Dallas Stars going with a two-headed dragon next season

Ryan Kennedy
Antti Niemi (Francois Lacasse/Getty Images)

Conventional wisdom went out the window on the weekend when Dallas made a trade with San Jose for the rights to pending unrestricted free agent Antti Niemi. Now that the Stars have signed the starting goaltender to a three-year pact, the rationale on why a franchise that already has Kari Lehtonen between the pipes needed another goalie has been revealed.

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Before they were stars: the risky business of trading prospects

Mike Brophy
Jarome Iginla after being drafted by Dallas in 1995. (Photo by Marco Campanelli/Getty Images)

The Dallas Stars were thrilled when they drafted Jarome Iginla in 1995 and, yes, they did think he’d be available when they chose 11th.

“I believe Central Scouting had him ranked in the twenties,” recalled former Stars director of player personnel Craig Button.

The Stars envisioned Iginla as a future power forward; a John MacLean-type winger who would one day provide them with 25-to-30 goals a season.

Turns out Iginla was better than even the Stars imagined. It also turned out he’d never play a game for the Stars.

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Moving day for goalies, big day for Rangers on Day 2

Carl Hagelin (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

SUNRISE, Fla. – So much for a quiet Day 2 of the NHL draft. Before the second round was completed, five significant trades were completed, four of them involving goaltenders.

And perhaps the most shocking aspect of all of it was two moves by the New York Rangers to trade established players in return for prospects and draft picks. Much of that was necessitated by salary cap concerns, but it does represent something of a reversal for them.

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Winners and losers after the first round of the draft

Noah Hanifin (photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

SUNRISE – The start of the draft went 1-2-3 as expected, but as the first round got deeper, things veered in surprising directions. Who were the winners and losers on the night? I didn’t count Edmonton and Buffalo, since we always knew they’d have a good night. Otherwise, here’s how I saw things go down:

Winners

Carolina

My intel was that Noah Hanifin was not going to fall past Carolina at No. 5 and sure enough, the Canes pounced on the exceptional defenseman when Toronto passed on his services. Hanifin had an amazing second half at Boston College and should he return, he’ll be the cornerstone of the Eagles.

Russians

The first big shock of the draft came when Dallas tabbed right winger Denis Gurianov with the 12th pick. Though the ‘Russian Factor’ may still be a thing for some franchises (Columbus, for example), Stars GM Jim Nill has not been afraid to take Russians who played back home during his tenure. After all, Valeri Nichushkin was his first-ever pick.

“I’m not too worried about him going back to Russia,” Nill said. “He’s going back there next year, we knew that all along. But we’re looking for the best player available three, four years down the road and we’re comfortable that he’s going to come over and play for us.”

Another Russian with KHL ties, goalie Ilya Samsonov, went to Washington. Thanks to Alex Ovechkin, the Caps have been a mecca for talented young Russians for years and in Samsonov the Caps landed the most highly-rated netminder in the draft class.

Add in CHLers Ivan Provorov (Philadelphia) and Evgeny Svechnikov (Detroit) and you have the most Russian first rounders since 2004, when Ovie and Evgeny Malkin headlined the festivities.

The NCAA

The college ranks set a new standard with three first-rounders in the top eight picks thanks to Hanifin, Jack Eichel (Buffalo) and Zach Werenski (Columbus). It was a grand year for NCAA hockey and this first round was the capper. Miami-bound Jack Roslovic (Winnipeg) was a nice surprise too, as he was seen as a borderline first-rounder.

Ottawa

The Sens, who already have a great young roster, added a smart, slick-skating defenseman in Thomas Chabot and then a fast two-way/shutdown center in Colin White. Ottawa will be very tough to beat in a couple years if these kids shake out the way they are projected.

Losers

Small Guys

Once again this year, scouts sang the praises of players in the 5-foot-10 range, but couldn’t convince their bosses to pull the trigger early. While I didn’t expect Travis Konecny or Nick Merkley to go in the top 12, I thought one or both would go in the top 20. As it turned out, Konecny went 24th to Philly, while Merkley lasted until No. 30 when Arizona scooped him up.

“Obviously there were only a few guys 5-foot-10, 5-foot-11, and you get nervous about that,” Merkley said. “You just take it as it is and enjoy the moment.”

On the bright side, 5-foot-10 Anthony Beauvillier was a surprise first-rounder when the Islanders traded up to grab him 28th.

Boston

I don’t mean to pile on, but from an outsider’s view, the Bruins panicked tonight. Certainly when they acquired picks from Los Angeles and Calgary, they didn’t intend to use all three of their selections (which came 13, 14 and 15). But no trade emerged and the Bruins took two players they could have gotten later while passing on immense talents still on the board. Why didn’t they grab White, a Massachusetts product, or Kyle Connor, a future No. 1 center? Or, incredibly, Matt Barzal, who slipped to the Isles one pick later?

Rumor Roundup: Hawks still trying to peddle Sharp and Bickell

GettyImages-Sharp-Bickell

The increase in the NHL salary cap ceiling from $69 million to $71.4 million does little to help the Chicago Blackhawks escape from salary cap hell for 2015-16. They have over $64 million invested in cap payroll, leaving only $7.3 million to invest in new contracts. With restricted free agents Brandon Saad and Markus Kruger to re-sign plus several UFAs to re-sign or replace, the Blackhawks must shed salary.

It’s widely assumed left wingers Patrick Sharp ($5.9-million annually for two more seasons) and Bryan Bickell ($4-million annually, two years) are the likely trade candidates. ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun reports that, as of Monday evening, the Hawks weren’t far along in trade talks about any player.

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2015 Draft Preview – Dallas Stars can score, but need to defend

Matt Larkin
Brett Ritchie (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

The Dallas Stars were supposed to join the NHL’s elite this season. They made the playoffs last year on the strength of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn’s sublime chemistry, and an off-season Jason Spezza trade made them a one-line team no more. Instead, Dallas regressed, missing the playoffs. Its offense remained outstanding, but few teams struggled as much preventing goals.

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Rumor Roundup: Is Phil Kessel a fit with Flames, Blues or Panthers?

Phil Kessel (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

In the aftermath of Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman’s claim last Saturday the Toronto Maple Leafs were getting trade inquiries for Phil Kessel, there’s growing speculation over where the 27-year-old scorer could be dealt.

If a Kessel trade happens, Friedman believes it will be a couple of weeks before it takes place. That’s likely because the NHL draft weekend (June 26-27), where many off-season trades generally take place, is fast approaching.

Kessel, a five-time 30-goal scorer who twice reached the 80-point mark, has value on the trade market. His contract, however, is a sticking point. He has seven years left at an annual cap hit of $8 million. Factor in the projected marginal increase in the cap ceiling for 2015-16 from $69 million to $71 million and it could prove difficult for the Leafs to find a suitable deal.

Friedman subsequently appeared on Sportsnet’s Hockey Central panel to discuss potential destinations for Kessel. He notes Predators GM David Poile had interest in the Leafs right winger, but doubts Nashville is a destination now, pointing out it has young stars like left winger Filip Forsberg and defenseman Seth Jones to re-sign the following season. Other destinations could include the St. Louis Blues, Florida Panthers and Calgary Flames.
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Five players who are top buyout candidates this summer

Vincent Lecavalier

Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray made headlines Thursday afternoon when he said the team has considered buying out the contract of 25-year-old winger Cody Hodgson.

Hodgson signed a six-year contract in September 2011 valued at an average annual salary of $4.25 million, but his production slipped in a big way this past season as he managed just six goals and 13 points in 78 games. Hodgson, who was drafted 10th overall by the Canucks in 2008, hasn’t quite panned out to be the big star the Sabres were hoping for when they acquired him from Vancouver at the 2011-12 trade deadline.

While he did manage consecutive good in 2012-13 and 2013-14, including scoring a career high 20 goals and 44 points in the latter, the drop in play was cause for his name to be mentioned in buyout talks during the season. With Hodgson currently working out in Sweden with a skating coach, according to Murray, if he comes into training camp and his play doesn’t please the staff, it’s possible he’s a late addition to the free agent pool.

Hodgson isn’t the only player who could be headed for a buyout this summer, and here are five other notable players who could be getting paid by two clubs next season: Read more