All posts by Sean O'Leary

Report: Dallas Eakins expected to be named Ducks coach

Candidates who've been told they're no longer in the running for the Anaheim Ducks' coaching job believe Dallas Eakins will be named the club's new bench boss, reports TSN's Frank Seravalli. A formal announcement is expected this week.

Eakins is the current head coach of Anaheim's AHL affiliate, the San Diego Gulls, who he led to a 36-24-5-3 record this past season.

The 52-year-old has been out of the NHL since the 2014-15 season, when he was fired by the Edmonton Oilers after being hired the previous campaign. He also has experience as the head coach of the AHL's Toronto Marlies.

The Ducks fired veteran coach Randy Carlyle in February and had general manager Bob Murray behind the bench to close out the remainder of the 2018-19 season, which they finished in 24th place.

Eakins' appointment as the Ducks' bench boss would fill the league's last remaining coaching vacancy.

Copyright © 2019 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Projecting Mitch Marner’s next contract

Throughout June, theScore will be projecting contracts for the star-studded restricted free-agent class. In this edition, we project Mitch Marner's new deal.

The player

After landing John Tavares in free agency last July, general manager Kyle Dubas proclaimed his Toronto Maple Leafs "can and will" retain the club's entire young core in Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner - despite the financial complications of harboring so many talented players.

Matthews and Nylander are taken care of, and now Dubas' No. 1 summer priority is finding a suitable deal for Marner - owner of one hell of a contract year.

Season (Age) GP G A P
2016-17 (19) 77 19 42 61
2017-18 (20) 82 22 47 69
2018-19 (21) 82 26 68 94

Marner erupted with career bests across the board in 2018-19, leading the Leafs in scoring for the second straight year while finishing 11th in the Art Ross race. The 22-year-old winger has emerged as one of the most creative and exciting playmakers the NHL has to offer. Lining up alongside Tavares - who set a career high of his own by scoring 47 goals with No. 16 on his wing - Marner developed into one half of a lethal combination for Toronto.

Elite vision and passing skills were Marner's greatest strengths even before the Leafs plucked him fourth overall in 2015, and they were on full display in his third pro season. Marner trailed only Connor McDavid and Nikita Kucherov in primary assists at all strengths (52) and led all skaters with 36 helpers at five-on-five, well ahead of runner-up Sidney Crosby.

Deployed on the power play, penalty kill, and against opponents' top lines at even strength, Marner's earned the complete trust of head coach Mike Babcock. He's remained incredibly durable so far in his career, missing just five games over three seasons, and produced 17 points in 20 career playoff contests.

The team

Mark Blinch / National Hockey League / Getty

Marner is Dubas' top priority this offseason, but he isn't the only one. Fellow forwards Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson are also restricted free agents and could combine for a significant chunk of change for a Leafs team up against the cap.

Toronto has a projected $8.79 million in cap space, according to CapFriendly, and could gain another $5.3 million by placing Nathan Horton on LTIR. Every dollar will count. On top of their RFAs, the Leafs have three unrestricted free agents - Jake Gardiner, Ron Hainsey, and Martin Marincin - who could all walk, leaving large holes on a blue line that's already considered the club's primary weakness.

Dubas is in the process of trying to move the anchoring contracts of Patrick Marleau (one more season at $6.25 million) and Nikita Zaitsev (five more seasons at $4.5 million), which would go a long way in creating extra financial flexibility in a crucial offseason.

The comparables

Here's a look at some recent contracts signed by star forwards, deals that could be close to the one Marner ends up landing:

Player P/GP* Cap hit CH% Length Year Signed
Leon Draisaitl (EDM) 0.94 $8.5M 11.3% 8 years 2017
David Pastrnak (BOS) 0.93 $6.66M 8.89% 6 years 2017
Johnny Gaudreau (CGY) 0.98 $6.75M 9.25% 6 years 2016
Vladimir Tarasenko (STL) 0.94 $7.5M 10.27% 8 years 2015

CH% = Cap hit percentage, based on cap ceiling when the contract was signed
* - In contract year

It's difficult to set a baseline for Marner, whose third-year production (1.14 points per game) is far from common in recent history. He'll assuredly pass Pastrnak and Gaudreau in terms of salary; their contracts are now considered major bargains for their respective teams and pay well below Marner's current market value.

Under next year's expected salary cap of $83 million, Draisaitl's 11.3 cap percentage would translate to roughly $9.4 million per year for Marner - a figure much closer to the winger's worth than the other examples above.

In the end, Marner's RFA peers might provide his best comparables when they sign their own new deals this summer. But the Leafs would be taking a risk by waiting to see what the likes of Mikko Rantanen, Matthew Tkachuk, and Brayden Point will earn before extending their own young star.

The projection

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

Marner's contract has been one of the league's hottest topics all year; with the playoffs in the books and signing season approaching, the chatter will certainly pick up again. Some members of the media have speculated that Marner is looking for a deal worth north of $10 million per year. Even Brad Marchand said he hopes to see the Leafs' youngster earn $12 million annually.

Historically, centers and goal scorers land the NHL's most lucrative contracts, and the Leafs have already committed more than $22 million a season to two players who satisfy both categories. Though Marner is a huge factor in Toronto's recent success, handing him a deal that matches those of Matthews and Tavares would be unprecedented.

There's currently one right winger in the NHL who makes over $10 million per season: Patrick Kane. Kucherov, the presumptive MVP, and Mark Stone, a Selke candidate with back-to-back 30-goal seasons to his name, both follow the Blackhawks superstar at $9.5 million a year.

When all is said and done, Marner will likely earn slightly less than those wingers, but his new deal will still place him firmly among the highest-paid players at his position. Depending on the exact value of his annual cap hit, Marner's next contract could eventually pay major dividends for Toronto as he continues to grow as a player.

The Leafs could go in any direction when it comes to term, but the longer the commitment, the higher the number. A five-year deal seems a non-option for the team; such a contract would see Matthews, Marner, and Nylander all become UFAs following the 2023-24 season.

Verdict: 6 years, $55.5 million ($9.25M AAV)

Advanced Stats Courtesy: Natural Stat Trick

Others in this series:

Copyright © 2019 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Bruins vs. Blues: 3 keys to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final

It all comes down to this.

On Wednesday night, the St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins will do battle in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final - the NHL's first winner-take-all championship contest since 2011 and fourth of the salary cap era.

The Blues fell short of clinching their first-ever Stanley Cup with an underwhelming performance in Game 6, but get another shot at glory. The Bruins, meanwhile, forced a Game 7 on home ice for the second time this postseason and seek their seventh Cup. If they win it, they'll move ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for the fourth-most championships in NHL history.

Before any hardware gets handed out, let's go over three keys to determining the newest champions of the NHL.

Goaltending battle

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

Tuukka Rask and Jordan Binnington have gotten their respective teams to this point with displays of dominance throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs. While both players will be a major factor in who comes out on top Wednesday, it's nearly impossible to declare who has the edge.

Rask has posted a .938 save percentage across 23 playoff games so far and is a shoo-in for the Conn Smythe if he secures his 16th win of the tournament. The 32-year-old Finn has been at his best with the Bruins facing elimination, allowing only four goals in three games with a .953 save clip.

Binnington is no slouch either, though, and has delivered time and time again with his Blues facing adversity. St. Louis' unflappable rookie netminder is 7-2 - and 2-0 in the Final - coming off a loss this postseason.

Special teams vs. even strength

Dave Sandford / National Hockey League / Getty

Penalty trouble immediately sunk the Blues in Game 6, as Brad Marchand's 5-on-3 opener gave the Bruins momentum they never relinquished. It wasn't the first time this series Boston's taken over a game with its lethal power play, doing the same in Game 3 with an absurd 4-for-4 performance. The B's enter Game 7 operating at 33 percent with the man advantage in the Final and will surely look to seize any opportunity handed to them.

The Blues' penalty kill has been torn apart and their power play hasn't been great either, going just 1-for-18 so far against the Bruins. Ensuring the game is played at even strength has to be a major focal point for coach Craig Berube and his squad, who've owned a slight advantage in most metrics.

Team CF% GF% SCF%
Blues 52.13 52.38 50.70
Bruins 47.87 47.62 49.30

(Advanced Stats Courtesy: Natural Stat Trick)

Depth production

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

Anyone can become a hero with a big performance in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, and depth scoring can often play a big role in determining the winner of a do-or-die matchup.

The Blues could use some extra production in the season finale, as only eight skaters have scored a goal and just three have recorded more than one. That said, St. Louis will be back at full strength for Game 7 with Ivan Barbashev set to return from a one-game suspension.

The Bruins, on the other hand, have benefited from contributions across the board, with 15 different skaters finding the back of the net in the Cup Final and 21 overall in the playoffs, matching an NHL record, according to Sportsnet Stats.

Copyright © 2019 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Expanded review among Competition Committee’s rule recommendations

The NHL and NHLPA Competition Committee convened Tuesday and released a series of rule recommendations.

The biggest topic of discussion was expanded video review, which both parties agreed needs tinkering.

Commissioner Gary Bettman said just as much during his latest public address in May, declaring the league will work to find the right balance when it comes to replays.

Here's a look at all of the recommendations, as outlined by the NHLPA.

  • Expanded video review/coach's challenge: The Committee recommends changes to the coach's challenge and expanded video review, including as it relates to a referee's ability to review some of his own calls on the ice. Recommendations will be prepared for the league's board of governors, general managers, and the NHLPA's executive board.
  • Helmets off during play: The Committee recommends work on a rule construct for implementation next season that would reasonably require a player to leave the ice in the event his helmet comes off during play.
  • Goalies unnecessarily freezing puck: The Committee recommends that the defensive team not be permitted a line change when a goalie freezes the puck on any shot from outside the center red line. The offensive team will have the choice of which end-zone dot the faceoff will take place.
  • Faceoff procedure changes/line changes: The Committee recommends: i) That following an icing, the offensive team will have the choice of which end-zone dot the faceoff will take place. ii) To begin a power play, the offensive team will have the choice of which end-zone dot the faceoff will take place. iii) That no line change be permitted for the defending team if, in the judgment of the official, the actions of a skater of the defensive team caused the stoppage by unintentionally knocking the net off. The offensive team will have the choice of which end-zone dot the faceoff will take place.
  • Puck out of bounds: The Committee recommends that when the attacking team is responsible for the puck going out of play in the attacking zone, all faceoffs will be conducted at one of the two faceoff dots in the attacking zone.
  • Regular-season tiebreakers: The Committee recommends adoption of a proposal that would modify existing regular-season tiebreaking procedures and adding additional criteria.

The rule recommendations still require approval by the NHLPA'S executive board and the NHL's board of governors before they can be formalized.

Among those in attendance at the meeting were Connor McDavid, John Tavares, Steve Yzerman, Ken Holland, and Colin Campbell.

Copyright © 2019 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Report: Alex Meruelo close to purchasing majority share in Coyotes

Billionaire businessman Alex Meruelo is in advanced talks to purchase a majority share of the Arizona Coyotes, sources told The Athletic's Craig Morgan.

The NHL Board of Governors is expected to vote on the matter at an upcoming meeting in Las Vegas on June 19. The sale would give Meruelo a substantial majority stake in the Coyotes, with current owner Andrew Barroway retaining a small minority share, Morgan adds.

Meruelo has construction, real estate, and other holdings across the U.S. He put in a bid to buy the NBA's Atlanta Hawks in 2011.

Barroway became the Coyotes' owner in 2015, buying control of the club for $305 million.

Copyright © 2019 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Projecting Brock Boeser’s next contract

Throughout June, theScore will be projecting contracts for the star-studded restricted free-agent class. In this edition, we project Brock Boeser's new deal.

The player

The Vancouver Canucks have collected the young core pieces they hope to build a successful team around, and now it's time to start paying them. The process begins with a new contract for sharpshooting winger Brock Boeser, the first of the club's building blocks to require a new deal.

Season (Age) GP G A P
2016-17 (19) 9 4 1 5
2017-18 (20) 62 29 26 55
2018-19 (21) 69 26 30 56

Drafted 23rd overall by Vancouver in 2015, Boeser has already established himself as one of the league's premier shooters. Since his first full season, he sits 18th among all NHL skaters with 1.1 goals per 60 at five-on-five, ahead of some major names like Jamie Benn, Brad Marchand, Sean Monahan, and Mark Stone.

Boeser doesn't drive play for his linemates particularly well, but he's an elite finisher who's bound to earn a handsome payday even as a winger. The 22-year-old's resume already includes a runner-up finish in Calder Trophy voting and All-Star Game MVP honors, so he has lots to work with on his side of negotiations.

The team

Jeff Vinnick / National Hockey League / Getty

As mentioned above, Boeser is a key component of the Canucks' promising young core alongside Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes. His upcoming contract will be crucial for Vancouver's long-term salary cap picture as all three players track to make big money down the road. General manager Jim Benning can get a head start this offseason by working out a reasonable deal for Boeser.

The Canucks are projected to have over $30 million in cap space for the 2019-20 season, according to CapFriendly. Though Boeser headlines Vancouver's list of players due for new contracts, he's not alone. Tyler Motte, Josh Leivo, Nikolay Goldobin, and Markus Granlund are all RFA forwards as well, while Ben Hutton and Derrick Pouliot are up for new deals on the blue line. Of those six players, only Goldobin enters the offseason without arbitration rights. Vancouver also has decisions to make on veteran UFA defensemen Alex Edler and Luke Schenn. Schenn joined the club in January and it seems the Canucks want to bring him back.

Boeser won't be the only player looking to get paid this summer, but he'll undoubtedly be priority No. 1.

The comparables

Here's a list of notable wingers to recently sign long-term contracts coming out of their ELCs:

Player (Team) P/GP* AAV CH% Length Year signed
Johnny Gaudreau (CGY) 0.98 $6.75M 9.25 6 years 2016
Filip Forsberg (NSH) 0.78 $6M 8.22 6 years 2016
David Pastrnak (BOS) 0.93 $6.66M 8.89 6 years 2017
Jake Guentzel (PIT) 0.92 $6M 7.55 5 years 2018
William Nylander (TOR) 0.74 $6.9M** 8.67 6 years 2018

CH% = Cap hit as a percentage of the cap ceiling when the contract was signed

* - In contract year
** - Nylander's cap hit in 2018-19 was prorated to $10.2 million based on time missed due to negotiations

Boeser missed time with injury this season but still put up 0.81 points per game over 69 contests, putting him on par with the comparables above. Working in Boeser's favor, though, is the increasing salary cap, projected at $83 million for next year. That increase could slide him ahead of all the players listed above in terms of AAV. He also outscored everybody on this list over the duration of their respective ELCs with 0.42 tallies per game, and there's no better stat than goals to build a case for a sizeable payday.

His new contract could also largely depend on which of his RFA contemporaries puts pen to paper first. Boeser is just one of numerous superstar wingers scheduled to secure a huge payday this summer along with Mitch Marner, Mikko Rantanen, Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor, and Matthew Tkachuk - all of whom will play a role in setting the market.

The projection

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

Boeser isn't as multidimensional as some of his RFA peers, but excelling at scoring goals at the sport's highest level is an outstanding way to earn a hefty paycheck. Given his prowess when it comes to lighting the lamp, a cap hit in the range of $7 million to $8 million would be reasonable for both sides.

From the Canucks' standpoint, there's little incentive to bridge Boeser. He's proven himself as a producer, and delaying a long-term commitment could backfire big time once it's time to pay Pettersson and Hughes two years from now.

Verdict: 7 years, $51.45 million ($7.35 million AAV)

Advanced Stats Courtesy: Natural Stat Trick

Others in this series:

Copyright © 2019 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Marleau puts Toronto home up for sale amid trade speculation

With chatter running rampant about his potential departure from the Maple Leafs, Patrick Marleau has put his Toronto home up for sale, according to the Toronto Star's Kevin McGran.

The mansion contains six bedrooms and seven bathrooms and is up for grabs for $11.8 million, per the online listing.

Marleau is entering the final year of his three-year, $18.75-million deal with the Leafs, but the club is exploring the possibility of trading him to create extra cap space.

The Leafs have reportedly had discussions with the Los Angeles Kings and Arizona Coyotes on a potential deal.

Marleau's contract features a full no-movement clause, meaning he'd have to sign off on his future destination before the Leafs could trigger a deal.

The 39-year-old hasn't missed a game since the 2008-09 season and put up 16 goals and 21 assists in 2018-19.

Copyright © 2019 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Stars extend Polak on 1-year, $1.75M contract

The Dallas Stars signed defenseman Roman Polak to a one-year contract extension worth $1.75 million, the team announced Thursday.

Polak, 33, joined the Stars prior to the 2018-19 season and is signing a one-year contract for the fourth consecutive year.

He was one of five Stars blue-liners on an expiring contract this summer, as Marc Methot, Taylor Fedun, and Ben Lovejoy are unrestricted free agents, while Julius Honka is an RFA.

Polak appeared in 77 games in his debut season with the Stars, recording one goal and eight assists while logging 19:10 per contest. He also led the club with 152 blocked shots.

Copyright © 2019 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Projecting Timo Meier’s next contract

Throughout June, theScore will be projecting contracts for the star-studded restricted free-agent class. In this edition, we project Timo Meier's new deal.

The player

Timo Meier came into his own during the final year of the winger's entry-level contract. He nearly doubled his previous career high in points and ranked third on the Sharks with 30 goals while establishing himself as a top-six threat.

Season (Age) GP G A P
2016-17 (20) 37 3 3 6
2017-18 (21) 81 21 15 36
2018-19 (22) 78 30 36 66

The 22-year-old was incredibly efficient during his production spike this season, too. Meier suited up for just under 17 minutes per contest, and he still finished the year 14th among all regularly deployed forwards with 1.21 goals per 60 at five-on-five, according to Natural Stat Trick.

Meier, the ninth overall pick in 2015, offers a blend of size, speed, and scoring touch. He asserted himself more during the 2019 playoffs, too, racking up 15 points in 20 games before the Sharks bowed out in the Western Conference Final.

The team

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

The Sharks might own the NHL's longest to-do list this summer. General manager Doug Wilson has some crucial decisions to make, and he faces a bevy of contract situations that need to be resolved.

Aside from Meier, the Sharks' list of expiring deals includes captain Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, Erik Karlsson, Joonas Donskoi, and Gustav Nyquist, all of whom are unrestricted free agents. Kevin Labanc, fresh off a career-high 56-point campaign, is an RFA as well.

It's hard to imagine veterans Pavelski and Thornton suiting up elsewhere, but even if they stay put, their combined cap hit will likely eat up a fair chunk of San Jose's projected $24.7 million available to spend.

Then there's Karlsson, who still put up 45 points in 53 games despite suffering through an injury-riddled debut season in the Bay Area. He has every right to demand a salary that places him among the highest-paid defensemen.

Bringing everybody back doesn't seem feasible, so Wilson needs to play this offseason carefully to ensure the Sharks' competitive window stays open as long as possible.

The comparables

Here's a list of comparable contracts wingers have signed coming out of their ELCs in recent years:

Player (Team) P/GP* AAV CH% Length Year signed
Nikolaj Ehlers (WPG) 0.73 $6M 8.0% 7 years 2017
David Pastrnak (BOS) 0.93 $6.66M 8.89% 6 years 2017
Tomas Hertl (SJ) 0.58 $5.625M 7.08% 4 years 2018
Jake Guentzel (PIT) 0.92 $6M 7.55% 5 years 2018
William Nylander (TOR) 0.74 6.9M** 12.93% 6 years 2018

CH% = Cap hit percentage, based on cap ceiling when the contract was signed

* - In contract year
** - Nylander's cap hit in 2018-19 was prorated to $10.2 million because of time missed in negotiations

Meier posted a 0.84 points-per-game average this season, putting him on track to land a similar deal to those above. However, with the salary cap set to reach $83 million next season, he could earn more than some of his peers.

The most interesting case on the list is Hertl, Meier's teammate who was given a four-year contract even when he was producing pedestrian numbers. In the first year of his new deal, though, Hertl exploded for 35 goals and 74 points, turning his cap hit into a bargain for now.

Meier isn't quite on the same level as Mitch Marner, Mikko Rantanen, or Patrik Laine when compared to other RFA wingers up for new deals in this summer's star-studded class. But he should still land a comfortable long-term contract.

The projection

Christian Petersen / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Meier emerged as a strong scorer while carving out a nice role during his contract year, and he should be compensated accordingly. However, it's hard to imagine him breaking the bank on a huge deal with the Sharks facing cap constraints and several other contracts to negotiate.

The only Sharks forwards currently locked in for more than two seasons are Logan Couture, Evander Kane, and Hertl. From Wilson's perspective, it makes sense to add Meier to that list at a rate that matches up with market value, and one that won't handcuff the team down the road.

Verdict: six years, $37.8 million ($6.3M AAV)

Others in this series:

  • Zach Werenski
  • Charlie McAvoy
  • Sebastian Aho
  • Mikko Rantanen (June 7)
  • Brock Boeser (June 10)
  • Patrik Laine & Kyle Connor (June 11)
  • Brayden Point (June 12)
  • Matthew Tkachuk (June 13)
  • Mitch Marner (June 14)

Copyright © 2019 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.