and a pick to the West Coast, while the Canucks sent forward Nick Bonino, defenseman Adam Clendening and a higher pick back the other way.

Sutter, the biggest earner of the deal, becomes the centerpiece, as the Canucks look to define the roles down the middle a little more in this off-season, as the middle was a little cloudy after Henrik Sedin on the depth chart.  Sutter, more of a two-way centre with a penchance for his own zone, is better suited for the 3rd line, leaving Bo Horvat and Linden Vey to challenge each other for the 2nd line spot.  Make no mistake, Sutter will also likely get a chance at the number two slot, but you have to think he's penciled in for number three.

The Penguins add another offensive centre to the mix in Bonino, who will sit behind both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and will move up when either one gets injured, which seems likely, since they're both on the Injury Prone List.  Bonino gives the Penguins a little bit more playmaking down the middle, which will be helpful, given the amount of scoring wingers they have on the side.  Each centre could have their own sniper, providing a very balanced lineup of power.

Clendening, a depth defenseman with some upside, will likely be a minors add, since the Penguins are deep at the position, currently, while the picks give you an idea of the value of each player, sought by their previous teams.

Obviously, this is a straight-up hockey deal, which does more to align each team's vision of what they want their rosters to look like, more than an overall improvement on what each player is going to do with their new team.

Sutter is going to a team with far less weapons for offense on it, but goes to a team where the system for playing defense is more important, so his fit may see him with some overall losses in his projections.

Bonino, on the other hand, goes to a team with weapons, but he won't exactly get the pick of the litter when he steps on the ice.  Depending on how the coach sees the lines going forward, there could be some mixing and matching, looking for that fit, for however long they're hot for.  Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist, David Perron and Chris Kunitz may play musical centres this year, but someone is going to get some upside somewhere.

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.