Top 10 trade candidates for 2014-15

Cody Franson. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)

Martin St-Louis, Marian Gaborik, Ales Hemsky, Ryan Miller and Roberto Luongo: these were some of the big names who were traded during the 2013-14 season. Who is in the cross-hairs this season? We look at 10 trade candidates who could move because of their contract situation, or because their team decides it’s time to go in a different direction.

Cody Franson
Franson has signed three consecutive one-year extensions with the Maple Leafs, but this time he’ll be a UFA when his contract expires at the end of this season and, at 27, he’s in prime position to score a big deal. The 6-foot-5, 213-pound blueliner will surely be looking for a real commitment from the team this time and if he doesn’t get it, the Maple Leafs will have to trade him by the deadline. He’s an important part of Toronto’s (bad) defense and an extension would likely make him the second-highest paid player on Toronto’s blueline. But does management believe he’s worth that long-term investment when they’ve already put down on Dion Phaneuf and Jake Gardiner? If not, they’ll be looking to get something for him. Read more

Fantasy Pool Look: Winnipeg Jets & Ottawa Senators off-season report

Wheeler And Anderson (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s the 12th annual off-season look at each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint. Every year I run through the teams alphabetically – but switch starting points each year. This year I’m doing something different. I’m reviewing the teams in reverse order of regular season finish.

(Editor’s Note: This post was supposed to go up in early June, but due to a mix up it wasn’t published…until now. This is an edited version changed to reflect moves made since it was originally written. We apologize. The final installment of Darryl’s off-season outlooks, his final article for thn.com, will go up Saturday morning Sunday afternoon.)

WINNIPEG JETS
Gone – Olli Jokinen, Devin Setoguchi, Chris Thorburn, Al Montoya, Zach Redmond

Incoming – Mathieu Perreault, Michael Hutchinson, T.J. Galiardi

Ready for full time – Goaltender Michael Hutchinson had a breakthrough season in the ECHL and the American League and he even had a strong showing in the NHL. At 24, he’s probably ready for backup duties. However, this was one year of greatness after several years below mediocrity.

A long shot, but a good one, is future stud Josh Morrissey. He boasts all the upside of a Jacob Trouba, but would have to climb over a couple of veterans (albeit depth ones) to get on the team. And he’s probably best served by another year of development. That said, Trouba made it so that the team had no choice but to keep him. Morrissey could do the same. If so, he would be one to watch in fantasy hockey. Read more

THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: Winnipeg Jets

The Hockey News
Tobias Enstrom, Evander Kane and Bryan Little of the Winnipeg Jets. (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

2013-14 record: 37-35-10

Acquisitions: T.J. Galiardi, Mathieu Perreault

Departures: Devin Setoguchi, Olli Jokinen, Al Montoya, Zach Redmond, Edward Pasquale, Jerome Samson, Andrew Gordon

Top five fantasy options: Blake Wheeler, Evander Kane, Bryan Little, Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd

Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: The Winnipeg Jets have been competitive every year since arriving from Atlanta, and they can get over the hump if they keep improving from within. Center Mark Scheifele emerged as an everyday NHLer last season and will take another step forward. Blueliner Jacob Trouba made a massive splash as a rookie, establishing himself as an offensive force with snarl. He’s the star Winnipeg can build around. The offense will spike if puck-moving D-man Josh Morrissey and 2014 first-round sniper Nikolaj Ehlers arrive head of schedule.

The Jets have seasoned talent up front (Blake Wheeler, Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little, Evander Kane) and on defense (Tobias Enstrom, Zach Bogosian). They also have an excellent third line. Michael Frolik was a steady two-way presence last season, and free agent grab Mathieu Perreault is among the league’s most efficient scorers, having tallied 18 goals in 69 games with Anaheim despite playing 13:52 a night. If the young talent catches up with the vets, the Jets will join the playoff hunt.

Bust: Among the veterans, all but Kane have no-movement clauses, despite not guiding the club to the playoffs. It’s odd that the Jets let backup Al Montoya walk in free agency, as Ondrej Pavelec was as weak as any NHL starter last season, tying for 45th in save percentage at .901. It’s a mistake to rely on him, especially when backup Michael Hutchinson is unproven, even if he has excelled in the American League.

Until Ehlers becomes a full-time NHLer, no facelift appears in store for Winnipeg’s woeful power play, as the Jets don’t have an elite playmaker. For all the talk of coach Paul Maurice transforming the team, Winnipeg sagged after a strong start under his guidance. This team lost more than it gained, and that’s terrifying considering how overmatched they are against Central Division opponents, each of whom got better on paper in the off-season. The Jets could find themselves contending for the lottery, especially if Pavelec doesn’t improve.

Bottom Line: The Jets aren’t that bad, but they play in by far the NHL’s deadliest division. They’d be better off in the Eastern Conference, back in the cozy confines of the now-defunct Southeast. Go figure. They’ve putted along between 80 and 87 points for five straight seasons, and the mediocrity will continue. They lost 20 of 29 games against the Central last season, and every team in the division except them made major improvements.

Prospect To Watch: Carl Klingberg’s professional career has been a roller coaster ride so far. The 2009 second round pick has good speed and size, but his production in the American League has come in waves. He scored a promising 37 points three years ago as an AHL rookie, but couldn’t build on it as his production dipped to 23 points in 2012-13. Last season, Klingberg bounced back for a 43-point output. Once considered to have second line potential, if Klingberg becomes an NHL regular it now seems more likely he’ll do it as a third-liner. He’ll be given another shot at cracking the Jets lineup in a depth role, but if he doesn’t make the team out of camp, he should be given the opportunity via call-up. At 23 and on a one-year contract, time is running out for him to find a home with the Jets.

THN’s Prediction for 2014-15: Seventh in Central Division


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Contributors: Matt Larkin, Rory Boylen

Rumor Roundup: Where will Brodeur, Alfredsson & other UFAs end up?

Martin Brodeur (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

With the start of NHL training camp only three weeks away, several notable unrestricted free agents remain available.

Topping the list is goaltender Martin Brodeur. Earlier this month THN associate editor Matt Larkin suggested the Winnipeg Jets could make the most of Brodeur’s services. Larkin expects the 42-year-old future Hall of Famer could await an injury to open up a spot with an NHL club.

Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff seems content with his team’s tandem of Ondrej Pavelec and the inexperienced Michael Hutchinson. If the pair struggles in pre-season, however, the Jets could contact Brodeur. But they might not be the right fit for him, as it’s believed he prefers signing with a playoff contender.

Earlier this month the Winnipeg Sun’s Ken Wiebe proposed left winger Dustin Penner as a potential replacement for the departed Devin Setoguchi, who recently signed with the Calgary Flames. Wiebe also reported the Jets offered gritty Jordin Tootoo a one-year, two-way deal, but the winger rejected the deal.
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Alexander Burmistrov says he will “almost certainly” return to the NHL – but will it be with the Jets?

Rory Boylen
Alexander Burmistrov

Alexander Burmistrov – remember him? – still has one season remaining on his contract with the KHL’s Ak Bars Kazan. Last season, he scored 10 goals and 37 points in 54 games to lead the third-place Eastern Conference club and finish just outside the top 20 in KHL scoring.

In the NHL, Burmistrov wasn’t that kind of scorer in three seasons with the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets.

But he was an important piece of a very mediocre Jets lineup. Towards the end of last season, when the Jets flopped to the bottom of the Central Division with 84 points, Winnipeg Free Press columnist Gary Lawless called on the team to “Bring back Burmi.”

Part of the reason Burmistrov left for the KHL when his entry-level contract expired after the 2012-13 season was that he butt heads with then-coach Claude Noel over playing time. In the two years Burmistrov spent in Winnipeg with Noel as his coach, the Russian’s average ice time dropped by a minute (16:39 to 15:38) from 2012 to 2013. His shorthanded time dipped as well, though by an average of only 15 seconds.

In an interview (in Russian) with Prosports.ru, Burmistrov spoke about his eventual return to the NHL. “I do not believe that my story in the NHL is over. I will almost certainly return there,” he said. “For me, the money does not play any role. The dream (of playing in the NHL) is still alive.”

He then added: “I don’t have any preferences, but I’d like to get to a team where I’d play a lot.” Read more

What burning questions remain this NHL off-season?

Ryan Johansen is coming off his entry-level contract with the Blue Jackets, but hasn't signed an extension yet. (Getty Images)

These truly are the dog days of summer. Players, GMs and coaches get their brief time off between the free agency boom and training camps. Media have time to do fun stuff like rank every logo in the NHL. With no hockey, we spend our nights watching Bachelor in Paradise baseball.

But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing happening in the NHL. If you squint, you’ll notice several important questions still unanswered, such as…

1. Will Columbus mend fences with Ryan Johansen and sign him long-term?

The most recent reports out of Columbus had restricted free agent Johansen and the Jackets still $3 million apart. Per season. That’s a Grand Canyonesque gap. So far, the P.K. Subban story isn’t working as a cautionary tale about short-term bridge contracts. After his bridge, Subban won the Norris Trophy and his new long-term cap hit is probably about $2 million more than it would’ve been had Montreal ponied up two years ago and paid him, say, Drew Doughty money.

The Jackets want Johansen to prove his 33-goal breakout was for real, just as they wanted Sergei Bobrovsky to back up his Vezina Trophy campaign when they inked him to a bridge deal last summer. The difference? Nothing about Johansen’s development says fluke. He has pedigree as the No. 4 overall pick in 2010. He was always supposed to be this good. There’s every reason to trust him. Columbus could live to regret a bridge contract. The East is wide open, and this team can contend with its top pivot signed and happy.

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Rumor Roundup: Where will Dustin Penner & Michael Del Zotto land?

Dustin Penner

As the NHL off-season drags on, former New York Rangers and Nashville Predators defenseman Michael Del Zotto remains unsigned.

Only 24, Del Zotto is just two years removed from a 41-point performance with the Rangers in 2011-12. Unfortunately, his stock tumbled significantly last season, largely because of his poor play in his own zone.

Recent speculation linking Del Zotto to the Vancouver Canucks was denied by his agent, who claims there’s “no chance” his client ends up with the Canucks. It’s been rumored the Detroit Red Wings could have interest, but he’s a left-handed shot and the Wings seek a right-shooting blueliner.

The New York Post’s Larry Brooks cited an NHL club claiming Del Zotto’s reputation was “in tatters.” He believes now is the right time to “buy low” on the young rearguard and wonders why the New York Islanders haven’t pursued him. Read more