For those NHL players who don’t step willingly into retirement, there eventually comes a day when UFA stands for unwanted free agent rather than unrestricted free agent.
As July ends and August begins, we’re now closer to the start of NHL training camps than we are the final game of the Stanley Cup playoffs. For unsigned UFAs, that’s an added layer of anxiety. What if nobody wants me and I’ve played my last NHL game?
Take a browse through capgeek.com and you’ll see half the NHL teams are already at the 23-man NHL roster limit. Another nine teams are at 22 players. And that doesn’t even include the several dozen or so non-roster rookie prospects who will surely make big-league rosters in October.
So not a lot of roster openings remain.
If Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel and Noah Hanifin are the top three amigos for the 2015 NHL draft, the Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes and Calgary Flames are their top three suitors.
Yesterday, my esteemed boss Jason Kay wrote a blog wondering if the Sabres killed their chances of winning the McDavid sweepstakes by filling out their roster with established veterans Matt Moulson, Brian Gionta, Josh Gorges, Andrej Meszaros and Cody McCormick. No need to worry, the Sabres aren’t going anywhere other than 30th place.
The New York Post’s Larry Brooks believes the Rangers should get busy re-signing defenseman Marc Staal. The 27-year-old blueliner is eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer. His cap hit for this season is $3.98 million.
Barring another concussion for Staal, Brooks believes the blueliner could command at least a six-year deal worth $5.5 million annually. If the Rangers don’t believe Staal’s worth that much, Brooks recommends investigating his trade value.
The Carolina Hurricanes could be among the clubs willing to pursue Staal via trade this season or free agency next summer. Brothers Eric and Jordan are already on the Hurricanes roster. Perhaps the addition of Marc could provide extra incentive for Eric – whose contract expires in 2016 – to sign an extension next summer. Read more
Commitments tend to slow down a bit in the late spring and early summer, so I’ve put together a batch of pledges from recent months for another roundup of NCAA news. As per usual, these commitments were culled from College Hockey Inc. and the excellent page it maintains on the topic.
When the NHL made its most recent realignment, last season, it reemphasized the importance of divisional play by also restructuring its playoff format. The wild card element throws a bit of a wrench into it from year-to-year, but for the most part, teams have to play their first two playoff rounds against division rivals – and that means a weaker division has the potential to make the road to the Stanley Cup easier for the team that can emerge from it.
I’d argue that’s one of the reasons the New York Rangers qualified for the Cup Final this past spring. They faced a flawed Flyers team in the first round and a Penguins squad in the second that had serious issues of its own before they beat the injury-depleted Canadiens in the Eastern Conference final. You have to give the Blueshirts credit for their resilience, but they had a much easier go of it than, say, Los Angeles or Chicago.
So which division is shaping up to be the NHL’s weakest in 2014-15? It’s not in the Western Conference, that’s for sure. Six of the Central Division’s seven teams (every one but Winnipeg) have a bona fide shot at making the playoffs, and the California Trinity Of Doom, combined with the desperation to make the playoffs in Vancouver and Edmonton, makes the Pacific Division daunting as well.
So, the “honor” of the league’s worst division has to go to either the Metropolitan or the Atlantic. And although the Atlantic has seen more separation between the haves and have-nots of its teams this off-season, I’d still make the case the Metro is the weaker of the two. Read more
The Carolina Hurricanes logo is the first one to get rolled out in our 2014 summer logo rankings – unfortunately for them, we’re counting down from worst to first.
Yes, the Hurricanes have a terrible logo, one that was almost unanimously voted No. 30 by a group of seven THN staffers. It’s most commonly referred to as the Toilet Bowl logo because, well, it looks like it’s being flushed.
Carolina’s logo is, of course, based on the swirling system of a hurricane. Maybe it’s just difficult to come up with a logo based on weather. The Guelph Storm logo would rank low on our Ontario League list, as would the Cincinnati Cyclones in an ECHL ranking.
What else can you do with a Hurricanes logo? Well that’s up to you. As part of our NHL logo ranking, we’re opening it up to you the reader to get creative and re-design each NHL logo, or just the teams that interest you. Each day that we unveil a new logo in our ranking, that team’s redesign contest will open. At the conclusion of our top 30 rankings, we will reveal the best logo redesigns across the NHL.
Think you can do a better job with Carolina’s logo? Well here’s your chance. Send us a completely new design (even change the color scheme to Hartford green if you want) and we’ll display the best. Let those creative juices flow and see if you can make the cut!
Send all entries to email@example.com
(All logos below are from Chris Creamer’s website)
HISTORY OF THE HURRICANES LOGO
The Hurricanes franchise didn’t start in Carolina, of course, or even in the NHL. The origins of this team can be found with the WHA’s New England Whalers, who started out in 1972-73. They became the first WHA champions that season and were one of the better franchises until the NHL merger in 1979.
All the big free agents are off the board and the trade dominoes have fallen. While some players still need homes for next season, the difference-makers are gone: Ryan Kesler, Jason Spezza and Matt Niskanen among them. Will a David Legwand or Dany Heatley turn a team’s fortunes? Probably not. So while it’s very early, let’s take a look at one of the more intriguing subplots of the upcoming season: The Connor McDavid Derby.
You’d hope by now it wouldn’t need to be said that the real winners of the NHL’s annual first day of free agency are at least as often as not the teams that don’t throw lavish contracts at every flavor of the summer. Today’s impulse buy can become tomorrow’s cold-blooded buyout quicker than ever – ask former Rangers captain and new Blackhawks center Brad Richards – and nobody can predict with absolute certainty how any player will fit into his new environment.
Nevertheless, when all teams come away from this first day spinning it as working in their favor, somebody has to try and make sense of it all. That’s what this free agency winners/losers column is all about: one opinion on which teams can realistically claim to have improved, and which ones you can argue have hurt themselves with their activity – or, as the case may be, their lack of action:
The Stars signed winger Ales Hemsky to a very reasonable (three-year, $12-million) deal and added worker bee forward Patrick Eaves and backup goalie Anders Lindback via free agency, but their best acquisition Tuesday was the trade with Ottawa for center Jason Spezza. Nill made his team significantly better up front at very little cost to the roster – and, just as importantly, he’s given up virtually no contract flexibility (he’ll have some $35.4 million in cap space to spend next summer) to do it. In this day and age, that’s as much as you can ask for on free agent day.