Strangely eventful week in hockey. Lots of contract signings, arbitration intrigue, and front-office drama to talk about, and if that’s what we get in August, you have to call that good luck for the fans (though maybe not always for the people involved).
So hey, people wanna know about all kinds of stuff that’s actually relevant to hockey news, which is a blessing to me, as well as the kind of usual stuff that goes on during the summer where people just have idle wonderings.
Let’s get going:
Kyle asks: “Where do you see a landing spot for Rick Nash, and at what cost?”
Apparently Nash is still weighing his options on whether he’ll even play at all this season because of concussion issues, which, even if he lands on playing for a relatively low AAV somewhere, is going to limit the number of teams willing to kick the tires on him.
I’m afraid that that Rick Nash we knew as recently as two years ago (when he scored on a roughly 28-goal pace) is probably never coming back. He can still be a 20-goal guy and there are plenty of teams that need a middle-six left wing (like the Blue Jackets or Bruins) who can pop in 15 to 20.
There are probably a few less-risky options than Nash, unfortunately for him, so even if he does choose to play, I’d imagine he would really only get a training camp invite with the promise of a real crack at making the roster. I’d be really surprised if he actually got even a one-year deal before a tryout.
Pat asks: “Are the Sharks set up for success next season, or by missing out on big name FAs are they mostly the same as last year: a good but not great team in bad division?”
I thought they were a little better than good, to be honest, but yeah to your point, they kind of took a couple big swings and missed so hard they screwed themselves into the ground Bugs Bunny style.
I’ve said it before: This is still a very good team, made better by their division being such an embarrassment, and just about anyone would struggle to actually knock them out of the playoffs under normal (see also: non-.935 goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury) circumstances. Put another way, I can absolutely see them making the Western Conference Final with more or less the same roster if things go as they (probably) should.
That being said, yeah it sucks to miss out on top talents that would have added an insurance policy against all the Sharks’ over-30 guys continuing to decline and all that. But hey, there may still be plenty of room for them to make a trade (Pacioretty much?) and bolster their standing for one last kick at the can.
The problem, also to your earlier point, is that the Sharks are merely “very good” and not “elite.” That didn’t stop the Capitals from winning the Cup this past season but y’know, it’s not the most likely outcome or anything.
What if a bear learned calculus?
Look man, I said it the other day and it’s a crazy thing, but it bears repeating: I saw a ton of Capitals fans who seem to recognize that this contract is a bonkers overpay for a guy who doesn’t produce offensively and is an active detriment to his team a lot of the time due to penalties and suspensions.
However, many also tried to justify it to themselves by saying, “Well if he becomes a consistent 20-goal guy…”
This is a guy who, before he got put with Ovechkin and Kuznetsov for a good chunk of this past season, had a career high of just seven goals and 23 points. He ballooned to 14 and 35 this year, which is not a $5.167-million output. Most people seem to recognize this. So to become a consistent 20-goal guy — which, I don’t think that’s particularly worth $5.167 million AAV either — he would have to boost his massively outsized career-high output by almost an additional 50 percent. This after a 100 percent increase of its own.
He shot the puck way more this season than he had in the past (but still came in at less than two per game, which is not a good number) but also lucked out on shooting percentage, jumping from a career average of 6.3 percent to 11.4 percent last year.
When signing long-term deals for guys coming off big years, you have to ask, “Which is the real guy?” I think we all know what the real Tom Wilson produces like, even if some of us don’t want to admit it.
I guess stranger things have happened (usually on Netflix!) but the odds that Wilson is not only going to bridge the gap between his actual value and what his six-year contract will pay him, but also surpass that kind of output, are very, very slim.
Yann asks via email: “What will it take for Bergevin, and everyone involved in the car crash that the Habs have been for the past four-plus years, to be fired?”
Hey speaking of Pacioretty, his current team is gonna be awful, especially after it trades him for spare parts and futures. There’s no universe in which Bergevin pulls a comparable return for a guy everyone in the league knows absolutely must be traded.
If they really really bottom out this year – and it’s eminently possible if Carey Price isn’t excellent – that might finally be enough. To have traded away so much talent over the past few years is already a fireable offense, but when Max Domi, the ghost of Shea Weber, and whatever the salary-dump return Pacioretty pulls don’t come close to producing what their counterparts do, I really think that might be it.
But then again, I would have said that last year and here we are, right? Honestly, who even knows with these guys anymore.
A guy with an annoying Twitter name asks: “Where does Mark Stone end up and when does the trade happen?”
If the arbitration process gets that far (which I suspect it will because Stone, like any other sane person, probably wants out of Ottawa desperately), he’s almost certainly going to get a $7-million AAV awarded to him. That limits trade options because, as good as Stone is (very good) very few teams with more than $7 million in cap space and the pieces Ottawa would probably want to pull Stone out of their grasp.
Frankly the Sens would be wise to trade him before that award comes down because, if he goes through arbitration, the team trading for him wouldn’t be able to re-sign him until Jan. 1. Plus, that team might be able to keep his cap hit down with a longer-term deal because they have the advantage of being not-the-Senators.
There are very few teams that couldn’t use a great two-way right wing who scored more than a point a game last year. The line to acquire him should be pretty long if he’s available, which he probably is, and that’s another guy San Jose should frankly be in on.
John asks via email: “From a worker’s rights perspective, should the draft be abolished for athletes?”
Yeah I’ve said this before, too: There shouldn’t be a draft.
I know, competitive balance and all that. The league would have to create rules to say teams can only sign x number of players ranked in the top five of their draft year by ISS or whatever, but in the long run it would probably be better for the league — let alone the players, who should have the full right to work where they want for however much money someone is willing to pay them, without RFA restrictions, rookie maximums, or anything like that — if guys got to pick their destination.
Like, it’s very bad for the league that Connor McDavid, who might end up being a top-five player ever by the end of his career, is going to spend basically his entire prime in Edmonton. The Oilers, even with McDavid, are on TV in the U.S. only a handful of times because no one cares about them down here. You can say the same thing about plenty of other No. 1 picks who languished in bad markets or on poorly run teams just because they had the misfortune of being picked to go there independent of their own choices.
Remember that dead-eyed thousand-yard stare McDavid had when the Oilers won the lottery? That’s easily avoided without a draft, isn’t it?
Of course, because the league is 31 teams and every owner is going to want to have a fair crack at McDavids and Rasmus Dahlins, and also because the older guys who set the NHLPA’s agenda don’t care about young players, the draft is almost certainly never going anywhere. That’s how it goes.
A different Kyle asks: “Joel Edmundson recently said the Blues are a top-5 team with their new additions. Is he wrong, and if so, how far off is he?”
They’re almost certainly a top-10 team but they’re definitely not top-five. That’s crazy. As I’ve said throughout the summer, the top five, in roughly this order, is Nashville, Winnipeg, Tampa, Toronto, Boston.
This doesn’t mean the Blues are bad. Far from it. But can you really trust Jake Allen? C’mon.
Deej asks: “As far as Brady Skjei goes, if he becomes a consistent 35-point guy, and let’s say an excellent No. 3 defenseman, won’t that contract still look pretty good in three years, when top-4 D market value will be higher?”
This is, a little bit, the Tom Wilson argument from above. Skjei had 39 points in 2016-17 and that number fell to 25 on a much worse team this past season, despite a significant increase in his ice time.
Can he get back to that first level he played at as a rookie with a more offensive role? Probably he can. But again, the Rangers probably aren’t going to be all that good this year — they’re committed to a real rebuild — so there won’t be a ton of offensive help to get him to 30ish assists.
I like Skjei a lot as a player but this is just a little too much money for a guy whose team is likely to struggle for the next three years. I guess the larger point is that the Rangers aren’t gonna be a cap team for a while so it really doesn’t matter one way or the other.
All stats via Corsica unless noted otherwise. Some questions in the mailbag are edited for clarity or to remove swear words, which are illegal to use.