Rumor Roundup: What’s the future for top free agents-to-be Stamkos and Kopitar?

Anze Kopitar

With less than a month remaining until NHL training camps open, Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos and Los Angeles Kings pivot Anze Kopitar remain unsigned. The duo are eligible for unrestricted free agency next July.

ESPN.com’s Craig Custance reports there’s been only preliminary talks between the Kings and Kopitar, while negotiations have yet to being between Stamkos and the Lightning. Custance notes both players are eligible for big raises, with Chicago Blackhawks forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane (eight-years, $84-million each) likely seen as comparables. He also points out both clubs must carefully consider the impact those new contracts will have upon their respective salary-cap payrolls.

The Tampa Tribune’s Martin Fennelly believes Lightning fans shouldn’t panic over Stamkos’ contract situaiton, but notes his status could become an unwelcome distraction for the club the longer their captain remains unsigned. The same can also be said of Kopitar and the Kings. Read more

‘Battling’ Ben Bishop took long and winding road to NHL success

Brian Bishop (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

When the Montreal Canadiens chased Ben Bishop from the net in the second round of the playoffs, Habs defenseman P.K. Subban couldn’t resist taking a shot at the Tampa Bay Lightning goalie, saying Bishop had been “sitting on a horseshoe” to that point in the series. Subban, of course, meant to imply that said horseshoe was wedged in a certain part of Bishop’s anatomy. Subban is subtle that way.

The implication was Bishop had luck rather than skill to credit for his play in that series. If that’s the case, then perhaps it was a case of karma coming around. Maybe Bishop was finally due for some good luck, because until he joined the Lightning, good fortune wasn’t something in huge supply for him.

By the time Bishop was dealt to Tampa at the trade deadline in 2013, he was a 26-year-old goalie with just 36 NHL appearances and was already in his third organization. His hometown St. Louis Blues had given up on him, trading him for a second-round pick. Then with no room on their depth chart for a goalie who takes up a lot of room in the net, the Ottawa Senators dealt him to Tampa Bay for Cory Conacher and a fourth-rounder, not the kind of bounty that has “future NHL star” written all over it. Read more

Sami Salo officially announces retirement, needs another wrist surgery

Sami Salo (Scott Audette/Getty Images)

In early July, rumors surfaced that Sami Salo had played his final game in the NHL. Now, the 40-year-old defenseman has confirmed those rumors, adding that his nagging wrist injury is what has cost him a final season.

Salo last played in the 2013-14 season with Tampa Bay, but missed the final two games of the regular season with an upper-body injury. He again missed time during the Lightning’s four-game defeat at the hands of the Canadiens that season, missing the final two games of Montreal’s series sweep.

Salo confirmed to Ilta-Sanomat, a Finnish newspaper, that he could no longer play in the NHL. “Hand is what it is,” Salo said. “(I am) no longer able to play. Not hockey, not tennis. At least not as a professional.” Read more

Rumor Roundup: Big names set to hit open market next season

Steven Stamkos (Photo by David E. Klutho /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

This summer’s pool of unrestricted free agent talent was the shallowest in recent memory, but next summer’s crop promises to be considerably deeper. Here’s a look at several NHL stars who could be available by July 1, 2016.

Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning. It’s assumed the Lightning will re-sign Stamkos, but it’s been over a month since his agent, Don Meehan, told TSN talks had yet to commence. Re-signing Stamkos could cost the Bolts over $10-million annually on an eight-year deal. If they can’t or won’t pay top dollar, another club will gladly do so next summer.

Both sides give the appearance a deal can be reached. However, the longer the Lightning captain is unsigned, the more speculation will grow over his future in Tampa Bay. Read more

AHL Logo Ranking: No. 29 – Syracuse Crunch

Jared Clinton
Syracuse Crunch (via SportsLogos.net)

(The AHL has undergone a season of change and one third of the league has changed locations or logos for the 2015-16 season. Leading up to the new season, The Hockey News will be ranking the logos of the league’s teams and offering a brief look at the history of each franchise. See the rest of the rankings in our AHL feed.)

This past season, the Syracuse Crunch recovered nicely from what was a down year in 2013-14. After landing an affiliation with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2012-13, Syracuse inherited a squad that was coming off of a Calder Cup championship the year prior as the Norfolk Admirals. The championship experience helped the Crunch get to the Calder Cup final in their first season of affiliation with Tampa Bay, but that success was short lived, as they failed to reach the post-season in Year Two.

As the farm team for the Lightning, there’s a lot to be excited about, however. Tampa Bay’s farm system recently produced one of the best lines in the NHL — the trio of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov — and they could be on to something again with the likes of Jonathan Marchessault, Vladislav Namestnikov, Joel Vermin and defenseman Slater Koekkoek.

Scouts ranked star AHL netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy as the top goaltending prospect in THN’s 2015 Future Watch edition and goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis cracked the top 10 Lightning prospects. With Vasilevskiy a sure thing to make Tampa Bay’s roster in 2015-16, Gudlevskis will be back in the starting role for the Crunch this coming season. Read more

Meet the NHL’s burgeoning blueline beast

Victor Hedman (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

When Victor Hedman was 17, he was playing in the Swedish League and living in an apartment with his girlfriend in Ornskoldsvik, in northern Sweden, cooking his own meals, paying bills – on time – and doing laundry. Colors didn’t bleed, either. He didn’t think that was a big deal. But then again, Swedes rarely think anything they do is a big deal.

Hedman, like many of his countrymen in the NHL, isn’t terribly impressed with himself. He’s making $4 million a year to play in the best hockey league in the world and doing it very well. Yet there is no air about him. He prefers to allow his performance to do his communicating, and by that standard, he’s starting to scream from the rooftops.

Hedman has become the player the Lightning envisioned when they selected him second overall behind John Tavares in 2009. He has become a punishing shutdown defenseman with an offensive bent. He has an ability to make opponents look ordinary and teammates extraordinary. In short, he has all the makings of becoming one of the best defensemen in the NHL. Read more

The five best goaltending prospects in the world

(Len Redkoles/Getty Images)

Championships can be won and lost between the pipes, and every season it seems a new goaltender emerges to take a top job or push a longtime starter for the No. 1 role.

It has been more than a decade since the Pittsburgh Penguins made Marc-Andre Fleury the first overall pick, but that doesn’t mean late-round selections and goaltenders taken outside of the draft’s opening round haven’t developed into blue chip prospects and the goaltending futures for their respective clubs. In Vancouver, there might be a 1A and 1B developing before either actually ends up as an NHL starter.

There are several goaltenders who could be taking the reins for their clubs in the next several seasons. Here are the five best goaltending prospects in the world, as ranked by our 2015 Future Watch edition: Read more

Lightning coach Jon Cooper is a man with a plan

(Photo by Scott Audette/NHL)

There are no crazy outfits here, no marriage proposals, no millionaire anti-heroes repeating they just showed up so they won’t get fined. The NHL’s media day for the Stanley Cup final is not the exercise in excess and the sublime that is the Super Bowl’s, but you still get the occasional silly question. Jonathan Toews was asked what his second favorite cup is, after the Stanley Cup, of course. He begged off, but we’re thinking “protective” and “Red Solo” had to be high on his list.

It’s the kind of day when the athletes and coaches who are about to embark on one of the most intense and gruelling periods of their careers take time to share their thoughts. It’s also a day when Jon Cooper, the folksy former defense attorney from Prince George, B.C., can add to his growing reputation as the most interesting man in hockey. Sitting alongside GM Steve Yzerman, who was in his full suit and tie, Cooper was wearing flip-flops, shorts and a Lightning-issued golf shirt.

This story traces some of its roots back to 2011-12, when Cooper was coaching the Norfolk Admirals and his team reeled off a 28-game winning streak en route to the Calder Cup. In the words of Ondrej Palat, it was there that “(Cooper) taught me how to play big-boy hockey.” Read more