Tuesday, May 23, 2017

How this year's playoff performances are upending the offseason

The conference finals are always a bit of a weird time for hockey fans. On the one hand, three teams are still alive, fighting tooth and nail for the right to lift the Stanley Cup. There’s nothing more important in this sport than the do-or-die games we’re watching right now.

On the other hand, we’ve got 28 teams on the sidelines, and some of those teams have been there since early April. If we’re being honest, at least some fans are already thinking about the off-season. We’ve got a summer’s worth of trades, free-agency signings, and this year even an expansion draft waiting for us. It can be hard to keep focused on the playoffs without looking ahead.

So which is it, playoffs or off-season? Today, let’s do both. Let’s look at how this year’s playoffs may have changed what we should expect to see in the coming off-season. After all, an especially good or bad playoff run can influence or even completely upend the perception of a player (just ask Dave Bolland). Maybe it shouldn’t — a handful of games shouldn’t change how we view a guy who’s been around for years — but that doesn’t really matter. A few weeks in, the spring can rewrite everything that’s going to happen in the summer.

This year will be no different. Now we just need to figure out who’s changed what. We’ll look at a few key aspects of the off-season, starting with what some GM’s have called the biggest day of the year for off-season mistakes: July 1.

Free agency

There's nothing like a disappointing playoff run to send a player into unrestricted free agency with a dark cloud hanging over them. Fair or not, a player can cost themselves some serious money with a poorly timed post-season slump.

That may have been what we just saw happen to Kevin Shattenkirk. Widely considered to be the top player on this year's market, Shattenkirk doubled as the biggest name to move at the trade deadline. He seemed like an ideal fit for a Capitals team that was already the Stanley Cup favourite. But a disappointing playoffs saw Shattenkirk paired with Brooks Orpik, and the two veterans struggled to keep the puck out of their net.

After eight games, Shattenkirk was sitting at a minus-7 rating, a performance that his own coach publicly called "not good enough". He rebounded somewhat after that, including scoring the OT winner in game three against Pittsburgh. But heading towards July 1, teams will be asking themselves if Shattenkirk deserves to be paid like a top-pairing defenceman, and his playoff performance didn't give him much evidence to point to.

The Capitals' other pending UFAs were more of a mixed bag. T.J. Oshie had a productive post-season and probably boosted his value at least a little bit while Karl Azner struggled. Meanwhile, Justin Williams played well but lost his Mr. Game Seven aura against the Penguins.

The deadline's other top name didn't fare much better that Shattenkirk. Minnesota's Martin Hanzal heads into free agency after managing just a single point during the Wild's abbreviated run. He's a two-way player who wasn't brought in to light up the scoreboard, but when your own owner is publicly wishing his team hadn't traded for you, you may have cost yourself a few dollars.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

1 comment:

  1. Will Nashville be considered the winner of the Subban-Weber trade now that they are in the finals? It might give other frady-cat GMs pause to make a blockbuster deal because none of them want to be on the "loser" end.