The Top 10 moments for 2014-15

Andrew Hammond  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

1. Hawks win the Stanley Cup – June 15, 2015

Thanks to the (literally) tireless efforts of Conn Smythe winner Duncan Keith, the Chicago Blackhawks claimed their third Stanley Cup in six seasons, dusting off the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games.

Keith, who played an otherworldly average of 31 minutes per game in the post-season, scored the game-winning goal by following up his own rebound on Bolts goalie Ben Bishop. Patrick Kane, who always seems to come through in big contests, added the dagger on a beauty feed from Brad Richards.

In terms of sentiment, it was hard to beat captain Jonathan Toews passing the Cup off to Kimmo Timonen, whose career and life almost ended in the summer due to blood clots. Instead, the Finnish D-man ended his career a champion.

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Nik Antropov considering NHL return for upcoming season

Jared Clinton
Nik Antropov (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Nik Antropov could be heading back to North America to suit up in the NHL for the first time in two seasons.

According to a Sports-Express.ru interview with Antropov’s agent, Schumi Babayev, the 35-year-old right winger is considering a return to the NHL for 2014-15, which would see him forego a contract offer from the KHL’s Barys Astana, the club with which the Kazakhstan native has spent his past two seasons.

“(Antropov will) make a decision: to pursue a career in the NHL or return to Barys,” Babayev said, according to a rough translation. “Proposal from Barys it has, they are constantly in contact. The decision depends on family circumstances. At last year Antropov has one son living in Canada, and now he will play in the AAA league, and whether to leave him alone – there is something to think about.” Read more

Futures Mailbag: Blueline prospects in Philly, Dylan Strome and more

Samuel Morin (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Welcome to my new mailbag, a spot where I will answers questions from readers who reached out to me on Twitter using the hashtag #thnfutures. The idea behind this space is to bring you info on prospects and the draft, so anything in that world is game. There was a pretty good crop of questions right off the bat, so if you don’t see yours answered this week, check back next Friday. Here we go:

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Dale Hawerchuk made it look easy, but hard work earned him the first big UFA contract

Dale Hawerchuk (Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

Twenty years ago this summer, the first crop of elite-level Group III unrestricted free agents went on the open market. The NHL was coming off its first protracted work stoppage, and the 1994-95 season was reduced to 48 games for each of the league’s 26 teams. The new collective bargaining agreement with the players’ association granted unconditional free agency for any player 32 or over once his contract expired.

Among the first players to act was future Hall of Famer Dale Hawerchuk. By that time, ‘Ducky’ was already a veteran of 14 NHL seasons and had 489 goals and 1,314 points. But this was his first real chance to cash in – he signed a $7.5-million deal over three seasons – and his first real opportunity to challenge for a Stanley Cup with the St. Louis Blues.

The Blues were loading up that summer 20 years ago, also signing UFAs Geoff Courtnall, Grant Fuhr and Brian Noonan. But it was Hawerchuk they really wanted, and negotiations with agent Gus Badali took just a few minutes. St. Louis coach-GM Mike Keenan knew he was getting an aging superstar who still had a lot to offer, because Keenan had watched Hawerchuk develop and dominate for the better part of a generation. 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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WHA documentary collection highlights impact, preserves memory of defunct league

Jared Clinton
Gordie Howe Houston Aeros WHA

It’s been more than 35 years since the fall of the World Hockey Association, but the WHA Hall of Fame’s documentary collection, Best of the World Hockey Association Hall of Fame, does its best to make sure hockey fans and historians never forget about the rival North American league that gave the NHL a run for its money.

With five documentaries, there’s no shortage of history to be had in the series, and that’s without including the highlight films and bonus features. Among the features are highlights from Wayne Gretzky’s WHA debut, wearing No. 17 in an Indianapolis Racers intrasquad game, team bonus footage and team fight reels – seriously, there are fight reels for the Houston Aeros and Racers. Altogether, there’s roughly five hours of footage on the BluRay collection. DVDs of the collection are also available through the WHA Hall of Fame.

The documentaries themselves recount the history of the league, ranging from an overarching history of the WHA to team-centric pieces, which focus on the Aeros, Racers and Winnipeg Jets. Each documentary runs between 22 to 35 minutes and the footage is ported over from 2010 productions. Even still, while the star isn’t crystal clear video, the content holds up. Hearing tales about the upstart league that challenged the NHL for several years in the mid-1970s is entertaining and it couldn’t start with a bigger punch. Read more

Meet your 2019 Stanley Cup champs…the Winnipeg Jets

Ken Campbell
Jets

All right, let’s get one thing out of the way. It gets cold in Winnipeg. Ten months of winter and two months of bad skating. Heh-heh. The day this piece was written in mid-February, it was forecasted to go down to minus-38. Don’t bother with the Celsius to Fahrenheit calculations. When it’s that cold, they’re pretty much the same.

There are bigger cities in the NHL (about 25 of them) that play in bigger arenas (about 29). There are other places where a star can slide right under the radar if he wants. There are places with lower taxes and places where your Bentley won’t get wrecked by road salt. There are places with a few more entertainment options. Read more

Winnipeg Jets re-sign Drew Stafford for $8.7 million over two years

Matt Larkin
Blake Wheeler and Drew Stafford (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

It made too much sense. Drew Stafford, 29, suffered for too many seasons as a lowly Buffalo Sabre. A mid-season trade to the Winnipeg Jets reinvigorated his career. He spoke openly about how much happier he was after changing teams, and it showed in his play. Stafford exploded for nine goals and 19 points in his 26 games as Jet. It was easily his most productive stretch since he scored 31 goals in 2010-11.

So why on Earth would Stafford and the Jets want to part ways? Good question. So they didn’t. On Tuesday, a.k.a. Free Agency Eve, the Jets locked up pending unrestricted free agent Stafford for two years and $8.7 million, amounting to a $4.35-million cap hit.

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