Say What?!? - June 28
Say What?!? - June 28
"It's time for Fil to be solid. I think Fil should be a 65-point guy, I really do."
- Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock on Valtteri Filppula.
"It's time for Fil to be solid. I think Fil should be a 65-point guy, I really do."
- Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock on Valtteri Filppula.
Two weeks after signing a six-year deal, Rickard Rakell is practicing with the Ducks again. His return to the lineup will have to wait until he’s had some full practices, though.
The day after the Ducks’ season-opening loss to the Dallas Stars, Anaheim took care of some important business by signing restricted free agent center Rickard Rakell to a six-year contract extension. But two weeks after signing on the dotted line, Rakell has still yet to make his season debut.
The issues for Rakell have been two-fold.
First, he needed to get a work visa. While waiting to sign a deal with the Ducks, the 23-year-old remained at home in his native Sweden recovering from off-season surgery to repair complications from an appendectomy. Getting a visa took longer than expected, though, and it wasn’t until Wednesday, 12 days after he had inked his six-year deal, that Rakell was finally able to get back onto the ice with teammates for practice.
However, it’s still unclear when exactly Rakell will return to the lineup, because the recovery from his surgery has still left him unable to participate in full-contact practices.
“I’ve been doing some good workouts in the gym,” Rakell told the Orange County Register’s Eric Stephens. “I’m just trying to get as strong as possible and just get my skating legs back.”
The Ducks could really use Rakell right now, too. Though Anaheim romped the Nashville Predators 6-1 on Wednesday evening, their lineup was missing an integral part as captain Ryan Getzlaf watched from the sidelines with an upper-body injury. There’s no timeline on when Getzlaf will be fit to return — he was a game-time decision Wednesday, which gives hope he could be back as soon as Friday night — but the more time he misses, the more evident it is that the Ducks could use Rakell.
Rakell has proven over the course of his two full seasons in Anaheim that he can be an incredibly versatile player, and his talent as a natural center would make him the perfect option for a top-six center during Getzlaf’s absence. That said, an optimal lineup likely wouldn’t see Rakell replacing Getzlaf so much as skating beside him.
For much of the 2015-16 campaign, Rakell was paired up with Getzlaf and Corey Perry to form the Ducks’ top scoring line. It was a unit that was somewhat thrown together and a departure from the usual combinations that saw Getzlaf and Perry paired with a big-bodied power forward, but it paid dividends for Rakell and Anaheim.
Rakell had a breakout season, netting 20 goals and 43 points, and his average ice time jumped by 2:30 per game. Having an additional top-six forward who can contribute would be a boon for Anaheim right now, especially as they fight to get above .500 after four straight losses to start the season.
With Rakell set to return in the near future, though, and Hampus Lindholm on his way back to the Ducks as soon as he has a visa, there’s a chance the Ducks could be pushing for the top of the Pacific Division standings by the middle of November.
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The Dec. 1 RFA deadline is a little more than a month away. Jacob Trouba remains unsigned and wants a trade. What happens if Winnipeg's slow start continues?
The Anaheim Ducks finally ended their contract squabble with restricted free agent defenseman Hampus Lindholm Thursday, locking him up for six years and $31.5 million. The minute the transaction became official, you could just feel the hockey community's collective neck craning toward the Winnipeg Jets and blueliner Jacob Trouba's camp. You're up, fellas.
Like Lindholm, Trouba was having trouble agreeing on money. Like Lindholm, Trouba is a restricted free agent. Like Lindholm, Trouba was chosen in the first round of the 2012 draft and has a promising career ahead of him. The similarities end there, however. The negotiations between Trouba and the Jets became far more contentions than we saw with Lindholm. Trouba isn't happy with his usage on the team, and the two sides were struggling to agree on term. He and agent Kurt Overhardt requested a trade in late September. So while the Ducks always had hope to resolve their Lindholm situation, it's all but assured Jacob Trouba plays his next NHL game with a new club.
The question is: when will that be? Will it be in 2016-17 or 2017-18? If Trouba hasn't inked a new deal by Dec. 1, he's ineligible to play in the NHL this season. He'll have to just keep pumping iron back home in Michigan or try his hand in Europe for half a year if he wants to get some game reps in.
Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has offers on the table. Teams reportedly linked to Trouba trade talks include the Boston Bruins, New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings, just to name a few. But Cheveldayoff has been publicly adamant about not rushing things. First off, the trade isn't the easiest to pull off given how much money Trouba wants. Reports of the official asking price have varied, but it's safe to say Trouba expects to at least land in the Lindholm/Seth Jones/Morgan Rielly/Rasmus Ristolainen range with a cap hit north of $5 million should Trouba ink a long-term contract. It's debatable whether Trouba has earned that kind of term and money, but we know his camp believes he deserves it, especially when it feels his conservative usage by coach Paul Maurice suppressed Trouba's numbers. That means the team landing Trouba must possess a solid chunk of cap space. Still, much tougher contracts have been moved. David Clarkson got moved. A desirable young player like Trouba? Piece of cake. Plenty of teams likely have a solution. Dustin Byfuglien and Tyler Myers clog Winnipeg's depth chart with expensive top-four righty shooters, so Cheveldayoff wants a left-handed defenseman of equal value to Trouba as an ideal return. A player of that caliber would likely carry a decent price tag, liberating the trading team of enough cap space to fit Trouba in.
Still, Cheveldayoff doesn't want to rush a deal. But how long can he maintain that position? His Jets have a ton of potential in the Central Division this season. Mark Scheifele has carried last season's sizzling finish into 2016-17. He's a bona fide stud first-line center. Patrik Laine has justified his status as the 2016 draft's No. 2 overall pick, showing an Alex Ovechkin-like release. The Jets have speed to burn with the likes of Kyle Connor and Nikolaj Ehlers up front, too. But not everything has gone their way. It seemed waiving Ondrej Pavelec finally freed up a superior goaltending tandem of Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson. It's very early, but both stoppers have struggled so far, combining for an .883 save percentage. Center Bryan Little's lower-body injury creates an irreplaceable depth chart hole, too. This team has started a disappointing 2-4-0, and that mark could easily be 1-5-0 if not for a miraculous comeback from a 4-0 third-period deficit versus Toronto last week. The Jets' health woes – Drew Stafford joins Little on the shelf for Thursday's game – threaten to dig them a deeper standings hole going forward.
Most of all, the Jets need, well, Trouba, or Cheveldayoff's desired Trouba equivalent. They aren't the same defensively without him. They rank 27th in goals-against average at 3.67, they're killing penalties at an ugly 72.7 percent clip. They've been average in shots allowed and Corsi Against, so a lot of their problems can be blamed on goaltending, but part of the Jets' woes has been allowing too many grade-A chances. Our in-house analytics writer and general whiz kid Dom Luszczyszyn crunched the league-wide 5-on-5 numbers for high-danger scoring chances so far in 2016-17, and the Jets allow 8.0 per 60 minutes, the eighth-most in the NHL. Last season with Trouba in the lineup: 6.8 per 60. So they're allowing at least one extra high-quality chance per contest. The sample size is obviously tiny, but that makes it no less true that (a) they are allowing more high-danger chances than they did last year so far and (b) Jacob Trouba is missing from the lineup. A circumstantial argument for his importance? Maybe. But no one can deny the Jets badly need him or his analog.
So while it's probable the Jets never get Trouba back, Cheveldayoff might feel some heat to trade Trouba for help sooner rather than later. No team can sleep in the mighty Central. If 2-4-0 becomes 2-6-0 or 4-8-0, will the Jets have to buck up and take the best Trouba offer on the table? Crazy as it sounds, it may be worth losing a couple games early if that expedites a Trouba trade and prevents losses in bigger bunches later this season.
Matt Larkin is a writer and editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to thn.com. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin
Jonathan Marchessault was brought in to provide some scoring depth for the Panthers and he has done that, and much, much more.
Jonathan Marchessault rubs his chin and ponders the number of times he’s been told he would never make it to the NHL. He figures it started when he was about 12 and has been pretty much a relentless barrage ever since.
“Every year they didn’t see me there,” Marchessault said. “They never thought I would have such production. They never thought I would make the team at the next level. I like it. I’m used to it.”
Perhaps it will stop now, 13 years later, because the 25-year-old Marchessault is not only proving he belongs in the NHL, but that he can thrive when given an opportunity to succeed. A two-goal performance for the Florida Panthers in a 3-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs Thursday night gave him five on the year and 10 points in seven games and put him, at least for the time being, in a three-way tie for second place in the NHL scoring race, just one point behind Connor McDavid. Not bad for a guy who was brought in for the paltry sum of $750,000 to play the third line and provide some secondary offense.
Now before we get ahead of ourselves here, nobody is expecting that trend to sustain itself over an 82-game season. But then again, Marchessault is used to people telling him what he can’t do. Part of the reason for his success is he’s being put in a position to succeed and getting quality ice time, something he was never able to get in three years with the Tampa Bay Lightning. An torn Achilles to Jonathan Huberdeau that has put him out of the lineup for at least three months placed Marchessault on the left side of a Huberdeau’s unit with Aleksander Barkov at center and Jaromir Jagr on the right side and he has made the most of the opportunity. That line was an extremely successful one for the Panthers last season and Panthers coach Gerard Gallant made it clear that Marchessault is keeping Huberdeau’s place on that line warm until he gets back.
“I wish (Huberdeau) was back and I wish I had the problem,” Gallant said when asked what Marchessault’s fate would be when Huberdeau returns. “He’s not Huberdeau yet.”
And he probably never will be Huberdeau, but he’s clearly a fit on this Panther team and deserves huge kudos for not frittering away what is a wonderful opportunity. He never seemed to be a permanent fit with the Lightning, not for a lack of trying, but simply because the Lightning are loaded up front. So when Marchessault became a Group VI free agent this summer – being a 25-year-old with three years of pro experience and fewer than 80 NHL games – it was nothing personal. Marchessault could have stayed in Tampa and taken a one-way deal and continued to try to find his place there. But he essentially bet on himself and took a contract with a team that would offer him a chance to play on the top three lines.
“I did that. I always bet on myself,” Marchessault said. “And I always knew I could do the job. It was just a matter of time.”
It’s not as though Marchessault is uncomfortable playing an offensive role. He was a 12th-round pick of the Quebec Remparts, then went on to score 98 goals and 239 points in 254 career games with the Quebec League team. Only seven players in that draft were picked after Marchessault, but he’s only one of 12 from that draft class to have played NHL games so far. And it would not be a stretch to predict that when all is said and done, he might be the most offensively productive one from that draft at the NHL level. As far as being drafted to the NHL, forget it. Not much interest in 5-foot-9 guys, so Marchessault had to take the route less travelled, signing with the Columbus Blue Jackets, who seemed to have little use for them beyond being a minor leaguer, which says more about the Blue Jackets than it does Marchessault.
“When you get a chance to play with the guys he’s playing with, you get a lot of offensive opportunities,” Gallant said. “He was a scorer in junior, he was a scorer in the American League and he’s getting the chance to play and he’s earned that chance. We brought him in to basically be a third-line player to add some depth.”
Marchessault will ride this wave while it lasts, but you get the sense that he has finally found his place at the NHL level. He holds no ill will toward the Lightning and understands the situation. Even playing so close to the Lightning now he feels no need to prove to them that they might have erred in not keeping him, although they tried. Tampa Bay wanted him back, but could not provide him with the opportunity he wanted and needed.
“In life you make your chances,” Marchessault said. “If you work hard, good things will happen to you. It’s a process. I’m just trying to bring my highest level every night and be able to help our team to win.
If defenseman Brent Burns heads to free agency, he'll generate considerable interest, including from the Oilers, who still need to improve their blueline.
San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns could be the best player available in next summer's unrestricted free agent market. It remains to be seen, of course, if he tests the open market. The Sharks will likely do all they can to keep him in the fold.
If the 32-year-old Burns heads to free agency, he'll generate considerable interest. The Edmonton Journal's David Staples cites Oilers insider Bob Stauffer speculating the Edmonton Oilers could pursue the Sharks rearguard, just as they did power forward Milan Lucic this summer.
The Oilers still lack a true top-two defenseman and Burns would certainly address that need, but they'll have to pay a lot to get him. His current annual salary is $5.76 million and he could command upwards of $8 million per season on the open market.
With over $55 million invested in 17 players for 2017-18, the Oilers could afford Burns in the short term. However, rising star Leon Draisaitl is coming off his entry-level deal and could seek a significant raise on a long-term deal. In 2018, superstar Connor McDavid and promising blueliner Darnell Nurse will also be in line for lengthy and expensive new contracts. They must ensure they have sufficient cap space to re-sign those young stars.
The Oilers also won't be the only club with serious interest in Burns. A significant bidding war for his services could put him out of Edmonton's price range.
STARS NOT INTERESTED IN BROWN
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reports a recent rumor had the Dallas Stars interested in Los Angeles Kings left winger Dustin Brown. However, Friedman claims that speculation was shot down.
Whoever started the “Brown-to-Stars” speculation was engaging in wishful thinking. The former Kings captain is in the third season of an eight-year deal worth an annual cap hit of $5.85 million. He also carries a modified no-trade clause indicating eight trade preferences.
Even if the Stars were on Brown's list, they have no reason to pursue him. Since 2013-14, Brown's offfensive production has dried up, managing consecutive 27-point performances (2013-14, 2014-15) and only 28 points last season. At 31, his best seasons are now well behind him. The last thing the Stars need is a fading power forward on an expensive long-term deal.
RANGERS CAN'T FIND TAKER FOR McGILRATH
Earlier this month, the New York Post's Larry Brooks reported the New York Rangers were believed seeking a trade partner for little-used defenseman Dylan McIlrath. So far, however, they're not getting much interest in the 24-year-old blueliner.
Brooks followed up this week by speculating Rangers GM Jeff Gorton is likely listening to any trade offers for McIlrath. However, the 6-foot-5, 220-pounder must establish himself as an NHL regular to bolster his value. Brooks believes Gorton would accept a third-round pick.
In his previous three seasons, McIlrath skated in only 37 games with the Rangers. Heading into Saturday's contest with the Washington Capitals, he played only one game this season. At this rate, McIlrath seems more likely to be a waiver candidate.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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