The suspension of Dustin Byfuglien has raised many eyebrows around the league but few have noticed that the move essentially guarantees that the Jets will be signing someone soon. With about 15.5M in cap space(thanks Cap Friendly!), the Jets are in tight to sign star wingers Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine. The problem however is that they need to sign both at the same time. If for example they sign Connor to a 7.5M deal for 8 years they would only have 8M left in cap space for Laine, enough in most peoples’ eyes to sign the sharp shooter, but not enough to protect against a 9.5 M offer sheet. With Byfuglein’s salary not on the books at the start of the season even if they were to sign Connor to a lucrative 8 year deal, they would have plenty of cap space to fend off any offer sheet from Ottawa or Anaheim (Columbus is likely out of the picture, not having their own second and third round picks). That sure works out well, but what if both Connor and Laine hold out past the opening day puck drop? In that situation, with Connor, Laine and Byfuglein’s salaries all not on the books, the Jets are below the minimum salary cap expenditure. Which means they would probably need to sign someone. Even with Gabriel Bourque, Mark Letestu and Logan Stanley playing in the big club, they would still be below the minimum. In essence, why would the Jets take Dustin Byfuglien’s salary off the books unless they were planing on signing a player imminently. Byfuglien wears an ‘A’ for a reason. We may end up owing a lot to him as Jets fans in the end. I expect the Jets to sign someone soon.
Before we get into this, we need to first admit that the staff at Spinorama Hockey are HUGE Dale Hawerchuk fans, so forgive us for any pro-Ducky bias that you read from here-on-in. But if you have been Jets fans for as long as we have, it’s hard not to be big Hawerchuk supporter.
As the first and arguably the most popular Jet from the 1.0 era, it is always great to see Hawerchuk when he visits the city and attends Jets games, whether it is for the Heritage Classic, a team anniversary, or his golf tournament which raises money for local charities. Each time he does, I wait for the announcement that he has been hired by the team, in some capacity. And each time, it hasn’t happened, and he has gone back to coaching the Barrie Colts of the OHL. A job he has held since 2010
Ducky’s ties with the current 2.0 Jets started back in 2011 when the team made Mark Scheifele the first player drafted since their return to the league in 2011. Dale was instrumental in convincing the Jets scouts and management that Scheifele was the player they should take in the 1stround. The advice paid off, as Scheifele is now considered one of the top 10 centres in the NHL.
For a few years now, Hawerchuk has been tagged as a likely candidate to make the jump to the NHL coaching ranks, but he indicated that he felt it wasn’t the right time and he is happy continuing to be Barrie’s head coach. Part of the reason was that his son Ben was on the team. He just completed his 9thseason behind the bench, which includes record of 305-269-38 over 612 games and he just signed a 4-year extension this past April. While that does provide him with some well-deserved job security, it would not prevent him from pursuing an opportunity in the NHL. Enter, the Winnipeg Jets.
If the Jets were to bring Ducky on board, what position should they offer him? The first thing that comes to mind is an assistant coach under Paul Maurice. The issue with that is twofold. First, Maurice will be entering his 6thfull season as the Jets’ Head Coach, which is the second longest current tenure behind Jon Cooper of the Tampa Bay Lightning. This means, barring an impressive season by the team, this could be the last season for PoMo. Bringing in a new assistant now may not make sense. Secondly, PoMo would very likely find it difficult to be looking over his shoulder at Ducky, thinking he was hired to be the Head Coach in-waiting.
While there might be some apprehension by the team in hiring Hawerchuk as their new Head Coach, due to not having any professional coaching experience, I am sure Ducky can convince the Jets he is ready for the challenge, the same way he convinced the team to take a chance at an unproven Mark Scheifele. The hiring of an experienced assistant coach could also help him with the transition. Also, the Jets have already gone down the route of hiring a ‘recycled coach’. Hiring another one would not guarantee success. Ducky would also provide valuable assistance with the special teams by bringing his experience as a former top PP producer. This could be Ducky’s long-awaited first step back to the city in which he started his NHL career with back in 1981.
This would also bring Hawerchuk full circle with the Jets and Mark Scheifele, who he can help get to the next step in his career and helping the Jets get to a Stanley Cup win. This is especially important, as if you remember back to the disappointing end to last season, something was off with Scheifele. Whether it was a personal matter, an issue with players on the team, or maybe lack of confidence in the team’s current structure (stopped listening to Maurice), it’s not something you want to see one of your top players go through again if you expect him and the team to have any success in the future.
I’m pretty sure the majority of Jets fans will be ecstatic to finally being able to welcome home arguably the greatest and most popular player (Teemu is a close 2nd) in franchise history, and lead the team once again.
There is a lot of buzz going on throughout the NHL about the new cadre of RFA’s and the salaries they are demanding. But what difference does paying the upcoming RFA class higher salaries really make? And who does it really affect? With the NHLPA revenue sharing agreement, the RFA’s are not squeezing more money from the owners. The profit sharing between the NHLPA and the NHL has already been established at 50%. The RFA’s are asking for more money from their fellow players. It seems like neither the agents or the RFA’s are looking or talking about the elephant in the room: total NHL cap space. As of writing this post and subject to some future creative cap maneuvering, there is approximately $190M in NHL cap space. The top 3 cap teams (Toronto, Washington and Pittsburgh) have $4 M in salary that must be shed so we are left with $186M. That seems like a lot of cap space but we have to remember a few things. First, contender teams like to leave some cap space to add players at the trade deadline for their post-season run. Most would like to have between $1-2M in space. Near the end of the season that cap room builds up and can equate to a high priced player for the last 20 games and the post season push. There are about 6-8 contender teams each year at the start of the season. Second, lottery teams are reluctant to spend to the cap if they know they will not be playing in late April. This makes sense, as with no playoff revenue forthcoming and the need to stock up on talent at the draft, the best money plan is to lay low if you are unlikely to have an impactful season. These teams tend to keep more cap space, and if possible, weaponize it at opportune moments. Often such teams will retain in excess of $8M in cap space. In any given season there are about 3-6 teams like this. The remaining teams fall somewhere in-between $1M and $6M in cap space throughout the season. What this means is the there is about $100M in cap space that will not get used by September. In fact, often more. Last year there was about $140M in unused cap space at the conclusion of the NHL season. Regardless, we will be conservative here and say teams keep $80M in cap space for flexibility and financial reasons. This leaves us with $106M to sign all RFA’s and UFA’s on the market for September. Hmm. Let’s think about that. $106M to sign the 2019 crop of RFA’s and any other UFA’s. Let’s take a look at a sampling of this years’ RFA class. I have included a conservative estimate of their contract AAV. If I am way high please comment and correct me:
This is not an extensive list of RFA’s. There are another 26 lower profile RFA’s beyond this list. Looking just at these 28 players however is revealing. My current estimate lies around $115M. If you include the remaining 26 RFA’s at league minimum we are at $130M. Without any UFA’s signed. That would leave about $56M in cap space or roughly $1.8M per team starting in September. Historically the league has about $10M in players placed on LTIR. That would bring us up to an average of 2.1M per team. A super-naturally low number. $2.1M in cap space per team would be a problem for the league. Essentially there would be no liquidity, no flexibility, no mobility. Teams would not be able to trade or sign anyone out of the fear and realization that there are no teams with enough cap room to get a team out of cap trouble. That kind of cap lock up could cause cap non-compliant teams to border on forfeiting games or buy out recent signings just to free up breathing room. What we are likely to see is a massive drop off in salaries and potential release of capable RFA’s. UFA’s like Jake Gardiner, Ben Hutton, Brian Boyle, Derik Brassard and Jason Pominville may need to take a lot less $ and less term to get a job. Unfortunately, the cap will get tighter and tighter as the signings progress with the last players to sign left with little to no leverage. On the other hand, those teams that have held on to their cap space will enjoy a true talent firesale. If, as rumoured we see the RFA class hold out into training camp, expect to see a large class of UFA’s hanging around waiting for contracts as well. Possibly into the season if the RFA’s holdout further. It is going to be an interesting August.
Here is a list of some recognizable last names who, along with their older relatives, may soon become household names in the NHL, what the scouting reports say about them, along with some predictions as to where they might land:
As we head into the upcoming NHL Draft in Vancouver on June 21-22, we take our annual look at second and sometimes third generation draft prospects, which has become more common as each year goes by.
Alex Turcotte (C) (US National – USDP)
Son of former 1st round draft pick Alfie Turcotte, who played with Montreal, Winnipeg, and Washington from 1983-90. Alex is ranked the 4th North America Skater and is projected to be a top 10 pick in this year’s draft. At 5’11 he is not big but his biggest strength is his skating and quickness which he uses to his advantage. Alex exceeds at both ends of the ice, which is what teams are looking for in a star centre. Possesses both an excellent slap and snap shot.
Possibly Selected by: CHI, LAK, DET
Samuel Poulin (RW) (Sherbrooke – QMJHL)
Samuel is the son of former Hartford Whaler 9th overall draft pick Patrick Poulin, who played over 600 games in the NHL. He is ranked 22nd for North American Skaters and is expected to be a late 1st round draft pick. Samuel, who is 6’2, is projected to be a top power forward with his shooting ability and offensive skill.
Possibly Selected by: NAS, TBL, SJS
Nolan Foote (LW) (Kelowna – WHL)
For the second time in three years, a Foote will be drafted into the NHL. In 2017, it was his brother Cal Foote who was selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 1st round. Unlike his brother and his dad, Adam, Nolan is a forward. At 6’3, he is uses his size to his advantage to go along with one of his biggest strengths, which is his wrist shot and quick release. He is also reliable in his own end. Ranked the 37th North American skater, he will likely be drafted in the 2nd round.
Possibly Selected by: COL, DET, NJD
Alex Vlasic (D)(US National Team – U18)
Alex is the cousin of Sharks defenceman Marc-Edouard Vlasic. At 6’6, he is a towering defenceman who, like his cousin, plays a strong defensive game and uses his size to his advantage. He has minimal offensive upside, but has good puck handling and passing skills. Alex is ranked the 38th North American skater who is also projected to be selected in the 2nd round.
Possibly selected by: ANA, EDM, OTT
Alexander Lundqvist (D)(Leksands – SHL)
With a last name like that, you’d think for sure he is related to King Henrik. However, he is actually the nephew of former Red Wing legend Niklas Lidstrom. Alexander is a 6’2 defenceman, who had 5 goals and 12 assists for Leksands in the Swedish League. He is ranked the 58th European skater.
Possibly selected by: PIT, STL, VAN
Rhett Pitlick (LW) (Chaska – USHS)
Son of former NHL defenceman Lance Pitlick, who spent his 8 seasons playing for Ottawa and Florida, Rhett is ranked the 98th North American skater. He has great overall skill and hockey sense, while continuing to improve. He put up some big numbers (28G 33A 61PTS) while playing for Chaska, MN in the US High School League. Rhett is projected to be chosen in about the 3rd round of the NHL Draft.
Possibly Selected by: BUF, NSH, WSH
Mason Primeau (C) (North Bay – OHL)
At 6’5, you might think Mason would be Keith Primeau’s son, but his dad is actually Wayne Primeau and Keith is his uncle. His dad spent 19 seasons with 7 different NHL teams as key defensive forward. Mason has climbed quickly up the NHL Central Scouting rankings, going from 142 in the mid-term rankings to 113 in the final rankings. A solid two-way centre, he may end up playing a similar checking role that his dad did during his career. He should selected in and around the 4th round.
Possibly Selected by: BOS, TOR, WPG
Nathan Staios (D) (Windsor – OHL)
Nathan plays the same position that his dad, Steve, did while playing in his 1001 NHL games. Despite being only 5’9, his high-end skills make up for his lack of size. He is a smart player in both ends of the ice, due to his great vision and transition game. Nathan is ranked the 182nd North American skater and could be a nice steal in the late round of the draft.
Possibly Selected by: NYI, OTT, PHI
Other notable names who are not ranked:
Daniel Antropov (RW) (Oshawa Generals – OHL) – Nikolai (father)
Tag Bertuzzi (LW) (Guelph Storm – OHL) – Todd (father)
This NHL playoffs are so unpredictable. Every year their is an upset in the first round. Not to mention its rare feat for many to pick the eventual Stanley Cup Champion. See Washington last year. We love making predictions so here we go again…
WINNIPEG VS ST LOUIS
Will the Winnipeg Jets be singing the Blues? As many are picking the Blues to keep on trucking through their opponents with their spectacular 2019 (they have the second most wins in the league since January). Can Winnipeg overcome their locker room issues and stop the Blues machine as they did in the season series in which they won 3 out of the 4 games? We realize the last game was played in December. We just think that the Jets are too deep, have some playoff experience and clearly the better goaltender. Not to mention big Buff and Josh Morrissey healthy (if that’s indeed the case) will make all the difference in this series. Can St Louis continue their winning ways? Even though they are only 2 wins better than the Jets after that incredible 11 game winning streak that ended in February that turned their season around. I know they finished the season strong but just a few short months ago rumours were going on that a fire sale was about to happen. Can Craig Berube out coach Paul Maurice? Can Jordan Binnington outduel Connor Hellebuyck? Will Vlad Tarasenko disappear in the payoffs like playoff’s of past? Will the Winnipeg Jets top line actually outplay another line this year? Stay tuned. Besides the eventual Stanley Cup champion nearly always has to overcome huge obstacles or some sort of near death experience before they go on to win the Stanley Cup. Playing this team in the first round is may be what the doctor ordered. Jets in 7
NASHVILLE VS DALLAS
Let’s start off by saying the good news is the Preds never won the President’s trophy. The bad news, their offence seems to have disappeared. Can anyone tell me what league Kyle Turris is playing in? The Preds are 19th in the league in goals for but 3rd in goals against. Their top offensive players of Ryan Johansson and Filip Forsberg have been underwhelming at best. To top this off the playoffs are coming for Pekka Rinne which is never a good thing. Who knows maybe that backing into first place by the Jets collapse will give them confidence. On the other hand, the Dallas Stars and their stifling defence and their brick wall named Ben Bishop are 2nd in the league in goals against. Can this mark the end of Pekka Rinne in Smashville? Back to the Stars. Is there a better collection of big game, emotionally gifted offensive players that we find in Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Alex Radulov and the not much talked about Matt Zucarello? It’s about time that Dallas finally wins a playoff series. They must be due finally! Stars in 6
CALGARY VS COLORADO
So Colorado didn’t get that first overall draft pick in the NHL draft lottery. Pierre Dorion is rejoicing. Instead they get the first place Calgary Flames and their mediocre goaltending. The Avs going down the stretch have been one of the hottest teams in the league. We like Calgary’s depth at forward and especially on defence. It really seems like they are full of playoff type players starting with Matthew Tkachuk, Sean Monahan, Mark Giordano and some guy named “Johny Hockey”. Goaltending is another question entirely. As much as we like what the Flames have done this year. We really like the pace that this energetic, young crop of players bring to the Rockies. In Nate & Mikko we trust… Colorado in 7
LOS VEGAS VS SAN JOSE
Probably the toughest series to pick. Vegas seems like the obvious choice. The Sharks are slumping. Martin Jones has been average at best. The Knights added many new veteran players to a team that had already went to the Stanley Cup Final in 2018. They have an endless list of big game players in Marchessault, Karlsson, Smith, Stastny, Stone and Tuch. But no bigger than the game’s biggest “big game” goalie in Marc-Andre Fleury. The Sharks are deep, well coached, driven by a good crop of veterans that have been there before. Many players including Pavelski, Couture, Burns and maybe the biggest game changer in Erik Karlsson is quietly in the background. When a series is truly a coin toss, I usually go with the goalie I like more and Marc Andre Fleury would be the certain choice. Strange hunch but for some reason I think the Knights will not survive in Shark infested waters. Or maybe I was remembering how dominant the Sharks had been before the last 10-15 games of the season when they really were not playing for anything. San Jose in 7
TAMPA BAY VS COLOMBUS
How can anyone upset the mighty Tampa Bay Lightning? Clearly the leagues best team and the winner of the dreaded President’s Trophy. No team is deeper and they are facing a team that was basically put together at the NHL trade deadline. The Jackets do have star power, Panarin, Duchene, Jones, Bobrovsky and who can forget John Tortorella (Tampa’s ex-coach). It would be a shocker if the Jackets won this series but we don’t see it as lopsided as much as the league standings would show. The way Colombus lost last year, up 2 games and in OT with the eventual Stanley Cup champion could provide motivation. We just think this team that seemingly has no weaknesses will be too much for the Jackets. Lightning in 6
BOSTON VS TORONTO
Just on principle I can not pick the Maple Leafs to win this series. But let me tell you something, when everyone in the NHL world is picking the Bruins this is when the upset happens. The Leafs can score with the best of them and for this writer this is the route to win this series. Deep at center they will need to overpower and open up this series and try to surprise the stingy veteran Bruins squad. Freddie Andersen will need to stand on his head or at least carries this team on his shoulders. As much as we are tempted to take the Leafs we will stick with Bergeron, Marchand, Chara and Rask to do them in again. But for some reason I am picking with my head and not my queasy stomach. Bruins in 7
WASHINGTON VS CAROLINA
It’s about time that someone takes these bunch of jerks and put them out of their misery as Don Cherry will be sure to say. This magical season has to come to an end and no one better to put an end to it than the brash and off season boozers found in the nations capital. I really like what Rod Brind’amour has done with this Nascar loving state but really, how much more can the frozen pond traditionalist take. Post game celebrations? Hockey is not fun people. It especially won’t be fun agains the hi tempo bruising defending Stanley Cup champions. This is all I need is to see Ovi jumping up and down putting away one timers against the “great to be here” Hurricanes. Caps in 5
PITTSBURGH VS NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Is anyone picking the Islanders in their hockey drafts? I guess anything is possible but you got to love what the Islanders have done this year with sweet Lou and Trotz at the helm. But I have a few names that will never let this happen. Crosby, Malkin, Kessel and a playoff Matt Murray. Enough said.Penguins in 5
Second Round Winners:
Winnipeg over Dallas in 7, San Jose over Colorado in 6, Pittsburgh over Washington in 7, Tampa Bay over Boston in 5
Third Round Winners:
Winnipeg over San Jose in 7, Tampa Bay over Pittsburgh in 6
Stanley Cup Champion: Winnipeg over Tampa Bay in 6
by Frank Zappia @frankzappia1 @Spinohockey
The following are Picks by @Mass_Insight
TB over CLB 5, WSH over CAR in 6, PIT over NYI in 7, BOS over TOR in 6
NSH over DAL in 7, COL over CGY in 7, WPG over STL in 6, SJS over VGK in 6
Round 2: TB over BOS in 6, PIT over WSH in 6, COL over SJS in 6, NSH over WPG in 7
Round 3: COL over NSH in 7, TB over PIT in 6
Stanley Cup Champion: TB over COL in 6
Your comments are welcome @spinohockey, @frankzappia1 and @Mass_Insight
The science of cloning sheep is controversial at best. Sheep you ask? Deep in thought I was wondering how would you go about cloning an NHL Stanley Cup champion? The acknowledged method is to copy the last couple of cup champions. Like most professional sports league it is a copycat league. The Blackhawks and Penguins laid out the foundation of a smaller faster-type team would be the method on how to win the holy grail and they did. The LA Kings of the past were big, tough and grinding and this method also won. The Washington Capitals of last year were a combination of both and in 2018 they were drinking out of Lord Stanley’s cup (a little too much this past summer in our view).
Nonetheless we can try to analyze the Hockey News’ 2019 pick to win the Stanley Cup. Along with DNA, a little luck will go a long way…
Here is a list of the signs of a Stanley Cup Champion and how the Winnipeg Jets meet that DNA criteria without any controversial cloning:
President’s Trophy – first off play the odds and don’t win the President’s Trophy:
This won’t be a problem. Check.
Get on a Roll just before the playoffs.
With the exception of 2015 Blackhawks, all the others champions came into the playoffs winning. The Jets are on a currently 5-2-0 in their last 7 games:
2018 Caps 9-3-0
2017 Penguins 6-4-2
2016 Penguins 10-2-0
2015 Hawks 5-7-0
2014 Kings 7-3-2
2013 Hawks 9-2-1
2012 Kings 7-5-0
2011 Bruins 7-4-1
2010 Hawks 7-3-2
2009 Penguins 9-3-0
Goaltending has to be really good in the playoffs:
Prior to the Dallas Stars game where he was left to fend for himself, Connor Hellebuyck won his last 4 starts, allowing a total of 4 goals, recording 2 shutouts with an average save % of .972. This would be Marc-Andre Fleury playoff-like numbers.
When the experts don’t pick you to win this is when you finally win:
The last thing you want to be in the NHL playoffs is the favourite. You can pretty much count on, if most reporters pick you to win, it isn’t happening. You can call the NHL a lot of things but predictable isn’t one of them. The Jets being pre-season favourites are currently far from it. Maybe this is a good thing.
You usually face some adversity in the playoffs:
Like the Caps last year, we wrote a column on why the Vegas Golden Nights prior to the final would not beat the Caps. Why you say? Because the Blue Jackets should have knocked out the Caps in the first round. The Blue Jackets were up 2-0 and tied in overtime in game 3 only for the Caps to come back and not only win the series but eventually the Stanley Cup. Vegas pretty much had an easy time the whole way. This is a strange one but it seems to happen every year. No team can coast to a Stanley Cup. Look at the old dominate Oilers teams that always seemed to be down 3-1 to some team (Jets one year) only to come back and take the cup.
Somebody in the bottom 6 come up big and it’s totally unexpected:
In 2018 the Washington Capitals had Lars Eller and Devante Smith-Pelly tied for 4thon the team with 7 goals in the playoffs. DSP had 7 goals all season. Eller & Pelly came up with some bigtime key goals when the team needed it most.
In 2017 Penguins rookie Jake Guentzel lead the team in playoff goals with 13.
In 2016 Phil Kessel dominated for the Penguins (but he isn’t considered bottom 6), but Nick Bonino and Carl Hagelin had 18 & 16 points in 24 games.
Do I even mention Dustin Byfuglien’s 11 goals in the 2010 playoffs for the eventual champion Blackhawks? You get the point.
Coaching decisions are key in the playoffs. We have written before no one has the pulse of this team better than coach Maurice but he will need to pull the trigger and not second guess before it’s too late. In last year’s series against Vegas, we know he ran into a red hot goalie but he needed to make adjustments to try to change the outcome that looked inevitable early on. He waited until game 5 to insert a few players but we think he needed to do something earlier to change the course of that series.
Need to lose before you win:
They did lose last year in the conference final to the above mentioned Vegas Golden Knights. This seems to happen to every eventual champion. The only question is, have they done enough losing? See the Washington Capitals of last year. After years of being the favourite and losing, their time finally came.
In playoff hockey, goals are hard to come by but more importantly they seem to be major momentum changers. Tight games mean the teams that executes is usually the team that wins. Statistically the Jet’s powerplay has been good but we think that this will be a big factor (more than normal) in order for the Jets to go all the way.
Best players need to be your best players:
Goaltending is a separate category because it is the most important position in hockey. Like Mark Scheifele last year who tore up the playoffs with goals will need some help. Patrik Laine needs to be a difference maker. They can not win without him scoring. The other obvious player is a healthy Dustin Byfuglien. Center ice depth is what every team needs in order to win. Scheifele, Hayes, Lowry & Copp (at the moment) need to dominate play in order to win.
For the record, we hate the idea of cloning though scientifically it is very interesting and scary all at the same time. This will be the Winnipeg Jets third and best shot since coming back to the NHL to drink their faces off in an Ovechkin type manner. Coming up with the DNA of past champions in order to win the most coveted prize in hockey would be beneficial. But then again, winning a Stanley Cup is no exact science.