Brian Costello joined The Hockey News in 1990 when the likes of Bruce Boudreau, Randy Carlyle and Joel Quenneville were players, not coaches. Costello covered major junior hockey for five seasons before getting called up to THN. He likes to focus his attention on pre- and post-NHL careers, following closely the progress of the draft, up-and-coming prospects and fancying himself a Hall of Fame expert.
The NHL is making changes to its draft lottery ostensibly to discourage teams from tanking in order to get a higher pick. What that means for the 2015 draft is the team finishing 30th now has just a 20 percent chance of winning the lottery and getting first overall pick. That’s down from 25 percent the past two drafts and down from 48.3 percent since the creation of the draft lottery in 1995.
What’s more, starting with the 2016 draft, the league will now have a lottery to determine the top three picks in the draft, not just the top pick. In past years, if the 30th-place team didn’t win the lottery, it slipped just one spot to second pick. Starting next year, the 30th-place team could conceivably slip to fourth pick if its number doesn’t come up during the draws for the first three picks.
Here are some other new facets of the adjusted lottery odds.
Right winger Kevin Hayes has bid adieu to one of the league’s strongest franchise and signed instead with the New York Rangers. The deal is a two-way contract, as per CBA guidelines for entry-level contracts, and is expected to be worth the rookie maximum salary if he makes the NHL.
The Modus operandi was all about getting to the NHL sooner for the Boston-area native. The Hayes watch has been on high alert since the NCAA graduate rebuffed the Chicago Blackhawks and became a free agent Aug. 15. Social media has been abuzz this week speculating where Hayes may sign. At one point today, the Kevin Hayes Wikipedia page showed him a member of the Colorado Avalanche. The next minute he was a Ranger. Then he was a free agent again as rational heads prevailed leading up to his announcement.
Some wondered, tongue in cheek, if his Hall of Fame announcement would precede his NHL destination of choice.
So how good is this Kevin Hayes?
The likeness of Teeder Kennedy will be the first Toronto Maple Leafs legend coming off the granite bench, but who’s next?
Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment announced the touchstone team monument project ‘Legend’s Row’ this week saying two other players will have their likenesses join Kennedy this season and up to 10 or 11 total by the time the NHL team celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2017. The statues will be on or coming off a 30-foot granite player bench just outside the Air Canada Centre.
If the Maple Leafs were going to select and announce statues of the honored Maple Leafs starting from the head of the class, it would unfold in an order close to how THN’s The Top 100 Players of All-Time established it in 1997. An esteemed panel of 50 hockey historians and experts determined that order. Here is where players most associated with the Maple Leafs ranked on that list.
If Kevin Hayes doesn’t sign with Chicago by Aug. 15, he’ll be this summer’s version of Justin Schultz and become a UFA.
A first-round pick of the Blackhawks in 2010, Hayes is a playmaking power forward who had a terrific senior season at Boston College with 27 goals and 65 points in 40 games. He’s not keen to sign with Chicago because the Blackhawks are so deep on the right wing, both at the NHL level and in terms of prospects. He’ll surely get a rookie max deal regardless.
Hayes, 22, probably has a short list of three teams:
Maybe it’s just my imagination, but there were more and more contract announcements this summer that resulted in the free agent signing for less money than he made last season.
Almost 50 players by my count, but probably a few more if you move into the fringe zone of NHL rosters. In most cases, these bargain contracts went to veterans hanging on for another season in the best league in the world, or to players coming off poor years having to agree to redemption contracts.
While most free agents signing new deals this summer received substantial raises, the number of players on squeeze contracts is anecdotally higher as well.
For every few players getting a P.K. Subban-like 313 percent pay hike (from $2.875 million to $9 million), there was a player like Brad Richards seeing his stipend whacked 70 percent (from $6.67 million to $2 million.) Even the astronomical – and absurd – 512 percent pay increases like the one fringe defenseman Deryk Engelland got from Calgary (from $566,667 to $2.9 million) were offset by the 86.67 percent drops like the one Dany Heatley got in Anaheim (from $7.5 million to $1 million).
Machismo and bravado being what they are, there’s no way you’d see this headline in today’s NHL, no matter how poorly the Buffalo Sabres or Edmonton Oilers started a season.
Washington Begs For Player Help
That was the main headline in The Hockey News 40 years ago, early in the 1974-75 season. The expansion Washington Capitals and Kansas City Scouts were both struggling. With just one win in Washington’s first 18 games, Capitals GM Milt Schmidt went to the league and media with hat in hand.
First things first, in the interests of full disclosure, I want to mention a little bet I have regarding Roberto Luongo.
Early in Luongo’s tenure with the Vancouver Canucks, I wagered with THN managing editor Edward Fraser that Luongo would at some point in his career win a Stanley Cup. Fraser didn’t like the cut of Luongo’s jib and took the career disappointment side.
When Luongo was among the top two or three goalies in the game and the Canucks were a powerhouse, the bet was looking good in my favor. But now…forget it. He ain’t winning the Cup. No biggie. The bet was for ice cream and Fraser is now a vegan so it’s a painless loss.
But is Luongo’s career on a trajectory that will lead him to the Hall of Fame? That’s a tricky one.
For those NHL players who don’t step willingly into retirement, there eventually comes a day when UFA stands for unwanted free agent rather than unrestricted free agent.
As July ends and August begins, we’re now closer to the start of NHL training camps than we are the final game of the Stanley Cup playoffs. For unsigned UFAs, that’s an added layer of anxiety. What if nobody wants me and I’ve played my last NHL game?
Take a browse through capgeek.com and you’ll see half the NHL teams are already at the 23-man NHL roster limit. Another nine teams are at 22 players. And that doesn’t even include the several dozen or so non-roster rookie prospects who will surely make big-league rosters in October.
So not a lot of roster openings remain.