When the New York Rangers cleaned out their stalls Tuesday morning, defenseman Dan Boyle cursed out a couple of reporters he felt were unfairly critical of him and refused to start his breakup interview until they left the scrum. We’re going to chalk that up to a proud veteran who is going down swinging and will probably look at that incident after second sober thought with regret.
But in a way, Boyle and his rant – which will almost certainly be his last as an NHL player – provide a microcosm of the situation that is facing his soon-to-be-former team. Boyle could have gone quietly into the night or he could have come out with one last flurry. He chose the latter.
The NHL off-season has already begun for eliminated NHL teams. Among them are the Colorado Avalanche, and their starting goalie, Semyon Varlamov, has begun some personal free agent recruiting.
The man Varlamov wants in an Avs jersey next year: KHL superstar and former NHLer Alexander Radulov, who reportedly wants to try his hand at the NHL again. Radulov doesn’t have much left to accomplish in his native Russia. He’s a league MVP, a scoring champion and a Gagarin Cup winner. He was alternately tantalizing and frustrating in his two seasons with the Nashville Predators plus a brief return in 2012, so he has unfinished business in the NHL. He has good years left at 29 and, unlike in his previous comeback attempt, he’ll be an unrestricted free agent.
Varlamov, Radulov’s countryman, is home in Russia for the World Championship right now. According to translated quotes from Russian writer Slava Malamud, Varlamov told Russian newspaper Sport Express this week the Avalanche are “waiting for Radulov. He’ll be one of the leaders there.” Varlamov added, “All (Radulov) needs to do is dial Patrick (Roy) and his return will happen. I hope we can win the Cup with him.”
Say we accept that a Radulov signing will happen. Does it make sense?
Take a deep breath, Vancouver Canucks fans. Thatcher Demko did not pull a Jimmy Vesey.
Goaltender Demko, 20, officially signed with the team that drafted him Wednesday, as announced by the Canucks. He’s now a professional hockey player and will forego his senior year at Boston College.
The move makes sense for Demko, who has nothing left to prove at the NCAA level. He went 27-8-4 with a 1.88 goals-against average, .935 save percentage and 10 shutouts this season. That latter stat broke a school record set by Canucks alumnus Cory Schneider in 2005-06 and stands as the second-highest total ever for a college goalie in a single season.
Demko helped Boston College reach the Frozen Four and was named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, a.k.a hockey’s Heisman Trophy. Demko even won the Mike Richter Award as the nation’s top college netminder. He acquitted himself well starting for Team USA at the 2015 world juniors, posting a .934 SP, and he’s cracked USA’s 2016 World Championship roster, following the recent footsteps of Yankee netminders John Gibson and Connor Hellebuyck. Demko really needs a new challenge, and turning pro is exactly that.
The Tampa Bay Lightning looked like a complete hockey team, a.k.a one not missing something or somebody, in Tuesday’s Game 4 victory over the Detroit Red Wings.
Tampa held Detroit to exactly two goals for a fourth straight contest. The Bolts converted three times on the power play, Nikita Kucherov twice and Ondrej Palat once, all assisted by Jonathan Drouin. They head back to Tampa Bay up 3-1 in their Atlantic Division semifinal having scored at least three goals in three of four games.
Would the Lightning be in better shape with captain and top goal scorer Steven Stamkos in the lineup? Of course. Same goes for top-pairing defenseman Anton Stralman. Pencil those two in and we’d probably have a sweep on our hands. But the Lightning have shown something noteworthy with regards to Stamkos, the game’s most famous unrestricted free agent ever: they are a damn good team with or without him.
Life has become very interesting for goaltender James Reimer and the San Jose Sharks.
Reimer’s season has alternated nosedives and brilliant highs like an air show on a hot summer day. With the Toronto Maple Leafs, he struggled in October, excelled from November to January, then tanked in February. Toronto traded him Feb. 27 just as his value cratered. In San Jose he was merely expected to spell first-year starter Martin Jones, whose workload has never been higher. Reimer, a pending unrestricted free agent, had a chance to rescue his value, but it didn’t appear at the time he’d have any chance to pursue starter’s money on the open market. At best, he was looking at another battery situation and a deal similar to his expiring one, a two-year pact paying him an average of $2.3 million annually.
But, sheesh, plenty has happened since the trade. He failed to impress in his debut March 8, allowing three goals on 25 shots, but he apparently doused himself in kerosene and rolled in a bonfire after that. Reimer has won six of his past seven outings, posting a .945 save percentage and three shutouts. He’s allowed just 10 goals over that stretch.
Reimer has quietly started three of San Jose’s past four games. He’s played so well that he’s stirred talk of a goaltending controversy, and that’s especially impressive considering Jones hasn’t played poorly at all. Jones has a .924 SP since the all-star break and has an SP of .914 or better in all but one month in 2015-16. Part of the reason Reimer is playing so much of late is the Sharks have openly expressed their desire to rest Jones, who has already started 63 games. But it was fascinating to hear coach Peter DeBoer talk about “needing both guys” in the playoffs after Reimer’s shutout Tuesday night. DeBoer was similarly non-committal talking to Sharks reporter Kevin Kurz a couple weeks earlier. Are these the things a coach says if he’s set on one starter?
If Pavel Datsyuk were to go back home to play in the KHL next season and turn his back on the last year of his contract with the Detroit Red Wings, it would leave an enormous leadership and talent void on the roster. But it might not be the end of the world for them.
In fact, if things work out they way they potentially could, it could be a boon for the Red Wings. If Datsyuk were to let the Red Wings know of his intentions early enough, it would open up some valuable cap space and allow them to go after the biggest free agent in the pool, Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman announced Saturday that Stamkos has a blood clot and faces a recovery period of one-to-three months, meaning there is a chance the pending unrestricted free agent has played his last game for the Lightning. It is expected, however, that Stamkos will make a full recovery.
Johnny Gaudreau is going to get P.A.I.D. as a restricted free agent this off-season. The Calgary Flames would be wise to forget about a bridge contract. He’s established himself as their most dynamic young player since Jarome Iginla first burst on the scene.
Calgary’s front office does have an unusual amount of leverage for a player in Gaudreau’s situation, as he’s exempt from offer sheets. But Gaudreau has earned a good-faith gesture at this point. A contract akin to Vladimir Tarasenko’s eight-year, $60-million pact seems spot-on. Tarasenko was 23 when he signed his extension and had played 179 games, racking up 66 goals and 135 points. ‘Johnny Hockey,’ who turns 23 in August, has 52 goals and 136 points in 153 games. He’s been more productive on a weaker team. Even if the lack of an offer sheet creates a slight discount, we should book him for a Tarasenko-esque deal.
The much tougher contract situation to read this off-season? That of Gaudreau’s centerman and fellow RFA Sean Monahan. Will he cash in as big as Johnny Hockey?
What did Boone Jenner have to do to earn a long-term commitment from GM Jarmo Kekalainen and the Columbus Blue Jackets?
He’s 22 years old. He scored 16 goals two seasons ago as a rookie. After a broken hand and stress fracture in his back limited him to just 31 games last season, he’s played every game this year, netting 22 goals, second on the team to Brandon Saad’s 24. Jenner ranks 13th among NHL forwards in hits, and Alex Ovechkin is the only man among the 12 players above Jenner with more goals this season. He delivered three goals and five points in six games in his lone tour of playoff duty with Columbus two springs ago. His 82-game averages: 23 goals and 40 points. Did I mention he’s 22?