Marc Bergevin

Carolina Hurricanes: Désolé Marc! Sorry Marc!

featured image photo credit – Lisa Gansky/Wikimedia Commons

The Carolina Hurricanes are set to match the Montréal Canadiens offer sheet on Sebastian Aho. 

To nobody’s surprise, General Manager Don Waddell has announced they will match. The 21-year old Finnish superstar will be remaining in Carolina for another 5 years. They currently have not signed the final contract, but have another six days to do so. So, as it appears, Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin has lost the battle to Waddell.

The deal is for $42.27M spanning 5 years (2019-2024), with an average annual value of $8.454M. It’s a great contract, both for Aho, and for the Carolina Hurricanes. Both in terms of value and in terms of length. It wasn’t exactly what the team would have liked. But Waddell doesn’t feel it will hinder the team’s development.

The Finnish superstar

Those new to the Carolina Hurricanes might not realize just how important he is to the franchise. The Rauma, Finland native, Sebastian was drafted by Carolina in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, 35th overall. In three seasons with the Hurricanes, he’s managed to secure himself as the premier skater of the franchise. Most recently he established himself as a point-per-game player, registering 30 goals and 53 assists (83 points) in the 82 game regular season. This marked him as the sixth player in franchise history to record a minimum of 30 goals and 50 assists in the same season. Aho’s also the fourth player in franchise history to tally 80 points prior to turning 22.

The Finnish center is also amid good company in league record books as well. Starting the 2018-19 season, Aho went on to have a 12-game point streak (4g-13a) from Oct 4th-Oct 30th. Both being franchise records for longest assist streak and points streak. This run also tied the league records for the longest season-opening assist streak streak. Previous players to mark this achievement include Wayne Gretzky and Kin Linesman. An effort that saw him awarded 3rd star of the week by the NHL on Oct 15th. Aho would go on to have five additional point streaks of 4 or more games, and only once suffered a three-game points drought.

Sebastian also registered a total of 20 multi-point games across the 2018-19 season. This includes his second career hat trick on Jan 13th against the Nashville Predators, and four four-point games. Finally, Aho is also tied for second in franchise records for most short-handed goals in a single-season with four. It is the most by a Carolina skater since the 2005-06 season when both Justin Williams and Eric Staal both registered four a piece.

Career Highlights

In 242 NHL games, Sebastian has a record of 83g-114a (197 points) and averages 18:07 minutes time on ice. Aho represented the Hurricanes in the 2019 NHL All-Star Game in San Jose. He’s also won one Gold Medal (IIHF World Junior’s – 2016 [Finland]) and two Silver Medals (IIHF World Junior’s U18 – 2015 [Switzerland] & IIHF World Championships – 2016 [Russia]) with the Finnish national team.

We’ll Keep You Posted

The Puck77 crew will keep you posted as soon as the Carolina Hurricanes formally announce that they have signed Aho.

stats from eliteprospects.com and hockey-reference.com

Carolina Hurricanes

Carolina Hurricanes: Congratulations and Concerns

July 1st is always a busy day for clubs and it was no different for the Carolina Hurricanes.

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Canes Broadcast team returns

Much to the delight of Caniacs worldwide, the broadcasting trio will return. Play-by-Play Announcer John Forslund (@JohnForslund), Color Analyst Tripp Tracey, and television/web host Mike Maniscalco (@MikeManiscalco) have all been re-signed by the Carolina Hurricanes. This will mark the 21st season that Forslund and Tracey will have worked together for Carolina. Additionally, it will be Forslund’s 25th season as the play-by-play voice of the Hurricanes. This posting dates back to 1994-95 season when the franchise was still located in Hartford, CT. Tracey, a former goaltender for the Philadelphia Flyers, has been with the club since his retirement in 1998. Maniscalco enters into his fourth season with the club as the host of Hurricanes LIVE! on FOX Sports Carolinas and host of the popular podcast CanesCast.

Hurricanes find a primary – Return of the Mrazzle Dazzle

 

In true cardiac cane fashion, the Carolina Hurricanes re-sign the 27-year old Czech phenom on UFA-day. The new contract is a 2-year, $6.25M deal that will last through the 2020-21 season. The deal pays out a respectable $3M in the upcoming 2019-20 season, and follows with a $3.25M payout in 2020-21. The Ostrava, CZE native was originally drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Selected 141st overall (5th rd, 21s pk). In the year Petr Mrazek has spent with the Carolina Hurricanes hockey club, he’s hammered out quite the reputation. Both within franchise records, and in fan’s hearts. Following the 2017-18 season, Philadelphia did not tender a qualifying offer to Petr, which opened him up to the free agent market.

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Hurricanes GM Don Waddell, on July 1st 2018, extended a contract offer. A 1-year, $1.5M contract, and an opportunity to redeem himself after the season in Philly. Now, a year later, Petr has registered a 23-14-3 record, a 2.39 goals-against average, and a .914 save percentage that includes four shutouts. This tied his career high in shutouts. It addition, put him squarely in fifth place in franchise records for lowest single-season goals-against average. He sports a career record of 101-78-26, a 2.61 goals-against average, and a .911 save percentage spanning 223 NHL games. The Hurricanes Twitter account puts it best.

Controversy and concern – Sebastian Aho receives an offer sheet

Then the day got interesting. GM Marc Bergevin of the Montreal Canadiens extended an offer sheet to restricted free agent and Hurricanes superstar, Sebastian Aho.

It was not entirely unexpected, considering that multiple teams had called Carolina. The shock came more in the form of the offer itself. Surprising enough that the Hurricanes GM made mention of it during a press conference addressing the offer sheet.

Carolina’s on a 7-day clock, on whether to match the offer, or to take the draft pick compensation. The compensation would come in the form of a 1st Round pick, a 2nd Round pick, and a 3rd Round pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. It had been previously said that the club would match any offer. Not to worry, though, Caniacs.

Stats and information courtesy of Hockey Reference, the NHL and Cap Friendly

Featured Image Photo Credit – Josh Tessler

Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs: Mitch Marner Contract Expectations

It’s no secret that the Mitch Marner contract extension talks with the Toronto Maple Leafs aren’t close to being done.

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Marner is coming off a great season. In 82 games played, Marner tallied 26 goals and 68 assists. He posted a career high in both categories. With Marner having an outstanding season, he’s going to command quite a contract and he truly deserves it. But, the NHL of course has a salary cap, so that makes things rather challenging for clubs to give the world to their players. With that being said, it’s evident that both sides are far from resolution.

Contract Update

Rogers Sportsnet analyst Elliotte Friedman joined Tim & Sid (Tim Micallef and Sid Seixeiro) the other day to discuss the Marner talks. Unfortunately, Friedman didn’t have great news for Toronto Maple Leafs fans. Apparently, Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas offered the restricted free agent an eight year deal worth 11 million (88 million total) per season. Marner’s camp turned that offer down. 

Back in January, Rogers Sportsnet analyst Nick Kypreos mentioned that Dubas had (prior to the season) offered 72 million to Marner and that wasn’t in the ballpark that Marner’s agent, Darren Ferris was looking for. 

The good news is that the Toronto Maple Leafs aren’t trying to nickle and dime Marner. If they were, they never would have upped their original offer. But, the bigger challenge is to determine exactly how to make Marner happy. 

Projected Contract

It’s been speculated that it would take quite a bit of money to extend Marner. A couple of weeks ago, EvolvingWild projected that Marner would get an eight year deal worth 9.79 million annually. They projected that he’d earn slightly less than fellow restricted free agents, Sebastian Aho of the Carolina Hurricanes (~10 mil, 8 years) and Mikko Rantanen (~10.1 mil, 8 years) of the Colorado Avalanche. With the Leafs reportedly offering 11 million per season, they are going far above the projections and are truly showing Marner that he means a tremendous amount to the club. But, the thing that might be holding Marner back from signing on the dotted line has nothing to do with money.

Term Length

It’s got to do more with term length. Over the past few seasons, we’ve seen fewer players signing on for 8 year deals, especially restricted free agents. Auston Matthews signed a five year deal, William Nylander signed a six year deal, David Pastrnak signed a six year deal and Johnny Gaudreau signed a six year deal. Players simply don’t want to feel like they are locked into the same contract for a long period of time. In addition, with the salary cap continue to rise, players want the option to renegotiate their contract sooner than later in order to get a higher salary. 

Trying To End Their Contracts At The Same Time

In addition, the Maple Leafs have been trying to get their contracts to expire roughly at the same time. If you take a look at CapFriendly, you’ll see that Matthews, John Tavares and Nylander’s contract end at roughly the same time. Matthews and Nylander’s contracts expire at the end of the 2023-24 season. Tavares’ contract expires at the end of the 2024-25 season.

Based on when those contracts expire, I’m taking a wild guess that Marner’s camp wants a five year deal. With how things change from season to season, the Toronto Maple Leafs could look like a completely different club in a few seasons. They could be in a rough spot and might not be a contender. If that’s the case, Matthews, Nylander and Marner want to explore the market in five years time to see if they might be able to play in a better spot somewhere else. Unfortunately, it’s rather challenging to predict the future and my crystal ball is in the shop.

But, what we can realistically expect is that Marner’s camp isn’t looking for a long contract with the possibility of not playing with Matthews and Nylander for a few seasons. These guys are friends and they don’t want to separate, so it makes a lot of sense that they’d want to re-evaluate their situation sooner than later.

My Projection

Based on what I mentioned above, I think that the Toronto Maple Leafs and Marner will come to terms on a five year deal worth somewhere in between what Nylander and Matthews are getting paid. So, it’ll be very close to what EvolvingWild projected, except for the fact that it would be a five year deal. 

stats from hockey-reference.com, EvolvingWild

salary research from CapFriendly.com

featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler

Carolina Hurricanes

Carolina Hurricanes: Endings are simply new beginnings

The Carolina Hurricanes put on an amazing spectacle this season, so what’s in store for the future. 

 

All good things must come to an end.

The Carolina Hurricanes’ Cinderella run deep into the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs have ended. After the sweep of the New York Islanders in round two, the good fortune of our favorite Bunch of Jerks was over. Despite their strong goaltending and 5-on-5 play, they found themselves unable to find a way against the Boston Bruins. In a trend set from the start of the 2019 playoffs, the Carolina Hurricanes found themselves swept in the Eastern Conference Finals. This is not to say that the Hurricanes were a poor team, on the contrary, they were a fantastic team. The Bruins were just better, with their power play clicking upwards of 60% during the four game series. Now that their season is over, it’s now time to look towards the 2019-20 regular season.

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Looking forward: The franchise

Hockey is most definitely back in North Carolina. During the regular season, the Carolina Hurricanes began seeing a surge in attendance, and going into the 2019 playoffs, even set a new franchise record. Game 4 of the second round saw the Hurricanes set a franchise record of 19,495 in attendance at PNC Arena, the same night they recorded their first franchise series sweep. This is only but one of many records either set, or broken, by the Carolina Hurricanes during this past year. Depending on roster moves during the summer, another playoff drought isn’t expected anytime soon. And much to the ire of their critics, as well as the delight of their fans (both new and old), hockey isn’t leaving North Carolina anytime soon.

Looking forward: The players

The Hurricanes roster at the start of the 2019-20 regular season will see the return of many familiar faces. It also faces the possibility of several players leaving the franchise. One such player is Scott Darling, whom is rumored to be facing a contract buyout during the off-season this summer, as evidenced in the below tweet from David Pagotta.


 

Sebastian Aho, Brock McGinn, and Clark Bishop are all RFAs. Aho is extremely likely to be re-signed by Hurricanes GM Don Waddell, with Brock McGinn being a strong possibility. The Hurricanes roster also has five UFAs to address this summer as well. Justin Williams, Greg McKegg, Michael Ferland, and the miracle goaltending duo of Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney. With the number of contract negotiations to occur during the summer, we may see a lot of new jerks on the roster.

The “Bunch of Jerks” and the Storm Surge

Whether you’re a bandwagon fan from the 2019 playoffs, new to the franchise (like myself), or a long-time fan, the Caniacs have a lot to look forward to. The “Bunch of Jerks” season saw not only a re-branding of the Carolina Hurricanes, but a re-invention of the team’s identity. It’s unknown whether or not the moniker will carry over into the 2019-20 regular season. Many have suggested that it does not, as there will not be another season like this. I happen to agree on this, as it happened to grow out of the noteworthy tirades of Don Cherry. The Storm Surge is unlikely to end anytime soon. I also expect them to continue to evolve over the course of the next season, as they did this past one. Anything less just wouldn’t feel right.

Stats from Hockey-Reference.com, NHL.com

Featured Image Credit: Josh Tessler

Aleksi Heponiemi Signs ELC With Florida Panthers

Aleksi Heponiemi, drafted in the second round, 40th overall, in 2017 by the Florida Panthers, is set to return to North America after signing his entry-level contract with the Panthers on Wednesday.  

Listed at 5’11” and 154 lbs, Heponiemi has room to grow into his frame, but he has yet to let that impede on his ability to generate offense in all situations. Heponiemi’s skating, vision, and puck-moving ability have all been put on display no matter what league or competition he has played in and he will compete for a spot on the Panthers’ NHL squad come training camp.

Playing With Swift Current

Since being drafted in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, the Finnish forward spent one season in the WHL (2017-2018) and one season in Liiga (2018-2019), Finland’s top-tier professional league.

Heponiemi put up staggering offensive numbers in his final season with the Swift Current Broncos after his draft, especially considering that he only played 57 of Swift Current’s 72 games in 2017-18.  In all situations, Heponiemi posted 28 goals and a league-leading 90 assists, for a total of 118 points, good for third in the league.  These totals include 51 primary assists, another league lead, and 79 primary points, the fifth-most in the league. What makes his season even more impressive is that his production remains consistent at 5-on-5 hockey.  During the game’s most common situation, Heponiemi lead the WHL in total assists with 53 and primary assists with 36.  His 66 points, 49 of which were primary, were good for 9th and 5th in the league, respectively as well.  Again though, it is important to consider that Heponiemi missed 15 games in that season.  In all situations, on a per-game basis, Heponiemi led the WHL in total and primary assists as well as total points, in addition to ranking third in primary points.  At 5-on-5, he again led the league in total and primary assists per game, ranked fourth in primary points per game, and was second in total points per game.  The Panthers prospect accomplished all this while being decidedly the youngest player in the top-10 in all of these statistics.

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Heading Back Home

After deciding that he was finished dominating his junior league, Heponiemi returned home to Finland to try his hand at professional hockey, and he did not disappoint.  He spent the 2018-19 season with Karpat, where he logged 16 goals and 30 assists for 46 points in 50 games, leading all rookies and ranking 12th in the league in total scoring, despite again missing league time to represent Finland in the World Junior Championships. Heponiemi’s 0.92 points per game is the 10th-highest mark by a teenager in Liiga in the last 20 years, just 0.01 points per game ahead of 11th-ranked Aleksander Barkov. Other comparables to Heponiemi’s phenomenal season include Sebastian Aho, Mikael Granlund, and Teuvo Teravainen, in addition to highly touted prospects such as Rasmus Kupari, Kristian Vesalainen, and potential 2019 first-overall pick Kaapo Kakko.

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What’s Next For Heponiemi?

Heponiemi is a dynamic forward who can play center or wing (but will likely end up on a wing in North American professional hockey) with a ton of offensive upside, demonstrated mostly by his ability to avoid opposing defenders and distribute the puck amongst his teammates.  He will have to compete with fellow Panthers forward prospects such as Owen Tippett and Grigori Denisenko, both former first-round picks, for a spot on the NHL roster during training camp, and will likely begin the 2019-20 season with the Springfield Thunderbirds, but do not be surprised to see Heponiemi make his NHL debut sooner rather than later.

stats from eliteprospects.com, hockey-reference.com

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals