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New Jersey Devils offseason recap

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First-round pick Pavel Zacha is New Jersey's next great hope on offense

First-round pick Pavel Zacha is New Jersey’s next great hope on offense

Last year: 32-36-14, seventh in the Metro Division. Missed the playoffs by 20 points.

Key additions: Ray Shero, John Hynes, Pavel Zacha, John Moore, Kyle Palmieri

Key subtractions: Lou Lamoriello, Bryce Salvador, Michael Ryder, Scott Gomez, Steve Bernier, Mark Fraser, Martin Havlat

Offense: The Devils may have finally landed a true blue chipper to build around with the drafting of Zacha, but their group of forwards is still at the bottom of the league. New Jersey chose to let several of its over the hill veterans depart as free agents in a clear attempt to discover what the team has in youngsters like Stefan Matteau, Jacob Josefson and Reid Boucher, but it is abundantly clear that New Jersey needs a total overhaul up front. Still, Zacha and Palmieri may be keepers, and along with Adam Henrique they are the early pieces of a long-term offensive rebuild. Read More→

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In news that pretty much surprised everyone, Lou Lamoriello has resigned as President of the New Jersey Devils, and has joined the Toronto Maple Leafs as their General Manager. Lamoriello stepped down as Devils GM this summer, paving the way for Ray Shero to take over that role. Toronto had been without a GM all summer, with Kyle Dubas and Mark Hunter performing most of the work.

My guess is that Lamoriello will be serving as a mentor for Dubas and Hunter until they are ready to take over the role full time. They’ve both done a great job with free agency and the draft, so I doubt Lamoriello messes with that.

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Pittsburgh Penguins offseason recap

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Sidney Crosby is slightly better than Tyler Bozak, so Phil Kessel is all smiles

Sidney Crosby is slightly better than Tyler Bozak, so Phil Kessel is all smiles

Last year: 43-27-12, fourth in the Metro Division. Fell to the Rangers in five games in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

Key additions: Phil Kessel, Sergei Plotnikov, Tyler Biggs, Tim Erixon, Steve Oleksy

Key subtractions: Kasperi Kapanen, Paul Martin, Christian Ehrhoff, Steve Downie, Blake Comeau, Thomas Greiss, Nick Spaling, Daniel Winnik, Craig Adams, Maxim Lapierre, Scott Harrington

Offense: The Penguins finally decided that inserting random wingers alongside Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin might not be the best recipe for success and flipped their salary allocation from the blueline to the flanks. In doing so, they brought in five-time 30-goal scorer Phil Kessel, who could challenge for the Rocket Richard Trophy next season. They also acquired the talented Russian Plotnikov, who figures to get an early chance alongside Malkin. Though this might sometimes be the perception of the Penguins’ forward group, it will be far from the case in 2015-2016. A top-nine including Crosby, Malkin, Kessel, Plotnikov, Patric Hornqvist, Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz, David Perron and Brandon Sutter will be very difficult to match.  Read More→

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Two time Cup champion at 22

Two time Cup champion at 22

There has been a flurry of activity today around the league ahead of the pending free agency madness.

Chicago trades F Brandon Saad and prospects to Columbus for Artem Anisimov, Marko Dano, Jeremy Morin, Corey Tropp and a fourth-round pick. 22-year-old Saad is a RFA and, according to reports, is looking for a long-term contract in the ballpark of 6M per year. Chicago, who are in a bit of a cap bind, got a good return for the power forward. Dano tallied 21 points in his rookie season after being a 2013 first round pick and Morin makes his return to Chicago after a trade to Columbus last season. Saad is a big, powerful forward with good scoring ability (23-29-52 during the regular season, 8-3-11 during the Cup run, winning his second Stanley Cup) who may grow to be a nuisance in the Metropolitan Division for years to come.

Vancouver trades D Kevin Bieksa to Anaheim for a 2016 second-round pick. Bieksa has spent his 10-year career as a Canuck, and is set to make $2.5M next year in the last year of his contract. This may be the writing on the wall for Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin, one of the few unrestricted free agents who was expected to make moves beginning tomorrow.

Anaheim names Paul MacLean an assistant coach. MacLean was relieved of his duties of head coach in Ottawa in December. MacLean was with the Senators for three and a half seasons before being fired. He had a 114-90-35 record with the Senators and was 8-9 in the playoffs.

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Some quick notes to round out your day:

  • The Rangers will open the season on October 7 in Chicago, then will play on October 9 in Columbus, and have their home opener on October 10 against Columbus. All teams play 3-in-4’s, and I’d rather have it in October than in March.
  • The NHL is set to drop the 4-on-4 overtime rules, and instead will play 3-on-3 overtime for those five minutes. The NHLPA rejected the idea of four minutes of 4-on-4 and three minutes of 3-on-3. If there is a penalty in overtime, it will be a 4-on-3 advantage.
    • The idea here is to end games in regulation/overtime and diminish the effect the shootout has on the standings. Here’s a hint: Go to a 3-2-1 point system, and you’ll have games ending before the shootout. But hey, what do I know?
  • The NHL is going to officially open up the expansion process, per Sportsnet. Formal announcement is expected today.
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How did former Rangers do in 2014-2015?

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A trio of ex-Rangers fell just short of winning the Stanley Cup on Monday night, while Brad Richards (and Dan Carcillo) took home hockey’s ultimate prize, closing the books on the 2014-2015 season.

So how did the other former Blueshirts do this year? Let’s take a look:

One Team’s Trash Is Another Team’s Treasure

Jaromir Jagr – 77 gp, 17 g, 30 a, 11 ppp, 17:34 ATOI
He just won’t quit! The 43-year-old was having a relatively quiet season in New Jersey before exploding for almost a point per game with Florida after coming over at the trade deadline. Jagr re-signed with the Panthers immediately following the season because Florida was so thrilled with Jagr’s positive influence on the Panthers’ young stars.

Ryan Callahan – 77 gp, 24 g, 30 a, 16 ppp, 17:44 ATOI
His limited playoff productivity notwithstanding, Callahan has earned endless praise from Lightning coach Jon Cooper for his trademark work ethic and leadership. Callahan did most of his scoring flanking Steven Stamkos this season, but found himself in more of a checking role during the playoffs. Tampa Bay has plenty of cheap talent, but you wonder if the Lightning is going to be thrilled to pay Callahan $5.8 million a year moving forward. Read More→

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Making sense of the mess in Glendale

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In case you missed it, the city of Glendale voted to revoke the Arizona Coyotes lease with the Gila River Arena, meaning that the Yotes will have to find another building for next season. Yotes ownership will fight this, of course, but the fact remains they need to find a building.

The first thought is that they will go to Quebec City, which makes no logical sense because the whole point of realignment was to keep all Western Conference teams west of the Eastern time zone. Quebec is Eastern time zone. So, while it could work for a season, it doesn’t make sense long term. Plus, the NHL is going to expand to 32 teams at some point, my guess is they want the $500 million in expansion fees from a city/ownership group ready and willing to pay it.

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Rangers round-up

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It’s easy to get lost in the playoffs when games come thick and fast but there’s been a few other things going on in Ranger-land aside from the absorbing Tampa – Rangers series. Shocking I know. Let’s have a quick catch up.

Sather acknowledged

Glen Sather was nominated for the GM of the year award this week. Deservedly so. The Rangers have played the most playoff games (73) in a four year stretch and this is the third year in that period they’ve gone to at least the Conference finals. Sather has his faults (a lot of them) but he’s done a great job in recent years, perhaps none more recently than this year that included the Presidents Trophy.

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Sunday Musings: NHL playoff picture

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Note: this post started as a Western preview and turned quickly into an Eastern post. Consider it a follow up to Justin’s post on Friday :)

While the Rangers have been battling for the proverbial cherry on top of a charmed 2014-15 season, a lot of teams have been struggling to get in to the playoffs. The beauty of having so many teams make it there is a really, really exciting late March-early April around the league. As of Easter Sunday, only three teams in the East and four teams in the West have clinched playoff spots, with two divisions entirely up for grabs. What this means is there are a lot of good teams, and a few really terrible teams, who are enjoying playing spoiler.

There are three teams in the West mathematically eliminated from the NHL playoff picture, which pales in comparison to the East, where seven teams have next season to look forward to. The East seems pretty locked up if you were to just look at the numbers, but you’d be grossly mistaken.

Florida was mathematically eliminated after their loss to Tampa last night, leaving what many think is a two-horse race between Ottawa and Boston to take the final Wild Card spot. What people seem to forget is that the streaking Bruins (winning their last five) have 95 points: the same as the sinking Penguins. The Penguins have lost their last two, and are 3-6-1 in their last ten going into Philadelphia today. Should Pittsburgh lose out, they could miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2005-06 season.

Though it’ll be hard for Pittsburgh to miss, with Evgeni Malkin coming back and Buffalo as one of their four games remaining, the Detroit Red Wings find themselves in a similar position. Also with 95 points in the Atlantic, they have Boston almost even with them (Detroit has an extra game in hand, meaning the Bruins have one more loss than the Wings) and lots of pressure bearing down. The Wings haven’t missed the playoffs since the 1985-86 season – before lots of us were even born – but barely snuck in last season as well. Coach Mike Babcock is an Olympic gold medal winning coach, but maybe a change of scenery will do him well.

The Ottawa Senators, despite the butt kicking the Rangers dealt their way to clinch a playoff spot last week, have been tearing up the second half of the season following the departure of longtime coach Paul MacLean. Andrew ‘the Hamburglar’ Hammond coming up as their savior with really impressive numbers has rejuvenated the team, which looked flat and dead early in the season. It seems that Erik Karlsson has found his stride as captain and, with defensive partner Marc Methot coming back from an injury that sidelined him for most of the season, Karlsson has also found his unbelievable scoring ability again. With offensive outbursts from forwards Kyle Turris and rookie Mark Stone, they could win out and make the last week of the regular season incredibly interesting.


knock knock...

knock knock…

Looking at the Eastern Conference playoff picture, is anyone really safe? Even the Islanders, despite celebrating like they’d won the Cup in November, aren’t officially situated in the playoff picture. It would be really, really difficult for them to miss, but with them losing like it’s their job lately, no fan should really feel super confident.

To close out this post, here are a few Chris-like musing questions:

  • Who do you think will miss the playoffs in the East?
  • Who do you want the Rangers to face in the first round?
  • Which of the teams on the fringe (DET, PIT, BOS, OTT) do you think is most dangerous?
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When I sat down to write this post, I thought we might be at a place, 77 games in (and a Metro Division Title), that I could start to preview potential first round goalie matchups. Then, I looked at the standings. There is so much congestion in the bottom of the of the division spots and the wild cards that I honestly didn’t know where to start.

Obviously, the Panthers aren’t catching the Penguins, Islanders or Caps. There is an extreme long-shot that they would even catch Detroit. At this point, the odds are clearly looking like the Rangers will play the Bruins in the first round.  However, the B’s have been playing much better lately and find themselves tied in points with the third place Red Wings for the last division spot in the Atlantic (albeit with one less game). They are only two points back of Pittsburgh for the second wild card, as well. Read More→

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