Blake’s Takes: American League Flirting

Last week was a busy one for the NHL. It was the first week in more than a month where I had backup takes (more on those next week). This week, I’ll touch on the interesting dynamic between AHL and NHL teams. Also, the Blackhawks made a huge move in their front office which warrants a look. Plenty more, too. Stay safe everyone!

1. Blackhawks Dump President John McDonough

Some major news coming out of Chicago last week. John McDonough, the Longtime CEO and President of the Chicago Blackhawks was fired by the team. McDonough held his position as CEO and President since 2007. Under his leadership, the Blackhawks won three Stanley Cups in 2010, 2013, and 2015. Since then, the team has been hampered by aging players on big contracts, like Brent Seabrook. They’ve missed the playoffs for two straight seasons and currently sit last in the Central Divison. They also haven’t made past the first round of the playoffs since they won the Cup back in 2015.

I think this is the right decision for the Hawks. I thought McDonough had a shot to turn it around last year with the emergence of Alex DeBrincat. But, after this season, it’s clear they don’t have enough young talent to win. You can’t expect to keep your job when your roster with the likes of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Duncan Keith is finishing last in the division.

McDonough’s replacement will have some major work to do with the books. Kane, Toews, and DeBrincat are all making big money. They aren’t the issue. Keith, although still a good player, will make $5 million-plus until he’s 40-years-old. And the Seabrook contract. There’s no way out there. Seabrooks is 35-years-old and still has another four years left on his deal. And the Hawks can’t even trade him for another two. This team needs help and fast. Worst of all, they only have $9 million in cap space next year. It will be next to impossible for them to sign any free agents to help the team or take on any bad contracts to tank.

Overall, Blackhawks fans should be incredibly grateful for McDonogh’s contributions to the franchise on the business and hockey sides. Unfortunately, it’s going to take some serious work to get them out of Nightmare Zone their heading into. And it’s just the beginning.

2. Halak Re-Ups with Boston

The Bruins have locked up arguably the best goalie tandem in the league for at least another year. Boston announced that they have re-signed goalie Jaroslav Halak to a one-year extension. Halak will carry a $2.25 million AAV next year. A slight pay cut from the $2.75 million AAV he makes this year.

Halak has had a nice career as both a backup and a starter. His best season came back in 2011-12 with the Blues. He started 46 games going 26-12-7, with a 1.97 GAA, .926 sv%, and six shutouts. He also shared the Jennings Trophy with fellow netminder Brian Elliott. This season, Halak has started 29 games, going 18-6-6, with a 2.39 GAA, .919 sv%, and three shutouts. Those are great numbers for a backup.

I really like this deal for Boston. Halak is good enough to start on many teams in the NHL. He’ll back up one of the best goalies in the league in Tuukka Rask. God forbid Rask gets hurt, Halak is a great insurance policy. Boston will contend for a Stanley Cup again next year with Halak in tow.

3.  Hurricanes Caught Flirting

Last week, it was reported that the Carolina Hurricanes would end their affiliation with the Charlotte Checkers and begin a relationship with the Chicago Wolves. Welcome to the world of hockey dating!

The Checkers were not happy about hearing about their parent company flirting with other AHL teams around their back. You can find their statement below:

The Checkers deserve better than this. They’re the reigning AHL champs for godsakes! Also, I don’t understand why the Hurricanes would want to switch their affiliation. There’s an obvious benefit for both the NHL and AHL team to be in close proximity to each other. It makes it a lot easier to move players up and down, especially on short notice. I would argue it’s also better for business, as hockey fans living in Charlotte are most likely fans of the Hurricanes. So, it’s probably more enjoyable for them to go to a game and see players they know will be playing for the big club in a year or two.

I know that minor league sports rely heavily on marketing and promotional days. Most fans that attend games are not going because they’re obsessed with hockey, they’re going for a fun night out. That being said, I went to quite a few Grand Rapids Griffins games during their Calder Cup run in 2017. And there were more Red Wings jerseys in the crowd than Griffins jerseys. Griffins fans are no doubt also fans of the Red Wings. This is unfortunate for hockey fans living in Charlotte and for the Charlotte Checkers.

Last but not least there is the Chicago Wolves. The Wolves are moving on to their third NHL team in four years. They were with the Blues as recently as 2017. They then got picked up by the Las Vegas Golden Knights. Now it’s rumored that they will be the new AHL affiliate of the Hurricanes. No one wants the Wolves! I know the Wolves draw a lot of fans, but I have never had less fun then I have parking at Allstate Arena. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

And finally, if the Golden Knights are giving up the Wolves, what AHL team will they partner with? They have purchased the San Antonio Rampage from the Blues and will relocate the team to the Las Vegas area and will rebrand the team.

That is your daily dose of AHL/NHL affiliate dating!

4. Senators Sign Zub to One-Year ELC

The Ottawa Senators and defensemen, Artyom Zub, agreed to a one-year ELC last week.

Zub currently plays for SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL. The 24-year-old has solid size for an NHLer standing at 6’2″ 198 lbs. He’s no stranger to winning either. He’s won a Gagarin Cup with St. Petersburg, two World Championship Bronze Medals with Russia, and a gold medal in the 2018 Olympics with the Olympics Athletes from Russia. With St. Petersburg this season, Zub has 13 goals and 9 assists in 57 games.

The Senators need all the help they can get all over the ice. Their top defensive pairing is solid, with Nikita Zaitsev and breakout star Thomas Chabot. If Zub can develop, he should quickly slot into the Senators’ lineup. This is a low-risk, high-reward move for the Senators. One they need to make if they want to compete in the next few years.

5. Mark Giordano, Man of the People

I was scrolling through Twitter last week and saw this tweet on my timeline:

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Spittin’ Chiclets is always great if you’re looking for hockey content. In regard to the tweet, I thought this was awesome. We all love when hockey players and athletes help out in the community and seeing Mark Giordano do it is no surprise. Giordano is one of the most respected and loved players in Calgary and in the NHL. It’s great to see guys like him step up in the midst of uncertain times to help out the community. I’m sure his acts of generosity will go a long within the Calgary community.

Hopefully, we see other NHL players pay it forward and help their communities during the pandemic. ■

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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