Weekly Reader: Seguin, Panarin, Hall and contractual panic
Tyler Seguin wants a new contact. That much is clear. The 26-year-old forward showed up at the BioSteel Camp in Toronto this week and lamented the fact that he didn’t have a fat new extension with the Dallas Stars to discuss.
“Nothing’s really going on. It’s been a little disappointing. I thought I’d have some exciting news to talk about at BioSteel Camp, especially this late in the summer. You know, it’s been disappointing; but at the end of the day, I’ve always had one year left here. I’m just going to focus on that,” said Seguin.
I’ve seen speculation that Seguin being unsigned is linked with the Stars’ pursuit of Erik Karlsson, which is a little confounding on two fronts. First, that Karlsson wouldn’t want the security of knowing Seguin would remain with Dallas before signing long term; second, that this sequence wouldn’t be the ultimate insult on top of inactivity for Seguin, hastening his departure.
Seguin said all the right stuff, about Dallas being home and about the focus being on the Stars making a deep playoff run, something they’ve only done once in Seguin’s tenure there — somewhat coincidentally the postseason in which an injury limited him to just one of their 13 games in 2016. But it’s clear that Seguin expected this deal to close in a summer that saw so many potential 2019 free agents — Drew Doughty, Ryan McDonagh, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Logan Couture among them — get locked up long term.
“Disappointing it hasn’t happened. Or that it didn’t,” Seguin said.
He also can read a calendar. Dallas general manager Jim Nill signed the franchise’s other foundational player, Jamie Benn, to an eight-year deal in July 2016, just two weeks after he was eligible to do so.
“He’s one of the top forwards in the NHL, he’s the leader of our team and he’s a great person, as well,” Nill said.
Now Benn isn’t Seguin. He has a scoring title and was a Hart Trophy finalist. He’s also a homegrown Star, while Seguin is an import. None of this is to say that Nill doesn’t have similarly fond feelings for Seguin. But the timing is the timing, just as the numbers are the numbers.
Seguin is a brilliant offensive talent. He has averaged a point per game (0.99 to be exact) in 387 games with the Stars, and he has been more durable in the past two seasons (playing all 82 games) than he had been in previous seasons. But a peek inside his numbers reveals his points per 60 minutes at even strength is at 1.87 over the past three seasons, which is Matt Duchene/J.T. Miller/Jason Zucker territory. Benn, in contrast, is at 2.16, which is Alex Ovechkin/Filip Forsberg territory. (Please note that the offensive zone start percentage for the Stars’ top line dropped over the past two seasons.)
So what does that next Seguin contract look like? (“It’s a large stack of papers with signatures, but that’s not important right now.”) What do you pay for that performance if you’re Dallas, on top of the fact that Seguin has appeared in seven playoff games with the Stars since 2013?
That’s the tricky part. My friends at Cap Friendly tell me that Seguin’s contract is projected to be seven or eight years (depending on leaving or re-signing) with a value of 13.57 percent of the cap. Based on the current cap figure, which grows higher annually, that’s an average annual value of $10.788 million, a good $1.2 million more than what Benn makes annually.
“Should Seguin make more than Benn?” is a separate issue than “Will Seguin make more than Benn?” with the Stars. Frankly, I’m perplexed by both questions.
The good news for Seguin is that if there isn’t a deal to be made with Dallas, players of his age and abilities don’t hit the unrestricted free-agent market all that often. And when they do, the word “derby” is attached to their names and people like Brendan Shanahan fly out to their agent’s office for pitch meetings.
The interesting news in the NHL is that there might be two players like that hitting the market next summer.
Artemi Panarin wants out of Columbus after his next contract. At least that’s what all the indications have been.
Panarin is one of the best offensive players on the planet. His 2.17 points per 60 minutes at even strength over the past three seasons rank him 15th in the NHL. Last season with the Blue Jackets was proof of concept: He was no longer with Patrick Kane and increased his points per 60 at even strength from 2.15 in 2016-17 to 2.27 in 2017-18; Kane, meanwhile, went from a 2.28 to a 2.16. Panarin is a player Columbus should have been able to sign long term and build a championship around. Instead, every indication is that he’s out after this season.
This sucks for Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen, because he made the bold move to acquire the 26-year-old Russian star from the Chicago Blackhawks. This also sucks for Blue Jackets fans, who don’t deserve to have a star player spike the football with a perceived slight against their city en route to a larger media market.
There has been speculation that Panarin fancies South Florida, and the Panthers would seem to be a logical trade partner with the Blue Jackets should they go that route. But there’s a greater chance Columbus rides this thing out with him, at least to the trade deadline. If a Stanley Cup run is possible, they keep him. If things went sideways for some reason, maybe Kekalainen does what the Blues did with Paul Stastny last deadline.
Aaron Portzline of The Athletic noted recently that New York could be the ultimate destination for Panarin. That includes the Islanders, whose general manager Lou Lamoriello apparently is held in high regard by Camp Panarin; it also includes the Rangers, whose expedited rebuild could be even more expedited by the addition of a couple of marquee talents in their primes next summer (cc: Everyone who just read the Tyler Seguin section of this column).
That brings us to our final superstar in focus, one who also currently resides in the New York metropolitan area: Taylor Hall of the New Jersey Devils.
Now Hall isn’t a free agent next summer. He is locked up with the Devils through 2020. He is the reigning Hart Trophy winner and the face of the franchise, and he has clearly found another level in his growth as a player while with the organization.
There is, at the moment, little reason to believe that Hall would leave New Jersey … you know, just like there wasn’t that John Tavares would leave the Islanders. Which is to say that these things happen, for reasons beyond an organization’s control. Could be geography. Could be family. Could be a desire to play with a specific organization. All of these things should be familiar to Devils fans already, he says pointing at a Minnesota Wild Zach Parise sweater …
Devils owner Josh Harris told The Star-Ledger this month that retaining Hall is “the highest” priority for the organization: “He’s committed, he’s authentic, he is an amazing player obviously … He’s a guy you build around. Whether it’s him, Nico [Hischier], Will [Butcher]. Taylor is definitely going to be front and center, so it will definitely be a high priority. I hope I’m working with Taylor for a long time.”
In asking around the league, the common thought is that Hall is a Devil now and down the line. There was some concern about next season and whether a continuing upswing back to contention for the franchise was a necessity to keep him. Necessity might be pushing it. But it certainly wouldn’t hurt.
I remember covering the draft in Los Angeles when Hall went first to the Oilers and Seguin went second to the Bruins. Mostly because the draft coincided with the L.A. premiere of “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” and the intermingling of hockey fans with tweens wearing “Team Edward” shirts was memorable. But also because you knew these players were going to be stars whose NHL journeys would be fascinating.
Fast forward eight years: Both have been traded, infamously. One has a Stanley Cup ring, the other an MVP trophy. Both are looking for some level of appreciation. Hall, I think, has found it with the Devils, if he wants it. Seguin? One assumes he won’t feel that way until his contract is settled. And it isn’t. Which means it’s possible that appreciation arrives next summer, from an entirely different admirer.
Jersey Foul Of The Week
From the Stars & Stripes Showdown in Plymouth, Michigan, last weekend:
– DetroitHockey.Net (@detroithockey96) August 26, 2018
Is it appropriate to wear in Detroit Red Wings country? Debatable. Is it appropriate to wear to a USA Hockey fundraiser? Completely. Is there something delightfully subversive in the continuing knowledge that the Toronto Maple Leafs credit their resurgence and potential Stanley Cup championship to an American kid from the southwestern desert — and that this jersey speaks to that fact?
You know it. Not a Foul!
KHL misses the point(s)
There are very few aspects of hockey where one could say the Kontinental Hockey League gets it right and the NHL gets it wrong. All-Star skills competitions? Totally, if only for the dancing referees. Mascots? Absolutely, as they’re an endless supply of nightmare fuel.
They also got the standings right. For years, the KHL had a 3-2-1-0 points system. Three points for a regulation win, two points for an overtime or shootout win, one point for an overtime or shootout loss and nothing if you lost in regulation.
This resulted in fewer games going to overtime than in the NHL — from 2014-16, for example, it was 11.4 percent in the KHL to roughly 24 percent in the NHL — and a clear separation between the haves and the have-nots in the league. The average gap in points between the team at the top of the division and the bottom of the division last season in the KHL was 57.25 points. It was 39.75 in the NHL. Again, this points system is a more accurate representation of who the best and worst teams are in the KHL — but accuracy doesn’t sell tickets. As the NHL has shown year after year, false parity does.
So the KHL board of directors has reportedly changed the points format for the league on the eve of the regular season: two points for any win, one point for an overtime loss and nothing for a regulation loss. Just like the NHL.
Say hello to more overtime games and third periods that will feel a lot less vital. Say hello to standings that will appear closer than they are. Say hello to a mechanism through which coaches and general managers will be able to keep their jobs through a series of meandering “close but no cigar” seasons because their teams had the moxie to lose in overtime rather than in regulation, but still lost.
Ugh. I haven’t been this underwhelmed by a Russian hockey development since Nikita Filatov.
NHL prospects are being told to keep quiet regarding their Fortnite play, even as NHL teams use the game as a team-building exercise. I seriously can’t believe this is a story in the same calendar year that the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup by having Mario Kart tournaments for stress relief. [Polygon]
Check out The Ice Garden’s ongoing top 25 under 25 series on women’s hockey players. [The Ice Garden]
Hockey tl;dr (too long; didn’t read)
Corey Pronman’s always-excellent guide to the prospect pools for all 31 teams. Congrats to Buffalo. Hey, at least you have the Cup, Washington. [The Athletic]
In case you missed this from your friends at ESPN