Rumor Roundup: The latest on unsigned RFAs

Justin Schultz of the Edmonton Oilers. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)

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

Teddy Purcell has no hard feelings after Tampa Bay traded him

Matt Larkin
Teddy Purcell

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.

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Leafs, Penguins among the NHL’s five most pressure-packed markets in 2014-15

Randy Carlyle (Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)

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

Rumor Roundup: The Los Angeles Kings’ Justin Williams dilemma

Justin Williams

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

Oilers hire Tyler Dellow, advanced stat takeover continues

OilersKings

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.

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Oilers prospect Darnell Nurse aims for Team Canada spot

Darnell-Nurse-WJC

When the cuts were made to the 2013 Canadian world junior team, a howl went up in some corners when Darnell Nurse was left off the roster. The seventh overall pick in the 2013 draft, Nurse had size, mobility and a growing offensive repertoire – all great traits for a best-on-best tournament. But the Canuck braintrust went a different way and though it’s unfair to claim in hindsight that Nurse would have contributed to a better constructed blueline, the Edmonton Oilers prospect is back in camp and on a mission to learn from the past.

“You have to be on all the time, whether it’s a practice or a game,” Nurse said. “It’s a real fun camp to be a part of. You’ve got 40 guys all competing.”

Nurse is at the 2014 camp now in Montreal, where he’s hoping to make a good impression on the Hockey Canada decision-makers and show off his best attributes.

“I’ve always had the ability to cover the ice with my skating,” he said. “My strength is knocking guys off the puck.”

At 6-foot-4 and 189 pounds, Nurse is a big blueliner with a nasty streak. I wondered last summer if that aggressiveness would hurt him in an international tournament where bodychecks often become penalties based on how loud the crowd cheers. To that end, it’s worth noting that Nurse saw his PIM total drop season over season and he said that a lot of his focus has gone into improving on the minor details on defense, such as staying between the dots in his zone and letting the play come to him.

To me, Nurse could be an excellent shutdown option with offensive upside at the tourney, much in the same way Russia’s Nikita Zadorov (Buffalo) took away half the defensive zone every time he was on the ice in Malmo.

After another successful campaign with the Ontario League’s Soo Greyhounds, Nurse even got a chance to see the pro game when he hooked up with Oklahoma City in the American League. He played seven games with the Barons, split between the regular season and the playoffs, where he gained even more confidence in his physical abilities.

While there is a possibility that Nurse sticks with Edmonton this fall and begins his NHL career, he would otherwise have to return to the OHL, since he doesn’t turn 20 until February. So the world juniors would be a great tournament for his development.

With Aaron Ekblad and possibly Josh Morrissey NHL-bound this fall, the Canadians would only have one returning D-man from the previous world juniors in Owen Sound’s Chris Bigras. Even then, the Colorado prospect was effectively the seventh man on the unit (thus absolving himself of any blame in what was a bit of a debacle).

One interesting aspect of this year’s candidates is how once again, the field is dominated by left-hand shots. Canada’s Olympic team was split right down the middle and had great success, but the world junior squad had just two righties in Ekblad and Matt Dumba. Assuming Ekblad is with the Florida Panthers, that leaves only Washington pick Madison Bowey and Kings prospect Roland McKeown available this time around. Of course, Nurse is willing to play his off-side if it means a red and white jersey come December.

“Last year I played both sides,” he said. “Even in the AHL. It’s nothing I’m not comfortable with.”

Now it’s time to start proving his worth, no matter which side of the ice he’s on. The Canadians play four games in a row this week in Quebec, with Russia and the Czech Republic providing the competition. That’s where Nurse can begin to lay the foundation for what he hopes is a berth on a national team that will be under a lot of pressure to win when the WJC medal round hits Toronto after New Year’s.

THN cover curse? Wayne Gretzky big hope for WHA, Racers; Gretzky traded to Oilers; Racers fold; Oilers move to NHL

Rory Boylen
Wayne Gretzky Indianapolis Racers

Sometimes covers don’t have the staying power they’re supposed to. Sometimes, in hindsight, they can look pretty hilarious.

Take our cover from Oct. 27, 1978 as an example. The cover image was a 17-year-old Wayne Gretzky skating for the WHA’s Indianapolis Racers with the headline “Gretzky Big Hope for WHA’s Future.” The previous summer, Gretzky had signed a seven-year personal services contract with Racers owner Nelson Skalbania and was about to set off on his first season of professional hockey. The inside story focused on the young Gretzky’s stand-out talent, compared him with basketball great Oscar Robertson and enthused about the bright future ahead.

Wayne Gretzky cover

Here’s part of the story: Read more

NHL logo rankings No. 17: Edmonton Oilers

Rory Boylen
Edmonton Oilers

By placing Edmonton at No. 17 on our list, that leaves the Montreal Canadiens with the No. 1 logo among the seven Canadian teams. Will the Habs logo rank first among all NHL logos? You’ll have to wait and find out.

When our panel of seven THN staffers debated and argued over the Oilers design, the room was split on where it should rank against other NHL logos. Some thought the look was outdated and ugly, fit for the bottom-third of the league – a place the Oilers have become accustomed to in recent years. But others – like myself – enjoyed the design and pushed for a higher ranking than this.

And that goes to show how much these rankings are determined by personal tastes more than scientifically breaking down the aesthetics of each one. To each his own. After our voting was done, the Oilers ended up in that mushy middle. I’ll be interested to see what the commenters below think of the Oilers logo.

Think you can design a better look for the Oilers? Here’s your chance. Create your best logo redesign for Edmonton and send it to us at editorial@thehockeynews.com and we’ll share our favorite reader redesigns at the conclusion of our 30 NHL logo rankings.

All logo from Chris Creamer’s website.

HISTORY OF THE OILERS LOGO

Did you know that, in their first year as a WHA team, the Oilers were called the Alberta Oilers? The Calgary (Broncos) team never got off the ground for the inaugural WHA season in 1972 and a provincial rivalry that was supposed to hatch that year never did. In response, the Oilers wanted to represent the province and intended to split their home games between Edmonton and Calgary. That plan never came to pass, though, as they stayed in Edmonton all season. After Year 1, the Oilers went back to calling themselves Edmonton as originally intended and, in 1975, the Calgary Cowboys joined the WHA after they relocated from Vancouver.

The Oilers look is a throwback in the modern day. Its font screams 1970s and the droopy, thick lettering adds to the character. It’s a look that also fits with the name. The original colors were a royal blue with an orange oil drop that really popped.

Edmonton Oilers

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