(In which Ryan Lambert takes a look at some of the biggest issues and stories in the NHL, and counts them down.)
8 – That TJ Oshie contract
I get the thinking in giving a guy, who will be 31 in December, eight years at $5.75 million.
At least if you’re the Washington Capitals.
Maybe — probably — you figure your window is open only as long as Alex Ovechkin is an effective goalscorer. Maybe — probably — you figure his 33-goal season is a harbinger of things to come rather than a blip in shot production. Maybe — probably — you figure you won’t get someone better for cheaper this summer.
So I guess I get it. But man that contract is gonna be widely acknowledged as horrible like two years from now. Yes, Oshie had the same number of goals as Ovechkin this past season. Pretty good! He also did it on fewer than half the shots. So I have news for everyone: Based on the available evidence, the likelihood Oshie hits 30 next season, which he never did before, is basically zero.
Oshie probably also provides you significant value in the shootout for as long as he can reasonably skate, and that’s guaranteed to be worth a few standings points a year.
Washington has basically two more kicks at the can here. Might as well empty the tanks and resign yourself to being bad pretty shortly thereafter. Might as well have a guy around for that whole time if you’re already comfortable with him.
But as a general rule, going more than three years for a guy on the wrong side of 30 is a huge risk. Going eight at ay kind of big price point is outright asking for trouble. Begging for it, really. But given Washington’s unique circumstances, having already wasted the prime years of arguably the greatest goalscorer in league history, you can see where they’re coming from even if you disagree with it.
7 – If the Penguins don’t sign Joe Thornton
I never ever root for a player to go to a certain destination as a free agent, but I am doing that here and now. July 1, I want Jumbo Joe Thornton to go to the Pittsburgh Penguins as a No. 3 center who runs the second power play unit. Get the big man real close to the Cup, if not push Pittsburgh to a threepeat, make the Penguins incredibly fun to watch.
People aren’t gonna like this because they don’t like the Penguins. And it probably won’t happen because he reportedly prefers to stay in San Jose.
But think about how horrifyingly powerful that power play would be with Crosby and Malkin on the top unit and Thornton on the second.
Think about how badly even a 38-year-old Joe Thornton would bully most of the third lines in the NHL.
Think about how nice it would be to see Joe Thornton win a Cup.
6 – Figuring out what the Coyotes are up to
You basically run a really good coach out of town. Not a positive.
You trade Mike Smith. A positive.
You tell Shane Doan and his six goals to pack up his desk. A positive.
You trade for Niklas Hjalmarsson. A positive.
You trade for Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta. A positive.
You continue to have the rest of this roster. Not a positive.
Even with the addition of these good players and the subtraction of these bad ones, what do you think this is, like an 80-point team? Sounds right. And that’s without knowing who the next coach is. And he probably won’t be better than Dave Tippett.
So this all seems like tire-spinning to me. To what end, I have no idea. One wonders if they really do either.
5 – Figuring out what the Islanders are up to
I basically have the same questions about what Garth Snow is doing.
Trade Travis Hamonic? Sure I get it. You sold low — Hamonic had an awful season in 2016-17 for a lot of reasons — and still got a first and two seconds out of the deal. Makes sense for the Flames, too, since they can put him with TJ Brodie and have basically the second-best top-four in the league.
Trade for Jordan Eberle? Yeah you’re taking on money but he’s a good player who got a raw deal this year (check that shooting percentage, check his career average, then tell me why he didn’t score more goals).
But what’s the net benefit to this team? They’re trying to convince John Tavares not to sprint out of wherever their next rink ends up being, right? In theory there’s a net benefit to these trades, and perhaps more will be done in the next week or so.
But if I’m Tavares I’m not looking at these moves as something that somehow vaults the team into serious competition for anything — certainly not in that division — within, say, three years.
So it’s a nice thought and everything, but c’mon, are the Islanders any closer to competing for anything meaningful? Gotta be a no from me.
4 – “Fixing” the coaches’ challenge, which just as a spoiler: It still sucks really bad
Oh wow you know how everyone hates the coaches’ challenge? The NHL has a plan to fix it.
No, they’re still going to enforce the “a guy had his skate a quarter-inch off the ice nine minutes before the goal was scored” rule. And they’re still gonna make every review take goddamn forever. But if you’re wrong, now you’re gonna lose a timeout AND get a penalty for delay of game.
To which I say:
Turns out, the things any rational human being hates about the rule? That’s still in there. But now, there’s something that’s going to piss even more people off about it! What a change!
Obviously the idea here is that the penalty will in some way deter coaches from using the challenge, but let’s be honest: Probably not. Especially in the playoffs, when the stakes are higher and the goals are rare. And especially especially if the opponent power play is as bad as Nashville’s was in the Final.
And by the way, even this basic, common-sense change, Colin Campbell still said one team out of 31 was like “Whoa, hey, let’s not do that.” That team is awful. I hope they go 0-82 next year. They’re bad, morally.
3 – The other side of the Saad trade
Less discussed in the whole Saad-for-Panarin trade is that Panarin is a heck of a player and will probably help Columbus just as much as Saad did. I see this as a pretty even straight-up one-for-one trade, and he helps on the opposite side of the ice, which maybe that’s what they’re going for.
But with Joel Quenneville having given the Kane/Panarin line a little more room to freelance, one wonders how much creativity John Tortorella will allow Panarin and whoever he ends up playing with. Since Tortorella went to New York, only four of his players have cleared 60 points in a season, and two of those were in the same campaign. One of them was Cam Atkinson last year, but he needed to shoot 15 percent to do it.
Panarin’s two-year average — playing with an elite offensive talent — was 76.4 points per 82 games. Can he even come close to approaching that? I wonder.
Also, it’s interesting think about what kind of offensive talent the Blue Jackets have given away in the past few years. Ryan Johansen. Now Brandon Saad (who yes, was acquired for Artem Anisimov among other pieces).
For a team that will almost certainly be hurting for goals next season when that shooting percentage comes down, maybe it makes you think. And if it doesn’t, maybe it should. Panarin is a rare talent, to be sure. And the thinking is he maybe lures Ilya Kovalchuk to town, which would also help in the goals department. But man if you think Tortorella wouldn’t let Panarin freelance…
2 – This year’s HHOF class
Tough to argue with any of the inductees this year, folks. They’re all good.
Well, except Jeremy Jacobs. Speaking of morally bad.
1 – Stunning realizations
Absolute best thing in the past week, bar none? People getting a load of that Vegas roster — which Vegas screwed up on several fronts — and going, “Oh huh weird, I guess this team won’t make the playoffs.”
Truly, the greatest blessing in this sport is how consistently its various transpirings prove me right.
This was true even before the Golden Knights started trading away various players, like Marc Methot or David Schlemko, for futures. And now it seems like they might put a guy or two on waivers to get down to a manageable roster size. This team is going to be baaaaad.
(Not ranked this week: The Panthers.
I still can’t believe they gave away Marchessault and Reilly Smith for nothing. I can’t believe they might get rid of Jason Demers for very little as well. I’m sure their free agent signings next week will puzzle smart hockey people. Impossible to figure out what goes on with this team.)
(All statistics via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)
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