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.
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
There is no truth to the rumor that the New Jersey Devils had extra defibrillators on hand when their players showed up for fitness testing on the first day of training camp today. But you can understand how these things get started.
When the Devils opened camp, they did so with a decidedly older bent to their roster of hopefuls. Among those who are in Devils camp this fall on tryouts are defensemen Tomas Kaberle and Mike Komisarek, center Scott Gomez, right winger Jordin Tootoo and left winger Ruslan Fedotenko. Combined number of NHL games last season: 89. Combined age: 171 years and 93 days. Read more
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – The championship final of the Traverse City prospects tournament went into overtime and that meant the dry scrape of the ice that will be in effect for this season. From the time the final buzzer sounded to the time the puck was dropped for overtime, exactly six minutes and 21 seconds had elapsed.
So assuming the time frame will be about the same for the NHL, that’s more than six minutes of idle time for a league that has seemed obsessed with game flow for the past decade. That’s also more than six minutes where the players are sitting in sweaty equipment getting cold and possibly cramping up before going out on the ice to skate 4-on-4 in a high stakes situation. One NHL official who was on hand in Traverse City thinks it will be a matter of time before players and teams begin blaming that five minutes of inactivity on tweaks, groin pulls and other injuries that might occur in overtime. Read more
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – When Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen took agent Kurt Overhardt to task for his handling of the Ryan Johansen negotiations on Monday, it turned out that was just the warm-up act. When it came to president of hockey operations John Davidson to take his turn, he turned both barrels directly on Overhardt.
This is getting ugly, folks. And personal. The organization has chosen to make the agent the villain in this tale and Overhardt, for his part, wants no part of the public mudslinging. And that’s probably the best plan of attack for him. If someone has to be vilified here, it’s better that it’s the agent rather than the player.
“It makes no sense, Davidson said. “When you see numbers that are thrown at us, we shouldn’t even respond. That’s how bad it is. It’s embarrassing. And if the kid sits out, he sits out. I wonder if the agent’s going to pay him his money back that he’s going to lose by sitting out. Read more
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – The biggest question when it comes to Ryan Johansen’s stalemate with the Columbus Blue Jackets is just because the contract Johansen wants doesn’t exist, are he and his agent wrong for seeking it?
In reality, if the numbers being reported are correct, Johansen is seeking a groundbreaking contract. A two-year bridge deal at $6.5 million a year is about $3 million a year more than the Blue Jackets are willing to pay at this point. At the Traverse City prospects tournament, Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen turned the heat up significantly on Johansen and his agent, Kurt Overhardt, by essentially saying that if Johansen doesn’t sign with the team before it opens training camp Thursday, the organization will concentrate on the players it has in camp. “That’s it, that will be the only focus,” Kekalainen told Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch Monday.
This, of course, is a pressure tactic. The Blue Jackets have as much to lose as Johansen if he stays out of training camp and this drags into the regular season, so they’ll continue to work at this until something gets done. But the waters are getting more poisoned with every passing day and Kekalainen set his sights directly on Overhardt by suggesting these negotiations are more about the agent than the player.
“From their side…this should be about Ryan Johansen and his future, his long-term future with the Blue Jackets,” Kekalainen said. “This shouldn’t be about setting a standard or about an agent breaking records.” Read more
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – The most intriguing off-ice story of this season will be Mike Babcock’s future with the Detroit Red Wings. Until Babcock re-signs with the Detroit, the questions will continue to follow this team.
And here’s one to ponder: If John Tortorella is worth $2 million a year sitting in his barcalounger, what is the man many consider to be the best coach in the NHL worth? Will Babcock be the first to break the bank and be paid like his NFL counterparts?
The first assumption is that money will not be an object, that the Red Wings will give Babcock all the money and all the term he wants and that if Babcock leaves, it will be for a better situation. There is no salary cap on what coaches can be paid, so that begs the question, why would a superstar coach such as Babcock not make $5 million a year? Joel Quenneville, who has won two Stanley Cups in the past four years, is believed to be the highest-paid coach in the NHL at about $2.5 million, which is ridiculously low because it’s less than the average player salary.
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – Sonny Milano has already had his ‘Welcome to the NHL’ moment despite the fact he hasn’t played a game in the best league in the world yet. And thanks to what could have been a devastating injury in a prospects tournament, it will be a while before he plays in a game of any kind.
Two periods into his first game at the Traverse City prospects tournament over the weekend, the Columbus Blue Jackets prospect was hit into the boards face-first. His face went into the dasher, fracturing both his left orbital bone and cheekbone. While it was originally thought he could be out eight weeks, the expectation is now that he will miss two, which means he still might be able to get into some action for the Blue Jackets main camp.
“Right now it feels pretty good,” said Milano, whose only battle scar from the incident is a shiner under his left eye. “I feel like if it was a playoff game, I’d be on the ice right now.”
Milano said when the incident first happened, “my nose just started bleeding like crazy,” and he thought it was going to be far more serious. “I thought it was kind of dirty,” Milano said. Read more
At some point early in this coming season, the NHL will record its 10,000th shot in the shootout. We can predict with a high degree of certainty two things that will not happen on that shot. First, it will not be a spin-o-rama. Second, the guy taking it probably won’t score.
The NHL guaranteed the former by banning the spin-o-rama on the shootout when it passed a flurry of new rules for the 2014-15 season. The latter is backed up by statistics that prove the shootout is anything but a skills competition. As Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman once told me, it has become a goaltending competition. With an all-time success rate of just 32.8 percent, shooters aren’t exactly forcing goaltenders to reach to the back of the net for the puck. Read more