Florida Panthers Get Their Man, Bobrovsky Signs for Years

The worst kept secret of free agency may have been Sergei Bobrovsky signing in Florida. After Luongo’s retirement, the vacancy in net seemed destined to be “Goalie Bob’s” after a long and publicized recruiting process.

The Deal’s Details

The 30-year-old netminder joins the Florida Panthers on a seven year deal with a $10 million annual average value (AAV). This makes Sergei Bobrovsky the second highest paid goaltender behind Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens ($10.5 AAV). While it may not be ideal to have a goalie entering his 30’s with a double digit cap hit, they Panthers knew what it would take to sign the two-time Vezina Trophy winner.


Tweet courtesy of @ReporterChris of Sportsnet

New Era of Panthers Goaltending

The Panthers put it best themselves, this is a new era of Panthers goaltending. While they’ve had Roberto Luongo in net for the last few seasons, he’s been aging slowly and the signs of deteriorating play were there between injuries and declining numbers. This signing ensures that there will be a stable situation in the Panthers net for years to come.


Tweet courtesy of the @Flapanthers

The Panthers new netminder had an up-and-down year this past season with the knowledge that he was leaving, tensions rose at times within the Columbus Blue Jackets organization and the netminder. With that all but behind him, his focus will solely be on helping the Panthers to the promise land, winning the Stanley Cup.

His stats were slightly above league average last year with Columbus. With a save percentage of .913, he was slightly behind his career number of .919. The two years prior to last, Bobrovsky’s had a .921 and .931, the latter of which lead the NHL. His goals saved above replacement last year were a slight positive, as seen below, but with a stable situation he should be able to rebound back into the upper echelon.

Years 5-7 of the Contract

This is where the Panthers May end up regretting the decision to sign a 30-year-old goalie to a seven year deal. Bobrovsky will turn 35 in year five of the deal and his play will likely not warrant the $10 million salary that he will be receiving. This is also the time that his no-movement clause will end. This makes it possible for the Panthers to get out from under the goal keepers cap hit and salary.

This will also likely be around the time that 2019 first round draft pick Spencer Knight should be ready to fully take over in the Panthers crease. Likely to have spent at least a year as a back-up by this point, the Panthers could opt to keep Bobrovsky, depending on their salary cap situation, to mentor the young netminder.

Bobrovsky is a Panther!

The addition of an elite netminder to a solid group of players in Florida is a sign that the team may start to cause some havoc and consistently compete for playoff spots again. For this to truly happen it will take continued work by the Florida front office, bringing in talent on the blue line and up front. The majority of the foundation is there for Florida. They just need to continue adding to this roster to make them a perennial contender going forward.

For more the draft, prospects and the NHL in general you can follow me here at @TheTonyFerrari

All statistics and information courtesy of Hockey Reference, the NHL, Elite Prospects and Prospect Stats. Visual provided by Sean Tierney’s Public Tableau

Feature image credit Dinur Blum

Masterton Trophy: A Breakdown Of The Nominees

The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey.

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Each team selects one of their players who overcame adversity to contribute to their hockey club to the best of their capabilities. The award has often been a hallmark to the player on the team that saw an injury threaten their career, or perhaps a difficult circumstance in their personal life. Overall, this is one of those awards where it is just an honour to be nominated because of the tremendous respect that the nominee usually garners from their peers.

It is often very tough to weigh some nominees against each other. This is especially true considering that every team nominates a player. The Masterton Trophy nominees are thirty or thirty-one of the most compelling stories in hockey from that season. However, even though it is tough to weigh many of these nominees against each other, the award is narrowed down to three names ahead of Wednesday nights ceremony. Let’s explore the three names who ended up as nominees:

Nick Foligno, Forward, Columbus Blue Jackets

Although Nick Foligno’s story is fairly well-documented, the story of him, his family, and specifically his daughter Milana does elude some hockey fans. Shortly after Milana’s birth in October 2013, she underwent a surgery to repair a heart defect. The surgery was successful, but the nature of the condition will continue to present a decent amount of complications. This included a virus that Milana contracted over the fall which led to the surgical procedure on December 31st during this past season. Foligno took a leave-of-absence, but returned to action a few weeks later as Milana made a swift recovery.

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Foligno and his family have donated over $1 million to both Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus and Boston Children’s Hospital in Boston, both facilities credited with treating Milana over the years. Milana and the Foligno’s have had their obstacles over the years, and this year was just another bump in the road. The great news is that Milana recovered from her surgery, and by all accounts continues to enjoy a fairly normal childhood. Nick is a warrior for the Columbus Blue Jackets. While this year had it’s challenges for him, he was the leader for what ended up being the best season yet for the Jackets and their fans.

Robin Lehner, Goaltender, New York Islanders

Ah yes, Robin Lehner. The goaltender I always loved, but something about him seemed off. Watching him in Buffalo, he just seemed uneasy sometimes despite being a very talented goaltender. Then when the Buffalo Sabres chose to let Lehner walk as an unrestricted free agent rather than tender him a qualifying offer, I knew something was up. On July 3rd he signed a one-year deal with the New York Islanders.

I still didn’t quite get it. Then came his September 13th article on The Athletic. Lehner went into great detail about his struggles with anxiety, addiction, and depression. These battles were beginning to take over his life. Lehner talks about his suicidal thoughts, his meltdown during a game last season, the strain on his family and relationship, and his decision to seek out the NHLPA’s Substance Abuse Program for help. It really is one hell of a read. I remember reading on my way to work that day, and thinking that it was one of the most vulnerable and honest things I had ever read about a professional athlete.

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On top of this, Lehner went on to have the best season of his career this season, earning himself a Vezina Trophy nomination. He helped lead the Islanders to the season round of the playoffs in a year where nobody expected them to be a serious team. All told, Lehner’s story is really remarkable. Without Lehner’s decision to go to rehabilitation, it is hard to imagine he is where he is today.

Joe Thornton, Forward, San Jose Sharks

We all know Jumbo Joe. One of the best players of our generation, Joe Thornton is loved by most hockey fans. While he continues to age, Thornton’s hockey IQ allows him to be a very valuable asset well into his thirties. For the San Jose Sharks, his importance cannot be understated. In January 2018, Thornton injured both his ACL and MCL, and was forced to miss the rest of the 2017-18 season. His rehabilitation carried into the 2018-19 season, but Thornton was able to get back on the ice and produce at a consistent level.

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It is important to understand just how difficult the road back from an ACL surgery is for a professional hockey player. The basic recovery can last up to nine months, but re-establishing strength in the knee will be a lifelong project. Couple that with the fact that Thornton was 38-years-old at the time of the injury, Thornton’s return is incredibly impressive and speaks to the dedication level that Joe has been known for over his career.

Although his future with the Sharks remains up in the air, Thornton has elected to return to the NHL in 2019-2020. Eighteen months ago, there was some doubt how much longer he’d be able to go. Here we are, and Jumbo Joe is still here. Plus, he grew the beard back out. So all is well.

Predicting the Winner

There are a lot of great stories, and these are just a few of them. However, I expect Robin Lehner to take home the honours in Las Vegas on Wednesday night. Lehner’s story is something that helped further the discussion on mental health in professional athletes. His decision to take his struggles public will be admired and talked about for years. Not only is his story remarkable, it is also the fact that Lehner was able to dominant the game a lot of nights makes his turnaround almost unbelievable. A lot of fans knew that Lehner’s talent was always there, but now that his head is in the game, he is a force to be reckoned with.

A full list of the initial nominees can be found here.

All stats and information courtesy of Hockey Reference and The NHL.

Puck77

Top 10 Bounce Back Candidates for the 2019/20 NHL Season

Which players in line for a bounce back season?

Every season there is always a couple great players that have a bad season where you go, “What Happened??” (Looks at the career of Scott Gomez and cringes).

Now sometimes it is because of injury, some because of going to a new team and some just get old. Point is these players can’t always have perfect seasons unless you’re Nicklas Lidstrom and your nickname is the “Perfect Human.” So I am here today to give these players and you some optimism for some players that I think can have a bounce-back season!

For this list, I won’t be including Rookies, because they have just one season on record, or players over 35 because of the likelihood they bounce back is very low. Also will not include goalers because guessing what goalie is going to be “good and bad” from season to season is like trying to find Brad Marchand‘s tears on the ice after game 7. (Too soon?) Anyway let’s get into it

10. Ondrej Palat (28 y/o)

2018/19 Stats – 64 Games Played, 8 Goals, 26 Assists, 34 points, +4

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Remember the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2015 when they had that cute triplet line of Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat? It looked like all three would be the new cornerstones of the team. Since then the Lightning has seen Kucherov become a perennial candidate for the Art Ross Trophy, Johnson hasn’t had over 50 points since that 2015 season and Ondrej Palat just hasn’t been healthy. Over the last 3 seasons Palat has only played 195 possible games out of 246 and prior to that hasn’t played a”full season” since the 16/17 season when he only missed 7 games. I am choosing him as a bounce-back candidate because the Lightning are going to need him to step up with the possible shedding of players following the rapture that was the sweep in this year’s playoffs and the likelihood of Brayden Point sitting out looming because of a contract dispute. Palat will get every chance on Tampa to get back over 60 points only if he stays healthy.

9. Derick Brassard (31 y/o)

2018/19 Stats – 70 Games played, 14 G, 9 Assists, 23 Points, -19

When you get traded 2 times during one season usually that isn’t a good sign. A decent 3rd/ 2nd line center that can get you 40-50 points regularly Brassard had a rough time last year getting traded twice from the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Florida Panthers after only getting 15 points up to the trade, then finished his season with the Colorado Avalanche with a combined 8 points during his time with the Panthers and the Avs’. So safe to say he had a rough year. As a UFA this summer he could end up being a great addition for a team looking for center depth and could surprise a lot of people after what was one of the worst seasons of his career.

8. Ryan Getzlaf (34 y/o)

2018/19 Stats – 67 Games Played, 14 Goals, 34 Assists, 48 Points, -19

With only playing 67 games and 56 the season prior, combined with the team around him eroding quickly, the Anaheim Ducks Captain has been under some tough times. Being very close to my age cut off for players it made choosing Getzlaf a somewhat difficult choice but seeing now that he has a new head coach and a whole summer for him and his teammates to get healthy (The Ducks only had one player play the full 82 games last season) this could be a season that sees not only Getzlaf get high point totals but the Ducks team as a whole could rebound.

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7. Rickard Rakell (26 y/o)

2018/19 Stats – 69 Games Played, 18 Goals, 25 Assists, 43 Points, -13

This is the only time I will be putting two players from the same team on this but it had to be said. As one of my favorite players in the NHL, watching Rakell struggle with injuries and just look tired last season sucked for me as a fan. Maybe it was the factor a lot more stress was put on him with Getzlaf and Perry being out for major stretches of the season or even him dealing with his own injuries it just didn’t look like the Rakell I was used to seeing the last couple seasons and I believe with a strong healthy season out of him and his teammates he will be back over 60 points next season.

6. Alexander Wennberg (24 y/o)

2018/19 Stats – 75 Games Played, 2 Goals, 23 Assists, 25 Points, -1

Prior to the 2017/18 season, it looked like Wennberg was going to be a core member of the up and coming Jackets core having come off of 59 point season and had just signed a 6 year, 29 Million Dollar deal. This deal looked like a steal because he was going to get 60-70 points the rest of this contract and was going to be the 1st line center that they needed due to them trading Ryan Johansen for Seth Jones. Fast forward 2 seasons, 141 games, healthy scratches and only 60 points combined later it looks like a contract the Jackets want to get rid of. I believe that next season is a make or break season for Wennberg with the Jackets not signing Matt Duchene the 2nd line Center position is his to take. If he continues to struggle though he will find himself on another team pretty quick.

5. Max Pacioretty (30 y/o)

2018/19 Stats – 66 Games Played, 22 Goals, 18 Assists, 40 Points, -13

How quickly people forget a player’s struggles if they have a great playoff. During the playoffs having only played 7 games he scored 5 goals and 6 assists for 11 points and all was forgiven. I was one of those people until I looked at his point outputs the last 2 seasons. During his last season with the Montreal Canadiens, he had only 17 goals along with 37 points (a full 30 point drop from the season prior) and had only played 64 games. He was then traded to Vegas the following summer and was promptly signed to a 4 year 28 Million dollar (7 Mil Average) contract not even playing a game yet with the team. This season he got over 20 goals again but had only 40 points and was injured. He started to get going later on in the season having gotten used to his linemates (Was often Paul Stastny who was also injured)  and it looked good and thus lead up to his playoff performance. Now, this season lets see if he can put it all together and get back to his 35-40 goal self having had a full season in a new system and hopefully better injury luck.

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4. Drew Doughty (29 y/o)

2018/19 Stats – 82 Games Played, 8 Goals, 37 Assists, 45 Points, -34

Bet you thought I wasn’t going to do any defensemen! For most defenders, this stat line wouldn’t be terrible (Besides the +/-) but for Drew Doughty who is considered one of the best of his kind, this was not a great year for him or the Kings. Having only been a minus player twice in his career this -34 stat sticks out. The point totals were there but the play all around seemed to lack. For Doughty, it isn’t like he just forgot how to play hockey but his level of play was not of that of his Norris Caliber of a couple year ago. When Doughty plays like one of the best D’s in the league the Kings do well. And while it may be a long shot for the Kings to get back into playoff contention a Bounce back year from Doughty will bring them that much closer.

3. Jordan Eberle (29 y/o)

Season Stats 2018/19 – 78 Games Played, 19 Goals, 18 Assists, 37 Points, -6

If you’re Canadian you’ll remember Jordan Eberle’s run in the world Juniors 2009 where he was an absolute monster. (Go look up his highlights from then you won’t be disappointed) If you’re anybody else then you will remember him being a cog of a very broken Edmonton Oilers team that traded him after one bad playoff performance. Which was his only playoff experience considering the team hadn’t made the postseason since 2006. Flash forward to now and you have a player who just signed a 5-year deal after having a great playoff. Eberle can get you 25-30 goals and 50-60 points. Last season didn’t go well for him and I expect after signing a nice deal, having a great playoff (9 Points in 8 games) and having gotten used to playing under Barry Trots, Ebs’ will be back as one of the leading scorers on this New York Islanders squad.

2. William Nylander (23 y/o)

2018/19 Season Stats – 54 Games Played, 7 Goals, 20 Assists, 27 Points, -4

The most hated, evil Villain Toronto has ever seen. As a Toronto Maple Leafs fan who is on Twitter, I can say for certain that if you like the Leafs and you’re on Twitter you either A.) Hate Nylander and want him off the team B.) Really LOVE Nylander and will defend him till death. There is no middle ground on Twitter. In real life, I believe in Willy and think that having a summer of training with the Leafs, a training camp and preseason with the Leafs and starting the Season with…. the…. LEAFS…. will do him better than chilling in Switzerland wondering if he getting a contract till December and not playing or practicing with NHLers.

1. Jaden Schwartz (26 y/o)

2018/19 Season Stats – 69 Games played, 11 Goals, 25 assists, 36 points, -6

So you see those 11 goals he scored in 69 games up there? Yea he scored 12 in the playoffs on his way to winning the Stanley Cup and nobody says one thing about the season he had. I don’t blame them. When you’re an integral part of a team that won a Cup you don’t talk about the horrible season he had but heading into these playoffs that were the question. Prior to this season, you could have guaranteed that Schwartz would give you 55-60 points a season when healthy. During the 2017/18 season prior to getting hurt, he was on pace for a career year in points with 59 in 62 games and there was no reason to think he wouldn’t break it this season. In saying that all the Blues had very bad seasons prior to the beginning of January to it is safe to say with a Stanley Cup ring on his finger and a reinvigorated sense of accomplishment, Schwartz is one the main guys I  believe will have a huge comeback season.

 

 

 

Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago Blackhawks: Ryan Murray Trade Rumors

Per Scott Powers of The Athletic Chicago, the Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets have discussed a trade involving defenseman Ryan Murray.

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The 25-year-old left-handed blue liner posted a new career high in points this year with 29 (1 goal, 28 assists).

Murray is a restricted free agent this summer, so the Blackhawks could in fact try to offer sheet him if he does not end up signed by July 1st. Columbus is also rumored to want draft picks in return for Murray, as they currently only have two picks in this year’s draft.

Murray will turn 26 in September and can become an unrestricted free agent next season.

He’d Provide A Massive Boost For Chicago

The Blackhawks have also been rumored to be in the market for a top four defenseman. While Murray might be a bit of a fringe one, he still would certainly help. Murray is a well-rounded, two-way defenseman that can play on the power-play and on the penalty kill. He is also a smart passer and owns a pretty heavy shot.

The Blackhawks’ penalty kill ranked dead last in the league last season, so changes had to be made there. Murray and newly hired assistant coach, Marc Crawford, would both provide some support in those areas for next season.

Why Columbus Has Murray On The Block?

Murray has been most well-known for his injury issues throughout his career so far. The Columbus Blue Jackets might be ready to move on from him because of that. He has only played one full season in this career so far, and that was three years ago.

The Columbus Blue Jackets were able to sign Russian defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov back in April, which created a bit of a logjam on the left side. Markus Nutivaara was signed to a very friendly contract last year and emerged as a top four defenseman this past season. Not only that, but they also have Gabriel Carlsson coming up eventually as well.

Projected Pairings For The Blackhawks With Murray

Duncan KeithHenri Jokiharju

Ryan MurrayConnor Murphy

Erik GustafssonBrent Seabrook

If Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman acquires Murray, it’ll give the Blackhawks more options on defense. Murphy and Seabrook probably would interchange on the right side, while Murray and Gustafsson would do the same on the left side. There would be much more stability on both sides, and I think that is something that Bowman and company will looking to address this offseason.

Stats via NHL.com and hockey-reference.com

Featured Image Photo Credit – Nikos Michals

Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins: The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

The Boston Bruins Have Managed To Reach The National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Final In Great Shape. Now All They Need Is An Opponent. 

 

Forty days ago, nobody was talking about the Boston Bruins as a potential Stanley Cup finalist when the puck dropped to open the National Hockey League playoffs. Don’t tell me you took them. Anyone outside of Massachusetts was taking the Tampa Bay Lightning to dance its way with ease through the NHL’s Eastern Conference. If you don’t remember, dig out your bracket for a quick reminder. 

The Bruins swept away the storm surge out of Carolina, dodged the cannon balls shot out of Columbus and weathered their way through the falling Maple Leafs out of Toronto (ok, very hard to make a Maple Leaf sound threatening, but you get the idea). 

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Now the Bruins are in the midst of enjoying a welcome 11-day break before the Stanley Cup Finals kick-off in Boston on May 27th. For any team and player in the NHL to be granted a break of that magnitude in the middle of the combat know as the NHL playoffs is usually met with open arms and days of treatment on the trainers table. But with the Bruins, such a long layoff may not be their best-case scenario. 

Sweep And Be Swept

Prior to the Bruins four-game sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes, there had been three other sweeps in this year’s playoffs. 

The Columbus Blue Jackets, in what many are still calling the greatest playoff upset in NHL history, swept the Lightning in an awe-inspiring display by Sergei Bobrovsky and gang. Columbus was rewarded with nine days off before their next round against the Bruins. After taking a 2-1 series lead, reality set in for the Cinderella Jackets as they lost the next three games to be ousted in six by Boston. 

The New York Islanders made quick work of the Pittsburgh Penguins in their four-game sweep, needing just six days to dispatch of Sidney Crosby and his crew. This led the Islanders to enjoy 10 days off before meeting the Hurricanes in their second-round series. 

The Islanders did not respond very well to all that time off, as they scored only five goals in being handed four straight losses by the Hurricanes. And as we know, the Hurricanes never tasted victory again, going four-and-out in a series loss to the Bruins. 

The long-winded point being, while series sweeps seem to do the body and mind good in physical healing and mental resetting, it certainly does nothing for momentum and keeping the competitive edge. The Blue Jackets, in the heart of their in-playoff vacation, did a simulated game during a practice and opened the doors to their fans, as over 5,000 people attended the scrimage. It seemed to work initially, but to no avail in the end. 

Cool Your Heels

Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy is well aware of what such a long break can do for a team, both positive and negative. After giving the Bruins two days off after their series with the Hurricanes, Cassidy has slowly started to ramp things up. A 40-minute practice on Sunday, followed by a longer and more intense workout on Monday. But still, with six more days before the finals start, it could be a difficult road to navigate for the Bruins. 

It’s not as though the Bruins are banged up. Naturally, each player will have the aches, pains and bruises associated with three rounds of NHL playoffs. That’s a given. But on the whole, the Bruins line-up in great shape at this point all things considered. 

Bruins captain Zdeno Chara did miss the series-clinching finale against the Hurricanes with an undisclosed injury, but he has been a part of the last two on-ice sessions for the Bruins, and looks to be good to go for Game 1 of the final come Monday. 

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Winger Chris Wagner, who has played a vital role in these playoffs as part of an effective and interchangable fourth line along with Sean Kuraly, Noel Acciari, Joakim Nordstrom and Karson Kuhlman, is still “gonna be out for a while” according to Cassidy. Wagner blocked a shot in Game 3 against the Hurricanes and is nursing an injured right arm. He is doubtful for at least Game 1, and potentially the entire series. 

Defenceman Kevan Miller has missed the entire playoffs after suffering a lower-body injury a week before the regular season ended, and recently suffered a setback while rehabbing the ailment. He is not expected back again this season. But again, the Bruins depth has allowed them to weather his injury, with Steven Kampfer and John Moore filling in admirably in Miller’s absense. 

Advantage: Boston

One more thing to consider as we await a winner between the Western Conference finalists San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues. Another advantage the Bruins enjoy this year (and mostly every year for the Eastern Conference finalist) over their unknown Western Conference opponent is travel time. 

As it is for any professional athlete, the schedule and travel can take its toll after a long regular season and nearly six weeks of playoffs for an NHL player. West coast swings, four-games-in-seven-nights-on-the-road trips, in and out of customs all season, it becomes a grind and pretty much eliminates any semblance of a regular sleep pattern. It’s the same for all teams in hockey, but come playoff time the advantage swings decidedly to Eastern Conference clubs.

Since the playoffs have started, the Bruins have travelled 6700 miles, accounting for approximately 20 hours and 40 minutes in the air. 

Compare that to the Blues. In the same time frame, the Blues have amassed a whopping 14,904 miles, leading to just over 37.5 hours in the air. 

It’s even higher for the Sharks, who to this point have travelled 15,532.8 miles in less than six weeks of playoff time. If their series goes seven games, add another 4164.8 miles and 8.5 hours in the air to each team. That’s a load of frequent flyer points.

The games are played on the ice, no question. But any advantage the body can obtain over an opponent is approved at this time of year. Less travel equates to less grind and wear-and-tear. It’s simply one of the advantages the Bruins will enjoy in less than a week’s time. 

Follow me on Twitter @cbradly2928

Statistics provided by hockey-reference and theScore

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals