Saturday, June 28, 2014

With UFA Day under 90 hours away, here are all the latest rumors…

June 28, 2014, 11:12 PM ET [38 Comments]



Players Updated on the HockeyBuzz RumorChart so far today:

Byfuglien, Vanek, Spezza, Staal, Marleau, Legwand, Kulemin, Iginla, Cole, Brodeur, Bolland...

Looking for info between blogs or when the next blog is coming?…





Well with the draft behind us, we now sit less than 90 HOURS from UFA day and here are the latest rumors of teams interested in signing UFAs as well as possible trades...

On Byfuglien...

Pretty much a two horse race "if" Buff is moved. Philly and Montreal are the hands on fav to fight it out.

On Vanek...

The Capitals, Flames, and Devils have all surfaced in the last 24 hours.....Vanek has definite options.

On Spezza...

I know he nixed the deal to Nashville, and some in Hockey Tonk are a little upset about the news being released that Jason turned down the deal...that said this wouldn't be the first time a deal was nixed only to be revived later. The fact is Bryan Murray now has a "deal to beat" in his head and it's a steep question to wonder if he can beat that Nashville deal. The Preds are a VERY good team.

On Eric Staal...

He is in play as they say...and the latest team to really kick the tires is St. Louis.

On Patrick Marleau...

The Penguins tried to get Marleau, but now it looks like a deal to either Toronto or Tamps is more likely...

On Legwand...

Great character player...Minnesota, Tampa, and Columbus all want his services...

Much more to come in the morning...

Join the Discussion: » 38 Comments » Post New Comment

Coyotes might let their UFAs walk, Vrbata included

The Arizona Coyotes could be a different-looking team beyond their name change in the 2014-15 season.

After two straight seasons missing the postseason, it sounds like the team is willing to allow most – if not all – of their unrestricted free agents to walk. That much was made clear by reporters including the Arizona Republic’s Sarah McLellan.

It’s not too surprising to ponder the former-Phoenix-Coyotes letting David Moss, Paul Bissonnette and Jeff Halpern go. The most noteworthy potential losses would be forward Radim Vrbata, defenseman Derek Morris and goalie Thomas Greiss.

Morris and Greiss might be as good as gone. McLellan reports that Greiss, 28, is drawing considerable interest from around the NHL.

Vrbata might be the most interesting factor of them all. Fox Sports Arizona’s Craig Morgan reports that the 33-year-old could possibly return, although he might also price himself out of Arizona.

Vrbata scored 20 goals and 51 points with the ‘Yotes last season. A relatively weak free agent market could indeed make the underrated winger overpaid just like that, but there’s also the notion that his best work comes in the desert.

(For more on Vrbata’s value, consider this from Morgan.)

Aside from Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Mike Smith, there aren’t many Coyotes locked up beyond the 2015-16 season. It seems like the franchise is valuing flexibility over certainty when it comes to contracts, which could mean some key departures come July.

Report: Leafs, Bruins, Penguins, ‘Hawks among Brodeur suitors

Even considering his advanced age, it sounds like there are plenty of suitors for future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur.

Rumors swirled about the iconic goalie and the Toronto Maple Leafs, and apparently with good reason. Brendan Shanahan acknowledged interest in the 42-year-old, as the Bergen Record reports.

“We’ve expressed an interest,” Shanahan said. “But I think when you get to a point in Marty’s career it’s really about fit. I was never the best goalie in the history of the game, but I’ve been a veteran player sort of making these decisions. You do things differently when you’re at Marty’s point in his career.”

“It’s always going to be about fit.”

It sounds like quite a few Stanley Cup contenders think they can find the right fit for the NHL record holder in wins. The Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins have been mentioned as potential interested parties:

There’s a big question about how well the famous goalie would handle being a backup, which would be his gig in just about every contending situation (and most situations, at this stage of his career). He filled Sportsnet in on what kind of role he’s willing to accept earlier last week.

“If I get a job as a No. 1, I think I’m able to handle the workload of 50 to 60 games,” Brodeur said. “If I don’t, and I get a backup job on a team I feel has a chance to win the Stanley Cup, anything between 20 to 30 games I’d be comfortable with in the right situation.”

There are a lot of possibilities buzzing around, yet one very important factor would be money. Brodeur didn’t give any indication about his desired salary, which certainly matters to teams in tight financial situations as championship contenders often are.

Whatever the case may be, it doesn’t sound like Brodeur will lack options when the free agent period begins. Like many other veterans, it’s plausible that he might not make a decision on July 1 (or maybe even in the month of July).

Then again, you never know what will happen once the frenzy begins.

Isles' Martin energized by Rangers' success

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders were supposed spend last season building off their run to the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when they gave the Pittsburgh Penguins a scare in the opening round in an exciting six-game series.

Instead, the Islanders took a step back; they went 34-37 11 and finished fifth from the bottom of the NHL standings. To make matters even more painful, the Islanders were forced to sit and watch their archrivals, the New York Rangers, go all the way to the Stanley Cup Final before losing to the Los Angeles Kings in five games.

Islanders left wing Matt Martin admitted the Rangers' run lit a fire under him. He wishes training camp started tomorrow.

"It's always hard to watch the playoffs. It's a little harder when you see them go as far as they did," Martin said Friday night during the Islanders' draft party at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. "They earned it though. They played hard, they played like a team and ran into a powerful L.A. team. [It was] definitely hard to watch for a very long time, but I'm looking forward to getting back at it."

The Islanders were competitive last season but struggled mightily to hold on to leads. They lost 14 games that at some point they were ahead by two goals. Martin knows that has to change if they are going to return to the postseason next spring.

"It's very frustrating; that's what we did in years prior to two seasons ago when we made the playoffs," said Martin, who had eight goals, six assists and 90 penalty minutes in 79 games. "We've got to find ways to hold on those leads. Obviously we had some injuries, but that's not an excuse either. We've got to find ways to just hang on to leads.

"The problem is we were in position to win games. It's not like we were getting blown out. We've just got to hang on and find ways to win. We know we have the talent in here and the pieces in place to go the distance and get in the playoffs again. Once you get to the dance, anything can happen. We know we're talented enough, we've been there before, we've just got to be more consistent and do what it takes to win."

General manager Garth Snow wasted no time this offseason acquiring a No. 1 goaltender. He landed the rights to Jaroslav Halak from the Washington Capitals on May 1, then signed him to a four-year, $18 million contract three weeks later. Halak went 29-13-7 with a 2.25 goals-against average and .921 save percentage between the St. Louis Blues and Washington. He replaces 38-year-old Evgeni Nabokov, who was limited to 40 games due to injury and becomes an unrestricted free agent on Tuesday.

"I think that's a big help," Martin said. "When Nabby went down, Pouls [Kevin Poulin] and Anders [Nilsson] played good hockey but it was definitely tough. They're young guys that may not be in those positions very often yet in their career. We just need some more stability I think in net, and we got that with Halak.

"I think last year was …. I don't want to say a wakeup call, but nothing's going to be handed to us. I think goaltending was something Garth wanted to address and he took care of that right away. It looks like he wants a puck-moving defenseman or a veteran defenseman and he tried to address that. Free agency is just a week away, so they're doing what they can to make us better. But as players it's up to us to produce on the ice."

The 2014-15 season will be the Islanders' last at the 42-year-old Coliseum before they move into the state-of-the-art Barclays Center in Brooklyn in the fall of 2015. The Islanders won four straight Stanley Cups from 1980-83 and made the Final in 1984, but they haven't reached the second round of the playoffs since 1993.

"It's been a long, long time since this arena's seen a championship and really just a deep playoff run in general," Martin said. "I think the fans deserve it, I think the players deserve it, I think even you guys [the media] deserve it. It's been a long time. You can see that the management is trying to move this in the right direction and go far and the players need to follow suit. We have a few months here before training camp opens and we have to get ourselves ready to have a great season."


Rangers to hold prospects camp this week

From the NYR:


NEW YORK, June 28, 2014 – New York Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather announced today that the team will hold the 2014 Prospect Development Camp from Monday, June 30 – Friday, July 4, at Madison Square Garden Training Center. The camp will bring together several of the team’s top prospects, including Anthony Duclair, Brady Skjei, Mackenzie Skapski, Pavel Buchnevich, and Adam Tambellini.rangers report logo

Duclair, 18, registered 50 goals and 49 assists for 99 points, along with 56 penalty minutes in 59 games with the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) this past season. Duclair established QMJHL career-highs in goals, assists, points, power play goals (15), shorthanded goals (three), and game-winning goals (seven). He also ranked third in the league in goals, sixth in the league in points, seventh in the league in power play goals, and tied for seventh in the league in game-winning goals.

The Pointe-Claire, Quebec native registered at least one point in 45 of 59 regular season games and posted 30 multi-point efforts this past season. Duclair posted a career-high, eight-game goal streak from December 20 vs. Shawinigan to January 10 vs. Rimouski (nine goals over the span), and was also named the Central Hockey League’s (CHL) Player of The Week for consecutive weeks (January 20 – 26 and January 27 – February 2.

Duclair was selected by the Rangers in the third round, 80th overall, in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

Skjei, 20, registered six goals and eight assists for 14 points, along with 30 penalty minutes in 40 games with the University of Minnesota of the Big Ten this past season. He established career-highs in games played, goals, assists, points, and penalty minutes while helping Minnesota advance to the National Championship Game. Skjei tied for second among defensemen on the team in goals and ranked third among defensemen on the team in points.

The Lakeville, Minnesota native was selected by the Rangers in the first round, 28th overall, in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

Skapski, 20, posted a 28-20-4 record, along with a 2.70 GAA, a .916 SV%, and one shutout in 53 appearances with the Kootenay Ice of the Western Hockey League (WHL) this past season. The 6-3, 191-pounder registered career-bests in GAA and SV%, and ranked sixth in the WHL in SV%, tied for seventh in wins, and finished 10th in GAA. He also posted a career-high, 10-game winning streak from January 12 to February 11, recording a 1.80 GAA and a .940 SV% over the span.

The Abbotsford, British Columbia native was selected by the Rangers in the sixth round, 170th overall, in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

Buchnevich, 19, split this past season between Severstal Cherepovets of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) and Almaz Cherepovets of the Junior Hockey League (MHL) in Russia. He registered seven goals and 11 assists for 18 points, along with 12 penalty minutes in 40 games with Severstal. Buchnevich also ranked third on Severstal in assists, fourth on the team in points, and tied for sixth on the team in goals.

The 6-1, 176-pounder recorded two goals and five assists for seven points, along with 18 penalty minutes and a plus-three rating in seven contests while helping Russia capture the Bronze Medal at the 2014 World Junior Championship in Malmo, Sweden. Buchnevich tied for the team lead in assists and tied for second on the team in points in the tournament.

The Cherepovets, Russia native was selected by the Rangers in the third round, 75th overall, in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

Tambellini, 19, split this past season between the University of North Dakota of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) and the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League (WHL). The 6-2, 179-pounder registered 17 goals and 22 assists for 39 points, along with 10 penalty minutes in 31 games with Calgary. He ranked fifth on the team in goals and seventh on the team in points, and also notched a point in 21 of 31 games with the Hitmen.

In the playoffs, Tambellini recorded five goals and four assists for nine points, along with two penalty minutes and a plus-five rating in six games. The forward led Calgary in goals, tied for the team lead in points and plus/minus rating, and tied for fourth on the team in assists in the playoffs.

The Port Moody, British Columbia native was selected by the Rangers in the third round, 65th overall, in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

Here is the roster, from the SNY Rangers blog (I didn’t have time to type it myself):


  • Center: Nickolas Latta, Vinni Lettieri, Kevin Rooney, Michael St. Croix, Adam Tambellini, Steven Fogarty, Matt Neal, Eric Neiley

  • LW: Anthony Duclair, Chris McCarthy, Bryan Moore, Richard Nejezchleb

  • RW: Pavel Buchnevich, Kevin Duane, Ryan Haggerty, Keegan Iverson, Michael Kantor, Logan Nelson, Josh Nicholls.


Calle Andersson, Justin Baker, Travis Brown, Mat Bodie, Luke Curadi, Troy Donnay, Spiro Goulakis, Ryan Mantha, Vojtech Mozik, Tyler Nanne, Sam Noreau, Brady Skjei, Daniel Walcott, Petr Zamorksy


Brandon Halverson, Matt O’Connor, Mackenzie Skapski, Colin Stevens

Photo of Ryan Mantha, above, by Getty Images.

Bruins GM talks backup plans if Iginla leaves

The Boston Bruins aren’t ruling out the possibility of Jarome Iginla coming back for a second season, but they’re also putting together a gameplan in case he finds the kind of deal he’s looking for.

For one thing, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli believes that Loui Eriksson could slide into Iginla’s spot on the top line with Milan Lucic and David Krejci, reports.

“I have to hedge in case we don’t sign Jarome,” Chiarelli said. “I have no problem if we have to put Loui on that top line. He’s played on top lines before and he’s played with the Sedins in the Olympics, and he was terrific. He’s better suited for an upper line. If that’s what we have to do then we’ll do it. I’m trying to be patient with this because I really feel at one point there’s going to be a player that will fit, and want to come here.”

How would Eriksson fit in?

Eriksson would be an interesting choice. The 28-year-old indeed ran shotgun with Jamie Benn for years in Dallas, often earning recognition as one of the NHL’s most underrated wingers during his time with the Stars. His two-way play could make him a hit in Boston – particularly with head coach Claude Julien – if he can avoid the kind of injury troubles that plagued his debut season with the B’s.

It would be a chance of pace, though. Lucic and Krejci have been rolling with big-bodied wingers who possessed big right-handed shots in Iginla and Nathan Horton before him. Eriksson’s not tiny by any stretch, yet he’s a left-handed winger whose style is more finesse-based.

Waiting game

There’s always the possibility that the Bruins add a forward in free agency, although Chiarelli made it clear that he’s “not going to go out hard to find a replacement for two reasons: the annual cost and the term.”

Term is the main sticking point with Iginla, as the Bruins would prefer to replicate the one-year, incentive-laden deal they gave the 36-year-old last time around.

If he finds that term somewhere else, it doesn’t sound like Boston will be scrambling for answers.

Draft Day Two Wrap Up: Gunnarsson for Polak, offensive focus to Leafs’ draftees

Given the Maple Leafs didn’t draft anybody until the 68th overall selection today, let’s start with the biggest news of Draft Day Two, which was the trade for Roman Polak in exchange for Carl Gunnarsson and a 4th round draft pick.

Leafs management appear to be rejigging the structure of the defence a little bit with this move. It opens up the left side for developing youngsters Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner to step into top 4 spots if they’re up to it, although that leaves little in the way of insurance if Rielly experiences some sophomore bumps in the road or if Gardiner (who led the Leafs in ES ice time and appears to be in line to grab a top-pair spot from the get go) has another mixed season. Paul Ranger, if he’s brought back, and Tim Gleason, if he is as well, are options on the left side of the bottom pair.

On the right, as of today, it goes Dion Phaneuf, RFA Cody Franson, Roman Polak and Petter Granberg. Reading between the lines, it seems like the Leafs would like to add another right hander here who could play on the second pairing, which presumably would mean Franson is on the outs. It should be noted, though, that the latest word on Franson was that there is an interest in re-signing him, but one hopes management doesn’t think adding Polak, subtracting Gunnarsson and keeping the rest in tact is going to lead to any sort of meaningful improvement on the back end. It does seem like right-hander Dan Boyle may be a target here.

Claude Loiselle today mentioned the possibility of moving Phaneuf back to the left, in which case adding Dan Boyle might make that much more sense, and maybe the Leafs would to fill out their defence with something like Phaneuf – Boyle, Gardiner – Franson, Rielly – Polak. Getting their pairings lined up according to handedness appears to be a priority as the Leafs have identified it as one of the issues contributing to poor breakouts. Dion has always preferred the left, so how this would play out for him is a question mark.

While there is some logistical sense to the restructuring, the worrying part of the deal is that the Maple Leafs just aren’t a more skilled group on the back end with the subtraction of Gunnarsson and the addition of Polak, and it doesn’t seem to be a good value trade. Polak played soft competition, didn’t excel in terms of possession, and generally appears to be more of the bottom-pair, Tim Gleason vein than a meaningful solution to the Leafs’ defensive issues, although Polak is cheaper, a decent skater and is hopefully bears out as some form of a right-handed upgrade on Gleason.

While Gunnarsson and Phaneuf as a pairing were buried under the toughest defensive assignments in the league last season and didn’t perform particularly well with those minutes (because neither are Chris Pronger), Gunnarsson had previously held his own against tougher competition than Polak has played. He also contributes more in the offensive context (.28 career PPG vs. .18). Gunnarsson has always had a knack for controlling his gaps well and breaking up plays with a good stick, although – and perhaps the hip ailment had exacerbated these issues – he struggled at times to transition the puck up ice last season. The quiet, positionally sound reputation Gunnarsson carries was mostly warranted, but he certainly was over his head in the very daunting role he filled and struggled at times under forechecking pressure, likely not helped by a hip injury hurting the fluidity of his turns and pivots.

We’ll have to wait and see what the big picture is in terms of the backend before casting final judgment, but for now, when we add in that Nonis took a pick out of his scouts’ hands and retained a little salary to make this happen, the value just doesn’t jive for me. It wasn’t necessarily a bad idea to try to fix the “mix” on defence — which did need addressing — and move out Gunnarsson for assets in the process, but Nonis may have been better off trying to fetch a younger player with some upside than a 28-year-old 5-6 D while giving up a pick and retaining some salary to acquire him.


Draft Wrap Up

2 Swedes, 1 Russian and 3 Americans split into five forwards and one defenceman was the 2014 draft haul for the Maple Leafs. The draft team, identifying the need for it in the system, definitely went for their share of offensive upside in this draft.

Click the names below for a profile on each new Leafs prospect including quotes from Director of Amateur Scouting Dave Morrison. Morrison’s story on why their lone defenceman drafted, Russian Rinat Valiev, was passed over is worth a read.










Amateur League

Amateur Team


Committed to Boston College

Committed to Ohio State

Committed to Maine
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Dave Nonis After Day 2:

Brendan Shanahan After Day 2:

Dave Poulin After Day 2:

Steve Staios After Day 2:

13 Russians selected in 2014 NHL Draft

PHILADELPHIA -- The "Russian factor" wasn't much of a distraction for a dozen teams this weekend at the 2014 NHL Draft at Wells Fargo Center.

It refers to the consideration made by teams, when drafting a player of Russian decent, of the risk associated with that player deciding to sign and play in the Kontinental Hockey League instead of North America. A team drafting a Russian player who then decides to stay in the KHL effectively has wasted a pick.

But 12 NHL teams drafted a total of 13 Russian-born players in 2014, the most in eight years. The Montreal Canadiens kicked off the Russian resurgence with the selection of right wing Nikita Scherbak of the Saskatoon Blades in the Western Hockey League at No. 26 on Friday.

The Moscow native was No. 15 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of the top North American skaters. He was named Saskatoon's most valuable player and rookie of the year after scoring 28 goals and finishing with 78 points in 65 games in his first season in North America.

When he was introduced to the Montreal media, Scherbak was taken by surprise.

"Oh my God, a lot of people," Scherbak said. "Oh my God."

But his opening comments got the ball rolling for what turned out to be an entertaining chat with the media. He was asked what he knew about the Canadiens.

"I know Montreal wins a lot of Stanley Cups," he said.

Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin acknowledged that he saw a player with a lot of personality and was excited to have the opportunity to draft him.

"He's got an appeal to him; he's got confidence," Bergevin said. "Montreal's a different market, and from what we've seen so far, we feel he could handle that."

Moscow native and right wing Nikolay Goldobin of the Sarnia Sting in the Ontario Hockey League was chosen by the San Jose Sharks at No. 27. Goldobin led the Sting and finished sixth in the OHL with 94 points in 67 games. He had 21 goals and 43 points during a 22-game point streak from Nov. 14, 2013, to Jan. 11, 2014.

"He's got great hockey sense; [he's] one of the smartest players in the draft," Sharks GM Doug Wilson told the San Jose Mercury News. "He's got a skill set that can be dynamic, but it's the way he sees the game, the way he thinks the game, is historically what allows players to go from that level and be able to play at the next level with really good players."

The Sharks targeted Goldobin and traded with the Chicago Blackhawks; in exchange for San Jose's No. 20 and No. 179 selections, the Sharks gained No. 27 and No. 62 from the Blackhawks.

Three more Russians were selected in the second round Saturday: forward Ivan Barbashev of the Moncton Wildcats in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League went to the St. Louis Blues at No. 33; Vladislav Kamenev of Magnitogorsk in Russia's junior league was taken by the Nashville Predators at No. 42; and Maxim Letunov of the Youngstown Phantoms in the United States Hockey League was taken by the Blues at No. 52.

"We knew there would be a little bit of the 'Russian factor,' so there was a chance [we could get Barbashev]," Blues director of amateur scouting Bill Armstrong said. "Just based on his determination, effort and the type of player he is surprised us a bit that we were able to get him. We love him and are excited about getting him where we did."

Armstrong acknowledged that Letunov is a work in progress but said the Blues were glad he was available late in the second round.

"He's a big skinny kid (6-foot-2, 155 pounds) and still has a long way to go," Armstrong said. "He'll spend another year in USHL and then three years in college (at Boston University). He'll get his body in shape and get a lot of work in. He's an honest player and plays a two-way game. He has some upside as a second line center."

The "Russian factor" may have cost a few teams a true blue-chip talent at the 2013 draft when right wing Valeri Nichushkin fell to the Dallas Stars at No. 10. Nichushkin scored 14 goals and 34 points with a plus-20 rating in 79 regular-season games for Dallas. He had one goal and two points in six games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Of all the Russian players, Kamenev would seem to draw the most curiousity. He was the first Russian-born player drafted who was playing in Russia. But the Predators saw enough in him to take a chance in the second round.

"Vladislav is a good, big, powerful forward who has very good skills," Nashville pro scout Vaclav Nedomansky said. "He is very good in tight situations where he uses his body and his long reach to hold off opponents. He's got a very good set of skills to create scoring chances, a very good shot, and he's an offensive threat every time he's on the ice."

One of Kamenev's highlights was his performance at the IIHF Under-18 World Junior Championship, when he served as Russia's captain and scored two goals and seven points in five games.

"As a captain, I had a lot of responsibilities and I had to monitor all fields to support players and get them on ice and have talks with everyone at certain times," Kamenev said. "I like to lead by example more than talking though."

Other Russians selected during the weekend: 6-foot-7 defenseman Nikita Tryamkin (No. 66) of Yekaterinburg to the Vancouver Canucks; defenseman Rinat Valiev (No. 68) of the Kootenay Ice in the WHL to the Toronto Maple Leafs; goalie Ilya Sorokin (No. 78) of Novokuznetsk to the New York Islanders; goalie Igor Shesterkin (No. 118) of Spartak 2 to the New York Rangers; center Pavel Kraskovsky (No. 164) of Yaroslav 2 to the Winnipeg Jets; center Radel Fazleev (No. 168) of the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL to the Philadelphia Flyers; goalie Ivan Nalimov (No. 179) of SKA St. Petersburg 2 to the Chicago Blackhawks; center Alexander Kadeykin (No. 201) of Mytischi to the Detroit Red Wings.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL

Rangers could struggle keeping team together

PHILADELPHIA -- New York Rangers general manager Glen Sather wanted to go for another run at the Stanley Cup with the same group that fell three wins short last season.

"We like everybody," Sather said Saturday at the 2014 NHL Draft at Wells Fargo Center.

What Sather wanted and what he knew he'd realistically be able to do this offseason never matched up.

Sather issued center Brad Richards a compliance buyout last week. Friday, the NHL and National Hockey League Players' Association jointly revealed the salary cap for next season will be $69 million.

Sather said he thought the figure would be higher. His shock couldn't have been too great, because hours before the cap was revealed Sather traded right wing Derek Dorsett to the Vancouver Canucks for a better chance of signing some of the Rangers' own free agents.

New York is approximately $23.3 million under the salary cap with 11 players signed, according to

The Rangers have to attempt to work out a contract with restricted free agents Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello, Derick Brassard and John Moore, all of whom received qualifying offers (defenseman Justin Falk did not). In addition, the Rangers have Brian Boyle, Dominic Moore, Anton Stralman, Benoit Pouliot, Daniel Carcillo and Raphael Diaz scheduled to become unrestricted free agents July 1.

As much as Sather may want to retain all his free agents, he knows it's going to be difficult, if not impossible, because of the salary-cap restraints and the value the players place on themselves after helping the Rangers reach the Stanley Cup Final.

"But we didn't win, so I think realistically some of these guys probably have to pull the horns in a little bit," Sather said.

The Rangers are at risk of losing at least three of their unrestricted free agents, for various reasons.

Stralman will command a big contract as a 27-year-old, right-shot defenseman. He has said he is comfortable in New York but is looking for stability for his family, including his four children. The Rangers may not be in position to compete for Stralman.

Boyle and coach Alain Vigneault have a difference of opinion on what the player's role should be, or at least could be, in the future. Boyle wants more responsibility as a top-nine forward who can score, but Vigneault wants him back to play the same role on the fourth line and the penalty kill.

"There are roles for different players to play, and if they can accept them you can have a good team, but if you've got players that aren't willing to accept their roles then you've got conflict all the time and that creates problems," Sather said. "I'm not interested in problems. I want people that want to play within the team structure, and that's how you win."

Pouliot is coming off his most productive season in the NHL with 36 points in 80 games playing on a line with Brassard and Zuccarello. Pouliot, who has played on one-year contracts since 2009-10, could receive multiyear offers if he hits the open market. The Rangers don't appear willing to offer him anything more than a one-year contract because of the leverage they feel they have.

"I guess that's why you're a free agent, you get to look at the market, but he found a place where he was very comfortable," Sather said of Pouliot. "The coach liked him. The line was very good together. They had a good structure. They had good chemistry. Now you move on to another place, you may be back into the same situation you were in two years ago, which doesn't always work. I think you have to decide yourself what's the important thing, whether it's winning or getting a few more dollars someplace else. In my book, it's always winning."

The Rangers are planning to win, but it's inevitable some of the players will be different.

"I don't know where it's going to go," Sather said. "That's why we have all summer to figure it out."


Sabres collect nine new pieces at draft

PHILADELPHIA -- For his first draft as general manager of the Buffalo Sabres, Tim Murray didn't get everything he wanted. But he left Wells Fargo Center on Saturday feeling pretty good about the nine players the Sabres selected.

"I think the original plan was to get an extra pick in the first round and we weren't able to do it," he said. "Other than that, it went pretty well."

They started Friday by selecting Kootenay Ice center Sam Reinhart with the second pick and continued with eight picks Saturday.

The list of players selected Saturday included six forwards, starting with Barrie Colts left wing Brendan Lemieux, the first pick of the second round (No. 31). Lemieux (6-foot, 206 pounds) had 27 goals, 53 points and 145 penalty minutes in 65 regular-season games. The son of four-time Stanley Cup champion Claude Lemieux plays a game reminiscent of his father, which was a big selling point to Murray.

"We had him in our first round," Murray said. "We like the style of game he plays. He plays a chippy, intimidating style, but in saying that he's not a one-dimensional player. He can score goals, he can shoot the puck. He goes to the net, he goes to the dirty areas. We like the whole package. He's probably a unique player in this draft and he's unique a player out of the guys we drafted. He's got a lot of jam, but he can play the game."

Beyond his on-ice ability, Murray likes what Lemieux's energy and personality potentially could bring to a locker room that at times has been a bit low-key.

"He will add another dimension to a quiet room," Murray said. "... The room won't be as quiet with him in it, that's for sure."

With their other two second-round picks, the Sabres picked center Eric Cornel from the Peterborough Petes and right wing Vaclav Karabacek of the Gatineau Olympiques.

He's especially interested to see how Cornel continues to develop. Cornel had 25 goals and 37 assists in 68 games last season.

"He's 6-2, [but] he's slight [186 pounds]," Murray said. "We felt if he makes the same jump next year that he made this year, he'll be a hell of a prospect and a hell of a player."

Their third-round pick, Swedish goaltender Jonas Johansson (No. 61) is seen as a project who will remain with his club team, Brynas.

"He's not developed physically but ... he's athletic," Murray said. "That's the one question I asked, is he athletic. They assured me that he was."

With a second third-round pick, the Sabres selected Swift Current Broncos defenseman Brycen Martin, who had six goals, 37 points and a minus-16 rating in 72 Western Hockey League games. He was the second pick of the 2011 WHL draft, and while he never lived up to that standard, Murray is betting on the player's natural talent.

"He's got all the tools," Murray said. "He's a great skater, he has skill, he has hockey sense. His urgency needs to be ramped up obviously. But I think a kid like that, that was a high pick, I have to assume through peewee, bantam, the game was easy. You get to major junior hockey and the game gets a lithe more difficult and some guys adapt better than others. ... We can help him with the other parts of the game, the mental side of the game."

Murray said he was willing to spend picks to move up in the draft, even admitting that he had offered all three second-round picks to seven teams in a quest to grab a second first-round pick. Instead, the only trade he was able to make was sending a second-round pick (No. 39) to the Washington Capitals for a second-round pick (No. 44) and a third-round pick (No. 74).

As a whole, Murray said there's a lot of quality in the quantity he and the scouting staff selected.

"We have a potential top-two center that could play for us next year," he said. "The other thing it did for the organization is we added a lot of assets. The way I've spoken about that in the past is we're going to do the best we can to make them better. They're going to be Buffalo Sabres or they're going too allow us to get other Buffalo Sabres. I think when you draft a lot of players early that automatically helps your organization."


Notes from the NHL Entry Draft

From the NHL:


PHILADELPHIA (June 28, 2014) – A total of 210 players from 12 countries were

selected at the 2014 NHL Draft, which concluded today at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

That includes 67 U.S.-born players, representing the country’s highest percentage (32%) of


Following is a breakdown of draft selections by birthplace:

Canada 77rangers report logo

United States 67

Sweden 27

Russia 13

Finland 9

Czech Republic 8

Latvia 2

Switzerland 2

United Kingdom 2

Denmark 1

Germany 1

Slovakia 1



  • After no goaltenders were selected in the first round of the draft, five were picked in the

    second round, including four in a six-pick span: No. 34 Mason McDonald (CGY), No. 36

    Thatcher Demko (VAN), No. 37 Alex Nedeljkovic (CAR) and No. 39 Vitek Vanecek (WSH).

  • At No. 36 overall, Canucks pick Thatcher Demko (San Diego, Calif.) became the highestdrafted

  • California-born goaltender in NHL history.

  • At No. 96 overall, Hurricanes pick Josh Wesley (Raleigh, N.C.) became North Carolina’s first

  • homegrown player to be selected in the NHL Draft.

  • The OHL led all leagues with 41 players selected in the draft, followed by the WHL (37) and

  • USHL (30) and Sweden Jr. (21).

  • The Blues and Kings led the draft with 10 picks apiece. The Bruins, Ducks, Penguins and

Senators had the fewest selections with five each.


Several players with NHL bloodlines were selected in Rounds 2-7 of the 2014 NHL Draft,

including three by the same team their fathers played for: Canadiens pick Daniel Audette

(father Donald), Bruins pick Ryan Donato (Ted) and Hurricanes pick Josh Wesley (Glen).

Daniel Audette (selected 147th overall by Montreal): His father, Donald, registered 509

points (260-249—509) in 735 career NHL games with the Buffalo Sabres, Los Angeles Kings,

Atlanta Thrashers, Dallas Stars, Montreal Canadiens and Florida Panthers. He currently is an

amateur scout for the Montreal Canadiens.

Anders Bjork (selected 146th overall by Boston): His cousin Erik Condra was selected

207th overall by Ottawa at the 2006 NHL Draft and completed his fourth campaign with the

Senators in 2013-14.

Ryan Donato (selected 56th overall by Boston): His father, Ted, recorded 347 points

(150-197—347) in 795 career NHL games with the Boston Bruins, New York Islanders, Ottawa

Senators, Anaheim Ducks, Dallas Stars, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues and New York

Rangers. He just completed his 10th season as head coach of Harvard University’s men’s ice

hockey team.

Shane Eiserman (selected 100th overall by Ottawa): His cousin and personal trainer Eddie

Hill was selected 61st overall by the Nashville Predators in the 1999 NHL Draft and has a

decade of pro hockey experience in the American Hockey League and East Coast Hockey


Shane Gersich (selected 135th overall by Washington): His uncles are the Broten brothers:

Neal (drafted 42nd overall by Minnesota in 1979), Aaron (106th overall by Colorado in 1980)

and Paul (77th overall by NY Rangers in 1984). Neal was a member of the U.S. “Miracle on Ice”

gold medal-winning team at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games and won a Stanley Cup with the

New Jersey Devils in 1995.

Anton Karlsson (selected 87th overall by Arizona): His brother, Erik, was drafted 99th

overall by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2012 and spent the 2013-14 season with Frolunda in the

Swedish Hockey League.

Edgars Kulda (selected 194th overall by Arizona): His brother, Arturs, was drafted 200th

overall by the Atlanta Thrashers in 2006 and spent the 2013-14 season with Ufa in the

Kontinental Hockey League.

Brendan Lemieux (selected 31st overall by Buffalo): His father, Claude, is a four-time

Stanley Cup champion and 1995 Conn Smythe Trophy winner who recorded 786 points

(379-407—786) and 1,777 penalty minutes in 1,215 career regular-season games. He added

157 points (80-77—157) in 234 career playoff games with the Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey

Devils, Colorado Avalanche, Phoenix Coyotes, Dallas Stars and San Jose Sharks.

Ryan MacInnis (selected 43rd overall by Arizona): His father, Al, is a Hockey Hall of Fame

defenseman, Stanley Cup champion and seven-time All-Star who spent 23 seasons in the NHL

with the St. Louis Blues and Calgary Flames. He also won the Hardest Shot competition a

record seven times at the NHL All-Star Skills Competition.

Ryan Mantha (selected 104th overall by NY Rangers): His uncle Moe Mantha Jr. played 656

career NHL games with the Winnipeg Jets, Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota

North Stars and Philadelphia Flyers.

Jake Marchment (selected 157th overall by Los Angeles): His uncle Bryan was selected

16th overall by Winnipeg in 1987 and played 926 career NHL games with Calgary, Chicago,

Colorado, Edmonton, Hartford, San Jose, Tampa Bay, Toronto and Winnipeg.

Tyler Nanne (selected 142nd overall by NY Rangers): His grandfather is U.S. Hockey Hall of

Fame member Lou Nanne, who played 10 seasons with the Minnesota North Stars and served

as the team’s general manager for another 13 seasons. He was presented the Lester Patrick

Award in 1980 for his outstanding service to hockey in the United States. His brother, Louie,

was drafted 188th overall by the Minnesota Wild in 2012 and spent the 2013-14 season with the

Sioux Falls Stampede of the United States Hockey League.

Alexander Peters (selected 75th overall by Dallas): His brother, Justin, is a goaltender who

was selected 38th overall by Carolina in the 2004 NHL Draft. He appeared in 21 games for the

Hurricanes during the 2013-14 season.

Jack Ramsey (selected 208th overall by Chicago): His father, Mike, was a defenseman for

the U.S. “Miracle on Ice” gold medal-winning team at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games and is a

member of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. He skated in 1,070 career NHL games with the

Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings.

Hunter Smith (selected 54th overall by Calgary): His uncle Brad was selected in the fourth

round (57th overall) by Vancouver in the 1978 NHL Draft and totaled 62 points (28-34—62) in

222 games over nine NHL seasons with the Canucks, Calgary Flames, Detroit Red Wings and

Toronto Maple Leafs. He currently is the director of player personnel for the Colorado


Luc Snuggerud (selected 141st overall by Chicago): His uncle Dave represented the U.S. at

the 1988 Winter Olympic Games and played 265 NHL games over four seasons with the Buffalo

Sabres, San Jose Sharks and Philadelphia Flyers.

Kelly Summers (selected 190th overall by Ottawa): His cousin Mike Sullivan was drafted

244th overall by the Los Angeles Kings in 2003 and attended Clarkson University before playing

professionally in Germany (from 2008-11).

Lukas Sutter (selected 200th overall by NY Islanders): He is the son of Rich Sutter and a

member of the famous Sutter hockey family. Rich was drafted 10th overall in 1982 by Pittsburgh

and went on to play 874 NHL games with seven teams. His dad and five of his uncles (Brent,

Brian, Darryl, Duane and Ron) combined for 3,000 points in just under 5,000 NHL games.

More recently, four of his cousins have been drafted: Brody (193rd overall in 2011 by Carolina),

Brandon (11th overall in 2007 by Carolina), Brett (179th overall in 2005 by Calgary) and

Shaun (102nd overall in 1998 by Calgary).

Dominic Turgeon (selected 63rd overall by Detroit): His father, Pierre, was selected first

overall by Buffalo in the 1987 NHL Draft and registered 1,327 points (515-812—1,327) in 1,294

career NHL games with the Sabres, New York Islanders, Montreal Canadiens, St. Louis Blues,

Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche. He scored 30 or more goals in a season nine times,

played in four All-Star Games and was awarded the Lady Byng Trophy in 1992-93. His uncle

Sylvain also played 12 seasons in the NHL with the Hartford Whalers, New Jersey Devils,

Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators.

Nolan Vesey (selected 158th overall by Toronto): His father, Jim, was a star at Merrimack

College and was drafted 155th overall in 1984 by the Blues – he briefly played in the NHL for

St. Louis and Boston. His brother, Jimmy, was selected 66th overall in 2012 by Nashville.

Josh Wesley (selected 96th overall by Carolina): His father, Glen, patrolled the blue line for

1,457 career games with the Boston Bruins, Hartford Whalers, Carolina Hurricanes and Toronto

Maple Leafs. He won the Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006 and still is with the organization as

director of defensemen development. His uncle Blake skated in 298 career NHL games with the

Philadelphia Flyers, Hartford Whalers, Quebec Nordiques and Toronto Maple Leafs.


Buffalo traded Winnipeg’s 2nd-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft (previously acquired, 39th

overall) to Washington for Washington’s 2nd-round pick in 2014 (44th overall) and 3rd-round

pick in 2014 (74th overall).

Nashville traded Detroit’s 2nd-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft (previously acquired, 46th

overall) to San Jose for San Jose’s 2nd-round pick in 2014 (51st overall) and 4th-round pick in


Vancouver traded Tampa Bay’s 2nd-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft (previously acquired,

50th overall) to Los Angeles for RW Linden Vey.

San Jose traded Florida’s 3rd-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft (previously acquired, 62nd

overall) to Nashville for Nashville’s 3rd-round pick in 2014 (72nd overall) and 4th-round pick in

2014 (102nd overall).

Columbus traded Edmonton’s 3rd-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft (previously acquired, 63rd

overall) to Detroit for Detroit’s 3rd-round pick in 2014 (76th overall) and 3rd-round pick in 2015.

NY Islanders traded their 3rd-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft (65th overall) to Florida for

Florida’s 3rd-round pick in 2015.

Arizona traded its 3rd-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft (73rd overall) to Montreal for Montreal’s

3rd-round pick in 2014 (87th overall) and 4th-round pick in 2014 (117th overall).

Toronto traded D Carl Gunnarsson and Calgary’s 4th-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft

(previously acquired, 94th overall) to St. Louis for D Roman Polak.

Minnesota traded its 3rd-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft (79th overall) to Tampa Bay for

Tampa Bay’s 3rd-round pick in 2014 (80th overall) and Vancouver’s 7th-round pick in 2015

(previously acquired).

NY Rangers traded their 3rd-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft (89th overall) to Washington for

Washington’s 4th-round pick in 2014 (104th overall) and Chicago’s 4th-round pick in 2014

(previously acquired, 118th overall).

Chicago traded LW Brandon Bollig to Calgary for Pittsburgh’s 3rd-round pick in the 2014 NHL

Draft (previously acquired, 83rd overall).

NY Rangers traded their 4th-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft (119th overall) to Tampa Bay for

Tampa Bay’s 5th-round pick in 2014 (140th overall) and St. Louis’ 4th-round pick in 2014

(previously acquired, 142nd overall).

Winnipeg traded G Edward Pasquale and its 6th-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft (159th

overall) to Washington for Washington’s 6th-round pick in 2014 (164th overall), Nashville’s 7thround

pick in 2014 (previously acquired, 192nd overall) and Washington’s 7th-round pick in


Winnipeg traded its 7th-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft (189th overall) to Ottawa for Ottawa’s

6th-round pick in 2015.

NY Islanders traded their 7th-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft (185th overall) to Tampa Bay for

Tampa Bay’s 7th-round pick in 2014 (200th overall) and 7th-round pick in 2015.

Photo by the Associated Press.

Jason Spezza kills trade to Nashville, leaving GM Poile frustrated

Ottawa Senators' Jason Spezza (19) celebrates his tying goal during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Nashville Predators in Ottawa, Monday, March 10, 2014. Nashville defeated Ottawa 4-3 in overtime. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Fred Chartrand)

Maple Leafs select Pierre Engvall 188th overall

With their final pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, the Maple Leafs have selected big winger Pierre Engvall out of Frolunda in the SuperElit league.

All in all, the Maple Leafs have selected two Swedes, three Americans and a Russian in their six picks in the 2014 Entry Draft. It’s the first instance we can find of the Leafs not drafting a single Canadian in an entry draft (although William Nylander was born in Canada, he moved to Sweden at 14 and competes for Sweden internationally). This pick follows the pattern of the Leafs turning over their 7th rounder to scout Thommie Bergman as they have in recent drafts with Viktor Loov and Andreas Johnson (also with Frolunda), both picks out of Sweden.

The 6’4, 201-pound Engvall posted 35 points in 39 games for Frolunda J20.

Pierre Engvall Scouting Report

Engvall is a big power forward who is hard to knock off the puck. His size is a big asset, as he drives hard to the net without taking many penalties.

- March

Pierre Engvall Statistics









2012-2013FROLUNDA JR.SWEDEN-JR.42020
2012-2013FROLUNDA U18SWEDEN-JR. U183018163422
2013-2014FROLUNDA JR.SWEDEN-JR.3917183542
2013-2014FROLUNDA U18SWEDEN-JR. U18161125368

The 10 best prospect names at the NHL entry draft

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 28: Kaapo Kahkonen speaks to the media after being drafted #109 by the Minnesota Wild on Day Two of the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 28, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Sabres tab Lemieux with top pick in second round

PHILADELPHIA -- Brendan Lemieux was forced to sit through the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft at Wells Fargo Center on Friday without hearing his name called. It wasn't easy.

After the Buffalo Sabres selected him Saturday morning with the first pick of the second round (No. 31), Lemieux vowed to make the rest of the NHL regret making him wait, particularly some of the teams his father, Claude, played for during his 20-plus year career, including the Colorado Avalanche.

"There are a few teams there -- Colorado -- that really stung, but like I said, I'm definitely going to love going in their arenas and making it hard on their guys because they decided to pass me over," said Lemieux, who was born in Denver while his father was playing for the Avalanche. "I'm going to use this as fuel. They gave one of the more fiery guys in the draft, I'd like to say, a lot more fire."

Claude Lemieux described his son, a 6-foot, 206-pound left wing, as a "chip off the old block."

"He plays just the way I did, north-south," he said. "You know, [he's] a good skater. Bang, crash, he goes hard to the net. He scores dirty goals. Just the same game I had."

Claude wasn't concerned his son went No. 31 either.

"It's just a number. Go on the ice, go show everybody that you should have been a first-round pick," Claude said. "At the end of the day, it's not going to matter whether you're 29th; I mean, I was 26th and there were 21 teams [in 1983]. To me, it doesn't matter. I know for the kid, he wants to go up on the stage, but I think he's having a great day, you know."

He added: "There's pressure on a first-round pick. I didn't have that pressure, but my brother [Jocelyn] lived with that pressure being eighth overall with St. Louis. He talked about that with Brendan this morning, that it was tough to live up to."

Brendan Lemieux hopes to help the Sabres win the Stanley Cup like his father did twice with the New Jersey Devils and once each with the Avalanche and Montreal Canadiens.

"I'm proud of the career that he had and I'm proud of the way that he played. And how hated he was; I just love that about him," Brendan said. "I definitely want to follow in his footsteps. I want to be that guy who can step up in the playoffs and really be that playoff performer, because to me that's what's most important is the postseason. I want to come up big when it counts."

Claude Lemieux, who scored 379 goals and had 407 assists in 1,215 NHL games, sees a lot of himself in his son. Still, he hopes Brendan doesn't draw quite the level of animosity he did from opponents during his career.

"I was pretty hated. As his father, I hope he doesn't get to that level. He likes to play that instigator, in-your-face kind of player," Claude said. "If you look at how the game is played and the Stanley Cup Final, the grit of the Los Angeles Kings and some of those players, that's how you get there. Even in today's game, it still works."

Lemieux was rated the No. 28 North American skater eligible for this year's draft by NHL Central Scouting. He had 27 goals and 26 assists in 65 games with the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League in 2013-14.

Brendan said he found solace Friday in the fact his father was a second-round pick. He also received encouragement at Wells Fargo Center from Jeremy Roenick and Barrie coach Dale Hawerchuk.

"Even Wayne Gretzky sent my dad a text last night just talking about how he proved a few people wrong in his day and how a few experts thought he would never pan out and look where he ended up," he said.

Claude was not necessarily disappointed that none of his former teams drafted his son.

"Yes, it would have been nice if he got drafted by New Jersey or Colorado or San Jose, but you'd always have to answer the question that your father played here," he said. "I'm happy that he's somewhere neutral and they took him for him."

Brendan was surprised the Sabres drafted him.

"I did meet with Buffalo at the [NHL] Combine. I thought it was my worst interview," he said, laughing. "They weren't easy on me. I guess they liked the way I reacted."

Sabres general manager Tim Murray disagreed.

"I know that he felt that. We didn't feel that. We thought he was outstanding," Murray said. "We made it uncomfortable a little bit. Fairly. We went after him a little bit about his relationship with teammates and different things. I assume that he didn't think Buffalo was going to draft him at all. And that's how some interviews go. He thought it was tough, and we thought it was great. We thought he responded very well to some tough questions."

Defenseman Aaron Ekblad, who also played for Barrie and was drafted by the Florida Panthers with the No. 1 pick, had a few words with Lemieux immediately after the Sabres selected him.

"Aaron knows how frustrated I was last night that I didn't go. It was definitely a goal of mine to go in the first round," he said. "I think he was really excited to see me go early today. Aaron is one of my best friends. He's my roommate. We're like brothers."

Lemieux is hopeful he can make the Sabres for the 2014-15 season, but he acknowledged he needs to work on his quickness this summer.

His dad thinks it's possible.

"It wouldn't surprise me. He's the kind of kid you know he'll catch on the pace," Claude said. "He's young, but they've got a lot of open spots."

Carl Gunnarsson talks about being traded to the St. Louis Blues for Roman Polak


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Maple Leafs select Nolan Vesey 158th overall

The Maple Leafs have selected left winger Nolan Vesey from the South Shore Kings of the USPHL with their 158th overall draft selection. It is the Leafs’ third consecutive pick of a player committed to playing American collegiate hockey next season.

The 6’1, 198-pound Massachusetts native, whose father Jim Vesey had a cup of coffee in the NHL with the St. Louis Blues, will play for Maine next season. Nolan’s brother Jimmy was drafted in the third round by the Nashville Predators last June (more on his hockey family here). A March ’95 birthdate, Vesey was passed over in last June’s draft.

“Also similar to his brother, Nolan has been a late comer. Jimmy was not one of these players who had his college commitment locked up at 14, and he was passed over in his first year of NHL draft eligibility. Nolan’s college interactions have accelerated now. In NHL Central Scouting’s preliminary rankings in November, Nolan was pegged as a potential late-round pick, but then was not included in the mid-term rankings.”

- New England Hockey Journal

Nolan Vesey Statistics









2013-14South Shore KingsUSPHL-Pr4826406630

Analysis: Neal trade shows Predators are changing course

PHILADELPHIA -- Get ready to see a different brand of hockey in Nashville. Some may say it's about time.

The Nashville Predators' acquisition of former 40-goal scorer James Neal from the Pittsburgh Penguins for forwards Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling on Friday was the most recent sign of a metamorphosis into an up-tempo, offensive team, a necessary change after two disappointing seasons.

The Predators also selected high-end offensive players with their first two draft picks. Nashville general manager David Poile chose Swiss center Kevin Fiala with the No. 11 pick and Russian left wing Vladislav Kamenev at No. 42.

Peter Laviolette was hired this spring to replace Barry Trotz, the only coach in franchise history. Trotz was relieved of his duties on April 14.

"I'm excited to get going," Laviolette said.

The Predators were, for the better part of 15 seasons under Trotz, a team that won because of its defensive structure and goaltending. Trotz had no other choice but to play that type of system because of the players available to him.

For a while, it was good enough.

Nashville reached the Stanley Cup Playoffs seven times, including six trips in seven seasons from 2006-07 to 2011-12. The Predators won a round in 2011 and 2012, but it's been downhill since; they've been unable to successfully run the gauntlet in the ultra-competitive Western Conference without legitimate top-line scoring.

They have a game-breaker now in Neal, a shooter with a quick release who scored 88 goals over the past three seasons playing mostly with Evgeni Malkin as his center, at least when Malkin has been healthy.

"We feel [Neal]'s a top-line winger," Poile said. "We feel he's a goal scorer. That's exactly what we were looking for."

They had been looking for a long time. Poile even joked that he was starting to sound like a broken record when talking about needing more elite offensive players.

Alexander Radulov might have developed into the type of bona fide scorer Neal is, but he topped out at 26 goals before showing his preference for playing in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League.

The Predators haven't had anyone score as many as 30 goals since Hornqvist in 2009-10. They have had only four 30-goal scorers since the 2005-06 season. David Legwand led Nashville with 12 goals in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season; 27 teams had at least one player with more.

"He's got what we're looking for," Poile said of Neal. "He's got the speed. He's got the shot. He scores goals. He produces. He gets points. I get it that we don't have Malkin or [Sidney] Crosby, but we're going to have some good center iceman and we're going to find someone to play with him."

That's Poile's next task. The Predators currently don't have a legitimate No. 1 center to play with Neal.

"We need a top center. There's no question about that," Poile said. "That's next on the wish list. Whether that comes in trade or free agency, takes another year to get it, that's what we need."

There are top-line centers available right now, but Poile has to convince them that Nashville is a prestigious place to play. It might be an easier sell with Neal and the fast-paced, go-go-go system that Laviolette wants to play, but it's still no easy task based on the market.

Ottawa Senators captain Jason Spezza has asked to be traded, but he has a no-trade clause and the Predators are reportedly among the 10 teams to which Spezza would not accept a trade. Even if he were to waive his no-trade clause to go to Nashville, Poile would have to wonder if he was doing it reluctantly just to play out the final year of his contract before becoming an unrestricted free agent.

Getting a top-line center for only one season wouldn't do the Predators any good. They would risk being in this exact same position next year.

If Poile wanted to look on the free-agent market July 1 he can target Paul Stastny, but Stastny likely will be receiving offers from several teams, including his current club, the Colorado Avalanche. The offers could extend into the $7 million-per-season range on a long-term contract.

Poile indicated that won't be a problem.

"We will do whatever is necessary to be competitive," Poile said.

But patience can be a virtue here, especially if Poile can't land the guy he wants, whether that's Spezza, Stastny or someone else.

The Predators have a young enough core, especially on defense, along with a top goalie in Pekka Rinne, who should be healthy next season. Waiting on the right trade, the right guy, a top center who wants to play in Nashville can't hurt, especially when you see where the Predators are now in comparison to the elite teams in the Western Conference.

Nashville is getting better and clearly trying to adapt to the faster-paced NHL, but it is not close to the level of the Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks. It's also behind the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars and San Jose Sharks.

"I'm patient," Poile said. "We've got a little bit of a window of time here to do that. I'd like to do it sooner than later, but I've got to make the right trade."

He did Friday night.

Even if Neal comes with some baggage, three player-safety suspensions in the past six years and somewhat of a surly attitude he is the type of scorer that Nashville hasn't had, maybe ever.

Poile's next move will be even more important as he reshuffles the deck and turns the Predators into something Nashville hasn't seen in a long time, if ever.

It's about time.