While hockey players often skate through the playoffs with all kinds of grisly injuries, one of the most troubling ailments cannot be easily corrected with surgery or even rest. Concussions are a sad reality in all violent sports, affecting not only a player’s ability to function as a hockey player but also causing dire longtime issues later in life.
So when you hear about defenseman’s Kim Johnsson’s concussion problems, it’s difficult to criticize him for pondering a slightly early retirement (Johnsson is 34 years old). Minnesota Wild beat writer Michael Russo discussed the possibility that Johnsson played his last hockey games this season with Johnsson’s agent Rick Curran. While he didn’t deny that retirement could be the answer, Curran insisted that Johnsson will need some time to decide his future … but won’t be back soon.
Russo, however, thinks this is it for the solid defenseman.
Johnsson came to the Wild with a history of concussions in Philadelphia. The only reported one he sustained in Minnesota came from the Brad May sucker-punch during the 2007 playoffs.
The Wild traded Johnsson and signed Marek Zidlicky to a three-year extension in March, in part because the team said Johnsson gave them no indication he wanted to continue playing after this season.
I’ve left a few voicemails for Johnsson, but if I had to guess, we won’t be seeing Johnsson on an NHL rink again. He’s a devoted family man, he’s made his money, so I think he’d be extremely content to turn into a full-time husband, dad.
It’s sad that Johnsson might need to hang up his skates, but as the sports world learns more about concussions, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Besides, as Russo points out, Johnsson was the final pick in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft. He’s already exceeded expectations since he was far from “Mr. Irrelevant.”
Whether he decides to retire or not, we wish Johnsson the best of luck when it comes to feeling normal again.
Over the weekend, reports suggested that Toronto and RFA blueliner Frank Corrado were close to agreeing to a new contract.
On Monday, the two sides sealed the deal.
The Leafs announced they signed Corrado to a one-year contract, with Sportsnet reporting it to be a $600,00 pact, of the one-way variety.
Corrado, 23, was scheduled to go to arbitration tomorrow. His ask was $900,000, while the Leafs countered with a $625,000 figure on a two-way deal, and $575,000 on a one-way.
So Toronto was nearly spot-on with its valuation.
The former Canucks draftee took a while to make his Leafs debut last season — he sat 28 games after they claimed him off waivers — but when he did get into the lineup, he fared reasonably well. Corrado finished with a goal and six points in 39 games, averaging 14:27 TOI per game.
This marks the second player Toronto avoided going to arbitration with. Prior to signing Corrado, the Leafs inked center Peter Holland to a one-year, $1.3 million deal.
The Philadelphia Flyers are hoping Brayden Schenn hasn’t finished improving. The former fifth overall draft pick signed a four-year, $20.5 million contract today, after posting career highs in goals (26) and assists (33) in 2015-16.
It took a few years for Schenn, 24, to start justifying his draft position. John Tavares, Victor Hedman, Matt Duchene, and Evander Kane were selected with the first four picks that year. Oliver Ekman-Larsson was taken sixth overall.
So there was pressure.
“I think sometimes when you draft a player top five you tend to think he’s going to develop a little quicker than other guys,” Flyers GM Ron Hextall said Monday, per Flyzette. “When you look at Brayden, has he been a fast developer? I would say probably no. Has he been a slow developer? I would say probably no. He’s probably been average.
“The good thing is he’s gotten better every year and he’s a hard worker. He’s starting to figure out the intricacies of the game. He obviously had his best year to this point so hopefully he continues to build on that.”
Hextall reportedly danced around a question about Schenn being part of the “core” group, so there’s still some proving to be done. The Flyers have already committed long-term to forwards Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, and Sean Couturier. Wayne Simmonds and Michael Raffl have three years left on their deals, and Dale Weise signed a four-year agreement on July 1.
As for Schenn, he knows he needs to justify the Flyers’ trust in his ongoing development.
“I feel like I keep getting better and better,” he said. “I expect nothing else next year.”
If the Buffalo Sabres can sign Jimmy Vesey, they may be more willing to trade winger Evander Kane.
That’s what TSN 1040 (Vancouver) radio host Matt Sekeres has been hearing, and what he’s hearing does make a lot of sense.
Kane, whose off-ice issues are once again making headlines, has two years left on his contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent. He plays the same position as Vesey, 23, who’s currently Buffalo property but can sign with any team he chooses on Aug. 15.
Even if the Sabres can’t convince Vesey to join them, Kane could still be traded. GM Tim Murray has already conceded that his patience is wearing thin with the 24-year-old that he acquired from Winnipeg not long ago. Alex Nylander, drafted eighth overall in June, plays the same position as Kane, and Murray has said it’s possible the teenager could make the jump to the NHL next season.
Buffalo, Boston and Toronto have generally been considered the favorites to land Vesey. Chicago and Pittsburgh have also been mentioned.
Related: Cue the Kane-to-Vancouver speculation
The Toronto Maple Leafs won’t require arbitration with forward Peter Holland. They’ve signed the 25-year-old to a one-year deal worth a reported $1.3 million.
Holland had a hearing scheduled for today. Last week, the Leafs sent a message by putting him on waivers, which he cleared.
Holland had nine goals and 18 assists in 65 games last season. With him signed, the Leafs have only defensemen Frank Corrado and Martin Marincin as restricted free agents. Corrado has an arbitration hearing scheduled for tomorrow; Marincin’s is next Tuesday.
Related: Corrado and Leafs aren’t that far apart