NHL This Week; Awards Show, Expansion Announcement And Entry Draft!

Marc Elliott

STONY POINT…. On Wednesday evening of this week the NHL will hold it’s annual awards show in Las Vegas. There is also a special announcement press conference on tap where it is expected that the league will announce the awarding of an expansion franchise to Bill Foley of Fidelity National Financial and Black Knight Financial Services. The team will be known as the Las Vegas Black Knights and will commence competition in the 2017-2018 season and will become a member of the Western Conference. Rules and policy for an expansion draft have been decided on already between the league and the players Union.

There has been some speculation with this being the first draft feeding an expansion club with a salary cap in place that many teams will be exposing potential buyout candidates and the like to this special draft. But not so fast Baba Looey! With the prevalence of no move contract clauses for many players with big long term deals there is a potential fly in the ointment. What I know at this time is that teams would only be required to protect players with no-move clauses (and contracts) that extend through at least the 2017-18 season. Whether or not you could expose a player to this draft if he gives his club permission to do so is unknown to me at this time.

At the end of the day the balance in franchise numbers between the two Conferences will still be uneven with the East having 16 clubs and the West at 15. Some in the East made this a point of contention after the most recent Conference realignment stating that with the lesser number of teams in the West that those teams had an easier numerical chance to get into the Stanley Cup playoffs. While I would at least listen to the debate on that I would also offer up that it is those same owners who will be most happy to cash the nice check they will be getting as a cut of their proceeds of the new clubs franchise fee. There will be little complaining the day those get handed out.

I would eventually like to see one more team added to round the league out at 32 teams and I would like to see it as a 16-16 split in each Conference. At that point I would like to see the leagues membership capped. 32 teams is enough. As far as the NHL having teams in Europe goes, the logistics just plain do not work out. Perhaps they could someday have an NHL Europe league, but they could compete amongst themselves and not for the Stanley Cup. But with the efficiency of the current Euro leagues in operation, it makes little sense to disrupt that. In addition, the NHL will be the 1st of the four major professional sports leagues to place a team into Las Vegas. I’m ok with that and I think it will work out. This expected announcement will be the culmination of a lot of hard work and consideration between all those involved. Congrats to all of you! Welcome to Vegas!

THE ANNUAL NHL AWARDS SHOW will be coming up on Wednesday and it is always fun to speculate on who will get which awards. Of course there are some of the awards that are statistically decided and the winners of those are already known, and then there are the awards that are voted upon and we don’t know those winners yet. For those already decided; the Art Ross Trophy for the overall Scoring Leader will go to Patrick Kane of the Blackhawk’s. The Maurice Richard trophy for Most Goals scored will go to Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals. For the Jennings Trophy awarded to the Goaltenders from the team with the best Goals Against stat, that is going to the Anaheim Ducks tandem of Frederik Andersen and John Gibson.

For those awards that get decided by voting I will give you MY choices and then we will see later in the week if I’m close or not. For the Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP) there are those who want to see Kane receive it which would mark the 1st time an American player won the Ross and Hart in the same season, but I believe that Ovechkin will probably edge Kane in this one. For the Vezina Trophy I believe Braden Holtby of the Caps will take this home, he was unflappable during the regular season. For the Norris Trophy (best Defenseman) I believe Erik Karlsson from Ottawa will probably repeat as the winner.

For the Calder Trophy (best Rookie) there is some contention over it this year. Many believe that Conner McDavid should win this award as he is basically the consensus choice as the best new player in the league, however he missed 37 games due to injury and as a result is not the rookie points leader. Had he played his points projection would have placed him toward the league lead. But to me it’s pretty simple; he didn’t. Awards aren’t based on projection. That player is Chicago’s Artemi Panarin. The contention there is having played in the KHL prior to coming over, he isn’t what you would call a true rookie. Going by current standards though the winner should be Panarin. As a side note, I believe the criteria should be corrected to designate contenders as “true” rookies.

For the Jack Adams Award (best coach) who else? It has to go to Pitt’s Mike Sullivan. There is no debate on this one. For the GM of the Year many think Dallas’s Jim Nill will win this and I wouldn’t fight that. But did he have as good of a year as Pitt’s Jimmy Rutherford? No. I have JR in this one. For the Selke Award (best defensive forward) I believe the Kings Anze Kopitar will win this. By and large I enjoy this show quite a bit and you will be able to watch it on NBC Sports at 6pm CST. The NHL Entry Draft will be on Friday eve and you may view that on NBC Sports as well. The only thing for certain there is that Auston Matthews will probably go Number one. And next week Free Agent frenzy kicks off on Friday the 1st! Are the Minnesota Wild in for any major maneuvers between now and then? Stay tuned…. PEACE