The Boston Bruins have made a history, and largely ramshackle franchise out of refusing to pay forwards. Patrice Bergeron has been one of the most valuable players in the league for most of the time since he was drafted. Brad Marchand has been one of the best wings in the NHL since he was instrumental in winning the Stanley Cup. Even David Krejci never really got a top tier salary, despite being the setup man who took over for Marc Savard and managed to work with multiple iffy wingers for years.

Phil Kessel is one of those guys where both price and term were an issue. He’s got a nearly identical points per game total in his career to Brad Marchand, and if the Boston Bruins had both of themthey likely beat Chicago and collect a second Stanley Cup. Instead they downgraded to Tyler Seguin. Yes Seguin had loads of issue, on and off the ice, inside and outside the arena, but he is still a top tier offensive weapon. They punted Rielly Smith in favor of Jimmy Hayes, and we know how that ended. When they decided to part ways with Carl Soderberg they traded him for a pick who has only scored one goal in two years in the SHL.

Milan Lucic was traded for essentially nothing. They flipped him for Martin Jones who they traded for little. They also got one of the six players drafted in the 2015 first round yet to play an NHL game. In addition they got Colin Miller who was a tire fire on the ice, and who they gave up to protect better players (literally everyone in the system), and who then was ‘lost’.

There are two major issues at play here and no one is addressing both. The first is that how you pay your drafted and developed players greatly impacts what free agents will even take serious phone calls from your franchise. The second is that they haven’t managed to acquire and retain  any quality talent in exchange for what they’ve let go. Seguin is not as good as Kessel, especially not in the regular season. None of the return for Seguin is still in the Boston Bruins system. The return for Milan Lucic is still in question. What they received for Soderberg and Smith was barely worth the time to notify the NHL of the trade.

Free agents? Who was the last top tier NHL UFA to land in Boston. Not guys who are future hall of fame members like Jagr or Jarome Iginla (after a failed trade), but legit stars. It might well be when Marc Savard and Zdeno Chara were signed a long, long time ago. Even they are iffy because Chara was considered leftovers from Redden and the rest of the disintegrating Ottawa Senators defense. Savard was as much of a one dimensional, unathletic, and iffy effort player as can be when he arrived. Both were made better by a very under rated coach.

College free agents? Don’t make me laugh. Blake Wheeler was the last of those worth something to land in the Hub. Causeway is not graced by Will Butcher or Alex Kerfoot, Jimmy Vesey does not wear the spoked-b.  They can’t win with veteran UFA’s looking for the next chapter in their career because of their parsimonious treatment of guys they do develop. They can’t win with college free agents because who wants to take a job with an organization they know is going to under pay?

Even if you consider it gross overpayment to get David Pastrnak a contract that is in the near neighborhood of Draisaitl, that’s the market rate. None of us pay what we want to for gas, we pay what the market demands. It’s time to repair the organizations reputation with the players as a whole. It’s well past time to get Pastrnak under contract before he does something sensible like trot off to the KHL where he’ll make as much money and have to play fewer games to do it. If they wanted to sign him at a lower rate they should have done so when he hit the thirty goal mark during the season, between the regular season and the playoffs. Now the market has been reset and they need to adjust their expectations accordingly.

It’s August 24th, 2017 and Jaromir Jagr remains unsigned by any NHL team. In the past two and a half months guys who spent most of their season on the bench, on the injured reserve, or in the pressbox have been signed.

Does anyone honestly think Steven Gionta is going to make a bigger impact on an NHL team this year than Jaromir Jagr? Well, outside of the New York Islander’s front office. Yup, when faced with the choice between a 33 year old with a career total of 16 NHL goals, and a first ballot hall of famer with more goals than that last season, they chose wrong. Even the Nashville Predator’s who have one of the better GM’s in hockey chose wrong in going with Austin Watson over Jagr. Watson has never been productive above the AHL level, and Jagr has never played in the AHL.

So why should you teams sign the man who forever set the bar for mullets?

History

First is history. Jagr is currently fourth on the All Time NHL games played list. With a full season, he climbs to the top of that list, and whoever signs him gets to be a part of history. Even if the remarkably durable 45 year old plays a sliver more than half a season he’ll still jump to the number two spot ahead of Mark Messier, Ron Francis and everyone else. His career history says it’s a safe bet he climbs all the way to the top of the mountain this year, he needs just about 68 games to do it. He’s also twenty assists from passing Ray Bourque for number four on the all time list, a number he should wrap up before the all star break.

What he brings to the game

Last year, for the Florida Panthers Jaromir Jagr was 4th on the team in offensive points share at 3.0, and seventh on the team for defensive points share, eclipsing most of his team mates in both categories by a handy margin. We all know about his work ethic, and teams building up can use that. We all know the Panthers were not a good team last year, but no one who played more than 35 games had a better relative Corsi for than Jagr. This means even a team with ‘unlimited growth potential’, he is going to make the team better all by his lonely. One other interesting number is his even strength goals against per 60 minutes. With 2.5 goals against per 60 at even strength he was seventh on the Panthers, ahead of most of the team, and light years better than team mate and fellow old dude Tomas Vanek.

Attendance

As a sure thing to be in the hockey hall of fame whenever he retires, Jaromir Jagr has a certain ability to draw fans just by being himself. Some are nostalgia buffs from his early days in the NHL, some have joined the legions of thronging mulletites more recently. Few, if any, are more devoted than the Traveling Jagr’s. As the living legend has traversed the hockey map, so to has this legion grown. More importantly, they have traveled, drawn media attention, and bought tickets. For teams who struggled in this regard, he’s a viable investment in improving the gate.

The Ottawa Senator’s had a troublesome 87.4% home attendance last year despite amazing seasons by Karlsson and Anderson. The Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames were also among those Canadian teams that failed to get to 100% attendance.

Who Should Sign Him?

For one or more reasons there are a dozen teams that should sign Jagr, including if this is indeed his swan song, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Who could use him the most? The Vancouver Canucks could use him for a variety of reasons, he’s not going to outpace the Sedin’s too badly, and unlike that pair he can hold onto the puck. The Carolina Hurricanes lack both depth and star power in their forward group, and Jagr combined with Williams, and Staal is a pretty compelling core to build from, and three guys who are different enough you should be able to reach any youngster worth damn who walks into the room. The Arizona Coyotes much like the Hurricanes are in need of a depth infusion, and something to generate ticket (and merchandise) sales, or any other form of revenue.

The New York Islander’s could sign him for no better reason than ticking off Rangers fans, but it would at least be a remedial step in potentially keeping Tavares. If the Colorado Avalanche were to sign him, not only would it give us a respite from the never ending Matt Duchene trade saga, it would put at least one forward on the ice who actually, provably, likes to win and is willing to work at it (and their attendance sucks too). If the Anahiem Ducks were to add him to the roster, it might just get them to play a full season, and it might also shame Perry and Getzlaf into trying hard enough to keep up with a guy who they were watching before they were old enough to shave.

Stick tap to Hockey-Reference.com and ESPN for the numbers.

Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers finally signed his contract. His $8.5 million a year will make him the highest paid player on the team this year. In his career, he’s put up a solid .717 points per game in his 191 regular season games. Drafted in 2014, he’s a very, very good comparable to the Boston Bruins David Pastrnak who was also taken in the first round, has played 172 regular season games.

Pastrnak, despite coming into his first professional year after a serious shoulder injury, and being suspended two games, has produced .715 points per game, and more goals, and goals per game than Draisaitl. On the surface you could give them identical contracts and call it a day, the Boston Bruins have the cap space, they certainly should aim to keep him, and keep him happy. The problem isn’t this year’s cap space. Next year is where it get’s dicey.

Chara will be out of contract July 1, and if he plays this season as well as he did last, he’ll deserve another, and he’s not the biggest worry as he can likely be resigned at the same rate. Assuming the cap remains the same, the team would have 15 players signed for July 1, 2018, and have just over $12.6 million to fill the minutes of the unsigned players which will include a backup goalie, Chara, Vatrano, Spooner and a few others, the year after that McAvoy, Carlo, JFK, and McQuaid are all due new deals.

If they sign Pastrnak to the $8.5 a year Draisaitl got, or even a little more if they avoid the three years of no movement clause and no trade clause at the backend of the Oiler’s center’s deal, they need to lose one of the big contracts. A lot of people will point immediately at Backes, or Beleskey, and they are short sighted. You need to consider who will want them, and give you any thing at all for them. Realistically, they need to either work a deal with one of the eight teams Tuukka Rask can moved to this year, or 15 next year. David Krejci is unmoveable without serious persuasion.

There are several key questions the Boston Bruins front office has to ask before they take whatever their next step is:

  • What is the value of David Pastrnak to the Boston Bruins now, three years from now, and five years from now?
  • What will the deal we offer to him mean to other players in the system moving forward?
  • What impact will deals like this have on our own salary cap?
  • How will it affect the process when the CBA is up for renewal or replacement after five more seasons?

For me, I think Draisaitl is overpaid on a small sample size. Yes he’s been very good, and downright impressive in his one playoff appearance, but I think the contract is probably about $1.5 million high, as of his current production. When you get to second  (or later) contracts you’re either fearcasting or dreamcasting what the player will be over the course of the contract. For Pasta who had an all star, year one can hope very high, maybe even a fifty goal season in the next four or five. But you can also look at how effectively he was smothered in the week or two after he hit the 30 goal mark, and of course that draft year injury and worry about the low end of the number.

Based on current market trends, he’s likely to sign for somewhere within $250,000-$400,000 of Draisaitl depending on what he end up with for NMC’s or NTCs. If they force him into a lesser contract, I think it would be a very bad precedent for their relationship with him, and any other young talent that breaks out during their entry level deal.

Listen to next week’s Two Man ForeCheck as I’m sure myself and @TheOffWing will get into more on this topic.

Carey Price is one of the best known players in the world. He’s one of the best goalies ever to play for one of the original NHL franchises. He’s also one of the best paid, and when his next contract kicks in he’ll be one of the very best paid players in the whole NHL.

Top Paid Goalie Via CapFriendly.com

What do I see when I look at this list? I see guys who have one Stanley Cups. I see guys who have played in the Stanley Cup finals. I also see guys who are overpaid. Payment in the NHL is supposed to be for performance, and results, not because they a guy plays the most scrutinized position in one of the most intense media markets.

Roberto Luongo (with help from Schnieder a couple years) backstopped his team to several division titles. and dragged a team that flatlined after game four to a seventh game of the Stanley Cup Finals. Tukka Rask went toe to toe in the Stanley Cup Finals with the Chicago BlackHawks. Henrik Lundqvist has one stupidly successful season after another winning 30 or more games every full season of his career. He’s also played in a Stanley Cup final despite Alain Vigneault being behind the bench.

Pekka Rinne? He’s had obscenely low goal support most of his career. He just played a Conn-Smyth worthy playoff campaign that took his team to game six. Marc-Andre Fleury has played his whole career to date in an offense first, second, and third rule “system”, and ya’know won a Cup or two. Jonathan Quick, like Rinne has played one one of the most goal parched rosters in the NHL his whole career, but he’s won cups. Corey Crawford? He outdueled Vezina winner Tukka Rask among others on his way to a Stanley Cup.

The rest of these guys? They range from slightly overpaid to wildly overpaid. Being a top five or top ten player at any given position is for guys who win. And winning means the regular season is utterly irrelevant. You have to give your team at least a chance in the Big Dance.

When has Carey Price done that last part? Like Sergei Bobrovsky and Brayden Holtby, he’s proven he’s a great regular season goalie. He hasn’t proven he’s a winner when it counts. His name isn’t on the Cup, and unless the Cap goes up to about $115million during the first two or three years of his new contract the odds of him proving he’s able to take a team to the top in his prime are about equal to that of Jarome Iginla or Joe Thornton. At this point, he’s overpayed.Unlike three of the other top five he’s not ever given his team a chance to win the Cup.

The Anaheim Ducks have swept the Calgary Flames. The Ducks were the better team, and that’s the big story. They look to have all the tools to go into June playing hockey. John Gibson played well enough to win four games in a row against a tenacious opponent. Getzlaf and Bieksa had big offensive contributions. There’s nothing to complain about for the Ducks.

But Sean Monahan is the story. This guy is the real deal.

All due respect to Giordano, Getzlaf, Bieksa, and Gibson who made big time contributions to their teams, Monahan was better. Sean was anything but boring. Four goals, five points, faceoff percentage over 55%, scoring in all four games? Those are the types of numbers you usually don’t even see in Conn-Smyth winners. Those numbers are better than Justin Williams. They are better than Ovechkin or Matthews, and with far less support. Sam Bennett is the only other player on the team to score more than one goal, and only three defensemen even managed a point. p

It’s a shame no one will see him play in the NHL again until this fall. Six three, one-ninety-five, and twenty-two years old? Pass the man some shades. With luck Brad Treliving and Brian Burke have something up their sleeves for the off season to bring some depth to this team.

Just days ago I wrote a piece on Torey Krug and how he should absolutely not be exposed at the expansion draft. Today we learn he is day to day heading into the playoffs. He is not expected to play in the season finale. Of the teams defensemen, no one does anywhere near as much to generate offense for the team. His penalty kill time this year is even contributing to better play in his own zone.

While the compact Michigan State alumni is hardly likely to turn to the dark side, his absence does indeed cast Vader’s shadow on a team where scoring among defensemen is pretty rare. At this point in the season Krug is tied for 5th in scoring among defensemen with 51 points, next is Zdeno Chara who with 29 points owns the 53rd rank. None of the other blueliners even make the top 100.

A next man up approach might slide Colin Miller into slot and bump him up a pairing. He’s a great skater, he’s a solid passer, a willing shooter, and already used to the NHL. Unfortunately those attributes haven’t combined to make him a good NHL player. He has less points than the other Miller who no one confuses with an offensive dynamo and who has played less games. For all his defensive prowess, Adam McQuaid has never gotten his point production into get close enough to his jersey number to be intimidating, so he’s probably not the answer. John Michael Liles has burned 52 games in a Bruins uniform, and racked up exactly the number of goals that the front office should spend in seconds deciding if they should offer him a net contract and giving him a line of 0-11-11 6PIM -6.

Joe Morrow has apparently been written off entirely by the organization. Which is sad, but not anything fans or writers will be able to do anything about. That brings us to guys currently in the AHL, and maybe players leaving college or aging out of juniors. Given the depth of defensemen in the system, I really can’t see an outsider being brought in. Sherman is unlikely to leave Harvard early, and isn’t an offensive guy. O’Gara did start the year with some time in the spoked B, but was eventually sent down for more minutes. Alex Grant is leading all Providence Bruins in scoring, but at 28 years old, the odds he’s even strongly considered are pretty slim.

Next up is Tommy Cross. At 27, he’s probably been consigned to the ranks of permanent AHL players. He did get a recall last year. He’s 2nd on the team in scoring for defensemen, with much of it at even strength. With 12 goals on the season and his well known mental acuity, even with less speed the Colin Miller, I can see him being at least as good offensively, and easily better defensively. Having played in the NHL already, I can see him handling playoff hockey better than most.

The player most similar to Krug in offensive abilities and projection is almost certainly Matt Grzelcyk who has 11 powerplay assists, perhals the area most likely to suffer without Krug. He’s speedy, he can handle the puck well in motion or holding a position, and can pass better than most. He’s nearing the end of this first professional season and aside from his offensive prowess can inject both speed and reasonable hockey sense into the backend.

While McAvoy is undeniably talented,  even if you’ve been there before. Making the jump when you won’t have the practice time to get comfortable with how other players communicate and play, or adjust to the pace of the game, sounds like a recipe for disaster at the toughest position to play.

There are more than a couple players being speculated about right, left and center in video, radio, Twitter and by writers all over the globe. Here’s my list of the guys someone really should be smart enough to grab at a respectable price.

Matt Duchene is a gimmie. He’s proven he can play at the highest levels as both a center and winger. If I were a team like the Ducks or the Islanders and wanted a forward who can move, pass, and score, I don’t think I’d let Sakic off the phone.

Evander Kane is among the most underrated players in the NHL this year. If the Sabres had managed to stampede into a playoff slot, that might not be the case. More even strength goals than anyone since December 3. Not powerplay goals, but five on five. That’s playing 90% or more against better teams and the top defense because he is playing with Eichel.

Jaroslav Halak is frankly abusing the AHL, a league he doesn’t belong in, and has a very strong NHL playoff record. Maybe the Saint Louis Blues should consider a second visit for him? Or perhaps the Dallas Stars or Winnipeg Jets jump on the opportunity to get him now, both need goaltending badly. Both should be free of worries about disrupting team chemistry.

Michael Del Zotto, in Episode 0005 we talk a little bit about him. I think on a team that needs a guy and can give him clear, firm, direction without screaming it, and pairing him with a consistent partner, he might just be a player who pushes a team one more round, two more wins. Maybe Edmonton is a solid destination, he can play on a team with little pressure and bring his playoff experience as an asset.

Matt Beleskey isn’t getting a lot of attention, and that’s partly due to a run of horrendous luck and iffy chemistry on ice with the Bruins this year. Realistically, he’s done everything that is asked of him. And when he hasn’t been shackled to Jimmy Hayes, or the inconsistent Ryan Spooner, he’s contributed offensively. If the Nashville Predators or Calgary Flames want a little more belligerence and physicality, they could do much worse.

Anthony Duclair had 20 goals last season on very, very few shots, only 105 in fact in the 81 games he played last year. This year he’s been banished back to the AHL. If he can be induced to shoot more, he’s got 30 goal man written all over him. Forty isn’t out of reach either. I’m not confident the Coyotes believe they can get that from him. The former New York Ranger might just find himself somewhere out east again. Maybe as an Islander playing with Tavares, or in Ottawa on a team that could use a tiny bit more scoring.

First round pick, younger brother of You-Know-Who, and young goalie of renown Malcolm Subban has now made two NHL starts, and finished neither game. The question is why?

Last year in his first NHL appearance Malcolm Subban was tossed to the blue-note clad wolves. More, he was thrown deep into their den, making his NHL debut against a strong offensive team, with the last change.

Against the Minnesota Wild, he did have the advantage of having the last change, and some practice time to acclimatize to the boards and lighting. But he’s not had a good season. He’s played in four games, given up twelve goals, lost three appearances, and no decision in the other. His stats? Well in the mid 80s they might have been acceptable, for a backup.

But why take someone who is having an iffy season, and put them in a position to fail? Even though Julien was elsewhere, both Cam, Don, and Charlie were in town as the Bruins ruined young goalie after young goalie. I can’t say I think this is a deliberate attempt to get Subban to retire, demand a trade, or play so poorly they simply don’t offer him a contract this summer. That would be a waste of millions of dollars in salary, scouting, hundreds of hours of play that could have gone to another prospect, not to mention a high draft pick that could have been used smarter.

So why, oh why was Malcolm Subban put into a game where there was only a faint hope, based on his play thus far this season, and his recent injury he’d even look ok? It just doesn’t make sense. There was a goalie who is playing better available. He was sitting on the bench for over thirty minutes of game time. He didn’t even enter the night slightly better, the numbers were as divergent as you can get especially playing for the same team.

Somebody tell me what’s going on? Is there some super prospect this year no one is talking about and the front office just wants to ensure they are well established in the lottery? Was Julien to blame? Does he just dislike redheads? Maybe McIntyre was late for practice and made the roster simply out of necessity?

providenebruinstats102516Some of these possibilities are a lot less likely than others, but what matters is how badly someone fanned on the puck. What matter is, will misuse of players continue?
 

The off season has barely begun, and yet we’re under a year from Brent Burns becoming an unrestricted free agent. While he has easily had the best years of his career from a production standpoint in San Jose the team hasn’t won anything, and is unlikely to be better two years from now than it was this spring. Burns may well decide to move on, and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing for him.

If you look at the team you have two players from the 1996 draft who have never won, and are nearing the end of their careers. Joe Thornton is a far better competitor than people give him credit for, and he was a point a game in the regular season last year. But at 36 years old that almost has to be counted as a fluke given that it was his best production since the 2009-10 season. Perhaps even more gratifying for fans of the future hall of famer is that Thornton stayed very nearly at that pace through the playoffs. Patrick Marleau will be 37 when hockey starts up this fall. His production numbers have been sliding for years, and it is very unlikely he’s anything but a 3rd line winger and maybe powerplay specialist in two years, assuming he is still playing.

That leaves the teams other stars, and Brent Burns should he decide to stay, as the team’s foundation. Logan Couture proved he lives up to the hype by being productive all through the playoffs and into the Stanley Cup Finals. Then there’s the newly minted 33 year old Joe Pavelski, who aside from sensational faceoff prowess in the finals was a no show. One point in six games. Is he going to be better and more productive at 35 and 37 in the playoffs than he is now?

If you go further down the roster to guys who can be expected to be around in two years, you get Joonas Donskoi and Tomas Hertl, two young forwards with a lot of upside who haven’t yet peaked. But no one sees these two as franchise cornerstones the way Thornton and Marleau were viewed, or even at the level of Couture and Pavelski.

So maybe Brent Burns does what is in his own best interest and moves on. Perhaps the best model for him to follow would be the one Marian Hossa used several years ago. Like Burns he was in his prime and he and the Atlanta Thrashers weren’t going to get a deal done. He was traded to a contender for some serviceable players, picks, and prospects. Then the next year he signed with a different contender before finding his long term home in Chicago.

It’s hard to imagine any team not throwing a bid at his agent if Burns does hit free agency. In all likelihood, his rights even as late as the draft next year would fetch a respectable return. We know when he moved from Minnesota to California he had to give up his herptoculture, maybe he wants to take it up again, or play for his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs. Perhaps he thinks together him and Ovechkin can raise the Cup. Whatever he decides, there are a lot of reasons not to stay in San Jose.