By Dave Lambert
There isn’t much that keeps Tony Hand awake at night. Comparisons to Wayne Gretzky…he takes them in stride. Being widely acknowledged as his country’s greatest hockey talent…he doesn’t let it affect him. Even walking away from the 1980s dynasty Oilers as a teenager to return to his native Scotland isn’t something he loses any sleep over.
Now, at 47 years old, the man nicknamed the ‘Scottish Gretzky’ has called it a career after a staggering 34 seasons.
Before the points, the plaudits and the Oilers’ interest, Hand was just a hockey-mad kid, trekking six miles to a barn of a rink each day to get on the ice. Growing up in a rough neighborhood, he used the rink as an escape, spending hours on the ice and eventually saving up to buy his first stick – a sturdy $5 Koho, which Hand said “weighed a ton.”
His perseverance paid off, and he made his professional debut for his hometown Murrayfield Racers at the tender age of 14. Read more
The Edmonton Oilers avoided arbitration with Justin Schultz Wednesday by inking the 25-year-old blueliner to a one-year, $3.9 million deal. But the arbitration wasn’t Schultz’s choice. Rather, it was the Oilers who wanted to plead their case for a lower cost on Schultz’s contract.
However, by opting for team-elected arbitration – which, as mentioned, has now been avoided with the one-year contract – Edmonton was essentially giving Schultz an ultimatum: if he wants to keep his spot in the Oilers lineup for what he believes to be fair value, he’s going to have to prove that he’s worth it. Thus, the one-year deal.
Schultz isn’t the only restricted free agent signed to a one-year contract and he’s not the only player who can, as Mike Babcock put it with regards to Nazem Kadri, “put the screws,” to his club. On the flip side, though, one bad year could see some franchises giving up on their young guns.
Here are 10 players who could have make-or-break seasons in 2014-15: Read more
In recent weeks, there’s been little word regarding the status of Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal and goaltender Cam Ward. Both have a year remaining on their respective contracts and are eligible next summer for unrestricted free agency.
Of the pair, Staal is the most important and expensive. The 30-year-old center is still considered their franchise player and earns an average cap hit of $8.25-million, though in real salary he’ll be drawing $9.5 million for 2015-16. ESPN.com’s Scott Burnside wonders what dollar figures will work best for both sides. If unable to reach an agreement, Burnside suggests GM Ron Francis could be forced to part with Staal.
Appearing on TSN’s That’s Hockey, Gary Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press said he believes Staal has been in a funk for several years, largely because of the Hurricanes’ lack of talent. Lawless feels he needs to move on, believing the Hurricanes could get a top-line player, top prospect and a high pick in return. Read more
What off-season? OK, so plenty of NHLers are vacationing in exotic places or healing their banged-up bodies at this time of year. But when goalies unveil new masks, it’s clear some guys are already thinking about next season.
Pittsburgh Penguins stopper Marc-Andre Fleury shows off his latest lid here:
Unrestricted free agent goaltender Viktor Fasth won’t be back in the NHL next season.
According to a report from Sports-Express’ Igor Eronko, Fasth has signed a contract with the KHL’s CSKA Moscow that will take him back overseas for at least the upcoming season. Terms of the reported deal have not been released.
Fasth, 32, had spent the past three seasons in the NHL after establishing himself in Sweden, but it appears his NHL career is coming to a close just about as quickly as it took off with the Anaheim Ducks. Read more
New York Rangers center Derek Stepan was among over 20 NHL players who filed for salary arbitration on Monday. That’s raising concerns in the New York media over whether the Blueshirts can afford to re-sign him.
The New York Post’s Larry Brooks suggests the Buffalo Sabres’ recent signing of center Ryan O’Reilly to a long-term contract worth $7.5-million per season ruined any hope the Rangers had of re-signing Stepan to a deal between $6.2 million to $6.5 million. Ryan Kennedy, however, points out O’Reilly’s contract has no bearing on Stepan, as in the eyes of arbitration, their status is different. Read more
The Edmonton Oilers and Buffalo Sabres have made it very clear – it’s time to flip the switch. The two franchises collected their rewards for a season of ineptitude – two generational talents in Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel – 12 days ago at the draft and they’ve been bathing in optimism ever since with an attitude that suggests they’re going to waste no time in getting the teams back into contention. The two teams made some of the biggest moves during the off-season that show they mean just that.
Edmonton traded for goaltender Cam Talbot and added steady defender Andrej Sekera during free agency, while Buffalo got a young, almost-elite center in Ryan O’Reilly to go with their own new goaltender, Robin Lehner. They’re very good moves for both clubs and there’s no doubt that the teams are much better because of it.
Here’s the thing: these two teams were already very bad. In terms of goal difference, Buffalo allowed 113 more goals than they scored while Edmonton allowed 85. Not many teams have put up numbers that atrocious (adjusted to this year’s goal-scoring levels and talent distribution) since the league has expanded and those that have were still pretty bad the next season, too. Read more
Three seasons ago, during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign, rookie defenseman Justin Schultz came straight out of the University of Wisconsin to tear up the AHL for 18 goals and 48 points in 34 games. When the Oilers’ season opened, he joined the club, scored eight goals and 27 points in 48 contests and looked on the verge of NHL stardom.
With that in mind, it’s hard to believe that three seasons later, after playing through an entry-level pact and a one-year, $3.675 million contract, Schultz and the Oilers have yet to come to terms on a new deal. It would have been even more difficult to picture a scenario during Schultz’s rookie season in which, three years later, the Oilers would themselves be electing to take him to arbitration. Yet, that’s exactly what has happened.
According to TSN’s Ryan Rishaug, the Oilers filed for club-elected salary arbitration with Schultz Monday afternoon, though, Rishaug noted, it doesn’t exactly mean the two sides will end up in arbitration hearing. There’s still the possibility they reach a deal. Read more