The NHL schedule has been released and the number-crunchers have already put in some great work in breaking it down. As always, there are fun match-ups to kick off the season, such as Los Angeles hosting San Jose and Montreal visiting Toronto. But which teams will really be grinding through 82 games and which ones get more of a cozier ride?
Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi has done an outstanding job of keeping the core of the best team in the NHL so far. The key, of course, has been an uncanny ability to identify which players are essential to the cause and which are expendable.
And Lombardi has done a masterful job at that. Only six players that were a part of the 2012 Stanley Cup team were not around to hoist it two years later – defenseman Rob Scuderi, forwards Dustin Penner, Brad Richardson, Simon Gagne and Andrei Loktionov and backup goalie Jonathan Bernier. It would be difficult to make a case that the Kings have missed a single one of those players and that the ones with whom they replaced them, both from acquisitions from other teams and within the organization, aren’t actually better. Read more
It’s an unusual year for centers. When you build a team these days, this is a position you really need to be strong in. The Kings are deep down the middle, just as the Hawks were when they won and the Bruins in 2011. It’s a key spot on the depth chart, so when you get a good center, you tend to want to hang on to him.
This summer, though, there are more than a few pivots who are potentially available. Whether it’s by trade or free agent signing, if you’re looking to fill a center spot on your roster, there are actually options this off-season. They’re not all equal, but they’re all available.
Here is a look at seven centers your team may be able to acquire this summer and the most likely destination for each.
Jason Spezza: He’s already requested a trade and since he’s one year away from unrestricted free agency, he’ll be gone somewhere this summer. Where is the most likely landing spot for the Senator? Even though I think Ryan Kesler is the better fit in Anaheim, I think the Ducks are the most likely destination for Spezza. They’re in the West, well away from Ottawa, and they have piles of young assets with which to barter. Exactly what the Sens need. The Ducks have a pile of cap space and it’s no secret they are going to chase after a second line center this off-season. A 1-2 punch of Ryan Getzlaf and Spezza would make up one of the better playmaking center combos in the league.
Joe Thornton: A lot could happen in San Jose this summer and Thornton has been at the forefront of those rumors. A superior playmaker and solid possession player, Thornton may be 35 at the start of next season, but he’s coming off a 76-point year. He’s also got a fresh new three-year contract kicking in that, inconveniently for the Sharks, has a no-movement clause. So even if you did want to trade Thornton, you’d have to do it on his terms – and he’s not likely going to want to go to a team that won’t win the Cup in the next three years. The Sharks committed to Thornton and Patrick Marleau when they re-signed them this season. If a big shake up is what needs to happen in San Jose, GM Doug Wilson should explore trade options for Brent Burns and even Joe Pavelski first. But Big Joe needs to stay for a ton of reasons, not least of which is that the market would be narrow. Most likely destination for Thornton? Right back in San Jose. Read more
The Stanley Cup has been through a lot of adventures in its lifetime. It’s been left on the curb at the side of the road. It’s been kicked, dented and tossed into a pool. It’s been pooped in. It’s been used for a baptism. It’s been left behind at a photographer’s house – and then used as a flower pot. It’s been used as a horse’s feed bag. Steve Yzerman showered with it, Doug Weight’s family ate an ice cream sundae out of it.
But you can’t do just anything with the Stanley Cup. The days of the Montreal Wanderers and Ottawa Silver Seven are long gone. Read more
They don’t make Stanley Cup parades like they used to.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti followed the fine traditions of players such as Corey Crawford and Jonathan Quick by inserting that word our mamas told us to never say into his speech yesterday at Staples Center. And it’s not even an election year.
The Chicago Blackhawks have been installed by Bodog as the odds-on favorites to win the Stanley Cup in 2015 and if you listened to Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi and coach Darryl Sutter during their Stanley Cup celebration Friday night, you might want to put a few dollars down on the Blackhawks next season.
To hear the GM and coach of the best team in the NHL this season tell it, they feel the best team in the NHL last season is the biggest obstacle between them and a Stanley Cup repeat. The Blackhawks, you might remember, battled back from a 3-1 deficit to the Kings and lost in overtime in Game 7 of the Western Conference final. Read more
The NHL’s buyout period has begun and runs to 5 p.m. EST June 30. This year is also the final one where teams can use compliance buyouts to shed contracts without the calculation counting against their salary cap.
The Hockey News’ Matt Larkin recently summarized the details of the buyout calculation and provided a listing of teams that have one or both compliance buyouts remaining. Only players under contract prior to Sept. 15, 2012 are eligible for such buyouts.
It’s expected Buffalo Sabres winger Ville Leino will receive such a buyout. The Buffalo News’ John Vogl reports Leino’s agent, Markus Lehto, has had a “few very short discussions” with Sabres GM Tim Murray regarding his client. Vogl notes Murray has said it’s a “very good possibility” the two sides will part ways.
Over the course of the playoffs there was growing speculation the New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings could respectively buy out Brad Richards and Mike Richards. Of the pair, Brad is the most likely candidate. The New York Post’s Brett Cyrgalis believes the center will “almost assuredly” be bought out to free up cap space to re-sign several notable free agents, including Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider, Derick Brassard and Anton Stralman.
Other compliance buyout candidates could include Columbus’ R.J. Umberger, Dallas’ Erik Cole, New Jersey’s Anton Volchenkov, San Jose’s Martin Havlat, Tampa Bay’s Ryan Malone and Vancouver’s David Booth.
SPEZZA-TO-FLAMES RUMOR BURNS OUT QUICKLY
The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reports the Calgary Flames made a pitch for Spezza, offering up Jiri Hudler, Mikael Backlund, possibly defenseman Dennis Wideman and one of their second- or third-round picks. Garrioch considers that offer insufficient and cites sources claiming the Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets are on Spezza’s 10-team “no-trade” list. Read more
LOS ANGELES – Once again, the Stanley Cup final provided Eastern Conference teams a glimpse of what they’re up against when it comes to building legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. And once again, the Western Conference proved so superior that it’s almost as though teams in the east and west are playing in two different leagues.
Not only did a Western Conference team win the Stanley Cup for the sixth time in nine years since the 2004-05 lockout, it wasn’t even close. Don’t let the fact that three of the five games of the Stanley Cup final between the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers went to overtime fool you. Read more