It’s time, once again, for an edition of Screen Shots, in which we take a more brief look at a few hockey topics. Let’s get right to it:
– I spoke to a veteran player agent about the NHL’s crazy coaching situation. The firing this week of Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy makes it eight current vacancies - six openings, and two teams (the Blackhawks and Panthers) have not taken the interim tag off their current head coaches – which makes it 25 percent of the entire league searching for a new bench boss. That’s quite a bit.
But the agent I spoke to says he believes we haven’t seen teams hire new coaches because the market is being led by Stanley Cup-winner Barry Trotz. Essentially, it comes down to where Trotz sees a great fit, both for hockey and for his family, and it well could come down to a choice between his hometown Winnipeg Jets, or either the Vegas Golden Knights, or a dark horse contender for his services like the Dallas Stars.
"It's all about Barry,” said the agent, who spoke on condition his name not be used. “He's got his pick of the crop, I think. Once he decides what he wants to do, I'd expect teams will move quickly to fill their spots."
Certainly, Trotz has league-wide admiration, and you can see why teams would want to be respectful of his decision process and not press him for an answer. But indeed, it is very possible that, as soon as Trotz announces his choice, teams will snap up some of the capable candidates, including Cassidy, Peter DeBoer, Paul Maurice, and Canadiens assistant head coach Luke Richardson, to name a few. Nobody wants to settle for their second or third choice, but that’s a real possibility the way the coaching market is evolving.
- It’s been a weird week in Boston Bruins land, the aforementioned Cassidy get fired, and rumors begin that star winger David Pastrnak would be shopped around on the trade market this summer. The heat is now squarely on Bruins GM Don Sweeney and team president Cam Neely; yes, they might be rightly recognizing this coming season as a slipping year for them – if star center Patrice Bergeron retires, the Bruins will have only one current member of their top line (that’s right, Mr. Pastrnak) in the lineup until two or three months into the regular season. That could be enough to have them miss the playoffs, and at that point, public sentiment will not be in Neely’s or Sweeney’s favor.
Most hockey observers agree dealing Pastrnak would be an outrage – unless, that is, he wants to be moved, in which case, the outrage would be Bruins brass creating the conditions that would make Pastrnak want out – so, let’s assume he stays in Boston. What does Sweeney do now with a roster that otherwise is largely intact? Boston has 22 players signed for next season, but only $2.3 million in cap space in flexibility.
For that reason, it’s reasonable to expect the Bruins to be active on the trade market. Even if Bergeron and the injured Brad Marchand are back in its lineup eventually, Boston isn’t a lock to make the playoffs. Who will be to blame then? Sweeney and Neely, is the answer.
– He’s no longer high on most people’s list of off-season acquisition targets, but UFA Phil Kessel will draw interest from more than a few teams. And the question now is if, at age 34, Kessel is looking to go to the highest bidder, or if he eschews the biggest payday to sign cheaply on a genuine Cup contender - like, say, the Florida Panthers, or even more intriguingly, his home state Minnesota, with the Wild.
The cap-strapped Wild may be forced to watch star winger Kevin Fiala depart as a UFA this summer, and Kessel could replace some of that lost offense on a high-value, $1-million per season deal. It would be a nice bookend to Kessel’s career, and perhaps his final shot at adding to his impressive resume.