Timonen continues quest to be top all-time Finnish D-man in NHL

Brian Costello
New York Rangers v Philadelphia Flyers - Game Three

Kimmo Timonen is back for another season, his eighth with the Philadelphia Flyers and 16th in the NHL, and will celebrate his 40th birthday in uniform next March 18.

The Flyers and Timonen agreed to a one-year contract worth a reported $2 million in base salary and up to $4 million with bonuses. Timonen could have sought more on the open market, but wanted to remain in Philadelphia.

A question came in earlier asking where Timonen ranks among all-time Finnish defensemen in NHL history.

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Rumor Roundup: Let the trade battle for Spezza, Kesler & Thornton begin!

Spezza And Kesler (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

Since the end of the regular season there’s been speculation Ottawa Senators captain Jason Spezza could be traded. On Wednesday Senators GM Bryan Murray confirmed the center requested a trade.

The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch claims the Anaheim Ducks, St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators and Vancouver Canucks called Murray about his captain’s availability. The Ottawa Citizen’s Ken Warren suggests the Dallas Stars and Florida Panthers as possible destinations.

Matt Larkin of The Hockey News includes the Toronto Maple Leafs on his list, but acknowledged Murray would prefer not sending Spezza to a team his Senators would have to face often. Larkin dismisses the possibility of the Canucks landing the 31-year-old center as “wishful thinking.”

Warren notes Spezza’s market value could be affected by the possibility of the Canucks’ Ryan Kesler and the San Jose Sharks’ Joe Thornton being shopped at the same time. Garrioch reports the Senators rumored asking price is a player, a first round pick and a top prospect. Murray’s admitted a couple of clubs have expressed serious interest in Spezza, but the GM hasn’t informed teams as to what he’ll seek in return. He claims he doesn’t really want to trade Spezza, admitting he probably won’t receive full value in a trade. Read more

Trading Spezza will spell end of an era in Ottawa – but that’s the circle of NHL life

Jason Spezza (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

The expected trading of Senators captain Jason Spezza in the coming weeks spells the end of an era in Ottawa. Seven years after the Sens won the Eastern Conference, Spezza and fellow key cornerstone Daniel Alfredsson (who left via free agency last summer) will be gone – and only two players (Chris Phillips and Chris Neil) from that Stanley Cup finalist roster will remain with the franchise.

But that’s about the maximum life cycle of a Cup frontrunner in the modern era. If you’re an NHL GM talented and fortunate to build an elite team, you get seven years – if you’re lucky – to win with a particular group of players before you have to almost completely reboot your system.

Go back 10 years to the then-champion Tampa Bay Lightning. They thought they were set for a long time with two 24-year-olds (Brad Richards and Vincent Lecavalier), but only four years later, the team’s struggles and cap imbalances forced them to trade Richards to Dallas and the slow dismantling began. Lecavalier and Martin St-Louis lasted longer than most in one market, but they too eventually moved on. It was unthinkable at the time to picture them in other uniforms, but it should’ve seemed inevitable.

History shows us how fleeting ultimate success in the NHL can be. Read more

What would a 1-16 Stanley Cup playoff format look like?

Tyler Seguin

Since the Stanley Cup championship became a best-of-7 in 1939, there have been 20 sweeps. That’s 27 percent. And Scotty Bowman was a coach in nine of them – five series wins, four series losses.

But it hasn’t happened for a while. The last four-game sweep in the Stanley Cup final was completed by the Detroit Red Wings over the Washington Capitals in 1998. Bowman’s team did it to Philadelphia in 1997 too.

We’ve been lucky that 12 of the past 14 finals have extended beyond even five games, including six Game 7s. The post-2005 parity era has given us some pretty good championship rounds that have been tightly contested between West and East.

It appears this year will end that streak. Though the New York Rangers put up a valiant effort on the road in Games 1 and 2, they came away winless and were then shut out on home ice in Game 3. Sure, the script playing out in 2014 is very similar to the one in 2012, when Los Angeles won the first two games against New Jersey in OT, shut them out in Game 3 and the series went six games anyway. But, really, that result has no bearing on this series.

The Kings look prepped to wrap this sucker up in four games.

If the Stanley Cup is in fact awarded on Wednesday, it would be a shame to end these playoffs on such a low note. Most people will agree this has been the best post-season in years, so to end with a sweep would be to go into the off-season with a whimper.

This series speaks to the disparity between the competition in the East and West. Aside from maybe the Bruins, no Eastern team would have been a favorite in the Cup final. From the start, it was unlikely we’d get a final that would be better than the Los Angeles-San Jose series or the Chicago-St. Louis series. And while I’m a fan of the current divisional play down format – and recognize it’s the best, realistic option – there is another design that would set us up to get the best possible final more often than not.

The NHL has used a 1-16 playoff format for a few years before, though it won’t likely again because of travel costs. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the league pooled all of the playoff qualifiers into one ranking and re-seeded them each round based on regular season point totals. Rivalries may not be as easily fostered as they are through the divisional lineup, but it would provide fresh and intriguing matchups – and result in more quality conclusions.

What would a 1-16 format have looked like in Round 1 this year? Division winners automatically get the top four seeds. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Ryan Kesler still wants out of Vancouver, so where will he end up?

Ryan Kesler (Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

Ryan Kesler’s days with the Vancouver Canucks could soon come to a close. He met with new Canucks GM Jim Benning last week and while neither side divulged details of their discussion, TSN.ca’s Darren Dreger claims Kesler still wants to be traded.

Kesler has six teams he’s currently willing to accept as trade destinations and Dreger believes the Anaheim Ducks and Philadelphia Flyers are on that list. Dreger’s colleague Pierre LeBrun claims the Canucks won’t just want futures in return for Kesler, as they want a player (preferably a center) who can help them now.

Bob McKenzie suggests the addition of Kesler into this summer’s trade market could adversely affect the Ottawa Senators’ efforts to move center Jason Spezza. Kesler has two years remaining on his contract at an annual cap hit of $5 million, whereas Spezza has only one year remaining at a cap hit of $7 million, though his actual salary is $4 million. The Senators’ asking price for Spezza (an NHL player, a first round pick and a top prospect) could also make Kesler a more attractive and affordable trade target. Read more

New USHL commissioner faces questions on expansion and Team USA

Milano

When Skip Prince took over the United States League in 2008, the junior circuit was comprised of 12 teams. And according to the outgoing commissioner, some folks thought that was plenty. But as Bob Fallen officially replaces Prince up top, the USHL is slated to ice 17 teams next season, with more cities asking to buy in. That’s one of the big issues Fallen will tackle during this reign.

A former Reebok-CCM Hockey exec whose son played in the USHL, Fallen has been involved on the boards of several grassroots initiatives, particularly in Minnesota. Now he’s in charge of the whole Midwest, with other markets interested in joining up. Prince estimated there are five or six cities interested in acquiring franchises within the league’s footprint and 10 to 15 outside the current borders.

According to some of my sources, the heavy hitters would be Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, with the three teams being linked to the NHL franchises in those cities. All three would lie outside the USHL’s current eastern border, however. And though a division including those three cities, Youngstown (Ohio) and Team USA or Muskegon (both Michigan) would make sense geographically, travel is not the only consideration.

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Top 5 ‘under the radar’ NHL players from 2013-14

alexandersteen

By Andrew Heliotis

1. Wayne Simmonds
RW, Philadelphia Flyers

This past season Simmonds hit career highs in all three scoring categories and his 60 points were good enough for a top 50 scoring finish. Simmonds really excelled on the power play, however. Scroll down the special teams list of top goal scorers and it won’t take long to hit his name. Only Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and San Jose’s Joe Pavelski finished with more than Simmonds’ 15 power play goals. With 209 shots all season he scored at the same rate as Sidney Crosby and finished with a better shooting percentage than six of the top 10 point-getters of the season.

2. Alexander Steen
LW, St. Louis Blues

Early in 2005-06, two rookies for the Maple Leafs made their team’s scouts look like geniuses. Steen and Kyle Wellwood combined for 90 points and the Toronto faithful began salivating. But 20 games into 2008-09 Steen would forever be an afterthought in Hogtown when he was sent to the St. Louis Blues for Lee Stempniak.  Oh, how things have changed. This season Steen, who built a reputation as a consistently underrated, solid two-way forward, led the Blues in goals (33) and points (62), recorded in just 68 games. Steen’s 0.49 goals per game was seventh in the NHL. Read more

Top 10 perennial playoff contenders since the lockout

Jonathan Toews and Anze Kopitar

Earlier this week, THN’s Brian Costello raised a great question: What makes a dynasty in this salary cap era? Brian defined it as three titles in five years – at least, before the salary cap was instituted – but admitted maybe that standard needs to be relaxed in the face of today’s flattened NHL playing field.

It’s a timely discussion, what with the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks – Cup champs from the last two seasons – heading into Game 7 of the Western Conference final tonight. One team will go on to the Stanley Cup final as a favourite to win another championship. The other will have to deal with the sting of falling just short of dynasty-level success.

Both teams are as close as it gets to dynasty-calibre potential in the NHL right now, but we simply haven’t seen a team win three Cups in five years since the salary cap was imposed. With salaries spiking at a younger age now and roster turnover inevitable, teams simply can’t stay on top as long. In a league built on parity, staying at the top of the pile and consistently making the playoffs is an impressive feat in its own right.

So which teams have managed that best? Which teams have the most playoff appearances and Stanley Cup wins since the 2004-05 lockout?

These 10 teams have had the most post-season success, counting up the number of playoff rounds they’ve appeared in since 2005, and adding any Stanley Cups on top.
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