\"I certainly understand why the meeting had to be cancelled given the circumstances, but this is something we\'ve been working on with the IIHF and the Players\' Association for quite some time,\" NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told The Canadian Press on Tuesday. (CPimages /Frank Gunn)
Author: The Hockey News
Key NHL/IIHF meeting set for Zurich on Wednesday postponed
Just why exactly seems up for debate. The IIHF sent out a letter to federations Tuesday advising them that the meeting, to be held at its Swiss headquarters, needed to be re-scheduled because the NHLPA, going through turbulent times, could not send a representative.
But the union issued a statement giving a different reason.
"The NHLPA was fully prepared to take part in the IIHF meetings but informed the NHL in advance of the meetings that we would not be consenting to a new transfer agreement until we had an opportunity to complete our analysis of potential agreement structures," the statement said. "The NHL and the NHLPA agreed that it was appropriate to defer the meetings for a short period of time until the NHLPA analysis is complete."
Ted Saskin was originally scheduled to represent the players' union at Wednesday's meeting until the executive director was sent home last week on a paid leave of absence because of allegations that he read NHLPA player e-mails.
"I certainly understand why the meeting had to be cancelled given the circumstances, but this is something we've been working on with the IIHF and the Players' Association for quite some time," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told The Canadian Press on Tuesday.
"I would very much like to bring the agreement to closure so that players and clubs know what their rights are as we head into a busy signing season for next year. We can't let the calendar slip away on this one."
The current IIHF/NHL agreement, which does not include Russia, expires at the end of this season. It is hoped that the Russians this time will agree to sign the new four-year agreement which is slated to run from 2007 to 2011. Russia was slated to be present at Wednesday's meeting.
The NHL, NHLPA, IIHF and international federations from Russia, Finland, Sweden, Slovakia, Germany, Switzerland and the Czech Republic need to sign off on the new agreement, which governs players drafted from their countries by NHL teams and the compensation they receive for them.
Anaheim went out and scooped up versatile winger Patrick Eaves on Friday, and the deal has serious potential to pay off for the Ducks, Dallas Stars and, most of all, Eaves.
Patrick Eaves is having a dream season. At 32, the veteran winger has managed to set a new career best in goals, scoring 21 through the first 59 games of his campaign. His 37 points are five points clear of his previous career high, and, up until Friday, he had become a legitimate top-six point producer for the Dallas Stars. He has been doing it all in what has, to this point, been the most notable campaign of his career. And his season just got that much better.
Eaves was acquired by the Anaheim Ducks on Friday at the cost of a conditional second-round pick, one which has the potential to become a first-rounder for Dallas if Anaheim makes it to the conference final. The trade itself is an undeniable win for both sides, too. The Stars nab a draft pick in what has sadly become a lost season at a time when the organization believed they were about to take a major step forward. And the Ducks, well, they land themselves a coveted asset at the deadline, especially with Eaves earning a mere $1 million this season. The biggest winner, however, is the winger himself, as Eaves has the chance to cash in big time come next season.
There isn’t a player heading into the deadline who has had a more perfect situation to be set for the deadline than Eaves. Not only was he playing the most productive hockey of his career on a contract that was palatable for everyone in the hunt to add a piece at the deadline, but through much of the season he has had the pleasure of playing alongside Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, two of the league’s best scorers. There’s absolutely no doubt that Eaves benefitted from playing alongside the Stars’ all-star duo, but that doesn’t make his production any less impressive. Matter of fact, to the Ducks, it probably made acquiring him that much more attractive.
The duo of Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf no longer consistently play together on a game-by-game basis, but for years that has been a go-to combination for Anaheim. That’s still the case, sure, but over recent outings the two have been split and playing on separate lines. One reason for that, among others, is that Anaheim has struggled to find a consistent fixture to play the other wing with the duo. Over the past five seasons, seven different players have occupied that spot for more than 150 minutes at 5-on-5, with everyone from Nick Ritchie to Rickard Rakell filling in alongside the Ducks’ duo.
What makes it difficult to find a third to play alongside Perry and Getzlaf is that not everyone is capable of filling in on a line with Anaheim’s two star players. Not even some players who are stars, or former stars, in their own right can be up to the task. Need an example? How about the Dany Heatley experiment? Heatley was one of the games premier scorers during his heyday and the thought in 2014-15 was the Ducks would bring him aboard as a reclamation project. He fizzled and flamed out, ending up in the AHL before being dealt away to end the season. So, while Perry and Getzlaf may currently be split, what Eaves represents is a player who understands how to play wing with two offensive players and he’s shown a proclivity for it this season. And even if he isn’t playing alongside Perry and Getzlaf, there are other combinations where Eaves could be a fit in the top-six.
That’s an intriguing aspect of Eaves’ game, too, because he’s proven this season just how versatile he can be. Unlike many of the fill-in players the Ducks have used to form a top line or bolster their top six, Eaves offers the ability to play from both sides of the ice and up and down the lineup. He’s equally sound at left and right wing, and that’s a skill that not every player has. In that sense, he’s an even better fit for the Ducks. If the lines need to be put in the blender, coach Randy Carlyle knows he can throw Eaves on either wing and make things work.
How does this all benefit Eaves, though? Well, not only does he go to a Ducks team in a position to make the post-season, but he goes to a club that’s set to attempt to make a run in a wide open Western Conference and what might be an even more wide open Pacific Division. He has a legitimate chance to finish the season with 30 goals — he needs nine to make that a reality and 20 games to do it — and then will follow that up with the opportunity to make noise in the post-season. And for Eaves, if there’s any way to get off of his current run of high-six and low-seven figure one-year deals, that’s exactly the path.
If the Ducks can make it through the first round of the post-season, or if they can piece together a two- or three-round run, and Eaves is a contributor, he’s almost certain to land himself a longer deal when he almost inevitably hits the open market this summer. In the past three seasons, the longest and most lucrative deal Eaves had was a one-year, $1.15 million contract, and his last long-term deal was inked in July 2011. It’s been a while since he’s had job security beyond one season.
Others have cashed in on one big season before, and while Eaves may be the rare case of a player doing so into his early 30s, that doesn’t mean he can’t pull off a nice finish to the campaign and payday come the summer. And if he manages that, the deal will have paid off for all parties. It could be the perfect storm for Eaves. Now all that’s left is for him to do everything in his power to make sure there’s a payoff on the potential.
It wasn't easy to get off the ground, but 20 years after it began the National Team Development Program has become synonymous with grooming NHL stars like Patrick Kane.
For the current generation of supremely skilled, but not-so-big players, Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane is an inspiration. The Buffalo native has weaved his 5-foot-11, 177-pound frame through NHL defenses for years, winning Stanley Cups and numerous awards along the way. For Kane, it’s a little bit of a wake-up call to realize he’s an archetype.
“I guess it means I’m getting old, right?” he said. “It’s amazing I’m in my 10th season and how fast it goes by.”
One of the major reasons Kane is where he is today is the National Team Development Program, USA Hockey’s hothouse program that brings together some of the premier under-17 and under-18 players in the nation. This season represents the 20th anniversary of the NTDP and was a major talking point during Hockey Week Across America, which is on right now. During a call promoting HWAA, Kane extolled the virtues of his time with the NTDP.
“For me, at that age, to go into a program like that – I was very undersized and it was great for me,” he said. “It had a huge impact on my development.”
Whether it was the focus on weight room time or simply learning from different athletes, Kane wrung as much as he could out of the Michigan-based program before heading off to the OHL’s London Knights. There, he crushed the competition with a league-high 145 points in 58 games before being selected first overall in the draft by the rebuilding Blackhawks in 2007.
While the NTDP has become synonymous with grooming NHL stars such as Kane, Phil Kessel and Ryan Suter, kicking off the experiment was not easy. Jordan Leopold and Adam Hall are still venerated by the program for taking a risk when the NTDP was just starting and no one knew what to expect. But it was a necessary gambit for USA Hockey at the time.
“We were not getting it done in big tournaments,” said Dave Ogrean, the soon-to-be retired executive director of USA Hockey. “And if you look at the arc that we’ve been on in the past 20 years, there has been significant improvement.”
Indeed, on top of three world junior golds in the past eight years, the U.S. has dominated the world under-18s, using a squad made up almost entirely of NTDP kids (one or two outsiders are sometimes brought in) every year.
“When you’re at The Program, there’s two big things you gear up for,” Kane said. “First is the World Under-17 Challenge, then the world under-18s. To go into a short tournament and come out on top was special for us.”
This is actually an interesting year for the NTDP’s under-18 squad. Though phenoms such as Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel and Zach Werenski are all recent alums, there’s a distinct possibility that no NTDP kids will go in the top-25 picks at the draft this summer. Since both the under-17s and under-18s play against older competition in the USHL and NCAA ranks, the NTDP kids often struggle at the beginning of each campaign, until they get physically stronger. While this season’s under-18s seemed to struggle a bit more than usual early on, the team did just win the Five Nations tourney in Sweden and scouts see them as a favorite once again for the worlds in mid-April (Canada’s efforts at the tourney are always hampered by the CHL playoffs, which run at the same time).
As for the draft anomaly, it’s just kind of a down year for Americans. Casey Mittelstadt looks like a potential top-five pick, but is splitting his time between Minnesota high school and the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers. Kailer Yamamoto is playing for his hometown Spokane Chiefs in the WHL. One of the NTDP’s most promising prospects is defenseman Quinn Hughes, but his late birthday means he’s eligible for the 2018 draft instead.
Nonetheless, the NTDP still looks vibrant for the future. Hughes, Bode Wilde (U17) and Brady Tkachuk (another late birthday) all look like blue-chippers for next year’s draft, with other big under-17 names such as Oliver Wahlstrom, Jake Pivonka and Jake Wise right behind them.
The hothouse experiment has been tried by other countries, such as Slovakia and Russia, without much success (in Russia’s case it was the worst ever, as the team had to be replaced before the world under-18s due to a drug scandal). It’s funny to think the Americans ever needed an about-face on international success, but that also speaks to the success of the NTDP in the past 20 years. Before we know it, Eichel and Matthews will be the ones wondering where their time in the NHL has gone.
There are some big names on the trade market, sure, but what happens on deadline day if those players are all moved before March 1?
Entering the final weekend before the NHL's March 1 trade deadline, activity is expected to increase in what's been a mostly stagnant trade market. There's already been two notable moves in recent days, with the Arizona Coyotes shipping defenseman Michael Stone to the Calgary Flames and the Carolina Hurricanes dealing blueliner Ron Hainsey to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
In recent years, some notable stars were moved well before deadline day. In 2015, Jaromir Jagr, Keith Yandle, Andrej Sekera and Antoine Vermette were moved to new clubs within days of the March 2 deadline. Last season, Eric Staal and Andrew Ladd were dealt the weekend prior to the Feb. 29 deadline, as well as second-tier players such as James Reimer, Kris Versteeg, Jiri Hudler and Justin Schultz.
It's not unusual for players to be moved well before deadline day. But in a season where there's a shortage of noteworthy trade bait, this year's deadline could be devoid of significant moves.
That will be a nightmare for the sports networks covering deadline day. Viewers could face hours of tedium as TV pundits try to play up the merits of the available lesser lights in the trade market.
This year's market is particularly thin, in part because of a notable lack of quality pending free agents usually pursued by playoff clubs as rental players. Parity in the postseason race and concerns over protecting players in the June expansion draft also adversely affects the trade pool.
St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk remains this season's top potential rental player. Given the trend of the last two years, he could be on the move by Monday.
Despite the Blues' improvement in recent weeks, TSN's Darren Dreger believes Shattenkirk will be dealt. Noting Troy Brouwer and David Backes departed last summer via free agency, Dreger feels the Blues want to avoid the same scenario with the 28-year-old blueliner.
Dreger's colleague Bob McKenzie reports the Blues were believed to have had tentative deals involving Shattenkirk with three different teams stretching back to last summer. However, all fell through because he was unwilling to sign a long-term contract extension.
According to McKenzie, the most recent occurred about six weeks ago, as Shattenkirk turned down a seven-year, $42-million offer. According to Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, that deal was thought to be with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Blues will now shop the rearguard as a rental player. It's believed the New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs are among the suitors. However, the Blues reportedly seek at least a first-round pick and a top prospect. The Rangers and Leafs could balk at that, preferring instead to bid for his services in the free-agent market in July.
Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop still features prominently in this season's rumor chatter. After struggling with inconsistency and injury in the first half of this season, the 30-year-old's performance has improved in recent weeks.
However, there isn't much of a market for starting goalies at this point in the season. Bishop was linked to the Dallas Stars earlier this season, but they're now out of playoff contention and unlikely to go goalie-shopping. The Calgary Flames nearly had a deal in place for Bishop before the 2016 NHL draft. Perhaps they'll revisit that interest before the deadline.
Despite the risk of losing Bishop in July to free agency, the Lightning could retain him. Over the past couple of weeks, the Bolts have surged back into playoff contention. Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Timesspeculates they could stick with Bishop and hope he can backstop them into the postseason.
Detroit Red Wings left winger Thomas Vanek is the most notable rental forward. With the Red Wings poised to miss the playoffs for the first time in 25 season seasons, MLive.com's Brendan Savage expects GM Ken Holland will soon go into sell mode. The 33-year-old Vanek is Holland's best trade chip. Teams lacking scoring depth on the wing, such as the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings and Nashville Predators, could come calling.
The rest of the rental market is comprised of second-tier players such as Coyotes center Martin Hanzal and past-their prime stars like Colorado Avalanche right winger Jarome Iginla and Stars right winger Patrick Sharp. TSN's Pierre LeBrun speculates Hanzal could be on the move before deadline day.
If Shattenkirk, Bishop, Vanek, and Hanzal are gone by March 1, this year's deadline could be a dud for fans and pundits.
Noteworthy stars such as Avalanche forwards Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog, Edmonton Oilers right winger Jordan Eberle or Buffalo Sabres left winger Evander Kane could also be traded on deadline day. But all of them carry annual cap hits in excess of $5 million and the Avs set high asking prices for Duchene and Landeskog.
Given the concerns over a stagnant salary-cap for 2017-18 and the need to protect those players in the expansion draft, it's doubtful any of them will be moved at this year's trade deadline.
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.).
Dustin Byfuglien inked a five-year, $38-million extension little more than one year ago, and he's turned in one of the best seasons of his career to kick off his new contract.
It’s not a hard and fast rule, but, generally speaking, players who are in line to earn themselves a new deal tend to outdo themselves. For Dustin Byfuglien, that meant the 2015-16 campaign was his chance to shine and show that he was worth the big money he was hoping to command. And by February 2016, with Byfuglien on pace for another 50-point season and the highest average ice time of his career, the Jets ponied up the dollars and paid him handsomely. He landed a five-year, $38-million deal.
After a player signs their big-money deal, the worry is there could be a slight let down, that he might rest on his laurels and turn in a season that’s not quite as good as that which led to the payday. In the case of Byfuglien, however, that couldn’t be further from the truth. This season has seen Byfuglien score just as well, hit just as hard and, more than anything, become a bigger part of the game-to-game performance of the Jets than he has ever before.
While Winnipeg’s performance as a whole has been up and down — with admittedly more downs than ups given the team has less than a 20 percent chance of making the post-season — Byfuglien has been a rock on the backend. His scoring prowess and ability to drive up the ice like a runaway train continue to be two of his greatest assets, as they have been for the past several seasons. His nine goals and 39 points put him into a tie for sixth in scoring among all rearguards, and were it not for his uncharacteristically low shooting percentage, Byfuglien would likely be among the two or three top scorers in the league. A career 7.1 percent shooter, he would have 13 goals if he was shooting at his normal clip. Instead, Byfuglien’s nine goals have come on 4.8 percent shooting.
That said, his 24 points at 5-on-5 is fourth-best among defenseman, his eight goals third-best at five-a-side and only Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson and Colton Parayko have more primary assists at 5-on-5 than the nine Byfuglien has compiled. On offensive performance alone, Byfuglien could be considered one of the best defenders in the league. However, his claim to one of the better defensive seasons of the year comes from the fact he’s playing nearly half of every outing, driving play and is consistently facing off against top competition.
As of Friday, Byfuglien is averaging 27:25 per game, the highest ice time of any player in the league. The usual suspects are up alongside Byfuglien, of course. Drew Doughty is 10 seconds off of Byfuglien’s average, Ryan Suter a single second behind Doughty with Rasmus Ristolainen and Erik Karlsson rounding out the top five. Byfuglien leads the league in 5-on-5 minutes, too, with nearly 1,290 at full strength. And in those minutes, Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice is consistently putting him out against the opponents’ top line. No Jets defender faces a higher quality of competition on a nightly basis, yet Byfuglien has managed to produce a 50.8 Corsi For percentage.
Making that all the more impressive is that Byfuglien isn’t accomplishing this while playing alongside one of the Jets other top defenders. Tyler Myers has missed all but 11 games, Toby Enstrom has been sidelined the past five games and eight games over the course of the season, and Jacob Trouba didn’t enter the lineup until mid-November. That has made rookie Josh Morrissey Byfuglien’s partner for much of the campaign. The duo has worked well together and their numbers would no doubt look that much better if Winnipeg had gotten better than average goaltending to this point in the season.
The shame of all this is that no matter how well Byfuglien has played, he’s got absolutely no chance at winning the Norris Trophy. Really, no one not named Brent Burns does, because the offensive tear Burns is on is nearing historic proportions and the rumblings for him to win the Hart Trophy are legitimate. He’s been that good. That said, this looks like it could result in the best Norris finish for Byfuglien in his time as a defender. His previous best came the past two seasons with two consecutive 12th-place finishes. The better of the two was in 2014-15, when he received 21 total votes.
Given the way Byfuglien has performed this year, though, you could make the argument that he has to be in the conversation as a finalist for the award. Sure, it’s unlikely given the Jets stand to miss the post-season, but his play has warranted consideration as one of the three top Norris vote-getters. The list of players who have been better is a short one, and Byfuglien’s numbers can stand up against those of Doughty, Karlsson, Suter and Duncan Keith.
But no matter where Byfuglien finishes, it’s almost a no-brainer that he should have the best Norris finish of his career, and the timing couldn’t be better as Byfuglien proves that the Jets were right to shell out big money to keep ‘Big Buff’ in Winnipeg.