(National Hockey Now) – The National Hockey Now wolfpack put its collective heads together over the last couple of days to come up with landing spots for the top NHL free agents. It’s pretty obvious the Vegas Golden Knights are done spending. But VGK fans will want to pay particular attention to where the remaining class ends up, including Mike Hoffman and his 30-goal potential.
Mike Hoffman – Nashville Predators
Hoffman leads the list of top NHL free agents still out there. Just one year removed from career highs in goals (36) and points (70), Nashville seems the most likely landing spot for me. Nashville Predators GM David Poile cleared a lot of space against the cap through trades and even buying out Kyle Turris through 2027-28. I believe they went hot and heavy for Taylor Hall before he landed in Buffalo. Now it makes the most sense that Hoffman should end up in Nashville, which could use his scoring touch and already has a talented cast of playmaking forwards.
Travis Hamonic – Boston Bruins
Boston lost a big key in Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara is still hanging out there (see below). While absolutely no one will confuse Hamonic with Krug, I think Boston knows that if it doesn’t have defense the team is in trouble. They still have some cap room and need to shore the back end up. Sami Vatanen is also out there and could land here, but more on that later.
Anthony Duclair – Nashville Predators
I think Duclair is exactly the type of player Poile loves because he represents someone who could be a major value. While Duclair has twice shown his ability to score 20+ goals, he continues to frustrate teams. Why would the Ottawa Senators let him go when they were clearly looking to improve (and really have) this off season? Because Duclair is a player who looks amazing when he cares, and terrible when he doesn’t. The problem is not the talent, it’s the motor. Keeping him invested and bought into the team message is key. Nashville has shown in the past a predilection for going after those types of players, hoping they pay big dividends. Duclair is no different and could head there on a prove-it contract once again, or perhaps the Preds try to show some faith with a little bit of term. No matter who signs him, it’s a crap shoot.
Sami Vatanen – Ottawa Senators
As I said above, the Senators have been splashing cash and really taking a run at a fast turnaround. Last week owner Eugene Melnyk said he sees this team winning a Stanley Cup in four years. Once I removed my eyebrows from the ceiling and took a look at what the Sens are doing, you can see that the money is following the talk. While they could use more up front as well, Vatanen can help move pucks, improve the power play and suck up ice time. Cap room isn’t the issue for Ottawa, and just because you have money doesn’t mean you should spend it. But if the Sens invest wisely they could rise to the level of playoff bubble team this year. And that’s more than most people are willing to give them.
Andreas Athanasiou – Columbus Blue Jackets
Athanasiou is the type of player that I see dropping into a John Tortorella-coached squad with little problem. When he was traded from Detroit to Edmonton, he had 24 points and an eye-popping minus-45 rating. The 24 points was still the sixth-highest point total on the Wings last year. In Edmonton Athanasiou underwhelmed with just two points in nine regular season games and none in four playoff appearances.
That said, he’s got speed and was once viewed as a highly-skilled player who could produce points. While this year’s Red Wings team is a hard sell because of just how bad they were, Athanasiou has still been criticized for his lack of defensive effort and hustle in the past. This is why I think he could really thrive under Tortorella and the Blue Jackets system. If he decides to buy into what the team is selling, he could become one of the bargains of the summer. Of course, it could all blow up quickly.
Zdeno Chara – Boston Bruins
This is the easiest call to make. While a big name, I can’t say Chara is really one of the top NHL free agents still available. Chara doesn’t want to go anywhere but Boston, and I’m pretty sure the Bruins will bring him back. To me the reason he hasn’t signed is simple: they don’t know how much they’ll have left to pay him.
I’ve seen media members criticizing the Bruins saying the deal should have been done the first day of free agency. Sure in a perfect, normal world it would have. Boston would have known far more about its options and available money. But this isn’t a normal year. The Bruins are likely still trying to nail down a free agent or two. And while as of this writing they have $7.35M in cap space with 22 contracts signed, it doesn’t mean they’re done. What if they surprise for one of the other big names still out there? If they have to spend $5-6M, then they know Chara potentially gets the rest of that and is happy with it. I can’t see him going anywhere else.
Here’s how the rest of the NHN staff voted:
|Mike Hoffman||Travis Hamonic||Anthony Duclair||Sami Vatanen||Andreas Athanasiou||Zdeno Chara|
|Adrian Dater (CHN)|
|Sheng Peng (SJHN)|
|Jimmy Murphy (BHN)|
|Joe Haggerty (BHN)|
|George Richards (FHN)|
|Christian Arnold (NYIHN)|
|Dan Kingerski (PHN)||RETIRE|
Golden Knights Training Camp Day 2 In The Books
Yesterday was a very exciting day as the Vegas Golden Knights took to the ice for the first time in training camp. Day Two wasn’t nearly as exciting, but necessary as things moved forward. Here are a few key takeaways from today’s action.
As of now, Nick Holden remains on what I’ll pencil in as the 7/8 pair with Dylan Coghlan. As I said yesterday don’t read too far into things because the Golden Knights are going to need eight solid D to make this season work. For the time being, it looks like Zach Whitecloud and Nicolas Hague are going to get a chance to show what they can do as a unit. Alex Pietrangelo remained with Brayden McNabb and Shea Theodore with Alec Martinez.
Today was more of a jumble of lines as some guys get a look playing up. Among them was Tomas Jurco who took the place of Max Pacioretty with Chandler Stephenson and Mark Stone. Jurco is a guy I love for the VGK because this season because he’s a vet who can slide into the lineup on a moment’s notice and play a variety of roles. Definitely a taxi squad guy who makes you feel better about your depth.
Also, Stephenson is still centering this line. I know many of you wonder if Cody Glass is going to get his shot at the 2C but not yet. Stephenson did look good today, generating a scoring chance off a stretch pass up the middle and showing some speed. He’s skating with confidence early in camp, and I would not be surprised to see him exactly where he is now come opening night.
Finally, it was nice to see Jonathan Marchessault score for the second straight day. If he warms those goal-scoring hands up early, it could be a tremendous campaign for him.
Keep your browser pointed here for more camp coverage!
Tom’s Daily: Handicapping the West Division; Stepan to Sens
Tom’s Daily: Looking at the West Division; Vegas Golden Knights prospect Brandon Kruseand his unusual senior season; Stepan sent to the Sens; VGK fans have a new streaming option this season.
The West Division should be a fun, competitive division this year. At least in the top half. Here’s NHL.com’s look at how things might shake out. (NHL.com)
Brandon Kruse is working his way through an unusual senior season at Bowling Green. The Golden Knights prospect is projeting better than a point-per-game so far on the ice. (NHL.com)
Derek Stepan was shipped to the Ottawa Senators from the Arizona Coyotes, giving the Sens more center depth and eating up a chunk of that free cap space they had. (Sportsnet)
Ilya Kovalchuk won’t be playing in the NHL this year. Or next year. (NHL.com)
Michael Del Zotto signs a pro tryout contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Expect a lot of fringe NHL guys who don’t have deals to be competing for jobs this year. (Sportsnet)
Five questions facing the Florida Panthers heading into training camp. This team could be really good. It could also not. (FloridaHockeyNow)
According to Larry Brooks from the New York Post, the Pittsburgh Penguins are the only major league sports team to receive a paycheck protection loan totaling $4.82M. (New York Post)
Longtime NHL player and executive Dave Poulin is writing for the Toronto Star. Here’s his debut piece. (Toronto Star)
Tom’s Daily: New VGK Schedule; Pacioretty, Lehner Busts?; NHL Breaking News
Tom’s Daily: Breaking NHL news! Plus the Vegas Golden Knights have a schedule and we break it down for you; Bolts find cap relief but it’s not good; more
Vegas Golden Knights
Just in case you missed it, the NHL schedule dropped yesterday and we broke it down for you here. (VHN)
Here’s the team/league release on the schedule as well. (NHL.com)
Breaking News: It looks like the NHL has permission to move forward in Canadian cities. That’s a major sigh of relief. (Sportsnet)
Whew! Gritty has been cleared to return to NHL games this season. (The Hill)
Nikita Kucherov is going to miss the regular season due to hip surgery. While the Lightning certainly don’t want to be without one of the best players in today’s game, it certainly helps their situation with his $9.5M cap hit moved to LTIR. (Tampa Bay Times)
Ryan Miller is back with the Anaheim Ducks on a one-year deal and I love it. I hope Miller, one of the nicest guys in the game, gets to his milestone of 400 wins. It won’t happen this season unless something goes crazy sideways, but he needs 13 more to do it. (ESPN)
The Arizona State University men’s hockey team decided to start the season with a monster 36-day road trip. My personal longest road trip was 18 days and that was a nightmare. I can’t imagine double that. As it turns out, the team wanted it this way. (ESPN)
Are you all fans of fantasy hockey content? I can post more of that type of stuff if you are, let me know in the comments. For now, I’m putting this in here because of Max Pacioretty’s featured status as a fantasy “bust” for this season. Oh, and add Robin Lehner too. Not sure I agree, but here you go. (CBS)