Ramblings: Thoughts on the Caps, the Pens, the Hawks, the Isles and more (June 17)

by Dobber on June 17, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Thoughts on the Caps, the Pens, the Hawks, the Isles and more (June 17)

 

Ramblings: Thoughts on some of the latest moves around the NHL (June 17)

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There have been lots of moves over the past few days worthy of discussion. Let’s get to it.

Carl Hagelin re-signed with the Caps for four years at $2.75 million AAV. Kudos to his agent. I think this was a worthy cap price. He’ll be 31 in the fall and 34 in the final year of his deal. I’m not the biggest Hagelin fan out there and I don’t think he’ll be more than a fringe NHLer by the last year of this contract, but I think this was actually a good signing. The Caps need cheap experienced bodies filling their depth lines and he slots in there nicely and adds speed. If the Caps re-sign Brett Connolly, they can keep that third line together of Connolly, Lars Eller and Hagelin.

That being said, I think Connolly could sign for big bucks, get thrust into a bigger role than his ability, and that would act as a drag upwards on his production, pushing him into the low-50s for the first time in his career. That’s where I see Connolly. He’s 27, is a former sixth-overall pick, and with almost zero power-play help he had 22 goals and 46 points. It will be slightly less than that if he stays in Washington, but as I said already – on a new team with a juicy contract he tops 50. This is one case (maybe the only case this year?) where a ‘contract year’ boost isn’t an illusion.

The Caps traded Matt Niskanen to Philly for Radko Gudas. The move saves them some cap space and gets them tougher and younger.

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Columbus is in one of the best spots in terms of cap space right now, and they just signed a 25-year-old Swedish free agent named Jakob Lilja to an entry-level contract. Jokke spoke of Lilja here back in January, suggesting he could find a home on a third line at some point. The SHL is a low-scoring league, so Lilja’s 37 points in 52 games led Djurgardens in scoring. His linemate, Blue Jackets prospect Emil Bemstrom, is obviously the big reason why he caught the eye of Columbus scouts. Not draftable, just notable. We have a scouting profile on Bemstrom here.

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While I think the Chicago Blackhawks used their strength (NHL-ready forward) to solve a weakness (proven and good NHL defenseman that isn’t old) with their acquisition (Ian’s trade breakdown here) of Olli Maatta over the weekend, I really think they might lose this one.

Yes, defensemen are worth more than forwards. That’s obviously why Chicago gave up a fifth-round pick on top of Dominik Kahun. Maatta is only 24 and had he never gotten injured I would say he was a No.2 defenseman today. But unfortunately, he always gets hurt – four out of the last five years, in fact. Not minor injuries either. Injuries and/or surgery have cost him at least 15 games in each of those years and in one case nearly an entire season. Not only has that rendered him pretty much a 65-game player now, but it has impacted his development. He’s a No. 4 defenseman now, never reaching that No.2 potential. Perhaps a change of scenery changes all this and he even stays healthy. I can only go on what we know.

So yeah, defensemen are worth more than forwards (an extreme, ridiculous example of this was when the Oilers traded Taylor Hall). But also valuable – contract flexibility. And Chicago knows this more than anybody. The Blackhawks have been the No.1 team when it comes to paying off other teams to take their big contracts. Both Arizona and Carolina have made out quite nicely thanks to that. And they just got the Penguins out from under $4 million per year for the next three years. In Kahun, the contract ($3.75 million with bonuses) is up after this year. The Pens get a bit of cap space now, but massive future flexibility. It’s basically an option next summer where they could end up signing Kahun for less if he’s merely average, or more if he turns out to be a stud. Or not at all if he’s a bust (in which case at least they get a fifth-round pick so they’re not empty-handed).

Kahun will line up on one of the two big lines. I have a hard time believing otherwise. The Penguins gave up a prized defenseman for him so you’re damn right he’s going to be given every opportunity to help them look good. He represents the best and most promising fit there that the Penguins have seen since Conor Sheary teased us with 60 or 70 games of great production. If things work out, the Hawks could look pretty bad.

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Buyouts – If you missed Ian’s take yesterday, the Kings bought out Dion Phaneuf. I can’t believe how far he has fallen. Yes, he’s 34, but I mean he had fallen by the time he was 29. That seems young to me. After his 2013-14 season, teams (Toronto, Ottawa, Los Angeles) all seemed to hope that it was just a blip and that he could get back to his former glory. Because they kept playing him a lot. The buyout opens up a roster spot for one of Kale Clague, Sean Durzi or Mikey Anderson. You can find their scouting profiles here.

Andrew MacDonald was bought out by the Flyers. But we expected that. Hell, we expected that when they announced signing him in the first place. This team has plenty of defensemen knocking on the door right now and this opens up some room for them. Philippe Myers and Samuel Morin are locks.

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I think Nashville got a great deal from Tampa Bay on Friday when they landed goaltending prospect Connor Ingram for a mere seventh-round draft pick in 2021. In my fantasy leagues that’s as low a return as you could offer – a pick in the final round in a future year. I honestly don’t understand why they did that. Best guess – it was a trade demand. The Lightning have three prospect goalies in their system now and none of them are anywhere remotely close to playing in the NHL even three years from now. And frankly they each look pretty doubtful.

Meanwhile, Ingram has been great. He was a third-round draft pick (88th overall in 2016), was a success in the WHL and has transitioned nicely into both the ECHL and AHL. As I noted in the Fantasy Prospects Report, his lowest SV% in any league over the last four years was 0.914 and that was as a rookie-pro back in 2017-18. He’s been clutch in the postseason, too. In the FPR we rated him a potential star starting goalie. To me, this seems like highway robbery for the Predators. I can see Ingram backing up Juuse Saros in two years, possibly three.

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Barry Trotz was a great hire by the Islanders. Obviously. But Lou Lamoriello was a weak hire by the Islanders. Maybe his hiring made the Trotz hiring possible. In which case – worth it. But if that’s not the case, Lou is just plain overrated. He spent last summer signing too many forwards (I’ll give him the Robin Lehner home run signing). And now he’s wasting time signing the wrong RFA’s. The king of knee-jerk reactions is to sign a forward who has been mediocre for several years but then has one great postseason. The prince of knee-jerk reactions is to sign a forward who just had a career season during a contract year. Lou went and did both. You have to let those players hit free agency. Budgets are straining right now and once the Big 3 (Panarin, Bobrovsky, Karlsson) are signed, I really think teams will play hardball with a lot of middle-tier guys. You just saw it in baseball – players getting signed later and later. I think Lou could have been firm on a lower contract offer with them, and they would have taken it by mid-July.

Lou needed to focus on Robin Lehner, and then Anders Lee. That’s the order of priority. If that means Jordan Eberle and Brock Nelson reach free agency then so be it.

Yes, I understand the team is weak at center. I get it. Mathew Barzal, Casey Cizikas and Leo Komarov as a group isn’t all that impressive, the bottom drops out pretty quick. Nelson was their top faceoff man (though he won just 47.7% of the draws). But six years? After a career season that he won’t repeat?  Too generous in my books and I wouldn’t be surprised if the final year of both of these contracts ended up getting bought out.

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I didn’t get the impression that St. Louis won with grit and size, I don’t know why people keep saying that. It was a deep, talented team that many people liked for success last summer, but had written off by December (as I did). But the team came together, the new coaching system worked, and they got above-average goaltending. With a team like that, all they needed was “above average”. They weren’t getting that from Jake Allen. Bottom line is – Tampa Bay would have had them for dinner. Probably a couple of other teams as well. I don’t think there will be copycats over this one. If they repeat as champions, that’s another story.

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The Fantasy Prospects Report is out and available for download right now. On Friday I updated the document with 12 new profiles, plus Cam Robinson’s Mock Draft, plus I added a chart (based on reader suggestion) that listed all the already-drafted prospects we rated as blue-chip draft-worthy in fantasy leagues. Pick up the Fantasy Prospects Report here, the Keeper League Fantasy Pack here and the Ultimate Fantasy Pack here.

I am about to launch the new Dobber Sports shop. Just some tweaks we’re doing now, it’s the home stretch. Once it’s live, the hope is that DobberHockey will be ready within weeks and DobberProspects shortly after that. The re-launch is nigh!

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See you next Monday.