Parity in the modern-day NHL creates such a delicate balance between teams that one year’s powerhouse is the next year’s dud, and vice versa. Just ask the Colorado Avalanche, who went from Central Division champs to out of the playoffs, or the Calgary Flames, who went from rebuilding team to round 2 of the post-season.
In all, 2014-15 swapped Calgary, Nashville, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Washington, the New York Islanders and Ottawa into the playoffs, with Colorado, Los Angeles, Dallas, San Jose, Boston, Columbus, and Philadelphia falling out. That’s seven new teams out of 16, or 43.75 percent.
With that crazy stat in mind, which 2014-15 post-season qualifiers might slide out in 2015-16? And which teams might take their places? I’ve chosen three candidates in each category.
Gilbert Brule didn’t pan out how the Columbus Blue Jackets hoped when the club selected the winger sixth overall in 2005 and he announced his NHL retirement in 2014. But Brule suited up this past season in the KHL, and he’s set to play again next season.
After signing a one-year deal with Avtomobilist Yekaterinberg in 2013-14, Brule suited up for 44 games with the club. During his first season in the KHL, Brule notched 10 goals and 15 points, and his season has helped him land another deal in the primarily Russian league.
Croatian club Medvescak Zagreb have announced they have signed Brule to a deal for the 2015-16 season, but the club hopes he can be a top-six player.
“Brule will perfectly fit in our team and we believe it will be of great help,” said Medvescak’s GM Aaron Fox. Read more
Hall of Famer Steve Shutt once famously had this description of how Scotty Bowman’s players felt about him: “You hated him 364 days of the year, and on the 365th day you got your Stanley Cup ring.” Ken Dryden wrote in his book, The Game, that, “Scotty Bowman is not someone who is easy to like.” And Dino Ciccarelli had this evaluation: “He was a great coach and a rotten person.”
Chicago Blackhawks GM and Scotty’s son Stan Bowman does not generate the same kind of derision and admiration, but as a hockey executive, he is indeed proving that the apple does not fall very far from the tree. The moves he has made since the Blackhawks have won the Stanley Cup, while dictated by salary cap constraints, are proving that, in many ways, the younger son has the same cold blood running through his veins when it comes to dealing with players.
The contracts came in within minutes of each other and both came with big dollar amounts. Columbus signed new left winger Brandon Saad to a six-year, $36 million contract, while Buffalo extended recently acquired center Ryan O’Reilly for seven years at $7.5 million per season. Let’s walk through the sticker shock.
At first glance, it’s pretty tempting to look at the return Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman got for Brandon Saad and deem it to be underwhelming. Like, really underwhelming. But Bowman also realizes, perhaps better than any other GM in the business, that when you’re not dealing from a position of strength, your pals in the GM fraternity are more likely to throw you an anchor than a life preserver.
Either that, or Marko Dano is going to be a lot better than everyone thought. Or perhaps Bowman, who seems to know a little bit about evaluating talent, saw in Saad a player whose value was perhaps a little inflated by playing with Jonathan Toews so much and being part of such a strong team. No doubt, he saw an offer sheet coming. But if that offer sheet had contained a six at the front of the salary number, the Blackhawks would have received a first-, second- and third-round choice. Instead, they dealt Saad and two prospects to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Artem Anisimov, Dano, Jeremy Morin, Corey Tropp and a fourth-round pick in 2016.
It was clear changes would be coming for the Chicago Blackhawks following their 2015 Stanley Cup championship, but no one would have expected those changes to include trading away burgeoning star Brandon Saad. But with their hand forced, the Blackhawks did exactly that.
Chicago confirmed Tuesday afternoon that they have dealt restricted free agent Saad, along with prospects Alex Broadhurst and Michael Paliotta, to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for a four-player package that includes Artem Anisimov, Marko Dano, Jeremy Morin, Corey Tropp and a fourth-round selection in the 2016 draft.
News of the deal took the hockey world by storm. Less than half an hour after the first reports of the deal between Chicago and Columbus first surfaced from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the deal had gone through and Saad was sent packing to the Blue Jackets. Read more
The Anaheim Ducks’ efforts to re-sign pending UFA winger Matt Beleskey ended in failure. Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reports the 27-year-old rejected the club’s best offer and is headed to unrestricted free agency on July first.
Murray told media members at Tuesday’s GM meetings: “We made a really fair offer. God bless him.”
Beleskey is coming off a career-best 22-goal season, along with eight goals in 16 playoff games. He’s completing a two-year deal worth an annual cap hit of $1.35 million. Given the lack of depth in this summer’s UFA pool, Beleskey could command more than $4-million annually on the open market.
It’s possible the Ducks could shop Beleskey’s rights before the July 1 free-agent deadline. If so, the Ducks could get a conditional draft pick if the winger signs with the team his rights were dealt to. It’s not much, but it will be better for the Ducks than losing him for nothing.
KESSEL TO…THE PENGUINS?
Hearing word that the Pittsburgh Penguins were among the preferred trade destinations of Toronto Maple Leafs right winger Phil Kessel raised some eyebrows in Pittsburgh. Joe Starkey of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review believes acquiring Kessel is something the Penguins should consider, though he acknowledges there are significant issues working against such a move.
The Blue Jackets will draft players from any and all circuits, but those kids tend to wind up in either major junior or the AHL. Sonny Milano chose Plymouth over Boston College, Peter Quenneville left Quinnipiac for Brandon, Markus Soberg went from Sweden to Windsor and Marko Dano dumped the KHL for the AHL. Will the trend continue?