At what point this summer do we change the “U” in UFA to unwanted?

Tampa Bay Lightning v Washington Capitals

For those NHL players who don’t step willingly into retirement, there eventually comes a day when UFA stands for unwanted free agent rather than unrestricted free agent.

As July ends and August begins, we’re now closer to the start of NHL training camps than we are the final game of the Stanley Cup playoffs. For unsigned UFAs, that’s an added layer of anxiety. What if nobody wants me and I’ve played my last NHL game?

Take a browse through capgeek.com and you’ll see half the NHL teams are already at the 23-man NHL roster limit. Another nine teams are at 22 players. And that doesn’t even include the several dozen or so non-roster rookie prospects who will surely make big-league rosters in October.

So not a lot of roster openings remain.

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Flyers, legend Bob “The Hound” Kelly make 104-year-old fan’s dream come true

Adam Proteau
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The power of the Stanley Cup – and even a Stanley Cup championship ring – is such that it can bring to tears people of all ages and from all walks of life. A recent example was seen at a retirement residence in Upper Moreland, Pa., last Wednesday, when a visit from a Philadelphia Flyers legend overwhelmed a hockey fan celebrating her 104th birthday.

The woman who was celebrating, Helen Moser – described by her grandson as a longtime, diehard Flyers fan – was enjoying her birthday festivities at the Wesley Enhanced Living retirement community when Flyers icon Bob “The Hound” Kelly stopped in bearing a cake and a team jersey with her surname and age on the back. The joy on Moser’s face was clear from the moment he walked in, but when Kelly took off his Cup ring and placed it on her finger, she was overcome with emotion. Read more

The five most evil hockey photoshops we could come up with

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Summer is a time for fun in the hockey world. But sometimes that fun can be a little dark. One of my favorite THN issues every year comes before the trade deadline, when we often take a player likely on the move and photoshop him into another team’s uniform based on his possible destination. For instance, we once had Mats Sundin in a Vancouver sweater – the team he would eventually leave the Leafs for, albeit not at the deadline.

With that in mind, I dare you to peruse the five photoshops here, which can only be characterized as wrong.

Above, we see what would happen if Boston’s Milan Lucic had a change of heart and joined Montreal, where he could celebrate goals with current enemy Alexei Emelin. With a special thanks to Andre Valle of the The Hockey News art team (who did all the hard work), here are more of the worst offenders we came up with.

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Fantasy Pool Look: Blue Jackets and Flyers off-season outlooks

Flyers-BlueJackets (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s the 12th annual off-season look at each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint. Every year I run through the teams alphabetically, but switch starting points each year. This year I’m doing something different and reviewing the teams in reverse order of regular season finish. This week, we look at Steve Mason’s current and former teams.

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Gone – Nick Schultz, Jack Skille, Derek MacKenzie, Matt Frattin, Blake Comeau, Nikita Nikitin, R.J. Umberger

Incoming – Brian Gibbons, Jerry D’Amigo, Scott Hartnell, Simon Hjalmarsson

Ready for full-time – Hjalmarsson is a Blues draft pick (39th overall in 2007) who not only remained in Europe but also took only sideways or backwards steps in his development. That is, until St. Louis let him go. Then he started to flourish. Hjalmarsson finished this past season with 57 points in 55 games, good for fourth in Swedish League scoring. Still only 25, he’s both NHL-ready and has room to improve. I liken his situation to that of Carl Soderberg in Boston from a year ago, though Hjalmarsson may not have quite the upside offensively. Read more

The NHL’s weakest division? Um, “congratulations”, Metro

Marc-Andre Fleury

When the NHL made its most recent realignment, last season, it reemphasized the importance of divisional play by also restructuring its playoff format. The wild card element throws a bit of a wrench into it from year-to-year, but for the most part, teams have to play their first two playoff rounds against division rivals – and that means a weaker division has the potential to make the road to the Stanley Cup easier for the team that can emerge from it.

I’d argue that’s one of the reasons the New York Rangers qualified for the Cup Final this past spring. They faced a flawed Flyers team in the first round and a Penguins squad in the second that had serious issues of its own before they beat the injury-depleted Canadiens in the Eastern Conference final. You have to give the Blueshirts credit for their resilience, but they had a much easier go of it than, say, Los Angeles or Chicago.

So which division is shaping up to be the NHL’s weakest in 2014-15? It’s not in the Western Conference, that’s for sure. Six of the Central Division’s seven teams (every one but Winnipeg) have a bona fide shot at making the playoffs, and the California Trinity Of Doom, combined with the desperation to make the playoffs in Vancouver and Edmonton, makes the Pacific Division daunting as well.

So, the “honor” of the league’s worst division has to go to either the Metropolitan or the Atlantic. And although the Atlantic has seen more separation between the haves and have-nots of its teams this off-season, I’d still make the case the Metro is the weaker of the two. Read more

Rumor Roundup: The latest Evander Kane trade buzz

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Another month, another rash of Evander Kane trade speculation. The 22-year-old winger’s recent comments during a radio interview once again raised questions over his future with the Winnipeg Jets.

“Well, I think I’m a Winnipeg Jet now,” Kane told Vancouver’s The Team 1020, acknowledging the trade rumors dogging him since arriving in Winnipeg three years ago. He added “we’ll see what happens” and he’ll carry on “as if I’m a Winnipeg Jet.”

Despite having four years at an annual cap hit of $5.25 million remaining on his contract, Kane appears doubtful he’ll remain with the club for the duration. It’s the second time in as many months he’s raised eyebrows over his status with the team. Prior to last month’s NHL draft, the Winnipeg Sun’s Ken Wiebe reported Kane favorited a tweet by a Flyers fan calling upon his team to acquire the young winger.
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Rumor Roundup: Better fit for Red Wings – Green, Myers or Petry?

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Having been thwarted in his efforts to land a top-four, right-handed defenseman via free agency, Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland will, according to Ansar Khan of mlive.com, continue to explore trade options.

Khan considers Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green a viable candidate following their recent blueline additions of Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik. CSNWashington’s Chuck Gormley speculates the Capitals could draw upon their blueline depth as trade bait for depth at center, with Green topping his list of possible trade candidate. The Washington Post’s Alex Prewitt believes Green (who will be eligible for unrestricted free agent status next summer) might make a good trade-deadline chip, but Capitals management intends to keep him for the upcoming season. Read more

Compliance buyouts have been very, very good to these guys

Lecavalier

When Mikhail Grabovski signed a four-year deal with the New York Islanders that will pay him $5 million a season, he pretty much hit the jackpot. Not the Vincent Lecavalier jackpot, mind you, but the windfall was still mind-boggling.

That’s because Grabovski is one of 28 players who are being paid not to play hockey for the teams that originally signed them under the leagues’ compliance buyout system. You know the one. It’s the buyouts that essentially have given teams a mulligan on bad contracts that were signed before the last collective bargaining agreement. It’s also the one the NHL Players’ Association seemed dead-set against having part of the new system, although when you see the money that teams threw around, you’d have to wonder why. Read more