November 30, 2023

Patrick Kane decision soon, Panthers contending and Edmonton drama

As we head to Thanksgiving — the NHL’s typical barometer for whether or not a workforce is well-positioned for a playoff berth or not — there have been loads of surprises across the NHL. Behind the scenes, groups have been working the telephones getting a gauge of the commerce market, although we doubtless will not see a lot motion till December, when groups can accrue extra cap area. In the meantime, listed below are different rumblings I’ve been listening to at rinks across the NHL.

Kane decision coming quickly?

The Patrick Kane watch is formally on. A decision might come inside the subsequent few days, and if there’s any delay, it is solely as a result of Kane’s new workforce must clear cap area.

I imagine Kane needed to run it again with the New York Rangers — particularly since his post-trade deadline play was so irritating for him, hampered by his hip. But it appears like GM Chris Drury instructed him the workforce would not be capable of make it work with the cap (or the Rangers boss simply wasn’t keen to take the chance once more, particularly with how nicely the workforce is jelling with new coach Peter Laviolette). I’ve reported earlier than on curiosity from the Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings and Dallas Stars. Kane reportedly met with the Toronto Maple Leafs this week; he is been coaching in Toronto. Kane has a relationship with fellow American star Auston Matthews. Kane has beforehand talked about his want to workforce up with Matthews at world competitions. Toronto can be a juicy match, however the Leafs’ high precedence is shoring up the blue line. Other groups have instructed me they imagine the Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning are within the combine. It’s exhausting for me to gauge how actual the Carolina Hurricanes‘ curiosity is. The workforce I imagine that has made probably the most aggressive pitch to Kane is the Florida Panthers. And this is what that pitch has included:

For years, the Panthers have been in search of a constant linemate for Aleksander Barkov. Few gamers can match Barkov’s on-ice intelligence; Kane can. If Kane is in search of a long-term deal — which he would possibly contemplating how unsettling it was for him to uproot his household over the past deadline after enjoying in Chicago his total profession — the Panthers are set as much as contend for the subsequent few years. Barkov and Matthew Tkachuk are each locked in long run. Florida has turn into a vacation spot for gamers, particularly as they open a brand new observe facility on Dec. 1 in Ft. Lauderdale, the place a lot of the gamers stay.

The motive the Panthers are within the combine for Kane is as a result of they’ve asserted themselves as a real contender. Many across the league figured Florida would have a drop off following its Cinderella Stanley Cup Final run — particularly because the workforce started the season with out its two greatest defensemen, Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour, who each had summer time shoulder surgical procedures. But the Panthers defensive metrics are robust. It took an adjustment interval for the workforce to adapt to Paul Maurice’s system. It’s demanding, each mentally and bodily. It requires consciousness, sacrifice and grind. Maurice usually makes use of the time period: “Be hard men.” Even if the Panthers are the extra proficient workforce, the gamers know they should work to get the win. The outcomes have spoken for themselves.

Rumblings from Edmonton

Every season within the NHL, there’s one worst-kept secret. This season, it is that Hall of Famer Ken Holland is within the last yr of his contract as basic supervisor of the Edmonton Oilers and the expectation is he strikes on — both to retirement or a extra advisory position. The Edmonton entrance workplace is already bracing for change, bringing in Jeff Jackson — Connor McDavid‘s agent — as CEO of hockey operations this summer time.

In Holland’s almost three-decade profession as an government, it is not his fashion to fireplace a coach after 13 video games. But the Oilers didn’t need to hand over on the season, and since trades (particularly for goalies) could not materialize early, they determined to maneuver on from Jay Woodcroft. The Oilers employed Kris Knoblaugh, who was a riser within the teaching ranks. But equally notable: Knoblaugh is McDavid’s former junior coach.

I’m instructed that McDavid is uncomfortable with the notion that he orchestrated this transfer, seeing that it is his ex-agent making the decision and his ex-junior coach who bought employed. McDavid is the last word hockey participant who would not need to put self above workforce, and despises the considered preferential therapy. But he does get preferential therapy, and he ought to. He scored 150 factors final season. He’s probably the most proficient participant within the league and the Oilers are determined to win a Cup with him. Leon Draisaitl‘s contract is up in 2025 and McDavid’s is up in 2026, and the Oilers must do every little thing of their energy to remain aggressive in that span to persuade each gamers to remain.

What’s happening with Zegras in Anaheim?

The rebuilding Anaheim Ducks have been among the best tales of the younger season — with six third-period comeback wins of their first 15 video games, regardless of being underdogs in all however one. As of right this moment, they’re improbably in playoff place. But the Ducks have finished this all largely with out manufacturing from certainly one of their brightest stars: Trevor Zegras. Their main scorer final season, who was on the duvet of EA 2023, has simply two factors (one objective, one help) in 12 video games and is at the moment on injured reserve with a decrease physique harm. So what is going on on?

I do not suppose the 22-year-old’s begin is sort of as alarming because the stats recommend. For starters, I imagine he is been coping with this harm for a number of weeks — about half of his video games — which provides some rationalization. Much was made about Zegras’ benching within the sport in opposition to Columbus on Oct. 25, however he additionally performed very nicely within the two video games previous it. The teaching employees has been harping on sure particulars, reminiscent of puck battles, and Zegras has been specializing in that. He’s been enjoying a lot stronger defensively than in season’s previous. As for the offense? Zegras has a 3.3 taking pictures proportion, which is fairly unfortunate, however he is creating probabilities. Sounds like if he returns wholesome and continues on the trail he is on, he is assured the manufacturing will comply with.

Bedard shines in Florida

Connor Bedard‘s Florida highway journey — two multiple goal games, together with a four-point evening in opposition to the Tampa Bay Lightning — felt like a turning level for the 18-year-old. It signaled the primary time we have seen the rookie actually take over a sport, and it will not be the final. For coach Luke Richardson, it signaled the subsequent evolution of Bedard’s sport — aggressiveness to get the puck.

The teaching employees has instructed Bedard: “Don’t wait for the four other guys to work to get you the puck. Go in there and forecheck and steal pucks.” In each video games, Bedard moved his ft extra defensively, placing his head down and backchecking exhausting. And the teaching employees thinks Bedard’s efforts are setting the tone for his teammates.

“He’s used to playing two-minute shifts in junior and conserving energy,” Richardson instructed me. “He doesn’t need to do that here anymore. Use your energy and conservation to get the puck back yourself and make something happen.” For the document, Bedard’s common shift size coming into Thursday was precisely one minute — which ranks fourth within the league amongst forwards, solely trailing the Minnesota Wild trio of Kirill Kaprizov, Matt Boldy and Mats Zuccarello.

Some recommendation for Poitras

While 19-year-old Matt Poitras has been a darling in Boston since coaching camp, coach Jim Montgomery is aware of what’s inevitable. “He’s going to hit the rookie wall,” Montgomery instructed me earlier this month. “Every rookie does.”

So the workforce is ensuring the younger middle has the sources to mitigate that. The Bruins are fortunate they’ve so many alumni who’re nonetheless in Boston and nonetheless engaged with the workforce. Montgomery has talked to the just lately retired Patrice Bergeron about mentoring Poitras and speaking to him about sure elements like faceoffs. “Patrice said, ‘Monty, I don’t want to watch all of your games,'” Montgomery laughed. “And I said, ‘That’s fine. I just want you to impart your knowledge.’ So I hope Matt does reach out.”