While the off season isn’t over, the Tyler Seguin for Loui Eriksson trade currently lays claim to the biggest move off the offseason that isn’t a buyout.

The Who’s:

From Boston: Tyler Seguin RW/C, Ryan Button D, Rich Peverley F.

Peverley is the joker in this deck, undrafted he clawed his way into the NHL getting onto the Nashville Predators before moving onto the Atlanta Thrashers where he toiled until being traded to the Boston Bruins. A career .56 ppg, he’s carved out a job for himself as strong two way forward, top penalty killer and a guy who can play up and down the lineup.

Button is a young defeenseman with good agility, good hand eye coordination, and above average agility. Unfortunately the Bruins system is stuffed with defenseman, Krug and Bartkowski’s emergence at the end of the season and in the playoff run have already pushed Ference out, so this likely means

Seguin is the acknowledged biggest star in the deal. He was the first return in the Kessel trade, 2nd overall selection in the draft, and someone greatly appreciated by aesthetics. His speed puts him in the top 2-3% of the NHL, his release is reminiscent of Michael Ryder and other players with an elite release. He spent most of his junior career at center and his NHL career at right wing.

 

From Dallas: Loui Eriksson W, Joe Morrow D, Reilly Smith RW, Matt Fraser W,

Joe Morrow is perhaps the most intriguing person in this trade, certainly of those exiting Dallas. Last spring at the trade deadline he was traded for Brendan Morrow from the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Dallas Stars. With two trades in less than four months you can either take the stance that he’s really well regarded and has to be pried out of teams hands, or that he’s got issues that make organizations want to get rid of him. The 2011 draft saw him taken as the 10th defenseman and 23rd overall.

Reilly Smith the former Miami of Ohio star led the team in points in his final season, and was third in his second season. Also on the roster was Providence Bruins star Carter Camper. He’s a bit smaller than average, and a left shooting right wing with a big time shot.

Matt Fraser is another right winger signed as a UFA by the Dallas Stars, Fraser split is WHL career between the Kootenay Ice, and his hometown Red Deer Rebels. His Junior’s career featured three seasons with over 100PIMS. His professional career split between the AHL and NHL doesn’t seem to have that much edge to it as they Stars gave him 45 seconds of powerplay time this season.

Loui Eriksson is confirmed winger who plays both right and left. He’s got a career .71ppg on a team with so-so centers, he’s the owner of a 36 goal season. Eriksson plays in all situations, and produces points on the powerplay and while shorthanded. Hardly he NHL’s most physical forward his international career shows he’s got a certain comfort level with big game situations. There are three seasons left on his contract.

What it means:

For the Dallas Stars they get two guys who have played center, when you add this to their acquisition of Shawn Horcoff it says they don’t intend to be mediocre. They’ve acquired a high end player in Tyler Seguin and a respected veteran in Horcoff, the Stars want strength at center. Button gives them some flexibility for blueline depth, and Peverley and Seguins speed combined can shift whole games.

For the Bruins, they get a ton of cap relief, a winger more mature and more consistent than Seguin who is also a firmly established two way player. Morrow is the second of the top defenseman taken in the 2011 draft the Bruins have acquired along with  their own selection Hamilton. This is another of Chiarelli’s trademark depth and versatility moves.

Winner? Ask in five years. For now the Stars have completely revamped their center position. The Bruins got what they wanted, depth, versatility, and a player who shows maturity now and commitment in all three zones. The Stars will likely improve over last year and name recognition, the Bruins got some natural right wings their system lacked. If both teams got what they want, they both, provisionally, win.

 

No team wins without at least one very good center, most teams have more than one. In no particular order.

 

Derek Roy (age 30): While the last year or two have not been his best, he did get the extra rest of the lockout, and an unimpressive playoff run with the Vancouver. At 5’9″ and 184 lbs he’s not quite imposing, but has in the past managed to be effective against defenses like Boston and Montreal.

Michal Handzus (age 36): Probably the strongest faceoff man available in this free agent crop he’s also shown there is still gas in the tank playing 15 games in is native Slovakia, the bulk of the season with the San Jose Sharks before being swapped for a fourth round pick to the Blackhawks. In 23 playoff games Handzus put up 11 points while averaging about 16 minutes a night. Arguably he’s the best 2/3C available.

Mikhail Grabovski (age 29): The Maple Leafs somehow came to the conclusion Grabovksi was no longer needed, and that the team would be better off playing him to go away. On the ice Grabovski is aggressive, physical, impossible to intimidate and has produced three 20 goal seasons during his Maple Leafs tenure topping off at 29. Even with somehow landing in Randy Carlyle’s during the regular season and playing just 15:34 in the regular season his “poor play” got him burdened with additional minutes pushing him to 19:03 per game in the playoffs.  So in the break down between the stats guys, and the independent “eyeball test” guys, and the teams evaluation you can decide who you want to believe.

 

Mike Ribeiro (age 33) : While playing with the restructuring Washington Capitals under first year head coach and hall of fame inductee Adam Oates Ribeiro put up one of two point per game seasons in a NHL career that stretches back to 1999-2000. The former Montreal Canadien, and Dallas Star got into his first NHL fight with the Bruins Brad Marchand last season. Not the oldest center available, but certainly showing he’s willing to learn a few new tricks.

Tyler Bozak (age 27): Perhaps the most derided player on the list, Bozak plays with high energy, played the regular season at over 20 minutes a game, and the post season at almost twenty two. Last seasons short handed TOI was about triple the previous years. There aren’t a lot of younger centers available. and a general manager and coach that think they can get him for the right price and develop him

Danny Briere (age 35): Briere is among the legion of players signed to long term deals in Philadelphia and either traded or bought out. Small, a bit dirty and perhaps losing a step of late. While hes probably due for a significant pay cut, there’s no question his playoff prowess is more than tempting; 108 games played and 109 points, 50 of them goals.

Last night in a hotly contested, notably confused, and rancorous debate the Glendale city council voted to approve the RSE deal. The Coyotes will be staying in Glendale for five years or more. The NHL retains the 12th largest media market in America. The hockey media at large looses a side show storyline, the Glendale saga of rotating suitors, Goldman agitation, and players (UFA’s and others) being unwilling to go to a team that might fold or be uprooted at a moments notice.

What it means for

Players
Another stable market with growth potential. Arizona has more modest state taxes than many states, with a rate for high incomes lower than New York, New Jersey, California, Ohio or Virginia.

Advertisers
With the ownership group being led by someone who made their name in marketing, these owners will likely open their team, and possibly the league as a whole to better advertising campaigns. More importantly a large market with a stable owner can only be projected to bring more and more eyes, ears and wallets to consume advertisements.

The NHL
A blight on the NHL is on its way to being a historical footnote. With markets like Seattle and Quebec slavering for franchises of their own, expansion is something only slightly less certain than death and taxes. Two new franchises in “traditional hockey markets” (or elsewhere) would bring the NHL to a number on par with the National Football League that North American banner carrier for sports success. Adding any additional teams would give the league a number of franchises unsurpassed on the continent. A thirty four or thirty six team league will almost certainly draw in more of the top end talent in Europe and Asia. With that many more teams, the Premier series could even have games played in places like Seoul, Rio, Mexico City, Sydney, Johannesburg, and Tokyo as well as the standard European destinations.

Youth Hockey

With the Arizona stabilized for the coming years, the hockey tradition that has grown in Arizona since the Road Runners landed there can continue on unthreatened. Texas and California have produced first round draft picks, might we see Arizona produce a first overall selection in some future NHL draft? Will the USHL bring its expansion into the territory of the Arizona Coyotes? The rapidly expanding Western States Hockey League (WSHL) already has two teams in the state, what sort of expansion might they see?

In the long run, we don’t know what will happen to any hockey franchise. Montreal, Hartford, Seattle, Quebec City, and Ottawa are all failed hockey cities in what are called traditional hockey markets. Traditions do take time to grow, and they take a steady hand to bring it along. Arizona has had their NHL team for less than a generation, I’m not sure at what point, if any, there has been a leader for the franchise whose vision and purpose was to make hockey work. With this deal, I think they have it, and we have five years to see what growth can be made. To their advantage, they’ve seen all the mistakes that can be made, they’ve seen the results of systemic incompetence as well. Today they have a general manager and head coach who have worked wonders on a shoe string budget. Few franchises are lucky enough to have both a general manager and coach who can do so much with so little. With a bit more resources, and one voice guiding the ship, what might they do? Will Doan, Ekman-Larsson, Yandle, and Smith hoist the Cup under the hot Arizona sun?

The unrestricted free agent market for defensemen isn’t overflowing with top pairing talent. In fact it is lacking entirely in anyone who projects to be in the top pairing of any team in the second round of next years playoffs. That doesn’t mean you can’t fill the holes in your rosters bottom four.

Rob Scuderi:

This two time Stanley Cup champion is a smart hockey player who very rarely makes mistakes. He doesn’t have the physicality of Shea Weber, but he’s still going to get the job done. When he was part of the Penguins most recent cup run he was their top playoff defenseman in ice time. When the Kings won their cup his job was a bit more modest in a system that is very, very deep in quality defense. Take out your lineup card and write him into your second pairing.

Andrew Ference:

Absolutely no quit, no mercy, no drama in Ference’s game. It doesn’t matter if he’s pinning an opposing forward who has 30+lbs on him to the boards, throwing an open ice hit that turns a game or dropping the gloves and breaking someones orbital bone Feremce is a living buzzsaw when he’s got his A or even B game. He was a part of the Bruins championship in 2011 and is well regarded for his environmental and other community programs.

Michal Rozsival:

Another Stanley Cup champion, if you have young defenders who may need a mentor or you have questions about other guys on your roster, this might just be your guy. In his career Rozsival has played in a number of different systems around the league. The Pre-Crosby Penguins, under Tom Renney and John Tortorella for the Rangers,  Joel Quenville for the Chicago BlackHawks, and Dave Tippett as a member of the Coyotes.  Having outplayed Leddy down the stretch for Chicago he spent more and more time on the ice as the BlackHawks picked up their second championship in four years.

Grant Clitsome:

Of this years UFA’s this is the one most likely to be a diamond in the rough. Clitsome went from Columbus to Winnipeg and took over the #2 spot in scoring despite significantly less minutes than some of his teammates. He also had the teams second highest on ice save percentage. He’s only played 149 NHL games so there is still room for improvement before he reaches what will be expected of him for most of his career, but the former Clarkson Golden Knight might just be the best defensive signing a savvy team makes this summer.

Marek Zidlicky:

No one had a good season for the Devils last season, the spring before he was the top minute eater for the Devils defense as they went to the mat with the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup finals. He’s probably not going to produce he points he used to, but he’s still capable of putting in 19-22 productive minutes a night. He’s still a very solid passer both in his own zone and forward of the blueline.

This is the first part in a summer series looking at sane ways to increase NHL scoring, without doing something sacrilegious like increase net size, taking away goalie sticks or something equally absurd. If you are looking for other posts in this series click on the category marker next to the date at the top of the post. 

When the trapezoid was put into the NHL, the idea was to limit the amount of puck handling goalies could do. The hope was that this would stimulate offense or more accurately stifle smothering defenses. It was specifically made to keep ultra mobile goalies who handle the puck well from getting pucks that were dumped in, and feeding the puck back out to the neutral zone to his teammates before the opposing team could generate offensive pressure. There are two reasons this is a horrible idea.

Reason number one:

One of the most important things adding the trapezoid has done is reduce counter punch offense. Teams with mobile, puck handling goalies can no longer get the puck out as fast as often. It also means that forwards attacking the zone to retrieve lost pucks no longer get caught with four or five players behind them. So while the trapezoid allows a higher number of entries into the zone because it shackles the goaltender to the net, it does in fact slow the game down. Any goaltender who can skate well can reach the puck in a corner faster than even speedsters like Hagein or Seguin can get there. There is no reason to create dead playing time for a reason that is invalid.

Reason number two:

What is often ignored in the arguments over the trapezoid and or where and at what point goalies become fair game for hits is their competence. Some goalies are good at handling the puck, some are not. And even the best goalies such as Martin Brodeur or Mike Smith make mistakes. Further more, even the best skating goalies are wearing four or five times as much protection as the average skater. This makes them not just slower, but less agile. By keeping the goalies in the crease, the real sin is the reduction of the chaos factor. Goalie sticks are less than ideal for passing, and well, goalie skates are optimized for lateral control, not straight line speed. By eliminating the opportunity for goalies to play the puck, you eliminating not just the potential for them to squash an opponents rush, but for them to screw up by the numbers and allow a goal against. As we saw before the trapezoid was put in place, goalies that are bad at skating, or bad at skating will come out to play the puck. That is an opportunity for offense.

If the league wants to create more scoring it has to remember the law of unintended consequences.

The NHL Draft isn’t a day where easy grades for all 30 teams can be made. Some moves do standout though and the teams that make them deserve to be singled out.

Losers:

Colorado Avalanche: Not only did they deliberately pass on a franchise quality defenseman in Seth Jones, the defense they took later in the draft lacks upside. Most look to be fringe NHL players who will likely never play above bottom pairing quality. Nathan MacKinnon is undoubtedly a quality player, but those outside the Avalanche war room are largely scratching their heads today.

Boston Bruins: After Nathan Horton’s announcement that he would go to free agency, and then rumors surfacing of Tyler Seguin’s availability, the Bruins not only failed to replace their departing top line right wing, or trade his rights for a draft pick or another players rights they didn’t do much to appear competitive this offseason. After receiving due criticism that the front office was failing to compete the summer they won the Stanley Cup, it appear the same is true this year. While Chicago, New Jersey, Toronto, The Islanders and the Canucks all made moves that address current or near future talent and salary cap needs, the Bruins sat on their hands. Arguably by publicly attacking Tyler Seguin’s professionalism they even poisoned their own well if they do decide to trade him.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Clearly the Lightning leadership have great faith in the defense they drafted last year. That draft class is highlighted by their tenth overall pickSlater Keokkoek who in the last three OHL season has played a total of 68 games, only two of which were in the most recent season. Or perhaps it is Radko Gudas that inspires their faith in their defensive talent pool. I can’t think of another reason for a team that has finished 26th and 30th in goals against the last two seasons, to fail to draft a single defenseman they also failed to trade for an NHL ready or veteran defenseman.

Winners:

New Jersey Devils: The Devils opened the day with Lou Lamoriello swindling Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis out of Cory Schneider. That one move to solidify the post Martin Brodeur era means any NHL regulars who turn up out of this years draft are icing on the cake. They also got the NHL’s best father son moment when Martin Brodeur got to call his sons name at the NHL draft picking up Anthony Brodeur in the seventh round of Shattuck Saint Mary’s.

Chicago BlackHawks: On and off the draft floor the BlackHawks took care of business this weekend. They traded away David Bolland for two picks in this years draft and one in next years to the Toronto Maple Leafs, they then moved Michael Frolik to the Winnipeg Jets and picked up an additional two picks. They resigned Bryan Bickell who was second on the team in scoring over their run to the Cup. At the end of the first round they picked up Ryan Hartman a veteran of the USNDT in the USHL, and well known pest.

New York Islanders: The Islanders did some of their addition by subtraction this weekend. Swiss left wing Nino Niederreiter was clearly unhappy with the Islanders brass, and they with him. In moving him for Minnesota Wild they get a potential problem out of the system and pick of a physical, aggressive forward who will force opposing defenses to double check before grabbing the puck. Perhaps their two best pickups at the draft were Eamon McAdam, and Stephon Williams. The two goalies project as starters. McAdam’s athleticism is cheered, and Williams led Minnesota State at Mankato to the Frozen Four tournament as part of roster that had just three NHL draft picks on it. On top of the crease they drafted Ryan Pulock, a hard shooting, right handed thick set defenseman with a rep for skating well and hitting hard.