Sunday, January 31, 2016

Revisiting The O'Reilly Trade To Buffalo

Ryan O'Reilly's game has benefited from his trade to the Buffalo Sabres, from the Colorado Avalanche, writes Mike Harrington for the Buffalo News.  The soon-to-be 25 year-old pivot has 40 points in 50 games this season, and is on pace to eclipse his season-high goal total of 28 set with the Avalanche in 2013-14.  Not only has O'Reilly had success in putting the puck in the net, but he's also become a leader to the team's younger players, as Harrington notes:
He quickly became a leader on the ice, the team’s leading scorer in both goals and points, and in the dressing room. His post-practice sessions with Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart, among others, have become huge additions to the development of the team’s young stars.
His success on the ice this season has been noticed locally as well as by the league at large, with his first All-Star selection coming in the 2015-16 NHL season.

Ryan O'Reilly was traded during the 2015 NHL Draft, when Buffalo obtained not only Reilly but phenom Jack Eichel as well. The trade sent O'Reilly as well as forward Jamie McGinn to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Nikita Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko, J.T. Compher and the number 31 pick in the draft going to the Colorado Avalanche.

O'Reilly quickly signed a contract extension with Buffalo after his trade, and is set to be a member of the Sabres through the 2022-23 season.

McGinn has had success with Buffalo as well, although it may not be as publicized as the success that O'Reilly has experienced.  For the 2015-16 season to-date, McGinn has notched 21 points in 50 games. He's currently slated to become an unrestricted free agent following this season.

Zadorov has played in 16 NHL contests this season, spending most of his time in the AHL playing defense with the San Antonio Rampage, getting into 32 games and notching 20 points.  Grigorenko, a pivot, has played in 44 contests for Colorado this season, notching 14 points and plus-7 on the ice for an Avalanche squad that currently sits in the middle of the standings.  Compher is a 2013 draft selection who is still having much success as a forward for the University of Michigan.  

Bettman: Contract and NHL Expansion Update

Current NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has re-signed with the league for a six-year extension, as reported by ESPN.  The deal was reportedly signed this past September but was not confirmed until today.  Bettman is the NHL's first commissioner, starting his tenure in 1993, following on the last NHL president's tenure, that of Gil Stein.  There has been much controversy, and success, in Bettman's long tenure representing the NHL and its owners.

On the success front, the league has expanded significantly under his tenure.  The Nashville Predators, Atlanta Thrashers (now Winnipeg Jets), Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets were all added under Gary Bettman as commissioner.  At Bettman's annual state of the League press conference, held before the 2016 NHL skills competition, he spoke about the current process of reviewing further expansion.  Specifically, he informed that the Board of Governors executive committee is not ready to make a recommendation on putting expansion to a vote.  The recommendation, when it does come, could be for expansion by two, one or no teams.  The two cities that currently are applicants for expansion include Las Vegas, NV and Quebec City.

For more on Bettman's state of the League press conference, see this report at NHL.com.  

2016 NHL Free Agents - 5 Key Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) Defensemen

So we've looked at 5 of they key unrestricted free agent (UFA) forwards, those whose contracts are currently set to expire on July 1, 2016.  Now let's look at their defensive bretheren.

1.  Dustin Byfuglien
UPDATE - Byfuglien signed a five year contract extension with the Winnipeg Jets
Byfuglien is finishing up a five-year contract with the Winnipeg Jets that carries a $5.2 million cap hit.  The big defenseman is producing well above that market rate, with 29 points in 49 contests this season.  As reported by SportsNet, there are several NHL teams who would be interested in trading for Byfuglien's services as a playoff rental, but the Jets will be making a significant run at extending him.  Recent comments from Byfuglien have been categorized as "lukewarm" on remaining in Winnipeg.  Although it's certainly possible that the comments determined to be lukewarm are rhetoric intended to provide a more significant contract offer from the Jets.  

Coming over to the New York Rangers after a significant trade with the Arizona Coyotes which sent prospect Anthony Duclair west, Yandle became a key asset for the New York defensive corps.  The 29 year-old blueliner has 26 points in 49 games prior to the All-Star break this season.   Yandle's current contract was signed carrying a $26.5 million tag over five years.  I'd expect an uptick on that number, at least in terms of average annual value.  The Rangers have just under $12 million in cap space as of this post, but they will have several UFAs coming up in July.  Most of their top-notch talent is signed for next season, so assuming there is mutual interest, the financials will be there for the Rangers to re-sign Yandle.

Campbell actually carries the largest contract of current defenseman who are slated to become UFAs in July.  With a cap hit of just over $7 million annually, Campbell's average annual value and cap hit are most certainly going to decrease with his next NHL contract.  The veteran blueliner is still contributing at a high level, no doubt.  Just look at where his Florida Panthers sit in the standings, and his role on that team.  Florida will certainly have the cap space to re-sign Campbell, but just expect it to be at a much lower total value than his current contract carries.

Schenn was dealt by the Philadelphia Flyers to the Los Angeles Kings in a trade this season, along with Vincent Lecavalier, in what was deemed a cost-cutting trade.  Now, Schenn's cap hit wasn't astronomical at $3.6 million annually, but it certainly wasn't anything to sneeze at either.  Signalling a re-loading move, if not a re-building move, by the Flyers, Schenn and his defensive skill was sent west.  Schenn is a solid player and former number five overall draft pick, who still has a lot of stuff left at the highest level of hockey, filling the role of the shutdown defenseman.

Hamhuis has become a key asset for the Vancouver Canucks as set-up defenseman, notching 20 or more assists in three of his past four seasons.  He's coming off a contract covering six years at a $4.5 million cap hit.  Hamhuis is coming off a significant injury in which he took a puck to the face, but he's expected to be back on the blueline, passing to his teammates shortly.  Vancouver is still in the playoff hunt, and they will need Hamhuis' services to make the final push.  Don't expect a trade this year, in particular given the injury, but do expect Hamhuis to be re-signed to a short-term contract carrying roughly the same cap hit as his current contract.  



Friday, January 29, 2016

Sharks Place Torres on Waivers

As reported by Jake Sundstrom of Fear the Fin, as well as by Bob McKenzie of TSN, the San Jose Sharks have placed Raffi Torres on waivers.   Torres, if unclaimed on waivers, will be assigned to San Jose's AHL affiliate, the Barracuda.  The veteran, and former number five overall draft pick, has been battling back from injuries, and has appeared in just three games for the Barracuda this season.  Torres is carrying a $2 million cap hit for this season, and is set to become an unrestricted free agent in July.  

2016 NHL Free Agents - 5 Key Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) Forwards

As it stands currently, there are some huge NHL names who are slated to hit the open market as unrestricted free agents (UFAs) in July of 2016.  That, of course, will likely change before July 1.  But....let's look at these players anyway, and see what the future might hold for their contracts and landing spots in the NHL.  Here are five key forwards whose contracts are set to expire on July 1, 2016:

1.  Eric Staal
Chances are that Eric Staal will not be traded before the February 29, 2016 trade deadline.  Why?  Well, the Carolina Hurricanes are pushing for a playoff spot and aren't far off.  With a chance to make a play for the Stanley Cup, GM Ron Francis will likely hang on to the big forward.  Not only will it help the team push for the playoffs, it will give the two parties (Hurricanes and Staal) more time in good stead to negotiate a contract extension.  And Staal has indicated previously that he would like to re-sign with the Hurricanes.

2. Steven Stamkos
Stamkos, although listed at number two here, is the biggest name in the pool of potential unrestricted free agents for 2016.  The former number one overall draft pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning is set to earn major money on his next contract.  He's still producing at the highest level and will just be turning 26 years old.  Although he would not confirm or deny details of a recent report, there were indications from the media, as reported by the Tampa Tribune, that Stamkos had been offered an eight-year deal worth $68 million recently.  There have been indications by Stamkos that he would like to stay in Tampa, particularly with the success the team has achieved recently.  That being said, there has been some clamor from the Toronto area, near where Stamkos grew up, to bring him to the Maple Leafs.

3.  Andrew Ladd
UPDATE:  Andrew Ladd went to the Chicago Blackhawks in a trade with Winnipeg on February 25
There's been much speculation of late regarding whether Ladd will re-sign with the Winnipeg Jets or be traded prior to the 2015-16 trade deadline on February 29.  Ladd's cap hit, at $4.4 million, is considered very economical comparatively given his high quality offensive production.  The former first round draft pick has 27 points in 49 games this season, and with the Jets currently out of a playoff position, Ladd will be a prime target for teams looking to add depth and character for a playoff push this season.

4.  David Backes
The big pivot has spent his entire NHL career with the St. Louis Blues, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him remain with the team by re-signing prior to the summer. Putting up fifty or more points consistently in the past few full NHL seasons, the Blues can count on Backes producing.  The big question will be what will Backes be looking for from a contract perspective?  Backes is a relative bargain right now, just like Ladd.  The Blues however, are square in the playoff picture.  St. Louis has the cap space right now to make a significant upgrade to Backes contract.  But they'll need to keep an eye on several key contracts coming due both after this season and next.

5.  Milan Lucic
The feisty forward last signed a contract while with the Boston Bruins, for three years at $18 million. The Vancouver native was traded to the Los Angeles Kings around the 2015 NHL draft, and he's continued to live up to his rather lofty contract, registering 29 points in 48 games and helping the Kings stand atop the Pacific Division pile.  Lucic made it clear recently that he'd like to remain with the Kings, and that being said, he'll likely work with the team to ensure contract terms are agreeable to both parties.  And with Los Angeles in first place, don't expect them to rock the boat with a trade.  Watch for Lucic to sign a long-term deal with the Kings.




Toews, Ovechkin Miss All-Star Game, Suspended One Game

Both Jonathan Toews and Alex Ovechkin will be suspended for one game due to missing the All-Star Game as reported by CBS Sports.  Toews will reportedly miss the game due to an illness, while Ovechkin will miss due to an injury.  Toews and Ovechkin will be replaced on the All-Star roster by Evgeny Kuznetsov and James Neal.

Both Toews and Ovechkin are required by league rules to miss the game immediately preceding or following the All-Star game.  They will both miss their team's contests on February 2, the first regular season game following the All-Star game.

Toews was previously a member of the 2009, 2011 and 2015 NHL All-Star team, while Ovechkin was an All-Star five times previously, in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2015.  

Thursday, January 28, 2016

NHL Notes: Johansen, Jones, Wheeler

The Nashville Predators are surging, with four straight wins recently, after the trade to acquire Ryan Johansen, as reported on NHL.com.  In an interesting twist to the trade between Nashville and the Columbus Blue Jackets, which sent defenseman Seth Jones to Columbus, it was reported that Johansen and Jones ran into one another at the airport just after the trade occurred.

Johansen, of course, made his new employers and teammates happy quickly as he scored a goal just 2:35 into his tenure as a Nashville Predator.  The trade of the two former number four overall draft picks has worked out well for both teams, in terms of player production.  Jones has notched six assists with a plus-4 rating since the trade occurring in the first week of January.  Johansen meanwhile, has ten points since the trade, with three goals and seven assists.

The Winnipeg Jets' Blake Wheeler was invited to the All-Star game in place of the Chicago Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews, as reported by the Toronto Sun.  The former number five overall draft pick declined the offer from the league however, because of previous committments with this family.  The Minnesota native is having a strong season with the Jets, having notched 48 points in 49 games.   

NHL Moves: Oilers, Clendening, Flyers, LaBarbera

The Edmonton Oilers have claimed right-shooting defenseman Adam Clendening off waivers from the Anaheim Ducks as reported by the Edmonton Sun.  Clendening was previously included in the trade this season from the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Anaheim Ducks along with David Perron in exchange for Carl Hagelin.   Clendening had played in nine games with the Penguins this season, picking up an assist, before the trade to Anaheim, where he spent time with their AHL affiliate.

The Oilers needed to shore up their defensive corps, and as reported in the Sun article, might be dealing a defenseman before the February trade deadline.  Acquiring Clendening addresses both concerns for the Oilers.

The Philadelphia Flyers recalled goaltender Jason LaBarbera on Wednesday, with netminder Steve Mason injured, as reported in the Morning Call.  LaBarbera, a veteran goaltender who has played for several NHL and AHL teams, has appeared in 15 contests for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms this season, putting up a 2.80 GAA and .906 SP.  LaBarbera served in a backup capacity for Michal Neuvirth as the Flyers beat the Capitals in overtime on Wednesday evening.  

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

NHL Call Ups: Penguins, Devils

The Pittsburgh Penguins have recalled forward Scott Wilson as reported in the Post-Gazette.  Penguins' wingers Beau Bennett and Chris Kunitz are both injured, prompting the call up.  This will mark the third time that the left-shooting winger has been called up from Wilkes-Barre / Scranton.  Wilson has 34 points in 32 games at the AHL level this season, 20 of which are goals.  Kunitz's injury, according to the newspaper article, is suspected to be back or neck related, while Bennett is being placed on injured reserve.

The New Jersey Devils have called up defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani on an emergency basis, as reported on NJ.com.  The move was required because both Adam Larsson and David Schlemko missed practice on Monday due to illness.  The left-shooting Gragnani has spent four games with the Devils this season, while notching 15 assists in 28 games at the AHL level.

Andrew Ladd and the Florida Panthers

Andrew Ladd is a player on Florida Panthers' GM Dale Tallon's target list for trade acquisitions, according to a recent post by ESPN's Pierre LeBrun.  LeBrun believes that Ladd would fit in nicely with the current first place team in the Atlantic Division.  As he states in the ESPN article:
Ladd would be a tremendous fit in Florida: A guy you can plug in anywhere in the top nine, a gritty leader who would bring character and a Cup ring to the mix.
It's also noted that Dale Tallon has already traded for Ladd once before in their careers, when Ladd was acquired by the Chicago Blackhawks in a trade for Tuomo Ruutu from the Carolina Hurricanes in 2008.  

Ladd is currently finishing up a five-year deal worth $22 million total, and is set to become an unrestricted free agent in July of 2016.  The current winger for the Winnipeg Jets continues to be a well-priced set up man who can also ring the puck home himself.  In 49 games this season, Ladd has 27 points, 17 of which are assists.  He could wind up being a rental player for team making a playoff push.  He could also wind up being a try and buy player, depending on the fit and contract asking price.  In either case, the fact that Tallon had once before acquired Ladd does bode well for a potential acquisition this year by the Panthers.


Friday, January 22, 2016

Paille to Make Debut for Rangers

The New York Rangers have announced via Twitter that recently signed forward Daniel Paille will make his debut for the blueshirts this evening, noting that Chris Kreider is unavailable (neck).  With the Rangers' penalty kill at 25th in the league and last in the league on the road, Paille was picked up to shore up that effort.  The veteran Paille, who excels on the penalty kill, was most recently with the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL.  His last NHL ice-time came with the Chicago Blackhawks last season, when he notched 13 points in 71 games.  

Toronto Maple Leafs to Sign Zaitsev?

The Toronto Maple Leafs are on the verge of landing prized Russian prospect Nikita Zaitsev, as reported on NBC Sports.  The 24 year-old defenseman was most recently playing for CSK Moscow in the KHL, where he had 24 points in 40 games this season.  The NBC Sports article quotes SportsNet's Elliotte Friedman on Twitter, noting that Zaitsev is notifying teams of his intention and that the contract would be a one-year entry level deal.  

NHL Moves: New Jersey, Blue Jackets, Reinhart

The New Jersey Devils have called up defenseman Seth Helgeson from their AHL affiliate in Albany.  The big, 25 year-old blueliner last saw NHL action with New Jersey during the 2014-15 season, notching two assists in 22 games.  He has seven points in 33 games with the Albany Devils this season.  The call up was in response to an injury to defenseman John Moore, which landed him on injured reserve, according to All About the Jersey.

New Jersey will also get forward Bobby Farnham back, after a four-game suspension was served for interference against the St. Louis Blues' Dmitrij Jaskin.

Anton Forsberg was recalled by the Columbus Blue Jackets, as an emergency recall, according to the team's official website.  The move is in response to an injury suffered by netminder Sergei Bobrovsky in Thursday night's game, currently categorized only as a "lower body injury".

The Edmonton Oilers have recalled young defenseman Griffin Reinhart from their AHL affiliate Bakersfield Condors, according to the Edmonton Journal.  Reinhart has seen 12 games of NHL action this season, while getting into 14 contests for Bakersfield.  It was indicated by General Manager Peter Chiarelli that he was pleased with Reinhart's play, and the primary reason for him being in Bakersfield was to ensure that he was not in and out of the lineup.  At the same time, fellow defenseman Brandon Davidson has been placed on injured reserve by the Oilers, with an undisclosed injury.  

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