Ken Campbell

Ken Campbell, The Hockey News' senior writer, is in his second tour with the brand after an eight-year stint as a beat reporter for the Maple Leafs for the Toronto Star. The Sudbury native once tried out for the Ontario League's Wolves as a 30-year-old. Needless to say, it didn't work out.

One-year deal indicates Justin Schultz has a lot of learning to do

Ken Campbell
Justin Schultz  (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)

Suffice to say this was not exactly what Justin Schultz had in mind when he touched off a bidding war for his services after leaving the University of Wisconsin two years ago. He most certainly couldn’t have been expecting this after tearing up the American League during the lockout. No, a one-year bridge deal for a lower salary cap number was definitely not in the cards.

But this is the situation in which Schultz finds himself two years into his up-and-down NHL career. The Edmonton Oilers signed the restricted free agent to a one-year deal worth $3.675 million instead of succumbing to the temptation to ink him to a long-term deal for $5 million-plus per season. The Oilers may end up paying for their short-term thinking, but it’s a risk they were willing to take. Read more

Coaches and GMs under the gun like never before

Ken Campbell
Brian MacLellan (left) and Barry Trotz (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Around this time of year when we all get antsy for hockey to get going, one of the most popular topics of conversation centers around which coach will be the first to get fired. Randy Carlyle and Paul MacLean look to be the early frontrunners in that department.

And with the average lifespan of a coach running at about 2.4 years, why wouldn’t they be in peril? Carlyle is approaching that with the Toronto Maple Leafs and MacLean has already exceeded that in Ottawa, having been there for the past three seasons. After two seasons in which he could do no wrong, MacLean was blamed for everything from his handling of the Senators goaltenders to how clueless his team was in its own end last season. Read more

NHL expansion is coming, just don’t hold your breath

GTA Centre Markam

The NHL has gone a full 14 years without adding a single expansion team, which is the longest period without growth since the league ballooned from six to 12 teams in 1967. The business of hockey is stronger than it has ever been and hockey’s global reach has ensured that the league would be less watered down by adding teams than it has in the past.

So, yes, the NHL is ripe for expansion. That’s probably why a published report that the NHL is going to add four teams by 2017 was met with such enthusiasm. To follow some accounts, expansion to Las Vegas is a “done deal” despite the fact there is no ownership group in place yet and the league will have new teams in Las Vegas, Quebec City, Toronto and Seattle by the time it blows out the 100 candles on its birthday cake. Read more

Born in the USA could be theme song of 2016 NHL draft

Ken Campbell
Jakob Chychrun  (Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

The best draft USA has ever had was in 2007 when Patrick Kane went first overall and was immediately followed by James Van Riemsdyk. Two years prior was close, when Bobby Ryan went second overall behind Sidney Crosby and Jack Johnson was taken third overall.

But if current trends continue for the next two seasons, the 2016 draft will put the rest of those in their dust in terms of producing high-end players trained in America. Not only is it a good bet USA will produce its seventh first overall pick – unless Jack Eichel is taken first overall in 2015, in which case it would be USA’s eighth – but there’s a chance the top five could be chock full of American talent. Read more

Rich Clune phones an unsuspecting Twitter tormentor and posts the video – and then tells us why he did it

Ken Campbell
Rich Clune  (Photo by Kim Stallknecht/NHLI via Getty Images)

Nashville Predators enforcer Rich Clune claims a day rarely passes when some keyboard warrior out there doesn’t take to Twitter to call him a “crack head” or disparage him for his well-documented history with mental health issues and substance abuse problems. “Just this summer I made a joke about the World Cup and somebody tweeted back, ‘I hope somebody steps on your throat with a skate blade the next time you play,’ “ Clune said.

Usually, Clune and his fellow NHLers brush the comments off and ignore them. And even if they don’t, they often have no way of responding. But when Clune received a disparaging tweet recently, he did a bit of digging and went right to the source.

First, the backstory. Last week, Clowe became entangled in a Twitter “war” involving former NHLer Sean Avery and former world heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe, who has endured his share of life travails outside the ring. What started as light banter among the three escalated, but it was all in fun, Clune said. At one point, Clune poked fun at Bowe for his weight, tweeting that Bowe, “now eats cheeseburgers for a living.” The tweet inspired some vulgarities and invective from Bowe, much of which was set up. (Clune is friends with Avery and while he has never met Bowe, the two have communicated on Twitter in the past.) Read more

Senators extending Craig Anderson all about security and stability

Ken Campbell
Craig Anderson (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)

If there’s one NHL team that could use some good karma these days, it’s the Ottawa Senators. The GM is battling cancer, they’ve lost their captain for the second straight year, ownership has a case of the shorts, they’re the only Canadian team that has trouble filling its building and the on-ice prospects don’t look particularly good at the moment.

There could have been worse things than the news that they had signed a 33-year-old goaltender coming off a bad year to a three-year contract worth $12.6 million. This means the Senators go into this season with a goaltending tandem consisting of the aforementioned Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner, which isn’t exactly Ben Bishop and Brian Elliott – two elite NHL starters the Senators traded away – but it’s not bad.

Still, it’s a little perplexing why the Senators would choose to extend Anderson’s contract when they don’t really know which Anderson will actually perform for them and he was still a full year away from becoming an unrestricted free agent. With the off-season market for goaltenders being what it is, they could not been afraid of losing him as a UFA in a year, could they?

From this corner, it looks as though the Senators made this move for a couple of reasons. The first is they clearly think Lehner, who recently signed for three years at $6.675 million himself, is the Senators goaltender of the future. They’re just not sure about the present. If Lehner proves to be capable, Anderson becomes a pretty expensive backup.

The second is this is a franchise trying to sell some security and stability at a time when neither has been terribly omnipresent of late. With Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza both bolting, this is an organization that needs to prove to its fans that it is serious about retaining its core players. Why else would they sign Clarke MacArthur and Mark Borowiecki to extensions a year before their contracts expired? And it appears as though the Senators are intent on doing the same with Marc Methot and Bobby Ryan.

Which is all well and good when the team is winning. But the Senators are selling security and stability of a roster that missed the playoffs last season and, barring an overachieving 2014-15, appears to be subject to the same fate this season. But if the Senators do bounce back and make the playoffs this season, there’s a good chance Anderson will have something to do with it.

And there’s the conundrum the Senators face with their goaltending. In fact, almost every team in the NHL faces a similar one. When it comes to goaltending, a lot of teams are stumbling around in the dark looking for a tandem that works. Last season’s Vezina Trophy contender could be this season’s flop. Nobody realizes that more than Anderson, who was superhuman in leading the Senators to the playoffs during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, only to be plagued by inconsistency last season.

It didn’t help that Senators coach Paul MacLean seemed to botch his handling of both Anderson and Lehner last season. There was a stretch in November when Lehner put together a 3-0-2 record in five starts and was named the NHL’s first star of the week while Anderson was injured. Despite the streak, as soon as Anderson came back, MacLean gave him the net and the Senators went into a tailspin from which they never recovered.

There’s not a lot of risk, though, to signing Anderson for three more years, particularly when they were able to do so without attaching any kind of no-trade clause to the contract. At a $4.2 million cap hit for the three seasons after 2014-15, Anderson’s money and term are not untradeable. The New York Islanders signed Jaroslav Halak for four years at $4.5 million a season and Anderson at his best is better than Halak. And the third year of the deal the salary goes down to $3.1 million, which might appeal to a small market team struggling in goal that needs a higher cap hit and less salary.

If Anderson proves to be the goaltender he was two years ago, the Senators will look brilliant by getting him under contract before becoming an unrestricted free agent. If it’s more of the same from last season, they can hand the ball to Lehner and Anderson can make a lot of money for wearing a ball cap and opening the door at the players’ bench.

With no resolution in sight, Canadiens taking arbitration risk with P.K. Subban

Ken Campbell
P

Barring a couple of last minute settlements, Rand Simon of Newport Sports and Andre Lepage of the BCF law firm in Montreal will have a very busy couple of days. And they’ll probably get to know each other a lot better.

Simon, a former staffer here at THN and now an indispensible contract resource for Newport Sports, is scheduled to argue the salary arbitration cases for Nick Spaling of the Pittsburgh Penguins Thursday and P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens Friday. Lepage, whose firm is retained by both the Penguins and Canadiens, will be arguing in front of the arbitrator in favor of the teams involved.

Of the 23 salary arbitration cases that were originally filed, only Spaling and Subban remain unresolved. Twenty came to terms before their hearings and Vladimir Sobotka of the St. Louis Blues, who will play in the Kontinental League next season, was awarded a one-year deal for $2.725 million, which he must honor whenever he returns to the NHL.

The arbitration case involving Subban is certainly the most compelling and prominent of all those that were filed and it’s looking as though the two sides are on a collision course that will see this thing go the distance. The two sides have had a history of having difficulty in contract negotiations and as of Wednesday morning at least, were not even close to consummating a deal that is suitable for both sides.

And there’s no doubt the Canadiens are taking a substantial risk here. In their pre-arbitration filings, the Subban camp is asking for $8.5 million and the Canadiens are requesting an award of $5.25 million. The Canadiens could have elected to take a two-year award, but chose only one. And there are a couple of reasons for that. First, Subban will still be one year away from being an unrestricted free agent after the 2014-15 season and the Canadiens have the option of taking him to arbitration next summer. If Subban doesn’t have a banner season, the Canadiens can come in with an offer of up to a 15 per cent pay cut on whatever Subban is awarded.

Secondly, a two-year award would not allow the Canadiens to even talk to Subban about a contract extension for at least 12 months, whereas a one-year deal will allow them to try to hammer out a deal with Subban starting Jan. 1, 2015.

But the risk for the Canadiens is very real. If Subban has an even better season in 2014-15, he could take the Canadiens to arbitration again next summer and really torch them on a one-year deal. If all that happens and he goes through arbitration again, it’s difficult to fathom Subban wouldn’t simply play out his last season before unrestricted free agency then explore the market. And even though the Canadiens can announce as early as June 15 of next year that they intend to take him to arbitration, any team would be free to submit an offer sheet before July 5. The Canadiens would then either face the prospect of losing Subban for draft picks or be forced to match the offer and not be able to trade him for a year.

Either way, Subban wins here. The Canadiens request of $5.25 million represents a 40 percent raise on the $3.75 million Subban made last season. And that’s the worst-case scenario for him. Best case will be arbitrator Elizabeth Neumeier chooses Subban’s number of $8.5 million, but she can also pick a number anywhere between the two. (Spaling filed a salary request of $2.85 million for next season, while the Penguins countered with $1.65 million.)

Subban’s hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday and the decision must come down by Sunday afternoon. The two sides have until the decision to work out a deal on their own, but the reality is that if this one gets to the hearing stage, there almost certainly won’t be a deal.

So the fate of one of the NHL’s best defensemen and one of its most marketable players is very much up in the air. And if it goes to arbitration, Canadiens fans had better get accustomed to uncertainty surrounding Subban, probably for the next two years.

Ryan Johansen’s stare-down with Blue Jackets could have negative effect

Ken Campbell
Johansen

News and views from the meager scraps left by the hockey world in a very slow middle of July:

News: Columbus Blue Jackets president John Davidson says the organization is trying to figure out, “the right thing to do,” when it comes to restricted free agent Ryan Johansen.

Views: After scoring 33 goals in the regular season and being a force for the Blue Jackets in the playoffs, Johansen has earned the right to demand a long-term contract for as much money as he wants. But the fact remains that he would have earned that right even if he had been half as good as he was last season. It’s free agency and any player can ask for whatever he thinks he’s worth. Read more