Ottawa Senators

Ottawa Senators: The Maple Leafs Are Coming!

Let’s take a look at what the Ottawa Senators have done so far in free agency. 

Ceci/Zaitsev Swap

The Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Maple Leafs finally completed the Zaitsev trade. I am a little confused at this one. Ottawa paid Toronto to take on a bad contract, shouldn’t it be the other way around? I don’t like Cody Ceci as a player whatsoever and the Sens management finally answered longtime prayers from the fanbase by trading the struggling defenseman.

I believe that if Ceci were used in the right capacity, he could be an effective top 4 defenseman in the NHL. However, he was never used in the right capacity in Ottawa. Ceci is a puck moving defenseman who was used as a shutdown defenseman and he simply does not have the skill set to be a shutdown defenseman. Let’s see what happens with Ceci next, does he re-sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs? Or does he move on?

Ron Hainsey

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Next, the Ottawa Senators signed Ron Hainsey to a one year contract at a 3.5 million cap hit. I like this signing, he can help mold guys like Thomas Chabot and Erik Brannstrom into high caliber defenseman. While Chabot and Brannstrom are remarkable talents, it doesn’t hurt having a guy like Hainsey in the locker room to help them mature.

Hainsey is a decent defenseman, but he brings a lot more to the table than his on ice play. Remember, this guy won the cup his first two times playing in the postseason. He knows what it takes to win, he is a voice in the locker room and he can mentor everyone. As much as I think Ottawa overpaid for him, we need to get to the cap floor, and I think the signing is actually a pretty good one.

Tyler Ennis

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The next move was signing Tyler Ennis. Ennis signed with the Sens at 800k for one year.

I don’t know how to feel about this signing. He has jumped around the league recently and I don’t really get the point in this signing. Tyler Ennis went from Buffalo to Minnesota and then he went to Toronto. Does this show that he isn’t the most coachable player? Or does it mean that new Sens coach, D.J. Smith likes him a lot and just wanted him to come along?

Former Sens coach Guy Boucher had a few players like this, Tom Pyatt and Nate Thompson to name a few. I think Tyler Ennis is the same type of signing that Pyatt and Thompson were a few years back. Let’s see what happens.

Sticking To Rebuilding

Instead of using the massive amount of cap space the team to sign superstars, Pierre Dorion sticked to his rebuilding plan and made a few depth signings. I do not believe that Dorion is done yet tho, he has a few more things up his sleeves. For example, he needs to sign Colin White and he should sign Thomas Chabot as quickly as possible to avoid a situation like in Toronto where it took half the season to sign Nylander.

stats from hockey-reference.com

research from CapFriendly.com

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals

Nikita Zaitsev

Zaitsev-Ceci Trade Reaction Round-up

featured image photo credit – Dinur Blum

Taking a look at everyone’s first impressions regarding the Toronto and Ottawa trade that included Nikita Zaitsev and Cody Ceci.

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John Shannon confirming the pieces involved in the trade.

Alex from Sens twitter doesn’t seem to be a huge fan of the return.

Sean Tierney, known for his data analysis reacts with Toronto having the clear edge in the trade.

Draglikepull just like all Leafs fans are worried about Ceci’s deployment in the lineup, while still happy to get rid of Zaitsev’s absurd cap hit that lasts until 2024.

 

On the flip side, Leafs super fan and Sportsnet analyst Steve Dangle has his own concerns about the trade. They have more to do with Babcock getting a new favourite however.

Ottawa Senator’s super fan and MVP of last season, @Brain5or6, had this reaction to the trade. It’s fair to say he’s not a huge fan.

https://twitter.com/brian5or6/status/1145662869985476608?s=21

Ottawa Senator’s super fan and MVP of last season, @bRian5or6, had this reaction to the trade. It’s fair to say he’s not a huge fan.

 

Scott Wheeler, prospect writer for The Athletic woke up to good news as a Leafs fan.

 

Senators parody account Bonk’s Mullet felt that he’s seen something similar before.

Editor and Pittsburgh Penguins contributor at Puck77, Justin Miner, had this to say on the trade, providing a little light at the end of the tunnel for Sens fans.

“Zaitsev will thrive outside of the spotlight of the Toronto media and connor brown could be a steal as a top 6 player, much like the players in Vegas that got expanded roles and flourished with the opportunity. I am not saying that they make Ottawa a threat but they will perform admirably with the opportunity.”

Tony Ferrari, Editor and contributor at Puck77, immediate reaction was a mix of positive for the Leafs and worry for the Senators.

“The fact that the Leafs were able to unload the Zaitsev contract as well as dumping Brown, as much as he was loved in Toronto, was a smart move. My hope is that the Leafs can flip Cody Ceci for a pick or prospect and use that additional space to sign a defender that fits in on Toronto’s roster a little bit better. Also, why did Dorion send Dubas a 2020 third round pick?”

Lastly, our very own Josh Tessler from ThePuck77, doesn’t understand what Ottawa was doing in this trade and sees the Leafs as the clear winners.

Overall, the reactions to the deal that essentially boiled down to Nikita Zaitsev-plus for  Cody Ceci-plus was fairly positive from the Toronto Maple Leafs side of Twitter and less than positive from the Ottawa Senators focused media/fan base. The Senators seem like the losers here but only time will tell. Could the fresh start get Zaitsev back to being a top-four defender? Will Ceci stay in Toronto or be flipped? Connor Brown could be the player that decides who wins this trade. If he can return to his 20-goal form of his rookie season with an increased role in Ottawa, they may feel better the trade a year from now. 

Ottawa Senators

Toronto Maple Leafs trade Nikita Zaitsev to the Ottawa Senators.

News trickled in overnight of the details of the long expected Nikita Zaitsev trade to the Ottawa Senators.

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It has been speculated throughout the week that Toronto would get Senators D-man, Cody Ceci, in return. Following Darren Dreger breaking that Zaitsev had agreed to waive his no trade clause, Bob McKenzie alluded to the trade including more pieces than just the two aforementioned D-men.

Toronto’s focus in this move was clearly to shed salary. Moving the $4.5M and $2.1M cap hits of Zaitsev and Connor Brown should free up the space needed to resign Mitch Marner and look at other free agents or trades involving a big defenceman. Toronto is losing a former 20 goal scorer, in Connor Brown, and their number one penalty killer, in Zaitsev. The telling part of this move is whether the Leafs decide to renew Ceci’s contract. If Ceci is renewed it will likely come in at around the same price as the Zaitsevs contract they just moved. That would leave minimal room outside of the Marner extension and would likely symbolise that this is the defensive core the Leafs head into the season with. This would be a lateral move for the Leafs and one that would be viewed pretty negatively by the fanbase.

Ottawa, however, are getting a player in Connor Brown who could produce with the ice-time he likely is afforded there. In Zaitsev, they are getting a slightly older Cody Ceci who is locked up to term. If Ceci didn’t want a renewal, this could have been seen as a necessary move for Ottawa. A more comprehensive breakdown of this trade will be coming in the future.

 

Sources: Hockey-reference.com

Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs: What’s Nikita Zaitsev’s Value?

Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Nikita Zaitsev is on the trading block.

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It’s been a quiet past month in Toronto Maple Leafs Media. There has been no news and speculation has been slow. Following another first round exit there has been absolutely nothing interesting in Leaf land outside the Mitch Marner contract. That is however, until Nikita Zaitsev set Maple Leaf media into a frenzy with an interview he did back in Russia. Many Europeans rarely speak with media during the season. This is likely due to the fact they aren’t extremely confident with the language and want to avoid any miscommunication through translation. This does however lead to instances such as Nikita Kucherov’s comments a couple years back about his team’s lack of effort and now Zaitsev’s comments.

There seems to be a real divide amongst fans regarding Zaitsev’s comments and whether they want him back. Some fans seem to blindly support Don Cherry and believe his word is Gospel. Some fans hate Cherry and his somewhat bigoted opinion and attitude towards hockey players. Regardless of your opinion on that matter, one thing is clear. Zaitsev clearly wants out of Toronto and this likely trade is one we cannot continue to devalue. The Toronto Maple Leafs need to move Nikita Zaitsev. But, Leaf fans desire to trade him for as little as possible isn’t helping anything. One, it devalues the player and secondly it makes future European free agents look less favourably at Toronto.

He’s No Good….

Nikita Zaitsev has clearly shown over the past few seasons that playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs has truly killed his confidence. Over his past three seasons Zaitsev’s point totals, giveaways and possession metrics have all decreased each year. His takeaways, hits and shots have also dropped consistently through each season. This all stems from his increasingly defensive usage and the Leafs clear desire to get him off the ice when the play enters the opposing zone.

When Zaitsev arrived in North America, he was touted as one of Russia’s best defenceman. He was the quarterback for CSKA and showed a near full arsenal of physical weapons. In his first season, he saw minutes that more closely resembled his role in Russia, scoring 36 points as a rookie. Despite the false accusation this was purely due to his power-play time, 23 of his points came at even strength. Following his rookie season. a decision was made to mould him into a more defensive player. Whilst I think rounding out his game is a good move, his usage slowly turned from honing his defensive game to removing his offensive one. Zaitsev was a square peg being rammed into a circular hole and we as fans blamed him.

Zaitsev’s Stats

Below is a breakdown of Zaitsev’s stats.

2016-2017 – 82 Games Played, 4 Goals, 32 Assists, 38 Penalty In Minutes, 3 Even Strength Goals, 1 Power-Play Goal, 20 Even Strength Assists, 11 Power-Play Assists, 3.8 Shooting Percentage, 22:01 Average Time On Ice

2017-2018 – 60 Games Played, 5 Goals, 8 Assists, 31 Penalty In Minutes, 5 Even Strength Goals, 0 Power-Play Goal, 8 Even Strength Assists, 0 Power-Play Assists, 9.3 Shooting Percentage, 22:13 Average Time On Ice

2018-2019 – 81 Games Played, 3 Goals, 11 Assists, 18 Penalty In Minutes, 3 Even Strength Goals, 0 Power-Play Goal, 11 Even Strength Assists, 0 Power-Play Assists, 4.2 Shooting Percentage, 20:28 Average Time On Ice

The Mental Game…

We all recognize the importance of mental and psychological health in professional sport. Whilst what Zaitsev is dealing with currently may not be on the scale of many players, confidence is king in any sport. Zaitsev’s comments regarding being called off as soon as the puck enters the zone is a huge red flag. If the coaching staff is fostering an environment where Zaitsev is constantly in doubt of his ability, how is this conducive to helping grow his confidence level. Zaitsev’s underlying numbers show he clearly lacks confidence, his diminishing shot totals and increasing giveaways show he consistently doubts his decision making.

What would they be getting?

screenshot of naturalstattrick.com

It is almost a foregone conclusion that Zaitsev gets moved. The key for the Leafs is that they get a fair price for him. If he is marketed as more of a 2-way defenceman it is easy to point at his scoring totals and usage in his first year. However, regardless of Zaitsev’s inability to make consistent breakout passes, his defensive game outside of that is relatively sound. He led all Leafs in penalty kill time this season and was 13thoverall in the NHL. Zaitsev also is extremely effective at limiting high danger scoring chances on the penalty kill. Of the top 20 PKers, only 3 defenceman surrendered less high danger opportunities, those being Ben Lovejoy, Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi. Zaitsev, while his breakout passes can be horrible at times, is currently amongst the best penalty killing defenceman in the NHL.

screenshot of naturalstattrick.com

What’s he worth?

This is the million-dollar question. According to some fans he’s not worth a used hanky and according to others he’s worth the world. The truth likely lies somewhere in the middle. Zaitsev is a competent top 4 defenceman. He’s 6’2, led the Leafs in hits and is a very good penalty killer. There is also an opportunity to salvage a quality secondary power-play quarterback in him. Whilst many Leaf fans may hate it, his contract isn’t as bad as many other contracts around the league.

My message to Leaf fans

We must be patient and show more support for the players on our team. Zaitsev has done everything asked of him by his coach and up until now has said nothing and dealt with the constant criticism. If we want this team to be successful, we must stop trying to railroad our teams’ assets and devalue everything in a blue sweater. If/when Zaitsev is traded, realize we are losing a top 4 RHD, who leads our team in hits, blocks and on the penalty kill. This is not someone that can just be replaced by a Marlie.

Finally, the Leafs have identified a market insufficiency in European free agents. If the ones who join the Leafs and become successful NHLers are going home and speaking like Zaitsev to the local media, this insufficiency will no longer be available to Toronto. Another opportunity arrives next season with Ilya Mikheyev. Let’s give him time to adapt and if he isn’t put in a position to succeed, look at those who should be doing that instead of the player themselves. As in my previous article, another thing to be taken from soccer. Managers should protect their players, individual performances are on the player, usage isn’t.

Sources: EliteProespects.com, Naturalstattrick.com, Hockey-reference.com

Featured Image Photo Credit – Josh Tessler

Clearing the Puck! Your Weekly Look at the World of Hockey

Welcome back to Clearing the Puck for the week of May 24th to 31st! This week we take a look at the Stanley Cup Finals, a Washington Captials legend hangs up the skates and how the Hurricanes season will impact the community for years to come!

Incase this is your first time, here is the rundown. What we’re going to be doing at Puck77 is putting out a weekly recap. There are going to be observations, summaries and some cool things that we noticed around the web from the NHL and the world of hockey from the last week. There will be 10 points every Saturday morning. Included will be links to articles from our website as well as many others to help fill you in on some of the best hockey and NHL content from around the web. Without further ado, let’s dive into the week!

“The Jerks” Make a Lasting Impact

There is no doubt that the Carolina Hurricanes had a season that will be remembered by hockey fans for years. Whether its the Eastern Conference Finals run or the “Storm Surge”, the Hurricanes were a blast to watch this season. How long will the impact last? Will the ‘Canes fever persist? How much has the organization benefited from the outstanding run? How much has the community grown into becoming a “hockey market”? Sara Civian of the Athletic did an excellent job taking a look both behind the curtain and into the community for the tangible benefits of the Hurricanes season. Will the Storm Warning continue into next season? Check it out below.  

Tweet courtesy of @SaraCivian

Capitals Legend Erat Calls it Quits

Martin Erat is finally hanging up the skates. He’s been playing his last three years in Czech Extraliga for HC Kometa Brno. While Erat was a really good NHL player, what he’s most known for is the most one-sided trade in NHL history. Then Washington Capitals GM George McPhee traded blue-chip prospect Filip Forsberg for Martin Erat and Michael Latta. This was the day where Erat became a Washington Capitals legend. All jokes aside, his time with the Capitals was a bit of a disaster. So much so that Forsberg has six goals against the Capitals in his career whereas Erat and Latta scored six total in their 175 games with Washington. Forsberg is a legitimate top-six winger and has two 30-goal seasons and five with at least 25. For a better look at the entire Caps career of Erat, check out our friends over at Russian Machine Never Breaks below!  


Tweet courtesy of @RussianMachine

Quebec goes Back-to-Back!

The QMJHL has back-to-back Memorial Cup Champions. After last season when Acadie-Bathurst Titan captured the CHL’s title, the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies took the title back to the beautiful province of Quebec. The Huskies were the best team in the entire CHL during the regular season and they did what the Tampa Bay Lightning couldn’t, they won the whole damn thing. Led by Noah Dobson and Joel Teasdale, the Huskies fought through adversity in the tournament losing to the Guelph Storm and then having to go through them again in the semi-finals before facing the host Halifax Mooseheads again. Tyler Kuehl at Puck77 did an outstanding job covering the Memorial Cup and you can read his piece on the Huskies first championship here.

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NWHL Sends NHL a Message

The landscape of women’s hockey is at a tipping point. This season, or lack there of, could be the reason that women are paid fairly for their all-world skill, at least earning enough to make a living. The NWHL is the only currently active professional league in North America and they released a statement this week that seems to have put the ball in the NHL’s court (or rink?)

Tweet courtesy of @NWHL

The full statement from the NWHL can be found in the tweet above. The interesting part of the statement came in the quote below where the NWHL seems to insinuate that they are hoping the NHL decides to step up, 

If any individuals or groups come forward and declare they are ready to start and invest in a new league where women can receive a substantial full-time salary and medical insurance, we would be ecstatic to have a conversation about a partnership or passing the torch. 

 

Zaitsev asks out of Toronto

Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Nikita Zaitsev has requested a trade for personal reasons. We don’t know exactly what those are but its probably safe to assume that the criticism of his play and the pressure that comes with playing in Toronto may have understandably gotten to Nikita or his family. There have been some absolutely vicious comments made on twitter and social media in general that could have contributed to the request. While this could help Toronto out in the long-run with their salary cap situation, its unfortunate that its come to a head because of the anger of people who claim to be fans. While no one is suggesting that fans can’t be critical, attacking a player on their personal social media or their families social media is disgusting and unacceptable. Even if this has nothing to do with Zaitsev asking out of Toronto, its a good time to remind everyone that the players are people. You wouldn’t say an athletes face, so don’t hide behind your monitor or phone. Be kinder to people, we all need more kindness in the world. 

As for the hockey side of things, this could be a complicated deal and its been expressed that Toronto is unlikely to retain much, if at all. Zaitsev has term and a decent sized dollar  figure attached to him so any team acquiring him will likely need to be looking for exactly the type of defensive, penalty killing game that Zaitsev brings. Toronto isn’t in position to take back a contract of significance so where we go from here will be interesting. I encourage you to read the thread of tweets below from the king of hockey insiders, TSN’s Bob McKenzie, where he goes through the entire situation. 

Tweet courtesy of @TSNBobMcKenszie

Oilers tab Tippett to be their Bench Boss

The Edmonton Oilers finally hired their new head coach to hopefully lead them back into championship contention. Dave Tippet, former coach of the Arizona Coyotes, takes the mantle of man on the bench for the Connor McDavid led team. The hiring seems like another step in the right direction for the Oilers. Since Ken Holland became the GM, they have started to clear out the “old boys” group of the ’80’s Oilers and they’ve begun to bring in off-ice talent, not the least of which was Tippett. Firing most of their coaching staff, only retaining Glen Gulutzan, the Oilers are beginning to take the necessary steps back to respectability after years of being the laughing stock of the NHL for years despite having the best player in the world.  

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Puck77 Final Draft Rankings!

Jack Hughes vs. Kaapo Kakko! Who’s the top ranked player on the board? Who is on the rise? Who dropped? The team here collaborated and put together NHL Draft rankings together. Submitting our lists, we combined all the rankings, averaged the numbers out and figured out exactly how the draft is going to go! No? We didn’t do that? Okay, well we at least did our homework and worked our way from 1-31 for you to consume! You can check that out here!

https://twitter.com/ThePuck77/status/1134795135982682112

Tweet courtesy of @thePuck77

Finland wins Gold!

0 NHL goals. The Finnish national team featured 0 NHL goals. The Fins were led by draft eligible Kaapo Kakko and a scrappy group of Liiga players all the way to the gold medal. Defeating Canada in the finals, the Finnish team was a great story in the IIHF World Hockey Championship. Timely goals from their captain Marko Anttila, outstanding performances in net by Chicago Blackhawks prospect Kevin Lankinen and capping of the tournament the same way that they started, beating Canada when most people expected them to win. 

Video courtesy of the IIHF Youtube account

The tournament did an excellent job putting the Finnish program among the top programs in the world. To be able to take players from Liiga and win a tournament filled with NHL players was outstanding fro the Fins. The job done by the management team, the coaching staff and the players can’t be talked about enough. Team Finland are the World Champions!

NHL Players cheering on the Raptors

The Toronto Raptors are in the NBA Finals! I know, not hockey. There were NHL players at the games though, including the former Oilers duo of Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle and a group of current Toronto Maple Leafs. So congratulations to the Toronto Raptors on winning game one of the NBA finals over the heavily favored Golden State Warriors and here is some NHL players at the game to justify talking about the Raptors in a hockey blog!

Tweet courtesy of @TSN_sports

Tweet courtesy of @MapleLeafs

A trip to the john predicts the OT Game Winner

When the third period of game two of the Stanley Cup finals came to an end, a couple of the St. Louis Blues decided to hit the washroom which is likely not a rare situation. At this point, one of the biggest bathroom rules were broken. Carl Gunnarsson decided to talk to his head coach Craig Berube at the urinal. Gross… What he said to him though was the interesting part. He told his bench boss that he just needed “one more chance”. He rang the puck off the post in the third and he felt like he missed his chance. Could he have known what was to come next? Could he have known that he would score his first playoff goal since he was a 13-year-old playing minor hockey? The veteran Swede put the game away, tying the series at a game a piece. Carl Gunnarsson could be a Stanley Cup hero if the Blues pull off the series win. 

Tweet courtesy of @StLouisBlues

Thank you as always for joining me this week to clear the puck and find the news for the week! Tune in next week when we finally have some more Stanley Cup games and we could even have a champion! Until next week, have fun with the draft coverage coming up, enjoy the hockey in the Cup final and GO RAPTORS!

Stats and information courtesy of Hockey Reference, Elite Prospects, the IIHF, the NHL and the CHL