The Edmonton Oilers and Buffalo Sabres have made it very clear – it’s time to flip the switch. The two franchises collected their rewards for a season of ineptitude – two generational talents in Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel – 12 days ago at the draft and they’ve been bathing in optimism ever since with an attitude that suggests they’re going to waste no time in getting the teams back into contention. The two teams made some of the biggest moves during the off-season that show they mean just that.
Edmonton traded for goaltender Cam Talbot and added steady defender Andrej Sekera during free agency, while Buffalo got a young, almost-elite center in Ryan O’Reilly to go with their own new goaltender, Robin Lehner. They’re very good moves for both clubs and there’s no doubt that the teams are much better because of it.
Here’s the thing: these two teams were already very bad. In terms of goal difference, Buffalo allowed 113 more goals than they scored while Edmonton allowed 85. Not many teams have put up numbers that atrocious (adjusted to this year’s goal-scoring levels and talent distribution) since the league has expanded and those that have were still pretty bad the next season, too. Read more
It appears the Edmonton Oilers might just have something in this Connor McDavid kid. And if first impressions are any indication, Edmonton’s long wait for an offensive superstar could be over. Soon. As in this coming season.
Yes, it was a scrimmage, played 4-on-4 for most of the game and even 3-on-3 at times, and it was against NHL wannabes, but the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NHL draft put on a show at the Billy Moores Cup, the final intrasquad scrimmage of the Oilers six-day prospect development camp Monday night. McDavid scored five goals in the game to lead his team to an 8-6 win in the game.
All right, let’s get one thing out of the way. It gets cold in Winnipeg. Ten months of winter and two months of bad skating. Heh-heh. The day this piece was written in mid-February, it was forecasted to go down to minus-38. Don’t bother with the Celsius to Fahrenheit calculations. When it’s that cold, they’re pretty much the same.
There are bigger cities in the NHL (about 25 of them) that play in bigger arenas (about 29). There are other places where a star can slide right under the radar if he wants. There are places with lower taxes and places where your Bentley won’t get wrecked by road salt. There are places with a few more entertainment options. Read more
Jack Eichel may have signed his entry-level contract with Buffalo first, but folks in Edmonton don’t care because Connor McDavid is officially under contract now.
The top pick in the 2015 draft signed his rookie year deal with the Oilers today, getting the maximum amount possible under the collective bargaining agreement: a base salary and signing bonus that added up to $925,000, plus a bunch of bonuses available that could push his total earnings as a rookie into seven figures.
The magnitude and volume of trades during draft weekend and the first few days of free agency has been impressive. Big names such as Phil Kessel, T.J. Oshie and Milan Lucic were all given new addresses and in all three cases, prospects were part of the return.
In fact, many teams acquired future NHL hopefuls recently, so let’s take a look at some of the more prominent kids involved in this summer’s trade crop.
The first thing fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs will have to get their heads around is that there’s a very good chance Phil Kessel will go to the Pittsburgh Penguins and score 40 goals a year. He might even score more. He could end up being wildly successful with the Penguins and might even win a Stanley Cup there. Kessel could end up being happier and more productive than he ever was in Toronto. And people will have to learn to be perfectly OK with that.
Because that’s very well what might happen here. But the Maple Leafs traded their franchise player on free agent day because they knew he was never, ever going to do those things for them. Kessel was a terrible fit from the day he first signed with the Leafs, cast in the role of the face of the franchise and the undisputed leader by a GM who obviously failed to do his homework on the player. And the problem was perpetuated when his successor signed Kessel to an eight-year deal worth $64 million prior to last season.
At first glance, it’s pretty tempting to look at the return Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman got for Brandon Saad and deem it to be underwhelming. Like, really underwhelming. But Bowman also realizes, perhaps better than any other GM in the business, that when you’re not dealing from a position of strength, your pals in the GM fraternity are more likely to throw you an anchor than a life preserver.
Either that, or Marko Dano is going to be a lot better than everyone thought. Or perhaps Bowman, who seems to know a little bit about evaluating talent, saw in Saad a player whose value was perhaps a little inflated by playing with Jonathan Toews so much and being part of such a strong team. No doubt, he saw an offer sheet coming. But if that offer sheet had contained a six at the front of the salary number, the Blackhawks would have received a first-, second- and third-round choice. Instead, they dealt Saad and two prospects to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Artem Anisimov, Dano, Jeremy Morin, Corey Tropp and a fourth-round pick in 2016.
The CHL’s Import Draft was held today, giving every major junior team on the continent a chance to pick up some prime European talent. Franchises are allowed to play two Euros on their roster, but no goaltenders. Teams that have a European player taken in the first round of the NHL can select a third player’s rights as well, in case the first-rounder ends up leaving.
With that out of the way, let’s look at how things went down. Consider this a non-comprehensive list, as I am cobbling together commitments or denials as I receive them from various sources in the industry.