Off the Podcast 15: Playoffs SCF

Thomas and Patrick discuss the NHL playoffs as well as their predictions for the remainder of the Stanley Cup Final!

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Solving Nashville’s​ Kyle Turris Problem

by Thomas Sarver

The lack of solid depth at center became apparent in the 2017 Stanley Cup finals after Ryan Johansen went down with an injury during the end of conference finals against Anaheim. The long term issue with Nashville once again came to haunt the team but this time the stakes were much larger than ever before.

The immediate solution? Sign centreman Nick Bonino who was one of the best third line centers in the league and hope he can manage as a decent second liner. Well, that didn’t work out as the team hoped it would so Nashville participated in a three-team blockbuster trade that sent Kyle Turris to Nashville. Turris looked the part of second line center and put up really nice numbers before disappearing once the playoffs started.

But once the next season starts he will be able to regain that tremendous form, right? Wrong. Injuries ended up plaguing him nearly half of his season, and whenever Turris was on the ice and healthy he looked like the opposite of a game-changing player. So, what changed?

During Turris’ first year with the team, it was very obvious that he had a preference in shooting location on the ice which is normal for veteran players. Turris shot nearly half of his shots in area where the faceoff circles and mid-high slot meet. In that area, he scored 11 of his 16 goals. He was also able to provide 29 assists in that season and while it’s hard to pinpoint where exactly on the ice he was for those assists, it’s unlikely that the amount of time spent in that high danger area was a nonfactor.

Then, starting in the playoffs in 2018 and carrying into the most recent season, Turris’ approach changed. Turris’ shots per game dropped from 1.8 to 1.4 per game which may not seem like a big difference but in addition to that, his preferred shooting spot changed, as did his goal totals and not for the better. Turris went from scoring 70% of his goals from that slot area where he shot 45% of his shots from to shooting 33% of his shots from there and only scoring 33% of the time when he shot from there. Instead of shooting more times in that high danger area, Turris instead shot less often and when he did shoot, his shots were from terrible angels coming from the far side of the faceoff circle. This issue was very similar to an article I wrote about Kevin Fiala earlier on in the season.

So now that has been addressed, a lot of fans have been very pushy to trading him, especially with the recent success Turris had while captaining team Canada.

Turris finished the tournament as a point a game player, and due to that his trade value is probably the highest it has been in the past year. That being said, however, his contract might as well have a no-movement clause as it would be hard to convince a team to commit to that deal. So, I started thinking, what if trading Turris is not the answer? What if the Preds traded for one of the two players he played within the tournament instead? After all, coming off a tournament in which he captained one of the best national teams in the world would do a lot for the confidence. Add onto that by including one of the players he played well with and it could be enough to break the cycle of extremely mediocre play that Turris has shown.

So, who did Turris play with? Anthony Mantha and Jared McCann. While Mantha would be the ideal player, it would be a lot easier to acquire Jared McCann. But we will start with Mantha who is the player who is without a doubt more fun.

Anthony Mantha who is a former first-round pick for Detroit has proven to have a nose for putting the puck in the net as he has scored 49 goals in the past two seasons. To add to that scoring ability, Mantha has good size at 6’5” and 225 pounds. A player like this who also can play on either wing would not be the cheapest thing in the world but be physical enough to open up opportunities for Turris as he can drive to the net and create the space for Turris to move in. While playing on the same line as Turris in the worlds, Mantha had seven goals and seven assists in 14 games

Now for the fun part, figuring out Mantha’s trade value. Usually, Detroit could be bullied when Ken Holland was the GM since he had signed terrible long-term contracts for old talent but that is not the case anymore, Steve Yzerman has taken over and in case you need a little note of what he can do with a team. He made Tampa Bay the contender they are today, so he is not a dumb guy by any stretch of the imagination. Nashville could probably lower the price on Mantha by agreeing to take on the last year of Johan Franzen’s contract which is currently occupying around 4 mil from Detroit’s cap, but even then, the Preds would have to sign Mantha to a big raise next year.

Now for McCann, another former first-round pick. McCann would be incredibly cheaper than Mantha, but you get what you pay for. McCann really isn’t anything special but something he did was working for Canada, whether it’s his brain or two-way ability. Don’t let his 5 points in 10 games fool you either, after all, he has taken a step forward in production at a consistent manner each season and after being traded to the Penguins, he was producing at .53 points per game rate. It would not be incredibly crazy for McCann to breakout next year have 40-50 points.

As for trade value, McCann is easier to gauge give how he is on his third team in four seasons. Every time he has been traded, McCann has not been the focal point of the trade, he has been the sweetener, so I doubt that he would cost more than a 3rd or a 4th round pick but I mean, as long as he performs better than Wayne Simmonds I don’t think Preds fans will mind terribly. McCann’s contract is also running out though but where Mantha will probably make anywhere from 5-8 mil a year, McCann will probably earn a much more modest 2 mill a year, making him an extremely attractive opportunity. Also given Pittsburgh’s efforts to create cap space, the Preds could take on a bad contract to make the trade value even cheaper.

Lastly, where does that leave Turris’ current linemates? Smith, Granlund, and Járnkrok are still going to be on the team of course, and I think Smith stays on the second line. But a whole separate article can be written about the state of the second line, so I will do that.

Nashville Predators Guide for the 2019 Offseason

The 2018-2019 season has come and gone and with the Nashville Predators failing for a second consecutive year to replicate the magic of the 2016-2017 Stanley Cup run. The question now is what does a team with this much talent do now? After all, this is the quite possibly the most talented Preds team in franchise history.

For starters, it’s time to cut some of the experimental deadline acquisitions loose. Wayne Simmonds was a ghost after joining the team. Simmonds, at one point, was hoping for $7 mill a year for his next contract, but after recording only three points in seventeen games, it seems unlikely that he will catch anything close to that, especially since there are younger and much bigger fish in the pond this offseason. While It’s not irrelevant to factor in how much Simmonds struggled with injuries which may have caused some of the problems he had this season, those concerns may drop his price even further.

Brian Boyle is the other player id expect to not be seen in the gold and blue next year. While being significantly cheaper than Simmonds, Boyle was brought in to help on the powerplay and with 6 of his 13 goals coming on the man advantage before the trade, hope was restored to the Nashville faithful. Instead, Boyle added just one powerplay goal in 26 games. To make matters worse, Nashville didn’t score a single goal in the playoffs while on the man advantage. While Boyle was a big body and a big presence physically, that alone does not justify bringing Boyle back unless it was for a cheap contract and a limited role.

Now that that’s been established, the Preds need to figure out what to do about their powerplay woes. While a popular opinion among fans is to bring back former assistant coach Phil Housley it may not be the most likely scenario. The recently fired head coach would be a welcomed sight in Nashville, as he was initially brought in to Nashville to help generate offense from the blue line and assist offensive development from defensemen. And while that would be nice, to have Housley back, it’s hard to see him returning to being an assistant coach this quickly. It’s reasonable to expect him to take another stab at running a team from the bench.

As far as units are concerned, a lot of change should happen but probably won’t. According to the last game Nashville played, the powerplay units were as followed.
Powerplay unit one: JoFA, Ekholm, and Josi.
Powerplay Unit two: Granlund, Bonino, Smith, Ellis, and Subban.
As deadly as the JoFA line is, I think it may be time to officially break up the band. Or at least, move them around. For instance, the Johansen, Arvidsson and Grimaldi line at times looked like the ideal line, with the combination of two speedy, high motor wingers and a deadly accurate elite playmaker dishing the puck to them. That is a lethal combination. The thing that interests me about that second unit, is that all three players have played center at one point or another. While that is great for mixing up who is taking the faceoff, it may hurt their scoring ability. After all, are any of those players known for goal scoring? No. Even if a player like Forsberg dropped down to that unit, I don’t think it’s enough.

The powerplay is without a doubt the key area that needs to be addressed. While that may not require any moves to fix, it’s likely that Nashville looks to add another outside talent to boost special teams as a whole. While flashy names like Panarin and Duchene have fans attention, a less expensive player may fit the team’s future needs more. But we will put a pin in that for now. The main point of this section is that whatever Nashville does do, it needs to be a decision made calmly. After all, fans are calling for players such as Subban, Turris, Ellis and more to be traded, and while fans are just fans, they do impact a GM or head coaches job security to some extent. That is troublesome as it may force a move in order to appease the Nashville faithful.

Lastly, whatever the front office decides to do this summer, figuring out next year’s pending free agents needs to be near the top of the list. Nashville has a total ten players who are relevant to semi-relevant to the team’s success ( Granlund, Smith, Watson, Salomaki, Pitlick, Gaudreau, Josi, Hamhuis, Weber, and Irwin) whose contracts will be expiring. A lot of decisions will have to be made before next summer. Three bottom pairing defensemen will be on expiring deals, and with it looking like there will only be one spot, I imagine only one will stay. The decision will probably come down to either Irwin or Weber as it is not unreasonable to think that Hamhuis will retire. Josi will most likely be staying (for a substantial raise) as he is the team’s captain. Similar to Josi, it is reasonable to expect that Smith, Pitlick, and Granlund will be returning to the team unless some expansion draft troubles occur. The real decision will come when it’s time to decide whether or not to keep role players like Watson, Salomaki, and to some extent Freddie Gaudreau. While these players are without a doubt, at least fringe NHLers, will it be time to move on to make space for some of the players who will be coming up through the minor’s system? Time will tell but watch for next season’s playoff run to be what ultimately decides who stays and who goes.

Cap analysis of the Nashville Predators

 

Just a brief look at the numbers will show that the Preds have around $4 million in cap space but that doesn’t really paint the whole picture. Things may look one way now, but after salaries change over next year and injuries end, we could be looking at a completely different cap situation

 

The first thing to look at is that in the 2018-2019 NHL Season the Preds lead the league in money given to forwards with $51 mill, or just over 64% of the cap. That number is mainly big due to the fact that in the past two seasons, we have seen big name players such as Forsberg, Arvidsson, and Johansen all given decent pay raises. After all, adding that along with mid-level contract players such as Turris, and Granlund and its easy to see why Nashville has invested so much into forwards. Next, the Preds rank in the late teens in the league on money given to defensemen. Granted, that does not factor in Ellis’ extension which will add $4 mill to his cap hit.  Lastly the Preds pay roughly 10% of the cap to Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros for their services but there’s not much else to expand on

 

Now that the general overview is the Preds have ten expiring contacts this year. Four of them are non-roster players such as Di Giuseppe, Kirkland, Schneider and Gaudet. Of those four I would expect Di Giuseppe and Kirkland to be retained but if not both of them, then Kirkland for sure. For the six players who are on roster, you can expect Zac Rinaldo, Cody McLeod and Wayne Simmonds to not return as those players were acquired for a very specific purpose.

 

With the gained cap from letting those players walk, which isn’t much since Simmonds is the only one of those players who makes above $750,000, the Preds will have to give extensions to younger role players Colton Sissons and Rocco Grimaldi. While Grimaldi won’t receive a big raise or anything and will stay around his league minimum deal, I’d expect Sissons to look for a deal that’s similar to Calle Járnkrok, as he has performed in a role much like Járnkrok did before receiving his contract.  I wouldn’t expect the term to be the same, but I could see the Preds offering Sissons a three-year deal worth $2-3 million.  Things get a little hazy with Brian Boyle as it would not be surprising to either see him walk into free agency or be retained to lock down that forth line center. But that’s something to keep an eye on when it comes time for Nashville to actually lock up Sissons.

 

Now for the fun stuff, the changes that will happen next season. Starting off on a good note, the 2018-2019 season is the last season where Nashville will be paying Viktor Stalberg to not play for them. That alone will add one million dollars to the cap space. In addition to that, it will help offset the increase in Ellis’ cap hit. That cap hit by the way, jumps from the “very team friendly” price of $2.5 mil a year, to the “not as team friendly but still sort of team friendly” price of $6.25 mil a year. That may seem like a lot, but honestly, Ellis and his magnificent facial hair could’ve seen up to $8 mil a year on the open market, so it hurts, but at least it’s not, more right? Ellis’ cap hit is really the only one that goes up. He is actually only one of two players whose cap hit changes. The other one is Pekka Rinne who will go from a $7 mil a year down to a $5 mil a year player, which is by definition a steal. Regardless of how his…. slump is looking, can you find me a better option at that price, Because I’ll wait.

 

Overall, there is absolutely no reason to panic at the moment when talking about Nashville’s cap hit. So, we as fans can hold off on the panic button until next year when the Preds have to sign Craig Smith, Mikael Granlund, Austin Watson, Rem Petlick, Frederick Gaudreau, Roman Josi, Matt Irwin, Yannick Weber, Yakov Trenin, and Alexandre Carrier. They will have to accomplish this with an estimated $23 mil in space, so keep that panic button close by.

What Deadline Day Moves Impact the Preds the Most?

by Thomas Sarver

In one of the most exciting trade deadlines to date, it was easy to get lost in all the commotion. When your team’s GM makes two major trades during the last twenty minutes is absolutely a fair reason to not really notice what other teams had done/ were doing. Needless to say, the Preds were not the only busy team this year.

Dallas Stars

Key Players moved in/out: Mats Zuccarello, Ben Lovejoy

These are really solid moves for really solid players. Dallas did catch a bit of bad luck as Zuccarello went down in his first game and will miss around a month due to a broken arm, but Lovejoy remains and is a fantastic player to shore up this defensive unit.

All Dallas has to do is simply survive over Colorado or Minnesota. One of those two teams sold heavily at the deadline and the other did not make a move despite just ending a streak of games where they won four out of twenty-five games.

Given that information, I think it is safe to say that Dallas can squeak into the playoffs and may even possibly give Nashville/Winnipeg a rough time when they return back to being healthy.


Minnesota Wild

Key players moved in/out: Ryan Donato, Kevin Fiala/ Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund

Minnesota is attempting to rebuild. Good for them for being able to realize that they are not ready to go head to head in the “arms race” we are seeing in this division. Thankfully for their GM’s sake, Donato and Fiala are good pieces to get early on into your rebuild.

The bad news though is that Minnesota could’ve gotten much more for Granlund than just Fiala. I would’ve expected a pick to be attached with that. To make things worse for the Wild, as long as Suter and Parise remain on the team with those anchors called contracts, then the Wild will not be able to be relevant.


Nashville Predators

Key players moved in/out: Mikael Granlund, Wayne Simmonds/ Fiala, Hartman

Nashville moved two of its more exciting, younger players in order to get more matured and consistent versions. Granlund is the same player as Fiala, but the main difference is Granlund knows how to use his smaller frame to set up scoring chances and has some position flexibility, whereas Fiala easily can be bullied on the ice.  

On to part two. While Wayne Simmonds is slower and regressing at a fast pace, he is a bona fide game changer. Much like the first trade mentioned, Simmonds is a more matured version of Hartman and even though Simmonds is on the back burner of his career, he should be able to step in a give the third/ second powerplay lines a much-needed boost. This move makes me believe that Poile is trying to get Rinne a cup.


San Jose Sharks

Key players moved in/out: Gustav Nyquist

This team did pretty much all their trading for the season when they acquired Erik Karlsson before the first dropped puck. However, this is a sneaky good smaller move for San Jose.

For a second round and a conditional third pick, the Sharks were able to add another scoring option on the wing which just adds to the depth on this team. This one move doesn’t suddenly make them the best team in the league, but by judging all the moves made in the last 12 months, I’m assuming that San Jose is making another cup push this year and they think Nyquist is the missing piece.

I would not be surprised to see San Jose be one of the last four remaining teams this year.


Vegas Golden Knights

Key Players moved in/out: Mark Stone/ Erik Brannstrom

Vegas lost a really good prospect, but they just got a lot better. The Golden Knights haven’t looked bad this season, but they look nothing like the team we saw make the final in their first season. Acquiring Stone, who was the number one target at the deadline, is the type of move that can get this team back in gear.

When Vegas lost James Neal and David Perron last year in free agency, they lost two players who brought a distinct skill to the game and Stone will be able to help fill that void of scoring and two-way play that seems to be taking over on Vegas’ wings. Stone may be able to even step in as a captain in the future, especially since he has committed 8 years to the city and franchise.


Winnipeg Jets

Key Players moved in/out: Kevin Hayes/ Brendan Lemieux

Kind of weird to think about a team like Winnipeg and the trade deadline. This team who has one of the most stingy GM’s in the league when it comes to trades triggered a rule on Monday’s deadline due to trading. That rule is that teams are only allowed to make six trades in a twenty-four-hour period. What did Winnipeg do with all those trades? Pretty much nothing!

Getting Kevin Hayes has the potential to have the impact that Paul Statsny had as a rental last year and that’s what Winnipeg wants again. Unfourtatnly for Jets fans though, the Jets focused on adding more depth players who could be used in the event of an injury instead of getting another starting piece or two for the playoffs.

A day like this tells me that Winnipeg believes that they are the best team in the West and are just trying to make sure injuries don’t derail their chances at a cup before they lose their young core.


Those were the teams who made impacting moves when it comes to looking at the western playoff bracket. What is just as interesting though is that Chicago, St Louis, Colorado, and Calgary had relatively quiet deadline days and that Calgary was one of the last teams in on Stone. Thankfully for the rest of the West, that did not happen. But now that the trading season is over we will now be watching to see who actually won on deadline day and who lost.

Here is our quick take on what happened yesterday.

The Daily Deke: All the Trade News You can Handle!

The headline doesn’t lie. All of the top NHL news and stories from yesterday’s NHL Trade Deadline can be found below. Also, check out the highlights to last night’s game!

Thanks Fiala and Hartman! Welcome Simmonds and Granlund!

Grab your morning beverage and read up!


Here is our quick take on how to Preds stack up with the new acquisitions.


Game Highlights:

Video courtesy of the Official NHL YouTube Channel

Preds News:

Nashville Predators win Simmonds sweepstakes – I guess they did.

Predators trade Ryan Hartman, draft pick to Philadelphia Flyers for Wayne Simmonds – What do you think? Fair trade?

Predators trade Kevin Fiala to Minnesota Wild in exchange for Mikael Granlund – Also this happened

Nashville Predators trades improve forward lines for playoff push

Nashville Predators: A Scary, But True Outlook to Rest of the Season – Does the outlook change after these trades?

NHL News:

NHL notebook: Knights acquire Stone at deadline

2019 NHL trade deadline: Reaction to every deal, including Mark Stone to Vegas and Wayne Simmonds to Predators

Winners and losers of the 2019 NHL trade deadline

Evaluating the Winners and Losers of the NHL Trade Deadline

NHL trade grades: Breaking down the best, worst deals from 2019 deadline day

Bruins get Marcus Johansson from Devils, continue to stockpile forwards

Rangers trade Kevin Hayes to Jets for Brendan Lemieux, picks

NHL Trading Deadline: Five Buy-Low Candidates For the Rangers to Consider

Icing the Preds – 2/26/19 – Trade Deadline Hot Take

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