Blake’s Takes: The NHL Brainstorms Ways to Continue the Season

I hope you’re all healthy and safe during this quarantine season. It was a busy week for me as I celebrated my 25th birthday last Monday. To stay busy, I’ve been exclusively watching full movie series in my spare time. I’ve watched all five films in the Jason Bourne series. I’ve also watched all three Star Wars trilogies. Yes, all three TRILOGIES, and Solo, which was surprisingly much better than I expected it to be.

In hockey news, it was a sad week. Over the weekend, we lost Edmonton Oilers player Colby Cave, who was 25-years-old. Obviously, nothing else comes close to the importance of the loss of Cave. However, discussions have taken place on how to move forward with the season after quarantine ends. More on that below.

Lastly, Happy Easter and happy Passover to all my monotheistic homies. Here’s a song I recommend you turn up to if you’re celebrating either, or just want to jam.

1. RIP Colby Cave

Last Saturday, Edmonton Oilers’ center, Colby, Cave, passed away after complications from surgery to remove a cyst putting pressure on his brain. This is tragic news that has shocked the entire hockey community. Cave was 25-years-old.

There isn’t much I feel comfortable saying here. I write this column to talk about hockey news and have some fun. That being said, it’s important to be serious every once in a while. All I’ll say is that this is indeed a tragedy and I feel for everyone who is mourning Cave’s loss. I do hope that when the season does return, Cave is honored with a memorial that he deserves.

2. Leafs Sign Barabanov

Alexander Barabanov [Photo Credit: KHL]
Last week, I talked about the Toronto Maple Leafs’ interest in Russian forward, Alexander Barabanov. TSN announced on Tuesday that the Leafs and Barabanov agreed to a one-year entry-level contract for next season.

This is a great move for Toronto. As I’ve mentioned before, they’re capped out with all of their money invested in Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, John Tavares, and William Nylander. They barely have enough money to sign any depth players. If Barabanov can produce 30-40 points, he’ll be well worth the money.

For Barabanov, this is a bit of a riskier move. After his one-year contract is up, he’ll be a UFA. So, if he exceeds expectations, he could cash in immediately and sign a big ticket. It probably won’t be with Toronto as they don’t have the resources. If he flops, he won’t be able to cash in as much. Still, it’s usually better to hit the open market earlier as he’ll still have some time to cash in later on. If the Leafs don’t win it all this year, if the season does resume, they’ll be my pick to win it all next year.

3. NHL Considering Neutral Site Games

With the season still suspended, the NHL is looking into all options to finish the regular season and Stanley Cup Playoffs. One of the options suggested was to play the remainder of the season at one neutral site arena without fans.

With many state governments imposing shelter in place and other forms of lockdown, it would be difficult for games to start up again as usual. Thankfully, the league is still open to finishing out the regular season and playoffs. According to a report on NHL.com, the league has asked teams for their arena availability and has thought about pushing back the start of next season to finish this one.

I am in favor of whatever brings hockey back faster and whatever allows the NHL to finish the regular season or at least the playoffs. Yes, it would be a downer if fans are allowed to attend remaining games and it would be strange to see them take place at a neutral site. That being said, the NCAA canceling its hockey and basketball tournaments was a major blow. Especially considering those are college kids who might not get that chance again. I feel worse for them than I would for professionals. Still, if the only option to restart the season is to play games at a neutral site without fans, sign me up.

4. Scott Perunovich Wins the Hobey Baker Award

Although there will be no NCAA Champion crowned, the NCAA still announced the winner of the Hobey Baker Award. Scott Perunovich from the University of Minnesota Duluth is this year’s Hobey Baker Award winner. Perunovich is a defensemen prospect in the St. Louis Blues system. He beat out Jeremy Swayman, a goalie from the University of Maine and Jordan Kawaguchi, a forward from the University of North Dakota.

With his Hobey Baker award, Perunovich may go down as one of the best college hockey players of all time. As a freshman and sophomore, he helped Minnesota Duluth to back-to-back NCAA titles. The Hobey Baker cemented his place among the all-time greats. Sadly, COVID-19 cut Perunovich’s quest for a third straight title short. It also ended his collegiate career, as he signed a entry-level contract with the Blues last month. Let’s hope Perunovich can continue his elite level of play with St. Louis next season.

5. Sorokin to Leave KHL for Long Island

Ilya Sorokin [Photo Credit: KHL]
Ilya Sorokin, a 2014 draft pick by the New York Islanders, will leave the KHL for the NHL when his contract expires on April 30. The 24-year-old Russian has played in the KHL since the 2012-13 season. He currently plays for CSKA Moscow is considered the best goalie in the league.

Sorokin’s numbers in the KHL are stellar. This season, he boasts a 1.50 GAA and a .935 sv%. He finished the regular season fifth in sv% and third in GAA. Last season, he led CSKA Moscow to a Gagarin Cup (the KHL’s equivalent to the Stanley Cup) victory and was named the playoff MVP.

Not only are his KHL numbers great, but he’s accomplished quite a bit on the international level. He’s won three bronze medals at the IIHF World Championships and a gold medal in the 2018 Olympics (he only played in one game).

Sorokin will come on to Long Island next year and will expect to compete with Semyon Varlamov for the number one goalie spot. After next season, he will become an RFA which will provide the Islanders with some protection.

This is a big move for the Islanders. It’s not often that you draft a guy and you know you’re getting a star in his prime right away. Hopefully, Sorokin can live up to the hype and help the Islanders build on their exciting core. ■

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.

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