The Stars Ice Girls. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
A selection of the best images from May 14..
The Stars Ice Girls. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
A selection of the best images from May 14..
Cal Clutterbuck and John Tavares
Cal Clutterbuck’s five-year extension won’t bite the Islanders for a couple of seasons, but when it does, it could cost the Islanders more than just money and cap flexibility.
Cal Clutterbuck is on pace to have his highest scoring season as a New York Islander, he’s averaging more ice time than he has in any other year with the club and he was given an alternate captaincy ahead of the campaign.
And even with all that, it’s hard to understand how exactly the Islanders saw fit to have the 29-year-old winger a five-year, $17.5-million extension.
Clutterbuck is undoubtedly one of the best at playing the specific role he plays, which is to say that if you’re looking for a hard-nosed player who’s going to put his body on the line, he’s your guy. Fans love him, teammates assuredly do, too, and he’s exactly the kind of bottom-six player that most GMs around the league would love to have on their team at the right price.
Problem is that it’s really tough to call $3.5 million per season the right price, and that’s exactly what Clutterbuck will be earning come the start of the 2017-18 campaign. That’s roughly the same cap hit as others such as Kyle Turris, Cam Atkinson, Joel Ward and Matt Read will be carrying next season, and that’s only to name a few.
Another worrisome part about the deal is that it’s hard to see how even the biggest fitness freak could maintain their ability to play Clutterbuck’s style into their mid-30s. The wear and tear on Clutterbuck’s body by the time he reaches the back-end of the contract could be substantial. Despite him playing up the lineup right now, he’s better suited to a bottom-six role and definitely will be later in his career. If he loses a step, $3.5 million will be a lot to fork over for a fourth-line winger and it’ll be a deal that’s near impossible to move.
But it goes beyond simply the signing of Clutterbuck, because there has now been a trio of deals handed out by Islanders GM Garth Snow that have been puzzling — and, truthfully, concerning — when it comes to the future of the team.
Ahead of free agency, there was the signing of Casey Cizikas to a five-year, $16.75-million deal. Then came the monster seven-year, $38.5-million contract inked by free agent Andrew Ladd. The Clutterbuck signing is No. 3.
It should be noted that the deals for Clutterbuck, Cizikas and Ladd don’t actually prevent the Islanders from doing all that much in the next two seasons. In fact, as of next season, every single current Islander forward will be locked up to a contract. Come 2018-19, when John Tavares becomes a free agent, the slate is wiped rather clean with the team able to operate with more than $40 million in cap space. Beyond Tavares, the Islanders’ UFAs come 2018-19 will include Josh Bailey, Nikolai Kulemin, Jason Chimera, Mikhail Grabovski and Thomas Hickey.
And $40-plus million can buy you a lot, and certainly it will allow the Islanders to hang on to Tavares, if he chooses to remain with the team. (Not to say he won’t, but a lot can happen between now and July 2018.) All the UFAs, save maybe Bailey and Hickey, will be allowed to head elsewhere, as well. A restricted free agent deal for Brock Nelson could be pricey, but the Islanders should realistically be able to lock him up. As of right now, the Islanders will also be without an NHL goaltender under contract, but there will be stop-gap options available. So, yes, the Islanders should be fine in 2017-18 and 2018-19.
However, things could get dicey after that.
Come 2019-20, the Islanders will watch Travis Hamonic become a UFA, see the end of entry-level deals for Mathew Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier, Joshua Ho-Sang and Michael Dal Colle and still have more than $12.3 million locked up in Ladd, Cizikas and Clutterbuck. Finding the money to lock up those five players, as well as any others who could be seeking new contracts around that time, will be incredibly difficult.
The cost of those trio of deals goes beyond money and cap space, though, because there’s a serious possibility the Islanders could waste some of the best years of Tavares’ career. If the Islanders can only afford to hang on to the pieces they have without being able to add any veteran or prime-aged players, it gets hard to see how this franchise takes the next step forward, even with Tavares in his prime.
They’ll need a few adds on defense, a few forwards who can contribute and the goaltending situation will need to be figured out. Ilya Sorokin should give Islanders fans hope, but even the best goaltending prospects sometimes don’t pan out in the big league. If the Islanders need to improve in goal when their prospects are hitting their stride, the money spent in the past seven months could very well prevent that from becoming a reality.
It’s big-money, head-scratcher deals like Clutterbuck’s that teams have had to buy their way out of in the past, and it’s scary to think the Islanders could have set themselves up for the same fate three times over. The Islanders' post-season performance was reason for excitement, but now it seems, more than anything, there's cause for concern about what the future could hold.
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John Tortorella's antics have made headlines more than his coaching ability, but the veteran bench boss is showing again this season that he's still got the chops to be a top NHL coach.
Hidden behind all the nonsense is the fact John Tortorella can be a very good coach.
The 58-year-old veteran bench boss has proved it time and time again, particularly in 2003-04 when he led the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup championship; allowing his players to show offence and creativity in a league that had become bogged down with clutching and grabbing.
Safe is death was Tortorella’s mantra back then and he convinced his players to embrace his adventurous coaching style. He was named the NHL’s Coach of the Year in 2004.
Too often since then, Tortorella has allowed himself to become a sideshow. His antics often took away from the good job he was doing managing questionable talent.
In New York, where he guided the Rangers to a 171-118-30 record in 319 games, Tortorella became better known for his daily run-ins with respected New York Post veteran beat writer Larry Brooks than coaching the team. Brooks calls ’em as he sees ’em – as a good journalist should – and that didn’t always sit well with the coach who would often lapse into verbal sparring matches with the reporter that would gain international attention.
There was also an incident during Game 5 of the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2009 when Tortorella responded to being heckled by fans of the Washington Capitals by throwing a water bottle and trying to spear a fan between two panes of glass with a stick he grabbed from one of his players. He was not ejected from the game, but was suspended by the NHL the following day.
In his one season behind the bench of the Vancouver Canucks, with which he was 36-35-11, Tortorella was involved in an infamous altercation on Jan. 18, 2014 when he entered the Calgary Flames dressing room area in an effort to engage with Flames coach Bob Hartley between periods following a first period line brawl. Tortorella was restrained by players and coaches and was suspended by the NHL for 15 days without pay.
Despite all the shenanigans, I have always believed in Tortorella’s ability to be an effective coach. I have a theory about him, though.
In an effort to prove to his players he wants to win as desperately – if not more so – than them, he comes across as trying to be one of them. That is when things tend to spin out of control. Long before his beard became a permanent fixture, he – like the players – would grow a playoff beard. Silly.
When things get out of control during games, Tortorella wants to show his players he is willing to fight for them. Even sillier.
After Tortorella was fired by the Canucks, many wondered if he had painted himself into a corner. Had his volatile reputation made him untouchable? Perhaps to some, yes, but not to Blue Jackets president John Davidson who got to know him when Tortorella was coaching the New York Rangers. Davidson knows all about Tortorella’s ability to be an effective coach when he is focused.
So when the Blue Jackets lost their first seven games in 2015-16, Todd Richards was fired and replaced by Tortorella who guided the team to a respectable 34-33-8 record. Not everyone believed in his ability, however.
After making headlines by saying he would bench any player who elected to sit on the bench during the playing of the National Anthem while coaching the United States to a disappointing 0-3 record at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, some wondered if Tortorella wasn’t losing his focus…again.
In its pre-season commentary entitled ‘31 Bold Predictions for The 2016-17 Season’ TSN.ca proclaimed Tortorella would not survive the first month of the season as the Blue Jackets spiral toward last place in the East.
Well, not only did Tortorella make it out of the first month, he currently has his Blue Jackets sitting in sixth place overall and riding a four-game winning streak. Not only was he still behind their bench, Tortorella was a legitimate contender through the first quarter of the season to win his second Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s best coach.
There is still plenty of time remaining in the season and things could certainly go south, but it seems like Tortorella has a good grasp on what he needs to do to remain a successful NHL coach.
“I think he’s maybe been a little more relaxed and perhaps a little bit different with the scheduling of days off,” said Blue Jackets forward Brandon Saad. “For the most part, though, he is who he is and he demands the most out of his players.”
For those who only know Tortorella through the viral YouTube videos that paint him as a madman, you might think he’s an incurable crackpot. For those of us who have the pleasure of knowing him on a more personable level, we know a good person lurks under the craziness. He just needs to control that craziness.
Thatcher Demko warming up prior to an AHL game against the Toronto Marlies at Air Canada Centre. The 21-year-old is 7-5-1 with a 2.59 G.A.A. and a .909 save percentage in 14 AHL games this season.
The Canucks 2014 second-round pick is 7-5-1 with a 2.59 G.A.A. and a .909 save percentage in 14 American Hockey League games this season.
Vancouver's goaltending depth could get tested this weekend as the Canucks play back-to-back in Florida on Saturday night and then in Washington on Sunday.
Ryan Miller pulled himself during the third period of Thursday's 5-1 win in Tampa Bay due to what Iain MacIntyre of The Vancouver Sun reported is an ankle injury. With Miller hurting, the Canucks have recalled Thatcher Demko from the American Hockey League's Utica Comets.
Demko will serve as Jacob Markstrom's back-up in Florida. The 6-foot-4, 195-pound Boston College product was ranked No. 57 on THN's list of Top 100 prospects 21 and under in November.
The 21-year-old, in his first pro season, started slowly losing his first four starts while allowing 21 goals-against in his first six AHL starts with the Comets, but has since settled down going 5-1-0 in his last six starts with a 1.50 G.A.A. and a .945 save percentage entering Friday's game against the Binghamton Senators.
"Thatcher has been humbled more and more and he’s learning his way in Utica — and that’s what we’re looking for. He’s able to get past the bad and good performances really quickly, and that’s a good sign for No. 1 goalies," Canucks goaltending consultant Rollie Melanson told The Vancouver Sun. “He’s getting more and more quiet in the goal as he gets more experience. Between what we do on the ice and what we do in the video room, he’s really starting to understand where we need to go. He’s going to be a good pro."
It's uncertain whether the Canucks 2014 second-round pick will get into game action over the weekend. Following Sunday's game, Vancouver travels to Carolina to play the Hurricanes on Tuesday before returning home to open a four-game home stand against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday.
Injuries to Alex Galchenyuk and David Desharnais have the Canadiens in need of help down the middle, but making a move at this point in the season could be tough. Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs won’t be alone in keeping an eye on Karri Ramo in the AHL.
The loss of centers Alex Galchenyuk and David Desharnais to knee injuries is a serious blow to the Montreal Canadiens' scoring depth. With both on the shelf six-to-eight weeks, GM Marc Bergevin could be scrambling to find replacements.
Galchenyuk's absence hurts the most. At the time of his injury, he led the Habs with 23 points in 25 games and was on track for a career-high 70 points. Finding a suitable replacement in the trade market at this point in the season is almost impossible. Still, Bergevin must find some suitable depth down the middle until Galchenyuk and Desharnais return.
TSN's Darren Dreger believes Arizona Coyotes center (and pending free agent) Martin Hanzal would be a good fit. However, he said here's no indication the two sides have discussed a Hanzal deal. He believes the Coyotes' asking price would be a good young prospect.
Boston Bruins forward Ryan Spooner is reportedly available. A versatile forward who can play center or wing, the 23-year-old is struggling offensively after a promising 49-point effort last season. It's unlikely, however, that the Bruins trade him to a hated rival in the same division.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman observes the Winnipeg Jets have a lot of young centers, suggesting Alex Burmistrov as an emergency fix for the Habs. Like Spooner, the 25-year-old Burmistrov can play center or on the wing. He's struggled to establish himself with the Jets and might benefit from a change of scenery. His $1.55-million cap hit, however, could be a tight fit for the Canadiens.
MAPLE LEAFS NOT ONLY TEAM WATCHING RAMO
Speaking of the Toronto Maple Leafs, changes appear to be afoot for their backup goaltending. Earlier this week, Jhonas Enroth was demoted to the AHL's Toronto Marlies after clearing waivers. Antoine Bibeau is Enroth's replacement, but only on a short-term basis.
Unrestricted free agent goalie Karri Ramo signed a professional tryout offer with the Marlies. If he plays well for them, the Leafs could sign him.
Ramo, however, is not the Leafs property yet. He's still free to sign with any NHL club. TSN's Pierre LeBrun reports the Los Angeles Kings are keeping an eye on Ramo, but the Leafs are considered to have the inside track.
HENDRICKS’ TIME UP AS AN OILER
It appears checking-line left wing Matt Hendricks doesn't have a future with the Edmonton Oilers. Having miss the opening month of the season to a lower-body injury, the 35-year-old's been a healthy scratch in recent games. An unrestricted free agent next summer, the Oilers could look at moving him.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman believes Hendricks might be a good fit with the Minnesota Wild. He said the Wild are seeking fourth-line help and Hendricks is a favourite of Wild coach Bruce Boudreau.
The Wild, however, only have $392K in salary-cap space. Hendricks' annual salary is $1.85 million. Even if the Oilers picked up half of his cap hit, it won't be enough. The Wild would have to move salary elsewhere to make that work.
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.