Montreal Canadiens Tattoos
John Perry, Saint John, N.B.
John Perry, Saint John, N.B.
Rasmus Ristolainen (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)
Restricted free agent Rasmus Ristolainen is skating with the Buffalo Sabres. But that likely won't have any impact on the value of a new contract.
Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen is breaking convention by attending an NHL training camp despite not having a contract as a restricted free agent. Ristolainen was been practicing with the Buffalo Sabres as a “good will” gesture while waiting for a new deal, his agent Mike Liut told the Buffalo News.
But, according to Sabres GM Tim Murray, Ristolainen’s actions aren’t likely to have their desired outcome. Murray told the Associated Press that Ristolainen’s decision to attend training camp will have little to no bearing on contract talks. Murray also indicated the two sides aren’t particularly close on a new pact.
“Unless you ask him that when he got here that he got all lovey-dovey and wants to play for what we want to pay him,” Murray said.
The 21-year-old blueliner is coming off an appearance for Finland at the World Cup of Hockey. He was held without a point in three losses. Luit said his client wants to continue his preparations for the season.
“Everyone knows how dedicated he is to his training, and he wanted to continue to build on the gains he made this summer,” agent Mike Liut said in an email to the Buffalo News. “He skipped the World Championship so he would have a full 16-week training session leading up to the World Cup, so he’s more prepared than ever and wants to keep it that way.
“In the end, this made sense to him, at least in the short term.”
The Sabres have three more pre-season games before opening their season by hosting the Montreal Canadiens on Oct. 13. Ristolainen can’t play in them without a contract.
For a team trying to return to the playoffs after a five-year absence, not having Ristolainen in the lineup when the season starts would be a big blow. Ristolainen led the club in average ice time (25:16), was tied for second in assists (32) and was fourth in points (41). Last season with his third with the organization after being drafted eighth overall in 2013.
The Sabres finished seventh in the Atlantic Division and 23rd overall in the NHL with 81 points (35-36-11). However, their 2.62 goals-against average was tied for 15th. While some of Ristolainen’s advanced statistics weren’t favorable such as his -7.3 Relative Corsi rating (shot attempt differential when on the ice as opposed to when off of it), he only started 44.1 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone. All stats per behindthenet.ca.
"It’s great that he wants to (be here),” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma told the Buffalo News. “The contract negotiation is between Tim and the agent and obviously Rasmus is involved, but he wants to be back on the ice with his teammates, and that’s a good thing."
Ristolainen is among seven prominent players in need of new contracts from their teams. None of the others are attending training camps.
Anaheim Ducks center Rickard Rakell missed the World Cup for Sweden after having surgery to fix issues related to his appendectomy last spring. His Ducks and Swedish teammate Hampus Lindholm is also a restricted free agent and is training in Sweden.
Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary/North America), Jacob Trouba (Winnipeg/North America), Tobias Rieder (Arizona/Europe) and Nikita Kucherov (Tampa Bay/Russia) were all seen at the World Cup despite their contract statuses – or lack thereof.
Several teams, from the league's lower-level teams to the defending Stanley Cup champions, are trying to find a way to acquire Jacob Trouba from the Jets.
A week after Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba made his public request for a trade, speculation over where the 22-year-old could be dealt is dominating the NHL rumor mill. Several pundits explored possible trade destinations.
The Winnipeg Sun's Ken Wiebe suggests the Arizona Coyotes, Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings, and Philadelphia Flyers could use a defenseman such as Trouba. USA Today's Kevin Allen, Sportsnet's Luke Fox, and the Toronto Sun's Michael Traikos also include the Coyotes, Bruins, Avs and Wings on their respective lists.
Allen believes the New Jersey Devils could be interested in Trouba. Traikos includes the Buffalo Sabres and Vancouver Canucks on his list while Fox added the Toronto Maple Leafs to his.
TSN's Darren Dreger claims a vast number of clubs, from the league's lower-level teams to the defending Stanley Cup champions, were looking at Trouba. He also reports there were offers for the Jets rearguard months before his trade request.
Dreger's colleague Bob McKenzie said the Jets seek a defenseman with a left-handed shot who's similar in age, experience and skills to Trouba. Finding that type of return, however, won't be easy.
While citing Anaheim's Hampus Lindholm, Toronto's Morgan Rielly and Arizona's Oliver Ekman-Larsson as comparables, McKenzie doesn't believe those defensemen will be traded. He reports the Coyotes, Bruins, Avalanche and Rangers have significant interest in Trouba, provided the Jets changed the parameter of their asking price.
CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty claims the Bruins had interest in Trouba earlier this summer, even giving consideration to pitching him an offer sheet. He feels this is a golden opportunity for the Bruins. Haggerty doubts an offer of center Ryan Spooner, defenseman Joe Morrow and a first-round pick will be enough. He speculates the Jets might seek a promising prospect such as Brandon Carlo, or perhaps a veteran like Adam McQuaid if they seek an immediate replacement for Trouba.
Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press notes the Wings have depth in forwards to use as trade bait, though they won't part with rising star Dylan Larkin. She thinks the Jets could ask for blueliner Danny DeKeyser. Dreger reports the Wings and Jets discussed a Trouba deal earlier this summer, but Detroit GM Ken Holland balked at parting with two of his higher-level forwards.
The Toronto Star's Damien Cox believes the Leafs have plenty of promising young forwards to tempt the Jets. In his list of proposed destinations, Fox suggests the Leafs package one of those young forwards with defenseman Jake Gardiner.
Not every club on those lists, however, could get into the bidding for Trouba. The Edmonton Journal's David Staples notes Oilers coach Todd McLellan, the bench boss for Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey, only inserted Trouba into the lineup once Aaron Ekblad was sidelined by a neck injury. Perhaps McLellan and Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli (also the GM of Team North America) don't think as highly of Trouba as others around the league.
The Oilers do have a pair of good young left-handed rearguards in Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse but Chiarelli could be unwilling to part with them. Factor in the enormous cost of re-signing young stars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in the near future, and the Oilers probably can't afford to sign Trouba.
As for the Flyers, they want to make room for promising young Ivan Provorov on their blueline. Given their limited cap space, they can't afford a new salary for Trouba. The Devils certainly could, carrying $11.4 million in cap room. However, they lack sufficient assets to meet the Jets' asking price. Cap space is also an issue for the Red Wings, Rangers, Coyotes, Canucks, and Avalanche.
The Sabres have over $7.5 million in cap room, but they've must also re-sign promising blueliner Rasmus Ristolainen. While the Sabres and Jets have a recent trade history, it's doubtful they'll swap their respective holdout blueliners.
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.).
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The Bruins did nothing to improve their defense but if they get improved goaltending they have enough talent to make the playoffs in a week Atlantic division.
THN is rolling out its 2016-17 Team Previews daily, in reverse order of 2015-16 overall finish, until the start of the season.
THN's Prediction: 4th in Atlantic, wild-card team
Stanley Cup odds: 26-1
Key additions: David Backes, RW; Anton Khudobin, G; Dominic Moore, C; Riley Nash, RW
Key departures: Loui Eriksson, RW; Lee Stempniak, RW; Dennis Seidenberg, D; Brett Connolly, RW; Jonas Gustavsson, G; Chris Kelly, C; Landon Ferraro, C
-Can the defense hold up? The Magic Eight Ball says “don’t hold your breath.” Last year’s Bruins were a bottom-half possession team and tied for second-worst in shots allowed. Zdeno Chara will be 40 before the campaign ends, and GM Don Sweeney made no additions over the summer. It’s baffling to consider how much trouble this team would be in defensively without responsible forwards such as Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci.
-Is it still Tuukka time? Perhaps not coincidentally, goalie Tuukka Rask’s stats have declined as the Bruins’ defense has become more porous. Rask’s goals-against average has risen the past three seasons, and his save percentage has dropped the past two (and it was basically even the season prior to that). Though he’s only 29, Rask’s fall from grace and his mercurial nature in net are screaming for the Bruins to give top goalie prospect Malcolm Subban a serious kick at the can at some point.
-How much of an impact can David Backes make? He was the biggest off-season acquisition made by the Bruins, and he comes with risk. Based on the way Backes turned his game up a notch in the playoffs with St. Louis, the former Blues captain can at least be a powerful player for another season or two. Sure, he’s on the wrong side of 30 and has played a battle-scarring style for years, but Backes has juice left in the tank. Whether he’s still an effective player a couple seasons down the road when he’s mid-30s is another question. But for now, his five-year contract (with an AAV of $6 million) is a problem for the future, not the present.
Player projections are based off a three-year version of Game Score (which you can read about here) weighted by recency and repeatability and then translated to its approximate win value (Game Score Value Added or GSVA). Team strength was derived from the combined value of every player’s GSVA on a team. The season was then simulated 10,000 times factoring in team strength, opponent strength and rest.
The Boston Bruins have been on the outside of the playoff picture for two straight seasons and were unlucky to be there on both occasions. Third time’s the charm right?
There’s no question the Bruins have gotten weaker over the last couple of seasons, but this is still a very good team and in a questionable Atlantic division they should be more than capable of reaching the post-season.
They’ve still got Tuukka Rask in net, who should be able to bounce back from one of the worst campaigns of his career. If he doesn’t, Anton Khudobin at backup is a much safer bet than Jonas Gustavsson was last year.
Goaltending should be a strength for this team, but it may look worse than it actually is thanks to the D-corps in front of it. Much has been made about the deficiencies here, and while it’s the weakest link, this model doesn’t think it’s that bad. Zdeno Chara has seen better days, but he’s still a very capable D-man, while Torey Krug is extremely underrated for what he brings to the table offensively (though Game Score likely overrates his ability there). It’s the rest of the group that’s questionable, although 7th D-man Colin Miller looks very promising.
Up front is the Bruins biggest strength as they possess an extremely capable top nine group that mitigates any negative effects of their dreadful bottom line. The catalyst for any Bruins success comes from one of the league’s best duos: Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. They’re the biggest reason the team is projected to finish this high as their combined value is among the largest in the league for a team’s top two forwards.
Almost every team represented on this list is a potential playoff team, with the strongest teams generally having stronger duos. That bodes extremely well for the Bruins whose pair is ranked pretty high. They clearly have the top flight talent to go up against any team in the league.
With Rask in net, decent depth at forward and a defense that might not be as bad as they seem, this team is simply too good to miss the playoffs for the third year in a row.
Up next: Detroit Red Wings
Previously: Toronto Maple Leafs | Edmonton Oilers | Vancouver Canucks | Columbus Blue Jackets | Calgary Flames | Winnipeg Jets | Arizona Coyotes | Buffalo Sabres | Montreal Canadiens | Colorado Avalanche | New Jersey Devils | Ottawa Senators | Carolina Hurricanes
As intimidating as Canada's forwards and defensemen are, opponents still have to beat the man in the crease – and that hasn't happened in a long time.
As we break down Canada’s dominance in international men’s hockey, many players deserve credit. Sidney Crosby, obviously. Fellow two-way demons Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Jonathan Toews are up there, too. There’s the shutdown prowess of Shea Weber and Marc-Edouard Vlasic on the defense. But if your team has enough elite skill and is somehow lucky enough to still possess the puck after all those barriers have been crossed, you will find yourself dishearteningly facing goaltender Carey Price. The best in the world.
Not only is Price a titan in the NHL, but he has now gone 16 international games without a loss.
“Everybody’s brought it up, yeah,” Price said. “I thought it might be over tonight, but we willed our way through it.”
Unflappable at his post-game podium, Price fielded questions while a pair of anti-beer goggles sat perched atop his ball cap.
“I might wear them all night,” he joked.
But Price was also quick to give credit to a Europe team that pushed Canada like no other squad in the tournament. Led by Anze Kopitar, Marian Hossa and Jaroslav Halak, the NATO squad had clearly picked up on some of Canada’s tendencies from their previous two meetings, interrupting passing lanes and refusing to sit back once they had the lead. And here’s the thing: Zdeno Chara’s early goal was a bit of a shocker (how did he get such a clear lane to the net?), but you can’t beat this version of Canada in a potential gold-medal game with just one tally. Problem is, you can’t beat Price often in general. Hossa had a golden opportunity late in the game, but Price stoned the awesome Slovakian.
“Unbelievable,” said coach Mike Babcock of Price’s save. “He just does what he does.”
And while Price had sympathy for his latest vanquished foe, he also revealed why Canada is such a machine.
“They deserved a better fate,” he said. “They brought everything they had and really pushed us to the limit. But there are a lot of players on our team who have won championships and know what it takes to win.”
Boy, did they. The only players on the team that had not won either a Stanley Cup, Olympic gold, world junior gold or World Championship gold were Logan Couture and Braden Holtby.
Price would surely like that Stanley Cup next and his healthy performance in this tournament is great news for the Montreal Canadiens. Without him last year, the Habs were lost at sea. But if they get 65-70 starts from him in the upcoming campaign, the playoffs are basically guaranteed. How far they go may depend on the ascent of center Alex Galchenyuk and the sturdiness of the defense, which of course subbed in Weber for P.K. Subban in a mega-trade this summer. Having Weber as a World Cup teammate has at least given Price a preview of his new protector.
“He’s a leader for sure,” Price said. “One of those big presence guys that played a lot of good minutes.”
As long as Price is given a goal or two to work with, he can win a game. He’s done it time and again with Canada and obviously the hope in Montreal is that he brings the Habs back to glory, too.