Ramblings: Update on Pastrnak; Pacioretty; John Chayka gone from Arizona; Taylor Hall – July 28
The big news over the weekend was that John Chayka, the GM for Arizona, was leaving the team. The Coyotes put out a press release statement saying he quit the team. What actually happened, we don't know. What I do know is that taking team statements at face value is not advised.
I was a fan of a lot of moves that Chayka made. The first was trading up and acquiring the Pavel Datsyuk contract in 2016 so they could grab Jakob Chychrun 16th overall. The Stepan/Raanta trade was also a good one, I think. Tony DeAngelo has worked out well for the Rangers, but Raanta is an elite goalie when he's healthy. Having that security in net, along with Darcy Kuemper, has been huge, even if Stepan's play has fallen off. (The Rangers also got a seventh overall pick that they used on Lias Andersson.) I was also a big fan of getting Nick Schmaltz for Dylan Strome. That was a very tidy bit of business.
I was less a fan of his contracts. There was no need to sign Keller for north of $7M a season when he has one good year to his name. Signing Schmaltz and Dvorak for over $10M a season combined wasn't great, either. They're contracts where you look at them and think, "eh, they're fine." They're not great value, but they're not great albatrosses. They're also not great players.
At the end, not having great players was Chayka's problem. The drafting wasn't great. Bad teams need superstars to get over the hump, and this team lacks superstars. That was probably the reason for the Hall trade (other than a playoff run), but it speaks to the larger issue. They had to trade for a winger in his late 20s because they haven't been able to draft and develop a star forward. Not yet, anyway, and let alone three or four of them like Toronto, Colorado, or Tampa Bay. Teams can't rely on a roster of middle-of-the-roster players to be a perennial contender.
There are very good pieces here, they just need to re-tool the forward group. The problem is the hardest thing to get is a superstar, and they need more than one of them. This team has the pieces in place to be good for a while, perhaps. Maybe a team like Minnesota has been for the last decade. They just haven't been able to put the pieces together to be more than that just yet.
In news that may relieve or dismay Bruins fans, David Pastrnak traveled with the team to Toronto but Ondrej Kase did not. Pastrnak is practicing, so it does seem he'll be fine for the round robin series. (That's my assumption, not the team's.)
Max Pacioretty did not travel with Vegas to Edmonton. That he’s not there right now doesn’t mean he won’t be in the next week, he’s just not with the team at the moment. He is nursing some sort of injury.
I just wanted to mention one thing about media access and the NHL limiting who gets to cover the playoff games: look at what's happening in baseball.
MLB's Miami Marlins took the field on Sunday for a game in Philadelphia. They did so after multiple players on their team tested positive for COVID-19 and they didn't know who else on the roster had it. Why were they allowed to play? The roster had a team group text – seriously – and decided to play on. Marlins management didn't step in, the league didn't step in. The players decided to play with an unknown amount of players on their team with COVID-19, and the team and league allowed it. Now, they have postponed at least two games, they have over a dozen positive cases, and we don't know who else they gave it to, Phillies players or otherwise.
That this was decided by group text wasn't made public for 24 hours, and that's with media in the stadium and asking questions. The NHL being in a bubble should make their environment much safer than what MLB is doing, of that there is no doubt. But does anyone really think many hockey players wouldn't decide to just play through if left to their own devices? And that's why we need reporters in the bubble.
I was having a chat on Sunday night with some people with whom I talk about fantasy sports regularly. The topic was the Colorado Avalanche, the 2020 playoffs, and the future of the team. The genesis of that conversation was Taylor Hall's impending free agency, and the teams that could possibly bid for his services.
(As a side note, the teams with the cap space to do it – conservatively $8M a season, almost certainly more than $9M – isn't lengthy. Colorado is one of them, though they do have some other future contracts to factor in. Teams that are in full rebuild like Ottawa and Detroit do as well. I'm not sure what state of franchise Buffalo sits, but add them as well. There are other playoff teams, like Boston and Montreal, who might be able to work it out. There's also Los Angeles, who have over $20M in cap space and no one to sign that will eat up big space. I'm sure Hall wants to head to an immediate contender but heading to Los Angeles after stops in Edmonton and New Jersey could have a certain appeal.)
The idea of Taylor Hall going to Colorado is very, very appealing. He's one of the top left wingers in the game and is just a couple years removed from an MVP season. Hall sliding on to the top line with Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen has an all-star game feel to it. It also would leave them with pretty good lines down the roster:
An all-star top line, a second line with great two-way players who can finish, and another good two-way line, though to a lesser degree. That's a very stout top-9.
Of course, that doesn't even include the blue line. They already have Cale Makar, who is up for the Calder Trophy and had a case for a Norris Trophy nomination. They also have Sam Girard and Ryan Graves, both of whom look to be at least second-pair guys moving forward. The coup de grâce here is Bowen Byram, the fourth overall pick from 2019. His future is uncertain, obviously, but if he develops into a top-pair guy – not even a true number-1 – then they have their top-4 defencemen set for the next several years.
All of this is what makes Colorado a scary, scary team moving forward. Let's not include Byram but include Hall. They're still a Stanley Cup contender. This roster, with Taylor Hall added, is a Cup contender again next year, and the year after, and the year after.
Now, what if they add a top-pair Bowen Byram in 2021? Let's not forget about Connor Timmins, the second-round pick from 2017 who looks to be an NHL regular in the making; he just needs to stay healthy. Oh, yeah, they also drafted Alex Newhook in 2019, a forward who ended the NCAA Rookie of the Year in 2020. He looks every bit the next top-6 centre they'll need when Kadri's contract runs out in a few years. If he proves himself ready before then, he'll be a great third-line centre on a deep team. (I do believe I read somewhere they may move him to the wing? Or did I imagine that? The last four months has ravaged my brain. Could I get an Avs fan in the comments let us know?)
All this is to say I believe the Avalanche are positioned to be Cup contenders for years to come, maybe the entire decade.
There are going to be hard decisions to be made, though. Gabriel Landeskog, for example, has one year left and he'll need a new contract for his age-29 season as a UFA. We know how power forwards tend to age, so they need to be wary of an albatross contract (think Jamie Benn). There's also MacKinnon's monster deal, but that'll be a few years down the road, and everyone that will need to be locked up by then, should be locked up.
All that said, they have no albatross contracts, depending how Erik Johnson ages. The cap is in great shape, they have many core pieces locked up for at least a couple more years, and they have a pipeline loaded with good, young talent. This is how good NHL teams are run.
If a few things break right for the Avs, like the development of Byram and Newhook, this team could be a true dynasty for the next decade, or the closest we can get to it in the cap era. It's hard to levy such high expectations on a franchise, but if Colorado doesn't add a couple Stanley Cups in the next 10 years, something will have gone horribly wrong. Given the way 2020 has gone so far, maybe I shouldn't put that into the universe.
No data at this moment.