All right, so now that (almost) all the dust has cleared in Free Agent Frenzy 2014, here are some thoughts on Day 1 of a crazy off-season:
MOTOWN NO TOWN FOR FREE AGENTS Let me get this straight. Dan Boyle took less money and term to sign with the New York Rangers than he could have received from the Detroit Red Wings. What is this, Opposite Day?
After pretty much ruling the NHL for the past two decades, the Detroit Red Wings have fallen on hard times indeed. Remember the days when free agency would open and the Red Wings would basically open for business, basically telling whichever veterans stars they wanted that playing for the Red Wings was a privilege? The Red Wings never begged and they never got turned down. Read more
While the focus in recent days was upon potential trades leading up to the draft, a number of NHL teams are using the free agent interview period to reach out to potential unrestricted free agents.
Interest in Colorado Avalanche center Paul Stastny is growing. The 28-year-old could become the best player available in the upcoming UFA market if the Avalanche fail to re-sign him before July 1. ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun claims up to 15 teams have contacted Stastny’s agent.
LeBrun claims the Winnipeg Jets and Chicago Blackhawks are among “the long list of teams” that reached out to the Stastny camp. Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the Blues have also expressed interest. Read more
The New York Rangers freed up over $6.67 million in annual cap space by using their remaining compliance buyout on center Brad Richards, who now becomes an unrestricted free agent. Rather than use the savings to pursue unrestricted free agents, Larry Brooks of the New York Post anticipates the money will be sunk into re-signing as many of their key free agents as possible.
One of them is defenseman Anton Stralman, who Brooks reports could receive a three- or four-year offer from the Blueshirts worth $4-million annually. The question is, will that be enough to keep Stralman from testing the upcoming UFA market? Read more
The NHL schedule has been released and the number-crunchers have already put in some great work in breaking it down. As always, there are fun match-ups to kick off the season, such as Los Angeles hosting San Jose and Montreal visiting Toronto. But which teams will really be grinding through 82 games and which ones get more of a cozier ride?
With the opening of free agency on July 1 closing in, we would like to turn your attention to today’s buyout of Brad Richards by the New York Rangers.
If you’ll recall, Richards headlined the unrestricted free agent class of 2011. He was coming off a solid run over parts of four seasons with the Dallas Stars, peaking at 91 points in 2009-10. In the summer of 2011, he was coming off a season in which he scored 77 points in 72 games.
So the New York Rangers went all in with an offer, as they’re apt to do. Toronto GM Brian Burke took a lot of guff that day for visiting troops in Afghanistan rather than being in New York to meet with Richards and make a pitch. But the Rangers were favored all along and they paid a hefty price for him. Read more
Matt Loughran never played for the New York Rangers. Yet, if you ask any of the members of that team, he was an important piece of the 1994 Stanley Cup as operations manager.
“Matty managed all of us and invested a lot of time and energy, and was certainly a tremendous part of our success,” said Mike Keenan. “He personally spent a lot of time with me, and I had the great opportunity to be with an individual who was completely committed to the New York Rangers…He brought to life the essence of our team…He connected all the dots for us.”
Loughran has been battling cancer and now the ’94 Rangers are stepping up their efforts to help him with his treatments with the “Rangers Helping Rangers” online auction. It runs through June 22 and includes items such as signed pucks from Brian Leetch, Alex Kovalev, Mike Richter, a signed team celebration photo, and meet and greets with New York athletes.
The Hockey News was notified about this auction by John Cirillo, who was VP of public relations for the New York Knicks in 1994. He shared this wonderful story about the night the Rangers won the Stanley Cup and how Loughran got him into the dressing room for an unforgettable evening: Read more
For a brief span in the early 2000s, the NHL had two European coaches. Ivan Hlinka ran the bench in Pittsburgh, while Alpo Suhonen was in charge of Chicago. It didn’t last long; 168 games combined, to be specific. But with New York Rangers assistant Ulf Samuelsson in the running for the position in Carolina, perhaps NHL teams are willing to look at hockey minds who weren’t born on this continent once again.
It’s an unusual year for centers. When you build a team these days, this is a position you really need to be strong in. The Kings are deep down the middle, just as the Hawks were when they won and the Bruins in 2011. It’s a key spot on the depth chart, so when you get a good center, you tend to want to hang on to him.
This summer, though, there are more than a few pivots who are potentially available. Whether it’s by trade or free agent signing, if you’re looking to fill a center spot on your roster, there are actually options this off-season. They’re not all equal, but they’re all available.
Here is a look at seven centers your team may be able to acquire this summer and the most likely destination for each.
Jason Spezza: He’s already requested a trade and since he’s one year away from unrestricted free agency, he’ll be gone somewhere this summer. Where is the most likely landing spot for the Senator? Even though I think Ryan Kesler is the better fit in Anaheim, I think the Ducks are the most likely destination for Spezza. They’re in the West, well away from Ottawa, and they have piles of young assets with which to barter. Exactly what the Sens need. The Ducks have a pile of cap space and it’s no secret they are going to chase after a second line center this off-season. A 1-2 punch of Ryan Getzlaf and Spezza would make up one of the better playmaking center combos in the league.
Joe Thornton: A lot could happen in San Jose this summer and Thornton has been at the forefront of those rumors. A superior playmaker and solid possession player, Thornton may be 35 at the start of next season, but he’s coming off a 76-point year. He’s also got a fresh new three-year contract kicking in that, inconveniently for the Sharks, has a no-movement clause. So even if you did want to trade Thornton, you’d have to do it on his terms – and he’s not likely going to want to go to a team that won’t win the Cup in the next three years. The Sharks committed to Thornton and Patrick Marleau when they re-signed them this season. If a big shake up is what needs to happen in San Jose, GM Doug Wilson should explore trade options for Brent Burns and even Joe Pavelski first. But Big Joe needs to stay for a ton of reasons, not least of which is that the market would be narrow. Most likely destination for Thornton? Right back in San Jose. Read more