Connor McDavid, fast on his way to becoming the face of the NHL, understandably attracted a lot of attention at BioSteel’s 2016 Pro Hockey Camp this week in Toronto. Excited kids followed him everywhere he went. So did reporters and photographers. It was hard to tell them apart from the kids.
But as he fiddled around working on his skills Tuesday, he had a worthy playmate. His old Erie Otters teammate, Dylan Strome, was out there, too, stride for stride. They worked together on some passing drills. They chatted. They competed in a raucous target shooting contest, much to the tykes’ delight from the rafters of St. Michael’s College School Arena. What stood out: Strome looked like he belonged out there, even with McDavid. We know No. 97’s raw tools are among the very best in the NHL already, but Strome flashed a lot of skill, too.
After seasons in Colorado, Carolina and Chicago, it was as a member of the Phoenix Coyotes that Radim Vrbata really established himself as an offensive threat and a steady point producer in the NHL. Now, after two seasons with the Vancouver Canucks, it appears Vrbata is ready to return to the desert.
According to Arizona Sports’ Craig Morgan, Vrbata is nearing a one-year deal with Arizona which will see him return for a third stint with the Coyotes. Morgan reported the deal could become official Monday.
Vrbata’s return to Arizona wasn’t exactly an expected outcome, but it’s one that makes sense for the 35-year-old winger. Though he had the highest scoring season of his career in his first campaign with the Canucks — Vrbata scored 31 goals and 63 points while playing primarily with the Sedins — the longest consistent stretch of productive play came when Vrbata was a Coyote. And in Arizona, Vrbata would be almost assured a top-six role, meaning he could be in line for another 20-goal campaign. Read more
Much of the focus for the Arizona Coyotes heading into the season surrounds the fresh faces who will be making their NHL debuts and the sophomore players hoping to improve on stellar rookie campaigns. But it might be one of the veteran players on the roster whose season will be the most interesting to watch.
Martin Hanzal, 31, enters the campaign in the final year of a five-year, $15.5-million deal and at this point there appears to be no contract extension in sight for the pending unrestricted free agent. Hanzal has become an extremely part of the Coyotes both offensively and defensively, but that might not mean he’s long for the desert. In fact, according to GM John Chayka, Arizona looks to be taking a wait-and-see approach when it comes to ensuring Hanzal stays put with the Coyotes.
“If there was something that made sense, we would probably take a closer look at that because Marty’s been a good player for us,” Chayka told Arizona Sports’ Craig Morgan. “But maybe it’s not a bad thing to get into the season and see how things play out.” Read more
A surprising summer buyout by the Arizona Coyotes has left Antoine Vermette without a team for the upcoming campaign, but Vermette’s agent, Allan Walsh, said that won’t be the case much longer.
On Saturday morning Walsh announced, via Twitter, that Vermette is currently mulling over five offers and should come to a decision about where he’ll play next season by Monday.
It’s no surprise that Vermette, 34, has his fair share of offers, and he could be an excellent addition to the middle-six of a team’s roster so long as he doesn’t come in at too high a price. Getting Vermette to come in on a cheaper deal might not be difficult, either, given that he’s set to earn $1.25 million in each of the next two campaigns as part of the buyout by the Coyotes. Read more
The rough and tumble ways of the NHL are starting to go by the wayside, but veteran winger Shawn Thornton is sticking around for one more season with the Florida Panthers. But Thornton, 39, admitted that before he signed a one-year contract extension in February, he was considering hanging up his skates for good.
Speaking with CBS Boston’s Matt Kalman, Thornton said that while the 2015-16 campaign wore on, he began to think about retirement. As he planned to retire from the game, though, along came a contract offer from the Panthers to come back on a one-year, $750,000 deal. The idea was to keep Thornton around as a locker room leader and a guide for the young players looking to get a foothold in the league.
However, once this season is done, that’s likely it for Thornton. And once his playing days are done, the one-time tough guy could be finding his way to the Panthers’ front office, working on the “business side of things” for the team he has spent the past two years of his career with.
“Things change year to year. This would’ve been a different conversation last year,” Thornton told Kalman. “But as of right now probably leaning more toward the business side of hockey. Once the season’s over I’ll probably move into that role in Florida.”
That this is likely Thornton’s final season in the league isn’t altogether surprising as his career has been winding down since he arrived in Florida. But he’s not the only player who could be riding off into the sunset following the upcoming campaign. Here are five other players potentially headed for retirement after 2016-17: Read more
PLYMOUTH, MICH. – It was a desultory loss for Canada, dropping their second-last contest of the summer world junior camp tournament 5-1 to Sweden. And to be fair, only some of Canada’s best players were in the game. Dylan Strome, Mitch Marner and Tyson Jost made up the marquee top line, but big performers such as Lawson Crouse, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Travis Konecny sat out.
But if Canada is going to win the real thing this winter, it’s players such as Strome and Marner who must lead the way.
The hype surrounding Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick and first-overall selection Auston Matthews isn’t unwarranted, but sometimes lost in the excitement surround Matthews is the fact that there’s a fair chance he won’t be the rookie that makes the biggest difference this coming season.
That doesn’t just go for Matthews, either. Winnipeg Jets fans are excited about Patrik Laine, Edmonton Oilers fans have high hopes for Jesse Puljujarvi, Matthew Tkachuk’s got his sights set on the making the Calgary Flames this coming season and the Columbus Blue Jackets might even see Pierre-Luc Dubois make the jump to the NHL.
But the fresh faces of the 2016 draft class shouldn’t make us forget about the talented group of youngsters drafted in 2015 who could find their way into the NHL and become top scorers or go-to players for their respective clubs. Here are five 2015 draftees yet to see an NHL game who stand to be impact players in 2016-17: Read more
Antoine Vermette has officially become an unrestricted free agent following an entirely unexpected buyout that saw the 34-year-old sent packing by the Arizona Coyotes.
Vermette told RDS that he understands the reasoning behind the move from the Coyotes’ perspective. With young talent on the rise in Arizona, the management needed to make a decision that would allow room for the Dylan Stromes and Christian Dvoraks of the organization to have their chance at making the club out of training camp.
“Given the change in leadership, the youth movement started last year and that the best hopes of the organization are centers, I could see that it was only a matter of time,” Vermette told RDS.
Still, it caught him off guard. Vermette said he didn’t expect to be sent packing so soon or by way of a buyout, but the Coyotes assured him it had “no connection with (his) performance on the ice,” Vermette told RDS.
Even when Vermette signs elsewhere, he will still count against the Coyotes’ salary cap for $1.25 million. It seems like a lot of money to pay a player to go away — and looks worse when you add Mike Ribeiro’s $1.444 million buyout cap hit, which means Arizona will pay nearly $2.7 million to players on other teams — but Vermette’s buyout cap hit isn’t even among the top five in the league. More surprisingly, the combined buyout cap hits of Vermette and Ribeiro aren’t even the worst pair of buyouts in the league.
Here are the five biggest buyout cap hits for the upcoming season: Read more