The Top 10 moments for 2014-15

Andrew Hammond  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

1. Hawks win the Stanley Cup – June 15, 2015

Thanks to the (literally) tireless efforts of Conn Smythe winner Duncan Keith, the Chicago Blackhawks claimed their third Stanley Cup in six seasons, dusting off the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games.

Keith, who played an otherworldly average of 31 minutes per game in the post-season, scored the game-winning goal by following up his own rebound on Bolts goalie Ben Bishop. Patrick Kane, who always seems to come through in big contests, added the dagger on a beauty feed from Brad Richards.

In terms of sentiment, it was hard to beat captain Jonathan Toews passing the Cup off to Kimmo Timonen, whose career and life almost ended in the summer due to blood clots. Instead, the Finnish D-man ended his career a champion.

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Zetterberg to Zuccarello: The Top 10 Z’s of all-time

Jared Clinton
Henrik Zetterberg (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)

At noon Thursday, Dainius Zubrus cleared waivers and was bought out by the New Jersey Devils, making the 37-year-old winger an unrestricted free agent.

It doesn’t seem likely that the Lithuanian native will ink another NHL deal, especially not after recording the worst season of his pro career in 2014-15. If he does come back, he’ll have the chance to improve on his 225-goal, 584-point NHL career. However, if this is it, Zubrus will go down as one of the greatest ‘Z’s in the history of the league.

While there are some players who stand a chance at jumping up this list – think players such as Ottawa’s Mika Zibanejad and Colorado’s Nikita Zadorov — these are the best of the best when it comes to players with a ‘Z’ surname who have laced up in the NHL. There have only been 51 skaters and four goaltenders to actually suit up, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some greats among the list. Read more

Fetisov seeks to block players leaving for NHL after being elected to KHL board of directors

Jared Clinton
Viacheslav Fetisov (Sony Pictures Classics)

Slava Fetisov has been elected to the KHL board of directors and there could be some big things coming to the primarily Russian league.

According to Russian hockey reporter Slava Malamud, with Fetisov now on the board of directors, there are two major changes he wants to make to the KHL. First, Fetisov is seeking to expand the league to China, something that has been long talked about but was seen as years from becoming reality.

A report had come in mid-June from player agent Darryl Wolski that the league could possibly put a team for 2016-17, but it remains a major risk for the league. This past season, several teams were accused of being late with payments to players and three of the league’s teams sat out the year due to financial complications.

What’s more shocking than the potential move to China, though, is that Fetisov is also pushing to block Russian players from leaving the KHL. Read more

Nik Antropov considering NHL return for upcoming season

Jared Clinton
Nik Antropov (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Nik Antropov could be heading back to North America to suit up in the NHL for the first time in two seasons.

According to a Sports-Express.ru interview with Antropov’s agent, Schumi Babayev, the 35-year-old right winger is considering a return to the NHL for 2014-15, which would see him forego a contract offer from the KHL’s Barys Astana, the club with which the Kazakhstan native has spent his past two seasons.

“(Antropov will) make a decision: to pursue a career in the NHL or return to Barys,” Babayev said, according to a rough translation. “Proposal from Barys it has, they are constantly in contact. The decision depends on family circumstances. At last year Antropov has one son living in Canada, and now he will play in the AAA league, and whether to leave him alone – there is something to think about.” Read more

Carter Ashton signs in KHL following 2014-15 season that saw trade, suspension

Jared Clinton
Toronto Maple Leafs v Arizona Coyotes

When he looks back on his career, Carter Ashton will probably consider the 2014-15 campaign one of the most difficult of his career, but he’s ready to start a new chapter in the KHL.

The KHL’s Torpedo Nizhy Novgorod announced Tuesday they have signed the 24-year-old winger to a contract for the upcoming campaign. This past season, Ashton got only a brief taste of the NHL, suiting up for seven games and failing to register a point. Over his NHL career, he has played in 54 contests, netting three assists and 32 penalty minutes.

A first-round selection, 29th overall, of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2009, Ashton’s game never quite found its way in the NHL. During his first season in the professional ranks, which came in 2011-12, Ashton was shipped off to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for defenseman Keith Aulie. In Toronto, Ashton would get his first taste of NHL action and he played nearly half a season – 32 games – with the big club in 2013-14.

What grabbed Ashton headlines, however, wasn’t his play, but a 20-game suspension for violating the terms of the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program. Ashton tested positive for Clenbuterol, a banned substance, which he said was the result of using an inhaler he was given by a player he had trained with. Read more

NHL retiree Gilbert Brule signs one-year deal with KHL’s Zagreb

Gilbert Brule (Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Gilbert Brule didn’t pan out how the Columbus Blue Jackets hoped when the club selected the winger sixth overall in 2005 and he announced his NHL retirement in 2014. But Brule suited up this past season in the KHL, and he’s set to play again next season.

After signing a one-year deal with Avtomobilist Yekaterinberg in 2013-14, Brule suited up for 44 games with the club. During his first season in the KHL, Brule notched 10 goals and 15 points, and his season has helped him land another deal in the primarily Russian league.

Croatian club Medvescak Zagreb have announced they have signed Brule to a deal for the 2015-16 season, but the club hopes he can be a top-six player.

“Brule will perfectly fit in our team and we believe it will be of great help,” said Medvescak’s GM Aaron Fox. Read more

Daniil Tarasov leaves Sharks, signs two-year deal with Dynamo Moscow

Jared Clinton
Daniil Tarasov (Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

For the past three seasons, Daniil Tarasov has been trying to crack the San Jose Sharks roster. And after a 2014-15 campaign in which he got his first taste of NHL action, the Russian winger has decided to leave the league to sign a two-year deal with the KHL’s Dynamo Moscow.

Tarasov, 24, was signed by the Sharks in 2013 as an undrafted free agent after spending three seasons in the USHL. Before making it to the Sharks, though, Tarasov split a season between the ECHL’s San Francisco Bulls and AHL’s Worcester Sharks. With the Sharks’ AHL affiliate, Tarasov notched 14 goals and 28 points in 43 games, landing himself a two-year, entry-level deal with San Jose.

After signing the deal, Tarasov failed to get his shot with the NHL club, instead spending the entirety of the 2013-14 season in the AHL. With Worcester, Tarasov continued his consistent play, scoring 17 goals and 31 points in 47 contests. Ultimately, however, the goal was to make it to the NHL. Read more

Kostitsyn brothers nix NHL return, sign with same KHL club

Jared Clinton
Sergei Kostitsyn (Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn’s reported interest in returning to the NHL predated the opening of the league’s free agency period, but it appears that interest wasn’t mutual, as the Kostitsyns have signed deals to remain in the KHL.

According to Sports-Express.ru’s Igor Eronko, Andrei and Sergei have signed contracts with Torpedo Nizhny-Novgorod. Andrei’s deal is a two-year contract, while the terms of Sergei’s deal have not yet been reported.

Prior to signing with Torpedo, there had been multiple reports that both Kostitsyn brothers were fielding offers, with Eronko previously reporting that Sergei was close to inking an NHL deal. Sergei, 28, hadn’t suited up in the NHL since the 2012-13 season, when he scored three goals and 15 points in 47 games for the Nashville Predators. As for 30-year-old Andrei, 2011-12 was his final year in the NHL, as he scored 16 goals and 36 points in 72 games split between the Predators and Montreal Canadiens. Read more