Tampa Bay Lightning superstar Steven Stamkos is on the cover of the latest issue of The Hockey News. I was tasked with getting ‘Stammer’ on the phone for the article, which also included interviews with teammates, family and others who know the captain.
And as it happens, Stamkos has impeccable timing that stretches far beyond his goal-scoring prowess. The day Stamkos was supposed to call me, he was given my office number and my cell phone number, since I would be commuting home at one point. In Toronto, the subway line is almost entirely underground, with only a handful of stops offering daylight – and therefore, cell phone signal. Just as my train pulled into one such stop, my phone rang. I pulled one earbud out and with my iPod still blaring into the other side of my head, answered the phone as I jumped onto the station platform. It was Stamkos.
Ryan Johansen’s contract negotiations with the Columbus Blue Jackets are…contentious. Yesterday started with Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen drawing a line in the sand by insinuating the start of training camp as a cut off point. Later on, team president John Davidson took aim at Johansen’s agent Kurt Overhardt by saying the numbers he was throwing out made no sense and were embarrassing.
This sounds like it could be one of the bigger RFA battles the NHL has had in recent years, but there’s still a little time before training camps open. And it’s not like it would be the first time a player has missed the start of training camp with a contract dispute.
It actually used to happen a lot more in the NHL. In the 1990s, it was a regular, yearly thing most teams would have to deal with at one point or another. The only great leverage an RFA without arbitration rights has is to stay home and make the team sweat. It maybe doesn’t happen as often as it used to, but the Johansen situation is hardly unique to the NHL today. Heck, Torey Krug, Jaden Schwartz, Reilly Smith, Darcy Kuemper and Cody Eakin are going through their own, less-publicized negotiations right now too.
We take a look at some of the more recent RFAs who missed all or a portion of training camp over a contract dispute and what the outcome was. We didn’t want to look too far back at every situation because market conditions have changed, especially when looking back past the 2004-05 lockout. Anything before then is basically no influence on Johansen’s situation. Just don’t call these guys holdouts.
Derek Stepan, New York Rangers
Prior to last season, Stepan missed 16 days of training camp before settling on a bridge deal with the Rangers. Stepan ended up signing a two-year deal that has a $3.075 million salary cap charge. Read more
The annual Traverse City prospects tournament is in the books for another year and this time, Columbus came out on top despite losing 2014 first-rounder Sonny Milano in the first game.
Despite boasting some of the biggest names in the tournament, the Sabres ended up dead-last, losing to the Blues in their final match to go winless overall. Coach Chadd Cassidy believes bad starts doomed the squad and the fairly young group just couldn’t get over the pressure once they got down.
But how did the individuals fare at the tourney? Here are my thoughts on players from the first four teams. Since games were staggered between two rinks, I saw more of some squads than others and the amount of reports reflects that.
Contract talks between the Ottawa Senators and defenseman Marc Methot have apparently reached a stalemate. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reports Methot, whose current annual cap hit is $3 million, is believed to be seeking a deal comparable to Brooks Orpik, who earlier this summer inked a five-year deal worth $5.5-million annually with the Washington Capitals.
Methot, 29, is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Up until now the Senators have had success re-signing several key free agents. They recently re-upped goaltenders Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner, along with wingers Milan Michalek and Clarke MacArthur.
Garrioch notes the Senators currently have seven defensemen under one-way contracts. He speculates they could trade Methot if unable to reach agreement on a new deal before the season begins.
If Methot is shopped the asking price could be a scoring winger. Garrioch reports the Senators seek a top-nine forward. Given the lack of available talent via free agency, they could go the trade route. Garrioch cites sources claiming Carolina’s Alexander Semin, New Jersey’s Damien Brunner and Buffalo wingers Drew Stafford and Chris Stewart might be available. Read more
Even the best players in the world can have slumps and it’s not fun when it happens to your favorite. But with every fresh campaign there is hope for renewal and as we approach the 2014-15 installment of NHL hockey, some players may be a little more eager than others, since last season was such a downer.
Here’s a look at 10 players who are primed for bounce-back seasons:
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).
2013-14 record: 21-51-10, 16th in East, 30th overall
Acquisitions: Andre Benoit, Tyson Strachan, Andrej Meszaros, Josh Gorges, Brian Gionta, Cody McCormick, Matt Moulson
Departures: Matt D’Agostini, John Scott, Kevin Porter, Cory Conacher, Christian Ehrhoff, Alexander Sulzer, Ville Leino
Top five fantasy options: Matt Moulson, Cody Hodgson, Tyler Ennis, Brian Gionta, Sam Reinhart
Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario:
Boom: Just when we all thought the Sabres were going to “McSuck for McDavid” or “Play like Robert Reichel to get Eichel” they went out on a spending spree that should at least make them a tougher out than they’ve been in the past. Read more
Rick Jarosz is a 42-year-old single dad raising his 11-year-old son in a suburb of Buffalo. He’s an upstanding member of the community and volunteers with the local school to help teach kids to read. Seventeen years ago, Jarosz was injured in a forklift accident at work that left him barely able to walk. His 2012 Ford Escape was specially equipped with hand controls so he could operate the vehicle.
According to WGRZ in Buffalo, his vehicle was stolen along with his scooter last week, leaving Jarosz without transportation.
“He stole my lifeline,” Jarosz told the TV station. “He stole my ability to go to the park with my son, to take my son to hockey practice, to go to the grocery store, or to hang out with my son at the bus stop for his first day of middle school coming up next week.” Read more