Cody Franson’s life changed when the Toronto Maple Leafs dealt him to the Nashville Predators Feb. 15, a couple weeks before the 2014-15 trade deadline. Who knew so much more would change in less than three months after that?
Franson’s new (old) team, the Nashville Predators, flamed out in the first round of the playoffs, abruptly ending his hopes of a deep Stanley Cup push as a post-season rental. Worse yet, Franson was a terrible fit in Music City. He was a right-handed shooter buried on the depth chart among talented righty blueliners Shea Weber and Seth Jones. Franson played more than 21 minutes a game as a Leaf and slipped to around 15 as a Pred, with a drastically reduced special teams role, which was disastrous for a guy who thrived as a power play contributor. Nashville GM David Poile admitted after the season the Franson deal wasn’t a good fit in hindsight. The Preds also landed center Mike Santorelli from Toronto but surrendered a first-round pick and Brendan Leipsic in the process.
So Franson felt the anguish of a quick playoff exit, and his value as an unrestricted free agent may have diminished in the process. He was all but a lock for one of the top two or three paydays of the summer as a right-shot blueliner who can contribute 40-plus points and will be just 28 when next season begins. He’ll still be among the most coveted names in a vanilla free agent class, but he may have shaved $1 million off his average annual value in the last couple months. Think $5-million cap hit, not $6-million.
Meanwhile, back in Toronto, the Leafs just bagged the summer’s top free agent: coach Mike Babcock. The grass up there looks emerald-green. Is it any wonder, after all that’s transpired, that Franson hopes to play for the Leafs again next season?
Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is one of the faces of the New York Rangers. Now, he’s also one of the faces on a New York Rangers fan’s head.
Thanks to Joe Barber, the aptly named barber based out of San Antonio, ‘King Henrik’ will be watching one Rangers fan’s back as he pulls for his team to even up the Eastern Conference final at three games apiece and hopes for the Rangers to get back to their second consecutive Stanley Cup final. Read more
While superstar Steven Stamkos tries to help the Tampa Bay Lightning reach the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, speculation is brewing over his long-term future with the club. Stamkos’ eligibility next summer for unrestricted free agency and the Lightning’s efforts to re-sign him could dominate NHL headlines this summer.
The Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa reports of chatter wondering if the high cost of re-signing Stamkos might prompt Lightning management to trade their 25-year-old captain. Shinzawa believes Stamkos could seek a deal comparable to the identical eight-year, $84- million contracts signed last summer by Chicago’s Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. He also speculates uncertainty over the salary cap in the future and the Lightning’s depth in young talent could factor in determining if they can afford to keep their franchise player. Read more
The Detroit Red Wings drafted netminder Petr Mrazek in the fifth round, 141st overall, of the 2010 draft. Less than five years later and Mrazek’s draft stock has risen significantly – at least in the KHL.
In Sunday’s first round of the 2015 KHL draft, Mrazek, who met the criteria for the draft by virtue of being under the age of 24 and not having his rights owned by any club in the league, was selected seventh overall by Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. However, after a season in which he may have possibly pushed fellow goaltender Jimmy Howard out of the Detroit net for the number one job, it’s probably safe to put his chances of heading to Russia next season at about zero percent. Read more
From late in the 2008-09 season until the culmination of the 2013-14 campaign, GM Ray Shero and coach Dan Bylsma were the architects behind the Pittsburgh Penguins club that won one Stanley Cup and fell just a few wins short of returning to the final. Now it appears they could be reunited in New Jersey.
According to Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Penguins are looking for a way to acquire additional draft picks in the first few rounds of the 2015 draft and one option might be to land compensation for another team hiring Bylsma, who is still under contract with the club even though he was relieved of his duties following the 2013-14 campaign. And, Molinari reports, while it’s known that Bylsma has interviewed for the openings in Buffalo and San Jose, it’s believed that he has also been given permission to talk to New Jersey about their opening behind the bench.
With Shero taking over the GM duties in New Jersey, it would seem like Bylsma heading to the Devils could be a reunion waiting to happen. Read more
The New York Rangers’ shortcomings on offense in the 2015 playoffs have been extensively documented and remain apparent to anyone who’s watched them regularly this spring. They’re a team that had no issue putting the puck in the net in the regular season, ranking third in the NHL with average of 3.02 goals-for per game – but in their first 17 post-season games, they’ve managed just 2.24 GPG and often play as if the concept of scoring is foreign to them. The Blueshirts gave their fans hope they’d ended their offensive funk with a 5-1 victory over Tampa Bay in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final Friday, but Sunday night in Game 5, the same old Rangers showed up, and not one of them could beat Bolts goalie Ben Bishop in a 2-0 Lightning win.
Yes, they’re the defending conference champions. Yes, they were the better possession team Sunday at at Madison Square Garden and outshot the Lightning 26-22 in Game 5. But for the third time in this series, Tampa Bay was the squad whose players capitalized on their chances as the Rangers flailed away impotently against Bishop. And although the Blueshirts remain able to play a tight defensive game, they’re one loss from elimination with little reason for optimism they can produce enough offense for the two consecutive games they now need to move on in the tournament. Read more
In the first two rounds of the NHL playoffs, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos scored three goals in 13 games. Unfortunately for the New York Rangers, Stamkos has become much more productive in the Eastern Conference Final against them – and Sunday in Game 5, the star center continued his hot streak by scoring for the fourth straight game in a 2-0 Bolts victory.
Tampa was leading 1-0 on a Valtteri Filppula goal 13:29 into the second period at Madison Square Garden, and nearly five minutes later, with the Bolts on the power play, Stamkos tipped in a shot from Ondrej Palat to record his seventh of the post-season and his 14th career playoff goal in 39 games: Read more
With the incredible contributions made by the Tampa Bay Lightning’s younger players in the 2015 playoffs, veteran center Valtteri Filppula hasn’t been in the spotlight all that often. But in Game 5 of the Bolts’ Eastern Conference Final series against the New York Rangers, Filppula collaborated with star Steven Stamkos to score the first goal of the night.
Game 5 was scoreless through the first 33 minutes at Madison Square Garden, but Stamkos took the puck at the Rangers’ blueline late in the second period and quickly moved it along to Filppula, who wired a wrist shot past Blueshirts goalie Henrik Lundqvist to make it 1-0 for the visiting team: Read more