Cracking an NHL lineup is a daunting task for all young prospects.
Natural ability alone does not guarantee you a spot. Daily workouts and a balanced diet throughout the summer are required for a rookie to impress at, and be prepared for, training camp.
With the 2009-10 season fast approaching THN writer Ryan Kennedy caught up with some of the league’s top prospects, including the Islanders' John Tavares, Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman, Montreal's P.K. Subban and Toronto's Tyler Bozak to discuss their off-season health regiments.
Frederik Andersen netted a first- and second-round pick for the Ducks and Brian Elliott was worth a second and third to pry away from the Blues. So why was the Lightning’s return for Ben Bishop so much less?
The Ben Bishop trade was months in the making. From the time the Stanley Cup was handed to the Pittsburgh Penguins, speculation was running rampant about what the Tampa Bay Lightning were going to do with a logjam in the crease and a cap situation that needed to be alleviated in one way or another. The easy answer was trading Bishop, and it seemed Tampa Bay would be in line to land quite the package in return for a goaltender who is a two-time Vezina finalist and had led the Lightning to consecutive Eastern Conference finals.
So, as shocking as it was that Bishop landed with the Kings of all teams, it’s as puzzling that the package that came back the other way was nowhere near what one would have expected the Lightning would haul in for the netminder. In all, Tampa Bay landed a backup goaltender, Peter Budaj, 19-year-old defenseman Erik Cernak, who was selected 43rd overall at the 2015 draft, and a seventh-round pick. There’s no top pick, no top prospect and, truthfully, the package is somewhat underwhelming. That’s especially true when you consider the recent price teams have paid for help in goal.
Frederik Andersen, for instance, cost the Toronto Maple Leafs first- and second-round picks and Brian Elliott cost the Calgary Flames second- and third-round selections. Heck, even the Jonathan Bernier acquisition cost the Anaheim Ducks a conditional pick. All three make the return the Lightning received for Bishop look worse. But maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised that Bishop didn’t fetch a similar package.
If Bishop was traded before the start of the campaign, it’s likely Tampa Bay would have received something that mirrored the price the Maple Leafs paid for Andersen. That’s all the more likely given Bishop was coming off of a season in which he finished second in Vezina voting and posted career-bests in goals-against average and save percentage. But as this season has worn on, Bishop has shown some holes. In fact, with how he’s playing right now, he’s on pace to have one of the worst statistical seasons of his career as a full-time NHLer.
Through 32 games this season, Bishop has turned in a .911 SP and 2.55 GAA. No full season has seen him post a worse SP and he’s only had a worse GAA in one campaign, all the way back in 2012-13 when he was dealt from the Ottawa Senators to the Lightning. Bishop had played his way out of the starting job with the Lightning, giving way to youngster Andrei Vasilveskiy more frequently as the campaign has worn on. Bishop's numbers and struggles alone were destined to lessen the return Tampa Bay was going to get. When they were talking trade before the start of the year, teams would have been paying for the promise of a first-rate starting netminder. That was no longer the case.
There also happens to be the matter of the market for goaltenders. A number of teams looking for upgrades in goal were looking to do so before the season began, but as the year has gone on, some of those clubs have fallen out of contention to the point where dealing away assets for a solution in goal doesn’t make all that much sense. Take the Dallas Stars, who are in a position to be a seller at the deadline. Spending to improve their goaltending wouldn’t be all that smart. They need the young assets to build for the future. Likewise, teams who have had stumbles in goal have seen their issues right themselves, which has lessened their need for a fix. The Flames have gotten better goaltending out of Elliott of late, and the St. Louis Blues, once in dire need of anyone who could make a stop, are finally starting to get favorable results from Jake Allen and Carter Hutton. As that happened, the market for Bishop almost certainly weakened.
The Lightning’s position also took a hit because those same teams who could be interested in an upgrade in goal — the Stars, Flames and Carolina Hurricanes could all potentially benefit from having Bishop — are now in a position where waiting for the off-season makes the most sense. Right now, acquiring Bishop would have cost a team a few assets, as we saw with what will end up being a three player package from the Kings. And while the ask obviously wasn’t as high as it was previously given the return the Lightning got, teams who are interested in Bishop’s services were able to hold onto a prospect, pick and roster player now with an eye on the summer signing season. At that time, Bishop can be had for the cost of his contract and nothing more.
Sure, trading for him now would have opened up an avenue for an earlier negotiation, but Bishop is going to go where he’s going to go. There’s nothing saying Bishop has to re-up with whichever team went after him at the deadline. It’s just an example, but say Dallas made a move to land Bishop, he could have gone and signed with Calgary come July 1. Then the Stars would be out the assets and the player they acquired. In that sense, there’s more value in taking a shot at Bishop come July 1 rather than spending at the deadline for a player who isn’t guaranteed to stick around.
And, even still, if there is interest in landing Bishop before the signing season kicks off, that’s not out of the question. The price for him could go down come the days leading up to July 1, a time when he might be able to be had from the Kings for as little as a late-round pick. With teams already willing to shop first-round picks due to the lack of top prospects in the upcoming draft, it’s hard to fathom some team wouldn’t be willing to ship out a mid-round selection just for the rights to Bishop if they really want the inside track.
All those factors combined resulted in a return for the Lightning that was much weaker than one would have expected. We’ll never know what Bishop would have been worth if he would have been traded before the season began. That was nearly a reality, too. Bishop himself said he was a contract extension away from ending up a Flame. The one thing that’s almost for certain, though, is Calgary was going to pay a higher price than the one the Kings did on Sunday. But that’s the risk the Lightning took by holding on to Bishop. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, it didn’t pay big.
The Sharks are still trying for that elusive Stanley Cup title, while the Canucks are building for the future in this win-win trade
Winning the Stanley Cup one year after losing the final series is very difficult. The Pittsburgh Penguins did it back in 2009 and now San Jose is in that position. With the acquisition of right winger Jannik Hansen, the Sharks have added one more weapon to an already potent lineup.
San Jose grabbed Hansen from Vancouver in exchange for prospect left winger Nikolay Goldobin and an interesting conditional pick: a fourth-rounder in 2017 that becomes a first-round selection, should the Sharks win the Cup. So we know who Vancouver will be cheering for this summer.
"Jannik is a versatile, gritty player who plays with speed and is talented on both sides of the puck," said Sharks GM Doug Wilson. "We think he is a perfect fit for the style of our team.”
Indeed, speed will likely be imperative in the playoffs, as it was last year when the Penguins skated circles around the competition (including the Sharks). San Jose already brought in another burner before this campaign began in Mikkel Boedker and although he hasn’t been a real difference-maker so far, every bit of depth counts in the post-season. Add in ascending rookie Kevin Labanc and you’ve got a decent amount of new blood on a squad led by the impressive veteran core of Brent Burns (a Hart trophy candidate), Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton and Logan Couture.
With Thornton and suddenly-spry Sharks lifer Patrick Marleau in the twilights of their careers, San Jose is really making one last stand here before the mantle gets completely passed to Pavelski, Burns and Couture. And they could pull it off.
For Vancouver, GM Jim Benning continues to have a good deadline with this deal. The Canucks have already amassed a very nice pool of prospects and Goldobin could slide into the NHL lineup right now. He’s a skilled, creative playmaker whose weak spots are defense, but he has been working on rounding out his game in the AHL and the Sharks were pleased with his progress. Add him to a Canucks future centered around Bo Horvat, Troy Stecher, Brock Boeser, Olli Juolevi and Thatcher Demko among others and all of a sudden, Vancouver’s looking pretty good in a few years. Now, they have five picks in the first four rounds this summer and potentially two first-rounders, should the Sharks triumph.
San Jose and Vancouver definitely caught each other at the right time on this deal.
With 10 pending free agents and the salary cap not expected to increase the Capitals will have a hard time keeping the band together. So it's now or never for their Cup hopes.
When the Washington Capitals drafted Alex Ovechkin first overall in 2004, the foundation for a championship team was set firmly in place. They progressively built a Murderers’ Row of talent that, at one time, looked as though it had the makings of a dynasty.
Which brings us to their acquisition of the crown jewel of the NHL trade deadline, defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, Monday night. It’s a game-changer for the already-stacked Capitals to be sure, one that gives them another talented right-handed defenseman who can move the puck, play the power play and is good in his own end. In making the deal, the Capitals have unequivocally stated that their time to win is now.
And they’re right because that’s exactly what it is. If you think previous Capital teams were under pressure to win a championship, that was nothing compared to the expectation the 2016-17 squad faces. This team was a Stanley Cup favorite before acquiring Shattenkirk, but after their bold move at the deadline, anything short of a Stanley Cup parade will be considered a complete failure.
But compounding this is a whole other layer of pressure that hasn’t been discussed much to this point. And that is, if this Capitals team manages to win the Stanley Cup this spring, it would not be a stretch to suggest the franchise that once held out hopes for a dynasty could very well become a one-and-done in the same vein the Boston Bruins and Anaheim Ducks have been in the salary cap era.
And that’s a shame because it puts even more pressure on this group to win now. The failures of past teams in the playoffs are going to be carried by this group, a team that will face the challenge of erasing those bad memories in one playoff year. The Capitals’ inability not only to seriously contend for the Stanley Cup, but to even get out of the second round of the playoffs all those years, is going to be a demon this particular group of players must exorcise.
That window to win that was once so wide is closing quickly and dramatically, to the point that if the Capitals don’t win the Cup this spring, you have to wonder when they ever will again.
Now it’s not unheard of for a team to face the prospect of having 10 pending unrestricted and restricted free agents on their roster. It happens quite a bit actually. But it is unique for a team to have as many impact players facing free agency and as little cap space to either re-sign or replace them as the Caps have. Not including Nate Schmidt, who has almost certainly been knocked out of Washington’s top six defensemen with the addition of Shattenkirk, the Capitals face the prospect of having half their top 12 forwards, top six defensemen and two goaltenders on expiring contracts.
Consider first that with Shattenkirk now on their roster, the Capitals now stand to have three of the most coveted unrestricted free agents of the summer in Shattenkirk, fellow defenseman Karl Alzner and winger T.J. Oshie. Whether Alzner and Oshie are underpaid or not is probably a matter of preference, but both will undoubtedly be looking for raises.
Alzner, who has made just $2.8 million per year the past four seasons, will almost be certainly looking to cash in on a long-term deal at the age of 28. Justin Williams and Daniel Winnik are the only other UFAs the Capitals have, but they also have Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky, Dmitry Orlov, Brett Connolly and backup goalie Philipp Grubauer to re-sign as RFAs.
And assuming the salary cap stays the same, they have only about $21 million to do it. If it goes down, as some have suggested it might, the Capitals are in even more trouble. When you look at it from that perspective, the band is breaking up. There is no doubt about that.
It would be different if the Capitals were flush with NHL-ready prospects who could come in and fill those roles, the way the young players in Chicago have made it possible for the Blackhawks to negotiate the salary cap like a tightrope, paying their veteran core players huge money and leaving the scraps to their young players who are not yet in a position to command big money. But the Capitals prospects are just good, not great. In THN’s annual Future Watch edition, the Capitals group of prospects ranked 20th overall, a group that was diminished by one when useful NHL prospect Zach Sanford was included in the Shattenkirk deal. Their best prospect is Ilya Samsonov and that would be great if Samsonov were not a goaltender. Jakub Vrana is a future NHLer to be sure, but it drops off after that. And the Capitals have clearly and deliberately mortgaged their future, dealing away their first three picks from this draft.
Any team with talent that includes the likes of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Braden Holtby will contend, but how seriously depends upon the supporting cast around them and that supporting cast will be diminished after this season. Both Ovechkin and Backstrom will be on the other side of 30 very soon, as is Matt Niskanen, while 36-year-old Brooks Orpik is on a contract that is not at all team-friendly for two more years. That one is going to sting whether the Capitals stick with him through to the end of the deal or buy him out this summer.
If the Capitals win the Stanley Cup, that first-rounder to St. Louis will be the 31st pick overall, which until the summer of 2017, was considered a second-round pick. And that’s where the Capitals are banking that pick will be. And if that happens it will have all worthwhile been worthwhile because they’ll have finally skated off into the sunset with the Stanley Cup. That would be great, because it might be the only one they win for a long, long time.
A “hockey trade” to help St. Louis compete for a playoff berth would’ve been nice, but it wasn’t available. The Blues did the next best thing: trade Shattenkirk without losing him for nothing.
The Kevin Shattenkirk trade obviously signalled a massive Stanley Cup push for the team acquiring him, the Washington Capitals. And it felt like a white flag wave for the team sending him away, the St. Louis Blues.
It’s not like the Blues received a high-impact roster player in exchange for their prized pending unrestricted free agent defenseman. St. Louis got Zach Sanford, Brad Malone, a 2017 first-round pick and a conditional 2019 second-rounder for Shattenkirk. That’s a classic sell-off package. St. Louis knew it couldn’t afford to retain Shattenkirk this summer as a UFA given he’d command something in the range of $7 million annually at a seven-or eight-year term. Defenseman Colton Parayko is a restricted free agent this summer, Robby Fabbri next summer, and the Blues just extended center Patrik Berglund last week for five seasons at a $3.85-milllion cap hit. Per capfriendly.com, GM Doug Armstrong has 20 players signed for next season already and only about $7 million in cap space remaining, with Parayko left to re-sign. Even if the expansion draft plucks away a piece, it likely won’t be an expensive one – say, Nail Yakupov or Dmitrij Jaskin – so there just wasn’t going to be money left to extend Parayko and re-up Shattenkirk.
We all knew it, as did Shattenkirk’s suitors, which likely hurt Armstrong’s leverage. The package he received from the Capitals is thus respectable. Still, it’s not like Sanford and Malone project as major difference makers for this franchise. Sanford, 22, possesses great size and flashed some scoring potential with Boston College and in the USHL. Malone, 27, is AHL depth and nothing more. At the very least, it’s clear nothing St. Louis received will help much now.
That would be fine if the trade followed typical seller parameters, with the Blues mining the depths of the standings hoping for a lottery pick. But, geez, they currently occupy a playoff position. They hold down the second Western Conference wild-card spot at 67 points and have a game in hand on the L.A. Kings, who sit two points back. St. Louis won seven of eight games after Mike Yeo assumed head coaching duties with Ken Hitchcock let go, but they’ve now lost three straight. Did that mini skid cause Armstrong to declare his team’s Cup hopes dead?
The Capitals are tired of playoff disappointments. Already the best team in the league, they decided overkill was the smart strategy. That's why they went out and got the best player on the trade market.
It’s more complicated than that. Ideally, the Blues would’ve found a “hockey trade” for Shattenkirk, one that would’ve helped them stay competitive, but it was likely difficult to achieve. What team would surrender an important roster player, especially one with term left on his deal, to rent Shattenkirk? An extension would’ve had to be worked out between Shattenkirk and his new team for that to work, and it may have proven too tall of an order.
That left Armstrong with the decision to either keep his asset for the playoffs knowing he’d lose him in the summer – or seek the type of return typically reserved for a team with no playoff hopes. The guess here is the organization decided the fan base could not stomach losing another prized UFA for nothing. David Backes and Troy Brouwer walked in the summer, and the Blues are not nearly as good a team as they were a year ago. Having Shattenkirk depart would’ve been a public relations disaster, especially if the Blues ended up missing the playoffs with him in the lineup. Hey, it was possible. They occupied the lowest seed with an outstanding player like Shattenkirk.
The trade Monday night, then, was about saving face. It wasn’t the sexy return Blues fans likely hoped they’d get for Shattenkirk. The first-round pick could well be 31st overall if the Caps win the Stanley Cup. But the one thing we know about what St. Louis acquired for Shattenkirk and goalie Pheonix Copley: it was not nothing. That’s what St. Louis needed to ensure after losing Backes and Brouwer.