By Casey Ippolito
Hunter Shinkaruk could be excused for not setting the AHL ablaze during his first season. Having missed most of his final junior term with a torn labrum, he had a ready-made excuse for making a slow transition to pro.
But he wasn’t prepared to indulge that narrative. “To be honest, I don’t really feel like I was too far behind when I went into camp,” Shinkaruk said. “I was fortunate it didn’t really hold me back as much as I thought it would.
The initial plot points in Act I of Shinkaruk’s pro career mirror the beginning of his junior years in Medicine Hat. Before ascending to a 49-goal season and the Tigers’ captaincy, the flashy left winger broke his leg prior to entering the WHL and struggled out of the gate. He watched a few games from the press box but quickly caught up, finishing top-five in team scoring and leaping to 91 points the following year. Read more
Eddie Lack has worn some amazing equipment throughout his career, but it’s hard to say if any of his gear has looked as clean or as crisp as his brand new set for his 2015-16 campaign with the Carolina Hurricanes.
In a photo posted by Lack to his Instagram page – which he runs under his nickname, EddieTheStork – he showed off the new gear. The pads feature the Hurricanes logo split across the left and right pad, which is something Lack has previously done while playing for the Vancouver Canucks and for the AHL’s Chicago Wolves. Read more
Sven Baertschi has suited up in a mere 69 NHL games since being selected 13th overall in the 2011 draft, but he could more than double that total next season.
The Vancouver Canucks announced late Tuesday they have signed the 22-year-old Baertschi to a one-year, one-way deal that will pay the Swiss winger $900,000 next season. The money is notable if for no other reason than it’s actually a cut in salary from Baertschi’s entry-level contract, on which he had an NHL salary of $925,000.
To say Baertschi has had a turbulent tenure in the NHL would be an understatement. Since being taken by the Calgary Flames in the 2011 draft’s first round, Baertschi has bounced back and forth from WHL to NHL to AHL and back again. Last season alone, Baertschi suited up for the Canucks, Flames, Utica Comets and Adirondack Flames, playing no fewer than five games with each club. The hope now is that he can find a permanent place with the Canucks. Read more
The Pittsburgh Penguins have made a pair of moves that should help address their perceived depth issues.
Tuesday morning, the Penguins announced they had dealt center Brandon Sutter and a 2016 third-round pick to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for center Nick Bonino, defenseman Adam Clendening and a 2016 second-round pick. Within minutes of announcing the trade, the club also announced the signing of pivot Eric Fehr to a three-year, $6 million deal.
“The two deals went hand-in-hand so we could add more depth,” said Penguins GM Jim Rutherford in a conference call. “The conversations with Vancouver have actually gone on a long time. I can’t remember exactly when, but it was prior to the draft.” Read more
NBC Sports’ Jason Brough notes Daniel and Henrik Sedin were recently asked by a Swedish newspaper if they felt they might be traded. The twins replied they had no intention of finishing their NHL careers with another team, even if it meant another shot at a Stanley Cup.
Brough observes, however, the Sedins didn’t outright reject the notion of waiving their no-movement clauses by the final season (2017-18) of their contracts. Should the Canucks miss the 2016 playoffs or become a first-round casualty again, Brough suspects calls for a major rebuild in Vancouver could increase.
Such a rebuild would mean shipping out the Sedins. Their no-movement clauses, however, aren’t the only impediment. It’s no stretch of the imagination to assume the twins will only accept a deal in which they’re moved together to the same team. With both earning $7-million per season, takers for their combined $14-million annual salaries could be scarce. That especially if the salary cap doesn’t significantly increase for 2016-17. Read more
Parity in the modern-day NHL creates such a delicate balance between teams that one year’s powerhouse is the next year’s dud, and vice versa. Just ask the Colorado Avalanche, who went from Central Division champs to out of the playoffs, or the Calgary Flames, who went from rebuilding team to round 2 of the post-season.
In all, 2014-15 swapped Calgary, Nashville, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Washington, the New York Islanders and Ottawa into the playoffs, with Colorado, Los Angeles, Dallas, San Jose, Boston, Columbus, and Philadelphia falling out. That’s seven new teams out of 16, or 43.75 percent.
With that crazy stat in mind, which 2014-15 post-season qualifiers might slide out in 2015-16? And which teams might take their places? I’ve chosen three candidates in each category.
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.