CONFIRMED: Oilers Sign Russell


By Mike Meyer

Edmonton Oilers Writer

 

Only hours removed of trading forward, Nail Yakupov to St. Louis, Oilers General Manager, Peter Chiarelli made his second move of Friday night by signing free agent defenseman, Kris Russell.

The move sparks wonder and curiosity about Chiarelli’s leadership and boldness to change his club. First trading former 2010 1st overall draft pick, Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils for defenseman, Adam Larsson. Next trading former 2012 first overall, Nail Yakupov for AHL forward, Zach Pochiro and a conditional 2017 3rd round draft pick. And now acquiring another left-handed defenseman in Russell. His moves to enhance and help his club on the ice have certainly been bold, questionable, and interesting.

Russell will join the Oilers as the sixth left-handed defenseman on their roster. This is not to undermine the value that Russell can bring to this lineup, it is simply stating that a move perhaps was made out of desire, and not need. Russell can indeed help out this blue line, as the 29-year-old has averaged 23 minutes of ice time over the last three seasons, along with 177 total points over a career 573 NHL games between the Columbus Blue Jackets, St. Louis Blues, Calgary Flames, and the Dallas Stars. Though he might not be the sexy defenseman that Oilers fans were looking to quarterback the Powerplay for the next several years, Kris has shown that he does have the ability to help in all aspects of the game. Russell is a defensive first style defenseman that can help out on the penalty kill that saw a below league average, 80.71% success rate. In the 62 games that Russell appeared in last season, he was second in blocked shots with 210. As the signing may not fit a “need” that the Oilers fans are searching for, perhaps head coach Todd McLellan feels comfortable with the group that he has and will be bringing Russell in on his 1 year deal to do what he does best: block shots. If indeed that is what the Oilers are searching for and what they feel is the true need for this team, the Oilers certainly got their man.

As Chiarelli’s moves may have not been overly appealing to fantasy matters or even that armchair general managers would make to help out their squad, Chiarelli has made hockey trades that he feels will help strengthen areas that his team is weakest in. If his club can see an increase in the overall standings and dare I say push for a playoff berth, this proves to be a success. With the regular season set to begin just days away, the impact of his moves will begin to take shape.

Bruins Sign Dominic Moore


By Rob Finney
Boston Bruins Writer
The Bruins have signed C Dominic Moore to a 1yr, $900,000 contract; with a $100,000 bonus if he plays 42 games, and the Bruins make the playoffs. Moore has played 11 seasons in the NHL, gathering 765GP and 245pts.
I don’t believe this means they’re trading a center, as Moore is a 4th line center, and couldn’t replace Ryan Spooner or David Krejci’s spot in the lineup. The Bruins still desperately need defense, but it seems as though they’re more and more willing to move into training camp with their current roster.

Who will the Blues Lose in the Expansion Draft?


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By Mike Meyer

St. Louis Blues Writer

Dallas Stars Writer

Edmonton Oilers Writer

 

Over sixteen years have passed since the last time the NHL grew in its numbers. Sixteen years ago brought on the birth of the forest green, Minnesota Wild, and cannon-booming, Columbus Blue Jackets, to the NHL. The 2016-17 NHL season will be the last season played under that 30 team format and will lay the groundwork for the 31st team in Las Vegas. With this, an NHL Expansion Draft. Which oddly enough now feels like a version of The Hunger Games, NHL style. You’re welcome for that bit of marketing help, Bettman. Each team will have one player leave their roster in order to help stock up the new Las Vegas team, and will have the maximum of up to 11 players they can protect. The protection list that I have gone through was made with the scenario that management must choose their protected players as of today and the Las Vegas team would be set to start this upcoming season. Keep in mind that with the contracts expiring from Alex Steen and Kevin Shattenkirk in the upcoming offseason, it is likely that the two players can be adjusted on this list accordingly throughout the season. Should anything happen (or not) two others such as Ty Rattie and Dmitrij Jaskin can gain security. General Manager, Doug Armstrong has a nice situation with the fact that not one single player on his roster must be protected via a no-movement clause. Every single one of his choices will be just that, his choice. With that in mind, here are the choices, again as of today, that I would protect.

 

· Notable exempt:
o Jordan Schmaltz
o Robby Fabbri
o Colton Parayko
o Ville Husso
o Jordan Kyrou
o Ivan Barbashev
o Vince Dunn

 

7 Forwards – 3 Defense – 1 Goalie Option
· Tarasenko
· Stastny
· Steen
· Schwartz
· Lehtera
· Perron
· Berglund
· Pietrangelo
· Shattenkirk
· Edmundson
· Allen

 

The protection of the core forwards is a must. With Fabbri already being protected up front, and Parayko with the defensive group, options have opened up to protect players such as Edmundson, Lehtera, and Berglund. The likes of Tarasenko, Stastny, and Schwartz from this list will be together for at least the next few seasons, pending a surprising trade. With Backes gone, the ice-time will likely open up for Stastny to prove he can (and will need to) be an NHL number 1 Center again. Patrick Berglund has been rumored to be on the trade block for the last few seasons and after Lehtera’s regression last season, he will need to be at his best, should he not want to have his name on the trading block as well. With opting for the 8-3-1, Armstrong can ensure that his valuable players are not  lost for nothing.

 

8 Skaters – 1 Goalie Option
· Tarasenko
· Stastny
· Steen
· Schwartz
· Perron
· Berglund
· Pietrangelo
· Shattenkirk
· Allen

 

If Blues management would go this route, this would only put them to 9/11 possible protected. Doug Armstrong has options to go with and right now, but going with the 8 Skaters and 1 Goalie option (as of today) would be foolish to not protect some of his younger / depth assets.

 

Why not Bouw?

 

The Blues have been handcuffed due to Jay Bouwmeester’s contract and could use a relief. The 32 year old is currently owed $5.6 million in the 2016-17 season, and $5.4 million throughout the remaining 2 years of his contract. Bouwmeester has certainly seen his production fall of as he has only managed 27 points over the last 144 games he has played in St. Louis. Jay’s production has seen a slow decline over the last few years, until his first season in St. Louis where he saw a spike from 22 points that were split between the Blues and Calgary Flames, to 37. This could be a win-win scenario for the Blues to gain the cap space, and Las Vegas to gain a reliable, veteran defenseman that will also help them get to the salary cap floor. Though, Armstrong may not want to lose Jay for nothing, if there were a buyer at a fair price for the veteran defenseman, the trade would likely have been made already. If the Blues manage to rid of Bouwmeester, the options and cap space to keep Shattenkirk get a lot more interesting.

 

The upcoming 2016-17 season is a bit more important with not only the battles for spots in the nightly lineup, but the Expansion Draft looming over as well. Players who hope to continue or even start their careers in St. Louis but have a bit more to prove. The likes of Jori Lehtera, Dmitrij Jaskin, Patrick Berglund, Ty Rattie, and even Connor Bleackley could all be subject to availability in the upcoming expansion draft and very well could be headed to Las Vegas.

Confirmed: Dallas Signs Hudler


By Mike Meyer

Dallas Stars Writer

Edmonton Oilers Writer

St. Louis Blues Writer

 

Reports have begun to circle around that Jiri Hudler will be taking his talents to Dallas. On August 24th, Dallas has reportedly signed* Hudler to a 1-year contract worth $2 million.

 

Though at a half the yearly value of his contract in Calgary, Hudler in the Lone Star State could be a very low risk, high reward contract for the Stars. The 32-year-old, Hudler saw plenty of success with Calgary in the 248 games he suited up for.

 

Before being traded to the Panthers at the NHL Trade Deadline in February, Hudler netted 68 goals and 192 total points for the Flames. He went on to rack up 11 points in 19 games for the Florida Panthers after the trade.

 

The veteran can help reinforce the talent along the right wing side along with Alex Hemsky, Patrick Eaves, and Brett Ritchie. Though the signing of Hudler for Dallas Stars fans does look good, one person that might take offense to this could certainly be Restricted Free Agent and right winger, Valeri Nichuskin.

 

By bringing in Hudler, does this bode well for things to come for Valeri? Or is this merely a veteran talent that Dallas can add to their arsenal as a security blanket, should things go south for Nichuskin?

 

*It’s now been confirmed that Hudler has signed.

Ottawa Re-Signs Native Son Ceci


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By Bobby Bauders

Senior Writer

Editor-in-Chief

 

The Ottawa Senators have inked Cody Ceci into a 2 year deal worth $2.8M AAV.

 

The 22-year-old had multiple career highs. In 75 games, he scored 10 goals, 16 assists, and 26 points, while amassing 18 penalty minutes.

 

Ceci also scored a goal and 5 assists for Team Canada in the World Hockey Championship in Russia.

 

Roughly 10 days ago, it was predicted by the Senators GM, Pierre Dorion, that a deal would be completed in a couple weeks. His timeline proved accurate.

 

The Sens offered both long term and short term deals. The developing defenseman ultimately settled for years. Likely expecting a pay raise when he becomes a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) in 2 years.

 

The Ottawa native was selected 15th overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Many expect Ceci to become a staple of Ottawa’s blueline in years to come. All-in-all, an important signing for Dorion and the Senators.

Blues Offseason Recap


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By Mike Meyer

St. Louis Blues Writer

Dallas Stars Writer

Edmonton Oilers Writer

Off-season Recaps. For some fan bases, this involves a look back on what great moves were made at the trade deadline and during the off-season, and a chance to say, “we’re gonna repeat and win again!”. For others, a chance to fully realize a loss and just how close they had gotten and to come away with nothing. No shiny objects, no parade down Market, no Captain. A loss of players, fan favorites, personnel, and a time to hold on to what bit of hope they might have left. Hope that a step back will not have to be taken when you had finally come so close.

Subtractions: (Captain) David Backes, Troy Brouwer, Brian Elliott, (AHC) Brad Shaw, (AHC) Kirk Muller

Additions: David Perron, Carter Hutton, Vladimir Sobotka , Ville Husso, Jordan Kyrou, (AHC / HC) Mike Yeo
Resigns / Extensions: Jaden Schwartz, Dmitrij Jaskin, Kyle Brodziak, Scottie Upshall, Magnus Paajarvi, Jake Allen, Pheonix Copley, Ty Rattie, Chris Butler, Luke Opilka, Brad Hunt, Jordan Binnington, Danny Kristo, Jordan Caron

Blues fans, this can certainly be a proving season. A “coming of age” tale for some, or a straw that broke the camel’s back that can ultimately cause the Blues to take misstep in their quest for the Cup. The losses of David Backes and Troy Brouwer could prove to be monumental down the stretch in the regular season and in the playoffs. Let’s face it, their tenacity and “grind it out” style of play is something that Blues fans have grown accustomed to watching over the last few years. But it’s also a style that some fan bases are craving for on a regular basis. Though the style of play is still loved and admired by many, Blues fans also had to endure the amount of penalty minutes and controversy that this particular style of play would inevitably cause. Combined this past season, the two big-bodied power forwards, Backes and Brouwer, managed to rack up 145 penalty minutes, which in turn, would rank them first and fourth on the team, respectively. 145 total minutes that the Captain of the Blues and newcomer Troy Brouwer would be unable to help kill off. 145 minutes of fans sitting on edge while a one goal deficit could have grown to two, a tie could have been broken, or a one goal lead could have been tied and forced Overtime. And this only due to two of St. Louis’ key players.

St. Louis had a lot to be proud of this year. They reached the Western Conference Championship for the first time in 15 years. Second Place in the Central Division and Western Conference, despite the injuries at times to key players such as Steen, Schwartz, Allen and Elliott. The club finally earned and announced that a Winter Classic will be held at Busch Stadium on New Year’s Day against the Chicago Blackhawks. They made NHL history as the 11th team to post a four game shutout streak and only the fourth to do so since 1967. The team’s defense shined on as it ranked 4th in the NHL with only 201 Goals Against this past season and the team ranked 15th overall with 224 Total Goals Scored. Special Teams were able to do their job and stayed above the NHL average. St. Louis scored 51 total Power Play goals out of a possible 237 opportunities. The NHL average was 48 PP Goals and 255 Opportunities. The Blues this past season allowed only 41 total Power Play Goals Against out of a possible 276 Opportunities Against, while the rest of the League averaged 48 PP Goals Allowed and 255 Opportunities Against. Doing the math, the Blues managed a 21.52% Power Play conversion rate beating out an 18.56% League Average and achieved an 85.14% Penalty Kill throughout the season, while the rest of the League looked on at an average of 81.34%. St. Louis, you have a lot to be proud of from this team. Though they did not manage that parade down Market, a lot was accomplished from this squad. Hold your heads high.

With already having gone into depth of what Jake Allen taking over as the full-time starting goaltender in a previous article, let’s look at what the loss of impact players such as Brouwer and Backes could mean for this Blues team going forward and what will need replaced.

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Troy Brouwer

This one was a little bit tougher for me to understand after seeing what he signed for in Calgary. Troy Brouwer will be joining Brian Elliott as two of the newest members of the Calgary Flames for the 2016-17 season, after signing a  four-year, $18 million contract. This breaks down to $4.5 million per season, and includes a full No Trade Clause for the first two seasons, and a Modified No Trade Clause for the final two seasons of his contract, of which he can choose up to 15 teams that he cannot be traded to.

Troy was hoped by many in St. Louis to be a threat to the opposition for at least the next several years to come after being traded from the Washington Capitals in a deal that sent T.J. Oshie the other way. After seeing his determination, frustration, and desire to have the puck in the back of the net throughout the playoffs, Brouwer was hoped by many to stay. This was something that fans in St. Louis were not used to seeing from Oshie, as he typically faded during the postseason. He helped inspire others on his team to keep the level of play up and to keep battling. A true playoff leader to this squad.

Throughout the regular season, Troy was not the most offensive of players in the lineup. He managed to register 39 points in 82 games played. Though he has never been the most offensively minded player, Brouwer came within one point of tying his highest single season points total from the 2009-10 season with the Chicago Blackhawks. It would not be until the playoffs that Brouwer really stole St. Louis’ heart where he put up 13 points in 20 games and showed the tenacity of a player who wanted to do whatever it took to win. Though this was all to St. Louis’ favor, the statistic that alarmed and cautioned me about Troy’s future with the Blues, was the fact that Brouwer has now only managed 32 points in 98 career playoff games with Chicago, Washington, and St. Louis combined. Players have certainly had a history of cashing in on their playoff performances in previous seasons to boost their contract values for sure, so how much is he worth at this point. The statistic shows that 40.6% of his playoff points have come from his single postseason as a St. Louis Blue. Again, all of this now was to St. Louis’ favor, but was this just an anomaly or could this be counted on again next season? Was he truly in a better situation in St. Louis to put up more points in the postseason, or was it just a lucky year? The Calgary Flames have to hope for their sake that the performances from the two former Blues can be repeated with their young squad and to help carry them deep in to the playoffs. Without Brouwer to help lead the team this upcoming season, the Blues have learned and experienced what it takes to reach the Conference Championship. Who will be the player to step in to that role that Brouwer paved and put the team on their shoulders when the call comes?

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David Backes
The Captain. Drafted by the St. Louis Blues 62nd overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. Started his professional career with the Blues AHL affiliate club, the Peoria Rivermen in 2005. He played his first game NHL game on December 19th, 2006 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Scored his first NHL goal against the LA Kings two days later. Backes has been given the opportunity to lead the Blues as Captain since September 2011, represent the Blues in the NHL All-Star Game in 2011, represent the United States on three separate occasions in the World Championships and on two occasions in the Olympics. The 32-year-old has gone on to play 727 NHL career games for the St. Louis Blues, while racking up 969 total penalty minutes. Ten seasons with the Blues, five as their Captain, Backes it all. As his career goes on now in Boston, you can only add more to the legend that is: David Backes.

Boston, however, must be cautious when deploying Mr. Backes. David played a majority of his ice time this season between the second and third lines for the Blues, and registered his lowest shooting percentage (12.5%) in the last three seasons. The contract that the Bruins have for David going forward is front loaded and can in turn be able to help them out, if in the event that they would need to trade him. With the final two-year of his contract only showing a price tag of $4 million, a player like David Backes could be worth the price should they decide to ship him out of Boston. Playing on a hypothetical line that has been drawn up with the likes of Bergeron and Marchand could very well help Backes to reach over 50 points again this upcoming season, and very well challenge him for 60. Falling even down to a 2nd line role with Spooner and Krejci, Backes could very well make fans excited in Bean Town as Backes could very well be the new Lucic.

It’s time to look forward to the future St. Louis. Time to see what the new leaders of St. Louis can bring to this team, and who potentially is running out of room and time to make an impact. There are several players this upcoming season that will have a lot determined from their play. Let’s dive in and take a look at a few notable players that will be watched closely in the 2016-17 season in St. Louis.

Jori Lehtera

The Finnish, 6’2” Center was drafted in 2008 by the Blues, 65th overall. After being drafted, he played only 7 games for the Peoria Rivermen, recorded one assist before he decided to return to the SM-Liiga (Finnish Elite League) playing for Tappara. From the 2008-2009 to the end of the following season, Lehtera would play 115 games for Tappara registering 28 goals and 88 assists. The 69 points in 57 games during the 2009-10 season would ultimately net him the title of MVP. After playing from 2010-2014 in the KHL, Lehtera signed a two year contract with St. Louis and decided to come Stateside. After his first season with the Blues posting 44 points in 75 games, he experienced a regression during his second season, posting only 34 points in 79 games. While chemistry with Tarasenko is essential and certainly helps his case, his ice time will perhaps be limited based off his production alone this upcoming season. Look for Hitchcock and new Head Coach In Waiting, Mike Yeo to try out combinations for that first line to play with Tarasenko and either Steen or Jaden Schwartz. If Lehtera can prove himself to be deserving of the minutes, a few more highlight real passes from Lehtera to Tarasenko just might be in store.

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David Perron

The former Blue, Oiler, Penguin, Duck, and Blue once more, has officially returned. Drafted in 2007 by the St. Louis Blues, the 28 year old Perron hopes to take what he has learned from his experiences with the likes of Sidney Crosby, Taylor Hall, and Ryan Getzlaf and help out his former club once more. The 26th overall draft pick, Perron, has found patches of greatness in the last several years. Before his injury on, , David managed 42 points in 57 games. He was well on pace to top his career best 50 points in 81 games that came from his second season with the Blues. He would not return until , when he would play 48 games to finish out the season, managing only 25 points. Looking timid, and a somewhat ghost of his old self, Perron was traded to the Edmonton Oilers. Perron spent two seasons with the Oilers. His first season, flashing again signs of what made him a first round draft pick by recording 57 points in 78 games, but recording an uncharacteristic 90 penalty minutes. Before this season, Perron’s highest penalty minute in a single season was marked at 60. He was caught too often taking bad penalty’s in the offensive zone and not playing defense when his team needed him. With a few changes in the offseason, and a mental plan to change and develop his game, David could keep projecting in Edmonton and help the Oilers turn their team around. Unfortunately, this did not happen. Registering only 19 points in 38 games, Perron would be traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins. He would only suit up for 86 games over the course of the 2014-15 to 2015-16 season, while scoring only 16 goals and 38 points. He was traded once more, to the Anaheim Ducks. It was here in Anaheim that David was given every chance to succeed; and he did.  David Perron went on to score 8 goals and 12 assists throughout his 28 games with the Ducks. He was a player to be reckoned with once more. Now, he has a chance to bring what he has learned from the best around the NHL, back to St. Louis. He has a second chance with the Blues organization to prove he is deserving of the opportunity. A chance to play now with a slew of players from veteran and former teammate, Alexander Steen, to up and coming star Robby Fabbri. Perron has a capability to be a 50+ point player this upcoming season. His fate with the Blues, however, that is up to him.

Robby Fabbri

20 years old, 5’10” and 180lbs. Certainly doesn’t seem like that impressive of a stature for a hockey player. Tell that to Robby Fabbri though. Drafted 21st overall in 2014, Fabbri got his first crack at the NHL this season. Averaginng 13:19 Time On Ice per game, posting 18 goals and 37 points, Fabbri certainly flashed signs of brilliance that has Blues fans giddy. It wasn’t until the post season that Fabbri would really take off. Fabbri was given more trust in the playoffs while he was able to prove through his performance. Averaging 14:22 through 20 games, Fabbri was able to take off 15 points in 20 games. This upcomming season will certainly have a lot more focus on Fabbri from the opposition. Certainly with the subtraction of Backes and the addition of Perron, it will certainly be interesting on how Hitchcock and Yeo deploy Fabbri. As the playoffs reflected the increase of his point production, Fabbri will certainly have a lot of supporters and be a cornerstone to build off of for the Blues to come for some time.

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Colton Paryako

Another impressive rookie campaign from a Blues player. The towering 6’6″ Parayko, tied for 10th overall on the team with 33 points and lead the team with an impressive +28 overall rating. As his career continues to flourish, his shot will look to continue to develop. A shot that has many comparing him to Shea Weber and even Fulton Reed (Mighty Ducks reference there for you) is a shot that many in St. Louis are excited to have on their side. In the playoffs, Parayko was a player that would be counted on as the one of the defensemen to help lead the Blues through the postseason and at times partnered up with Alex Pietrangelo. A second year NHL player, Colton Parayko is the player that could push General Manager, Doug Armstrong, to trade away Kevin Shattenkirk as Parayko can emerge in to a Top 4 role for the Blues.

Ty Rattie

Looked at to challenge for a spot on the NHL roster this upcoming season, Rattie was signed to a 1 year contract in a way that speaks as a “show me what’cha got” season ahead. Rattie spent a majority of his time this past season at the AHL level playing with the Chicago Wolves. In 62 games, Rattie managed 17 goals and 46 points. During his time with the Blues, Rattie was able to more than double his NHL points total. In the two prior season, Rattie played 13 games and totalled 2 assists. In the 13 games that Rattie played this season, averaging only 9:17 TOI, he managed 16 shots, 4 goals and 2 assists. He will certainly have his work cut out for him as he will likley battle a mixture of Magnus Paajarvi and Dmitrij Jaskin for playing time.

Dmitrij Jaskin

Drafted 41st overall in 2011, Jaskin was hoped to take a higher role last year and push for a higher role on the Blues. He unfortunately saw a 5 point reduction while playing 11 more games. Playing in 65 games for the Blues and averaging 11:52 TOI, Jaskin was not able to match his 108 shots total from his 2014-15, coming in at 92. For the 2016-17 season, Jaskin will also look to improve on his 4.3% shooting percentage next season. As much as this upcoming season is his to prove what he can really do, Rattie will likely push for playing time. Jaskin once scored 99 points in 51 games during the  2012-13 season in the QMJHL. The Blues will hope that Jaskin is able to find his scoring touch at the NHL level. He too could be another player with a short leash and potentially on thin ice this season.

The St. Louis Blues have a lot to be excited for this upcoming season. The new contract for Jaden Schwartz helps solidify their faith in his role with the team and his leadership. Jake Allen taking over as the starting goaltender can help push him mentally as he trains this offseason knowing he is the guy. The likes of sophomores Robby Fabbri and Colton Parayko will likely push for more and more ice time as the season goes on and their careers flourish. The battle that will happen all season long potentially between Magnus Paajarvi, Ty Rattie, and Dmitrij Jaskin. Jori Lehtera and Paul Stastny battling for the 1C spot to center the likes of Vladimir Tarasenko, Alex Steen and/or Jaden Schwartz. The return of Vladimir Sobotka from the KHL to prove that he is more than just a 4C and can push for potentially even a spot as high as the second line. A lot of questions and combinations can and will come from this forward group of Blues. The question becomes, will the new “Young Guns” be able to produce and take that next step to lead their Blues to victory.

Releasing Antoine Vermette is Coyotes GM’s First Major Risk


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By Chris Garagiola

Arizona Coyotes Writer

 

*Vermette has since signed with the Anaheim Ducks

 

When the Coyotes waived Antoine Vermette and bought-out the remaining $3.75 million on his contract, the youngest GM in professional sports history took his first major gamble.

 

Vermette, a staple of the Coyotes for five of the previous six seasons has been cast out in favor of the youth movement taking place in the desert. He experienced a disappointing 2015-2016 season collecting 38 points in 76 games on the Coyotes second-line. And his removal on the roster, which will save the Coyotes 1.25M in cap space, now opens two spots at the center position which are expected to be filled by 2015 first-round pick Dylan Strome and 2014 second-rounder Christian Dvorak.

 

Should we be surprised that the youngest GM in pro sports is choosing youth over experience?

 

Maybe not, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a major risk by Chayka.

 

Despite the dip in points, Vermette posted a 55.8 faceoff percentage (FO%) last season which was fourteenth-best in the NHL. In a time where puck-possession is paramount to team success, Vermette’s ability to win faceoffs ought to have been valuable given the departure of Boyd Gordon, another departure during the offseason who was third in the league last season with a 57.9 FO%.

 

Vermette has 988 games of professional experience underneath his veteran skates. He has scored 496 career points and is a Stanley Cup champion. He has been a consummate professional both in the locker room and off the ice for a franchise that has struggled financially and competitively, all during times when the club was rumored to be relocated again and again…and again.

 

Even if Vermette had another dip in numbers, you can probably bank on at least 30 points and a FO% above 52 percent.

 

Compare that to Dvorak and Strome who have never played a second in the NHL. For as talented as these prospects are, there is always the fear that they will never reach the potential hoisted on them by hockey pundits around North America.

 

There is no denying that Strome and Dvorak have proven their worth in junior hockey. Last season, Strome posted his second consecutive 130-plus point season for the Erie Otters of the OHL. He also represented Team Canada at the World Junior Championships in Helsinki, and was a rare bright spot for an otherwise woeful performance by the Canadians netting four goals and two assists and a staggering 71.58 FO%. Did I forget to mention that Strome also went viral with his dazzling 1-on-4 goal earlier this season (which can be seen here).

 

Not to be overshadowed, Dvorak tallied 156 points in 77 games last season for the London Knights. He served as the team’s captain and led the Knights to the OHL title. Dvorak is considered an NHL-ready prospect and instead of having to decide between Strome or Dvorak, Chayka appears to want both.

 

Should Strome and Dvorak survive the final round of cuts in early October, the two will join one of the youngest rosters in the NHL (keep in mind that roster will include 40-year-old Shane Doan).

 

Oliver Ekman-Larsson is 25. Louis Domingue and Jordan Martinhook are 24. Connor Murphy and Tobias Reider (who has yet to be resigned) are 23. Max Domi is 21. Anthony Duclair is 20.
Dvorak and Strome are 20 and 19 years old, respectively. Other top prospects hungry for an NHL roster spot include Brendan Perlini, Christan Fischer, Laurent Dauphin, and Henrik Samuelsson who are all under the age of 23.

 

But what can you expect from Strome and Dvorak? What happens when the team hits an extended losing streak? What happens when each player hits their own scoring drought? How many points can you bank on from these two prospects? How will they react when they are being defended by Duncan Keith or Drew Doughty?

 

Who knows? That’s what make prospects both frustrating and exciting. They are the products fans invest their hopes into and GMs invest their job security—and like many investments, some never work out. For Coyotes fans, there has never been a more hopeful time for this team. Yet Coyotes fans know the pain of seeing prospects failing to pan out. Look no further than Brandon Gormley and Viktor Tikhonov.

 

Gormley was selected thirteenth overall in the 2010 NHL draft and was considered a future first-line pairing for the Coyotes. Like Ekman-Larsson, he was scouted as a talented two-way defenseman with excellent puck-moving IQ with terrific size and great vision.

 

Gormley never became the defenseman the Coyotes envisioned back when they drafted him in 2010. In 32 career games with the Coyotes, Gormley tallied just two goals and two assists before the Coyotes cut their losses by trading the young defenseman to Colorado for Stefan Elliot.

 

Viktor Tihkonov was the 28th overall selection in 2008 by the Coyotes. In the 2008–09 season, Tikhonov made the Coyotes’ opening-night roster and wound up playing in 61 games scoring 8 goals and 16 points before he was assigned to American Hockey League. Over the next seven years, Tikhonov played in 39 games with the Coyotes.

 

But probably at the top of Mount Failmore is the third overall selection in the 2007 NHL Draft, Kyle Turris. Taken two spots behind Patrick Kane, Turris was a dynamic offensive player with a tremendously accurate shot and a legitimate point-producer. The Coyotes considered him to be the piece that the club could build around for the future. Instead Turris never scored more than 25 points in a single season with the club and frequently went back-and-forth to the AHL. After making the playoffs in 2010, he demanded a trade to Ottawa just six months later. In his two full seasons with Ottawa from 2013-2015, Turris twice scored at least 25 goals and had at least 58 points. Had he been on Arizona, he would have been the team’s leading scorer in both seasons by a wide margin.

 

Yet despite all of the failure, Chayka is fearlessly moving forward with his plan to integrate more youth and speed into an already young lineup. Clearly he wants to foster a young team and watch it grow for the next half decade using a model that the Chicago Blackhawks used in the late 2000s to revive their struggling franchise.

 

That plan began by saying goodbye to Vermette.

 

If Strome and Dvorak have an impact similar to Domi and Duclair then the Coyotes are going to be a force to reckon with for many years to come. Ekman-Larsson, Domi, Duclair, Strome and Dvorak will be the backbone that the rest of the team is built around. Keep in mind that Clayton Keller is being compared to Patrick Kane and Jacob Chychrun was once considered a top-five pick in the 2016 NHL Draft—and the Coyotes own both. Because of this, there has never been a more exciting (dare I say hopeful) time for this franchise.

 

If Strome or Dvorak don’t pan out, then fans will be left wondering if Chayka’s inexperience is to blame for pushing away such a savvy veteran in Vermette.

 

However, should the Coyotes prove to be legitimate players in the Western Conference this season and next, this move could be considered the genesis of a new age of hockey in the desert.

 

Only time will tell.