Florida Panthers hope to end playoff losing drought in 2020/21

It’s been close to a quarter of a century since the Florida Panthers have won an NHL playoff series and it’s a drought the club is anxious to put a halt in 2020/21. The franchise has made several on and off-ice moves during the current offseason to address the streak of futility but only time will tell how successful they were.

To start with, longtime general manager Dale Tallon was released on September 2nd and replaced with Bill Zito who formerly worked with the Columbus Blue Jackets. The club then made NHL history by hiring 39-year-old Brett Peterson as the league’s first African-American assistant general manager and also named former Ulf Samuelsson as an assistant coach.

The 56-year-old Samuelsson of Sweden has 15 years of coaching experience in the AHL, NHL and in his homeland and won Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins as a player in 1990/91 and 1991/92. He also holds the record for most NHL penalty minutes by a Swedish-born player with 2,453.

As well as hiring Peterson and Samuelsson, new GM Zito has brought in several players in hopes of changing the team’s attitude and vibe for the upcoming season. The biggest move was acquiring two-time Stanley Cup-winning forward Patric Hornqvist from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for rearguard Mike Matheson and forward Colton Sceviour.

Hornqvist helped the Penguins win the Cup in 2015/16 and 2016/17 and has racked up 238 goals and 242 assists for 480 points in his NHL career so far in 770 regular-season contests with Pittsburgh and the Nashville Predators. He’s also added 25 goals and 21 helpers for 46 points in 90 playoff outings. In addition, the Panthers signed forward Alexander Wennberg to a one-year deal worth $2.25 million after his contract was bought out by Columbus.

Unrestricted forward Carter Verhaeghe was signed for two years at $2 million after winning the Stanley Cup with Tampa this year and rugged defenceman Radko Gudas inked a three-year deal worth $7.5 million after leaving the Washington Capitals. Zito also signed Vinnie Hinostroza for a year at $1 million after being let go by the Arizona Coyotes.

However, the Panthers also lost quite a bit of offence in the offseason as the club didn’t re-sign Mike Hoffman and fellow free-agent forward Evgenii Dadonov jumped ship and signed with the Ottawa Senators for three years for $15 million. Hoffman led Florida with 29 goals in 69 outings last season while Dadonov chipped in with 25 goals and 22 assists for 47 points in 69 games.

Hornqvist will be depended on to replace some of the void left by Hoffman and Dadanov’s departures and the team will also need big seasons from Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov who posted 78 and 62 points respectively last season. Zito told the media he is looking for his players to compete on a nightly basis and wants them to approach their jobs in a professional and business-like manner. Most of all, he claimed he wants players on the squad that hate to lose and are hard to play against.

Most Panthers’ fans believed the club had turned the corner last year when three-time Stanley Cup-winner Joel Quenneville took over as head coach and unrestricted free agent goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky was signed to a seven-year deal from Columbus. Things didn’t really improve too much though as the team went 35-26-8 for a points percentage of .565 during the regular season. They managed to make the postseason but were ousted in five games by the New York Islanders in the best-of-five qualifying round.

Bobrovsky struggled in net during his first campaign with the Panthers by posting a 23-19-6 record with a 90.0 save percentage and a goals-against average of 3.23 in 50 games. This is one of the reasons Zito brought in the physical Gudas to help strengthen the blue line. Gudas posted just 15 points in 63 games in 2019/20 but dished out 124 hits to rank 12th among rearguards in the league.

Quenneville believes the club is on the right track by bringing in hard-working, competitive players and feels the roster is filled with players who will stand up for one another. He added that he thinks they’ll help produce a winning environment but admitted the expectations will be raised as well next season.

In the meantime, Florida fans will continue to hope that the next time the team wins a playoff set it will be a good omen since the last time they took won a series they also won the Stanley Cup.

Active offseason gives Montreal Canadiens’ fans plenty of hope

With Marc Bergevin being one of the busiest general managers during the NHL offseason, the Montreal Canadiens and their fans are anxious to get a look at their new additions. The Habs signed unrestricted free agent centre Tyler Toffoli to a four-year deal worth $17 million and acquired goaltender Jake Allen, defenceman Joel Edmundson and forward Josh Anderson via trades. In addition, 20-year-old blue liner Alexander Romanov inked an entry-level earlier in the year and has a good shot at making the lineup.

The 28-year-old Toffoli was originally drafted by the Los Angeles Kings with the 47th overall pick in 2010 and helped the club win the Stanley Cup four years later. He was traded to Vancouver in February and posted 24 goals and 20 assists in 68 games last season with another four points in seven postseason outings in Vancouver. In total, Toffoli has racked up 145 goals and 155 helpers for 300 points in 525 regular-season contests with 11 goals and 25 points in 54 playoff games.

Toffoli has proven to be a dependable player at both ends of the rink as he led the NHL in plus/minus in 2015/16 with a plus-35 and led the league with five shorthanded goals in 2014/15. He’s also useful on the power-play as he’s notched 32 goals and 56 points with the man advantage so far during his career and has 27 game-winning goals.

The 26-year-old Anderson was acquired from Columbus in a trade for fellow forward Max Domi and a third-round draft pick and then signed a seven-year deal for $38.5 million. It may be seen as a bit of a gamble for the Canadiens since Anderson was limited to 26 regular-season games in 2019/20 due to injury and posted just one goal and three assists with a minus-8 rating. The 6-foot-3-inch 220 lb winger has tallied 65 goals and 115 points in 267 career games with eight points in 21 playoff games.

With Toffoli and Anderson up front, head coach Claude Julien has three solid lines to roll out. Youngsters Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi have plenty of potential as they continue to improve with each passing game and each of them scored four goals in this year’s playoffs to lead the squad. The centres have already exceeded many fans’ expectations before reaching the age of 21 and Suzuki often played on the team’s top line in the playoffs between Brendan and Tomas Tatar.

Of course, the club also has another excellent prospect up front in Phillip Danault. Suzuki contributed 13 goals and 41 points in 71 contests in 2019/20 while Kotkaniemi added six goals and eight points in 36 outings and Danault was second in team scoring with 13 goals and 47 points in 71 games with a team-high plus-18 rating. Suzuki also co-led the team in the playoffs with seven points in 10 games along with Jonathan Drouin.

On the blue line, the 27-year-old Edmundson was picked up in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes for just a fifth-round draft pick and promptly signed to a four-year, $14 million contract. The 6-foot-4-inch native of Brandon, Manitoba was originally drafted 46th overall by the St. Louis Blues in 2011 and helped them win the Stanley Cup in 2018/19. He’s notched 20 goals and 72 points in 337 regular-season games with a plus-25 rating with six goals and 15 points in 53 playoff outings with a plus-10 rating.

An other key newcomer from St. Louis was 29-year-old goaltender Jake Allen as next year’s pending free agent was acquired for a seventh-round draft pick in 2020 and 2022. Allen was then given a two-year contract extension by Bergevin for $5.75 million to back up Carey Price in the crease. Allen was drafted 34th overall by the Blues in 2008 and also helped them win the Stanley Cup in 2018/19.

He brings plenty of experience with a career regular-season record of 148-94-26 in 289 games with a goals-against average of 2.50 and a 91.3 save percentage. Allen is 11-12 in 29 playoff games with a 92.4 save percentage and a 2.06 goals-against average. He also managed to be named to the NHL’s All-Rookie Team twice as he made the squad in 2012/13 after playing just 15 regular-season games and again in 2014/15.

But while the newcomers and youngsters will be depended upon to lead Montreal to the playoffs and beyond in 2020/21, key veterans Carey Price and Shea Weber also need to keep up their fine play. Both players are signed until 2026 with Price going 27-25-6 in net last season with a 2.79 goals-against average and a 90.9 save percentage while Weber posted 15 goals and 36 points in 65 games.

This is a make or break season for Montreal though as Price and Weber are nearing the ends of their careers. The Habs performed well in this year’s postseason, but fans and management won’t be satisfied next year if they can’t progress to the second round.

Tyson Barrie aims to bounce back on Edmonton’s blue line

Most NHL defencemen would have been happy scoring 39 points in 70 games in the 2019/20 campaign but Tyson Barrie is one of the exceptions. Barrie posted five goals and 34 assists with the Toronto Maple Leafs last season but took a lot of heat in the city and also admitted it was an off-year for him. The 29-year-old native of Victoria, British Columbia scored .56 points-per game in Toronto which was slightly less than his career average of .62 points-per-game.

Barrie was originally drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the third round in 2009 with the 64th-overall pick. He quickly became the club’s top offensive blue liner by racking up 75 goals and 307 points in 484 regular-season games with 14 points in 21 playoff outings. However, Barrie was traded to Toronto on July 1, 2019 along with forward Adam Kerfoot and a sixth-round draft pick for centre Nazem Kadri, rearguard Calle Rosen and a third-round draft pick.

Barrie finished fifth in scoring for the Leafs last season and easily led the blue line in points. But for some reason he was criticized by numerous Leafs’ fans much in the way Hall of Fame defender Larry Murphy was years before. Barrie then made the right move by leaving the city he wasn’t appreciated in and signing with the Edmonton Oilers as an unrestricted free agent this summer as the team was in need of a skilled, puck-moving defenceman.

Barrie enjoyed some high-scoring seasons in Colorado by breaking the 50-point barrier three times and also posting 49 points on one occasion as well as breaking double digits in goals five times. In addition, he anchored one of the league’s best power-plays which featured high-scoring stars Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon. He’s now going to be depended upon to do the same in Edmonton with the likes of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

One of the knocks against the 5-foot-10-inch, 190 lb Barrie is his defensive play as he owns a minus-66 rating in his 554-game career so far. However, he was acquired by both Toronto and Edmonton for his elite offensive skills, which are among the best in the league. Barrie struggled at first in Toronto under head coach Mike Babcock and was relegated to the team’s second power-play unit. Once Babcock was fired though with Sheldon Keefe taking over behind the bench, Barrie’s production and overall play improved significantly.

He was also shuffled around the lineup quite a bit in Toronto and found himself with several different blue line partners, especially after fellow defenceman Morgan Rielly was injured. Once the playoffs resumed after the NHL paused in March due to Covid-19, Barrie struggled like the rest of his teammates and went without a point in five games against Columbus during the play-in round. The writing may have been on the wall for Barrie before the league resumed action, but the Leafs’ failure to make the playoffs basically sealed his fate.

With Edmonton general manager Ken Holland seeking offensive help from the blue line due to the long-term injury of Oscar Klefbom, he inked Barrie to a one-year deal worth $3.75 million in October. Barrie could very well be partnered with Darnell Nurse on the Oilers’ blue line to start the upcoming season but he’ll need to quickly prove himself with the squad since he’s signed for just one season. Barrie is betting on himself to rebound from a somewhat sub-par campaign in Toronto and so is Holland.

If Barrie regains the confidence he displayed while playing with Colorado he could very well be offered a longer contract when his deal runs out. There’s no reason to believe he won’t succeed with the Oilers by helping out McDavid and Draisaitl and he should be highly-motivated to prove his value. Another 50-point season should be attainable for Barrie if the NHL decides to play an 82-game schedule and his talent could help Edmonton win a series or two in the playoffs.

Dallas to be a couple of Stars short when NHL season faces off

The Dallas Stars won’t exactly be living up to the team’s nickname when the 2020-21 NHL season faces off as two of their star players will be on the sidelines. The club expects to be without number one goaltender Ben Bishop and top-scoring forward  Tyler Seguin when play resumes due to each player’s recent surgery. According to the Stars, both Bishop and Seguin will need approximately five months to recover.

The 33-year-old Bishop, who missed most of the squad’s playoff run this summer due to a torn meniscus, went under the knife on his right knee on October 21st. Meanwhile, Seguin, recently underwent surgery to have his hip and a torn labrum taken care of. Bishop played just three playoff games last season and visibly struggled when in net. He posted a goals-against average of 5.43 with a record of 1-2 and 84.4 save percentage in his three outings.

This was well below par when compared to his regular-season performance in which he went 21-16-4 in 44 contests with a save percentage of 92.0, a 2.50 goals-against average and a pair of shutouts. The Stars have good depth in net though as Anton Khudobin took over in the crease for Bishop in the playoffs. He helped the team reach its first Stanley Cup Final since the 1999/2000 season with a mark of 14-10, a 91.7 save percentage, a 2.69 goals-against average and one shutout in 25 appearances. However, the Stars fell just short by losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games.

The 28-year-old Seguin notched 13 points in 26 playoff outings this season when the centre contributed two goals and 11 assists. This was also off the pace compared to the regular campaign in which he chipped in with 17 goals and 33 helpers for 50 points in 69 games to lead the team. Although he wasn’t 100 per cent healthy, Seguin missed just one playoff encounter this year, but hasn’t missed a regular-season contest since 2015/16.

Jim Nill, general manager of the Stars, told the media that Seguin’s original date for surgery was delayed due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. He also stated that the team had several other injured players but all are expected to be back on the ice when the season gets underway. Goaltender Khudobin also underwent surgery in October to repair a nerve problem in his right arm while forwards Jamie Benn and Blake Comeau had shoulder problems and Roope Hintz had a fractured ankle.

Seguin was acquired by Dallas in July, 2013 in a deal with the Boston Bruins and has scored 223 goals and 291 assists for 514 points in 538 regular-season games for the club with seven goals and 20 assists in 46 playoff games. He won a Stanley Cup with Boston in 2010-11 as a rookie and has been one of the NHL’s most consistent scorers since entering the league.

Bishop has played the past three seasons with the Stars after being acquired in May, 2017 from the Los Angeles Kings. The two-time NHL All-Star led the league in save percentage at 93.4 with Dallas in 2018/19. He’s played 143 regular-season games with the club with a 74-48-11 record along with a 92.3 save percentage, 2.33 goals-against average and 14 shutouts. Bishop has also appeared in 16 playoff contests with an 8-8 record, a 92.0 save percentage and a 2.67 goals-against average.

Ottawa Senators’ future looking bright

The Ottawa Senators were one of the few teams who didn’t play after the NHL paused its schedule in mid-March as they simply weren’t good enough to make the expanded playoff scenario. However, things could be a lot different in the 2020/21 campaign as the club as made several offseason moves to improve the roster. In addition, Ottawa also had three first-round picks in the recent NHL Entry Draft.

One of the most important acquisitions has been goaltender Matt Murray, who was brought over in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins for forward Jonathan Gruden and second-round draft pick this year. Murray adds plenty of experience as he won a pair of Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh in 2015/16 and 2016/17 and has been one of the league’s upper-echelon netminders over the past few years.

The team also acquired blue liner Erik Gudbranson in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks and signed unrestricted free agents Alexander Galchenyuk from Pittsburgh and Evgenii Dadonov from the Florida Panthers, making general manager Pierre Dorion a busy man so far in the offseason. It’s understandable why Dorion has been working overtime since Ottawa finished in second-last place in the Eastern Conference last season with a record of 25-34-12 for 62 points and a points percentage of .437.

The Senators have missed the playoffs the past three seasons but with the 26-year-old Murray signing a four-year contract the team should certainly be blessed with more consistent goaltending. Murray has posted a minimum of 20 wins in each of the last four NHL seasons and went 20-11-5 in 2019/20 with a goals-against average of 2.87 in 38 outings. He also has a 91.4 save percentage in 199 career regular-season NHL games.

The 28-year-old Gudbranson is expected to be a physical presence on the blue line while the 31-year-old Dadonov and 26-year-old Galchenyuk should bring some offensive flair. Ottawa also picked up 28-year-old forward Austin Watson in a deal with the Nashville Predators as well as defender Josh Brown in a trade with Florida. Dorion then used his first-round draft picks to take forward Tim Stuetzle third overall, rearguard Jake Sanderson fifth overall and forward Ridly Greig 28th.

Of course, the Senators also lost some pieces of the puzzle as forward Bobby Ryan signed with the Detroit Red Wings as a free agent after Ottawa bought out his contract. In addition, veteran goalie Craig Anderson wasn’t re-signed and is an unrestricted free agent while defenceman Mark Borowiecki signed with Nashville. Forward Anthony Duclair is also currently an unrestricted free agent after posting 23 goals and 40 points in 66 games last season and so is defenceman Ron Hainsey. Forward Mikkel Boedker also left the team to sign with HC Davos in Switzerland.

As far as young prospects go for the upcoming season, the 18-year-old  Tim Stuetzle notched seven goals and 34 points for Mannheim in Germany last season while 21-year-old forward Josh Norris racked up 31 goals and 61 points for in 56 outings for Belleville in the American Hockey League and 21-year-old forward  Alex Formenton posted 27 goals and 53 points in 61 AHL contests. The Senators already had some fine players with the likes of forwards Brady Tkachuk and Artem Anisimov and blue liner Thomas Chabot.

The Senators may not become a powerhouse over night, but the club is definitely on the right track. Given time, they should gradually and steadily start to climb the NHL standings over the next few seasons and could soon find themselves back in the playoff mix.


Start date and length of next NHL season still up in the air

When the puck will drop to the 2020/21 NHL season and exactly how long it will last is still anybody’s guess. The league announced it is looking at January 1st as a possible season-opening date but it’s too early to tell if it’s going to be realistic. If teams can hit the ice by New Year’s Day, it’s possible that a full 82-game schedule could be played. But the longer the league waits to get going the shorter the campaign will likely be.

The main reason for this is because the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan are scheduled to begin on July 23rd. With the NBC network televising NHL games in America as well as the Olympics, an overlap isn’t really feasible unless NHL games are broadcast on a delayed basis. Therefore, if the season doesn’t get underway until February, fans may see a shortened schedule of anywhere from 48 to 60 regular-season games before the playoffs.

Of course, the uncertainty is due to Covid-19 and the ever-changing rules and regulations that come with the virus. Currently, it looks like the Canadian clubs may remain in their own nation and play each other in a seven-team division. Much like MLS soccer and Major League Baseball, Canadian teams aren’t likely to be flying in and out of the USA until things change drastically.

This isn’t written in stone though since current 14-day quarantine periods for those crossing the border could be relaxed in the near future due to the introduction of rapid Covid-19 testing at certain airports. If arriving players can be tested when landing then cross-border travel will become a more reasonable option. Clubs would be able to safely visit other cities to play. However, common sense would see teams playing at least two games when visiting another city before moving on to the next nearby town.

For instance, if the Los Angeles Kings head to the New York area, they could play two games each against the New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers etc. before taking off again. The same scenario would take place in other areas of North America where teams are based in the same geographical region such as Buffalo, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.

The only thing that is guaranteed for the 2020/21 season is that the Winter Classic game in Minnesota on New Year’s Day won’t be taking place and neither will the All-Star weekend in Florida later in the month. And as far as fans go, it’s possible some NHL rinks may allow a certain number to attend games in person, much like MLS and MLB stadiums have recently been doing.

Right now, the NHL is evaluating all scenarios and monitoring the Covid-19 situation across North America. This includes travel restrictions and government guidelines and how they affect public gatherings. The best-case scenario for the league would see all major airports open rapid-testing stations for arriving flights to eliminate or shorten the current 14-day mandatory quarantine requirements.

As far as the other North American hockey leagues are concerned, the American Hockey League hopes to begin on December 4th while the East Coast Hockey League plans on having some teams face off for the first time on December 11th with the rest of the clubs joining in on January 15th. The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is already underway while the Ontario Hockey League has pencilled in December 1st as the opening day and the Western Hockey League is looking at January 8th.

Salary arbitration next in busy NHL offseason

Hockey fans have already been treated to the Entry Draft, the start of free agency and numerous trades since the Tampa Bay Lightning were crowned Stanley Cup champion a few weeks ago and salary arbitration is now on deck.

Salary arbitration is for restricted free agents who qualify as a way to settle contract offers and disputes. The hockey club and player each propose an expected salary amount for an upcoming season and argue their cases before a third-party arbitrator. The arbitrator then decides which contract offer is the fairest and both parties then abide to it. However, the team or player can simply walk away from the decision of they choose.

The current arbitration system was introduced following the 1994/95 NHL lockout and is covered by the collective bargaining agreement agreed to by the NHL Players’ Association and the league. Restricted free agency is ruled by a combination of a player’s age when being signed to their first professional contract as well as their amount of experience in any of the world’s pro hockey leagues.

Those who ink their first contracts from the age of 18 to 21 will be restricted free agents following their first three seasons of pro experience. Players who first signed at 22 or 23 become restricted free agents with two years of pro experience and if signing your first pro deal at the age of 24 or older you qualify as a restricted free agent following the first year of experience.

There are one, two and three-year standard entry-level contracts which all players entering the NHL must sign if they’re under the age of 25. The length of the contract depends on their age with shorter deals for older players. Typically, a drafted player signs a three-year entry-level contract and becomes a restricted free agent when it expires.

When the contract is over their NHL club has to give them a qualifying offer for a new one-year deal after the Entry Draft. This enables the team to retain negotiating rights with the player. If a team doesn’t send a qualifying offer then the player is eligible for unrestricted free agency. Depending on the player’s previous salary, qualifying offers must include a raise of five or 10 per cent unless they were making over $1 million a season. In this case, the qualifying offer has to be at least equal to the previous salary.

A player has the right to decline a qualifying offer and remain a restricted free agent. Those who turn the offer down can negotiate a new contract with the club but won’t be able to play in the NHL if they haven’t agreed to terms by a specific date, which is generally December 1st. Restricted free agents are eligible to speak with other NHL clubs and allowed to sign an offer sheet with a team if one is received. If an offer sheet is signed, his club has the right to match it within seven days but isn’t allowed to trade him or negotiate a contract during this time.

If the offer sheet is matched and the player stays, his team isn’t allowed to trade him for a year. If an offer sheet isn’t matched, the team that signs the player must give up draft picks as compensation. The exact draft picks and the number of them are determined by the average annual dollar-size of the contract over five years. The more the contract is worth the more draft picks have to be given up. Restricted free agents can also sit out the season if they don’t sign. .

Restricted free agents who have played in the NHL for a minimum of four years or signed their first professional contract at 20 years of age or older are eligible to request salary arbitration. The player’s club also has the right to request arbitration. If the ruling favours the player and the player requested arbitration, the team must decide within 48 hours if it wants to pay the salary or let the player qualify for unrestricted free agency by walking away from the deal. If the team requested arbitration they can’t walk away and have to abide by the arbitrator’s decision.

The most common evidence used in hearings includes a player’s statistics, overall performance, games played, injuries, illnesses, length of service in the league and with the club and their leadership qualities. In addition, the player’s salary is often compared to that of players in the league with similar statistics etc.

The NHL and Major League Baseball are the only two major North American sports to use the arbitration system. This year’s arbitration hearings are scheduled to be held between Oct. 21st and Nov. 8th with 26 players restricted free agents having filed.

Defenceman Matt Grzelcyk of the Boston Bruins was scheduled for a hearing on Oct. 20 but agreed to a four-year deal with the club worth a total of $14.75 million on Oct. 17.Other players who signed before their hearings were goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen with Minnesota, blue liner Ryan Graves with Colorado, forward Nick Paul with Ottawa, netminder Alexandar Georgiev with the New York Rangers, forward , Clark Bishop with Carolina and forward Andrew Mangiapane with Calgary.

The remaining players scheduled for salary arbitration are:

Buffalo Sabres: Victor Olofsson, F; Sam Reinhart, F; Linus Ullmark, G

Carolina Hurricanes: Haydn Fleury, D; Warren Foegele, F; Gustav Forsling, D

Colorado Avalanche: Devon Toews, D

Detroit Red Wings: Tyler Bertuzzi, F

Florida Panthers: MacKenzie Weegar, D

New York Islanders: Joshua Ho-Sang, F; Ryan Pulock, D

New York Rangers: Brendan Lemieux, F; Ryan Strome, F

Ottawa Senators: Connor Brown, F; Christian Jaros, D; Nick Paul, F; Chris Tierney , F

Toronto Maple Leafs; Ilya Mikheyev, F

Vancouver Canucks: Jake Virtanen, F

NHL free agency frenzy kicks off

In a normal year, the NHL would have just faced off in early October for another long season. However, these aren’t normal times and the league just just completed its Entry Draft with the free agency frenzy following on Oct. 9th. Below is a wrap up of the major signings and as of Oct. 11th.

Major NHL Free Agent Signings

Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks signed rearguard Kevin Shattenkirk from Tampa Bay for three years for  $11.7M.

Arizona Coyotes: Forward Tyler Pitlick was signed from Philadelphia for two years at $3.5M

Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres managed to snag former Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall for one year at $8 million. The forward played with New Jersey and Arizona last season. They also inked forward Cody Eakin from Winnipeg to a two-year deal for $4.5M. Defender Brandon Montour was re-signed for a year at $3.85M.

Calgary Flames: The Flames grabbed goaltender Jakob Markstrom from Vancouver for six years for $36M and blue liner Chris Tanev from Vancouver for four years at $18M.

Carolina Hurricanes: Forward Jesper Fast was inked from the New York Rangers for three years for $6M.

Chicago Blackhawks: Forward Dominik Kubalik was re-signed for two years for $7.4M.

Colorado Avalanche: Forward Andre Burakovsky was re-signed for two years for $9.8M and forward Valeri Nichushkin was re-signed for two years at $5M. .

Columbus Blue Jackets: The Jackets signed forward Mikko Koivu from Minnesota for a season at  $1.5M.

Dallas Stars: The Stars re-signed goaltender Anton Khudobin for three years for $10M and centre Radek Faska for $16.25M over five years.

Detroit Red Wings: The Wings signed forward Vladislav Namestnikov from Colorado for two years for $4M. Goaltender Thomas Greiss was inked from the New New York Islanders for two years for $7.2M and forward Bobby Ryan from Ottawa for a year at $1M. Defender Troy Stetcher was taken from Vancouver for two years at $3.4M.

Edmonton Oilers: Goaltender Mike Smith was re-signed for another season at $2M while blue liner Tyson Barrie was signed from Toronto for a season at $3.75M. Forward Tyler Ennis was re-signed for a year at $1M while forward Kyle Turris was inked from Nashville for two years for $3.3M.

Florida Panthers: The Panthers inked forward Alexander Wennberg from Columbus for a year at $2.25M and forward Carter Verhaeghe from Tampa for two years for $2M. They also grabbed blue liner Radko Gudas from Washington for three years at $7.5M.

Minnesota Wild: Goaltender Cam Talbot was signed from Calgary for three years at $11M.

Nashville Predators: Nashville signed forward Nick Cousins from Vegas for two years for $3M and defenceman Matt Benning from Edmonton for two years at $2M. They also took defenceman Mark Borowiecki from Ottawa for two years for $4M.

New Jersey Devils: Goaltender Corey Crawford was signed from Chicago for two years for $7.8M.

New York Rangers: The Blueshirts inked defenceman Jack Johnson from Pittsburgh for a year at $1M.

St. Louis Blues: The Blues signed forward Kyle Clifford from Toronto two years for$2M. They also snagged defenceman Torey Krug from Boston for seven years for seven years for $45.5M.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Forward Patrick Maroon was re-signed for two years at $1.8M and defender Luke Schenn was kept for another year for $800K.

Toronto Maple Leafs: The Leafs signed defender Zach Bogosian from Tampa for a year at $1M and defender T.J. Brodie from Calgary for four years for $20M. Forward Wayne Simmonds was signed from Buffalo for $1.5 million for a year and forward Jimmy Vesey was also signed from Buffalo for $900k for a season. Forward Travis Boyd was inked from Washington for a year at $700k.

Vancouver Canucks: Vancouver signed goaltender Braden Holtby from Washington for two years for $8.6M.

Washington Capitals: The Caps inked Trevor van Riemsdyk from Carolina for a year at $800k and fellow blue liner Justin Schultz from Pittsburgh for two years for $8M. They also took goaltender Henrik Lundquist from the New York Rangers for a season at $1.5M.

Winnipeg Jets: The Jets re-signed defenceman Nathan Beaulieu for two years for $2.5M.

NHL Draft kicks off busy offseason

The first round of the NHL Entry Draft was held on Oct. 6th with the draft lottery winners the New York rangers surprising nobody by selecting Alexis Lafreniere first overall. The 18-year-old left-winger from Rimouski of the QMJHL notched 35 goals and 77 assists for 112 points in 57 games this season for an average of 2.15 points-per-game. The only two players 18 or younger to average more points-per-game in a junior season over the past 20 years have been Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Drouin.

  1. The Los Angeles Kings picked Quinton Byfield from Sudbury of the OHL next after the 6-foot-4-inch, 215 lb centre posted 32 goals and 50 assists for 82 points in 45 outings this season. Byfield makes history as being the highest-drafted black player in league history. His 1.82 points-per-game were fifth best in the OHL this year.
  1. The Ottawa Senators had the third pick and took left-winger Tim Stutzle from Mannheim, Germany. He tallied seven goals and 27 helpers for m34 points in 41 contests this year
  1. The Detroit Red Wings selected left-winger Lucas Raymond from Frolunda, Sweden with the fourth pick after he scored four goals and six assists in 33 games this season in the Under-20 League in Sweden.
  1. The fifth pick belonged to the Ottawa Senators who chose defenceman Jake Sanderson from the USA U18 National development Team after contributing seven goals and 22 assists for 29 points in 47 outings.
  1. The Anaheim Ducks chose blue liner Jamie Drysdale from Erie of the OHL with the sixth pick following his season of nine goals and 38 assists for 47 points in 49 games.
  1. Right-winger Alexander Holtz went seventh overall to the New Jersey Devils. The righ-winger played with Djurgarden in Sweden last season and posted nine goals and seven assists for 16 points in 35 encounters.
  1. The Buffalo Sabres selected right-winger Jack Quinn eighth from Ottawa of the OHL after he chipped in with 52 goals and 37 assists for 89 points in 62 games.
  2. The ninth overall pick was used by the Minnesota Wild and they chose Austrian centre Marco Rossi from Ottawa of the OHL. He’s just 5-feet-9-inches tall but notched 39 goals and 81 assists for 120 points in 56 games this season for an average of 2.14 points-per-game.
  1. The Winnipeg Jets selected 10th and took centre Cole Perfetti from Saginaw of the OHL after he scored 37 goals and 74 assists for 11 points in 61 games this year.

The remainder of the first round of the draft went as follows

  1. Nashville Predators: Goaltender Yaroslav Askarov from Neva St. Petersburg (Russia 2)-Stats: 18 GP, 0.92 Save Pct., 2.45 GAA
  1. Florida Panthers: Centre Anton Lundell from HIFK (Finland)-Stats: 44 GP, 10 G, 18 A
  1. Carolina Hurricanes: Centre Seth Jarvis from Portland (WHL)-Stats: 58 GP, 42 G, 56 A
  1. Edmonton Oilers: Centre Dylan Holloway from Wisconsin (Big Ten)-Stats: 35 GP, 8 G, 9 A
  1. Toronto Maple Leafs: Left-winger Rodion Amirov-unrestricted free agent from KHL in Russia-Stats: 21 GP, 0 G, 2 A
  1. Montreal Canadiens: Defenceman Kaiden Guhle from Prince Albert (WHL)-Stats: 64 GP, 11 G, 29
  2. Chicago Blackhawks: Left-winger Lukas Reichel from Eisbaren Berlin (Germany)-Stats: 42 GP, 12 G, 12 A
  1. New Jersey Devils: Centre Dawson Mercer from Chicoutimi (QMJHL)-Stats: 42 GP, 24 G, 36 A
  1. New York Rangers: Defenceman Braden Schneider from Brandon (WHL)-Stats: 60 GP, 7 G, 35 A
  1. New Jersey Devils: Defenceman Shakir Mukhamadullin-unrestricted free agent from KHL in Russia-Stats: 27 GP, 0 G, 1 A
  1. Columbus Blue Jackets: Right-winger Yegor Chinakhov from Omsk 2 (Russia Jr.)-Stats: 56 GP, 27 G, 42 A
  1. Washington Capitals: Centre Hendrix Lapierre from Chicoutimi (QMJHL)-Stats: 19 GP, 2 G, 15 A
  1. Philadelphia Flyers: Right-winger Tyson Foerster from Barrie (OHL)-Stats: 62 GP, 36 G, 44 A
  1. Calgary Flames: Centre Connor Zary from Kamloops (WHL)-Stats: 57 GP, 38 G, 48 A
  1. Colorado Avalanche: Defenceman Justin Barron from Halifax (QMJHL)- Stats: 34 GP, 4 G, 15 A
  1. St. Louis Blues: Left-winger Jake Neighbours from Edmonton (WHL)-Stats: 64 GP, 23 G, 47 A
  1. Anaheim Ducks: Right-winger Jacob Perreault from Sarnia (OHL)-Stats: 57 GP, 39 G, 31 A
  1. Ottawa Senators: Centre Ridly Greig from Brandon (WHL)-Stats: 56 GP, 26 G, 34 A
  1. Vegas Golden Knights: Centre Brendan Brisson from Chicago (USHL)-Stats: 45 GP, 24 G, 35 A
  1. Dallas Stars: Centre Mavrik Bourque from Shawinigan (QMJHL)-Stats: 49 GP, 29 G, 42 A
  1. San Jose Sharks: Right-winger Ozzy Wiesblatt from Prince Albert (WHL)-Stats: 64 GP, 25 G, 45 A

There were also several NHL trades leading up to draft day as the Montreal Canadiens shipped Max Domi and a third-round draft pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets for fellow forward Josh Anderson. In addition, the San Jose Sharks picked up veteran goaltender Devan Dubnyk and a seventh-round draft pick in 2022 from the Minnesota Wild for a fifth-round pick in 2022. The Sharks also acquired forward Ryan Donato from the Wild for a third-round pick in 2021.

The Los Angeles Kings got in on the action by acquiring defenceman Olli Maatta from the Chicago Blackhawks for forward Brad Morrison. The Ottawa Senators received blue liner Joshua Brown from the Florida Panthers for a fourth-round pick in 2020 and then signed him to a two-year deal worth a total of $2.4 million.

No asterisk needed beside Tampa’s Stanley Cup victory

Although some fans and hockey experts once suggested it, there doesn’t need to be an asterisk beside Tampa Bay’s Stanley Cup triumph over the Dallas Stars in this Covid-19 delayed NHL season. After being swept in four games in the first round by the Columbus Blue Jackets a year earlier, Tampa took out the Dallas Stars in six games in this season’s Final, with a decisive 2-0 win on Sept. 28th.

Of course, this season was like no other as the Covid-19 pandemic halted the season in mid-March and it resumed about three-and-a-half-months later. All of the playoff-qualifying and postseason contests were then held in “bubbles” in Toronto and Edmonton with no fans in attendance. This didn’t affect the level of hockey played however as television viewers were treated to a hard-hitting, competitive and exciting postseason, just like usual.

For the Lightning, it was the franchise’s second Stanley Cup conquest with the first coming in 2003-04. They avenged last season’s loss against Columbus and ousted them by beating them if five games with four victories coming by a single goal. This included a 3-2 decision in an epic five-overtime game on Aug. 11 which ended at 10:27 and is currently the fourth-longest game in the history of the NHL.

Tampa then took care of the Boston Bruins as they eliminated this season’s Presidents’ Trophy winners in five outings to reach the Conference Final. Once there, they handled the New York Islanders in six contests before going on to defeat Dallas. Tampa managed to rebound from their playoff losses by going 6-0 this season following a defeat and they also went 6-2 in overtime and 11-3 in one-goal encounters.

Also, captain Steven Stamkos played just 2:47 of the entire playoffs when he scored on the second shift of his comeback in their game three victory against Dallas. He then returned to the infirmary and sat out the rest of the postseason due to injury. With Stamkos in the stands, the team’s top line consisted of Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov.

The high-scoring trio lived up to expectations as  Kucherov led the league in playoff assists with 27 and points with 34. Point was tops in goals with 14 to set a new club record while adding 19 assists and Palat chipped in with 11 goals and seven helpers. In addition, defenceman Victor Hedman, who was named the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs, contributed 10 goals and 12 assists for 22 points and logged an enormous amount of ice time.

Hedman’s 10 goals in a postseason ranks third in NHL history and came after he tallied 11 in 68 outings in the regular season. The only blue liners to notch more goals in a playoff run were Hall of Famer’s Paul Coffey with 12 in 1984/85 and Brian Leetch with 11 in 1993/94. Hedman is the second Tampa player to take the Conn Smythe Trophy home as forward Brad Richards won it in 2003/04.

Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy more than pulled his weight as well as he started every one of the team’s 25 postseason games and won 18 of them. He posted a 1.90 goals-against average with a 92.7 save percentage and one shutout, which came in the Cup-winning contest.

The win was obviously sweet for the entire Tampa Bay Lightning franchise, their families, friends and fans but it was something special for forward Pat Maroon. He won the Stanley Cup last season with his hometown St. Louis Blues and then rolled the dice by signing as a free agent with the Lightning shortly after. Nobody is questioning Maroon’s decision now after winning his second-straight league championship.