Which players could take on the six vacant captaincies?

Connor McDavid (Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Four players became first-time captains in the NHL ahead of the 2015-16 season, each to varying degrees of success.

In San Jose, Joe Pavelski took over as captain after years of speculation that he was the next in line to wear the ‘C’ for the Sharks. In his first season, he helped lead the Sharks to the Stanley Cup final with an impressive post-season performance.

Pavelski was joined as a new captain by Max Pacioretty, who donned the ‘C’ for the first time and did so as a member of arguably the most storied organization in the history of the sport, the Montreal Canadiens. Pacioretty’s Canadiens flew out of the gate like an early Cup contender, but an injury to Carey Price derailed Montreal’s season.

Also joining the captains club were Nick Foligno, who was chosen to lead the Columbus Blue Jackets, and Andy Greene, selected by the New Jersey Devils to take the captaincy from the retiring Bryce Salvador. Both teams missed the post-season, but took some strides forward that have both fan bases hopeful for the coming campaign.

While four new captains may seem like a lot, there’s potential for as many as seven first-time captains to take over major leadership roles in 2016-17. Anze Kopitar has already been handed the ‘C’ for the Los Angeles Kings, but that still leaves the St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators, Carolina Hurricanes, Winnipeg Jets, Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers without captains. So, will those clubs have a captain this coming season and, if so, who will stitch the ‘C’ to their sweater? Read more

Jets lock up Mark Scheifele to eight-year contract extension that may prove to be a bargain

Ian Denomme
Mark Scheifele. (Getty Images)

Mark Scheifele has been rewarded for his breakout 2015-16 season with an eight-year contract extension with the Winnipeg Jets.

The 23-year-old center will earn $6.125 million annually over the length of the contract that runs until the 2023-24 season. And it may end up being a bargain for the Jets.

Scheifele was sneaky one of the best players in the entire league in the final couple months of the season. When Bryan Little went down with a neck injury on February 18, Scheifele took on a larger role. From that point on till the end of the season, his average ice-time increased from 17 minutes per game to 20 minutes and he scored 17 goals and had 34 points in 26 games, good for a points-per-game average of 1.30. That’s Crosby-level production. He finished the season with 61 points, second on the Jets to Blake Wheeler’s 78.

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Getting to Know: Former defenseman Kim Clackson

Mark Malinowski
Kim Clackson, right.

Status: Former NHL and WHA defenseman from 1975-1981 for Indianapolis Racers, Winnipeg Jets, Pittsburgh Penguin, Quebec Nordiques and Toronto Maple Leafs. Currently is a Senior Vice President for CBRE Real Estate in Pittsburgh.

Ht: 5-10 Wt: 195

DOB: February 13, 1955 In: Saskatoon, Sask.

First Hockey Memory: “I remember some long, cold days in Saskatoon. I remember skating when I was four or five and I kept falling down on the ice and hitting my head with no helmet, just a toque, which was all I had rolled up for a shock absorber.” Should have known then, it was just the start of things to come.

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Ten unheralded depth signings from July 1 that could exceed expectations

Michael Bournival

On the opening day of NHL free agency, 131 players signed contracts worth a combined total of more than $650 million, according to capfriendly.com. While Milan Lucic, Kyle Okposo, David Backes and Andrew Ladd dominated headlines, signing big-money deals as the best players available, most teams were also filling gaps in organizational depth with signings you may not have even heard about.

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Seth Jones’ six-year, $32.4-million deal creates pickle for Blue Jackets – and Jets

Matt Larkin
Seth Jones. (Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

A clear sign we’re scaling the peak of NHL off-season activity? A star player signs a contract, and all we want to talk about is the context, the ripple effect, how it plays into other transactions.

The Columbus Blue Jackets announced Wednesday they’d locked up their franchise defenseman, Seth Jones, on a six-year, $32.4-million contract. It carries a $5.4-million cap hit. Jones was a restricted free agent and hasn’t yet maxed out the mammoth upside that made the Nashville Predators choose him fourth overall in 2013, but it was no surprise to see him bypass a short-term bridge contract. Columbus dealt its top-line center, Ryan Johansen, for Jones in January. Jones is clearly part of the Jackets’ long-term plans. He has tremendous size at 6-foot-4 and 208 pounds. He’s a graceful skater and puck mover. He uses his big reach impeccably on defense, and he can wire a mean slapshot, too. There’s an excellent chance his $5.4-million cap hit looks like a bargain within a season or two. He and Zach Werenski forge a formidable blueline tandem to build around for years to come.

“He’s a guy who’s come in and solidified what our team is going to be about going forward,” said Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno Friday on a phone call with THN. “He’s a great skater, he moves the puck extremely well, and that’s what we want to see out of our back end.

“For how young he is, it’s pretty incredible the way he can command on the ice. That’s the first thing I noticed, his demeanor. His presence on the ice when he’s playing his game is felt. When he brings it, we’re a way better team. It’s exciting to know he’s going to be here for a while, and we’re looking forward to seeing what he can do now as he grows and becomes more mature and takes on bigger responsibilities. It’s been nothing but plusses having Seth on our team.”

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Jets sign Hutchinson to two-year deal, enter season with competition in goal

Jared Clinton
(Jonathan Kozub/Getty Images)

For Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff’s, it appears the more netminders his team has to work with, the merrier.

The Jets announced Tuesday that they have signed Michael Hutchinson, 26, to a two-year deal worth $1.15 million per season. The contract comes as Hutchinson, who posted a 9-15-3 record, 2.84 goals against average and .907 save percentage in 2015-16, was set to become a restricted free agent. And though it signals the Jets getting another one of their assets under wraps, it doesn’t necessarily make a crowded crease any less so.

During the 2015-16 season, the Jets split their crease three ways. Ondrej Pavelec, 28, started 31 games, Connor Hellebuyck, 23, started 26 games and Hutchinson started the remaining 25 games. Whether Jets fans like it or not, it appears a similar three-headed monster will be between the pipes this coming season. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Tyson Barrie staying put in Colorado, GM Joe Sakic says

Tyson Barrie. (Getty Images)

In recent weeks, Colorado Avalanche restricted free agent defenseman Tyson Barrie was a hot topic in the trade rumor mill. But according to Avalanche GM Joe Sakic, the 24-year-old blueliner isn’t going anywhere.

The Denver Post’s Mike Chambers reports Sakic said he’ll be meeting with Barrie’s agents during the upcoming NHL draft in hopes of working out a new long-term contract.

Sakic tells Chambers that if they cannot work out a new agreement, it’s expected Barrie will head to arbitration. “Either way, he’ll be here,” said the Avs GM.

It’s possible Sakic called his rival GMs to gauge their level of interest in Barrie and the type of return he might fetch. That could account for the recent speculation involving Barrie. Taking Sakic at his word, it’s evident the Avs wish to keep Barrie in the fold for at least the immediate future.

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