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Taylor Hall Cap Comparables: Is the Coyotes star a $10-million player? – Sportsnet.ca

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One year removed from a sterling MVP season, Taylor Hall is once again on the move.

The newly minted Arizona Coyotes winger is set to play out the rest of the season in the desert, where he’ll have the chance to bolster an already impressive Western Conference dark horse. But it’s what happens after the season wraps up that is top of mind, now.

With Hall and the Devils parting ways, it seems there’s a strong chance the 2010 No. 1 pick plays out the year and becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer, opening his doors to the league at large to try to bring him to town.

There’s a chance he stays in Arizona if all goes well, of course. But either way, the most intriguing aspect of the entire saga is what exactly happens once Hall eventually does put pen to paper. With John Tavares upending the way franchise players handle free agency, and the new generation pushing the envelope in terms of what young stars are owed early on in their careers, there’s plenty to sort through to suss out what exactly Hall might be worth.

Hall’s Situation

Before we can look to any external market factors, we have to pin down what exactly Hall is and what he brings to the table.

A few key particulars to highlight: He’ll come to his new deal at age 28, fresh off an injury-shortened 2018-19 season and a tumultuous 2019-20 (though he has seemed to return to form as of late — we’ll get there in a moment). Hall’s last full NHL season saw him win the Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP — surely a bargaining chip that’ll feature prominently in future discussions.

Of course, it’s worth remembering that during Hall’s MVP campaign, he wasn’t necessarily the most dominant player in the league, as has been the case for some other MVPs. With the then-Devil finishing sixth in league scoring, his MVP case was built more on the impact his play had on pulling the Devils up by 27 points and lifting them back into the playoffs for the first time in half a decade. The most telling stat that illustrated that level of import to his team, of course, was the fact that Hall finished 41 points above the next highest-scorer on his team (linemate Nico Hischier) — the highest such differential between a team’s leading scorer and No. 2 in nearly a decade.

All to say that Hall’s MVP season doesn’t necessarily indicate he’s one of the game’s absolute best, but rather that he established himself as a player capable of having a significant impact on raising up his team as a whole (though the 2019-20 Devils’ struggles certainly put a dent in that reputation).

The quick-footed winger put up a career-high 93 points that season, and also has one season above the 80-point plateau, one above 65 and has topped 50 points three other times in his career. He finished just under 40 goals during his MVP bid, but didn’t get above 30 in any others.

In terms of his league-wide impact, Hall’s been among the top 10 scorers in the league since entering the NHL in 2010, having amassed the eighth-most points of any NHLer in that span. Just a year ago, Andrew Berkshire tabbed Hall as the best left winger in the game — beating out game changers like Brad Marchand and Artemi Panarin — drawing attention to the balance of Hall’s elite skill-set.

While the Calgary, Alta., native seemed off to start the year, Berkshire recently explained why the former No. 1 pick has rounded back into form and appears ready to dominate as he did last time he was fully healthy. That being the case, our expectation should be that, with plenty of season left to go, Hall lays down a strong 2019-20 effort and inks his new deal as one of the best wingers in the game (read: he’s going to get paid).

Also sure to play a key role in raising the value of Hall’s next deal is the rising salary cap — with Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reporting the cap could rise a couple million from it’s current upper limit of $81.5 million, the winger and his representatives will have a higher number to which they can tie his value, looking to ensure Hall’s deal slices out a similar percentage of the cap as deals for other recently-signed comparable stars.

But it all comes down to one key question: Is Hall worth $10 million a year?

A number of different factors will determine if that’s the case. For some perspective, it’s worth looking back at some recent comparables — we opted for five players who (a) are among the top earners in the league this year, (b) signed within the past two years, in somewhat of a similar cap world as Hall will be negotiating in, and (c) are at a similar point in their careers, i.e. not a young star like Auston Matthews coming off an entry-level deal or a veteran like Blake Wheeler signing what’s likely his last contract.

Mark Stone, RW, Vegas Golden Knights

Contract: 8 years, $76 million
Cap Hit: $9.5 million
Percentage of Cap: 11.9 per cent

Stone was in somewhat of a similar position as Hall when he inked his deal with Vegas — with re-signing in Ottawa seeming a longshot, he was dealt to the Golden Knights mid-season with unrestricted free agency approaching. Of course, Stone signed on with Vegas soon after, while Hall seems more likely to wait it out until the off-season. A winger like Hall and signed at a similar age (27), Stone came to his new deal as a 60-point player praised as one of the best two-way talents in the game — evidenced by the fact he was runner up for the Selke Trophy after signing on with Vegas.

He isn’t the type of offensive force that Hall is — Stone’s career .838 points-per-game pace sits far below Hall’s career .905 — but he carries a different type of premier value due to his two-way prowess. Determining which of those two is worth more is difficult to quantify, and likely based more on what other elements a team already has on the roster, but when all was said and done, Stone was given just under $10 million, long-term by the Golden Knights, his $9.5 million ranking as the highest cap hit on the team.

Nikita Kucherov, RW, Tampa Bay Lightning

Contract: 8 years, $76 million
Cap Hit: $9.5 million
Percentage of Cap: 11.9 per cent

Kucherov was a couple years younger when he inked his eight-year deal, re-signing with the Lightning at 26. He was already in the midst of establishing himself as one of the game’s premier scorers, coming off a 100-point season with an 80-point campaign one year prior, and two seasons above 60 before that. But more importantly, Kucherov scored at or near 40 goals in each of the two years leading up to the deal, likely the most significant factor in earning him his eventual sum. He came to his negotiations with no personal hardware to his name (the breakout campaign that saw him snag the Hart Trophy, Art Ross Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award came after he had re-signed), but it was fairly clear which direction the young Russian phenom’s game was trending.

Though also a winger like Hall and Stone, Kucherov entered his negotiation as a better offensive weapon than either, having proven his ability to produce more goals and overall points. Of course, there is some tax trickery at play, as Kucherov’s cap hit isn’t necessarily indicative of his overall worth given the fact that Florida has no state income tax. Elite scoring included, Kucherov signed on for $9.5 million per year long-term on a deal identical to Stone’s.

Tyler Seguin, C, Dallas Stars

Contract: 8 years, $78.8 million
Cap Hit: $9.85 million
Percentage of Cap: 12.4 per cent

Seguin is the first of these comparables to seemingly to get the centre bump — centremen tend to be paid the most of any position, and Seguin is no exception, slotting in slightly above wingers Kucherov and Stone at $9.85 million per year. He’s a straightforward comparable to Hall in one sense, considering the two have been linked since before their draft year and went off the board Nos. 1 and 2 in 2010, but the difference in position is key. Seguin was 26 when he inked his deal, and did so having scored at a slightly lower rate than Hall (.864 career points per game vs. Hall’s .905). Like the previous two wingers, Seguin didn’t come to the deal with any individual trophies to his name, though he did play a role in the Bruins’ 2011 championship run during his rookie year in Boston.

Though Seguin’s never had a single season that’s matched Hall’s MVP campaign — hitting 90 points and winning a major award like the Hart — he’s been a more consistent scorer year in and year out, having topped 70 points six different times while Hall’s done so only twice (with injuries playing a key role in that discrepancy). It’s worth noting linemate and captain Jamie Benn is signed on for $9.5 million per year, which may have played a part in determining Seguin’s yearly number. Benn’s trajectory serves as an interesting comparable for Hall as well — the left winger signed his big-money deal in 2016, a season removed from having clinched the Art Ross Trophy in what seemed a potential outlier campaign. Benn put up one more season above 80 points, but hasn’t gotten close to that production since — he has five more years at $9.5 million after this one.

John Tavares, C, Toronto Maple Leafs

Contract: 7 years, $77 million
Cap Hit: $11 million
Percentage of Cap: 13.8 per cent

Tavares’ signing situation is the first of these comparables to have been set up similar to what Hall’s process will likely look like — a genuine superstar heading to the open market, allowing the league at large to bid for his services. Signing at age 27, Tavares came to the new deal as a two-time Hart Trophy nominee with three 80-point campaigns to his name, a 70-point effort and three 60-point seasons. He’d scored at a much higher pace than Hall overall, rolling along at a career clip of .928 points per game with the Islanders. And, of course, Tavares earned an extra bump as a centreman, and captain material.

While he didn’t have the Hart Trophy win to his name, his two nominations put him in that same camp as Hall in that regard. That alongside better offensive numbers, and success in all that comes with manning the middle of the ice as a premier top-line centreman. All told, it seems he’d be a more valuable commodity than Hall, and with the added wrinkle of entering free agency as arguably the biggest name to ever hit the market, Tavares was able to sign on for a hefty $11 million per year long-term (though for one year shorter than the previous deals listed here).

Artemi Panarin, LW, New York Rangers

Contract: 7 years, $81.5 million
Cap Hit: $11.643 million
Percentage of Cap: 14.3 per cent

Panarin’s deal might be the most interesting of the bunch in comparison to what Hall could get. Debuting with two years of roughly 75 points alongside Patrick Kane in Chicago, Panarin established his value as a player a team could build an offence around when he was shipped to Columbus, putting up 82 and 87 points over the past two years in that central role. Though he had no MVP nominations to his name when he signed in New York this past summer, the Calder Trophy-winner has been a better overall scorer than Hall during his short time in the league, scoring at a .994 points-per-game clip over his four NHL seasons.

There’s plenty here that seems to line up, ostensibly, with Hall’s upcoming negotiation — if the former Devil chooses to wait things out as opposed to signing on with Arizona. Panarin signed at 27, just a year younger than Hall will be this summer, and — like Tavares and potentially Hall — did so as the prized name on the free-agent market. Though Panarin has seemed a more dynamic scorer so far, it’s tough to say there’s too significant a discrepancy between he and Hall when it comes to their offensive potential, especially considering the year Hall just put up during his MVP bid.

There is quite a difference when it comes to their track record of staying in games, though. Panarin missed only six games through those first four seasons in the league, while Hall has played a full 82-game season just once over the past decade. He’s been above 70 games four times, and played nearly the full lockout-shortened season in 2012-13, but has four other seasons of finishing at or below 65 games. That injury potential seems certain to come into play when a long-term, big-money deal is on the table.

Panarin reset the market for a star UFA winger at this point in his career — he did so as a slightly younger player with an established reputation as one of the game’s premier offensive talents. That doesn’t seem entirely different from Hall’s situation.

That said, the latter’s injury history changes things. It seems where that final number settles will depend on where exactly the winger looks to go — if he’s willing to sign on with a rebuilding team, returning to a situation akin to his Devils years, then something approaching $10 million doesn’t seem out of the question. But if Hall’s hoping to join a contender and give himself a chance to close out his career with a Cup, as he’s stated publicly, that number will have to drop a fair amount.

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Sheldon Keefe, Maple Leafs reflect on cherished memories of Walter Gretzky – Sportsnet.ca

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The coach, the captain, and the superstar all had something to say about hockey’s loss before they fielded questions about their own.

Funny how quick the big things — perspective, legacy, family — can make two mid-season points shrink into the blip they are.

Moments after stepping off the Vancouver ice in defeat, 3-1 by the Canucks, the Toronto Maple Leafs learned that Walter Gretzky had passed away. He was 82 and roundly beloved.

Sheldon Keefe, John Tavares and Auston Matthews each took a moment to pass along their condolences to the Gretzky family.

Like so many Ontarians who grew up hanging around rinks, Keefe had met Wayne’s dad a few times, but one stands out.

Walter visited Pembroke with the NHL Old-Timers when Keefe was coaching the Lumber Kings, and the two had a small time to chat.

Walter always made time to chat.

“The lasting memory I have of that is just him sitting around for what seemed for hours throughout the game, signing autographs and taking pictures with everybody that wanted one, and chatting with anybody who wanted to talk too,” Keefe recalled.

“It was pretty cool to see someone of his stature, what he means to the game, what he’s brought to the game, and to be all the way out in Pembroke, Ont., and taking part in an event like that for people that wouldn’t normally get such an opportunity.”

Tavares, too, met Walter when he was a wee rink rat. His memory can’t quite pin down the year or the place, because hockey’s dad was always around the rinks, immersed in the hockey community. But still, Tavares remembers how Walter made him feel.

“Just his graciousness, big smile, and obviously a passion for the game,” Tavares said. “Just a very gracious man, from what I remember as a kid.”

Slotted in its proper place — below the fold, and well below Walter’s endearing smile — the Maple Leafs’ defeat holds even less meaning.

Build a seven-point lead over your division. Reel off a 10-game point streak. Shut down the most electric player in the game (since, well, Walter’s son) for 180 straight minutes. Do all that, and you can afford a letdown game.

The Maple Leafs arrived late in Vancouver to play their second game in two nights, third in four nights, and fourth in six nights — over three time zones.

Start your third-string goaltender in a matchup like this one, even against the Elias Pettersson–free Canucks, and it’s easy for the NHL’s No. 1–ranked club to write this off as a schedule casualty.

Jake Virtanen — traded a zillion times in the comments section and call-in shows — opened the scoring early by driving to the net around Justin Holl. Pierre Engvall knotted the score at one after taking an Ilya Mikheyev touch pass and driving to the slot.

But Virtanen struck again in Period 2, whipping the winner past Michael Hutchinson off the rush from a cringe-inducing angle.

“As I was going down into the post, I saw his wrists open up and knew he was coming high. From there, I just slipped off the post a little bit,” Hutchinson explained. “It was just a little bit of a mess for me.

“An unfortunate goal at an unfortunate time of the game.”

What didn’t help was Auston Matthews pinging posts or a rested Vancouver side starting Thatcher “Bubble” Demko, who turned away 31 of the 32 shots Toronto funneled his way.

“Demmer’s a great goalie. He’s big, takes up a lot of space, and I think ever since the bubble in the playoffs last year he’s really come into his own,” said Matthews, who knows the California native on a personal level. “He’s an awesome guy and really great person. He played really well tonight.

“Sometimes you’ve just got to tip your hat.”

With Toronto’s own top two goalies both considered day-to-day as they recover from lower-body injuries, the positive news for Saturday’s rematch is that Frederik Andersen will be available.

You can bet the Maple Leafs will have more jump in their legs. Just as you can bet that game, on Hockey Night in Canada, will begin with more tributes to and memories of Walter Gretzky.

Let them flood like a backyard rink.

“It’s a terrible loss of a great man that gave so many terrific things to our game, to our sport,” Keefe said. “Certainly leaves a legacy behind that we will never forget.”

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Dillon Dube scores first NHL hat trick as Flames down Senators – Sportsnet.ca

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CALGARY — Dillon Dube didn’t get a shower of hats from the Saddledome seats for his first career NHL hat trick, but his Calgary Flames teammates helped him mark the occasion.

Matthew Tkachuk retrieved the puck out of the Ottawa Senators net for Dube to keep. Goaltender Jacob Markstrom tossed his ball cap from the bench onto the ice.

“Markie throwing his hat, I appreciate it,” Dube said. “I picked it up for him and gave it back. I didn’t want it to get too wet.”

Dube scored a goal in each period in Calgary’s 7-3 win over the Senators.

“It feels good, but anything at this time, with our division right now, I think winning is kind of everything and that makes it feel even better,” the 22-year-old said.

“If you lost the game and you get that, it doesn’t mean anything. To be able to get the win with it feels really good, especially here at home.”

Sean Monahan, Derek Ryan and Brett Ritchie each had a goal and an assist for Calgary (11-11-2) with Josh Leivo chipping in a goal. Tkachuk assisted on all three Dube goals.

David Rittich made 29 saves for the win in his sixth straight start. He’s gone 3-2-1 in that span.

Josh Norris had a goal and an assist for the Senators (8-17-6) in their second straight loss since beating the Flames 5-1 at home Monday.

Artem Anisimov and Ryan Dzingel also scored for Ottawa.

“Looked to me like we had no legs certainly at the start and right on through looked like we were skating uphill,” Senators head coach D.J. Smith said.

“We maybe found it for a few minutes here and there, but as a whole we just didn’t have much tonight.

After giving up four goals on 11 shots in the first period, Ottawa starter Matt Murray was replaced by Joey Daccord for the remaining 40 minutes. Daccord turned away 15-of-18 shots.

“There was no point for me to keep Matt going there,” Smith said. “Give him a breather, and we’ll get back at it next game.”

Calgary and Ottawa are 2-2 with five games remaining this season in their North Division series. The winner in each of the first four has scored at least five goals in the game.

Dube completed his hat trick at 1:17 of the third period to give the Flames a 6-1 lead. The Senators then scored twice before Ryan produced his first goal of the season in his first game in a month.

Ryan, who was sidelined 12 games with a broken finger, roofed the puck at 7:05. Dzingal scored on a solo effort at the six-minute mark after the puck bounced over the stick of Flames defenceman Oliver Kylington.

Anisimov scored a power-play goal for the Sens on a sharp-angled shot at 2:13.

Dube went forehand to backhand and lifted the puck over Daccord’s left pad at 7:16 of the second period.

Listless in a their loss Monday to the Senators, two quick and early goals spurred the Flames to a 4-1 lead after 20 minutes Thursday.

Leivo earned his first as a Flame with 39 seconds remaining in the period. Ottawa turned the puck over along the boards for Johnny Gaudreau to feed Leivo in the high slot.

Monahan snared a Tim Stutzle neutral-zone turnover, skated the puck over the blue-line and beat Murray with a high shot far side at 11:56.

Norris shovelled the puck under Rittich in a goal-mouth scrum at 5:25.

The hosts sprang from the gates with Ritchie and Dube both scoring in a 57-second span starting at 2:22 of the first period.

“It was a good start for us,” Flames head coach Geoff Ward said. “I thought we were purposeful. I thought we had energy. I thought were emotionally engaged and attached to the hockey game.”

The Flames are in Edmonton on Saturday to face the Oilers before coming home to host the Senators again on Sunday, which will be Ottawa’s third in a six-game road swing.

Notes: Flames forward Sam Bennett was a healthy scratch Thursday … Calgary goaltender Jacob Markstrom dressed after sitting out five games with a lower-body injury.

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Flames fire head coach Geoff Ward, hire Darryl Sutter as replacement – Sportsnet.ca

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CALGARY — The Calgary Flames have rehired the coach that brought the organization its greatest playoff success since winning the 1989 Stanley Cup.

The Flames announced the hiring of Darryl Sutter and the firing of Geoff Ward about an hour after Calgary’s 7-3 win over the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night.

Sutter coached the Flames from 2002 to 2006, and served as the team’s general manager from 2003 to 2010.

The 62-year-old from Viking, Alta., guided Calgary to the Stanley Cup final in 2004 when the Flames lost in seven games to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Calgary also lost in the first round of playoffs four other years during his tenure.

The Flames were 11-11-2 this season under Ward, who took over as interim head coach when Bill Peters resigned in November 2019. The interim tag was removed from Ward’s title in September.

The Flames are two points back of the fourth-place Montreal Canadiens in the all-Canadian North Division. The Habs fired Claude Julien last week and replaced him with Dominique Ducharme, the only other coaching change in the NHL so far this season.

Calgary’s coaching carousel continues. Sutter is the fourth head coach general manager Brad Treliving has hired in the last five years.

Sutter coached the Los Angeles Kings from 2011 to 2017 and won Stanley Cups in both 2012 and 2014. He was most recently an adviser to the Anaheim Ducks coaching staff.

His record behind Calgary’s bench was 107-73-15-15.

Sutter has 18 seasons of head-coaching experience in the NHL with Chicago, San Jose, Calgary and Los Angeles. His overall coaching record of 634-467-101-83 ranks him 17th all-time in NHL wins.

A .500 team when Peter resigned amid allegations he’d directed racist comments at a player in the minor leagues a decade earlier, the Flames rallied from the controversy to go 25-15-3 for a .616 winning percentage under Ward.

Calgary downed the Winnipeg Jets 3-1 in a in a best-of-five qualifying series to advance in last summer’s Western Conference playoffs in Edmonton.

The Dallas Stars bounced the Flames from the first round of the playoffs in six games. Calgary imploded in Game 6, allowing seven straight goals after leading 3-0.

Sutter played eight seasons for the Chicago Blackhawks from 1979 to 1987.

He scored 161 goals and had 118 assists in 406 regular-season games, and 43 points in 51 playoff games.

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