CHL Import Draft: Who is coming and who is staying home?


The CHL Import Draft is complex. On the surface of course, it’s straight-forward: Every team from the Ontario, Western and Quebec League has the opportunity to select two European players, assuming they have two import slots open on their roster.

But if one of your Europeans went in the first round of the NHL draft, you can keep the rights to three, in case the first-rounder bounces between the pros and junior (it’s basically the Mikhail Grigorenko rule). And you’re not allowed to take goalies anymore, which is protectionist and ignores the fact American netminders have been “taking jobs” from Canadian kids as much as Europeans were.

Also, some folks will tell you it’s not quite a draft because some teams have unofficial deals with players beforehand – which led to last year’s awkward situation where Washington Capitals pick Andre Burakovsky thought he was going to Windsor, only see to Erie scoop up his rights first. After a lot of fuss, Burakovsky went to the Otters and helped Erie make a nice playoff run.

The 2014 installment of the Import Draft happened on Wednesday and as always, there was drama, beginning with the first pick. The OHL’s Sarnia Sting tabbed Czech power forward Pavel Zacha first overall, but the youngster’s agent, Allan Walsh, immediately took to Twitter to announce that Zacha, a potential top-10 NHL pick in 2015, has a contract with Liberec back home and that Sarnia just wasted the pick.

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Don’t rule out Jason Spezza-to-Nashville deal just yet

Ken Campbell
Jason Spezza

PHILADELPHIA – The best chance for Jason Spezza to get the trade out of Ottawa that he supposedly wants might be for him to change his mind about going to the Nashville Predators. And while the Predators are one of the 10 teams that Spezza had on his no-trade list, that doesn’t mean that won’t change.

Senators GM Bryan Murray said after the NHL draft that he had a deal to send Spezza to the Predators Friday night, but the deal was scuttled because the Predators are on one of the 10 teams to which Spezza listed on his no-trade list. When asked whether his client would change his mind about going to Nashville, Spezza’s agent Rick Curran said, “I really can’t say one way or another. Nashville was on Jason’s list that we put together a while ago and without the benefit of a crystal ball, I can’t say. Call me in three or four days and we might have a better answer.” Read more

Predators steal the show, Senators still stuck with Spezza

James Neal

PHILADELPHIA – In the end, the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NHL draft stayed put and so did Jason Spezza. So there you go, all you armchair GMs out there, making trades in the NHL aren’t quite as easy as they look.

Unless, of course, you’re the Nashville Predators. Once the draft started, it was Predators GM David Poile who made the biggest splash on the trade front, acquiring James Neal from the Pittsburgh Penguins for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling. It’s a trade that won’t go over real well with Penguins star Evgeni Malkin and it’s hard to see how this deal makes the Penguins a better team, but this is a team that needed a shakeup in the worst way and trading Neal for a couple of guys who might provide this group of fancy-pants with some grit might not be the worst idea in the world. Read more

Rumor Roundup: O’Reilly and Avalanche headed towards another contract clash?


For the second time in as many years, the Colorado Avalanche appear headed to another round of contentious contract negotiations with Ryan O’Reilly.

The Avalanche recently elected to take O’Reilly, 23, to salary arbitration rather than pony up $6.5 million to qualify his rights. The Denver Post’s Adrian Dater reports the two sides can continue to negotiate up until July 15, but if still unresolved a date will be set for an arbitration hearing.

Dater claims the Avalanche prefer to use his annual average salary of $5 million as a starting point for negotiations, while O’Reilly’s agent Pat Morris believes it should begin at his actual salary ($6.5 million) for this season. Should this go to arbitration, the new CBA stipulates O’Reilly cannot receive anything less than 85 percent of his actual salary, which would be $5.5 million for 2014-15. He can also chose a one- or two-year contract.

Morris indicated O’Reilly hopes to remain with the Avalanche, but as he’ll be eligible for unrestricted free agent status in two years, this could become a year-to-year situation until his UFA eligibility. This prompted Dater to speculate the Avalanche could shop O’Reilly, noting rival GMs can contact all free agents – restricted and unrestricted – starting June 25, plus there’s a five-day window (July 1 to 5) where O’Reilly can sign an offer sheet. He suggests O’Reilly’s trade value could fetch the stud defenseman the Avs need to become legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. Read more

Fantasy Pool Look: Devils and Predators off-season outlooks


It’s the 12th annual off-season look at each team from a fantasy hockey standpoint. Every year I run through the teams alphabetically – but switch starting points. This year I’m doing something different and reviewing the teams in reverse order of regular season finish. Next up, the New Jersey Devils and the Nashville Predators. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Let the trade battle for Spezza, Kesler & Thornton begin!

Spezza And Kesler (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

Since the end of the regular season there’s been speculation Ottawa Senators captain Jason Spezza could be traded. On Wednesday Senators GM Bryan Murray confirmed the center requested a trade.

The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch claims the Anaheim Ducks, St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators and Vancouver Canucks called Murray about his captain’s availability. The Ottawa Citizen’s Ken Warren suggests the Dallas Stars and Florida Panthers as possible destinations.

Matt Larkin of The Hockey News includes the Toronto Maple Leafs on his list, but acknowledged Murray would prefer not sending Spezza to a team his Senators would have to face often. Larkin dismisses the possibility of the Canucks landing the 31-year-old center as “wishful thinking.”

Warren notes Spezza’s market value could be affected by the possibility of the Canucks’ Ryan Kesler and the San Jose Sharks’ Joe Thornton being shopped at the same time. Garrioch reports the Senators rumored asking price is a player, a first round pick and a top prospect. Murray’s admitted a couple of clubs have expressed serious interest in Spezza, but the GM hasn’t informed teams as to what he’ll seek in return. He claims he doesn’t really want to trade Spezza, admitting he probably won’t receive full value in a trade. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Brad or Mike, which Richards will be bought out?

Richards (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

New York Rangers center Brad Richards and Los Angeles Kings pivot Mike Richards may be unrelated, but they share more than a last name, position and participation in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final. They’re also the subjects of compliance buyout speculation.

Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reports the possibility of a Brad Richards buyout is the elephant in the room for the Rangers. The Globe & Mail’s Eric Duhatschek believes the Kings could face a choice between buying out Mike Richards to free up cap space to re-sign Marian Gaborik or risk losing the latter to free agency.

Brad, 34, is currently in the third year of a nine-year, $60-million contract worth $6.66 million annually. Mike, 29, is in the sixth year of a 12-year, $69 million deal worth $5.75 million per season. Both contracts could create salary cap grief for their teams this summer.

The Rangers have nearly $54 million invested in just 13 players for 2014-15 and must re-sign or replace Chris Kreider, Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello, Anton Stralman, Benoit Pouliot, Dominic Moore and John Moore. The Kings have almost $58 million tied up in 18 players, with Gaborik, Willie Mitchell, Dwight King and Matt Greene as their notable free agents. Though the salary cap is projected to rise to between $69-70 million, that’s not enough cap space for these clubs to re-sign all their key free agents. Read more

Barry Trotz: Chance to coach Caps is “surreal but invigorating”

Matt Larkin
Barry Trotz

Unless your name is Lindy Ruff, it’s hard to imagine how Barry Trotz will feel when he steps behind the Washington Capitals bench for the 2014-15 season.

Will it be like the first day at a new school? That doesn’t do it justice. It’s the equivalent of changing schools after spending 15 years in one class, with one teacher. The Nashville Predators were all Trotz had ever known as a head coach, and vice versa. He and GM David Poile had been joined at the hip since the dawn of the franchise in 1998-99.

“When you’re there in one spot from day one, forming a lot of the culture, making a lot of decisions in a lot of areas when you’re an expansion team, it’s basically four empty walls,” Trotz says. “Being there 17 years, making Nashville your home, and all of a sudden you’re going somewhere else, it is a little bit surreal. At the same time, it’s invigorating.”

The marriage between Trotz and Poile ended amicably. It’s not like Nashville finished last overall and Poile angrily showed Trotz the door amid public calls for the coach’s head. The Preds only missed the playoffs by three points after a late-season surge, but it was simply time for something new.

“It wasn’t like, ‘Hey, you know, I’m done here,’ or David saying, ‘Hey, you’re not doing a good job, ‘ ” Trotz says. “It was just, they needed a little change, and it was time. You can see that, by the way we split it, both sides were very kind to each other and still remain friends.”

Peter Laviolette now helms what will be a more up-tempo Music City team, while defense-minded Trotz will try to improve a Washington squad ranking in bottom half of the NHL in goals against three seasons running. It’s an especially challenging task, because this isn’t a low-stakes hire for a team openly rebuilding and not expecting to contend for years. The Caps lack an identity and still intend to push for the playoffs next season, relying on Alex Ovechkin as their star. They hope Evgeny Kuznetsov becomes an impact NHL forward in his first full season, that Braden Holtby, Philipp Grubauer or some free agent gives them reliable goaltending, that John Carlson continues to develop as a workhorse blueliner. Owner Ted Leonsis’ oustings of coach Adam Oates and GM George McPhee says the Caps knew the situation was broke – but this team intends to fix it immediately.

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