Welcome, friends, to the final eight where I hate all of the teams that are left and all I want are the results that make the most possible fans unhappy. To go along with the action on the ice, we’ve got drama in the booth and drama in the press. We’ve got some good news and some bad news, and, I lament, no Ottawa Senators news. So, as we look around the league and in the bubble, here are you Monday Links, News, and Notes:
- Two years removed from the pinnacle of North American men’s professional hockey, the Washington Capitals have fallen back into their old routine circa 2008-17 with an early post-season departure. And, as is NHL tradition, that means we have a head coach-firing. Todd Reirden, who succeeded Barry Trotz behind the bench in DC following the Capitals Stanley Cup-winning season in 2017-18, took the fall after a first-round dismissal courtesy of Jean-Gabriel Pageau and the New York Islanders. You may feel somewhat vindicated if you count yourself among those who thought it myopic of the Capitals to let Trotz walk after their first fruitful playoff run of the Alex Ovechkin era. Speaking of Ovie, I was incredulous when I read that his contract expires next season. When a player signs a thirteen-year, $124M+ contract, you never expect to see it come off the books with said player still healthy and producing a point-per-game.
- Things have gotten weird in the desert as NHL agent Allan Walsh made a cryptic post insinuating that Golden Knights head coach Pete DeBoer had it in for Walsh’ client and Vegas netminder, Marc-Andre Fleury. Awkwardly and unfairly, Fleury had to address the media in response to the since-deleted post. In fairness, agents publicly air grievances with coaches and management from time to time in professional sports so that in and of itself shouldn’t draw too much attention. However, in this case, the Knights have a very legitimate shot at representing the Western conference in the Stanley Cup final and Fleury still has two years and over $12M on his contract with Vegas. I would describe Walsh’ timing as somewhat less than ideal to say the least.
- Looking at the situations in both DC and Vegas, free agency could get even more interesting when this unusual season of hockey concludes. The Capitals have a big decision to make with franchise goaltender Braden Holtby who delivered the team to its only Stanley Cup and who becomes a free agent after this season wraps up. Are Caps ready to hand the crease over to 23-year-old rookie Ilya Samsonov with Ovie’s next contract looming and a flat salary cap? 2019’s Cup champions face a similar dilemma with captain Alex Pietrangelo hitting free agency, and with no clear plan in net, no cap space, and upcoming contract negotiations with Vince Dunn. The 2017 and 2018 champs from Pittsburgh also need to figure out a goaltending plan, deal with their arbitration-eligible players, and potentially lose defender Justin Schultz with no cap space to spare. Of teams left in the final eight, the Boston Bruins (2011) won a championship most recently. Welcome to the new NHL.
- I won’t give too much of our collective time to Mike Milbury (even if he did gift us Jason Spezza and Zdeno Chara) as he has already gotten enough attention for being a misogynistic creep and because Ary covered all of the important details last week. I just want to add the update that Milbury will not participate in any more NHL broadcasts this season and we can only hope that the league takes this opportunity to reflect with its broadcast partners and introduce some intelligent, respectful, and diverse voices to the sport instead of perpetuating the sport’s culture of misogyny and homophobia.
- And finally, to end on a positive note, according to Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin, Claude Julien’s health has stabilized since his cardiac incident a week ago. The linked article goes on to discuss the myriad questions ahead for the Canadiens this offseason. However, I imagine hockey is at the back of everyone’s mind in the Julien household./
Have a great week, folks!