10 players facing make or break seasons in 2015-16

Justin Schultz  (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)

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

Five unforgettable NHL free agent sagas

Jared Clinton
Shea Weber (Getty Images)

The NBA may have just gone through one of the most interesting free agent scenarios in league history, but the NHL has had some of its own.

For those who don’t follow the NBA, the free agent situation regarding DeAndre Jordan, the Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks reached infamous status Wednesday evening.

In a nutshell, the NBA’s negotiation period leaves a window of several days for free agents to discuss, and potentially commit, to contracts with teams. Jordan, a free agent who had previously played with for Clippers, had intended to sign with the Mavericks, but changed his mind at some point in the past week, leading to him reneging on a potential deal with Dallas to head back to Los Angeles. All Thursday, it has been the talk of the sports world.

While the NHL free agency period doesn’t quite allow for situations such as Jordan’s to occur, it doesn’t mean the league hasn’t had its own major storylines happen thanks to the signing season. Here are five examples from the past 15 years: Read more

Edmonton big winner, insanity big loser in Free Agent Frenzy

Andrej Sekera  (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

The same day Connor McDavid wore his Edmonton Oiler colors for the first time ever on the ice, his bosses were upstairs going about the process of giving him some legitimate NHL players to surround him.

It’s difficult, nay impossible, to declare the winners and losers of a free agent frenzy day before Canada Day has even included, but it’s difficult to not get excited about what’s going on in western Canada these days. The oil patch has been sucked dry of good hockey for so long that sometimes it looked as though neither the Oilers nor the Calgary Flames were ever going to get it right.

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Nashville Predators add Cody Hodgson, Barret Jackman in free agent deals

Matt Larkin
Cody Hodgson (Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Nashville Predators have flown relatively under the radar this off-season, re-signing their top two centers, Mike Ribeiro and Mike Fisher. But GM David Poile’s quiet moves last summer helped the team make a surprise run to the playoffs, and it appears he’s making similar decisions this off-season.

Picking Ribeiro off the scrap heape worked wonders, and Poile will try to duplicate that feat with Cody Hodgson. The maligned center, just 25, was bought out by the Buffalo Sabres this week. Now he’ll attempt a career turnaround in Nashville on a one-year, $1.05-million contract. Hodgson scored 20 goals in 2013-14 and appeared to be a key cog for the Sabres, but he tumbled to just six goals and 13 points in 78 games this season, often criticized for his level of effort.

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Mike Ribeiro signs two-year extension with Nashville Predators

Jared Clinton
Mike Ribeiro. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

Nashville GM David Poile has locked up one of his top free agent prizes: veteran center Mike Ribeiro.

According to TSN’s Aaron Ward, Nashville has re-signed Ribeiro to a two-year deal worth $7 million.

The re-signing comes following a big year for Ribeiro in which he signed a one-year, $1.05 million deal with the Predators to prove he still had something left in the tank.
During last year’s off-season, the Arizona Coyotes had bought out Ribeiro just one season into a four-year deal. Following the buyout, Nashville inked Ribeiro to a one-year deal that was low-risk, high reward: if Ribeiro failed, it wasn’t a deal that broke the bank for the Predators and it wouldn’t damage their salary cap; if he played well, they had found a steal. Read more

Predators play it safe with Fisher, Avalanche play it risky with Soderberg

Carl Soderberg. (Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Two signings, two centers, two Central Division teams, two very different meanings.

Unrestricted free agent to-be Mike Fisher, 35, will return to the Nashville Predators. Fisher signed a two-year, $8.8-million deal. Is $4.4 million per year a bit much for a 35-year-old veteran who has never topped 25 goals or 53 points? Maybe, but it was a matter of Nashville’s needs. General manager David Poile couldn’t risk losing one of his top two centers, especially with UFA Mike Ribeiro’s status up in the air. Fisher loves Nashville, Nashville loves Fisher, and his country star wife Carrie Underwood is based there. The two-year term makes the meaty cap hit palatable, too.

Colorado’s signing of Carl Soderberg, who turns 30 Oct. 12, is much more eyebrow-raising. The Avalanche acquired the 6-foot-3, 216-pound pivot’s rights from the Boston Bruins Thursday and locked him up to a five-year, $23.75-million contract. So whereas the Preds will play $4.4 million for a sure thing, if an unexciting one, the Avs bet big on the unproven Soderberg for $4.75 million a year.

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2015 Draft Preview – Prey become Predators for Nashville

Kevin Fiala (Getty Images)

GM David Poile and his plucky Nashville Predators bamboozled the league in 2014-15. They were supposed to be an also-ran in hockey’s toughest division but instead enjoyed one of their best seasons in franchise history. They’re stacked in goal and on defense, and a few of their best forward prospects have emerged.

Round 2, pick 55
Round 3, pick 85
Round 4, picks 100, 115
Round 5, pick 145
Round 6, pick 175
Round 7, pick 205

The James Neal trade didn’t give Nashville the elite sniper it needed. Filip Forsberg bloomed, but he’s more of an all-around scorer than pure shooter. The 2015 free agent class lacks a slam-dunk 30-goal man, so Poile will have to search the trade market if he wants one. Also, what if Mike Ribeiro opts not to re-sign? It would leave Nashville without a No. 1 center.
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New court document reveals details in Mike Ribeiro sexual assault case

Matt Larkin
Mike Ribeiro. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

Court documents filed Thursday have revealed new details in the sexual assault case against Nashville Predators center Mike Ribeiro.

Ribeiro is accused of sexually assaulting his former nanny, whose name has been withheld from the public as of this time. The Predators blog On the Forecheck has obtained documents filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court that go into vivid detail about the accusations.

The case was first filed in 2014. Ribeiro is accused of numerous unwanted sexual advances on the nanny between 2007, when she was 12, and 2012, when she was 18. The most serious assault is alleged to have happened in 2012, when the nanny was staying with Ribeiro’s family for two weeks helping them prepare for a move to Virginia after he’d signed with the Washington Capitals.

On the Forecheck reveals graphic details in the accusations here. Warning: they may be upsetting to read: http://www.ontheforecheck.com/2015/6/19/8812037/mike-ribeiro-sexual-assault-case-details-allegations

Ribeiro’s wife, Tamara Williams, is alleged to have been negligent in her failure to stop the assault. According to On the Forecheck, the complaint states the nanny “has suffered anguish, medical treatment, physical pain and suffering, physical impairment, humiliation, shame, fright and damage to her reputation as a result of the actions committted by Ribeiro and Williams.”

The complaint also alleges Ribeiro admitted fault in a conversation with his wife and his nanny after the 2012 incident.

Ribeiro and Williams have maintained their innocence. The new complaint, filed June 18, is 16 pages, much longer than the initial complaint filed last year, which stated that “Defendant MIKE RIBEIRO assaulted Plaintiff. Defendant RIBEIRO acted intentionally, knowingly and recklessly when he made contact with Plaintiff’s person. The Defendant’s contact caused bodily injury to Plaintiff and Plaintiff has been damaged in an amount which is within the jurisdictional limits of this court.”

Williams had also been charged for allegedly harassing the nanny.

Previously, before the nanny’s 16-page complaint was filed, Ribeiro’s attorney had filed a motion to dismiss the case. It stated the nanny had accused Ribeiro of attempting to touch her during the two weeks she stayed with the family in 2012 and that she stayed until the end of the two weeks.

Next up in the case is a discovery hearing, which has a July 27 deadline and will yield a report by August 11.

Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blogFor more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazineFollow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin