Playoff turnover is a hallmark of the NHL’s salary cap era. It’s rare to see a single franchise entrenched in a contending position for decades at a time. The Detroit Red Wings are the remarkable exception. Typically, we see plenty of playoff squads slide out of the picture from one season to the next, while several also-rans sneak back into the big dance.
Five Canadian teams qualified for the playoffs in 2014-15, and all five missed in 2015-16. The Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators and Winnipeg Jets slipped out, replaced by the Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Florida Panthers and Dallas Stars. The 2015-16 playoff picture consisted of 31.25 percent “new” teams. That’s down from 43.75 percent the year prior but still constitutes significant turnover.
Chances are, it’ll happen again in 2016-17. Which recent qualifiers might slip out of the post-season and which might claw their way back in?
It certainly doesn’t look as though either Bill Foley or George McPhee has the patience to slowly build their expansion team into a contender. Everything both of them said when McPhee was named GM of the team pointed to transforming this franchise into a contender sooner rather than later.
McPhee will certainly have a better chance at doing that than his predecessors. The expansion draft rules will give the team a chance to ice a competitive roster in the short term. By being able to protect only seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie or eight skaters and one goalie, some of the other 30 teams in the league will be forced to expose some legitimate NHL talent. But when you’re looking at, in a best-case scenario, the No. 8 forward, the No. 4 defenseman and the No. 2 goalie on each team’s depth chart who are third-year pros, the pickings might not be quite as spectacular as you might think.
For Red Wings fans who find themselves wincing right now, let’s put the Thomas Vanek signing in perspective: it’s only one year and it’s only $2.6 million.
For most high profile free agents, July 1 is the day they cash in. For Eric Staal, it was a day to take an enormous haircut. It wasn’t long ago that people were talking about Staal as one of the most sought-after free agents this summer. But when the dust settled, he took a 58 percent cut in his average yearly salary on a three-year deal. A three-year deal.
If you’re looking for the newly signed free agent who has the most to prove and should be most highly motivated in 2016-17, Alexander Radulov is probably the first who comes to mind. But not far behind will be Staal, who will be on a quest to prove he’s still an elite center in the NHL. He certainly hasn’t looked like that since the lockout shortened season in 2012-13 and is coming off the most miserable season of his career.
With the 2016 NHL draft now history, here’s a look at some notable speculation that emerged from the weekend.
All eyes are firmly upon the Tampa Bay Lightning and their contract talks with pending unrestricted free agent center Steven Stamkos. Since Friday evening, he and his fellow UFAs can speak to rival clubs.
It’s believed Lightning GM Steve Yzerman pitched an eight-year offer to Stamkos worth $8.5 million annually. If Stamkos feels he can do better on the open market, he won’t lack for suitors.
TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports Yzerman said he’ll keep all options open regarding Stamkos. He didn’t rule out the possibility of a sign-and-trade.
In 154 games with the Minnesota Wild, Thomas Vanek has scored 39 goals, 93 points and has logged second- and third-line minutes, but at a $6.5 million price tag, it simply hasn’t been enough.
And with the Wild entering the off-season with little more than $9 million in cap space and only eight forwards under contract, something is going to have to budge. With free agency approaching, it appears more and more likely the pieces that’s going to move is Vanek, and it doesn’t appear the 32-year-old is going to be moving on via trade.
According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo, it has been indicated that Wild GM Chuck Fletcher has talked with Vanek’s agent about buying out the final season of Vanek’s three-year, $19.5-million deal. TSN’s Bob McKenzie more than backed up Russo’s report, too, saying the “probability…appears quite high” that Vanek will be bought out by Minnesota before next Thursday’s buyout deadline. Read more
There was a time when Darcy Kuemper, the Wild’s 26-year-old netminder, was the potential future in Minnesota’s crease. But a difficult season paired with a trade for Devan Dubnyk in 2014-15, who went on an incredible run post-acquisition, has seen Kuemper relegated to backup duty with no end in sight. He may have a chance at playing his way into a bigger role elsewhere, though.
Speaking about the Wild’s plans for the upcoming draft, Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher said that teams have been calling and inquiring about the availability of Kuemper, per the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Rand. With Kuemper currently a restricted free agent and with the chance to become unrestricted at the end of his next contract — which would likely be a one-year deal in Minnesota — Fletcher is listening.
“The net right now is Devan (Dubnyk’s),” Fletcher said, via Rand. “If we have an opportunity to move (Kuemper) and get a fair return, we’ll look at it. But I don’t want to be too aggressive and leave us short in that position.” Read more
Ilya Bryzgalov has played 40 NHL games in the past three seasons — and didn’t play professionally at all in 2015-16 — but that isn’t about to stop the quirky, veteran netminder from setting his sights on an NHL return.
In an interview with NHLPA.com’s Chris Lomon, Bryzgalov, 35, said a season away from the game has reignited his desire to play in the league, to face the world’s best shooters and give his 10-year-old son, a goaltender himself, the opportunity to watch his father play.
“When I told my son I was looking to play in the NHL again, his eyes lit up,” Bryzgalov told Lomon. “He was so excited. Now he’s older and he understands the game more. It would be great if he could watch me play again, maybe to learn some things that can help him.” Read more