Brian Costello joined The Hockey News in 1990 when the likes of Bruce Boudreau, Randy Carlyle and Joel Quenneville were players, not coaches. Costello covered major junior hockey for five seasons before getting called up to THN. He likes to focus his attention on pre- and post-NHL careers, following closely the progress of the draft, up-and-coming prospects and fancying himself a Hall of Fame expert.
For those NHL players who don’t step willingly into retirement, there eventually comes a day when UFA stands for unwanted free agent rather than unrestricted free agent.
As July ends and August begins, we’re now closer to the start of NHL training camps than we are the final game of the Stanley Cup playoffs. For unsigned UFAs, that’s an added layer of anxiety. What if nobody wants me and I’ve played my last NHL game?
Take a browse through capgeek.com and you’ll see half the NHL teams are already at the 23-man NHL roster limit. Another nine teams are at 22 players. And that doesn’t even include the several dozen or so non-roster rookie prospects who will surely make big-league rosters in October.
So not a lot of roster openings remain.
The ink is still drying on James Reimer’s new two-year contract with Toronto, but the betting is Reimer won’t be a Maple Leaf in two years.
The two sides avoided an arbitration hearing Friday by agreeing to a two-year deal that will pay Reimer $2.3 million annually. That’s probably fair market value for the 26-year-old native of Winnipeg who had a cap hit of $1.8 million each of the past three seasons. The question remains, however, $2.3 million is a steep price tag for a position expected to be backup for Jonathan Bernier. It’s not a bad salary, however, for any team out there who partway through 2014-15 decides it’s not happy with its goaltending. Did we mention Reimer is a native of Winnipeg?
It’s just a matter of time before the first Australian drafted by an NHL team gets a chance to play in the big league. Nathan Walker was selected 89th overall by the Washington Capitals in the 2014 draft and Friday signed a three-year entry-level contract.
“He’s probably still a couple of years away, but he’s on the right track,” said Capitals director, amateur scouting Ross Mahoney. “He’s one determined guy, I’ll tell you that. He’s had an incredible journey so far.”
Walker, 20, was born in Cardiff, Wales, and was two when his family moved to Sydney, Australia. Though hockey is a bottom rung sport in Australia, Walker became fascinated with the game at the age of six watching Hollywood movies Mystery, Alaska and The Mighty Ducks.
The summer of 1981 was a particularly busy time in the hockey world because of the building anticipation for the Canada Cup. After wins by Canada at the 1972 Summit Series and the 1976 Canada Cup, interest was high north of the border and fans were hanging on every word and declaration made by then-renowned tournament organizer Alan Eagleson.
Oh, how innocent we were.
In this edition of Throwback Thursday, let’s look at some of the things we featured in the August edition of The Hockey News. Our cover featured six hockey gloves – one for each nation participating – reaching out to take ahold of the Canada Cup. Inside was a 24-page special section.
If Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel and Noah Hanifin are the top three amigos for the 2015 NHL draft, the Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes and Calgary Flames are their top three suitors.
Yesterday, my esteemed boss Jason Kay wrote a blog wondering if the Sabres killed their chances of winning the McDavid sweepstakes by filling out their roster with established veterans Matt Moulson, Brian Gionta, Josh Gorges, Andrej Meszaros and Cody McCormick. No need to worry, the Sabres aren’t going anywhere other than 30th place.
Hockey fans love trades. We love the adrenaline that comes with the news of a blockbuster, the potential for positive change, the photos of the inbound star in his new sweater. And we love picking them apart.
The problem is, it typically takes several years before we know who actually won a deal. Occasionally, there’s instant gratification, but more often the trades take twists and turns and beget further moves. They can take on myriad lives.
With that in mind, we bring you an installment of thn.com’s Trade Trail, a recurring feature in which we re-open a cold file from a deal that transpired five or more years ago.
This summer marks the 20-year anniversary of the blockbuster Wendel Clark trade from Toronto to Quebec for Mats Sundin and the sentiment at the time remains true today. The Maple Leafs won the deal.
But you be the judge. Here are the particulars from that June 28, 1994 deal.
Toronto trades 27-year-old Clark, along with 27-year-old defenseman Sylvain Lefebvre, 19-year-old prospect Landon Wilson and the 22nd overall pick in the 1994 draft to Quebec for 23-year-old Sundin, 31-year-old defenseman Garth Butcher, 20-year-old prospect Todd Warriner and the 10th overall pick in the draft.
Before looking at the big names in the deal, let’s clear up the ledger on the other components.
I’ve been watching the Tour de France nightly the past couple of weeks and am taken by one of the awards they give out after each stage. It’s the Combativity Award and it goes to the cyclist that day who shows the most fighting spirit.
This isn’t about tossing an elbow out when a competitor tries to zoom by or sticking a leadpipe in the spokes of an unsuspecting rival. The combative award goes to the individual who attacks on the road. That is to say, the cyclist who makes the most attempts to break away from the peloton or chase down leading groups. It’s also called the most aggressive rider prize, or as TDF analyst Paul Sherwen calls it, the rider who most often “throws the cat among the pigeons.”
The winner each stage gets called to the podium, is handed a bouquet of flowers and a stuffed animal, gets kisses from a pair of pretty ladies, then shakes the hands of dignitaries. During the next day’s stage, he wears a special red-backgrounded race number that denotes his distinction.
So why is they don’t have a most combative award in the NHL? They have awards for being skilled in a multitude of ways, for being gentlemanly, for being defensive, for being dedicated, for being a humanitarian, a leader. But nothing for showing the most fighting spirit. And that’s really too bad.
Two hundred and 10 players will be chosen in this year’s NHL draft, Friday and Saturday in Philadelphia. If you look around hard enough, you’ll find 210 mock drafts or draft rankings out there in cyberspace.
Here’s another one.
The difference with this one is it blends the rankings of six of the top independent rankings out there. They include The Hockey News Draft Preview, International Scouting Services, Bob McKenzie from TSN, Craig Button from TSN, McKeen’s and hockeyprospect.com.
In amalgamating the ultimate list, I used the same scoring system that we use for Future Watch. Those in the top 10 get sequentially more points than those outside the top 10.
Kootenay center Sam Reinhart was first on three of the six lists and finishes first overall on this ultimate list. Barrie defenseman Aaron Ekblad had one first-place vote, but three second-place vote and finishes second overall. In third is Kingston left winger Sam Bennett, who had two first-place votes, but just one second-place vote.
Here’s the blended rankings for the first round, plus 10 extras who just missed the top 30.