So, how’s your Friday going? On what’s a beautiful summer day minus any humidity here in Staten Island, it’s already a busy one for the Rangers. We knew the writing was on the wall following what Chris Drury said regarding Pavel Buchnevich. He was just traded to the Blues for Sammy Blais and a 2022 second round pick.
The reaction as you can imagine isn’t positive. Most of us grew to like Buchnevich, who grew up the past year. He certainly became a fan favorite with his infectious personality, going by Captain Happy. Not only did former coach David Quinn get the 26-year old Russian to change his game, but got Buchnevich to buy into playing a more physical style. He had teammates’ backs and killed penalties effectively. His best season was ’21 when he posted 20 goals with 28 assists for a total of 48 points in 54 games. That included three shorthanded goals and a career high plus-12 rating. Thirty-six of his 48 points came at even strength. The 48 being a career best despite a shortened season.
There’s no doubt he’ll be missed in the Big Apple. But for the Blueshirts, who are desperately trying to upgrade the center position behind Mika Zibanejad, it became a numbers game. As TSN insider Darren Dreger put it, the move gives them more flexibility. Had they opted to keep Buchnevich, he would’ve cost around $5.5 million on average per year. The cap situation moving forward isn’t good. So, they had to shed salary. Especially if they’re considering trading for Jack Eichel or acquiring another center which would spell the end for Ryan Strome. He’s due $4.5 million for ’21-22 before turning unrestricted. Like Buchnevich, his name has been floated around. We’ll see what direction Drury takes. He’s not done.
As for Blais, he plays the tough straight ahead style the Rangers prefer. He’s not going to blow you away in the goal department. However, his size and physicality are strengths. At only $1.5 million for the next season with restricted status next summer, Blais brings more grit and championship experience to the table. With the Rangers signing Barclay Goodrow yesterday for a six-year contract that’ll pay him an average cap hit of $3.64 million through 2027, you can slot Blais in on the new checking line. The question is who fills it out. It’s pretty obvious what Drury is doing. Unlike the previous regime, he’s addressing the lack of team toughness. The lack of grit and grind explains why the Rangers were so easy to beat for the Islanders. For the naysayers, who hate these moves, here’s a friendly reminder.
Islanders 13. Rangers 1.
That’s what predicated this drastic change to the organization and roster. If you think they could’ve gone with the same roster, you haven’t been paying attention. Or didn’t watch the Stanley Cup where it was again the Bolts’ secondary scoring that helped earn them a repeat. They’re gonna miss Goodrow, Yanni Gourde (taken by the Kraken) and likely Blake Coleman, who’ll probably moves on due to the salary he will command. Lightning friend Dan Wheeler told me he was bummed about losing Gourde to Seattle. He also told me how much he thinks of what Goodrow brought to his team in the two years they won. It’s not about goals and points. But about the overlooked intangibles he’ll bring. Board battles. Hits. Face-offs. Penalty kill. Experience. Goodrow understands what it takes. That’s important. So does Blais.
With the NHL Draft on tap for this weekend with the first round on ESPN2 later and Rounds 2 through 7 on NHL Network tomorrow, it promises to get even crazier. Maybe not as insane as the Flyers overpaying for Rasmus Ristolainen. Buffalo GM Kevyn Adams is laughing all the way to the bank. Would you really have paid a first round pick (13th overall), a 2023 second round pick and defenseman Robert Hagg for Ristolainen? Yikes. At least the Ryan Ellis trade made sense. It only cost Phillipe Myers and Nolan Patrick, who I still think could become a good player after Nashville rerouted him to Vegas for Cody Glass.
The Rangers have the number 16 pick for now. It could get moved if the right deal comes along. There was also talk that backup Alex Georgiev was available, but the asking price is high. They want a first round pick. That’s not happening. Not after the Hurricanes mysteriously moved Alex Nedeljkovic to the Red Wings for Jonathan Bernier and a ’21 third round pick. I don’t get it. Does a Petr Mrazek (assuming he re-signs) and Bernier tandem really give Carolina the goaltending they need? They didn’t want to pay Nedeljkovic. Is prioritizing Dougie Hamilton that important? They also must pay Andrei Svechnikov.
There was an Expansion Draft on Wednesday night. The Seattle Kraken were introduced to a lively crowd by the harbor. It was a nice backdrop for ESPN to broadcast from. While the selections of Dominic Moore and Kevin Weekes were excellent, the curious choice of Chris Fowler didn’t impress hockey fans. He is a college football and tennis guy. So, the mistake he made with Carolina by calling them Panthers wasn’t that surprising. At least the Hurricanes and Panthers had fun with it. Fowler did unintentionally roast the Maple Leafs, Sabres and Devils. But the material in front of him was easy. Joking about how many days it’s been since the last Leafs Cup was funny. Maybe not to Toronto fans. But they haven’t won since 1967. Yikes.
As for who the Kraken took, I’ll highlight the good picks. You have Gourde from the Lightning. Jordan Eberle from the Islanders, who continue to be rumored to make some impact move to upgrade their roster. I’m not buying the Gabriel Landeskog rumors. The guy thinks he’s worth between 8 to 9 million. The Isles must re-sign Adam Pelech, Ilya Sorokin and keep Casey Cizikas. Vladimir Tarasenko is a more realistic candidate to trade for if the Panthers don’t get him.
What did I like about the boring Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft? It was due to the fact teams were unwilling to overpay GM Ron Francis like we saw with Vegas. They learned their lesson. So, only one side deal was made with Seattle moving Tyler Pitlick to Calgary for a Kraken fourth round pick in 2022. Francis mostly focused on defense, goaltending and secondary scoring. Among the highlights were taking former Flames captain Mark Giordano, ex-Oiler Adam Larsson, who they signed for $16 million over four years. They also took Jamie Oleksiak and inked him for five years at an AAV of $4.6 million. Carson Soucy was a good get from the Wild. The question is will they reroute Vince Dunn to say Montreal, who needs a defenseman with Shea Weber out for next season. Seattle boasts plenty of defensive depth thanks to grabbing Jeremy Lauzon, Haydn and Cale Fleury, William Borgen along with Kurtis MacDermid and Dennis Cholowski.
I like the goalies. They went with Chris Driedger, who is signed at $3.5 million AAV through 2024. The former Panther should be the number one with former Cap Vitek Vanecek backing up. A solid tandem. Joey Daccord is the third stringer.
Among the notables up front also include Brandon Tanev, Joonas Donskoi, Jared McCann, Mason Appleton, Calle Jarnkrok and former Ranger Colin Blackwell. Nathan Bastian was the pick from the Devils. What you have are a lot of hardworking gritty forwards with the championship experience of Gourde leading the way. It’s not bad. Sure. It doesn’t seem like they’ll score much. But Seattle has almost $30 million in cap space. That’ll include re-signing restricted free agents and dipping into free agency beginning on July 28. We don’t know if Francis has any other trades coming. They’ve been linked to Strome. We’ll see if that’s true.
Given that there’s some great prospects in line for the 2023 Draft including Connor Bedard, it sounds like they’re planning ahead. Don’t forget Shane Wright and Matthew Savoie will be available next year. If they land either Wright or Bedard over the next two years, they’ll be set up well. That’s not a bad way to go. Not everyone lucks into a good roster like the Golden Knights.
It’s hard to believe. I covered everything in Lightning fashion. I want to wish the best of luck to Buchnevich and Brendan Smith, who won’t be returning. I have so much respect for Smith. He played the game honestly and was a great team guy. Nobody will ever forget his contributions. He took on Wilson in that insane rematch following what that loon did to Panarin. Line Brawl Part 2 was one that had to happen. The Rangers answered the bell. Something new coach Gerard Gallant mentioned during his introduction. You know it’s not over. Not with Blais added to the roster. Especially with the opening game against those Caps.
I’ll get to the schedule in another post. Let’s enjoy the NHL Draft. I expect Sam Reinhart to be gone by either tonight or tomorrow. Eichel by Monday. You know Buffalo wants to wrap this up. The Wild are in on Eichel. I’ll predict he goes to the Kings. So much for my prediction of Buchnevich, a first round pick and prospect for Reinhart. Oh well.
One more Buuuuuuuuccccchhhh! До свидания Павел Бучневич!