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.

Last season was not a banner year for the Buffalo Sabres. It was a year of great change. Gone was the longest tenured coach in the NHL. In his place is Ron Rolston took over after 17 games, and pushed the team hard but couldn’t take them to the playoffs. They lost a lot, they lost some quality players to trades. Gone is Jason Pominville and with him Nathan Gerbe, Jochen Hecht is a Sabre no more, and the short stay of Robyn Reghr is over, Jordan Leopold wears another uniform, and those aren’t the only departures. They finished 23rd in the NHL with a 21 and 21 record. Interestingly, they took two of three from the Penguins last lesson, both after the coaching change, last season. On the plus side Henrik Tallinder is back and Tyler Myers played his best hockey during Tallinder’s first Buffalo tenure. Luke Adam added a year of seasoning, as did Grigorenko, Hodgson, Foligno, and new comer Jamie McBain.

The season opens with five games in eight days. They pay a visit to the Red Wings to open the season before scooting across the Great Lakes for a game at home in the first half of a back to back against the Senators, after the game they go south to play the Penguins, and then pop home for games against the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Number of days game 1-5: 8

Number of cities: 3

Best opponent: Pittsburgh Penguins

Weakest opponent: Tampa Bay Lightning

Home games: 3

Projected points: 4

The team can have a better season that last year if the young guns can pick up the pace and push some of the mote complacent members of the team forward. Uncertainty about how long Vanek and Miller will remain on the team, and serious questions about leadership will hold the team back. Also up in the air is the question of what this teams real identity is, they’ve been trying and trying to be tough guys, but I’m not sure there’s a team in the league who finds the Sabres physicality intimidating or even worth noticing. They could finish the season above 500, but will likely not make the playoffs as there are at least four better teams just in the new build “Atlantic Division”.

The Calgary Flames and the twice traded Jarome Iginla may end up being the biggest trade of the year, but the first general manager to say they are listening to everything is Darcy Regier. Mike Harrington reports in the wake of the Jordan Leopold to the Saint Louis Blues that the embattled general manager is talking to every front office in the league. Nobody is off the market at this point, so let’s take a romp through the roster.

Top tier;

  • Ryan Miller should be an easy chip to move if he’s willing to get gone no goalie with more games played has a better save percentage than his .911, his $6.25m contract isn’t ridiculous, and at 32 he’s probably got four to five more years of solid play ahead of him minimum. When you look at guys around his size like Tim Thomas, Martin Broduer, and even Hedberg and Biron, you get the idea he might have another 8-10 years in him. He’s putting up solid numbers despite an awful season from the team, and that means even teams starting to rebuild might want to consider him.
  • Drew Stafford, the 27 year old right wing is having an off year, his point percentage is usually a bit closer to .66 per game, versus the less than half a point per game this season. With two more years at four million he’s in  the price range where he should be getting second line minutes, but if he’s outperformed by someone, or just fits better on the third line most competitive clubs won’t have sunk their chances of success. At six-two tall and two hundred pounds and change the former 30 goal scorer presents a pretty compelling , where he plays in all situations, even if his scoring touch isn’t there he can still contribute.
  • Cody Hodgson is not a player I would want to trade if I were the Sabres, but he’s one that might draw some pretty nice offers is anyone is paying attention. He’s young, he’s already taken part in a run into the Stanley Cup finals, and he’s a skilled one or two center. While he’s hardly large or physical, he plays on both the powerplay and the penalty kill and plays big minutes.
  • Thomas Vanek might be hard to move, not because of his skill set or age, but because his contract is a bit large to shuffle into the mix with the salary cap going down. This might be a situation where a team like say the Islanders or Red Wings takes on the player and most of the contract. When you can be more than a point per game on less than 19 minutes of ice time a game on a bad team in a compressed season your skill set is worth taking note of.
  • Jason Pomminville, another year with 5.3m left on the contract should really only slow down those with no cap flexibility at all. Twice a 30 goal man, five straight years of more than 20 goals, and a career points per game percentage of .79? The biggest question should be is anyone worth keeping wearing his number on your roster.

Mid tier:

  • Tyler Ennis, low risk, potentially high reward. The small forward is tenacious, a great skater, a good passer, and should easily fit in at anywhere from the 4th-10th forward spots. A bit over 2 million for his cap hit for one more year, a twenty goal year to his name, and just 23.
  • Tyler Myers, high risk, but the reward could be huge, or a perpetual drain on the payroll. He’s got a forever long contract and has taken a couple dozen steps back from his Calder Trophy form. A team that has a solid defenseman who can coach up the towering Texan into better play is probably in the best position to get the most from Myers. That defenseman might not even need to be on ice, Lidstrom played recently enough that he could likely make big strides Myers.
  • Christian Ehrhoff, while most defensemen age pretty well, this one has had more than one knee injury, and carries a cap hit of four million through 2012. The actual pay out is only only one million a year in the last three seasons, but a guy who relies on his speed and skating signed for that long with those problems already is worrisome. On the other hand, he’s only increased his minutes in the last two or three years and is playing in all situations. The contract length could mean the German defenseman stays in Buffalo even if someone has some interest.

I can’t see anyone targeting most of the rest of the roster. Marcus Foligno might garner a bit of interest, and defensemen are always in demand so shuffling out the current blueline for some prospects and picks is possible, and the fact that Regier traded for Ott shows there’s at least two people who think he’s got value (aside from his agent). Overall this team isn’t horribly built, it just can’t seem to ever get on the same page or four games in a row.

 

Another NHL regular season is closing. All 30 teams are in action. Some players are auditioning for parts next season in late call ups, some are just hoping to break out of a slump before the post season starts. Some two or three will never play in the NHL again. Retirement for some, permanent assignment back to the AHL for a few, and time overseas will take some of the players who make every season worth watching will be gone.

For those going forward, players like Mike Richards and Jonathan Quick will face their opposite numbers on the San Jose roster tonight as both teams seek to decide their own fate. Nick Foligno of the Senators knows he’s headed for the playoffs for the third time in his career, while younger brother Marcus will attempt to finish the season with a little pride against the Boston Bruins. Joel Ward enters the playoffs for the first time in his career without an All Star quality goalie behind him, and with the certainty that next years squad will be very different if the team doesn’t make it deep.

Who will backup Tim Thomas is still a mystery wrapped in an enigma as Rask continues to recover, the true status of Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews is just as shrouded in darkness, Randy Cunneyworth has been the consummate professional dealing with the well stirred chaos that is the Montreal Canadiens and he probably has no idea if he’ll be coaching the team next season, or working anywhere in the NHL. Kevin Dineen on the other hand might just lockup the Southeast Division title and the Jack Adams award with a win, steering a team with only two 20 goal scorers, and with just two key players to have skated in every game is amazing, doing it with a roster that saw 35 skaters and 4 goalies take the ice is simply remarkable.

The New York Rangers last won the Stanley Cup when they won the Presidents Trophy. A win today will give them the Presidents Trophy. A win today would also lock in a first round matchup with today’s opponent the Washington Capitals who all things considered would probably rather play the Boston Bruins in the first round.

Jared Spurgen finishes his second NHL season today one point from doubling his rookie numbers, and while again he finds himself on the outside looking in the former Spokane Chief has the chance to play spoiler two years in a row, if he can rally the Wild over the Coyotes it’s likely the Phoenix team loses out on home ice in the first round. Phil Kessel has gone from hero and savior to scapegoat in a couple short years in Toronto and has only a game with the Canadiens in which he might extend his career high in goals.

So what’s left to play for today? Pride, position a new contract, hope for the future, and the chance to go home on a positive note.