In defense of Scott Gomez

Ryan Kennedy
Why hate on him when he wants to come home?  (Photo by: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The New Jersey Devils have been a haven for veterans in the past few years and GM Lou Lamoriello has been very good about giving older players one last chance at NHL glory. Petr Sykora landed himself a spot on the 2011-12 squad after a tryout and ended up sixth in team scoring. Martin Havlat was brought in this summer to reboot a career that had stalled in San Jose, while news is trickling out that Tomas Kaberle, who played last season in the Czech Republic with Kladno, has been offered a tryout.

Oh, and Scott Gomez is getting a tryout too.

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Looking at six potential NHL expansion/relocation destinations, from Las Vegas to Hamilton

Rory Boylen
The Las Vegas strip. ( (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

NHL expansion is once again being speculated about after Vancouver Province columnist Tony Gallagher wrote expanding to Las Vegas was a “done deal.” If it’s not speculation about Sin City, it’s about Seattle, or Quebec City or a second team in the Greater Toronto Area. With a 16-14 imbalance between the Eastern and Western conferences, the need for two new teams, or one relocated team is obvious. The sense is that something, in the relatively near future, will change the current alignment.

While nothing is imminent, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Where are the potential destinations for NHL expansion or relocation? Let’s have a quick rundown.

1. Las Vegas
Aside from the obvious concerns over having a team in a gambling haven, Vegas is an untapped professional sports market. If the NHL does expand there in the next few years, it would be the first into the city. How big of a fan base the team would have and how much long-term interest there would be in a hockey team are legitimate concerns for fans of a league that has cancelled one and a half seasons in the past 10 years to “save” struggling franchises. In Las Vegas, there are plenty of entertainment options that go well beyond the sphere of sport, so how well would a losing team draw fans? Read more

NHL expansion is coming, just don’t hold your breath

GTA Centre Markam

The NHL has gone a full 14 years without adding a single expansion team, which is the longest period without growth since the league ballooned from six to 12 teams in 1967. The business of hockey is stronger than it has ever been and hockey’s global reach has ensured that the league would be less watered down by adding teams than it has in the past.

So, yes, the NHL is ripe for expansion. That’s probably why a published report that the NHL is going to add four teams by 2017 was met with such enthusiasm. To follow some accounts, expansion to Las Vegas is a “done deal” despite the fact there is no ownership group in place yet and the league will have new teams in Las Vegas, Quebec City, Toronto and Seattle by the time it blows out the 100 candles on its birthday cake. Read more

NHL expansion: What would a Las Vegas roster look like?

Ryan Kennedy
Would the Red Wings expose Stephen Weiss to a draft?  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The online world was abuzz Tuesday night with various reports about NHL expansion, specifically Las Vegas as an initial destination. Personally, I think the league is fine at 30 teams and that contracting to 28 wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. But in the interest of fun, I started to put together a roster for a potential Las Vegas team and you know what? The options aren’t that bad. I’m assuming that an expansion draft for the squad takes place in the summer of 2015 and that the players involved basically stay on their same career trajectories. Based on the last expansion draft in 2000, teams could protect one goalie, five defensemen and nine forwards, or two goalies, three defensemen and seven forwards. Players still on entry-level deals were excluded.

This does provide a few pickles out there. For instance, Ottawa just re-signed Craig Anderson, but there’s no way the Sens leave Robin Lehner unprotected; meaning only three blueliners are behind the shield. Obviously Erik Karlsson is one and Marc Methot another. But is the third Chris Phillips or Jared Cowen? Do you assume Phillips would rather retire a Senator and that Las Vegas would know that? And you can’t give up on Cowen this quickly, right?

And pity Boston, where the Bruins just have too many good defensemen (I’m also assuming pending free agents would stick with their current teams for the sake of this exercise). I tried to get up to the salary cap floor here, but I would think the NHL would be a little forgiving for the first season, so my 23-man roster comes in at around $50 million. The team was also given the third overall pick in the draft, since the rest of the league would riot if Vegas got Connor McDavid right off the hop. So here’s what your 2015-16 Las Vegas team could look like:

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THN’s top 200 fantasy players for 2014-15

Matt Larkin
SidneyCrosby

I love the Don Henley track “Boys of Summer.” It’s almost impossible to sing the chorus in karaoke, which sucks, but I dig the way it captures this time of year. Nobody on the road…nobody on the beach…I feel it in the air…the summer’s out of reach.

That feeling – mild chill in the air, slight breeze – gets me thinking about fantasy hockey drafts. It’s that time again. Most of what you need to know for your draft is in our crackerjack THN Ultimate Fantasy Guide, which is on newsstands now. You’ll even find a sorted list of the top 300 projected scorers.

One thing that list doesn’t cover, however, is any league not based entirely on points. What about the head-to-head formats in which you accumulate goaltending stats and penalty minutes on top of your offensive numbers? How do you know when to draft a goalie or defenseman over a forward?

I present to you a new ranking set. This list is based on a standard Yahoo head-to-head format with the following categories: goals, assists, plus-minus, penalty minutes, power play points, shots on goal, wins, goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts.

Personally, I like scrapping penalty minutes for hits and adding saves to the goalie category, but I’ll stick with the standard configuration to ensure these rankings have a wider reach. Let’s get it on! Watch for updates throughout training camps.

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Washington’s Evgeny Kuznetsov has Russian intelligence on Barry Trotz

Ryan Kennedy
Washington's Evgeny Kuznetsov (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

There was a very distinct Russian clique at the NHLPA Rookie Showcase in Toronto this weekend, with Washington’s Evgeny Kuznetsov, Boston’s Alexander Khoklachev and the Tampa Bay duo of Vlad Namestnikov and Andrei Vasilevskiy. They hung out during media availability and on the ice, teasing Vasilevskiy as he forged through a rare English interview and cracking up when Khoklachev bailed behind the net.

For Kuznetsov, this was clearly his element. The Capitals’ first pick in 2010 had been a highly anticipated prospect for years, choosing to develop his game with Traktor Chelyabinsk in the KHL instead of North America and for a while there, it seemed like he might never come over. But the powerful and gifted center did indeed make his debut last year, getting into 17 games with Washington once his KHL campaign was done and posting a decent nine points.

You would think a player who had already helped his hometown Chelyabinsk squad get to a Gagarin Cup final in Russia would be a little less awed by the NHL, but that wasn’t the case with Kuznetsov and his debut.

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Rich Clune phones an unsuspecting Twitter tormentor and posts the video – and then tells us why he did it

Ken Campbell
Rich Clune  (Photo by Kim Stallknecht/NHLI via Getty Images)

Nashville Predators enforcer Rich Clune claims a day rarely passes when some keyboard warrior out there doesn’t take to Twitter to call him a “crack head” or disparage him for his well-documented history with mental health issues and substance abuse problems. “Just this summer I made a joke about the World Cup and somebody tweeted back, ‘I hope somebody steps on your throat with a skate blade the next time you play,’ “ Clune said.

Usually, Clune and his fellow NHLers brush the comments off and ignore them. And even if they don’t, they often have no way of responding. But when Clune received a disparaging tweet recently, he did a bit of digging and went right to the source.

First, the backstory. Last week, Clowe became entangled in a Twitter “war” involving former NHLer Sean Avery and former world heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe, who has endured his share of life travails outside the ring. What started as light banter among the three escalated, but it was all in fun, Clune said. At one point, Clune poked fun at Bowe for his weight, tweeting that Bowe, “now eats cheeseburgers for a living.” The tweet inspired some vulgarities and invective from Bowe, much of which was set up. (Clune is friends with Avery and while he has never met Bowe, the two have communicated on Twitter in the past.) Read more

Senators extending Craig Anderson all about security and stability

Ken Campbell
Craig Anderson (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)

If there’s one NHL team that could use some good karma these days, it’s the Ottawa Senators. The GM is battling cancer, they’ve lost their captain for the second straight year, ownership has a case of the shorts, they’re the only Canadian team that has trouble filling its building and the on-ice prospects don’t look particularly good at the moment.

There could have been worse things than the news that they had signed a 33-year-old goaltender coming off a bad year to a three-year contract worth $12.6 million. This means the Senators go into this season with a goaltending tandem consisting of the aforementioned Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner, which isn’t exactly Ben Bishop and Brian Elliott – two elite NHL starters the Senators traded away – but it’s not bad.

Still, it’s a little perplexing why the Senators would choose to extend Anderson’s contract when they don’t really know which Anderson will actually perform for them and he was still a full year away from becoming an unrestricted free agent. With the off-season market for goaltenders being what it is, they could not been afraid of losing him as a UFA in a year, could they?

From this corner, it looks as though the Senators made this move for a couple of reasons. The first is they clearly think Lehner, who recently signed for three years at $6.675 million himself, is the Senators goaltender of the future. They’re just not sure about the present. If Lehner proves to be capable, Anderson becomes a pretty expensive backup.

The second is this is a franchise trying to sell some security and stability at a time when neither has been terribly omnipresent of late. With Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza both bolting, this is an organization that needs to prove to its fans that it is serious about retaining its core players. Why else would they sign Clarke MacArthur and Mark Borowiecki to extensions a year before their contracts expired? And it appears as though the Senators are intent on doing the same with Marc Methot and Bobby Ryan.

Which is all well and good when the team is winning. But the Senators are selling security and stability of a roster that missed the playoffs last season and, barring an overachieving 2014-15, appears to be subject to the same fate this season. But if the Senators do bounce back and make the playoffs this season, there’s a good chance Anderson will have something to do with it.

And there’s the conundrum the Senators face with their goaltending. In fact, almost every team in the NHL faces a similar one. When it comes to goaltending, a lot of teams are stumbling around in the dark looking for a tandem that works. Last season’s Vezina Trophy contender could be this season’s flop. Nobody realizes that more than Anderson, who was superhuman in leading the Senators to the playoffs during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, only to be plagued by inconsistency last season.

It didn’t help that Senators coach Paul MacLean seemed to botch his handling of both Anderson and Lehner last season. There was a stretch in November when Lehner put together a 3-0-2 record in five starts and was named the NHL’s first star of the week while Anderson was injured. Despite the streak, as soon as Anderson came back, MacLean gave him the net and the Senators went into a tailspin from which they never recovered.

There’s not a lot of risk, though, to signing Anderson for three more years, particularly when they were able to do so without attaching any kind of no-trade clause to the contract. At a $4.2 million cap hit for the three seasons after 2014-15, Anderson’s money and term are not untradeable. The New York Islanders signed Jaroslav Halak for four years at $4.5 million a season and Anderson at his best is better than Halak. And the third year of the deal the salary goes down to $3.1 million, which might appeal to a small market team struggling in goal that needs a higher cap hit and less salary.

If Anderson proves to be the goaltender he was two years ago, the Senators will look brilliant by getting him under contract before becoming an unrestricted free agent. If it’s more of the same from last season, they can hand the ball to Lehner and Anderson can make a lot of money for wearing a ball cap and opening the door at the players’ bench.