Saturday, July 5, 2014

Oilers pick Draisaitl sizes up his NHL chances


On a team with a recent history of No. 1 draft picks, Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl said he doesn't feel any less pressure being a No. 3 selection.


"Obviously there is a little bit of pressure as people expect quite a bit from a third overall pick or any first-round pick," Draisaitl told the Oilers website Saturday at development camp. "I think there is a little bit of pressure, but I think for me personally the most important thing is that I just do what I am doing best and just doing what I can control. That is basically just going out there and working as hard as I can and being the best player I can be."


Draisaitl was taken third at the 2014 NHL Draft on June 27 in Philadelphia, behind defenseman Aaron Ekblad (Florida Panthers) and center Sam Reinhart (Buffalo Sabres).


Draisaitl is looking to join an Oilers roster that includes recent No. 1 picks Taylor Hall (2010), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2011) and Nail Yakupov (2012). All three debuted in the NHL the season they were drafted; it is unknown if Draisaitl will do the same.


"I think it is a learning process for any 18-year-old kid," Draisaitl said. "But at the same time, I think if a player is ready to play and step in and make an impact, then why wouldn't you let him play and give him a chance? I think there's a lot of players who aren't ready and come in to training camp, they're young, and that's usually every 18-year-old kid is not as strong as an NHL player. I think it's a learning process, but if a player is ready and he wants to make an impact, then there is no way you can get around letting him play."


Draisaitl, 19 on Oct. 27, knows there is an opening at center after Edmonton traded Sam Gagner last week. Draisaitl's size (6-foot-2, 204 pounds) bodes well for his immediate and long-term future.


"The one thing I will say about center is that Leon Draisaitl is an element that we did add in the draft that we think is going to fill that position for a long time," Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish said. "We do have some depth there, but they are young, developing players, and any decision regarding Leon or any of those young players will be made strictly based on what the best situation is for the player and not what's best for the team."


If Draisaitl does not start his season in the NHL, he could wind up with the Oklahoma City Barons in the American Hockey League.


"It's going to be a competitive training camp, it's going to be very exciting, it's going to be a competitive camp and Leon is going to try and get a spot with the Oilers," Barons coach Todd Nelson said. "I like his vision. He sees the ice so well, he finds guys in open areas, and he has a high skill set. You couple that with a big body and it's pretty intriguing to see a guy like that play up the middle."


Draisaitl is confident in what he can do no matter where he plays.


"I think it always makes it a little bit easier when you're big, when you're strong," he said. "I think that might give me a little more advantage than maybe some other guys. But you never know. I think it's good for me personally that I am big and strong now. I just need to add the little things like the speed. I think I'm close to playing."



Drouin expects to make Lightning this time around


Tampa Bay Lightning forward prospect Jonathan Drouin was one of the most decorated players in junior hockey when he was selected third in the 2013 NHL Draft.


Instead of debuting in the League, he was sent back to junior and established himself as one of the world's top prospects. After a 2013-14 season when disappointing losses overshadowed great individual achievements, the 19-year-old is on the verge of starting his NHL career.


"I'm more mature as a person. I think I grew a little bit being one of the older guys on the [junior] team, seeing things you didn't see when you were 16 or 17," Drouin said from Lightning prospect camp. "A lot of things were tough for me. It helped me grow as a person. Not winning was the toughest thing."


With the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 2012-13, Drouin won the Memorial Cup alongside good friend Nathan MacKinnon, and won the Michel Briere Memorial Trophy as the QMJHL most valuable player.


The following season didn't go as smoothly.


Drouin was sent back to Halifax on Sept. 29, four days before the Lightning started their NHL schedule. Playing one more season of junior, he dominated on the ice and learned a great deal off it.


"I think I'm over [being sent back]. I don't want to think about it too much. In the end, it was their decision to send me back to juniors for another year," Drouin said. "Obviously you want to prove them wrong, but as the year went on I think I was playing more for the Moosheads than anything else. You forget about being cut and you move on a little bit. It was a big deal, but I'm only 19 years old. I have many years in front of me to try to make the club."


Lightning coach Jon Cooper said that long-term outlook was to benefit Drouin and the team.


"It was by no means to send him a message," Cooper told The Tampa Tribune this week. "Jonathan Drouin is not someone we’re investing in for one year. We're investing in him for a decade or more. Why would we want to rush the finished product?"


Being cut was a new experience for Drouin, who went on to finish third in QMJHL scoring with 108 points even though he missed 22 games with injuries. He also was among the top scorers at the IIHF World Junior Championship in Malmo, Sweden.


But the Quebec native dealt with an unfamiliar experience: losing.


Drouin and his Canada teammates finished fourth at the WJC and the Mooseheads lost in the semifinals of the QMJHL playoffs to eventual champion Val-d'Or. To his credit, Drouin refused to go out without a fight. Down 2-1 to Val-d'Or in the best-of-7 series, Drouin gave one of the finest performances of his junior career in Game 4, scoring two goals with three assists and winning 20 of 35 faceoffs (57 percent) in a 5-4 victory.


Knocked out in the third round, Drouin led the QMJHL in playoff scoring with 41 points in 16 games.


"A lot of people look at stats, but we didn't win. My 17-year-old season we won," he said. "It was a little different, but we had a good playoff run as a team and I had a good playoff run too. There are a lot of things to work on and that's why this summer I'm here."


The payoff has been visible.


"You can just see [his] quickness out there; [the] puck skills and the smarts have always been there," director of player development Stacy Roest told the Lightning website. "Now I think the conditioning's better and to me he looked a lot faster; he looks really good."


Drouin didn't just lose some big games last season, he also was without one of his best friends, MacKinnon. Apart after two successful seasons together in Halifax, Drouin and MacKinnon, who was selected first by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2013 draft, stayed in contact.


"We're buddies, so we text quite often. We don't really talk much about hockey. We get hockey 24/7 already, so we're happy to change the subject," Drouin said. "It was more stuff off the ice, like what Colorado is like and what's going on in Halifax with the new players."


MacKinnon won the Calder Trophy as the NHL rookie of the year, adding another item to Drouin's list for the foreseeable future.


"It's one of my goals to win the Calder one day. But I also want to go far in the playoffs, which is an even better feeling," he said.


Drouin has a lengthy list of benchmarks he's looking to reach, some as soon as next season, but returning to the World Junior Championship isn't among them. Hockey Canada invited Drouin to its summer evaluation camp in August, but the Lightning prospect isn't ready to book his ticket for the 2015 tournament in Toronto and Montreal.


Drouin wouldn't say if he would attend the evaluation camp, but he wasn't shy about his intention to spend Christmastime doing something else.


"The last two years have been great with Team Canada," he said. "Honestly, I'd rather be in the NHL."



Analysis: Which goalies signed with right teams


VANCOUVER -- There are comparisons to be made between golfers and goalies because, like a golf swing, the finest details of movement and technique on the ice are broken down and analyzed. Like grooving a golf swing, repetition can be key to consistency for a goaltender searching for his most efficient, effective style.


Are there any comparisons to be made between signing an NHL goaltender and picking a winner on the PGA Tour? In golf, we often hear about "horses for courses," or choosing a player based on how a specific course fits his strengths and weaknesses. The same can apply to picking a goalie.


Not every team leans as heavily on its goaltending coach to help choose its personnel; many that do will get an opinion that factors in the system a team plays and how it defends. Finding a good fit between a goaltender and his team's style is important.


Just ask Jonathan Quick, whose super-aggressive style depends on being able to count on his Los Angeles Kings teammates to take away backdoor options. Or Henrik Lundqvist, who plays at the other end of the scale near the goal line, relying on the New York Rangers to take away the middle-of-the-ice looks that leave him vulnerable.


In some cases it's about making sure the defensive scheme is a fit for a specific goalie. In other cases, it can be about changing a goalie's tendencies to better fit the defensive scheme. In free agency, it's important to know whether the new goalie's style is suited to what is already in place, and if not, whether that goaltender can adapt.


For some teams those factors are secondary to the role and number of games required of a new goalie. For others, the style factor is as important. With that in mind, let's look at how six free agents fit with his new team:


Ryan Miller, Vancouver Canucks


Contract: 3 years, $18 million


Miller tops this list in part because he received the biggest salary and longest term as the only one signed to be a No. 1. But Miller's contract also comes with the most question marks.


Many of them center around his ability to work with Canucks goaltending coach Roland Melanson, whose strict mandate to play a point-to-point game within the confines of the crease seems to clash with the looser, more flowing style preferred by Miller.


Miller, who is great at reading and anticipating plays, made it clear after signing he was open to changes that would make him better, but not just because it worked for others.


"I am a little more stubborn," Miller said. "You are going to have to really explain to me why it will work for me. I am going to push back. If they are a good teacher, they are going to push back, explain why it's going to work, and we are going to have a great relationship."


There's no reason that can't be the case, but the system will play a role in any changes. Miller became an interesting case study for a goalie fitting a system last season. He was having a great season behind a bad team while with the Buffalo Sabres, when their open style led to more of the rush chances that allowed him to use his skating and play-reading ability. But he struggled after getting traded to the St. Louis Blues, where a more collapsing defensive system sometimes left him stranded atop his crease, unable to recover the space behind him or react to pucks he couldn't see or feel bouncing off bodies in front.


As Miller correctly pointed out, with new Canucks coach Willie Desjardins promising a more up-tempo style, fitting into Vancouver is about more than just meshing with Melanson.


"I'm really excited to work with Rollie Melanson and the coaching staff and getting to know the systems and getting to know what I can do as a player to fit in that system," Miller said.


Devan Dubnyk, Arizona Coyotes


Contract: 1 year, $800,000


Stop us if Dubnyk's story sounds familiar: A big goalie plays himself out of the NHL the year before signing in Arizona in an attempt to re-establish his game and reputation. It sounds a lot like Mike Smith before joining the Coyotes in 2011, and there are bound to be plenty of comparisons to how Smith turned around his career under goaltending coach Sean Burke, who teaches the same goal-line-out philosophy he learned from Benoit Allaire before revitalizing his sagging career in 1999-2000.


That deeper style of play, which is designed in part to shorten lateral movements and ensure the goalie is never out of a play, may benefit 6-foot-6 Dubnyk, who built his career-best .920 save percentage in 2012-13 by making similar simplifications under Edmonton Oilers goaltending coach Frederic Chabot. But things got off the rails early in Edmonton last season and Dubnyk never recovered, so Burke's job may also be about rebuilding confidence, something Smith praises him for as much as the change in style.


Given Burke's history, Dubnyk's size, and the fact the Coyotes already play a system that suits it, it seems like a perfect fit, one made more affordable by the season that preceded it.


Chad Johnson, New York Islanders


Contract: 2 years, $2.6 million


The Islanders built on the trade-and-sign deal for often overlooked and underrated Jaroslav Halak and continued to solidify the position by adding someone comfortable making sporadic starts. Though some goalie coaches were less certain how much of Johnson's success stemmed from playing behind well-structured defensive teams -- first the Coyotes then the Boston Bruins last season -- there is a nice balance to his game that should complement Halak and an Islanders team that has some work to do defensively.


Johnson stays mostly within his crease at three-quarter depth on end-zone chances but will come out to challenge and play with some backward flow against rush chances, a good blend that should allow him to deal with some of the more open play of the Islanders.


Justin Peters, Washington Capitals


Contract: 2 years, $1.9 million


Another team some suggested might seek a proven veteran, the Capitals locked in early on Peters and Al Montoya as the top free-agent options to play behind Braden Holtby this season. Each is familiar with the backup role and gaps between starts, though Peters played a lot of his 21 games last season in bunches and had a . 919 save percentage with the Carolina Hurricanes.


From a style standpoint, Peters and Montoya are almost opposites.


Peters spends more time playing from his knees; Montoya, who signed with the Florida Panthers, stays on his skates almost to a fault, which might seem like a more natural fit with the preferences of new Capitals goalie coach Mitch Korn. Peters, despite being an inch shorter than 6-foot-2 Montoya, has a bigger presence in the net, especially when he's down and has good footwork. But Peters does give up a lot of rebounds, something Korn will have to improve with more active hands and fewer blocking saves, or else a rebuilt Capitals defense will be busy in front of its net.


Thomas Greiss, Pittsburgh Penguins


Contract: 1 year, $1 million


From the perspective of role and opportunity, this signing makes sense for both sides. Greiss was among the better backups in the NHL statistically last season, posting a .920 save percentage with the Coyotes despite slipping a little after Smith got hurt down the stretch, and is looking for the chance to earn a bigger role in Pittsburgh.


With Marc-Andre Fleury in the final year of his seven-year contract, Greiss may finally get that opportunity with the Penguins.


From a style standpoint, the addition of Greiss would have been a lot more questionable one season earlier because he played a more aggressive game and often ended up above the top of his crease, frequently moving as a shot was taken, all elements the Penguins have worked to limit, if not totally eliminate, in Fleury's game. But Greiss quieted his game with Burke and the Coyotes last season and now plays a more contained style predominantly within the blue ice, which should help him complement rather than clash in Pittsburgh.


Anders Lindback, Dallas Stars


Contract: 1 year, $925,000


Acquired in a trade to be the future for the Tampa Bay Lightning after early success in limited action with the Nashville Predators, the big Swede may be another example of not fitting in with a system. In this case, it was the goaltending system as much as the team's style.


After being told to emulate the more active, athletic Pekka Rinne in Nashville, Lindback was asked to play a more contained style within the crease in Tampa Bay, limiting the holes that can open when his 6-foot-6 frame is moving too much. It made sense given his size, and echoes the mandate that led to success for goalies with the Canucks and Coyotes, but Lindback was never the same without some of that rhythm in his game. Look for Stars goalie coach Mike Valley to try to free the athleticism that made Lindback such a promising prospect and fit with the demands behind a Dallas defense that has asked a lot of No. 1 Kari Lehtonen the past few seasons.



Yes, the Canucks owner is serious about winning a Stanley Cup


With GM Jim Benning and President of Hockey Operations Trevor Linden running things in Vancouver, Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini has to like where things are headed.


Fans in Vancouver will be happy to know the owner is truly all about winning the Stanley Cup as Greg Douglas at the Vancouver Sun shared.


“Winning a Stanley Cup is everything,” Aquilini told attendees at a BC Business Top 100 gathering on Thursday. “If you don’t want to win the Stanley Cup, you shouldn’t own a team. I’m learning about the ups and downs of the business and realize the success of the hockey team is not in my control.”


Good thing he’s hired people like Linden and Benning then to be in control of the hockey decisions. It’s also a curious thing given the mess the team got into last summer when they hired John Tortorella to coach the team. That was a move then GM Mike Gillis wasn’t eager to make, but Aquilini reportedly wanted to happen very badly after firing Alain Vigneault.


Now the Canucks have a former team legend in charge, a smart hockey man as GM, and a new coach in Willie Desjardins who has had success in the AHL. See Vancouver? Things are looking up.



Friday, July 4, 2014

Report: Gretzky’s agent says his client not involved in Seattle NHL group


It was a predictable response.


Wayne Gretzky is not a part of a group looking to bring a National Hockey League franchise to Seattle, according to his agent Darren Blake in a report from The Canadian Press on Friday evening – Pacific Time, at least.


“As you can imagine prospective team owners from various franchises call frequently to gauge his interest in coming on board. Seattle is no different,” Blake told The Canadian Press.


Gretzky made headlines earlier in the day when a report from the New York Post reported The Great One was part of a group looking to bring an NHL team to Seattle.


Just another chapter in the ongoing saga of speculation the NHL could be coming to Seattle.


The most recent:


Seattle investor still plans to build arena (which could house NHL team)


Report: L.A.-based real estate tycoon wants to bring NHL to Seattle


Report: Bettman and Daly visited Seattle last week



Video: Lightning prospects Drouin, Erne move on from December hit


It seems things are cool between Tampa Bay Lightning prospects Jonathan Drouin and Adam Erne.


Why wouldn’t they be, you might ask?


Well, last December, Erne, playing for the Quebec Remparts in the QMJHL at the time, hit Halifax Mooseheads star Drouin from behind into the glass, earning him an ejection from the game.


Erne was selected in the second round, 33rd overall, by the Lightning in last year’s NHL Draft. Drouin was selected much earlier than that – third overall, also by the Lightning.


Drouin also suffered a concussion on the hit, and it was an injury that kept his status for the 2013-14 World Junior tournament in jeopardy for a time, although Hockey Canada expected him to be ready for the competition.


So, there’s that for a storyline at the Lightning’s development camp.


“The game goes fast. Stuff happens. It was one of those (things) that happens a lot,” Drouin told the Tampa Bay Times. “It just ended up being a little weird we’re on the same NHL team. I don’t think (the hit) was on purpose or intentional.”


You can view the hit here.



Flames prospect Sieloff continues comeback from staph infection


Patrick Sieloff will take part in the Calgary Flames development camp next week, having had the vast majority of his 2013-14 season cut short by a staph infection.


Sieloff, a second-round pick of the Flames in 2012, joined the Abbotsford Heat in the American Hockey League last fall, becoming the youngest player on the roster at the time, according to the Abbotsford News.


But the 20-year-old defenceman, a former member of the U.S. world junior team, appeared in only two games for the Heat, before he was sidelined.


“It’s so great to be here,” Sieloff told the Flames’ website. “I’ve been feeling good all summer. There hasn’t been any hiccups or anything. For me, this is camp … it’s staying on the ice and staying healthy.


“I can build confidence off of those two things.”


His perceived maturity is something Troy Ward, the former head coach of the Flames’ top minor league team, which has since moved out of Abbotsford to Glens Falls, NY., lauded prior to the start of the 2013-14 AHL regular season.


“He’s 19 going on 29,” said Ward, as per the Abbotsford News. “He’s playing as the youngest guy in the league, but he doesn’t make you feel that way at all. His maturity is extremely high as a hockey player, and that’s what’s afforded him to be here.”



Predators re-sign depth D-man Piskula


The Nashville Predators have brought back depth defenseman Joe Piskula, the club announced Friday.


It’s a one-year, two-way contract worth $550,000 at the NHL level and $150,000 at the AHL level. Piskula spent most of last season with the Milwaukee Admirals in the AHL, scoring three goals and 23 points, which is a career-high for him at the minor-league level.


Piskula, 29, played a pair of games for Nashville in 2013-14. He’s appeared in 12 NHL games throughout his professional career.



Report: Gretzky joins group wanting NHL team in Seattle


The movement to bring National Hockey League action to the Pacific Northwest may have gotten a big boost.


Wayne Gretzky has reportedly joined a group aiming to bring an NHL team to Seattle, per the New York Post. The report comes just months after the NHL downplayed a visit by commissioner Gary Bettman to Seattle, as the commish said he and Bill Daly were only there to “find out what the building story was.”


Here’s more on the Gretzky angle, from the Post:


It is not known if the Gretzky group or either of the other two groups are eyeing an expansion team or hope to move an existing team to the Pacific Northwest.


A move to buy a Seattle team would mark at least the second time the 53-year-old Hall of Famer tried to become an NHL owner.


In 2011, Gretzky partnered with Providence Equity Partners, a New York private-equity firm, in a $1.5 billion bid for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Toronto Maple Leafs and the NBA Toronto Raptors.


However, the NHL rejected the group’s offer because it would have been structured as a leveraged buyout with debt levels higher than 50 percent of the franchise value — which is against NHL rules.


The arena situation in Seattle is fuzzy, to say the least. Following his visit in May, Bettman said the following:


“We weren’t there campaigning, we weren’t asking for anything, and that’s been misreported. Based on the level of interest we’re getting from lots of people in Seattle and a fair amount of uncertainty and confusion about the building, we decided ‘Let’s go find out for ourselves what the story is with the building.’


“And there’s no prospect of a building right now.”


The guy behind the proposed building is investor Chris Hansen, who currently holds the rights with the city of Seattle to build a new arena. Hansen, however, said he isn’t going to move forward with the building until he gets an NBA franchise.


Following the Bettman visit, there was another development on the arena front — Steve Ballmer, one of Hansen’s biggest financial partners, successfully bid to purchase the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers. Despite that perceived setback, Hansen insisted he remained committed to building in Seattle.


“I would also like to assure Seattle fans that my remaining partners and I remain committed to bringing the NBA back to Seattle,” Hansen explained, per KING5 News. The environmental review process for the Seattle Arena is nearing completion and we will soon be in a strong position to attract a franchise back to the Emerald City.”


It’ll be curious to see what Gretzky’s influence will play in this situation — if it plays at all (or, if the reports of his actual involvement prove accurate.)



Penguins, Capitals undergo major changeovers


The NHL's two biggest superstars play in the Metropolitan Division, and each has witnessed change all around them this offseason.


Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has a new coach, a new general manager and six new teammates so far. That's not even mentioning the eight players who left Pittsburgh via a trade or through free agency.



Atlantic division major changes






Salary-cap constraints have forced Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli to watch from the sidelines as the rest of the GMs in the Atlantic Division have made efforts to improve their rosters in an attempt to catch the Bruins. READ MORE




Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin also has a new coach, a new general manager and four new teammates so far, including three of Crosby's former teammates and two defensemen he used to battle against.


The Penguins are trying to maintain their place among the elite teams in the NHL while changing on the fly. The Capitals are trying to get back to being one of the elite teams in the NHL while doing the same thing. Pittsburgh ran away with first place in the division last season but lost in the Eastern Conference Second Round to the New York Rangers. The Capitals didn't even make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.


But Pittsburgh and Washington are not alone in the changeover department among teams in the Metropolitan Division.


The Rangers have lost five of the 19 skaters they used in the Stanley Cup Final. The Philadelphia Flyers traded Scott Hartnell, considered by many players and fans to be the heart and soul of the team. The Columbus Blue Jackets added Hartnell, which means they got bigger and edgier.


The New Jersey Devils spent $26.5 million on new offense. The New York Islanders spent even more, $36.75 million, on two second-line forwards. The Carolina Hurricanes followed the path of the Penguins and Capitals by changing their coach and general manager. Carolina's former GM is the current GM in Pittsburgh, and the Hurricanes' current GM is a former Hall of Fame player for the Penguins. Got that?


What have all these changes done to the teams in Metropolitan Division? Let's break it down:


Note: The additions, re-signed players, still unsigned players and subtractions pertain only to the NHL roster. The money figures are according to CapGeek.com or have been provided by the club.


PITTSBURGH PENGUINS


Additions: Patric Hornqvist, Nick Spaling, Steve Downie, Blake Comeau, Christian Ehrhoff, Thomas Greiss


Re-signed: none


Still unsigned: Spaling (RFA), Brandon Sutter (RFA), Simon Despres (RFA), Lee Stempniak (UFA), Taylor Pyatt (UFA), Tomas Vokoun (UFA)


Subtractions: James Neal (Nashville Predators), Jussi Jokinen (Florida Panthers), Matt Niskanen (Washington Capitals), Brooks Orpik (Washington Capitals), Tanner Glass (New York Rangers), Chris Conner (Washington Capitals), Deryk Engelland (Calgary Flames), Joe Vitale (Arizona Coyotes)


The Penguins have a new GM (Jim Rutherford), a new coach (Mike Johnston), at least one new assistant coach (Rick Tocchet) and six new players so far. They also traded their fourth leading scorer (Neal), and lost their fifth-leading scorer (Jokinen) and one-third of their top-six defense corps (Niskanen and Orpik) in free agency.


Yet despite the significant changes, they still should be favored to win the division. Why?


Pittsburgh still has a strong top-six forward group with Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis, Evgeni Malkin, Hornqvist and maybe Beau Bennett. Spaling, Downie and Comeau give the Penguins something they lacked last season: forward depth, especially when you factor Sutter, Craig Adams and Marcel Goc in the mix.


They still have a mobile defense with Kris Letang, Paul Martin, the emerging Olli Maatta and now Ehrhoff, who signed a one-year, $4 million contract. Marc-Andre Fleury has been one of the NHL's best regular-season goalies for the past four seasons.


NEW YORK RANGERS


Additions: Dan Boyle, Tanner Glass, Mike Kostka, Chris Mueller, Matt Hunwick


Re-signed: Dominic Moore


Still unsigned: Derick Brassard (RFA), Chris Kreider (RFA), Mats Zuccarello (RFA), John Moore (RFA), Daniel Carcillo (UFA), Raphael Diaz (UFA), Justin Falk (UFA)


Subtractions: Anton Stralman (Tampa Bay Lightning), Brian Boyle (Tampa Bay Lightning), Brad Richards (buyout, Chicago Blackhawks), Benoit Pouliot (Edmonton Oilers), Derek Dorsett (Vancouver Canucks)


The Rangers knew their salary-cap situation wasn't going to allow them to bring back the same team that went to the Final this spring. So instead they've tried to plug some holes left in the wake of free agency and should go into the season hoping some of their younger players are ready.


Dan Boyle should fill Stralman's role as a right-shot defenseman paired with Marc Staal. Glass can take Dorsett's minutes, even if the Rangers can't expect him to be as effective on the forecheck. Kostka and Hunwick will replace Diaz and Falk as the seventh and eighth defensemen. Dylan McIlrath might push too.


Beyond that, it will be up to the young guys, unless the Rangers can swing a trade.


Oscar Lindberg might take over for Richards as one of the Rangers' top-three centers. J.T. Miller might be able to fill Pouliot's role on a line with Brassard and Zuccarello, who are likely to re-sign. But the Rangers still need to find someone to play Boyle's hard minutes. He was their most effective forward on the penalty kill, and he could play any forward position.


PHILADELPHIA FLYERS


Additions: R.J. Umberger, Nick Schultz


Re-signed: Kimmo Timonen, Ray Emery, Brayden Schenn, Jason Akeson


Still unsigned: Adam Hall (UFA), Hal Gill (UFA)


Subtractions: Scott Hartnell (Columbus Blue Jackets), Steve Downie (Pittsburgh Penguins), Tye McGinn (San Jose Sharks), Erik Gustafsson (KHL)


The Flyers' big move this offseason came before the draft, when they traded Hartnell to the Blue Jackets to bring Umberger back to Philadelphia. Otherwise it's been a quiet offseason so far for the Flyers, who have re-signed some of their own guys and added a depth defenseman in Schultz but don't have the cap flexibility to do much more right now.


That could change if GM Ron Hextall finds a trading partner and a friendly return for Vinny Lecavalier, who reportedly is on the block with the Flyers looking to move his contract, which carries a salary-cap charge of $4.5 million for four more seasons.


COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS


Additions: Scott Hartnell, Jerry D'Amigo


Re-signed: Curtis McElhinney, Dalton Prout


Still unsigned: Ryan Johansen (RFA), Corey Tropp (RFA), Tim Erixon (RFA), David Savard (RFA)


Subtractions: Blake Comeau (Pittsburgh Penguins), Matt Frattin (Toronto Maple Leafs), R.J. Umberger (Philadelphia Flyers), Derek MacKenzie (Florida Panthers), Nikita Nikitin (Edmonton Oilers), Nick Schultz (Philadelphia Flyers)


The Blue Jackets haven't made their most important offseason signing yet; they need to get Johansen under contract without any further tension than there already is. Johansen feels disrespected in the negotiations, telling the Columbus Dispatch that he feels he has earned more than a "bridge" contract and the offers that have come his way have been "a slap in the face."


Johansen was excellent last season with a team-high 63 points as he became the No. 1 center the Blue Jackets thought he would become when they took him with the fourth pick in the 2010 draft. However, it was his first good season. He had 33 points in 107 games from 2011-13.


Provided the Blue Jackets and Johansen find a mutual understanding, the team looks primed to be even better than it was last season, when it made the playoffs and lost in the first round to the Penguins. They will have plenty of size and bite with Hartnell (6-2, 210) joining a forward group that already features Johansen (6-3, 223), Nathan Horton (6-2, 229), Brandon Dubinsky (6-2, 216), Nick Foligno (6-0, 210), Artem Anisimov (6-4, 198), Boone Jenner (6-2, 208) and Jared Boll (6-3, 214).


WASHINGTON CAPITALS


Additions: Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, Justin Peters, Chris Conner


Re-signed: Michael Latta


Still unsigned: Dustin Penner (UFA)


Subtractions: Mikhail Grabovski (New York Islanders), Tyson Strachan (Buffalo Sabres), Jaroslav Halak (New York Islanders)


GM Brian MacLellan, who served as George McPhee's assistant for the past seven seasons, addressed Washington's defense in a big way on July 1. That's important considering the Capitals might be going for more of a defensive approach under new coach Barry Trotz.


McLellan did it by taking two players from Washington's biggest rival in the division, the Penguins. Neither of them came cheap: Niskanen signed for seven years and $40.25 million. Orpik signed for five years and $27.5 million. The Capitals, who at times had three bona fide NHL defensemen in the lineup last season, now have a top-six defense corps that features Niskanen, Orpik, John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Mike Green and Dmitry Orlov.


McLellan also signed Peters to a two-year contract to push incumbent No. 1 Braden Holtby.


However, the Capitals still have a hole at center behind Nicklas Backstrom with Grabovski's departure. How they fill it will go a long way in determining their overall team depth and their chances of getting back into the playoffs after missing last season.


NEW JERSEY DEVILS


Additions: Mike Cammalleri, Martin Havlat, Scott Clemmensen


Re-signed: Marek Zidlicky, Stephen Gionta, Steve Bernier, Cam Janssen


Still unsigned: Jacob Josefson (RFA), Ryan Carter (UFA), Martin Brodeur (UFA)


Subtractions: Anton Volchenkov (buyout), Mark Fayne (Edmonton Oilers)


The Devils bolstered their offense with the addition of Cammalleri on a five-year, $25 million contract. He scored 26 goals last season for the Calgary Flames, who were 23rd in the League in goals-per-game (2.46). The Devils were 27th (2.40).


Havlat can also help the offense if he stays healthy. He should be comfortable surrounded by fellow Czechs Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias and Zidlicky.


Brodeur's playing days in New Jersey appear over. The Devils plan to have Clemmensen battle with Keith Kinkaid for the No. 2 job behind Cory Schneider.


Fayne's departure puts more onus on Adam Larsson to become a regular on the blue line. Jon Merrill and Eric Gelinas should be as well as New Jersey will likely have a top-six defense corps that features Andy Greene, Bryce Salvador, Zidlicky, Larsson, Gelinas and Merrill with Peter Harrold as an extra.


CAROLINA HURRICANES


Additions: Jay McClement, Brad Malone, Tim Gleason


Re-signed: Ron Hainsey, Jiri Tlusty, Nathan Gerbe


Still unsigned: Andrei Loktionov (UFA), Drayson Bowman (UFA), Radek Dvorak (UFA), Joni Pitkanen (UFA), Mike Komisarek (UFA), Brett Bellemore (UFA)


Subtractions: Justin Peters (Washington Capitals), Manny Malhotra (Montreal Canadiens)


The Hurricanes, like the Penguins and Capitals, have a new coach (Bill Peters) and a new GM (Ron Francis), so ideally they'll have a new look and a new direction as well. However, so far this offseason the Hurricanes have added depth players, a clear indication that they're prepared to give their young guys a fair chance to be difference makers.


Forward Jeff Skinner and defenseman Justin Faulk already are difference-makers. Forward Elias Lindholm and defenseman Ryan Murphy are supposed to become star players. They will have to step up this season. If they do, it will give Carolina four key players who are 22 or younger.


Unless the Hurricanes trade Cam Ward and his $6.3 million salary-cap charge, they appear set in goal with Ward and Anton Khudobin. Eric Staal and Jordan Staal are still their top-two centers. Andrej Sekera, at 28, is an emerging top-four defenseman coming off a strong season.


NEW YORK ISLANDERS


Additions: Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin, Jaroslav Halak, Chad Johnson, Cory Conacher, T.J. Brennan, Jack Skille


Re-signed: none


Still unsigned: Anders Lee (RFA), Casey Cizikas (RFA), Calvin de Haan (RFA), Matt Donovan (RFA), Radek Martinek (UFA)


Subtractions: Evgeni Nabokov (Tampa Bay Lightning), Anders Nilsson (KHL)


The Islanders paid a hefty price for two-thirds of their second line on Wednesday, but they're hoping Grabovski (four years, $20 million) and Kulemin (four years, $16.75 million) find the magic they had when they played together with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2010-11.


That season, while playing with Clarke MacArthur, Grabovski and Kulemin put up career-highs in goals, assists, points, shots on goal, plus-minus and games played. Grabovski had 29 goals, 29 assists, 58 points, 239 shots and a plus-14 rating in 81 games; Kulemin had 30 goals, 27 assists, 57 points, 173 shots and a plus-7 rating in 82 games.


Grabovski and Kulemin should give the Islanders secondary scoring behind John Tavares and Kyle Okposo. Considering they should have solid goaltending again with Halak and Johnson, and it's conceivable that the Islanders take a major step forward and challenge for a playoff berth.


However, they still need to address their defense, which may happen in the form of a trade. The Islanders have an abundance of centers in Frans Nielsen, Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey. One could be moved in a trade that brings back a top-four defenseman.


---



Philly re-ups with VandeVelde


Chris Vande Velde has parlayed an AHL contract into his second straight NHL one.


The Flyers re-upped with the 27-year-old veteran on Friday, giving Vande Velde a one-year, two-way deal. This comes after Vande Velde began last season on a deal with AHL Adirondack before inking with Philly in mid-December.


The former Oilers draft pick (97th overall, 2005) appeared in 18 games for the Flyers last season, recording one point. All told he’s appeared in 46 career NHL contests but has done the majority of his time in the American League — last year, he racked up 10 goals and 24 points in 41 games for the Phantoms.



Flyers goalie Zepp looks to Thomas, Fasth as inspiration


One of the more unlikely free agent signings on July 1st came from Philadelphia, where the Flyers brought aboard a 32-year-old goalie that’s never played in the NHL — Rob Zepp.


Zepp, twice drafted by the Thrashers and Hurricanes, never advanced beyond the AHL level with either club and has spent the last nine seasons in the Finnish and German leagues. While his road to the NHL is an unlikely one, it’s not completely unheard of.


“Over the years, guys have done it,” Zepp said, per Simcoe.com. “Tim Thomas and Viktor Fasth came over in their 30s and we know the success they’ve had, especially Tim.


“Stories like that provide inspiration and motivation for guys like me.”


(Thomas was 31 in his first “full” NHL season and won his first of two Vezina Trophies at 34. Fasth was 30 upon making his NHL debut with Anaheim.)


As far as picking teams, Zepp chose wisely with Philadelphia. Steve Mason‘s entrenched as the No. 1 and Ray Emery is returning as his backup, but neither is a lock for a huge workload. Mason missed time last season with a concussion and has never appeared in more than 61 games in a single season; Emery, who turns 32 himself in September, didn’t exactly have a banner campaign in ’13-14 (9-12-2, .903 save percentage, 2.96 GAA).


Throw in the fact AHL Adirondack goalie Cal Heeter is still relatively untested — he has just two full seasons at the American League level — and ’12 second-rounder Anthony Stolarz is still just 20 years old…and, well, Zepp could really have a shot at this. He’s no slouch, going 24-14-0 with a 2.39 GAA and .931 save percentage with Berlin last year, and knows this might be his real last chance at playing in the NHL.


“Ten or 15 years ago it was not possible,” he explained. “But maybe more teams realize guys have maybe been lost in the shuffle.”



Roundup: Blues sign McCarthy, ‘Canes ink Holmstrom


A couple of minor signings to pass your way…


St. Louis signs McCarthy


The Blues have agreed to terms with ex-Sharks forward John McCarthy on a one-year, two-way deal worth $600,000 at the NHL level, per CapGeek.


McCarthy, 27, was taken by San Jose in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft and has spent his entire pro career with the organization, appearing in 87 games with the Sharks while spending the majority of his time with AHL Worcester.


The former Boston University Terrier had his best campaign in 2011-12, scoring 20 goals and 47 points in 65 games for Worcester.


Carolina inks Holmstrom


The Hurricanes added another veteran presence up front on Friday, agreeing to terms with Flyers forward Ben Holmstrom.


Holmstrom, also 27, was an undrafted free agent that signed with Philly in 2009-10 and spent the majority of his time in AHL Adirondack, where he served as team captain.


The former UMass-Lowell product has appeared in seven career NHL games, all of them coming with the Flyers.



Eakins doesn’t want Oilers to rely on ‘four players to put up our points’


“We need people who can make plays, possess the puck, score goals. We don’t want to be a team who relies solely on basically four players to put up our points. There’s been a perception of our team being an offensive one. It’s the wrong perception, and we’re going to try and change that by adding guys like [Teddy] Purcell and [Benoit] Pouliot.”


The “four players” to which Dallas Eakins is referring are Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, David Perron, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. In 2013-14, the forwards with the fifth- and sixth-most points on the team were Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky, neither of whom are still with the club.


The Oilers picked up Purcell in a trade with Tampa Bay and got Pouliot in free agency. They also added Mark Fayne and Nikita Nikitin on defense.


But even with the new additions, plus the ongoing development of Edmonton’s youngsters, the Oilers will be hard-pressed to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2006. The Western Conference could be even stronger in 2014-15, and Eakins’ squad wasn’t even close to qualifying last season.



Happy July 4th! Still Some Fireworks Left. Legwand signs in Ottawa

























July 4, 2014, 11:45 AM ET [69 Comments]








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Legwand a Sen...

Signs two year deal...the Sharks will now seek a new trade partner...

Del Zotto is on the Penguins radar

This from a very good source...Del Zotto can bring the offense


#88 back in Philly?


Flyers and Sens with interest in Peter Mueller. Peter has quite a big upside and it's been a while since the #88 been worn in Philly...


Sharks Mulling over Big Trade


Hearing the Ottawa Senators are the most likely partner.


Brodeur and Pens?


Hearing talks between Brodeur's camp and Penguins could rekindle this weekend.


More later from HockeyBuzz headquarters par la mer!



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Vancouver Canucks' goalie Ryan Miller, left, stands for photos with general manager Jim Benning after Miller signed a three-year contract with the NHL hockey team, Tuesday, July 1, 2014 in Vancouver, British Columbia. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck)



Happy Independence Day!!




Arizona Diamondbacks v Pittsburgh Pirates



Happy Fourth of July!


Hope you all enjoy the holiday and the fireworks and the barbecues, etc. Please be careful and don’t even dream about driving if you’re drinking.


Apologies for not being around much lately. Did I miss anything significant on free-agency day (s)?


Should be back at full steam soon. That’s all I’ve got.


I have at least one guest blog in the hopper and allegedly a few others coming. If anybody wants to volunteer to write one, just drop me an email at rcarpini@lohud.com. Thanks.


Photo by Getty Images.






Rick Carpiniello, 26, was born and raised in Harrison and began working in The Journal News' sports department (back when it was The Reporter Dispatch and eight other newspapers) in October of 1977 after a year of covering high school sports as a stringer. For more than 20 years he covered the New York Rangers and the National Hockey League. Carpiniello has been writing columns on everything from local sports to the big leagues since 2002.




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