Congratulations to the Tampa Bay Lightning, who managed to become just the second team to win back-to-back Stanley Cups in the cap era.
The Lightning went all-in for the second straight season, bringing back their core and trading their first-round pick for the second straight season, and thanks to some clever cap gymnastics, Nikita Kucherov returned for the playoffs and led the team in scoring. Now that the season is officially over, they have to address the big elephant in the room: The Lightning has to break up.
According to CapFriendly, the Lightning are the only team over the cap heading into the offseason. With the salary cap staying flat at $81.5 million, they are a little over $5 million over the upper limit with 19 players on the roster. Key role players including David Savard, Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow are set to be UFA and young contributors Cal Foote, Ross Colton and Alex Barré-Boulet will need new contracts. It seems unlikely any of their pending UFA’s will return; with 29 percent of their cap already allocated to defensemen, Savard will likely get a more lucrative contract elsewhere and Coleman may be headed home to Dallas, according to Bally Sports Midwest’s Andy Strickland.
There are numerous ways to get under the cap, but barring another LTIR-related move, there’s no question the Lightning will have to shed a contract or two. According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the only untouchables are Kucherov, Brayden Point, Victor Hedman and Andrei Vasilevskiy, who was named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner. Given how each of them has performed in the playoffs, it’s safe to assume that list has not changed.
The most obvious path to shed salary is through the expansion draft. Based on Matt Larkin’s projected protect list with four defensemen, the Kraken will have a good pool to pick from, including Ondrej Palat, Yanni Gourde, Alex Killorn, Tyler Johnson, Pat Maroon and a slew of young players ready to graduate from the American League. The problem with this path is it gives the Lightning very little control and consists mostly of them crossing their fingers that the Kraken will tap into the local talent pool and select the Spokane-born Johnson, who was waived but went unclaimed at the beginning of the season. To ensure the Kraken does take Johnson, the Lightning may have to part with a draft pick or prospect.
But, when it comes to trading, everyone knows the Lightning are in a tough spot and they won’t have much leverage in trade negotiations. The good news is that the Lightning has plenty of players who should be of interest to multiple teams, including captain Steven Stamkos. It seems unthinkable Stamkos would be available after he turned down other offers to remain with the Lightning in the fateful summer of 2016, but the Lightning cannot afford to save a little here and there; they are over the cap by such a significant amount with spots left to fill that moving a big contract will give them the most flexibility going forward.
Stamkos has a no-movement clause which may hamper the Lightning’s ability to get a fair return, but the main goal is the get under the cap. Not saying it will happen, but Stamkos could do his new team a favor and ensure they don’t give up too much for him in case it hurts their ability to compete; remember, Dominik Hasek reportedly did something similar when he threatened to nix a trade to the Red Wings if the Sabres asked for too much in return, according to ESPN. Stamkos’ power-play prowess will be a significant loss; over the past three seasons, he ranks fourth in the league with 39 power-play goals even though he’s played fewer games than the three players ahead of him.
Palat has one year remaining with a $5.3 million cap hit, and he’s an enticing piece for a team looking for a one-year rental in the hopes of a 2022 Cup run. His modified no-trade clause gives the Lightning a list of 20 teams they can deal with, but note that Palat’s base salary is backloaded in the final year, making teams that are strapped for cash something to consider. Palat’s a strong two-way player and his expiring contract gives the Lightning some flexibility moving forward, but if there’s a line the Lightning would be unwilling to break up, it’s probably their top line.
Gourde just signed a six-year extension in 2018 but also has some control over his future with a no-trade clause. His contract carries a $5.16-million cap hit with four more seasons remaining, and he was part of an outstanding checking line that should be held in the same regard as the Red Wings’ Grind Line from the ‘90s that won multiple Cups. Losing Gourde, along with Coleman and Goodrow in free agency, would also force the Lightning to revamp their penalty kill, which ranked fourth in the season.
Cirelli makes a lot of sense with a $4.8 million cap hit with two more years remaining and he will be an RFA when the contract expires, which gives the Lightning more control. He’s a strong two-way forward with plenty of upside at just 23 years old, and has proven to be a clutch player going back to his days with Oshawa in the Ontario League. He should be a big piece of their core moving forward, but if the Lightning are backed into a corner and find no takers for the other contracts they would rather shed, it may force them to part with Cirelli, but it’s an easier pill to swallow with two Cups under their belt.
The Lightning would also prefer to keep Ryan McDonagh, who has five more years remaining at $6.75 million per season with a no-trade clause, and Mikhail Sergachev, who has two years remaining at $4.8 million per season and will be an RFA in 2023. Sergachev is more desirable due to his age and contract, but trading either would really hurt the Lightning’s depth on defense when the league is becoming more aware of the importance of quality depth and mobility on the blue line.
In any of these paths, the Lightning will surely lose a talented player. One way to quantify how much the Lighting may lose is through hockey-reference.com’s Point Shares, which calculates the number of points a player contributes to his team over the course of a season. Adding the Point Shares of each player who suited up for their respective team should add up to the team’s point total in the standings with an average absolute error of 5.05 points per 82 games. The Lightning’s players accumulated 73.6 Point Shares during the 2021 season and the team finished with 75 points in the standings.
The Lightning will still be a very good team, but the loss of free agents Coleman, Goodrow and Savard is equivalent to about three wins, and if either Stamkos, Cirelli, Palat or Gourde become cap casualties, that’s another three to five wins lost. But, having a healthy Kucherov, who recorded at least 10 Point Shares over his past four regular seasons, should help stem some of the losses. Barré-Boulet and Colton, who scored the Cup-clinching goal, will certainly get a chance to be NHL regulars.
It would’ve been a long shot anyway, but no team has won three straight championships since Al Arbour’s Islanders in the early ‘80s. The Penguins have come closest in recent years, and interestingly enough, the Lightning are in a similar situation where they will lose a key player; the Pens’ shot at a three-peat ended in Round 2 against the eventual Cup-winning Capitals in 2018 – the year after they lost Marc-Andre Fleury to the Vegas expansion draft.
The Edmonton Oilers select big German defender Luca Munzenberger at #90 overall – Edmonton Journal
The Edmonton Oilers trading down on Day #1 of the NHL draft was converted not 24 hours later into Defenceman Luca Munzenbeger.
Gotta love the name! Munzenberger is an 18-year old out of Dusseldorf, Germany. He has a late (November) 2002 birth date.
He’s a big, left-handed shot at 6’3, 194 LBS.
Munzenberger spent the majority of 2020-21 with Kolner Junghaie of the DNL U20. In 6 games he went 1-2-3 and served as Team Captain. His time in junior versus pro left open the door for him to play in college. Munzenberger also played for Team Germany at the World Junior Hockey Championships in Edmonton (0-0-0 in 5GP). More on that in a minute…
Munzenberger is considered to be an excellent PK man, but possesses a big shot which makes him a threat from the point as well. Scouts say he has a soft set of hands and makes an effective first-pass out of his own zone. Those who have seen him play, namely amateur scout Brock Otten, describe the kid as a “suffocating physical defender” with a mean streak. He’s an above-average skater for his size with a massive stride and a big wingspan. He’s effective at clearing the slot and his reach helps him get to pucks ahead of attackers. In my own viewing of his highlights from the WJC’s, Munzenberger closes quickly and effectively on the opposition along the walls. The foot-speed, reach and size are visibly key tools in his ability to break up the cycle.
A side note from that tournament that may indicate the quality of his intangibles: Munzenberger was in COVID quarantine at the very beginning ot the WJ’s, but emerged from that status prior to Christmas and rebounded with a strong performance. That would seem to speak to the kid’s resilience. The young man in a foreign country responded to a stressful situation and considerable uncertainty extremely well.
Draft analyst Steve Kournianos says of him: “A big bodied vacuum cleaner on defence… He has ideal size but the mobility and agility to cover faster players… He plays a mean, physical brand of hockey and can be considered a throwback… He has soft hands and delivers clean passes to any area in the offensive zone, but what makes Munzenberger dangerous is his lethal shot — he owns a bomb of a shot, not only for its velocity but for the sheer power he generates with little backswing. His wrister is just as nasty.”
It is fair to consider this pick as somewhat “off the board”. Elite Prospects had him at #214. No other service had him listed at all. One wonders if fellow countryman Leon Draisaitl had and offered any insight on the player to the Oilers draft team? He and his father surely know of every sharp prospect in that nation.
Munzenberger is committed to NCAA University of Vermont in 2022-23 which offers another interesting tidbit. Todd Woodcroft is the coach of that program, the brother of Bakersfield Condors bench boss Jay Woodcroft. So, there may well be some added insight from that connection.
Montreal Canadiens select Joe Vrbetic with 214th pick – Habs Eyes on the Prize
After a very long day, the Montreal Canadiens final picks are finally upon us, with 214th overall being up first. The Habs acquired this pick after trading out of an earlier round, and with this pick the team selected Joe Vrbetic from OHL’s North Bay Battalion.
Unfortunately like many other prospects in the OHL, Vrbetic was not able to play this year due to the Covid pandemic. In his last full season he posted a 4.23 goals against, an .881 save percentage along with a 14-25-1 record on a dreadful North Bay team that won just 17 out of 62 games.
The Habs have the penultimate pick in the draft at 223rd overall this year coming up.
Tokyo Olympics: Michael Woods was milliseconds away from podium finish in thrilling road race – The Globe and Mail
Latest Olympic updates
OLYMPIC EVENTS FOR JULY 24
- Soccer: Canada’s women’s soccer team won 2-1 over their Chilean opponents, with both goals supplied by Janine Beckie. This victory brings the team one step closer to securing a spot in the quarter-finals. Canada will next face off against Britain on Tuesday.
- Cycling: Michael Woods of Ottawa came close to becoming Canada’s first medal finish after placing fifth in the men’s road race, milliseconds away from the podium. Woods pushed his chase group forward, just trailing behind eventual gold-medal winner Richard Carapaz of Ecuador. Woods finished just one minute and seven seconds behind Carapaz.
- Judo: Japan’s Naohisa Takato won gold in the men’s under 60 kilogram competition for judo, with Japan’s Funa Tonaki securing silver in the women’s under 48 kilogram category. Japan, the birthplace of judo, holds more medals in the sport than any other country. With 86 medals in total, one in five of Japan’s Olympic medals are in judo.
- Tennis: Canadian lefthander Leylah Fernandez won her opening match against Ukraine’s Dayana Yastremska, putting her through to the second round. Fernandez, an 18-year old from Montreal, won her sets in after just over two hours on a hot Tokyo afternoon.
- Beach volleyball: Canada’s Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan beat Katja Stam and Raisa Schoon of the Netherlands 2-0 on the first day of beach volleyball at the Olympics. The pair have played together for five years and qualified for the Olympics thanks to their 2019 World Championships win. Their next game is on Monday against Germany.
- Gymnastics: After a fall on the horizontal bars, Japan’s “King Kohei” Uchimura is out of the Olympics. The 32-year old Uchimura is considered one of the best male gymnasts of all time. For two full Olympic cycles, Uchimura had won every competition he entered. He holds seven Olympic medals and became the first man in 44 years to win back-to-back individual all-around Olympic golds at the Rio 2016 Games.
OFF THE FIELD
- Refugees: Three athletes competing for the Refugee Olympic team will attend Sheridan College in Ontario this fall as part of the first cohort of a new athletic stream of the Student Refugee Program. Rose Nathike Likonyen, Paulo Amotun Lokoro and James Nyang Chiengjiek fled South Sudan as children and grew up in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya where they currently live.
- Dressage: “He’s definitely here with us,” Jamie Kellock said of her late brother, Jonathan. Jamie is attending the Tokyo Olympics as a groom while her sister Lindsay makes her Team Canada debut in dressage. Their brother died of a brain tumour just seven months ago. He was a ski racer and coach in Whistler, B.C. before he passed away at 29.
- New parents: Officials from the Tokyo Olympics said they have tried to find solutions for new parents who want to bring their young children to Tokyo while they compete. The issue was raised when Spanish synchronized swimmer Ona Carbonell announced on Instagram that she had to travel to Tokyo without her husband and breastfeeding infant son because they would not have been allowed to quarantine together in the Olympic village.
Situation in Tokyo, by numbers
WHAT IS THE OLYMPIC MEDAL TALLY IN TOKYO SO FAR?
So far, China has the most gold medals, two, followed by Japan, Korea, Thailand, Iran, Ecuador, Kosovo, Italy with one gold each. Canada has no medals yet.
JAPAN’S LATEST COVID-19 DATA
WHAT TIME IS IT IN TOKYO RIGHT NOW?
Olympic highlights for July 24
Canadian athletes at Tokyo Olympics in photos
Opinion: At the Tokyo Olympics, Michael Woods was a hair’s breadth away from being the stuff of national lore
Michael Woods came milliseconds away from the podium during the men’s road race, and milliseconds away from forever capturing the hearts and minds of Canadians. Despite the near miss, Woods’ performance was captivating. Columnist Cathal Kelly writes, “When he is up in the saddle and headed to vertical, Woods is something to watch. He’s like a piston with arms.”
Penny Oleksiak, women’s swimming team face Olympic-sized expectations in Tokyo
The Canadian women’s swimming team won big at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, bringing home six medals. They surprised Canada, the world, and even themselves. Fast forward to today’s Tokyo Olympic Games, and Canada wants them to do it all over again. At the centre of the team is Penny Oleksiak, who spearheaded Rio’s medal captures despite being just 16 at the time. She arrives in Tokyo with massive expectations on her shoulders.
Taiwan competes as ‘Chinese Taipei’, broadcaster jumps through hoops to appease China
Nathan VanderKlippe, currently reporting from Tokyo, shares musings about the geopolitics present at the Olympic Games. The International Olympic Committee does not allow Taiwan – a self-governed nation – to compete under its own name, instead appearing as Chinese Taipei under a special flag. Online streaming service Tencent interrupted its coverage of the opening ceremony to ensure Chinese viewers didn’t have to see the Taiwanese athletes participate in the parade.
Tokyo Olympic events to watch tomorrow, July 25
- Swimming: Keep an eye out for Kylie Masse in the women’s 100-metre backstroke and 14-year-old Summer McIntosh of Toronto in the women’s 400-metre freestyle events.
- Judo: Elimination rounds are scheduled for 10 p.m. (ET) for the women’s 57-kilogram, the weight category for Jessica Klimkait of Team Canada.
- Diving: Canada will compete in the women’s three-metre synchronized springboard, represented by the veteran Olympian Jennifer Abel alongside Melissa Citrini-Beaulieu, who is making her Olympic debut this year.
- Taekwondo: In the women’s 57-kilogram weight class, Skylar Park is hoping to bring home Canada’s first medal in taekwondo since the 20018 Beijing Olympics. She topped the podium in the sport at the Pan Am Games this year.
- Cycling: Leah Kirchmann of Winnipeg, Karol-Ann Canuel of Amos, Que., and Alison Jackson of Vermilion, Alta are competing in the women’s road race alongside 64 other competitors. The race kicks off in Tokyo and brings the cyclists 137 kilometres to the foothills of Mount Fuji.
Check the full Olympic schedule for the latest event times and competitors.
The Tokyo Olympics: Essential reads
What athletes and teams should Canadians look out for? Consult our guide.
How did Canada’s swimmers use data to get stronger? Grant Robertson explains.
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