It’s either Winnipeg or Europe for Nikolaj Ehlers this season

Nikolaj Ehlers

In terms of drafted prospects, few teenagers could top the season that Nikolaj Ehlers is coming off. The incredibly talented Halifax Mooseheads left winger put up approximately two points per game in the regular season, then paced The Herd with 31 points in just 14 QMJHL playoff games. He also helped Denmark win its first-ever game at the world juniors and was the most electrifying player in the entire tournament.

So what does he do for an encore?

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Can Joel Ward finally find Stanley Cup glory with the Sharks?

The Hockey News
Joel Ward. (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

By Carter Brooks

Joel Ward is looking for a fresh start. Between sets in the gym, mini scrimmages and off ice strength and speed conditioning, he has a lot on his mind. With a new team, city, house and coach to get used to, he knows this season will be an important test of character and hopefully an appropriate fulfillment of his recently negotiated three-year contract.

As a veteran of more than 500 NHL games, Ward has yet to make it past the second round of the playoffs. He believes San Jose is the place to make that happen.

“I want to come in to this team and complement what is already going on here,” Ward said. “I hope to get some chemistry with a few guys and win a lot of hockey games. That is the overall goal.” Read more

Rumor Roundup: Senators still shopping Greening

Colin Greening (Andre Ringuette/Getty Images)

Following the recent completion of the NHL’s 2015 salary-arbitration period, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston observed the Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators and Minnesota Wild had a second buyout window open for a 48-hour period commencing on Aug. 5. None of the clubs, however, used the opportunity to shed a contract.

The Senators spent months last season trying to find a trade partner for winger Colin Greening, prompting some speculation the 29-year-old winger might receive a buyout. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reports Senators assistant GM Pierre Dorion explained that wasn’t possible, as Greening’s $2.65-million annual cap hit was about $10K short of the minimum allowable to be bought out.

Greening’s future with the Senators remains uncertain. Garrioch believes Murray will keep trying to peddle the winger, who was a frequent healthy scratch last season. Perhaps Murray will have better luck next month, as rival GMs evaluate their roster needs during training camp and preseason play. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Flyers, Sharks and Oilers buzz

(Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

It appears efforts by the Philadelphia Flyers to trade Vincent Lecavalier have once again proven futile. GM Ron Hextall told CSNPhilly.com’s Tim Panaccio his club remains “status quo” with the 35-year-old center, adding they intend to start the season with Lecavalier to see how it goes.

Last summer, there was interest in Lecavalier from the Nashville Predators and Florida Panthers, prompting speculation Hextall might find a taker this year. However, the combination of Lecavalier’s ongoing decline and his $4.5-million annual cap hit through 2017-18 makes him a tough sell, even to clubs which have the cap space to absorb. it.

Panaccio reports Hextall was hoping interest in Lecavalier might increase after the Flyers paid his $2-million signing bonus on July 1, but received no offers. Without freeing up cap space, Hextall could find it difficult promoting a promising defensemen next summer. Read more

DeBoer ‘confident’ Sharks will start season with a captain, but who will it be?

Jared Clinton
Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau (Don Smith/Getty Images)

Last off-season, the San Jose Sharks made headlines when Joe Thornton had the captaincy taken away from him and the club proceeded to enter the season instead with four alternates. That will change in 2015-16.

In an interview with 95.7 The Game, a radio station in California’s Bay Area, new Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said this season.

“I feel very confident by the first game of the season we’ll have a captain,” DeBoer said. “It’s not something were going to drag around as a distraction. We’re going to move past that. I think the players are ready for that, too.”

This past season, the Sharks alternates included Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Patrick Marleau, who was also previously San Jose’s captain from 2004 to 2009.

With DeBoer confident a captain will be named, it’s likely he has a few players already in mind for the duty next season, but who could potentially be wearing the ‘C’ for the Sharks come October? Read more

Logan Couture’s off-season ‘really sucked,’ until…

Matt Larkin
Logan Couture. (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

The 2015 off-season hit Logan Couture like a punch in the face, because it began in April. It’s a horrible feeling to realize your season is over the day the regular season ends, and Couture, 26, never experienced it in his first five NHL seasons. His San Jose Sharks missed the post-season for the first time in his career this past spring, and he makes no effort to sugarcoat how much he hates that.

“It sucks. It really sucks.”

Couture resents the fact he hasn’t played competitive hockey since April 11 – a date he quotes, like he circled it on his calendar. He and the teammate he calls ‘Jumbo,’ fellow center Joe Thornton, felt a wave of frustration hit them earlier this summer when they realized they were used to playing hockey in May.

“We were golfing, and we both talked about how much this sucks, how we don’t want this to happen again,” Couture said. “It makes you hungrier and hungrier, and we’re ready to get an extra serving right now.”

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Daniil Tarasov leaves Sharks, signs two-year deal with Dynamo Moscow

Jared Clinton
Daniil Tarasov (Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

For the past three seasons, Daniil Tarasov has been trying to crack the San Jose Sharks roster. And after a 2014-15 campaign in which he got his first taste of NHL action, the Russian winger has decided to leave the league to sign a two-year deal with the KHL’s Dynamo Moscow.

Tarasov, 24, was signed by the Sharks in 2013 as an undrafted free agent after spending three seasons in the USHL. Before making it to the Sharks, though, Tarasov split a season between the ECHL’s San Francisco Bulls and AHL’s Worcester Sharks. With the Sharks’ AHL affiliate, Tarasov notched 14 goals and 28 points in 43 games, landing himself a two-year, entry-level deal with San Jose.

After signing the deal, Tarasov failed to get his shot with the NHL club, instead spending the entirety of the 2013-14 season in the AHL. With Worcester, Tarasov continued his consistent play, scoring 17 goals and 31 points in 47 contests. Ultimately, however, the goal was to make it to the NHL. Read more

10 players facing make or break seasons in 2015-16

Justin Schultz  (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)

The Edmonton Oilers avoided arbitration with Justin Schultz Wednesday by inking the 25-year-old blueliner to a one-year, $3.9 million deal. But the arbitration wasn’t Schultz’s choice. Rather, it was the Oilers who wanted to plead their case for a lower cost on Schultz’s contract.

However, by opting for team-elected arbitration – which, as mentioned, has now been avoided with the one-year contract – Edmonton was essentially giving Schultz an ultimatum: if he wants to keep his spot in the Oilers lineup for what he believes to be fair value, he’s going to have to prove that he’s worth it. Thus, the one-year deal.

Schultz isn’t the only restricted free agent signed to a one-year contract and he’s not the only player who can, as Mike Babcock put it with regards to Nazem Kadri, “put the screws,” to his club. On the flip side, though, one bad year could see some franchises giving up on their young guns.

Here are 10 players who could have make-or-break seasons in 2014-15: Read more