• Blue Jackets GM on Ryan Johansen contract talks: “When training camp starts, that’s it”

    Rory Boylen
    Ryan Johansen. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

    We’re 22 days away from opening night of the NHL season and Columbus’ Ryan Johansen is still without a contract. The 22-year-old, who was picked fourth overall in the 2010 draft, is coming off a terrific 33-goal season. The problem is, he’s only once posted those kinds of numbers in the NHL. In the 107 big league games he played from 2011-13, Johansen scored 14 times.

    So it’s tricky to define what his next contract should be worth. Should he get more than Jamie Benn’s $5.25 million, a deal the Dallas Star signed after a 26-goal season in 2011-12? Should he get more than Jeff Skinner’s $5.725 million, which kicked in three years after his phenomenal rookie season? Should he get more than Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ $6 million, a first overall pick who has been scoring at a fairly consistent rate across his three years in the league?

    Each of those deals are long-term contracts running five years or more. If the Blue Jackets sign Johansen, it seems it’ll be on a short-term deal – but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline reports team and player are around $3 million apart even on a two-year extension. The Blue Jackets are coming in around $3.5 million on a bridge contract, similar to the one Matt Duchene signed with the Avalanche in 2012. Portzline reports Johansen’s agent, Kurt Overhardt, is seeking around $6.5 million. In other words: no break for a bridge deal. Read more

  • St. Louis Blues pick Robby Fabbri defies his size

    Ryan Kennedy
    Guelph center Robby Fabbri (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

    I’m eavesdropping on a couple of scouts here in Traverse City. The Columbus and St. Louis prospects are facing off and early on, Robby Fabbri is doing some nice things on a line with Ty Rattie and Yannick Veilleux for the Blues.

    “Look at Fabbri,” said one scout to the other. “He knows where he’s going to pass it before the puck is even on his stick.”

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  • Turns out, money will be an object in Babcock negotiations

    Ken Campbell
    Ken Holland and Mike Babcock (middle).  (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

    TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – The most intriguing off-ice story of this season will be Mike Babcock’s future with the Detroit Red Wings. Until Babcock re-signs with the Detroit, the questions will continue to follow this team.

    And here’s one to ponder: If John Tortorella is worth $2 million a year sitting in his barcalounger, what is the man many consider to be the best coach in the NHL worth? Will Babcock be the first to break the bank and be paid like his NFL counterparts?

    The first assumption is that money will not be an object, that the Red Wings will give Babcock all the money and all the term he wants and that if Babcock leaves, it will be for a better situation. There is no salary cap on what coaches can be paid, so that begs the question, why would a superstar coach such as Babcock not make $5 million a year? Joel Quenneville, who has won two Stanley Cups in the past four years, is believed to be the highest-paid coach in the NHL at about $2.5 million, which is ridiculously low because it’s less than the average player salary.

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  • Rumor Roundup: Is this Marc-Andre Fleury’s last season in Pittsburgh?

    Marc-Andre Fleury needs a stellar performance in his walk year if he wants to remain a Pittsburgh Penguin.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

    Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury enters this season facing an uncertain future. He’s an unrestricted free agent in July, and new Penguins GM Jim Rutherford didn’t believe this summer was the right time to discuss a contract extension.

    Fleury told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Josh Yohe he pondered what life would be like playing elsewhere, but that he prefers staying with the Penguins. Since signing a seven-year, $35-million deal with the Penguins in July 2008, Fleury backstopped them to a Stanley Cup championship in 2009. In recent years he struggled in the playoffs, but he rebounded last season with a solid effort under goalie coach Mike Bales.

    It’s apparent, however, Rutherford intends to take a wait-and-see approach with Fleury, who turns 30 in November. The former Carolina Hurricanes GM has no contract history with Fleury and seems reluctant to offer another lengthy, expensive contract to an inconsistent netminder. It’s up to Fleury to prove his worth this season as a reliable starting goaltender.

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  • Five non-playoff NHL teams that could make it this season

    Pekka Rinne (Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

    Five of the the 14 teams that missed the NHL playoffs in 2012-13 (Colorado, Dallas, Columbus, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay) qualified for a playoff berth last season. Here are five teams on the outside looking in during the 2014 playoffs that – in this writer’s opinion – have the best chance at making the post-season this year:

    5. Arizona Coyotes. The Yotes missed the playoffs for the second consecutive year last season – the first time that’s happened since 2007-09 – and that organization is famous for making the most out of a budget-conscious blueprint for success. They finished only two points behind the eighth-place Stars, and with new No. 1 center Sam Gagner in town, captain Shane Doan fully healthy and stellar young blueliner Oliver Ekman-Larsson continuing to blossom, they could have just enough in the tank to make it back into the post-season. Read more

  • Traverse City: Sonny Milano hurt, but it could have been worse

    Ken Campbell
    Sonny Milano (Photo by Ken Campbell)

    TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – Sonny Milano has already had his ‘Welcome to the NHL’ moment despite the fact he hasn’t played a game in the best league in the world yet. And thanks to what could have been a devastating injury in a prospects tournament, it will be a while before he plays in a game of any kind.

    Two periods into his first game at the Traverse City prospects tournament over the weekend, the Columbus Blue Jackets prospect was hit into the boards face-first. His face went into the dasher, fracturing both his left orbital bone and cheekbone. While it was originally thought he could be out eight weeks, the expectation is now that he will miss two, which means he still might be able to get into some action for the Blue Jackets main camp.

    “Right now it feels pretty good,” said Milano, whose only battle scar from the incident is a shiner under his left eye. “I feel like if it was a playoff game, I’d be on the ice right now.”

    Milano said when the incident first happened, “my nose just started bleeding like crazy,” and he thought it was going to be far more serious. “I thought it was kind of dirty,” Milano said. Read more

  • THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: Vancouver Canucks

    The Hockey News
    The Vancouver Canucks. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

    2013-14: 36-35-11

    Acquisitions: Dustin Jeffrey, Radim Vrbata, Ryan Miller, Bobby Sanguinetti, Linden Vey, Derek Dorsett, Luca Sbisa, Nick Bonino

    Departures: David Booth, Jeremy Welsh, Benn Ferriero, Zac Dalpe, Jordan Schroeder, Mike Santorelli, Ryan Kesler, Jason Garrison

    Top five fantasy players: Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Radim Vrbata, Nick Bonino, Chris Higgins.

    Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
    Boom: Ask a critic what “boom” should mean in Vancouver and they’ll tell you that’s the sound that comes after they blow up the Canucks roster. But new GM Jim Benning has no intention of doing that. It’s not rebuild or reload. Best word to use is “refinement.”

    The additions of difference-makers Ryan Miller and Radim Vrbata are evidence the Canucks are in it for keeps this season. True, Ryan Kesler is gone, but the return they got in Nick Bonino and Luca Sbisa deepens a roster that was looking top-heavy. With the Sedin twins set to rebound from sub-par seasons, Vancouver is expecting to make the playoffs with its new resources. Read more

  • New Dallas Stars mascot is hideous – and that’s OK

    Matt Larkin
    Courtesy of Dallas Stars

    By now, you’ve probably had a look at Victor E. Green, the Dallas Stars’ freshly unveiled mascot. You’ve also visited the nearest emergency eyewash station, flushed thoroughly and patted your face dry with a paper towel.

    Victor is ugly. He’s that friend with a great personality who never gets responses on OkCupid and doesn’t know why. Oscar the Grouch, Youppi and a cockroach held hands, stepped inside Jeff Goldblum’s telepod from The Fly, and out popped Victor. He’s that giant toy you win at the beginning of a day at the amusement park and wish you could throw away.

    The Victor vitriol is intense. A small sample from enraged Stars fans on Twitter:

    “It looks like a booger with legs…”

    “As long as his name is the Grinch that stole the Stanley Cup. ???”

    “Vomits uncontrollably. WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO YOUR FANS?”

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