Ranking the NHL Divisions: METROPOLITAN

1 Pittsburgh: Although the Capitals reigned supreme in 2018, I like the Penguins taking their spot back at the top of the division. I just can’t go against a Crosby and Malkin lead team. Throw in Kessel and a Letang looking to rebound and I see them cruising to the top.

2 Washington: The Capitals have a dynamic center duo in their own right, with an ever consistent Nicklas Backstrom, and Evgeny Kuznetsov who burst into the scene recently. Alex Ovechkin has some good years left before he starts to decline and those 3 players will keep the Caps competitive for a while. Re-signing John Carlson was huge for them as well. I see another good season on the way.

3 Carolina: This will be my most controversial pick, but I really like the Hurricanes lineup right now and I think they can play so much better than they did last season. Adding Dougie Hamilton turns a great defensive core to arguable second best in the league after Nashville. Aho is a year older and is looking like a future star in this league. The big question is goaltending and scoring depth. They are both iffy at best, but when I look at their team on paper, I see no reason why they can’t leap frog a few teams that finished ahead of them.

4 Philadelphia:  The Flyers have been built around the same core for a while that has always given them success, but not quite enough to put them over the edge. The emergence of Couturier and Provorov could be enough to prove me wrong, but for now I think they are a playoff bubble team. The good news for them is Giroux seems to be back to his old self and putting up monster points.

5 New Jersey: A young core give the Devils a lot of hope, and Taylor Hall has proven capable of carrying the team. He needs a lot more help though. Last years first over all selection Nico Hischier has his first season under his belt and will be relied on a little heavier. I see good things for the Devils future but they aren’t quite at contender level yet.

6 Columbus: Losing Panarin could be a disaster for Columbus as he was far and away the best forward for the Blue Jackets last season (seriously not even close). Now this is all speculation that he might be traded, due to a report that he does not want to play in Columbus anymore. If he stays and plays another full season with the Jackets, there is some hope. Some.

7 New York Rangers: A weak lineup that finished last in 2018 doesn’t look any better today. The Rangers should be rebuilding but it is yet to be seen if it actually happens. Kreider, Zibanejad and Buchnevich could be an alright line, not really first line material though and it doesn’t get any better after that.

8 New York Islanders: The other New York team is even worse. After losing Tavares, an already bad team got considerably worse. Adding insult to injury, their answer was signing Matt Martin and Leo Komarov. Gross. Barzal has some massive shoes to fill here, and as talented as he is, I can’t see him dragging this team into relevance.

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Ranking the NHL Divisions: ATLANTIC

1 Toronto: The Leafs finished last season in third place with 105 points. In a battle with the Bruins and Lightning throughout the whole season, they came short of the division title. With the massive addition of John Tavares, it could very well be enough to put them over the edge to a division title, and even possibly the Presidents’ Trophy. A high powered offense just got a lot stronger. The defense is still a question mark, however they performed better than they get credit for last season, and have not lost any key defenders.

2 Tampa Bay: The Lightning have a powerhouse roster that brought them a division title last season. They have retained their key players (and notably re-signing Kucherov to a friendly contract) and will now also have Ryan McDonagh for the entire year. Should have another huge season, but just a notch below Toronto.

3 Boston: The Bruins are a very good team, but I wonder if Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak can carry the team as hard as they did last season. That line was firing on all cylinders and was borderline unstoppable for a majority of the season. It will be hard to replicate that kind of dominance from a line (consider they didn’t get scored on at even strength for 22 straight games to start the season). It will come down to their depth players, and how much they can contribute.

4 Florida: The Panthers seem to be full of potential every year, but fail to meet expectations. They boast a young talented roster but perhaps lack the experience to propel themselves into the playoffs consistently. If it weren’t for sure a top heavy division, I would say they are a shoe-in, but having to compete with the 3 teams mentioned above is a tough task. Look for Barkov to turn it up offensively as he starts to hit his prime.

5 Buffalo: The Sabres are a funny team. They have a lot of talented players to make you think they will do well, but then they just don’t. Individually, Eichel, Ristolainen, Reinhart, Okposo and Scandella are good to great players, but their depth after that is atrocious. Losing O’Reilly really hurts their center depth too. Can Middlestadt successfully take over the role? Can Dahlin step in and make a difference right away? Time will tell.

6 Detroit: The Red Wings have an outside shot of making playoffs. They lack the star power to be truly competitive. Larkin is a great piece but he’s not going to carry a team. They brought back Mike Green, and I believe his return, and more importantly, a healthy return, will be crucial in finding success. The roster just doesn’t jump out at me in any way.

7 Montreal: With rumors of Pacioretty being traded, it doesn’t leave a whole lot to be desired on the Canadiens. Price is capable of keeping the team competitive on his own, but he will have to be Superman to get this team in the playoffs. The center depth is horrible and the defense might be even worse. Not looking good.

8 Ottawa: Dumpster fire. If Erik Karlsson is not a Senator next year, there is no hope for this team. The locker room is in shambles, the ownership won’t spend money, and Bobby Ryan is still there being paid like a star. Sorry Duchene, you’re in for another rough one.

Maple Leaf Memories of Ray Emery

After the tragic passing of former NHL goalie Ray Emery, I’ve had memories coming back to me about seeing him in an Ottawa Senators jersey. A common combatant in the Battle of Ontario during his many years in Ottawa, Emery had a swagger about him that you just had to respect. It isn’t often that a goalie could exude such a presence on the ice, but when you and all the other players out there know you can kick everyone’s asses, you get a little more respect from your opposition.

Respect; for me, it’s something I have for Ottawa. Maybe not their current ownership, maybe not their shaggy headed former captain’s antics, and maybe not for their enforcer Chis Neil’s gaptoothed face yipping away at the end of inevitably losing a fight, but on the whole I can respect a team that has rivalled the Leafs over the years. And this respect for my team’s rival is why I love Ray Emery – because he pumped and embarrassed a Leaf’s rival I don’t respect – the Buffalo Sabres.

I don’t know why, but I just don’t like them; always cocky with nothing to show for it Buffalo seems to be more bark than bite in the NHL. Thats why I took incredible joy in watching Emery throw with Marty Biron and laugh in the face of Sabre’s enforcer Andrew Peters.

In his first game back from a three game suspension Emery joined in on a good old fashion line brawl grabbing the Sabres goalie Biron and beating the pulp out of him. Emery was an avid boxing fan to the point of having the nickname “Sugar Ray” and a depiction of Mike Tyson on his mask – this should have been a warning to the Sabres. Once Biron was dispatched with the towering Peters broke free from his fight and squared up with Emery to protect his goalie who was haphazardly lining up for a second ass beating.

With his reach barred by his chest protector, and his arms no where near Peters’ length Emery smiled in the face of his opponent and took some hard knocks. That is the indelible image I’ll always have in my head of Ray Emery, him staring down a monster and smiling in the face of adversity.

The NHL and it’s players are mourning the loss of a well liked, highly respected, and incredibly inspirational goalie from their ranks. He battled through the CHL to make the league, through self-inflicted suspensions, personal life issues, he reestablished himself in Europe to get back in the NHL. His biggest battle came from a hip condition that not only looked like it would end his NHL career, but also his ability to walk normally. Ray overcame this adversity, too.

Emery constantly battled, not dissimilarly to a boxer, and round after round he came back for more. As a Leaf fan I could never forget Emery for his inclusion in the Battle of Ontario, and as a hockey fan I’ll remember his massive presence and perseverance.

Rest in Peace Ray.

Top 10 Winners of Free Agency

 

Calgary Flames

Derek Ryan and especially James Neal will provide some help to the young forward core. Neal could be lethal on a line with one of the best play-makers in the game, Johnny Gaudreau. This is a very underrated offense.

Carolina Hurricanes

Calvin De Haan cashed in with the Hurricanes, and while it’s a bit of a surprise signing considering their defense is already loaded, you can’t go wrong with adding additional talent, and De Haan is a solid top 4 defenseman. His $4.55 million per year contract isn’t bad at all comparatively.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Added a very solid depth piece in Riley Nash, and took a low risk gamble on Anthony Duclair who still has some potential bottled up somewhere. Nash should fit in nicely, and they were also able to re-sign Boone Jenner to a 4 year contract extension.

Detroit Red Wings

The Red Wings have been busy re-signing their own player as well as adding some new ones. Notably Mike Green and Anthony Mantha both signed 2 year deals which is important for them as it would be big blows to lose them for nothing. Additionally they brought in Jonathan Bernier who just finished a great year, and journey man Thomas Vanek to add a few goals to the roster.

LA Kings

They only signed one free agent, but it was a big one in Ilya Kovalchuk. This one is definitely up for debate as he hasn’t played in the NHL for quite some time, and they are betting almost 20 million that he can still be a star forward. I like the signing myself because he fits in to the Kings win now timeline, and they are DESPERATE for offense.

Minnesota Wild

No major signings here but just a ton of depth signings that are low risk. Their biggest deal of the offseason is signing Greg Pateryn to a three year deal. He isn’t a flashy player by any means but he’s good defensively, PK’s well, and adds some toughness.

San Jose Sharks

Inking Thomas Hertl to a four year deal was important for the Sharks, but even more so was convincing Thornton to stick around for another year without having to break the bank. He’s got enough in him to help keep the Sharks competitive and for 5 million it’s reasonable. Sometimes keeping your own players is just as valuable as going for new ones.

St Louis Blues

A lot going on here. The Blues are going to look like a different team next season. They added Tyler Bozak, David Perron, Patrick Maroon, and re-signed a bunch of their own. That’s a lot of goals being inserted into an already strong roster. Definitely a favourite going into the 2018 season.

Toronto Maple Leafs

What more needs to be said than John Tavares? The Leafs won the biggest free agent in a long time. He adds to an already potent offense, and will create match up nightmares for the opposing coaches. The Leafs are going for it all and hit a home run with Tavares. (Sorry Tyler Ennis).

Vegas Golden Knights

Vegas did a good job of re-signing some of it’s own player, however did lose a couple key ones in Neal and Perron. They are hoping that offense will be replaced by the addition of Paul Stastny. Stastny had a solid season in St Louis and Winnipeg last season and it will be interesting to see how he fits in Las Vegas now.

 

 

 

 

 

BREAKING: John Tavares Signs With the Toronto Maple Leafs. 7 X $11 million.

It’s official ladies and gentlemen. John Tavares has chosen his suitor, and it’s the Maple Leafs. After an intense week of interviews between John and 6 other teams, he has made his mind up of where he wants to play for the next 7 years. He’s coming home. The reported deal is 7 years at $11 million per year. There is and will be a lot of debate between fans if this was the right move. The overwhelming majority will say yes, but there is still that small vocal group who believe spending this much money on a free agent is the wrong move because the defense needs to be addressed.

Welcome to Toronto John, there is a bright future ahead.

 

Could Montreal Be Starting A Rebuild? (Amended…NOPE)- 200takes

Per Darren Dreger the Montreal Canadians have traded Simon Bourque for Steve Mason, Joel Armia, a 4th round pick, and a 7th round pick. Presumably this is a salary dump for Winnipeg to resign their deadline acquisition Paul Stastny, but it is a little more complicated for Montreal.

This may be a cataclysmic move for Montreal, signalling a trade of Price and beginning of their rebuild. Their current goalies with contracts are Niemi, Mason, Lindgren, and  McNiven. IF the Canadiens keep Steve Mason, and that is an extremely large if, then it may in fact mean that their franchise player is on his way out the door.

For Montreal the return would be massive for Price. Presumably a top goalie prospect, 1-2 first round picks, some young roster players and or A-level prospects. It would not only send Montreal into a rebuild, it would catapult them forward passed a lot of the hard parts (asset acquisition).

It would be a great but tough move for Montreal, who really haven’t been close in recent years. Blow it up and build around Drouin and Domi… not a bad plan! The only issue is their current GM may not be the man for the job.

 

AMENDMENT: Steve Mason on buy out waivers

With the Montreal Canadiens buying out Steve Mason it appears any thought of a rebuild is off. Shame for Habs fans as they don’t really have a team direction at this point. A shaky D core, a forwards group without any elite centers, and a goalie who is elite but has more value as a trade acquisition at this point. Bergevin strikes again!

Don’t Sleep on Mike Green

With John Tavares hogging all the attention, everyone is forgetting about the arguably best UFA defenseman available, Mike Green. While he is far removed from his ridiculous 70 point seasons in Washington, he is still a very serviceable player. His four straight 35+ point seasons from the back end put him in good company. Any team looking for an offensive defenseman who can quarterback a powerplay should be looking right here.

Who are some good fits? The first team that comes to mind is Las Vegas. They have a ton of cap space and could very well be losing a couple key vets in Perron and Neal. Mike Green could be a perfect addition to provide that leadership that will be lost with them, and give a little boost to the back end. The second team that comes to mind would be the Toronto Maple Leafs, provided they miss out on Tavares. It’s clear JT is their priority heading into July 1st, but I think Green would be a great backup plan, and could still play on the top pairing beside Morgan Rielly.

The big question is how much will he cost? His previous contract with the Wings was for an average cap hit of $6 million per year, so we can safely assume is should be below that. Add on top of that, he is coming off surgery which should lower his value, and I would estimate he could be had for around $4.5-$5 million average on a short term deal. It could be a moderate risk with potential for high reward for a number of teams.

Will Mike Green re-sign with Detroit? It is reported he has been offered a deal by the Detroit organization, but he wishes to test free agency at this point, so it couldn’t have been too enticing.

This is a defender who still has a lot left in the tank. He lead Red Wings in ice time averaging over 22 minutes a night. It’s a good time to get value on him while the focus of Free Agency is turn toward Tavares.