If only the puck bounced this way or that way. If only Wade Dubielewicz hadn’t stood on his head in a random shootout performance on the last day of the season. Making or missing the playoffs often comes down to a few chance occurrences. It’s thus reasonable to forecast a few teams falling on the reverse side of the coin a year later. Toronto, Ottawa, Washington, Vancouver and the Islanders swapped spots with Philadelphia, Columbus, Tampa Bay, Dallas, and Colorado this past season.
Here are three 2014-15 candidates to slide from in the big dance to out – and three to slide from out to in.
So, you’re the Colorado Avalanche. You’ve just enjoyed a comeback season in which you won the regular season Central Division title and returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2010. You maybe got a little lucky with all that success, since your goalie posted a career year and you were the worst possession team to qualify for the post-season, which is probably why you were upset in the first round.
But there’s a lot to like here. You have Varlamov, who probably won’t post the same type of numbers, but should still be good enough to get 60-plus starts and hold the fort. Nathan MacKinnon had an electric rookie season and looks to have all the skill required to live up to the hype. Matt Duchene is one of the most explosive and fun-to-watch players in the league and you can see the superstardom in his future every time he takes off down the ice. Captain Gabriel Landeskog is the leader of this young group and its second-highest goal scorer this past season. Tyson Barrie looks like a keeper on the back-end and Patrick Roy was an award-winning coach in his very first season behind the bench.
There’s enough feel-good material here to make any Avs fan optimistic that 2013-14 was only the beginning of better things to come.
But it’s not all rosy. The Avs lost center Paul Stastny, their best possession center, for nothing to the St. Louis Blues via free agency. They traded P-A Parenteau, who had the third-best Corsi relative among Avs forwards (albeit with favorable zone starts), to Montreal for the very underwhelming return of Daniel Briere. The defense still needs help and the aforementioned likely dip in numbers from Varlamov will exacerbate problems that stats like Corsi and Fenwick say the Avalanche have.
And then there’s Ryan O’Reilly. Read more
The NHL’s arbitration process is scheduled to begin later this month. Twenty NHL players have filed for arbitration, while three players were taken to arbitration by their teams. Usually, these contracts are settled before the team and player have to face off in front of an arbiter, so expect most, or all, of these to be settled before the process begins.
Arbitration cases will be heard between July 20 and August 5. Here are the eligible players:
Brandon McMillan - A third round pick by Anaheim in 2008, McMillan played 22 games with the Coyotes in 2013-14, scoring two goals and six points. He also played 46 games with the american League’s Portland Pirates, scoring 11 goals and 26 points. The 5-foot-11 winger was acquired by the Coyotes last year in a trade that sent Matt Lombardi to the Ducks.
Matt Bartkowski - A seventh round pick by Florida in 2008, Bartkowski averaged the fourth-most minutes among Bruins defensemen in 2013-14 and scored 18 assists. He was acquired by Boston in what turned out to be an awful trade for Florida, which sent Bartkowski and Dennis Seidenberg to the Bruins for not much at all. Bartkowski has emerged as a physical defensive blueliner who fits in nicely with Boston’s brawny way. Read more
The list of players going to salary arbitration this summer came out over the weekend and a total of 23 either filed to go through the process or had their teams take them to arbitration. It’s an interesting process that, if nothing else, provides the motivation necessary to one or both sides to start negotiating seriously. That’s why only a handful of the 23 will actually end up going to the hearing process and even fewer, if any, will actually result in a decision being handed down by the arbitrator.
Some of the more interesting tidbits to come out of the filings – 20 of which were players taking their teams to arbitration and three teams taking the players to arbitration: Read more
The Steve Moore-Todd Bertuzzi lawsuit that’s been hanging over the NHL for the past 10 years is coming to a head this summer.
And it just got $30 million more interesting. Read more
All right, so now that (almost) all the dust has cleared in Free Agent Frenzy 2014, here are some thoughts on Day 1 of a crazy off-season:
MOTOWN NO TOWN FOR FREE AGENTS Let me get this straight. Dan Boyle took less money and term to sign with the New York Rangers than he could have received from the Detroit Red Wings. What is this, Opposite Day?
After pretty much ruling the NHL for the past two decades, the Detroit Red Wings have fallen on hard times indeed. Remember the days when free agency would open and the Red Wings would basically open for business, basically telling whichever veterans stars they wanted that playing for the Red Wings was a privilege? The Red Wings never begged and they never got turned down. Read more
At 36, Daniel Briere is in the waning years of his NHL career and now he’ll have to start over again in a new city. The charismatic center was shipped off to Colorado in exchange for P-A Parenteau and a fifth-round pick as Montreal got better in the short term.
While the focus in recent days was upon potential trades leading up to the draft, a number of NHL teams are using the free agent interview period to reach out to potential unrestricted free agents.
Interest in Colorado Avalanche center Paul Stastny is growing. The 28-year-old could become the best player available in the upcoming UFA market if the Avalanche fail to re-sign him before July 1. ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun claims up to 15 teams have contacted Stastny’s agent.
LeBrun claims the Winnipeg Jets and Chicago Blackhawks are among “the long list of teams” that reached out to the Stastny camp. Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the Blues have also expressed interest. Read more