Rumor Roundup: Do the Calgary Flames want Jason Spezza?

Jason Spezza (Photo by Francois Laplante/FreestylePhoto/Getty Images)

The NHL’s buyout period has begun and runs to 5 p.m. EST June 30. This year is also the final one where teams can use compliance buyouts to shed contracts without the calculation counting against their salary cap.

The Hockey News’ Matt Larkin recently summarized the details of the buyout calculation and provided a listing of teams that have one or both compliance buyouts remaining. Only players under contract prior to Sept. 15, 2012 are eligible for such buyouts.

It’s expected Buffalo Sabres winger Ville Leino will receive such a buyout. The Buffalo News’ John Vogl reports Leino’s agent, Markus Lehto, has had a “few very short discussions” with Sabres GM Tim Murray regarding his client. Vogl notes Murray has said it’s a “very good possibility” the two sides will part ways.

Over the course of the playoffs there was growing speculation the New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings could respectively buy out Brad Richards and Mike Richards. Of the pair, Brad is the most likely candidate. The New York Post’s Brett Cyrgalis believes the center will “almost assuredly” be bought out to free up cap space to re-sign several notable free agents, including Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider, Derick Brassard and Anton Stralman.

Other compliance buyout candidates could include Columbus’ R.J. Umberger, Dallas’ Erik Cole, New Jersey’s Anton Volchenkov, San Jose’s Martin Havlat, Tampa Bay’s Ryan Malone and Vancouver’s David Booth.

SPEZZA-TO-FLAMES RUMOR BURNS OUT QUICKLY
The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reports the Calgary Flames made a pitch for Spezza, offering up Jiri Hudler, Mikael Backlund, possibly defenseman Dennis Wideman and one of their second- or third-round picks. Garrioch considers that offer insufficient and cites sources claiming the Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets are on Spezza’s 10-team “no-trade” list. Read more

What would a 1-16 Stanley Cup playoff format look like?

Tyler Seguin

Since the Stanley Cup championship became a best-of-7 in 1939, there have been 20 sweeps. That’s 27 percent. And Scotty Bowman was a coach in nine of them – five series wins, four series losses.

But it hasn’t happened for a while. The last four-game sweep in the Stanley Cup final was completed by the Detroit Red Wings over the Washington Capitals in 1998. Bowman’s team did it to Philadelphia in 1997 too.

We’ve been lucky that 12 of the past 14 finals have extended beyond even five games, including six Game 7s. The post-2005 parity era has given us some pretty good championship rounds that have been tightly contested between West and East.

It appears this year will end that streak. Though the New York Rangers put up a valiant effort on the road in Games 1 and 2, they came away winless and were then shut out on home ice in Game 3. Sure, the script playing out in 2014 is very similar to the one in 2012, when Los Angeles won the first two games against New Jersey in OT, shut them out in Game 3 and the series went six games anyway. But, really, that result has no bearing on this series.

The Kings look prepped to wrap this sucker up in four games.

If the Stanley Cup is in fact awarded on Wednesday, it would be a shame to end these playoffs on such a low note. Most people will agree this has been the best post-season in years, so to end with a sweep would be to go into the off-season with a whimper.

This series speaks to the disparity between the competition in the East and West. Aside from maybe the Bruins, no Eastern team would have been a favorite in the Cup final. From the start, it was unlikely we’d get a final that would be better than the Los Angeles-San Jose series or the Chicago-St. Louis series. And while I’m a fan of the current divisional play down format – and recognize it’s the best, realistic option – there is another design that would set us up to get the best possible final more often than not.

The NHL has used a 1-16 playoff format for a few years before, though it won’t likely again because of travel costs. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the league pooled all of the playoff qualifiers into one ranking and re-seeded them each round based on regular season point totals. Rivalries may not be as easily fostered as they are through the divisional lineup, but it would provide fresh and intriguing matchups – and result in more quality conclusions.

What would a 1-16 format have looked like in Round 1 this year? Division winners automatically get the top four seeds. Read more

Rumor Roundup: What’s next for the Blackhawks?; Maple Leafs want Aaron Ekblad?

Ben Smith (Photo by David E. Klutho /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

Most teams eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs enter the off-season facing questions over their roster needs and how to address them. But for the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks, recently eliminated from the Western Conference Final, there’s unlikely to be significant changes.

That’s not to suggest the Blackhawks don’t have any roster issues. The Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus reports they were essentially a three-line team for much of the season, unable to adequately replace departed veterans Dave Bolland, Michael Frolik and Viktor Stalberg. They still lack a dependable second-line center, while the defense struggled at times in the post-season.

The Blackhawks also have limited cap space for 2014-15, carrying a projected $4.6 million. They must also ensure sufficient cap space going forward to re-sign superstar forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, who will be eligible for unrestricted free agent status next summer. Read more

Blue Jackets’ impressive season culminates in new contract for coach Todd Richards

Adam Proteau
Todd Richards (Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) ***

The Columbus Blue Jackets impressed many during the 2013-14 season, including Jarmo Kekalainen, and if they wanted to stay in Ohio, they had to. Their GM was in his first full season with the organization and could easily have fired head coach Todd Richards, who was hired by predecessor Scott Howson. But patience paid off for both the team (which finished with a franchise-best 43-32-7 mark) and Richards, who received a two-year contract extension Tuesday that lasts through the 2016-17 campaign.

“Todd has done an outstanding job for the Columbus Blue Jackets and we’re pleased that he will continue to lead our team,” Kekalainen said in a statement. “We believe he is one of the top young coaches in the NHL because of his knowledge of the game, work ethic and ability to communicate well and bring out the best in our players.”

After working briefly as an interim coach of the team in the second half of the 2011-12 season, Richards was named head coach in May of 2012. The Blue Jackets finished ninth in the Western Conference in Richards’ first full year, but still needed to perform at least as well this season to avoid changes. Richards was able to get that improved performance and because of it, the Blue Jackets finished seventh after moving over to the Eastern Conference before the Pittsburgh Penguins eliminated them in six first-round playoff games.

In 171 games as head coach, Richards has a record of 85-70-16. In a post-playoffs interview with the Columbus Dispatch, Kekalainen raved about Richards’ work ethic and meticulous planning. Read more

Tale of the tape: Martin St-Louis vs. Marian Gaborik

St-Louis

They were both dealt just hours before the NHL’s trade deadline. One was a disgruntled veteran who wanted out because of his sour Olympic experience and chose his landing spot. The other was an injury-prone and unproductive winger whose skill set did not fit in with his blue-collar team.

And with Martin St-Louis of the New York Rangers and Marian Gaborik of the Los Angeles Kings emerging as major components of teams that are one win away from playing in the Stanley Cup final, they’re also emerging as the two best deals of the 2014 trade deadline.

But which one was better? Here’s the tale of the tape: Read more

THN at the Memorial Cup: Edmonton finally shuts down the Storm

Oil-Kings

LONDON, ON – They played more hockey than any other team at the Memorial Cup and still saved the best for last. Facing a dominant Guelph Storm team, the Edmonton Oil Kings turned the tables on the Ontario League champs with an impressive 6-3 victory in the final.

Not only did Edmonton’s defense shut down big guns such Jason Dickinson, Brock McGinn and Scott Kosmachuk, but they essentially did it using four blueliners. New York Islanders pick and team captain Griffin Reinhart led the way, but Colorado prospect Cody Corbett, 2014 draft prospect Dysin Mayo and Ashton Sautner also played a ton in the downing of Guelph.

“They’ve got a lot of speed and pretty much four lines that can score,” Mayo said. “So we had to rely on our defensive game and then attack when we got the opportunity.”

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Rumor Roundup: What’s next for the Boston Bruins?

Montreal Canadiens v Boston Bruins - Game Seven

Following the Boston Bruins’ playoff elimination by the Montreal Canadiens, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli told the Boston media, “I’m not gonna gut the team just because players didn’t play well.” The Boston Herald’s Steve Conroy reports Chiarelli admits he will tweak the roster this summer.

The Canadiens exploited the Bruins’ lack of speed, which Chiarelli acknowledges he will consider addressing this summer. Conroy also notes the Bruins’ GM admitted the NHL game is trending away from fighting, which could be bad news for free agent enforcer Shawn Thornton.

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Why Rick Nash is regular season rich but post-season poor

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHL)

There’s a curious coincidence when it comes to cash and Rick Nash. When the money stops flowing, so does his production.

Come playoff time, when players play for glory instead of green (aside from the occasional, obscure post-season bonus), the New York Rangers’ most expensive regular season asset of $7.8 million scores at the pace of a minimum wage NHLer.

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