Blake’s Takes: Welcome to the Offseason

Barely a week after the Lightning hoisted the Stanley Cup, the offseason has entered full swing. The expansion draft is on Wednesday, and the Kraken have an exclusive negotiating window with all UFAs until then.

In this week’s column, I’ll share my thoughts on who could suit up for the Kraken this fall, a number of high-profile offseason moves, and one notable retirement. 

1. Price, Other Notable Stars, Unprotected in Expansion Draft


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All 31 teams have submitted their lists of players they have chosen to protect in Wednesday’s expansion draft. Before the draft, the Kraken will have an exclusive window to negotiate with all UFAs. However, it’s the list of players that are available to the Kraken via the expansion draft which is more interesting.

Carey Price is the most notable name that was left unprotected. It’s doubtful that Price will be selected by the Kraken as he still has five years remaining on his contract with a $10.5 million AAV. I don’t see the Kraken making that move. A few players I could see the Kraken selected are Vladimir Tarasenko of the St. Louis Blues, Max Domi of the Columbus Blue Jackets, and Yanni Gourde of the Tampa Bay Lightning. All three players are of all-star caliber and none of their contracts are horrific. Tarasenko’s deal has two years remaining, Domi’s has one, and Gourde’s has four. Domi and Gourde both carry an AAV below $6 million, Tarasenko’s sits at $7.5 million.

The Golden Knights may have set the standard for immediate expansion draft success, but other than Marc-Andre Fleury, they didn’t select any player with the kind of resume of the three players I mentioned. The Kraken could select all three players if they want to. It’s way too earlier to predict the Kraken will have the type of immediate success that Vegas had, but there’s no doubt high-end talent is available.

2. Stars Award Heiskanen 8-Year Extension


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Miro Heiskanen decided to go against the grain and sign his massive extension upon the expiration of his ELC rather than follow the route of other young, superstars like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and Brayden Point who chose to sign shorter deals to cash in later. Heiskanen and the Stars agreed on an eight-year extension with an $8.45 million AAV. The deal makes Heiskanen the sixth-highest-paid defenseman in the NHL. Right behind Alex Pietrangelo of the Vegas Golden Knights and Oliver Ekman-Larsson of the Arizona Coyotes.

This is a great deal for both sides. For Heiskanen, he secured the bag at 21-years-old, easy as that. Oh, and he’ll be able to secure ANOTHER, BIGGER bag at 29-years-old. This kid is smart.

For Dallas, Heiskanen is the real deal. I assume Heiskanen’s agent Ian Pulver walked into these negotiations and was given a blank check from the Stars. Heiskanen is already a superstar and I’d actually bet like $200 right now he’ll live up to this deal. Of the five defensemen in the NHL that make more money than him, he’s the youngest player, by TEN years.

He scored 26 points in last season’s playoffs and led the Stars to a Stanley Cup Finals appearance at age 20. There’s not much more I can say about Heiskanen other than I cannot wait to watch him play again this coming season.

3. Duncan Keith Traded to Oilers


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Duncan Keith was traded along with Tim Soderlund from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Edmonton Oilers for Caleb Jones and a 2022 conditional pick. Keith has spent his entire 16-year NHL career with the Blackhawks and has two more years remaining on his 13-year contract with a $5.53 million AAV.

This deal was incredibly puzzling to me. On the surface, this is a very minor deal. The 2021 Duncan Keith is a superstar by name only. Keith will be an average, veteran defenseman that can provide leadership and experience on the powerplay when needed. Edmonton is a bit light defensively and anything helps.

For Chicago, they gave up a player they felt could no longer contribute for a draft pick. That’s not bad business.

Related: Puck Junk Podcast #96: The Duncan Keith Trade

In reality, I have no idea what Edmonton was thinking with this trade. Yes, Keith is a two-time Norris Trophy winner and is a solid defenseman. But he’s 38-years-old and didn’t provide anything offensively for Chicago over the last two seasons. He’s far from the player he used to be. Edmonton would have been better off signing a player from the KHL, bringing up someone from the AHL, or signing a low-tier free agent like Brandon Montour or Patrik Nemeth for half the price. It should be easy to recruit players to Edmonton. Playing alongside Connor McDavid and competing for a Stanley Cup shouldn’t be a hard sell. I truly have no idea what Edmonton was thinking. Thankfully for them, Keith only has two years left on his deal and could be a buy-out candidate down the road.

For Chicago, they’re thanking their lucky stars someone was foolish enough to take Keith off of their hands. Don’t get me wrong, I love Keith. He played at Michigan State and is a sure-fire Hall of Famer. But he’s 38-years-old and makes $5 million-plus. Chicago is lucky they found someone to take him so they can accelerate their rebuild.

4. Parise and Suter Bought Out by Wild


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After nine seasons, Ryan Suter and Zach Parise will suit up for a team other than the Minnesota Wild. The Wild signed them both to 13-year contracts worth $98 million each ($7.54 million AAV) back in the summer of 2012. It was a big-time coup for the Wild as they beat out other major players like the Detroit Red Wings. With the looming expansion draft, the Wild decided to move on from the two veterans in lieu of better, and much cheaper players.

Nine years after the two joined the team, none of the parties involved have much to show for it.  The Wild did make the playoffs every year but one, but they never won a division title or moved past the second round of the playoffs.

Neither player’s numbers were bad in Minnesota, in fact, Suter’s were better. Suter averaged 0.56 PPG in Minnesota and 0.44 PPG in Nashville. Parise’s PPG went down a tad from 0.82 with the Devils to 0.72 with the Wild. Suter was selected to play in two All-Star Games with the Wild. Parise was selected for zero.

The numbers might be similar, but it’s the expectations that were never met. Both players were rising stars in the league when they joined the Wild. They literally put the Wild on the radar and were supposed to help them compete for championships. Parise was returning to his hometown and wanted to deliver them a Stanley Cup. At 28-years-old, both players should have been entering their prime. However, neither really improved all that much.

I feel bad for both Parise and Suter. Other than the fact the Wild stole them from the Red Wings (hindsight is 20/20), I was excited to see them both succeed with the Wild. I hope that they both latch on with good teams and have a shot at winning a Stanley Cup in the twilight of their careers.

5. Pekka Rinne Calls it a Career


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After 15 years in the country music capital of the world, Pekka Rinne has decided to retire. Rinne began his NHL career with the Predators in 2005. He assumed the starting gig during the 2008-09 NHL season at the age of 26, a job he would not relinquish until the 2019-20 season. He’ll be remembered as the greatest goalie in Predators’ history.

The Predators are a younger franchise, so it’s not surprising that Rinne is the franchise’s leader in almost every statistical category for a goaltender, but I’ll rattle them off anyway. He’s Nashville’s all-time leader in wins, saves, GAA, shutouts, minutes, and a handful of other categories.

Rinne was also selected to play in two All-Star games, made both the first and second All-Star Team once, won the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, and one Vezina Trophy. Most importantly, he helped the Predators reach the 2017 Stanley Cup Finals where they fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games.

Rinne will retire as one of the greatest Finnish goalies of all time. He had a fantastic 15-year career and it’s time to hang up the skates at 38-years-old. 

Bonus: Here is my favorite song of all time from one of EA’s NHL titles, specifically from NHL ’06. ■

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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