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
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
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
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
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
Contractual obligations force your trusty correspondent to declare the definitive list of winners and losers from the first day of free agency at a time before the ink is dry on all of the contracts. Who knows who won the day? After all, Thomas Vanek hasn’t even been a healthy scratch as a Detroit Red Wing yet.
With that in mind, we present our Winners and Losers from Canada Day, better known as the Start of Silly Season. If you subscribe to the theory that is held by a number of GMs that more mistakes are made on July 1 than any other day of the year, then perhaps the biggest winners are the teams that did nothing. Maybe it was the Colorado Avalanche, who picked up two players who were not extended qualifying offers and another who was bought out for a total cap hit of $5.3 million.
But that’s no fun. You, dear readers, demand Winners and Losers. Please keep in mind that everyone overpays. So here goes:
The Flames need a rebound after cratering out of the playoff picture this past season and they’re well on their way. After trading for goalie Brian Elliott, Calgary has now signed burly right winger Troy Brouwer – so the Flames have two of the Blues’ best players from the 2016 post-season.
As of today, NHL teams are permitted to get in touch with restricted free agents in advance of the free agency period opening July 1. Which is kind of like when Communist governments would hold elections. The fix is pretty much in. Chances are overwhelming that nobody is going to get an offer sheet, despite the fact you could make an all-star team out of the players who are available.
“Over the years you can probably count the number of visits teams have had with restricted free agents on one hand,” one agent said. “And I don’t think there will be too many this year.”