Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning: Is There A Blockbuster Trade Ahead?

Could the Tampa Bay Lightning and Vancouver Canucks pull off a blockbuster trade? 

Fellow Puck77 contributor Niels Nielsen (great name by the way) put out an article regarding moves that the Canucks can make to speed up their rebuild out in Vancouver. One of the trades included in his article was a deal involving the Tampa Bay Lightning, so I decided to break it down.

 

What Was The Deal?

Here’s who went where in that mock trade.

 

To Tampa: Alex Biega, Olli Juolevi, Jake Virtanen, and a 2020 2nd round pick

To Vancouver: Mikhail Sergachev, Ryan Callahan, and Tyler Johnson

 

From Vancouver’s perspective, they get an immediate top 4 defenseman with high upside in Sergachev, whose contract expires next season, a top 6 forward who can play either wings or in the middle in Johnson, and a veteran 4th liner and expert penalty killer, who’s overpaid, but expiring soon, in Callahan. In Tampa’s perspective, they add a cheap depth defenseman who I’ve been high on recently in Biega, a once highly touted prospect who still has plenty of upside and could step into a bottom 2 role immediately in Juolevi, a bottom 6 winger with potential to play in the top 6 if used right in Virtanen and a future early second round pick in a very talented draft next season. But we need to dive deeper into why these pieces would realistically make sense to be moved.

Why Move Sergachev, Johnson and Callahan?

I don’t want Sergachev to go anywhere, he has so much upside and so much talent right now, that I would rather keep him around. But, he expires next season, along with Anthony Cirelli, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Erik Cernak, just to name the more vital players. Sergachev played bottom pair minutes through most of last season, and on some occasions played on the first pair with Hedman. But he was ultimately jumped on the line-up by Cernak, a guy who was originally supposed to be a temporary helper for injuries. Sergachev’s defensive zone play is a concern and his consistency is not there yet. He could still cost a decent chunk, especially if he fixes his play on defense, which Tampa may not be able to afford. So, get something for him now if the Lightning doubt they can get him next off-season. Logically, that’s not an unrealistic idea, and with Julien BriseBois at the helm, and not the guy who traded for Sergachev (Steve Yzerman), there’s a chance it really could happen. As for Johnson, he is overpaid for a middle 6 role in Tampa, but if moved to Vancouver, can fulfill his payroll of $5M per season. Shedding that much cap alone would be a great move, in my eyes, and it makes sense, as Johnson’s name has been thrown around in trade suggestions due to his high cap hit. As for Callahan, he is egregiously overpaid, and sat in the pressbox for a large chunk of the Lightning season, barely cracking the roster due to injuries. If the Lightning can avoid a buyout and trade his rights, that alone would be a huge win for BriseBois. If he can package Johnson and Callahan in a trade, that’s an even bigger win. But like with everything, there’s always loss before gain. That loss is Sergachev. However, with all three contracts together, the Lightning are losing $11.694M, roughly. That puts their total cap space from $8.577M to $20.271M

Why Biega, Juolevi, Virtanen and the second rounder in 2020?

I will start with the 2020 second rounder. Next year’s draft features an abundance of prospects to choose from, and when I asked Frans, among others, which class was stronger between this years and next, a majority of them said that yes, next season will be far deeper. While not many people know exactly who ranks where yet, many expected it to be better than this year, and this year is pretty packed with talent. When I asked Will Scouch, who’s forte is looking at future prospects, he said, “It is almost a certainty.” So the second rounder is a nice touch. As for Alex Biega, I really like the guy on the Lightning as a bottom pair guy with Jan Rutta or Braydon Coburn in a sort of rotation type gig. I wrote a piece on Biega not too long ago, so check that out here if you want an in-depth look on him. Virtanen has played 210 career NHL games, with 32 goals and 27 assists (59 points), while averaging 12:44 time on ice. He has a career Corsi-For% of 49.0%, which isn’t great, but Vancouver hasn’t exactly been a great team either. He has yet to play a full 82 game season, either, but that’s the last negative for now. He’s coming off a career high in points (25), and goals (15), as well as a career high for time on ice (14:49). He also has a career takeaway to giveaway ratio of 123 to 69, which is a +54 differential, which is incredible. He plays physical, as he recorded 154 hits last season, and blocked a career high amount of shots (37). He would fit in nicely with the third or fourth line, as well as killing penalties, with more efficiency and a cheaper cost ($1.25M for one more season) than Ryan Callahan. He is also younger, with upside. Olli Juolevi was at one point one of the most hyped up defensive prospects in the NHL. But he has been ravaged by injuries, only playing 18 AHL games last season. However, he did impress, posting 1 goal and 12 assists (13 points) in that span. Yet again, I bugged Will Scouch for his own report on Juolevi, and he had this to say: “I’ve always been a fan through everything, and his offensive game was well on it’s way in the AHL. He’s probably going to need a full AHL season to get back up to speed unless he really explodes at camp.”

In-Depth Analysis

Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is an advanced analytic which is making a push towards relevancy, as it calculates a players contributions per minute compared with their overall contribution. With that being said, WAR is gaining traction, and is very important to look at. First, here’s Alex Biega among Lightning and Canuck defenseman on Sean Tierney’s WAR per minute visual.

This is the same picture shown in my Biega breakdown article, and I will show it again here. Biega ranks 6th in this metric, showing his importance through and through. But question is, how will Virtanen fair among forwards on the ‘Nucks and Bolts?

Virtanen ranks second to last in this metric, ultimately showing that he is a complete liability. I can’t be that harsh, but this shows exactly why he plays very low minutes on a not-so-good team. I’d imagine every Lightning fan, reporter, and general reader will want to keep Tyler Johnson and Ryan Callahan over him. So Virtanen may not be the best piece of this trade, but he is still a piece, and might fill that Callahan role but at a much cheaper cost. Finally, Juolevi. Because he didn’t play at the NHL, he does not have any data on these more advanced visuals, but there is one, and it’s a metric that calculates an AHL players chances of making it to the big leagues next season, via Sean Tierney.

As shown above, Juolevi has a good chance of being in the NHL next season, in a depth role, but most likely would not be against staying down in the AHL for a season, which is what will likely happen  thanks to the Lightning’s ridiculous defensive depth. With Juolevi down in the minors, only Biega and Virtanen will count against the cap, and they combine for a $2.075M cap hit.

 

Salary Cap Space For Tampa After This Move

After this move, Tampa would have $18.196M freed up. Now let’s say that they re-sign Brayden Point for $8M per season, their cap hit is bumped down to $10.196M. Then they re-sign Paquette for $1M per season, and now their space is down to $9.196M. Their defense consists of Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, Erik Cernak, Alex Biega and Jan Rutta. Erik Karlsson has been talked about taking a paycut to go to Tampa, and that being said, could take a $9M per season deal, with the first two years with a low cap hit of $8M and the remainder with over $9M per. What this does is it alleviates pressure from re-signing Vasilevskiy, Cirelli, and Cernak next off-season. Then, after a couple years and the Lightning solve next off-seasons obstacles, Karlsson’s heavy backend of a contract sets in and they have a star-studded core locked in for a few seasons. Meanwhile, the Canucks speed up their rebuild with veterans and a fantastic top 4, young defenseman.

In Conclusion

As Niels touched on with his mock trades, this deal may not be the most realistic, but the individual pieces being moved are, logistically, realistic. The idea of bringing in Erik Karlsson is tantalizing, and this deal gives them an ideal opportunity to do just that. Here’s a look at what the line up would look like if those moves were made.

Quite the unit there, and remember, only Karlsson’s first 2 seasons will be at $8M per year, while his last 2/3 will be $10M per (for a 4 year deal), or $9.666M per(for a 5 year deal).

 

All salary and line combinations via capfriendly.com

All stats via hockey reference

WAR graphs and NHL potential via Sean Tierney on Public.Tableau

Featured Image Credit: Justin Miner

Vancouver Canucks

Vancouver Canucks: Should Break The Bank For The Top Pick

Fans Of The Vancouver Canucks Suffered A Big Letdown After Seeing The Results Of The National Hockey League Draft Lottery

The National Hockey League draft lottery was held on Tuesday, and Vancouver Canucks fans’ hearts were broken. After much hoping throughout the year (and praying for the team to lose game after game to get the best possible chance at a top-three pick), eventually the Canucks finished 23rd overall in the league. After an untimely leak of the draft lottery results, it was revealed that the New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers and the Chicago Black Hawks would move into the top three of the NHL entry draft in June, in that order. All three of these teams struggle with organizational depth, and a potential blockbuster trade with the Devils would make a lot of sense.

The Vancouver Canucks fan base as a whole is demoralised after seeing the draft lottery results. While the future is bright for the Canucks franchise, there is a lot of frustration with the management, the NHL, and the players.

Making A Pitch For The Top Pick

Young phenom Jack Hughes is the likely first overall pick in this summer’s upcoming NHL entry draft. His older brother, Quinn, is currently a top prospect that recently made his NHL debut for the Canucks. The media spotlight on Vancouver would spike if they managed to pull off a trade to unite the Hughes brothers, and it would be inexcusable no matter what it took to make this trade happen.

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The price will not be cheap, as Jack Hughes is a potential franchise-changing talent, but the Canucks could field some offers that the Devils could potentially accept. I thought long and hard about this and came up with the conclusion of this potential trade for the first overall pick:

Bo Horvat, Olli Juolevi, Jake Virtanen, Jacob Markstrom, and the 10th overall pick to the Devils for the first overall pick, and Corey Schneider.

The Devils struggle with offensive depth, and receiving Virtanen, a raw power forward with a lot of talent would definitely help that. Virtanen was the former sixth overall pick for Vancouver and hasn’t quite lived up to expectations. He should still be able to deliver 20 goals at some point in his career, and at age 22 still has a lot of potential.

Horvat Would Be Tough To Give Up

Horvat is a fringe top line player, an elite faceoff man and a spectacular defensive centre. Vancouver would definitely prefer to keep him, but he is arguably their best asset that would make a sliver of sense to trade. With another center coming back the other way in Jack Hughes, it would make this trade hurt less.

Markstrom has held the Canucks in many games this year and is arguably a bona-fide top-15 goalie in the NHL. Playing behind an absolutely horrid defence, Markstrom single-handedly salvaged many games for Vancouver. He has been incredibly consistent this year, constantly making enormous saves while looking calm, cool, and collected in net.

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Juolevi, yet another high pick the Canucks have taken, has yet to crack an NHL roster. He still is brimming with potential and should end up being a smooth top-three defenseman in the next few years. At just 20 years old, Juolevi is a massive asset and if he can improve his focus on the game he could potentially be a star.

While all these assets may seem like a lot to give up with the aforementioned players, along with the 10th overall pick (which could also be a top line player) also going to New Jersey in this hypothetical trade, here is what would be coming to Vancouver.

Once an elite starting goalie for the Canucks (and who was traded for the pick that selected Horvat), Schneider has fallen off a cliff. Schneider is a backup calibre goalie in New Jersey and is still making $6 million for the next three years. There is hope the Ian Clark could revive his career in Vancouver, and potentially be a starting goalie again. But in all likelihood, he could just be a salary cap dump.

Hughes Certainly Worth It

Jack Hughes, the projected first overall pick, is potentially franchise changing. He has a sky-high ceiling and would be an instant hit in Vancouver, replacing the retired Sedin twins with another pair of brothers. Jack Hughes could potentially be a 100-point player, and the only reason the Devils would potentially move that pick is because of the number of valuable players and prospects coming back the other way, and that there is a risk that he amounts to nothing. There is a high chance that New Jersey holds onto the pick and drafts/develops him, but there is an outside chance that a team like Vancouver, armed already with Jack’s older brother, might make a move for him.

This trade could turn out terrible for either team, and there is a lot of risk involved for both teams. if Juolevi and Virtanen both fail to hit their potential and end up as replacement level NHLers, while Jack Hughes becomes a star by putting up 25 goals and 100+ points, all of a sudden this trade is awful for New Jersey. However, if Virtanen becomes a 25 goal threat, Juolevi a top pair defenseman, Horvat a top line forward and the 10th overall pick a legitimate top-six forward or top-four defenseman (and Hughes fails to reach his potential), this trade could be among the worst in Canucks history.

Stats provided by hockey-reference

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

Vancouver Canucks

Vancouver Canucks: Who Should Be Kept For The Expansion Draft

With the NHL Expansion Draft coming up in 2021, the Vancouver Canucks will lose a player off of their roster to the new Seattle franchise.

In this post, Josh Tessler takes a look at who the Vancouver Canucks should keep and who will likely be joining the new Seattle club.

Assuming that there are no changes made to the expansion draft rules, the Canucks can either keep 7 F (Forwards) / 3 D (Defense) / 1 G (Goalie) or 8 FD/1 G. 

Based on those rules, Canucks fans should expect their front office to keep 7 F/3 D/1 G as the Canucks have many offensive assets that could be selected in the draft. On the flip side, the amount of talented defensemen that would be worth keeping is very few. So, it would make more sense to hold onto as many forwards as possible. 

Forwards

So, let’s talk about the forwards that the Canucks should keep.

Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat are no brainers. Without those three stars, the Vancouver Canucks offense wouldn’t be effective. While it’s still early in their careers, you’d have to figure that if the Canucks were to lose Pettersson, Boeser or Horvat, that it would be an unfortunate mistake. 

With Pettersson, Boeser and Horvat kept, the Canucks would need to keep four more forwards. If I was running their front office, I would choose to keep Jake Virtanen, Jonathan Dahlen, Zack MacEwen and Lukas Jasek.

Even though Virtanen, the former first round pick hasn’t translated into a star for the Canucks, his offensive skill-set is still developing. Last season, Virtanen registered 10 goals and 10 assists in 75 games played. Those numbers are low, but considering that he was averaging 11:59 ATOI per night, it’s not terrible. 

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This season, Virtanen is playing more minutes and showing that he can be effective in the offensive zone. Currently, he has 11 goals and 7 assists in 39 games. If he can keep this pace, he could potentially be a 20 goal scorer at the end of the season.

In terms of Dahlen, MacEwen and Jasek, they are among the top prospects in the farm system. The three of them are playing for the Utica Comets, the AHL affiliate of the Canucks. Dahlen, MacEwen and Jasek have all been key pieces for the Comets’ offense this season. 

Goaltending

Next up, we focus on goaltending.

Given the expansion draft rules, the Canucks are only allowed to keep one goaltender and that one goalie should be Thatcher Demko.

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While some Canucks fans might be concerned, that I’m advocating that Demko be kept over rising star, Michael DiPietro, there is no reason for concern. DiPietro wouldn’t qualify for the expansion draft. He wouldn’t meet the minimum required years of service in the NHL or AHL to be impacted. 

Based on that reason alone, you should have no anxiety when it comes to keeping Demko. The former Boston College star had a phenomenal season with the Comets last year. In 46 games played, he registered a 2.44 Goals Against Average and a .922 Save Percentage. Unfortunately, this season hasn’t been as great for Demko, but he’ll hopefully soon bounce back. 

Defense

Lastly, we shift to defense.

The Vancouver Canucks should opt to keep Derrick Pouliot, Olli Juolevi and Guilluame Brisebois. Unfortunately, the Canucks don’t have a ton of outstanding defensemen on their roster or in their system. But, they do have three solid defensemen that will be pivotal for them down the road.

While Pouliot has strugged over the course of his NHL career, he has a tremendous amount of upside. Plus, he can be useful on the penalty kill. He’s not afraid to block shots and be physical when needed. That type of skill-set doesn’t go un-noticed. 

Juolevi and Brisebois are all key defensemen that need to be kept. Both defensemen are playing for the Comets and have been useful assets for them this season. Juolevi is truly an offensive defenseman, who could step in for Alexander Edler, when his contract runs out. 

On the other hand, Brisebois is a solid two-way defenseman and perhaps could be ready for some NHL minutes down the stretch.

Based on my selections, you might be shocked that Chris Tanev, Erik Gudbranson and/or Ben Hutton wasn’t mentioned. However, the contract situations for Tanev and Gudbranson lead me to believe that they might not be in Vancouver when the expansion draft takes place. Tanev’s contract expires in 2020 and Gudbranson’s contract expires in 2021. 

In terms of Hutton, I don’t believed that he has panned out the way that Canucks fans had hoped. While he’s playing 21 minutes a night, his corsi-for percentage is awful. Plus, it seems that his offensive success is truly limited. He seems to only shine offensively when the Canucks are on the power-play.

Who Seattle Takes?

If I’m the general manager of Seattle, I would choose to select Loui Eriksson in the expansion draft. At that point, Eriksson will have one season left on his contract and could be a strong veteran leader in most likely a relatively young clubhouse. He could play a similar role to the one that Marc-Andre Fleury played in Vegas with the Vegas Golden Knights.

 stats from nhl.com, eliteprospects.com and hockey-reference.com

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals