New Jersey Devils Tattoos
Stephen DeMarco, Morristown, N.J.
New Jersey Devils Tattoos
Stephen DeMarco, Morristown, N.J.
It took two weeks longer than either party would have hoped, but the Anaheim Ducks have finally reached a contract with restricted free agent defenseman Hampus Lindholm.
Contract demands and a tough salary cap situation made negotiations difficult between the Anaheim Ducks and restricted free agent defenseman Hampus Lindholm, but after he sat out the first eight games of the season, Anaheim has come to terms a six-year, $31.5-million contract with the 22-year-old rearguard.
The signing was first reported by TSN’s Bob McKenzie, and at an average annual value of $5.25 million, Lindholm becomes the highest paid defenseman in Anaheim. That may seem surprising given his age, but Lindholm has been the Ducks’ best defenders over the past two seasons and is a definite No. 1 guy in Anaheim.
However, there will still need to be subsequent moves made. According to CapFriendly, the Ducks remain about $1.4 million over the salary cap with Lindholm’s signing, and that’s including the space that was freed up when defenseman Simon Despres was placed on long-term injured reserve. Regardless of what will need to be done, though, the Ducks’ priority was clearly signing Lindholm, and GM Bob Murray has gotten that done.
That’s great news for the Ducks, too, because over the past few days, speculation had been that the Ducks and Lindholm were close to reaching a deal but a financial gap between the two sides had them at a standstill. Clearly, whatever the issue was, the two sides have been able to work out their differences to get Lindholm back in uniform.
The signing couldn’t come at a better time for the Ducks, either, because the club has struggled out of the gate under coach Randy Carlyle. Despite a convincing 6-1 victory over the Nashville Predators on Wednesday, the Ducks have only picked up eight of a possible 16 points through the first eight games of the season.
Lindholm won’t be available to immediately jump back into the lineup, however. The salary cap issue is one that will need to be worked, to be sure, but McKenzie also reported that Lindholm will need to secure a work visa in order to get into the lineup. That could take anywhere from one to two weeks, McKenzie said, and could force Lindholm to miss another four games.
Drafted sixth-overall by the Ducks in 2012, Lindholm immediately made the jump to the AHL in 2012-13 and was more than just an NHL regular by his second season in the North American pro game.
He averaged more than 19 minutes of ice time during his rookie season in 2013-14, scored six goals and 30 points in 78 games and finished seventh in Calder Trophy voting. He followed that up with a seven-goal, 34-point campaign in 2014-15 that saw him take on top-pairing minutes for a Stanley Cup contending team, and this past season, Lindholm notched 10 goals and 28 points in 80 games while earning a handful of votes for the Norris Trophy.
With Lindholm signed, the only restricted free agent still without a contract is Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba.
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Steven Stamkos feels the best he has in several seasons, and it's already showing on the scoresheet. Can he surge back into the NHL's elite goal-scoring ranks?
Boos rained down on Steven Stamkos the moment he touched the puck Tuesday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. Yet there’s a decent chance he didn’t hear them. When you’re as happy as he is right now, negative noise gets reduced to a dull murmur, easy to ignore.
That’s what Stamkos appeared to be doing mere seconds after that first tongue-lashing from the Toronto faithful. He deked in on goalie Frederik Andersen, had the puck poked away by blueliner Matt Hunwick and watched it bounce in. It was the first of two goals, the second more of a no-doubter, coming on a laser of a one-timer. Stamkos racked up four points, fuelling a 7-3 Tampa victory.
Stamkos, who hails from just north of the Big Smoke, may or may not have been close to signing with the Leafs as a free agent this summer. He may or may not have almost changed his playing address to the ACC. Whether it was close to happening or not no longer matters. He chose to stay with the Tampa Bay Lightning, inking an eight-year, $68-million deal. And on Tuesday his performance buried the team many thought he’d join.
“You give the guy chances like he had tonight, and he’s going to score a bunch of those,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “I was really happy for him, because I’m sure it was a tough decision for him. Plus this is his hometown. Fans pay a ticket, they’re entitled to do what they want, but 'Stam' was a great son to Toronto.”
Stamkos’ signing keyed a real coup of an off-season for Tampa GM Steve Yzerman, who signed defenseman Victor Hedman long-term and locked up right winger Nikita Kucherov on a bridge contract. At least for now, Yzerman kept the band together, and his team is the NHL’s leading Stanley Cup contender.
Stamkos said after Tuesday’s game the team’s vibe has changed for the better. The players are having fun again. They know Stamkos is safely their captain for the next eight seasons. Kucherov is staying put. Heck, even Jonathan Drouin’s trade request is rescinded. And the Lightning’s collective mood has shifted from stormy to sunny.
That applies to Stamkos internally and externally. Over the past season he dealt with the constant contract rumors, lingering questions about his health since breaking his leg in 2013 and, lastly, a major blood clot scare that cost him all but one playoff game. It’s all behind him now. Is this the best he’s felt to start a season in years?
“Yeah,” he said, “coming off the leg injury and what happened at the end of last year. It helped playing in the World Cup, getting some games under your belt and feeling confident. And obviously this year too, with no distractions, just coming in with a clear mind, it all helps toward having fun and being confident. I definitely feel that way right now.”
It appears ‘Peak Stamkos’ showed up to start 2016-17. After his statistical explosion Tuesday, he has five goals and nine points through six games. The five goals equal his career high for the six-game mark of a season. That has to excite Tampa fans given Stamkos’ recent career trends. His goals per game have declined in consecutive seasons, from 0.68 to 0.52 to 0.47. His points per game have slipped three straight years, from 1.08 to 0.88 to 0.83. The natural question to ask was whether Stamkos was merely beginning a decline as he reached his mid-20s. He ripped a career-best 60 goals in 2011-12 at 21 years old. Of the 39 60-goal seasons in NHL history, 26 came from players 25 or younger. That’s two-thirds. Ten came from players 22 or younger. The odds of Stammer matching his best campaign are slim. But is it fair to surmise he’s done as an elite scorer after slipping to just 36 goals in 2015-16?
Not yet. Stamkos’ sizzling start to 2016-17 supports his own theory he’s back to his best self, healthier than he has been in years and free of the mental albatross of contract rumors. Cooper sees a promising side effect, too.
“The other thing is, he’s shooting the puck,” Cooper said. “When someone of his caliber keeps shooting pucks, good things are going to happen, and that’s what’s happening right now.”
Cooper isn’t just tossing out approximations. Stamkos through six games averages a whopping 3.83 shots per contest. It’s obviously a small sample size, but 3.83 would be a career-best rate. We’re clearly seeing a rejuvenated No. 91.
So while Stammer likely never cracks 60 goals again, he’s not done contending for the Rocket Richard Trophy. Four years ago, another dominant goal scorer appeared to be exiting his prime. He’d slipped into the 30-goal bracket two straight years. He couldn’t get on the same page as his coaches. He turned 27 before 2012-13 began, and plenty of ink was spilled with stories asking what was wrong with him.
That player: Alex Ovechkin, who has since led the NHL in goals four straight seasons. Stamkos is a year younger than the “washed up” Ovie was four years ago and feels better than ever. We may thus look back on 2016-17 as the year Stamkos rejoined the sport’s elite.
Matt Larkin is a writer and editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to thn.com. 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
Toronto Maple Leafs winger Peter Holland did some impromptu dental work for Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop on Tuesday night.
No goaltender has the perfect career, and Ben Bishop is no different. Over the course of his time in the NHL, Bishop has lost his share of shutouts, games and series. That said, he lost something unexpected Tuesday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs: his two front teeth.
In the second period of the Lightning’s matchup against the Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay turned the puck over at their own blueline resulting in a decent scoring opportunity for Toronto winger Peter Holland. As Holland drove towards the net, he pulled the puck towards his body and used Lightning defenseman Andrej Sustr as a screen. Holland used the screen and wired a puck high, catching Bishop on the chin of his mask.
Right after Bishop took the shot to the face, there was immediate concern as he clutched at his face and fell to the ice. Play was blown dead almost instantly after Bishop fell forward and by the time training staff had reached Bishop, it was clear he had himself a new smile:
That’s quite the look for the Lightning netminder, and it’s good to see Bishop able to shake off what initially looked like a potentially scary injury. Let it never be said that Bishop isn’t tough, either, because while most players would have exited the contest for the remainder of the frame, Bishop hung tough and finished up the second period.
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Marc Bergevin and Kevin Cheveldayoff.
NHL GMs usually have a longer leash than the coaches they hire. But eventually every GM ends up on the hot seat himself. Here are five who could use a strong season to take some of the heat off.
We're a week into the NHL season, which is nowhere near enough time for any reasonable person to start talking about anyone's job being on the line. Luckily, we're hockey fans and reasonable has nothing to do with it, so let's get to the speculation.
Usually when we talk about hot seats, we look at the league's coaches. After all, as the old saying goes, they're hired to be fired, and as Todd Richards found out last year, it doesn't take too many losses at the start of the season to cost a coach his job. But today, let's aim a level higher. NHL GMs tend to have a little more job security, and most get at least a few years to show progress before they come under fire. And when things get bad, they can often offer up their coach as a scapegoat first. But through all that, at some point, the buck stops with the boss.
Plenty of GMs around the league are probably safe no matter what happens. Guys like Jeff Gorton and Peter Chiarelli have only been on the job for a little over a year. Dean Lombardi and Stan Bowman both have a handful of Stanley Cup rings to ward off any criticism. And John Chayka can't legally be fired due to child labor laws. But others are facing more uncertainty.
I've already singled out on GM for hot seat honors – in Sportsnet's preseason predictions, I chose Chuck Fletcher as being on the shakiest ground, given that the Wild were old, expensive, hadn't made a conference final under his watch and had already fired their coach. I won't pick on him again today, so here are five more GMs who could use a strong season to take some of the heat off.
Jarmo Kekalainen, Blue Jackets
On the one hand, you could argue that Kekalainen hasn't been given enough time in Columbus. He's only been on the job since February 2013, and while that actually puts him in the upper half of the league's GMs in terms of seniority, it's still less time than you'd ideally give a GM.
On the other hand… well, how much time have you got? The Blue Jackets haven't won a playoff round under Kekalainen (or anyone else), and they missed the playoffs in each of the last two years. The roster is clogged with bad contracts. Kekalainen made a controversial decision at the draft, grabbing Pierre-Luc Dubois instead of Jesse Puljujarvi. And he's already played his coaching card, having replaced Todd Richards with John Tortorella around this time last year.
Add it all up, and the Blue Jackets are under plenty of pressure to get off to a good start this year. Instead, Tortorella is telling the media that they're not even close. That's not a good combination, and you have to wonder how long it might be before president of hockey ops John Davidson gets the urge to clean house and start all over again.
Garth Snow, Islanders
Remember when Islanders' owner Charles Wang shocked everyone by firing Neil Smith after less than six weeks on the job, then replaced him by promoting the team's backup goaltender to the GM's job? It was one of the most bizarre front office moves in NHL history, and we all had a good laugh while wondering how long Snow would last before Wang replaced him with a popcorn vendor.
As hard as it is to believe, that all happened over ten years ago, and Snow is now the fifth longest serving GM in the league. And he's done a good job, building around John Tavares and putting together a decent young team while weathering off-ice distractions like changes in the ownership ranks and a move to Brooklyn.
But while the Islanders have been good under Snow, they've yet to be great, winning just one playoff round and heading into this season well back of the Penguins and Capitals in most Metro power rankings. Most GMs who get a decade at the helm are expected to accomplish a bit more than that, and even given the limitations Snow's had to deal with, you wonder how long he can last before expectations will climb. Remember, Wang isn't calling the shots anymore, and the new owners have talked about wanting a championship.
Snow hasn't changed coaches since 2010, so he may have that option available if things go bad. But at some point, you'd think he'll need his Islanders to look like true Cup contenders at least once.
Jim Benning, Canucks
Hey, you knew we couldn't have an early-season doom-and-gloom post without finding room for the Canucks.
Strong start aside, the Canucks were widely picked to be one of the league's worst teams, even though they don't seem to think they're rebuilding. That puts Benning in a rough spot if things go bad, especially given his previous comments about how quickly things could be turned around. Signing a veteran free agent to a long-term deal and trading picks and a top prospect for immediate blueline help only cemented the idea that Benning believes he has a contender right now.
That doesn't seem completely fair – you get the sense that the "win now" attitude in Vancouver could be driven from ownership more than the front office – but that's life in the NHL. It's possible that the Canucks surprise us all with a playoff season, at which point Benning can laugh at all the doubters. But if they miss the postseason, or even end up scraping the cellar, then that rebuild will need to come eventually. And the history of GMs of bad teams being allowed to stick around for the cleanup process isn't a very long one.
Ken Holland, Red Wings
Wait, that can't be right.
Ask any fan outside Detroit to put together a list of the five best GMs in the league, and there's a good chance that Holland's on it. Since taking over the Red Wings' job in 1997, he's won three Cup rings and led the team to the playoffs each and every season. He's a fixture in Detroit, and the idea of him being on any sort of shaky ground seems unfathomable.
And yet, here we are. This year's Red Wings aren't expected to be all that good; they have a shot at extending their playoff streak, sure, but nobody is calling them Cup contenders. Several key players are nearing the end of the line, and while the team has some decent young talent ready to play bigger roles, there's not enough there for a full-scale youth movement. The franchise no longer seems to be the destination it once was for big-name talent, and there's a realistic chance that they'll head into a new arena next year with the worst team they've had in decades.
Is all of that Holland's fault? Hardly, although he hasn't helped matters by continually throwing big contracts at questionable veteran free agents every summer. But at some point you wonder if the Red Wings don't decide that it's time for a change in direction, much as they did a year ago when they walked away from Mike Babcock after he'd spent 10 years behind their bench.
All that said, the idea of Holland actually being fired still seems far-fetched. But could there be pressure for him to step aside, perhaps into a more senior or advisory role, while allowing the organization to transition to some new blood? For the first time in nearly two decades, a change could start to make sense.
Marc Bergevin, Canadiens
There are different kinds of hot seats. There's the kind where you've lost the confidence of your ownership, at which point it's really only a matter of time until you're packing up your office. That doesn't seem to be the case in Montreal, where Geoff Molson has always had Bergevin's back, at least publicly.
But then there's the kind of hot seat where the team's fans lose faith and start to turn on you. Sometimes, you can ride that out, but at some point the calls for your head can get tough to ignore. Perception matters, and if it looks like the customers aren't happy with the direction the product is going in, management can eventually be left with no choice but to make a change.
It's fair to say that Bergevin fits firmly into that second category. Granted, this is Montreal, where everyone's seat is already lukewarm on the day they're hired. But after a bizarre offseason that included the controversial P.K. Subban trade and Bergevin's continued insistence on sticking by Michel Therrien, the GM might not fare especially well in a vote of no-confidence among the fan base.
Of course, Carey Price can fix all of this by getting healthy and playing like a Hart candidate again. But if the Habs struggle at any point this season, calls for change are going to come in loudly. You'd have to think that Therrien would be the first on the block, and Bergevin might have no choice but to make a coaching change. But either way, he'll be under a spotlight all season long – even more than usual in Montreal.
Sean McIndoe has been writing about the NHL since 2008, most recently for ESPN and Grantland. He spends most of his time making jokes on twitter, where you may know him as @downgoesbrown. He appears weekly on TheHockeyNews.com.