Rumor Roundup: The top trade targets in 2015-16

Dustin Byfuglien (Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

With another NHL season underway, here’s a look at the NHL players most likely to be dealt by the Feb. 29 trade deadline.

Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes. The 30-year-old Hurricanes is an unrestricted free agent next summer. His production’s declined in recent years and the club is rebuilding. If there’s no progress in either the Hurricanes’ performance or Staal’s contract talks, he could agree to be dealt to a contender at the deadline. Read more

Karri Ramo’s windmill blocker stop is an early save of the year candidate

Jared Clinton
Karri Ramo (Derek Leung/Getty Images)

Throughout the pre-season, Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley admitted he wasn’t quite sure who his starting goaltender was. He had two choices: run with veteran Jonas Hiller or hand the reins to Karri Ramo. For opening night, he gave the nod to Ramo and early on, Ramo made Hartley look like a genius.

Midway through the first frame, with the Flames and Vancouver Canucks deadlocked at zero, a broken play in the neutral zone resulted in a 2-on-1 for the Canucks’ two most lethal players, the Sedin twins. With Henrik coming down the right wing and Daniel streaking down the left, Henrik laid a perfect saucer pass over the stick of Flames defenseman Kris Russell that landed right on Daniel’s tape for a one-timer.

In one motion, Ramo darted to his right and swung his blocker in windmill fashion to deflect the puck out of harm’s way and into the seats: Read more

Rumor Roundup: Veterans among potential trade chips for Oilers, Senators

Chris Neil (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch published his list of potential free agents to watch in 2015-16. Among the usual suspects like Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos and Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar, Garrioch included Edmonton Oilers right wing Teddy Purcell and Ottawa Senators winger Chris Neil.

With the Oilers and Senators rebuilding with young players, Garrioch doubts there’s room for Purcell and Neil on their respective clubs after this season. Purcell, 30, is earning $4.5 million this season. The 36-year-old Neil has a salary-cap hit of $1.9 million, for 2015-16, though in actual salary he’ll collect $1.5 million. Unlike Purcell, Neil has a modified no-trade clause that gives him control over where he can be dealt.

Garrioch claims if Neil hadn’t broken his thumb last season, there’s a “good chance” he would’ve wound up with the Nashville Predators. He feels Neil’s low salary is a reason why teams are still calling about him. His experience and toughness are also likely factors.

Purcell enjoyed several seasons of offensive success with the Tampa Bay Lightning, including a career-best 65-point effort in 2011-12. Acquired by the Oilers in June 2014, he struggled in Edmonton last season, tallying only 12 goals and 34 points in 82 games.

Even if Purcell regains his offensive touch this season, the Oilers depth in talented young forwards likely means he doesn’t have a future in Edmonton. If they’re out of playoff contention by the New Year, expect his name to surface in the rumor mill.

Performance will also be a factor for Neil. He’s at an age where his physical style takes almost as much of a toll upon him as it does on his opponents. Should he end up losing playing time to his younger teammates, Neil could hit the trade block before the December trade freeze.


Several notable NHL veterans recently cleared waivers and were demoted. Among them were Edmonton Oilers defenseman Nikita Nikitin and goaltender Ben Scrivens, Philadelphia Flyers blueliner Andrew MacDonald and Calgary Flames winger Mason Raymond.

They all carried significant salaries. Nikitin and Scrivens’ combined cap hits are $6.8 million, MacDonald’s $5 million and Raymond $3.15 million. Their teams only get $950K each in cap relief, so that’s a lot of money riding the buses in the minors this season.

The Oilers and Flyers are paying for the sins of their previous management. Nikitin and Scrivens are both eligible next summer for unrestricted free agency, so there’s a chance at some point one or both could end up on the trade block. MacDonald and Raymond, however, still have term remaining on their contracts, making it difficult to shop them.

Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website,, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).

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THN’s 2015-16 NHL season preview: Calgary Flames

The Hockey News
Sean Monahan celebrates with Jiri Hudler (Todd Korol/Getty Images)

2014-15 Record: 45-30-7 (97 Pts.)

THN’s Prediction: 3rd, Pacific Division

What To Expect: Last summer, nearly everyone suspected there would be a buzz around the Flames in the spring, because Connor McDavid was up for grabs, and Calgary looked like a sure lottery contender. But nearly everyone was wrong about the Flames, who overcame the loss of captain Mark Giordano in the final quarter of the season and advanced to the second round of the playoffs.

Despite their success, pitiful possession numbers and 10 comeback wins told the story of a lucky team who arrived ahead of schedule. GM Brad Treliving, aware of the potential for regression, boldly upgraded his roster. He dealt for RFA defenseman Dougie Hamilton, a 22-year-old star in the making, and promptly signed him to a six-year deal. He then lured versatile two-way winger Michael Frolik as a UFA. These additions, along with the natural progression of youngsters Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett, will guard against a slide. Read more

Will Hiller or Ramo take the reins as the Flames starter this season?

Jared Clinton
Jonas Hiller is passed by Karri Ramo on his way to the net. (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

As the Calgary Flames head into their final two outings of the pre-season, both against the Winnipeg Jets, there’s still one big question hanging over the head of coach Bob Hartley: who gets the call between the pipes on opening night?

It’s not that the opening night starter determines once and for all who the Flames’ starting netminder is but it certainly would mean the scales have tipped in favor of one goaltender over the other. The obvious answer, of course, would be that 33-year-old Jonas Hiller, Calgary’s highest-paid puckstopper, is No. 1 on the depth chart. However, after a post-season that saw Hiller lose his starting gig to 29-year-old Karri Ramo, there remains a battle for the crease.

It was the post-season that really sparked the questions, too. After starting the first five games of the opening-round series against the Vancouver Canucks, Hiller was yanked in the series-deciding sixth game after surrendering two goals on three shots. Ramo stepped into goal, stopped 17 of 19 shots and the Flames roared back for a 7-4 victory. Hiller got back in goal to start the second-round against the Anaheim Ducks, his former team, but after allowing three goals on 14 shots, he was pulled and Ramo started the remaining four games of a five-game defeat at the hands of Anaheim.

The questions were almost resolved with Ramo set to become an unrestricted free agent, but he signed a one-year, $3.8-million deal to remain in Calgary. But the pre-season battle hasn’t yielded a runaway candidate in goal. Read more

What impact will Brodie and Seidenberg injuries have on Flames, Bruins?

Dominik Luszczyszyn
T.J. Brodie (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

The Calgary Flames will be without one of their key cogs for a while as T.J. Brodie will be sidelined three-to-six weeks thanks to a broken bone in his hand that occurred in Monday’s pre-season tilt with the Oilers.

It’s rough that the injury occurred during meaningless pre-season action, but it does give Brodie two extra weeks to recover which means that he likely only misses 3-13 games. The question is just how big of a loss that is to the Flames.

That’s where a stat like WAR is especially helpful. We’ve been rolling out projections based on WAR with our daily season previews using this method and we can apply the same concept to Brodie’s injury. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Hiller could be odd man out in Flames crease

Jonas Hiller turns aside Bo Horvat (Derek Leung/Getty Images)

The Calgary Flames entered training camp carrying three goaltenders in Jonas Hiller, Karri Ramo and promising Joni Ortio. At some point, they’ll have to address this potential log jam between the pipes.

Should the 24-year-old Ortio have a strong training camp, the Calgary Sun’s Eric Francis speculates Hiller could become the odd man out. Despite winning 26 games last season, the Swiss netminder was often inconsistent. The 33-year-old is entering the final year of his two-year contract carrying a cap hit of $4.5 million.

Ramo, meanwhile, is on a one-year, $3.8 million deal. Ortio is carrying an affordable $600K salary this season, but he can’t be demoted without first passing through waivers. Given his potential, a rival club is sure to pluck him off the wire. Read more

Why predicting the NHL standings is such a difficult task

Dominik Luszczyszyn
Flames players celebrate a 3-1 home win over L.A. – and making the 2014-15 playoffs  – in front of a raucous home crowd in Calgary. (Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

We’re one month away from the beginning of the NHL season, which means the arrival of a something different: a prediction season. Everyone is about to start making predictions because they’re fun to do and think about, but no matter how different they are, they’ll all have one thing in common…they will be wrong. Predicting the NHL season is a tough task and an easy way for even the savviest hockey minds to look foolish 1,230 games later.

Last season, Rob Vollman, author of Hockey Abstract, collected 106 sets of expert predictions and found that the average prediction was off by almost two divisional standing spots per team, or 54 spots overall. That’s only slightly better than the standings from the previous season, while the best predictions were off by 44 spots overall.

The reason that we all fail is that the number of ways a season can go is very large and very random. To show that, here’s a little experiment that compares a team’s talent level on paper to what could theoretically happen as a direct result of that talent. Read more