Random Thoughts on the NHL – June 7, 2021

by | Jun 7, 2021 | Soapbox | 14 comments

The Ottawa Sun’s Don Brennan floated the theory that the reason Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon didn’t get enough votes for the Ted Lindsay Award was his peers are pissed at him because his salary is so low. MacKinnon has an annual average value of $6.3 million on his current contract, ranking 92nd among the highest-paid NHL players.

Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (NHL Images).

A tiny flaw in that theory: they voted for MacKinnon as a finalist in 2018 and again in 2020.

As for his salary, he signed his current deal on July 8, 2016, following his entry-level contract. At the time, he was coming off a 21-goal, 52-point performance in 2015-16. Even by today’s standards, he got a healthy raise for a young player yet to reach his full potential.

Sure, folks were a little puzzled over why the NHLPA membership passed over MacKinnon for his good friend Sidney Crosby. No offense to the Pittsburgh Penguins captain but his fellow Cole Harbour, NS native had a better season. Whatever the reason, it had nothing to do with a contract MacKinnon signed nearly five years ago before he became a superstar.


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The Toronto Maple Leafs wouldn’t be in the mess they’re in now if they hadn’t signed John Tavares in 2018.

That’s not a knock against Tavares. He didn’t hold a gun to the collective heads of Leafs president Brendan Shanahan and general manager Kyle Dubas. They reached out to him. They gave him the opportunity to play for his hometown team. They had no problem ponying up $11 million annually for seven years.

For the most part, Tavares has held up his end of the bargain, averaging a point per game over the last three seasons. The problem is they invested big money in a player they didn’t need.

When the Leafs signed Tavares, they were coming off a season that saw them finish fourth in the league in goals-per-game average (3.29). Meanwhile, their shots-against per game (33.9) was the fourth-highest.

Everyone knew the Leafs’ defensive game was their Achilles’ heel, and yet they went out and blew big bucks on a scoring forward.

The Tavares contract leaves the Leafs squeezed for cap space. It’s the reason why Dubas and Brandon Pridham, the Leafs’ trusty capologist, had to make cost-cutting moves to free up long-term cap space to re-sign Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander. It’s why they settled for cheap veteran quick fixes last fall that didn’t pan out. And it’s why this team struggles to find the right chemistry to end its 17-year streak of postseason failure.

Trading Tavares is the easiest way to free up the dollars to resolve that issue but it’s not going to happen. His full no-movement clause puts an end to that notion. Even without it, his annual cap hit for the next four seasons is as good as a no-movement clause in this flat-cap environment.


Everyone expects the Columbus Blue Jackets to trade Seth Jones after the 26-year-old defenseman stated his intent to test next year’s unrestricted free agent market. They cannot go through next season with his impending departure becoming an unnecessary distraction for his teammates.

Jones will draw plenty of interest in this summer’s trade market. He’s a big, minute-munching, all-around right-side blueliner. He had a down season in 2020-21 which affected his stats and analytic numbers, but there’s isn’t a general manager in the league who wouldn’t want him on their roster.

The Blue Jackets will probably try to get a significant return heavy on futures (draft picks, prospects) as they attempt to rebuild and change their culture. However, his contract status will affect his trade value. The Jackets could get a better deal if he agrees to a contract extension with the acquiring club.


  1. Spot on with Tavares. I couldn’t believe it when I read they had signed him. Good for him. Big bucks and playing at home. But the leafs could sure use that 11 mil on a d-man and goalie.

    • Amen.

  2. Brennan is clueless

  3. Great points all Lyle, especially the piece on Tavares. Very seldom, especially in the Cap era do you ever see teams win championships thru free agency. And as you pointed out that extends to improbable when the team doesn’t address its primary need. In fact you would probably have to go back to Marion Hossa’s signing with Chicago to see a case where it really made a difference.

    For all the people who are complaining about Tampa Bay working the cap rules to their advantage, at least unlike Toronto, Vegas et al they did it through the draft and a few trades. In fact, the Lightning probably equal or surpassed the record for the fewest free agents on the roster of any cup winning team in NHL history.

    Dubas and Shanahan are two more examples of why the expression ‘people who ignore history are doomed to repeat it’ was coined.

  4. TBL are locked in long term with:

    Stamkos- $8.5

    Kucherov- $9.5

    Hedman- $7.875

    Vasilevsky- $9,5

    McDonagh- 6.75

    They have been in cap hell yet have remained in the running for the cup.

    Main difference is one of their long term high paid players is an amazing goalie.

    • Habfan don’t be surprised if McDonagh comes off that list and is exposed in the expansion draft. But to take his place on that list would be Brayden Point. Exposing McDonough would allow them to go six and three in the expansion draft. That’s not to say that they would keep all six forwards but it certainly would prevent them from losing one they can use as a trade chip to move another contract or extract and otherwise decent return. As far as Vasilevskiy is concerned you’ve got that right sir. But then it would take a Habs fan to understand that value the best 😉

      • ShaneinTpa,

        I’d be very surprised if McDonagh came off that list as the Kraken could choose one of Blake Coleman or Barclay Goodrow who are UFA and won’t be protected or Cal Foote.

        Two give sandpaper to an expansion team and Foote has upside.

        I’m assuming that Cirelli and Cernak will be protected.

    • Not to mention consistently better choices – generally speaking – for the supporting roster, including knowing when to jettison the ones that outlive their capabilities.

      • Habfan, the reason IMO to expose to expose McD is Francis is unlikely to take on that many years of his contract (5) at age 32. Granted he would make an exceptional first captain. But, if he does go the Lightning have to move fewer players to get cap compliant. Coleman is gone either way. Francis probably has as good a chance of signing him after the draft and doimg that he doesn’t have to give up getting another one of Tampa’s players.

        If Seattle doesn’t get the chance to take McDonagh that likely means Tampa is going the 8 skater route which exposes Gourde, Killorn and Palat. If Tampa is going to have to give up one of those three it needs to be in a deal where they can get assets in return.

        Anyway you slice it Tampa is about to pay for its drafting process.

  5. I respectfully disagree. Taveres was a no brained. Not trading Marner after acquiring taveres was foolish asset management. On top of all that if taveres isn’t cheap shotted out of the playoffs it is likely the leafs are currently still playing.

    • Speaking of respectfully disagreeing! Cheap-shotted??? Jaysus man, look at the film in real time – there is NO effing way Perry could have avoided him – nor was the initial contact before he went down “cheap” by any stretch of the imagination.

      And why would Tavares have made THE difference this year when he did no better since joining them?

  6. I forget what “The Terrible Ted Lindsey Award” is for? Whatever the case, the AVS better pick up their game quick or they’re going to let this series and season slip away. Two great teams but it’s all Vegas right now! That’s some high octane hockey that the other series don’t come close to having. GO AVS!!!!!!!

    • Tommy boy I couldn’t agree with your last statement anymore. Watching Montreal play Winnipeg before seeing the Colorado Vegas game was like watching a warm-up band at a rock concert

  7. I think overpaying their players was their biggest mistake. That, or letting Lou and Hunter go at a critical stage of the rebuild. Their negotiations with Marner, Matthews and Nylander were bad. Its not just a cap thing either. They took the p*ss out of them, for a lack of better words. Tavares, fine, he is a veteran. But the other guys already made it. They’re huge successes already. Kopitar and Doughty weren’t paid until they won 2 cups. Toews and Kane 3, Crosby Malkin made it to a finals at least. Eichel, never made the playoffs got paid, same with these guys. Somebody correct me if I’m off here. And if I’m right I don’t want to hear its the times, if thats the case the times have to change.