One more sleep for the Maple Leafs, William Nylander and the collective hockey world.
The former first round pick and present restricted free agent remains unsigned and the clock is ticking. Per rules of the CBA, players who fail to come to terms before December 1st at 5p.m. must sit out the rest of the season.
The 18-8-0 Maple Leafs are just one point out of first place in the NHL and have three forwards on pace for 95 points. Some have translated all of that into lost leverage for the Nylander camp. In the here and now though, signing the back-to-back 60-point getter, is more feasible than acquiring a player of similar ilk in alternate ways.
This is just the beginning of the contract head aches that are ahead of Kyle Dubas. Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner are up on July 1. As are Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson, who have come into their own in the last two months. The foursome presently combine for cool $3.5 million.
Michael, William’s father, played parts of 15 seasons in the NHL from 1992-2009, earning a career-high $5.5 million in base salary for three years on his final NHL contract–a four-year, $19.5 million pact with the Capitals that ran through Michael’s 37th birthday. His son, 22, should have no issue cashing in nicely on his second contract (and others too). The long awaited question is whether he, like his dad, will be on his second NHL team before age 23.
Kovalchuk and the Kings
In 12 seasons in the NHL, Willie Desjardins is Ilya Kovalchuk’s 9th head coach.
That’s a lot of voices for the nine-time 30-goal scorer. Since the change in Los Angeles 13 games in, he’s gone from the team’s leading scorer (4-7-11) averaging 19:11 to one goal and three points in his last 12 games–including an 11-game point drought. He’s also dropped to 17:00 in average time on ice. His demotion to the fourth line saw him log under 10 minutes in consecutive games for the first time in his career. Even John MacLean’s benching in 2010 for disciplinary reasons was followed by 22 minutes one night later.
“When you’ve always been a top-two line guy for sure, all of a sudden somebody puts you on the fourth line, it’s going to be hard for him to find his game,” Desjardins said to the media earlier this week. “So it’s not fair to him in some ways, either. I’m making him play to his weaknesses. At the same time, I’ve got to look after a team and I’ve got to find where he fits on those lines.”
Kovalchuk’s vision for the Kings certainly hasn’t come to fruition as L.A. is 9-15-1, occupying the league’s basement. On the outside looking in, the Kings aren’t working for him and he might not be working for them either.
Something To Cheer About
You have to be happy to see the Sabres, who in the last five seasons have twice finished with under 60 points and all five with at least 35 losses, rattle off 10-straight wins (albeit just three in regulation) over the last three weeks.
Jason Botterill, the second-year GM who spent his pervious 10 seasons in hockey operations with the Penguins and was a big part of their three cups, is seeing some early returns on the roster he’s constructed.
Jeff Skinner, tied for second in league scoring (19) is on pace to shatter his 37-goal mark from 2016-17. At the cost of a trio of picks (none of which included a first) and a lower-end prospect, it’s looking like the bargain of the offseason.
Speaking of good trades by Buffalo–who would have thought that the Blues premium, which did include a first round pick, an NHL-ready prospect in Tage Thompson and two roster players for Ryan O’Reilly would have hit them the way it did? They’re tied for last in the league.
And to complete the hat trick, what about this dandy–the GM’s first player-for-player move acquiring 6-foot-3 defenseman, Marco Scandella and his career 20 minutes/per game along with Jason Pominville, a productive cap dump, for a draft pick, Marcus Foligno and Tyler Ennis, the latter of which is now a Maple Leaf via Minnesota buyout this summer.
Woes in Philly
Changes are coming in Philadelphia following the dismissal of Ron Hextall on Monday. It wasn’t the only one. Also gone: Assistant GM, Chris Pryor and assistant coach, Gord Murphy. Whether it’s Chuck Fletcher, Dave Nonis or somebody else, the Flyers seem in need of a dramatic culture change on the ice.
Which leads me to this…is last season’s 102-point Claude Giroux, who has 29 points in 24 games this season, a chip Philly is ready to float out there? Are Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny and Nolan Patrick ready to be your 1-2-3’s down the middle? Flyers have nearly $50 million in cap space to play with next summer. But parts of it will go to Konecny as well as Ivan Provorov, Scott Laughton–maybe Wayne Simmonds. And you’d have to think, some sort of NHL-experienced goaltending.