THUNDERSTRUCK: Congrats to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the 2020-21 Stanley Cup Champions! It’s the franchise’s third championship, and they’re just the third team to win back-to-back championships since the 1997-98 season.
ANDREI THE GIANT: Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy matched an NHL-best fifth shutout in a series-clinching game – dating back to last season’s Stanley Cup Final. Uh, yeah, ladies and gentlemen, your Conn Smythe winner!
MAROONED: Lightning forward Pat Maroon won his third consecutive Stanley Cup, having won two years ago with the Blues before winning last season with Tampa. He’s one of three players in NHL history to win three straight titles with two different teams, and the latest since Ed Litzenberger — who was selected off waivers!
IT’S NEVER TOO EARLY: The Avalanche have opened as the favorite to capture the 2021-22 Stanley Cup, just ahead of both Vegas and Tampa. We already can’t wait for next season!
COOL CATS: The Panthers announced that they are finalizing plans to partner with college athletes, given the NCAA’s new Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) allowances. Details are still sketchy, but it sounds like participating students may have the opportunity to earn merchandise, money, or both.
SIX DEGREES OF JAGR: OK, so we’re a few days late on this one, but how can we not share this INSANE stat — Every Stanley Cup Final since 1980 has featured a teammate of Jaromir Jagr. This year’s honor goes to Jon Merrill who played with Jagr on the New Jersey Devils during the 2014-15 season.
TARA-SAYITAINTSO: Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko has requested a trade out of St. Louis, according to a report from The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford. The 29-year-old has two years remaining on his current deal.
Top Shelf Thursday – Top-5 Conn Smythe Trophy Winners
Andrei Vasilevskiy joins an elite group as the recipient of the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. After his shutout performance in Game 5 — his fifth series-clinching shutout in a row — it was a no-brainer to award him the high honors. Vasilevskiy joins Tim Thomas, Patrick Roy, and Ken Dryden — along with many other goaltenders — as backstops who have been named MVP of the postseason. Now is the perfect time to look back at some of the best players to be awarded the Conn Smythe.
5. Reggie Leach, Philadelphia Flyers, 1976
Leach’s name has come up quite a bit during this season’s playoffs, and for good reason. Brayden Point of the Lightning was chasing Leach’s record of 10 consecutive games with a goal scored, but fell one short. Leach is also currently tied for the record for most goals scored in a single postseason — with a total of 19. Adding even more to his legacy, Leach is the only non-goalie to win the Conn Smythe while playing for the losing team in the Final.
4. Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins, 1970
Orr received the first of his two career Conn Smythe Trophies in 1970. Yes, that was the year the now iconic photo was taken of him flying through the air after scoring the Stanley Cup-winning goal for the Bruins. He played a remarkable game at both ends of the ice, and two years later became the first player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy twice.
3. Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks, 2015
Keith was the unanimous choice for the Conn Smythe after the Blackhawks beat the Lightning, and it’s hard to argue with the selection. His average time on ice per game during the postseason that year was 31 minutes – I’ll let that sink in for a moment. In addition to being an absolute workhorse on the blue line, he had an impressive offensive game as well. Keith finished the playoffs with 21 points in 23 games. To add the cherry on top, the defenseman also scored the Cup-winning goal in Game 6.
2. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings, 2012
2012 was a great time to be a fan of the LA Kings. Quick was the epitome of a player who put the entire team on his back to make a postseason run. He played in 20 playoff games and ended with a 1.41 GAA and a .946 SV% — while also registering three shutouts. During the Stanley Cup Final against the Devils, Quick allowed only seven goals in six games.
1. Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton Oilers, 1985
Wayne Gretzky awarded a trophy for MVP? Groundbreaking. In 1985 Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers faced off against the Flyers in the Stanley Cup Final. In route to winning the Cup that season, Gretzky scored 47 points in 18 games. There isn’t much to say after hearing those stats except — he clearly earned the title “The Great One.”
Agree or disagree with our choices? Head over to Twitter and let us know your thoughts using #MorningSkate
Who Will Hit the Jack-pot
Any lingering doubt over Jack Eichel’s potential offseason trade availability was essentially put to rest on Tuesday night, as hockey insider Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic reported that Eichel “is almost certainly getting dealt” this summer (from, “LeBrun: Why the Sabres and Coyotes went with unheralded coach hires and what it says about their futures,” Pierre LeBrun, The Athletic, 07/06/21).
This is hardly surprising news to front office executives across the league, who have seen the rift between Eichel’s camp and the Sabres on the player’s request for a risky and unprecedented neck surgery, and also would’ve surely noticed GM Kevyn Adams neglecting to include the 24-year-old when discussing the club’s core moving forward. You’d have to figure that a majority of the other 31 teams in the league are working the phones to see what it might take to land Eichel.
So, who might be at the top of that list? This will surely be a hot topic through the offseason, so let’s get the ball rolling by looking at five potential suitors who could be in contention for the star centre:
Vegas Golden Knights
With all the big names and big contracts throughout the Golden Knights’ lineup, it’s a little jarring to see Chandler Stephenson’s name atop depth charts as the No. 1 centre. Indeed, Stephenson spent most of the season as the default choice — with the slow-to-develop Cody Glass in and out of the lineup, and William Karlsson glued to second line duty.
Eichel would be a perfect fit here from a hockey standpoint. Cap-wise, it’s another story. The capped-out Knights would likely have to unload two of their bigger contracts to make the deal work. That said, if they can find a taker for Marc-André Fleury, they have the trade assets to build a compelling package around, say, Glass, Alex Tuch, Nicolas Hague, and a slew of draft picks and/or prospects.
Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings’ farm system is the envy of pretty much every team in the league at the moment. What remains to be seen is how GM Rob Blake and the Kings management choose to weaponize their treasure trove of young prospects. Surely some youngsters — namely Quinton Byfield — will be deemed untouchable, but their pipeline riches ensure that the tools are there to get a deal done should they chase Eichel or another established star.
Recent rumors have suggested that LA is already knocking on Buffalo’s door, and Adams and the Sabres would be wise to listen. While some will bristle at the notion of dramatically fast-tracking their rebuild at the expense of future assets, there’s an argument to be made for striking while enjoying the benefit of a slew of contributors on entry level contracts.
New York Rangers
Adams might be inclined to ignore any calls from new Rangers GM Chris Drury, and I wouldn’t blame him. Sending Eichel to the Sabres’ in-state rival would add further insult to injury for a beaten down Buffalo fanbase. But it also might be the best move for the future direction of the franchise.
Drury could be looking to make a splash after taking the reins on Broadway and hiring Gerard Gallant. And in Alexis Lafrenière and Kaapo Kakko, he has two potential centerpiece trade assets to build a package around (no, Norris winner Adam Fox isn’t going anywhere). Eichel next to Artemi Panarin has the makings of a fearsome one-two punch up front.
Not since the 13-year mega-deals for Zach Parise and Ryan Suter back in 2012 have the Minnesota Wild swung for the fences on a major personnel move, but maybe that could change this summer. The Wild took a step forward in 2020-21 thanks to the contributions of Kirill Kaprizov and Joel Eriksson Ek. Adding Eichel would offer additional center depth and bring in a star on a similar development timeline to the rest of their core.
Perhaps even more significantly, it would likely go a long way to appeasing Kaprizov — who is reportedly waiting to see how GM Bill Guerin continues to develop the roster before locking in long-term. Given what’s at stake for the franchise, a trade package that could be built around the likes of Jordan Greenway, Matt Dumba, and/or their two 2021 first round picks (their own and Pittsburgh’s) would seem more than worthwhile.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Gotta throw one wild card in here, if only to claim superior foresight on the one-in-a-million shot that it happens. Despite making the biggest in-season deal of 2020-21, the Columbus Blue Jackets and GM Jarmo Kekäläinen aren’t typically known for big splashes. Still, a move for Eichel makes a lot of sense for a club that has a lot of talent, in spite of a disappointing season.
Trading away Pierre-Luc Dubois torpedoed the Blue Jackets’ depth down the middle, leaving trade returnee Jack Roslovic as the de facto No. 1. Where Columbus lacks prospects and draft capital to build a compelling return for the Sabres, they possess two interesting trade pieces in fellow oft-rumored trade candidate Seth Jones and the recently added Patrik Laine. It may not be Buffalo’s first choice, but might represent an intriguing fall-back option if — as is being reported — teams are turned off by the asking price on Eichel.
To be sure, there will be complications to any Eichel deal, namely the status of his neck injury and absorbing his massive contract. Then again, 24-year-old No. 1 centres who can score 36 goals a year don’t exactly grow on trees. Hope Adams has a good data plan on his phone!
Please join us in a moment of silence for these recently eliminated teams – gone, but never forgotten. We can’t wait until we meet again (the 2021-22 season, of course!), but for now we’ll take this opportunity to reflect on their memorable playoff run.
Dates Active: 1/13/21 – 7/7/21
Cause of Death: Double Lightning strike.
Last Words: We’re current-ly sad, but this was an en-lightning experience nonetheless. Congrats to the champs!