In this edition of NHL Quick Hits, I’ll share some news about three different NHL players – Duncan Keith, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, and Alexis Lafreniere.
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Quick Hit One: Blackhawks Have to Hope Keith Doesn’t Retire
Duncan Keith no longer with for the Chicago Blackhawks. However, the Blackhawks have a huge interest in what Keith does next season. That’s because, should Keith decide to hang up his skates this summer, the Blackhawks would be on the spot to pay a very large recapture penalty.
Although he’s a bit long in the NHL tooth at 39-years-old, Keith played well enough last season with his new team the Edmonton Oilers. He also showed his veteran leadership during the Oilers surprising run to the Western Conference Final. Still, the Oilers aren’t certain he’ll be back in the Blue and Orange.
Obviously Keith isn’t certain either. A report out of Edmonton is that the Oilers have asked Keith if he would tell them about his plans by July 1, which is just over two weeks away. It isn’t as if the Oilers are trying to push him out; however, in dollars and cents, should he retire, he’d be a financial windfall for his new team. Specifically, he’d give the Oilers a salary-cap break not only of his own $5,538,462 but also another $3.4 million salary-cap credit for the 2022-23 season.
Back in Chicago, the Blackhawks would be charged $5.5 million against their own 2022-23 salary cap and another $2 million against the cap in 2023-24. In a strange way, the Oilers would gain the biggest benefit should Keith retire. They’re much closer to the upper limits of the salary cap than the Blackhawks are.
That said, Chicago’s a rebuilding team and can absorb the salary-cap hit if Keith retires. But what NHL team wants to pay more money than it has to. Keith’s retirement might squeeze their roster options. Still, all this is speculation. Keith seemed to enjoy his first season with the Oilers and might simply choose to take his $5.5 million to the bank and play another season in the prairie city.
Quick Hit Two: Not Every Lightning Has Won a Stanley Cup, Bellemare Wants One
The Tampa Bay Lightning have won two Stanley Cups in a row, and before the series starts there’s a 50/50 chance they’ll do it again. However, although the Lightning team is filled with Stanley Cup winners, not everyone has shared that experience. Newcomer Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who joined the Lightning during the summer as a free agent, has not yet won a Cup. No surprise; he wants one.
Bellemare is one of a few playes on the Lightning roster who are in the hunt for Lord Stanley and a championship for the first time in their careers. In the case of Bellemare, it will be his second go at winning the Cup. He got there in 2018 with the Vegas Golden Knights. As fans recall, 2017–18 was the first season the Golden Knights played and they put together the strongest season an expansion team has ever had in the history of any North American professional sport.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare left the Avalanche after two seasons to sign with the Lightning in free agency. Now, he’s facing his former team in the Stanley Cup final.https://t.co/x2ku7rJDWI
— Tampa Bay Times (@TB_Times) June 15, 2022
That season, Vegas lost to the Washington Capitals and Bellemare went home empty handed. His response to have another chance this season is exciting. In an interview this week, his words note how hungry NHL players are for this rare chance.
Bellemare shared the plight of all NHL players when he noted: “You work so hard. When (Vegas) went there … you try to make a point of understanding that this is not something that happens every day, and it took a long time before I even got the honor to be able to compete for it. So I’m going to do the same: try to take it all in and just get the body ready for the biggest war.”
Given that some players never get a chance to win the Stanley Cup, it’s easy to see why the experience is highly-valued. More interestingly, Bellemare played two seasons with the very team he’ll meet in the Stanley Cup Final – the Colorado Avalanche. Interesting twist.
Quick Hit Three: Lafreniere Is Ok at Right Wing, For Now
It isn’t that the New York Rangers’ first overall draft choice Alexis Lafreniere has played poorly in the NHL, but he hasn’t done as well as expected. That’s true for his own expectations as well. Yesterday, Lafreniere was very clear about his goals with the Rangers as he enters his third season in the NHL.
He wants to play in one of the Rangers’ first two lines. On Monday, Lafreniere was reported as saying that “I want to play in the top six, eventually.”
He also was clear about what he needed to work on during the offseason – his skating. After a rookie season where Lafreniere scored 12 goals and added nine assists (for 21 points) in 56 games, during the 2021-22 season he upped his numbers to 19 goals and 12 assists (for 31 points) in 79 games.
As noted in the subtitle above, Lafreniere knows he’s just breaking into the team. He also gets it that right now playing left wing (his natural position) for the Rangers is a bit of a dream. That’s because both Chris Kreider and Artemi Panarin are ahead of him as left-wingers on the Rangers’ depth chart.
Being pragmatic, he’s willing to play on the right wing for now. Good call.
Related: NHL Quick Hits: DeBoer, Trotz, Torts, York & Reaves (Flyers & Rangers)
The post NHL Quick Hits: Keith (Oilers), Bellemare (Bolts) & Lafreniere (Rangers) appeared first on NHL Trade Talk.
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