Oh baby, professional hockey is coming to Seattle! The NHL Board of Governors met on Tuesday and unanimously decided that $650 million… I mean Seattle will enter the league in 2021-22. The group behind Seattle will pay a hefty $650 million to the league, about 21.67 million per team. For those of you at home wondering if my math is wrong, let’s remember that the money is only going to 30 teams.
The Vegas Golden Knights are foregoing their share of the money in order to not participate in the expansion draft, a deal struck during their creation. It makes sense as Vegas is still cultivating a farm system and doesn’t have enough players for a full AHL team.
Still, another franchise entering the league is a good thing. It means more money, more fans and best of all, more hockey. There are a few more questions that need to be answered though, and none bigger than the one I’m about to pose.
1. What’s In A Name?
What will Seattle call themselves? I’ve heard a few rumors and ideas, my favorites are the Sasquatch (singular), Kraken (also singular), Reign (hooray for puns), Metropolitans (first team to win the Stanley Cup in 1917), or the Totem (also singular).
I hope the team embraces a light green colour scheme, similar to the Vancouver Canucks. Also, maybe take some inspiration from the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL, who have some wicked jerseys.
2. A New Challenger Approaches
Another addition to the Pacific division means that someone will get moved to the Central division to create balance. It’s been announced that the Arizona Coyotes will be that team, which now means that every division will have eight clubs.
While I don’t love the travel times for the Coyotes and other Central division clubs, I don’t really see another way around it. The other closest teams would probably be the Calgary Flames, and they’re nowhere near the Central.
What I’m trying to get at here is things are not going to get easier for the Nashville Predators. A new club is joining their division which means less of a chance to make the playoffs and tougher travel. Worse yet, the Coyotes are on the rise and have some great young players at both forward and defense.
Eeli Tolvanen played his first three regular NHL game of the season this week and he hasn’t looked out of place. He currently has one goal and one secondary assist, with the goal coming at five on five. But on top of that, his 61.67% Corsi, 62.50% shot share, and 58.33% high danger chance share are all positive signs.
What’s more, Tolvanen’s individual stats are also pretty encouraging. Through three games, Tolvanen has two shots, nine shot attempts, six scoring chances, and one high danger chance. I’m not sure I expect him to keep up this pace, but it’s nice to see the youngster rewarded.
I don’t think Tolvanen is ready for a full-time gig, but these call-ups are undoubtedly good for his development. I hope the rest of his stint is as productive and rewarding as it’s been so far.
It’s been a weird week for the Canadian media, as they now have all this free time and no William Nylander hold out to speak off. Yes, they’ve begun to discuss his $6.9 million per year deal, which is incredibly nice, but it’s just not the same. It’s much easier to call him a lazy Swede when he’s on his couch across the Atlantic.
Of course, Nylander isn’t a selfish brat who cares more about money than team success, it’s actually quite the opposite. I know that sounds contradictory, but allow me to elaborate. Nylander wants to win with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and only the Toronto Maple Leafs. If he takes less money than he’s worth, he instantly becomes trade bait. Let’s remember that Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, and Jake Gardiner need to be signed this summer. Gardiner is a left-handed defenseman who has recently put up a 50 point season while being en route to a 40 point season this year. He’ll likely use Ryan Ellis’ contract as a starting point and jump up from there. Unless he takes a discount that he, for sure, won’t take, Gardiner is as good as gone.
Losing Gardiner is no little issue, but it’s not nearly as terrible as losing Marner or Matthews. Matthews will likely get an eight-year deal with similar numbers to elite center and teammate, John Tavares (11 million per). He could get more, but I don’t think he’ll end with more than 11.75 million per season. Now, here’s where things get messy. Mitch Marner currently has 39 points in 28 games, with 23 coming at five on five, and all being primary points.
Marner has been a personal favorite of mine since he was a part of, in my opinion, the greatest CHL team of all time, the 2015-16 London Knights. He’s been on fire since the middle part of last season and I doubt he’ll ever slow down. His meteoric rise has been well documented by the Toronto-based media, and some crazy takes have been made. Some say that he’ll be a lock for the Hall of Fame if he continues his play, despite his terribly small sample size. Marner’s incredible play has, rightfully, heaped tons of praise upon him, but now we have to question what contract he’ll receive.
Before this season, I would’ve thought a deal matching Nylander would’ve been perfect, but Marner has played his way out of that. I could easily see him make anywhere between 7.5 and 8.5 million dollars, which might not seem like too much than Nylander, but every penny adds up.
So why do Marner’s and Matthews’ contracts matter to Nylander? Well, let’s say that one of the two players gets greedy and it turns out the Leafs don’t have enough money left for him? Well, someone has to go. So, who do they trade? Patrick Marleau makes the most sense, but he makes so much money that the Leafs would have to retain salary as well as include a draft pick or prospect. Connor Brown only makes 2.1 million per year, but is a good complementary piece that every team in the NHL could use. The Leafs don’t want to give up a cost-controlled asset like that who wouldn’t give them much return.
If Nylander is on a sweetheart deal, the Leafs could shop him. A top line player who’s on a sizeable, but cheap-ish deal could net them a load of assets. So why wouldn’t Nylander just ask for a no-trade clause? Because he’s an RFA, he’s literally not able to. So, by asking so much, he’s able to control his own destiny and stay where he wants to.
I just used 500 words to say something very simple. If Nylander doesn’t get what’s fair, or more, he’s likely to be traded as his deal would be the easiest to move.
5. Keep An Eye On Buffalo
Remember six months ago when the Buffalo Sabres picked Rasmus Dahlin and we all got really excited to see him play? Then remember when we all became enamored with our new favorite toy in Vancouver, Elias Pettersson? Well, while we were playing with one Swedish prince, another was getting adjusted to life in the NHL. We all laughed to ourselves when people made the comparisons between Dahlin and Nick Lidstrom, but we’re laughing no longer. Instead, we’re all watching in with excited wonder as Dahlin controls games with his poise and skill.
The kid has 14 points in 28 games as I write this, as well as a 50.24% Corsi, 48.65% shot share, 56.76% goal share, and starts in the offensive zone 46.27% of the time. Dahlin is a dynamic player who impresses in all three zones. I hope his creative spirit is nurtured, rather than stifled. Players like him are rare, but he’s even a bit lucky, as he gets to study under Phil Housley. What a fun situation developing in Buffalo.