There was a changing of the guard at Tuesday night's NHL Awards ceremony in Tampa. For the first time in his career, Auston Matthews took home the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP, voted by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association, and the Ted Lindsay Award for the league's top player, voted by the players themselves.
The definitions of the awards are a little different. The Hart is officially for the player judged to be 'most valuable to his team,' while the Lindsay is for the 'most outstanding player.' Nevertheless, it makes me happy when the winner aligns. I think I'm still salty about Corey Perry winning the Hart in 2011, when Daniel Sedin was awarded the Ted Lindsay.
The winners of the other three awards that were handed out on Tuesday were also first-timers. Igor Shesterkin won the Vezina and Cale Makar edged out Roman Josi for the Norris in a close race, where Josi finished with more first-place votes. In the Calder race, Moritz Seider of Detroit handily beat out Trevor Zegras of Anaheim and Michael Bunting of Toronto.
We'll also have a first-time winner of the Jim Gregory general manager of the year award when that's announced during draft weekend in Montreal. After back-to-back wins for the venerable Lou Lamoriello of the New York Islanders in 2020 and 2021, this year's finalists are the very deserving Julien BriseBois of Tampa Bay and Joe Sakic of Colorado, along with first-year GM Chris Drury from the New York Rangers.
The live show took on a different feel this year. It took place in a relatively intimate space in Tampa, with no fans in attendance and a number of winners pre-announced over the last couple of weeks. Kenan Thompson from Saturday Night Live and the Mighty Ducks movies returned as host after doing the honours the last time the show was live — in Vegas in 2019. He was great — funny and in tune with the proceedings.
Another nice touch was the decision to include some inspirational folks from the hockey world as awards presenters. That list was headed up by Canucks assistant equipment manager Red Hamilton and Nadia Popovici, the Seattle Kraken fan who alerted him to the cancerous growth on his neck during a game earlier this season. Together, they presented the Hart to Matthews as the final award of the night.
It felt a little weird to hold the ceremony before the Stanley Cup is awarded — not knowing yet who will be the Cup champions or the Conn Smythe Trophy winner. In the past, the show has been scheduled in the same week as the draft, but it kind of makes sense to include the ceremony as part of the Stanley Cup Final package. I would guess that the schedule shift may have been requested by the Awards' new U.S. rightsholder, ESPN.
As for the Canucks players, they were a long way from Top 3, but did earn votes in a few categories.
Thatcher Demko tied for seventh in Vezina Trophy voting, which is handled by the NHL's 32 general managers. He earned one third-place vote, as did Ville Husso of St. Louis and Tristan Jarry of Pittsburgh. Shesterkin ran away with this year's award, with 29 first-place votes. Last year's winner, Marc-Andre Fleury, did not receive a single vote.
Quinn Hughes came 13th in Norris Trophy voting. He received two fourth-place votes and three fifth-place votes for a total of nine voting points. That actually tied him with Miro Heiskanen of Dallas, but Heiskanen ranked one spot higher because he received one third-place vote, one fourth-place vote and one fifth-place vote.
And J.T. Miller tied with Matthew Tkachuk for 14th place in Hart Trophy voting. Each player received one fifth-place vote.
Miller also tied with Patrice Bergeron for seventh place in the voting for the centre position on the NHL's 2021-22 All-Star Team — with five third-place votes. Demko finished eighth in the goaltender voting, with one second-place vote and three for third place. And Hughes landed 11th on the list of defensemen, with three second-place votes and 11 for third place (each voter is asked to choose two defensemen).
No votes for Vasily Podkolzin for the Calder or the All-Rookie Team.
The Jack Adams Award was handed out to Darryl Sutter back on June 2. Bruce Boudreau finished in a tie for 12th on that ballot, with one second-place vote and three third-place votes to tie him with Jay Woodcroft of Edmonton.
Back on the ice — the Lightning proved on Monday night that they won't go quietly, skating to a 6-2 win over the Avalanche and igniting a goalie controversy after Darcy Kuemper was pulled. Brayden Point will be sidelined again for Wednesday's Game 4. Nikita Kucherov will play — and so might Nazem Kadri, on the Colorado side.
This is a pivotal point in the series. Should be a good one!
Finally — some grist for the rumour mill came out Tuesday, when TSN's Darren Dreger announced on 'Insider Trading
' that it's 'open season' for the Canucks in terms of trades. He names J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser as potential trade candidates, but emphasizes that the club would be looking for quality young assets in return.
It seems like it’s open season for the Vancouver Canucks; it’s not a fire sale so don’t misunderstand that – we’ll talk about and we’ll talk about . Miller has one year remaining on his contract and then he’s an unrestricted free agent and Boeser is a restricted free agent this off-season and there’s going to be a strong market for both of these players. Boeser is 25 years old and he’s a goal scorer, Miller is coming off a career year and he’s a gritty forward – there isn’t a Stanley Cup playoff team (including the Tampa Bay Lightning and Colorado Avalanche) who wouldn’t consider Miller a good add on top of what they already have. The Canucks are interested in listening, [Canucks GM] Patrik Allvin has been very busy but the Canucks aren’t just in the market for draft picks. They need good, young players [and] if they’re giving up NHL players in return it’ll be a very interesting off-season for them.
Put it that way, and I get visions of Joe Nieuwendyk-for-Jarome Iginla dancing through my head. Nieuwendyk was 29 when the deal went down in December of 1995 — the same age that Miller is now. And the deal is widely regarded as one of the best win-win trades in NHL history.
I remember thinking Calgary did well when this trade was first announced. Though Iginla had not yet played in the NHL, I knew he was a highly touted prospect — and back in those days, draft coverage was nowhere near what we get today.
By the mid-90s, TSN had started ramping up its coverage of the World Junior Championship. Iginla made his tournament debut and won gold a couple of weeks after being traded, tied for the tournament lead with 12 points and being named best forward.
What I had forgotten was that Nieuwendyk hadn't played that season — holding out from the Flames in a contract dispute. According to this piece from The Hockey Writers
, Nieuwendyk had rejected an offer of three years at $6 million total from the Flames. When he got to Dallas, he signed a five-year contract worth $11.3 million. That's $2.26 million a year — so there's a player in the same age range as Miller, basically holding out for more term.
Nieuwendyk played more than seven years in Dallas, won a Stanley Cup with the Stars in 1999, and was flipped to New Jersey as part of a trade-deadline deal in 2002 that included a first-round draft pick coming back to the Stars.
And as it turned out, he ended up playing until the 2006-07 season, his age-40 year. He was better than a point-per-game player in his last year in Calgary, with 50 points in 46 games in the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season, and never came close to those numbers again — although the dead-puck era would also have been a factor. That being said, he did break 30 goals two more times, and had 20 or more goals five times as well. And in his last full season, he had 26 goals and 56 points in 65 games with the Florida Panthers in 2005-06 — an old guy who came back strong after the full-season 2004-05 lockout took out the legs of many of the league's more veteran players.
He's a decent comparable for Miller. And he had plenty of good years left at the time when he was traded. His value actually increased significantly after that five-year deal — as Miller's could, too, if the NHL stays on track with recouping the revenues it lost during the pandemic and starts bringing back significant salary-cap bumps sometime around 2025.
I had also forgotten that Iginla was only 18 when the deal went down, just six months after he was drafted 11th overall by the Stars. He played his first two NHL games for the Flames in the 1996 playoffs, after his season with the Kamloops Blazers ended. Then, he jumped straight into a full-time role in Calgary as a 19-year-old, playing all 82 games and putting up 50 points in the 1996-97 season, but finishing second to Bryan Berard in Calder Trophy voting.
The Flames also received 31-year-old centre Corey Millen in the trade. He played a season and a half in Calgary before heading to Europe.
My takeaway from this thought exercise: it all depends on the deal. Putting Miller and Boeser's names out publicly will certainly keep the tradewinds blowing hard. If it incites a bidding war, all the better. And if it ends up encouraging either player to push toward making a deal to stay in Vancouver — perhaps at a team-friendly rate — then that could be a win as well.
In the early going, it seems like Patrik Allvin and Jim Rutherford have managed their offseason well. It's going to be a fascinating next few weeks, as we see if that trend continues.