A quick mix of the things we gleaned from the week of hockey, serious and less so, and rolling four lines deep. Turn the lights off, carry me home.
1. John Gibson has denied the report that he has requested a trade out of Anaheim, but told The Athletic that he is “very interested” in seeing where rookie GM Pat Verbeek steers this team.
Verbeek opted to deal instead of re-signing two proven defensemen skating in front of Gibson, Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson.
What kind of blue line will be in place come October?
Gibson is a compelling trade candidate.
Ask yourself this: Were Gibson a free agent, could the 28-year-old command a five-year contract at a $6.4-million cap hit? (That’s what remains on his contract.)
Unlikely, with his save percentage in decline for four seasons now. You must trace back to 2017-18 to find a season in which Gibson won more games than he lost.
How much of that is a result of playing behind a mediocre team? How much of that is decline?
Much like Matt Murray in 2020, trading for Gibson feels like a risk. You’re getting a familiar name, but you may not get a bounce-back.
Still, there will be more seats than goals in the off-season carousel.
Toronto, Edmonton, Colorado, Buffalo, New Jersey, Detroit, and Chicago will be among those poking around.
And if, indeed, a fire is burning under this Gibson smoke, the goalie will have some say (a 10-team no-trade list) in a potential move.
Once UFAs Jack Campbell, Ville Husso and Darcy Kuemper sign, does a team on the outside take a run at Gibson?
We could see it.
2. With the juicy raises for No. 1 center Mika Zibanejad and No. 1 1 defenseman Adam Fox kicking in for 2022-23, the New York Rangers face some work to come back with a roster that can carry momentum from their long playoff run.
GM Chris Drury has less than $12 million to take care of RFAs Kaapo Kakko and Alexander Georgiev (the latter has arbitration rights) and re-sign or replace UFAs Ryan Strome, Andrew Copp, Tyler Motte, and Frank Vatrano.
Something has gotta give.
Drury made the difficult decision to deal with Pavel Buchnevich last summer, and what the winger did was go out and have a career year for St. Louis (30 goals, 76 points).
There is an opportunity for a rival GM to take advantage of New York’s predicament here.
3. A tale of two coaching hires.
Bruce Cassidy got the most out of his veterans in Boston, star forwards Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand taking great strides under his watch. We see him as a fine fit with an experienced core in Vegas ready to contend immediately. And we’re particularly interested in how he handles Jack Eichel.
Chuck Fletcher’s signing of John Tortorella in Philadelphia smacks of desperation. No doubt, Tortorella is a smart coach with a track record for improving results early. And the Flyers can only go up after a disastrous 61-point, minus-87 campaign.
But this roster needs a deeper refresh and might be better bottoming out for the deep 2023 draft. Not sold on the fit here.
4. The Lightning and Avalanche combined for a remarkable 51 blocked shots in Game 1 of the Cup Final.
Clogging shooting lanes has been prioritized — and committed to — by both clubs.
So much so, Cale Makar skated nearly half the game (28:49) and was still held without a shot on net for the first time all post-season. He fired the puck nine times, but the Bolts either got a piece of it or forced him wide each time.
“He’s just going to keep coming and keep shooting,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.
Consider how Tampa defended Fox in the Conference Final.
The Rangers’ dynamic D-man had 21 shots on net in the Pittsburgh series, 15 in the Carolina round, and just six in a six-game loss to the Lightning.
“I don’t want to sit here and compare them, but they do have a similar mind and the way they shoot the puck. So we have had a little bit of practice with them,” Cooper said.
“But if you’re thinking he’s not going to have a shot on goal in the series, you’re sorely mistaken. At some point, he’s going to get them through. We were just probably fortunate enough that we were in lanes. We were a little patient with him.”
5. Got a kick out of this image of the growing Stanley Cup, from ESPN’s Luke Knox.
How ridiculously awkward would it be to drink champagne out of this thing?
6. Not only the Jets but the entire town of Winnipeg is pushing for a Barry Trotz homecoming.
First, free beer for life.
Now, the list of incentives offered by local establishments has grown to include a lifetime supply of sausages, oil changes, free-range eggs, Countryfest tickets, and a Dauphin Herald subscription.
Rumour is, the most coveted coach on the UFA market would also receive a paycheck.
Speaking to former Islander Devon Toews for this piece, the defenseman credited Trotz for getting his NHL career started by giving him a chance to play meaningful minutes.
“I thank him for giving me that opportunity and trusting me with it,” Toews said. “He’s always been such a kind and loving person. Even if he sees your family at games or wherever it might be, he’ll always say hi to them.
“My wife’s cousins are from the DC area, and her one cousin has run into him a couple of times just on the street in Washington, and Barry has always been very kind to take a picture with him or chat with him for a few minutes .
“He’s such a kind-hearted person, and he’ll do anything for anyone.”
7. Spencer Carbery’s rise in the coaching ranks may still be on the incline.
In 2021, he led the Hershey Bears to the AHL’s best regular-season record and captured coach-of-the-year honors.
Last season, Sheldon Keefe brought him aboard the Maple Leafs’ bench and saw Toronto’s power-play shoot to No. 1 (27.3 per cent) in the league.
Now, Carbery has been bandied about as a head-coaching prospect for a couple of teams, Boston and Chicago, looking to hire a candidate who can be good with young players.
Leafs GM Kyle Dubas has never stood in the way of assistant coaches interviewing for promotions elsewhere. Two recent ones, Dave Hakstol and Paul McFarland, are now behind the Seattle Kraken bench.
8. Gary Bettman bristled Wednesday at the idea that teams have been exposing “loopholes” to skirt around the salary cap.
“I don’t think they have been using loopholes,” Bettman said. “They’ve been using the agreement as it’s been drafted. I think that’s an unfair characterization. I know there’s been discussion and perception about the long-term injury exception, but it’s been around for 17 years. They’re not using loopholes. They’re using effective cap management.”
Added deputy commissioner Bill Daly, wryly: “I see how all 32 clubs operate, and I can tell you Tampa would not be one that I put at the top of the list.”
The cap-busting Vegas Golden Knights traded a useful asset, Evgenii Dadonov, to the Montreal Canadiens for LTIR player Shea Weber the very next day.
Even with the cap increasing to $82.5 million next season, the Knights are projecting $2.66 million over the ceiling with 36 contracts.
Tampa, too, is projecting over, by $1.98 million.
Montreal has the third-highest projected hit, with a scant $1.9 million in wiggle room.
Daly did a fine job of speaking about Vegas without actually mentioning the club.
“I think the fears that were out there in the media with respect to how the cap is being manipulated didn’t come to fruition,” Daly said. “Our regular season is so important, the clubs don’t have the luxury really to mess with the rosters down the stretch. And I think that was proven this year.”
9. There is a great chance that the playoff scoring race will be won by a player who didn’t even reach the final.
Some bonkers playoff numbers hung by Connor McDavid (33 points) and Leon Draisaitl (32 points) through three rounds. Each averaged at least two points per game over the Oilers’ 16-game run.
To put that in perspective, the next-best points-per-game mark this spring belongs to Sidney Crosby, who averaged 1.67 over a much smaller sample size (six games).
Skating with a high-ankle sprain, Draisaitl registered three or more points in seven playoff games. Only one other man has accomplished such a feat. They call him Wayne Gretzky.
McDavid holds such a wide lead in the playoff scoring race (nine points more than Nikita Kucherov), it had me wondering: Who was the last player that failed to reach the final but finished with the most points?
Peter Forsberg, who did it twice, in 1999 (24 points in 19 games) and 2002 (27 points in 20 games).
The last duo to miss the final and lead the playoffs in points was Doug Gilmour and Bernie Federko of the Blues. Each had 21 points in the 1986 postseason.
Two ways to look at this: The Oilers are a tornado building toward a championship. Or Edmonton blew an opportunity to surround this offensive comet with solid defense and goaltending.
10. James Neal is playing for a Cup.
Embracing his role with the Springfield Thunderbirds, the onetime 40-goal NHL star has scored three goals and nine points during their run to the Calder Cup Final against the Chicago Wolves.
The series starts Sunday.
Neal has indicated that he’d be interested in playing again next season, perhaps following in the footsteps of NHL sniper Matt Moulson.
A three-time 30-goal man at the NHL level, Moulson, like Neal, didn’t need to keep riding the bus for money.
But he has kept trucking for five AHL seasons since his game slid below an NHL level.
Love to see guys who keep playing for the love of it.
11. Tidy bit of business by Stars GM Jim Nill, shifting Ben Bishop’s $4.92 million cap hit off the books for the price of a seventh-round pick.
Being stuck in LTIR is a last resort, and Dallas needs to free all the dollars it can to sign stud RFAs Jason Robertson and Jake Oettinger to strong extensions.
What’s in it for Buffalo?
The Sabres will be challenged to reach the cap floor (they’re still $14 million below). Acquiring a non-active player means they won’t be forced to overpay on free agents come July 13.
Buffalo could still have a, um, retooling season in 2022-23 and be in the mix for a Connor Bedard–led draft.
Appears that Kevyn Adams is taking a patient approach.
12. Yes, the Avalanche appreciate Ball Arena’s third-period sing-alongs of Blink-182’s “All the Small Things.”
“They get to sing it in better circumstances, when we’re up in games and stuff like that,” Makar says. “That just goes back to how supportive the fans have been this entire playoff run and this entire year. So anytime they’re getting loud, it’s obviously awesome and drives the momentum of our team.”
Game 1 was my first time being in the bowl for it. And despite the Avs surrendering a two-goal lead, the DJ cued up “Small Things” and the crowd — which could’ve been nervous — still leaned in.
“When the players hear it, usually we’re in a pretty good position, so you can appreciate it. For us, we’re just hoping we can hear it,” GM Joe Sakic says.
“Whenever they play it here, you got the whole crowd going. It’s great.”
Does Sakic know the lyrics by now?
“I’m bad with words, but I think I got it figured out,” he chuckles.
“You probably don’t want me to know the words — because you’ll catch me singing it.”