Brian Elliott excited for full-time starting gig, ready to be ‘the rock’ for Flames

Jared Clinton
Brian Elliott (via Calgary Flames/NHL)

Brian Elliott has never appeared in more than 55 games in an entire campaign, but after five stellar seasons, the Calgary Flames are finally giving him the opportunity to prove that he can be a true No. 1 netminder in the league. And Elliott couldn’t be more excited.

During his Flames introductory press conference Wednesday, Elliott, 31, said that goaltenders want to be wanted, and it’s not hard to understand why he may have felt as though he was never meant to be anything more than a part-time starter in St. Louis. When the Flames sent a second- and conditional third-round pick to the Blues ahead of the draft to acquire Elliott, it made it clear that Calgary views Elliott as the full-time starter. It will be his first shot at the role, too.

Though he spent the past five seasons as part of the Blues, the first three years in St. Louis were spent sharing the net with Jaroslav Halak. And when Elliott was finally starting to look like he could take the job from Halak on a nightly basis, the Blues dealt for Ryan Miller, who stayed no longer than one post-season run. Miller’s exit was followed by the emergence of Jake Allen and Elliott was again sharing starting duties. But while all of this was happening around him, Elliott continued to put up better numbers than any of his goaltending partners without being handed the full-time reins.

“There’s only one net out there and both guys want to play,” Elliott said. “That’s what’s tough about trying to be a good partner and a good teammate when both guys want to be in the net. You don’t make it to this level without treating every practice, treating every workout, treating every game like a No. 1 goaltender. I like to say you’re selling yourself short if you’re just going out there to be a backup.

“It’s something that I’ve worked hard for my whole career. Just to get that opportunity, that’s all you want. It’s what you do with that opportunity.” Read more

Arbitration clearly works, so why not make it available to more players?

Mike Hoffman  (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

It should really come as no surprise that of the 25 players who were slated to go to salary arbitration this summer, none has actually sat in front of the arbitrator and 22 of them have resulted in contract resolutions. That’s pretty much the standard these days.

And it should also come as no surprise if the remaining three are resolved well in advance of their hearings. Well, except Tyson Barrie of the Colorado Avalanche, largely because we have no idea what Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy are thinking these days. He actually might end up going. He’s slated for Thursday. (Martin Marincin of the Toronto Maple Leafs is scheduled for Aug. 2 and Michael Stone of the Arizona Coyotes is on the docket for Aug. 4.)

Read more

Three playoff teams who could miss in 2016-17, and three non-playoff teams who could get in

Claude Giroux (Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

Playoff turnover is a hallmark of the NHL’s salary cap era. It’s rare to see a single franchise entrenched in a contending position for decades at a time. The Detroit Red Wings are the remarkable exception. Typically, we see plenty of playoff squads slide out of the picture from one season to the next, while several also-rans sneak back into the big dance.

Five Canadian teams qualified for the playoffs in 2014-15, and all five missed in 2015-16. The Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators and Winnipeg Jets slipped out, replaced by the Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Florida Panthers and Dallas Stars. The 2015-16 playoff picture consisted of 31.25 percent “new” teams. That’s down from 43.75 percent the year prior but still constitutes significant turnover.

Chances are, it’ll happen again in 2016-17. Which recent qualifiers might slip out of the post-season and which might claw their way back in?

Read more

Calgary’s Sam Bennett beginning a Flaming ‘C’ of change

The Hockey News
Sam Bennett (Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

By Randy Sportak

Based on his rookie season, Sam Bennett could be in line for a nickname. Or a different set of digits on his sweater.

The Calgary Flames’ up-and-coming center/winger was known as ‘18-year-old Sam Bennett’ during the team’s 2015 playoff series against the Vancouver Canucks (a phrase that apparently drove some Canucks fans absolutely bonkers), and that number followed him to the end of 2015-16. Just check out the stats from Bennett’s freshman campaign: 18 goals, 18 assists and not just one but two 18-game goal-scoring slumps.

It could be enough for a spinoff version of the theory that most events in the world can be connected to The Number 23, and the basis for one of the stranger Jim Carrey movies in his eclectic career.

As Bennett looks back on his first full NHL year and forward to his sophomore season, the biggest element he vows to address is consistency, not so much an indictment on his production but those lengthy goal droughts. “That’s part of my job and part of my role with the team, to generate offense,” said Bennett, who actually threw an imaginary monkey off his back after snapping the first of those goal-scoring slumps. Read more

NHL dismisses neutral arbitrator who ruled on Dennis Wideman suspension

Jared Clinton
Dennis Wideman (Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

James Oldham’s most notable decision as the NHL and NHLPA’s neutral arbitrator appears as if it will also be his last.

According to the Sports Business Journal’s Liz Mullen, the NHL has dismissed Oldham from his post as neutral arbitrator. Oldham, a law professor at Georgetown University, was the arbitrator assigned to the Dennis Wideman suspension case. Oldham’s decision on the suspension saw the Calgary Flames defenseman have his 20-game suspension for checking linesman Don Henderson reduced to 10 games.

It was well within the NHL’s power to relieve Oldham of his duties, and either side would have had the power to do so if they believed it was time for a change in neutral arbitrator. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Oldham’s time with the league is up, though, considering the NHL has since sought to have Oldham’s biggest decision, the reduction of Wideman’s original 20-game ban, overruled. Read more

The five early off-season moves that will have the biggest impact

Brian Elliott (Dilip Vishwanat/NHLI via Getty Images)

There’s still nearly three months until the NHL campaign opens, which will leave the league’s 30 teams with ample time to tune and tweak their rosters as opening night approaches.

However, a few teams have made big splashes this off-season. Some have gotten creative, such as the Arizona Coyotes and Florida Panthers, by trading for a player’s exclusive negotiating rights to ink them to a deal before free agency opened, while others have gone the more traditional route, like the Boston Bruins, who shelled out a five-year, $30-million deal to David Backes.

Meanwhile, some clubs have gone the trade route, with the New Jersey Devils and Edmonton Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens and Nashville Predators linking up to make one-for-one deals that both teams hope will improve their situations going forward.

And though there are still a number of free agents who could sign and make a difference next season, the biggest names are off the market. So here are the five off-season moves that have been made (so far) that will have the biggest impact this coming season: Read more

Monahan seeking long-term deal, says he wants to be Flame for rest of his career

Jared Clinton
Sean Monahan (Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Calgary Flames have done pretty well for themselves this off-season. The Flames shored up their goaltending with the acquisitions of Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson, brought in veteran winger Troy Brouwer and even made some depth signings, bringing in Linden Vey and Alex Chiasson.

The most important part of the Flames’ off-season have yet to happen, though, as Calgary GM Brad Treliving has yet to lock up the talented duo of Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan to new contracts. Both restricted free agents, the 22- and 21-year-old forwards are set to cash in this off-season, and there has been talk that the Flames could try to get both inked to big money, long-term deals. And while all’s quiet on the Gaudreau front, a long-term deal that keeps Monahan in Calgary seems to be exactly what the center wants.

Speaking with TSN’s Gino Reda, Monahan said that the hold up at this point is that coming to terms on a new contract is “a process” and the two sides are trying to find a deal that works for both sides. But Monahan said he was hopeful, and he definitely sounds like a player who wants to be in a Flames uniform to start the 2016-17 season. Read more

Five important signings to watch for as the off-season continues

Jared Clinton
Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau (Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

The past three days has seen three major signings of two distinct varieties, with each contract likely setting the bar for negotiations that will take place throughout the summer.

The biggest news, of course, was the gargantuan eight-year, $76-million deal signed by Jamie Benn that will see the Stars captain remain in Dallas for what looks to be most of his career. Benn’s signing — as well as deals inked earlier in the year by Anze Kopitar and Steven Stamkos — will set the bar for the contracts of star players going forward.

In addition to Benn’s deal were deals for St. Louis Blues winger Jaden Schwartz and Tampa Bay Lightning winger Alex Killorn, deals which helped the respective teams avoid arbitration with players who’ve become key parts of each team’s core group. Schwartz’s deal sees him paid $5.35 million per season, while Killorn’s cap hit comes at $4.45 million. Both could have an impact on the contracts signed by a number of restricted free agents who’ve yet to be locked up.

With salary arbitration cases coming soon and ongoing discussions between teams and their pending free agents continuing throughout the summer, here are five more contracts worth keeping an eye on as the off-season rolls on. Read more