In the second post of the new season, we have some Rangers news mixed with the retirements of three defensemen. Plus one of the game’s best gets a well deserved raise from the Stanley Cup champs.
The first order of business is Chris Drury again delivering for the Rangers. Faced with the task of moving an unhappy player who didn’t have much of a future with the team, the Team President and GM was able to get a good return for camp holdout Nils Lundkvist.
Credit goes to Shayna Goldman of The Athletic for breaking the story. She got the scoop. Something none of the Rangers beat reporters seem capable of sans Larry Brooks. Goldman sent out this tweet below that spread quickly.
She also nailed the details. Nils Lundkvist was traded to the Stars in exchange for a conditional 2023 first round pick plus a 2024 conditional fourth.
The condition on the 2023 first round pick is that it’s top 10 lottery protected. Considering that the Stars are a good team that should make the playoffs once they figure out how to re-sign key restricted Jason Robertson, it’s insurance.
Realistically, the Rangers will come out with a mid first round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft. That’s unless they decide to use that pick as a chip for a trade by next deadline on March 3.
If the Stars somehow miss the postseason, then they could wind up in the top 10 due to the Draft Lottery. In the event that happens, the first round pick would slide to 2024. Either way, Drury was able to pry a first round pick for a disgruntled player whose trade request actually dated back to January. Hejda Nils!
That’s when more recent 2019 first round pick Braden Schneider was recalled from Hartford and supplanted Lundkvist on the third pair. He proved capable of filling that role. His size and strength combined with skating made Lundkvist expendable. Once the young defenseman stuck, it was obvious that Nils was going bye bye.
In an ironic twist, it’s actually Schneider’s birthday today. He turned 21 on 9/21. Happy Birthday!!! He enters his second year as the right defenseman on the third pair. Of course, there’s anchor Adam Fox and captain Jacob Trouba on the top two pairings. As Schneider continues to grow, the Rangers look to have one of the game’s best trio of right D.
In regards to Lundkvist, he had his chance. Even with a new GM and coach, they gave him the opportunity to sink or swim. When it was obvious that 2021 free agent addition Patrik Nemeth wasn’t working out, Lundkvist’s days were numbered. That isn’t to say he failed. He only got into 25 games where he tallied a goal and three assists. However, he never got much power play time due to Fox running the top unit and Trouba playing on the second unit.
For the 22-year old Lundkvist, it’s a fresh start with a new team. Though it’ll be interesting to see where he fits in the Stars’ plans. They do have some good defensemen including Miro Heiskanen, Esa Lindell and Ryan Suter. They also signed free agent Colin Miller, who could slot in on the second pair. However, he could be sidelined to start the season. Perhaps that’s why they went out and acquired Lundkvist.
Obviously, he has a lot to prove. For a player who cried once he lost his spot, now comes an opportunity to prove himself. He possesses the skating and capability to contribute offensively. It will all depend on how he’s used in Dallas. They obviously feel he’s worth it. Time will tell.
The takeaway is Drury did what was best for both sides. The Rangers didn’t have room for the player. Lundkvist needed a new home. He gets it in Big D. He could pair up with Lindell on the second pair. No doubt he’ll see more power play time there than he did in the Big Apple.
That the Rangers received a first round pick and a conditional fourth in 2025 is a plus. They got fair value for a former top prospect who’s on the young side. It’s a win win for both parties. One less distraction for the Blueshirts with training camp opening Wednesday.
Although the first official day was Wednesday, every player arrived early. They held unofficial workouts at the Rangers practice facility in Greenburgh, NY. They’re chopping at the bit to get going. That comes as no surprise after how close they were to playing for the Stanley Cup.
Undoubtedly, expectations are high. Why wouldn’t they be? Despite losing key deadline pieces Andrew Copp, Frank Vatrano, Tyler Motte and Justin Braun, the Rangers boast a plethora of talent that combines veteran experience and youth. Led by a core that includes new captain Jacob Trouba along with Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, Adam Fox, Ryan Lindgren, Artemi Panarin and rating Vezina winner Igor Shestyorkin, it’s a good roster capable of having a huge amount of success.
They did lose key locker room leader and second pivot Ryan Strome, who signed with Anaheim along with Vatrano on what should be an improved Ducks that features Trevor Zegras, Calder candidate Mason McTavish and Troy Terry. But Drury went out and signed former Hurricane Vincent Trocheck to fill the void. He’ll center the second line that’ll feature Panarin. We’ll see who wins the job on the right side.
Don’t forget that Gerard Gallant likes to mix and match. He’ll do it during games if things aren’t going well. While I’m a person who likes to pencil in lines, nothing is guaranteed. Turk keeps us honest. Buck Showalter he’s not. He is more like Aaron Boone. If you’ve seen the Yankee lineups, you know what I mean. Aaron Judge hitting leadoff in his pursuit to match Babe Ruth and Roger Maris. It’s been exciting to watch.
As the baseball regular season winds down, we know both the Mets and Yankees will be playing meaningful games in October. That should be fun. The Mets clinched their first postseason since 2016. With both Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer, they have a good chance to go far. The Yankees are more of a question mark despite Judge’s all-time season.
Let’s segway back to some hockey news and notes. There’s a lot to cover on a before camps get going.
Let’s call today (Tuesday) the day of retirements for defensemen. Zdeno Chara, Keith Yandle and P.K. Subban all announced they were hanging up the skates. All three were elite players with both Chara and Subban former Norris winners.
Yandle was an upper echelon offensive defenseman who currently holds the record for most consecutive games played. An astounding 989 combined with the Coyotes, Rangers, Panthers and Flyers where he finished up his career. That record won’t last long if Phil Kessel can play in the first eight games with Vegas. He enters the season with 982 straight. It was previously held by Doug Jarvis, who played in 964 consecutive games.
For a player who wasn’t selected until 105th in the fourth round of the 2005 Draft, the Boston, Massachusetts native went on to have a superb 16-year career. He became a fixture on the Coyotes’ blue line. A good passer of the puck who could get his shot through while running the power play, Yandle posted 12 straight seasons of 30 points or more between ’08-09 through ’19-20.
That included producing at least 40 points in 10 of 12 seasons during that run. With the Coyotes, he reached double figures in goals four consecutive seasons including the shortened season of ’12-13 when he had 10 goals and 20 assists for 30 points over 48 games.
After spending nearly a decade in the Desert, Yandle was traded to the Rangers in ’14-15 for Anthony Duclair, John Moore, a first round pick and second round pick on March 1, 2015. Added to a blue line that featured Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal and Anton Stralman, he performed well as a rental over two seasons. In the 2015 playoffs, Yandle had two goals and nine assists for 11 points in 19 games.
Although it wasn’t enough to help get the Rangers back to the Stanley Cup Finals for a second straight year, Yandle did his part. Over a full 82-game season in ’15-16, he posted 47 points (5-42-47) to pace all Ranger defensemen in scoring. That included 22 power play points (2-20-22) which tied Derick Brassard for the team lead.
After the season, Yandle moved on to Florida where he signed a new contract to play for the Panthers. He was very productive over the first four years. That included him achieving a career bests in assists (53) and points (62) during ’18-19. It was following a disappointing ’19-20 where his production dipped to 27 points over 56 games that Florida decided to move on.
Yandle spent his final year with the Flyers. At 35, it was a challenging season for the prideful Yandle, who finally was a healthy scratch near the conclusion of a difficult ’21-22 campaign in Philadelphia. He finished with a goal and 18 helpers for 19 points over 77 games.
It was evident that was it for Yandle. With the game continuing to shift towards a younger generation due to the salary cap, he didn’t draw interest this summer. Like P.K. Subban, who decided to call it quits a little later yesterday at 33, Yandle knew it was time. He finishes his career with 103 goals, 516 assists and 619 points in 1,109 games.
Subban is two years younger. Originally selected by the Canadiens in the second round number 43 in the 2007 Draft, he wowed fans in Montreal with his physical skills. Combined with splendid skating, Subban was an exciting player who played the game with a passion.
Love him or hate him, he was entertaining to watch. After recording two assists in a cameo for ’09-10, Subban delivered early with an impressive rookie year. He posted 14 goals with 24 assists for 38 points and 124 penalty minutes during ’10-11 for the Habs. In a strong rookie class that included Calder winner Jeff Skinner along with future stars Logan Couture, John Carlson, Corey Crawford, Taylor Hall and Brad Marchand, Subban finished sixth for Rookie of The Year.
Known also for his theatrics which highlighted playing to the crowd with some emotional goal celebrations, his celly’s certainly caught the eyes of both opponents and broadcasters. Up North, he would sometimes receive criticism for showing raw emotion. However, he also could embellish to draw penalties.
There was no doubting the unique talent and personality Subban was. Whether it was on or off the ice, he had fun. He got to fulfill a lifelong childhood dream by playing for the Canadiens in Montreal. He loved it. You could see it in his smile and how he handled the media.
Subban also gave back to the community. His commitment to raise $10 million for the Montreal Children’s Hospital is exceptional. Along with other various donations including P.K.’s Blue Line Buddies in Nashville, his charity work has earned him accolades off the ice. He won the King Clancy Memorial Trophy in 2022 for all of his hard work to make hockey accessible for youth hockey along with providing COVID-19 relief.
Among the highlights of his 13-year career includes winning the Norris in only his third season with the Canadiens. During the abbreviated season in ’12-13, Subban had 11 goals and 27 assists totaling 38 points over 42 games with a plus-12 rating. He was voted as the league’s top defenseman.
He followed that up by going 10-43-53 in ’13-14. A season that saw the Habs reach the Eastern Conference Final. Subban had 14 points (5-9-14) in the playoffs. They would lose to the Rangers in six games. A series best remembered for Carey Price being knocked out of Game One when Chris Kreider collided into him following losing his balance due to Alexei Emelin. Even without Price, the Habs made it interesting. They came up short losing 1-0 in Game Six.
It was following that season that Subban and the Canadiens agreed on a new contract that paid him $72 million over nine years. The deal was announced following salary arbitration. He became the highest paid defenseman in the NHL.
At 25, Subban delivered in Year One of the big contract by achieving new career highs in goals (15), assists (45), points (60), plus/minus (21) and game-winning goals (5). He finished third for the Norris behind Drew Doughty and ’14-15 winner Erik Karlsson. Ironically, Shea Weber was fourth. That would prove poetic.
Following a season where he had six goals and 45 assists for 51 points in 68 contests, the Canadiens agreed to trade Subban to the Predators for Weber. They were able to do so by beating the July 1 date when his no-trade clause would’ve kicked in.
The one-for-one blockbuster of two of the game’s best defensemen took place on June 29, 2016. It sent shock waves throughout the league. Montreal fans were torn over the trade. Subban was very popular. Although he had his detractors, he was a great player for the Habs. However, they did land Weber, who went from being captain of Nashville to wearing the ‘C’ for Montreal.
The deal worked out for both sides. In Year Two as a Predator, Subban set a career high with 16 goals while adding 43 assists for 59 points to finish third again for the Norris in ’17-18. Backstopped by Pekka Rinne, the Preds went all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. They lost in six games to the Penguins. Subban finished with 12 points (2-10-12).
After an injury riddled ’18-19 that affected his play, Subban was dealt to the Devils for a pair of second round picks and two players (Steven Santini and Jeremy Davies). By taking on Subban and the salary, the Devils were hoping he could return to form. It never happened.
Subban totaled 59 points in 189 games over his final three seasons in Newark. Having lost a step due to the wear and tear, he struggled with consistency. Unfortunately, that meant far less production and defensive lapses. While he still played with an edge, his game suffered.
He also developed a reputation for injuring opponents. Slewfooting players is a dangerous thing. It’s common in the sport yet goes unpunished. His illegal takedown of Sammy Blais in a game last season ended Blais’ year. He tore his ACL. Although Subban was made accountable for his actions, he was never suspended. It wasn’t the first time either.
While he became hated by the Manhattan side of the Hudson rivalry, perhaps angry fans should place the blame on a league that doesn’t always get it right. They sometimes look the other way. Maybe if the rules were more like the IIHF, you wouldn’t have such incidents. Zero tolerance for cheap plays that seriously injure players would go a long way. I don’t see it ever happening.
Following the ’21-22 season where the Devils missed the postseason, Subban joined ESPN’s Stanley Cup Playoffs coverage as a guest analyst. Having had previous experience up north during his playing career, he’s natural. He’s able to breakdown the game well and provide good insight. Expect Subban to become a regular in the studio. He has a bright future.
I’ve seen quite a few of our fans ask how could Subban be allowed to analyze games after what happened on the ice. You have to be able to separate your dislike of a player, who will be an asset talking hockey during telecasts. If Denis Potvin can do it along with plenty of other former tough guys including Stu Grimson, who ironically is a lawyer when he isn’t on NHL Network, what does that tell you?
Some of the best analysts are former players. I view Subban similarly to Kevin Weekes, who’s become one of the best voices to listen to. Whether it be NHL Network or ESPN, he’s got the personality and knowledge. Something Subban possesses. He also has a keen sense of humor like Weekes. That’s why he’ll be successful.
Having gone a little longer on Subban due to his role as a player, who was much better than what we saw in Jersey, it’s time to pay homage to Zdeno Chara. It’s truly astonishing how long his career lasted.
For nearly a quarter century, a player the Islanders drafted in the third round 56th overall way back in 1996, became one of the best overall defensemen. Most amazing is he is the tallest player in NHL history. Nobody would ever have believed a player listed at 6-9, 250 would be able to accomplish what Chara did. It’ll probably never be done again by a player that size.
When the Islanders took the risk some 26 years ago, few knew how good he’d become. Chara first debuted at 20 during ’97-98. He played 25 games and racked up 50 penalty minutes with an assist. Back then, the kid from the former Czechoslovakia could fight and deliver punishing checks. That was before hits were recorded.
In what was the Mike Milbury
Error Era, the Islanders were not exactly a good team. They missed the playoffs annually and were considered a laughingstock. Let’s just say that Milbury made a lot of questionable decisions that hurt the team. At least he wasn’t a fraud like former owner John Spano. If you’ve seen the documentary on Spano, that sums up that era.
It was much harder for a young player to break through. There were so many distractions with the Islanders. You never knew what would happen. As a rival fan, it was both amusing and puzzling to observe. Of course, the Rangers became a punchline once Mark Messier left after a run to the Conference Finals with Wayne Gretzky and Brian Leetch in ’97. So, we had our own struggles that were hard to watch. I refer to it as the Dark Ages (’98-04). It truly was a dark time at MSG.
Chara lasted four years on Long Island. As a young player who obviously was a long-term project due to his size and position, he didn’t put up many points. But he sure was tough. In ’00-01, he played all 82 games for the Islanders. Chara recorded just nine points (2-7-9) and was a minus-27. But also had 157 penalty minutes. He averaged over 22 minutes on the blue line. Maybe they should’ve been more patient with him.
Instead, in a memorable blockbuster trade that defined the Milbury Error, he dealt Chara, Bill Muckalt and a first round pick that became Jason Spezza to Ottawa for Alexei Yashin. The big move was made on June 23, 2001. Milbury then handed Yashin a ridiculous 10-year, $87.5 million contract. At the time, it was overpayment. Although he was a premier center who had success with the Senators, there was no way Yashin could live up to that deal.
Although the Islanders made the playoffs thanks to Milbury also adding former Sabre Michael Peca and even Chris Osgood for a short term, they never got past the first round. Milbury also decided to trade Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen to Florida for a package that included Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha. That was due to selecting Rick DiPietro over both Marian Gaborik and Dany Heatley. DiPietro would eventually get his own absurd contract that backfired.
While the Islanders teased their fans with first round exits, Chara blossomed into one of the game’s best defensemen. It happened immediately. In ’01-02, he set career highs in goals (10), assists (13) and points (23) while going plus-30 with 156 penalty minutes.
After reaching the playoffs again, this time Ottawa won their first round against the Flyers. But they were again eliminated by the hated Maple Leafs in the second round. However, with a core in place that included Chara, Daniel Alfredsson, Marian Hossa, Wade Redden, Chris Phillips, Radek Bonk, Mike Fisher and eventually Spezza, the Senators quickly became a Stanley Cup contender.
They lost in seven games to the Devils in a closely fought Eastern Conference Final the next year. One which they probably should’ve won. It was a bitter pill to swallow for the team and its fans. Especially with Patrick Lalime matching Martin Brodeur save for save. But Jeff Friesen’s goal with over two minutes left crushed Ottawa hearts.
As Chara grew in stature by scoring double digits in goals with a rocket shot and bone crushing hits, it was gonna be tough for the franchise to keep him. Following ’05-06 when he posted 16 goals and 27 assists for a career high 43 points and 10 power play goals, he left Ottawa by signing with the rival Bruins.
Although his former team had success without him by reaching their first Stanley Cup Finals in ’06-07 before falling prey to the powerful Ducks, it would ultimately be Chara who got the last laugh in Boston. He became captain of the Bruins and led by example. Whether it be a thunderous check, fight, or big goal, he did it.
In ’08-09, Chara put together his best season. He had 19 goals with 31 assists for 50 points and a plus-23 rating. That included 95 PIM, over 100 hits and 100 blocked shots. The complete year for the Big Z was recognized. At 31, he won the Norris as the league’s best defenseman. A well deserved honor for a dominant force.
Although they didn’t achieve their goal of winning it all, the Bruins were on the right track. Featuring a nucleus that included former second round pick Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Marc Savard, Nathan Horton, Milan Lucic, Mark Recchi, Tim Thomas, Johnny Boychuk and eventually Brad Marchand, they eventually climbed the mountain to win the Stanley Cup in ’10-11.
That team did it in comeback fashion by rallying back from an 0-2 deficit and being down 3-2 to stun the Canucks in seven games. Most shocking was how they dominated them in hostile territory winning Game Seven 4-0 to win their first Cup since Bobby Orr skated it around MSG in 1972. Thomas won the Conn Smythe for a remarkable postseason.
Under the leadership of Chara, they continued to compete for Lord Stanley throughout the last decade. They fell short of winning it in ’12-13 when the Blackhawks stunned them with consecutive goals late in regulation to defeat the Bruins in six games. They would also get back to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2019. But this time, it was the Blues who left Boston fans in a state of shock by winning a road Game Seven to deliver their first Cup in franchise history.
For 14 years, Chara called Boston home. He defied logic by continuing to be a staple into his 40’s. The final season as a Bruin came in ’19-20. Having finally slowed down, he remained a positive influence on new ace defenseman Charlie McAvoy. A hard-nosed player from Long Island who plays with the same edge Chara did. He said his final goodbye to close teammates and coaches after they lost to the eventual champion Lightning in the second round. It was a heartfelt handshake.
He didn’t retire. Instead, he signed with Washington for a Covid abbreviated ’20-21. Even at 43, Chara played in almost every game only missing one. It’s a testament to the kind of high character player he has been. Ultimately, the Caps would be eliminated in the first round by his former team in five games. The handshakes were emotional between Chara and former teammates who loved him.
Maybe that’s how it was supposed to be. Although he played one final season in Long Island where it started with the Islanders, injuries and Covid doomed their year. Even at 44, Chara still played in 72 games finishing with two goals and 12 assists for 14 points with his plus-eight a reflection of how consistent he was.
The most amazing thing occurred in the final game. Playing in front of the home crowd at UBS Arena, Chara gave them one more moment to remember him by. With the goalie lifted, he scored his second goal with 46 seconds remaining from Mat Barzal and Zach Parise. It was a magic moment for the legend to go out on.
After the Lightning iced the game, they stuck around at center ice to shake hands with Chara, who hinted that it was his final game. He received congrats from every player on the ice and got a standing ovation from the crowd. It truly was a special night.
When one thinks of Zdeno Chara, it isn’t about the 209 goals, 471 assists or 680 points with a terrific plus-301 and 2,085 penalty minutes over a remarkable 1,680 games. It’s not even about the additional 200 career playoff games he played in which he posted 18 goals and 52 assists for 70 points with a plus-49. Nor about all the hard hits, blocked shots or fisticuffs.
It’s really about how he handled himself on and off the ice. Like a true professional. Chara is one of the classiest players to ever lace ’em up. When he made it official on Tuesday, it was the end for one of the good guys. A true leader in every sense of the word. By his words quoted most recently, he wasn’t supposed to make it past Juniors. Instead, he finishes a brilliant 24-year career as a first ballot Hall Of Famer.
Congratulations to Chara! There will never be another player like him.
Finally, Nathan MacKinnon got a well deserved raise. One of the game’s best players who helped lead the Avalanche to their third Cup, Nate The Great signed an eight-year contract extension worth $100.8 million. He will earn $6.85 million for this season with a bargain cap hit of $6.3 million. Then, he’ll become the highest paid player starting in ’23-24. The cap hit will nearly double at $12.6 million AAV and run through 2031.
The former top pick in 2013 has been a brilliant player for the Avalanche. A Calder winner and two-time runner-up for the Hart Trophy, the 27-year old center is a remarkable player. Over his first nine seasons, he’s averaged over a point-per-game by totaling 648 points (242-406-648) in 638 games. That included a career best 41 goals and 99 points in ’18-19 as a 23-year old.
Following a couple of disappointing playoff exits, MacKinnon was very focused on getting the Avalanche over the hump. They had a great season finishing with 119 points and home ice throughout the playoffs due to the Lightning eliminating the Panthers in the second round.
MacKinnon was a big part of it. Despite missing 17 games, he still finished with 32 goals and 56 assists totaling 88 points to place second in team scoring behind Mikko Rantanen. The quartet of Rantanen, MacKinnon, Nazem Kadri and Norris winner Cale Makar all scored at least 28 goals and 86 points. Team captain Gabriel Landeskog went for 59 points in 51 games and Devon Toews had 57 points and a plus-52 rating.
Chalk it all up and the Avalanche from top to bottom were a powerhouse that conquered their demons by beating the Blues in the second round. That was a test. They won in six games. Then, they swept Edmonton to advance to their first Stanley Cup Finals since GM Joe Sakic led the ’00-01 Avs to the Cup.
MacKinnon and the Avalanche were stronger than the two-time defending champion Lightning. They won the series in six games. MacKinnon scored and set up the series winner in a 2-1 victory to take Game Six on the road and celebrate the franchise’s third Stanley Cup.
He paced all Avalanche with 13 goals including seven even strength and six on the power play. He wound up with 24 points (13-11-24) to rank third in team scoring behind Rantanen and Conn Smythe winner Makar, who was brilliant in leading them with 29 points (8-21-29). His postseason capped a memorable year in which he had 86 points (28-58-86) and a plus-48 rating to win the Norris. Makar will get even better. A scary proposition for the rest of the league.
Although they lost both Kadri (Calgary) and Darcy Kuemper (Washington) along with Andre Burakovsky (Kraken), the Avalanche should still very formidable. A full year for promising young blue liner Bowen Byram along with a healthy Sam Girard will make the Colorado back end even stronger. Plus they kept Josh Manson. It’s the best defense in the game.
It’ll be interesting to see what unfolds in net between former Ranger Alex Georgiev and steady backup Pavel Francouz. It’s a golden opportunity for Georgiev to prove he’s fully capable of becoming a reliable starter in the league. It could be that Francouz and Georgiev push each other, allowing for each to take turns under coach Jared Bednar.
With key addition Evan Rodrigues added to a supporting cast that still includes Darren Helm, Andrew Cogliano along with big pickup Artturi Lehkonen, J.T. Compher and youngsters Alex Newhook and Logan O’Connor, they’ll be a handful.
We’ll see how the Avalanche can offset the departure of Kadri, who had a great season to silence the doubters by winning in Colorado. The Flames could be one of those teams the Avs have to deal with. That’ll depend on how Kadri, Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar jell on the new look Flames.
This took some time to finish. I wanted to devote proper space to all three defensemen who called it a career. They all deserved it. Even Subban, who some of our fans have lost their minds over. He’s a a model citizen off the ice who’ll be a welcome addition on TV. If you hated Cam Janssen, think about how likable he is now having a podcast. These guys are more than hockey players. They’re people.
With Day Two of camp over and Gerard Gallant hinting at Blais and Vitaly Kravtsov as his top candidates for the openings on the first two lines, I’ll get more into that in the next post. Plus I’ll have a regular season preview at some point.
It’s time to see which players can stand out in camp. Preseason begins next week. In the meantime, Aaron Judge has 60 home runs. Here’s hoping he ties Roger Maris this weekend. Enjoy the baseball.