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

Former Canucks GM Mike Gillis lands job teaching university course

Jared Clinton
Mike Gillis (right) was the GM of the Vancouver Canucks for six seasons.

Students enrolled in University of Victoria’s Faculty of Law might be grilling their sports law teacher about the Canucks in spring 2016.

According to Metro News, former Vancouver GM Mike Gillis, who was named the NHL’s GM of the Year in 2011, will be teaching a sports law course at University of Victoria in one of the upcoming semesters. And unless Gillis lays down the law early, he’ll certainly have a few hands raised and questions asked about his time running the Canucks.

During his time with the Canucks, a tenure that began in 2008, Gillis made a number of controversial moves, including trading away goaltender Cory Schneider to the New Jersey Devils and firing coach Alain Vigneault and replacing him with John Tortorella. The Canucks fired Gillis, now 56, in 2014 following a tumultuous season in which Vancouver missed the post-season for the first time in six seasons. Read more

Which teams have had the best and worst off-seasons according to the numbers?

Jack Eichel (Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

It’s been nearly two weeks since free agency opened and most of the big fish have landed, which means it’s time to evaluate the winners and losers of free agency. There’s still some great players out there that can help teams, but the bulk of signings have already been made so right now is a perfect time to see how each team has done so far.

Usually, grading a team’s offseason in July is a fool’s errand because a lot of things will change during the season, but with recent advances in hockey analytics, it’s possible to get a reasonable estimation. Just like our post before free agency began, we used wins above replacement from war-on-ice.com over the last three seasons to project what a player will do next season. Using our off-season movement tracker, we looked at who’s in and who’s out for each team and added up their WAR totals to get wins added (or lost) from this offseason.

Of course, wins aren’t everything in the offseason, especially in a salary cap league. The value of the wins added is important too. With that in mind, here’s all 30 teams’ wins added compared to how much salary they added. Above the red line means a team got less for their money, while below means teams got more. (Keep in mind that WAR is generally skewed towards forwards and goalies so a team that added a big-time D-man, like Calgary, won’t look as great as they should here). Read more

Canucks GM Benning says team received offers for Ryan Miller

Jared Clinton
Ryan Miller. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

At the Vancouver Canucks’ Summer Summit, GM Jim Benning said he had offers on the table to trade goaltender Ryan Miller.

“We could have moved Ryan Miller,” Benning said at the Summit. “There were teams calling on Ryan Miller.”

Benning’s news to the fans in attendance was met with a chorus of boos.

Miller, 34, signed a three-year deal with the Canucks in 2014 to be their starting netminder. However, Miller lost his job in the post-season as, for the third straight season, the Vancouver Canucks went through what could be considered a goaltending controversy. 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

Eddie Lack’s new mask features Roberto Luongo’s face

Jared Clinton
Eddie Lack (Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

One of the biggest stories of the 2013-14 season was the goaltending controversy in Vancouver revolving around Eddie Lack, then a rookie, and Roberto Luongo. Throughout the whole ordeal, however, the two netminders made it evident that while they competed on the ice, they were close friends away from the rink.

Luongo was eventually shipped off to the Florida Panthers before the 2013-14 trade deadline and Lack, after being part of another crowded crease this past season, was dealt to the Carolina Hurricanes less than two weeks ago. Even though they’re in different cities, though, Lack is making sure they’ll never be too far apart.

Wednesday evening, Lack, 27, unveiled a piece of his new mask for the upcoming season. While other goaltenders feature family, flags and accomplishments on the back of their masks, Lack’s will feature his old pal, Luongo, smiling ear to ear. That’s not a joke. Seriously, Lack has Luongo’s face on his mask for next season. Take a look: Read more

Maple Leafs ink Shawn Matthias to one-year, $2.3 million deal

Shawn Matthias (Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

Following his career year, Shawn Matthias didn’t cash in quite as big as Matt Beleskey, but the 27-year-old winger did earn a healthy raise Monday, signing a one-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs, worth a reported $2.3 million.

Matthias earned $1.85 million in 2014-15 as a member of the Vancouver Canucks and took his chance on the free agent market this off-season. It paid off, as less than a week after his nearest comparison, the aforementioned Beleseky, signed a five-year deal with the Boston Bruins worth $3.8 million per season, Matthias has himself a considerable raise. Over his career, Matthias has notched 69 goals and 131 points in 408 games.

With the Canucks this past season, Matthias scored 18 goals and 27 points, the best single season totals of his career, which is impressive considering 17 of his tallies came at even strength, second on Vancouver behind only Radim Vrabta’s 19. Even though Matthias spent a mere 7:15 total on the power play over the course of his 78 games this past season, his only non-even strength goal came with the extra man. With numbers like that, if he can find chemistry with the right linemates, this could be a tremendous signing for Toronto. Read more