Canadian Hockey League Tattoos
Ryan Smith, Everett, Wash.
Ryan Smith, Everett, Wash.
If the Rangers and Blues are still interested in a Nash-for-Shattenkirk trade, the Blues may have found a way to fit Nash's salary on to their books.
A contract dispute with the St. Louis Blues led center Vladimir Sobotka to spend the past two seasons playing in Russia. The 29-year-old reportedly intends to use his out-clause with KHL team Avangard Omsk to return to the Blues in 2016-17
Those plans, however, apparently hit a snag. Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports Avangard Omsk seeks a fee from Sobotka which he's yet to pay. His agent, Petr Svoboda, is still negotiating his release.
If Sobotka is unable to return to the Blues this season, Rutherford's colleague Jeff Gordon suggests the Blues use the savings to offset some of the cost of acquiring winger Rick Nash and his $7.8 million salary-cap hit from the New York Rangers. Gordon cites the Rangers rumored interest in Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who's an unrestricted free agent next summer.
The “Shattenkirk-for-Nash” rumor isn't anything new, frequently surfacing over the course of the summer. Blues general manager Doug Armstrong reportedly shopped the 27-year-old blueliner in late-June but didn't find any suitable offers. TSN's Darren Dreger still believes Shattenkirk is a trade target, but doesn't believe it's a “front-burner” issue right now.
For now, Armstrong appears intent on keeping Stattenkirk for the start of the season. Whether the puck-moving rearguard is moved depends upon the Blues roster needs over the course of this campaign and their position in the standings before the Feb. 28 trade deadline.
If Shattenkirk hits the trade block, there will be considerable interest in his services. Along with the Rangers, the Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings and New Jersey Devils could be among the suitors.
While Shattenkirk lacks a no-trade clause, his UFA status at season's end is a stumbling block. Rutherford claims interested clubs want to know if he'll agree to a contract extension before pursuing a trade. He said Shattenkirk's unwillingness to sign an extension with the Edmonton Oilers killed a possible deal that would've shipped left winger Taylor Hall to St. Louis. The Oilers instead dealt Hall to the Devils for defenseman Adam Larsson.
OILERS HAVE INTEREST IN KRIS RUSSELL
The status of unrestricted free agent defenseman Kris Russell is attracting interest in the rumor mill. The Edmonton Journal's David Staples cites a TSN report claiming the Edmonton Oilers were discussing a short-term contract with the 29-year-old rearguard.
TSN's Bob McKenzie believes Russell could be a decent short-term fit with the Oilers, who still need experienced depth among their top-four blueliners. Earlier this summer, the shot-blocking specialist reportedly sought a five-year deal. McKenzie believes he'll accept a one-year contract, perhaps seeking between $4-$5 million.
The Oilers aren't the only club the Russell camp have spoken with in recent weeks. McKenzie claims they've talked to as many as eight NHL teams. It's rumored the Calgary Flames, who dealt Russell to the Dallas Stars at last season's trade deadline, would like to bring him back. However, they've also got to re-sign restricted free agent star winger Johnny Gaudreau.
It could cost around $7 million per season to get Gaudreau under contract. With $7.9 million in cap space, that won't leave much room for the Flames to pursue Russell unless they make a cost-cutting deal.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.
Hampus Lindholm and Johnny Gaudreau
Hampus Lindholm and Johnny Gaudreau
The first game of the 2016-17 campaign is less than two weeks away, yet five key RFAs, including the Flames’ Johnny Gaudreau and Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov, remain without contracts.
In less than two weeks’ time, the puck will have dropped on a new season, and there’s a chance that several high profile restricted free agents will begin the season on the sideline due to contract negotiations that have yet to result in a deal that works for both sides.
While Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba has requested a trade and Arizona Coyotes winger Tobias Rieder’s agent said it would be best at this point if his client were shipped elsewhere, other key RFAs are still engaged in negotiations. That doesn’t necessarily mean a contract is imminent, but it does mean progress can be made and at least lends hope that a deal can reached before the seasons starts on Oct. 12.
Here are the five major RFAs still without deals — Trouba and Rieder excluded — and what it could take for their respective club to work out a deal before the start of the new campaign:
Hampus Lindholm, D, Anaheim Ducks
In terms of average ice time, no defenseman was more important to the Anaheim Ducks this past season than Lindholm. The 22-year-old scored 10 goals and 28 points, all the while averaging an even 22 minutes per night, and it’s his offensive production and importance to the Ducks’ blueline that make his deal such a tough one to manage.
Of course, in a perfect world, the Ducks would have been able to hand Lindholm the contract he’s after and call it a day. However, in the salary cap world, that’s not the case. The Ducks have little more than $7.5 million in cap space and have a significant amount of money tied up in their bottom-three blueliners, including two years remaining on an unfortunate four-year, $13-million deal with Clayton Stoner.
The Orange County Register’s Eric Stephens reported that Lindholm could be looking for aem eight-year, $48-million deal that carries an average salary of $6 million. That’s not easy for the Ducks to do given their cap situation, and it’s no wonder they’ve yet to come to terms with Lindholm.
A deal compared to that of Torey Krug, Seth Jones or Morgan Rielly, all defenders under 25 and carrying cap hits between $5-5.4 million, would be easier for the Ducks to manage, but it would require Lindholm to show some give on his asking price.
Rickard Rakell, C, Anaheim Ducks
Rakell’s off-season has been up-and-down, what with his selection to the World Cup team and subsequent injury that cost him his spot, but the one constant has been that he still needs a deal if he’s going to suit up for the Ducks this coming campaign. Like Lindholm, though, the Ducks’ cap space has become somewhat of an issue.
Cap space, however, is less of an issue when it comes to Rakell’s deal and more problematic when considering that both Rakell and Lindholm need to be signed. Again, if it was only one or the other, this is probably a non-issue and contracts are likely done by now, but things are more complicated because Anaheim has roughly than $7.5 million to work with under the cap.
The structure for Rakell’s deal has long been speculated and Victor Rask’s six-year, $24-million deal with the Carolina Hurricanes as the most commonly used comparable. However, the Ducks might be more comfortable if Rakell took a deal that carries a cap hit more similar to that of Jakob Silfverberg. In August 2015, Anaheim inked Silfverberg to a four-year, $15-million deal carrying a cap hit of $3.75 million.
Rakell’s negotiations have been some of the most positive of the outstanding RFAs, though, and his agent, Peter Wallen, told Stephens in July that he believed the two sides would, “find common ground for a solid agreement as I feel both parties seem to want that to happen very much.”
Rasmus Ristolainen, D, Buffalo Sabres
Rakell might be having solid negotiations, but no one is making it more clear he wants to be with his current team than Ristolainen. Despite the fact he’s without a deal for the upcoming season, the towering blueliner took the ice with his Sabres teammates for a practice Thursday, receiving permission from the club to participate even though he’s still unsigned.
Ristolainen’s agent, Mike Liut, told The Buffalo News’ John Vogl that contract talks between the two sides aren’t close, but that Ristolainen wanted to “continue to build on the gains he made this summer” and join the team ahead of the season. As for the contract, though, it might take the Sabres giving Ristolainen a massive raise in order for it to get done.
This past season, Ristolainen appeared in all 82 games for the Sabres and averaged a whopping 25-plus minutes per game. Among the other defensemen who averaged ice time that high are Drew Doughty, Erik Karlsson, P.K. Subban, Duncan Keith, Roman Josi and Shea Weber. That gives an idea of the kind of players Ristolainen is probably hoping to be paid like, though that’s a hard bargain to drive without the results to back it up.
The Sabres struggled last season, and though that’s not on Ristolainen, he still has a ton of room to grow before he turns his big minutes into big impact. He’s not in the conversation for the Norris Trophy, and his deal should likely fall somewhere in the same range as Lindholm’s. According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, it could take an average salary of $6 million-plus to get Ristolainen to sign a new deal.
Johnny Gaudreau, LW, Calgary Flames
Chief among the reasons why Gaudreau has yet to sign a new deal in Calgary appears to be the team’s unwillingness to pay the dynamic playmaker much more than other players on the roster.
Before Sean Monahan signed a seven-year deal that carries a $6.375-million cap hit, the belief was that he and Gaudreau could receive matching deals. For the Flames, that could still be the hope, but Gaudreau is worth much more than that and he has proven it with his play over the past two seasons.
There are only 11 players who have put up more points than Gaudreau’s 142 over the past two seasons, and the 23-year-old is the life blood of the Flames’ offense. He was an immediate impact player, is already a 30-goal scorer two years into his career and finished sixth in the league in scoring even while suiting up for a bad Flames team this past season. The hardest part about this situation for Gaudreau, though, is that he has absolutely no bargaining power regardless of his production.
While he falls into the RFA category, Gaudreau entered the off-season without arbitration rights, wasn’t eligible to receive or sign an offer sheet and has his rights pretty much owned by the Flames. He has said, time and again, that he wants to stay in Calgary, so that’s not an issue, but that Gaudreau’s new contract could — and probably should — be worth upwards of $7.5 million per season seems to be.
Signing a deal worth more than $6.75 million per season would make Gaudreau Calgary’s highest-paid player, and when the dust settles, it’ll probably take exactly that to get the young star locked up long-term.
Nikita Kucherov, RW, Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith reported Thursday that Kucherov’s agent Scott Greenspun has told Steve Yzerman the Russian winger won’t be coming to training camp without a contract, so that means Yzerman and Co. need to find a solution or risk starting the season without the services of the 23-year-old sniper.
It seemed like a clear outline for Kucherov’s deal was there when the Nashville Predators inked RFA Filip Forsberg to a six-year, $36-million contract, but the issue with the Forsberg comparison is production in the post-season. While the two players, both wingers, have scored 59 goals a piece over the past two seasons, Kucherov has added 21 playoff goals in 43 games.
Yzerman has remained confident that he can get Kucherov under contract and has never been anything less than optimistic about the situation, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a deal is close. The biggest stumbling block is the Lightning’s cap situation. Signing Kucherov would almost assuredly mean Tampa Bay is over the cap to start the season. The only way to avoid that, really, is by either trading someone to make cap space for Kucherov’s new contract or somehow managing to persuade Kucherov into taking a $5.5-million deal.
As has been mentioned on a number of occasions, though, the Lightning have to be careful not just of this season, but of the situation that awaits them next off-season. Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Jonathan Drouin, Andrej Suster, Nikita Nesterov and Slater Koekkoek will all see their deals expire after 2016-17, and signing six RFAs is going to be costly and require some tough choices. As it stands, the Bolts will have slightly less than $18 million to operate if the salary cap remains flat. That’s not going to be enough money to keep everyone, even if Kucherov takes a sizeable discount.
Want more in-depth features and expert analysis on the game you love? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.
Sidney Crosby and winning in a Canadian uniform go together like macaroni and cheese. And as good as mac and cheese is, Crosby is better.
“Who owns this game?” It started out as a (terrible) marketing pitch for the World Cash Grab of Hockey™. But after the final of the World Cup of Hockey, that question has been answered emphatically. And with an exclamation point.
Sidney Crosby. Sidney Crosby owns hockey. The most valuable player of the 2016 playoffs and the most valuable player of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, the best player on the planet today, owns hockey. It’s all his and it sure looks as though nobody is going to take it away from him anytime soon. Sidney Crosby also owns two Stanley Cups, two Olympic gold medals, one World Championship, two NHL scoring championships, two NHL MVP awards and a Rocket Richard Trophy. Hell, let’s even throw in the Mark Messier Leadership Award. And the way he played in the playoffs last spring, don’t dismiss the possibility he might even win a Selke Trophy one day.
Lady Byng? All right, that’s a stretch. A big one.
Canada, by virtue of its nail-biting 2-1 win over Team Europe in Game 2 of the tournament final, does have some minority ownership here. After all, the players with the maple leaf on their chests have won five of the past six best-on-best tournaments and are the reigning World Champion. But Crosby now has a mind-boggling 25-game winning streak in a Canadian uniform – including 16-0-0 in best-on-best competition, a golden goal in 2010, an insurance goal in the gold medal game in 2014 and, now, the scoring title and MVP award at the World Cup.
Captain Canada indeed. There are only three players in the history of the game who have been named most valuable player in at least one NHL season, one Stanley Cup playoff tournament and a World/Canada Cup. One is Wayne Gretzky. Another is Bobby Orr. And the third is Sidney Crosby, a player who will be joining the previous two in the Hockey Hall of Fame someday. That’s because not only is Crosby the best player in the world, he’s the best player in the world at the most crucial times.
“I just think about serial winners and that’s what he is,” Team Canada coach Mike Babcock said of Crosby. “When you look at guys like him and (Patrice Bergeron) and obviously (Jonathan Toews) and guys like that, in the biggest moments they’re better. They can’t help themselves. They’re addicted to winning and they just make it happen.”
That has certainly been the case for Crosby in Canadian togs. The World Cup marked the eighth time in Crosby’s career that he has played for Canada. In those events, he now has five gold medals and a silver and has 32 goals and 67 points in 54 games. Of the 51 players who have averaged better than a point-per-game in their careers, Crosby is on a list of only 10 other players who have better than a point-per-game regular season, in the NHL playoffs and in international competition – Gretzky, Orr, Mario Lemieux, Peter Forsberg, Mike Bossy, Eric Lindros, Gilbert Perreault, Pavel Bure, Bobby Hull and Evgeni Malkin are the only others in that group. And, not surprisingly, they either all do or will in the future have plaques in the Hall of Fame.
“It’s special,” Crosby acknowledged after the game. “I think I don’t have to look too far to think about how tough it was a year ago starting the season. I think I appreciate this a lot. It’s not easy. To be a hockey player playing for Team Canada and be with this group of guys has been a lot of fun. To be able to win it is special for a lot of reasons, but yeah, it’s been a great month.”
There are some wonderfully talented players in the NHL right now. Patrick Kane is the league’s reigning MVP and Connor McDavid, entering just his second year in the league, is right on everyone’s heels. It would not be a stretch to think he might even win it this season, depending upon whether or not he can get the Edmonton Oilers in the playoffs. But right here, right now, at this moment in time, there is no one better than Sidney Crosby.
“Sid is unbelievable,” Babcock gushed. “He’s great to be around. I’ve been real lucky I’ve been three times and we win every time. He does it right. He works hard. He doesn’t complain. If he gets 15 minutes, he doesn’t say a word. If he gets 20 minutes, doesn’t say a word. If he misses three shifts in a row, he doesn’t say a word.”
Actually, when it comes to speaking of himself, Crosby doesn’t say a whole lot of anything. His play, though, has spoken volumes. In a tournament where there was too little intrigue, save the play of Team North America and the final three minutes of Game 2 of the final, Crosby went to the top of a mountain and screamed at the top of his lungs.
“I own this game!” he said with his play. Again.
Brad Marchand, Alex Pietrangelo and Jonathan Toews.
Brad Marchand, Alex Pietrangelo and Jonathan Toews.
Canada wasn't the dominant team for a change but managed to pull out a late third-period comeback and clinch the World Cup on a shorthanded goal by Marchand.
TORONTO – The greatest hockey nation on Earth won 15 straight games of best-on-best hockey by playing almost flawlessly. For win No. 16, though, Canada finally did things differently. It won ugly.
Canada was the inferior team for about 57 minutes against the plucky Europeans in Game 2 of the World Cup final but found a way to create magic when it really mattered. It survived with a 1-0 deficit thanks to an urgent, meaningful performance from Carey Price and stopped hearts at the Air Canada Centre with a third-period blitz that included a power play goal and, with less than a minute to go, a shorthanded goal from Brad Marchand which stood up as the game winner. The Euros didn’t know what hit them. They had Canada on the ropes, but when 60 minutes ran off the clock, they’d lost 2-1. Canada repeated as World Cup champion.
Game 2 started much like Game 1 did – with the Euros the aggressor. Only this time, Canada didn’t calmly flick a switch and quell the uprising. Instead of rallying after what they admitted was their weakest effort of the tournament, they came out even emptier Thursday night. It took them six minutes to record their first shot on goal. At 6:26 of the first, European blueliner Zdeno Chara streaked in at the top of the left faceoff circle and rifled a perfect wrister into the far top corner past Price’s glove. The puck bounced out, looking like it hit the crossbar, but it was a legitimate goal.
Typically, Canada had been almost godlike during this tournament in its ability to answer after any hint of adversity was tossed at its feet. The Canadians trailed against the U.S. for 1:29 in the round-robin and against Russia for 1:12 in the semifinal. But the answer just wasn’t there for two periods in Game 2 against Europe.
Part of it was Canada’s fault. It played an uncharacteristically sloppy game. We saw some of the sport’s most fundamentally sound players – Alex Pietrangelo, Ryan Getzlaf, even Sidney Crosby – attempt lazy home run passes and cause turnover after turnover, granting the Euros multiple odd-man rushes. Aside from a glorious chance for John Tavares early in the second, in which he hit the post from point-blank range with a wide-open cage, Canada struggled to generate 10-bell scoring chances.
And as much as Canada might’ve want to shoulder the blame on itself, Ralph Krueger’s Team Europe earned the lead after two periods. Nothing about Thursday’s performance was fluky. The forwards, led by two-way maven Anze Kopitar, were dogged all night long, harassing the Canadian puck-carriers, forcing them into rash decisions.
"They've got a good team," said Canada coach Mike Babcock. "You put a whole bunch of countries together, Kopitar is a good player and Roman Josi is a good player…the perception is that we're miles better than everyone else. I think our country is deeper, but you only get to play five guys at a time. I thought they did a real nice job. I thought they made it tight. They worked hard. They believed in what they were doing. To me that's what hockey is about.
It’s been 15 games since we could say it, but the Canadians were outplayed. They weren’t the better team. And Price actually had to be The Man for them, something Canada hasn’t needed him to do often in best-on-best competition. The Euros tested him with 33 shots, and he remained his usual icy-cool self, particularly sharp making pad saves on low shots.
And that effort gave Canada the base it needed for a proper late push. In the second half of the third period, the ice finally tilted. Jaroslav Halak robbed Crosby in alone after Marchand sprung him with a feed into the slot. But Kopitar of all people took a holding penalty with just 3:35 remaining. Canada had the opening it needed. Brent Burns one-timed a Crosby feed and Patrice Bergeron deftly tipped it past Halak, tying the game 1-1 and eliciting the type of roar we hadn’t felt from the fans at the World Cup throughout Canada’s games. The stakes had finally been raised, and this goal finally felt like it meant something.
Drew Doughty took a potentially deadly high-sticking penalty with 1:50 to go, and the Euros got the golden opportunity with Marian Hossa all alone five feet from Price, but he denied Hossa.
"When he made that save, that kind of brought it to another level," Marchand said. "And we feed off of that energy, there's no question about that. You could tell the boys were confident, and you definitely want to help him out when he makes a save like that. You've got to play your part, too, and fortunately we were able to return the favor."
They sure were. On a 2-on-2 rush shorthanded, Jonathan Toews threaded a feed to Marchand…and Marchand couldn’t have placed the shot better. It was a laser to the top corner, Halak's blocker side, over the diving Josi, the perfect shot at the most opportune moment.
"So you're thinking, 'All right, let's just get this to overtime, see what we can do,' and 'Marchy' comes in with a big goal, an unexpected one but much needed," Crosby said. "A real change of emotions there pretty quickly, but it made it exciting and definitely special."
Marchand's dagger ended a Cinderella run for Europe, a team that drastically defied prognosticators' expectations. Even though the series ended in a 2-0 sweep, it was highly competitive, and Krueger was pleased.
"When you see the minutes on some of the guys, and you see the effort of players that reached for their potential all the way through the game, it's extremely painful to see the final result," Krueger said. "But I feel nothing but pride in the way this group performed today, the challenge they put up against Canada. This group just continued to surprise and beat the odds and beat the thoughts of everybody that was watching."
Canada was its old, clutch, unstoppable self for just a five-minute window, and that was enough. Price was the MVP of Game 2, but Crosby, who led the tournament with 10 points in six games, earned overall MVP honors. He became the third player ever with a Hart Trophy, a Conn Smythe Trophy and a Canada Cup/World Cup MVP. The other two: Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretzky. Sounds about right.
Matt Larkin is a writer and editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin