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

The top 10 players to watch in the Champions League

Washington first-rounder Jakub Vrana has already started his season (Photo by Andreas Froberg/Linkoping HC/Champions Hockey League via Getty Images)

If you can’t wait for the NHL season to start, maybe turn your attention to Europe, where the Champions League is off and running. The super-sized tournament for club teams features squads from all over the continent and it’s more than just a place to find fun NHL names from the recent past (Chuck Kobasew! Mikael Samuelsson!). A lot of great young talent is on display, including some top NHL prospects and draft eligibles. Below you’ll find 10 players to watch for as the tournament goes on. Not included were skaters on rosters but yet to play in a game, including 2016 prospect Patrik Laine of Finland, 2015′s Michael Spacek of the Czech Republic and Pittsburgh first-rounder Kasperi Kapanen.

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Rumor Roundup: Should the Predators sign Ryan Johansen to an offer sheet?

Ryan Johansen is coming off his entry-level contract with the Blue Jackets, but hasn't signed an extension yet. (Getty Images)

The Tennessean’s Josh Cooper suggests the Nashville Predators should attempt to sign Columbus Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen to an offer sheet. He considers it a low-risk move, believing the young center would be a more permanent solution to their issues at the position than Derek Roy and Mike Ribeiro.

Contract talks between Johansen and the Blue Jackets remain stalled. The Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline reports there’s no sign of progress between the two camps. GM Jarmo Kekalainen insists there’s plenty of time to work out a deal before training camp opens next month.

Portzline notes Johansen is coming off an entry-level deal and lacks arbitration rights, giving the young center little leverage except the threat of staging a contract holdout. Earlier this summer the two sides seemed to reach an agreement on term (two years), but there’s a significant gap in salary. Portzline reports the Jackets are believed to be offering between $3.5 million and $4 million annually, while the Johansen camp seeks upward of $7 million per season. Read more

Nashville Predators GM David Poile breaks down his (many) off-season moves

Matt Larkin
David Poile

Surely, some Nashville Predators fan out there took trip to a remote country in early June and just got home now.

“What did I miss? Preds do anything?”

“Gary, you better sit down.”

There’s a ceiling on how exciting it is to cheer for Nashville at the moment. Sharing a division with Chicago, St. Louis, Minnesota, Colorado and Dallas will do that. Still, the Predators’ wild flurry of off-season activity should have their fans as amped up as they could possibly be. A year ago, the Preds had drafted Seth Jones, but GM David Poile’s biggest off-season additions were, drumroll, Matt Cullen, Eric Nystrom and Viktor Stalberg.

This summer: no more Mr. Nice Poile. He realized the team needed a complete philosophical shift, and he went for it. First, Poile said goodbye to Barry Trotz, the only coach in franchise history. It was an amicable split, but a difficult one. In came offense-minded Peter Laviolette. The change in coaching approach was as drastic as can be, as Laviolette teams tend to forecheck ferociously and pay less attention to defense.

“That’s partly why we made the changes,” Poile said. “We need to push forward a bit more. We feel very confident in our goaltending with Pekka Rinne coming back healthy this season, and our defense led by Shea Weber, Roman Josi, young players like Seth Jones, Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis. We feel we’re terrific in goaltending and defense, and as Peter Laviolette says, we need to go forward more. We need to try to be a more dangerous team offensively. I don’t think we’ve scared too many teams offensively in the past. They knew they were going to get a good, hard game, but we have not been able to put up a lot of goals on a regular basis. That’s prevented us from making the playoffs the last couple years.”

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Signing Michael Del Zotto an indictment of Flyers’ middling defense corps

Michael Del Zotto (Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

After receiving tough news Tuesday about veteran blueliner Kimmo Timonen, the Philadelphia Flyers moved quickly to replace their most experienced defenseman by signing Michael Del Zotto to a one-year, $1.3-million contract. But the fact GM Ron Hextall turned to a former hot property whose stock has fallen precipitously is an indication Philly’s defense corps could be the area that prevents the Flyers from securing a playoff berth this season.

Since star blueliner Chris Pronger had his career ended in 2011 by post-concussion syndrome, the Flyers have been searching to bolster their blueline. Timonen and Braydon Coburn are the only holdovers from Pronger’s time in Philadelphia, and because the organization hasn’t been able to produce a home-grown d-man of impact, they’ve had to look elsewhere – namely, the New York Islanders, from whom they acquired former Isles blueliners Mark Streit (via free agency) and Andrew MacDonald (via trade). They dealt skilled young winger James van Riemsdyk to Toronto for Luke Schenn. And those moves didn’t produce the desired result; Philly was 17th in Corsi-for last season and were in the lower tier of the NHL in goals-allowed (20th overall at 2.77 goals per game).

Those numbers won’t improve with the arrival of Del Zotto, who at age 24 has arrived at a crossroads in his five-year NHL career and who had to accept a major pay cut (from $2.55 million last season) to continue playing in hockey’s top league. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Where will Dustin Penner & Michael Del Zotto land?

Dustin Penner

As the NHL off-season drags on, former New York Rangers and Nashville Predators defenseman Michael Del Zotto remains unsigned.

Only 24, Del Zotto is just two years removed from a 41-point performance with the Rangers in 2011-12. Unfortunately, his stock tumbled significantly last season, largely because of his poor play in his own zone.

Recent speculation linking Del Zotto to the Vancouver Canucks was denied by his agent, who claims there’s “no chance” his client ends up with the Canucks. It’s been rumored the Detroit Red Wings could have interest, but he’s a left-handed shot and the Wings seek a right-shooting blueliner.

The New York Post’s Larry Brooks cited an NHL club claiming Del Zotto’s reputation was “in tatters.” He believes now is the right time to “buy low” on the young rearguard and wonders why the New York Islanders haven’t pursued him. Read more

NHL logo rankings No. 15: Nashville Predators

Ryan Kennedy
PredsMain

The Nashville Predators presented our panel with an interesting debate point: How much do we like certain logos simply because we’ve grown up with them? The Preds have only been around since 1998, so they do not benefit from any sort of nostalgia. And though the design is definitely new-school, Nashville has barely changed their mascot in the past decade and a half, so clearly the team and its fans are happy. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Think you can design a better look for the Predators? Here’s your chance. Create your best logo redesign for Nashville 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 logos from Chris Creamer’s website.

History of the Predators logo

While Nashville is more synonymous with country music than paleontology, there is a direct reason the Predators sport a saber-toothed tiger on the front of their sweater. Back in 1971, construction workers unearthed a prehistoric cave downtown as they were digging down for a building’s foundation. In that cave, they found a nine-inch long fang and a leg bone belonging to a saber-toothed tiger, dating back as much as 80,000 years ago. Read more

Music and hockey: an all-star panel, part one

Nathan-MacKinnon-3

As obsessed as I am with hockey, I was once similarly preoccupied with music. I am nowhere near as plugged in as I used to be, but I still love music and since my tastes tend to run on the obscure side, I don’t get a lot of opportunities to talk about my favorite bands within the hockey community. But over the years, I’ve found some kindred spirits in the sport and it’s always fun to talk about bands and artists that we share a mutual love for.

So in the spirit of summer fun, I hit up a few of the people who fall into that category and asked them about the current state of hockey and music. Here’s the panel:

Nathan MacKinnon: Calder Trophy-winning center for the Colorado Avalanche, hip-hop head.

Drew Stafford: Veteran Buffalo Sabres right winger, heavy metal fiend

Boyd Devereaux: Stanley Cup winner with the Detroit Red Wings. Now retired, his company Waking Sound makes hockey promo videos featuring highlights set to music. He also founded the label Elevation Recordings, which put out psyche/noise/underground artists.

Vinny Karpuszka: Arena DJ for the Pittsburgh Penguins, heavy metal enthusiast

Sunaya Sapurji: Junior hockey writer for Yahoo! Sports and its Buzzing the Net blog

Uffe Bodin: Editor in chief and writer for Hockeysverige.se.

Arun Bali: Guitarist for Saves the Day, die-hard Red Wings fan now living in Nashville

Part two of this conversation will go up tomorrow. Here we go…

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