Who’s under the most pressure for the Wings, rest of NHL?

Job pressure in hockey can come in all forms. Some is dire: Get results or you’re out of work. Some is a bit more nuanced: It would be great if you performed at or above expectations, and you can rest a little easier at night, but your job isn’t necessarily on the line.

As opening night of the 2018-19 season approaches, ESPN identified each team’s figure — whether it be player, GM, coach or group of players — under the most pressure for the 2018-19 season:

Anaheim Ducks

The big three

Forgive us if you’ve heard this before, but the big three (Ryan GetzlafRyan Kesler and Corey Perry) are aging and the window for this team to win is closing. For Kesler and his nagging hip injury, the situation is especially dire. He missed half of last season, and his availability for the upcoming season is murky.

Arizona Coyotes

The new guys

The Coyotes were trending in the right direction by the end of last season; then, for the second straight summer, they added veteran help: Alex GalchenyukMichael Grabner and Vinnie Hinostroza combined for 53 goals last season. Galchenyuk and Hinostroza want to prove to the teams that drafted them that those teams were wrong to let them go; Grabner likely has a sour taste after struggling with the Devils after last season’s trade deadline.

Boston Bruins

Left wing Anders Bjork

The 22-year-old Notre Dame product is one of the Bruins’ top young players. But after a February shoulder surgery cut his season short, the winger watched as other youngsters such as Jake DeBruskRyan Donato and Danton Heinenbasked in the spotlight. Bjork is looking to lock in a full-time role, potentially even in the top six.

Buffalo Sabres

Head coach Phil Housley

It’s hard to fault Housley for posting a .378 winning percentage in his rookie season as coach. The roster he inherited was subpar, at best. But Buffalo made big moves this summer: Subtracting Ryan O’Reilly, but adding much-needed veteran depth plus No. 1 pick Rasmus Dahlin, a generational talent on D. Many players have told me recently that they expect Buffalo to be a surprise team this season. If the Sabres don’t improve, ownership might get antsy.

Calgary Flames

Head coach Bill Peters

With the talent on the roster, there’s no reason the Flames shouldn’t be able to lock up a playoff spot in the wide-open Pacific Division. Management didn’t feel Glen Gulutzan was the right man for the job — likely swayed by a late-season collapse — but the jury might be out on Peters, too. He was hamstrung by bad goaltending in Carolina, but the Canes never seemed to live up to their potential.

Carolina Hurricanes

Goaltender Scott Darling

Without Cam Ward on the roster for the first time in 13 years, this is firmly Darling’s team now. Then again, it was supposed to be Darling’s team last season, too. If the 29-year-old struggles yet again, Darling — the former Chicago backup who was given a four-year, $16.6 million deal in May 2017 — might be among the bigger free-agent busts in recent memory.

Chicago Blackhawks

Head coach Joel Quenneville

Everything spiraled out of control for the Blackhawks after Corey Crawford was lost for the season. That gave Quenneville, the league’s longest-tenured coach, a pass after Chicago missed the playoffs for the first time in a decade. Quenneville will no longer get a Crawford out, even if the goaltender isn’t ready to start the season. Blackhawks president John McDonough wants results. If the Hawks struggle early, Quenneville could be out by Christmas.

Colorado Avalanche

Goaltender Semyon Varlamov

Varlamov’s five-year, $29 million contract ends after this season, but his status as the Avalanche’s top goaltender might expire before that. GM Joe Sakic pulled off a big trade at the draft to land coveted Capitals backup Philipp Grubauer. Sakic has hinted at a platoon situation, but hey, if Grubauer is significantly better (or healthier), he may well get the starting job to himself.

Columbus Blue Jackets

GM Jarmo Kekalainen

Kekalainen is a silent assassin. Heck, he orchestrated two trades involving Brandon Saad without as much as a warning shot. The stakes are higher now, as a tenuous contract situation with Artemi Panarin brews. And a long-term decision must be made on goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky as he enters the final year of his contract. For a team on the cusp of contending, Kekalainen must once again maneuver unemotionally.

Dallas Stars

Center Jason Spezza

The veteran’s five-year tenure in Dallas has been a roller coaster, with the 2017-18 season certainly being a low point (including career worsts of eight goals and 26 points). Now on to his third coach in three years, the 35-year-old must adapt once again and hope he meshes well with Jim Montgomery‘s system. His NHL career might depend on it; Spezza is an unrestricted free agent after this season

Detroit Red Wings

Head coach Jeff Blashill

This really should be Ken Holland, considering no team in the league is as hamstrung with bloated, poorly aged contracts as the Red Wings. But the GM has built a lot of equity thanks to past glory, and ownership kept him around with a two-year extension this spring. So now the bull’s-eye is on Blashill, who has a winning percentage below .500, and just one playoff win in three seasons.

Edmonton Oilers

Head coach Todd McLellan

If this Oilers team resembles anything like last season’s outfit, McLellan won’t have this job for long. Edmonton can’t waste any years in Connor McDavid‘s prime just trying to tread water. The team regressed significantly last season, especially in even-strength play.

Florida Panthers

Right wing Troy Brouwer

The winger had two years remaining on a four-year, $18 million deal with the Flames before being bought out, but has been able to log decent minutes and produce in his early 30s. There still should be a role for Brouwer in the NHL, but if he doesn’t make Florida’s roster, he could be Europe-bound.

Los Angeles Kings

The old guard

There are 10 players on the roster over the age of 30, including a handful — Ilya KovalchukDustin BrownJeff CarterJonathan Quick and Anze Kopitar — considered essential to this team’s chances of winning. The championship window is narrow for the Kings, who overperformed in 2017-18 and paid big for Kovalchuk this summer, hoping that the 35-year-old still has his scoring touch despite a five-year absence from the NHL.

Minnesota Wild

GM Paul Fenton

The first-time GM inherited a roster that is good enough to win plenty of games in the regular season but hasn’t figured out a way to get it done in the playoffs. Zach Parise and Ryan Suter still have term on their contracts but aren’t getting any younger. Parise told Greg Wyshynski he was surprised the Wild didn’t make more of a splash this summer. Fenton wasn’t hired to maintain the status quo, after all.

Montreal Canadiens

Everyone involved in the Max Pacioretty situation

Yes, the Habs had a deal at the draft to ship their captain to the Los Angeles Kings. No, it didn’t materialize in the 11th hour. Pacioretty’s new agent Allan Walsh has voiced a few thoughts on Twitter that illustrate just how deep the distrust is. Either sign Pacioretty long term or orchestrate a move and let him move on. The longer this situation festers, the more toxic it gets.

Nashville Predators

Goaltender Pekka Rinne

Entering the final year of his contract, Rinne enters this season coming off a playoff meltdown. What’s more, he knows his heir apparent, 23-year-old fellow Finn Juuse Saros, is waiting for a larger opportunity. Can Rinne stave off the inevitable — and help this loaded team back to the Stanley Cup Final?

New Jersey Devils

Every forward not named Taylor Hall

It was the Hall show last season in New Jersey. Yes, the 26-year-old was exceptional, but he edged out Nathan MacKinnon for league MVP by singlehandedly carrying the offensive load, scoring 41 more points than his closest teammates. The Devils made virtually no free-agent additions, meaning others need to step up if New Jersey is going to get back to the playoffs again this season.

New York Islanders

GM Lou Lamoriello

Lamoriello can cement his legacy as the true rebuilder of franchises if he can pull off a turnaround for his third GM stint. Lamoriello’s initial post-John Tavares moves were uninspiring, if not confusing. Has the 75-year-old lost his touch or is this all part of a long play? After a summer of heartbreak for Islanders fans, the least Lou can do for them is show that he has a plan, and it’s not just throwing darts at the board, biding time for prospects to develop.

New York Rangers

Center Kevin Hayes

The winger set a career high with 25 goals in 2017-18 and has expressed a desire to stay in New York long term — even as New York works through a rebuild. But when management and Hayes’ camp tried to avoid arbitration, all they could compromise on was a one-year deal (albeit for a pretty decent cap hit of $5.15 million). If Hayes does want to remain a Blueshirt forever, he’ll have to start hot or he’s prime trade-deadline bait.

Ottawa Senators

GM Pierre Dorion

The team’s three most talented players — Erik KarlssonMatt Duchene and Mark Stone — are each in contract years. The franchise is embattled, spending the better part of the past year in headlines for off-ice drama (while floundering on the ice). Can the GM persuade any of these players to stick around for a rebuild, or at least recoup some value?

Philadelphia Flyers

Left wing James van Riemsdyk

The Flyers landed arguably the most coveted free agent on the open market not named John Tavares. That single move felt like enough to catapult Philadelphia into a Stanley Cup contender. Well, van Riemsdyk, you have $35 million now. All eyes are on you to elevate this team on your second stint in Philadelphia.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Goaltender Matt Murray

An awkward subplot of the 2017-18 season? Former Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury outperforming Murray. The Penguins still probably made the right decision exposing Fleury in the expansion draft, but after an injury- and tragedy-plagued season, a bounce-back season from Murray will be essential to the Penguins rebounding. Murray’s .907 save percentage represented his lowest mark since he was an 18-year-old in juniors.

San Jose Sharks

GM Doug Wilson

Wilson is always going after the biggest names — he was especially active this past calendar year — and yet, Wilson enters the season with a very similar roster to the one in 2017-18 after striking out on Ilya Kovalchuk, John Tavares, Erik Karlsson (so far) et al. Of course, he has bought in on Evander Kane, inking the winger to a massive extension, but in the waning years of the Joe Thornton/Joe Pavelski era, more moves might be needed for this team to win it all.

St. Louis Blues

Goaltender Jake Allen

The Blues were perhaps the splashiest team of the offseason, including making major improvements to their forward depth via trade (Ryan O’Reilly) and free agency (Tyler BozakDavid Perron). Add in Robby Fabbri and a healthy Jaden Schwartz and the expectation is a legitimate playoff run. However, defense remains shaky and goaltending did not improve. Jake Allen has No. 1 potential, but without the handcuff of Carter Hutton (or Brian Elliott before him), can Allen rise to the occasion?

Tampa Bay Lightning

Right wing Ryan Callahan

Look, pressure is certainly on coach Jon Cooper, who guides what most in the league believe to be the NHL’s most complete roster. But Callahan, 33, is coming off offseason surgery for the third time in four years. Callahan, who carries a $5.8 million cap hit in each of the final two years of his contract, adds tremendous value to the Lightning when he’s on the ice. But he’s under pressure just to get healthy — and stay that way.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Left wing Josh Leivo

With so much attention paid to the Maple Leafs’ top forward talent this summer (especially their top two centers), the bottom half of this roster features intrigue. A player such as Leivo, a 2011 draft pick who has yet to crack the regular lineup and appeared in only 16 games last season, is fighting for his Toronto livelihood.

Vancouver Canucks

The future captain

Without the Sedins on the roster for the first time in more than two decades (yes, before top prospect Elias Peterson was born), Vancouver will need leaders to emerge. And yes, the Canucks will need a captain. At BioSteel camp in Toronto earlier this month, defenseman Erik Gudbranson said he doesn’t feel the captaincy designation in the NHL is overrated, as some have surmised in recent years. Somebody needs to step up; Bo Horvat feels like the early favorite.

Vegas Golden Knights

Center William Karlsson

One of the more fascinating arbitration cases in recent memory ended with … a whimper. A one-year contract felt like an anticlimactic, if not wholly inappropriate, conclusion for Karlsson’s dilemma. After all, how can you commit long term to a player who leaped from six goals to 43? If last season wasn’t an aberration, Wild Bill will be compensated as such. If it was, well — we’ll always have the memories of that magical inaugural run for Karlsson and the Golden Knights.

Washington Capitals

Head coach Todd Reirden

The longtime assistant coach was so coveted as a head coach elsewhere that the Capitals were fine parting with Barry Trotz — who, of course, finally won the franchise an elusive Stanley Cup. There are plenty of reasons for the Trotz/Washington divorce, so instead of relitigating that here, let’s pose the more forward-looking question: Can Reirden deliver the results? Yes, the team is tired after a long playoff run, but Washington returns essentially the same roster.

Winnipeg Jets

Defenseman Jacob Trouba

The relationship between Trouba and the Jets hasn’t been a soap opera — but it hasn’t been a simple one, either. After being awarded a one-year deal this summer (worth $5.5 million) in arbitration, there’s a sense of urgency for Trouba to prove he is among the elite defensemen who should be paid as such — in Winnipeg or elsewhere.

Photo:  Gregory Shamus/Getty Images


Red Wings re-sign Dylan Larkin to 5-year contract

ESPN News Services

The Detroit Red Wings have re-signed restricted free-agent center Dylan Larkin to a five-year contract, the team announced Friday.

The team did not release terms of the contract, but according to multiple reports, the total value of the deal is $30.5 million.

Larkin, 22, posted a team-best 63 points for the Red Wings while appearing in all 82 games in 2017-18.

The 2014 first-round pick has 56 goals and 84 assists in 242 career games for Detroit.


Photo: ESPN News Services

NHL rebuild rankings: Which teams are closest to contending?

Greg Wyshynski, ESPN

There’s been a revolution of candor in NHL rebuilding. Teams ranging from the Buffalo Sabres to the New York Rangers have been up front about the “pain” fans will have to endure as their teams bid adieu to beloved players and stagger through years of losing before rising like a hockey phoenix back to championship glory.

Currently, there are nearly a dozen teams in a rebuilding mode — although a few of them stubbornly refuse to acknowledge they’re in one.

Here is a ranking of the rebuilds, from the teams closest to returning to championship contention to the teams that are furthest from it. All roster and contract info is current as of July 25, and courtesy of Cap Friendly.

1. Carolina Hurricanes

Players 25 and under: 12

NHL players on entry-level contracts (expiry): Sebastian Aho, LW/C (2019); Andrei Svechnikov, RW (2021); Haydn Fleury, D (2019).

Top prospects in system: Svechnikov; Martin Necas, C (AHL); Jake Bean, D (AHL); Julien Gauthier, RW (AHL); Alex Nedeljkovic, G (AHL); Adam Fox, D (NCAA); Jack Drury, C (NCAA).

Draft pick forecast: The Hurricanes own all their picks through the fourth round through 2021.

The strategy: Under former general manager Ron Francis, the strategy was patience to the point of near stasis, as they held onto their draft picks, and a collection of young defensemen were nurtured while the team’s offense (which lacked depth at center in particular) sputtered. Don Waddell was part of that management team, and has since taken over as general manager under new owner Tom Dundon. At the draft, the team made an aggressive deal for defenseman Dougie Hamilton, trading away Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm.

But mostly, the strategy has been cost-effective and analytical, thanks in part to Eric Tulsky, a former hockey blogger who was recently promoted to Vice President of Hockey Management and Strategy for the Hurricanes.

Is it working? If the Hamilton trade is a sign of moves to come, then yes. The anticipated trade of defenseman Justin Faulk for help up front would still leave Carolina with its top four defensemen locked up through 2021. Meanwhile, Aho is a burgeoning offensive star and Svechnikov could be a rock star for this team on the wing after going second overall in the 2018 draft.

Estimated return to relevance: The only two things giving us pause on the Hurricanes’ ascension to contender status is Rod Brind’Amour as a novice head coach and a current goaltending tandem of Scott Darling and Petr Mrazek; incredibly, that duo might be a downgrade from last season’s awful .897 team save percentage nightmare.

2. Arizona Coyotes

Players 25 and under: 11

NHL players on ELCs (expiry): Clayton Keller, LW (2020); Lawson Crouse, LW (2019); Dylan Strome, C (2020); Brendan Perlini, LW (2019), Christian Dvorak, C (2019); Christian Fischer, RW (2020); Jakob Chychrun, D (2019).

Top prospects in system: Pierre-Olivier Joseph, D (QMJHL); Nick Merkley, C (AHL); Barrett Hayton, C (OHL).

Draft pick forecast: The Coyotes own all their picks through the fourth round through 2021, as well as the Blackhawks’ third-rounder next season.

The strategy: GM John Chayka has utilized the Coyotes’ limited advantages to build his roster. He has boldly used his draft choices on surprise selections (Keller at seventh overall in 2016, Hayton at fifth overall in 2018) and in one significant trade that netted him center Derek Stepan and goalie Antti Raanta from the Rangers for a package that included young defenseman Anthony DeAngelo and the seventh overall pick in 2017. He has leveraged his cap space as an asset: Stepan and defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (acquired in a trade from Chicago) were essentially cap casualties, while he also snagged picks and prospects for taking on the dead weight contracts of players like Pavel Datsyuk, Dave Bolland, Chris Pronger and most recently Marian Hossa.

The strategy has now shifted slightly to long-term contention, with free agent additions (Michael Grabner) and inking franchise players (Oliver-Ekman Larsson, signed through 2027) and flipping assets for other needs (the Max Domi for Alex Galchenyuk deal) while, for the most part, refusing to deal from a collection of other solid prospects.

But the biggest virtue here for Chayka has been patience, both thanks to ownership — which hopefully continues even as Andrew Barroway seeks to sell half this share — and the media marketplace, which is demanding but not the pressure cooker that, say, Toronto or Philadelphia can be.

Is it working? Mostly. The Coyotes posted the same standings points share (.427) in back-to-back seasons but dropped from sixth to eighth in their division. The success in the conference isn’t there — the Coyotes have missed the playoffs for six straight seasons — but on paper, this team seems to building toward a collection of vets in their prime and promising young talents meshing together. Hopefully they will play in front of a healthy goaltender, unlike last season.

Estimated return to relevance: A playoff berth in 2018-19 isn’t out of the question. Another .427 points share might warrant some deep self-reflection, however.

3. New York Rangers

Players 25 and under: 9

NHL players on ELCs (expiry): Neal Pionk, D (2019); Anthony DeAngelo, D (2019); Pavel Buchnevich, LW/RW (2019)

Top prospects in system: Filip Chytil, C (AHL); Lias Andersson, C (AHL); Brett Howden, C (WHL); Vitali Kravtsov, RW (KHL); Igor Shestyorkin, G (KHL).

Draft pick forecast: The Rangers have all of their draft picks through the first four rounds through the next three seasons, as well as a conditional second-round pick from the Lightning in 2019.

The strategy: Rangers team president Glen Sather and GM Jeff Gorton declared to fans that the team was going to go into a rebuild that would cost them some beloved players and the Rangers (checks notes) went into a rebuild that cost them beloved players. Huh, go figure. Shouldn’t they be the ones offering five prospects and a $12 million-per-season contract for Erik Karlsson?

Of course, it helps when there’s already a decent core of players approaching or in their primes: center Mika Zibanejad, left wing Chris Kreider, right wing Jesper Fast, left wing Jimmy Vesey and defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk and Brady Skjei. Not to mention Henrik Lundqvist, who can still be a deciding factor even later in his career.

Is it working? They jury’s out until the Rangers see what they have in players like Chytil and Andersson, and Rangers fans see how deep this additional roster reshaping could go (like a potential Mats Zuccarello deal).

Estimated return to relevance: If the youngin’s play beyond expectations and new coach David Quinn has the goods, the Rangers might creep back into the playoffs this season.

4. Buffalo Sabres

Players 25 and under: 12

NHL players on ELCs (expiry): Tage Thompson, RW (2020); Rasmus Dahlin D, (2021); Casey Middelstadt, C (2020).

Top prospects in system: Dahlin; Brendan Guhle, D (AHL); Victor Olofsson, LW (AHL); Alexander Nylander, LW/RW (AHL); Rasmus Asplund, C (AHL); Marcus Davidsson, C (SHL).

Draft pick forecast: The Sabres own all their picks through Round 4 through 2021 except for their 2019 fourth-rounder and potentially their 2019 third-rounder, which Pittsburgh could receive conditionally. The Sabres own conditional first-round picks form the Sharks and Blues in 2019, and fourth-rounder from the Sharks in 2019.

The strategy: The concept of “a rebuild inside of a rebuild” is one Leonardo DiCaprio and a perpetually spinning top away from a hockey “Inception,” but it is Sabres GM Jason Botterill’s task in Buffalo. GM Tim Murray, who was crafting a roster around star center Jack Eichel after tanking during his draft year, was turfed. Botterill arrived to figure out what worked, what didn’t and how to fix it.

What worked? Murray’s drafts were pretty strong, so Botterill inherited a collection of prospects that included a potential Calder winner next season in the dynamic Middelstadt. Then the team lucked out, won the lottery and added franchise defenseman Dahlin last month.

What didn’t? The supporting cast around Eichel wasn’t deep enough, the defense wasn’t good enough and Robin Lehner was Murray’s guy in goal, not Botterill’s.

How to fix it? By shipping disgruntled center Ryan O’Reilly to St. Louis for three roster players, by adding former Penguins in Conor Sheary, Scott Wilson and Matt Hunwick and by signing Carter Hutton as the veteran goaltending mentor to promising Linus Ullmark. And in the process, hoping to get some forward momentum for the franchise in Botterill’s second year at the helm.

Is it working? There’s no question the Sabres have some promising planks in their foundation. With the addition of Dahlin, they have the essential ingredients for contention: two top centers (Eichel, Middelstadt) and a clear No. 1 defenseman (Dahlin) and a goalie (Ullmark). And Botterill has the luxury of adding a young supporting cast around them rather than the route Murray took (where art thou, Matt Moulson?)

Estimated return to relevance: That .378 points share in 2017-18 was extreme regression, hence the rebuild inside a rebuild. But there’s no reason this team shouldn’t be squatting in the playoff bubble in the next two seasons, and a contender in three years given their draft-pick situation — provided coach Phil Housley can make it all work.

5. Vancouver Canucks

Players 25 and under: 11

NHL players on ELCs (expiry): Brock Boeser, RW (2019); Adam Gaudette, C (2020)

Top prospects in system: Elias Pettersson, C (SHL); Thatcher Demko, G (AHL); Olli Juolevi, D (Liiga); Kole Lind, RW (AHL); Jonathan Dahlen, LW (AHL); Quinn Hughes, D (NCAA)

Draft pick forecast: The Canucks own all of their picks for the next three seasons.

The strategy: After years of clawing to mediocre contender status — remember that Radim Vrbata signing? — the Canucks finally acknowledged their lot in life and began preparing for a post-Sedin Twins existence, which began in earnest last season when young stars Bo Horvat and Boeser began getting top-line ice time. They’ll be joined soon by Pettersson, who is considered one of the top offensive prospects in hockey.

The rest of the roster is, well, seemingly primed to struggle through one more season before the uptick back to postseason contention. Or does the fact the Canucks’ only major additions this offseason were fourth-liners Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel indicate something different for you?

Is it working? Slowly but surely, yes. The Canucks are amassing an impressive collection of young players through solid drafting and some shrewd trades (like snagging Dahlen from Ottawa for Alex Burrows). Boeser was a Calder finalist. Pettersson projects to be one too. They have two solid goalie prospects in Demko and Michael DiPietro.

Estimated return to relevance: Give them another year in the tank, potentially dealing away veterans like Alexander Edler, and then give the kids some help in their pursuit of a playoff berth. And by that we mean “help beyond adding grinders to the fourth line.”

6. Montreal Canadiens

Players 25 and under: 13

NHL players on ELCs (expiry): Nikita Scherbak, RW (2019); Atturi Lehkonen, LW/RW (2019); Noah Juulsen, D (2020); Victor Mete, D (2020).

Top prospects in system: Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C (Liiga); Ryan Poehling, C (NCAA); Jack Evans, C (NCAA).

Draft pick forecast: The Canadiens own their draft picks through the fourth round over the next three years, as well as fourth-round picks from Calgary (2019) and Winnipeg (2020).

The strategy: Denial.

The Canadiens are a team with:

A superstar goalie in Carey Price who is turning 31 in August

A star defenseman in Shea Weber turning 33 in August who just underwent two surgeries in the span of four months

A roster with a gaping hole at center

A cloud of uncertainty hanging over their star top-line winger (and captain) Max Pacioretty, who has one year left on his contract and turns 30 in November

Yes, it’s true they’re going to be a bit younger, and landing Kotkaniemi in the draft might give the Canadiens the center that has eluded them. (He has been compared to everyone from Ryan O’Reilly to Anze Kopitar.) But look no further than Cayden Primeau and Charlie Lindgren as the encapsulation of Montreal’s plight: They’re arguably two of the team’s top 10 prospects (even though Lindgren is 24), but they’re both goalies and therefore stuck behind a guy signed through 2026 at $10.5 million against the cap.

Is it working? Clearly, as Marc Bergevin still has a job, and wouldn’t he have been unceremoniously fired by now were this not the case? Um, right? Anyone? Is this thing on?

Estimated return to relevance: Montreal had a division title sandwiched between two sixth-place finishes. And it should come as no surprise that Price was healthy in that sandwiched season, and was not in the other two campaigns. A healthy Price, Claude Julien behind the bench and some tenacious players up front could get the Canadiens a sniff of the playoffs next season, if missing Weber until December doesn’t submarine them.

But Stanley Cup contention is only going to happen if Montreal takes another leap back for a high draft pick, smartly parlays Pacioretty into future assets and plays the long game despite the age of its star players. A few more smart moves — like utilizing their cap space to acquire Joel Armia from Winnipeg through a Steve Mason buyout — wouldn’t hurt, either.

7. New York Islanders

Players 25 and under: 6

NHL players on ELCs (expiry): Mathew Barzal, C (2019); Anthony Beauvillier, LW (2019)

Top prospects in system: Ilya Sorokin, G (KHL); Josh Ho-Sang, RW (AHL); Kieffer Bellows, LW; (AHL); Linus Soderstrom, G (Sweden); Devon Toews, D (AHL); Oliver Wahlstrom, RW (USHL); Noah Dobson, D (QMJHL)

Draft pick forecast: The Islanders own all their picks in the first four rounds in 2020 and 2021, but don’t have their own picks in rounds 2-4 in 2019. They do own Calgary’s second-rounder in 2019.

The strategy: Imagine a dining room with an absolutely resplendent wooden table as the centerpiece. Imagine purchasing the glass wear and the flatware all the other trappings, all in service of that glorious sturdy table. And just as you’re about to tie the room together, you discover the wooden table has left for Toronto because that’s where its roots are.

Imagine no more, and gaze upon the Islanders, whose strategy shifted the moment John Tavares chose to leave for the Maple Leafs. The Islanders still have a number of promising young players, especially Barzal. They still have two goalies of the future, although when one of them finally comes over from Russia remains a bit of a mystery. They have a new general manager in Lou Lamoriello, whose arrival included a quite successful 2018 draft class for the Isles. (And who will be tasked with reshaping the veteran aspects of the roster, especially on the blue line.) They have a Stanley Cup-winning coach in Barry Trotz. They have many things to be optimistic about …

… in the long run. For now, the team appears prepared to take a significant leap back for a season. Lamoriello’s reaction to Tavares leaving was a hasty scramble for veteran free agents and getting Matt Martin back to reunite a fabled fourth line. Take a breather. Pray for Jack Hughes. And go undefeated against the Leafs, obviously.

Is it working? C’mon, this is like a kid asking “are we there yet?” 10 minutes into a five-hour car ride. Ask us after the 2019 draft lottery.

Estimated return to relevance: During Mat Barzal’s next contact with the Islanders, because if it’s not with the Islanders, hoo-boy …

8. Detroit Red Wings

Players 25 and under: 5

NHL players on ELCs: None

Top prospects in system: Michael Rasmussen, C (WHL); Filip Zadina, RW (QMJHL); Dennis Cholowski, D (WHL); Filip Hronek, D (AHL); Evgeny Svechnikov, RW (AHL).

Draft pick forecast: The Red Wings own all their picks through the fourth round in the next three drafts, and own the Islanders’ second-round pick in 2019 and the Golden Knights’ third-rounder in 2020.

The strategy: Let us know when you locate one.

The Red Wings missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1983. That futility ended the following season when Steve Yzerman arrived in Motown, but there isn’t anything resembling that kind of transformative player on the Red Wings’ roster or in their system. The Gustav Nyqvist generation has yielded to the Dylan Larkin generation, which will yield to the Rasmussen and Zadina generation up front.

But the foundational defenseman the Red Wings have been seeking since the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom still eludes them. At the very least, coach Jeff Blashill has stated he will defer to younger players when it comes to ice time if a roster spot is between a newbie and a veteran. “I say that because we need different results, and part of having different results is improving internally, and that can come with new guys being in spots,” he told the Detroit Free Press.

Is it working? It’s a roster with more players older than 34 (six) than under the age of 24 (five), so to call this a team in transition would putting it mildly. It’s also a team that currently has $2.828 million in cap space, and has entrusted the general manager who got them in this pickle (Ken Holland) with getting them out of it.

Estimated return to relevance: This is a team that needs to get worse before it gets better, purging the roster of veterans and cap space, and then hoping a combination of the draft and shrewd veteran acquisitions can position them as a contender. But the current management hasn’t inspired much confidence to that end. There’s way too much loyalty to veterans past their expiration date or, failing that, an overvaluing of them.

9. Ottawa Senators

Players 25 and under: 6

NHL players on ELCs (expiry): Colin White, C (2019); Christian Wolanin, D (2019); Thomas Chabot, D (2020).

Top prospects in system: Logan Brown, C (OHL); Drake Batherson, C (CHL); Filip Chlapik, C (AHL); Brady Tkachuk, LW (NCAA); Filip Gustavsson, G (AHL).

Draft pick forecast: The Senators have all of their draft picks through the first four rounds over the next three seasons … except their first-round pick and third-round picks in 2019, which is very “ouch.” They own the Penguins’ third-rounder in 2019 and the Blue Jackets’ third-rounder in 2020.

The strategy: There are many things in life for which an instruction manual does not exist. To that list we can add: There is no instruction manual for coming within a goal of the Stanley Cup Final in double-overtime of a conference final Game 7; trading both a top two-center and a first-round pick to acquire a star center with a desire to escape his team’s alleged rebuild; and then descending into a massive rebuild themselves marked by off-ice scandal and the near certainty that a franchise defenseman will be traded before he leaves of his own accord. Oh, and the team owner is perhaps the most hated man in the NHL that doesn’t have a desk in the league front office.

Where were we … ah, yes, strategy. The Erik Karlsson trade, and whatever it yields, will help establish some semblance of strategy, one assumes. Because the typical path back to respectability — trade a star, bottom out and resurface with a lottery pick of a franchise player — is a road that leads to Denver, where the Senators’ pick next season resides.

Is it working? Ottawa isn’t a complete wasteland. There are still Mark Stone and Cody Ceci. White and Brown will be game-changers, and Chabot was named MVP of the 2017 World Junior Championship, despite playing for the silver medal team. Gustavsson, whom GM Pierre Dorion snagged in the Derick Brassard sell-off, is a goalie of the future. And Tkachuk, whenever he arrives, should be great. But the success of whatever plan Dorion has for the team all depends on what trading Karlsson nets the Senators, and what baggage (re: Bobby Ryan’s contract) Ottawa manages to hitch to him.

Estimated return to relevance: Right around when Eugene Melynk gets that downtown arena.

Should they rebuild?

Anaheim Ducks
Players 25 and under: 6

NHL players on ELCs: None.

Draft pick forecast: The Ducks have all of their picks, save for a third- and seventh-rounder in 2019.

Should they rebuild? The good news is that their outstanding defense and goalie John Gibson are all under the age of 27. The bad news is that Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler are all over the age of 33. That said, we give the Ducks a small window in which they could win … although Kesler’s fragility is a concern.

Chicago Blackhawks
Players 25 and under: 8

NHL players on ELCs (expiry): Nick Schmaltz, C (2019); Dylan Sikura, C (2019); David Kampf, RW (2019); Victor Ejdsell, C (2019); Alex DeBrincat, RW (2020).

Draft pick forecast: The Blackhawks have all their picks through the first four rounds over the next three seasons, save for their third-rounder in 2019. They also own Boston’s fourth-round pick in 2019.

Should they rebuild? They sorta are? Absent any other options because of the salary cap and a legion of no-move clauses, the Blackhawks have attempted to build a supporting cast for well-compensated veterans like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook with younger and cheaper labor. The hope is that a healthy Corey Crawford can get the Blackhawks another crack at a championship. The reality is that GM Stan Bowman should do whatever is necessary to purge players like Seabrook and Artem Anisimov and use that cap space to really bolster the roster. Hey, we hear Artemi Panarin might be available next summer …

Minnesota Wild
Players 25 and under: 7

NHL players on ELCs (expiry): Jordan Greenway, LW (2020); Joel Eriksson Ek, C (2020).

Draft pick forecast: The Wild have all of their picks for the next three years save for their fourth-rounder in 2019, which is owned by the Coyotes.

Should they rebuild? GM Paul Fenton has been tasked with “tweaking” rather than rebuilding this roster. While the Wild don’t necessarily need to go into the tank, these “tweaks” probably need to go beyond a cosmetic change into something a bit more fundamental.

Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

After leaving Red Wings, Chris Chelios to work for Blackhawks

ESPN News Services

After leaving the Detroit Red Wings organization to be closer to his family in his hometown of Chicago, Chris Chelios was named an ambassador for the Blackhawks on Monday.

Chelios spent a decade with the Red Wings as a player from 1999-2009, and he also has been an adviser for the team. His Hall of Fame career as a defenseman started in Montreal before he spent eight years with the Blackhawks.

“To be able to join the Blackhawks organization in this role means everything to me,” Chelios said in a statement. “I’m very thankful to (owner) Rocky Wirtz and (president) John McDonough for this opportunity to return to the Blackhawks. Chicago is my hometown and returning to this organization is very special to me and my family.”

Chelios joins legends Tony Esposito, Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Denis Savard as ambassadors representing the Blackhawks at the United Center and at events throughout Chicagoland. The team said he will be introduced at the Blackhawks convention next weekend.

“We are excited to welcome Chris back to the Blackhawks family,” McDonough said. “His outstanding Blackhawks career and his passion for the game will complement the work that our current ambassadors carry out to represent the organization.”

Chelios was a Blackhawks captain from 1995-99.

His son Jake is also a defenseman and is in the Red Wings organization.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Red Wings sign Anthony Mantha to two-year deal

Associated Press

DETROIT — The Detroit Red Wings have agreed to a two-year, $6.6 million contract with Anthony Mantha.

The Red Wings announced the move with the restricted free agent Wednesday, keeping the 23-year-old wing after he led the team with 24 goals last season.

Mantha had 48 points in 80 games last season. He has 43 goals and 44 assists in two-plus seasons with the Red Wings. Detroit drafted him 20th overall in 2013.

The Red Wings re-signed restricted free agent Andreas Athanasiou last year with a two-year contract.

Their next task is completing negotiations with restricted free agent Dylan Larkin on a multiyear contract.


Red Wings reportedly bringing back Green, eyeing Vanek

By Blake Froling

The Detroit Red Wings will likely be bringing back defenseman Mike Green once free agency begins at noon on Sunday, according to multiple reports. The deal is expected to be two years with an average annual value of $5.375 million.

Green, 31, led all Red Wings defensemen with 33 points in 66 games last year, but saw his season cut short when he suffered a neck injury in March.

Detroit is also eyeing a reunion with 34-year-old forward Thomas Vanek, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger. Vanek signed with the Wings for the 2016-17 season before being dealt to the Florida Panthers at the trade deadline.

Detroit is in need of a backup goaltender for Jimmy Howard with Petr Mrazek gone and Jared Coreau struggling so much last season. It appears as though the team is set on Colorado’s Jonathan Bernier. He posted a 19-13 record last season with a 2.85 GAA and .913 save percentage. Bernier will be 30 when the season begins.

Red Wings were big winners at NHL Draft

Emily Kaplan and Greg Wyshynski

DALLAS — The 2018 NHL draft was, in comparison to other recent editions, a muted affair.

There were only two major trades made, and few credible rumors to spark speculation. Arguably the biggest move was the NHL return of a player who hasn’t been in North America since 2013. Well, that and the most prized free agent of the summer agreeing to listen to other teams’ pitches.

The draft itself had a Swedish defenseman, Rasmus Dahlin, selected by the Buffalo Sabres at No. 1 overall, and more “hey, maybes” than sure things among its top prospects.

That said, some teams and individuals leave “Big D” with “Big W’s,” while others walked off the draft floor taking an “L.” Here’s a look at the winners and losers at the 2018 NHL draft.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Winner: Islanders draft class

ESPN’s Chris Peters gave the New York Islanders an “A” for their remarkable draft class of 2018. That includes the good fortune of having the potentially dynamic scorer Oliver Wahlstrom dropping to No. 11 and then snagging defenseman Noah Dobson at No. 12.

It extends to defenseman Bode Wilde (No. 41) and center Ruslan Iskhakov (No. 43) on Day 2.

“I don’t think we could be more pleased with how it turned out,” GM Lou Lamoriello said.

Loser: Islanders fans’ nerves

The news came down during the draft that Islanders superstar center John Tavares will field pitches from at least five teams in the next week, before he’s scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

That includes two teams with considerable cap space (San Jose, Vegas), his hometown team (Toronto) and the team for which one of his closest friends plays (Tampa Bay).

The odds are still good that Tavares remains with the Islanders, who can give him eight years on a contract and where he’s professed a desire to stay to help return the franchise to glory. But that doesn’t make this any easier for Islanders fans.

Winner: Boo, Gary Bettman

Taking ownership of the incessant, unending booing that occurs whenever he shows up in front of a large group of NHL fans brings out a playfully antagonistic side to the commissioner — rather than the exasperatingly antagonistic comportment that we usually see.

Loser: Gary Bettman, Boo

The NHL draft began Friday night with a solemn tribute to the Humboldt Broncos and the victims of that horrific bus crash earlier this season. Alas, the segment was presented by Bettman, who was welcomed with Pavlovian booing from fans. No one else could have done this segment? Only the guy who always gets booed at first sight at an event like this?

The fans, for what it’s worth, calmed down after Bettman asked them to. But seriously, did the NHL not see this coming?

Winner: Jim Gregory
A senior vice president of hockey operations for the league, Gregory has played a large role in the development of the NHL draft since 1979, having also served as director of the NHL Central Scouting Bureau for several years. In 2007, he was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder.

He also has been the voice of Day 2 of the draft for decades, and this was his last draft serving in that role. He was given a standing ovation at the start of Round 2, and every team in the NHL thanked him for his service during the final round while making its picks.

Loser: Jamie Benn
The Dallas Stars captain was playfully dunked on by Hall of Famer and former Dallas captain Mike Modano. The two appeared on stage during the Stars’ first-round pick, and Modano noted that while he had experienced this moment before, Benn never did.

“They usually don’t let fifth-rounders on stage,” Benn lamented.

Later, Modano noted how much prep time Benn needed before the appearance. “We just needed to get the script done early so he could have two hours to look at it. It was only two lines. But the name of the draft pick [Ty Dellandrea] sent him for a loop,” he said, laughing.

Winner: USA Hockey
It’s a great time for USA Hockey. Youth participation is up. The NHL is on the verge of adding another American-based team (Seattle), which means potential growth in that region as well. In all, 55 Americans were drafted in 2018, as the U.S. is pumping out a new generation of stars.

Oh, and did we mention the buzz is already building for next year’s draft, which should be headlined by an American, Jack Hughes, as the No. 1 pick? For now we have Jack’s brother Quinn, a swift-skating defenseman, as well as Brady Tkachuk, a dynamite personality and potentially dominant power forward, among the top 10 picks.

Loser: Hockey in the U.S.
It’s going to be tough to market these young American stars when so many are stashed away in Canada. Tkachuk was picked by the very unsexy Ottawa Senators at No. 4. (His equally dynamic brother, Matthew, plays for the Calgary Flames.) Quinn Hughes was picked by the Vancouver Canucks.

Couple that group with Brock Boeser (Vancouver), Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary), Auston Matthews (Toronto) as well as the 11 Americans on Winnipeg’s roster, and that’s a haul of talent that casual fans won’t get to catch on NBC’s game of the week very often.

One bright spot: The Rangers traded up to select Minnesota-born K’Andre Miller at No. 22. An engaging personality, he could shine on Broadway — though it might take a few years for him to make the roster.

Winner: Los Angeles Kings
There were plenty of teams in on the Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes. The Los Angeles Kings were the ones to get the good news.

The Kings always seemed like the favorite, and especially because they were willing to kick in a third year on the deal. GM Rob Blake was desperate to add offense after his team mustered only three goals in a first-round sweep by division rival Vegas in the playoffs. By all accounts, Kovalchuk still has juice (and should be especially lethal on the power play).

This signals the Kings are going all-in on a championship with this core; Kovalchuk will be the 10th player on the roster over the age of 30.

Loser: Boston Bruins
Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney sounded cautiously optimistic Friday after making his pitch for Kovalchuk. Of all the teams that lost out on the Russian superstar, Boston could have used him the most.

Now Sweeney has to scrape together an offseason Plan B. Besides re-signing restricted free agents, the Bruins could use another scoring winger. So who are they going to call? Rick Nash.

“He’s strongly indicated that Boston is a place he would consider,” Sweeney said Saturday. “As would we.”

We’ll do Bruins fans a favor and not list Nash’s stats with Boston in the 2018 playoffs.

Winner: Brian MacLellan
The Washington Capitals’ general manager greatly helped his chances to re-sign pending free-agent defenseman John Carlson by dealing away defenseman Brooks Orpik to the Colorado Avalanche, who bought out the final year of his $5.5 million average annual value contract.

The package of Orpik and goalie Philipp Grubauer netted Washington the No. 47 overall pick, which it used on Kody Clark, the son of former NHL player Wendel Clark.

Loser: Philipp Grubauer
While the restricted free-agent backup goalie has to be happy with his new three-year deal worth $10 million, it was Grubauer’s stated goal to be a starting goaltender in the NHL. It won’t happen next season, as GM Joe Sakic made it clear that Grubauer will share time with Semyon Varlamov. But hey, what’s a little competition?

Winner: the Hurricanes
The Hurricanes promised to be active in reshaping their roster, and they delivered. Carolina unloaded two players who were proving difficult to re-sign, and in exchange added an established top-four defenseman (Dougie Hamilton), a stopgap, bottom-six forward (Micheal Ferland) and an elite defensive prospect (Adam Fox) who, if he signs, could be the face of the blue line for years to come.

GM Don Waddell has hinted that more moves still could come, but for now, Canes fans should feel better about the state of the roster.

Loser: Dougie Hamilton
For the second time in four years, Hamilton was shipped on draft weekend. And once again, the character assassins were out to rationalize why. (In an interview with Fan 960, Sportsnet’s John Shannon said: “The whole team would go for lunch at Moxies, and Dougie Hamilton would go to the museum.”)

That can’t feel great for a defenseman who actually has played some great hockey of late, especially finding his way with Mark Giordano as a partner. We feel for Hamilton. We really do. Waddell says he plans on keeping him on the Canes’ roster.

Winner: Red Wings
Filip Zadina might be the surest scorer in this draft, and somehow — miraculously — he fell in the Red Wings’ lap at No. 6 overall. This is a winger who can play as soon as this season, even in a top-six role.

The Red Wings then capitalized on another draft faller, when center Joseph Veleno was available at No. 30. Detroit’s biggest need was defense, and the Wings addressed that with three defensemen during the next two rounds.

Detroit is embarking on a total makeover, and this draft couldn’t have gone any better for GM Ken Holland, who has been on a roll since the trade deadline after bringing in a haul for Tomas Tatar. Apparently, reports of Holland’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. The Red Wings being good again is fun for everyone.

Loser: Fun
Fun was an endangered species for all but the Red Wings this weekend, after momentum had been building in the weeks before the draft.

The Ottawa Senators seemed poised to make several splashes — the biggest involving Erik Karlsson. The Canadiens’ Max Pacioretty could have been on the move. So, too, could the entire Carolina Hurricanes roster. Yes, the Hurricanes gave us something to buzz about on Day 2 with an old-school, five-player shuffle with the Flames.

We were promised a series of bombastic fireworks; instead, we got a few sparklers — especially on Day 1.

The No. 1 pick was determined months ago, and the trade highlight was a backup goaltender (Philipp Grubauer) moved in a salary dump — to a team that only expects to platoon him. Reporters seemed so desperate for drama that they prematurely began buzzing about a Pacioretty-to-San Jose trade that sadly never materialized.


Red Wings hire Dan Bylsma as assistant coach

Associated Press

DETROIT — The Detroit Red Wings have hired Dan Bylsma as an assistant coach, the team announced Friday.

The 47-year-old Bylsma worked as an assistant alongside Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill at this year’s world championship in Denmark, helping the United States to a bronze medal.

Bylsma was Pittsburgh’s coach when the Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009, beating Detroit in seven games in the final. He won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s Coach of the Year in 2011.

Bylsma is 320-190-55 as a head coach in the NHL. He took over the Penguins during that 2008-09 season and was with them until 2014. He also coached the Buffalo Sabres for two seasons from 2015-2017.