Huberdeau Out 3-4 Months


By Shawn Spatz

Florida Panthers Writer

 

Jonathan Huberdeau, fresh off a six-year extension with the Panthers, suffered a leg injury last night in West Point that will knock him out of action until at least January. This is a huge blow to a team that has also lost Nick Bjugstad to a broken hand for the first few weeks of the season.

 

It will be hard to replace the 59 points that Huberdeau had last season, good for 3rd on the team behind Jussi Jokinen and Jaromir Jagr. Possible replacements on the Panthers’ top line include team newcomers Jonathan Marchessault, who signed on in July for two years after showing flashes in Tampa Bay, and Jared McCann, who came over from Vancouver in the Erik Gudbranson trade. In addition, one of those two will have to see time on the power play. Marchassualt saw time last night on both the power play and first line after Huberdeau’s exit, notching two points in Florida’s preseason finale. Florida will most likely not want to break up the line of Jokinen, Vincent Trocheck, and Reilly Smith, who enjoyed success last year as a solid unit. Either way, it is a tough break for a young team trying to get back into the playoffs.

BREAKING NEWS: Blues Acquire Yakupov


By Mike Meyer

St. Louis Blues Writer

Edmonton Oilers Writer

 

The St. Louis Blues have come out of nowhere and dealt again with Edmonton Oilers. This time, former first overall draft choice Nail Yakupov. And what for? AHL player Zach Pochiro and a conditional 2017 3rd round draft pick. The condition being if Nail scores just 15 goals this season, the 3rd round draft choice becomes a 2018 2nd round pick. 15 goals might not seem that much, but Nail has only reached over 15 once in his career which came in his rookie season from 2012-13.

Yakupov will join a cast of young Blues stars as they transition from David Backes and Troy Brouwer to the likes of Robby Fabbri, Jaden Schwartz, and Vladimir Tarasenko. St. Louis should hope for plenty of talent and structure to help bring the best in this low risk, high reward trade.
Yakupov has played 252 NHL career games where he has posted 50 goals and 111 total points.

Coyotes Acquire Lawson Crouse


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By Tim Waugh

Arizona Coyotes Writer

 

Coyotes GM John Chayka was back at it again this morning, making Arizona hockey a year-round spectacle. The Arizona Coyotes have traded their 3rd round pick in 2017 and a conditional 2nd in 2018 for Panthers prospect Lawson Crouse and veteran Dave Bolland.

 

Arizona possesses their own and Detroit’s 3rd rounder, the higher of the two by season’s end will be the one sent to Florida. The 2nd round pick in the deal becomes a 3rd in 2018 if Crouse does not play 10 games for Arizona in the 2016-17 season.

Lawson Crouse was the 11th overall pick in 2015 for the Panthers. Hoping to join his former gold-medal winning World Junior Championship teammates Max Domi and Anthony Duclair in Arizona next season, Crouse logged 23 goals and 62 points in 49 games for the Kingston Frontiacs of the OHL last year. A big, strong left winger, Crouse is more known for his size and puck protection than offense, but no slouch at scoring points either.

30-year-old center Dave Bolland is a veteran center, playing for Chicago, Toronto, and Florida in his nine years in the NHL. With a $5.5 million contract he inked after winning the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks still valid for 3 more years, and nowhere near as productive as he once was, the addition of Bolland seemed to be more of a cap subtraction for Florida. Although not worth the price tag, Bolland can still be a serviceable depth centerman for the Coyotes, bringing some extra experience to a ever-growing youth movement in the locker room. Bolland scored 5 points in his 25 games in Florida, also playing 2 games for their AHL affiliate Portland.

On the Fence – Revamped Coyotes Defense


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By Tim Waugh

Arizona Coyotes Writer

 

Newly appointed Coyotes General Manager John Chayka (pronounced Shy-ka) has been a busy man since the beginning of the off-season, signing and re-signing forwards like captain Shane Doan to a 1-year deal, and former Anaheim Ducks winger Jamie McGinn to a 3-year $10 million contract. But the impact made in his few short months as GM has been felt most on the blue line. Reaching into what seemed like the shallowest of pockets in seasons past, Chayka has spent some serious cash (well, for the Coyotes) on some quality help for OEL and co. Paired with an exceptional first year at the draft-floor table in Buffalo this past June, the players brought in are exciting and a breath of fresh air for fans everywhere.

 

Headlining the list of new names patrolling the Arizona blue line this year is far-and-away my favorite Free Agent acquisition in years, Alex Goligoski.

 

After notching 37 points and finishing +21 with Dallas last year, “Goose” is exactly what we need. He is a defenseman who is always getting in on the play and making crisp passes while staying reliable in his end, one may argue him to be a “budget Duncan Keith.” His offense is definitely his upside, and will excel in a system like the Coyotes’ where scoring is generated from the net out. Now, Goligoski has taken flak in the past for being a “poor defender” due to his size (5’11” 185 lbs). But the way he plays isn’t that of a traditional defender, but very indicative of the current speed of the game, which Chayka is keen to stay ahead of the curve on. His mobility and puck-handling skills attribute to his ability to make a play in his own end and have the puck end up 200 ft. away from his crease, or more favorably, in the opposition’s net. Now that’s my kind of defending. I am personally ecstatic to see him in the fall and how he impacts the squad.

 

A much less impactful signing, Luke Schenn was also brought into the fold on a $2.5 million contract spanning 2 years. As a big-hitting, right-handed defenseman, he is polar-opposite to his new colleague Goligoski. His value will lie in his ability to shut down opponents and make big clean hits, nobody is looking to this guy for the game winning goal or a stretch pass on the PK to send Boedker (now San Jose) Rieder (?) Duclair up the wing for a shorty. But what he offers the most is a luxury AZ hasn’t seen in years, and that’s flexibility. The choices we now have in our bottom 6 are getting more attractive by the week. Behind us are the days of having to call up the likes of Alex Grant whenever Michalek had one of his famous “lower body injuries.”

 

The re-signing of both Connor Murphy and Michael Stone were excellent in my opinion. Locking up Murphy to a six-year deal with an AAV of $3.85 million is a low-risk high-reward situation. He’s already shown exponential growth in his game, going from a -27 in the 14-15 season, to a +5 and more than doubling his best for points this past season. At 23 years young he is entering the prime of his career and learning how to play from an All-Star like Ekman-Larsson is doing him wonders already. Stone is also solid, but the team needs him to become something greater. Hopefully he comes off his injury right where he left off and earns a lengthy contract with the club.

 

Right now, you can expect our D-pairings to look something like this:

Ekman-Larsson  – Murphy

Goligoski  – Stone

Michalek/Connauton/Chychrun  – Schenn/D’Angelo
Some of you will notice I left Klas Dahlbeck out, and that’s because I feel he is the lesser of our possible choices, and will only see ice this year if one of the aforementioned left-shot defenders are injured or 16th overall 2016 selection Jakob Chychrun is sent down after camp. A former top-5 draft pick, Schenn will undoubtedly start the season due to Stone recovering from his recent surgery, it will be a good time for him, a once 5th overall pick, to fight for his roster spot and his place as an NHL regular.

 

I’ll be diving into some prospects in more detail as the summer rolls on, but I want to focus a bit on one right now. Anthony D’Angelo is high on my list of players to see this year. His skill is only eclipsed by his attitude issues that have enshrouded him since his early-OHL days. His season with Tampa Bay AHL affiliate Syracuse Crunch last year was a productive one however, notching 37 assists and 43 points in 69 games. His booming shot and eye for offense would be a welcome edition to any team, and some scouts have been bold enough as to say he is a future All-Star. If Tippett can keep the young stud’s slurs and outbursts to a minimum, D’Angelo could be one of the biggest steals in desert hockey history.

 

Jamie McBain, Jarred Tinordi, and Kyle Wood are all on the outer-reaches of roster-hood as well, which will make for an exciting training camp for Yotes fans. There is no doubt the skill level at the position of defense has grown, maybe not upwards as much as it has outwards. That being said, flexibility staves off complacency, and a group of players competitive for roster spots is a group of players competitive on the ice.

Passing the Torch – Life After Taylor Hall


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By Mike Meyer

Edmonton Oilers Writer

Dallas Stars Writer

St. Louis Blues Writer

 

What will life be like in Oil Country after the departure of Taylor Hall? That is a question that many figured would not have been asked for several years to come. Alas, here we are in 2016 asking the very question. Taylor Hall, the number one overall draft pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Since signing his first entry level contract with the Oilers, Hall has gone on to play in 381 games, netting 132 goals, and tallying a whopping 328 points. With Hall in the lineup, the Oilers have been able to grow accustomed to 0.86 points per game from just one skater each time he laced up those skates. The question now grows, who will take up the ice time and how will those points to accounted for with Hall gone?

 

The obvious answer right now that comes to mind would of course be Connor McJesus …err McDavid. With his rookie season looking at 48 points in 45 games (limited due to a broken clavicle) the Oilers hope that McDavid can produce even remotely to his 1.067 points per game consistently (so does his agent and future contract extension). Even if he dips below the point per game pace, as a sophomore, I think he will be more than making up for several players point production for seasons to come. Is it too much to expect for 80+ points from McDavid? 90? 100? Right now, the sky is the limit, and the NHL is his for the taking. *queue ‘Jump Around’ in 3…2…1…*

 

But that’s the easy way out. Let’s dig a little deeper. Who else is going to be looked at under the microscope just a little bit tougher now that Hall is out of the picture? Who else is going to feel the weight on their shoulders? I would first assume that, at the very least, 3 players who have a combined salary of $18 million per season will be on the first line. The likes of Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and newcomer Milan Lucic are going to be added to this short list and held accountable each night by head coach, Todd McLellan, GM Peter Chiarelli and the rest of Oilers management. Now, by removing Hall and bringing in Lucic, the team has finally added an extra bit of grit to their squad. Something this team has desperately needed in their Top 6 for the last several years. But even this is still not deep enough. If your top guys can’t score, who else is going to win you the games? We’ve all seen it before. Kane can’t always be counted on to score each night. Tarasenko won’t always score that game winning goal. And certainly you can’t always hope that point production trends will stay the same season after season. Right Duchene? Winning is going to take a full team effort from this squad. Scoring from every line and from each of these guys will help project this team to the next level and in to the playoffs. So who else do you look to call on throughout this season?

 

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Patrick Maroon

The magic man for the Anaheim Ducks during the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs certainly made his name known after registering 11 points in 16 games. However, Patrick only managed 13 points in 56 games to follow up his playoff performance, and certainly signaled for his inevitable trade. After his ice time was decreased and he was demoted to fourth line minutes at times, Maroon would be traded to the Oilers. He seemed once again to find his scoring touch as he managed 14 points in 16 games to finish out the season. It’s unlikely that he will be able to manage 0.875 points per game consistently throughout the 2016-17 season, but hey, that would certainly be welcomed. Oilers fans would rejoice if he kept up a 70+ point pace throughout this upcoming season.

 

Leon Draisaitl

Draisaitl was in all sense and purposes connected to the hip with Hall this past season. Leon first joined the team in 2014 seeing 37 NHL games. However, he only managed only 2 goals and 9 points during that timeframe. The team elected to send him back to the WHL to play for the Kelowna Rockets and to get more training and seasoning under his belt. There he would make a much larger impact scoring 19 goals and 53 points in 32 games. After certainly cementing his spot on the lineup after his AHL call up this past season, Draisaitl scored 19 goals and 51 points throughout 72 games. All of Edmonton must wonder now, will he continue to grow and shine with Taylor Hall out of the picture? Or will he struggle and repeat his 0.28 point per game pace from 2014-15? With the roster makeup currently, he is looking like the 3rd best center on the squad, behind McDavid and Nuge. He may not get the chance to shine automatically and will likely have to earn his ice time via the power play or force Nugent-Hopkins down or even out of the lineup entirely.

 

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Nail Yakupov

What more is there left to say about Nail Yakupov? Why am I even wasting time writing on this guy? Oilers fans are already showing that they’re ready to sell him for a few pucks and call it a win for removing his $2.5 million cap hit off the books. Figured at least then they might have better luck at scoring goals if they shot the puck themselves. For those who need a little bit of background on Nail and why we’re so harsh on this guy, let’s take a moment and we can try and figure out what went wrong.

 

Nail hails from Nizhnekamsk, Russia. To help fast track his journey to the NHL, Nail joined the OHL in the 2010 Import Draft and was selected by the Sarnia Sting, second overall. Yakupov would go on to play 107 games between 2010-2012 for Sarnia, registering 80 goals and 170 total points. Quick math breakdown, that’s a 1.59 points per game pace. Quick comparison time… from 2012-2015, McDavid registered 188 points in 167 games, for a 1.13 point per game pace in the very same OHL while playing with the Erie Otters. Okay, back to Yakupov. In 2012 he was drafted first overall by the Oilers. He returned to Russia to play in the KHL during the lockout recording 18 points in 22 games. Once the lockout ended, Yakupov returned and scored 31 points in 48 games. All was good in the world. Great rookie season for this kid and now it’s time to see what he can do with more training and a full NHL season under his belt. This guy is going places. *Buzzer* WRONG! But thanks for playing. Nail has gone on to play 204 more games since that rookie season with the Edmonton Oilers. 204 games in three seasons, and an underwhelming 80 points have been registered with his name attached to them. Even if Yakupov had not grown as a player, leveled off and maintained his point pace, he should still have at this time 131.75 registered points. So what happened? Certainly switching coaches can have an impact on a player, let alone having four different coaches since 2012. That can mess with a guy. But wait, that didn’t seem to slow down Hall or any other player to the degree that it has for Nail. So it must be something else. His shooting percentages have certainly decreased, despite his shot attempts projecting up each season before decreasing this past season.

 

 

Despite his shooting percentage decreasing each season, the percentage of shots making it to the net is actually steadily increasing from 50% his rookie season to just over 57% last year. Can it be that Nail is just a creature of habit and goalies are getting used to where he shoots and he is being nullified on his attempts? Is his accuracy decreasing so he’s not hitting his mark? He might not be converting right now in Edmonton but it certainly draws the question that with perhaps new coaching and a new environment, could he get back to his point pace that he set up from his rookie season or even better? Nail has a lot to prove this upcoming season. With Hall out of this lineup, it just might mean an extra chance to prove he still has got what it takes to earn a spot in the lineup. Even if it means shooting less and starting to pass more, Yakupov has got to figure it out for 2016.

 

Zack Kassian

The power forward style playing, substance abusing, right winger. Kassian has struggled to declare himself a consistent NHL player since making his first appearance in the NHL back in 2011. In 6 seasons since then, he has only managed to play in 234 games. Now, Kassian will not be able to take over Hall’s points. That much is obvious. However, Kassian can at the very least declare himself a consistent NHL player. Being able to go out each shift and helping defend against the opposition, limit down on the dumb penalties and making a name for himself along the boards will certainly help his cause. Who’s to say the Oilers can’t use the 6’3″ 213 pound forward to lay a few more shots on net to have someone ready for the rebound, or even be the rebound guy? He can take a note from Ryan Reaves who has certainly taken away his style of a grinder / fighter, has become a bit more tame in his attempts to help offensively for the Blues and earn a spot in the lineup each night. This goes along with the whole mindset of all rolling four lines and forcing the head coach to give him ice time. Kassian can be an anchor on the fourth line and lead by the example says everyone in this lineup should be held accountable every shift.

 

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Jesse Puljujarvi*

Ah the Wild Card choice. There’s always one. So why is Jesse even in this conversation to take over for Taylor when he hasn’t even made his NHL debut yet? I’m glad you asked. When Puljujarvi was taken fourth overall at this year’s draft over defenseman and fellow Finland countryman Olli Joulevi, Chiarelli made a unspoken statement to this group. He believes Jesse can be an upgrade to this group of forwards more than what is already there. The choice would not add to his defensive core that many expected him to go toward, but would ultimately force Hall out of the picture to New Jersey in order to get the upgrade to his defense via Adam Larsson. The big question is, will Puljujarvi be able to live up to the hype of a fourth overall draft choice? Will he mirror the 39 points in 71 regular season games he has played in Liiga or will he mirror the 36 in 27 international games played?

BREAKING: Senators Acquire Brassard for Zibanejad


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By Bobby Bauders

Senior Writer/Editor

 

The Ottawa Senators have acquired Derick Brassard from the New York Rangers for Mika Zibanejad and a 2018 2nd Round Pick.

 

Brassard, 28-years-old, scored 27 goals and 58 points in 80 games last season. Brassard was one of the Rangers leading scorers. New York has been cap pinched, so basically anyone was on the table for a trade.

 

Zibanejad, 23-years-old, scored 21 goals and 51 points in 81 games last season. New York traded one of their best scorers for someone younger, and someone who can put up similar numbers. They also got a 2nd Round Pick out of it, and high draft picks are something the Rangers have been lacking lately.

 

The Rangers may not be done, this trade opens up some cap to re-sign Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes, but they’re still going to need some cap relief. Zibanejad’s contract expires next summer, and he’s going to want a raise, depending on this year’s performance will determine how much. Expect the Rick Nash rumors to continue to swirl.

 

Brassard has a cap hit of $5M for 3 more years, Zibanejad has a hit of $2.625M.

BREAKING NEWS: Frederik Andersen Traded to Toronto


By Bobby Bauders
Senior Writer/Editor

UPDATE: Toronto agrees to a 5 year extension with Andersen.

The first domino of the 2016 goalie drama has fallen. The Anaheim Ducks have traded goaltender Frederik Andersen to the Toronto Maple Leafs for the 30th overall pick and a 2nd round pick in 2017.

Toronto addresses their need for a high end goalie. Now some of the trade speculation falls on Jonathan Bernier.

Anaheim has addressed their goaltender drama. With next year’s expansion draft, the Ducks would likely only protect one goaltender. Now their decision has been made, and that goalie is John Gibson.

This trade was valued pretty well for Anaheim. Andersen is 26-years-old is a RFA on July 1st. Although, they probably could’ve swung some sort of prospect.

The Leafs’ rebuild is now coming along faster than expected. If they can get their hands on a top 4 D-Man, they could be fighting for a playoff spot in a year or two.

The Leafs are wanting to win. They’re long history of just being plain awful has gotten old. They’re acquiring for now, and the future. With Andersen’s young age and the right development, he could be the goalie of the future in behind an Auston Matthews and Kasperi Kapanen lead offense.