Top 5 NHL stars-turned-coaches

Larry Robinson (Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Members of the NHL’s coaching community come from a wide variety of backgrounds – some, like Canucks coach Willie Desjardins, have degrees in social work; others, like Dallas’ Lindy Ruff, are hockey lifers with a background as a worker bee NHLer – but, for the most part, very few of the game’s elite stars have found success as bench bosses. The reasons for it are complex, but by-and-large, the best of the best usually prefer to spend their time away from the type of high-pressure environment occupied by a coach in hockey’s top league. And that’s why news the Red Wings were close to naming Hockey-Hall-of-Famer Chris Chelios as an assistant to new head coach Jeff Blashill is interesting: you rarely see a former player of his calibre at ice level without his equipment on.

Who are the best modern-era players who have evolved into NHL coaches or assistant coaches? Here are the Top 5:

5. Adam Oates. Like the other players who made this list, Oates is a Hall-of-Famer who amassed 1,420 points in 1,337 regular-season games and is regarded as one of the better playmakers in league history. He began his post-career coaching days as an assistant in Tampa Bay and then New Jersey, before the Capitals made him their head coach in June of 2012. And although he failed to make the playoffs in two years guiding the Capitals before he was fired at the end of the 2013-14 campaign, Oates quickly returned behind the bench with the Devils as a “co-coach” alongside Scott Stevens midway through this past year. He’ll likely get another shot, at least, as an assistant, with another NHL franchise. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Blackhawks will have to get creative to re-sign Saad

Brandon Saad

Chicago Blackhawks left winger Brandon Saad is garnering favorable reviews for his performance in this year’s NHL playoffs. Entering Game Six of the Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the 22-year-old Saad’s eight goals ranks him among the Blackhawks leading post-season scorers..

Factor in Saad’s solid regular-season numbers and it’s clear the Hawks have a rising star on their hands. It’s also increased the possibility he could receive an offer sheet in the off-season.

Saad, 22, is coming off an entry-level deal and lacks arbitration rights. Blackhawks management obviously intends to re-sign him, but with over $64 million tied up in cap payroll for 2015-16 they won’t have enough to ink Saad, re-sign RFA forward Marcus Kruger and replace their departed unrestricted free agents. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Kessel, Malkin and Nash in new locales next season?

Rick Nash. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

The days leading up to the NHL draft, which this year is June 26-27, are typically when the most off-season trade activity takes place, so it’s no surprise some big names are resurfacing in the trade rumor mill.

Of these, few are bigger than Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin. During an appearance on Sportsnet 960 The Fan in Calgary, Elliotte Friedman said there were rumblings around the league over Malkin’s growing unhappiness with the Penguins.

Friedman suspects season-ending comments from team president-CEO David Morehouse (claiming Malkin, captain Sidney Crosby, coach Mike Johnston and GM Jim Rutherford would return next season) were meant to address that speculation. He doesn’t know if the Penguins intend to trade Malkin, and with the club about to go up for sale, doubts such a move occurs until that’s completed.

Reactions to Friedman’s remarks were swift. Malkin’s agent, J.P. Barry, told Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette he was puzzled over the origin of these rumors, claiming they weren’t coming from him or his client. Pittsburgh sportswriter Dejan Kovacevic claimed Friedman’s information was erroneous, citing Malkin’s season-ending remarks expressing his happiness living and playing in Pittsburgh. Friedman subsequently backtracked from his remarks.

Given the Penguins decline in recent years, it’s understandable if Malkin feels frustrated over the club’s direction. However, his public comments and those of his agent aren’t suggestive of someone who might welcome a trade. Even if he did want out, the upcoming sale of the team certainly would make it difficult to fulfill that wish. Even if Penguins management wanted to move Malkin, his full no-movement clause complicates that option.

MAPLE LEAFS GETTING CALLS ON KESSEL

Friedman also reports a handful of teams spoke with the Toronto Maple Leafs during the recent NHL Draft Combine in Buffalo regarding their asking price for right winger Phil Kessel. He believes if a trade happens it probably won’t take place for at least a couple of weeks. That’s likely because NHL teams are waiting to find out what the salary cap will be for 2015-16.

Over the second half of this season, the 27-year-old Kessel was a frequent subject of trade speculation. He has seven years remaining on his contract at an annual cap hit of $8 million plus a partial no-trade clause. It’s believed the Leafs wish to move him for a return of younger, more affordable assets.

Despite criticism over Kessel’s conditioning and defensive play, he’s reached the 30-goal mark five times. He’s led the Leafs in scoring every season since joining the club in 2009. There is a market for a player of his offensive skills.

Kessel’s salary, however, could be a sticking point. Two-thirds of the NHL’s 30 clubs have cap payrolls in excess of $55 million for ’15-’16. Of those, 13 have payrolls over $60 million. With the salary cap projected to modestly increase from $69 million to $71 million, that doesn’t leave many clubs with the cap space to comfortably absorb his contract. To consummate a deal, the Leafs could be forced to pick up part of Kessel’s salary.

NASH’S TIME UP IN NEW YORK?

A week after the New York Post’s Larry Brooks floated the notion of the New York Rangers trading winger Rick Nash to shed some salary, TSN’s Bob McKenzie weighed in with his thoughts on the Rangers exploring the possibility of trading their 30-year-old leading scorer.

McKenzie notes the Rangers’ limited salary-cap space for 2015-16 and their need to re-sign restricted free agent center Derek Stepan and left winger Carl Hagelin. He notes that Nash, who has three years remaining on his contract at an annual cap hit of $7.8 million, still has a full no-trade clause. However, it will become a partial NTC on July 1.

With a cap payroll of $59.5 million for 2015-16, it could cost the Rangers over $9 million in combined salary re-signing Stepan and Hagelin. That won’t leave much room to re-sign forwards center J.T. Miller and right winger Jesper Fast, let alone sufficient space to replace pending UFAs Martin St-Louis and James Sheppard.

If trading Nash isn’t an option, Rangers management will have to prune elsewhere. One option could be moving out one of their defenseman. Dan Boyle, who has a year left on his contract at $4.5 million, seems a likely candidate. However, the 38-year-old’s best seasons are behind him and he carries a no-movement clause.

STAMKOS EXPECTED TO RE-SIGN LONG TERM

What would the early-June rumor mill be without trade rumors regarding one of the Stanley Cup finalists? And no, we’re not talking about the cap-strapped Chicago Blackhawks.

The Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons recently took note of Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos’ limited ice time during the playoffs. He suggests Stamkos isn’t a favorite of Lightning coach Jon Cooper and wonders if that might force the 25-year-old superstar to reconsider re-signing with Tampa Bay.

Stamkos is an unrestricted free agent next summer so his future with the Lightning will obviously be a topic of interest. However, considering the Bolts’ status as a Cup contender, there’s little reason why Stamkos would want to seek greener pastures. Unless his contract talks become contentious, it’s expected he will re-sign an expensive long-term extension.

DEFENSEMEN WILSON, HEJDA OUT IN COLORADO

The Colorado Avalanche have six NHL-ready blueliners under contract for next season and, according to the Denver Post’s Mike Chambers, the club looks ready to part ways with defensemen Jan Hejda and Ryan Wilson.

While it’s not the most fearsome roster of blueliners, the Avalanche have Erik Johnson, Brad Stuart, Tyson Barrie, Nick Holden, Nate Guenin and Zach Redmond locked up through at least 2015-16. With nearly $11 million remaining under the salary cap, Colorado could dip into the free agent pool to solidify their top six and use a current blueliner as a depth option.

This past season, the Avalanche were in the bottom third of the league in goals against. If they can improve their defensive play, they can make strides in 2015-16.

Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

Avalanche pursuing Swedish league scorer, MVP Derek Ryan

Derek Ryan (City-Press/Getty Images)

Steve Moses made his mark in the KHL last season and landed himself an NHL deal with the Nashville Predators for 2015-16. Now, it appears center Derek Ryan, who was the SHL’s leading scorer this past campaign, may follow suit as the Colorado Avalanche, St. Louis Blues and Toronto Maple Leafs are pursuing him.

According to The Denver Post’s Mike Chambers, those three clubs are the ones still, “in the mix,” for Ryan, but it’s believed that the Avalanche are the frontrunners. Chambers reports that Ryan and the Avalanche are still in the negotiating stage of the contract, but that, if worked out, Ryan could land himself a two-way deal for 2015-16. Read more

Avalanche assistant coaches Tourigny, Duhamel won’t be back with team

Jared Clinton
Andre Tourigny speaks with Patrick Roy. (Michael Martin/Getty Images)

Patrick Roy will still be behind the Colorado Avalanche bench next season, but two of the men supporting him will be fresh faces on his staff.

The Denver Post’s Mike Chambers reported Monday evening that Avalanche assistant coaches Andre Tourigny and Mario Duhamel both won’t be back with the team next season, instead looking for coaching gigs of their own. Read more

NHL announces Jack Adams Award finalists: Flames’ Bob Hartley, Rangers’ Alain Vigneault, & Preds’ Peter Laviolette

Alain Vigneault

The NHL announced Wednesday the finalists for this year’s Jack Adams Award as the league’s top coach: Calgary’s Bob Hartley, Nashville’s Peter Laviolette, and the Rangers’ Alain Vigneault.

The Jack Adams Award, presented since 1974 to the head coach deemed to have “contributed the most to his team’s success,” is voted on by members of the NHL Broadcasters’ Association. There are worthy candidates beyond the three finalists this year, but there’s no arguing the finalists aren’t as worthy of the honor as anyone else. Read more

Rumor Roundup: What trades will the Penguins make this summer?

Pittsburgh Penguins (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

When the Pittsburgh Penguins marched to two consecutive Stanley Cup finals (winning the Cup in 2009), future championship success seemed assured. This season, however, the Penguins barely qualified for the playoffs, prompting suggestions that their once-promising championship window is closing.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist Josh Yohe believes this spring could be the final go-around for the current Penguins roster, suggesting changes could be coming in the off-season. While rumors recently made the rounds claiming Evgeni Malkin or possibly captain Sidney Crosby could be shopped, Yohe reports the club’s organization has no intention of parting with neither them nor goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, unless they ask to be moved.

As for others on the current lineup who were part of the Penguins’ last Cup run, Yohe notes questions concerning how the health of top defenseman Kris Letang (concussion) and right winger Pascal Dupuis (blood clots) could affect their playing careers. He also suggests the declining performances of left winger Chris Kunitz and defenseman Rob Scuderi could tempt Penguins management to unload their contracts, while aging right winger Craig Adams probably won’t be re-signed this summer. Read more

Hi, my name is Ken…and I’m addicted to the draft lottery simulator

Connor McDavid (Photo by Ken Andersen/Getty Images)

Spoiler alert: The Buffalo Sabres will win tonight’s NHL draft lottery with the numbers 11, 5, 6 and 7. Your trusty correspondent knows this because he went to this really cool website that simulates the NHL draft lottery and it told him so.

Then he did it 99 more times because, like a certain potato chip, you can’t do it only once. The website, http://nhllotterysimulator.com/#/official, took on a new life on Friday when the NHL made public the lottery number combinations for each of the 14 teams in the event. Suddenly, fans everywhere could, with the click of a keyboard, determine where Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel will end up next season. Read more