Around The NHL: Fallout For Leafs & Oilers, Coyotes’ Future in Question, Conference Finals Begin, More
We’re officially onto the conference finals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. While we might not have the most historic or big market franchises still alive, we should be in for some really entertaining series.
The second round wasn’t the most exciting early on, but the Stars and Kraken finished on a high note in an exciting Game 7. The Golden Knights and Oilers, meanwhile, played some closer games late in their series as well. And though the two Eastern Conference series wrapped up, both clinching Game 5s treated us to playoff overtime hockey.
The two Stanley Cup favorites from the beginning of the second round were eliminated, and there’s an interesting trend that might be pointing to why. What changes could be made in Edmonton and Toronto?
Are the Coyotes finally on the move out of Arizona? A new vote in Tempe makes it seem like a very real possibility.
Leafs & Oilers Fallout
So what’s next in Toronto and Edmonton? Are major shakeups needed? Let’s take a look at both squads that underachieved in the playoffs this season.
We’ll start in Edmonton. Their biggest issue again was goaltending. Jay Woodcroft’s decision to ride with Stuart Skinner in net despite the 24-year-old’s major struggles is certainly worth questioning, especially when Jack Campbell was solid. The Oilers also really struggled at 5-on-5 as well. Edmonton was outscored 15-9 in 5-on-5 play by Vegas in the six-game series. In the playoffs when the whistles get swallowed a bit more, 5-on-5 play gets magnified and it’s hard to win when you can’t score that way.
Toronto’s loss is a lot more inexplicable. The Leafs didn’t play awful, but they very much got outplayed by Florida who was just the more resilient team when push came to shove. Some Leafs supporters will point to poor officiating, especially on the series-clinching goal in Game 5. But the Leafs were also beneficiaries of similar circumstances in the Lightning series.
So where do these teams go from here? Both teams have very little cap space to work with. The Leafs have three players making $10.9 million or more. The Oilers are a little more spread out with their cap distribution, but in two years they’ll have to give Leon Draisaitl a raise or move him. It’s worth nothing that no player making $10.5 million or more is still remaining in the playoffs.
The Leafs are locked into John Tavares and Mitch Marner for the next two seasons, while Auston Matthews hits free agency next summer. He’s stated that he wants to remain in Toronto, but with all the big-money contracts in Toronto and the lack of playoff success, would the Leafs be interested in shaking things up? Losing Auston Matthews for nothing next summer would be a very tough blow, and the haul you could get for him this summer could help deepen your roster and make you better equipped for the postseason.
Both teams would have to get creative to make any significant changes without moving a major contract. While it’s most likely that the teams run it back with minor tweaks, they should both consider all options.
Also, for what it’s worth, depending on where you look the Blackhawks are the current favorite to land Matthews last summer if he did indeed leave Toronto next summer. Would you want him in Chicago at 7 years, and at roughly $12-14 million per season?
Coyotes Could Finally Move Out Of Arizona
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but it looks like Coyotes could be headed out of Arizona.
While Gary Bettman will for whatever reason continue to exhaust all possibilities to keep the team in Arizona, he might now be running out of those options.
On Tuesday, voters in Tempe voted convincingly against the city’s three propositions that would get the wheels moving on a new stadium. Both the CEO of the Coyotes and Gary Bettman released statements expressing major disappointment in the results.
Since moving to Phoenix in 1996, the franchise has had seven different ownership groups, filed for bankruptcy multiple times, shared a 5,000-seat arena with Arizona State University this season, and for the most part had Gary Bettman do everything in his power to make the Coyotes succeed in Arizona. But it just hasn’t happened.
Even though the NHL told ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski on Wednesday that the team will stay at Mullett Arena for the coming season, relocation will most certainly be at least an option, if not a likelihood in the near future. There will be more news in the coming days about where the Coyotes go from here. Would you like to see them relocate? I absolutely would. Where would you like to see them end up?
Conference Finals Previews
Let’s get some quick-hitter series previews for the conference finals that get going on Thursday night. It might not be the most ideal final four in terms of markets — especially for fans in Canada — but these series both have the potential to be outstanding.
Hurricanes over Panthers 4-2. The Hurricanes look GOOD. They just took care of the Devils in five games, and it was a New Jersey team riding high and playing with a ton of confidence. The Canes took that away quickly and for the most part dominated the Devils in their second-round series win. It looks like they could get Teuvo Teravainen back as well. The Canes are fast, they can roll four lines, their special teams are solid, and they’re getting good goaltending. Frederik Andersen allowed two goals or less in four of five games against New Jersey. The Panthers come in though with a hot goaltender and a team playing to the peak of their potential. GM Bill Zito’s roster shakeup last offseason is paying dividends, and Matthew Tkachuk is a front-runner for the Conn Smythe at the moment. Florida is deep and they’re playing a really solid playoff game. Can they keep up with Carolina? If Sergei Bobrovsky keeps playing like the $10 million AAV goalie that he is, they’ll have a fighting chance.
Golden Knights over Stars 4-3. The Stars took care of the Kraken in seven games to advance to the conference final. Dallas has depth, star power, and a roster that plays a style of hockey set up for playoff success. They’re tough to play against, capitalize on their chances, and they might have the best goaltender in the NHL. Every time Seattle won and grabbed some momentum, the Stars didn’t blink and bounced back the next night out. Vegas took care of business in six games over two of the best players in the world Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl and the Oilers. Edmonton had shaky goaltending and Vegas made them pay. Dallas will present a much bigger challenge in between that pipes than Edmonton did. The Knights are deep, but they also have a superstar in Jack Eichel. Eichel has been playing like a star in the postseason too. This series should be a heavyweight fight.
- Despite rumors of interest from the New York Rangers, Mike Sullivan appears to be staying behind the bench in Pittsburgh. The two-time Stanley Cup-winning Penguins coach shot down any speculation of him leaving for Broadway amidst several changes on the horizon in Pittsburgh
- Speaking of teams and potential changes on the horizon, Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas is entering the final year of his contract. Despite interest from other teams like the Penguins, Dubas has said he’ll either be in Toronto or step aside for a little while.
- Snoop Dogg is still making a push to buy the Senators as the sale process keeps moving toward a conclusion. It would be pretty awesome to see Snoop and his group win that bid