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

Lightning’s success starts at the very top, where money isn’t priority No. 1

Jeff Vinik (Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

With two days between Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup final and temperatures hovering in the 90s with the humidity, it’s difficult to escape that feeling of being sticky and fat. It can be tough to get a hockey vibe, but Tampa is getting there.

Even though after 23 years and a Stanley Cup in the market the newspapers still feel compelled to run a ‘Hockey 101’ column in which they explain faceoffs, icing and changing on the fly, Tampa has come a long way. Game 1 of the final got a local TV rating of 18, compared to Game 7 of their 2004 Stanley Cup final triumph, which scored in the single digits.

Jeffrey Vinik’s rather unpretentious office in Amalie Arena looks over a bar named Ferg’s, one of the places where fans congregate after games. But there is also a mother lode of undeveloped land, about 40 acres to be precise, and that’s where Vinik’s vision for transforming downtown Tampa is taking shape. And it all started five years ago with a hockey team nobody wanted, run by Oren Koules and Len Barrie whose ill-fated ownership flamed out spectacularly amid bickering and poor decisions. Read more

Martin St-Louis says teams were interested, but his heart wasn’t in it anymore

Jared Clinton
Martin St-Louis (Getty Images)

No one expected Martin St-Louis to play forever and coming off of a season in which he scored 21 goals and 52 points in 74 games, he likely could have played one more season. Even St-Louis, at his retirement press conference, admitted that much. But the 40-year-old said his heart just wasn’t in it anymore.

“I knew there were teams interested,” St-Louis said. “I understood the Rangers situation in terms of the salary cap. I think if my heart was in it, they would have found a way. But for me, at that point, my heart wasn’t in it. I feel like if I do something, I’m 100-percent in it. Right now, it feels like it’s time to be 100-percent dad and family man.”

A family man is exactly what St-Louis will get to be. He’ll get to participate in his children’s practices, games and step behind the bench to help out. And, he says, that’s something he’s ready to do because so much of the focus over the past 16 years has been on what he needed to do to stay at the top of his game in the NHL. Read more

Carter Ashton signs in KHL following 2014-15 season that saw trade, suspension

Jared Clinton
Toronto Maple Leafs v Arizona Coyotes

When he looks back on his career, Carter Ashton will probably consider the 2014-15 campaign one of the most difficult of his career, but he’s ready to start a new chapter in the KHL.

The KHL’s Torpedo Nizhy Novgorod announced Tuesday they have signed the 24-year-old winger to a contract for the upcoming campaign. This past season, Ashton got only a brief taste of the NHL, suiting up for seven games and failing to register a point. Over his NHL career, he has played in 54 contests, netting three assists and 32 penalty minutes.

A first-round selection, 29th overall, of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2009, Ashton’s game never quite found its way in the NHL. During his first season in the professional ranks, which came in 2011-12, Ashton was shipped off to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for defenseman Keith Aulie. In Toronto, Ashton would get his first taste of NHL action and he played nearly half a season – 32 games – with the big club in 2013-14.

What grabbed Ashton headlines, however, wasn’t his play, but a 20-game suspension for violating the terms of the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program. Ashton tested positive for Clenbuterol, a banned substance, which he said was the result of using an inhaler he was given by a player he had trained with. Read more

Why hasn’t your team done anything this off-season?

Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman.  (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

We’ve seen plenty of turnover on NHL rosters so far this summer, setting up what appears to be even crazier parity than normal in each division. The Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and San Jose Sharks made major moves in the Pacific. The Washington Capitals jazzed up their top two lines in the Metropolitan. The Chicago Blackhawks did anything but sit on their championship team, making over a quarter of their roster.

A bushel of franchises, however, have been oddly quiet so far. Some are justified in their thought process. Others have their angry fans yelling “DO something!”

Why do some of these teams appear to be deer in the headlights right now? There’s a plausible explanation for each, though some are more maddening than others.

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World Junior Championship in Florida? Tampa Bay puts in official bid for tournament

Amalie Arena (Scott Audette/Getty Images)

While it’s not considered a traditional hockey market, Tampa Bay has shown they’ve got love for the game. Now, in an attempt to showcase their incredible fan support on the international stage, the city has put in an official bid for the 2018 World Junior Championship, which is to be held in the United States.

According to the Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith, the group hoping to bring the tournament to Florida filed its official bid by the end of June and they’re hoping USA Hockey, which will narrow down the applications and suggest a host to the IIHF, leans in favor of Tampa Bay.

“Tampa is very formidable in the conversation,” Dave Fischer, the senior director of communications for USA Hockey, told Smith. “The (Lightning) owner (Jeff Vinik) and sports commission is aggressive. We’ll see where it winds up.” Read more

Report: Sami Salo set to officially retire after 15-year career

Jared Clinton
Sami Salo (Scott Audette/Getty Images)

While it’s far from surprising, it appears that Sami Salo, who hasn’t suited up since the 2013-14 campaign, could be close to officially announcing his retirement.

According to a report from Iltalehti.fi, the 40-year-old Salo will likely be forced to call his career quits following a wrist injury. The injury, which came at the end of the 2013-14 season, was so severe that is cost Salo the entirety of his 2014-15 campaign, as he remained a free agent for the duration of the season.

“It is very unlikely that Sami will be able to play longer and continue,” Salo’s agent Markus Lehto told Iltalehti. “(His) wrist injury is so severe.” Read more