The NHL’s weakest division? Um, “congratulations”, Metro

Marc-Andre Fleury

When the NHL made its most recent realignment, last season, it reemphasized the importance of divisional play by also restructuring its playoff format. The wild card element throws a bit of a wrench into it from year-to-year, but for the most part, teams have to play their first two playoff rounds against division rivals – and that means a weaker division has the potential to make the road to the Stanley Cup easier for the team that can emerge from it.

I’d argue that’s one of the reasons the New York Rangers qualified for the Cup Final this past spring. They faced a flawed Flyers team in the first round and a Penguins squad in the second that had serious issues of its own before they beat the injury-depleted Canadiens in the Eastern Conference final. You have to give the Blueshirts credit for their resilience, but they had a much easier go of it than, say, Los Angeles or Chicago.

So which division is shaping up to be the NHL’s weakest in 2014-15? It’s not in the Western Conference, that’s for sure. Six of the Central Division’s seven teams (every one but Winnipeg) have a bona fide shot at making the playoffs, and the California Trinity Of Doom, combined with the desperation to make the playoffs in Vancouver and Edmonton, makes the Pacific Division daunting as well.

So, the “honor” of the league’s worst division has to go to either the Metropolitan or the Atlantic. And although the Atlantic has seen more separation between the haves and have-nots of its teams this off-season, I’d still make the case the Metro is the weaker of the two. Read more

Rumor Roundup: The latest Evander Kane trade buzz

kane-142324409

Another month, another rash of Evander Kane trade speculation. The 22-year-old winger’s recent comments during a radio interview once again raised questions over his future with the Winnipeg Jets.

“Well, I think I’m a Winnipeg Jet now,” Kane told Vancouver’s The Team 1020, acknowledging the trade rumors dogging him since arriving in Winnipeg three years ago. He added “we’ll see what happens” and he’ll carry on “as if I’m a Winnipeg Jet.”

Despite having four years at an annual cap hit of $5.25 million remaining on his contract, Kane appears doubtful he’ll remain with the club for the duration. It’s the second time in as many months he’s raised eyebrows over his status with the team. Prior to last month’s NHL draft, the Winnipeg Sun’s Ken Wiebe reported Kane favorited a tweet by a Flyers fan calling upon his team to acquire the young winger.
Read more

Long-term deals great if you give them to the right players

Doughty

At one point during negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement during the 2012 lockout, a juncture during which things weren’t looking particularly good, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly outlined the league’s insistence on limiting contracts to five years and called it, “the hill we will die on.”

Everyone knows you never end a sentence in a preposition – the correct way to say it would have been, “It’s the hill on which we will die” – and you don’t make extreme statements during negotiations that you’re going to later have to retract. The NHL did not get its five-year contract limit and it didn’t die on any hill. Read more

These 23 players can go to arbitration, if they’re not signed to extensions first

reimer

The NHL’s arbitration process is scheduled to begin later this month. Twenty NHL players have filed for arbitration, while three players were taken to arbitration by their teams. Usually, these contracts are settled before the team and player have to face off in front of an arbiter, so expect most, or all, of these to be settled before the process begins.

Arbitration cases will be heard between July 20 and August 5. Here are the eligible players:

Arizona Coyotes
Brandon McMillan - A third round pick by Anaheim in 2008, McMillan played 22 games with the Coyotes in 2013-14, scoring two goals and six points. He also played 46 games with the american League’s Portland Pirates, scoring 11 goals and 26 points. The 5-foot-11 winger was acquired by the Coyotes last year in a trade that sent Matt Lombardi to the Ducks.

Boston Bruins
Matt Bartkowski - A seventh round pick by Florida in 2008, Bartkowski averaged the fourth-most minutes among Bruins defensemen in 2013-14 and scored 18 assists. He was acquired by Boston in what turned out to be an awful trade for Florida, which sent Bartkowski and Dennis Seidenberg to the Bruins for not much at all. Bartkowski has emerged as a physical defensive blueliner who fits in nicely with Boston’s brawny way. Read more

Top 5 controversies of the 2013-14 season

John Tortorella (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

1. TORTORELLA CHARGES FLAMES DRESSING ROOM
Every NHL team has its best-and-worst-case scenarios laid out before each season begins, but there’s no way the Vancouver Canucks could have envisioned the nightmare that was to unfold. The franchise stumbled and bumbled on and off the ice and fell from third in the Western Conference in 2012-13 to 12th in 2013-14. And it’s hard to say which mistake was worst.

If you go back to the summer of 2013, the trading of goalie Cory Schneider certainly qualifies as a contender. After years of grooming Schneider to be Vancouver’s starting goalie for the next decade or more, then-GM Mike Gillis shocked the hockey world when he shipped the 28-year-old to New Jersey for the ninth-overall pick in last year’s draft. Schneider and veteran Roberto Luongo, who had nearly been dealt at the 2012-13 trade deadline, were dumbfounded by the move. But that was only the beginning of the madness. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Red Wings ‘D’ hunting; Reimer stuck with Maple Leafs?

#34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs stands by the net during a break in action in a game against the Edmonton Oilers on October 29, 2013 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

After striking out in their efforts to land a right-handed defenseman via free agency, the Detroit Red Wings could turn to the trade market to address their need.

Wings GM Ken Holland told Ted Kulfan of the Detroit News his club needs “another defenseman, maybe two,” adding he’ll see what the summer brings. Kulfan speculates Buffalo’s Tyler Myers, Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien and Edmonton’s Jeff Petry could be available.

Ansar Khan of mlive.com also believes the Wings could try to bolster their blueline via the trade market. In addition to Myers, Byfuglien and Petry, Khan lists Washington’s Mike Green and Toronto’s Cody Franson among the right-handed options, along with left-handed shots like Arizona’s Keith Yandle and Vancouver’s Alexander Edler.

The asking price for most of the aforementioned would be expensive, costing the Wings one of their promising young forwards as part of the return. The Wings won’t part with Gustav Nyquist or Tomas Tatar, but clubs could seek Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco or Anthony Mantha. The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson believes if Petry’s available the Oilers must get a young center for him. Read more

CHL Import Draft: Who is coming and who is staying home?

David-Pastrnak

The CHL Import Draft is complex. On the surface of course, it’s straight-forward: Every team from the Ontario, Western and Quebec League has the opportunity to select two European players, assuming they have two import slots open on their roster.

But if one of your Europeans went in the first round of the NHL draft, you can keep the rights to three, in case the first-rounder bounces between the pros and junior (it’s basically the Mikhail Grigorenko rule). And you’re not allowed to take goalies anymore, which is protectionist and ignores the fact American netminders have been “taking jobs” from Canadian kids as much as Europeans were.

Also, some folks will tell you it’s not quite a draft because some teams have unofficial deals with players beforehand – which led to last year’s awkward situation where Washington Capitals pick Andre Burakovsky thought he was going to Windsor, only see to Erie scoop up his rights first. After a lot of fuss, Burakovsky went to the Otters and helped Erie make a nice playoff run.

The 2014 installment of the Import Draft happened on Wednesday and as always, there was drama, beginning with the first pick. The OHL’s Sarnia Sting tabbed Czech power forward Pavel Zacha first overall, but the youngster’s agent, Allan Walsh, immediately took to Twitter to announce that Zacha, a potential top-10 NHL pick in 2015, has a contract with Liberec back home and that Sarnia just wasted the pick.

Read more

Dominoes need to fall in order for draft action to heat up

Kesler

PHILADELPHIA – You talk to GMs here the day before the draft and you hear a common lament. “I’m trying like hell to get something done,” they say, “but right now it’s not happening.” This is not uncommon the day before the draft, particularly one with as many moving parts as the 2014 proceedings.

There has been a dearth of horsetrading and whether or not that’s the calm before the storm or a draft that has failed to live up to its hype when it comes to player movement essentially depends on three things. One of them is what Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon does with the No. 1 overall pick. Tallon has made it clear he’s willing to deal the pick, but the price he’s asking is too steep at the moment. Read more