• Future NHL stars excited to be on Upper Deck hockey cards

    Darnell Nurse. (Photo courtesy of the NHLPA.)

    By Michael Musalem

    The next generation of NHL stars was on full display in Toronto this past Saturday, as 33 of the league’s most promising recent draftees gathered at Ryerson University’s Mattamy Athletic Centre for some serious face time.

    The event put on by Upper Deck, the league’s official trading card partner, and the NHLPA is held each year with the purpose of photographing the prospects in their official NHL team gear for the first time, giving them all the opportunity to live out any pro’s lifelong dream of having their very own hockey card.   Read more

  • Washington’s Evgeny Kuznetsov has Russian intelligence on Barry Trotz

    Ryan Kennedy
    Washington's Evgeny Kuznetsov (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

    There was a very distinct Russian clique at the NHLPA Rookie Showcase in Toronto this weekend, with Washington’s Evgeny Kuznetsov, Boston’s Alexander Khoklachev and the Tampa Bay duo of Vlad Namestnikov and Andrei Vasilevskiy. They hung out during media availability and on the ice, teasing Vasilevskiy as he forged through a rare English interview and cracking up when Khoklachev bailed behind the net.

    For Kuznetsov, this was clearly his element. The Capitals’ first pick in 2010 had been a highly anticipated prospect for years, choosing to develop his game with Traktor Chelyabinsk in the KHL instead of North America and for a while there, it seemed like he might never come over. But the powerful and gifted center did indeed make his debut last year, getting into 17 games with Washington once his KHL campaign was done and posting a decent nine points.

    You would think a player who had already helped his hometown Chelyabinsk squad get to a Gagarin Cup final in Russia would be a little less awed by the NHL, but that wasn’t the case with Kuznetsov and his debut.

    Read more

  • Rich Clune phones an unsuspecting Twitter tormentor and posts the video – and then tells us why he did it

    Ken Campbell
    Rich Clune  (Photo by Kim Stallknecht/NHLI via Getty Images)

    Nashville Predators enforcer Rich Clune claims a day rarely passes when some keyboard warrior out there doesn’t take to Twitter to call him a “crack head” or disparage him for his well-documented history with mental health issues and substance abuse problems. “Just this summer I made a joke about the World Cup and somebody tweeted back, ‘I hope somebody steps on your throat with a skate blade the next time you play,’ “ Clune said.

    Usually, Clune and his fellow NHLers brush the comments off and ignore them. And even if they don’t, they often have no way of responding. But when Clune received a disparaging tweet recently, he did a bit of digging and went right to the source.

    First, the backstory. Last week, Clowe became entangled in a Twitter “war” involving former NHLer Sean Avery and former world heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe, who has endured his share of life travails outside the ring. What started as light banter among the three escalated, but it was all in fun, Clune said. At one point, Clune poked fun at Bowe for his weight, tweeting that Bowe, “now eats cheeseburgers for a living.” The tweet inspired some vulgarities and invective from Bowe, much of which was set up. (Clune is friends with Avery and while he has never met Bowe, the two have communicated on Twitter in the past.) Read more

  • Rumor Roundup: The latest on unsigned RFAs

    Justin Schultz of the Edmonton Oilers. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)

    Entering the final full week of August, a number of restricted free agents remain unsigned. With NHL training camps opening on Sept. 18 sufficient time remains to get those players under contract, but so far there’s little indication they’re any closer to new deals.

    The most notable is Columbus Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen. The 22-year-old enjoyed a breakout performance last season, leading the Jackets in goals (33) and points (63). But his contract talks have become contentious.   Read more

  • 10 of our favorite logo redesigns from our readers

    Rory Boylen
    bluesdesignfront

    Last week, we finished up our rankings of the 30 NHL teams. The Carolina Hurricanes finished 30th and the Chicago Blackhawks finished first, with a lot of contentious picks in between. In case you missed it, you can catch the series here.

    All the while, we were asking our readers to get creative and redesign as many of the NHL’s logos as they wanted. We received a slew of art work over the weeks and are now prepared to share some of our favorites.

    Below are 10 of our favorite reader submissions. Tell us which one you like the best at the bottom. Read more

  • Senators extending Craig Anderson all about security and stability

    Ken Campbell
    Craig Anderson (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)

    If there’s one NHL team that could use some good karma these days, it’s the Ottawa Senators. The GM is battling cancer, they’ve lost their captain for the second straight year, ownership has a case of the shorts, they’re the only Canadian team that has trouble filling its building and the on-ice prospects don’t look particularly good at the moment.

    There could have been worse things than the news that they had signed a 33-year-old goaltender coming off a bad year to a three-year contract worth $12.6 million. This means the Senators go into this season with a goaltending tandem consisting of the aforementioned Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner, which isn’t exactly Ben Bishop and Brian Elliott – two elite NHL starters the Senators traded away – but it’s not bad.

    Still, it’s a little perplexing why the Senators would choose to extend Anderson’s contract when they don’t really know which Anderson will actually perform for them and he was still a full year away from becoming an unrestricted free agent. With the off-season market for goaltenders being what it is, they could not been afraid of losing him as a UFA in a year, could they?

    From this corner, it looks as though the Senators made this move for a couple of reasons. The first is they clearly think Lehner, who recently signed for three years at $6.675 million himself, is the Senators goaltender of the future. They’re just not sure about the present. If Lehner proves to be capable, Anderson becomes a pretty expensive backup.

    The second is this is a franchise trying to sell some security and stability at a time when neither has been terribly omnipresent of late. With Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza both bolting, this is an organization that needs to prove to its fans that it is serious about retaining its core players. Why else would they sign Clarke MacArthur and Mark Borowiecki to extensions a year before their contracts expired? And it appears as though the Senators are intent on doing the same with Marc Methot and Bobby Ryan.

    Which is all well and good when the team is winning. But the Senators are selling security and stability of a roster that missed the playoffs last season and, barring an overachieving 2014-15, appears to be subject to the same fate this season. But if the Senators do bounce back and make the playoffs this season, there’s a good chance Anderson will have something to do with it.

    And there’s the conundrum the Senators face with their goaltending. In fact, almost every team in the NHL faces a similar one. When it comes to goaltending, a lot of teams are stumbling around in the dark looking for a tandem that works. Last season’s Vezina Trophy contender could be this season’s flop. Nobody realizes that more than Anderson, who was superhuman in leading the Senators to the playoffs during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, only to be plagued by inconsistency last season.

    It didn’t help that Senators coach Paul MacLean seemed to botch his handling of both Anderson and Lehner last season. There was a stretch in November when Lehner put together a 3-0-2 record in five starts and was named the NHL’s first star of the week while Anderson was injured. Despite the streak, as soon as Anderson came back, MacLean gave him the net and the Senators went into a tailspin from which they never recovered.

    There’s not a lot of risk, though, to signing Anderson for three more years, particularly when they were able to do so without attaching any kind of no-trade clause to the contract. At a $4.2 million cap hit for the three seasons after 2014-15, Anderson’s money and term are not untradeable. The New York Islanders signed Jaroslav Halak for four years at $4.5 million a season and Anderson at his best is better than Halak. And the third year of the deal the salary goes down to $3.1 million, which might appeal to a small market team struggling in goal that needs a higher cap hit and less salary.

    If Anderson proves to be the goaltender he was two years ago, the Senators will look brilliant by getting him under contract before becoming an unrestricted free agent. If it’s more of the same from last season, they can hand the ball to Lehner and Anderson can make a lot of money for wearing a ball cap and opening the door at the players’ bench.

  • Fantasy Pool Look: Blackhawks, Penguins off-season outlooks

    Kane & Toews (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 and reviewing the teams in reverse order of regular season finish. Now we’re really getting into the powerhouses – today we take a look at the Blackhawks and the Penguins.

    Chicago Blackhawks

    Gone – Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Jason LaBarbera, Brandon Bollig, Sheldon Brookbank, Michal Handzus, Nikolai Khabibulin

    Incoming – Michael Leighton, Kyle Cumiskey, Brad Richards, P-C Labrie

    Ready for full time – Jeremy Morin is NHL-ready. He was NHL-ready last year. And if you want to know why Kevin Hayes took a pass on signing with the strong Stanley Cup favorites, look no further than Morin. Hayes didn’t want to sit in the minors for two or even three more years when there are many teams that would play him right now. Morin was in the same boat. But he should make the team now and even with minimal ice time is a pretty good dark horse for 40 points, upwards of 200 shots and 90 PIM. Read more

  • What would Major League Baseball logos look like on hockey jerseys – the National League

    Rory Boylen
    (Image from Icethetics.com)

    Last week at Icethetics, the jersey gurus presented a collection of hockey jerseys adorned with Major League Baseball team logos. At first, they showed off the American League logos and this week they moved on to the National League.

    David Parkinson, the artist behind these deigns based each jersey off the local team or a defunct local team, depending on the market. Here is the list of inspirations for each National League design:

    • Arizona Diamondbacks based on Coyotes
    • Atlanta Braves based on Thrashers (1999)
    • Chicago Cubs based on Blackhawks
    • Cincinnati Red based on Cincinnati Stingers (WHA, 1975)
    • Colorado Rockies based on Avalanche
    • Los Angeles Dodgers based on Kings
    • Miami Marlins based on Florida Panthers
    • Milwaukee Brewers based on Milwaukee Admirals (AHL)
    • New York Mets based on Islanders
    • Philadelphia Phillies based on Flyers
    • Pittsburgh Pirates based on Penguins
    • San Diego Padres based on San Diego Mariners (WHA, 1974)
    • San Francisco Giants based on San Jose Sharks
    • St. Louis Cardinals based on Blues
    • Washington Nationals based on Capitals

    Here are some of our favorites: Read more