Rumor Roundup: Ryan Johansen to KHL & other RFA buzz

Ryan Johansen (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

While Ryan Johansen’s contentious contract negotiations with the Columbus Blue Jackets dominate NHL headlines, several other notable young players around the league also remain unsigned.

Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug and right winger Reilly Smith still await new deals. CSN New England’s Joe Haggerty reports it’s believed Krug and the Bruins have agreed to a one-year bridge term for this season but remain around $750,000 apart. Haggerty speculates Smith also received a one-year offer.

Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli undoubtedly would’ve preferred re-signing the duo before training camp opened last week, but, as has been well documented, the Bruins lack sufficient cap space to comfortably re-sign the duo.

It’s anticipated Chiarelli will make a trade before the start of the season to free up the necessary space. Until then, Krug and Smith remain in contractual limbo, unable to participate in training camp. Read more

10 RFAs who missed training camp and how their disputes were resolved

Jamie Benn (Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

Ryan Johansen’s contract negotiations with the Columbus Blue Jackets are…contentious. Yesterday started with Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen drawing a line in the sand by insinuating the start of training camp as a cut off point. Later on, team president John Davidson took aim at Johansen’s agent Kurt Overhardt by saying the numbers he was throwing out made no sense and were embarrassing.

This sounds like it could be one of the bigger RFA battles the NHL has had in recent years, but there’s still a little time before training camps open. And it’s not like it would be the first time a player has missed the start of training camp with a contract dispute.

It actually used to happen a lot more in the NHL. In the 1990s, it was a regular, yearly thing most teams would have to deal with at one point or another. The only great leverage an RFA without arbitration rights has is to stay home and make the team sweat. It maybe doesn’t happen as often as it used to, but the Johansen situation is hardly unique to the NHL today. Heck, Torey Krug, Jaden Schwartz, Reilly Smith, Darcy Kuemper and Cody Eakin are going through their own, less-publicized negotiations right now too.

We take a look at some of the more recent RFAs who missed all or a portion of training camp over a contract dispute and what the outcome was. We didn’t want to look too far back at every situation because market conditions have changed, especially when looking back past the 2004-05 lockout. Anything before then is basically no influence on Johansen’s situation. Just don’t call these guys holdouts.

Derek Stepan, New York Rangers
Prior to last season, Stepan missed 16 days of training camp before settling on a bridge deal with the Rangers. Stepan ended up signing a two-year deal that has a $3.075 million salary cap charge. Read more

Scouting reports from Traverse City, part two

Dallas pick Julius Honka (LUDVIG THUNMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

The championship game of the Traverse City prospects tournament in Michigan pitted Columbus against Dallas, with the Blue Jacket kids skating off to victory on an overtime goal scored by Josh Anderson during 3-on-3 play. Here’s part two of my filing on how the big games did, this time concentrating on Columbus, Dallas, Carolina and Detroit. I am not including Anthony Mantha of the Red Wings since he missed the last game with knee soreness and I only saw part of his prior game.

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THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: Dallas Stars

The Hockey News
The Dallas Stars. (Photo by Glenn James/Getty Images)

2013-14 record: 40-31-11

Acquisitions: Patrick Eaves, Ludwig Karlsson, Jason Spezza, Anders Lindback, Ales Hemsky

Departures: Dustin Jeffrey, Alex Chiasson, Alexander Guptill, Nicholas Paul, Chris Mueller, Toby Peterson

Top five fantasy players: Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza, Ales Hemsky, Alex Goligoski

Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: Dallas had a good thing going and got even better this off-season. The 2013-14 campaign was a resounding success, as new GM Jim Nill, new coach Lindy Ruff and newly acquired sniper Tyler Seguin helped the Stars end a five-season playoff absence. Read more

New Dallas Stars mascot is hideous – and that’s OK

Matt Larkin
Courtesy of Dallas Stars

By now, you’ve probably had a look at Victor E. Green, the Dallas Stars’ freshly unveiled mascot. You’ve also visited the nearest emergency eyewash station, flushed thoroughly and patted your face dry with a paper towel.

Victor is ugly. He’s that friend with a great personality who never gets responses on OkCupid and doesn’t know why. Oscar the Grouch, Youppi and a cockroach held hands, stepped inside Jeff Goldblum’s telepod from The Fly, and out popped Victor. He’s that giant toy you win at the beginning of a day at the amusement park and wish you could throw away.

The Victor vitriol is intense. A small sample from enraged Stars fans on Twitter:

“It looks like a booger with legs…”

“As long as his name is the Grinch that stole the Stanley Cup. ???”

“Vomits uncontrollably. WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO YOUR FANS?”

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Jagr on verge of almost unheard of distinction this season

Jaromir Jagr (right). (Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

We’re going to go on the assumption here that Teemu Selanne has retired from the NHL for good this time. Of course, you never know with Selanne, but we’re thinking he’s serious about it this time.

That leaves Jaromir Jagr as the oldest player in the NHL this season. And it also gives Jagr a career distinction that not many players can say they share.

When Jagr made his NHL debut with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1990-91, he did so as the youngest player in the NHL that season. Born Feb. 15, 1972, Jagr beat out Owen Nolan of the Quebec Nordiques by just three days. Jagr actually had a bit of good fortune in this situation because the three players aside from Nolan who were taken before him in the 1990 draft – Petr Nedved, Mike Ricci and Keith Primeau – were all late birthdays in 1971 who missed the 1989 draft because they were too young.

Fast-forward 24 years later and Jagr is still playing, and playing very well, for the New Jersey Devils. By the time this season ends, Jagr will be 43 years and two months old, which will make him the 10th oldest player to ever play in the NHL. And it will also give him a distinction shared by the legendary Gordie Howe. When Howe played as a rookie for the Detroit Red Wings in 1946-47, he did so as the youngest player in the six-team NHL that season. And when he finished his NHL career with the Hartford Whalers in 1979-80, he did so as the oldest player in the league at 52.

Not sure how many players can say they were both the youngest and oldest player in the NHL during the course of their careers, but the fact that Jagr and Howe are two who can is a testament to both their prodigious talents as young men and their ability to maintain a high level of play throughout length careers. Some players have one or the other, but a precious few have both. And those who do tend to end up with a plaque in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Jagr is on the verge of a couple of other milestones this season worth celebrating. With 705 career goals, he is sure to pass Mike Gartner and Phil Esposito on the all-time goals list. But here’s where it gets interesting. If he scores 27 this season – remember, he had 24 last year – he’ll pass Marcel Dionne at No. 4 and if he has a wildly successful season and gets 37, he’ll usurp Brett Hull at No. 3.

With 44 points this season – entirely achievable since he had 67 in 2013-14 – Jagr will pass Ron Francis for fourth on the all-time points list. If he takes 210 shots this season – he had 231 with the Devils last season – he’ll be No. 2 behind Ray Bourque on the all-time career list for shots.

Kind of makes you wonder where Jagr would be if he had decided to stay in the NHL instead of playing in Russia for three years and if he hadn’t been robbed of a season-and-a-half with lockouts. But the same could be said for Howe, who retired for two years and played six more in the World Hockey Association before returning to the NHL. Bobby Hull, with 610 career goals, played six-plus seasons in the WHA before returning for a nine-game stint with the Whalers in 1979-80.

And who knows? Jagr hasn’t hinted at retirement and with his level of play so high, it’s not inconceivable that he could play a couple more seasons in the NHL. Regardless of how long he plays, three years after he decides to hang up his skates there will be a place waiting for him in the Hall of Fame.

Rumor Roundup: Who will the Blackhawks & Bruins trade to get under the cap?

Johnny Oduya (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

With the start of NHL training camps a little more than two weeks away, the Blackhawks have yet to reach a decision on how to address their salary-cap issues. Chicago remains above the $69 million cap by more than $2.2 million and must shed salary before the season opens in October.

The situation provided fodder for the rumor mill this summer.  It’s assumed GM Stan Bowman would move a defenseman, with Johnny Oduya ($3.38-million cap hit) or Nick Leddy ($2.7 million) as potential trade candidates.

The Boston Bruins must also become cap compliant by the start of the season. They’re currently above the ceiling by more than $800,000. The Bruins will get cap relief by placing concussed center Marc Savard ($4.03 million) on long-term injured reserve, but it won’t leave much to re-sign restricted free agents Torey Krug and Reilly Smith and leave room for possible moves later in the season.

It’s rumored the Bruins, like the Blackhawks, could trade a defenseman to open up more cap space. Trade options could include Johnny Boychuk ($3.3 million cap hit) or Adam McQuaid ($1.5 million).
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Top 10 off-season NHL signings

Christian Ehrhoff (Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

As the beginning of NHL training camps draws closer, it’s natural for fans to debate and discuss which teams had the most productive off-season. And although the answer to that question won’t be confirmed for months, if not years, that won’t stop us from ranking the 10 best off-season unrestricted free agent signings:

10. Thomas Vanek, Wild (3 years, $19.5 million). Granted, Vanek didn’t help his contract negotiating stance with a poor playoff showing for the Canadiens, but his regular-season production has been dependably above-average – and given that Minnesota struggled to put pucks in nets last season (their 207 goals-for was third-worst in the Western Conference), he’ll help a great deal and isn’t locked up to a contract with an onerous term.

9. Ales Hemsky, Stars (3 years, $12 million). The 31-year-old Hemsky hasn’t reached the 20-goal mark since he had 23 for Edmonton in 2008-09, but he’ll play on Dallas’ second line – alongside former Senators teammate Jason Spezza, with whom he enjoyed some solid chemistry in his 20-game stint in Ottawa last year – and should perform well playing in a non-fishbowl market with increased minutes.

8. Radim Vrbata, Canucks (2 years, $10 million). Vrbata has been under most people’s radar playing in Phoenix, but the 33-year-old has proven himself to be a reliable 20-30-goal-scorer. On the rejigged Canucks, he’ll see time on the same line as the Sedin twins and will get first-unit power play minutes. The term of this deal also makes this a win for new Vancouver GM Jim Benning. Read more