The five least effective trade deadline deals of 2014-15

James Wisniewski (Debora Robinson/Getty Images)

For the past week, the Toronto Blue Jays have owned the sports news cycle thanks to the club’s big time acquisitions of Troy Tulowitzki and David Price ahead of the MLB trade deadline. There’s one problem, though: there’s a possibility that neither trade will actually help get the Blue Jays into the post-season.

The Blue Jays currently sit two games back of a wild-card spot, and, even then, they may find themselves ousted in the one-game playoff between the wild-card teams. If that happens, they will have made two major trades and, especially with regards to the Price trade, have mortgaged their future in a non-playoff year.

This isn’t a problem specific to baseball, however. Every year, teams wheel and deal at the NHL trade deadline with hopes of getting that final piece to put them over the top. This season was a rarity, in that the Chicago Blackhawks’ key addition, Antoine Vermette, actually performed admirably throughout the post-season and helped bring another Cup to the Windy City. In other cases, though, the deals went bust. Such is the case when there can only be one champion.

Here are five deadline deals from the past season that fell flat: Read more

Sven Baertschi gets one-year, one-way deal with Canucks

Jared Clinton
Sven Baertschi (Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

Sven Baertschi has suited up in a mere 69 NHL games since being selected 13th overall in the 2011 draft, but he could more than double that total next season.

The Vancouver Canucks announced late Tuesday they have signed the 22-year-old Baertschi to a one-year, one-way deal that will pay the Swiss winger $900,000 next season. The money is notable if for no other reason than it’s actually a cut in salary from Baertschi’s entry-level contract, on which he had an NHL salary of $925,000.

To say Baertschi has had a turbulent tenure in the NHL would be an understatement. Since being taken by the Calgary Flames in the 2011 draft’s first round, Baertschi has bounced back and forth from WHL to NHL to AHL and back again. Last season alone, Baertschi suited up for the Canucks, Flames, Utica Comets and Adirondack Flames, playing no fewer than five games with each club. The hope now is that he can find a permanent place with the Canucks. Read more

Comparing fitness freak Duncan Keith to your average gym bro

GettyImages-476686530-DuncanKeith

If some gym bro said he works out for half an hour but it takes him almost three hours to do it, you’d probably laugh him off. And you’d be perfectly justified in doing so.

Why, then, is it any different for an NHL player?

Throughout the playoffs, a ton of talk surrounded Duncan Keith and the minutes he logged: 31:06 per game. Fans know that’s a dump-truck load of hockey, but most would be hard-pressed to prove why. After all, numbers-wise, it’s no more than what our gym bro does.

Consider this: Most NHLers average 10 to 20 minutes per game. Only the best play more than 20, while some play fewer than 10. The average shift lasts merely 45 seconds, and players clear the boards 20 to 30 times. All of this occurs over as much as three hours to play an NHL game. Endurance athletes like runners, cyclists and swimmers can go for much longer and do it without pause.

Everyone in the hockey world knows this is one of the most demanding sports to play. Yet few understand what players endure physiologically that makes what they do so difficult.

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Flames defenseman Kris Russell explains the art of the shot block

The Hockey News
Kris Russell (Rich Lam/Getty Images)

By Rachel Villari

The art of blocking shots depends on many different factors, but when the time comes to go down and make the sacrifice, Kris Russell implores one thing is a constant: a sense of fearlessness.

Russell, 28, has risen from a surplus D-man to a second-pairing bat out of hell since he was traded from the Blues in 2013. In two years with the Flames, he has potted 11 goals and 63 points and blocked 484 shots. Of those, 283 came in 2014-15, a new league record. On average last season, he laid out to prevent 3.58 shots a night.

Maybe ignoring the “flight” half of the fight-or-flight instinct is in his blood: Russell’s father, Doug, was a national rodeo bullfighter in his day. Or maybe his unwavering disposition is a contagion that, instead of wiping out the dressing room, invigorates it. “A lot of guys are willing and sacrificing for blocked shots,” Russell said. “That was part of the reason that we were more successful than a lot of people imagined we would be last year. We had guys laying down and blocking shots, guys like Lance Bouma. He’ll lay in front of anything. That’s the fearlessness that’s contagious.” Read more

Rumor Roundup: Franson still looking for fit in free agency

Lyle Richardson
Cody Franson. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

Nearly three weeks into the NHL’s free-agency period, former Nashville Predators and Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Cody Franson remains unsigned. In a free-agent market decidedly thin on quality talent, the 27-year-old blueliner was considered among the top players available.

It was expected Franson would be among the players signed with the first 24 hours of free agency. That he’s still without a contract entering late-July is drawing headlines as free-agent activity slows down.

CBS Sports’ Adam Gretz suggests Franson’s high asking price could be a factor, speculating the blueliner seeks a deal comparable to the annual cap hit ($5.75 million) of Washington’s Matt Niskanen. Gretz also thinks the decline in Franson’s performance following his February trade from Toronto to Nashville hurts his free-agent value.

The Edmonton Journal’s David Staples cites TSN’s Craig Button forewarning Franson’s lack of speed could be an issue. While acknowledging the rearguard’s lumbering style, Staples points out he’s an excellent passer with a strong snapshot from the point. He believes Franson is best suited as a second-pairing defenseman. Read more

Edmonton big winner, insanity big loser in Free Agent Frenzy

Andrej Sekera  (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

The same day Connor McDavid wore his Edmonton Oiler colors for the first time ever on the ice, his bosses were upstairs going about the process of giving him some legitimate NHL players to surround him.

It’s difficult, nay impossible, to declare the winners and losers of a free agent frenzy day before Canada Day has even included, but it’s difficult to not get excited about what’s going on in western Canada these days. The oil patch has been sucked dry of good hockey for so long that sometimes it looked as though neither the Oilers nor the Calgary Flames were ever going to get it right.

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Calgary Flames sign Michael Frolik to five-year, $21.5-million deal

Matt Larkin
Michael Frolik. (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Battle of Alberta gets more interesting by the hour. The Edmonton Oilers have made drastic changes to start the off-season, but the Calgary Flames have been just as active. They made a massive splash last week by acquiring blueliner Dougie Hamilton from the Boston Bruins (and subsequently signing him). On Wednesday, they added an important piece in right winger Michael Frolik on a five-year, $21.5-million deal.

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Flames re-sign goaltender Karri Ramo to one-year deal

Jared Clinton
Karri Ramo (Derek Leung/Getty Images)

He may not be the second coming of Patrick Roy, but Karri Ramo was widely considered the top goaltender among this season’s free agent crop. He won’t be leaving Calgary, however, as the Flames have re-signed the netminder.

According to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, Ramo has signed a one-year, $3.8 million deal to stay in Calgary. The contract means Ramo, who suited up in 34 games for the Flames this past season and posted a record of 15-9-3, will be back to split time with Jonas Hiller in the Flames’ crease. Read more