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Off The Bench

Coming off the bench to provide some in-depth analysis

Analyzing the Blackhawks' Offseason

In the salary cap era of the NHL, it is pretty common for teams to make changes to their roster over the summer. Pair that with a first round exit, and things will get interesting. For the Chicago Blackhawks, things will look a lot different on October 12 than they did almost three months ago.

Let's get to it.

The first big move of the offseason came on June 15 when Stan Bowman was finally able to shed the final season of the dumpster fire that was Bryan Bickell's contract. Unfortunately for Bowman, he also had to include 21-year-old skilled center/winger Teuvo Teravainen in that deal to Carolina. Look, losing Teravainen is going to hurt, mostly because I felt he was just getting started. But let's be honest, he didn't have the greatest 2016 season, and the Blackhawks didn't have time to sit and wait for him to fulfill his potential. There were also rumors questioning his work ethic, but we won't get into that. The much bigger part of this deal was dumping Bryan Bickell's contract, which has absolutely crushed the team since he signed it back in 2013. Hindsight is 20/20, and Bickell's remarkable 2013 playoff run earned him that deal, but man, you know Stan Bowman regrets that one. It definitely cost them Brandon Saad, Johnny Oduya, and now Teuvo Teravainen. Nothing can be done about it now.

After the Bickell trade, there was a lot of speculation that Andrew Shaw would re-sign in Chicago. The problem was, he was looking for a large raise, and that would've put the Blackhawks back to where they started with Bickell. After reports came in on draft day that Shaw was looking for as much as $4.5M/year, Bowman had no choice but to move on after the cap came in at $74M. He wasted no time sending Shaw's RFA rights to Montreal for a pair of second rounders, which in my mind was a fantastic return. The Blackhawks were fortunate enough to have Alex DeBrincat, a projected first rounder and 50-goal scorer in the OHL fall to them at 39th overall. I think Blackhawks' fans will be thrilled with that pick in a few years.

Shaw wasted no time signing a new deal with Montreal, which has an AAV of $3.9M over the next six years. Look, I love Andrew Shaw, but the Blackhawks simply couldn't give him anywhere near that kind of money, and I would've definitely been hesitant to give him that kind of term. I wish him the best in Montreal.

After the draft, all focus was shifted towards free agency which began on July 1. It was no secret that the Blackhawks desperately needed to find a solid defenseman to replace Johnny Oduya in the top four. One could argue that it shouldn't have taken them a year to do so, but hey, I'm not the GM.

The choice was almost too obvious, and if you follow me on Twitter, you know I've been calling for it since April.  It's no secret that Brian Campbell never wanted to leave Chicago, but the Blackhawks just couldn't afford to keep that massive eight year contract on the books after 2011. Campbell made it quite clear that he would be willing to to take a discount to return to the city him and his family consider home, and he did just that last Friday when he signed an extremely team friendly one year contract with an AAV of $2.25M and a cap hit of only $1.5M. Seriously, those are the numbers.

I just want to take a minute to talk about how absurd that value is. Yes, Brian Campbell is 37 years old. But he is still more than capable of giving you top four minutes, moving the puck, and quarterbacking a power play unit. The Blackhawks desperately needed a player with his skills, and they got him for next to nothing. The Blackhawks' defense should look a lot better in October with Campbell back in town, TvR on the third pair, and Michal Kempny coming over from the KHL to join the fun. Whether Campbell is paired with Brent Seabrook or Niklas Hjalmarsson remains to be seen, but I think I speak for everyone when I say welcome home, Soupy.

Oh, Michal Rozsival and Brandon Mashinter were each re-signed for one year. Thrilling stuff.

In not so surprising news, Andrew Ladd left to join the Islanders for the next seven years. I would have LOVED to see Ladd stay, as he is one of my favorite players in the NHL. In fact, I wish he never got shipped to Atlanta back in 2010. There was just no way to pay him this time around. I suppose you could criticize the trade with Winnipeg back in February, but we're not going to do that. Marko Dano and a first rounder is a heavy price, but Andrew Ladd gave the Blackhawks the best chance to win this year, and that's all you can ask for. I have zero problem with the trade, it just didn't work out.

Dale Weise signed a four year deal with Philadelphia. Whatever.

David Rundblad was bought out. Good riddance. I'll pack his bags and drive him to the airport.

On Tuesday, the Blackhawks signed Jordin Tootoo to a one year deal. I mean, at least he's not Steve Ott? I don't know what the point of this was, and I'm not even sure he makes the team out of camp. We'll see what happens.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't concerned about the Blackhawks' forward depth.

Panik-Toews-Hossa; Panarin-Anisimov-Kane is probably a lock for the top six, which isn't the worst. After that, Kruger, Desjardins and Rasmussen are probably the only locks. That leaves three more spots. Who gets them? There will be competition between Nick Schmaltz, Tyler Motte, Ryan Hartman, Jordin Tootoo, Brandon Mashinter, Kyle Baun, Vinnie Hinostroza, and Tanner Kero, among others. Schmaltz obviously highlights that list, and I would guess he gets every opportunity to earn a spot out of camp.

Like I said, it isn't the prettiest situation, but there are still some decent names available and the Blackhawks have a little bit more money to spend.

If you want to talk about perfect fits, we can discuss Jimmy Vesey, the soon to be prized free agent out of Harvard. Selected in the third round by the Nashville Predators in 2012 and unable to reach a deal, his rights were traded to Buffalo earlier this year. It doesn't look like the Sabres will be signing him either, and he'll hit the market on August 15. Whether or not the Blackhawks have enough money to offer him could be an issue, but they're definitely interested (as is everyone else). He'd be a great fit in the top six. The Vesey situation is something to keep an eye on.

It hasn't been the greatest offseason, but it could be worse - they could be the Canadiens. The Blackhawks took care of their biggest need, and that's all you can ask for. Sometimes playing it safe in July is the best strategy. We should all trust Stan at this point. 

Is it October yet?

A Broken Heart and A Missed Opportunity

A lot of people say, never fall in love with a player because sports are a business and anything can happen. For me personally, I try hard to never emotionally attach myself to a player and to remind myself that it's the crest or the logo on the front of the jersey that matters most and not the name on the back.

PK Subban was different. PK Subban was my inspiration and someone I looked up to. 

Let’s get right to this. What logic can be given as to why Subban was traded? The simple answer behind this was that there was no logic behind it. Bergevin and Therrien wanted Subban gone and it's as simple as that. Does Marc Bergevin really believe that Shea Weber is a better defenseman than PK Subban? I think the answer is yes, but I think that Bergevin was more concerned about getting Subban's full of life personality out of the dressing room, than the player that fans paid good money to see.

Maybe PK Subban was such a perfect fit in this city that it was destined to fail. Maybe some things are so great that they just can't work out. Maybe it was all just too good to be true. Maybe PK Subban would have been better off in the NBA, where his skill level and personality could have been marketed and the game could embrace the talent that they were given.

People need to realize this, PK Subban being traded was so much more than just a hockey trade. Trading away a top 5 defenseman in the National Hockey League is one thing, but trading away someone with such a big heart and one that had the biggest impact on the Montreal community since the late icon Jean Béliveau is a completely different thing.

It’s as simple as this, Marc Bergevin and Michel Therrien wanted PK Subban gone, and that’s a damn shame. What PK brought to Montreal can’t be replaced, and this is something that management doesn’t understand. PK was traded for being in the spotlight. The problem with this is that he EARNED the spotlight. Player’s like PK Subban don’t come along often and people of his character certainly don’t either. PK Subban was different. But not the type of different that Marc Bergevin portrayed him as in his press conference after the trade. PK was different because he was able to handle the spotlight and pressure in Montreal that few can. It’s driven people out of town, and it’s kept people away, but Subban embraced it. And he embraced it phenomenally.

Here lies a bigger issue. Look at what PK Subban has done for the Montreal community in his time here. How are you supposed to explain to a sick child in the Montreal Children’s hospital that PK Subban’s visits are going to be fewer and farther between? How are you supposed to explain to your child that this is a business and that their favorite star player was just traded away? This was more than just a hockey trade to the city of Montreal, and we are just beginning to see that.

I haven’t met many hockey players, but PK Subban was one of the few I got the pleasure of meeting. It was August 1st, 2014 and PK had just left his arbitration hearing in Toronto, where I had been waiting over two hours just to get the chance to see him. I wasn’t expecting him to welcome me with open arms because just minutes ago he was being told by Habs management why he wasn’t worth the money that he was asking for. I wasn’t even expecting him to stop for me. I was one of the few people there, as not many people knew of the location, but when PK Subban walked down the escalator, he saw my eyes light up like a Christmas tree and he came right over to me and shook my hand and said it was a pleasure to meet me. After just being in arbitration for a lengthened period of time, I was expecting him to walk right by me and into his cab, but instead he stopped for me and didn’t even have to think twice about it. That’s the kind of man that Montreal is losing today.

I think the problem here is that Habs fans will never have closure. It’s an utter shame that the last memory they might have of PK Subban in a Canadiens jersey is that of him being carried off on a stretcher. I’m going to miss him taking all the noise out of TD Garden with his slap shot, I’m going to miss his elite skill level and his many highlight reel plays, but most of all I’m going to miss the man that PK Subban is and the personality he embodies.

Shea Weber can’t replace PK Subban, and nor should he try, so it’s a shame that he’s going to be thrown into such a hostile environment right away and always be coined together with Subban.

Montreal is losing so much more than just an elite talent. They are losing a genuine human being that had an earth shattering impact on a city. The world needs more PK Subban’s, not less. If we had 10 million more PK Subban’s, I can promise you that this world would be a much better place.

Stay golden PK, stay golden. 

The Value of Keeping vs. Trading the 9th Overall Pick for the Montreal Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens were not fortunate enough to win a spot in the top 3 of the 2016 NHL draft and as a result they will be selecting 9th overall. After a season that Montreal fans and management certainly weren't expecting, there are changes coming, the latest being the hire of Associate coach, Kirk Muller. This hire is music to Habs fans ears, as Muller will be able to help a Canadiens powerplay that has no business struggling with the personnel they have, as well as serve as a perfect liaison for the players.

With the draft quickly approaching on June 24th, I thought it was appropriate to begin to discuss whether or not Montreal should keep the 9th overall selection or trade it for a top 6 forward that can immediately come in and contribute.

We have to now look at two things. We have to look at a sample of 9th overall selections in the history of the NHL Draft, and we have to also look at the value that a top selection in the NHL Draft carries. 

The Past Ten 9th Overall Selections

2015 Timo Meier RW Halifax (QMJHL) San Jose Sharks- Career Stats-Yet to make NHL debut

2014 Nikolaj Ehlers RW/LW Halifax (QMJHL) Winnipeg Jets-Career Stats-72 GP-15G-23A-38P 

2013 Bo Horvat C London (OHL) Vancouver Canucks-Career Stats-150 GP-29G-36A-65P

2012 Jacob Trouba D USA U-18 Winnipeg Jets-Career Stats-211 GP-23G-49A-72P

2011 Dougie Hamilton D Niagara (OHL) Boston Bruins-Career Stats-260 GP-34G-92A-126P

2010 Michael Granlund LW HIFK (Fin.) Minnesota Wild-Career Stats-240 GP-31G-101A-132P

2009 Jared Cowen D Spokane (WHL) Ottawa Senators-Career Stats-249 GP-15G-31A-46P

2008 Joshua Bailey C Windsor (OHL) New York Islanders-Career Stats-557 GP-93G-157A-250P

2007 Logan Couture F Ottawa (OHL) San Jose Sharks-Career Stats-431 GP-154G-169A-323P

2006 James Sheppard LW Cape Breton (QMJHL) Minnesota Wild-Career Stats-394GP-23G-68A-91P

If we look at all of these selections, in all likelihood, the Habs will be getting a serviceable NHLer at the 9th overall pick, and potentially even an impact one. 

Recent Trades Involving Top 10 Selections

Boston Bruins trade Phil Kessel to Toronto for the 2nd overall pick in 2010 (Tyler Seguin), 32nd overall pick in 2010 (Jared Knight), 7th overall pick in 2011 (Dougie Hamilton) 

Winner: Boston Bruins. When all was said and done, the Leafs didn't even end up with the best player in the deal. Of course, at the time, they didn't know they'd be giving up the 2nd overall and 7th overall pick, but it's still certainly noteworthy now.

Philadelphia Flyers trade Jeff Carter to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Jakub Voracek, 8th overall pick in 2011 (Sean Couturier) and 3rd round selection in 2011 (Nick Cousins)

Winner: Philadelphia Flyers. Trading for a 30 goal scorer like Jeff Carter probably seemed like a good idea to the Blue Jackets at the time, but when we revisit this move now, it's clear that the value the Flyers got was well worth dealing away Carter. 

Pittsburgh Penguins trade Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes for Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumoulin, and the 8th overall pick in 2012 (Derrick Pouliot)

Winner: Pittsburgh Penguins. This was hardly a one sided deal, but Pittsburgh ended up getting some very good value for an often overrated Jordan Staal. 

Vancouver Canucks trade Cory Schneider to the New Jersey Devils for the 9th overall pick in 2013 (Bo Horvat)

Winner: New Jersey Devils. Bo Horvat is going to be a serviceable and talented NHL player, but Cory Schneider is already a star goalie in this league. 

Anaheim Ducks trade Bobby Ryan to the Ottawa Senators for Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen, and the 10th overall pick in 2014 (Nick Ritchie)

Winner: The hardest deal to analyze so far because it was more recent, but I think you can make a case for both sides winning the deal here. I'll say Anaheim has the marginal advantage because I like the depth they received. 

What can we gain from these observations? 

The way I look at it, the deals made involving top 10 picks would be a lot closer in value if it were just the pick involved, but that's not usually the case. The team that acquired the top 10 selection plus other assets usually come out on top, which should be a lesson to Habs management that they should let their selection develop and add assets through the draft and free agency.