After a crazy week in the NHL, we saw a superstar return to his old team, another jersey retirement, and a stupid contract extension.
1. Tavares Returns to Long Island
John Tavares made his return to Long Island on Thursday night as the Leafs faced off against the Islanders. I’m sure everyone in Long Island had this game circled on their calendars the minute Tavares chose to leave the Islanders in free agency last summer. Tavares was not given a warm welcome and was mercilessly jeered by the home fans. Many fans donned number 91 jerseys but swapped out Tavares’ name for “TRAITOR.” Some fans even threw rubber snakes on the ice to take the taunting to a new level.
The organization took a different approach and played a video on the Jumbotron to thank Tavares for his time in Long Island. The fans weren’t having it and booed throughout the entire thing. The fans got to go home happy as their home town team thrashed the Maple Leafs 6-1 and Tavares was held without a point.
I wasn’t surprised that Islanders fans didn’t roll out the red carpet for Tavares. I do feel bad for Tavares because he wasn’t deserving of that kind of hate. He left the team in free agency to play for his home town team. He didn’t disrespect the Islanders or speak poorly of them throughout the free agency process. There is really nothing else he could have done to leave on better terms. Obviously, I feel for the Islanders fans because he did leave the franchise because he didn’t feel like he could win in Long Island. But can you blame him? The Islanders weren’t exactly the model NHL franchise and couldn’t win with him.
Islanders fans can hang their hat on the fact that they remain in first place in their division without Tavares. They also saved a ton of cap space that they can use to sign other players. I am crossing my fingers that the two teams play each other in the playoffs this season and we get to see Tavares back in Long Island for an entire series.
2. Unloved Team: Vancouver Canucks
This week’s unloved team is the Vancouver Canucks. In the first year in the post-Sedin era, the Canucks’ future looks bright. Vancouver may not look great in the standings, as they are 13th in the West, but their young talent has arrived. If you have a pulse, you have heard about rookie-phenom Elias Petterson. Petterson came into the year with an enormous amount of hype and he has delivered. He currently leads all rookies and his team in goals with 26, assists with 30, and points with 56. That’s pretty impressive. Vancouver can rest easy knowing that they can build around Petterson as their next superstar.
Petterson’s supporting cast isn’t terrible either. They are led by two other forwards, Brock Boeser, and Bo Horvat. Boeser was MVP of last year’s All-Star Game and has the looks of a perennial 40 goal-scorer. This season he is third on the team in goals with 21, assists with 22, and points with 43. Bo Horvat is no slouch. He is second on the team in the big three categories (23-25-48) and has cemented himself as a top-tier forward.
The rest of their roster needs some work. They don’t have much on defense besides mainstay Alex Edler and the promising Troy Stecher. They did draft University of Michigan product, Quinn Hughes, at the top of last year’s draft. It will be interesting to see what they do with goalie Jacob Markstrom. Markstrom has been a career backup but has held his own as a starter over the last two years.
Overall, the Canucks look like they have the talent to build a contender in the near future. If they can add more depth at forward and find a top-tier defenseman, I think this team could be a force in the Western Conference with Petterson leading the charge.
3. Ryan Donato Has Found a Home
One of the smaller moves of last week’s trade deadline was the swap of Charlie Coyle and Ryan Donato. The Bruins moved Donato and a 2019 conditional fifth-round pick to the Wild for forward Charlie Coyle. On paper, it seemed like a good move for both teams. The Bruins add a solid center who provides depth down the middle for a player who could barely crack their lineup. The Wild get a player who has great potential and is ready to contribute right away for a middling center. Since the trade, Donato has put it together. After playing a good chunk of the year in the AHL, he has scored two goals and added five assists in only five games.
Donato broke onto the scene last year after he was one of four college players to be selected to represent the US in the 2018 Olympics. He was the most impressive player on the team and scored five goals in the five games he played. Donato seemed destined to be the next great Bruin. Not only is he the son of former Bruin Ted Donato, he also grew up in Boston and played at Harvard. The guy bleeds Boston. Sometimes things don’t work out the way you plan. Luckily for the Wild, they got Donato for next to nothing and he looks much more comfortable in Minnesota. If Boston doesn’t win the Cup this year, we might be looking back on this trade as one of the most lopsided deadline deals in recent memory.
4. Jarome Iginla’s Jersey Retirement
Another week, another jersey retirement. Longtime Calgary Flames winger Jarome Iginla had his number 12 jersey retired on Saturday night. Iginla played 15 1/2 of his 20-year NHL career in Calgary and captained the team from the beginning of the 2003 season until he was traded during the 2012-13 season.
Iginla’s resume is long and impressive. He is Calgary’s all-time career leader in goals, points, and games played. Most notably, Iginla was a first-team All-Star three times, won the Rocket Richard Trophy twice, and the Art Ross Trophy once — all with the Calgary. Let’s not forget the gold medal he won with Team Canada in 2002 and 2010 while he was a member of the Flames. Most importantly, he led the Flames all the way to the 2004 Stanley Cup finals where they lost to Tampa in seven games.
Iginla should be remembered as one of the most talented power-forwards of the 2000s and also one of, if not the best, African-Canadian players the NHL has ever seen. He is no doubt is deserving to have his number retired in Calgary. Congrats to Jarome Iginla on his special night.
5. Silfverberg’s Extension
Anaheim Ducks’ winger Jakob Silfverberg signed a five-year, $26.25 million extension on Friday. Silfverberg would have been a UFA this summer and could have signed wherever he wanted. I don’t really know what to make of this move. Silfverberg has never really maximized his talent and has only cracked the 20-goal plateau twice in his seven-year career. I understand Anaheim didn’t want to lose him free agency and get nothing in return, but $5.25 million a year for a player that has never reached 50 points in a season is too much.
Not to mention the Ducks are in salary cap hell right now. They are one of the worst teams in the league, and now have eight players with a cap hit over $5 million; all of which are locked down for at least another two years. The Ducks have to bank that their aging core has another Cup run left in them because they have zero wiggle room to get better this offseason. They should have let Silfverberg walk this summer and officially started their rebuild. If there is a silver lining, it’s that Silfverberg’s contract might be the most tradeable on the team because the others are so bad. ■
Blake Isaacs is a die-hard Red Wings fan that doesn’t go to as many games as he should. He is also a big fan of 7-Eleven Slurpeees, Chipotle, and all things Michigan State. Follow him on Twitter @bisaacs1995.