Head of NHL player safety Brendan Shanahan talks about some of the recent suspension and non-suspensions in the league.
Head of NHL player safety Brendan Shanahan talks about some of the recent suspension and non-suspensions in the league.
Brian Elliott hasn't worked out in Calgary. Jake Allen hasn't worked out in St. Louis. Would it benefit everyone for Elliott to rejoin his old team?
That elusive grass on the other side could not look greener. The Calgary Flames and St. Louis Blues can only stare longingly.
The Flames really thought they needed Brian Elliott last summer, and for good reason. They were fresh off finishing dead last in the NHL in save percentage, and all their NHL-level netminders were unrestricted free agents anyway. It made too much sense to make a trade. General manager Brad Treliving also knew the price for Elliott, never a bellcow starter but an elite platoon goaltender, would pale in comparison to what the Tampa Bay Lightning wanted for Ben Bishop or the Pittsburgh Penguins wanted for Marc-Andre Fleury.
Elliott for a 2016 second-round pick and a conditional 2018 third-round pick? Sure. Huge upgrade for the Flames in net. Advanced statistics such as 5-on-5 save percentage suggested Elliott was as effective as any goalie in hockey last season. Why not give him a chance to start at 31?
But if Treliving could get a do-over today, he’d probably take back those picks. Not all of what’s transpired in 2016-17 has been Elliott’s fault. Chad Johnson, signed supposedly to back up Elliott, has simply played too well not to be Calgary’s starter going forward. And it didn’t help that Elliott struggled so mightily out of the gate, with an .882 save percentage in his first 12 appearances. The Flames really thought they needed Elliott, but now it really seems they don’t.
About 1,700 miles away, the Blues just might be pining for their old stopper Elliott. And they, too, likely never felt they’d be in this position. Elliott served them faithfully for five seasons but, as great as he often was, he was never quite good enough or clutch enough to separate himself from his high-profile partners, from Jaroslav Halak to Ryan Miller to Jake Allen. Elliott had just one season left on his contract, and the Blues were ready to give Allen his shot. He was always their long-term project, and it was time for St. Louis to let him flourish as a real No. 1. Given coach Ken Hitchcock struggled with flip-flopping between goalies during countless early playoff exits since taking over the bench in 2011-12, the idea of relying on one true starter seemed ideal for a Stanley Cup contender like St. Louis. General manager Doug Armstrong inked a capable backup in Carter Hutton for a bit of insurance.
Who knew Hutton would end up important enough to recently appear in six straight games, twice in relief and four times as a starter? There’s no point trying to spin it: Allen has been a huge disappointment. His .900 SP is easily the worst of his four-year career, and he’s posted an .887 mark across 15 appearances since the start of December. He’s been bad enough that Hitchcock publicly challenged him last week to take responsibility and be better.
Is the problem Allen’s workload? His career high in starts is 44, making up 53.6 percent of St. Louis’ games. He’s started 33 of 45 this season, which is 73.3 percent. Maybe Allen’s body hasn’t yet adjusted to the extra minutes.
Hutton’s past week was a microcosm of his career. He entered Tuesday’s start having allowed just seven goals in his past five outings with a .939 SP – then promptly got lit up for five goals on 23 Ottawa Senator shots. Hutton is who we thought he was: a solid backup goaltender who can perform well in short spurts but lacks the talent to succeed as a starter or even a platoon goalie. Even if Allen isn't the answer, Hutton isn't either.
That’s where, believe it or not, Elliott might come in handy. What if Armstrong explored reacquiring Elliott? It might work for several reasons.
1. Elliott is a pending free agent. That benefits both teams. If Calgary knows Johnson is its starter now and plans to re-sign him, might it want to get something for pending UFA Elliott rather than lose him for nothing in free agency? If the Flames needed a backup in return and didn’t feel prospect Jon Gillies was ready for promotion from the AHL, perhaps the Blues could include Hutton along with a low- to mid-round draft pick. Seems fair enough.
2. Elliott has turned around his game just enough. Elliott isn’t outplaying Johnson, so it doesn’t appear Elliott will wrest the job back anytime soon, but he does have a .913 SP over his past nine appearances. It’s a start.
3. It would benefit Elliott twofold. Not that he would have an official say, as his contract has zero movement restrictions. But rejoining the Blues, not necessarily as a starter but at least as a platoon partner to spell Allen, would help Elliott’s wallet immensely. He’s done nothing but lose money since 2016-17 started. If the season ended today, Elliott would be viewed on the open market as a goaltender who had a shot to show he’s a No. 1 and flopped. He won’t earn anything close to starter’s money or term as a UFA. But a redemptive performance with the Blues might at least nudge his value back to what it was a year ago. Secondly, Elliott hasn’t lived in Calgary long. He called St. Louis his hockey-season home for five years. Transitioning back to Missouri less than a year after leaving wouldn’t be the most difficult of moves in theory.
The Blues have the worst save percentage in the NHL at .892, which is a shame given the team’s overall depth and talent. They were first in SP last year at .919. The Blues should be thinking about playing meaningful hockey into June but are instead barely clinging to a Western Conference playoff spot. They have plenty of promising young regulars, from Colton Parayko on defense to Robby Fabbri up front, but their contention window is now. Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz and Alex Pietrangelo are in their primes. Veterans Alexander Steen, Paul Stastny and Jay Bouwmeester are exiting theirs. Hitchcock will step down as coach after this season. The Blues can’t afford squandering 2016-17, especially when the Western Conference looks like anyone’s to win. Allen’s ego may have to suffer for the sake of one good push for glory.
Elliott, then, would be a nice affordable stopgap, as opposed to Bishop or Fleury, who would command roster players and/or good prospects in a trade. Reversing last year’s swap with the Flames might be the best thing for all parties involved.
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
Kalle Kossila of the Anaheim Ducks skates with the puck during the preseason NHL game against Arizona Coyotes.
The Finnish forward extended his point streak to eight games with a goal of the year candidate.
Kalle Kossila may have been a little known prospect playing in the American Hockey League, but that changed on Friday night after the Finnish forward scored a highlight-reel goal in San Diego’s 5-1 win over the San Jose Barracuda.
Kossila’s first of two third period goals gave the Gulls a 4-0 lead.
“I’ve done it in practice, but obviously a game situation is way different,” Kossila told the team’s website postgame. “The puck happened to stay on the top of my stick, and their defenseman wasn’t pressuring me, so I tried it.”
The goal extended Kossila’s career high point streak to eight games and is the longest point streak in franchise history.
“Kossila’s goal was unbelievable,” said Gulls coach Dallas Eakins. “I’ve been in pro hockey for 30 years and I’ve never seen a player pull that off in a game.”
A native of Kauniainen, Finland, Kossila is in his first full season with the Anaheim Ducks organization after signing as a free agent out of St. Cloud State in March 2016.
The 23-year-old has nine goals and 18 assists in 32 games with San Diego this season.
Going into Thursday night, the previous couple of games had not been kind to Henrik Lundqvist. "It hasn’t been fun the last couple of days," he said. "I’m not going to lie."
It’s probably a toss-up as to what was more surprising – the way Henrik Lundqvist was playing going into Thursday night or how deeply it seemed to affect him. As far as the former was concerned, it was ugly. Really ugly. And the nadir for Lundqvist came Tuesday night when the New York Rangers faithful, who have had a decade-long love affair with Lundqvist, gave him the Bronx cheer in a terrible game against the Dallas Stars.
All of which pretty much led up to the latter. As accomplished and decorated as Lundqvist is, he’s a human being. And you post a .789 save percentage and a 6.94 goals-against average and you’re yanked in two games, it’s bound to do a number on your confidence, even if you’re almost certainly headed to the Hall of Fame one day.
So when Lundqvist pulled on the Broadway Hat – a fedora that Brad Richards bought from a Swedish model for $100 a few years back – to commemorate his status as player of the game, he did so with a little more gusto and a lot more relief than he has in a long time. Lundqvist’s 19th win of the season and the 393rd of his career will go down as a 23-save effort in a 5-2 New York Rangers win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, but in reality, it was so much more than that.
“Sometimes,” Lundqvist said after the game, “a win means a little bit more. You play 82 games and some wins, right away you put it in your bag, but I think today you enjoy it a little extra with what I’ve been through the last week or so. It’s not fun as a goalie to give up a lot of goals.”
Rangers television analyst Steve Valiquette, who played with Lundqvist and has been watching him for a decade, said there was little technically that Lundqvist was doing wrong in his recent slide, with the exception of perhaps not seeing the puck come off the stick as well as he usually does. “I think for the fans to turn there (in the Dallas game), I think that really hurt on a personal level,” Valiquette said. “You should have seen the building. It was a really tough building to be in. He came out of that game after the second period and I don’t think he picked his head up for the entire third. That’s as low as I’ve seen Henrik.”
Lundqvist reiterated a couple of times how difficult the last week has been for him. He seemed to be straddling that line between personal responsibility and acknowledging that like wins, losses are a team effort. He knows his teammates played poorly in front of him, but he’s also cognizant of the fact that he earns an average of $8.5 million a year to be the last line of defense. There are times when you have to bail your teammates out and Lundqvist, who has done it countless times, knows that as well as anyone.
“I’m not going to put everything on me,” Lundqvist said. “There have been a lot of breakdowns, but I know it’s my job to clean it up a little bit.”
The Leafs managed only 25 shots in the game, but there were a good number of high-quality attempts. The turning point of the game came in the middle of the second period when Lundqvist came out and aggressively challenged Mitch Marner on a partial breakaway and forced him to miss. On the next rush up the ice, the Rangers opened up a two-goal lead on a shot by J.T. Miller that Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen overplayed. And early in the third, with the Rangers clinging to a 3-2 lead, Lundqvist stopped Leo Komarov on a terrific opportunity.
“He keeps saying, ‘I’ve got to get back to playing on my toes,’ ” Valiquette said. “And what he means by that is getting out there and getting on top of the puck instead of being back and trying to protect the net behind you.”
Those were the plays Lundqvist wasn’t making in the three games after the Rangers came off their one-week furlough. And once they started piling up, it became more and more difficult to stop that train.
“I think every athlete and hockey player, you go through stretches where it’s just a lot harder to get it done, especially at this level” Lundqvist said. “All it takes is you lose five, six percent and that’s the difference between being OK and being great. Again, when you’re confident, that’s what you do. You clean it up, you make that extra save.”
So now all is presumably well in Ranger-land, a theme park where the roller coasters have gotten quite the workout this season. “We have a lot of confidence in Hank, we knew it was just a matter of time,” said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, “and now he’s going to follow it up with another big game against Detroit.”
Michael Latta of the Los Angeles Kings during a preseason game at Staples Center.
Michael Latta goes from L.A. to Chicago in exchange for Cameron Schilling.
The Kings and Blackhawks made a minor league trade on Saturday, which saw Michael Latta go from L.A. to Chicago in exchange for Cameron Schilling.
Latta had two goals and four assists along with 67 penalty minutes in 29 games with the American Hockey League’s Ontario Reign this season and will report to the Blackhawks minor league affiliate in Rockford.
The 25-year-old split the previous four seasons between the AHL’s Hershey Bears and Washington Capitals. In 113 NHL games with the Caps, Latta scored four goals and 13 assists.
The Kitchener, Ontario native was originally a 2009 third-round pick of the Nashville Predators.
Schilling was tied for second on the IceHogs in scoring with seven goals and had 17 points in 40 games. The Miami University product signed with the Capitals as a free agent in March 2012 and appeared in six games over three seasons in Washington registering four penalty minutes.
In 113 career AHL games with Rockford, the Carmel, Ind. native has 12 goals and 27 assists. Schilling is expected to join the Ontario Reign.