Great news for Canadiens fans: P.K. Subban files for arbitration

Ken Campbell
PK Subban

The Montreal Canadiens and star defenseman P.K. Subban will live in contractual harmony for at least one more season, probably two. That was guaranteed when Subban filed for salary arbitration before the Saturday deadline.

And while the league has long been opposed to the arbitration process, this is not necessarily a bad thing for either Subban or the Canadiens on a couple of fronts. First, it is certain Subban will not be embroiled in a contract dispute with the Canadiens and will be in training camp the day it opens in September. Second, it protects the Canadiens from having another team submit an offer sheet on Subban. And finally, if it goes all the way to arbitration, it ensures that Subban will be neither overpaid nor underpaid. Read more

Compliance buyouts have been very, very good to these guys

Lecavalier

When Mikhail Grabovski signed a four-year deal with the New York Islanders that will pay him $5 million a season, he pretty much hit the jackpot. Not the Vincent Lecavalier jackpot, mind you, but the windfall was still mind-boggling.

That’s because Grabovski is one of 28 players who are being paid not to play hockey for the teams that originally signed them under the leagues’ compliance buyout system. You know the one. It’s the buyouts that essentially have given teams a mulligan on bad contracts that were signed before the last collective bargaining agreement. It’s also the one the NHL Players’ Association seemed dead-set against having part of the new system, although when you see the money that teams threw around, you’d have to wonder why. Read more

Red Wings left out in the cold after years of ruling NHL

Boyle

All right, so now that (almost) all the dust has cleared in Free Agent Frenzy 2014, here are some thoughts on Day 1 of a crazy off-season:

MOTOWN NO TOWN FOR FREE AGENTS Let me get this straight. Dan Boyle took less money and term to sign with the New York Rangers than he could have received from the Detroit Red Wings. What is this, Opposite Day?

After pretty much ruling the NHL for the past two decades, the Detroit Red Wings have fallen on hard times indeed. Remember the days when free agency would open and the Red Wings would basically open for business, basically telling whichever veterans stars they wanted that playing for the Red Wings was a privilege? The Red Wings never begged and they never got turned down. Read more

Pens GM Jim Rutherford had the book on Kasperi Kapanen

Kapanen

PHILADELPHIA – Bits and bytes from the 2014 NHL draft that didn’t quite make it into cyberspace, but have full blog potential when compiled as a compendium:

KAP TALK To say that Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford has been scouting Kasperi Kapanen for a long time would be an understatement. Rutherford made history Friday night when he became the first GM in NHL history to draft both a father and a son. Back in 1995, he drafted Sami Kapanen 87th overall for the Hartford Whalers, then 19 years later, took Kasperi 22nd overall for the Pittsburgh Penguins in this draft.

“Do you know anybody else who’s done that?” Rutherford said of drafting the father-son combo. “We drafted Sami in 1995 and he had a son in 1996. I used to watch (Kasperi) on the ice when he just started skating and I end up drafting him.” Read more

Canucks were doomed to be fleeced on Ryan Kesler trade from the start

Ken Campbell
Kelser

PHILADELPHIA – There are probably only two people in the hockey world who were colossally disappointed with the return the Vancouver Canucks got for Ryan Kesler. One of them, we’ll call every single fan of the Vancouver Canucks. The other is Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray.

Now that is not to say that new Canucks GM Jim Benning swung and missed when he dealt Kesler to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Nick Boninio, Luca Sbisa and the 24th pick in today’s NHL draft. In fact, given the circumstances, Benning got as much as he could have hoped. He was in an untenable situation and made the best of it, so good for him. And if he turns that pick and the sixth overall selection into a higher pick in this year’s draft, then the deal becomes better. Read more

Free agent “courting period” valuable for players and teams

Ken Campbell
Paul Stastny

According to Sperling’s Best Places (www.bestplaces.net), you’d have to make in excess of $23 million to play for the Los Angeles Kings in order to earn the equivalent of $5 million with the St. Louis Blues. So if I’m Blues GM Doug Armstrong and I’m chasing free agents, this is very valuable information starting today.

Apparently Hazelwood, Mo., where many of the Blues players live, is more than four times cheaper to live than Manhattan Beach, Calif., where many of the Kings players live. That same $5 million in suburban St. Louis equates to $9.9 million in Tarrytown, N.Y., and $9.8 million in Wilmington, Mass.

This is actually one thing that gives smaller markets such as Buffalo, Nashville, Pittsburgh and St. Louis a huge advantage over their big-market competitors. Sure, the Rangers and Leafs and Bruins have a lot more money to throw around, but just check out the cost of a house and private schools because you’re going to need it. Read more

Tony Gwynn’s tragic death from chewing tobacco is a wakeup call for the NHL and hockey world

Adam Proteau
Tony Gwynn (Photo by Bill Wechter/Getty Images)

The cancer that took the life of baseball legend Tony Gwynn Monday was attributed – by the Hall-of-Famer himself – to years of chewing tobacco use. That habit is still pervasive in that sport – but also in hockey. And not just in the NHL. From a troublingly early age, hockey players are using chewing tobacco – or “dip” – because of the instant jolt of energy it provides to users. But clearly, there is a huge price to be paid for indulging in it.

And it’s high time hockey, at all levels, made a concerted effort to educate and legislate it out of the sport.

Part of the problem is the optics of chewing tobacco use. If players sat on the bench with cigarettes dangling from the corner of their mouths, they’d be rightfully ridiculed and ostracized. But the picture of a player who has a cheek bulging with chewing tobacco doesn’t have the same stigma. Indeed, it’s been romanticized for decades now and indirectly marketed to children.

So it’s no surprise generations of hockey-playing teenagers continue to use it, get hooked on it, and suffer the consequences later in life. All they know is the short-term buzz, and by the time they make their way through the junior hockey and pro hockey scenes, it’s an established part of their being.

“It makes me feel relaxed and it feels nice to put one up there,” former Leaf and current Red Wings goalie Jonas Gustavsson told The Toronto Star in 2011. “It’s more like a pleasure thing.”

It’s a “pleasure thing” only because more hasn’t been done to show players the long-term effects of the agonizing plagues to which chewing tobacco can lead. Read more

Brad Richards, Marc-Andre Fleury lead list of contract buyout candidates

Marc-Andre Fleury (Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

With the NHL’s 2013-14 season at an end, teams will immediately embark on making changes to their roster. In addition to trades and free agency, GMs will have, for one last summer, the option to buy out contracts with no salary cap penalty.

The amnesty buyout period, which began last off-season but starts again today, provides each franchise with the opportunity to buy out two contracts; four teams (Chicago, Montreal, Philadelphia and Toronto) used their two buyouts last season, while ten (Detroit, Edmonton, Minnesota, Nashville, New Jersey, the Islanders, Rangers, Tampa Bay, Vancouver and Washington) have bought out one contract. That leaves 16 teams (Anaheim, Boston, Buffalo, Calgary, Carolina, Colorado, Columbus, Dallas, Florida, Los Angeles, Ottawa, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Jose, St. Louis, Winnipeg) with two buyout options), but there’s no guarantee any of those franchises will utilize them.

That said, it’s a virtual certainty a handful of players signed to expensive contracts will be amnestied. In reverse order, here are the top five NHLer contracts likely to be bought out:

5. Anton Volchenkov, Devils. At $4.25 million per season for the next two years, Volchenkov is the fourth-highest paid player on New Jersey – ahead of goalie Cory Schneider ($4 million) – and their top-earning blueliner. However, the 32-year-old Russian plays an average of just 16:47 per game – dead last among Devils D-men. He’s also missed at least 10 games every season since 2006-07.

The Devils currently have $57 million in used salary cap space for the 2014-15 campaign; if they hope to bring back unrestricted free agent defenseman Mark Fayne – and when they need to sign Schneider to a new deal next summer – using Volchenkov’s money will be a big help. Read more