• THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: Minnesota Wild

    The Hockey News
    Minnesota Wild. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

    2013-14 record: 43-27-12

    Acquisitions: Justin Falk, Jordan Schroeder, Joel Rechlicz, Stu Bickel, Thomas Vanek, Brett Sutter

    Departures: Jake Dowell, Nate Prosser, Dany Heatley, Clayton Stoner, Steve Kampfer, Cody McCormick, Matt Moulson

    Top five fantasy players: Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Mikko Koivu, Thomas Vanek, Mikael Granlund

    Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
    Boom: It was a slow, steady progression for Minnesota last season, from 94 (pro-rated) points to 98 points, from a No. 8 seed to a No. 7 seed, from the first round of the playoffs to the second. None of it was a fluke. The Wild own one of the NHL’s elite farm systems, and it was only a matter of time before the young guns made significant impacts at the NHL level. Blueliner Jonas Brodin did it in 2012-13, and last season was Mikael Granlund’s turn to break out. He’s matured into a legit top-two center, and he’s nowhere near his ceiling. Charlie Coyle looks like a handy power forward and Nino Niederreiter, a high-end prospect acquired from the Islanders, scores in the clutch and hits like a truck. Bruising blueliner Mathew Dumba could make a leap this season, too. Read more

  • After bumps in the road, Isles’ Kyle Okposo is proving his worth

    Adam Proteau
    Kyle Okposo (Jim McIsaac/NHLI via Getty Images)

    Kyle Okposo’s favorite movie is The Count of Monte Cristo. The protagonist in the famous movie/novel is a teenager who appears destined for success, only to be thrown into turmoil beyond his control. While at his low point, he transforms himself into a learned man and goes about seeking revenge on a world that wronged him.

    If you get to know Okposo, you can see why he loves this story. There are some striking similarities between the New York Islanders right winger and The Count. Okposo came into the NHL with much fanfare and a bright future, only to land in deep, sticky mud that caused him to question everything. But from that low point, Okposo has continued to develop and now he’s bent on leaving his mark on a hockey world that has doubted him too many times.

    When the St. Paul, Minn., native was drafted seventh overall by the Islanders in 2006, he was coming off a big year at the University of Minnesota. He’d played at the legendary Shattuck-St. Mary’s prep school and used to structure his class schedule so he’d have time to watch schoolmate Sidney Crosby practice. The world was his oyster bar, and he had an all-you-can eat meal plan.

    But like all players not named Crosby or Jonathan Toews, Okposo discovered his road to the NHL was not going to be a simple one. After his 18-goal, 39-point rookie NHL season was followed up with a 19-goal, 52-point sophomore effort, he ran into roadblocks. Read more

  • Rumor Roundup: What’s the chance Johansen gets traded?

    Lyle Richardson
    Ryan Johansen is coming off his entry-level contract with the Blue Jackets, but hasn't signed an extension yet. (Getty Images)

    The contentious contract talks between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Ryan Johansen have taken a decidedly ugly turn. The situation is overshadowing the start of training camp, threatening to derail the club’s efforts to build upon the promise of last season.

    Jackets team president John Davidson and GM Jarmo Kekalainen claim the Johansen camp rejected offers of $6 million over two years ($3-million annually), $32 million over six years ($5.33-million annually) and $46 million over eight ($5.75 million).  Davidson went so far as to accuse Johansen’s agent, Kurt Overhardt, of “extortion.”

    Overhardt’s only response was to call for a resumption of negotiations. TSN reports he’s tabled another two-year contract offer, but Darren Dreger claims it apparently wasn’t well received. Johansen departed Columbus prior to the start of training camp and returned home to Vancouver, while the Jackets prepare for training camp and pre-season without him. Read more

  • Steven Stamkos on the subway and other bizarre phone interviews

    Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

    Tampa Bay Lightning superstar Steven Stamkos is on the cover of the latest issue of The Hockey News. I was tasked with getting ‘Stammer’ on the phone for the article, which also included interviews with teammates, family and others who know the captain.

    And as it happens, Stamkos has impeccable timing that stretches far beyond his goal-scoring prowess. The day Stamkos was supposed to call me, he was given my office number and my cell phone number, since I would be commuting home at one point. In Toronto, the subway line is almost entirely underground, with only a handful of stops offering daylight – and therefore, cell phone signal. Just as my train pulled into one such stop, my phone rang. I pulled one earbud out and with my iPod still blaring into the other side of my head, answered the phone as I jumped onto the station platform. It was Stamkos.

    Read more

  • THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: San Jose Sharks

    The Hockey News
    San Jose Sharks (Getty Images)

    2013-14 record: 51-22-9

    Acquisitions: John Scott, Tye McGinn, Taylor Fedun

    Departures: Brad Stuart, Martin Havlat, Dan Boyle

    Top five fantasy players: Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl

    Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
    Boom: Had San Jose closed out Los Angeles in Game 4, 5, 6 or 7 of their opening round series, the landscape would look a lot different in California. The Kings would be the ones regrouping from a first-round loss and Stanley might have found a summer home farther up the coast. But the Sharks again couldn’t execute that springtime killer instinct, and they still come across as an aging group of pretenders. That said, San Jose has young cornerstones in Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl and has already started the transition to building around them instead of 35-year-olds Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. The team has the utmost faith in GM Doug Wilson and coach Todd McLellan, and those two men have a ton of faith in a roster that saw just cosmetic changes made to it. Read more

  • Claude Giroux leaves practice after 15 minutes with lower-body injury

    Rory Boylen
    Claude Giroux (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

    The Philadelphia Flyers enter training camp with a pile of questions about the team. Is the defense too slow and old? How will they fare without Kimmo Timonen, who is out for at least the first few months of the season, and possibly the entire year? Can Steve Mason put together another strong season, or was last year a one-off?

    We’re skeptical of the Flyers this season and predicted them to finish fifth in the Metro Division and out of the playoffs. There are just too many concerns around the roster. And on the very first day of training camp, another uncertainty was added to the pile: Claude Giroux left the ice after 15 minutes with a “lower-body injury.”

    It’s not yet clear exactly what the injury is, or how serious it is. But this is an awful way for the Flyers to start training camp.

    Flyers fans: hold on to your butts.

    Read more

  • Wild’s goalie carousel continues with suspension of Josh Harding, signing of Darcy Kuemper

    Adam Proteau
    Josh Harding (Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)

    Since the Minnesota Wild first appeared on an NHL ice rink in 2000, they’ve been relatively free of out-of-the-ordinary drama. But their goaltending predicament is shaping up to be one of the league’s most intriguing sagas to monitor this season – and that was before Thursday, when the franchise suspended presumptive No. 1 Josh Harding after he got into an altercation with a teammate, kicked a wall and fractured his foot.

    Harding is expected to be sidelined for months by the injury, and left the team with little choice but to come down hard on him. Details of the scuffle he engaged in (including the name of the teammate he clashed with) weren’t made public, but by suspending him, the Wild took his $1.9 million salary cap hit off the books and gave that money to restricted free agent Darcy Kuemper.

    But even then, Minnesota’s goaltending saga is far from settled. Read more

  • GMs feel Jackets pain, but question decision to go public with Ryan Johansen

    Ken Campbell
    Ryan Johansen (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

    If Columbus Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson and GM Jarmo Kekalainen can take solace in one thing, it’s that their peers definitely feel their pain. Other hockey executives aren’t so sure about the Blue Jackets taking their beefs with Ryan Johansen and his agent Kurt Overhardt so public, but they do understand the frustration Davidson and Kekalainen are experiencing.

    In an effort to determine whether the Blue Jackets are handling this standoff with Johansen in the right way, thn.com canvassed 10 current and former GMs for their views on the subject. As has been well documented, Johansen is a restricted free agent with the Blue Jackets and is currently embroiled in a contract dispute that has gotten quite ugly. It’s so poisoned that Davidson recently blamed Overhardt for his handling of the situation, which was followed by the Blue Jackets making public each of the offers they’ve presented to Johansen, all of which have been turned down. Read more