The 2014 NHL playoffs have been nothing short of fantastic. All of the matchups have been close and competitive with quite a few overtimes. The conference semi-finals alone had three of the four series go to seven games with the fourth decided in the sixth game in overtime. You just can’t get much better than that. Still, as good as the games have been, there is the dark side of the NHL for the losing teams. Pittsburgh fired their general manager, Ray Shero, earlier Friday and there is plenty of speculation that coach Dan Blysma won’t be far behind. The Capitals already jettisoned their coach and GM, while the Sharks decided to hold on to their management despite choking once again in the playoffs. This is the time of year that makes both heroes and goats.
The coach and GM aren’t the only changes we may be seeing in Pittsburgh. They have both their compliance buyouts left, and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury could be sent on his merry way. Fleury is only signed through next season ($5,750,000), so it’s not a question of saving a ton of money with the buyout but more for the mental health of the team. Now Fleury didn’t play badly in the playoffs and certainly wasn’t the reason for their eventual ouster by the Rangers, but it’s hard to see his teammates having the utmost confidence in his ability to win a game for the team. Sidney Crosby only had one goal in the playoffs. That is not a stat that the best player in the game should be proud of, so he is as much to blame as anyone. Still though, after shutting out the Rangers twice in the early going of the series he didn’t post a save percentage higher than .900 in any of the series’ final four games. Sometimes there is something to the old saying “addition by subtraction”. Could Ryan Miller be in play here?
Although the Sharks are going to keep their GM and coach, they will not invite back defender Dan Boyle and winger Martin Havlat. Boyle is 37 years of age and could have some good hockey left in him, so he should be able to find a job somewhere should he want to continue his career. Havlat could have a tougher time. He does have talent but also has a difficult time staying in the lineup. The ripple effect of not bringing back Boyle means that Brent Burns will move back to the blue line next season. This is a bit disappointing for Fantasy owners as Burns had a pretty nice season playing forward with the likes of Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. He would’ve been an interesting player in keeper leagues if he were still playing wing next season and qualified at defense. Now with his move back to defense he is probably no longer in consideration to be kept, as his offensive numbers should go down across the board.
Will P.K. Subban be the number one defenseman taken in Fantasy drafts next season? He has shown during the playoff series versus the Bruins the exact type of player he can be, with four goals and three assists and the ability to get under the opposing team’s skin. If he can keep his head on straight, 20 goals and 60 points is not out of the realm of possibility next year. There are certainly safer players, but upside could be Subban’s middle name.
The Minnesota Wild goaltending situation should be interesting next season. They still have Niklas Backstrom under contract for two more seasons, but still have to figure out what to do with Josh Harding. What about Darcy Kuemper? Should they re-sign Ilya Bryzgalov, who is a pending free agent? Harding’s multiple sclerosis throws a monkey wrench into the works. He has proven to be a top notch goaltender, when available to play, but no one knows how often that might be. Can the team really rely on him to be a number one or even the backup? Kuemper deserves the chance to be the starting goaltender, but if the team decides not to buyout Backstrom’s contract he may once again begin the season in the AHL.
Speaking of goaltenders, there is virtually no chance that Jonas Hiller re-signs with Anaheim after the season. Hiller lost his starting job during the last month of the regular season, and even though he has saved the Ducks’ bacon twice during the playoffs by coming in relief to win games, the team still has gone with John Gibson to start the final four games versus the Kings in the conference semi-finals. It would seem clear that Anaheim wants to go with Gibson and Frederik Andersen as their starting goaltending tandem next season. Hiller could be in play for starting jobs in Pittsburgh, St. Louis, or Washington.
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Photo via Daniel E. Dobish