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Last season the Atlantic division sent four teams to the playoffs. It did not go well, the division winning Montreal Canadiens were beaten soundly by wild card and Metropolitan division middleweight Rangers. The Ottawa Senators downed the Boston Bruins and were the only division team to advance to the second round. The Toronto Maple Leafs crossed over to battle the Washington Capitals and fell to a team that’s not ever shown itself in the best light in the playoffs.

What’s happening with the Atlantic Division this year?

The Buffalo Sabres have gotten a full season from All American stud Jack Eichel, and his linemate Evander Kane. Together the pair rank among the top duos in the league, particularly at even strength where most game minutes are played. This year they’ve brought in under rated veteran defenseman Marco Scandella to strengthen a blueline that was misused and under performing last season. Behind the bench they have rookie head coach Phil Housely who is the architect that made the Nashville Predator’s defense so effective. In net they add Chad Johnson to one of the best goalies in the NHL.

The Florida Panthers regressed notably last season. They had one decent stretch of wins but were just three points better than the Sabres, and still 14 points short of the playoffs with a losing record. Like the Sabres they added a first time NHL head coach in Bob Boughner, who will have Jack Capuano and Rob Tallas helping him steer the club. Aside from naming Chris Pronger an Shawn Thornton VP’s, and signing a couple of draft picks (Owen Tippett, Sebastian Repo) to entry level deals, not much else has gone on.

The Tampa Bay Lightning missed the playoffs by just one point thanks to catastrophic injuries up and down their lineup. Towards the end of the year they traded Ben Bishop who had been their number one net minder.  Incoming are Dan Girardi formerly of the New York Rangers, and Chris Kunitz late of the Pittsburgh Penguins. While I suspect a large part of why the two older players were brought in is leadership, no leader can prevent injuries. A return to good health is likely the best off season transaction they could make.

The Detroit Red Wings missed the playoffs and are currently embroiled in a contract dispute with a one of their better young forwards. The two biggest changes for the Wings in the last twelve months were both off ice. ‘The Joe’ is gone, bringing about an era in a building that isn’t an embarrassment to professional sports. And Mike Ilitch, owner, and driving force behind much of the hockey growth in the Midwest and beyond has passed away. Not enough has changed at ice level for the team to do much worse or much better.

Montreal Canadians, in the last twelve months no Atlantic Division team has changed more. New coach, an almost entirely new blueline including Joe Morrow and Karl Alzner. Up front the Radulov experiment came to an end. Last year’s 103 points are going to be hard to duplicate, but Julien has showed he can drag worse teams than this one to the playoffs, and squeeze 100 or more points out of nearly any roster as long as they show up.

The Boston Bruins had a topsy-turvy season that saw their two best forwards start the year slow. They fired their Stanley Cup winning coach, reshaped their roster, and lucked into a playoff spot. This year Brandon Carlo has a full season under his belt, Charlie McAvoy may well steal the show, and David Pastrnak is still unsigned. It remains to be seen if head coach Bruce Cassidy can recapture the magic that buoyed the team into a playoff spot last spring. The roster will need a lot of young players to step up and not just claim ice time, but own roster spots.

Last years Toronto Maple Leafs were the sensation of last season. They had dazzling rookies, stellar goaltending, and a coach with an aura of greatness. They ran hard towards the playoffs and never anything slow them down. They also had extraordinary good luck in health. Their top 11 scorers missed a total of 10 games. They put on a strong showing in the playoffs, and growth seems likely. The addition of Patrick Marleau for three seasons and more than six million has to be considered at least a little curious given the raises that will be needed for last years rookies next summer and the summer after. The 37 year old spent his entire career to date with the Sharks and has been a very up and down playoff performer.

The post season banner bearers for Atlantic Division were the Ottawa Senators. Despite their inability to fill the stadium, they were perhaps the most consistent team in the division and very quietly finished second. Erik Karlsson will be healthier, Craig Anderson will lack the distractions of last year, and remains a very solid goaltender. They added Nate Thompson and Ben Sexton for depth, but perhaps the most important thing that’s happened to the team was the late year and playoff emergence of the very good Bobby Ryan. He moved crisply, shot precisely, and finished the second round healthy.

Predictions:

Biggest points riser: Buffalo Sabres, I’ll be shocked if they improve less than twelve points.

Most impactful standings rise: Tampa Bay Lightning, Victor Hedman very nearly lifted this team into the playoffs himself last year. There were other contributors, but not enough. Expect them to move up higher than the wild card slot.

Biggest wild card: Toronto Maple Leafs. As I mentioned above, this team was extraordinarily lucky in the way of health. With more than half a dozen rookies breaking out, and making the playoffs the video sessions for the Leafs are going to be much more intense this season. They have about an equal chance of winning the division as they do sliding two or three spots down the standings.


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 September 1st.

Some teams are still trying to destroy their futures. The NHL, like any ecosystem is a delicate entity. There are many moving parts, and the ratio of one part to another will impact things two or three steps removed from either. You need players on the rise, players at their peak, and ones who are on the decline. They all contribute just as moths, and blue jays, and red tailed hawks all play their parts.

Marcus Foligno is a great example of a middle six forward who gives much, and is well regarded. The Chuck Fletcher thought it was more important to sign aging Penguins discard Matt Cullen, than to secure the return for trading Scandella. CapFriendly and others currently project Landon Ferraro and Joel Eriksson Ek as making the roster, with either of them back in the AHL the Wild would have right around three million in cap space. If they decide to carry just twelve forwards it would give them an additional cushion for injuries. The issue here is do you pay him better or the same as other left wings who had similar point totals like Justin Abdelkader and Carl Hagelin who both made more than four million last year? Or do you simply try and cram him into a roster that is unlikely to go far in the playoffs?

In the last two season Bo Hovart has increased his point total year over year, jumping from third two seasons ago to first last year, and has a better faceoff win percentage in that time than team captain Henrik Sedin. Somehow with training camp close enough to feel, he is without a contract. He’s scored shorthanded, powerplay, and even strength goals. He’s played over 18 minutes a night. He’s done just about everything a setup man can do on a roster that is 80% ECHL and alumni quality to help the team win. Joe Thornton, Milan Lucic, and Jason Spezza all produced less points last year with far, far more help and hugely better compensation.  Ondrej Palat was on a non-playoff team and produced the same number of points, Logan Coture had the same points total, as did Anze Kopitar and Aleksander Barkov. With all or most of the $14,000,000.00 set on fire at the feet of the Sedin twins coming off the books next year, and no other player in the system in need of a big raise cash should not be the issue. Not when they have close to nine million in cap space to work with.

David Pastrnak has been covered in depth over the summer and all that’s worth adding is that the team president said there haven’t been any talks in months.

With all the glory of last season, the Columbus Blue Jacket’s seem to have gotten a pass on Alexander Wennberg not having been hog tied to their roster yet. Year over year ye’s increased his points total twenty points twice in a row. He played in 80 of the teams games last year. Last season he stepped into the gap created by trading Johansen and ended up the team’s second leading scorer, putting up just two less points than the Nashville Predator’s second most famous Ryan. While the Blue Jackets do have a pretty dynamic cap situation with the number of impact players due contracts in the next two years, they do have to be careful. But in the ultra competitive Metropolitan division who can afford to be without their number one center?

The Detroit Red Wings roster is as run down as the Joe, and while Andreas Athanasiou isn’t the level of impact player the other forwards on the list are. That said, you don’t improve by continuing to leak talent. All players are ultimately replaceable, but alienating players for little good reason when you have a new arena to fill, and pay off is senseless. The optics are also poor when it’s time to get free agents into town, or when the next RFA is due a contract.

Damon Severson is one of three men to crack the top fifty among defensemen in scoring while playing less than twenty minutes of ice time. The other two Brady Skej, and Dmitry Orlov were both on playoff teams. The New Jersey Devils were needless to day, not quite that good. His point total eclipsed Noah Hanafin, Jake Muzzin, and Jonas Brodin. So why is a team with unlimited growth potential wasting time dithering with a solid young defensemen? It’s not like they have 299 other defenders ready to hold the line against the Persians and other NHL teams.


Over the last few weeks there has been a lot of discussion about David Pastrnak, his lack of a contract, the comparables, and who is to blame. Much of that is irrelevant. He’ll eventually be signed to a contact, be it in Boston or some other NHL city. He’ll eventually play in the NHL again. This will surely be superseded by some other contract dispute, trade gone awry, or major injury.

What matters is who is perceived to be at fault. The results of a recent Twitter poll speak for themselves. Given the options of blaming the player, the agent, or the organization, fans overwhelmingly voted against the player being responsible with nearly 60% squarely blaming Boston Bruins leadership. 

Just under sixty percent put the blame right in the laps of Jeremy Jacobs, Charlie Jacobs, Cam Neely, and Don Sweeney. That’s overwhelming, and something that isn’t going to go away. If this proves to be the end of Pastrnak’s tenure in Boston, this won’t be forgotten.

This isn’t a pattern. It is the pattern. Boston Bruins fans are obsessive, loud, occasionally lewd, crude, and unruly. They’re devoted, they’re emotional, but no one ever said they they don’t pay attention. This pattern of failing to pay talent market rates is clearly recognized by fans. The last time the Bruins were missing the playoffs, and losing talent over the organization failing to pay you could walk into the Garden and see two or three thousand empty seats any given game, and hear thousands of visiting fans cheering on their team.

That’s not a fan passion problem. That’s an ownership problem. When you have the means to do something, and fail to do so, the fans have the right, and some might argue the responsibility to not pay for a willfully inferior product. Nothing would embarrass any passionate, engaged ownership more than their local fanbase being drown out by visitors, many Boston Bruins observers would be hard pressed to say that the Jacobs family cares at all.


If the worst should happen and the Boston Bruins do get forced to trade the best young star the team has had in years not named Brad Marchand, then we need first need to stop blaming agents, stop blaming players, and go back to the truth; The Jacob’s family is not interested in retaining top talent. For some people that means dusting off the hate they carried around up until Tim Thomas and company won the Cup. For others it means finding a new team to cheer.

If you’re looking to see how David Pastrnak stacks up against Phil Kessel and Tyler Seguin, its pretty interesting to see. Kessel was on the deepest team at center in his first three years, and played opposite Milan Lucic in that time. Seguin rode some coattails to a Stanley Cup. Both of them had better defenses behind them than Pastrnak has seen. And of the three Pastrnak was the fastest to reach 70 points. Kessel has shown to be the best of the three in the post season (with more opportunities), Seguin appears to be the worst of the three. As far as three zone play Pastrnak outclasses the other two, even today, collectively or individually.

When it comes to trade value, not only are there more RFA years left for Pastrnak, he’s a more complete, more physical player who has shown coach-ability, not to mention both the physical ability, and the mental drive to get better. David Pastrnak may just be the most likable guy in the Boston Bruins locker room. That’s not something anyone has ever said about Kessel, or Seguin, or even Blake Wheeler who was also traded away young.

As it is beginning to look more and more like a suitable deal that will keep Pastrnak in the Black and Gold for the long term isn’t coming, you have to examine the potential return. Phil Kessel was traded for first round picks in consecutive drafts, and a second round pick. Tyler Sequin who has the key return for Kessel was part of an outgoing package that included Ryan Button (a late pick who has done nothing), and Rich Peverley a utility forward who played up and down the lineup. The return there was Loui Ericsson, Joe Morrow, Reilly Smith, Matt Fraser. Smith and Morrow were badly bungled, Fraser barely eclipsed Button.

I’m not sure even teflon coated owners like the Jacobs can get away with trading a popular, healthy, productive, two way, high scoring stud like Pastrnak without a hefty return without repercussions in ticket sales, merchandise, ratings, and public image. Three first, assuming someone would part with them might look good on paper, but you still have to draft and develop them, and that’s not something the Bruins have been noted for in the past decade. Two first and two seconds might be palatable, but how long will it take those prospects to fill a roster spot and contribute at a similar level?

For players with similar goal totals over the last two seasons you’ve got guys like Jonathan Toews, Adam Henrique, Nazim Kadri, Aleksander Barkov, Chris Krieder, Anders Lee, and Phil Kessel all putting up 49 goals in the last two seasons. Toews is a non starter for comparison, and a trade piece. Barkov is unlikely, Lee was just locked up for the Islanders. Henrique is a center, which the Bruins don’t need unless we’re talking something bigger than just Pastrnak leaving. Kessel will be thirty when the season starts and that’s nine years age difference with Pastrnak, even assuming Pittsburgh could fit Pastrnak into their cap situation, and they can’t.

The Columbus Blue Jackets own two comparables that equally interesting. The first is a pending UFA with just this season on his contract. The other is a RFA who will need a contract next year. The first would almost certainly mean more pieces going to Boston, and that’s the undersized dynamo Cam Atkinson. The second is the center/left wing Boone Jenner. Both are established NHL players who have put up similar numbers with lesser centers, if better defense. Both are older. Atkinson is seven years older, Jenner three. Jenner is riskier as he’s only had one season over 20 goals, and that was two years ago with 30, the other two full season have been 18 goals each. Atkinson’s consistency, and year over year improvement is worth noting as it has kept pace with, and likely pushed the team’s improvement over the last four years.

A player who is a good bet on availability, and will likely be less expensive than Pastrnak if he gets anything similar to Draisaitl is Evander Kane. I’ve discussed the value of Kane who was second to only Brad Marchand in even strength goals last year from his return to the end of the season. He’s older than either Pastrnak or Jenner, but younger, larger and more physical than Atkinson. There are downsides to an in division trade, but the Buffalo Sabres would almost certainly add more than just Kane to the return.

If a trade for prospects is on the table, the Florida Panthers need to make legitimate strides towards winning now. If they were to flip 10th overall pick in 2017 Owen Tippet and University of Denver standout Henrik Borgstrom to Boston, I can’t see much more being required for both sides to come out smiling.

Trading with someone out west makes sense in a lot of ways, and one of the teams that has transformed itself the most in the last year is the Arizona Coyotes. The have a wealth of young players, some interesting mid career players, and an arresting collection of prospects. The “you’re out of your mind” swinging for the fences is a straight up trade for Oliver Ekman-Larsson who would be a great successor to Zdeno Chara. A pairing of Pastrnak and Stepan gives you a line you can put up against anyone in the league if you’re behind the Coyotes bench.

But a more risky if completed, but also more likely is Pastrnak and one or more defensive prospects on the cusp of making Boston’s roster for Jakob Chychrun. Chychrun is injured right now, so picks coming back from Arizona would have to be conditional based on how many games he played in the 18-19 and maybe 19-20 seasons. But David Pastrnak and Matt Grzelcyk for Chychrun, Anthony Duclair, and a conditional pick in the 19-20 season might just work out great for everyone.

If Don Sweeney can exploit a team that has set itself up for massive cap problems, then the Edmonton Oilers are possibly the best trade partner of all. Slicing Ryan Strome and Darnell Nurse off the roster might be doable. Nurse is a fleet footed big man on the backend, Strome has yet to reach his potential and plays both right wing and center. Possibly the Bruins could unload Spooner in the same deal, Peter Chiarelli has demonstrated a fondness for players in his past organizations over and over again in his career.

If David Pastrnak is moved, many fans would say it’s time to impeach the president, this would after-all be the fourth big name youngster traded when his second or third contract was due. I think you could make an argument for moving the owners as well, and that’s even if the return is excellent.

You can find this week’s Two Man ForeCheck on the web, or on Facebook as well as iTunes, Google Play, and Tune IN.


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.


On the surface splitting up Bruins alternate captain Patrice Bergeron and his longtime co-star on the Boston Bruins top line Brad Marchand is a little crazy. But it might just be time.

With the team going fully into rebuild mode right now, and the likely departure of Zdeno Chara before we see another Cup hoisted, the team needs to do a couple of really important things, really fast. First and foremost is they need to sheppard the careers of players who have already shown NHL level talent. Second they need to mentor and help ripen the players who have yet so shine at the NHL level. Third they have to keep the team reasonably balanced so that players always have a core member of the team on the ice and on the bench. That’s no easy task.

Another factor that might lead to 37 & 63 shifting lines is simply the need to ignite some of the players who may need to be traded. The front office completed the destruction of the Seguin and Hamilton trades, and should look to rebuild their treasure trove of future draft picks. David Backes still has something left to give, and is a good soldier, but I don’t know if this should be where he finishes out his career. Matt Beleskey is another player who might end up elsewhere before his contract expires. Ryan Spooner is the third of the forwards likely to see at least one more home locker room before his career is over. I don’t see the three igniting each other.

One possible combination of the top three lines is:

Vatrano – Bergeron – Bjork

Beleskey – Krejci – Pastrnak

Marchand – Spooner – Backes

I know, the first thing that comes to mind is why isn’t a line with Pastrnak or Marchand listed first? Simple: I order them by centers.

Some would argue that Marchand is being punished by playing with Spooner and Backes. I think in someways this is an opportunity for Marchand to unleash his full offensive potential. Backes is a guy who not very long ago was worthy of being a Selkie nominee at least, and he still retains his defensive prowess, if at a slightly lower pace. While Bergeron is hardly slow, Spooner is fast. And playing full time with a guy who should cross the 40 goal mark this season, he’ll have the perfect opportunity to show exactly what he’s worth for his next contract when he’s playing with not one but two All Star veterans.

The physicality of Belesekey and the pure speed and goal scoring ability of Pastrnak make this a slightly more fleet footed version of lines that featured Lucic with Seguin and Kessel in the past. Krejci hasn’t lost any of his passing ability, and he and Pastrnak have great chemistry.

Bergeron has proven he can help develop any player who actually is NHL  level talent. Vatrano didn’t have a great year last year, but at almost 3 shots per game in his young career, with an unusually low 8.6% shooting last year, it’s almost certain he gets back to the 11-12% range this year, particularly with a top center, and a gifted wing on the other side. Bjork showed all season long at Notre Dame, and for years in international play he’s capable of playing at a high, high level. This would be the opportunity to prove it.

Another possible combination, this assuming Spooner is moved before the season begins:

Pastrnak – Bergeron – Senyshyn

Marchand – Krejci – Bjork

Beleskey – Kurlay – Backes

This would give the team a certified checking line for the first time in a few years, but also a third line that should still pot close to sixty goals, and a checking line with Beleskey and Backes is going to leave other teams battered and bruised. Over the last two seasons the two have averaged about 3 (counted) his per game despite limited ice time, and availability. Backes is tied for 8th among NHL forwards in hits per game in that period, Beleskey is a few slots down tied for 12th.

These are just two permutations of the numerous viable, if not high likelihood possibilities for allowing two veterans to bolster two lines with their two hundred foot game, every shift work ethic, and pure craftiness on the ice. When you work in other players who might well make the team out of camp or get early call ups due to injury. Jacob Forsbacka Karlsson, is a player likely to make the team, Riley Nash was played up and down the roster last year, Noel Acciari is quite the useful young player who has been pushed into the lineup whenever there’s a need.

Danton Heinen and Peter Cehlarik who saw action last year, certainly know what it takes to make it to the big show.  Ryan Fitzgerald has to have a better idea how to be an NHL player than many young men. Jesse Gabriel has all the tools to be an impact player, last year in the WHL he was over a point per game player with 35 goals. And it can’t be overlooked that David Pastrnak is still unsigned, and that the contract dispute could drag into the season, allowing one or more youngsters a shot at ice time that might not ordinarily be available.

Checkout this weeks Two Man ForeCheck and give it a listen while writing your hate mail.


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.


The 2010 Draft had people talking about it’s top talent for almost a year before the young men ever arrived in the arena. Well before their names were called, and long before those two hundred young men had any idea if they would be ranked by the major scouting services, much less where, we were already hearing two names. Those names were on the lips and fingertips of everyone with a thought on hockey, and were eventually taken in the anticipated order.

While the Tyler vs Taylor debate will probably run at least another decade or two, as of right now if you want to define it by personal achievement, the winner is Taylor Hall. The difference in their points per game is small, but how they achieved they’re points is pretty clear. Tyler Seguin rode the coat tails of at least three future hall of fame players (Recchi, Bergeron, Chara)  to a Stanley Cup. He then got exiled to Dallas where he done not very much, and shown a complete lack of defensive acumen. Taylor Hall on the other hand has played with aggressively mediocre players for nearly all his career in Edmonton, and was far and away the best skater in New Jersey last year. Right now, Hall is putting up more points per game with less help, and while the difference may be just .001 per game, it is there.

The 2010 draft is also unusual for having two defensemen among it’s top ten for scoring. The more famous of the pair is Anaheim’s Cam Fowler, taken at twelve was most recently seen in the Western Conference finals putting up four points in six games against what is likely the only defense better than his own. Justin Faulk is less well known, and has spent his career toiling in the Carolina Hurricanes system. Don’t look now, but of the two, the one who has never played a layoff game is the one with the better career points per game. Faulk .4788 vs, Fowler .4392.

No goalie taken after the 187th pick of the 2010 draft has played a single NHL game. That’s not particularly surprising as there was only one netminder taken after Frederik Andersen. What is surprising is that the goalie to play the most games isn’t the well known Detroit Red Wings Petr Mrazek taken in the 4th round, or Jack Campbell taken 11th overall, nor is Calvin Pickard taken by the Avalanche, and no part of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights. It is Mister 187 himself. Frederik Andersen of the Toronto Maple Leafs has appeared in 191 games, and captured the win 110 times in the regular season.

Take a listen to this week’s Two Man ForeCheck.