For the Minnesota Wild I think the biggest goal in adding depth to the team is pretty simple; Don’t disrupt the chemistry. Offensively, and even at defense they don’t have a single current NHL superstar. Eric Staal once held that status, Ryan Suter probably should hold that status, and Zach Parise spent several years right on the cusp of superstardom, Mikko Koivu has been largely ignored in his career.

Hanzal at 30 will have all the things he should need to contribute without disrupting the locker room:

  • agemates
  • motivation to perform as he’s a UFA
  • the opportunity to play on a team that is easily the best of his pro career going into the playoffs.
  • no need to do everything
  • guys happy to see him because of what he brings

On top of that, being that Minnesota is a medium or small market, he won’t face the galactic size culture shock of going someplace like Montreal, Toronto, or one of the big cities where you not only have all the pressure of playing and winning but are likely to be set upon by fans, media, and traveling rival fans at any given moment. The Twin Cities are sure as heck going to be colder for the next few months than the greater Phoenix area, but playing hard and long shift will keep him warm. Not to mention the hope of a Cup playing for what is quite likely the most consistently good team of the year out west.

Win or lose in the playoffs, how he does for individual stats will greatly impact the number of teams, and number of dollars he is offered in July when he hits UFA status.

Mika Zibanejad has been traded from the Ottawa Senators to the New York Rangers in exchange for Derick Brassard.

One could look at the pure offensive numbers and decide that trade just doesn’t make sense. Brassard has averaged more goals over the last three seasons, he plays more physically, and has garnered a wealth of playoff experience.

A deeper look may give a more compelling answer.

Zibanejad is:

  • Several years younger
  • Larger
  • Right shot
  • A bit over $2.25m cheaper this season
  • An RFA after this year
  • Slightly better at faceoffs
  • Productive on the penalty kill

Brassard is:

  • A better faceoff playoff man
  • More productive in the post season
  • Cost surety for this and two more season for the budget Senators
  • A left shot
  • Better on the powerplay

When you come right down to it the two are very similar in goals, points, zone starts vs zone finishes (despite Zibanejad playing more PK), PDO, the on-ice Corsi favors Zibanejad slightly, but the biggest difference after money, term, and age seems to be the penalties drawn and taken per 60. Zibanejad takes less penalties, and draws more than twice as many as well. I don’t discount the handedness, and youth, but from the Ranger’s perspective they seem to be a big factor, along with cash. Maybe they have something else in the works?

From the Ottawa standpoint, the trade may just be about adding veteran leadership and playoff experience. The difficulty in getting free agents to sign in Ottawa, Chris Kelly being the exception that proves the rule, is almost certainly a major factor as well. The Senators have shed an almost certain doubling (or more) of Zibanejad’s current salary and get to put a similar guy on the roster who is from not so very far away in Hull where he was born, if he likes playing at home, they may well be able to extend him at the end of his current contract.

Is this a “hockey trade”, not likely. Is this a bad trade for what either team needs over the next two seasons; equally unlikely.

Welcome ladies, gentlemen, and hockey fans across the world! By special request, a new drinking game for the trade deadline.

To properly prepare for this you should have three beverages to work with, a stomach pump reserved, and enough paid time off for Monday and Tuesday at least. I recommend a light, dark, and medium colored liquid.

Every third time you drink, you should switch drinks. Puck Sage, the NHL, various news outlets, and your alcohol beverage vendors take no responsibility for your actions.

Take Three Drinks:

  • Every-time someone is rumored to go back to where they played college or junior.
  • Someone is traded to a former team
  • A general manager is heard to say this is a good trade for both sides.
  • Someone mentions the salary cap.
  • A coach or GM says they look forward to having someone join the team.
  • There are more players you don’t recognize in a trade than ones you do.
  • Potential playoff matchups are mentioned.
  • Off season coaching and or management moves are hinted at for a team involved in a trade.
  • How much time is left until the deadline is mentioned.

 

Take Two Drinks:

  • Whenever the phrase “add depth” is used.
  • Someone talks about how a player found out they were traded.
  • The number of trades made at this years deadline is mentioned.
  • Line/paring combinations are mentioned before a newly acquired player leaves their former home city.
  • The draft position of a player involved in a trade is mentioned
  • Someone mentions a coach having to make roster decisions.
  • A player previously traded at the deadline gets traded.
  • The highlight reel for a player being interviewed shows a player in a uniform other than the team they were just traded from.
  • Someone is called more than just a rental.
  • Someone compares the current volume of trades to last years number.

 

Take One Drink:

  • Anytime a player is reunited with a former teammate or coach.
  • A player uses the word exciting.
  • A general manager mentions how long they’d discussed a deal before it happens.
  • The number of draft picks exceeds the number of players.
  • Someone says a team is stockpiling
  • A graphic is used to explain anything.
  • A media person calls a trade big.
  • Someone says “hockey IQ” or “hockey sense”.
  • Any NHL award is mentioned.
  • A placeholder picture for a player calling into a deadline show has the player already in the uniform of  their new team.
  • Yandle, Eriksson, Boedker, Drouin, Staal, Russell, Bickell, Yakapov or other players expected to move are mentioned.
  • Salary retention is speculated about or explained.

Experts will remember to print this out and get it laminated so that any unfortunate fluids won’t mar your ability to rally and continue.

July 4, 2013 I analyzed the Seguin (and company) for Ericsson (and company) trade, and said to ask in five years to see who won. Given the number of young players in the deal (Seguin, Morrow, Fraser, Smith) it is still to early to tell who won the trade. That doesn’t mean either team is getting what they want.

Loui Ericsson was the biggest, best known return for the Boston Bruins. Last year his season was crushed as thoroughly by two concussions as he was by the hit that lead to the John Scott suspension. This season the former 36 goal scorer is fourth on the team in scoring. That would be a lot more impressive if he had more than three goals to his name. Or if he were assisting like a hall of fame bound center, but he’s not. It’s not all his fault, but the Bruins aren’t even in the top 10 in scoring for the first time in years, they are in fact in the bottom third. Ericsson has been consistently dissapointing, not every bit of it can be laid at his skates, but the fact remains they traded for a top line winger and got a depth player.

Tyler Seguin is scoring at a level commiserate with his OHL resume and his second overall selection. That’s awesome. It gives the fans something to cheer for, and gives the team a chance to win every night. Right now he even leads the team and the NHL in goal scoring. Not to shabby an accomplishment. But the Dallas Stars wanted him to be a center when they picked him up from Peter Chiarelli and company who were weary of his off ice youthful exerberence and on ice indifference to three zone play. If you take a look at who he has played with over the course of the season he’s spent about half of his time at right wing playing with Jason Spezza.

The problem there is that the Stars wanted Seguin not just at center but as their number one center. Call me kooky, but in my book your number one center doesn’t play wing to the guy brought in to player further down the depth chart. Seguins failure to thrive in the center position pushes the teams thin depth out of balance. The Stars are 10th in total goal for, and way down in 23rd on the powerplay, that’s not a failure of talent its a failure of balance.

Seguin isn’t taking many faceoffs and what few he’s taking he’s not winning. Cody Eakin, Jason Spezza, Vernon Fiddler, Shawn Horcoff, are all ahead of Seguin in faceoffs taken. Just a handful behind Seguin is left wing Jamie Benn. Even the notoriously poor faceoff man Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is better at winning draws than Tyler Seguin. The bottom line is that Seguin’s abject deficiency at faceoffs, whatever the reasons for it may be, is hurting the team, and will continue you to hurt the team until it is remedied or they bring in yet another number one center. What that turns all his goal scoring into is failing with style.

Every season there are players who because of injuries, changes in coaches, or family issues just fall off a cliff in terms of performance or their interaction with their team. The following year some players bounce back. In some cases it will take an additional year to get back to form, and some just never make it. This season there’s a handful of notable players who might just reclaim who and what they were.

Niklas Backstrm

Last year was the worst season of Backstrom’s professional career. He made it into only twenty one games. His record was a dismal 5-11-2, and the less said about his personal stats the better. Let’s not forget this is a Vezina quality net minder with a championship pedigree. What would a good season for Backstrom be? Sixteen post season wins would be great but first you have to get there. A thirty or more win regular season, and a save percentage .914 and up are more than possible with the team he has in front of him.

Loui Eriksson

The counterbalance to Tyler Seguin in a massive trade Eriksson had a 36 goal season on his resume when he arrived and managed to scrape together just ten in his first season in one of the most scrutinized hockey markets on the planet. Part of the problem was getting two concussions, one at the flying elbow of John Scott. Part of it was less minutes in a much more defensive system. This season he’s likely to be playing on the top line and the minimum Bruins fans will accept is a 25 goal 65 point season.

Mike Ribiero

An ignoble season playing for the Coyotes ended in him being bought out. It is arguable that his issues were a prime contributor to the Coyotes missing the playoffs. This season brings a news start for the 34 year old. The Nashville Predators extended him a one year contract and the opportunity to prove he can stick to irritating just his opponents.

Michael Del Zotto

Del Zotto is 24 year old USHL alumni who at the top of his game was over half a point per game. The young defenseman was sent to Nashville last season after starting his career with the Rangers. He was not retained. This year he’s on a defense that’s in flux and with more offensive upside than the Predators, and more structure than the current Rangers. A good season for Del Zotto is should see him back over the 25 point mark.

Dany Heatley

The Anaheim Ducks are the 33 year old’s fifth team. His goal production has been in decline the last few years. Part of that is undoubtedly the lack of a world class offensive minded center. Another part has been nagging injuries and the inevitability of Father Time leaning on him. With either Getzlaf or Kesler up front and Fowler and Lindholm moving the puck on the backed there’s a chance of him reversing his declining numbers. Improving on last years -18 and just 12 goals shouldn’t be too much of an issue, a 30 goal season may still be possible. Among other positive elements are getting to play with fellow former Minnesota Wild Clayton Stoner.

Ryan Miller has been the main stay of the Buffalo Sabres for years. He emerged out of the shadow of Domnik Hasek to win his own Vezina trophy, attend the All Star festivities, and even play an Olympic tournament that was one for the ages. For a few years it looked as if he would bring glory to the team, the city, and the entire upper north west of New York State. The reality is that Terry Pegula stepped up to late to make Miller a champion in the home uniform.

When you look at Miller, and his own individual talent level, there are any number of teams that could, and probably should step to the plate and put in a worthy offer. But the teams that will be most attractive to him, with his no trade clause, and for his future are not so many. At age 33, the Lansing Michigan native has to be aware of how narrow the window is for him to win, even if he believes he can be an NHL starter another seven or eight years.

The list of teams that even if he’s traded to, he probably would not sign a new deal with include teams like the Philadelphia Flyers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Dallas Stars, Winnipeg Jets, and Florida Panthers. The Flyers have to be every goalies nightmare just based on history. The Lightning, Jets, Panthers and Stars are all in some stage of rebuild and growth and only one is really in advance of the Sabres. It might save a nervous general manager’s job in the short term to acquire Ryan Miller and escape the league basement, but if he doesn’t stick around, whatever assets were expended to bring him in are pure loss.

There are exactly two teams that standout as being ideal places for Ryan Miller to launch the next phase of his career. The first spot is a team with an absolutely star studded roster of mature NHL talent, a hall of fame player turned coach, and is handy to major east coast cities, has and has a very metropolitan lifestyle where mere athletes blend in. The other is an old Canadian market with absurd amounts of young talent, a couple of wily veterans and love of hockey that extends to the depths of the earth.

In Washington playing for the Capitals Miller could give up worrying about goal support, forget about being the only recognizable name that didn’t make fans despair, and simply concentrate on winning. There would be no years long wait for the team to reach peak, and little need for the dramatics he’s indulged in over the past few seasons to draw some emotional engagement out of his teammates.

The Edmonton Oilers are the other obvious landing spot. Today they sit 10th in goals for but tied for worst at 5 goals against per game. Adding Miller just months after the additions of new captain Andrew Ference, David Perron and Denis Grebeshkov would be the signal that now is the time to budding superstars Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Sam Gagner and Nail Yakupov. The Oilers may be built around their young stars, but today’s roster is about the same average age as the Boston Bruins team that won the cup just three years ago.

One period of any game this season is enough to convince anyone Miller is healthy, hungry and at the top of his game. That same period is more than enough to convince anyone objective observer that the gap in skill, commitment, and execution between himself and his nearest team mate is similar to the gulf between the NHL and the ECHL.

Some teams do well at of free agency, others are unmitigated disasters. Today we get pretty good ideas as to what teams will look like in the fall, and which teams are going for it now, next year or no time soon.

Anaheim Ducks: Win. Today they traded star forward Bobby Ryan to the Senators for the Ottawa 1st round pick, Jakob Silfverberg a 2nd round pick, and Stefan Noesen the Senators the 1st round pick out of Plano, Tx from 2011. Good move for the Ducks long term who have very little depth and lots of older players.

Boston Bruins: Win. Adding a hungry veteran who now has recent playoff experience, no bad contracts and overall a younger, hungrier  roster than they started last year with.

Buffalo Sabres: Lose Extending a new deal to Matt Ellis isn’t going to push the Sabres into the playoffs.

Calgary Flames: Lose While they didn’t make any horrible signings (for a change) the contracts they did sign for AHL players and guys who will never be stars don’t push the team forward. 

Carolina Hurricanes: Win They signed a very solid 2nd goalie in Anton Khudobin, and resigned Michal Jordan which is enough to make up for giving a contract to Mike Komisarek.

Colorado Avalanche:

Chicago Blackhawks Draw. They reupped with Handzus on team friendly deal, but didn’t have the cap space to land any of the big fish on the market, and they lost their top end backup today.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Draw Nathan Horton is a great addition, the contract term is less than ideal. Signings other than Bobrovsky are non impacting.

Dallas Stars: Draw While there are defensive signings they could have made, and arguably better goaltenders, but with the moves they made on the fourth they don’t really need to do much to improve over last season.

Detroit Red Wings: Draw They opened the floodgates to renewed eastern conference rivalries by poaching Daniel Alfredsson, signed Stephen Weiss long term, but still didn’t shore up a mediocre defense. 

Edmonton Oilers: Win They improve their defense both by the addition of Ference and the subtraction of others, they didn’t give out any horrible contracts or let anyone of value get away.

Florida Panthers: Lose They are in a much, much tougher division this year and for the next couple years and did nothing to fix a woeful team.

Los Angeles Kings Draw No improvements, no idiotic contracts simply adding a depth defenseman.

Minnesota Wild: Lose There was no reason to add Matt Cooke to the roster, it won’t make them a better team, they already have a solid penalty kill and beyond that they traded a roster player for a draft pick and kept to depth defensemen.

Montreal Canadiens Draw Danny Briere is a good get for a pretty thin market. Compared to Mike Fisher and David Booth who have the same cap hit, Briere is not so bad. You can always do more, and you can clearly do worse.

Nashville Predators: Lose Victor Stalberg is a solid get. The other signings for the love of hockey why?

New Jersey Devils Huh? This is the team that was bankrupt not too long ago right? They sign Michael Ryder to a really solid contract, they sign Ryane Clowe to a contact that will be the NHL’s go to punchline for the next several years, they resigned Patrik Elias until he’s eligible for social security. On top of that they have Dainius Zubrus signed until a week past decomposition. These contracts are a bit much to get their hands on Centrum Silver’s advertising dollars.

New York Islanders Win Locking up Travis Hamonic long term for not much money is big enough that all their other moves are irrelevant.

New York Rangers Lose I think Glen Sather overslept and his secretary just signed guys that were once on good teams. Benoit Pouliot, Aaron Johnson, and other players 85% of Rangers fans won’t be able to name at the All Star/Olympic break.

Ottawa Senators Win Getting Bobby Ryan without having to give up any core pieces is pretty spiffy. Sure they lost captain Daniel Alfredsson but in fairness his ability was not at the same level it was five years ago, and he was looking for more money than Ryan who is still in his prime.

Philadelphia Flyers Win (I kid, I kid!) It almost doesn’t matter who they signed because they didn’t hand out an absurd contract on day one (they got Streit and Lecavalier handled early) oh wait, they gave Giroux (multiple concussions) that contract and an eminently redundant no movement clause, because those really mean something in Philly. Emery is a good get, and that’s about it for the positives.

Phoenix Arizona Coyotes Win Adding Ribeiro at center is an upgrade even if you only look at his Dallas years, adding Greiss as a solid backup means Smith might not have to play 70 games.

Pittsburgh Penguins Draw Correcting the mistake that lead to Rob Scuderi being let go after they won the cup is all well and good, but four years too late. They also don’t have enough cap space to add a 12th forward.

San Jose Sharks Lose Over the cap, and undertalented.

Saint Louis Blues Lose No viable movement, and a core that isn’t getting any younger.

Tampa Bay Lightning Lose Nothing says “cluefree” like signing a forward who has never topped 23 goals to a five year five million a year contract and failing to improve the teams biggest weakness.

Toronto Maple Leafs Lose The Clarkson signing is for about three years too long, the Bozak signing is so-so, and the Grabovski buyout is inexcusable.

Vancouver Canucks: Win Brad Richardson is a solid addition at a good price, and Yannick Webber may prove to be a find for their defense.

Washington Capitals: Draw Adam Oates made good strides with the team last year, prospects and getting Karl Alzner inked should get them to as good or better than their place last year.

Winnipeg Jets: Win No free agent signings (shocking I know) but they did pick up a solid forward addition in a trade for a reasonable price.

Two trades:

Cal Clutterbuck & the 70th pick went from the Minnesota Wild to the New York Islanders for Nino Niederretter.

Cory Schneider went from the Vancouver Canucks to the New Jersey Devils straight up for the 9th overall pick, which Gillis used on Bo Horvat of the London Knights.

1st:

Nathan MacKinnon of the Mooseheads, goes to the Avalanche. It isn’t a surprise that they went with someone other than Jones, but it should be a disappointment. The Teams defense has been awful for years, and some years not even that good.

2nd:

Aleksander Barkov, a center that might be the perfect solution to upping their offensive ante. The Panthers need depth at every position, and this is a solid start.

3rd:

The Tampa Bay Lightning completely ignore their need to build a defense, and draft a Center and Left Winger Jonathan Drouin. Very highly regarded player, but is this the pick that eventually dooms Yzerman’s tenure as general manager?

4th:

Seth Jones is taken by the Nashville Predators, they could have taken a center here and not done themselves a disservice, but a guy with the potential to replace (and surpass?) Ryan Suter.

5th:

Carolina selected Elias Lindholm and gave themselves a very solid option at center in a year or two, and will give them a lot of flexibility going forward.

6th:

Calgary finally got a top notch center in Sean Monahan. They will need to add more on the wings. With the centers taken in the last two or three years, this is a pretty smart pick as they just about have to hit on Monahan and one or two more

7th:

It was not a surprise that Darnell Nurse was the second defenseman taken, just a surprise that Edmonton took him. The Oilers are a year or two from now a notch or two above

8th:

With all the questions surrounding Tyler Myers, the Sabres went back to the well and picked defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen.

9th

After trading Cory Schnieder for this pick they select Bo Horvat a strong two way center who may start in the NHL on their third line. We all know London Knights players are going to be solid in all three zones, so this might be a positive turning point for the Canucks after trending downward for a couple years.

10th:

The Stars tool big bodied RW Valeri Nichushkin as their pick. With not many larger forwards on the team this is a solid pick.

The end of the lockout brought more uncertainty than we are used to seeing at this time of year in the NHL. What we would get going into games was anyones guess. Sure a little more chaos than expected, but out of the swirl of bodies, we can already begin to extract some very important data.

  • There will be soft tissue tweaks: groin pulls, sprains and similar minor injuries galore.
  • Expect aggression. Expect it all the time. Players are in general healthier, stronger, and fitter than they have been in years. Guys like Doan, Hossa, Keith, Chara and other minute munchers who play big minutes have had three extra months to heal. Doan, St Louis, and Chara not only don’t have the drawn look they’ve shown in recent years they’re missing the circles under the eyes and are moving with a bounce and verve that you haven’t seen from them in four or five years.
  • Streaks will define seasons. With just forty eight games to be played, a six or seven game losing streak is all that it will take to fall behind permanently. A seven or eight game goal scoring streak will be enough to make a player’s season.
  • Save percentages will be lower than in recent league history. With so few of the NHL’s goalies having played at all since last April, or in some cases even before then, the first eight or ten games are really their training camp. Those first few games of practice will be much magnified in their season statistics.
  • Powerplay’s will be worse. Like tracking the puck, the systems teams use to make powerplays work will take time to get into sync. Obviously some teams have better shooters than others, but their teammates still have to recognize when shooters are open and get them the puck in time.
  • Bigger than expected seasons from guys injured late in the year, and in the playoffs should be expected. These guys had to work hard to rehab during the lockout, and most of them probably didn’t wind down even when it looked like we wouldn’t have a season.
  • You will see your team play 25-27 players minimum this season. Any minor injury that could be made worse will get a guy time off if the team thinks its a good idea. This extra evaluation for AHL guys could lead to a more active trade deadline.