With the deadline just days away, it makes sense that almost all anyone wants to talk about is how their team is going to avoid screwing up their present or future.
This concern is understandable mostly because of how poorly run NHL teams are at this time of year, with some clubs giving up entirely too much to get mediocre help (we’ll be talking about Forsberg-for-Erat until the heat death of the universe) or deciding not to sell when they should absolutely, positively sell (*cough*Gudbranson*cough*). Teams get delusional about their chances, they make bad decisions, they sometimes double down on those decisions (*cough*Gudbranson*cough*).
So people are really worried. They should be. At this time of year, maybe the best thing you can be is a seller, because the prices are pretty good these days and it’s hard not to maximize value on a lot of trades.
But guess how many sellers there are in the league this year. Like four! It’s amazing!
Anyway, here are the questions from some very scared people:
Patrick asks: “Any real landing spot for Lundqvist?”
I think I’ve said this before but I would imagine the Rangers would be thrilled to get out from under that contract while Lundqvist still has value. Question is: How do you get someone to take on that contract mid-season? You’d either have to take a ton of garbage back or get him to waive his no-move clause to go to a crap team with a lot of cap space.
Problem is, almost every such team in the league has a commitment to a goalie already (New Jersey, Montreal, Florida, Edmonton, Colorado, Arizona). Or is a team to which Lundqvist would say, “Absolutely not” (Ottawa, and they wouldn’t want to take on the money anyway). Or is Vegas, which doesn’t really have a long-term goaltending solution but also probably doesn’t want to get into the business of aggressively buying in the next year or two.
Maybe the Rangers retain salary (not a bad idea if they’re motivated and committed to a three-year rebuild) to change things up, leverage some more assets, etc. But ultimately this is all on Lundqvist, who’s 35, signed for three seasons after this one, and most importantly, has a stated desire to stay put.
He calls the shots here. Every other consideration in this case is consequently secondary to that.
Gurshaan asks: “What moves can the Habs make to avoid a rebuild and make the playoffs next year?”
You mean without being wildly irresponsible and emptying the cupboard of all picks and prospects worth a damn? Well, frankly, they can’t.
The good news is they have plenty of cap space to add — if they can add — but they don’t have a good pool of talent from which to draw in their farm system, and trading some of their four picks in the first two rounds of this year’s draft doesn’t seem like a good idea either.
I just don’t know how you do that without totally mortgaging the future to wring, what, a second-round bounce-out (at best) from this roster. They’re in a tough position because the Bruins and Leafs could still improve from their current quality based on their youth, and Tampa is/has been/will be elite.
If your goal is simply to Make The Playoffs with this team, I think they can do that simply by getting better luck (they’re shooting 6 percent as a team at 5-on-5). But if you want to meaningfully compete, you can’t avoid the rebuild.
Andy asks: “What do you do if you’re Ron Francis? A) nothing B) buy C) sell D) call-ups.”
I think being open to buying or selling here and there is probably the best course of action, but I guess the answer to your question is “all of the above.”
We don’t know enough about this group’s skill level to just push all-in with them, right? So what does trading potentially a lot for, say, Rick Nash get you? If you want to dump a couple late picks or something like that for some depth help, particularly up front, then by all means. This is a group that, you can argue, has “earned” a little help from management.
But also, if someone offers you something nice for, say, Lee Stempniak or Marcus Kruger? I wouldn’t feel too bad about selling either (especially Kruger, but that seems unlikely given his current situation). Not that there are too many players to sell on this team or anything, just because of how young and cheap it is, but there are a few veterans who can be dealt for the right price without subverting any longer-term plans.
And if you do nothing? Well, that’s fine. This is a borderline playoff team so you can argue there won’t be enough help with depth pickups to justify the effort, and also that selling off parts from a team that could make the playoffs isn’t a great idea. And if you want some help from the farm? There might be some help available; I don’t know what Martin Necas’s Czech league team is doing right now but if he can come over at the end of the season and pitch in a bit? Hey, alright.
I guess it’s nice to have options.
Well let’s just get this out of the way: Any GM who helps Peter Chiarelli by taking Milan Lucic off his hands should be fired on the spot.
As for Klefbom, if he gets traded for help on the wing, he should also be fired on the spot. Obviously Klefbom isn’t scoring like he did last year, which I don’t think is really his fault (it is, in fact, Chiarelli’s, as well as luck normalizing a bit).
The idea that you would trade a cheap, effective, 24-year-old D you have signed for another five seasons after this one to fix a mistake you made with a 25-year-old D you have signed at the same price point (more or less) for four more years is, flatly, bonkers. It’s the kind of thing Chiarelli would 10000 percent do, of course. But any sale of Klefbom, who is better than Adam Larsson in all ways, would be definition be a fleecing unless they got back an All-Star on the wing.
Because a trade of a guy like Klefbom, who is everything Oilers brass says they want in a defenseman, is taking your finger out of one hole in the dam to plug another. Again, Chiarelli has been doing a lot of that in the past few years, but this would be perhaps an even bigger disaster than the Eberle trade just in terms of the value lost versus what would probably be recouped.
Put another way, do you trust Chiarelli to do execute trade well at this point?
Corsi Jones asks: “What sort of move makes sense for Calgary at the deadline seeing as they are on the bubble and have very little draft currency? Should they consider selling off some periphery pieces despite being in ‘make it’ mode?”
As with any other fringe team, if Calgary can dump a problem contract (Troy Brouwer much?), that’s all well and good. But unlike Carolina, they’re not exactly at the start of something with their talent group. Pretty much all their big contributors are established NHLers, with the exception, I guess, of second-year man Matt Tkachuk, who’s eligible for a new deal on July 1 and should absolutely get paid.
The Flames have a pretty clear need in terms of both forward and defensive depth, and if you want to address those, it can probably be done somewhat inexpensively.
In fact, that’s the kind of thing I would encourage; this is a good group, on the surface, and while the prospect pool isn’t overwhelming or anything, there are a few guys you might be able to use to fetch some more serious help if you think you need to without mortgaging the future too badly.
If I’m Brad Treliving here, I wouldn’t want to part with, say, Rasmus Andersson or Oliver Kylington, but if you’ve got a middle-six scorer who can shore up the team’s play when the 3M and Gaudreau lines are off the ice, I’d want to listen to what you’re looking for.
Marc asks: “Do you think Donato could help Boston this year or do you think they should wait until next season?”
Yeah this is a kid who can play. He’s scoring basically a goal a game in college, scored a bunch in the Olympics as well. In fact, I can’t imagine there are too many college players with more goals than his 54 in 91 career games over the past three years.
So yeah, if you can add a player like that to shore up what is already a good young group that might need a little extra pop, Donato certainly fits that bill. Which, if I’m the Bruins, means I’m only in the market for defensive help in the next few days.
It should be noted, however, that Harvard guys tend to stay all four years, because at Harvard, that’s all you get to finish a degree unless there are extenuating circumstances. Now, Donato has the benefit of still living near campus, being able to take classes over the summer to accelerate the process, etc. I don’t know what his academic situation is like, is what I’m saying. But if he decides to stay in school for another year, that’s probably going to be why.
Gary asks via email: “Patrik Elias – Hall of Fame?”
He’s an interesting case, for sure: 1,240 career games (94th all-time), with 408 career goals (tied for 87th) and 617 assists (78th), for 1,025 career points (79th).
He also lost a season and a half of his career to lockouts, which hurts all those numbers. He was a key piece of a team that won two Cups and went to two more Cup Finals. And despite being Czech, he has bronze medals from the Olympics and two World Championships.
Plus Elias will probably also get the “He would have scored more on another team, cuz he gave up offense for defense” credit they’ll one day give to Jonathan Toews.
But if you move to the argument of “Was he ever one of the best in the world at his position?” I think you gotta say it’s a no. He played in four All-Star Games, only had four seasons even in the realm of a point a game (and one with 96 in 82). He never came particularly close to winning any individual awards; third in Calder voting as a rookie, sixth in the MVP voting in his one big season, a few times he cracked the top 20 for Selke.
For me, it’s a narrow no, but I wouldn’t begrudge him if he got in. There are plenty of worse players in the Hall than Patrik Elias, but if that’s the criteria, you gotta start letting in a lot more guys.
Maya asks: “What’s BU’s issue? Is it recruiting? Coaching? The inability to retain top level talent because they wanna get paid? Why are they so bad at hockey (and worse at special teams)?”
Maya first of all, thanks for asking a college hockey question.
But let’s first preface this by saying they don’t seem to have much of an issue these days, having gone 8-3-2 since the New Year (ninth-best record in the country). In that stretch they’ve outscored opponents 42-32, and outshot them by more than seven shots on net per game. They’re mostly playing very well these days, and even their long-struggling power play is running at 25.5 percent since the calendar flipped to 2018.
With that having been said, I see what you’re getting at. BU is seemingly never as good as it “should be” on paper. They have seven — SEVEN! — drafted defensemen on the roster this season. They had a handful of first-round picks on the roster last year. And apart from the season when they had Jack Eichel, they have never been truly dominant, despite all their talent.
So the answer to your question, I think, is also “all of the above.”
Because yeah, it’s great to recruit a lot of really high-test players, but if you’re not going to keep them around for more than a year or two (Eichel, Clayton Keller, Charlie McAvoy, soon to be Brady Tkachuk, etc.) then you constantly have to reload with other elite talent, and at some point that just might not be possible. And the guys they’ve brought in who are gonna be more like three- or four-year players are, for the most part, sticking around because they’re undrafted with limited ceilings (Ahti Oksanen, Bobo Carpenter), or they’re guys with high ceilings who don’t develop as planned (John MacLeod, Brandon Hickey).
The guys like Jordan Greenway — who are simultaneously drafted, good, and three-year players — are few and far between.
I also definitely think coaching comes into it. For instance, the power play, until recently, has really struggled, especially relative to what it should do given the talent level, and a lot of that has appeared to be due to coaching decisions. Brady Tkachuk didn’t get a lot of time on the power play unit until recently (and hey, it took off immediately; weird!), they use a 3F/2D setup on the man advantage, guys are repeatedly called out for not shooting enough but still don’t shoot enough, etc.
Also, despite the fact that the team really doesn’t have as much forward talent as you’d expect, and (again) has seven drafted defenders, you might think they’d experiment with an 11/7 lineup. They haven’t, except on rare occasions. Seems strange to me, but here we are.
This team has a decent enough chance of making the NCAA tournament again this year, and if it does it has the hockey ability to beat a team or two, maybe. But with that having been said, BU shouldn’t be in the business of “maybe” when it comes to the NCAA tournament, and if there’s a miss here, you gotta start asking harder questions.
(That was a long answer. Sorry.)
All stats via Corsica unless noted otherwise.