Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Mock Entry Draft So Far

Team Player Name POS Pick
Nolan Patrick F 1
Nico Hischier F 2
Callan Foote D 3
Gabriel Vilardi F 4
Casey Mittelstadt F 5
Michael Rasmussen F 6
Miro Heiskanen D 7
Cody Glass F 8
Cale Makar D 9
Kristian Vesalainen F 10
Owen Tippett F 11
Ryan Poehling F 12
Connor Timmins D 13
Lias Andersson F 14
Erik Brannstrom D 15
Juuso Valimaki D 16
Timothy Liljegren D 17
Martin Necas F 18
Robert Thomas F 19
Pierre-Oliver Joseph D 20
Nick Suzuki F 21
Urho Vaakanainen D 22
Elias Pettersson F 23
Morgan Frost F 24
Klim Kostin F 25
Isaac Ratcliffe F 26
Jesper Boqvist F 27
Kailer Yamamoto F 28
Nicolas Hague D 29

Well, if you have been paying attention to the Pool Outlook posts that I have been posting, I am collecting the results of what I've done thus far.  I thought it would be good to start the process of collecting the info and getting some posting done.

This, of course, is likely far from what the draft order will be and/or what the order picks are going to be.  I know a lot of sites are rotating a lot of picks here and there, not to mention, we have to decide what order Nashville and Pittsburgh are going to choose in at the end.  Both teams have their picks, they will choose against what has been taken already

It's been fun, so far... let's see what happens in these playoffs!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Off-Season Injury Notes (May 30)

The Ottawa Senators announced on Tuesday that Derick Brassard has been booked in to undergo surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder, which should happen right away, and the expected recovery time for him is in the neighbourhood of 4-to-5 months.  Under this timeline, it seems like Brassard is now expected to miss the bulk of training camp and could miss anywhere between the start of the regular season to a month in.

Brassard was a solid contributor for the Senators last season, scoring 14 goals and 39 points in 81 games, good enough for 146th among all forwards.  Hopefully a quick return will make sure that he's still pool worthy for the entire season.

Pool Outlook for Anaheim

Without a great deal of flash and excitement, the Anaheim Ducks were undeniably a pretty good team on paper, heading into the 2017 regular season and playing in the Pacific Division was also a good bonus, as the competition, although improved in some spots, was still not a very strong division, as a whole.

The Ducks received a pretty good push from the Oilers, but down the stretch, they went stride for stride with the young guns, finishing with a 2-point lead in the division after Game #82, thus getting the top spot in the division and getting home-ice, when it counted.

They had a couple of divisional match-ups to start their playoff run, dispatching of the Calgary Flames in the opening round, sweeping them away in four games.  Their next challenge were those guns from Edmonton, which proved to be much more of a challenge, going the distance and playing in all seven games, winning the deciding game in a narrow fashion, 2-1.

The test got extremely difficult in the Western Conference Finals, as the Nashville Predators were ready to play a physical, chippy series, going toe-to-toe with some of the playoffs best, getting down and dirty with those filthy Ducks players.  The Predators were banged up, just as much as the Ducks were, but they over-matched the Ducks from the blueline back and the Ducks just had no answer, being eliminated in six games.

No matter how much people don't like the Ducks, as a team, in the hockey pool, they are selected fairly often when it comes to draft time.  This year, there were 11 Ducks selected in October, one 1st round pick in John Gibson, and teams were willing to gamble on two unsigned restricted free agents, knowing how much they meant to the team.  At the first swap, there was an under-performing rookie dropped for a couple of players, including a goon, while the second swap saw another Anaheim goon picked up for a scoring forward.  The Ducks were active at the deadline, acquiring Patrick Eaves from the Stars and that gave them 13 players on active pool rosters by the end of the season.

Ryan Getzlaf really put the team on his shoulders this season, coming off a bit of a down year, and vaulted his way back up to 1st round status with 15 goals and 73 points in 74 games this year, good enough for 24th overall in pool scoring, 12th among all forwards.  Between the regular season and the playoff run, Getzlaf has been out to show everyone that his best days are not behind him just yet.

Behind Getzlaf, it was a pretty good group of Ducks that qualified for the pool worthiness paragraph here on the post, as six more forwards made the list, including Ryan Kesler, Corey Perry, Rickard Rakell, Patrick Eaves, Jakob Silfverberg and Andrew Cogliano.  The defense were no slouches, as Cam Fowler, Sami Vatanen, Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson were all worthy, inside of the top 100.  The goaltending duo of John Gibson and Jonathan Bernier were both in the top 30, let alone the top 50, as they split the time more evenly than most duos and were fairly successful at the same time.

What I Said Last Year, At This Time...

The star power of this Ducks team is seemingly enough to carry this team forward into the playoffs, year after year.  Their top two forwards, a decent defense corps and goaltending that they can lean on from time to time, all combine together to be a pretty strong force, especially in a weaker division, like the Pacific.  There's no doubt that the Ducks are in to lock up Vatanen, Lindholm and Rakell this summer, but they can sort of pick and choose what they want to do afterwards.  I don't see this team throwing money away, but they'll try and find ways to improve their side with reasonably priced talent and then adjust when the season starts.  The playoffs are all but certain next season, but how they dress up the depth will be what takes them to where they end up.

I don't think this was an overly difficult prediction to make for the 2017 season, but who was to think that the Ducks were going to be ousted by the Predators in the end?  Injuries to their depth were what sunk the team in the end, as the acquisition of Eaves at the deadline was taken away to injury and their top players were playing hurt.  The Ducks were good, but just not good enough in the end.

2018 Pool Outlook

Forwards Cap Defense Cap Goalies Cap
Corey Perry 8.625 Hampus Lindholm 5.250 John Gibson 2.300
Ryan Getzlaf 8.250 Sami Vatanen 4.875
Ryan Kesler 6.875 Cam Fowler 4.000
Rickard Rakell 3.800 Josh Manson 0.825
Jakob Silfverberg 3.750
Andrew Cogliano 3.000
Antoine Vermette 1.750 Simon Despres 3.700 Angus Redmond 0.843
Kalle Kossila 0.925 Clayton Stoner 3.250 Dustin Tokarski 0.650
Max Jones 0.925 Brandon Montour 0.925
Kevin Roy 0.925 Jacob Larsson 0.925
Sam Steel 0.925 Andy Welinski 0.925
Jared Boll 0.900 Shea Theodore 0.863
Nick Ritchie 0.894 Keaton Thompson 0.795
Mitch Hults 0.834 Markus Pettersson 0.794
Jack Kopacka 0.759 Josh Mahura 0.759
Julius Nattinen 0.745
Deven Sideroff 0.718
Giovanni Fiore 0.702
Ondrej Kase 0.670
Logan Shaw 0.650
Chris Wagner 0.638
Corey Tropp 0.625

Don't let this table fool you, we already know that both Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen are not going to be ready for the start of the regular season, so the impact at the hockey pool draft may be lessened right off the hop.  They aren't long-term injuries, it could be a few weeks for each, depending on their recovery, but I don't think that will have a great effect on the forwards and so on.  Somewhere, the Ducks are going to have to find a little bit more help, but they should still be a popular team once again.

Potential Losses in the Expansion Draft

One no-move clause in the lineup could pose a bit of an issue, unless there is some discussion to waive with defenseman Kevin Bieksa.  The Ducks would likely want to protect Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen and Cam Fowler, more so than Bieksa and they have more than four forwards they'd want to protect, so that chat might just happen.  Otherwise, Fowler may be left to the Golden Knights and that would be a tough one to pass up.

Free Agency and the Salary Cap

The Ducks will have a couple of key unrestricted free agents hitting the market, barring an extension in the last month or so, as forward Patrick Eaves and goalie Jonathan Bernier are both scheduled to hit the open market and their potential salary cap situation may see to it that they do hit the market.  Eaves, the most likely to leave out of the two, was more likely considered to be a rental at the deadline, regardless.

According to CapFriendly, the current iteration of the Ducks is only carrying about $2 million in cap space for a roster of 22 players and they'll still need a back-up goalie to round out the team.  The 11 pool worthy players signed on for next season are already coming in at $51.6 million and one could round out the team with the non-worthy players below, within budget.  I can't imagine that the Ducks will be big spenders this summer.

The Ducks system is getting stacked with good blueliners and we saw some of them already in the late part of the regular season and playoffs, but it could be a forward or two that may jump in with their rookie statuses, as ones to watch for us poolies next season.  A couple of 2016 1st round picks, Max Jones and Sam Steel, may take a swing at a regular job, but in all likelihood, they'll get more time in either their last year of junior hockey.  The Ducks haven't been known to rush their forwards along, but either of these two can make the jump after great junior careers.

Needs at the 2017 Entry Draft

The need for a little bit more scoring depth up front cost the Ducks their 1st round pick this year, as they dealt it to Dallas for Patrick Eaves at the deadline.

The Stars will get to choose from the 29th spot with Anaheim's pick and I truly believe that they continue down the path of looking for more blueline help.  It's a desperate need, something that really needed to be addressed at the youth level, which makes me believe they'll go with Mississauga Steelheads defenseman Nicolas Hague, a good-sized defenseman, who may need some extra seasoning before making the leap up, but size is something you can't teach and it's something the Stars need on their line.

The Ducks truly got a taste of what they are going to face moving forward, within their own division.  The Flames are not going to roll over and the Oilers took them to the limit, while their own key players are not getting any younger.  Getzlaf still appears to be a force for the Ducks, but with the way the team plays, they are going to be susceptible to injury, which likely was the difference between having an early start to the summer and a Stanley Cup Finals appearance.  The Ducks will still be in the mix for a divisional playoff spot in the Pacific next season, but the challenge for the division title may be greater than their team can muster through.  Once they make the playoffs, however, it'll be hard to bet against them, since they are a team built for the Spring Dance.  As long as they can get there, they'll be able to grind it out with the best of them.

Special Games in the 2018 Season

Last season, the wheel of mini-games was brought in to determine what games our hockey pool would have to keep the masses entertained and we did experience the outdoor games pool, which made use of the four games the NHL put on outside, which was kind of interesting.  No one really went out of their way to play in these mini-games at the waiver drafts, but it still paid off and made these special events a little more interesting, with money on the line.

The outdoor games pool will be back on the wheel, I'm sure, and we'll give it a few spins after we finish drafting our teams and we might take advantage of the other games that will be played as well, including the All-Star Game.  All of the major events were announced on Monday, just ahead of the start of the Stanley Cup Finals

A preseason series in China will start the calendar of events off, as the Kings and Canucks will showcase the game in Shanghai and Beijing, increasing their annual travel significantly.  I can't imagine that these games will help either team in the early part of the season and it could be a good reason to avoid them at the hockey pool draft, until the mid-season anyways.

Preseason games that will go for Kraft Hockeyville are another solid event, especially for the rural areas of both the US and Canada.  The US game will feature the Blues and Penguins in small town Pennsylvania, while the Canadian game will feature the Devils and Senators on Prince Edward Island.  Both games slated for late September.

The first regular season event will see the Colorado Avalanche and Ottawa Senators play their season series against each other in Stockholm, Sweden.  November 10th and 11th will be set aside for the SAP Global Series, which is a bit too small to make a hockey pool mini-game out of, but it will still likely have an impact on their regular season schedules.

There will be three outdoor games this year, which could be enough for an interesting mini-game this year and they are as follows:

NHL100 Classic - Montreal Canadiens @ Ottawa Senators, Dec. 16 @ Landsdowne Park in Ottawa
Winter Classic - New York Rangers @ Buffalo Sabres, Jan. 1 @ Citi Field in New York
Stadium Series - Toronto Maple Leafs @ Washington Capitals, Mar. 3 @ Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, MD

Finally, the NHL said that they are not going to head to the Olympics this coming February, so in lieu of that, the All-Star Game will go ahead again this year and it sounds like the 3-on-3 tournament format will continue on in Tampa Bay, played January 27th & 28th.  I did keep track of All-Star numbers last season and that was also somewhat interesting.  Marcie would have won that one, by a landslide, as her team was nearly unstoppable, when it came to the mini-games.

I think with some changes to the player swap rules, likely doing away with the Waiver Draft altogether, it might free up some time and keep a few more people engaged, until they have no moves left, that is.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Pool Outlook for Ottawa

A year off where no Canadian clubs were in the playoffs, the Ottawa Senators found themselves being the last one standing in the Eastern Conference Finals, in what was a very good turnaround season in 2017.

The Senators were the closest team to the playoffs last year, so it shouldn't come as a huge surprise that they clinched this season, after a very solid year, where their captain was remarkable again, their number one goalie played through some trying times at home and when he was away tending to his family matters, everyone else really stepped up and played well.

Ottawa wasn't the best Canadian club in the regular season, but with 44 wins on the year, they weren't too bad either, finishing 3rd among their fellow teams north of the border, but they were certainly better suited for the playoffs, lasting longer than Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton, grinding their way to those Conference Finals.

In the playoffs, the Senators withstood challenges from the Boston Bruins in the opening round, defeating them in six games, six games as well against the New York Rangers, but then they got their backs up against the wall with the reigning champs, the Pittsburgh Penguins and they took them to seven games, losing out in double overtime only a few days ago.  It was certainly a disappointing result for the Senators, but it was a season and playoff run that they really could be proud of.

The Senators were just as popular as the Capitals, who were featured yesterday, at the draft, as they had 12 players taken, but no 1st round picks to speak of for their team.  Craig Anderson and Erik Karlsson were both taken in the 2nd round, but then they were distributed well throughout the draft.  The Sens saw a couple more players picked up in the first player swap, but they saw an even trade of two drops and picks in the second swap.  The Senators acquired Alex Burrows at the trade deadline and they were one of the most popular teams by the end of the year, finishing with 15 players on active pool rosters.

Karlsson wasn't quite as dominant in the 2017 season as he was a year before, when he was the top defenseman in the league in scoring.  No, this year, he finished 3rd in the position, with 17 goals and 71 points in 77 games played, which was still good enough for tops among all Senators in the season.  Karlsson was taken 30th overall in the draft and came out as a slight bargain, finishing 28th overall, which is still darn good and I would expect he would be a 1st or 2nd round pick again this coming draft.

Were the Senators worth all of that attention they got this year?  Craig Anderson and Mike Condon were both worthy from the crease, while Dion Phaneuf, Chris Wideman and Cody Ceci all joined Karlsson on the blueline and up front, it was Mike Hoffman, Kyle Turris, Mark Stone, Derick Brassard, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Zack Smith, Ryan Dzingel and Alex Burrows.  That only gives the Sens 11 pool worthy players, a team that the hockey pool slightly overshot, but not without taking a goon or two, so it wasn't all bad.

What I Said Last Year, At This Time...

It's hard to say what the new coaching regime is going to bring to this Senators team, which has a lot of the right pieces to go in the right direction in the 2017 season.  Having to guess today, I think the combination of Guy Boucher and Marc Crawford behind the bench will give an interesting dynamic about being responsible in their own zone and find new and exciting ways to break out of their zone and transition their game on the fly.  This team has the talent to make this possible, so I am leaning towards the Senators making a move for the playoffs next season, barring any unforeseen circumstances, of course.

It was hard to say what the new coaches would do, but given the roster they had at the time, it certainly did seem feasible that they would make the playoffs, which they did... and more!  Now, the team has to live up to some great expectations, management will have to help this team go further with some moves, but it looks as though the team is buying into the system, at the very least.

2018 Pool Outlook

Forwards Cap Defense Cap Goalies Cap
Mike Hoffman 5.188 Dion Phaneuf 7.000 Craig Anderson 4.200
Derick Brassard 5.000 Erik Karlsson 6.500
Kyle Turris 3.500 Cody Ceci 2.800
Mark Stone 3.500 Chris Wideman 0.800
Zack Smith 3.250
Alexandre Burrows 2.500
Bobby Ryan 7.250 Marc Methot 4.900 Andrew Hammond 1.350
Clarke MacArthur 4.650 Mark Borowiecki 1.100 Marcus Hogberg 0.835
Colin White 0.925 Thomas Chabot 0.894
Logan Brown 0.925 Andreas Englund 0.776
Filip Chlapik 0.759 Maxime Lajoie 0.730
Gabriel Gagne 0.743 Macoy Erkamps 0.655
Mike Blunden 0.738 Ben Harpur 0.653
Francis Perron 0.703 Fredrik Claesson 0.650
Nick Paul 0.670 Cody Donaghey 0.617
Chris DiDomenico 0.613
Vincent Dunn 0.611

The thought of the successes that the Senators have had in the 2017 season should still be fresh in the minds of many poolies, come draft time in September/October, so the guys in green will be prime targets for pool teams throughout the draft.  The Senators would probably like to see some of their bigger paid players to excel a little bit more, but they were certainly helpful when it came down to it in the playoffs.

Potential Losses in the Expansion Draft

There is a rumour out there that the Senators are willing to grease the wheels, one way or another, for the Vegas Golden Knights to take Bobby Ryan off their hands, which is going to be a tough sell, especially for the cap hit and term that he has left on his deal.  It is a feasible rumour, so I would leave him exposed on my sheet, and I would likely be leaving Alex Burrows available given his age.  Marc Methot loses out to three defenders, including Dion Phaneuf, the only player with a no-move, and Andrew Hammond should be left dangling as well.  It will be interesting to see who the Senators actually lose, as it could go one of many ways.

Free Agency and the Salary Cap

I am showing three pool worthy players ready to hit free agency this summer, two restricted and one unrestricted, which should make things fairly straight forward for Ottawa management.  Ryan Dzingel and Jean-Gabriel Pageau are the two RFA's in need of a deal, both have arbitration rights, which makes things tough, but not too hard, one wouldn't think.  Mike Condon, who helped the Sens in a time of goaltending need, is poised to be a UFA and the team's decision on him will have a real impact on the rest of the goaltending decisions moving forward.

Cap-wise, I am showing 11 players who are cap worthy, already signed on for the 2018 season, coming in at $44.2 million.  Bobby Ryan looks like a huge lump, Clarke MacArthur is healthy again and could figure back in and the Sens are paying for Marc Methot's defense, so he'll be an important piece moving forward.  Add those three players and the Sens are already up to $61 million against the undetermined ceiling.

Can the Sens pawn Ryan off on Vegas?  It would certainly help.

The Senators youth has a pretty good hype machine running it and there's a pretty good chance that there are going to be two young kids making waves for this club next season, including St. John Sea Dogs defenseman Thomas Chabot, who has been a big focus at this year's Memorial Cup, and forward Colin White, who came out of the NCAA system this spring to sign his entry-level deal and he'll make a push for an everyday job.  If you're looking for some late kids to pick up in the draft, these are two that look very promising for the coming year.

Needs at the 2017 Entry Draft

The Senators still have their 1st round pick in the entry draft this June and thanks to their trip to the Conference Finals, that pick has shifted down the line to 28th overall, where they are still going to be looking for some kind of top end talent to compliment their team down the line.  Speed was a big reason the Senators were as good as they were in these playoffs and that has to be the theme of their next top prospect, which leads me to a gamble for the team in Spokane Chiefs diminutive forward Kailer Yamamoto, who is said to be all kinds of quick and his scoring numbers are pretty darn good at the junior level.  With the Senators already possessing size at the forward level, even in their current prospects, adding a dash of pure skill & speed at a cost of size isn't a terrible idea.

This Senators team really showed how playoff-ready they are and it really starts on their blueline.  The drive and will of the captain, through the serviceable Phaneuf and the shut down prowess of Methot, it really did make Anderson's job much easier, no matter how well he was playing already.  Anderson is already 36 years old and his window is creeping down, so if the Sens are going to do it for him, they better act quickly.  I think the Senators are capable of some great things in the 2018 season, but they will need some more help, keeping their fingers crossed that the youth movement brings a big push, but they would also require a favourable set of match-ups in the playoffs, kind of what they had in these last few weeks.  They're a playoff team, for sure, and they have the core group to be more than that.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Pool Outlook for Washington

Back-to-back President's Trophies... that's about as good as it gets for the Washington Capitals, as they cannot get that to translate regular season successes into playoff wins.

The Capitals absolutely steamrolled through the NHL in the 2017 regular season, as they had clinched the best record in the league, before a good number of teams had even clinched a playoff spot, winning a total of 55 games and finishing with 118 points in the standings, 7 points better than Pittsburgh.

This was supposed to be their year though.  Signing Justin Williams in the off-season, acquiring Kevin Shattenkirk at the trade deadline, the pieces were surely coming together to help the core group of players get over the hump in the playoffs.

It wasn't to be though.  The opening round was certainly a rocky ride, as they had their hands full with the youngsters in Toronto, but they were able to overcome their speed and youthful enthusiasm with bearing down on them late in the series, dispatching them in six games.  The Capitals goal of making it past the second round in the Alex Ovechkin era was going to have a tough task, getting the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the rivalry was back on again.

The series was an excellent one to watch, as the two teams traded blows, shot for shot, and it went the distance, all the way to Game 7, where they couldn't find their way past Marc-Andre Fleury in the deciding game and it was another early finish to the playoffs.

What does this team need to do to have more playoff success?

The Washington Capitals are always a good hockey pool option for the regular season and their popularity was certainly there this year, as 12 of them were taken at the opening draft in October, including two 1st round picks in Braden Holtby and Alex Ovechkin, but their depth got off to a slow start, hence a couple drops at the first swap, while the second swap saw their popularity bounce back with three picks.  With Kevin Shattenkirk getting deal to the Capitals at the deadline, that lifted their overall end of season to 14 players.

Holtby was the 1st overall pick in this year's pool, to be more exact, and he finished as the pool's MVP, finishing 1st overall in pool scoring, with 42 wins and 102 points in 63 appearances, leading the charge for the President's Trophy for the Capitals.  Unfortunately for Jeremy, the pick didn't translate into back-to-back wins in the hockey pool.

In terms of the rest of the team, the Capitals were also good about spreading the wealth, as Philipp Grubauer was also pool worthy this season.  There were eight forwards worthy of the conversation, including Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Marcus Johansson, T.J. Oshie, Justin Williams, Andre Burakovsky and Jay Beagle.  Backstrom was good enough for a 1st round pick, while Ovechkin was only worthy of a 2nd round pick.  On defense, the Caps finished with Kevin Shattenkirk, Matt Niskanen, John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov and Nate Schmidt as worthy blueliners, giving the team 15 players worthy of the pool, so our teams were a player or two short.

What I Said Last Year, At This Time...

I don't think I can bet against the Capitals having another big year in the 2017 season, especially given how they look on paper today.  Any team with Ovechkin, Backstrom, Kuznetsov, Carlson and Holtby on it, signed and ready to be delivered, has an optimal chance of being tops in any conference and/or league.  Unless the unforeseeable happens, which the Montreal Canadiens proved, this team can be a top team in the league again.  They have to be considered Cup contenders and it will be how the management team tinkers with this lineup, which will determine their fate again.  I believe that they're very close and they need to believe that they can be there in the end.

They really could have been there, but the extra pieces that management managed to rustle up were not the pieces that pushed them over the top, rather they only pushed them to the brink, where they have been before, just to the end of the second round of the playoffs.  The team was fun to watch and a great hockey pool team in the regular season again, but this has to be frustrating for Capitals fans, as they should be doing much better than they are.

2018 Pool Outlook

Forwards Cap Defense Cap Goalies Cap
Alex Ovechkin 9.538 Matt Niskanen 5.750 Braden Holtby 5.100
Nicklas Backstrom 6.700 John Carlson 3.967
Marcus Johansson 4.583
Jay Beagle 1.750
Lars Eller 3.500 Brooks Orpik 5.500 Vitek Vanecek 0.714
Tom Wilson 2.000 Lucas Johansen 0.925 Adam Carlson 0.705
Riley Barber 0.925 Taylor Chorney 0.800
Hampus Gustafsson 0.884 Kristofers Bindulis 0.793
Mason Mitchell 0.884 Colby Williams 0.751
Jakub Vrana 0.863 Connor Hobbs 0.722
Garrett Pilon 0.776 Jonas Siegenthaler 0.720
Beck Malenstyn 0.763 Madison Bowey 0.695
Tim McGauley 0.663 Tyler Lewington 0.665
Zach Sill 0.613 Aaron Ness 0.613

Free agency has really taken this team down to the bare minimum, in terms of who they have signed and who is pool worthy today.  Out of 15 pool worthy players at the end of the regular season, seven have contracts for next season, but with the names they have signed, they should have no problems attracting new talent, if needed.

Potential Losses in the Expansion Draft

Required exposure could be a bit of an issue for the Capitals, as of today, as they are light on signed players that could meet all the requirements, so there could be something left out there for the Golden Knights to happily snap up.  Lars Eller at $3.5 million or even Jay Beagle at $1.75 million look like the most likely candidates today, to be left exposed at the forward position, but the Capitals could sign a few other players that could meet that exposure requirement to help protect those two, if needed.

Free Agency and the Salary Cap

Well, where do we begin?  Let's look at the potential losses of pool worthy players through unrestricted free agency.  Oshie, Shattenkirk and Williams highlight the worthy players that could possibly hit the open market, if their love for Washington wanes this summmer.  All three are certainly good pick ups for any team and if they hit the open market, they'll likely get paid well.

Restricted free agency will be where the difficulty lies for the Capitals, as they have Kuznetsov, Burakovsky, Orlov, Grubauer and Schmidt all hitting at the same time and Burakovsky is the only one of the bunch coming off his entry-level, which would suggest he wouldn't get the same kind of leeway in negotiations.  The Capitals will likely have to step up for the rest, possibly offering some UFA years in their new deals.

The Capitals are not exactly working with a lot of space either, as their projected roster is only sitting at 11 signed players and $50.2 million, which doesn't leave a lot for those RFA's to wrestle over.  They could really use a big boost, when it comes to the ceiling being raised by the league, which would give them a little more flexibility.

Given the cap and roster situation for the Capitals, it will be high time that they raid the cupboards, trying to find any and all of their young talent for some cheap help.  Forward Jakub Vrana and defenseman Madison Bowey appear to be closest to making the jump and having rookie status for next season, just in case we run into the rookie scoring pool again.  If either or both of these guys can crack the lineup on a full-time basis, points should just fall into their laps, as they would have to be good enough to get points to begin with.   Keep an eye on these two, once training camp rolls around.

Needs at the 2017 Entry Draft

The 2017 season was their time... they spent a lot of futures on the roster that they had going for them and now they won't pick until the 4th round of this year's draft, where it gets pretty thin.  Hell, even the 1st round is getting pretty thin, where they would have picked, down at 27th overall.

Instead, it will be the St. Louis Blues, who received this pick, thanks to the deal that saw Shattenkirk end up with the Caps.  I already have the Blues picking up a defenseman in the draft already, so a forward should be in order to round it all out.  It looks like there is a fair bit of upside to Jesper Boqvist, so the Blues will head in that direction with their pick.

Even with the number of bodies that have been removed from the table above, most of which should come back, the Capitals still have a very good core group of players to build around.  Re-signing Kuznetsov will probably be the toughest job of them all, but once that contract is signed, the scoring depth isn't nearly as questionable, as he'll make his line better and things should keep moving forward.  Right now, it's hard to imagine that the Capitals will be nearly as dominant in the regular season, from a wins perspective, since all the pieces are not there, but there's no doubt that the quality of top players is there, so the playoffs should be a given.  The race for the Metropolitan Division title might be a bit closer though, but the Capitals should be participating, with all things being equal.  President's Trophy is a stretch today, but not impossible.  Stanley Cup?  That's going to need some real elbow grease by the team's management.

Fringe Signings (May 27)

Of course, the morning after posting the outlook for Chicago, the Blackhawks go ahead and make a key signing. Restricted free agent-to-be defenseman Michal Kempny got his new deal and I believe he'll now be leaned upon, in his second NHL season, to really help with the workload on the blueline with some unrestricted free agents likely heading to market in July.

The 26-year old from the Czech Republic appeared in 50 games for the Blackhawks last season, scoring only 2 goals and 8 points, only good enough for 176th among all defenders.  With the likes of Brian Campbell and Johnny Oduya leaving town, that should open up the number four or five spot on the blueline, which should come with more minutes.

Kempny reportedly signed a 1-year deal, but no cap information has been disclosed, as of yet.  It would be hard to imagine his number over $1 million, given the numbers he had, so it would be a good incentive for him to play hard and earn that bigger deal, be it in Chicago or somewhere else.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Pool Outlook for Chicago

The methodology of spending the bulk of your team's cap space on a very established and successful core group of players and then trying to find the recipe for depth to play around them at a cost-effective rate has quickly become the focus in Chicago and the results haven't been poor, by any stretch, but in the 2017 regular season, they were far from flashy, but they still managed positive results.

The Blackhawks didn't quite have the same feel as years before, when their top players seemed to dominate the headlines and the highlight shows most weeks.  No, they were a little bit more blue collar, it seemed, but it still worked in their favour, as they still walked away with the Central Division title and the best record in the Western Conference.

Unfortunately, their prize for being the best in the conference was playing the Nashville Predators in the opening round and the Blackhawks still hadn't quite found any zip to their game, as they were thoroughly out-played and out-worked in that series, getting swept out of the playoffs by the team who is now on their way to the Stanley Cup Finals.

The aftermath of the opening round sweep hit the assistant coaches the hardest, as they were handed their walking papers early on in the off-season and now the winds of change are blowing through the league, as we wait and see what happens with Vegas and the salary cap ceiling, two big factors to how the Blackhawks will be approaching this summer.

First things first though, let's have a quick peek at how much of an impact the Blackhawks had in last year's hockey pool draft, before we look at how they will impact next season's pool.

The Blackhawks have been a steady hockey pool team for a good number of years now and having 11 picks in the draft says a lot more to their core group never really changing and some real uncertainty about the depth around those players.  Two 1st round picks were among those 11, to no surprise, as Corey Crawford and Patrick Kane are usually locks for big points.  There was one key pick-up at the first Waiver Draft, as Richard Panik emerged as quality depth this year, while the second swap was Blackhawk-free.  And just like that, there were only 12 players from Chicago on active teams at the end of the year, somewhat of a boring season.

Kane finished atop the Blackhawks scoring list again in the 2017 season, making it back-to-back years, following his pool MVP season in 2016.  The 28-year old finished 8th overall in pool scoring with 34 goals and 89 points in all 82 games for Chicago, overcoming a fairly slow start, but still finding a way to finish over a point-per-game on the season.  Kane was 3rd among all forwards in scoring and was a bargain pick, if only slightly, taken 12th overall at the draft.

And as if we all knew what we were doing in this hockey pool, there were only 12 pool worthy players playing for Chicago, the exact number we finished with this year.  Joining Kane at the forward position were Artemi Panarin, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Artem Anisimov, Richard Panik and Ryan Hartman.  Four blueliners were also good enough for the nod this year and there were no surprises here, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Brian Campbell led the way.  The Blackhawks were a little more generous in sharing the net this year (not to mention one injury helped share time), as Corey Crawford and Scott Darling were both worthy of the pool, finishing 12th and 33rd among all goalies.

What I Said Last Year, At This Time...

It's hard to bet against this team, especially with what they already have signed on for next season.  Yes, the Blackhawks will struggle to put the best lineup they can out on the ice next season, but it's hard to look at a roster with Kane, Toews, Keith and Seabrook and not think they are going to do well next season.  Panarin has established himself as a prime time player in the NHL and he's not a teenager, so I don't see the jinx falling on him too much.  This Blackhawks team will be good again for the regular season, no doubt, but they will struggle with their depth, it may cost them some games here and there and it will culminate into an early opening round playoff loss, unless the math works in their favour, through a ceiling raise and some LTIR help, so they can add some more at the deadline.  Good team to pick from for your hockey pool, but I wouldn't get my overall expectations too high here.

An early opening round playoff loss?  Get outta town!  Now, I'm not entirely sure that it was the team's depth that did in the Blackhawks, rather the big stars didn't quite shine nearly as bright as many thought they would and to me, that's where the Blackhawks lost out to the Predators.  Not to take anything away from Nashville, they were ready to play and played really well.  Nevertheless, the Blackhawks system of keeping their roster, may be getting a bit stale and with the lumps that they have against the cap, it will be hard to move away from it any time soon.

2018 Pool Outlook

Forwards Cap Defense Cap Goalies Cap
Patrick Kane 10.500 Brent Seabrook 6.850 Corey Crawford 6.000
Jonathan Toews 10.500 Duncan Keith 5.538
Artemi Panarin 6.000 Niklas Hjalmarsson 4.100
Marian Hossa 5.275
Artem Anisimov 4.550
Richard Panik 2.800
Ryan Hartman 0.863
Marcus Kruger 3.083 Gustav Forsling 0.873 Jeff Glass 0.613
Nick Schmaltz 0.925 Trevor Van Riemsdyk 0.825
Tyler Motte 0.925 Luc Snuggerud 0.768
John Hayden 0.925 Carl Dahlstrom 0.751
Alexander DeBrincat 0.809 Viktor Svedberg 0.750
David Kampf 0.778 Robin Norell 0.718
Matthew Highmore 0.776 Michal Rozsival 0.650
Nathan Noel 0.776
Anthony Louis 0.775
Tanner Kero 0.750
Matt Iacopelli 0.743
Vincent Hinostroza 0.718
Luke Johnson 0.718
Graham Knott 0.718
Jordin Tootoo 0.700
Alexandre Fortin 0.685
Kyle Baun 0.625

With the way the salary cap numbers are already looking, more on that below, I would have to think that something is going to change on this table before too long, as the Blackhawks already have $63 million tied up in pool worthy talent and that's only 11 players.  That would leave $10 million for 12 players to fill out a 23-man roster and that takes an even bigger hit, when you start to include Marcus Kruger.

Potential Losses in the Expansion Draft

The Blackhawks are going to have a lot of decisions made up for them early on in the expansion process, as they have four forwards, three defensemen and Corey Crawford all protected under their no-move clauses.  Thanks to required exposure, the Blackhawks could very well make Kruger available, hoping that Vegas sweeps up his $3 million cap hit... or at least trying to guide them in his direction through bribes of draft picks, to which they have a lot of late picks this year.

Free Agency and the Salary Cap

The early cap numbers, according to CapFriendly, are showing that the Blackhawks are in desperate need of a big increase at the cap ceiling and for Vegas to snag a big contract off their books, as they are already $3 million over the 2017 ceiling and holding on to 21 players on a projected roster.  That's starting to get pretty dicey.

Unrestricted free agency helps a little bit, as both Brian Campbell and Johnny Oduya come off the list or else they'd be $5.25 million further into the hole, so it would seem unlikely that either of them will be coming back for another spin, barring a cheap contract or flexibility happens elsewhere.

Restricted free agency has the potential of being somewhat difficult as well, but none of their current RFA crop were pool worthy, but that isn't to say they wouldn't be down the road.  Tomas Jurco and Michal Kempny still have some upside with regular minutes, but they need new deals first.

The Blackhawks may need to dip into their rookie pool this year or dive into the college free agent pool to help fill out their roster at a reasonable cost.  Forward John Hayden, a 2013 draft pick out of college, played in 12 games before the playoffs kicked in and had 4 points, he would have a leg up on some of the competition, while Erie Otters forward Alex DeBrincat is having a great year, including playing in the Memorial Cup tournament right now, but with his size, he should still be a couple years away, but given the team's situation, he may be rushed up to fill in a gap.

Needs at the 2017 Entry Draft

The Chicago Blackhawks have not been shy at using a home run swing on some of these late picks, trying to uncover that extra bit of talent that the teams before them have overlooked or underappreciated.  That seems to be the M.O. of Guelph Storm forward Issac Ratcliffe, who has been scouted as having really great hands, but lacks the strength to be an impact player right now.  The Blackhawks are never in a big hurry to move prospects up to the big club, unless they are going to make an impact, but if they can get Ratcliffe to get bigger, add that extra strength, they could have an impact player in a few years.

I don't see the trend lines for Chicago's regular season numbers falling off the edge of the world after a division title in 2017, but there is a lot that needs to happen before we can talk about trending back upwards in the playoffs.  The sweeping loss to the Predators this past season was a sign that things are not moving in the right direction for the Blackhawks and management will have to start getting real creative with what they already have.  It seems improbable that the Blackhawks will trade one of those big contracted core players, unless someone else felt that the player was the difference between winning and losing, because those contracts are daunting.  Unless something drastic changes in Chicago's roster make-up, I believe they are doomed for another early playoff exit in the 2018 season.