• Buffalo Sabres ink Jack Eichel to three-year, entry-level contract

    Jared Clinton
    Jack Eichel

    Jack Eichel is ready to take on the NHL.

    The Buffalo Sabres announced Wednesday that they have signed Eichel to a three-year, entry-level contract, which means Eichel will head to professional hockey instead of returning to Boston University next season.

    Eichel, who was selected second overall at the 2015 draft by the Sabres, comes to Buffalo after just one season in the NCAA. While he had been quiet about where he would be headed next season, with some believed he could head back to school for the 2015-16 campaign, but his signing makes it official that he’s turning pro.

    Last season with the Terriers, Eichel was the highest scoring player in the NCAA with 26 goals and 71 points in 40 games, and led the club to a conference championship and was the MVP of the Hockey East tournament. In addition, he took home Hobey Baker Award honors as the top player in the NCAA last season. Eichel was also the NCAA Rookie of the Year, first-team All American, Hockey East Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year and a first-team all-star.

    With Eichel signed, the Sabres, who were goal starved last season, immediately become much better offensively. Add Eichel to the likes of Evander Kane, Ryan O’Reilly, Zemgus Girgensons and Matt Moulson, and the Buffalo offense looks vastly improved in a short span.

    As for the contract, Eichel will get a pretty standard entry-level deal worth a reported $925,000 per season. That said, though, the contract will be heavily bonus laden and with Eichel likely to fight for the Calder Trophy next season, there’s a good chance his deal could earn Eichel much more than the base cap hit.

  • Canadiens trade Brandon Prust to Canucks for Zack Kassian

    Matt Larkin
    (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images Sport)

    The Montreal Canadiens knew they need to get bigger and stronger at forward, so it’s no surprise to see them trade for a massive winger on Wednesday. The fact it was Zack Kassian, however, may raise an eyebrow or two.

    Kassian, 24, was a first-round pick of the Buffalo Sabres and was dealt for Cody Hodgson at the 2012 deadline. The Canucks hoped they’d found their very own Milan Lucic, a mammoth power forward at 6-foot-3 and 214 pounds who could put the puck in the net.

    It just didn’t quite materialize for Kassian, though. He showed it in bursts, like when he sniped 14 goals in 2013-14, and he even saw some stretches with Daniel and Henrik Sedin. But Kassian had a penchant for taking bad penalties and didn’t click with any of his coaches, from Alain Vigneault to Willie Desjardins. Kassian was an occasional healthy scratch.

    Read more

  • Leafs blow it up real good with Phil Kessel blockbuster

    Phil Kessel (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

    The first thing fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs will have to get their heads around is that there’s a very good chance Phil Kessel will go to the Pittsburgh Penguins and score 40 goals a year. He might even score more. He could end up being wildly successful with the Penguins and might even win a Stanley Cup there. Kessel could end up being happier and more productive than he ever was in Toronto. And people will have to learn to be perfectly OK with that.

    Because that’s very well what might happen here. But the Maple Leafs traded their franchise player on free agent day because they knew he was never, ever going to do those things for them. Kessel was a terrible fit from the day he first signed with the Leafs, cast in the role of the face of the franchise and the undisputed leader by a GM who obviously failed to do his homework on the player. And the problem was perpetuated when his successor signed Kessel to an eight-year deal worth $64 million prior to last season.

    Read more

  • Nashville Predators add Cody Hodgson, Barret Jackman in free agent deals

    Matt Larkin
    Cody Hodgson (Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

    The Nashville Predators have flown relatively under the radar this off-season, re-signing their top two centers, Mike Ribeiro and Mike Fisher. But GM David Poile’s quiet moves last summer helped the team make a surprise run to the playoffs, and it appears he’s making similar decisions this off-season.

    Picking Ribeiro off the scrap heape worked wonders, and Poile will try to duplicate that feat with Cody Hodgson. The maligned center, just 25, was bought out by the Buffalo Sabres this week. Now he’ll attempt a career turnaround in Nashville on a one-year, $1.05-million contract. Hodgson scored 20 goals in 2013-14 and appeared to be a key cog for the Sabres, but he tumbled to just six goals and 13 points in 78 games this season, often criticized for his level of effort.

    Read more

  • Zbynek Michalek returns to Arizona on two-year, $6.4 million deal

    Jared Clinton
    Zbynek Michalek (Len Redkoles/Getty Images)

    After a brief stint in St. Louis, blueliner Zbynek Michalek is returning to Arizona.

    The Coyotes announced shortly after free agency opened that they have signed the 32-year-old to a two-year deal that will pay him $6.4 million. By landing with Arizona, Michalek is set for his third stint in the organization.

    By coming back to Arizona, Michalek will likely come in to continue to tutor the younger defensemen on the club, including the likes of Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Michael Stone, Klas Dahlbeck and Connor Murphy.

    This past season, the Coyotes dealt Michalek to the Blues at the trade deadline for a third-round selection and Maxim Letunov. Bringing Michalek back into the fold makes it clear just how valued he was by GM Don Maloney, and getting him for a cheaper cap hit than his previous deal is a savvy move by the Coyotes. At his age, he could help the Coyotes transition into their next era, once their stock of young guns is ready to go.

    Arizona wasn’t done with the signing of Michalek, however. The club also announced that they have signed Steve Downie to a one-year, $1.75 million deal.

    Downie is the type of player who can extremely effective on a third- or fourth-line, but plays with a certain edge that could have him watching from the sidelines at some point during the season. This past season in Pittsburgh, Downie notched 14 goals and 28 points in 72 games, including three goals with the extra man and two game-winners. He also racked up a gaudy 238 penalty minutes, the highest tota of his eight-year career.

  • Calgary Flames sign Michael Frolik to five-year, $21.5-million deal

    Matt Larkin
    Michael Frolik. (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

    The Battle of Alberta gets more interesting by the hour. The Edmonton Oilers have made drastic changes to start the off-season, but the Calgary Flames have been just as active. They made a massive splash last week by acquiring blueliner Dougie Hamilton from the Boston Bruins (and subsequently signing him). On Wednesday, they added an important piece in right winger Michael Frolik on a five-year, $21.5-million deal.

    Read more

  • Edmonton Oilers sign Andrej Sekera to six-year, $33-million deal

    Matt Larkin
    Andrej Sekera (Jared Silber/Getty Images)

    Boy oh boy, do the Edmonton Oilers and new GM Peter Chiarelli mean business.

    In less than a week, we’ve seen the Oilers draft Connor McDavid and acquire defenseman Griffin Reinhart and goalie Cam Talbot. They jettisoned center Boyd Gordon for Lauri Korpikoski and inked pivot Mark Letestu. And now, Chiarelli’s latest big move: signing blueliner Andrej Sekera to a six-year, $33-million contract.

    Read more

  • Avs look to bolster defense corps with veteran Francois Beauchemin

    Ken Campbell
    Francois Beauchemin  (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

    The Colorado Avalanche needed someone to defend, so they went out and got a defenseman who established a career-high in goals last season when they signed Francois Beachemin to a three-year deal worth a reported $4.5 million per season.

    This, however, will be a good addition for the Avalanche, at least in the short term. Beauchemin is a veteran defenseman who can help stabilize the blueline corps in Colorado. The 11 goals last year was nice, but the Avs don’t necessarily need him to score that way with the likes of Tyson Barrie and Erik Johnson providing much of the offense they need from the back end. Read more