NHL Random Takes – July 9, 2023
The Montreal Canadiens created a stir among their fans with their selection of Austrian defenseman David Reinbacher as the fifth-overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft. If social media was anything to go by, most of them preferred much-touted – and little-scouted – Russian winger Matvei Michkov, who was chosen seventh overall by the Philadelphia Flyers.
Disagreeing with a team’s first-round draft choice is fair play. No fan worth their salt should blindly accept every decision made by their favorite team at the draft table.
The initial critique was about the Canadiens choosing a defenseman in a draft filled with promising young scorers. Many correctly pointed out that the Habs haven’t had a scoring superstar since Guy Lafleur in the 1970s or a 50-goal scorer since Stephane Richer in 1990. “We’re starving for a scorer!” was the refrain.
Nothing wrong with that. Unfortunately, some of the numpties among the Canadiens faithful decided to take out their outrage on the 18-year-old Reinbacher via Twitter and Instagram with some vile comments. The type of gutter talk that pathetic fools spew from behind the safety of anonymity and distance on social media because they lack the courage to say it to the person’s face.
Some Twitter trolls masquerading as “insiders” tweeted that Reinbacher received “thousands” of direct threats (nowhere close), that he didn’t want to suit up for the Canadiens (which he did just two days following the draft ahead of their prospect development camp) and was so upset that he didn’t want to sign a contract with the Habs (which he did following the development camp).
It’s a reminder that, contrary to popular belief, Twitter is not the real world. Several Canadiens fans preferred Michkov but most seem fine with the player dubbed the top defenseman in the 2023 draft.
Late in the 2012-13 season, goaltender Roberto Luongo bemoaned that his expensive contract was to blame for hurting his chances of the Vancouver Canucks trading him before the 2013 trade deadline.
I wonder if Erik Karlsson feels the same way a decade later. The 33-year-old Norris Trophy-winning defenseman would prefer a trade to a contender and the San Jose Sharks are trying to accommodate him. So far, however, no deal has emerged, mostly because of Karlsson’s $11.5 million AAV through 2026-27 and his full no-movement clause.
There’s reportedly legitimate interest in Karlsson from several playoff contenders but they cannot afford to take on his full contract. Those clubs would prefer if the Sharks retained half of his annual cap hit but they’re reportedly only willing to pick up between 20 and 30 percent.
Thanks to a flattened salary cap for 2023-24, there aren’t many teams that can comfortably afford to take on the entirety of Karlsson’s remaining cap hit, let alone pay what’s expected to be an expensive asking price by the Sharks.
Unless San Jose general manager Mike Grier is willing to retain more of Karlsson’s cap hit, or somehow swing a three-team trade where everybody takes on a third of it, Karlsson will be suiting up next season with Los Tiburones.
Twenty-two players filed last week for salary arbitration. Among the notables were Anaheim Ducks winger Troy Terry, Boston Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman, Toronto Maple Leafs netminder Ilya Samsonov and Winnipeg Jets forward Gabe Vilardi.
The period for their hearings is between July 20 and Aug. 4. However, don’t be surprised if all of them end up re-signing with their clubs before their soon-to-be-appointed dates with the arbiter.
It’s a rare occurrence when players and teams end up making their case before an arbitrator. In the past, the two sides would in most instances reach an agreement within the 48-hour period before the arbiter’s decision was rendered. That option, however, was removed in the 2020 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the NHL and NHL Players Association extending the collective bargaining agreement to 2026.
Most players file as a means of setting a deadline for hammering out agreements on new contracts rather than have them drag on throughout the offseason or into training camp. That’s also usually the motivation for teams that take players to arbitration.
That number has already dropped by two with the Seattle Kraken re-signing defensemen Will Borgen and Cale Fleury. The others will likely follow suit in due course.