An octopus hangs overhead of the action. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
A selection of the best images from May 8..
An octopus hangs overhead of the action. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
A selection of the best images from May 8..
Giving props to the Flyers surprise leading scorer, the Maple Leafs' all-star snubs, and other stray thoughts from the first quarter of the season.
If Toronto Maple Leafs rookie Austin Matthews is to play in the NHL All-Star Game this season, he will have to make it as a write-in candidate, even though he was the top pick in the 2016 draft. That’s right, Matthews didn’t make the cut amongst players chosen by the league to be on the ballot. Interestingly enough, Patrick Laine, who was chosen second overall by the Winnipeg Jets, is on the ballot. Fans can choose between 32 players to represent the Atlantic Division including Maple Leafs teammates Tyler Bozak, Nazem Kadri, James van Riemsdyk and Morgan Rielly. There are 120 names on the ballot.
Speaking of Maple Leafs rookies, Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander are among the team’s most productive players, but all are minus-3. Toronto has a very impressive rookie corps which includes Nikita Zaitsev, Connor Brown, Zach Hyman and Nikita Soshnikov. But only Brown is a plus player at plus-3.
Phil Kessel of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who has never produced a 40-goal season, dipped to just 26 goals last season. He salvaged his year with 10 goals in 24 playoff games while helping the Penguins win the Stanley Cup. This season Kessel had six goal in Pittsburgh’s first 24 games and was on pace for a 21-goal season. To his credit, Kessel was leading the Penguins with 16 assists. Even when he was lighting the lamp, Kessel was always an underrated passer.
Wayne Simmonds of the Philadelphia Flyers has taken his game to the next level. He has always been a solid contributor, but now he is tied for the lead in Flyers scoring with 11 goals and 22 points in 25 games. Simmonds, who is 28 and in his ninth NHL season, scored a career-best 31 goals in 2013-14. He is on pace for 36 goals this season. At 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds, the lanky right winger is one of those players that could have played in any era of the NHL.
Things were looking up in Arizona last season when rookies Max Domi and Anthony Duclair burst on the scene with impressive seasons. Domi had 18 goals and 52 points in 81 games while Duclair had 20 goals and 44 points in 80 games. For the Coyotes to continue to make progress they need both Domi and Duclair to take their games to the next level. It hasn’t happened thus far and Arizona is tied with the Colorado Avalance for last place. Domi has four goals and 15 points while Duclair has just one goal and four points. Speaking about his own sophomore, Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings GM said once young players gain a measure of success in the NHL, they attract the attention of the opposition who studies their game and comes up with a plan to stop them. It is up to the player, Holland said, to make adjustments in his game to get back to being productive.
Joe Colborne of the Avalanche opened the season scoring a hat trick in the first game of the season, a 6-5 win over the Dallas Stars, and hasn’t scored a goal since. Colborne is not the only underachiever on the struggling Avalanche. Leading scored Nathan MacKinnon has just five goals and 15 points while veteran Jarome Iginla has three goals and five points, each in 21 games. This helps to explain why the Avalanche sits at the bottom of the league. Three years ago Colorado finished third overall and appeared to be legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. Then they slipped to 21st the past two seasons and look like a solid bet to finish 30th this season. Something’s gotta give soon.
Scotty Bowman is one of the most important figures in hockey history. Bowman, 83, has been a part of 14 Stanley Cup champions, has the most coaching victories in NHL history and was appropriately inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991. Now Bowman’s son Stan is carving out a Hall of Fame career of his own. Having constructed three Stanley Cup champions in the past seven seasons as GM of the Chicago Blackhawks, Bowman keeps his team in contention mainly because he has masterfully stick-handled around the challenges of dealing with a salary cap. Time and time again Bowman has been forced to move players from a championship roster and replace them in cost-cutting measures. And yet his Blackhawks remain a Cup contender, challenging the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers for top spot through the first quarter of the season.
The 1998 expansion draft results.
Let's take a look back at five fairly big names that have been called at expansion drafts and how they managed to avoid ever actually playing for those teams.
Now that the Vegas Golden Knights have a name, a logo, and a future head coach, everyone is turning their attention to June's expansion draft. Who will the Knights end up with? Matt Murray? Jakob Silfverberg? Trevor van Riemsdyk? Maybe even an established veteran who waives a no-movement clause, like Dion Phaneuf or Rick Nash?
Those are all reasonably big names, and if the Golden Knights wound up picking any of them, you'd think it would make for a memorable moment.
Then again, maybe not. You see, sometimes NHL expansion teams end up taking big name players, and everyone just kind of forgets about it. That's because there's no guarantee that any player taken by an expansion team will ever actually play for that expansion team.
So today, let's take a look back at five fairly big names that have been called at expansion drafts of the past, and how they managed to avoid ever actually suiting up for the fledgling franchises that chose them.
Tim Kerr, 1991
Early NHL expansion drafts of the 60s and 70s were fairly standard. A handful of good players were picked, including names like Terry Sawchuk, Glenn Hall and Bernie Parent. But for the most part, the established teams didn't offer much in the way of talent, and the expansion franchises patched together a team with whatever they could find. That's why most of the early expansion teams were awful.
But by the time the second wave of expansion had hit in the 1990s, the new teams were willing to get a little more creative. Oh, they'd still be awful. But they realized that just because they drafted a player didn't mean they had to keep him, and it became common to see trades worked out as soon as the expansion draft was over (and sometimes even sooner).
Take the 1991 draft, for example. That was the weird expansion/dispersal hybrid that featured the San Jose Sharks and the Minnesota North Stars, which we covered in some depth over the summer. The most famous weird pick from that draft was the very last one, in which the North Stars picked quasi-retired Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur because they didn't want any Quebec Nordiques and the rules wouldn't allow them to pass. But another well-known sniper was also taken that day.
That would be Tim Kerr, a four-time 50-goal scorer for the Flyers who'd been slowed down by injuries. By 1991, he hadn't put together a full season in four years. But he was still scoring at well over a point-per-game pace when he did play, and seemed like the sort of guy who could be a good gamble for a contender.
The Sharks weren't a contender, but the Rangers were. And so the Sharks grabbed Kerr off of the Flyer's unprotected list, and then immediately flipped him to the Rangers in exchange for Brian Mullen. It was a smart deal for San Jose; Mullen ended up being their second-leading scorer in their debut season. It worked out worse for the Rangers, as Kerr struggled through another injury-shortened year before being dealt to Hartford.
Daren Puppa, 1993
Here's a fun way to confuse hockey fans of a certain age: Ask them how Daren Puppa ended up with the Lightning back in 1993.
Chances are, they'll tell you some version of the same story: Puppa was splitting time in Buffalo with newcomer Dominik Hasek, then was traded to the Maple Leafs in the big Grant Fuhr/Dave Andreychuk blockbuster. He backed up Felix Potvin in Toronto for their epic playoff run, then went to the Tampa Bay Lightning in that summer's expansion draft.
Just about everyone remembers it that way. But there's a slight problem: The Lightning were already in the league in 1992-93. Their expansion draft had been the year before, when Puppa was still with the Sabres.
That glitch in the matrix can be explained by an oddity of the 1993 expansion draft: There were actually two of them. The first stocked the two new teams, the Florida Panthers and Anaheim Mighty Ducks. The second allowed the three most recent teams, the Sharks, Senators and Lightning, to pick players from those two newcomers.
That's what happened with Puppa. It was actually the Panthers who snagged him from Toronto. Then the Lightning took him off of the Panthers' hands.
Fellow goaltender Glenn Healy followed a similar path, but with an additional stop. He went from the Islanders to the Mighty Ducks to the Lightning over the course of the double draft. But he didn't stop there. The Lightning turned around and flipped him to the Rangers in exchange for a third round pick.
Not too many players get to be the property of four teams within a few hours, but it all worked out well for Healy. He won a Stanley Cup in New York the next year, backing up superstar Mike Richter.
Speaking of whom…
Mike Richter, 1998
As every Rangers fan knows, Richter played his entire 14-year career in New York, debuting in 1989-1990 and sticking with the franchise until 2003. Once a Ranger, always a Ranger.
That's why it may come as a surprise to see Richter's name show up as one of the picks in the 1998 expansion draft. But indeed he was, taken by the Predators and becoming an inaugural member of the first NHL team ever put together in Nashville.
For six days. Then he became an unrestricted free agent. Then he re-signed with the Rangers.
That sounds ridiculous, but what the Predators were doing actually made perfect sense. This was back when the NHL had a weird draft pick compensation rule for teams that lost free agents. The Predators knew that Richter would never play for them, but when they technically "lost" him to the Rangers, they got a free draft pick from the league for their troubles. They did the same with another one of their expansion picks, Uwe Krupp.
(By the way, that same rule led to Richter departing New York a second time, this time in a trade to the Oilers in 2002. Once again, he simply re-signed with the Rangers a few days later.)
Mathieu Schneider, 2000
In addition to being a very good defenseman for most of his career, Mathieu Schneider is one of the great "played for everyone" guys of his generation. He had a 20-year career, during which he played for a staggering 10 different teams. He was traded seven times, in deals involving everyone from Kirk Muller to Wendel Clark to Sean Avery. He got around.
So you'd assume that he must have suited up for an expansion team at least once. Nope. But he was drafted by one in 2000, when the Blue Jackets joined the league.
Schneider had finished up the 1999-2000 season with the Rangers, because apparently they need to be involved in every one of these things. He was scheduled to hit UFA status, so you can probably see where this is going. Yes, it's another one of those shady compensation pick deals, in which the Blue Jackets wound up claiming a fourth-rounder in the 2001 draft after Schneider signed with the Kings later that summer.
The Blue Jackets probably didn't mind too much, since Schneider was already 31 at the time and only had a few years left in him. "A few" ended up being a full decade's worth; he played until 2010.
As a side note, the Blue Jackets ended up flipping that fourth-round pick to the Panthers in a deal that brought Ray Whitney to Columbus. So in a sense, Whitney and Schneider were sort of traded for each other. I'm not sure how many trades in NHL history involve two players who could account for 42 seasons and 18 teams, but I'm guessing it's not many.
Mike Vernon, 2000
We'll close with yet another goaltender, since there's something about the position that just seems to attract expansion draft shenanigans. Marc-Andre Fleury, keep your head up.
By the time the 2000 offseason rolled around, Vernon had just about done it all over the course of a long career. He'd won a Cup with two different teams, been a Vezina finalist, won the Jennings and the Conn Smythe, and pummeled Patrick Roy. He had a good run.
The one thing he hadn't done was get picked in an expansion draft. The Minnesota Wild took care of that, plucking him from the Florida Panthers in a move that made everyone go "Wait, Mike Vernon once played for the Florida Panthers?"
He did, for a few games at the end of the 1999-2000 season. But he never played for the Wild. They turned around and traded him that same day, sending him home to Calgary to finish his career. Other familiar names that were picked by the Wild and then immediately traded include Joe Juneau and Chris Terreri.
As for Vernon, he played parts of two more seasons in Calgary before retiring as a Flame in 2002.
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.
Ben Bishop, Evander Kane, Martin Hanzal, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Dennis Wideman are five players who could move by the deadline, reports say.
The NHL trade deadline is still months away. However, that hasn't stopped some pundits from speculating over which players could be on the block by then.
TSN's Pierre Lebrun lists Buffalo Sabres left winger Evander Kane, Arizona Coyotes center Martin Hanzal, Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, Tampa Bay Lightning netminder Ben Bishop, and Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman as five who could move by the deadline. It's not surprising, as these players frequently appear in the rumor mill.
LeBrun believes the Sabres are open to moving the 25-year-old Kane, perhaps seeking a top-four defenseman in return. Hanzal, 29, is an unrestricted free agent in July. He could be dealt by the deadline if he and the Coyotes fail to hammer out a deal.
Kane was linked to the Vancouver Canucks, but reports indicate those discussions came to an end last week. Given the latter's off-ice baggage, on-ice struggles and $5.25-million annual cap hit through 2017-18, the Sabres could be forced to lower their asking price.
At 6-foot-6 and 226 pounds, Hanzal is a big-bodied, two-way center many playoff contenders will covet should he hit the trade block. LeBrun suggests he'd be a good fit with the Montreal Canadiens, who need more size down the middle.
It's believed the Coyotes want Hanzal to accept a short-term deal so as not to delay the arrival of the promising centers in their system. If he insists on a longer contract, the Coyotes could shop him.
With playoff hero Matt Murray challenging the 31-year-old Fleury for the role of Penguins starting goalie, LeBrun feels there's no room for both of them in Pittsburgh. He wonders if the Calgary Flames or Dallas Stars might come calling. The Penguins can only protect one goalie in next June's expansion draft and they don't want to lose Murray.
Fleury was linked to the Flames and Stars last summer, though the Penguins apparently sought a significant return. With both clubs once again struggling between the pipes, Fleury could become an attractive option, provided he's willing to waive his no-trade clause. If they pursue him, they must shed a goalie to make room for his $5.75-million annual cap hit.
Like Hanzal, the 30-year-old Bishop is eligible for UFA status in July. With Andrei Vasilevskiy's new three-year contract kicking in next season and talk of the Flames coming close to acquiring Bishop last summer, it's no wonder LeBrun thinks he could get moved by deadline day.
Trading Bishop, however, is no certainty. Earlier this season, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman said he was willing to keep his current goalie tandem intact for another run at the Stanley Cup this season. But if the Lightning are in need of depth elsewhere by the trade deadline, Bishop could be a useful bargaining chip.
If the Flames are out of playoff contention by the end of February, LeBrun speculates they could try to move Wideman. He's also due for UFA status in July and is a top-four blueliner with a right-handed shot. Factor in his experience, and there should be interest in Wideman as a rental player.
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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Craig Cunningham’s recovery is progressing but “there's a lot more progression and healing to be done,” according to friend and former teammate Milan Lucic, who visited Cunningham recently.
Tucson captain Craig Cunningham has remained in the thoughts of the hockey community since the moment he collapsed on the ice ahead of an AHL contest between the Roadrunners and Manitoba Moose on Nov. 19, but information regarding the health of the 26-year-old has been sparse.
The Arizona Coyotes, the parent club of the Roadrunners, have updated Cunningham’s status from time to time, often saying only that there has been little or no change, which is to say that Cunningham remains in critical but stable condition.
However, a promising update has come along regarding Cunningham from his friend and former teammate, Milan Lucic. The Oilers winger, who played with Cunningham with the WHL’s Vancouver Giants and again as a member of the Boston Bruins, said he couldn’t get into too much detail, but offered some positive news.
"The good news is he's progressed a lot from the state he was in last weekend," Lucic said, according to NHL.com’s Jerry Brown. "He's heading in the right direction, but obviously there's a lot more progression and healing to be done.”
Even with the good news, though, Brown reported that Cunningham “has not regained consciousness since collapsing.”
No cause for the collapse has been given by either the Coyotes or Roadrunners, but Tucson GM Doug Soetaert told the Arizona Daily Star on Nov. 21 that Cunningham was “critically ill.”
Cunningham was a fourth-round pick, 97th overall, of the Bruins in 2010, and has played 63 NHL games over the past several seasons. He was acquired by the Coyotes via waivers in 2014-15, finishing the season by playing 19 games with the Coyotes and recording one goal and four points. He skated in 10 games with the Coyotes in 2015-16, picking up an assist.
Cunningham was named the captain of the Springfield Falcons, then the Coyotes affiliate, in 2015-16 and had arguably the best AHL season of his career, posting 22 goals and 46 points in 61 games. He held on to the captaincy with the newly minted Roadrunners this season and had four goals and 13 points in 11 games.
The Roadrunners postponed two additional games following Cunningham’s hospitalization, but returned to action this past Saturday.
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