NHL NEWS: It. Just. Got. Interesting.

Image courtesy of bruinsunite.wordpress.com.

Well, what a night it was last night.  Players signing, players being bought out, and of course one of the biggest “surprise” trades seen in years.  Read on for more!  All news as per TSN.

DALLAS TRADES LOUI ERIKSSON TO BOSTON FOR TYLER SEGUIN, RICH PEVERLEY

Image courtesy of hockeyjournal.com.

The NHL was shook to its core last night as Dallas and Boston combined to make one of the biggest, most surprising trades of recent years, and surprisingly it might actually be a good deal for both teams.

Yes, there have been other big name players traded in recent years: Marian Gaborik, Rick Nash, Cory Schneider, Marian Hossa, Ilya Kovalchuk, Jarome Iginla, Phil Kessel to name but a few.  However, to some extent, those trades were foreseeable, and in some cases publicly announced weeks before they happened, such as with Nash.  Now to be fair, there had been rumours Seguin was on the trading block at last weekend’s NHL Entry Draft, but when Chiarelli talked about it to the press he mentioned that he hoped it would give Seguin a kick up the backside when it comes to his maturity level, many figured it wasn’t something Boston would actually do given the young forward’s phenomenal upside.

And then yesterday happened.  Twitter must have almost exploded when the news broke that a deal was being consummated, and I’m not sure anyone expected Dallas to be involved.  I would argue this is comparable to Mike Richards and Jeff Carter being traded a few years back, just a totally unexpected change of direction by a team.

Anyway, to the trade itself.  Dallas receives Seguin, Rich Peverley, and Ryan Button, whilst the Bruins get Loui Eriksson, Joe Morrow, Reilly Smith and Matt Fraser.

Image courtesy of cbc.ca.

TYLER SEGUIN: Drafted 2nd overall (following the furious Taylor [Hall] vs Tyler debate) in the 2010 draft by the Bruins thanks to one of the draft picks they received from Toronto in the Phil Kessel deal, the Bruins couldn’t believe their luck.  Whilst being a Stanley Cup contender, they had still managed to draft a guy almost everyone considered to be a future superstar center in the NHL.  His rookie season wasn’t anything to write home about, tallying 22 points in 74 games, but he wasn’t receiving much opportunity for bigger minutes and still performed well when we break down his season.  Of course, he had a couple of great playoff games that year and was a member of the Cup-winning Bruins of 2011.

He broke out in his second season, racking up 29 goals and 67 points in 81 games, as well as a stellar +34 rating (if you believe in that kind of thing), leading most to believe that Seguin had finally arrived on the NHL stage.  This season however, saw his scoring numbers drop off slightly, posting 32 points in 48 games which would translate to around 54 points over a full season.  Still decent, but not what most expected out of such a skilled young player.  He found himself dropped back into the bottom 6 at times on a good Bruins team, despite having previously seen success playing with the likes of Bergeron and Marchand.

He had a pretty miserable time in the playoffs this year too, posting just 1 goal and 8 points in 22 games, but he was generating a tremendous amount of shots (70 in total) and the lack of points and goals can pretty easily be put down to luck.  I have seen many state that he was taking perimeter shots as opposed to shots from in close, but it has been shown that “shot quality”, whilst it exists, is a much smaller factor than many people think.  It was quite simply bad luck.

Amidst rumours of arrogance and too much partying, Seguin finds himself traded to Dallas, a city with a vibrant night life and advantageous taxes to young millionaires.  Talk about a great situation for Seguin, where he’ll also shoot up the depth chart, possibly all the way to the first line center role – despite the fact that he’s barely played the center position at all since entering the NHL 3 years ago.

Dallas shouldn’t have a problem fitting in his new $5.75m contract for the next 6 years, and they really do have themselves a young star, who’s still experiencing some ups and downs but I just can’t see him failing to live up to expectations – he’s far too talented.  It will be the adjustment to center that will be the thing to watch.

An excellent pick-up for Dallas, a player with far more upside than any other skater who’s passed through the city since Mike Modano in my opinion.  With the highly talented Jamie Benn and perhaps Valeri Nichushkin on his wings, who knows what is possible.

Image courtesy of bostonglobe.com.

RICH PEVERLEY: The Stars also receive Rich Peverley, a 30 year old versatile forward who can either play wing or center, and can play in a variety of situations.  He has 211 points in 380 games since being signed as a free agent by Nashville back in 2004, and as well as Nashville and Boston also played parts of 3 seasons in Atlanta.  He’s had several decent scoring seasons, though has also suffered from injury fairly regularly.  He won the Cup with Boston in 2011, and is a high quality bottom 6 player who can step up into the top 6 as required.

RYAN BUTTON: The prospect heading Dallas’ way is Ryan Button, a 22 year old defender drafted in the 3rd round by Boston in 2009.  A two-way defender in the WHL, since turning pro in 2011 he’s bounced between the AHL and the ECHL without much success at all in either league, tallying just 9 points and a -12 rating in 95 games between the two leagues.  Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus says he was once a good prospect, but  not any more.  Little more than a throw-in for this deal, though at 22 his career isn’t over yet and who knows what can happen with a young defender.

Image courtesy of usatoday.com.

LOUI ERIKSSON: Hands down the best player in this deal right now is Loui Eriksson, the underrated two-way forward from Sweden.  Had a bit of an off year this season with 29 points in 48 games, but prior to that had three straight 70+ point seasons as well as 130 goals in 373 games since 2008.  A former 2nd round pick by Dallas in 2003, the 27 year old is currently in his peak years and represents a great return by Boston for the next couple of years at least – the drop in points this season was likely partly down to a drop in shooting percentage that should rebound.

His defensive ability is highly regarded too, playing heavy minutes in all situations and dominating shot differentials against relatively tough competition.  This is a fantastic pick-up for Boston, and whilst I’m not sure his scoring will thrive in the Bruins’ stingy system, his two-way play should perfectly fit in with the likes of Patrice Bergeron et al.  At $4.25m for another 3 seasons, he’s also a bargain compared to what Seguin would have been making.

JOE MORROW: Hot property or unwanted goods?  Joe Morrow finds himself traded for the second time in just a few months, first by the Penguins and now by the Stars, having never played a game in the NHL so far.  Drafted 23rd overall in 2011, Morrow has always been regarded as a top offensive option from the blueline – tallying 151 points in 227 WHL games – has significant defensive issues to work on.  He had an OK rookie pro year in the AHL, with 19 points in 66 games, but was a -7.  However he is most definitely a good prospect, and defense can be taught – he’s still just 20 years old, and could be a very good powerplay quarterback for the Bruins down the line.

REILLY SMITH: A 22 year old winger, Smith was drafted in the 3rd round in 2009 by Dallas and went on to have a brilliant NCAA career at Miami.  Since turning pro this season, he’s had a terrific AHL season as well as some solid time in the NHL with 9 points in 37 games and an even rating.  Corey Pronman describes him as a good skater with skill, whilst Hockey’s Future calls him a noted finisher with second line potential, but lacks defensive ability.  A very good prospect.

MATT FRASER: This 23 year old left winger was signed as a free agent by Dallas in 2010 after a solid if unspectacular WHL career.  Since then he’s put up some excellent goal-scoring numbers in Texas of the AHL, and has 13 NHL games under his belt with 3 points.  Pronman describes him as having a “solid amount of skill and a top-end shot”, as well as being a hard worker.  Hockey’s Future calls him tough and physical, with a big shot and a solid skater, whilst comparing him to David Clarkson.  Yet another quality pick-up for the Bruins, it seems.

 

So, who wins the trade?  This is a tricky one, but I’d say right now the Boston Bruins “win” virtue of the fact that they received the best player in the deal as of this moment.  Eriksson should provide great value to them over the next few seasons, and they also picked up three high quality prospects, guys who all have legitimate NHL potential and should be cheap for the next few years aswell, an important consideration for a cap-team like Boston.

That said, there is no way that Dallas can be said to have “lost” this deal.  Whilst they emptied the prospect cupboards a bit, they acquired an elite young talent who should continue to blossom and potentially be a better player than any of those sent to Boston, as well as an excellent bottom 6 player in Peverley.

Jim Nill just announced his arrival on the NHL stage, and he wasn’t done there…

STARS ACQUIRE HORCOFF FROM OILERS

Image courtesy of zimbio.com.

In a move that is tough to swallow as an Oiler fan – well, for this Oiler fan at least – the Edmonton Oilers have traded captain Shawn Horcoff to the Dallas Stars for Philip Larsen and a 7th round draft pick.  I’ll have a more in depth piece on Horcoff later, but suffice to say he is unfairly treated by many Oilers fans – so Stars fans please pay no attention to the negative things you may hear.

For sure, Horcoff is no longer than fast-skating, high-end two-way center he once was, and he is vastly overpaid for what he does bring.  But ignore the overpayment, and what you still have is a quality 3rd line center who can shutdown the best opposition forwards in the game whilst offering some scoring in return.  For the last 8 seasons, Horcoff has been asked to take on the absolute toughest situations on the team — tough competition and with abysmal offensive zonestarts — in order for the young offensive talent to be able to take on easier competition, effectively sheltering them all by himself.

He’s also been an great mentor for the young Oilers.  Many didn’t like his leadership style, what with him being an understated, intelligent kind of guy over a “rah-rah” type, but every single player – EVERY SINGLE PLAYER – who was asked about Horcoff mentioned how he was a great mentor, constantly teaching and helping and sheltering the young stars as they entered the toughest league on the planet.  Andrew Cogliano, now with the Anaheim Ducks, called him the most professional guy he’d ever had the privilege to play with.

In return, the Oilers get Philip Larsen, whom Pronman call’s an OK prospect with 19 points in 95 NHL games to-date, and 32 points in 66 career AHL games.  A two-way defender described as “really smart” by Hockey’s Future, he is likely a third pairing defenceman at best, but those kinds of players are needed.

The 7th round pick is really just a throw-in to sweeten the deal.  I would have hoped for more from a seasoned NHL veteran like Horcoff, but he does have a large contract so that likely was going to be the kind of return expected, and it’s better I suppose than buying him out.

Still, the concerning thing is this: the Dallas Stars, in one day, managed to upgrade their depth at center with Seguin, Peverley and Horcoff all added; the Edmonton Oilers, already razor-thin at center, said goodbye to Horcoff and Eric Belanger (via buyout), leaving them with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (elite, but currently recovering from a serious shoulder injury) and Sam Gagner (good offensive guy, but poor defensively and many consider him to have better luck playing RW).  Beyond that, it’s worrying.  Anton Lander is nowhere near ready for an NHL role, yet the Oilers apparently have him penciled in for next season.  Mark Arcobello has been terrific in the AHL, but his size may hold him back in the NHL.

Craig MacTavish has a lot of work to get to today.

FLYERS SIGN CLAUDE GIROUX TO 8 YEAR EXTENSION

Image courtesy of sportstalkflorida.com.

The Philadelphia Flyers and star center Claude Giroux reportedly have agreed to an 8 year contract extension worth $8.275m with a full no-movement clause.

Giroux is a fantastic player, no doubt about it.  He had 48 points in 48 games this year, 93 points last year and 76 points in 2010/11, blossoming into one of the best offensive forwards in the league.  Also a quality two-way player, Giroux is dominant at 5v5 in terms of shot differential, and plays huge minutes in all-situations for the Flyers.  Then there’s “intangibles”, with Giroux being a fiery competitor and not afraid of physical play, which is always a highly-valued aspect of a player’s make-up.

However, I’m not sure about this contract.  I don’t have any doubt that Giroux will continue to be an excellent player for the team, but $8.275m for one player, particularly when their locked into the contract with no way out should things go wrong unless the player demands a trade, just strikes me as risky, and I would say the same with any player not named Crosby – and even he is a risk due to his injuries.  Malkin, Getzlaf and Perry should not be getting north of $8m per season in my opinion – feel free to disagree – but not being on teams right up against the cap makes it less of an issue.

For Philly, this is a massive risk given their current precarious situation, and they better hope the cap ceiling rises as fast as people are saying it will over the next few years.

Still, having a player as great as Giroux committed to your team for another 8 years isn’t a bad thing overall I suppose!

MONTREAL CANADIENS SIGN BRIERE

Image courtesy of philly.com.

The Montreal Canadiens announced yesterday the signing of recently-bought-out Daniel Briere to a 2 year deal at $4m per season.  That is a decent signing for both sides – Briere get’s a decent pay cheque in addition to his buyout money, and the Canadiens get a quality NHL scorer, though one who is on the downslope in his career.  Still, 2 years at that price should not be crippling in any way to the Habs, who seem to like their forwards small and old… still, whatever works!

PATRIK ELIAS RE-SIGNS WITH DEVILS

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Veteran scorer Patrik Elias has re-signed with the New Jersey Devils for 3 more years at $5.5m per season.  At 37, Elias is still a top scorer at the NHL level having put up 36 points in 48 games this past season, and he reached the 78 point marker last season.  With 375 goals and 930 points in 1090 career NHL games, all with the Devils, he leads the franchise in all those areas, as well as team playoff records with 45 goals, 80 assists and 125 points.

To do all that whilst playing for a cripplingly defense-conscious team like New Jersey is outstanding, and whilst he may be on the down-side of his career, $5.5m is an OK contract for him – though the 3 year term might not be so great, as it is questionable whether his offence will last until he’s 40.  That said, he’s still dominating above average competition in shot differential, so perhaps he has a few more good years yet.

KEITH BALLARD SIGNS WITH WILD

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Defenseman Keith Ballard, much-maligned with Vancouver, has signed a 2 year deal with the Minnesota Wild following his buyout by the Canucks, worth $1.5m per season.  Formerly a very good two-way defender in Phoenix and Florida, his play fell off the map in Vancouver, posting just 16 points in 148 games and not being great defensively.  At 30, he’s not likely done yet, and maybe a move to Minnesota will revive his career – as a side note, he played his NCAA career in Minnesota and is from the area, so it’s kind of like a homecoming for him.  Either way, if he rebounds then it’s great for both sides, if he doesn’t then it won’t kill Minnesota due to the low dollar amount and short term.

FLAMES SIGN MCGRATTAN TO 2 YEAR EXTENSION

Image courtesy of cbc.ca.

The Calgary Flames have signed Brian McGrattan to a 2 year extension worth $750,000 a year.  31 years old and little more than an enforcer, McGrattan has the rather odd stat-line of having scored 6 goals in 2012/13, but no assists.  I can think of worse hockey players than McGrattan, but overall I’m just not sure that a roster spot and 3/4 of a million dollars are the way to go for a guy who will likely only play 6 minutes per game, 40 games per year.  But perhaps that’s just me.

MONTOYA AGREES TO 1 YEAR DEAL WITH JETS

Image courtesy of arcticicehockey.com.

Goalie Al Montoya has agreed to a 1 year deal (financial terms not yet known) with the Winnipeg Jets, avoiding free agency.  Signed as a free agent last year by Winnipeg, Montoya only saw 7 games with the team, and didn’t have the greatest success with them, but it was a small sample size and another year should give the team a better idea of he’s a capable backup to Ondrej Pavelec.

Montoya’s had an up-and-down career to-date, formerly a 6th overall pick of the New York Rangers in 2004 but never reaching his potential as a starting goalie, he has only recently been able to stick in the NHL thanks to the NY Islanders who played him in 52 games over 2 years where he performed admirably in front of a poor team.

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