The curious arbitration case of Fabian Brunnstrom

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fabianbrunnstrom.jpgAs arbitration hearings draw closer for many teams and players, the cases surrounding some players grow more interesting. Take, for example, the situation involving Dallas Stars enigmatic forward Fabian Brunnstrom. Brunnstrom was signed out of Sweden two years ago after a hotly contested negotiation between the Stars and the Detroit Red Wings. The Stars were able to do something different and woo a Swede away from the Red Wings and many Stars fans are probably wishing that they hadn’t.

Through two seasons and 99 games played, Brunnstrom has scored just 19 goals and 21 assists while averaging just over 11 minutes a game. At a price tag on the cap of $2.225 million over the last two years, Brunnstrom has been a colossal failure. The Dallas Morning News’ Mike Heika has a fascinating overview of Brunnstrom’s case and what the Stars might look to do when his arbitration hearing is had on Friday morning.

The minimum walk away level for an NHL arbitration hearing is $1,611,180, so [agent J.P.] Barry might shoot for the moon and ask for $1 million or more, but it would seem that he would be defeating his chance to get a one-way deal (which appears to be extremely important to Brunnstrom). Either way, the Stars will not be able to walk away from this hearing. They will either have Brunnstrom on a two-way contract or have him on a one-way deal. So what does it mean if they get him on a one-way deal? It means they would have 13 forwards in house with RFA James Neal the 14th and an open invitation to Jere Lehtinen to become the 15th. That would clearly push them to make a move or two.

So this will be interesting to watch.

The two sides can come to a deal before the hearing, but it doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen.

Obviously the Stars will have some jockeying to do here and Brunnstrom is a guy that just hasn’t been able to find his way with the team. With the steep price tag for walking away and the Stars financial frugality while waiting for a potential new owner to take over, the spot the team is in is tricky. Clearly they’d like to get things squared away with James Neal as soon as possible and then figure out if Jere Lehtinen wants to give it another go. Brunnstrom appears to be the bump in the road, especially when he’s looking to stay at the NHL level and not have to go back to riding buses in the AHL. It could help his case a bit more if his play dictated that he stay in the NHL more often than not.

Braun out with upper-body injury; Zubrus to make Sharks debut

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The San Jose Sharks will be missing a top-4 defenseman tonight when they host the defending champs from Chicago.

Justin Braun has an upper-body injury. His status is considered day-to-day.

“Brauny has been one of our unsung heroes here through the first quarter of the season,” coach Peter DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “He’s played some outstanding hockey. So, we’re going to miss him, but it’s a great opportunity for Mueller and Tennyson and one of these guys to establish themselves. It’s a great opportunity for us to reward Dillon for how well he’s played.”

Against the Blackhawks, Brenden Dillon will take Braun’s spot on the top pairing alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic; Paul Martin and Brent Burns will stay together on the second pairing; and 20-year-old Mirco Mueller will skate with Matt Tennyson.

Mueller has played just four games for the Sharks this season. In his last game, Thursday in Philadelphia, he received only 9:13 of ice time.

Also tonight, new Shark forward Dainius Zubrus is expected to debut on the fourth line.

Related: Sharks sign Zubrus, because DeBoer

Johansen calls trade rumblings ‘weird,’ says relationship with Torts is ‘great’

Ryan Johansen
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One day after reports surfaced of Ryan Johansen being at the center of trade talks, all parties involved from Columbus did what they’re supposed to do — downplay the situation.

You can read the denials in full over at the Dispatch, but here’s the gist:

— Johansen said the rumors were “weird” and that he’s “never seen it before.” He also said there were no issues between him and head coach John Tortorella, calling the relationship “great.”

— GM Jarmo Kekalainen wouldn’t address the report, nor would Johansen’s agent, Kurt Overhardt.

— Johansen added he hasn’t spoken to any of Columbus’ management about the trade rumblings.

So there’s that. What’s next?

At this stage of the game, it’s hard not to think about another Overhardt client, Kyle Turris.

Turris, you’ll recall, spent four (mostly) stormy years with the Coyotes before his trade out to Ottawa was orchestrated. Turris eventually told GM Don Maloney “this is not going to work out” with the club, and he was gone.

So, consider the similarities now:

— Turris was 22 at the time of the trade, with four years and 137 games under his belt.

— Johansen is 23, with five years and 291 games.

— Both had contentious contract holdouts with their respective clubs.

— Both are Overhardt guys.

— The Turris trade happened after the Coyotes went from Wayne Gretzky to Dave Tippett as head coach.

— Johansen is already on his third head coach (Scott Arniel, Todd Richards, Tortorella).

For now, these are all coincidences (or a forced narrative, depending what you think of the author).

And, of course, the one big — big — difference between the two is that, at the time of his trade, Turris wasn’t as good or established a player as Johansen currently is. Therefore, logic suggests any Johansen trade would be a lot more blockbuster-y and, therefore, probably more complex.

And as we know, complex deals aren’t easy to pull off.

Flyers’ Gagner to miss another week after Malone hit

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The nasty blow Sam Gagner took in Monday’s game against Carolina will keep him on the shelf for a little bit.

On Wednesday, Flyers GM Ron Hextall said the club expected Gagner to be out around a week with injuries suffered on the hit, delivered by ‘Canes forward Brad Malone (per the Inquirer).

Gagner suffered a fairly significant facial laceration, which forced him from the game entirely. He didn’t practice on Tuesday and, in a corresponding move, the Flyers called up Colin McDonald from the AHL to fill Gagner’s spot on the roster.

This is the second facial injury Gagner’s suffered in recent years. He’d previously had his jaw broken by an errant Zack Kassian high stick, while he was with the Oilers and Kassian the Canucks.

Prior to getting hurt, Gagner had two goals and five points in 18 games, averaging just under 12 minutes per night.

‘It’s absolutely not true’ — Lemieux denies report of ‘big falling out’ with Crosby

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 5:  Sidney Crosby #87 and Mario Lemieux #66 of the Pittsburgh Penguins share a few words during a break in action against the New Jersey Devils in their NHL opening night game at the Continental Airlines Arena on October 5, 2005 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  The Devils won 5-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Well, that didn’t take long.

Just hours after Matthew Barnaby went on the radio and said he’d heard that Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemieux had had a “big falling out,” Lemieux came out and denied it.

“It’s absolutely not true,” said Lemieux, per the club’s Twitter account. “It’s silly.”

Today marked the second time in less than two weeks that the Penguins have been forced to do some damage control.

Last week, the Penguins insisted that they weren’t actually “mad at each other,” as Evgeni Malkin had put it after a bad loss to New Jersey.

“He did not mean we are mad at each other,” said Crosby. “He meant we are frustrated.”