During an off day in Montreal at the World Junior Championship, Dan Bylsma was asked to comment on some of the players in the tournament. There as a game analyst for the NHL Network, Bylsma begged off, saying he didn’t want to jeopardize any possible future relationships with any of the players who were there.
Well, Bylsma will now have a chance to work with one of the biggest names that was there that day. Jack Eichel, who was the captain of the U.S. team for the tournament, will play his first pro years under Bylsma with the Buffalo Sabres. And this can be special. Very special.
The Toronto Maple Leafs’ recent hiring of former Detroit Red Wings’ coach Mike Babcock continues to raise questions over the impact his arrival will have upon their off-season plans. Of particular interest is how it could affect the future of captain Dion Phaneuf, who was pursued by the Red Wings earlier this season.
MLive.com’s Ansar Khan reports the Wings could revisit their interest in the 30-year-old Phaneuf this summer, but the Leafs’ coaching change could take the blueliner off the market. Khan notes that Babcock, during his introductory press conference last week with the Toronto media, claimed to be a fan of Phaneuf and praised his work ethic. Read more
There’s a good chance the St. Louis Blues and Ken Hitchcock will agree on a one-year contract, perhaps as early as sometime this week. This is a situation that might rankle a lot of coaches, given that Mike Babcock just received an eight-year deal to coach the Toronto Maple Leafs. In fact, given that the Blues spoke with Babcock about the possibility of replacing Hitchcock, he might be excused for telling the Blues precisely where they could do with their one-year contract extension.
The public perception has been that the Blues have left their coach twisting in the wind over the past couple of weeks, that he’s their fallback option only if they can’t come up with someone better.
Cody Franson’s life changed when the Toronto Maple Leafs dealt him to the Nashville Predators Feb. 15, a couple weeks before the 2014-15 trade deadline. Who knew so much more would change in less than three months after that?
Franson’s new (old) team, the Nashville Predators, flamed out in the first round of the playoffs, abruptly ending his hopes of a deep Stanley Cup push as a post-season rental. Worse yet, Franson was a terrible fit in Music City. He was a right-handed shooter buried on the depth chart among talented righty blueliners Shea Weber and Seth Jones. Franson played more than 21 minutes a game as a Leaf and slipped to around 15 as a Pred, with a drastically reduced special teams role, which was disastrous for a guy who thrived as a power play contributor. Nashville GM David Poile admitted after the season the Franson deal wasn’t a good fit in hindsight. The Preds also landed center Mike Santorelli from Toronto but surrendered a first-round pick and Brendan Leipsic in the process.
So Franson felt the anguish of a quick playoff exit, and his value as an unrestricted free agent may have diminished in the process. He was all but a lock for one of the top two or three paydays of the summer as a right-shot blueliner who can contribute 40-plus points and will be just 28 when next season begins. He’ll still be among the most coveted names in a vanilla free agent class, but he may have shaved $1 million off his average annual value in the last couple months. Think $5-million cap hit, not $6-million.
Meanwhile, back in Toronto, the Leafs just bagged the summer’s top free agent: coach Mike Babcock. The grass up there looks emerald-green. Is it any wonder, after all that’s transpired, that Franson hopes to play for the Leafs again next season?
While superstar Steven Stamkos tries to help the Tampa Bay Lightning reach the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, speculation is brewing over his long-term future with the club. Stamkos’ eligibility next summer for unrestricted free agency and the Lightning’s efforts to re-sign him could dominate NHL headlines this summer.
The Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa reports of chatter wondering if the high cost of re-signing Stamkos might prompt Lightning management to trade their 25-year-old captain. Shinzawa believes Stamkos could seek a deal comparable to the identical eight-year, $84- million contracts signed last summer by Chicago’s Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. He also speculates uncertainty over the salary cap in the future and the Lightning’s depth in young talent could factor in determining if they can afford to keep their franchise player. Read more
A person who has interviewed for the Toronto Maple Leafs GM job told me Thursday that nothing that unfolded during the Mike Babcock hiring came as a surprise to him. Team president Brendan Shanahan made it clear to this person that the coach was going to be hired before the GM and that the search for a new person to run the hockey department is still very much open.
Shanahan has displayed a unique management style through all of this. Whether it works brilliantly or blows up in his face will be revealed in time. If it does succeed, and it might, it could provide a template for future executives. And that is, find the people you want first and worry about job titles later. Read more
Thursday afternoon, Mike Babcock was officially introduced to Toronto media as the new coach of the Maple Leafs. Friday morning, Red Wings fans in Detroit woke up to a full-page advertisement in the Detroit Free Press from their former coach, thanking them for all the cheers.
Babcock, who coached the Red Wings to 10 consecutive post-season appearances, two straight appearances in the Stanley Cup finals and one Stanley Cup victory, used the advertisement to give thanks to thanks for the support he and his family have received over their decade in Hockeytown and as one final goodbye to the fans they have grown to love during Babcock’s 10 years in Detroit. Read more
When elite hockey writers began scanning flight plan websites, you knew this was going to be a different kind of circus. And when it was finally confirmed that the Toronto Maple Leafs had hired Mike Babcock as their new head coach, the corresponding media bomb went off. Less than 24 hours later, the former Detroit Red Wings bench boss has his first press conference out of the way and the table has been set…somewhat.