July 16 — Jagr, Blueprints & Bench Bosses

WE CAN’T WAIT FOR: NHL Expansion Draft: July 21 — NHL Entry Draft: July 23 & 24 — NHL Free Agency: July 28

Days until start of 2021-22 NHL Season: 88 days

Wednesday’s Wheelhouse

HURRICANE DYLAN: The Oilers traded goalie Dylan Wells to the Hurricanes on Wednesday, for future considerations. The move gives Carolina some much-needed wiggle room within the expansion draft goalie requirements, provided they make a qualifying offer to the 23-year-old netminder.

NEGOTIATIONS GOING COLD: Avalanche forward Gabriel Landeskog is reportedly unhappy with the direction of contract negotiations with the team, saying he would’ve liked to have had everything buttoned up 8-10 months ago. On top of that, it appears the two sides are nowhere near a deal.

NOT GOING ANYWHERE: Lightning captain Steven Stamkos will not be asked to waive his no-movement clause ahead of next week’s expansion draft. GM Julien BriseBois stated he expects him “in our lineup come opening night next fall,” despite obvious signs that the team will look slightly different.

Thursday’s Tap-in

BISHOP’S NO PAWN: Stars goalie Ben Bishop is reportedly willing to waive his no-trade clause, and Dallas is expected to expose the veteran in next week’s expansion draft.

JERSEY SHORIN’ UP THE DEFENSE: Avalanche defenseman Ryan Graves was traded to the Devils for forward Mikhail Maltsev and a second-round pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft (No. 61). With the expansion draft just around the corner, don’t expect the wheelin’ and dealin’ to slow down!

FLYING OFF THE YANDLE: The Panthers bought out the final two years of defenseman Keith Yandle’s contract yesterday, putting his 922-game ironman streak in jeopardy. Hopefully someone picks up the 34-year-old for next season — as he’s only 43 regular-season games away from breaking Doug Jarvis’ record.

MATISS, A HERO: Blue Jackets goalie Matiss Kivlenieks, who died in a tragic fireworks accident on July 4, was celebrated and remembered at his memorial service yesterday. Teammate and close friend Elvis Merzlikins called the 24-year-old a hero, saying the stray firework would have hit himself, his wife, and their unborn child if not for Kivlenieks’ actions. Rest in peace, Matiss.

Top Shelf Thursday: Top-3 NHL Coaches

It is known that coaches in the NHL are hired to be fired. Each season we see the coaching carousel begin its journey around the league, and — as fans — we hope certain coaches will land behind the bench of our favorite team. If you were to ask a room full of people who their favorite NHL coach is, there are three names that will continually pop up and it’s hard to argue. Let us know who your favorite NHL coach is by tweeting us @TheHockeyWriter using hashtag #THWMorningSkate.

Barry Trotz 

Teams Coached: Nashville Predators, Washington Capitals, and New York Islanders
Coaching Record: 877-635-60-158 — 1 Stanley Cup

Can we all agree Trotz is a national treasure? He began his NHL coaching career in 1998 when he was named the first head coach of the Predators. Trotz then continued his career with the Capitals where he — along with Alex Ovechkin — won his first Stanley Cup championship during the 2017-18 season. Currently, you can find him behind the bench of the Islanders, who he led to the Conference Finals the past two seasons. Trotz has coached an impressive 1,730 games, which is third in the NHL behind Joel Quenneville and Scotty Bowman.

Joel Quenneville 

Teams Coached: St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Chicago Blackhawks, and Florida Panthers 
Coaching Record: 962-572-77-150 — 3 Stanley Cups

As if it was not already apparent — the love for Coach Q was confirmed after Stan Bowman fired him on November 6, 2018. It was a questionable move that left Blackhawks’ fans annoyed and frustrated — some went as far as wanting Bowman to be removed as general manager. Quenneville has a winning pedigree and, since his first coaching gig in St. Louis during the 1996-97 season, he has only missed the postseason twice. Throughout his career, his teams have made 20 playoff appearances and won the Stanley Cup three times — all with the Blackhawks. He is second on the NHL’s all-time win list and, lucky for Panthers fans, Florida has him under contract until the 2023-24 season.

Jon Cooper

Teams Coached: Tampa Bay Lightning 
Coaching Record:  384-197-53 — 2 Stanley Cups

We have heard a lot about Cooper lately since he led his team to back-to-back Stanley Cup championships. He is currently the longest-tenured coach in the league and has spent his entire career in Tampa Bay. His team has made seven playoff appearances in his eight full seasons behind the bench. During that time the Lightning also won two division titles and a Presidents’ Trophy. His skill as a coach was confirmed during the Stanley Cup Final as he out-coached Montreal in the five-game series. A video was shared on social media of Cooper congratulating Canadiens players — such as Carey Price and Cole Caufield — after the Lightning’s Game 5 victory. Tampa’s coach is nothing but a class act and it’s no wonder why he is a favorite on and off the ice.

Feature Friday

With more than 150 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.

Jaromir Jagr’s Lasting Impression on the Stanley Cup Final — Andrew Forbes

Andrew Forbes is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting career with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.

It’s been almost 30 years since Jaromir Jagr last raised the Stanley Cup and three years since he last played a game in the NHL — finishing his career with the Calgary Flames in 2017-18. While he hasn’t played in the Final since 2012-13 with the Boston Bruins, Jagr has had a lasting impression on the final series of every NHL season since 1980.

Now, some of you might be asking what kind of impression Jagr has had on the final for the past 41 years. The truth is, that it has more to do with the players that are involved rather than the series itself. Still, since 1980, every Stanley Cup Final has featured at least one of Jagr’s teammates. In other words, even if Jagr played with them after their appearance in the Final, they played with the former NHL star at some point during their careers.

That list includes Bryan Trottier (four times), Mark Messier (six times), and several players who’ve appeared in two finals since 1980.

Most recently, Jon Merrill played for the Montreal Canadiens in the 2021 Stanley Cup Final. Over the playoff season, he played in 13 games for the Canadiens with a minus-4 rating. As for when he and Jagr crossed paths in their careers, it came in New Jersey when Jagr played parts of two seasons with the Devils from 2013 to 2015.

During that span, Jagr finished with 35 goals and 96 points in 139 regular-season games. As for Merrill, it was the start of his NHL career and he finished with four goals and 25 points in 118 regular-season games over his first two seasons playing with Jagr.

As for the Devils themselves, well, they weren’t exactly a playoff team. But, the bigger question around Jagr and the future of the Stanley Cup Final is — how long will his former teammates continue to compete for a Stanley Cup? Better yet, how long will Jagr have a lasting impression on this particular series?

Taking a Krak-en at the Expansion Draft

It will be the Seattle Kraken’s moment in the spotlight next Wednesday, as the NHL Expansion Draft allows GM Ron Francis to finally build his roster. Given how things went the last time around with the Vegas Golden Knights, teams are understandably leery of getting fleeced and opening the door to another first-year club making a run at the Stanley Cup Final.

So — as buzz builds and we await Sunday’s announcement of each team’s protected/exposed list — the league and its fans are holding their collective breath waiting to see just what Francis and the Kraken will do.

Luckily for you, we here at the Morning Skate have some ideas. While these aren’t specific player picks, per se, we can narrow in on some player types we’re likely to see taken — especially if the 2017 iteration offered any indication. And really, Seattle would be wise to follow the Golden Knights’ blueprint.

The Former First Rounder

At some point, this player was clearly the apple of hockey scouts’ eye. Sure, things haven’t gone perfectly in their pro career to date, but they’re still young and some of that promise is still there. Hey, maybe they just need a change of scenery to set them on the right path!

The Vegas Version: Griffin Reinhart, Edmonton
Did It Work Out? No

The Productive Minor Leaguer

You’ve got to lose someone, right? Sure, it’s nice to have a guy pushing his way through the development system for a role on the big club — and you’d love to reward that — but you simply aren’t going to protect someone playing in the AHL ahead of an NHL regular. Maybe you’d rather lose a veteran depth player and replace him with a cheaper option that has greater potential, but Francis knows what he’s doing (unfortunately for you).

The Vegas Version: Brendan Leipsic, Toronto
Did It Work Out? Most definitely not.

The Veteran on the Decline

You can almost hear Francis saying something along the lines of, “we just couldn’t pass up the chance to add a former 30-goal scorer,” and touting his selection’s veteran leadership — even as that player hasn’t come close to that plateau in three or four years. This guy may come with one of the biggest cap hits of the bunch, but he also brings a legit track record of productive play, helps Seattle win now, and also serves as one of the most recognizable names on the team.

The Vegas Version: James Neal, Nashville
Did It Work Out? Neal only lasted one season in Vegas, but spending $5 million on the fourth-leading scorer on a Final team (25 goals) actually did pay off.

The Goalie(s)

By expansion rules, you have to take three goaltenders — so you might as well go big with one of the picks. Sure, you’ll mostly be sorting through teams’ backups, but the league is littered with netminders who have proven themselves as starters after serving in an understudy role. And, with more and more clubs transitioning to more tandem-oriented models in net, the possibility of nabbing a 1A looms large. Isn’t that right, Chris Driedger?

The Vegas Version: Marc-André Fleury, Pittsburgh
Did It Work Out? Ohh yeah! Even while handling a tandem situation with Robin Lehner, and facing endless trade speculation, Fleury won his first Vezina. A remarkable sign of resilience from the 36-year-old.

The High Character Grinder

Not every player on your team can be a top-six scorer, which is good since most of the players being made available to you are far from the top-six. So then, why not take aim at bolstering team chemistry with a likable, high-energy, bottom-six forward? He may not get you 20 goals, but he’ll certainly be a star in the locker room. On a roster comprised of pieces pulled together from all over the place, this is actually a sneaky important role to fill — both on the ice and off.

The Vegas Version: Deryk Engelland, Calgary
Did It Work Out? The final tally on the now-retired blueliner in Vegas is three seasons and eight goals. Of course, his popularity within the team far outweighed any on-ice production. Engelland gave the Golden Knights an instantly iconic moment when the Las Vegas native delivered an emotional pre-game address in the aftermath of the October 2017 mass shooting in the city and even scored a goal in the game. So yes, he gave the franchise exactly what they hoped he would.

Now, being able to land guys like William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, Jonathan Marchessault, and Shea Theodore might be easier said than done for the Kraken. Still, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure — and Seattle is banking on making at least a few teams rue their protection list decisions!