2019 Free Agency Day One: Talking is Fine, Offer Sheets are Fine, Big Money is Fine

Unlike Corey Hirsch– who I respect as a solid voice on commentary– I don’t have a problem with the talking period that the NHL has instilled in the league prior to the Free Agency period opening. Honestly, it actually makes things more fun when it comes to guessing where players are going. In fact, even if there’s some contract details that leak out– that’s fine– less work for everyone and people in Canada can actually enjoy their day off for Canada Day.

Even with the terms of collusion and tampering coming up– if the team that had their contract wanted then so badly; they would have given the offer they wanted before it got to the courting process. Maybe by talking to other teams, it gives the leverage to the players in getting more money on where they’re at now. It’s a thing that these players fought for in terms of getting free agency earlier and then be able to choose where they want to be.

And choose they did.

As of this writing, 118 players were selected to a total of a 229 years in contract terms and almost $700M in contract dollars being thrown around on the first day of the new season.

When it comes to big splashes, you have to think the Florida Panthers made some move in not only picking up Sergei Bobrovsky after Roberto Luongo retired and James Reimer was traded, but smaller deals like Brett Connolly, Noel Acciari, and Anton Stralman give the Panthers more of a well-rounded look to them.

The biggest fish was, of course, Artemi Panarin, who went to the New York Rangers for seven seasons. At just over $11.6M a year, that’s a lot of dough to throw around for a team that was in the middle of a rebuild that has seemingly been put on hiatus. With many fans being happy for the move, the more logical among them are cautious when it comes to the move; citing that it’s a fancy move, but maybe not one to propel them far in the playoffs if they get there.

Though the best move of the day had to go to Marc Bergevin by actually have a pair to give out an offer sheet…and to have the player in Sebastian Aho sign it. There’s plenty of bonus money in the deal, including $11.3M in the first year and $9.8M in the second year. If nothing else you have to give the Canadiens credit for at least attempting something.

While all signs put to the Canes matching the offer, this was the year that teams needed to make offer sheets on RFAs or else it was a worthless clause to have in the CBA. One of the biggest things now is to see what will happen, if anything, when it comes to Mitch Marner. It does add another layer to the whole process; which is something we didn’t think we’d ever see again.

Summer Reading: Iginla’s Retirement and Player/Fan Loyalty Relations

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With the announcement of Jarome Iginla retiring in Calgary, it allows Flames fans to truly celebrate the man who pretty much was the face of the franchise (and some could argue the face of the NHL at the time) throughout the 2000s. He was the player and leader everyone wanted on the ice, as well as an ambassador and community leader off the ice. Having lived in Calgary during that time, Iginla was The Man for the team and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone to say a bad word about him in the area.

At the time that Jarome Iginla was traded away….the fans were ready. Not because they wanted to lose their franchise player, not because they wanted to rebuild– but they wanted what was best for a guy who gave his all and more for that team. He had a no-movement clause that he didn’t have to lift, but with the rebuild under Jay Feaster not going as planned, they moved him to help the rebuild and to help Iginla get a better shot at a Stanley Cup.

Iginla didn’t get his Cup with the Pens or other teams he went to, the prospects back from the Penguins in that 2013 trade didn’t help at any point in the rebuild for the Flames, and we’re all none-the-wiser to this whole deal working out for either side.

But in the end, there wasn’t a big uproar from Flames fans of Iginla wanting to move on and win. They were resigned to the fact that the Flames weren’t going to be the best place for Iginla to get a Cup win, and they didn’t see like it was a big slap in the face for their top guy to want out.

While you could link this to some of the happenings in the John Tavares situation with Islanders fans– you could almost say that the Iginla situation was worse because it was the middle of the season, he had the chance to stay with his no-movement; but he wanted to go elsewhere and fans loved him enough as a player and a man to let him go because they didn’t need to be owed anything else. Whereas the reaction of some Islanders fans makes it seems like a free agent picking their spot is the most traitorous thing to happen in the sports landscape.

Granted, you could say that a small few idiots ruin the other Islanders fans who have been a bit more respectable in the situation, but fan is short for fanatical; thus leading to the crazies leading the asylum.

Is there such a thing as loyalty anymore though?? Sure, a long-term contract to a team could be a kind of loyalty, but is there someone out there like a Jarome Iginla who can punch his own ticket as he sees fit?? Is there someone out there who is given the blessing of the fan base (like they needed it) to move along and not get ridiculed for it??

I’m sure there’s people who would be given a pass if they haven’t won a Cup despite being stellar with their individual numbers– like a Steven Stamkos or PK Subban– if they haven’t won it yet. But by and large, there’s not a lot of people who would get a big pass after years with one team if they haven’t won a title with the team they’ve been at for so long. Fans feel like they’re owed something– which could be partially true in their own minds, but isn’t the reality of the situation.

Players don’t owe fans anything in loyalty because most the times fans will rip on the player if they have a couple of down years– like when many Caps pundits and fans wondered if it would be better to trade Alex Ovechkin away. Loyalty is only as good as the last season’s results and the attitude of the fan base when it comes to the reality of their own team and the franchise player who may deserve more. They don’t owe fans the prime of their career for some arbitrary loyalty clause because they stuck it out so long with a middling team, they shouldn’t want to leave now– especially with a no movement clause.

Flames fans realized that with Iginla and though it didn’t work out– they knew what his goals were and they knew their team didn’t have what they could give him as far as results. That should be taken into account the next time a franchise player gets dealt or signs elsewhere– take a step back and look at the reality. If you feel wronged– that fine, but that’s the business of sports.

TEPID TAKE: 2018 NHL Free Agency Edition

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The first day of open market in the NHL pretty much brought us everyone waiting for John Tavares to finally decide where he was going. The other signings meant nothing until he signed– it was all about JT today.

-So, JT did sign with his hometown team, the Toronto Maple Leafs– making their fanbase even more insufferable when it comes to players who were born in the GTA coming to their Cup-drought filled team. Good on JT for making this decision, though– to walk into the lion’s den freely to achieve a goal to play in your hometown. It’s a comfort for him…for now. Ultimately– he makes the Leafs that much better despite the lack of defense for now.  Maybe this will take some of the pressure of Auston Matthews of being the first-line center and perhaps help him get out of whatever doghouse Mike Babcock has Matthews in.

-When it comes to Islanders fans, though, it’s natural to feel pissed at this– especially with JT dragging this process on and really making people wait. The problem is that JT doesn’t owe the fans anything and you should really be mad at the dysfunction in the front office for years rather than the player who wanted to play on a contender. The legacy Garth Snow left is being barely mediocre while not really getting Tavares the support he needed. With Lou Lamoriello being at the helm, we’ll see if he’ll build around Mat Barzal or some other wacky stuff to keep the Islanders middling for years to come.

-The move I liked the least had to be Petr Mrazek going to Carolina. We all are aware that the Scott Darling project hasn’t worked out after the first year, but to get a guy who will be a challenger to Darling’s starting spot could go one of two ways– really good by pushing him and making him better or really bad by having two goalies too tense to make a mistake that their nerves get shot. With two goalies who are better off as a back-up coming in to start a string of games rather than be a starter– the Canes are playing with fire in hopes this will really work out this time.

-Bruce Boudreau really loves former Capitals and grit guys that the Wild signed a lot of them. Matt Hendricks, Eric Fehr, JT Brown, and Greg Pateryn are joining Minnesota for the next season. For what reason….character?? I really don’t know what these moves are about, but if grit is the one thing the Wild thing was missing– then they are sure to get further now.

-Most people hate the Jack Johnson deal. I think the tenure of the deal is what gets me, but overall– it’s not HORRIBLY BAD. Especially in Pittsburgh, Johnson could get back into the groove of things with his boy Sidney Crosby around and Mike Sullivan working him until turns it around in a big way. It could turn out to be a very big value deal if Johnson can actually get his game back.

-Speaking of tenure deals I don’t like– Jay Beagle to Vancouver. I’m glad Beagle got paid somewhere. He was a folk-hero in Washington for years, but he couldn’t have been expecting that money in DC. Four years for Beagle at $12M is something I shook my head at for Vancouver. Good on Beagle to get his money, Jim Benning better hope it pans out for the team and gets them closer to another level.

-One of the busiest teams was the Dallas Stars. They picked up Anton Khudobin, Blake Comeau, Roman Polak, and Val Nichushkin. A decent amount of depth there– Khudobin hoping not to be another in the junkyard that is goalies of Stars past, while Nichushkin comes back after a two-season hiatus in the KHL putting up 27 goals and 51 points in 86 games. Polak will be another veteran presence on the blueline next to Marc Methot and help tutor the younger defensemen in the Stars line-up.

That’s the moves that stand-out to me that need talking about. We’ll cover more of these on Face Off Hockey Show Wednesday night live and on podcast that weekend. After Tavares, things kind of cooled down. Which is fine for a holiday week and reporters wanting to actually enjoy it for a change. That said, there’s probably going to be small moves here and there as teams address their depth needs and wants.

Weekend Wrap: UND Picks, Carlson Deals, Others Dealt

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It’s been a bit since I’ve written something, mostly basking in the afterglow of the Capitals Cup victory and then waiting to play out what’s gonna happen leading up to the NHL Draft that happened this past weekend in Dallas. While nothing crazy really happened, some moves were made in order to prepare for next season. For that– here’s a little high-speed rundown of some notable things.

NORTH DAKOTA FOUR INCOMING PLAYERS GET PICKED

This weekend, I did my work for the University of North Dakota, which saw four of it’s incoming class get selected. Jacob Bernard-Docker (OTT), Jonny Tychonick (OTT), Jasper Weatherby (SJ), and Gavin Hain (PHI) were all picked and I was able to get stories on three out of the four players (I don’t believe Weatherby was in attendance that I saw), as well as head coach Brad Berry. Links are below.

Berry reflects on draft, hockey growth in Dallas
For Bernard-Docker, road to NHL runs through UND
The draft wait now over, Tychonick ready to roll
Flyers’ pick Hain looks forward to next chapter

CAPS LOCK UP CARLSON

As I was getting home from Dallas, I got the news that the Caps took one of the most sought after free agents off the market in signing John Carlson to an eight-year extension worth $64M. For a guy who is 28 and just hitting his stride it seems, it’s a great deal for the Caps to keep him locked up and part of the core for a long time. Carlson is coming off a career year in goals (15), assists (53), and obviously points (68), while also being a huge contributor in the Stanley Cup playoffs with five goals and 20 points in 24 games. It also gives the Caps some room to get others key parts signed. However, in order to do that– they had to shed some money, too.

GRUBAUER, ORPIK DEALT

On Friday before the Draft, the Caps trades Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik to the Colorado Avalanche for some picks in return. Both players were going to be rumored to move anyway, but for Grubauer– he turned it into a new deal with the Avalanche for three more seasons, while Orpik was bought out by the Avalanche in order to help get them to the floor of the salary cap. Grubauer will be the primary back-up for the Avalanche it seems, mostly grooming to probably take over for Semyon Varlamov– who is a free agent at the end of the 2018-19 season. Orpik may return to the Capitals at a value deal, but we’ll see how it all pans out.

HAMILTON DRAMA NOT ON STAGE

This whole thing with Dougie Hamilton is very weird and makes you wonder how much one player going out of his way to do things on his own is a detriment to his character. When he left Boston, rumors went around that Hamilton was a guy who was a bit of a “loner,” as it were– not really hanging out with teammates as much as some people would have liked him to be. It seems that stuff like that continued in Calgary; which lead to him and Micheal Ferland being moved to Carolina for Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm.

Hamilton was tied for the league lead for defensemen in goals with 17, but apparently was all too content with the Flames losing down the stretch and may have taken offense to the Flames releasing his brother Freddie in January…which really is something you take with a grain of salt until you hear it from the man himself. GM Brad Treliving mentioned he’s going to keep stuff internal, but the gossip about Hamilton’s character keeps buzzing around.

Honestly, if a player doesn’t want to be around his team 24/7 during the season– I could see that. It shouldn’t be a knock on his reputation if he needs a little time to himself. Of course, the hockey culture of being with your teammates constantly is something I acknowledge, as well. It does seem odd for a guy to just go rogue like that– but maybe it’s something that’s needed for him to reboot now and again– especially if the team isn’t doing great and he needs to get away from that scene.

Regardless, the fact that this is the second time he’s been traded despite people saying he’s a top-tier defenseman should raise an eyebrow or two to why he keeps being moved around so much.

TIME FOR TALKING IS NOW

Another anxious time for fans, as unrestricted free agents have their week period of talking with other teams and hearing their offers before the July 1st “Frenzy.” Focus is going to all be on John Tavares, of course. He’ll take is time listening to offers, all the while new Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello is sitting in his office– lights out, shades drawn, and the hit of light from a screen in the background as he waits by his phone for a call. While Rick Nash and Toby Enstrom may be doing the same, Tavares’ name will be the one most looked at when it comes to this period– especially for Isles fans who want to keep him around.

Time to Let Jaromir Go

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Jaromir Jagr is the hockey equivalent to a professional wrestler who doesn’t know when to retire.

That’s where I see him now as he’s trying his best to get signed to an NHL squad this year, going out of his way to make some comical videos that get to the masses and make them feel sorry for the 45-year-old veteran for not having a contract in the NHL or going elsewhere to get a contract to play hockey. With the reports of his decision day being October 5th, it doesn’t really bode well for Jagr to return to the NHL full-time, at least for right now. Considering camps are in full swing and that date is a couple days after the NHL puck-drop on the season– I doubt he would get signed to an NHL club if that was the case

I get that people want to hold onto that nostalgia. I mean, hell– he’s the last of the NHL94 guys still playing and that will kill a lot of people’s childhood. But, like most things– they have to come to an end some time. If not now, it’ll be down the road as we all can’t hold onto things forever. You have to let them go and remember the joy they brought to you when you had them.

While I can understand why he wouldn’t want to go on a PTO contract– it’s not really a matter of signing him because team’s don’t know what he’s about– which is what he told a reporter; but it’s a matter of trying him out to see if he fits into the team scheme. In Florida, he was able to be a leader on a young team, have a more possession style of play, and not have to worry about paying taxes…which I’m sure has no bearing on contracts he’s been presented so far.

The whole deal with the Florida Everblades was a fun marketing thing, but it wasn’t a serious consideration for Jagr. May have been for the ECHL and the Everblades, but not for the man himself. If Jagr wanted to play in the minor leagues, he would have signed on with someone already. He hasn’t played there before, doubt he’ll be playing there now.

Also, with this– he can play one last time with the Czech Republic at the Olympics…if they want him to. I mean, why not– he already broke his international retirement once to play in the Worlds— why not have him jack a spot on the Olympic roster for old-time sake. Hell, call up Dominik Hasek to see what he’s doing, get the whole 1998 squad back together.

It’s great he still has a passion for the game, but maybe it’s time to step aside from the big stage for a bit and stay in hockey in another capacity. He still owns his own team in the Czech Republic, so he won’t be completely detached from the game– plus he could pull a Roger Dorn and activate himself as he sees fit.

Yet, the point is this…we’re going to have to say goodbye to Jagr the same way we said goodbye to Teemu Selanne. Sure, he may be beloved by some, but it’s better to have him end the career, remember the good times he had, the highlights we saw, and the personality throughout the years he gave us than to see a broken man in the downside of his 40s struggle through the slog of the NHL schedule.