Days until start of 2021-22 NHL Season: 74 days
BE FREE: Far too many free agency transactions occurred to recap them all here — so your best bet is to catch up with THW’s Free Agency Tracker.
YOU DON’T KNOW JACK: Though it seemed like a trade was inevitable, the Jack Eichel trade market has apparently gone completely silent. That said, it doesn’t appear things are any better on the home front.
♫PROKOP AND THE PREDS♫: Predators prospect Luke Prokop received a call of support from none other than Sir Elton John after becoming the first NHL player under contract to come out as gay. Not only did he say they had a meaningful conversation, he added his mom may have been more excited than he was when the call came in.
AGE SUTES HIM: New Stars defenseman Ryan Suter said he thinks he can “play until I’m 45 if I want,” eluding to a Chelios-like career that may continue for some time. We hope he’s right!
With more than 130 writers across North America, The Hockey Writers offer something for everyone. While Pat, Kristy, Ben, and I love bringing you content every morning, we wanted to spotlight some of our other writers. Below is a special contribution from one of our talented members.
Hockey History: Revisiting the 2005 NHL Draft – Greg Boysen
Greg Boysen has been writing about the Chicago Blackhawks since 2010 and has been a site manager for both FanSided and SB Nation. He has been published in The Hockey News and was fully credentialed for the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. Among his various roles with The Hockey Writers are: covering the Blackhawks, the AHL, writing the daily “Today in Hockey History” column, serving as a copy editor, and appearing and hosting multiple YouTube shows, including Blackhawks Banter. He is credentialed with the Chicago Wolves, Rockford IceHogs, and Milwaukee Admirals, while also being a regional scout for the NAHL. For interview requests or to provide topic suggestions, follow Greg on Twitter and reach out.
Since I am the “history guy” around these parts, and we just had the NHL Entry Draft last week, let’s take a look at another draft. On this date in 2005, Ottawa hosted the draft — held much later than usual due to the owners’ lockout that cost us the 2004-05 season.
The Pittsburgh Penguins were first on the clock and altered their franchise by drafting Sidney Crosby. He is a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer; 486 goals, 1,325 points, and three Stanley Cup championships later. Some of the other top picks of the first round included goaltender Carey Price going fifth to the Montreal Canadiens, Anže Kopitar 12th to the Los Angeles Kings, and T.J. Oshie being selected by the St. Louis Blues at No. 24.
The high-end talent didn’t stop in the opening round. The San Jose Sharks grabbed defenseman Marc-Édouard Vlasic in the second round (35th overall). Nine picks later, the Colorado Avalanche drafted Paul Stastny, whose father Peter starred for the franchise in the 1980s when they were the Quebec Nordiques.
The Penguins struck gold again when they selected defenseman Kris Letang with the first pick of the third round (62nd overall). Some other late-round gems included Jonathan Quick (72nd, Los Angeles Kings), Ben Bishop (85th, Blues), Keith Yandle (105th, Phoenix Coyotes), Niklas Hjalmarsson (108th, Chicago Blackhawks), and Anton Strålman (216th, Toronto Maple Leafs). The last player selected, known as “Mr. Irrelevant,” was Patric Hörnqvist, taken 230th by the Nashville Predators.
If you enjoy hockey history as much as I do, then please check out our daily “Today in Hockey History” column every morning.
Good Signs, Bad Signs
It’s a seemingly annual rite of passage — NHL general managers work tirelessly to maintain a clean cap sheet, demonstrating discipline, and making tough roster decisions. Then, on the first day of free agency, it all goes out the window.
On an insanely busy day one of free agency, teams again showed that a flat salary cap won’t stand in the way of throwing money and term at players who are old and/or mediocre. Of course, many teams came away with good value through sensible additions — but there were also those contracts that appear instantly regrettable.
With full acknowledgment that these initial reactions could look entirely wrong in hindsight, here are three contracts doled out on Wednesday that look like bargains and three that look like burdens:
Keith Yandle – One Year, $900,000 (PHI)
For all the nitpicking over Yandle being a defensive liability — as he was relegated to the press box in the postseason — he remains a capable power play quarterback on a very affordable contract. On a remade Flyers’ blue line with Ryan Ellis and Rasmus Ristolainen, he can be sheltered away in five-on-five situations.
Phillip Danault – Six Years, $33 Million (LAK)
The Kings shelled out a lot of term and money for the elite defensive center, prompting fair questions about the wisdom of overpaying a forward who is limited offensively. But Danault offered huge value to the Montreal Canadiens during their Cup Final run and arrives in LA at a time when the club is awash in entry-level contracts from emerging prospects.
Nick Bonino – Two Years, $4.1 Million (SJS)
On a day when depth centers got paid, San Jose got a pretty good one on the cheap in Bonino. A consistent scorer with two-way ability, Bonino has out-scored fellow centers Sean Kuraly, Alex Wennberg, and Ryan Getzlaf over the past three seasons — while the others netted more money.
Cody Ceci – Four Years, $13 Million (EDM)
Can someone explain what Edmonton is doing with its blue line? Trading for a high-priced 38-year-old Duncan Keith and giving Tyson Barrie three years and $13.5 million are puzzling enough moves. Throwing four years and $13 million at Ceci is the type of contract that looks instantly regrettable and puts undue pressure on a depth defenseman.
Mikael Granlund – Four Years, $20 Million (NSH)
Granlund has been on the decline in Nashville, having recorded just 62 points in 130 games since being traded from Minnesota. That lack of production can be shrugged off on the affordable, one-year deals he has signed of late, but shouldn’t inspire the Predators to commit four years at $5 million per to the 29-year-old Finnish center.
Tucker Poolman – Four Years, $10 Million (VAN)
Jake McCabe, Ryan Suter, David Savard, and Derek Forbort were just some of the players who got overpaid on a day that was very good to average veteran blueliners. But — much like Ceci — Poolman warrants his own mention here. Even on a razor-thin Winnipeg blue line, he still couldn’t be trusted for more than 18 minutes a game.
Role Players on Cup Contenders
Ahead of each season, a list of Cup contenders floats around the internet and is normally filled with the same usual suspects. Some teams are often only a piece or two away from lifting the Stanley Cup. While most free agents have found a new contract and home, there are a few left who could have a big impact on the right team. Below are three players and teams that would go together like gin and tonic.
Zach Parise on the New York Islanders
The 36-year-old forward may not be the star he once was — but don’t count him out just yet. Parise has been linked to the Islanders since he was bought out by the Wild. Some reports say he has signed with the club, but we have yet to hear a formal announcement. The Islanders were one win away from the Stanley Cup Final last season — and two wins away from the Final the year before that. It is realistic to believe Parise may just be the final piece to New York’s puzzle. A third line made up of Parise, Kyle Palmieri, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau sounds good to me.
David Krejčí on the Colorado Avalanche
It is safe to say the Avalanche couldn’t get past the Golden Knights in the playoffs because of their lack of a second-line center. Enter into the conversation, 35-year-old David Krejci. Colorado has been called a contender for the past few seasons and — after locking in both Gabriel Landeskog and Cale Makar — it appears they will be in the conversation again. Krejci would be a reliable second liner who can help Nathan MacKinnon finally reach the Stanley Cup.
Eric Staal on the Carolina Hurricanes
Who doesn’t love a reunion? Eric Staal began his career in Raleigh and won his only Stanley Cup as Hurricane in 2006. His brother Jordan and teammate Teuvo Teräväinen are the only players on the current roster who also have a Stanley Cup ring. Adding another player with postseason experience is never a bad thing for a team. This offseason has been all about brotherly love, so why not reunite 2/3 of the Staal brothers?