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Category: Personnel (Page 2 of 5)

13 NHL Teams Don’t Meet Goalie Expansion Requirements Right Now

Expansion preparations are something just about every team will have to do in some form or fashion. Whether it’s making a move at the deadline, signing a free agent, or shuffling players up from the AHL to hit the experience requirements, each of the current 30 teams have some work to do.

We’ve long known goaltenders were going to be a hot button issue. Teams are only allowed to protect one, and seven clubs have a goalie with a No Movement Clause forcing them to either protect that player or ask him to waive it. But it’s the second part of the goalie rule that a surprising number of teams will have to make moves to fulfill.

(Teams must expose) One goaltender who is under contract in 2017-18 or will be a restricted free agent at the expiration of his current contract immediately prior to 2017-18. If the club elects to make a restricted free agent goaltender available in order to meet this requirement, that goaltender must have received his qualifying offer prior to the submission of the club’s protected list. -NHL Official Expansion Rules

Right now, 13 teams cannot currently meet the requirement, and therefore must sign, re-sign, extend a qualifying offer, or trade for a goalie to avoid a penalty (likely forfeiting draft picks).

Montreal recently re-signed Al Montoya, giving them an extra goaltender under contract to expose, and Anaheim re-upped Dustin Tokarski to do the same.

Here’s a look at all 30 teams’ goalie situation as it pertains to the draft. Teams in red must make a move by June to ensure they meet the NHL’s requirement. (There are examples of what these teams must do after the list.)

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Al Montoya’s Deal In Montreal Was Expansion Inspired

We’ve been talking about the expansion draft since 2015 and how we know teams aren’t going to make it easy for the Golden Knights. The current 30 other teams will make trades, juggle prospects, or even expose good players; all with the expansion draft in mind. However, some moves get ignored because they seem small and insignificant, when in reality, teams are quietly preparing for June’s expansion draft. Al Montoya‘s two-year extension in Montreal is a perfect example.

In 2007 Montoya was the sixth overall selection. New York took the goaltender after Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler were off the board. Sidebar, the Rangers had a terrible period of first round selections. Here’s a sample from 1999-2004; Pavel Brendl #4, Manny Malhotra #7, Jamie Lundmark#9, Dan Blackburn #10, Hugh Jessiman #12. I guess all is forgiven when you hit a home run like Henrik Lundqvist in the seventh round (2000). Some scouts will always argue against drafting first round goaltenders, which brings us back to Carey Price‘s backup. Montoya may have been scouted as a top pick, but now he’s an average NHL backup. He’s obviously doing something right if Montreal is willing to pay him for two more years. Or is the backup just a chess piece?

Montreal signed Montoya for two-years at $2.1 million. Not a bad payday for a guy who averages 25 games a season. Since Price has an NMC, the signing means we know Montoya will be available for Vegas. Making it a risk for Montreal… or so it would seem. George McPhee will obviously scout and consider Montoya, but there are likely to be a few better options to take from Montreal. Alexei Emelin, Tomas Plekanec, and Andrei Markov, to name a few. These are older players, with expensive contracts, who bring experience and leadership. Making them more attractive to Vegas than Montoya.

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Wild’s Dilemma Could Make Vegas Rich

One of our favorite Canadians, Pierre Lebrun, had a Christmas bundle of expansion notes for us this week. LeBrun focused on Minnesota’s expansion dilemma this week. The Wild’s defensive squad are one the leagues best and could create a problem for management. Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Marco Scandella, Christian Folin, Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba are a good problem to have. After breaking it down, Lebrun believes the Wild will use the likely popular 7-3-1 protection format. Suter and Spurgeon are locks and Dumba made the most sense to LeBrun. That means Scandella, Folin and Brodin would be available to Vegas. Here’s a quick profile on all three.

Marco Scandella: 26 years-old/Defenseman/Left-handed

325 Games/79 Points
Career Stats: +/- -9/TOI 19:55/Blks 467/Hits 315/GWG 6
2016 Stats: +/- -1/TOI 16:40/Blks 28/Hits 15/Pts 3
Contract: 5 years $20M/$4.75M per year/UFA 2020
Positives: Solid defender/Potential/134 total shots 5-v-5 close
Negatives: 161 giveaways to 115 takeaways/Contract/Injuries

Christian Folin: 25 years-old/Defenseman/Right-handed

91 Games/17 Points
Career Stats: +/- +15/TOI 15:58/Blks 103/Hits 119
2016 Stats: +/- 10/TOI 16:05/Blks 31/Hits 34
Contract: 2 years $1.5M/RFA 2017
Positives: Right-handed/6’4/Speed/Puck movement/Great athlete
Negatives: Healthy scratches/Been demoted to AHL

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When It Comes To Draft Risk, Center > Defenseman

Over the last few weeks I’ve highlighted the top defenseman Timothy Liljegren and a top three forward Nico Hischier. Either prospect would be a great start for Vegas. Stud defenseman like Liljegren don’t come around often. In fact, 2012 was the last draft multiple defenseman were selected in the top five. Crazy enough, eight rookie blueliners were picked in the top ten that year. (Ryan Murray, Griffin Reinhart, Morgan Rielly, Hampus Lindholm, Mathew Dumba, Derrick Pouliot, Jacob Trouba, Slater Koekkoek)

All this draft chat had me thinking about McPhee’s strategy. Who would the Golden Knights draft between the highest rated defenseman, or a top three center? commenter James made a strong point about a few somewhat recent drafts. Drew Doughty selected second could easily have jumped over Steven Stamkos. Same with the 2009 draft with John Tavares and Victor Hedman. Of course, all four organizations feel incredibly satisfied with their selections. I will always lean towards a top-rated center over a defenseman. As important as goaltending and defense is, NHL offense comes at a premium. However, if a talent like Doughty comes up my decision wouldn’t be tough.

Drafting a center in the Top-5 of the NHL Entry Draft has been almost ridiculously successful for NHL clubs over the past 10-15 years. There will always be a few misses, like Alex Galchenyuk in 2012 or Kyle Turris in 2007, but just about every other one during the past 13 years has had major impact. Take a look at the centers drafted early from 2003-2016.

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2017 Prospect Spotlight – Nico Hischier

In the latest 2017 NHL mock draft by, the Vegas Golden Knights are slated to draft Nico Hischier. A 17 year-old forward who’s been dubbed the Swiss Connor McDavid. Do I have your attention now? Really, scouts are gushing over Hischier’s size, skill, and maturity. He’s an A-Rated skater by NHL Central Scouting, and currently ranks third among 2017 prospects. Some believe Hischier has the potential to be the best Swiss player that ever lived.

The right-handed, 6’1, 175lbs Center consistently lights the lamp for the Halifax Mooseheads. In 31 games this year, Hischier has an impressive 23 goals and 25 assists. The rookie Moosehead even broke a club record with six points in one game. Former Moosehead players Jonathan Drouin, Brad Marchand, Nathan MacKinnon and Jakub Voracek never scored three goals, and had three assists in the same game. Watch him score his hat trick, he puts himself in proper position on all three goals. Great ice awareness. On top of his scoring touch, the Swiss forward is highly proficient with the puck. Scouts evaluate Hischier’s puck control as high as any other 2017 prospect. On top of puck control, his defense is also highly rated. The rookie Moosehead’s overall play receives nothing but praise.

He can beat you in so many ways. He can beat you with faceoffs, he can beat you with defensive play. He’s really, really proud of his defense, he can beat you with his work ethic, his intensity, his skill, he can beat you on the rush. He can beat you on the power play, he can beat you on the PK. He’s a really complete player. I compare him a lot to Henrik Zetterberg when he was in his prime. When you were playing against him he was always efficient in every area of the game. -Andre Tourigny, Halifax Mooseheads Head Coach

Holy smokes, Henrik Zetterberg. Vegas would be ecstatic with that type of talent.

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Backup To Vegas: Antti Raanta

Backups, like Rodney Dangerfield, get no respect. Although, Las Vegas fans shouldn’t disregard backup goaltenders. Chances are one of the NHL’s secondary netminders will play a much bigger role for the Golden Knights. Which brings me to a series focusing on potential VGK goaltenders. We’ve heard many scenarios surrounding certain NHL teams, Pittsburgh and Tampa being two of them. Let’s start with a situation involving a high profile name, and a backup that’s been dominating recently. Off to New York!

The shutout machine from Madison Square Garden is not who you think. While Henrik Lundqvist rests his old bones, backup Antti Raanta is playing like a number one. The 27 year-old Fin created a two-headed monster for the New York Rangers. Raanta is 8-1 with an outstanding 1.52 GAA, and he’s a backup. In ten starts, Hank’s backup let in less goals than Jimmy Howard, Thomas Greiss, Calvin Pickard and Andrei Vasilevskiy. All goaltenders who are expected to be left unprotected. Raanta’s a brick wall, stopping 62 of 63 shots over the past three games. An insane run that makes Alain Vigneault look a genius for benching his all-world goaltender. With a healthy Lundqvist sitting, Raanta allows New York a chance to keep their number one fresh. Which some believe has been a problem for Handsome Hank in the postseason.

In Finland, Raanta was an elite goaltender in the Liiga, the Finnish Elite League. His team won the championship in 2013 and he was named league and postseason MVP. After his award-winning season he signed as an undrafted free agent with Chicago. Battling it out with Scott Darling as Corey Crawford‘s backup, the Fin was traded to New York in 2015. Coming in clearly as a backup, Raanta has now created a sports radio type goaltending controversy. Vigneault slightly hinted towards one after Raanta’s third straight start.

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2017 Prospect Spotlight – Timothy Liljegren

When it comes to the 2017 NHL amateur draft we’ve really only heard one name at the top, Nolan Patrick. Names like Maxime Comtois and Kristian Vesalainen have come up as possible candidates for the Golden Knights, but we’ve already crowned Patrick as the prized jewel of next June’s draft. However, TSN’s Craig Button wrote an article last week about Swedish prospect Timothy Liljegren as a possible number one. Since Patrick has only skated in 10 games this season for the Brandon Wheat Kings, other options are starting to creep into the picture. The 6’2″ defenseman is described as smooth and mature. Liljegren the number one rated blue liner, could be a future player Vegas fans root for. Although, the ping pong balls have to fall our way.

What makes Liljegren a top talent is his maturity and effective play in high competition. The 17 year-old Swede is currently playing in the Swedish Elite league for Rögle BK. There’s not much footage on him available, and he’s been sidelined with mono, but most believe he’s ready for the big stage in North America, so we’ll have to take their word for it. Lately, the NHL has showcased its young talent sooner than later. McJesus, Jack Terrier Eichel, Papi Matthews and Patrick ‘Laine’s Better’ all made a pro-roster their first year.

Are Nolan Patrick and Liljegren prospects ready for the NHL? Neither are rated like McDavid, Eichel and Matthews were, yet Patrick and Liljegren are still considered franchise players. If the Golden Knights are lucky enough to draft either, fans should be very excited. I couldn’t imagine Vegas rushing draft picks to the big club, so fans might wait a year or two. George McPhee has already discussed developing his prospects. With that in mind, McPhee will probably plan on expansion and free agency for his 2017 roster. As we’ve discussed already, playoffs are not the Golden Knights main concern out of the gate. Building for the future is hopefully what this organization is planning. A big, two-way defenseman like Liljegren would be top priority to the organization.

As a talent evaluator, Button is well respected around domestic and international hockey. He’s had success projecting a prospects impact in the past. Even with limited playing time for both, they’re in Button’s top two draft slots. What does that say for the rest of the top ten? If he’s convinced there are two highly skilled prospects then Vegas fans should be very optimistic. Look out if Patrick or Liljegren end up with the Golden Knights. The Pacific teams won’t be winning as much as they’re expecting on the Strip.

Beyond Analytics; Three Other Areas McPhee Should Be Focused On

If you listened to this week’s podcast then you heard me geeking out on advanced statistics. For instance, we talked how SF20/SA20 is a more accurate way to measure a player’s overall impact on the ice. Or how 5v5close can help coaches decide what players to trust in tight situations. Numbers like SF20/SA20, PDO, and 5v5close should help scouting departments as much as, if not more, than +/- rating, SOG, and TOI. However, you can’t measure all hockey skills by advanced statistics. Superstars and third line players are all important when it comes to situational hockey. Here are a few effective skill sets the Golden Knights will look to add in June.

Players with speed are important to competing teams for many reasons. The more obvious are odd-man rushes, chasing down pucks, and keeping defenders at bay. More importantly fast players create scoring chances some of which you can’t measure. Andrew Cogliano may not show up on the box score but his nightly impact is felt. Cogliano is one of the NHL’s faster players, and his ability to move the puck from the defensive to offensive zone is invaluable. The time it takes the former Wolverine to receive a pass and skate it to safety is much faster than the average defenseman. Cogliano may already be off the ice before Anaheim scores but his zone speed had as much impact as the shooter. Same goes for many second or third line speedsters. Whatever team creates the most scoring chances usually ends up winning.

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Expansion Preparations Coming In Many Forms

The future of the Vancouver Canucks is not looking so bright. With a 36-year-old starting goalie, a pair of 36-year-old twins, and three other key contributors over 30, that 4-5-1 start is a bit ominous.

The middle is no place to be. -Ray Ferraro, TSN Analyst

The former Hartford Whaler was adamant that the Vancouver Canucks should give in and start completely over. Ferraro doesn’t believe a team scoring under two goals a game can, or will, turn it around. So he suggested the Canucks move on from two underperforming defenseman Alex Biega, and Philip Larsen. However, it is believed that Vancouver management will hold on to Biega specifically for expansion considerations.

Because he’s [Biega] under contract for next year, and because you can get him up to the games played threshold, they prefer to expose him.” – Matt Sekeres, TSN

It makes sense and would be a smart move by the Canucks knowing they’ll have to be ultra careful on whom to expose. The franchise is obviously heading for a rebuild and cannot give anything of value to Las Vegas. Not that the Knights are expecting to strike it rich from Vancouver’s unprotected list.

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Evander Kane Cleared Of Charges, Worth A Look In Vegas?

A few months ago a conversation on Twitter about Evander Kane got pretty animated. Some people posted that Las Vegas could never take on Kane if he was left unprotected by Buffalo. I couldn’t believe a talent like the Sabres power forward was being passed over by so many arm-chair GMs. We’re talking about a rare talent that’s physical, can score, and has solid puck possession skills. (C’mon, tell me those corresponding links don’t fit the double entendres perfectly) Not many players have all three attributes… we’re back to talking about hockey.

Now to be fair, the people against Kane don’t deny his capability, what scares them is his off-ice behavior. He’s no role model. Kane has never been convicted but he’s been twice investigated for criminal behavior. Late last year Buffalo cops dropped charges for sexual assault. Now, a New York judge dismissed charges against Kane for a reported physical incident at a Buffalo bar. And let’s be serious, the name of the bar was Bottoms Up. A bar in Buffalo, NY named Bottoms Up has seen plenty of physical incidents.

Understandably, the two investigations listed above don’t make Kane look like a good guy. In fact that same New York judge called him out as being, “arrogant, boorish, and surly.” (Kind of reminds me of this guy actually) He also told Kane to make sure he keeps his nose clean for six months, something the power forward needs to do if he wants to stay in the NHL anyways. It’s tough to make the case for the 25 year-old forward with his off-ice behavior.

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