It’s time for hockey to ban the term ‘holdout’

Ryan Johansen (left).  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

With no signs of progress and the two sides still light years apart, the possibility of Ryan Johansen sitting out training camp, and possibly even part of this NHL season, is becoming more real with every passing day.

And as that day draws nearer, you can expect an avalanche of reports that will indicate Johansen is “holding out” on the Columbus Blue Jackets. Should they fail to reach contract terms with their respective teams, the same will go for Nino Niederreiter and Darcy Kuemper of the Minnesota Wild, Danny DeKeyser of the Detroit Red Wings, Torey Krug of the Boston Bruins and Jaden Schwartz of the St. Louis Blues.

But the fact is, not a single one of them is a holdout. In fact, the term “holdout” is antiquated and should be banned from the hockey lexicon altogether. Not a single player has held out since the collective bargaining agreement of 2005. Read more

Fantasy Pool Look: Bruins, Ducks & Avalanche off-season report

Corey Perry (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s the 12th annual off-season review of each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint. Every year I run through the teams alphabetically – but switch starting points each year. This year I did something different and reviewed the teams in reverse order of regular season finish. And wouldn’t you know it? I’m all done now. Here were the Top 3 teams in the NHL last season, let’s see if their fantasy outlooks reflect that…

BOSTON BRUINS
Gone – Chad Johnson, Shawn Thornton, Jarome Iginla, Andrej Meszaros

Incoming – Jeremy Smith

Ready for full time – Ryan Spooner is a real solid prospect who has taken to the pro game very well. In his cup of coffee with the Bruins he held his own. The team has room for him on the roster and he should win a spot out of camp. If he does, he could surprise depending on the line he plays on.

Niklas Svedberg will be the backup goalie. The former AHL goalie of the year has good upside at the NHL level and with such a strong team ahead of him will put up nice numbers. If Tuukka Rask were to get injured for any length of time, Svedberg would actually be one of the better goalies to own in all of hockey.

David Warsofsky may have his work cut out for him because he is a smaller defenseman who moves the puck well and the team already has that in Torey Krug. That being said, if Krug doesn’t sign (he is an restricted free agent) that opens the door wide for Warsofsky. But that’s a long, long, long shot. So look for Warsofsky to be used in a depth capacity if he makes the team. At least for this year. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Would any RFA not sign be season’s start?

Ryan Johansen (Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

The start of NHL training camp, on Sept. 18, is less than two weeks away, but there’s little progress to report on contract talks involving several restricted free agents. Among the unsigned notables are Columbus’ Ryan Johansen, Minnesota’s Darcy Kuemper and Nino Niederreiter, St. Louis’ Jaden Schwartz, Anaheim’s Devante Smith-Pelly and Boston’s Torey Krug and Reilly Smith.

ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun cites two sources who claim there’s been no dialogue between the Johansen camp and the Blue Jackets for some time. The two sides are reportedly $3 million apart per season on a two-year deal.

Johansen could receive an offer sheet from a rival club, but Blue Jackets management insisted earlier this summer they would match any offer. The Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline claims trading Johansen isn’t a consideration. Read more

What have we learned since Bertuzzi-Moore? Not much it seems

Todd Bertuzzi (Photo By Karl Gehring/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

In the 10-plus years since the Todd Bertuzzi-Steve Moore incident, you can be rest assured that NHL coaches and players have chosen their dressing room words very, very carefully when it comes to the issue of seeking retribution. And there hasn’t been an incident as egregious and disastrous since then, so the culture of revenge no longer exists in hockey, right?

Wrong. It has been speculated that with the civil lawsuit between Moore and Bertuzzi/the Vancouver Canucks finally settled, Moore will receive somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million. But there is so much we will never know. Such as, how was the amount split between Bertuzzi and the Canucks? That would go a long way toward determining whether Bertuzzi acted alone as a friend hell-bent on revenge or was simply a pawn that was contractually obliged to follow the instructions of his superiors.

Even though it went seemingly down to the last minute – the trial was to begin Monday – the reality is probably that this was never going to go to trial. Because if it had, the truth would have had to come out. And it would not have been pretty.

The NHL and its culture of violence/revenge would have been on trial every bit as much as Bertuzzi and the Canucks were. It’s a culture many in hockey would have us believe is no longer a part of the game. Fighting has been trending downward for some time and fewer and fewer teams have space on their rosters for the second coming of Ogie Oglethorpe.

But have we really learned that much from Bertuzzi-Moore? That’s debatable. At the very least, Shawn Thornton seemed to have missed the memo. Last season, in response to what he viewed as a dirty hit on teammate Loui Eriksson, Thornton attacked Brooks Orpik, then of the Pittsburgh Penguins, in an incident that looked eerily like the Bertuzzi-Moore attack. Thornton received a 15-game suspension for his act, with then director of player safety Brendan Shanahan justifying the ban by saying: “It is our view that this was an act of retribution for an incident that occurred earlier in the game, the result of this action by Thornton was a serious injury to Orpik.”

And did Thornton get ostracized from the game for what he did? Actually, when the Boston Bruins decided not to sign him after last season, the Florida Panthers offered him a two-year contract. As my colleague Adam Proteau pointed out recently, Penguins owner Mario Lemieux calls out the league to get violence out of the game, then allows his team to sign Dan Carcillo and Steve Downie because the Penguins star players get pushed around too much in the playoffs. I’m not sure that makes him a hypocrite. It’s more an indication that Lemieux knows his message is falling on deaf ears, that the league is not going to protect his stars and he has no choice in the matter. (There’s a reason why Carcillo, who is on his sixth NHL team, has the survival instincts of a cockroach. It’s because teams continue to see worth in what he brings.)

And when Tomas Hertl of the San Jose Sharks seemed to push the envelope by getting a little too cute on his fourth goal against the New York Rangers, there were almost as many critics as there were admirers. One of them was Nashville Predators color commentator Terry Crisp, who said, “Let me tell you young man. You pull that move too often and somebody’s going to want retribution on you.”

And how often do we see a player being forced to stand up for himself and face an onslaught of punches after executing a perfectly clean, but devastating hit on a star player? How often do we see teams still “sending a message” to its opponent late in a game that is out of reach? And really it wasn’t that long ago that former director of hockey operations Colin Campbell made his infamous, “We sell hate. Our game sells hate,” comments. How often do we see the league’s own website tag a video as a “Must See” when that video involves fighting and mayhem?

It’s great to see the Bertuzzi-Moore incident finally settled, even though there are a lot of people who would have liked to see this thing go the distance. So, that has been put to bed and confidentiality agreements will likely keep us from ever knowing the minute details of the case. We know Moore will never play in the NHL and Bertuzzi, after reportedly rebuffing a pitch from Mike Keenan to play in the KHL for Mettalurg Magnitigorsk, is a veteran free agent still waiting to find a team. But to suggest the game and the NHL have made enormous strides since then is probably a stretch. A big one.

Jagr on verge of almost unheard of distinction this season

Jaromir Jagr (right). (Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

We’re going to go on the assumption here that Teemu Selanne has retired from the NHL for good this time. Of course, you never know with Selanne, but we’re thinking he’s serious about it this time.

That leaves Jaromir Jagr as the oldest player in the NHL this season. And it also gives Jagr a career distinction that not many players can say they share.

When Jagr made his NHL debut with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1990-91, he did so as the youngest player in the NHL that season. Born Feb. 15, 1972, Jagr beat out Owen Nolan of the Quebec Nordiques by just three days. Jagr actually had a bit of good fortune in this situation because the three players aside from Nolan who were taken before him in the 1990 draft – Petr Nedved, Mike Ricci and Keith Primeau – were all late birthdays in 1971 who missed the 1989 draft because they were too young.

Fast-forward 24 years later and Jagr is still playing, and playing very well, for the New Jersey Devils. By the time this season ends, Jagr will be 43 years and two months old, which will make him the 10th oldest player to ever play in the NHL. And it will also give him a distinction shared by the legendary Gordie Howe. When Howe played as a rookie for the Detroit Red Wings in 1946-47, he did so as the youngest player in the six-team NHL that season. And when he finished his NHL career with the Hartford Whalers in 1979-80, he did so as the oldest player in the league at 52.

Not sure how many players can say they were both the youngest and oldest player in the NHL during the course of their careers, but the fact that Jagr and Howe are two who can is a testament to both their prodigious talents as young men and their ability to maintain a high level of play throughout length careers. Some players have one or the other, but a precious few have both. And those who do tend to end up with a plaque in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Jagr is on the verge of a couple of other milestones this season worth celebrating. With 705 career goals, he is sure to pass Mike Gartner and Phil Esposito on the all-time goals list. But here’s where it gets interesting. If he scores 27 this season – remember, he had 24 last year – he’ll pass Marcel Dionne at No. 4 and if he has a wildly successful season and gets 37, he’ll usurp Brett Hull at No. 3.

With 44 points this season – entirely achievable since he had 67 in 2013-14 – Jagr will pass Ron Francis for fourth on the all-time points list. If he takes 210 shots this season – he had 231 with the Devils last season – he’ll be No. 2 behind Ray Bourque on the all-time career list for shots.

Kind of makes you wonder where Jagr would be if he had decided to stay in the NHL instead of playing in Russia for three years and if he hadn’t been robbed of a season-and-a-half with lockouts. But the same could be said for Howe, who retired for two years and played six more in the World Hockey Association before returning to the NHL. Bobby Hull, with 610 career goals, played six-plus seasons in the WHA before returning for a nine-game stint with the Whalers in 1979-80.

And who knows? Jagr hasn’t hinted at retirement and with his level of play so high, it’s not inconceivable that he could play a couple more seasons in the NHL. Regardless of how long he plays, three years after he decides to hang up his skates there will be a place waiting for him in the Hall of Fame.

Bruins sign David Krejci for six years, commit to the core and another Stanley Cup

Rory Boylen
Daid Krejci of the Boston Bruins. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

David Krejci will make $5.25 million against the salary cap this season for the Boston Bruins, but in 2015-16, he’ll be the highest-paid player on the roster.

According to reports, the Bruins signed the Czech to a six-year, $43.5 million extension Wednesday night. The $7.25 million cap hit that comes with it makes him a bigger financial burden than Tuukka Rask, Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron after this season.

It’s a deal that comes at a perfect time for Krejci. The 69 points he posted was his highest amount since 2008-09 and he got some Selke consideration. And his eligibility comes in the autumn of his peak years – he’s got a few good ones left in him, but about halfway through this contract he’ll likely start into a natural decline. With a contract signed a year before the current one expires, Krejci doesn’t risk having to negotiate against a down year.

Although the chanes of Krejci having a down year seem remote. What the Bruins keep here is a remarkably consistent player. Krejci’s point totals in his past five full seasons read as: 73, 52, 62, 62, 69. A natural playmaker, Krejci has a strong two-way game and is a great complement to Patrice Bergeron. The Bruins made a significant commitment to Krejci and to the status quo of the top end of the roster. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Who will the Blackhawks & Bruins trade to get under the cap?

Johnny Oduya (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

With the start of NHL training camps a little more than two weeks away, the Blackhawks have yet to reach a decision on how to address their salary-cap issues. Chicago remains above the $69 million cap by more than $2.2 million and must shed salary before the season opens in October.

The situation provided fodder for the rumor mill this summer.  It’s assumed GM Stan Bowman would move a defenseman, with Johnny Oduya ($3.38-million cap hit) or Nick Leddy ($2.7 million) as potential trade candidates.

The Boston Bruins must also become cap compliant by the start of the season. They’re currently above the ceiling by more than $800,000. The Bruins will get cap relief by placing concussed center Marc Savard ($4.03 million) on long-term injured reserve, but it won’t leave much to re-sign restricted free agents Torey Krug and Reilly Smith and leave room for possible moves later in the season.

It’s rumored the Bruins, like the Blackhawks, could trade a defenseman to open up more cap space. Trade options could include Johnny Boychuk ($3.3 million cap hit) or Adam McQuaid ($1.5 million).
Read more

Rumor Roundup: Would a Boychuk-Yakupov trade solve two problems?

Johnny Boychuk (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Boston Bruins need to shed salary and address their logjam on defense remains a hot topic in this summer’s NHL rumor mill.

Much of the speculation centers on Johnny Boychuk, who will be eligible next summer for unrestricted free agency. The 30-year-old blueliner will earn $3.6 million this season, while his cap hit is more than $3.3 million. Brooks Orpik signed a five-year deal this summer with the Washington Capitals worth $5.5-million annually and Boychuk could seek a comparable salary.

If Boychuk becomes a UFA, the Edmonton Oilers could be very interested in his services. He’s an Edmonton native with a strong all-around skill set that would benefit the Oilers’ rebuilding defense corps.

Boychuk, however, told the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson his preference is to remain with the Bruins, calling them “my hockey family.” Considering the Bruins remain a legitimate Stanley Cup contender three years after their last championship, his reluctance to leave Boston is understandable. His future with the Bruins, however, will depend upon their cap space beyond this season. Read more