It’s been a fascinating opening week of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, both for players that might wind up with the Kraken and some of the men in line to stand behind their bench.
For that latter part, the Kraken will indeed interview former Arizona coach Rick Tocchet, a development first reported by Frank Seravalli of TSN Sports and confirmed by a league source. In addition, I can tell you the Kraken also plan to interview Vancouver Canucks head coach Travis Green for the job if indeed his contract does not get renewed.
The Canucks played their final regular-season game Wednesday — the North Division playoffs had yet to start beforehand because of Vancouver’s three-week COVID-19 layoff — and Green’s status was not immediately known. Speculation has run rampant all week that wholesale changes might be in store behind the team’s bench and throughout its front office.
After Vancouver’s season-ending 6-2 loss to Calgary on Wednesday, the Kraken’s official Twitter account appeared to take a jab at the Canucks. “For everyone asking, yes. We are accepting applications for new fans,’’ read a tweet posted right after the team’s final defeat in a taxing season was done, but without mentioning the Canucks by name.
All that aside, the on-ice stuff has been even more heated in these playoffs with sudden-death overtime deciding the first three games and one-goal affairs being the order of the day. Arguably the best series going features the Washington Capitals and T.J. Oshie of Stanwood taking on the Boston Bruins in the East Division opening round, with the first three games of that series decided in sudden death.
The teams entered Wednesday with a win apiece their first two games before Boston pulled out a 3-2 win in double overtime after the Bruins tied things late for a second straight game.
Capitals alternate captain Oshie, long rumored a potential Kraken first captain if left unprotected in the upcoming expansion draft, is playing some of his best hockey all season in the series.
Oshie had a pair of assists in Game 1, including one on a shot of his that was tipped home by Nic Dowd for the winning overtime goal. He then followed up with a goal in a Game 2 defeat to the Bruins.
Now, a lot of what makes Oshie theoretically expendable to the Kraken is the fact he’s 34 and has four contract years remaining at a $5.75 million salary-cap hit per annum. Sure, that’s a lot of future Capitals cap space if they can unload a player that theoretically should be entering the declining phase of his career.
But Oshie, as has been widely-noted, shows no real signs of slowing down – having scored 22 goals and added 21 assists in just 53 games this abbreviated season. For those with calculators, that’s a 34-goal, 32-assist season in a full 82-game schedule and no, teams aren’t usually inclined to give guys like that up.
That will be especially true if Oshie continues to play at his current playoff level.
Another guy performing at his best has been Bruins forward Taylor Hall, acquired from Buffalo at the trade deadline. All Hall has done since joining the Bruins is revive a career that had been looking increasingly stale before he even hits his 30th birthday.
Hall scored a second-period goal in Game 3 on Wednesday with some magical stickwork in front of Caps goalie Ilya Samsonov. He’d previously netted a late Game 2 equalizer with a brilliant zone-entry deke of a defender to move the puck in deep before eventually jamming home a rebound in front of the net.
Hall scored eight goals and added six assists in just 18 games with the Bruins after knotting only two goals all season with the Sabres before that. He’s made it quite clear he’d love to sign a contract extension with Boston, but it remains to be seen whether the Bruins will be willing to match his enthusiasm with the big money that will take.
If the unrestricted free agent is indeed left exposed by Boston in July’s expansion draft, the Kraken would have an exclusive 72-hour window to try to sign him. It’s a longshot, especially given what teams might pay Hall in an open bidding war, but the Kraken will have deep pockets and might take a shot.
Remember, he’s just three years removed from an MVP season with New Jersey and hadn’t exactly been surrounded by seasoned and quality players the past two seasons.
On the goaltending front, several potential Kraken netminders have already seen action. Minnesota Wild goalie Cam Talbot made 42 saves for a 1-0 shutout win in a Game 1 overtime upset of the Vegas Golden Knights.
Vegas rebounded for a 3-1 win in Game 2, with Talbot allowing all three goals. But still, it’s hardly goaltending impacting a Wild team that’s scored just once in two games.
Florida goaltender Chris Dreidger has also been mentioned as a possible Kraken acquisition, and he got a surprise Game 2 start over Panthers No. 1 goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. Honestly, only a coach as decorated as Joel Quenneville could get away with a daring move like that this early in the playoffs after Tampa Bay knocked off Florida in a 5-4 overtime thriller in Game 1 with Bobrovsky in nets.
Dreidger was caught out of position a couple of times in Game 2, which the Panthers lost 3-1 to fall into a two-game hole, but he couldn’t be faulted much for the defeat. The Lightning is the defending champion and playing like it, sporting its full component of freshly-healed all-star players, including Nikita Kucherov, who controversially sat out all season on injured reserve as much for salary-cap reasons as for health.
There is no salary cap during the playoffs, so Kucherov can now play without his cap-challenged team exceeding limits.
Another goalie the Kraken might be considering, Capitals netminder Vitek Vanecek, suffered a lower-body injury attempting a kick-save in Game 1 of the Capitals-Bruins series and hasn’t returned. And Jake Allen of the Montreal Canadiens, as expected, will likely move to the bench as Carey Price returns from a monthlong concussion absence and likely starts Thursday’s series opener against Toronto.
There’s still a strong chance the Kraken takes Allen, even if he never sees the ice this postseason.
But stay tuned, we’re not even a week into these playoffs yet and the Kraken is watching closely.