After a weirdly active late July and early August, things seem to be slowing down a bit, at long last. Everyone’s off to the cottage, unless Jake Gardiner signs soon and pending the Minnesota GM hire.
So hey, we can start asking some Big Questions now that all the real day-to-day stuff seems to be mostly handled.
Kyle asks: “What path do you see for the Bruins to get deals done with Carlo and McAvoy?”
This has been one of the more interesting RFA situations in the league for me this summer and no one’s really talking about it to the extent it probably deserves. Boston is about $8.5 million away from the cap ceiling depending on what they do with guys on the lower end of their roster. Once Carlo and McAvoy sign, they’ll also be carrying nine defensemen so something has to give there, as well, but that does give them some extra cap flexibility.
Nonetheless, I think they combined to come in somewhere in the $11 million range, give or take half a mil. (McAvoy is great but he’s also played a little more than 100 regular season games so it would be weird to see him break the bank to the extent he probably should.)
Once they sign these two RFAs they’ll have another buyout window but they’ve indicated they’re unlikely to use it on David Backes. The only other candidates they have who are worth buying out (Kevan Miller and John Moore) wouldn’t even give them that much flexibility.
Looks to me like they’ll have to make a trade and find someone to take on salary. Backes looks like a decent “Ottawa” type guy because his salary ($4 million) is lower than his cap hit ($6 million). He has a 22-team no-trade list, though, and even if the Bruins are saying, “We’ll bench you for the whole season, or send you to Providence, whatever,” that might be preferable to going to Ottawa. I dunno.
Peter asks: “Which GM candidate is the most intriguing for the Minnesota job?”
I think they’re all the same kind of mix you get with every opening these days, so let’s just acknowledge that the only reasonable answer to this question is “Don Waddell.” He’s the current head of the collective decision-making process in Carolina and that alone is reason enough for him to top the list.
But also: Let’s say he gets the job. Would he have a similar setup in Minnesota as he does in Carolina? He certainly wouldn’t have the renowned support staff that’s been built over the years in Carolina, so if he’s back to being a big decision-maker, you wonder where that gets the Wild.
I should also say I’m generally not optimistic anyone who takes that job is gonna have a good time starting out. Fenton and Fletcher before him really painted the next hire into a bad corner.
Anthony asks: “At this point, how do you handle the Jesse Puljujarvi situation, and what’s the best-case scenario for both parties?”
If I’m the Oilers I shop him and see what’s out there. While it sucks that I’ve devalued my own asset, the fact that he openly wants out and is saying so to anyone who will listen seems, y’know, bad. Untenable, probably. Sending him to Europe to play for a year and then come back after that can’t be palatable to my organization as a whole.
So the best-case for Puljujarvi himself is that he is, of course, traded. For his sake, hopefully it’s not to Ottawa, but if I’m the Oilers and he doesn’t have trade protection, see ya. For the Oilers, the return has to be a pretty good prospect or a first-round pick. That said, you’re selling as low as possible so maybe you take what you can get.
But let’s leave it at this: I’d rather have an okay guy with a decent ceiling who wants to be there than a below-average guy with a great ceiling who hates the organization. Just my thoughts.
MW asks: “Has Daryl Katz been the least successful owner in professional sports?”
Katz bought the Oilers in May 2007. Since then they’ve made the playoffs just once, and won just five of 13 games. But to answer your question, he’s not even the least successful owner in the NHL, for my money.
Terry Pegula bought the Buffalo Sabres in February 2011, and they made the playoffs a few months later, where they lost in seven games to the Flyers in the first round. They haven’t made the playoffs since, and their best season was 89 points.
Obviously some of these down years were part of an intentional tank and that’s fine, but Pegula has also seen his team make five coaching changes since 2013, same as the Oilers. They’ve racked up 540 points in eight full seasons of Pegula owning the team (a 71-point pace in an 82-game season); in the last eight years, the Oilers have 578 (an 87-point pace).
Brodie asks: “Exactly how much ice time should Auston Matthews be getting, and how much will he get?”
This is an interesting question because I’m a big proponent of running your top players out there 22, 23 minutes a night. Matthews hit a career high this season with an average of 18:33.
Obviously, then, I would say he “should” get more. But the Leafs are in the unique position of having a center as good or better than Matthews on the team. Very few clubs can claim to have someone in that category, maybe five or six besides Toronto. Maybe that gives you the luxury to “only” run him out for 20 to get a great contribution from both him and John Tavares, who only played 19:05 a game last season, the lowest average since his second year in the league.
The Leafs don’t have Nazem Kadri to take some of those minutes reliably next season, so I think that’s probably where they both end up: 20ish minutes a game. Think that’ll go well for them.
Allan asks: “There are older players and Europeans who are not eligible for the Calder Trophy because the NHL has rules. Isn’t it time for an award that covers this? The Artemi Panarin Award perhaps?”
I gotta say no.
First of all, because Artemi Panarin won the Calder, so there’s that.
But realistically, how many guys fit into that category every year? Can’t be more than 10, tops. We’re talking about 27-year-old first-year NHLers or 25-year-old European imports. How many of those guys are even all that good? You want to give an award to a middle-of-the-lineup guy who puts up like 35 points or something? Who cares?
I’m not saying a Joonas Donskoi and guys like him aren’t valuable, it’s just exceedingly rare to even have an import be as good as he is, and his career high in goals is 14.
Tyler asks: “What is the ideal schedule length for an NHL season?”
Owners would tell you they love 82 games but the realistic number is more like the mid-60s. Something along the lines of 64 and 68 sounds good to me. I like that. But then I’m not running a gate-revenue league.
Hugh asks: “When is the TV contract up and is there a chance it goes to anyone other than NBC?”
The current TV deal in the U.S. ends after the 2020-21 season, right around the time the streaming content bubble is probably going to burst and leagues will stop receiving huge money from cable networks. Of course, having Seattle come in that year to establish a presence in another major market helps.
I think there would be interest from other networks, but in terms of being viable, I’d imagine NBC is still front of the line. The product may stink a lot of the time, but I wonder how much having the NHL be the centerpiece thing on NBC Sports Net matters to the league, instead of being an after-after-after-after-afterthought on ESPN 7.
Maybe the more important question is whether there’s a tipping point between dollar-value and marquee-value. Does an extra $50 million a year from Fox Sports, just to pick a potential destination, matter more than being the big show on NBC Sports most nights?
I don’t know the answer to that but given how hard-up for revenue growth the league might be, it’s worth considering.
Some questions in the mailbag are edited for clarity or to remove swear words, which are illegal to use.
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