The biggest free agent fish of 2015 has been caught. Defenseman Mike Green is a Detroit Red Wing. He has signed for three years and $18 million, good for a salary cap hit of $6 million.
Green was as coveted as any unrestricted free agent league-wide. He is nowhere near finished as an effective NHL defenseman. Gone are his halcyon days of 30-goal, 70-point seasons, but he remains a well-above-average point producer, having racked up 45 in 72 games this season with Washington. He’s still just 29 and capable of playing 20-plus minutes a night.
Green, however, remains an adventure defensively. He wound up fifth on the Capitals’ depth chart at defense last season. His puck-possession numbers improved under coach Barry Trotz but, as the Washington Post’s Neil Greenberg notes, that was largely because Green was playing on the third pair and facing weaker competition. And it’s alarming that his 72 games in 2014-15 marked his highest total since 2009-10.
The CHL’s Import Draft was held today, giving every major junior team on the continent a chance to pick up some prime European talent. Franchises are allowed to play two Euros on their roster, but no goaltenders. Teams that have a European player taken in the first round of the NHL can select a third player’s rights as well, in case the first-rounder ends up leaving.
With that out of the way, let’s look at how things went down. Consider this a non-comprehensive list, as I am cobbling together commitments or denials as I receive them from various sources in the industry.
The Anaheim Ducks’ efforts to re-sign pending UFA winger Matt Beleskey ended in failure. Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reports the 27-year-old rejected the club’s best offer and is headed to unrestricted free agency on July first.
Murray told media members at Tuesday’s GM meetings: “We made a really fair offer. God bless him.”
Beleskey is coming off a career-best 22-goal season, along with eight goals in 16 playoff games. He’s completing a two-year deal worth an annual cap hit of $1.35 million. Given the lack of depth in this summer’s UFA pool, Beleskey could command more than $4-million annually on the open market.
It’s possible the Ducks could shop Beleskey’s rights before the July 1 free-agent deadline. If so, the Ducks could get a conditional draft pick if the winger signs with the team his rights were dealt to. It’s not much, but it will be better for the Ducks than losing him for nothing.
KESSEL TO…THE PENGUINS?
Hearing word that the Pittsburgh Penguins were among the preferred trade destinations of Toronto Maple Leafs right winger Phil Kessel raised some eyebrows in Pittsburgh. Joe Starkey of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review believes acquiring Kessel is something the Penguins should consider, though he acknowledges there are significant issues working against such a move.
For years, the Detroit Red Wings had based much of their success on their ability to find late-round gems, almost always from Russia or Sweden. But that paradigm is shifting. The Wings’ top prospects are Canadians and Americans, and two of them – Anthony Mantha and Dylan Larkin – were first-round picks. That’s not to say the Wings have lost their magic in the late rounds. Finland’s Teemu Pulkkinen was drafted 111th overall in 2010 and defenseman Alexey Marchenko was taken 205th overall in 2011. Center Axel Holmstrom is now considered a steal, going in the 196th spot in 2014.
While the Chicago Blackhawks celebrate their latest Stanley Cup championship, GM Stan Bowman will begin the difficult task of determining which of his players become salary-cap casualties. The Blackhawks have more than $64 million invested in cap payroll for 2015-16. They must re-sign restricted free agents Brandon Saad and Marcus Kruger, as well as find space to re-sign or replace their unrestricted free agents.
This isn’t the first time Bowman’s faced this problem. Following the Blackhawks 2010 championship, he shipped out several salaried players to become cap compliant for the following season. While he doesn’t have to trade as many this time, he’ll still have to make the difficult choice of determining who must move.
Team USA was almost shockingly young at the world juniors in 2015, so perhaps it wasn’t surprising that the Americans lost to Russia in the quarterfinal, mainly due to a rash of unnecessary penalties. But the wound of that loss could become vital scar tissue for the 2016 squad.
Because USA Hockey just released its preliminary summer camp roster and it is heavy on experience.
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
As soon as one star leaves, it always seems as though the Red Wings have another to step in to take their spot. The next big thing in Detroit could be on his way soon, as Detroit announced they have agreed to terms on a three-year, entry-level deal with center Axel Holmstrom.
Holmstrom – no relation to Red Wings great Tomas – was drafted by Detroit in 2014 and, in somehow typical Red Wings fashion, wasn’t selected until the seventh round, 196th overall. At 18, Holmstrom played against the men in the SHL this past season, scoring 10 goals and 20 points in 44 games, but it was his post-season play that really has Red Wings fans salivating. Read more