Chicago Blackhawks: Will they stay or will they go?

I know, I know a bad reference to a song, but which UFA’s and RFA’s will be back?

This is the biggest offseason in a while for the Chicago Blackhawks and they have money to spend in free agency but first they have to bring a few players back. Let’s starts off with the UFA’s.

UFA’s:

Marcus Kruger

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Marcus Kruger is known as penalty killer, faceoff master and a great defensive center. Last year, Kruger couldn’t find a role under Jeremy Colliton. He recorded four goals and eight assists in 74 games. Despite being a defensive forward, Kruger recorded his lowest Corsi for percentage (47.6) and a disastrous 35.2 xGF% (expected goals for percentage). If you want to learn more about advanced analytics I have an article on that. Not to mention he struggled at the faceoff dot (48.1%). Kruger had a down year by his standards and he is going to be turning 30 years old. I think that makes the Blackhawks decision easy and they don’t re-sign him.

Chris Kunitz

Chris Kunitz was brought in last year as a bottom six forward and as a mentor. While he was a great mentor to the younger guys (Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, Henri Jokiharju and etc.) he wasn’t a very effective on the ice. He only recorded five goals and five assists in 56 games. In the season prior, Kunitz produced 13 goals and 16 assists in 82 games and was probably expected to put up similar numbers. With Kunitz turning 40 years old in a months I don’t see the Blackhawks re-signing him.

Cam Ward

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Cam Ward did his job last season. He was brought in to be a backup and to fill in for Corey Crawford if he got injured. In 29 games last season, Ward had a 16-12-4 record. He also had a .897 save percentage, 3.67 goals against average and a -14.68 goals saved above average. While those stats don’t look great the Blackhawks defense was bad last year. He kept them in games multiple times. He also helped Blackhawks goaltending prospect Collin Delia throughout the year. With, Ward, turning 35 years old this year and Collin Delia taking over the backup spot, I don’t see Ward coming back.

Andreas Martinsen

Andreas Martinsen is a forward who has something most ‘Hawks forwards don’t possess. Size and physicality. He is 6’3″ and 230 pounds. Martinsen was sixth on the Blackhawks in hits last year with 83 hits and only played in 24 games. He is a black hole offensively, only recording a goal and three assists this year. I could see Martinsen coming back for cheap because he provides that physicality that the Blackhawks lack.

RFA’s:

Victor Ejdsell

Victor Ejdsell is a 24 year old center/winger. He was supposed to be a part of the Blackhawks future but elected to return to Sweden after a disappointing 2018-2019 campaign with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs. He recorded 12 goals and 17 assists in 61 AHL games last year. By many, he was projected to be in the NHL this year. Ejdsell is expected be qualified in case he ever comes back.

Brendan Perlini

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Brendan Perlini is a 23 year old winger. According to Scott Powers of The Athletic the Blackhawks have already sent a qualifying offer to Perlini. Perlini is a former 12th overall pick from 2014. He’s inconsistent but when his scoring is on it is on. He has a great shot, decent offensive skill and good size at 6’3″. He struggles with his consistency, work ethic and speed. After scoring 12 goals for the Blackhawks I see him coming back.

John Quenneville

John Quenneville is also a 23 year old winger taken in the first round of the 2014 draft. He is also expected to receive a qualifying offer. And yes (John) Quenneville is a cousin to former Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville. Quenneville, has shown extreme offense skill and has produced in both the AHL and WHL, but has struggled to score at the NHL level. With Bowman, saying he is going to re-sign (John) Quenneville I fully expect him to come to Chicago.

David Kämpf

David Kämpf is a 24 year old Czech center. He posted 4 goals and 15 assists in 63 games with Chicago last year. Kämpf had 31 takeaways and six giveaways last year as well. He played a lot on the penalty kill and was a great two-way forward in the bottom six. He has arbitration rights, but I expect him to be back as Jeremy Colliton played him on the second line before.

Dylan Sikura

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The Canadian center, just turned 24 years old. He posted eight assists in 33 games. Despite, not being the offensive dynamo Dylan Sikura was expected to be, he has been an excellent two-way forward. In those 33 games, Sikura, posted a 54.55 xGF% and added 23 takeaways to seven giveaways. Sikura has gotten very unlucky and I expect him to be back.

Luke Johnson

The 24 year old American center put up an assist with the Blackhawks through 15 games last season. Luke Johnson is more of a defensive forward. He had 31 hits last season, but also posted an atrocious 35.71 xGF%. I do expect him to be back as he produced offensively in Rockford.

Anthony Louis

Anthony Louis is 24 year old American center. He is an Illinois native and is also listed at 5’7″. This past season he scored 12 goals and assisted on 22 more in 74 games. He was not tendered and isn’t expected to get an offer from the Blackhawks.

Spencer Watson

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The 23 year old Canadian winger didn’t receive a qualifying offer from the Chicago Blackhawks. After a disappointing season in Rockford recording one goal and two assists in 10 games it isn’t surprising to see Spencer Watson not get a qualifying offer. I wouldn’t expect him to re-sign

Blake Hillman

Blake Hillman, a 23 year old American left-handed defenseman, spent his season with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs. While Hillman has been known as a defensive defenseman he struggled to put up points. He only scored one goal and had three assists in 54 AHL games. He didn’t get a qualifying offer and isn’t expected to return to Chicago.

stats from: Elite Prospects, Hockey-Reference, Natural Stattrick and Corsica

cap info from: CapFriendly

Feature Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons and Hendrik Seis

New Jersey Devils

New Jersey Devils: Acquire P.K. Subban

The New Jersey Devils made the biggest splash on the Draft Floor when they acquired P.K. Subban from the Nashville Predators for a package of draft picks and Steven Santini and Jeremy Davies.

 

Devils Take

While it is difficult to gauge the results of the trade right away, it is fun to speculate as to how this plays out. Firstly, P.K. Subban is an upgrade on most blue-lines. He is a talented puck mover with a hard point shot and excellent skating ability. While his defense is less than stellar, he is no slouch, and he adds scoring potential and bolsters a team’s power play. Coming off his worst statistical season, Subban’s play led the Predators to sell low on the former Norris Trophy Winner. The Devils are hoping that Subban can return to form and justify the $9M per year price tag.

A realistic expectation for New Jersey fans would be to get 50 to 55 points from Subban, and he could eat up 22 to 24 minutes a night, while manning the top power play. 

For the return they sent back, Devils General Manager Ray Shero and the team came out ahead in this trade.

Grade: B+

Predators Take

As the rumors of the lower than expected salary cap became more realistic, the idea of a P.K. Subban trade was evident. The Nashville Predators had ~$77M in team salary committed to next season, with a few glaring holes to fill. They have been rumored to be one of the leading clubs to land Unrstricted Free Agent Matt Duchene. Assuming Dante Fabro makes the leap to full-time NHLer, he will likely slot in the top 4, which leaves Santini to fill in the bottom pair.

I think the two 2nd round picks are an underwhelming return, getting Davies in the deal was a bit of a sweetener. He is a talented offensive defenseman that just signed his Entry Level Contract. Playing at Northeastern University, he netted eight goals and 28 assists in 37 games. He will likely join the Milwaukee Admirals next season, Nashville’s American Hockey League affiliate, and make a worthwhile extra defenseman, if injury forces the situation.

Grade: C

Summary

Overall, I think this was a pretty good hockey trade that was dictated from a Devils position of strength. Any other year, this would have been a horrifying trade for the Predators, but their cap situation and a down year by Subban forced Nashville General Manager Dave Poille’s hand.

Statistics provided by TSN

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs: Garret Sparks on the Trade Block

Sparks are about to fly! But to where?

The 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs have come to a conclusion and with no time wasted it’s already noted that the General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Kyle Dubas, already has his phone to his ear in an effort to move back-up goaltender, Garret Sparks.

Sparks, at 25, is still relatively young and could fetch a fairly decent return for Dubas considering his successes and albeit his recent performance in the National Hockey League.

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Garret put up a measly .903 save percentage, with a 3.15 goals against average, and an underwhelming 8-9-1 record in 20 games just this past season with the Maple Leafs.

Underwhelming indeed, especially when you look at just a season prior, where in 2018 he helped the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies win the Calder Cup as league champions, and also win the Baz Bastien Award serving as the best goaltender of the year. Maybe that’s why Dubas decided to give Sparks a one-year contract extension back in March of 2019?

Perhaps Dubas was hoping Garret would bounce back and inked him to ensure the backup role to top Maple Leafs goaltender, Frederik Andersen. Unfortunately that bounce back never happened, as Sparks ended up losing eight of his last 11 starts with the Maple Leafs. Two of those last starts included losses to the dead-last Ottawa Senators where Sparks let in a combined nine goals. This ultimately led to the change of heart from Maple Leafs management.

Sparks is still young, has success under his belt, and comes in only at a cheap salary cap hit of $750,000 per season. This should be enough to entice a team to take a chance on him regardless of the dreadful 2019 season, but the questions for now remain to where and for what?

Statistics provided by hockey-reference

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning: Awful Trades and A Slow Off-Season

Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois has not impressed anyone yet. Since taking over a star-studded team built by former GM Steve Yzerman, BriseBois decided not to add at the trade deadline.

 

His team, regardless of that, had an historic season. Or should I say, Yzerman’s team did, because BriseBois only added Jan Rutta, who played 14 games in blue and white. He also called up Cameron Gaunce, who stepped in for two games.

Then, with forward Brayden Point waiting for a contract as a Restricted Free Agent, BriseBois tests everyone’s patience by first extending Rutta, and then trading a bright, young, and talented goaltending prospect in Connor Ingram for a bucket of pucks. I mean a seventh round pick, in a draft three years from now, ultimately has the same value as a bucket of pucks. But at least you can get the pucks immediately and not wait three years for them. You’re welcome Nashville.

 

Why Is The Ingram Trade Bad?

First off, Ingram is a prospect, and the best in the Lightning system for his position. That alone should be reason enough for him to warrant a hell of a lot more than a seventh round pick in 2021. But there’s a lot more than meets the eye, so a deeper dive should do the trick.

 

Who Is Connor Ingram?

Ingram is a 22 year old goalie, who was drafted in the third round (88th overall) in 2016, where he was ranked as a top-10 goalie (and the eighth off the board).

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After being drafted, he returned to the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League, where he had played for the previous two seasons. In 45 games, he posted a 2.44 goals against average (GAA) and a .927 save percentage (SV%). Then, in six postseason games, he was magnificent, with a 2.18 GAA and .946 SV%.

The following season, he began with the Lightning’s ECHL affiliate at the time, the Adirondack Thunder, where he quickly proved he was too good to be there. With a 1.30 GAA and .960 SV% in three games, he was called up to the Lightning’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch. There, he stepped into a big role, starting 35 games and posting a 2.33 GAA and .914 SV%.

Ingram started this season once again with Syracuse. But then, out of the blue, his playing time was rolled back. Despite being in the AHL all-star game this past season for his stellar season with the Crunch, he was sent to the new ECHL affiliate, the Orlando Solar Bears, after 22 games.

In those said 22 games, Ingram had a solid 2.26 GAA and .922 SV%. He was beginning to show why he was worthy of being a third-round selection (about where top goalies tend to get selected). That’s when things fell apart. According to personal sources, there was a dispute between Ingram and Lightning management, though it is unclear what exactly the disputes were about at this time. He did not play well in the 13 regular season ECHL games that followed (2.81 GAA, .914 SV%), but did play up to expectations in the playoffs (10 games, 1.94 GAA, .935 SV%), before ultimately falling short and getting knocked out of the playoffs.

 

In Conclusion

His frustrations were clear in his struggles at a low-level of hockey, and he reportedly requested a trade when he initially was sent down to the ECHL.

Just like with the Jonathan Drouin situation however, Ingram went back to his true on-ice self in the playoffs, and the problems seemingly, were no longer problems anymore. But at least the Lightning were able to snag Mikhail Sergachev for Drouin. Granted, Drouin had a lot more value than Ingram does, but the Lightning could have easily gotten more. At least get a third round pick back for him, or even a B-level prospect. But instead, in essence, a bucket of pucks that will get delivered in 2021.

 

All stats via Elite Prospects

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

Toronto Maple Leafs

Patric Sandin: The Toronto Maple Leafs Draft Dad Interview

We all wonder how a prospect feels on draft day. Did they get any sleep? Did they eat? Do they have an idea of who is interested in drafting them? What we never ask is how the parents are doing. How were they feeling? What was their son’s draft day like?

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Prospects and draft picks get all the attention on draft day, rightfully so. Who gets them there though? How do they feel about the process and day of the draft? Luckily enough, we were able to talk to Patric Sandin, the father of Toronto Maples Leafs 2018 first round pick Rasmus Sandin. With Fathers Day and the 2019 NHL Entry Draft all coming up very shortly, Patric Sandin was able to give us a few minutes of his time just before the Toronto Marlies conference finals series.

Patric Sandin, Hockey Dad

Tony Ferrari: Thank you for taking the time do do this with me today!

Patric Sandin: No problem!

TF: At what age did you realize that Rasmus was going to be a special player? 

PS: He was really early with everything, reading, speaking, cycling and in all sports. But I think I saw him as a special player when he was 13-14 years. Especially in the biggest hockey tournament in Sweden called TV-pucken. He was really good and was contributing big time when his team won the gold. 

TF: Rasmus has handled the pressure of the Toronto market well. He’s a smart young man and has shown that in the media. What was Rasmus’ personality like as a young child? 

PS: He was really outgoing and mature. He was always in the middle no matter if it was with older people or in his own age. He is the kindest person you’ll ever meet but if you do him wrong he will tell you.

TF: Smart man. Do you have a memory of Rasmus’ childhood that sticks out? Hockey or non hockey related? 

PS: One of many memorys is when I saw him on a bicycle for the first time. I was sitting in my livingroom and relaxed when I saw something coming down from a quite big slope. It was Rasmus four years old on his mothers bike doing like 30 km/h!

TF: That’s almost faster than I can ride now!

PS: It was crazy!

TF: Walk me through your day on the day Rasmus was drafted. What did you do while you waited? Did you speak with Kyle Dubas at all? 

PS: It was some intense and hot days in Dallas with meetings and everything. But on the draft day everything was chill. My family and agents were just waiting for the night. Nice breakfast and a powerwalk, then lunch out in the city. Then the nerves beginning to come. We met Rasmus who had some last minute meetings. He was cool as always. When we came to the arena (American Airlines Center) we began to realize what was gonna happen. One of our family’s biggest moment.

During the draft I saw for the first time that Rasmus was a little tense. I can’t blame him. Name after name was called. I had a strong belief in Toronto and I was really hoping for the Leafs. Then it was #29 pick and the TV and Media started to approach Rasmus. The pulse started to rush.

My feelings can’t be described when they called Rasmus name. It was a moment I never forget. 

After everything happened so fast. We met Mr. Dubas and Mr. Babcock after the draft, and we also met the whole Toronto management the day after when they had a reception. It was really cool to sit down with Coach Babcock for a beer. Really great people in the organization. 

TF: That sounds like a day of excitement and nerves all mixed in one. Did you or Rasmus have a favourite NHL team as he was growing up? 

PS: Toronto with Borje Salming was my favourite. I don’t know about Rasmus but I think it was Toronto for him too.

TF: I know you have another son, Linus, who is making his way with HV71 next season. Did the two boys compete with each other or were they supportive of each other? A mixture of both? 

PS: Linus always helped Rasmus and Rasmus was always allowed to play with the older boys. They are supertight and talks on the phone almost every day.

TF: As a father to two professional hockey players, what is the most important thing you taught your sons? 

PS: Always give 100%. Always be a good friend.

TF: Rasmus has impressed thus far with the Toronto Marlies. He is exceeding expectations and the fanbase is beginning to get excited about his arrival with the Leafs in the next year or so. What is going to be your first thought when he calls and tells you that Kyle Dubas has called him up to the Leafs? 

PS: I have to go book my flight to Toronto directly!

TF: The season and production that Rasmus has put up this year with the Marlies has made him the highest scoring 18-year-old defender in AHL history. Has that set in for you or him? 

 PS: No I don’t think so. Maybe after the season it will.

TF: Have you attended any of Rasmus’ games here in Toronto? If so, what was that experience like? 

PS: We went to Toronto in november and watched some Marlies game. It was really nice. Love Toronto. We also went to a Raptors game also. Nice game yesterday with the last second from Kawhi. (The “Kawhi Shot” just happened the day before we spoke initially).

TF: Finally, if your children were reading this and you could give them one piece of Fatherly advice, what would it be? 

PS: Be good and treat people like you want to be treated. 

As you can see, the day of the draft and everything leading up and after are almost as nerve wracking for fathers as it is their sons. The path the professional hockey is a long and extremely hard it’s to take. Not everyone makes it there. Some don’t make it to the NHL. It’s a journey that is made so much easier by loving family, friends and a father who does everything in his power to make sure their child doesn’t hurt themselves riding a bike down a hill at 30km/h. Patric Sandin is one of many examples of a father doing his best to push their son to their peak and letting him grow into a mature young man looking to carve his career out on the ice of a National Hockey League arena.

Special Thank you to Patric Sandin for giving me your time! You were outstanding!