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.

Penguins acquire Kessel in Blockbuster Trade



By Bobby Bauders

Pittsburgh gets:
Phil Kessel – Winger
Tim Erixon – Defenseman
Tyler Biggs – Forward
2016 2nd Round Draft Pick – Pittsburgh

Toronto gets:
Scott Harrington – Defenseman
Kasperi Kapanen – Forward
Nick Spaling – Forward
2016 1st Round Draft Pick – Pittsburgh
2016 3rd Round Draft Pick – Pittsburgh

Wow. Talk about train robbery. Honestly, Pittsburgh stole Phil Kessel. Harrington, Kapenen, third round pick, and a first round pick pretty much cover Kessel. But to throw back to Pittsburgh 2 former first rounders and a second round pick?

Toronto’s future looks brighter though. They’ve got Kapanen who will be a great winger, and Harrington who will be top 6 in a couple years. Also, the draft picks they got will help their future. Not to mention they got great work ethic in Nick Spaling.

Erixon could be pretty good and Biggs just didn’t develop will in Toronto. The Pens are hoping to change that. Phil Kessel is going to do amazing in Pittsburgh. No matter what line he plays on, Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. You need to remember, Kessel was an All-Star on a less than average team with. All he had at center was Tyler Bozak. Well that’ll change. Plus, he hasn’t missed a game in 6 years. That’s great for a team like the Pens who has had trouble with injuries in recent years.

I think the media unfairly attacked Kessel in the past. He’s a great player and will do great in Pittsburgh. If the Pens can stay healthy, they are serious Cup contenders again, and will be lethal. Plus they just got a top 6 Russian Winger in Sergei Plotnikov to play with Malkin. Watch Eastern Conference teams, the Penguins are back, and better than ever.

BREAKING NEWS: Saad to the Jackets



By Bobby Bauders

The Saad sweepstakes is over. Brandon Saad is now a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Columbus gets:
Brandon Saad – Winger
Michael Paliotta – Defenseman
Alex Broadhurst – Center

Chicago gets:
Jeremy Morin – Winger
Corey Tropp – Winger
Artem Anisimov – Center
Marko Dano – Center
2016 4th Round Draft Pick – Columbus

If the Jackets get Saad to a deal, the Blackhawks lose this one. But you have to remember, the slight risk of taking on a RFA brings down trade value.

Overall Team Trade Scores (As of now) (First 15 teams)


By Bobby Bauders

Anaheim Ducks: A-

That Hagelin pick up was crucial to making the Ducks faster up front, great trade. The Palmieri looks pretty average on paper, but the second round pick they got in that trade was used in the Hagelin trade. Essentially, Palmieri was traded for Hagelin, plus additional assets. Etem was also involved in that trade.

Arizona Coyotes: B-

The Coyotes only made one trade, and it makes sense to help them with the cap floor, but kills them on the ice. But hey, it inches them closer to hometown boy Auston Matthews. Coyotes acquire Chris Pronger from the Flyers in exchange for Sam Gagner.

Boston Bruins: A-

To say that Don Sweeney pissed of Boston is an understatement. Trading Lucic and Hamilton, then using their picks on “the wrong players,” as some Bruins fans put it, doesn’t really make you a fan favorite in Bean Town. Sorry Bruins fans, those trades weren’t as awful as you all think. Hamilton didn’t like his teammates, and probably would not have re-signed, and Milan Lucic isn’t the 2010 Milan Lucic we all knew and “loved.” Considering what the Bruins got in return, and the situation at hand, not bad.

Buffalo Sabres: A+

The Sabres absolutely rocked it this weekend. After their trades, they’ve got depth at center, and a proven starting goaltender. If Eichel decides to play another year in the NCAA, the Sabres won’t be too terrible now that they’ve got O’Reilly AND Legwand. Now if Eichel decides to come to the pros, watch out members of the Atlantic Division, you’ve got yet ANOTHER potential playoff team to deal with. (How about the Atlantic Division? Habs, Sens, and Bolts in the playoffs plus the Bruins narrowly missing? Props to you guys.)

Calgary Flames: A

Great pickup in Dougie Hamilton. Giving up 3 high draft picks isn’t easy, but it’s money well spent.

Carolina Hurricanes: B

The Hurricanes didn’t do anything spectacular or horrible. Pretty average trading. But now they’ve got more defense behind Faulk with Wisniewski, and figured out what to do with Khudobin.

Chicago Blackhawks: D+

Picking up a backup goaltender should not be at the top of Chicago’s list. That’s why they have Scott Darling. Getting out of cap hell should be their priority, and they still have Sharp, they still have Saad, and they still have Bickell. Something’s wrong with this picture. Well, Stan Bowman’s got about 3 days to figure that out, good luck!

Colorado Avalanche: A-

The Avs made a necessary move to dump O’Reilly. He hated playing in Colorado. You don’t need a player who hates playing with you, duh! Plus, they got a pretty good return.

Columbus Blue Jackets: n/a

They were only involved in draft pick trades.

Dallas Stars: A+

Assuming Niemi signs with the Stars, great pickup to relieve Kari Lehtonen.

Detroit Red Wings: n/a

Edmonton Oilers: A-

The Oilers picked up Cam Talbot for a very low price. With McDavid, Hall, and Talbot in Edmonton, the future looks bright for Alberta.

Florida Panthers: C

That Zach Hyman for Greg McKegg trade was average.

Los Angeles Kings: C-

If Lucic decides to play hockey on the ice instead of the penalty box, great trade! If not, well you’re out of first round pick in one of the deepest drafts in history. Congratulations.

Minnesota Wild: n/a

3rd Overall Trade Potential Part 1 (Columbus)


By Bobby Bauders

It’s no secret that Arizona Coyotes General Manger Don Maloney is a busy man. He’s got the 3rd overall pick in one of the deepest drafts in NHL history, and teams are clearly interested. Reportedly, the Columbus Blue Jackets, San Jose Sharks, and Toronto Maple Leafs have all expressed interest in the pick. Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel probably won’t be available, but Noah Hanifin, Dylan Strome, and Mitch Marner are. That’s pretty amazing at 3rd overall, and it’s highly sought after. So, will we see the Coyotes deal the 3rd overall at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft?

Columbus:

We’re going to look at 2 different trades here.

Trade#1:

Arizona gets:

Ryan Johansen – Center

Nick  Foligno – Winger

2015 4th Round Draft Pick – Columbus

Columbus gets;

2015 3rd Overall – Arizona

2015 1st Round Draft Pick – Chicago

2015 2nd Round Draft Pick – Arizona

I’d say this has about no chance of happening. 10%. I think it would benefit both sides. Arizona gets more salary so they can hit the cap floor, plus proven scorers. Columbus gets draft picks to rebuild. Plus, they’d still have their 8th overall. The problem is, Jarmo Kekalainen, the Jackets’ GM, doesn’t think they need a rebuild. He sees a talented roster that can compete. Which is true, but look at this amazing draft class! You could get what you have and more!

Trade #2:

Arizona gets:

Mark Letestu – Center

Sonny Milano – Winger

2015 8th Overall – Columbus

2015 3rd Round Draft Pick – Columbus

2015 4th Round Draft Pick – Columbus

Columbus gets:

Mark Arcobello – Center

2015 3rd Overall – Arizona

2015 4th Round Draft Pick – Arizona

This trade makes more sense to me. I’d say about a 35% chance. Columbus gets their 3rd overall without giving up their core, Arizona still has a decent draft spot(s) and a good prospect.