Pittsburgh Penguins: Sign Brandon Tanev

The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed forward Brandon Tanev to a 6-year/ $21M contract. 

Josh Tessler: Hey Justin, I need you to do a write-up on the Brandon Tanev signing in Pittsburgh. 

Me: Sure, I really like Tanev. He is a fantastic penalty-killer with amazing speed. He can really help shore up the bottom 6. What’s the specifics of the contract? 

JT: 6 years/ $21M $3.5M AAV

Me: **spits coffee all over my keyboard**

You read that correctly. 6 years for a 27 year old forward that has yet to play 200 games in the NHL. This leaves me to speculate, as to whether or not, Jim Rutherford has worn out his welcome with Pittsburgh Penguins fans. 

First, I really do like Brandon Tanev. He has all the attributes that you are looking for in a 3rd or 4th line player, and I don’t hate the money. However, when you have a team that is in the prime window for Stanley Cup contention, you cannot lock up depth pieces to long-term deals because these are the trade chips that you can use at the deadline to improve your roster. A rebuilding team is not going to accept bad contracts for rental players. 

In the past two Canada Days, Rutherford has handed a 5-year deal to Jack Johnson at 31-years old and a 6-year deal to Tanev at 27-years old, with limited NHL experience. These two signings will likely be carried through the remainder of the Crosby/ Malkin Era. 

Arizona Coyotes Acquire Kessel

The Arizona Coyotes, on Saturday night, acquired Phil Kessel, Dane Birks, and a 4th round pick, in exchange for Alex Galchenyuk and Pierre Olivier Joseph. 

I’ll set a scene for you. Imagine you’re excited to watch an indoor football playoff game. You’re at a bar having a couple of drinks, and your friend won’t stop blowing your phone telling you the player you’ve wanted your team to trade for was acquired by them. You immediately don’t believe them, primarily because you know your small market team would never acquire elite talent that would put them at the cap ceiling. Then find out the cost was one of your favorite players in the team. One more drink was required to come to terms with everything.

It’s happened. The thing I wanted most this offseason actually happened. I actually feel foolish that my first reaction was “not Galchenyuk.” Like a spoiled Lakers fan over Lonzo Ball when we just acquired top tier talent for him. Galchenyuk and Pierre-Oliver Joseph have been sent to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Cheeseburger Phil, a 4th round pick, and Dane Birks.

Cheeseburger Phil Kessel is now an Arizona Coyote, and it’s a dream come true. Our leading scorer last season was Keller with 47 points. Kessel last year scored 82. (Per NHL.com)

What Arizona desperately needed was goal scoring, and this year they added a 30 goal scorer. I was on record last season saying that Galchenyuk wasn’t a 30 goal scorer considering how he hadn’t hit that mark in two seasons. With him only scoring 19 last season, it’s safe to admit what I said a year ago. That season was a career year and not the example of his consistent talent.

Kessel has had 5 seasons of 30+ production, and 11 consecutive seasons of 20+. Kessel is legit the answer to Arizona’s scoring woes.

Add in the fact that Kessel hasn’t missed a game in 9 seasons. (per ESPN) Arizona is sure adding guys who stay healthy after last seasons horrible misfortunes.

As of right now, the Coyotes top line is Keller-Schmaltz-Kessel. Not only did Keller play his best hockey with Schmaltz last season, but you add a multiple time Stanley cup champion, and elite goal scorer to that line, and Keller has just been handed the keys to not only a bounce back season. He’s been handed the keys to a career year two days before free agency.

Factoring in the acquisition of Soderberg (another 20 goal scorer) and the rumors of possibly more moves to come, Arizona is a legitimate playoff contender. I am fully comfortable saying that this team has gotten tremendously better over just the last couple of weeks.

I’m going to miss Galchenyuk. I loved his overall game and he paired very well with my favorite player, Conor Garland.

As for Joseph, I’ve been following him the last two Coyotes rookie camps, and moving on from his services was a great idea. Last year, he was easily the best at the camp, but this year he was far from it. I noticed that he was a lot slower than the season prior. It legitimately looked like he was nursing an injury. He wasn’t skating well in the corner, his transitions were sloppy, and his passing seemed to be weaker. The only upside he still had in my eyes was his shot. He has Keith Yandle‘s shot, easily. Unfortunately, like Yandle, he’s a defenseman and not a winger. I expect defensive ability with the potential upside of providing scoring depth.

The cherry on top of the deal was the 4th round pick as a “free asset” and Birks to replace Joseph on the depth chart. Chayka made an amazing trade and has made Arizona a playoff team. 

I should mention that Kessel is 31 with 3 years left on his contract with a cap hit of $6.8M (per capfriendly) , but he’s yet to show an signs of aging to date. If he does start to regress, he’s still likely to be a 60 point player, so this is still a huge net positive.

Chayka played pot of greed bois, and +1s are usually banned in Yu-Gi-Oh!

 

Player Profiles via hockey-reference.com

Featured Image Credit: Dinur Blum

NHL Draft Profile: Spencer Knight

Spencer Knight is the top goalie among most draft aficionados. He was the unheralded backbone of one of the best USNTDP of all-time. His ability to stay calm, cool and collected paired with maybe the best athleticism for any player in the draft combine to make Knight a top prospect in the 2019 NHL Draft.

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Name: Spencer Knight

Date of Birth: April 19, 2001

Nationality (Place of Birth): American (Darien, CT, USA)

Hieght: 6’3″

Weight: 198lbs

Catches: Left

Position: G

Rankings

Ranked #12 by TSN/McKenzie

Scouting Report

The top goaltender in the draft has been outstanding all year. He has shown all the tools that talent evaluators look for in a young goaltender. His mental make-up is strong and he does an excellent job staying poised. He doesn’t panic or get flustered after allowing a weak goal. He stays focused and is able to see around screens because he shows great awareness of the play. The American goaltender does an excellent job at keeping his back upright and keeping a solid base to ensure that he’s using his entire 6’3″ frame in the net. In the video below, you can see Knight hold his ground despite the Finnish players best attempt at poking the puck free.  

Throughput the year, Knight showed that his maturity was well beyond his years. Often times with young goalies, sustained pressure from the opposition can lead to a break down in positioning and cause the young netminder to allow a goal that he would normally save. This isn’t often the case for Knight. He is able to harness his poise and focus in on tracking the puck while staying in good position. His eyes stay locked in on the puck and he is able to make multiple saves by kicking his pads out and closing down on the puck despite good movement from the opposing team. The video below if a perfect example of Knights ability to keep focused and dialed in on the puck. 

 

At the draft combine, many came away with the realization that Knight was among the best athletes in the draft. Knight shows his impressive athleticism with his ability to move laterally with precision and recover on plays that become a scramble in front of him. His lateral movement is extremely crisp and he rarely overshoots his positioning. He comes across the crease with a strong push. His ability to keep his upper body high while sliding over helps him stay big and cover the net as he transitions. Below you can see Knight unable to corral the loose puck in front of him but quickly recovers and uses his athleticism to make an outstanding save. 

Lower body strength and stability is an asset that goalies need and Spencer Knight has both. The future franchise netminder has the strength to keep his pad down and pinned to either post while still being able to stay upright and actively following the puck. The lower body strength aids in his push off from post-to-post and allows him to kick out his pads during a slide. As you can see below, Knight is able to use the aforementioned lower body strength to push off the right post and explode towards the recipient of the pass. His strong core allows him to stay upright long enough to make the marvelous save. 

When it comes to positioning, Knight is consistently stable. He plays a mature game which makes him far ahead of the curve for draft eligible goaltenders. The goalkeeper does a good job at absorbing the puck into his chest and not allowing egregious rebound more often than not. His reflexes have developed further throughout the year and he’s been able to track and catch shots quite well. When the puck is shot to his blocker side, he often deflects the puck into the corner or up into the net depending on the situation. Knight is able to track a pass through the middle of the ice and not over commit on a slide. He stops in perfect position and is able to make the save with ease as you can see in the video below.  

What the Detractors Say

While no 18-year-old goaltender is perfect, Spencer Knight does everything you’d like a goaltender to do. One of the few aspects of Knight’s game that scouts have picked on is his tendency to play fairly deep in his net at times. While he comes out to challenge shooters in one-on-one scenarios, he has sunken into his net at times during sustained pressure. While this hasn’t been an issue at junior level, it could become an issue at the next level as the athletic goalie moves forward. His athleticism helps him make up for the depth in which he plays at but he could stand to play a little higher in his crease.

Preseason Outlook

Having played in 14 games with the USNTDP U18 team a year early, many expected Knight to put on a show for the 2018-19 season. His positioning and athleticism allowed him to play up a level with success. Coming into the year, the young goaltender was considered the top goalie and he did nothing to change that fact.

Video courtesy of Justy Power YouTube

USNTDP Success

The top-tier prospect in net was outstanding this year on a stacked USNTDP team. With the high-powered offence, Knight certainly received his fair share of goal support but there was a number of times where Knight would put on a goaltending clinic. Early in the season Knight put together a masterful performance against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, ranked third in the NCAA at the time. Showing off all of his tools, this game signified his dominance and showed that he can read a play and play good positional hockey at a young age. In the video below, Knight makes an outstanding save on a slap shot from the circle. He shows excellent reflexes with the glove stage. 

Knight continued to put together good performances against both USHL and NCAA competition. He finished the year with a save percentage of .903 against USHL opponents but a .913 overall if you include the tougher NCAA schedule as well. This showed that he was able to play up to the competition and he benefitted from facing more steady work rather than the games in the USHL where his team often outshot the opposition by a wide margin.

Strong U18 World Championships

The world stage was where Knight shone brightest this year. At the U18 World Championships this year, Knight was able to dominate his peers. In his six games at the tournament, he allowed just 1.51 goals against average and had a sparkling .936 save percentage. However it was the save that he made that showed he would be an NHL goaltender sooner than many thought coming into the year.

Spencer Knight will be taken…

Somewhere in the 15-25 range most likely but there’s a chance he goes slightly earlier. Goalies are seldom drafted in the first round anymore but Knight is destined to be the exception. He’s one of the best American goaltending prospects in years and projects extremely well. His athleticism and mental fortitude will serve him well as he hopes to take the next step at Boston College next year. He is likely to step into a prominent role in the program despite being a freshman. His first task will be taking full control of the net and continuing to develop with the help of his Boston College athletic staff. The future franchise goaltender should, and likely will, be selected in the middle of the first round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.

For more on the NHL, prospects and the NHL Draft, follow me here at @TheTonyFerrari on twitter!

All stats and information provided by Elite ProspectsDobber Prospects and NHL.com

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National Hockey League: Who Will Take Home The Hart Trophy?

The NHL Awards Show is coming up, and the finalists have already been announced. There are favorites and there are snubs, and fans have been vocal about who should win, and who deserves a nomination.

 

The Hart trophy is no different, and there have been varying cases for all three finalists. The Hart Trophy, for those who don’t know, is awarded to the player who is judged to be the most valuable to his team. Here are the finalists, and why they should, or could, win.

 

Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning

Why He Should Win: Kucherov finished the season with 128 points, which, for this era, is unbelievable. He showed dominance in the league that had not been seen since the Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux era in Pittsburgh. He has already claimed the Art Ross trophy for most points in the entire league. A guy so dominant deserves this trophy certainly, but are point totals really enough?

Why He Should Not Win: Kucherov has every reason to win, but let’s look at what awards the players this trophy. “The player judged to be the most valuable to his team.” His own team. This is not league MVP, which Kucherov would claim, hands down.

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Was Kucherov really that vital to his teams performance? Well, yes, but if you take him out, the Lightning will still be a playoff team. They have Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, and Andrei Vasilevskiy. He’s also not a captain, nor an assistant captain, so you can’t turn to leadership qualities for help. Yes, he led his team in points by a wide margin, and yes, he had a historical season in every sense. But no, Tampa would not blow up if he were not there.

 

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

Why He Should Win: Sidney Crosby is the Pittsburgh Penguins. While Phil Kessel was swirling in trade rumors and Evgeni Malkin struggled, Sidney Crosby remained Sidney Crosby. He led the Penguins in points with 100, 18 more than second place Kessel. He led the team in assists with 65, 10 more than second place Kessel. He finished second on the team in goals with 35, behind linemate Jake Guentzel (40) and ahead of third place Kessel (27). He was tied with Kessel for power play goals (12) and had the most time on ice among forwards, averaging 20:59. He is the heart and soul of the Penguins, and their captain.

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Why He Shouldn’t Win: The Penguins had a down year in terms of where they finished as a team, as well as some individually underwhelming production. Crosby did not, as he held strong to his name. However, he’s just like Kucherov in a sense that the Penguins may not be awful if he were to leave them. Crosby is a huge figure in the locker room, but the Penguins still have so much star power with Malkin, Guentzel, Kris Letang, Kessel, Justin Schultz, and Matt Murray. They would still be a far different team, but I still believe they’re good enough to make the playoffs.

 

Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

Why He Should Win: As the captain of the Oilers, he went on to do McDavid things. He finished second in the league in points with 116, just 12 points behind the otherworldly production of Kucherov. He finished with 41 goals, which is tied with Kucherov for sixth in the league. He also notched 75 assists, second to only Kucherov (87) around the entire league. Edmonton is not a good team, and if you take McDavid off the roster, they’d be worse than the Ottawa Senators. What McDavid does for this team, no one can top it.

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Why He Shouldn’t Win It: While Kucherov was able to lead the Lightning towards a President’s Trophy, and Crosby was able to snag a playoff spot with the Penguins, McDavid was left golfing. He wasn’t good enough to get his team to the playoffs, despite being one of the best players in the league.

 

Deeper Dive

One way to decide whether or not a player was more lucky than successful is by looking at a stat that ultimately quantifies a players luck.

Higher than a 100 PDO means that person was lucky, and likely won’t repeat their season at that clip. Under 100 PDO is unlucky, and likely means that player could have done better. 100 PDO is average, not lucky or unlucky.

Kucherov finished the season with a 102.7, Crosby finished with a 101.9, and McDavid finished with a 100.7. That being said, Kucherov’s historic season was spectacular, but required a lot of luck, and he likely will never reach that total again in his career.

Crosby did not have as spectacular of a year, posting the lowest goal, assist, and point totals among the finalists, but still required some luck to reach triple digits, and if the Penguins struggles continue into next season, Crosby may not reach the 100-point plateau.

Meanwhile, McDavid was just a little over average, not requiring much luck to reach an incredible 116 points, and has a good chance of consistently hitting those marks despite being on a relatively weak roster.

 

In Conclusion

McDavid deserves this trophy through and through, because he produced at a very high rate, and didn’t need a lot of bounces to go his way to reach his mark, showing that he can consistently reach that same production season by season. He’s also the only guy you can look at and say “Without him, his team would really struggle.” He’s also the captain, and the captain of any team is extremely important as is. So while he didn’t produce like Kucherov did, he has the “C” on his sweater, and not as much luck on the ice.

 

Stats via NHL.com

PDO via Hockey-reference

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

Pittsburgh Penguins: Sign two key Defenders to new deals

Over the past several days, the Pittsburgh Penguins have signed a couple of their pending free agents to new contracts.

 

Chad Ruhwedel, 2-years $700k AAV

29-year old blue liner was set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, but he agreed to a two year extension. He brings depth to the right side of the Pens defense, though he lacks a lot of top end tools. Ruhwedel plays a very smart brand of hockey, and tends to be a quiet guy that listens to coaching. I don’t know that I have ever seen him make the same mistakes in consecutive shifts. He posted 1 goal and 2 assists in 18 games last season. While he was never a regular in the lineup, he was a key ingredient during the Penguins 2017 Stanley Cup run, when the team required the whole team to fill the void left by Kris Letang

Juuso Riikola, 1-year $850k

Rikola wowed the coaching out of training camp, and quickly earned a call up following the Justin Schultz injury. He appeared in 37 games, and had 2 goals and 3 assists. Both of his goals came as he was manning the 2nd power play unit. 

As news has been revealing, GM Jim Rutherford has been actively shopping Jack Johnson. And Olli Maatta‘s name has been rumored in each of the past few offseasons. It is likely that Rikola would be replacement, if Rutherford is able to find a trade partner for either of those defenseman. 

What’s Next

The team still has a few key Free Agents to re-sign, but I don’t think that we will hear about them until a Phil Kessel trade is completed. This will give the team a better understanding of their available cap space and remaining team needs. It is very likely the team will bring back Zack Aston-Reese, Marcus Petterson, and Teddy Blueger. They, also, want to work on an extension for Matt Murray, though I believe those negotiations are going to be tricky.

Their final order of business may be extending Jared McCann, before he has a huge season and drives himself out of the team’s price range. 

stats via hockey-reference.com

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