Welcome to my new mailbag, a spot where I will answers questions from readers who reached out to me on Twitter using the hashtag #thnfutures. The idea behind this space is to bring you info on prospects and the draft, so anything in that world is game. There was a pretty good crop of questions right off the bat, so if you don’t see yours answered this week, check back next Friday. Here we go:
We’ve seen plenty of turnover on NHL rosters so far this summer, setting up what appears to be even crazier parity than normal in each division. The Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and San Jose Sharks made major moves in the Pacific. The Washington Capitals jazzed up their top two lines in the Metropolitan. The Chicago Blackhawks did anything but sit on their championship team, making over a quarter of their roster.
A bushel of franchises, however, have been oddly quiet so far. Some are justified in their thought process. Others have their angry fans yelling “DO something!”
Why do some of these teams appear to be deer in the headlights right now? There’s a plausible explanation for each, though some are more maddening than others.
The increase in the NHL salary cap ceiling from $69 million to $71.4 million does little to help the Chicago Blackhawks escape from salary cap hell for 2015-16. They have over $64 million invested in cap payroll, leaving only $7.3 million to invest in new contracts. With restricted free agents Brandon Saad and Markus Kruger to re-sign plus several UFAs to re-sign or replace, the Blackhawks must shed salary.
It’s widely assumed left wingers Patrick Sharp ($5.9-million annually for two more seasons) and Bryan Bickell ($4-million annually, two years) are the likely trade candidates. ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun reports that, as of Monday evening, the Hawks weren’t far along in trade talks about any player.
When it comes to future prospects, the Florida Panthers are the envy of many teams around the NHL. But when you have a top-five pick in four of the past five drafts, you’d better be stockpiling some young players who will eventually show the way. That’s why so much of the strength in the Panthers prospect list is already on the NHL roster. There isn’t much star power among the Panthers’ non-NHL youngsters, but Florida can remedy that in this draft with the 11th overall pick – a player who should be good enough to contribute, since it’s such a deep draft, but not one who will face the pressure of stepping into the lineup right away.
Round 1, pick 11
Round 3, picks 77, 88
Round 4, pick 102
Round 5, picks 132, 147
Round 6, pick 162
Round 7, picks 192, 206
The Panthers were just 25th in goals scored. Their leading scorer had only 54 points, and their power play ranked 24th in the league. This team desperately has to find a way to create more offense 5-on-5 and with the extra man. Read more
There may not be a player who has become more universally adored as his career has worn on than Jaromir Jagr. That’s not without reason. Everything he does, Jagr seems to be having a blast and, at 43, he pulled his best Babe Ruth impression and called his shot, saying the Florida Panthers will be bringing home the Stanley Cup in 2016.
In a tweet sent out by Jagr shortly after Chicago’s Stanley Cup win, the surefire Hall of Famer posted a picture of himself with Blackhawks stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane and congratulated the two on their 2015 Cup victory. But he doesn’t want them to get too comfortable, because he’s coming for that Cup with the Cats next season. Read more
In the aftermath of Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman’s claim last Saturday the Toronto Maple Leafs were getting trade inquiries for Phil Kessel, there’s growing speculation over where the 27-year-old scorer could be dealt.
If a Kessel trade happens, Friedman believes it will be a couple of weeks before it takes place. That’s likely because the NHL draft weekend (June 26-27), where many off-season trades generally take place, is fast approaching.
Kessel, a five-time 30-goal scorer who twice reached the 80-point mark, has value on the trade market. His contract, however, is a sticking point. He has seven years left at an annual cap hit of $8 million. Factor in the projected marginal increase in the cap ceiling for 2015-16 from $69 million to $71 million and it could prove difficult for the Leafs to find a suitable deal.
Friedman subsequently appeared on Sportsnet’s Hockey Central panel to discuss potential destinations for Kessel. He notes Predators GM David Poile had interest in the Leafs right winger, but doubts Nashville is a destination now, pointing out it has young stars like left winger Filip Forsberg and defenseman Seth Jones to re-sign the following season. Other destinations could include the St. Louis Blues, Florida Panthers and Calgary Flames.
TAMPA – In an effort to streamline its compensation system when executives move from one team to another, the NHL has created an unwieldy mess of a gong show. Instead of compensating teams for losing people in their organizations in whom they’ve invested considerable resources, the league’s new rule is giving compensation to teams that have fired coaches and GMs and want nothing to do with them.
And it’s wrong. I’ve personally talked to a couple of GMs who pushed for the compensation rules to be changed and they said they wanted only to be compensated for employees they lost who were still in their organizations. But when the Buffalo Sabres hired Dan Bylsma as their coach, they were forced to give the Pittsburgh Penguins a third-round pick, only because Bylsma was still under contract to Pittsburgh. Forget that he had virtually no contact with them or nothing to do with them for a year. The Edmonton Oilers were reportedly shocked they had to give up a second-rounder to the Bruins for fired GM Peter Chiarelli, the pick being a second-rounder because “in-season” for GMs includes up until the draft.
The San Jose Sharks named Peter DeBoer the ninth coach in their history Thursday. And while we’ve seen sexier hires this off-season, from Mike Babcock in Toronto to Dan Bylsma in Buffalo, DeBoer’s might be the most polarizing.
Are the Sharks dousing their tire fire in gasoline by signing a man with one playoff appearance in seven seasons as an NHL head coach? Or are they buying low on a sneaky-good bench boss who made a lot out of a little on two sputtering franchises in the past?