Here are some news & notes items from around the NHL.
- NBC reported this NHL post-season is the most watched in their history of broadcasting the games.
- Video review – the league constant altering of the rules around what’s reviewable and what is not is again causing controversy. In last Wednesday’s Sharks vs Blues game, there was a hand pass by Sharks forward Timo Meier in OT that directly led to San Jose’s game winning goal by Erik Karlsson and a 2-1 series lead for the Sharks. The play caused a lot of confusion for fans who didn’t understand why the goal counted. Seems video review is allowed only in certain situations, goalie interference and off-side challenge, and the on ice referees missed the call. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly indicated in an interview that the Meier hand pass to Karlsson was missed by the on ice officials and it is not a reviewable play. Seems as though there will be more discussion in the off-season and into next season about the use of video review. In the NFL, any play that involves a touchdown is reviewable. The NHL General Managers agreed in meetings this season what was reviewable and what was not and only the two situations are (off-side challenge and goaltender interference after a goal). The GM’s wanted to have limited video reviews in the interest of time (a 2.5 hour game turns into 3+ hours if too many plays are video reviewed) but, particularly in the post-season, they need to get the calls right.
- UFA interview period opens June 23rd. Pending UFA’s can talk to teams, other than their own, but not discuss contract details and not sign until July 1. Last season John Tavares met with 4-5 different teams from his agent’s LA office before agreeing to a 7 year deal with the Leafs. Similarly the RFA interview period opens 3 days later on June 26.
- The league’s 32nd franchise recently launched a website with a FAQ’s section about the team. Some key points:
- The team does not play it’s first regular season game for 2 more seasons, October 2021 is the time frame.
- The team name will be announced in the Fall of 2019.
- KeyArena will hold 17,300 for NHL hockey. There were 33,000 fans making a season ticket deposit. Building reno’s are suppose to be completed by June 2021.
- Fans with reserved seasons tickets can select their seats in the Fall of 2019.
- Seattle expansion draft is June 2021. The Vegas Golden Knights are exempt from the expansion draft; it was condition of entry into the league.
- The Seattle hockey group CEO Tim Leiweke recently said they plan to break ground on their new practice facility (Northgate Ice Center) in an area of Seattle called Northgate in January 2020. It’s a $90 M, 15 month project scheduled to be completed in May 2021.
- The Seattle franchise has reportedly contacted Blue Jackets AGM Bill Zito about their open GM position. Zito is a former player agent and was also GM of the USA World Championship team last year. Some other names getting interest from Seattle include former Canucks GM Mike Gillis and London Knights owner/GM Mark Hunter. Apparently, the Seattle group would hire a GM now if the right person was available but they are also willing to be patient and hire next summer.
- The Seattle group has apparently taken on a number of new equity partners, including a few Canadians, for a one time price of $5 M. Article here. This is to apparently offset some of the $900 M cost they’ve incurred for the KeyArena renovations.
Team Management News
- MLSE signed President and Alternate Governor Brendan Shanahan to a six year extension. Shanahan is now under contract until the 2024-25 season. The team is apparently very happy that Shanahan has been able to mold the organization with a solid, championship type culture. The team has recorded back to back 100 point seasons for the first time in the organization’s history.
- The New York Rangers hired former Columbus Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson as their new president. Davidson had been with the Blue Jackets since 2012. The contract was for 5 years. The Blue Jackets will not replace Davidson’s position and GM Jarmo Kekalainen will be the top hockey exec with the team. Blue Jackets owner John McConnell said JD is a man of “great compassion and character” and they wish him well. The Blue Jackets had a winning record in six of Davidson’s seven season’s in Columbus. The Rangers also announced that SVP and AGM Jim Schoenfeld stepped down and is leaving the Rangers organization.
- Craig MacTavish, former VP Hockey Operations with the Oilers, has signed a 2 year contract to be the head coach of KHL’s Lokomotiv team. Should be an interesting challenge for MacTavish as 95% of the players speak Russian. MacT reportedly is looking to hire a Russian speaking assistant coach. I heard MacTavish say he felt like he needed a change and indicated he missed coaching. Apparently Flyers assistant coach Michel Therrien was offered the same position in the KHL but signed on with the Flyers as an assistant coach.
- With the Senators, their COO Nic Ruszkowski is leaving the organization after less than a year in the role. The organization previously had Tom Anselmi as CEO and he moved on and before that Cyril Leeder (as president). Article that covers the org changes is here. Seems Ruszkowski parting was cordial as he’s staying on for a few months as an adviser. The organization is also still looking to hire a president of hockey operations but they’re looking at after the post-season at the earliest to get that search going. Owner Eugene Melynk indicates there are candidates they want to talk to that are currently involved in the playoffs so they’ll wait until mid-June at the earliest. Melnyk added he may opt to hire two adviser type positions instead of a president of hockey ops. They want a person or persons to be a sounding board / support for GM Dorian as the team enters a pivotal stage of their rebuilding efforts.
- The Edmonton Oilers hired former Red Wings GM Ken Holland as their General Manager and President of Hockey Operations. Holland’s deal is for 5 years at $5 M /season. Holland was with the Wings for 36 seasons (last 22 as GM) and won 3 Stanley Cups as a GM with the Wings. Oilers captain Connor McDavid is reportedly happy with the hire and is still committed to being part of winning solution in Edmonton. Holland says the team will aim to make the post season in 2019-20. Owner Darryl Katz said Holland will be given full autonomy over hockey operations. Holland said said he will make a few changes in the front office but not wholesale changes. I’ve heard Holland interviewed numerous times and he seems like a terrific person. He’s always makes himself available to talk about his team’s and answer questions. CEO Bob Nicholson said landing Holland was like “hitting out of the park” as far as their expectations. The Oilers have made the post-season just once in the past 13 seasons.
- Former Lightning AGM Pat Verbeek has joined the Red Wings organization as AGM to GM Steve Yzerman. Yzerman hired Verbeek when Yzerman was the Lightning GM.
- Buffalo Sabres hire Ralph Krueger as their new head coach
- Krueger was most recently chairman of Southampton Soccer team based in England. His hockey coaching resume includes 48 games as the Edmonton Oilers head coach where he went 19-21-7. Before becoming the Oilers head coach he was, for 2 years, an associate coach under Oilers head coach Tom Renney. He was also a Special Adviser to Team Canada at the Sochi Olympics where Canada won gold and Team Europe’s head coach in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Additionally, he was a scout under then Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford who recommended Krueger to Botterill. He also coached in the German and Swiss leagues. Krueger’s deal is for 3 years and reported to be worth between $11.5 M – $12 M or about $4 M /season. The new coach plans to meet with a few key Sabres players such as Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart who are over in Slovakia competing in the World Championships. Jeff Skinner was apparently also kept up-to-date with the coaching hire process as he is in discussions with the Sabres on a long term deal (Skinner is a July 1 UFA). Krueger is reportedly a high energy, positive person who is skilled at motivating players.
- Former Oilers defenseman Steve Smith is an assistant coach with the Sabres and he was also an associate coach with Krueger when both were with the Oilers back in 2010/11. Speculation is Smith will be retained by the Sabres but no announcement of Krueger’s assistant coaches has been made.
- Read where Sabres goaltender Carter Hutton said the team needs a defensive structure and he hopes that’s something Krueger can bring. The Sabres were 23rd in the league in goals against last season.
- There’s been some talk new LA Kings head coach Todd McLellan will try and hire Jay Woodcroft who is the current head coach of the Oilers AHL affiliate in Bakersfield. Woodcroft worked with McLellan previously when they were both with the Red Wings, Sharks and Oilers.
- Tampa Bay Lightning added former Canadiens player Mathieu Darche as their Director of Hockey Operations. Darche will work with Lightning GM Julien BriseBrois who got to know Darche when he played with Montreal (BriseBrois worked for the Canadiens in various management capacities before joining the Lightning organization). Darche will handle contract negotiations, budgeting and managing the team’s salary cap. Darche has a BCom from McGill and was involved in CBA negotiations as a player rep during the 2012-13 lockout.
- Flyers new head coach Alain Vigneault added Michel Therrien to his coaching staff (as an assistant coach). Also added was Mike Yeo who was most recently the St. Louis Blues head coach before his dismissal in November of 2018. Vigneault reportedly prefers his assistant coaches to have prior NHL head coaching experience which both Therrien (814 games) and Yeo (482 games) do. Yeo was hired by GM Fletcher when he was with Minnesota (as the Wild’s head coach). Yeo will handle the defense and PK with the Flyers and Therrien will handle the forwards and the power play. The Flyers will have 2,454 games of NHL head coaching experience behind their bench next season. Last season’s interim head coach, Scott Gordon, will return as coach of the Flyers AHL team, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The Flyers will retain assistant coaches Ian Laperriere and goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh. Rick Wilson, who was brought in late last season with a lot of experience coaching defenseman, will not return.
- Head coaching vacancies
- In St. Louis, GM Doug Armstrong recently said he has one name on his list for a permanent head coach, the team’s interim head coach Craig Berube. The Blues went 38-19-6 in 63 games after Berube took over from Mike Yeo on November 19, 2018. Berube, along with Islanders Barry Trotz and ‘Bolts Jon Cooper, are the finalists for Coach of the Year award. Berube is the only current NHL head coach of First Nations decent.
- With the Senators and their open head coaching vacancy, former Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy will be getting an interview. Rick Bowness, Dallas’ assistant coach, was interviewed last week. Bowness is a noted expert on defense systems and developing defenseman. Stars goaltender Ben Bishop has had Bowness as his defensive coach the past 5 seasons (with both Dallas and the Lightning) and three of those season’s he’s been nominated for the Vezina. Bishop said direct credit for that goes to Bowness. Some of the names still in the mix for the Ottawa head coaching position include Marc Crawford, Troy Mann (AHL Belleville Senators head coach), Jacques Martin, Leafs assistant coach DJ Smith and Nate Leaman (head coach of NCAA Providence). GM Pierre Dorian is reportedly looking for a coach that can teach and develop young players as the Senators have a young roster. The Sens are apparently looking at the end of the month to have their head coach hired.
- Oilers search for a new head coach – new GM Ken Holland recently indicated that nothing is imminent. Holland reportedly was planning to make a few changes to the front office first. The names that get mentioned for the Oilers head coach is Dave Tippett who is with the Seattle franchise as an adviser. Tippett has over 1,000 NHL games coached on his resume including stops in Dallas and Phoenix. Another name is Todd Nelson who Holland hired in Detroit as their AHL head coach (with Grand Rapids Griffins).
- Anaheim Ducks – along with Dallas Eakins (head coach of the Ducks AHL affiliate in San Diego), Barry Trotz’s long time assistant, Lane Lambert, is getting an interview.
- The Blue Jackets enter the off-season with $30 M of cap space. General Manager Kekalainen still hopes to sign goaltender Bobrovsky, forward Artemi Panarin and Matt Duchene but all players seems interested in exploring their July 1 offers. Bobrovsky wasted no time listing his Columbus residence with a “for sale” sign; happened 2 days after the season ended. Duchene has been linked to Nashville, Columbus or even back with the Ottawa Senators. Duchene said he’ll consider Columbus but if Panarin and Bobrovsky aren’t re-signed that could factor into his decision.
- Seems Mats Zuccarello and the Dallas Stars were a good fit for each other. Both sides seem interested in talking about getting Zucc signed to a new deal. The player is a July 1 UFA. Zuccarello, 31, recorded 11 points in 13 games post-season games with the Stars.
- Discussions on a new contract between the Sharks and pending UFA Erik Karlsson have been kept fairly quiet. Reports indicate the two sides are talking and the sticking point right now is term. Karlsson can sign a max 8 year but doesn’t seem like the Sharks want that length of term. Karlsson has battled injuries the past 2-3 seasons and is 29 years old. He played in 53 regular season games this season. I believe the New York Rangers could be interested in signing him on July 1.
- With the Avalanche, forward Nathan MacKinnon injured his shoulder in the team’s final post-season game against San Jose but no surgery is required; just rest. The team wants to get Mikko Rantanen’s name on a contract as he enters the summer as a RFA. Rantanen, 22, recorded 87 points in 74 Avs games this season. His contract could be as much as $8 M – $9 M /season. The team has indicated they’d like to get the player signed long term but will do short term too if that’s what it takes. GM Joe Sakic also recently added the Avs will be more active in off-season free agency but he added they’ll be selective about where their free agency dollars get spent. Head coach Jared Bednar enters the final year of his contract in the 2019-20 season and Sakic said they plan to extend him but it’s not at the top of the off-season priority list. The Avs have a number of player contracts to deal with first. Defenseman Tyson Barrie, the franchise leader in points from a defenseman, enters the 2019-20 season one year from UFA. The team also has the #4 overall pick (from Ottawa in the Duchene trade) and the #16th overall pick in this years June Entry Draft in Vancouver. Sakic says they’ll listen to offers for their first round picks but will not be actively shopping them.
- Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello recently said he is interested in bringing back all their pending UFA’s. That list includes goaltender Robin Lehner, Brock Nelson, Jordan Eberle and captain Anders Lee. Lehner said he wants to return next season; he had a terrific season highlighted by a Vezina Trophy nomination. I would expect Lehner will get good offers on July 1. On Anders Lee, seems the team really wants to reach a deal with him. Lamoriello said he was an outstanding captain for the team. The two sides have been in discussions on a new deal but I believe Lee wants a longer term deal while the Islanders don’t want to go beyond 5 years on term.
- Predators defenseman PK Subban name has been talked about in trade rumors. I’ve not heard GM David Poile confirm or deny that are are looking to move a core player. PK is the highest paid Predators player; he has 3 more seasons at $9 M /season left on his contract. Captain Roman Josi has one more year before becoming a UFA and seems the team has every intention of re-signing him. I read an interesting stat about their forwards, the team leads the league in salary paid to their forward group (66% of their cap) but the group accounts for a league worse 68% of their scoring. Seems like they need to move a high paid forward more than a defenseman. There is some talk the Predators will try and land pending UFA Matt Duchene on July 1 and moving Subban is more about clearing cap space for July 1.
- The Arizona Coyotes off-season plan including finding a few goal scorers. The Coyotes were the only team in league this season without a 20 goal scorer. The team will look to the UFA market for goal scorer. Names that get mentioned Jordan Eberle (19 goals this season), Anders Lee (28 goals), Brock Nelson (25 goals), Gustav Nyqvist (22 goals) or Ryan Dzingel (26 goals).
- Was reported this week that Vegas defenseman Colin Miller has fallen out of favor with head coach Gerard Gallant. Miller has 3 years left on his deal at $3.875 M. Some wonder if the Sault Ste. Marie native would be appealing to the Leafs.
- Dallas Stars center Jason Spezza enters the summer as a July 1 UFA and will not be back with the Stars. Spezza says he believes he can still play, he turns 36 this summer. There is some talk he could even return to Ottawa. Spezza has recorded 915 career points in 1,065 games. He and his wife have 4 young children so that is a factor in where he’d consider playing; it has to be a fit both hockey-wise and for his young family.
- San Jose vs St. Louis
- The Blues hold a 3-2 series lead with the series returning to St. Louis on Tuesday. St. Louis have not been to the Cup finals since 1970 and their organization has never won a Stanley Cup.
- Blue goaltender Binnington is just the 10th rookie goaltender to win 10 post season games. It’s also a Blue franchise record. He is an off-season RFA. Experts say he’ll get about $4 M /season on a 4-5 year deal this off-season.
- Blues Jaden Schwartz has 11 goals in the post-season (18 games) which matches his regular season total. Only Brett Hull has recorded more goals in a post-season (Hull scored 13 in the 1990 post season) as a St. Louis Blues player.
- Logan Couture is having an incredible post season and leads the league with 20 points in 18 games. Couture has tied a Sharks record (Pavelski) for most goals in a post season with 14 and needs one goal to match Crosby (2015) and Ovchekin (2018) for the most goals in a post-season in the past 22 years.
- Pavelski recently reached the 100 post-season points milestone (requiring just 132 games). He is 2nd in the league in post-season goals with 48 since he joined the league in 2010. Pavelski is also a UFA this summer.
- The Sharks could use a goal from Evander Kane. He has just 2 goals in 18 post season games this year.
- The Blues are getting good production from their 4th line (Barbashev/Sundqvist/Steen); they’ve scored 4 goals in the past 4 games and have combined for 15 points in these playoffs.
- The ‘Canes had an incredible post-season run after getting into playoffs as a wild card team. The ‘Canes have the lowest player payroll in the league at $63.2 M and not one player earns more than $6 M /season. Forward Micheal Ferland enters the summer as a UFA and both of their goaltenders, Petr Mrazek & Curtis McElhinney, are UFA’s. They need to get RFA Sebastian Aho’s (30 G & 53 A) name on a new contract as well. Captain Justin Williams is also a UFA and will be 38 at the start of the 2019-20 season. Sounds as though Williams is undecided about playing another season and will take some time to decide.
- The Hurricanes reportedly added 3250 new season tickets for $4.8 M in additional revenue.
- Cup finals – STL/SJ vs Boston
- The Bruins will have home ice in the Cup finals; they are 6-3 at home in these playoffs. The Cup finals don’t get started until May 27th, a week from today. The Bruins will have had 11 days off which could be a bit of a concern.
- The Bruins have been to the Cup finals 3 times in the past 8 years winning one Cup.
- The team is currently running a 6 game winning streak.
- The Bruins PP% in the post-season is 34%. Patrice Bergeron has 6 PP goals.
- Boston forward David Krejci has reached the 100 point post-season milestone. Krejci is tied for 3rd in Bruins history (Rick Middleton and Johnny Bucyk) for post-season points. Krejci is just the 3rd Czech-born player to record 100 post-season points (Patrik Elias and Jagr are the others).
- Bruins forward David Pastrnak has 39 points in 35 post season games on 15 goals and he’s still just 22 years old. Since 2006, only Crosby and Ovechkin have recorded more points after 35 post-season games.
- Seems Tuukka Rask is the leading candidate for the Conn Smythe trophy at post-season MVP. Rask is 7-0 in his last 7 games with a GAA of 1.29, .961 SV% plus 2 shutouts.
- None of the final four teams have a player making more than $8 M /season. Brent Burns at $8 M is the highest paid player left in the post-season. Boston, St. Louis and San Jose have all have their core group under contract at reasonable prices. Will be interesting to see what happens this summer with the 22/23 year old RFA’s as some are looking for $8 M – $10 M /season. Could affect how teams can get their core all under contract and still have room for the non-star players. Experts are questioning whether a team like the Leafs can win a Cup with 3 players (Tavares, Matthews & Marner) making $10 + M/season. This years post-season is showing you need a roster of good players not a team of 3 superstars when there no cap room to fill out the roster.
International Tournaments / Team Canada
- 2020 World Juniors – London Knights (OHL) owner, President/GM/head coach, Dale Hunter, was announced as Team Canada’s head coach at the next IIHF World Juniors that are being held in the Czech Republic from December 26, 2019 – Sunday, January 5, 2020. Hunter coached on the international stage once before, as head coach of Canada’s U-18 team at the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup. Ottawa 67’s head coach Andre Tourigny and Saskatoon Blades head coach Mitch Love will be Hunter’s assistants. Canada had a disappointing 6th place finish in the 2019 World Juniors. It was Canada’s second 6th place finish in the past 4 World Juniors.
- 2019 Gretzky/Hlinka Cup (18 and under) – This tournament is held each August and rotates between being in Canada and in Czech Republic (in 2018 it was held in Edm and Red Deer). Dan Lambert (WHL Spokane Chiefs) was announced as the Team Canada’s head coach for the 2019 event with his assistants Mario Duhamel (Ottawa/OHL) and Dennis Williams (Evertt /WHL).
- IIHF World Championships in Slovakia (May 10th – 24th)
- Team Canada announced Kyle Turris as captain with Mark Stone and Sean Couturier assistants.
- Leafs forward John Tavares got injured in his first practice with Team Canada in Slovakia and was ruled out for the rest of the tourney. Brandon Montour also an injured and will miss the rest of Team Canada’s games. Flyers defenseman Philippe Myers agreed to join Team Canada. Myers played most of last season with the Flyers farm team, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
- Team USA forward Patrick Kane has set a new record for most all-time points for a USA-born player with 34.
- Dallas Stars defenseman John Klingberg was added to Team Sweden who is looking for it’s 3rd straight gold medal. Stars forward Radek Faksa was added to Team Czech.
- Team USA head coach Jeff Blashill just became the winningest US-born coach in men’s world championship history. Blashill has won 18 of 23 games he’s coached at the World Championships.
- Flames forward Michael Frolik has recorded 6 goals and 5 assists in 6 games for Team Czech. Frolik is one season from UFA status and it’s probable he’s moved this summer.
- Leafs William Nylander is having a good tournament, he has 13 points (4 G & 9 A) in just 5 games played which places him second in tournament point leaders. Lightning Nikita Kucherov leads the tournament with 14 points in 6 games.
- Finnish star Kaapo Kakko has recorded 6 goals in 6 games. He recently said he’s aiming to be drafted at #1 in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. Kakko scored a hat trick in one of Finland’s games and it was the most watch show on TV in Finland this year with 2 million viewers tuning in.
- Canadian/Red Wings 1st rounder (20th overall in 2013) Anthony Mantha leads the tournament in goals with 7 goals in 5 games. He had 25 goals in 67 games this past season for the Wings.
- The WC format is two groups of 8 teams and each team plays 7 games in the preliminary round. The top 4 teams in each group advance to the quarter finals where teams from the two groups play against each other. Current standings can be found here. From there, there is a final /championship game that’s scheduled for next Sunday, the 26th of May. Canada’s record after 6 games is 5 W & 1 L. They play the USA on Tuesday then quarterfinals start Thursday, May 23. From all accounts the Canadian team is starting to gel and they feel positive about their recent play.
- GM Kyle Dubas commented this week that the progress of discussions between Marner’s agent and the team will remain private. I expect it’s a tough negotiation but both sides want to resolve it with a deal to keep Marner with the Leafs.
- Goaltender Ian Scott who was drafted in the 4th round by the team was named WHL’s playoffs MVP. Scott went 16-6-1 with a 1.96 GAA, a .925 SV% & 5 shutouts in the post-season. Scott plays for Prince Albert (WHL) and his team advanced to the Memorial Cup recently where they’ll play Guelph (OHL champs), Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL) and host Halifax. Tournament started Friday, May 17th.
- Defenseman Travis Dermott recently had shoulder surgery and will be out of action for 6 months. Dermott, 22, missed 14 games this season with the injury. I thought he had a good season on defense for the team. Hopefully, his shoulder fully recovers and he can step into the line-up in late November/December. Some experts see one of Rosen, Sandin or Liljegren stepping into Dermott’s place to start the season.
- Forward Zach Hyman will require 6 months of recovery from ACL surgery (knee).
- Defenseman Igor Ozhiganov has signed a 2 year deal in the KHL.
- The Marlies are 8-1 in the playoffs and leading the Eastern Conference finals series against Charlotte 2-1. Experts say Marlies forward Jeremy Bracco should vie for a spot with the Leafs next season. In 82 games played this season, Bracco has recorded 24 goals and 66 assists for 90 points. The Marlies defense is very good with NHL caliber players Calle Rosen, Liljegren (1st rounder), Andreas Borgman and Rasmus Sandin (1st rounder).
- Apparently the Canucks and the agent for forward Brock Boeser have started contract discussions but it’s early in the process.
- Defenseman Ben Hutton is a RFA and apparently contract discussions have not started. Hutton is spending the off-season in the Ottawa area and working out with Flyers captain Claude Giroux.
- The Canucks and pending UFA defenseman Alex Edler are working towards a new contract but the two sides are apparently not close to an agreement.
- Same with Luke Schenn – both sides are interested in making a deal but talks reportedly have not started.
- Canucks defenseman Troy Stecher is playing for Canada at the Worlds in Slovakia and his defense partner is Senators offensively talented 22 yo Thomas Chabot who has 5 points in 6 games so far (all 5 points have been on the PP). Stecher says the international ice surface really lets the creative players shine.
Buyouts – June 15th – 30th
- Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Scott Darling is expected to get bought out. Darling has 2 years remaining on his contract at an AAV of $4.15 M.
- Lightning forward Ryan Callahan could be bought out but I’ve not heard it confirmed. He has one year at $5.8 M left on his deal. Bought out players become UFA’s.
- Columbus Blue Jackets signed Latvian-born goaltender Elvis Merzlikins to a one year /one way contract for $1.845 M. He is a 3rd round selection of the Blue Jackets in 2014 (76th overall). Merzlikins, 25, played in Swiss league this past season.
- Florida Panthers signed Finnish forward Aleksi Heponiemi to a 3 year entry level contract. Heponiemi, 20, recorded 46 points (16-30-46) in 50 games playing in the Finnish league this season. Heponiemi also just won gold as a member of Team Finland at the U-20’s World Junior Tournament and led the tournament in points with 9 points on 3 goals.
- The Blue Jackets have signed right winger Emil Bemstrom to a 3 year entry level contract. Bemstrom was drafted in the 4th round, 117th overall in 2017. He’s just 19 years old and this season recorded 23 goals and 12 assists in 47 games played in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL). Ten of his 23 goals were on the PP. It was the 3rd most goals by a teenager in league history.
- The LA Kings signed Russian forward Nikolai Prokhorkin to a one year entry level contract. Prokhorkin, 25, recorded 41 points in (20 G 21 A) in 41 KHL games this season. He was drafted in the 4th round in 2012, 121st overall.
- The Senators signed Swedish defenseman Olle Alsing to a 2 year deal. Asling played this season in the Swedish Elite league where he recorded 15 points in 49 games on 4 goals. Apparently there were a number of teams interested in signing him.
- Dallas signed defenseman Esa Lindell to 6 year contract at an AVV of $5.8 M. Lindell played all 82 games for the Stars this season and recorded 11 goals and 21 assists. He averaged 24:20 minutes of ice time (2nd most on the team). The Stars 3 key defenseman include John Klingberg (27 yo), who has 3 years left on his deal, Lindell (just turned 24) who is now signed for 6 seasons and 19 year old Miro Heiskanen.
Odds & Ends
- Ducks forward Ryan Kesler recently underwent successful hip re-surfing surgery (on May 9th). It’s very doubtful Kesler, 34, will play next season and his career is in jeopardy but he’s not ready to announce his retirement. Kesler’s contract runs for three more years at an AAV of $6.875 M /season. Former player Ed Jovanovski had the same surgery and talked about how it’s more about quality of life and not about hockey. Any movement to the hip was painful before the procedure even walking and tying shoes. Jovanovski said Kesler has a tough rehab in front of him but the first step is the surgery and he should feel almost immediate relief from pain in the hip.
- Bowen Byram, a 17 year old defenseman playing for the Vancouver Giants of the WHL, became the first defenseman to win the post-season scoring race. He recorded 22 points in 26 playoff games on 8 goals. In the Giants regular season, Byram recorded 26 goals & 45 assists (71 points). Byram is expected to go 4th or 5th overall at the June entry draft in Vancouver.
- Rickard Gronberg, who was in the running for the Sabres head coaching position, signed a 2 year contract with Zurich of the Swiss league to be their head coach. I heard him recently interviewed and he says he’s a hybrid coach with a lot of North American hockey knowledge plus experience coaching in Europe. He recently said NHL GM’s weren’t interested in hiring a coach with no NHL head coaching experience.
- Oilers owner Darryl Katz has reportedly been battling a life threatening antibiotic resistant sinus infection for the past two years. Seems some people noticed at the Ken Holland press conference that Katz didn’t look like himself. He’s apparently has had two surgeries already with another scheduled and is reportedly getting better.
- Vegas forward Cody Glass (6th overall in 2017) has 9 points (5 G and 4 A) in 13 AHL post-season games. Glass is playing in the playoffs with the Chicago Wolves of the AHL. In 38 games with the WHL Portland Winterhawks this season, Glass recorded 15 goals and 54 assists.
- Someone suggested the NHL should add a most improved player award like the NBA has (that was after Raptors Pascal Siakam was nominated). Seems better than the GM of the Year award which is voted in round 2 of the post-season. This years finalists for GM of the year include Blues Doug Armstrong (his team was in 31st place on Jan. 2 but turned it around), Hurricanes Don Waddell and Bruins Don Sweeney. Tampa Bay Lightning had a historic regular season but their GM was not a finalist.