With the Vancouver Canucks having hired a new GM (Jim Benning) and coach (Willie Desjardins), the focus returns to center Ryan Kesler, who remains the target of recent trade speculation.
Earlier this month it was reported Kesler informed Benning he still prefers a trade. There’s been some recent confusion, however, over where the 29-year-old prefers to be dealt. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch claims the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins are Kesler’s only preferences, prompting The Globe & Mail’s Eric Duhatschek to note the difficulty that would create for the Canucks to move him.
The Blackhawks have limited cap space ($4.6 million) for 2014-15 and restricted free agents (Ben Smith, Jeremy Morin and Antti Raanta) to re-sign. They’ll have to either do a dollar-for-dollar swap with the Canucks or convince them to pick up part of Kesler’s salary to squeeze him under their cap. The Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus reports Blackhawks winger Patrick Sharp has been mentioned as a trade candidate, but Sharp has a modified no-trade clause, meaning he’ll have to agree to the deal. Read more
With NHL buzz now shifting from the Stanley Cup and NHL awards to the draft and free agent season, the one thing that hasn’t changed with Kevin Hayes is that he remains unsigned.
Chicago’s first-round draft pick from 2010 has wrapped up his NCAA career after four years at Boston College. While the Blackhawks would like to sign him to a pro contract, they haven’t yet. It’s starting to look as though the Hayes camp is looking for another deal elsewhere. If Chicago doesn’t sign him by Aug. 15, he’ll become an unrestricted free agent.
Just speculating, but one reason why Hayes might not want to sign with the Blackhawks is because he knows they’re a team deep on right wing, both in Chicago and the development system. Behind Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Kris Versteeg and Ben Smith, the Hawks have Ryan Hartman (first-rounder in 2013), Mark McNeill (first-rounder in 2011) and Jeremy Morin (Atlanta’s second-rounder in 2009) all pushing for promotions. It might be a full two years or more in the American League for Hayes, who is 22.
Hayes is a budding power forward who, quite frankly, had three ordinary seasons at Boston College before breaking out in his senior term. The Eagles’ website lists him at 6-foot-4, 216 pounds, which is two inches and 15 pounds more than when Chicago drafted him four years ago.
The backyard pond is an iconic place for many Canadians and growing up in Winnipeg, the Toews boys first demonstrated their competitiveness on such a sheet of ice.
“They played a lot of hours on the backyard pond,” said Bryan Toews, the father of the clan. “A few times we’d see sticks flying, but no bloody noses, so I guess they figured it out.”
Jonathan and David Toews both went on to play the sport at a high level, but the older brother and captain of the Chicago Blackhawks revealed that competition at home would help the brothers abroad.
“He definitely challenged me,” Jonathan said. “He was two years younger, so I shouldn’t have had to worry, but it was always competitive.”
Going through the local youth hockey circuit, Jonathan recalls he and his brother both being at the top of their age groups as they grew up. David was taken in the third round of the 2008 NHL draft by the New York Islanders and followed his older sibling to the University of North Dakota before switching to Brandon of the Western League in 2010-11. Jonathan’s path has already led to the highest echelons of hockey – just as he planned.
“For myself, there was no alternative,” Jonathan said. “One level after another, you get better.”
Jonathan showed promise right from the start. His dad remembers him traipsing through the house in his skates and that passion carried onto the ice.
“He had been skating by the time he was three-and-a-half and had a stride at four,” Bryan said. “That blew my mind.” Read more
There was an item that came out of Toronto this week about the Maple Leafs toying with the idea of moving Jake Gardiner from defense to forward.
GM Dave Nonis told the Toronto Sun’s Steve Buffery the club’s brass has ruminated on the notion, since Gardiner had played some of his formative years up front, but indicated it’s not likely to transpire.
And that’s not surprising. At the NHL level, it’s rare for players to move between the back end and forward for a couple reasons.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office sent shock waves through NFL circles Wednesday with its cancellation of six federal trademark patents for the name “Washington Redskins”. The league’s Washington franchise and its widely-loathed owner Dan Snyder had for years been in the crosshairs of critics who demanded the team change its name from Redskins; Snyder steadfastly threw out lame excuse after lame excuse for not adopting a different team name, but the ruling laid bare the core reason a change was long overdue.
“We decide, based on the evidence properly before us, that these registrations must be cancelled because they were disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered,” the Patent and Trademark Office wrote in its decision.
It’s expected Snyder will appeal Wednesday’s ruling, but he and those who defend the Redskins’ current moniker are standing on a rhetorical ice floe surrounded by heat lamps. It is but a matter of time until he’s forced to admit the battle is lost. That said, the focus on the Redskins name has led to others wondering why the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks aren’t facing similar questions, critiques and demands for change.
The answer is they shouldn’t. The Blackhawks name isn’t drenched in hate and the unspeakably horrific treatment of Native Americans as the Redskins name is. Chicago’s NHL team got its name in 1926, when owner Frederic McLaughlin decided to honor the 333rd Machine Gun Battalion of the 86th Division of the U.S. Army; McLaughlin had served in the unit, whose members called themselves the Black Hawks as a tribute to the Sauk Indian chief who fought alongside the British in the War of 1812.
The Redskins’ name, on the other hand, has undeniably racist, murderous roots. Comedian John Oliver provided a tremendous evisceration of Snyder and the Redskins on his HBO series “Last Week Tonight”: Read more
For a brief span in the early 2000s, the NHL had two European coaches. Ivan Hlinka ran the bench in Pittsburgh, while Alpo Suhonen was in charge of Chicago. It didn’t last long; 168 games combined, to be specific. But with New York Rangers assistant Ulf Samuelsson in the running for the position in Carolina, perhaps NHL teams are willing to look at hockey minds who weren’t born on this continent once again.
The Chicago Blackhawks have been installed by Bodog as the odds-on favorites to win the Stanley Cup in 2015 and if you listened to Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi and coach Darryl Sutter during their Stanley Cup celebration Friday night, you might want to put a few dollars down on the Blackhawks next season.
To hear the GM and coach of the best team in the NHL this season tell it, they feel the best team in the NHL last season is the biggest obstacle between them and a Stanley Cup repeat. The Blackhawks, you might remember, battled back from a 3-1 deficit to the Kings and lost in overtime in Game 7 of the Western Conference final. Read more
LOS ANGELES – Once again, the Stanley Cup final provided Eastern Conference teams a glimpse of what they’re up against when it comes to building legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. And once again, the Western Conference proved so superior that it’s almost as though teams in the east and west are playing in two different leagues.
Not only did a Western Conference team win the Stanley Cup for the sixth time in nine years since the 2004-05 lockout, it wasn’t even close. Don’t let the fact that three of the five games of the Stanley Cup final between the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers went to overtime fool you. Read more