The NHL can return to its regular business now that the World Cup of Hockey has concluded. The NHL, NHLPA, and their business partners will take time to study the outcome and determine whether it is an exercise that deserves repeating.
Aesthetically, the games did not live up to their star power. As robust as the rosters were, the action was as bubbly as a flat can of Coke, which was reflected in ESPN's lonely ratings. Aside from some exceptions — Patrice Bergeron's tying goal and Brad Marchand's winner in the clincher, the North Americans' overtime win over Sweden, the Americans' body slams of the Canadians in exhibition play — the games did not even rival NHL regular-season heat.
But if the parties involved boast bigger wallets after the made-up tournament than before, the World Cup will be considered successful. Some takeaways:
■ Carey Price is back. You could have made an argument to classify Price as last season’s MVP, even though he only appeared in 12 games. The Canadiens went into the tank without their ace stopping every puck in sight. Aside from an exhibition hiccup against Team USA, Price was his usual self for the rest of the tournament. Europe should have led by several goals after 40 minutes on Thursday, but only had a 1-0 lead because of Price. When he’s on, Price looks offended that pucks even make it through, swatting them aside with disdain. Price’s absence last season was a big factor in the diminishment of the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry. This season, the Bruins will be bashing themselves with their sticks when Price takes goals off the scoreboard. “He gives the group confidence,” Canada coach Mike Babcock said. “He has an aura of calm like no one I’ve been around.”
■ The NHL’s participation in the 2018 Olympics is in doubt. That’s a good thing. It’s a big ask for the NHL to go dark to play sleepy wide-ice games. But the mish-mash teams of Europe and North America would require tweaking, in Babcock’s opinion, to heighten the sense of nationalism at the World Cup’s next iteration. “I like country on country,” said Babcock. “I like the opportunity to represent your country. When the heat’s on you, you’ve got to deliver. I think that’s a huge part of the Olympic Games. The World Cup is great. But it’s not the Olympics. Let’s not get confused.”
■ The known list of players injured at the World Cup include Tyler Seguin (heel), Matt Murray (hand), Marian Gaborik (foot), Aaron Ekblad (concussion), Radek Faksa (concussion), Marian Hossa (foot), Pavel Datsyuk (lower body), Mikael Backlund (concussion), Vladimir Sobotka (collarbone), and Marcus Kruger (upper body). There could be more banged-up players whose injuries were never disclosed. Also, the World Cup participants could break down as the regular season progresses because of the early wear and tear. The general managers most affected: Jim Nill (Dallas) and Dean Lombardi (Los Angeles). Seguin and Faksa join Jamie Benn, who had to pull out of the World Cup before it started because of an offseason injury. They should all be fine to start the season. But Gaborik could miss two months because of his injury. It’s terrible luck for the Kings. But this is what owners had to expect when they approved World Cup participation. Injuries were a given.
■ Bergeron did not play on either of Canada’s power-play units to start the tournament. He was strictly a five-on-five right wing and a penalty killer alongside Marchand. Seguin’s injury gave Bergeron an opportunity to return to his usual bumper position in the middle of the ice on Canada’s primary five-on-four cluster. Bergeron tied Game 2 on the power play when he tipped Brent Burns’s shot past Jaroslav Halak. Bergeron’s man-up emergence is only the latest entry on his international dossier that’s catching his coaches’ eyes. In 2010, Bergeron started as a spare part. By 2014, he became Sidney Crosby’s right-hand man. This year, Bergeron became a do-it-all player for Canada. Even at 31, Bergeron impresses his coaches.
■ Anze Kopitar is one of the game’s five best players. He played an even bigger role with Team Europe as its top talent. Because of his shortage of options, coach Ralph Krueger played the heck out of Kopitar in every situation, as he should have. Consider Kopitar’s workload in each game: 23:39, 22:45, 22:06, 20:39, 23:53, 23:47, and 20:12. The 6-foot-3-inch, 224-pound horse could take it. He is a specimen. Still, Kopitar averaged only 20:52 of ice time for the Kings last season. Kopitar has burned a lot of matches before playing a single minute for Los Angeles. There’s no need for Kopitar to dress for any more than one preseason game.
■ Joe Thornton’s contract will expire after this season. It does not look like it will be his last deal. Even at 37, the ex-Bruin is playing with a rookie’s energy and joy. Thornton served as Canada’s No. 4 right wing, far removed from his normal duties as San Jose’s first-line center. But Thornton was a dangerous player even while manning his off wing. His legs are still strong. His hands and vision remain silky. “What you never know about a guy is what his drivetrain is like to train in the offseason so he can keep playing hockey,” said Babcock, who coached Thornton during the 1997 World Junior Championship. “Suddenly you think you have to start training at 32 to extend your career. It’s not like that. You’ve got to do it a long time. He’s an elite player, a big man. What I like best about Joe is he’s a good teammate. He loves hockey. His energy is contagious. He loves life. He doesn’t have many bad days, that guy.”
■ On Wednesday, while the rest of the Canadians went through off-ice workouts, assistant coach Barry Trotz worked healthy scratches Claude Giroux, Jake Muzzin, and Braden Holtby through a bag skate. The Canadians couldn’t play everybody. But it’s tough for superstars to sit. Expect all three to be fired up to start the regular season.
■ Babcock was a delight to cover for the week. He can be curt at times, but he is a deep and curious thinker who is excellent at communicating his viewpoints. A term Babcock uses that is unique to him is drivetrain, the word he employs to describe a player’s internal motivation. Only Ford F-150 engineers talk about drivetrain more.
Marchand deal took some work
The Bruins signed Brad Marchand to his eight-year, $49 million extension on Monday, more than two weeks before the start of the regular season. Both sides agreed to the deal with plenty of breathing room before a soft deadline of the Oct. 13 opener against Columbus. Marchand was not keen on conducting in-season negotiations.
The trick to getting it done, most likely, was overcoming the small number of comparables. Marchand is a unique player with a one-off skill set of abrasiveness combined with all-around presence. Andrew Shaw and Antoine Roussel bring some of Marchand's in-your-face heat. But neither approaches Marchand's profile of being a first-line, all-situations producer. Statistically, Marchand has produced in a tier below the 1 percent of Patrick Kane, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, and Sidney Crosby, the league's top earners.
Without like-minded comparables as reference, the Bruins and Newport Sports Management's Wade Arnott, Marchand's agent, had to consider recent contracts, including those of two ex-Bruins. Milan Lucic scored a seven-year, $42 million contract with Edmonton. Loui Eriksson signed a six-year, $36 million deal with Vancouver. Marchand is a better all-around player than Lucic and Eriksson, and thus was in line for a higher average annual value than his ex-teammates.
Using the eye test, Marchand could have made a case for getting Bobby Ryan's $7.25 million annual payday (a contract negotiated by Newport Sports Management). No GM would choose Ryan over Marchand. But in retrospect, Ryan's deal appears to be an exception, much like Aaron Ekblad's eight-year, $60 million blockbuster that has hit the wish list of every defenseman coming out of entry level.
So to settle on Marchand's $6.125 million number, the term had to go up to eight years. The Bruins wanted max term to lessen Marchand's cap hit. Marchand agreed with eight years because of the security and opportunity to finish his career in Boston. The Bruins also granted Marchand a front-loaded contract ($23.5 million in the first three years, $11 million of it payable via signing bonuses) and no-move protection for the first five years.
Both sides compromised. It's why everybody's considering it a win-win contract.
Trouba wouldn’t come cheap
A right-shot defenseman has come to the end of his entry-level contract. He is big, strong, mobile, and skilled. He does not want to sign with his current team.
When disgruntled defenseman Dougie Hamilton made his intentions known to the Bruins following their 2014-15 exit, they received futures for the No. 9 pick from 2011: the 2015 selections that became Zach Senyshyn, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, and Jeremy Lauzon.
Jacob Trouba, the No. 9 selection the following year, wants out from Winnipeg. At this point, the difference between the Jets and Bruins is that Winnipeg does not intend to move Trouba for picks or prospects, the latter of which are getting closer to NHL contributions for the Black and Gold.
The Jets have been in build mode for a long time. They require players who can contribute now, namely a left-shot defenseman to slot ahead of Toby Enstrom and ex-Bruin Mark Stuart and complement righties Dustin Byfuglien and Tyler Myers.
So while the Bruins would love to add Trouba's right-shot touch to replace Hamilton (and Johnny Boychuk, for that matter), they don't have Winnipeg's preferred piece. Yes, Torey Krug is a left-shot defenseman, young, and under control for four seasons at $5.25 million annually. He would help any team's power play, including Winnipeg's.
But Trouba is an all-around, minutes-gobbling, do-it-all horse. Krug has improved his five-on-five game, but he will never be known as a go-to penalty killer (just 38 shorthanded seconds per appearance last season). Of Trouba's 22:03 of average ice time last season, 2:43 took place on the penalty kill, while he logged 1:17 on the power play.
Trouba has the foundation of becoming the next iteration of Drew Doughty. The Bruins could only land Trouba if they sent Krug on his flight to Winnipeg with a fellow passenger. The Jets would ask for David Pastrnak. Whether that price would be palatable for the Bruins is difficult to determine.
It's an unusual situation for the Jets. Trouba is better than Adam Larsson, who moved to Edmonton for Taylor Hall. But Larsson was under contract and expressed no desire to leave when he was traded to the Oilers. Trouba's desire to leave and his unsigned status make his price lower. The Jets will not receive the equivalent of Hall via trade.
But Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is also not rushing to move the 22-year-old defenseman. Cheveldayoff is patient. Since he assumed Winnipeg's command in 2011, Cheveldayoff has not been active in sending players out the door. His most significant trade was dealing Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian to Buffalo in a package that brought back Myers, Drew Stafford, and prospects. Kane has become more familiar with Buffalo law enforcement than his employer would prefer.
Last season, Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman was patient despite Jonathan Drouin's insistence on being traded. Yzerman refused to give Drouin away for the sake of eliminating a headache. Both parties are now enjoying the benefits of Yzerman's approach.
As such, Cheveldayoff will take his time. If he trades Trouba, he'll probably get his asking price. It will be a large one.
Limited options for Gaudreau
Krug and Reilly Smith understand how Johnny Gaudreau feels. Two years ago, Krug and the ex-Bruin were considered black-hole players, just like Gaudreau is this season. After signing in 2012 out of Michigan State and Miami, respectively, Krug and Smith burned one year off their entry-level deals. Krug played in two games for the Bruins. Smith played in three games for Dallas. As such, when their entry-level contracts expired prior to 2014-15, neither Krug nor Smith was eligible to sign an offer sheet. Their first pro seasons in 2011-12 did not include enough games to count as a year of professional service. The restricted free agents had no negotiating power besides not signing with the Bruins, who were facing a cap crunch at the time. Krug and Smith had to accept one-year, $1.4 million, below-market deals. Gaudreau has statistics and projected future performance on his side, but nothing besides that. If the Flames want to stick to their number, they can do so without fear of Gaudreau signing an offer sheet. The sides will most likely find common ground. Neither player nor organization wants Gaudreau to miss any games. But the Flames have the comfort of knowing no rival team can put in a bid on their star wing.
MacArthur dinged again
You could not help but think of Marc Savard when watching Clarke MacArthur struggle off the ice after suffering a concussion during a preseason practice. MacArthur played in only four games last season because of post-concussion syndrome. MacArthur had worked himself back into good condition on and off the ice when teammate Patrick Sieloff raked the Ottawa wing with friendly fire. Via Instagram, MacArthur posted his intention to return.
First off, I want to thank the team and the fans for all of the support after the unfortunate incident on Sunday. To me, it was simply a hockey play that ended in a hit causing me to suffer a concussion, a play that could happen at any point. We have been encouraged by how my body has reacted in the days since the injury and the team has been great giving me all the time I need to rest and recover. I will continue to consult with doctors and my entire support group, but I felt it was important to let everyone know that my intentions are to work towards returning to the ice soon.. Thanks again #sensarmy. -Griswold
Only MacArthur and his doctors know what's right. But the trouble is the next concussion, just like it was for Savard after he returned from Matt Cooke's frightful elbow to the head. Teammates present and past consider MacArthur one of the good guys. Let's hope he makes a good decision.
Montreal's acquisition of Andrew Shaw is sure to douse the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry with 93 octane. Shaw played up to his reputation by ramming Washington's Connor Hobbs from behind in a preseason game on Tuesday. The NHL's version of discipline was to suspend Shaw for three preseason games. That's more like an attaboy . . . Auston Matthews will start the season as Toronto's No. 3 center behind Nazem Kadri and Tyler Bozak. He will not stay there long. Matthews will leapfrog Bozak once he gets some NHL reps. He's that good already . . . Among the better news to emerge from the World Cup was Dennis Seidenberg securing a one-year, $1 million deal with the Islanders. Seidenberg approached the tournament as an audition and was rewarded for his play. The Bruins wouldn't have bought out Seidenberg under his current terms, but $4 million annually for the next two seasons was too steep for his profile . . . The Red Wings will honor Gordie Howe this season by wearing a No. 9 patch on the front of their jerseys. The Wings will also paint a No. 9 behind both nets at Joe Louis Arena, which is closing after this season . . . The Royal Canadian Mounted Police escorted the World Cup trophy onto the ice in both games of the final. In hindsight, a trophy so vanilla probably didn't require such protection.
Some numbers and milestones to look out for as we get ready to drop the puck on another NHL season:
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.