7. The inexorable passage of time
Sidney Crosby turned 31 on Tuesday, which is a major bummer because I saw this kid play in junior and it makes me want to die.
You now officially have to say Sidney Crosby is “in his thirties” and not “in his thirty” which, officially, I hate. Because we’re like, what, four or five years away from Sidney Crosby retiring now? Is that what this means? Maybe he’s one of those guys who plays until he’s 40 or something but I don’t know.
This is one of the three or four greatest forwards in the entire history of the sport and for people in my age group he’s like, the first truly generational talent to come into the league during a time when we were more or less adults. That we might be getting anywhere close to the end makes me feel 1,000 years old and I can just tell my takes are going to start sounding like Don Cherry’s by the end of the 2020s.
6. Unsigned RFAs
Even after all the arbitration cases are over, it’s easy to forget that a veritable who’s-who of restricted free agents who didn’t have arbitration rights are still unsigned, and it’s something that really isn’t getting talked about much.
Here’s a brief list of still-unsigned RFAs who are going to be difference-makers for their teams: Dylan Larkin, Willy Nylander, Sam Reinhart, Darnell Nurse, Noah Hanifin, Jordan Schmaltz, Shea Theodore, Ondrej Kase, and more.
Not that teams are going to be too worried about all this but I saw a headline the other day that Nylander in particular wants to go long-term with the Leafs (assuredly part of the plan that lured Tavares to Toronto) and there are a lot of moving parts required to actually make all that work after this coming season.
Interestingly, St. Louis is already right up against the cap and will need to find room for Schmaltz, who’s probably ready for a full-time NHL gig. Wonder how they make that work.
5. Another lockout?
Signing bonuses have been a big topic of conversation this summer and a bunch of people were talking about them again this week, because of just how “lockout-proof” a number of the big contracts signed this summer really are. And with the league now making plenty of noise about the ways in which revenues can be generated — legalized sports gambling, for example — it’s important to look ahead to the labor battle that could begin in earnest around this time next year.
There are, I think, two issues at the heart of whatever labor stoppage is likely to arrive on the hockey world’s doorstep in summer 2019: the players feel they pay too much in escrow, and the league feels the way it defines hockey-related revenues is giving players too big a slice of the pie. The bonus thing is an offshoot of the latter, since it insulates players against the risks of the owners’ favored cudgel — denying players their contractually obligated salaries — being put into effect.
One can imagine a world in which the owners seek to chip away at what is actually considered hockey-related revenue, or at least the share of it that players get (i.e. gross vs. net revenues). One can further imagine that they say players can start playing in the Olympics again if they give up certain collectively bargained rights they fought for in 2012-13. Of course, the NHLPA will know that owners are desperate to get into the China market, so I doubt that would be too effective.
So yeah, they’re likely to come for bonus money. Maybe bonuses will only be allowed to be x percent above the AAV of the deal or something like that, or only awarded in certain years.
But hey, whatever happens, one thing you can almost certainly count on is that we’re gonna get the fifth work stoppage in 26 years under this NHL management regime. Pretty cool!
4. Meeting by the bike rack
Ryans Kesler and Johansen did a, ahem, “fun” little Twitter thing this week where they were like “hey do you want to fight this summer? yeah i do what about you? okay let’s fight” and it’s like, that’s plenty for me already.
Anything Kesler can do to distract from the fact that he had 14 points with horrible underlying numbers in 44 games last season is probably a good thing from his point of view. And because everyone started talking about him thanks to all that stuff from the playoffs, he’s gotta song-and-dance his way into being considered relevant.
Jujhar Khaira scored more points per game than this guy. Chris Stewart had more goals per game. Why don’t we just not pay attention to him and hope he goes away?
3. Mark Stone
The guy the Senators just signed for one year at an okay-but-not-great price was asked the other day why he didn’t go long-term. If you’re a Sens fan, his answer — that he wants to just focus on this coming season — should not provide any sort of encouragement.
This guy might as well start Andy Dufresne-ing the wall behind his stall in the dressing room now. He is not re-signing with Ottawa long term. Not that anyone can blame him; by playing for the Senators this long, he already did the sewage pipe part of Dufresne’s escape.
2. Moving to center
Jonathan Drouin says he’s ready and willing to move to the middle of the ice for the Canadiens and it’s like, hey congrats bud. I bet that goes great for him.
This is, after all, the reason the Habs acquired him — on the frankly speculative idea that he’s going to be a high-end NHL center — and also traded Alex Galchenyuk straight-up for Max Domi.
So yeah no kidding you’re moving to center dude. And right after your team trades Max Pacioretty for peanuts, you’re gonna be one of like four legit forwards on the team. Have fun out there.
One last take on the “Sabres rebuild” thing from me, specifically as it concerns Jeff Skinner.
The reason Buffalo was able to get the player for so cheap was that Skinner reportedly rejected multiple trade deals with other clubs thanks to his full no-move clause. I’m not totally sure why you waive it to go to Buffalo except to say that perhaps he envisioned a big contract year alongside Eichel (which, certainly, is well within the realm of possibility).
But I do wonder about his intentions to stay in Buffalo beyond this year. Maybe that’s a conversation player and team have already had, but he was evasive on the issue when asked by local media. In either event, it’s difficult to imagine Skinner signing mid-season unless he gets off to an insanely hot start and wants to cash in before regression catches up with him.
Either way, that’ll be something that’s very interesting to watch this season.
(Not ranked this week: John Vanbiesbrouck.
One thing that should definitely happen with a guy whose whole job is to grow hockey in the United States is to say that the person he repeatedly called the N-word should come to him and ask for an apology. Very cool guy. Definitely deserves to have the job he has.)
(All statistics via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)