Monday, September 28, 2020

NHL Trade Review: Blackhawks and Golden Knights make minor swap


       The Chicago Blackhawks have acquired F Brandon Pirri from the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for F Dylan Sikura.

       Throughout his career, Pirri has always been a player who just couldn't stay as a regular for a team. That was true with his first team, which was, well, the Chicago Blackhawks. A 2009 2nd rounder, Pirri played in 35 games over parts of four seasons for Chicago, including one game in the championship 2012-13 season. Right as he started to get a chance with the Blackhawks, he was traded to the Panthers, and in 2014-15 he put up one of the weirdest stat lines in NHL history, scoring 22 goals in 49 games, but recording just two assists. He has bounced from team-to-team since, and has appeared in games over the past three seasons for Vegas. His Golden Knights career started off strong, with 15 goals in 33 games, but he couldn't score in his stint this year. Pirri has proven that he can score at the NHL level, as he has averaged about 21 goals per 82 games in his career. He also has gaudy AHL numbers, with 230 points in 226 games dating back to 2012-13. If he plays for the Blackhawks AHL affiliate, he will add to his 200 career points in Rockford, the most ever for an IceHog. Sikura is like Pirri, as he has had success at the AHL level (although it doesn't match Pirri's numbers) but hasn't stuck around with the NHL club. However, he is still young but hasn't shown that he can score in the NHL yet.

        Pirri, 29, had two points, both assists, in 16 games for the Golden Knights this past season. He also had 15 goals with 20 assists for 35 points in 38 AHL games. In his NHL career for the Golden Knights, Blackhawks, Florida Panthers, New York Rangers and Anaheim Ducks, Pirri has 72 goals with 49 assists for 121 points in 275 games.

       Even though the Golden Knights wouldn't give Pirri a chance, they might give Sikura a look. While Pirri is more of a goal scorer, Sikura is a playmaker. He dominated at Northeastern University before making the jump to the NHL in 2017-18. He hasn't been able to prove that he's an NHL player, and his big shot came in 2018-19, when he appeared in 33 games. But, he had just points, all assists. The Blackhawks, a team that has often had weak depth, is a team that is much easier to crack than the stacked Golden Knights, so the Ontario native will face a bigger challenge.

        Sikura, 25, scored one goal with two assists for three points in nine games for the Blackhawks this year and 14 goals with 19 assists for 33 points in 45 AHL games. In his NHL career, all in Chicago, Sikura has one goal with 3 assists for 14 points in 47 games. 

Saturday, September 26, 2020

NHL Trade Review: Red Wings get Staal in a salary dump


       The Detroit Red Wings have acquired defenseman Marc Staal and a 2021 second round pick from the New York Rangers in exchange for future considerations. 

       Even though Ryan Strome and Tony DeAngelo are RFAs, the Rangers aren't in a terrible cap situation.  But, after this trade, they are able to clear up $5.7 million in cap space. While they give up a second round pick, it isn't that bad compared to last year's Patrick Marleau trade, when the Hurricanes got a first rounder for taking on Marleau's $6 million cap hit. After this trade, the Rangers have just over $20 million in cap space. They could possibly fit in a top free agent, plus Henrik Lundqvist's $8.5 million cap hit is coming off the books after this next season. Having two first round picks this year, including the first overall pick, and eight overall picks next year will ease the pain of losing the second rounder. Staal has been with the Rangers since he was a first round draft pick in 2005, and nearly played in 900 games for them. The veteran will be missed in the locker room, although his play has diminished over the years. 

       The Red Wings have been busy today, signing both Sam Gagner and Turner Elson to deals and now making this trade. Even after the deal, they are still around $6 million under the cap floor, although they will easily get over with Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi and more becoming RFAs. The Wings could decide to buyout Staal, but with veteran defensemen Trevor Daley and Jonathan Ericsson all but officially gone, they could use Staal's leadership on the blue line. Getting a second round pick for a cap hit of $5.7 million for one year is not a bad idea for the Red Wings.

       Staal, 33, scored two goals with nine assists for 11 points in 52 games for the Rangers this past season. In his NHL career, all in New York, Staal has 43 goals with 145 assists for 188 points in 892 games. 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

NHL Trade Review: Panthers acquire Hornqvist

from Getty Images
from Getty Images

       The Florida Panthers have acquired F Patric Hornqvist from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for D Mike Matheson and F Colton Sceviour. 

        Right when this trade was originally announced as a possibility yesterday, before Sceviour was reported to be a part of it, the hockey world collectively felt confusion. Hornqvist might not be the player he once was, and his contract situation may not be ideal for the cap-strapped Penguins, but Matheson is on a worse deal, and even at his age, he is not a good player. In the second year of an eight year deal with an AAV of $4.875 million, Matheson played poorly in the return to play, and that is an understatement. In one exhibition game in late July against Tampa Bay, Matheson was on the ice for all five goals against in a 5-0 loss. And in the play-in round vs the Islanders, Matheson had eight penalty minutes in the first two games, before coach Joel Quenneville had enough, benching Matheson for Florida's last two games of the season. Not being able to play for a borderline playoff team and the six years remaining on his contract are both major red flags for the Penguins, but they are blowing right past them. While the plus/minus stat is flawed, Matheson is a -30 in his career, and in 2018-19, was a -24. While he is a good skater and scored 10 goals in 2017-18, Matheson just is not a valuable player to acquire in a trade, especially when the Penguins give up a quality player in Hornqvist. Sceviour isn't much an addition to this deal, either. With one more year left on his contract and a $1.2 million cap hit, Sceviour profiles as a right handed shot, bottom-six winger. Scoring double-digit goals just twice in his career, Sceviour will take Hornqvist's right wing spot, but move down a few lines. New addition Kasperi Kapanen will be asked to step up after this trade.

       Matheson, 26, scored eight goals with 12 assists for 20 points in 59 games for the Panthers this past season. In his NHL career, all in Florida, Matheson has 33 goals with 58 assists for 91 points in 299 games. 

       Sceviour, 31, scored six goals with 10 assists for 16 points in 69 games for the Panthers in 2019-20. In his NHL career for the Panthers and Dallas Stars, Sceviour has 59 goals with 82 assists for 141 points in 454 games. 

       This is a great trade for the Panthers. Not only do they unload Matheson's contract, they did it by not retaining any money, not giving away a "sweetener", and getting a quality player back in return. Plus, by adding in Sceviour, they actually saved over $700k in cap space. Hornqvist isn't on the best deal right now; he has three years left with an AAV of $5.3 million. But, he is still a great net-front presence who has won two Stanley Cups and scored at least 20 goals in eight different seasons. While he hasn't accomplished that feat since 2017-18, and is frequently injured, Hornqvist is a good addition to the team. After six seasons in Pittsburgh, this is a disappointing end to the era. 

       Hornqvist, 33, scored 17 goals with 15 assists for 32 points in 59 games for the Penguins this past season. In his NHL career for the Penguins and Nashville Predators, Hornqvist has 238 goals with 242 assists for 480 points in 770 games.


Wednesday, September 16, 2020

NHL Trade Review: Wild and Sabres swap Staal and Johansson


       The Buffalo Sabres have acquired forward Eric Staal from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for forward Marcus Johansson. 

       For about the 50th year in a row, the Sabres are not a great team. Next year's roster will be drastically different from the 2019-20 squad, as only 10 players are signed for next year, Of those ten, two (Rasmus Dahlin and Henri Jokijarju) are on entry level deals, and two players combining for $15 million of cap space (Jeff Skinner and Kyle Okposo) scored 23 goals in total this past season. The Sabres, who will have eight RFAs this offseason, lack center depth, and Staal is an improvement. He can easily slide behind Jack Eichel and be Buffalo's second line center. With a $3.25 million cap hit and one more year left on his contract, Staal can be dealt at the trade deadline if he performs well, or even if he doesn't perform well with his new team. A former captain in Carolina, Staal was a teammate of Jeff Skinner, although the Sabres would want to keep Skinner with Eichel, and not move him down. In return, the Sabres give up Johansson, who played center for them but is best suited as a winger. Even at his age, Staal is an improvement, and he takes up less cap space. He had a 50.3% face-off percentage over his time in Minnesota, while Johansson had a 40.1% mark in 2019-20. 

        Staal, 35, scored 19 goals with 28 assists for 47 points in 66 games for the Wild this past season. In his NHL career for the Wild, Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers, Staal has 436 goals with 585 assists for 1021 points in 1240 games. He has received Lady Byng votes six times and Selke votes seven times. 

        Johansson is a big injury risk, with a higher cap hit than Staal, and his peak hasn't been much better than Staal's average season. So, this deal is a head scratcher for Minnesota. Both are solid defensive players, but Johansson is an above average defender for a winger, but at center that doesn't hold up as well. He has only scored at least 20 goals twice, last in 2016-17. And, his 60 games this past season was his most since that year. If both Staal and Johansson were dealt for prospects and draft picks, Staal would get the better return. It is understandable if Johansson had more term on his contract, but he has one year left with a $4.5 million cap hit.

       Johansson, 29, scored nine goals with 21 assists for 30 points in 60 games for the Sabres this past season. In his NHL career for the Sabres, Washington Capitals, New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins, Johansson has 129 goals with 235 assists for 364 points in 648 games.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

NHL Trade Review: Canadiens get Edmundson


       The Montreal Canadiens have acquired defenseman Joel Edmundson from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for a 2020 5th round pick. 

       The Canadiens need help on the left side of their defense, with Ben Chiarot, Victor Mete and Brett Kulak being their most prominent players on that side last year. Now, they acquire Edmundson, who is a pending UFA, but they get his rights. Most players do sign with a team after their rights are traded, and I would be surprised if Edmundson doesn't end up a Canadien. In his five year career, Edmundson has played over 60 games in each season, but has never reached 70. If the 2020-21 season is more than 70 games, then a healthy Edmundson should reach it for the first time. A 2019 Stanley Cup champion, he is definitely an improvement.

        Edmundson, 27, scored seven goals with 13 assists for 20 points in 68 games with the Hurricanes this year. In his NHL career for the Hurricanes and St. Louis Blues, Edmundson has 20 goals with 52 assists for 72 points in 337 games. 

        The Hurricanes have a bunch of defensemen, and they have five d-men signed for next year with a cap hit of at least $4 million. Three of them (Jaccob Slavin, Brady Skjei and Jake Gardiner) are left-handers, with another lefty, Hadyn Fleury, becoming an RFA. Edmundson didn't fit in, especially since he was going to leave as a free agent. The Canes get a fifth rounder back, and it would have been conditional normally, but the new CBA means that picks can not have a condition based on a player signing with a team, so the pick is automatically going to Carolina. 

Friday, September 11, 2020

NHL Trade Review: Wild acquire Bjugstad


       The Minnesota Wild have acquired F Nick Bjugstad from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for a conditional 2021 7th round pick. 

      The Penguins had just under $6.95 million in projected cap space prior to this trade, with Justin Schultz and Conor Sheary pending UFAs, and Matt Murray, Tristan Jarry, Dominik Simon and Jared McCann becoming RFAs. While one of the two goalies could be dealt, the Penguins are once again dealing with cap issues. This trade helps that, as Bjugstad has one more year left on his contract, with a $4.1 million cap hit. Bjugstad was born in Minneapolis, and he could be a success gamble for the Wild. A 2010 first rounder, Bjugstad had 49 points as recent as 2017-18, although he was traded the next season to Pittsburgh, and cannot stay healthy. Lower body injuries led to multiple surgeries, and just 13 games played, none of which came in the playoffs. 

        For the Wild, this is definitely a worthy trade, as a conditional 7th round pick is next to nothing. While a $4.1 million cap hit is hefty, it is only for one season, and the team has a bunch of cap space without many key players needing new deals. He can play both center and wing, and he has multiple connections to Minnesota. Not only was he born in the state, his uncle Scott played in parts of five seasons for the Minnesota North Stars, and he scored 43 goals in 1985-86. 

       Bjugstad, 28, scored one goal with one assist for two points in 13 games for the Penguins this past season. In his NHL career for the Penguins and Florida Panthers, Bjugstad has scored 97 goals with 110 assists for 207 points in 439 games.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

NHL Trade Review: Canadiens acquire Allen


       The Montreal Canadiens have acquired G Jake Allen and a 2022 7th round pick from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for a 2020 third round pick and a 2020 7th round pick. 

       The Canadiens really need a backup goalie, as Carey Price started 58 of the 71 games that the Canadiens played, and 11 of those 71 were started by Keith Kinkaid and Charlie Lindgren, who each posted save percentages well under .900. The other two were started by Cayden Prime, and while the 21 year old could be the goalie of the future, he is not completely NHL ready. Allen is a big get, as while he has been inconsistent, he is a veteran who won the Stanley Cup (albeit as a backup) last year. Allen's $4.35 million cap hit brings the total cap space occupied by goaltenders up to $15 million in Montreal, but Allen is a free agent after the 2020-21 season. While Max Domi being an RFA is concerning cap wise, the Habs could trade him for a defenseman, an area of need for them. This trade is good considering that the third rounder was originally Washington's, acquired this past deadline for Ilya Kovalchuk, who was disappointing in the Capitals' playoff run. 

       Allen, 30, had a .927 SV% with a 2.15 GAA and two shutouts in 24 games for the Blues in 2019-20. In his NHL career, all in St. Louis, Allen has a .913 SV% with a 2.50 GAA and 21 shutouts in 289 games. 

       For the Blues, they are still over the salary cap, even after unloading Allen. Jordan Binnington came back to Earth this year, and their next best backup goalie option is Ville Husso, who has zero games of NHL experience and a .909 save percentage in the AHL this past season. While Vladmir Tarasenko could go on LTIR, the Blues look very likely to lose captain Alex Pietrangelo in free agency. This trade helps, but opens up a big hole in net.