The Boston Bruins need to shed salary and address their logjam on defense remains a hot topic in this summer’s NHL rumor mill.
Much of the speculation centers on Johnny Boychuk, who will be eligible next summer for unrestricted free agency. The 30-year-old blueliner will earn $3.6 million this season, while his cap hit is more than $3.3 million. Brooks Orpik signed a five-year deal this summer with the Washington Capitals worth $5.5-million annually and Boychuk could seek a comparable salary.
If Boychuk becomes a UFA, the Edmonton Oilers could be very interested in his services. He’s an Edmonton native with a strong all-around skill set that would benefit the Oilers’ rebuilding defense corps.
Boychuk, however, told the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson his preference is to remain with the Bruins, calling them “my hockey family.” Considering the Bruins remain a legitimate Stanley Cup contender three years after their last championship, his reluctance to leave Boston is understandable. His future with the Bruins, however, will depend upon their cap space beyond this season. Read more
Suffice to say this was not exactly what Justin Schultz had in mind when he touched off a bidding war for his services after leaving the University of Wisconsin two years ago. He most certainly couldn’t have been expecting this after tearing up the American League during the lockout. No, a one-year bridge deal for a lower salary cap number was definitely not in the cards.
But this is the situation in which Schultz finds himself two years into his up-and-down NHL career. The Edmonton Oilers signed the restricted free agent to a one-year deal worth $3.675 million instead of succumbing to the temptation to ink him to a long-term deal for $5 million-plus per season. The Oilers may end up paying for their short-term thinking, but it’s a risk they were willing to take. Read more
By Michael Musalem
The next generation of NHL stars was on full display in Toronto this past Saturday, as 33 of the league’s most promising recent draftees gathered at Ryerson University’s Mattamy Athletic Centre for some serious face time.
The event put on by Upper Deck, the league’s official trading card partner, and the NHLPA is held each year with the purpose of photographing the prospects in their official NHL team gear for the first time, giving them all the opportunity to live out any pro’s lifelong dream of having their very own hockey card. Read more
Entering the final full week of August, a number of restricted free agents remain unsigned. With NHL training camps opening on Sept. 18 sufficient time remains to get those players under contract, but so far there’s little indication they’re any closer to new deals.
The most notable is Columbus Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen. The 22-year-old enjoyed a breakout performance last season, leading the Jackets in goals (33) and points (63). But his contract talks have become contentious. Read more
There are trades, and then there are trades that ship you 2,366 miles northwest.
The late-June swap that sent right winger Teddy Purcell from Tampa Bay to Edmonton was a shock. His closet said it all. It contained zero winter jackets and hadn’t for seven years. He’d spent his entire NHL career in California and Florida, and it seemed as recently as a year ago he wasn’t going anywhere for a long time.
The undrafted college free agent didn’t blossom in parts of three seasons with L.A., but the Lightning took a chance on him with a 2010 trade. He realized his potential as a top-six forward, posting 51- and 65-point seasons, often as Steven Stamkos’ linemate.
Something changed this past season, however. Young guns Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat burst onto the scene, and Purcell’s role diminished. Coach Jon Cooper, and even teammates like Valtteri Filppula, publicly asked Purcell to shoot more. He slipped to 12 goals in 81 games and tumbled to the fourth line. Purcell became expendable when the team identified other needs and off he went in the Sam Gagner deal.
Standard storylines would have Purcell entering 2014-15 motivated to prove Tampa wrong, but that’s just not him. He’s about as easygoing as it gets. He’s happy to call frigid Edmonton his new home, pointing out he grew up in Newfoundland and played in Saskatchewan and Maine. And he’s not angry at Tampa Bay. He speaks highly of GM Steve Yzerman.
The NHL has always been a pressure-packed league, but from year-to-year, some teams face more pressure than others. Which franchises are going to be dealing with an especially hot seat once the 2014-15 season begins? These five:
5. Washington Capitals. When the Caps missed the playoffs last year and owner Ted Leonsis cleaned house on the management side, some observers expected them to go the same route with their underachieving roster. They did no such thing, and instead doubled down with two high-priced free agent acquisitions (defensemen Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen). Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee they’ll even make the playoffs in the mediocre Metropolitan division. And if they fall on their faces again and miss the post-season for the second straight year – the first time that will have happened since 2005-07 – what will ownership’s response be then?
4. San Jose Sharks. Sports has a long tradition of identifying underdogs – i.e., teams not expected to do well because they’re lacking in depth or talent – but the Sharks are now officially overdogs: a team not expected to do well despite having all kinds of depth and talent. San Jose GM Doug Wilson’s criticism of his group of players after last spring’s playoff collapse against the Kings should have everyone walking on eggshells as soon as training camp begins, but any kind of serious stumble during the season could lead to major changes. Read more
NBC Sports’ Joe Yerdon speculates the Los Angeles Kings could be in an awkward situation this season with winger Justin Williams, whose clutch play in the 2014 playoffs earned him the Conn Smythe Trophy as post-season MVP.
Williams, who turns 33 in October, is entering the final season of his contract at a cap hit of $3.65 million. The Kings have more than $59 million invested in their roster for 2015-16 and have several young players – including promising forwards Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson – due to become restricted free agents.
With the salary cap expected to rise significantly next season, Yerdon doubts the Kings will have difficulty re-signing their free agents, but he feels retaining Williams could stunt the development of one of those young forwards. If the Kings believe it’s time to promote Toffoli, Yerdon says they could either bid Williams farewell or try to find a way to retain the veteran winger while promoting Toffoli. Read more
First, Fenwick Close. Then, the world.
We saw it two weeks ago when the Toronto Maple Leafs named Kyle Dubas assistant GM. Last week, it was the New Jersey Devils’ turn, as they hired Sunny Mehta. Statistician Eric Tulsky also works for a mystery NHL team. Today, as Bob McKenzie reported, Edmonton struck with Tyler Dellow.
A significant chunk of the hockey population likely said “Huh? Who’s that?” upon hearing each of those news nuggets. A minority, albeit a growing minority, went the other way, with a full nerd-gasm.
Those friends who texted you things like “OMG DELLOW, F— YES” are the advanced stat community, celebrating the fact four of their own have now penetrated the NHL.
Dubas is to front offices what Doogie Howser was to medicine, a 28-year-old prodigy (16 in teen doctor years) whose love of baseball statistics spilled over into his hockey analysis. Mehta is a former pro poker player with a strong online presence as an Oilers blogger.
Dellow, who has worked as a lawyer, is one of the strongest voices in the advanced statistic world. He’s best known for using the team he cheered for, the Oilers, as the main subject of his studies. He was often scathing, but he was groundbreaking in his use of the new metrics like Corsi. His site, mc79hockey.com, has been shut down, at least for the time being.