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?
When Teddy Purcell was a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning, he saw a lot of the Florida Panthers. He wasn’t exactly envious. “They had a lot of coaches,” he said. “And it always seemed like the personnel on the ice was changing.”
But that was then. This season, the Panthers have been one of the top teams in the East and a buyer before the trade deadline. One of those acquisitions was Purcell, most recently of the Edmonton Oilers.
What is most promising about the Panthers is that their window appears to just be opening. Sure, the biggest names on the team are veterans such as Jaromir Jagr, Roberto Luongo and Brian Campbell, but the youth contingent led by Aaron Ekblad, Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad is just as impressive. And the credit for building this machine goes to Dale Tallon.
Eric Staal emerged from the Carolina Hurricanes changing area into the dressing room with a scowl on his face. That had a lot to do with the fact that his team had just lost a crucial game to the second-worst team in the league, but also because he knew the questions about his future were coming.
With the trade of Andrew Ladd earlier in the evening, Staal became the marquee player available leading up to Monday’s trade deadline, that is if indeed he’s available. This much we know: Staal has not been asked by Hurricanes GM Ron Francis to waive his no-trade clause of yet and he’s not sure what he would do if he were asked. He’s in the last year of his contract and there has not been a single offer for a contract extension made to him this season, nor has there been a proposal put to the Hurricanes by Staal’s agent Rick Curran.
If the Tampa Bay Lightning are all in…they better be all in.
They made a resounding statement Monday when GM Steve Yzerman announced captain Steven Stamkos, hockey’s most talked-about free agent to be, would not be traded before the Feb. 29 deadline. Retaining ‘Stammer’ obviously buys the Bolts more time to negotiate a new long-term contract with their star – and to improve on the lowball offer they reportedly made, which would’ve paid Stamkos $8.5 million annually. To anyone believing Tampa still has a shot to retain him, Monday’s news is reason for hope.
More importantly, though, standing pat on Stamkos gives Tampa the best chance possible to compete for and win the Stanley Cup this June. Whatever great return Stamkos might have netted in a trade, it’s doubtful that package would’ve made the Bolts better in the short term. Stamkos allows the Lightning to be the best Lightning right this second. He’s like an unrestricted free agent rental they just acquired without surrendering assets.
Seth Jones’ chances of playing in the post-season this year decreased dramatically when he was swapped from Nashville to Columbus for Ryan Johansen, but if there’s an upside to the deal, it’s that Jones probably added millions on to his next contract in the process.