SUNRISE, FLA. – Need another example of how quickly and drastically perceptions of a sports trade can shift over time? Here’s one: for the first few years after it was consummated, the 2011 trade that sent blueliner Alex Goligoski from Pittsburgh to Dallas for winger James Neal and defenseman Matt Niskanen was judged to have been won, and not by a little, by the Penguins. To be fair, the verdict was hard to deny in the first full season after the trade, as Neal put up a 40-goal performance for the Pens in 2011-12 and Goligoski wasn’t improving on the steady numbers he posted before leaving Sidney Crosby & Co.
But nearly four years later, Neal and Niskanen are former Penguins (the former traded to Nashville this summer; and the latter gone to Washington as a well-paid free agent), and Goligoski – who set personal bests in assists (36) and points (42) last season – was Dallas’ third-best point-producer and averaged more minutes (24:18) than any of his teammates. In the final 13 regular season games of 2013-14, his time on ice average jumped to between 27-29 minutes a game; and in Dallas’ first round playoff series against Anaheim, he never played fewer than 26 minutes in any of the seven games and in Game 5 he played 32:48.
Turns out ex-Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk wasn’t robbed at all on that trade. Turns out Goligoski has turned out just fine and has never been in a better place in his career: as part of a productive No. 1 defensive pairing with Trevor Daley; and on a Dallas team with heightened expectations after veterans Jason Spezza and Alec Hemsky were acquired. Like every player who’s jumped over NHL boards onto the ice, Goligoski has had a showdown with some form of adversity, and he’s overcome it to show why he’s now considered one of the Stars’ key players and leaders. Read more
Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury enters this season facing an uncertain future. He’s an unrestricted free agent in July, and new Penguins GM Jim Rutherford didn’t believe this summer was the right time to discuss a contract extension.
Fleury told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Josh Yohe he pondered what life would be like playing elsewhere, but that he prefers staying with the Penguins. Since signing a seven-year, $35-million deal with the Penguins in July 2008, Fleury backstopped them to a Stanley Cup championship in 2009. In recent years he struggled in the playoffs, but he rebounded last season with a solid effort under goalie coach Mike Bales.
It’s apparent, however, Rutherford intends to take a wait-and-see approach with Fleury, who turns 30 in November. The former Carolina Hurricanes GM has no contract history with Fleury and seems reluctant to offer another lengthy, expensive contract to an inconsistent netminder. It’s up to Fleury to prove his worth this season as a reliable starting goaltender.
Martin St-Louis, Marian Gaborik, Ales Hemsky, Ryan Miller and Roberto Luongo: these were some of the big names who were traded during the 2013-14 season. Who is in the cross-hairs this season? We look at 10 trade candidates who could move because of their contract situation, or because their team decides it’s time to go in a different direction.
Franson has signed three consecutive one-year extensions with the Maple Leafs, but this time he’ll be a UFA when his contract expires at the end of this season and, at 27, he’s in prime position to score a big deal. The 6-foot-5, 213-pound blueliner will surely be looking for a real commitment from the team this time and if he doesn’t get it, the Maple Leafs will have to trade him by the deadline. He’s an important part of Toronto’s (bad) defense and an extension would likely make him the second-highest paid player on Toronto’s blueline. But does management believe he’s worth that long-term investment when they’ve already put down on Dion Phaneuf and Jake Gardiner? If not, they’ll be looking to get something for him. Read more
For a guy who doesn’t say much, Phil Kessel is the source of significant noise.
Ever since he begged out of Boston and was dealt to Toronto for a trio of high draft picks, fans and media on both sides of the equation have been debating the merits of the blockbuster.
The derisive “Thank you, Kessel” chants in Beantown remain alive and boisterous, while the Maple Leafs showed faith in their sniper by rewarding him with an eight-year, $64-million contract extension that kicks in this season.
The trade officially turns five on Sept. 18 and the question is: who has had the happier returns? As part of a recurring feature in which we re-open a cold file (ok, this one still has some burning embers) from a deal that transpired five or more years ago, we re-assess the swap.
There are trades, and then there are trades that ship you 2,366 miles northwest.
The late-June swap that sent right winger Teddy Purcell from Tampa Bay to Edmonton was a shock. His closet said it all. It contained zero winter jackets and hadn’t for seven years. He’d spent his entire NHL career in California and Florida, and it seemed as recently as a year ago he wasn’t going anywhere for a long time.
The undrafted college free agent didn’t blossom in parts of three seasons with L.A., but the Lightning took a chance on him with a 2010 trade. He realized his potential as a top-six forward, posting 51- and 65-point seasons, often as Steven Stamkos’ linemate.
Something changed this past season, however. Young guns Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat burst onto the scene, and Purcell’s role diminished. Coach Jon Cooper, and even teammates like Valtteri Filppula, publicly asked Purcell to shoot more. He slipped to 12 goals in 81 games and tumbled to the fourth line. Purcell became expendable when the team identified other needs and off he went in the Sam Gagner deal.
Standard storylines would have Purcell entering 2014-15 motivated to prove Tampa wrong, but that’s just not him. He’s about as easygoing as it gets. He’s happy to call frigid Edmonton his new home, pointing out he grew up in Newfoundland and played in Saskatchewan and Maine. And he’s not angry at Tampa Bay. He speaks highly of GM Steve Yzerman.
These truly are the dog days of summer. Players, GMs and coaches get their brief time off between the free agency boom and training camps. Media have time to do fun stuff like rank every logo in the NHL. With no hockey, we spend our nights watching
Bachelor in Paradise baseball.
But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing happening in the NHL. If you squint, you’ll notice several important questions still unanswered, such as…
1. Will Columbus mend fences with Ryan Johansen and sign him long-term?
The most recent reports out of Columbus had restricted free agent Johansen and the Jackets still $3 million apart. Per season. That’s a Grand Canyonesque gap. So far, the P.K. Subban story isn’t working as a cautionary tale about short-term bridge contracts. After his bridge, Subban won the Norris Trophy and his new long-term cap hit is probably about $2 million more than it would’ve been had Montreal ponied up two years ago and paid him, say, Drew Doughty money.
The Jackets want Johansen to prove his 33-goal breakout was for real, just as they wanted Sergei Bobrovsky to back up his Vezina Trophy campaign when they inked him to a bridge deal last summer. The difference? Nothing about Johansen’s development says fluke. He has pedigree as the No. 4 overall pick in 2010. He was always supposed to be this good. There’s every reason to trust him. Columbus could live to regret a bridge contract. The East is wide open, and this team can contend with its top pivot signed and happy.
Earlier this summer there was speculation the Washington Capitals would trade defenseman Mike Green. They enter this season with only a little more than $1 million in salary cap space and have been linked to abrasive checking-line forwards Paul Bissonnette and Dan Carcillo. They have little room to add either player and address other needs if required during the season. Shedding Green’s $6.1-million cap hit would address that issue.
This summer’s additions of blueliners Matt Niskanen ($5.75-million cap hit) and Brooks Orpik ($5.5 million) raise questions about Green’s role in the Capitals defense corps. Assuming Niskanen and Orpik form one pairing while John Carlson and Karl Alzner make up another, Green could become an expensive third-pairing rearguard.
ESPN.com columnist Katie Strang, responding to a reader’s question regarding Green’s trade status, expressed surprise he hadn’t been dealt yet. She speculates his value might not be particularly high at the moment. Colleague Craig Custance also addressed Green’s status during a recent live chat, suggesting there’s no rush for the Capitals to move the 28-year-old defenseman.
Custance believes the Detroit Red Wings are a natural fit for Green and notes they have the depth in young talent to interest the Capitals. The Wings seek a top-four defenseman with a right-handed shot. They were linked to Green earlier this summer in the rumor mill, though that chatter has since died down.
Surely, some Nashville Predators fan out there took trip to a remote country in early June and just got home now.
“What did I miss? Preds do anything?”
“Gary, you better sit down.”
There’s a ceiling on how exciting it is to cheer for Nashville at the moment. Sharing a division with Chicago, St. Louis, Minnesota, Colorado and Dallas will do that. Still, the Predators’ wild flurry of off-season activity should have their fans as amped up as they could possibly be. A year ago, the Preds had drafted Seth Jones, but GM David Poile’s biggest off-season additions were, drumroll, Matt Cullen, Eric Nystrom and Viktor Stalberg.
This summer: no more Mr. Nice Poile. He realized the team needed a complete philosophical shift, and he went for it. First, Poile said goodbye to Barry Trotz, the only coach in franchise history. It was an amicable split, but a difficult one. In came offense-minded Peter Laviolette. The change in coaching approach was as drastic as can be, as Laviolette teams tend to forecheck ferociously and pay less attention to defense.
“That’s partly why we made the changes,” Poile said. “We need to push forward a bit more. We feel very confident in our goaltending with Pekka Rinne coming back healthy this season, and our defense led by Shea Weber, Roman Josi, young players like Seth Jones, Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis. We feel we’re terrific in goaltending and defense, and as Peter Laviolette says, we need to go forward more. We need to try to be a more dangerous team offensively. I don’t think we’ve scared too many teams offensively in the past. They knew they were going to get a good, hard game, but we have not been able to put up a lot of goals on a regular basis. That’s prevented us from making the playoffs the last couple years.”