It’s about that time again. For all of you who love prospects or just want to know what your NHL team has in the pipeline, the THN Futures mailbag is here for you. If you have any questions relating to the next generation of stars, hit me up on Twitter at @THNRyanKennedy and use the hashtag #thnfutures to make sure I see it.
Let’s get to this week’s questions.
While the start of the 2016 NHL unrestricted free agency period is months away, speculation continues to percolate about several notable players who could be available. Much of the focus, of course, is on superstars like Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos and Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar, but there are others who could become hot commodities next July.
Citing the two-year, $12 million contract Tomas Plekanec recently signed with the Montreal Canadiens, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman wonders how it could affect negotiations between the New York Islanders and center Frans Nielsen. The 31-year-old is in the final season of a four-year, $11-million deal, with an average cap hit of $2.75 million. While Friedman notes Plekanec has better offensive numbers than Nielsen, Isles coach Jack Capuano thinks highly of him.
Welcome back to Prospect Need to Know, the gathering formerly known as The Hot List. I’m debuting some new sections this week and there will be a rotation, so don’t worry if things continue to look different from here on out. There’s a lot to cover with the AHL and NCAA getting into full swing, so let’s get to it.
A post-Canadian Thanksgiving compendium of news and views for your dining and dancing pleasure:
* It’s good to be Eric Boulton these days. You’re 39 years old, whatever skills you had as a hockey player are clearly in decline, you’ve never scored more than six goals in a season and you haven’t played a playoff game in more than eight years, and yet there are still executives at the NHL level who are willing to offer you a contract.
In this case it was New York Islanders GM Garth Snow, who gave Boulton a one-way deal worth $575,000. It’s a deal that increases by $25,000 for every playoff round the Islanders win this season, playoff wins that will almost certainly be earned without Boulton ever seeing a minute of ice time. So if the Islanders win the Stanley Cup this season, Boulton will make $100,000 for being a good guy and working out with the scrubs.
With another NHL season underway, here’s a look at the NHL players most likely to be dealt by the Feb. 29 trade deadline.
Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes. The 30-year-old Hurricanes is an unrestricted free agent next summer. His production’s declined in recent years and the club is rebuilding. If there’s no progress in either the Hurricanes’ performance or Staal’s contract talks, he could agree to be dealt to a contender at the deadline. Read more
Status: NHL defenseman from 1976-1990 for Detroit, Boston, New York Islanders, Edmonton, Minnesota and Buffalo.
Ht: 6-0 Wt: 195 pounds
DOB: July 30, 1956 In: Minneapolis, Minnesota
First Hockey Memory: “Started outside. When I grew up they had a big park, Sibley Park, with a football field, they would flood the field and make a hockey rink. I remember taking a break and watching the big guys playing, snow falling, standing in the snow bank, watching the guys from Roosevelt High School play. The park was in the city of Minneapolis.” Read more
Every hockey fan worth their salt can name the Original Six, but the seventh team, the one that didn’t quite make the cut, is the answer to one of the most interesting trivia questions in sports. That forgotten franchise, the New York Americans, is getting new life thanks to the New York Islanders’ move to Brooklyn and an exhibit at the Brooklyn Historical Society.
The story of the Americans is so bizarre that even Steve Cohen, the mind behind the exhibit, found it difficult to believe. Cohen was born in Brooklyn but began to play hockey in Illinois, where his father, a Brooklynite, would tell Cohen about the borough’s hockey history.
“There was always reference made to what always seemed to me like it was a mythical team, the Brooklyn Americans,” Cohen explained. “If you think about it from the standpoint of somebody who understands or was brought up in the lore of hockey, all you need to think is the great name is the Montreal Canadiens. Wouldn’t the analog be the New York or Brooklyn Americans?
In addition, the story was that the team had been founded by a bootlegger and had been here, in New York, a year before the Rangers, which seemed inconceivable…In all candor, I wasn’t really sure if it was true.”
But it was. All of it. The Americans were founded by a bootlegger, they were the original tenant at Madison Square Garden and their massive attendance in 1925 was one driving force behind the creation of the Rangers. But even with Cohen’s knowledge of the team, it was a chance encounter with a piece of Americans history that really sealed his obsession. Read more
The New York Islanders made a trade on the opening day of training camp, shipping winger Michael Grabner to the Toronto Maple Leafs for five minor leaguers. An unrestricted free agent next July, Grabner’s slide down the Isles depth chart made him the subject of trade rumors earlier this summer so this move wasn’t surprising.
Grabner isn’t the only Islanders winger to pop up in the off-season rumor mill. Newsday’s Arthur Staple reports right wing Kyle Okposo was “briefly shopped around” by GM Garth Snow before the 2015 NHL Draft. Like Grabner, the 27-year-old is eligible for UFA status in July.
Staple claims contract talks between Snow and Okposo’s agent Pat Brisson were brief and unproductive. Okposo is in the final season of a five-year, $14-million contract. While his annual cap hit is $2.8 million, his actual salary for 2015-16 is $4.5 million. Given his performance over the past couple of years, he will likely seek a significant raise (perhaps over $6 million) on a long-term extension. Read more