• Survey says…sight matters! Visor usage continues big climb

    The Hockey News
    Jordan & Eric Staal (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

    By Rachel Villari

    An historically sharp rise in visor users suggests the NHL and the NHLPA’s decision to grandfather-in face shields may be doing the league some good.
    In the past year alone, visor wearers have grown five percent, with all but four teams increasing in usage. Toronto, Calgary, Columbus, Chicago, Vancouver and Carolina all increased over 10 percent each.

    Of the 640 players league-wide with more than 20 games this season, 549 of them wear visors. The Canes were tops in eye safety with all 20 of their eligible players. Read more

  • The Russian NHL trailblazer you’ve probably never heard of

    Viktor Khulatev (THN Archives)

    By Denis Gibbons

    If all Soviet players who died before their time or under tragic circumstances had been spared, the statistical history of hockey would have to be rewritten.

    Evgeny Belosheikin, named best goalie at the 1986 World Junior Championship, took his own life after battling the bottle. Anatoly Fetisov, the younger brother of legendary national team captain Slava Fetisov and a prime prospect for the 1985 draft, was killed in a car accident. New York Rangers prospect Alexei Cherepanov died from a heart ailment during a game in 2008.

    Perhaps the best talent of all, Viktor Khatulev, was found dead at the age of 39 in 1994. It’s believed he was murdered, but the case was never solved. Read more

  • Why the AHL is becoming the new breeding ground for young Euros

    Ryan Kennedy
    David Pastrnak. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

    The Czech Republic came into the 2015 world juniors with high expectations thanks to its deepest lineup in years. But glory wasn’t to be had.

    The Czechs struggled throughout their stay in Toronto, and everything ended with a dispirited quarterfinal loss to a much more game underdog squad from Slovakia. One player who didn’t disappoint, however, was David Pastrnak, the Boston Bruins first-rounder who had been playing in the AHL.

    Had his team gone further at the world juniors, Pastrnak would have garnered more consideration for the tourney’s all-star team because of his combination of talent and drive. But even in the midst of the event, he knew his time in the AHL had been valuable so far. “It’s definitely different hockey,” he said. “I try to do my best, but sometimes it doesn’t go well and you feel bad. I have to get better with everything. I’m not satisfied right now.” Read more

  • Rumor Roundup: Shattenkirk, Lecavalier and Bozak trade talk continues

    Kevin Shattenkirk (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

    The Kevin Shattenkirk trade speculation that surfaced during the recent NHL draft gained momentum during the opening day of free agency. Jeremy P. Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the defenseman’s agent denied claims his client was being shopped, but it did little to quell the rumors.

    It remains to be seen how the speculation will be affected by the Blues recent trade of winger T.J. Oshie to the Washington Capitals. If they’re still fielding inquiries about Shattenkirk, Rutherford suggests the 26-year-old blueliner’s contract could be the issue. Shattenkirk has two years left on his deal at an average cap hit of $4.25 million. The Blues already have considerable long-term contracts invested in blueliners Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester. Rutherford notes they won’t part with Pietrangelo, while Bouwmeester’s struggles last season could hurt his trade value. Read more

  • San Jose Sharks sign Joel Ward, are now very clearly not rebuilding

    Matt Larkin
    Joel Ward. (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

    It sure seemed like the San Jose Sharks were poised to start a rebuild just a couple weeks ago. They’d missed the playoffs for the first time since 2002-03. They’d fired coach Todd McLellan. Goalie Antti Niemi was set to walk as an unrestricted free agent. Former captain Joe Thornton was publicly at odds with GM Doug Wilson. The Sharks even had their first top-10 draft selection since 2007, nabbing Timo Meier ninth overall. It all screamed turning over a new leaf.

    But everything Wilson has done since last week’s draft suggests otherwise. Acquiring Martin Jones and signing him to a three-year extension worked whether San Jose was rebuilding or retooling, as Jones is only 25 and someone had to start in net for them in 2015-16. That said, getting him from Boston cost the Sharks a 2016 first-round pick and prospect Sean Kuraly.

    Then came July 1 and defenseman Paul Martin signing at $19.4 million over four years. Friday, the next hammer dropped: right winger Joel Ward at $9.825 million over three years. Martin earns $4.85 million per season, and Ward’s cap hit is $3.275 million.

    The message is clear: the Sharks refuse to roll over. Martin and Ward are both 34 and received multi-year commitments. It’s “win now,” or Wilson at least believes this team can win now.

    Read more

  • Five low-risk, high-reward free agents still on the market

    Jared Clinton
    Eric Fehr. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)

    If there’s anything the salary cap has made teams focus on, it’s the value of a dollar. So, when it comes to free agency, after the big fish are gone the league’s 30 GMs will do whatever it takes to find the most cost-effective players on the market.

    After July 1, the biggest names were already gone, as defenseman Mike Green signed with Detroit, Matt Beleskey found himself a deal in Boston and Justin Williams inked a contract with Washington. Even the second-tier players, names such as Brad Richards, Antoine Vermette and Daniel Winnik, made their way to new destinations on the opening day of free agency.

    This is where things get tricky, though, as the many of the sure-things are gone and GMs are looking to fill out their rosters with the best role players available at contracts that fit. For teams like the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning, there’s not much (or any) wiggle room, whereas budget teams like the Nashville Predators and Arizona Coyotes aren’t going to be overpaying anybody. So, if they want to stay competitive, where can they look for help?

    Here are five free agents that are low-risk, high-reward players that can be cost-effective this upcoming season: Read more

  • Blues commit to goaltender Jake Allen on two-year deal

    Jared Clinton
    Jake Allen Featured

    Jake Allen will have two more years to prove to the St. Louis Blues that he can be a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL.

    The Blues announced Friday that they have re-signed the 24-year-old netminder, who was a restricted free agent, to a two-year deal. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Tom Timmermann, the deal will pay Allen $2.2 million in 2015-16 and give him a pay raise to $2.5 million in year two.

    This past season, following an injury to Blues netminder Brian Elliott, Allen was thrust into the spotlight as St. Louis’ top netminder. St. Louis GM Doug Armstrong brought in veteran netminder Martin Brodeur to help lighten the load, but it was Allen who shone through and took the starting reins from Brodeur during Elliott’s absence. Read more

  • Brandon Saad and Ryan O’Reilly sign huge deals with new teams

    Brandon Saad

    The contracts came in within minutes of each other and both came with big dollar amounts. Columbus signed new left winger Brandon Saad to a six-year, $36 million contract, while Buffalo extended recently acquired center Ryan O’Reilly for seven years at $7.5 million per season. Let’s walk through the sticker shock.

    Read more