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Japers' Rink Mailbag: 3v3 OT, Eric Fehr, X-Factors and No Movements

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The new overtime format, the third-line center issue, pivotal players, expansion drafts and more in this week's edition of "you ask, we answer."

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This 'Bag is about to burst, so let's get to it:

[Ed. note: We'll let Muneeb handle this one.] It might be able to provide the final boost, but it likely won't move the needle a whole lot on its own.

Stephen Pettigrew did a lot of related work over at Deadspin. By his numbers, teams score around 4.6 more goals-per-sixty at three-on-three than at four-on-four, which is substantial (in this case, an increase in scoring of about 85%, from 5.5 goals-per-sixty to 10.1).

But that is spread out over two teams and a variety of players. By Pettigrew's simulations, up to five minutes of three-on-three hockey could decrease the shootout rate by about a third, meaning a 50% increase in the rate of games decided in overtime itself (which is ostensibly the point of the rule change - to get more games decided prior to the shootout). Considering the top OT scorers only score three or four of those goals per season, you're looking at an increase of only a couple of goals when it's all said and done.

With a bigger focus on three-on-three, teams will practice it more, so maybe those scoring rates will increase. And we haven't looked at penalty drawing rates in those situations, or how fast, skilled players might be able to take greater advantage. But it's hard to see it changing things too much — five minutes (if that) every few games simply isn't enough to boost the other top goal-scorers (who have been sitting in the 35-45 goal range) up to 50, or Alex Ovechkin (~50 goals) up to 60.

Next question:

Interested in you doing an article regarding when Fehr will be healthy enough to actually play. What are the chances that his price will go down or he would not actually have a contract by first day of 2015-16 season? - Mark via email

As to when Eric Fehr will be healthy enough to play, when his elbow surgery was first announced, the team's press release noted that, per the doctor that performed the surgery, "if rehabilitation goes well, Eric will be healthy for the start of the 2015-16 regular season."

Three weeks later, Fehr's agent said, "Recovery seems to be on report. Everybody is pleased with how the repair has done and the initial results and I know he’s working hard at rehab to try to be as healthy as he can be as quickly as he can be. Timeline’s still up in the air, but he’s hopeful." So make of all that what you will.

As for his next contract, it's pretty safe to assume that Fehr didn't find exactly what he thought he might on July 1 and the days that immediately followed, so his asking price will drop if it hasn't already. There are still a lot of teams that need to sort out their respective restricted free agent situations (can you think of any?), but once they do, guys like Fehr should find a few more potential buyers. In Fehr's case, it's hard to imagine he wouldn't be under contract somewhere when next season starts, though his health might dictate otherwise.

Tom Wilson is a good pick as X-factor, and it sure would be great to see him take a big step forward. But I've got two other names I'll throw out there as guys whose performances could quite possibly swing the team's fortunes - Evgeny Kuznetsov and John Carlson. The Caps think they've solved their second-line center search with Kuznetsov, and the degree to which they're right could make a huge difference in how successful the team is in 2015-16. On Carlson, with Mike Green now gone, the League's best power play now depends on his ability to run the point... and if it looks anything like it did in these past playoffs, that could be an issue for a team that can't afford to drop off much there.

I'm pretty sure we get this question every week, and for good reason - it would appear to be the Caps' biggest area of (roster) concern right now. Last week we tabbed Jay Beagle and Andre Burakovsky for the most likely and/or best internal options, so we'll stick with that. But the team doesn't seem to want to limit themselves, as GM Brian MacLellan made clear over the weekend:

"I think we’re going to let it play out," MacLellan said. "We could address it internally, the third-line center spot, and also depending on how the contract situation plays itself out, there’s a couple options in the free agency market that we see, and we’ll explore the trade market up until training camp. There might be something in that venue."

On the same point, Barry Trotz added, "I know we’re not done looking."

So expect the Caps to take care of their business with regards to pending restricted free agents Braden Holtby and Marcus Johansson (and any other business they want to handle now) first, and then, with more certainty on what they have to work with, it's probably safe to assume that they'll be looking to try to add a third-line center as the summer rolls on and players without contracts become a bit more hungry for work. After all, Mac doesn't mind calling his shots...

Mac

Next?

[Ed. note: We'll give this one to Rob] Draft grading is indeed a difficult endeavor, especially for us outsiders with incomplete information. These are mostly 18-year-old kids that have a lot of developing left to do, but that won't stop people from assigning grades in the immediate wake of the draft.

In general, I like to review drafts after three and five years have passed. After three years you should have an idea how many potential NHL players your team has selected, but with only a vague sense of the kind of quality they've selected. Three years is generally a decent amount of time to figure out how well a team did with their first-round pick, but it's not really enough to figure out what you have with the later selections. For example, this will be the third year after Andre Burakovsky was selected. We already have a pretty strong level of confidence that he's a good NHL player, but this year should really let us see how good he is as he's poised to be an everyday player in the NHL for the first time. But after Burakovsky, things get dicier. We think that Madison Bowey is going to be a good player, but he hasn't played a single pro game yet. This year will be the third year since he was drafted, and how well he performs in Hershey will give us a much stronger indication about his future. The guys selected after Bowey are even harder to peg at this point.

After five years, the vast majority of the players selected in a draft will have played some pro hockey (or quit the game); the odd exception being players that play a year of USHL and then play four years of NCAA hockey. But after five years, we'll know whether Burakovsky is a second line forward or a first line forward. We'll know whether Bowey is likely to be a top pair defender or a depth defender (or, likely, somewhere in between). Five years is a long time to be patient, but if you want to evaluate whether a team has selected quality NHL players, rather than just good prospects, that's about how long you have to wait if you aren't selecting in the draft lottery. Looking back five years, the Caps came away from the 2010 draft with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Philip Grubauer. While both players have had a circuitous path to the NHL, it's safe to say that both look like they are NHL-caliber players, at least, and potentially much more than that.

To cut through the complex factors involved in draft evaluation I tend to evaluate the bottom line. I don't really care how many picks you have, or what type of players you picked, etc. I generally consider a draft a success if a team gets two quality NHL players out of the draft (i.e., two players that aren't the type replaceable on the free agent market every off-season). There are always exceptions to that (e.g., the Bruins with their three consecutive first round picks probably won't be too happy if they only end up with two NHL players from this draft), but two quality players per draft should be sufficient to keep an NHL team stocked with cheap talent.

Getting to the final layer of the question, I value top end skill over anything else. So don't pick "safe" players in the first round just because you're pretty sure they'll make the NHL one day. Give me two high end players (a Burakovsky and a Bowey, or Carlson and Holtby) and I'll take that over any number of replaceable depth guys. The Caps have seen the value of high end prospects versus depth prospects over the last decade. When Ovechkin was breaking in to the league they had one of the deepest prospect pools in the league (and Hershey sure did benefit), but by and large the only guys who have contributed to the NHL roster have been their elite prospects. You can have all the Francois Bouchards, Chris Bourques, and, yes, Mathieu Perreaults;  give me the guys who are impact players in the NHL.

Good question. To the CBA (pdf)! First, the relevant text on no-movement clauses (emphasis added):

11.8 Individually Negotiated Limitations on Player Movement.

(c) A no-move clause may prevent the involuntary relocation of a Player, whether by Trade, Loan or Waiver claim. A no-move clause, however, may not restrict the Club's Buy-Out and termination rights as set forth in this Agreement. Prior to exercising its Ordinary Course Buy-Out rights pursuant to Paragraph 13 of the SPC hereof, the Club shall, in writing in accordance with the notice provisions in Exhibit 3 hereof, provide the Player with the option of electing to be placed on Waivers. The Player will have twenty-four (24) hours from the time he receives such notice to accept or reject that option at his sole discretion, and shall so inform the Club in writing, in accordance with the notice provisions in Exhibit 3 hereof, within such twentyfour (24) hour period. If the Player does not timely accept or reject that option, it will be deemed rejected.

A relocation via expansion draft clearly wouldn't be a trade or loan, but is it a form or waivers? The CBA defines waivers:

"Waivers" means the process by which the rights to a Player are offered to all other Clubs pursuant to the procedure set forth in Article 13 of this Agreement and shall include Regular and Unconditional Waivers.

Since the rights to the player are not "offered to all other Clubs" in a waiver draft (to say nothing of the obvious differences between willingly parting ways with a play and being forced to do the same), leaving a player unprotected for an expansion draft pretty clearly isn't a form of waivers... or is it? Article 13 - "Waivers and Loans of Players to Minor League Clubs" - contains this:

13.7 Expansion Draft, Team Relocation.

Any Player forced to move as a result of being claimed in an expansion draft, or as a result of a team relocation, shall be paid $6,000. (This payment shall not affect or be credited against "moving expenses" to which the Player might otherwise be entitled).

In other words, in the section on waivers, there's a paragraph that directly addresses expansion drafts; there's some intended relationship there (otherwise, that's a pretty random place to stick that). Alas, it's hard to tell what that might be from the plain text of the agreement. But since players who are left unprotected for the purposes of an expansion draft aren't waived, I'd argue that by enumerating the instances in which a no-movement clause do apply (trade, loan and waivers), expansion drafts are situations in which these clauses wouldn't apply (then again, the enumeration argument can perhaps cut both ways, given the following sentence).

But what makes sense? The purpose of a no-movement clause, arguably, is to allow the player control over whether the team can potentially divest themselves of him without his consent. If that's the case, it would make sense that a guy with an NMC would have to consent to being left unprotected in an expansion draft. But by the same token, it's hard to envision a team accepting that the NMCs they handed out to veterans over the years will force them to expose talented young players to an expansion draft that was no more than a twinkle in Gary Bettman's eye when those deals were signed. Ultimately, only two things seems clear at this point - that the expansion draft process will have to be created outside of the CBA and address this point... and that lawyers are very good at drafting documents in ways that ensure there will always be a need for their services.

No, not ever, never. I got the worst food poisoning of my life from (I suspect) what purported to be pork at a Qdoba in Orlando - 24 hours of hell spent in a Disney World hotel room. So no Qdoba. Ever.

***

Agree? Disagree?

If you've got something on your mind, go ahead and ask it here on the site, on Twitter (use #JapersMailbag), via email or on Facebook, and we'll try to get to them. As always, there are always a lot of question marks around this team... so let's talk about as many of them as we can.