Spoiler alert: The Buffalo Sabres will win tonight’s NHL draft lottery with the numbers 11, 5, 6 and 7. Your trusty correspondent knows this because he went to this really cool website that simulates the NHL draft lottery and it told him so.
Then he did it 99 more times because, like a certain potato chip, you can’t do it only once. The website, http://nhllotterysimulator.com/#/official, took on a new life on Friday when the NHL made public the lottery number combinations for each of the 14 teams in the event. Suddenly, fans everywhere could, with the click of a keyboard, determine where Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel will end up next season. Read more
Heading into the off-season, Dallas Stars management face a difficult decision regarding the state of their goaltending. Depth between the pipes was a serious issue, as the Stars failed to find a suitable backup for struggling starter Kari Lehtonen. As a result, they finished the season 27th in goals against.
In a recent chat with Stars fans, the Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News speculated over Lehtonen’s future. While acknowledging the 31-year-old is a “35-win, .917 goalie” who would be difficult to part with, Heika is wavering on whether Lehtonen can regain his form with the Stars.
Heika’s concern is understandable. While Lehtonen won 34 games for the Stars, his goals-against average (2.94) and save percentage (.903) was among the worst for NHL starting goalies. It didn’t help that Lehtonen’s backups (Jhonas Enroth, Anders Lindback and Jussi Rynnas) fared little better, though Enroth improved in his final games of the season.
Perhaps Lehtonen would benefit from a fresh start, but moving him won’t be easy. In addition to his woeful stats, he’s got three years left on his contract at an annual cap hit of $5.9 million. He also has a no-trade clause, though that becomes a limited one starting in 2015-16. Heika wonders if the Detroit Red Wings would be interested in a swap of Jimmy Howard or if Carolina would want to trade Cam Ward straight up for Lehtonen. Read more
It’s amazing how things will change by Saturday night. Connor McDavid will know which NHL team he will belong to. The McDavid parents will know in which city their son’s adult life will begin to unfold and flourish. Vendors will go crazy preparing McDavid jerseys, signs and apparel.
(And make no mistake, McDavid will be the first overall selection in the June 26-27 NHL draft in Sunrise, Florida. There will be zero drama with that pick.)
The NHL’s draft lottery will be televised Saturday night at 8 pm. The proceedings will begin about 7:30, but the drawing of lottery balls will take place about a half hour later. McDavid’s most likely destination is a city other than Buffalo, but Buffalo has the best odds of all the 14 non-playoff teams. Here’s how it works.
It’s not exactly Evan Longoria-like, but if you can come up with a player with less NHL experience who has ever signed a longer, more lucrative contract than John Klingberg has with the Dallas Stars, let us know.
Because we certainly can’t come up with one. After just 65 games in the best league in the world and only 13 in the American League prior to that, and coming off double hip surgery last summer, Klingberg signed a seven-year deal with the Stars worth $29.75 million. It’s a contract that will take him and the Stars through the 2021-22 season. (Longoria, the superstar third baseman for the Tampa Bay Rays, agreed to a six-year contract extension in 2008 worth $17.5 million just six games into his major league career, a deal that has since been extended.) Read more
Having missed the Stanley Cup playoffs for the sixth straight season, the Carolina Hurricanes could face significant off-season changes. Ron Francis stood pat in his first summer as Hurricanes GM last year, but now he could make significant moves.
The process began leading up to the trade deadline, when Francis dealt away pending free agents Andrej Sekera, Jiri Tlusty and Tim Gleason. Other players could follow them out the door later this summer.
Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer believes Francis has some “meaty decisions” to make. He must determine if captain Eric Staal, who is a year away from unrestricted free agency, is part of the Hurricanes’ long-term plans.
The 30-year-old Staal tells Alexander he loves living and playing in North Carolina. While he wants to help the Hurricanes return to the playoffs and compete for another Stanley Cup title, Staal admits it’s up to management.
Ron Francis accomplished a lot as a player. He won two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins, he played in four All-Star Games, and he lined his trophy case with a Selke, three Lady Byngs and a King Clancy. He hit the 100-point mark three times. He’s a top-five scorer in NHL history. ‘Ronnie Franchise’ also did some marvellous things captaining the Carolina Hurricanes in the twilight of his career, sporting a classy swirl of grey in his hair. His 77 points in 2001-02 were the second most all-time by a 38-year-old. He was hockey’s answer to Cal Ripken Jr.
But even someone as decorated as Francis had to realize he inherited a boat full of holes when he took over as Carolina Hurricanes GM last April. The Canes had missed the playoffs five straight seasons. They didn’t have a single prospect outside the NHL ranked in Future Watch 2014′s top 75. Captain Eric Staal and goalie Cam Ward, two prime components of their 2006 Cup-winning team, were shells of their old selves. Alexander Semin wasn’t justifying the contract extension that paid him $7 million annually.
At the THN office, we couldn’t have been more bearish on the Canes entering 2014-15. We weren’t confident each of their top six forwards would bounce back and, more importantly, we felt they had one of the NHL’s weakest bluelines behind stalwarts Justin Faulk and Andrej Sekera. Things looked bleak for Francis’ Canes, and that’s how they turned out. Carolina has stumbled to its worst points percentage since 2002-03. Semin has somehow gotten worse. Eric and Jordan Staal combined have produced less than what Eric used to singlehandedly.
So it would be forgivable, then, to catch Francis in an ornery mood when it’s time to discuss what went wrong this year. That simply isn’t the case, though. Francis is downright upbeat, and he makes an interesting case as to why his team isn’t nearly as hopeless as it may seem on paper.
In 1994-95, the New Jersey Devils took their Eastern Conference final appearance from the year prior to the next step. They defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in six games and then went on to capture the Stanley Cup with a sweep of the Detroit Red Wings.
The next year, however, the Red Wings came within two wins of returning to the Stanley Cup final while the Devils became the first club since the NHL expanded to a 16-team playoff format to miss the post-season the year after being crowned champions.
In 2006-07, the Carolina Hurricanes became the second team in the 16-club playoff era to fail to reach the post-season the year after championship glory. And, after Tuesday’s loss to the Edmonton Oilers, the Los Angeles Kings, winners of two of the past three Stanley Cups, are on the brink of becoming the third team to go from top of the heap to outside the sweet 16. For the Kings’ sake, though, they hope their fate is more in line with the Devils than the Hurricanes. Read more
The Pittsburgh Penguins’ playoff chances look grimmer by the day. They took a massive hit over the weekend with deflating losses to the Columbus Blue Jackets and Philadelphia Flyers.
A thought that has crossed my mind, watching Pittsburgh’s top-heavy squad take bad penalties and struggle to convert chances in recent weeks: these guys miss Jordan Staal. They were a different team with him as their third-line center. He was a big, strong, two-way presence who could break open a game with a shorthanded rush. Few teams in the league had that caliber of player that far down the depth chart.
The Pens had to move Staal in 2012 after he rejected Ray Shero’s 10-year offer, and they did well to land Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumoulin and the pick that yielded Derrick Pouliot. But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t use Staal’s skill set right about now.
Interestingly, though, the Hurricanes would be far better off with Sutter, Dumoulin and Pouliot, wouldn’t they? Staal has been a disaster. He has 30 goals in 173 games as a Cane. He had 29 in his rookie season with the Pens alone. He only has, oh, eight years left on a 10-year deal carrying a $6-million cap hit. Woof. Is this a rare trade both GMs involved would admit they want reversed, if we gave them truth serum injections? Oddly enough, that would involve Jim Rutherford trading Staal again. He acquired Staal as Hurricanes GM and now serves as Penguins GM.