It’s now been two years and a month since the Toronto Maple Leafs traded Phil Kessel to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Toronto Maple Leafs traded Phil Kessel, Tyler Biggs, Tim Erixon, and a second round pick who turned out to be Kasper Bjorkqvist. In return, they got Kasperi Kapanen, Scott Harrington, Nick Spaling, a first round pick, and a third round pick.
The Leafs then traded most of these pieces. They were left with Kerby Rychel, Kasperi Kapanen, Raffi Torres, Frederik Andersen, a 2018 second round pick, and a 2016 third round pick who turned out to be J.D. Greenway.
Let’s see what pieces the Leafs got out of this trade.
Kerby Rychel is a great prospect who is a major player on the Toronto Marlies. He had the most points on the Marlies, with 52 points in 73 games. Admittedly, a lot of the star players on the Marlies such as Leipsic were injured, but this gave a chance for Rychel to prove his worth. Rychel is an expendable piece who can be packaged for a right handed defensemen.
Kasperi Kapanen is one of the top prospects of the Leafs right now, and had an amazing opportunity to prove his worth in the late season with the Leafs. He scored when the Leafs really need it, such as his first NHL goal in the playoff clincher versus the Pittsburgh Penguins. With five minutes left and the Leafs down 3-2, Kapanen scored which could have been the difference between making the playoffs or not. And even more, when Kapanen scored the double-ot winner against the Washington Capitals. Kapanen is an amazing prospect and could really turn out to be a core piece on the Leafs in the future.
Frederik Andersen was the answer to the Leafs’ goaltending problem. When the Leafs traded Reimer and Bernier, the Leafs needed a reliable netminder who was more consistent than Reimer or Bernier. The Leafs acquired him from the Anaheim Ducks for the 30th overall pick from Pittsburgh and a second round pick. Andersen was a great solution for the Leafs and was reliable when the Leafs needed him most. Not a star goalie, but he’s an above average goalie who will do the job.
So was it worth it?
These are the core pieces that the Leafs acquired. Other than that, Raffi Torres was acquired, who is not likened in the NHL. As a result, the Leafs got rid of him. J.D. Greenway was also acquired. He was added to the US Roster for the cheap jerseys authentic World Juniors Showcase recently. Greenway is an overlooked prospect.
But most importantly, by trading Kessel, the Toronto Maple Leafs dropped to the bottom of the standings, getting them Matthews. The trade isn’t worth it at all if you don’t consider Matthews, but once you do, it’s a great trade.
At about 1 p.m. yesterday afternoon, a collective, sullen exhale left the lips of just about every fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The devastating news about Kris Letang, the team’s best and most beloved defenseman, having to undergo yet another massive season-ending surgery felt like a right-hook to the gut. This sort of negative injury update is being construed to many as the Achilles heel to a successful playoff run this post-season (as well as a possible repeat championship). It was safe to say we all thought he’d be back in the lineup eventually, and when that assumption was officially destroyed, a rush of panic thrust itself across all social media platforms with numerous claims of never being able to replace him.
Are those replacement talks warranted? 100%. Sullivan’s decisions on defensive line-parings will make for some interesting conversation. However, as for the Penguins having no chance to make their mark in the upcoming playoffs, it may be unfair to make such sudden sweeping generalizations.
I know everyone is emotional at the moment, and reacting with bold assertions is a natural part of the grieving process. Letang is a remarkable husband, father, and all-around good person in so many different ways, but what’s second to his character is his tremendous talent as a skater, puck-mover, and high-scoring defenseman. This won’t go unnoticed. But cheap nhl jerseys what the fanbase can fall back on is their team’s relentless adversity and what appears to be never-ending depth chart. Just as well, they can lean on the unpredictability of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Penguins have been riddled with injuries to their top players all season, seemingly losing them all in a sort of twisted cyclical fashion. They’re used to playing without Letang, as well as other big names on the roster. Amidst those blows to the lineup, Pittsburgh acquired a few fresh faces on defense – some that are veterans with many years of experience under their belts that have proved they fit perfectly into the head coach’s fast-paced system. Ron Hainsey and Mark Streit are guys who can be relied on when the going gets tough in the upcoming playoff series. That much is clear.
Furthermore, some familiar faces in Trevor Daley and, brace yourself, Olli Maatta will be making their returns in the next couple games – Daley as early as tonight (!!) at New Jersey. Not to mention, Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust are back to traveling with the team. That will definitely alleviate some pressure off the new guys.
Here’s some regular reason stats to keep your hands steady:
Letang played 41 games this season. In the games that he started, the Pens boasted a record of 25-10-6, had a Goals For differential of 3.49, and a Goals Against differential of 2.85. Without him? Pittsburgh is 24-9-5 in 38 games, with a Goals For differential of 3.34, and a Goals Against differential of 2.97 (lower). If anything, Letang is a bonus to an already loaded Penguins roster.
Before you rush to the comments section and get all mad at me, yes, I know these numbers are from the regular season and that the playoffs are a whole different ballgame. I get that. My heart attacks from watching the Tampa Bay and San Jose series from last spring still act up every now and then. I realize success in this post-season won’t come easily – especially against Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, and what seems like the unstoppable Washington Capitals.
But I’ve also watched these Penguins battle back in a dominating capacity against adversity all year and beat up some pretty solid teams without their superstars. The playoff atmosphere, specifically amongst the sea of gold inside PPG Paints Arena, will just add fuel to their fire. What team would want to stand on the opposing blue line with that fear swirling in the back of their minds?
Last year they won it for Pascal Dupuis; this year they’re fighting for Letang. I’m not saying it won’t be difficult, because that would be stupid, but it certainly isn’t impossible.
It has been a rough postseason for Washington Capitals’ netminder Braden Holtby.
The former Vezina Trophy winner stopped 35 of 37 shots in the overtime win against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 1, made 47 saves in a double-overtime loss to Toronto in Game 2 and then allowed four goals on 28 shots in Saturday’s Game 3 loss. On Wednesday, Holtby’s uneven performance almost got him pulled from the game after the second intermission, but a 5-on-3 power play for the Maple cheap nhl jerseys authentic Leafs to start the third period eliminated the option.
Repeated four-goal games is not the norm for Holtby, but what’s wrong? Is he off his game? Or are the Caps skating in front of him the larger problem?
Holtby is partially to blame for the Capitals inability to shut the door on a feisty Toronto squad, especially when dealing with high-danger chances, those that originate in the slot or the crease: His save percentage against these shots has fallen off a cliff, dropping to a career low .771 against Toronto during this series.
Perhaps backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer would fare slightly better — his regular-season save percentage on high-danger shots at even strength (.837) was higher than Holtby’s (.822) — but that still wouldn’t improve the Caps’ defense, which has left Holtby out to dry on more than a few occasions during this series.
During the regular season, the Maple Leafs created 10.1 scoring chances per 60 minutes (the second-best mark in the league) with three expected goals created off these attempts, based on shot type (wrist, slap, etc.), distance and angle. In the playoffs, Toronto is not only creating an increased number of chances (10.3 per 60), but it’s producing a higher quality as well (3.2 expected goals per 60).
Washington’s defense is allowing more than 35 shots per 60 minutes of ice time in the playoffs, five more than Holtby has seen since the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs, with a larger percentage of shots coming off rebounds (defined here as any shot taken within two seconds of uninterrupted game time of any other shot by the same team) and off the rush — any shot taken within four seconds of uninterrupted game time of any event occurring in the defensive zone or within four seconds of uninterrupted game time of any giveaway or takeaway.
You could make a case that the rebound shots are on Holtby. And, by the eye test, he’s had some trouble holding onto the puck in this series.
But the Leafs’ approach in the offensive zone isn’t making it easy on Holtby. When he isn’t dealing with second-chance shots or odd-man opportunities, he’s seeing traffic in front of the net, limiting his ability to stop the high-danger chances while making it easier for deflections and tip-ins to find their way into the back of the net.
Part of the solution requires Holtby to play better, but the Capitals’ defense needs to improve too, with a swap of Nate Schmidt for Brooks Orpik when Karl Alzner gets healthy the best possible option.
With Orpik on the ice, the Maple Leafs have created shots that can be expected to create almost four even-strength goals per 60 minutes of ice time. That drops to 2.1 expected goals per 60 with Schmidt on the ice while playing a similar level of competition and given comparable zone starts. In fact, Orpik has now been on the ice for seven of Toronto’s 14 goals — five of those at even-strength — with the goal scored by Auston Matthews in Game 4 a direct result of Orpik losing track of Matthews on the play.
The Capitals will want to continue to rely on Schmidt, rather than Orpik, if they hope to advance to the next round. Holtby? Unless he continues to struggle with rebounds, the goaltender with the NHL’s best playoff save percentage (Hint: It’s Holtby) is the one the Caps should stick in the crease for the rest of the series.
While the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators square off for championship glory, the Washington Capitals are left to juggle questions about the future of their franchise centerpiece, Alex Ovechkin.
Such is life for a team that, after another disappointing but unsurprising exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs courtesy of the Pens, faces no shortage of questions as it looks to do more than take another Presidents’ Trophy in 2017-18.
In recently addressing offseason plans, Caps general manager Brian MacLellan emphasized the unlikelihood of Washington parting ways with Ovechkin, the prolific scorer whose tenure in Washington has yet to produce a title.
But the GM did not rule out a trade.
“Maybe at some point if there’s a legitimate hockey deal that came available,” MacLellan said of the possibility of an Ovechkin deal, “but I don’t know if that’s where we’re at right now.”
The question, of course, is how long “right now” lasts. No one can deny Ovechkin’s talent, even if critics of his postseason play have some valid arguments. But a breakup of Ovi and the Caps is as plausible as it’s ever been, what with Washington desperately needing a long-term plan for life after the forward and the expensive Ovechkin potentially seeking a change of title-seeking scenery.
If the Capitals can swallow the departure of their much maligned icon, guarantee at least something of a sizable compensation package and convince a non-divisional team to take on Ovechkin’s hefty salary (those are some big “ifs,” by the way), here are three destinations that make sense for the Russian-born superstar:
Ovi landing with the Habs is the scenario that makes so much sense it’s probably too good to be true.
The 31-year-old left winger has gone on record with his praise for the Canadiens, one of the NHL’s Original Six and a staple of the league’s international roots, even noting that he would have loved to call Montreal home if not for a career with the Caps.
Claude Julien and the Habs, meanwhile, would certainly benefit from such a high-profile addition on the outside. The Canadiens had a problem generating enough offense, particularly late in games, during a first-round series loss to the New York Rangers this postseason but figure to remain right in the thick of the playoff picture again next season.
As both Montreal and Ovechkin battle closing championship windows with top-end short-term talent, this match probably works more in favor of Ovi and the Habs than it does Washington, but the Caps would at least keep their pricey commodity out of the Metropolitan.
No team has thrust itself back into “win-now” mode more blatantly than the Stars, who welcomed back Ken Hitchcock as their coach before trading for and re-signing Ben Bishop and opening up about trading one of their first-round draft picks.
Addressing a shaky blue line could top Dallas’ priority list this offseason, but with at least one of the team’s pre-Bishop goalies likely to get the ax and more of a salary-clearing overhaul on the way, adding Ovechkin to the mix doesn’t seem out of the question for a franchise that isn’t being quiet about a hopeful 2017-18 postseason run.
Stars GM Jim Nill all but campaigned for the team’s pursuit of an “established player” in a potential trade of one of Dallas’ two first-rounders, and you can’t get much more established than Ovechkin.
That’s not to say Ovi would jump at the chance to suit up for the Stars or that Dallas should devote so many resources to an aging non-defensemen, but if there’s a club with the ammunition to make a deal happen, it’s Nill’s.
Vegas Golden Knights
Perhaps this is more novelty than likely, but what trade involving Alex Ovechkin isn’t, if we’re being honest?
First and foremost, Vegas has the George McPhee connection. The ex-Caps GM is now running the show in the desert, and who better to spice up the expansion team’s roster and 2017-18 prospects, not to mention with a dose of familiarity, than Ovechkin?
It’s not easy to suggest Vegas as a landing spot, if only because the franchise will lack much of a player compensation package until well after its expansion draft in June — and even then, the Caps probably won’t be knocking down the door to acquire any wholesale nhl jerseys of the Golden Knights’ scrapheap pickups.
But from both a playing and marketing perspective, a big offensive name like Ovechkin makes a ton of sense in Vegas, which can at least cough up draft capital — chips for other trades, possibly, in Washington’s eyes.