Five potentially cheap free agents who could be savvy pickups

Jared Clinton
Tomas Fleischmann (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Matt Carle had the worst season of his career in 2015-16. Even he didn’t have high praise of his play with the Tampa Bay Lightning, who bought out the final two seasons of his six-year, $33-million contract.

“I’ve never had a year like that,” Carle told The Tennesean’s Adam Vingan. “If I could describe it in one word, it’d more or less be just ‘inconsistent.’ My play was probably inconsistent. My ice time was probably inconsistent. I was in and out of the lineup, and it’s tough to get into a flow and get comfortable.”

But Carle, who signed a one-year, $700,000 contract with the Predators Wednesday, has a chance to become a cheap, effective player for Nashville. It’s a smart signing for Carle, too, because he’s likely to get bottom-pairing minutes on a blueline that is seriously talented, and that could work wonders for his game come next off-season. If Carle can recapture the top-four form that saw him average 21-plus minutes for most of his career and notch a consistent 20 points for the better part of his career, then the signing will look absolutely brilliant on Nashville GM David Poile’s part, too.

Carle’s not the only player who could be a smart, effective and cheap free agent signing. Here are five more currently on the market: Read more

Down Goes Brown: Five blockbuster trades that almost happened

Sean McIndoe
Mark Messier and Brett Hull. (Getty Images)

The 2016 offseason began with a bang, as two of the biggest trades in recent NHL history went down within minutes of each other on June 29. But since then, apart from the occasional move, the trade talk around the league has gone largely quiet.

Or has it? After all, just because blockbuster deals aren’t being made doesn’t mean they’re not being discussed. Hockey history is filled with monster trades that almost happened and that we only find out about after the fact. We covered five of the biggest near-misses a year ago, with names like Steve Yzerman, Corey Perry, Pavel Datsyuk, and even P.K. Subban and Carey Price (in the same deal). Today, let’s look back at a few more.

But first, the obvious disclaimer. While all of these deals were reported by reasonably trustworthy sources, we’ll never know how close they actually came to happening. When it comes to the “near” in near-miss, mileage may vary.

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Three playoff teams who could miss in 2016-17, and three non-playoff teams who could get in

Claude Giroux (Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

Playoff turnover is a hallmark of the NHL’s salary cap era. It’s rare to see a single franchise entrenched in a contending position for decades at a time. The Detroit Red Wings are the remarkable exception. Typically, we see plenty of playoff squads slide out of the picture from one season to the next, while several also-rans sneak back into the big dance.

Five Canadian teams qualified for the playoffs in 2014-15, and all five missed in 2015-16. The Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators and Winnipeg Jets slipped out, replaced by the Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Florida Panthers and Dallas Stars. The 2015-16 playoff picture consisted of 31.25 percent “new” teams. That’s down from 43.75 percent the year prior but still constitutes significant turnover.

Chances are, it’ll happen again in 2016-17. Which recent qualifiers might slip out of the post-season and which might claw their way back in?

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Sabres could look to trade Kane — here are five possible destinations

Jared Clinton
Evander Kane (Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s no secret that Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray isn’t exactly pleased with Evander Kane.

Since coming to Buffalo in a blockbuster trade during the 2014-15 season, Kane has found himself in hot water enough times that Murray has said the youngster needs to right his behavior. The most recent incident came when Kane was arrested and charged last week following an incident that allegedly occurred June 24 at a Buffalo nightclub.

“Certainly we don’t like this is twice now he’s been in incidents like this,” Murray said on July 2 following reports of the alleged nightclub episode, via the Olean Times Herald. “It’s not good for the organization, it’s not good for him. He’s going to have to pick and choose his spots when he goes out a lot better than he does, and he’s going to have to behave himself a lot better than he has, obviously.”

However, any changes Kane makes could be too little, too late. That Kane has again found himself in hot water has some believing the Sabres could seek to move the 24-year-old winger, and the chances of that could be improved should Buffalo land top NCAA free agent Jimmy Vesey in mid-August, according to TSN 1040’s Matt Sekeres. But if the Sabres do choose to move Kane, where would he land? Read more

Black Knights gets top odds as Las Vegas’ moniker, long shot names hilarious and bizarre

Jared Clinton
Las Vegas (George Rose/Getty Images)

Las Vegas expansion team owner Bill Foley isn’t having the easiest time naming his franchise.

“I didn’t realize how complicated it was, and it is complicated,” Foley said last week when introducing George McPhee as the team’s first GM. “We are working our way through the process right now, as we speak…We have a lot names in mind, but a lot of the ones I really liked are trademarked, so that is a little bit of an issue.”

The assumption is Foley is running into issues with naming the team Black Knights. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Foley wants the team to have some tie to his alma mater. But Foley didn’t say it was Black Knights or nothing. In fact, he said he’d take suggestions if others were willing to give them. His only request was that the name should “represent Las Vegas, represent the environment and be unique to Las Vegas.”

Foley has said the NHL urged him to not to go the gambling route with the name. According to Foley, the league “has made it very clear that it really should not be associated with gambling and so on. It needs to be something a little different than that.”

But when it came to suggesting team names, sports betting site Sports Interaction appears to have simply come up with the first 34 names they could think of, attached betting odds to ‘em and called it a day. Seriously, check some of these out: Read more

Prust ready to earn spot in training camp — here are five others who could go the same route

Jared Clinton
Brandon Prust (Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

After the way things started in Montreal for Zack Kassian, it would have been hard to imagine that it was he who would have had the better season following an off-season trade between the Canadiens and Canucks that sent Brandon Prust to Vancouver.

However, after the off-season crash and stint in the NHL/NHLPA substance abuse program, Kassian got his season on track with the Edmonton Oilers and finished the campaign with three goals and eight points in 35 games while averaging nearly 12:30 of ice time per game. Kassian earned himself a $1.5-million contract extension in Edmonton.

As for Prust, well, his season was rough. He dealt with an ankle injury early, was sent down to the AHL by February and finished his campaign on the shelf. Prust notched one goal and seven points with the Canucks, skated roughly 12:45 per game and he’s still looking for work. But the 32-year-old agitating winger said he’s ready to do whatever it takes to earn himself a deal.

“Right now, I would accept a job anywhere,” Prust told TVA Sports. “Everything depends on the team and if they see me in their plans.”

He said the plan is to start next season in the NHL, and added it doesn’t matter if he has a deal to start the season. His intention is to win one. And Prust won’t be alone among the players looking to earn a contract in training camp. Here are five players who could also be looking at securing NHL jobs through tryout contracts: Read more

Down Goes Brown: Five expected off-season moves that haven’t happened yet

Kevin Shattenkirk (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

The dog days of the NHL offseason got a nice jolt on Monday when the Senators and Rangers hooked up on a decent-sized trade. The deal sends Derick Brassard and a seventh to Ottawa in exchange for Mika Zibanejad and a second, improving the Senators’ top six while adding some youth to the Rangers and giving them some additional cap room to work with.

The trade also answered one of the offseason’s lingering questions, which was: When are the Rangers going to get around to doing something? We were all told to expect a busy offseason in New York, as GM Jeff Gorton would look to shake up his aging and expensive core. But until this week, not much had happened aside from a few minor free agency signings. Trading Broussard isn’t exactly a blockbuster, but at least now the Rangers are on the board.

But that still leaves a few more stories lingering in the “still waiting” file. Here are five moves everyone went into the offseason expecting to see that still haven’t happened yet. Read more

The five early off-season moves that will have the biggest impact

Brian Elliott (Dilip Vishwanat/NHLI via Getty Images)

There’s still nearly three months until the NHL campaign opens, which will leave the league’s 30 teams with ample time to tune and tweak their rosters as opening night approaches.

However, a few teams have made big splashes this off-season. Some have gotten creative, such as the Arizona Coyotes and Florida Panthers, by trading for a player’s exclusive negotiating rights to ink them to a deal before free agency opened, while others have gone the more traditional route, like the Boston Bruins, who shelled out a five-year, $30-million deal to David Backes.

Meanwhile, some clubs have gone the trade route, with the New Jersey Devils and Edmonton Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens and Nashville Predators linking up to make one-for-one deals that both teams hope will improve their situations going forward.

And though there are still a number of free agents who could sign and make a difference next season, the biggest names are off the market. So here are the five off-season moves that have been made (so far) that will have the biggest impact this coming season: Read more