Welcome back to another season of The Hot List, my weekly update of who is making noise in the world of prospects. Players are eligible for the list as long as they haven’t stepped on the ice for a regular season NHL game; otherwise, they come from all different leagues and development points. Some will be on hot streaks, others will be new names you’ll want to bank in your memory. All will be potential NHLers one day. Hockey’s back, so let’s take a look at this week’s roundup.
Wayne Simmonds stoked the fire that burns between his Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers when he was quoted, on Twitter, wearing his heart on his sleeve:
We hockey fans are a bloodthirsty lot. Yes, even the pacifists, and don’t let them tell you any differently.
Well, this is just a lovely start to the pre-season, isn’t it? They’ve barely begun the series of games that determine one or two roster spots and make the owners more money and already the body count is rising.
And we’re not talking about fourth-liners here. Pavel Datsyuk, the player the Detroit Red Wings can least afford to lose, is out at least four weeks with a second-degree separation to his right shoulder after taking a hit along the boards from Rob Scuderi of the Pittsburgh Penguins late in a game Monday night
Speaking of the Penguins, none of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin or Chris Kunitz is ready for action. The nature of the injuries is clouded in secrecy, but it doesn’t bode well when three players who have had all summer to rest and heal basically aren’t ready for training camp.
Add to that a broken bone in Jordan Staal’s right leg in a Carolina Hurricanes pre-season game, a broken left leg for Derek Stepan of the New York Rangers, a possible concussion for Bobby Ryan of the Ottawa Senators, a broken nose for Darren Helm of the Red Wings and a fractured tibia for Red Wings prospect Anthony Mantha and it looks as though you have a fully blown injury epidemic on your hands with two weeks still to go before the puck drops for the real games.
The Datsyuk injury, which looks as though it will keep him out of the first two weeks of the season, is disturbing. Four minutes left in a meaningless pre-season game and Datsyuk is on the ice and gets taken into the stanchion. Now the Red Wings, who face an uphill climb even with Datsyuk in the lineup, will have to try to get through the first two weeks without him. Making matters worse is the fact that the Red Wings play seven games in the first 14 days of the season.
(If I were running an NHL organization, I’d keep my star players out of these money-grab games and play them in perhaps the last one or two of the pre-season. Let the third- and fourth-line guys fill out the quota of NHL players each team must ice for these games. Sure, fans don’t get to see the stars in the exhibition games and they might grumble about that, but you’d have to think Red Wing fans would have rather seen Datsyuk suit up for the start of the season instead of playing in a meaningless game in September.)
Datsyuk has never before missed the start of the season and has, with the exception of last season, been a pretty durable player for them. Even when you factor in the fact that he missed 37 games last season, he has still played in 75 percent of the Red Wings games over the past four seasons.
Red Wings GM Ken Holland said during the team’s prospect tournament in Traverse City last week that the Red Wings will be a contending team if two things happened. The first is if Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg combine for 140 games between them and the second is Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar combining for 50 goals. The third, which was unstated, is if goalie Jimmy Howard can return to the form he displayed in 2012-13, not the one he displayed in ’13-14.
A healthy Daniel Alfredsson would also help. Alfredsson has made it clear to the Red Wings that he will either play this season for Detroit or he will retire from the NHL. Out of respect for the veteran, Holland is giving Alfredsson the duration of training camp to figure out whether his wonky back will be able to handle the rigors of another season of NHL competition. If not, the Red Wings start the season without their leading scorer from 2013-14.
So if Datsyuk misses seven games, that means the most for which he and Zetterberg could combine would be 157. That doesn’t leave much room for two veterans who combined to miss 74 games last season. If that happens again, the Red Wings can forget about making the playoffs for a 24th straight season and will have to concentrate on rebuilding, not reloading, for the first time in more than two decades.
Another one bites the dust.
New York Rangers center Derek Stepan was injured during a conditioning test Tuesday and had to be helped off the ice. The team says Stepan suffered a fractured fibula and that there is no timetable for his return.
Without Stepan, the Rangers lose a player who scored 57 points for them last season – second most on the team. Read more
2013-14 record: 45-31-6
Acquisitions: Ryan Malone, Kevin Hayes, Lee Stempniak, Matt Lombardi, Nick Tarnasky, Cedrick Desjardins, Mike Kostka, Dan Boyle, Tanner Glass, Steve Kampfer, Matt Hunwick
Departures: Darroll Powe, Justin Falk, Brian Boyle, Brad Richards, Stu Bickel, Benoit Pouliot, Anton Stralman, Derek Dorsett
Top five fantasy players: Martin St-Louis, Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello, Rick Nash, Chris Kreider
Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: A Rangers team that gave the Kings a modicum of resistance before falling in five games in the Stanley Cup final suffered some losses – and made some gains – over the summer. Read more
Tampa Bay Lightning superstar Steven Stamkos is on the cover of the latest issue of The Hockey News. I was tasked with getting ‘Stammer’ on the phone for the article, which also included interviews with teammates, family and others who know the captain.
And as it happens, Stamkos has impeccable timing that stretches far beyond his goal-scoring prowess. The day Stamkos was supposed to call me, he was given my office number and my cell phone number, since I would be commuting home at one point. In Toronto, the subway line is almost entirely underground, with only a handful of stops offering daylight – and therefore, cell phone signal. Just as my train pulled into one such stop, my phone rang. I pulled one earbud out and with my iPod still blaring into the other side of my head, answered the phone as I jumped onto the station platform. It was Stamkos.
The shootout is one of the most controversial aspects of today’s hockey game and I get the feeling its approval rating continues to dwindle. On top of the people who always hated it, you have a new faction of folks who are bored of the spectacle. Thankfully, 3-on-3 overtime can save us all.
Ryan Johansen’s contract negotiations with the Columbus Blue Jackets are…contentious. Yesterday started with Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen drawing a line in the sand by insinuating the start of training camp as a cut off point. Later on, team president John Davidson took aim at Johansen’s agent Kurt Overhardt by saying the numbers he was throwing out made no sense and were embarrassing.
This sounds like it could be one of the bigger RFA battles the NHL has had in recent years, but there’s still a little time before training camps open. And it’s not like it would be the first time a player has missed the start of training camp with a contract dispute.
It actually used to happen a lot more in the NHL. In the 1990s, it was a regular, yearly thing most teams would have to deal with at one point or another. The only great leverage an RFA without arbitration rights has is to stay home and make the team sweat. It maybe doesn’t happen as often as it used to, but the Johansen situation is hardly unique to the NHL today. Heck, Torey Krug, Jaden Schwartz, Reilly Smith, Darcy Kuemper and Cody Eakin are going through their own, less-publicized negotiations right now too.
We take a look at some of the more recent RFAs who missed all or a portion of training camp over a contract dispute and what the outcome was. We didn’t want to look too far back at every situation because market conditions have changed, especially when looking back past the 2004-05 lockout. Anything before then is basically no influence on Johansen’s situation. Just don’t call these guys holdouts.
Derek Stepan, New York Rangers
Prior to last season, Stepan missed 16 days of training camp before settling on a bridge deal with the Rangers. Stepan ended up signing a two-year deal that has a $3.075 million salary cap charge. Read more