Did anybody ever have a strong understanding of what the Minnesota Wild have been doing lately? I sure didn’t, and it appears ownership felt the same way. Tuesday marked the end of Paul Fenton’s 14-month tenure as the club’s General Manager. The short duration was not one without incident.
It all began when Fenton and company selected Swedish defender 24th overall at the 2018 draft – leaving A LOT of talent on the board. Sprinkle in a disastrous trade of Nino Niederreiter for Victor Rask. Missing the playoffs. Two failed attempts at trading Jason Zucker (with arguably poor returns). Signing soon-to-be 32-year-old Mats Zuccarello to a five-year term, and a rash of odd quotes.
I’m cool with ownership cutting bait on what was clearly a poor decision, but why not just do it at the end of the season? Giving Fenton the reins throughout the draft and free agency seems like a poor decision. Perhaps his UFA signings and inability to move Zucker were the final blows, but some forethought is needed.
Anyways, Fenton’s gone. A new GM spot is available, and my phone line is wiiide open.
Tampa Bay has continued its pursuit of cap space to maintain its disgustingly impressive core. Monday saw the team give Andrei Vasilevskiy 9.5M for eight seasons. A deal that doesn’t kick in for another year. Quickly on that, I think Vas is a premier goaltender – especially in fantasy. Mostly because of the mass amount of wins he’ll rack up in TBay. However, I don’t love the Lightning to ponying up that much cap space on a netminder.
Sampling of goalies that were in the top 10 of Goals Saved Above Average last season on Corsica:
Thomas Greiss, Robin Lehner, Jaroslav Halak, Alexander Georgiev, Jacob Markstrom, Laurent Brossoit, Darcy Kuemper
Don't pay for saves 🤷♂️
— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) July 29, 2019
Call me crazy, but how many fewer wins would say, Jacob Markstrom, put up behind that Lightning roster? I’m guessing not many, if at all. That would’ve saved a few million to be put to use elsewhere. However, it’s difficult to nitpick to the Lightning much these days.
Tampa Bay has Stamkos, Kucherov, Hedman, McDonough and Vasilevskiy all signed through the 2023-24 season. They'll add Point to that group in a minute.
The bit parts will shift, but that core is real and it's spectacular.
— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) July 30, 2019
Tampa wasn’t done. On Tuesday they moved out Ryan Callahan and his LTIR cap hit to the Senators in exchange for Mike Condon. Condon will be buried in the minors to clear space, while Ottawa gets to tack more dollars onto their ledger without actually spending real money.
Eugene Melnyk is the Pablo Piccaso of shedding salary.
#Sens are estimated to save $10.1M from injury insurance, & saved $5.5M in signing bonus expenses by trading for players whose SB were already paid
While we project the club to have a cap hit of $65.9M, their estimated NHL roster salary expense is $47.5M
The cap floor is $60.2M pic.twitter.com/JExcfvP3Z2
— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) July 30, 2019
Expect Brayden Point and his 8-9M in cost to be locked up shortly.
Two weeks ago I dove into some likely 2019-20 rookies, how their deployment was shaping up, and what type of production we may see. It was met with positivity and a thirst for more, so I’ll throw a few more out to you now.
As an aside, I’ll be releasing my second annual point-projections for the top 350 skaters in September. Keep an out for that as I try to come to keep close to Dobber and his wildly accurate projections.
Cody Glass, C – Golden Knights
Glass has been the Golden Knights’ premier prospect from the moment the club selected him sixth overall in 2017. They’ve staved off many attempts from other clubs who targetted him trades – moving their second and third best prospects instead (Erik Brannstrom and Nick Suzuki).
Glass has been a prisoner of the CHL-NHL agreement for the past two seasons. Seasons in which he would have been better suited in the American League than putting up 0.51 goals and 1.68 points-per-game in the 102 WHL contests the last two seasons. When elevated to the Chicago Wolves to conclude 2018-19, the 20-year-old displayed his impressive skillset, scoring five points in six regular-season games, and 15 points in 22 playoff contests helping take the Wolves to the Calder Cup final. His seven goals were second on the team and he was the co-leader in points.
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) December 28, 2018
The possibility of rolling three, serious scoring line in Vegas next season took a hit on Monday when the club shipped Nikita Gusev to the Devils due to their salary cap restrictions. There was a very real chance that Gusev and Glass would’ve been skating a good deal together at five-on-five. That loss of a potentially elite offensive winger to connect with is tangible. Glass remains projects to centre the third line. He’ll be afforded one of Reilly Smith or Alex Tuch on the right-wing, but a spot on the left-side remains wide open. Perhaps we see another rookie in Lucas Elvenes snatch it up?
Glass should be well insulated in Vegas. He’ll see secondary defensive pairings, and should be a staple on the team’s second power-play unit. His upside as a front-line, offensive centre is very real, but also not forthcoming in 2019-20. The boom is coming, but unlikely to be right away.
Conservative 82-game pace: 48 points
Owen Tippett, RW – Panthers
The 10th overall selection 2017 has been a wildly consistent goal scorer in the OHL. From 2016-2019, Tippett’s 113 goals are the fifth most in the league. However, his 0.684 goals-per-game land him in second place overall. Additionally, his 1.36 points per game over that span are the eighth-most.
The 20-year-old drives the offense with incredible speed and a deadly release. He’s equally threatening off of the rush or set up on the man-advantage. His explosiveness produces countless offensive opportunities and affords him a head start in many 50/50 races.
The now-former Mississauga Steelheads’ star had seven games of NHL service as an 18-year-old to begin 2017-18. He looked lost defensively. He skated in five AHL contests to conclude that season and provided some better-looking metrics with a goal and an assist while putting 2.2 shots on goal per game.
Defensively, Tippett is far from polished. He’s aware of the issue and has been working on it. He’ll need to be at a place where his coaching staff feels comfortable with him being out there. However, not every player needs to be a Selke finalist. Tippett brings rare commodities to the rink, and those should be highlighted.
The Panthers have a very obvious opening on the wing in the top-six. Perhaps Henrik Borgstrom slides to the wing and scoops it up, but it likely makes more sense to have him as the 3C and allow Tippett to play with Vincent Trocheck and Mike Hoffman.
Conservative 82-game pace: 35 points
Evan Bouchard, D – Oilers
Edmonton has selected the point-producing right-shot defender 10th overall in 2018 and started him in the NHL. After seven games while skating on the bottom pairing, he was returned to London in the OHL to dominate once again. He did the same thing through eight AHL playoff games for the Condors where he scored three goals and eight points.
Bouchard looked calm and composed in his foray into the AHL. He was efficient and effective exiting the puck from his end – often wheeling it out himself. He managed to put over two shots on goal per game while showcasing his overly dangerous set of shots.
Bouchard is far from a lock to skate the season in Edmonton. But he does bring an element that is greatly lacking from the Oilers squad – a defender who can hammer the puck and run a power-play. If he proves capable of keeping up at even-strength his time on the top power-play unit won’t be far behind. This makes projecting his production difficult. He may end up with 10 points in 40 games. He may end up 35 in 75.
Conservative 82-game pace: 27 points
Erik Brannstrom, D – Senators
Brannstrom led all U20 defenders in scoring at the AHL level last season. It isn’t an overly long list because, well, teenage blueliners rare play in the league produce offense. In the last 10 years, only John Carlson’s 39 points in 48 games trump Brannstrom’s 32 points in 50 games.
Another player who has not been assured a roster spot, but the left-side in Ottawa is wide open behind Thomas Chabot. Speaking of Chabot, his presence will likely dampen the long-term potential for Brannstrom in point leagues. While Ottawa doesn’t boast the forward power to roll out a guaranteed 4+1 power play scheme, they’d have to play either Chabot or Brannstrom on the right point to get both out there together – not ideal.
Conservative 82-game pace: 14 points
Eeli Tolvanen, LW – Predators
Tolvanen teased with his incredible 2017-18 campaign. It was then that his release was put on full display as he lit up the KHL for months at a time, and was dynamite at the NHL-less Olympics and the World Championships. North American pro hockey has not been as easy for the 20-year-old.
Tolvanen’s 15 goals and 35 points in the AHL last season may not jump off of the page, but that’s fine production for a then-teenager in that setting. He managed to put three shots on net per game and clicked at a very sustainable 9.6 conversion rate.
Forecasting his home in Nashville next season is murky. The Finnish sniper would bring a dynamic scoring element to a third line on the Predators, but he’d need to push out a more reliable winger like Calle Jarnkrok or Craig Smith. My guess is he sees some NHL action, but spends the majority of the year in Milwaukee.
Point Projection: 13 points in 30-odd games.
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