NHL NEWS: Pre-Draft Flurry

With the NHL Draft just one day away, news of signings and trades and buyouts are pouring in.  All news as per TSN.

FLAMES SWAP TANGUAY, SARICH FOR AVS’ JONES, O’BRIEN

The Calgary Flames have returned Alex Tanguay to the state where he made his name, along with veteran defender Corey Sarich in return for forward David Jones and  defenceman Shane O’Brien.

Tanguay, 33, is certainly not the player he once was in Colorado – where he put up 400 points in 450 games and was regarded as one of the league’s best playmakers and most deceptive snipers – but he is still a quality NHL forward.  He was very good over five seasons in Calgary in two separate stints, contributing points and a strong two-way game, and generally being one of the more impressive Flames in recent times.  The Flames don’t have any immediately obvious in-house replacements for Tanguay, so from that point of view I’m not sure why they decided to trade him, but it seems obvious that the Flames are trying to get younger.

That is also evident by the trading of Sarich.  At 34, Sarich is most certainly on the downside of his career.  Still a hardnosed defensive presence, what little offence he did have has almost completely deserted him, and his defensive play is not what it used to be.  At this point he’s no better than a bottom pairing guy, but that’s not to say he’s useless.

David Jones, 28, gives the Flames a big, tough winger who has had some decent goal scoring seasons in the past – 65 goals over 212 games from 2008 to 2012, including two 20+ goal seasons – but had a tough year in 2013, scoring just 3 goals in 33 games.  That was thanks largely to a complete crash in his shooting luck, as he ended up with a 4.84% shooting rate – around half the league average and nearly 10% lower than his career average, a massive drop.  The Flames should be hoping that that part of his game rebounds, but he does also provide an effective physical presence.

Also coming Calgary’s way is Shane O’Brien, 29, and a veteran of 7 NHL seasons with Anaheim, Tampa Bay, Vancouver, Nashville and Colorado.  A decent bottom-pairing option, he can chip in on offence and not be a liability on defence, though he doesn’t offer much special teams help.

Colorado certainly receive the best player in this trade, Tanguay, though Calgary gets a bit younger and tougher.  Does that offset the loss of Tanguay’s abilities though?  I’m not convinced.

DETROIT RE-SIGNS KINDL, MILLER

The Detroit Red Wings have announced the signings of defender Jakub Kindl and winger Drew Miller to extensions.  Miller’s extension was actually announced a couple of weeks ago, read about it there.

As for Kindl, he’s a young-ish (26) top 4 defenceman with parts of 3 NHL seasons under his belt.  This last season was far and away his best, as he put up 13 points in 41 games but more impressive was his +15 rating.  According to Rob Vollman’s Player Usage Charts, Kindl was taking on below average competition with over 58% of his zonestarts coming in the offensive zone, indicating he was quite sheltered.  That said, he performed very well by shot differential and may be ready for a step up in responsibility.

The deal is for four years at $2.4m per season, a pretty reasonable deal for both sides, particularly given the term – Kindl still has a chance to improve, but will remain at that cap hit until he’s at least 30 years old.

OILERS HIRE KEITH ACTON AS ASSOCIATE COACH

The Edmonton Oilers have announced the hiring of Keith Acton as an associate coach, whilst also retaining assistant coaches Kelly Buchberger and Steve Smith.  The move comes as something of a surprise, as it was expected that at least one of Buchberger or Smith would be dropped by new head coach Dallas Eakins given their involvement in previous Oiler coaching groups that have led the group to such poor placement in the standings over the last 4 years.  Eakins, apparently given full autonomy over the decision, opted to keep them for at least another year, and I can’t really argue with that, despite what many are saying.  Assistant coaches only have so much say and hence can’t really take much blame, and whilst nobody is really sure what Buchberger does, Smith has seen young defencemen Ladislav Smid and Jeff Petry develop extremely well under his watch.

As for Acton, I didn’t see his name mentioned much, if at all, as a possibility.  The two names to appear most were Paul Maurice, former NHL head coach, and Derek King, Eakins’ assistant with the Marlies.  Acton comes over from Columbus, having been an assistant head coach to Todd Richards there – quite what the difference between an associate coach and an assistant coach is I don’t know, but it’s evidently enough of a step up for Acton to swap organisations.  He comes with a good resumé, having also been an assistant with Philadelphia, the Rangers and the Maple Leafs, not to mention a 1023 game NHL career in which he scored 584 points and won the Stanley Cup with who else but Edmonton in 1988.  He was also apparently a face-off wizard, which is good news for the team’s young centers.

TODD RICHARDS EXTENDED IN COLUMBUS

Head Coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets Todd Richards has been signed to a one year extension with the team.  He has coached 99 games for the Blue Jackets since midway through the 2011-12 season, and has a 42-38-9 in that time.  The team started off poorly in 2013, last in the league after 19 games, but went 19-5-5 the rest of the way before missing the playoffs on a tiebreaker with Minnesota.

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