THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: New York Rangers

The Hockey News
The New York Rangers around the Prince of Wales Trophy. (Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)

2013-14 record: 45-31-6

Acquisitions: Ryan Malone, Kevin Hayes, Lee Stempniak, Matt Lombardi, Nick Tarnasky, Cedrick Desjardins, Mike Kostka, Dan Boyle, Tanner Glass, Steve Kampfer, Matt Hunwick

Departures: Darroll Powe, Justin Falk, Brian Boyle, Brad Richards, Stu Bickel, Benoit Pouliot, Anton Stralman, Derek Dorsett

Top five fantasy players: Martin St-Louis, Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello, Rick Nash, Chris Kreider

Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: A Rangers team that gave the Kings a modicum of resistance before falling in five games in the Stanley Cup final suffered some losses – and made some gains – over the summer. Read more

Gary Bettman on expansion to Ontario: If “the Leafs won the Cup, that second team wouldn’t exist”

Rory Boylen
Maple Leafs fans outside the Air Canada Centre. (David Cooper/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

On Monday, Gary Bettman was at the Canadian Club in Toronto where he was interviewed by new Hockey Night in Canada front man George Stroumboulopoulos and then took questions from the crowd. Some of the discussion focused on the new deal with Rogers and how the game would be presented, the health of the league and collective bargaining. Of course, expansion/relocation was also a point of discussion and Bettman, again, shot down the notion that the league is currently looking at new markets.

“The fact is this is the most stable our franchises have ever been, the healthiest we’ve been as a league, but we’re not looking to expand right now,” Bettman said. “No teams are relocating. I happen to take my two days on vacation this summer and see this article that came out of the West Coast saying we’re in expansion mode and we’re going to sell four teams. OK, so that disrupted one of the two days having to issue denials. Read more

Hurricanes owner values franchise at $420 million, would feel sorry for second Toronto team

Rory Boylen
Ron Francis with Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos.  (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images)

As speculation persists on where the NHL could expand or move to next, rumors of relocation have been swirling around some of the league’s southern markets. Arizona is safe at least for the next few years, but Florida became a topic when one of their owners said the “current business model is not sustainable.” And there’s even been speculation that the Carolina Hurricanes lose piles of money, putting the North Carolina franchise at risk.

On Monday came news that Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos is looking for an investor to put down money on the team and buy out his controlling interest over time. The catch is, that investor has to value the Hurricanes franchise at $420 million – Forbes values the franchise at $187 million.

From Rick Westhead at TSN: Read more

Agents scratching their heads over Ryan Johansen’s contract demands

Ryan Johansen (Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

When Columbus Blue Jackets president of hockey operation, John Davidson, sounded off last week over the Ryan Johansen imbroglio, he backed up his stance by saying, “There are agents that can’t understand it.”

We at thn.com thought we would put that theory to the test. And if our sampling of conversations with 10 prominent agents is any indication, unfortunately for Johansen and his agent Kurt Overhardt, Davidson is right. There are a good number of player agents out there who can’t understand the stance Johansen and Overhardt have taken. (Last week, we spoke to 10 GMs for their views on the stance the Blue Jackets have taken.) Read more

Is Aaron Ekblad the next Nicklas Lidstrom?

Ken Campbell
Aaron Ekblad of the Florida Panthers. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

Funny how Aaron Ekblad looks neither particularly dangerous nor lonely the afternoon before the 2014 draft. He’s sitting in his designated spot at the National Constitution Center, wearing an NHL-issued golf shirt, khakis and casual footwear (no socks), swatting aside questions with the same ease he does 16-year-old lightweights in the Ontario League. His hair has a blond streak and he’s well tanned, the result of having a little downtime after the season to spend on his family’s new Sea-Doo 21-foot Challenger boat on Lake St. Clair near Windsor. There’s a certain irony that Ekblad, the day before he’ll be consigned to an NHL team over which he has absolutely no choice, is doing this in the same city where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed.

Ekblad’s emancipation from junior hockey, though, is almost complete. He’ll soon be a part of the Barrie Colts alumni. At 6-foot-4 with a cannon from the blueline, NHL hockey sense and the makeup to log big-time minutes, he’ll be playing in the best league in the world this coming season. On this afternoon, the only question is where. The Florida Panthers are dangling the first-overall pick and they’re getting some action, particularly from the Flyers, who want to make a splash in front of their fans. They also want the player who’s the most NHL-ready among all the prospects. “He’s a man,” says Panthers GM Dale Tallon, who stays up all night stewing over trade offers before deciding to take Ekblad. “He’s 18 going on 30.”
Read more

THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: Montreal Canadiens

The Hockey News
P.K. Subban and the Montreal Canadiens. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

2013-14 record: 46-28-8

Acquisitions: Joey MacDonald, To Gilbert, Jiri Sekac, Manny Malhotra, P-A Parenteau

Departures: Ryan White, Devan Dubnyk, Brian Gionta, Thomas Vanek, Josh Gorges, Daniel Briere, Louis Leblanc

Top five fantasy players: Max Pacioretty, P.K. Subban, Tomas Plekanec, David Desharnais, Alex Galchenyuk

Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: Last season, an inspired playoff run was derailed in the Eastern Conference final by an injury to superstar goalie Carey Price. In 2014-15, the Habs are hungry to go further, and they’ve got the talent to do it. Price is their most crucial player, but just behind him in the importance department is P.K. Subban, fresh off signing an eight-year, $72-million contract extension. Read more

THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: Minnesota Wild

The Hockey News
Minnesota Wild. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

2013-14 record: 43-27-12

Acquisitions: Justin Falk, Jordan Schroeder, Joel Rechlicz, Stu Bickel, Thomas Vanek, Brett Sutter

Departures: Jake Dowell, Nate Prosser, Dany Heatley, Clayton Stoner, Steve Kampfer, Cody McCormick, Matt Moulson

Top five fantasy players: Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Mikko Koivu, Thomas Vanek, Mikael Granlund

Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: It was a slow, steady progression for Minnesota last season, from 94 (pro-rated) points to 98 points, from a No. 8 seed to a No. 7 seed, from the first round of the playoffs to the second. None of it was a fluke. The Wild own one of the NHL’s elite farm systems, and it was only a matter of time before the young guns made significant impacts at the NHL level. Blueliner Jonas Brodin did it in 2012-13, and last season was Mikael Granlund’s turn to break out. He’s matured into a legit top-two center, and he’s nowhere near his ceiling. Charlie Coyle looks like a handy power forward and Nino Niederreiter, a high-end prospect acquired from the Islanders, scores in the clutch and hits like a truck. Bruising blueliner Mathew Dumba could make a leap this season, too. Read more