Los Angeles Kings left winger Milan Lucic is among this summer’s top potential unrestricted free agents. The 27-year-old power forward is enjoying a fine season with the Kings, on pace for a 20-goal, 55-point campaign.
Lucic is completing a three-year, $18-million contract, earning $6.5 million in actual salary this season. On March 8, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported Lucic’s agent and Kings management exchanged contract proposals. He also said they’re in the early stages of talks which could take a while, pointing out how long it took the Kings to re-sign Anze Kopitar earlier this season.
It was a trade that flew under the radar, but Niklas Backstrom, the longtime Minnesota Wild netminder, was dealt to the Calgary Flames at the trade deadline along with a sixth-round pick in exchange for David Jones. And now, after more than a year watching from the sidelines, Backstrom is set to see some game action.
Backstrom, 38, last played an NHL game more than 14 months ago. While with the Wild, Backstrom allowed six goals against on 35 shots against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 51 minutes of action and he never saw the Minnesota net again. Instead, the Wild kept Backstrom up with the team, scratched him for each game and seemed content for the final season of his three-year, $10.25-million deal to tick off without him so much as seeing a single second of game action.
However, the trade to Calgary has offered Backstrom a new opportunity and it appears at least one more NHL game as the Flames are set to give him the start Sunday against the Montreal Canadiens. Read more
Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman won’t look back on the 2015-16 campaign fondly. Already, he has scored at one of the lowest rates of his career, watched his minutes dip and was handed a 20-game suspension that he served 19 games of before an arbitrator reduced it to a 10-game ban. Now, three games after returning from suspension, he’s suffered an upper-body injury that might knock him out of the lineup for a significant period of time.
Wednesday night against the Winnipeg Jets, Wideman started a rush that led to a Flames goal, but he collided with teammate Joe Colborne behind the net as Michael Frolik was knocking the puck home. Frolik and teammates celebrated, but the celebration was quickly halted when the Flames realized Wideman was writhing in the far corner: Read more
It’s hard to say where the Calgary Flames would be right now with better goaltending, but one thing is for certain: this season has been an ugly one for Flames netminders.
Calgary has had troubles almost from the outset of the season. Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo duelled back and forth to begin the year with neither goaltender able to gain the confidence of the coaching staff, Ramo ended up in the AHL before an injury to Hiller resulted in Ramo heading back up and Joni Ortio, thought to be a solid backup option, stumbled and ended up in the AHL as well without a single team putting a waiver claim in on the young netminder. Statistically, too, things were not promising.
With 14 games remaining in the season, the Flames are a near lock to finish with the worst 5-on-5 save percentage of any team in the league. Currently, Calgary’s netminders have combined for a .913 SP at 5-on-5, which would be the worst team SP at five a side of any team in the league. And while it’s not as if the Flames have no company at the bottom — Carolina, Edmonton, Dallas and Montreal are all within .005 of Calgary — it’s clear that any playoff hope GM Brad Treliving had for his squad this season died between the pipes. He doesn’t want that to be the case again. Read more
Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman suited up Friday for the first time since Jan. 27 after serving 19 games of a 20-game suspension that was reduced to 10 games by a neutral arbitrator, but the NHL Officials’ Association believes the wrong message has been sent in taking games off of Wideman’s ban.
In a statement released Saturday, Officials’ Association president Dan O’Halloran said the NHLOA disagrees with the decision made by James Oldham and added that Don Henderson, the linesman hit by Wideman, won’t be back this season due to an injury that is the result of the hit from Wideman. Read more
So 44 days and 19 games after the Dennis Wideman Affair began, we’re where most observers predicted we would be – with Wideman being hit with a 10-game suspension for abusing an official.
And nobody is particularly happy with this. The NHL, which originally mandated a 20-game suspension that was upheld in an appeal to the commissioner, said in a statement, “We strenuously disagree with the Arbitrator’s ruling and are reviewing the opinion in detail to determine what next steps may be appropriate.” That’s code for, “Don’t be surprised to see this thing end up in court.”
The NHL season is winding down, with just about four weeks of regular-season games remaining. There is still much to be determined in the standings, but as winter turns to spring it’s hard not to look ahead to the playoffs.
But the end of the season means it’s also time to look back. We at The Hockey News make a lot of predictions during the summer and fall before the season begins. Sometimes they’re solid, sometimes they’re way off.
These are our worst pre-season predictions:
When this season finally draws to a close, the Calgary Flames will likely be in the market for goaltending depth. Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo are both eligible for UFA status this summer and aren’t expected to be re-signed.
Promising Joni Ortio will get a shot at forming part of the Flames tandem next season, but they’ll still need an experienced NHL starter. Options via the trade market could include Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings and Ondrej Pavelec of the Winnipeg Jets.
If the Flames look toward free agency, the Calgary Sun’s Eric Francis believes San Jose Sharks backup James Reimer could be a good fit. Francis cites the 27-year-old Reimer’s experience as a starting goalie with the Toronto Maple Leafs as reason for the Flames to consider him.