As Ray Shero discussed in a story we referenced on Sunday, NHL teams can’t stock their teams with high-end players like they did in the pre-salary cap days. Instead, general managers must look for bargains to fill out their rosters, whether that means a savvy veteran, a reclamation project or – sometimes – an AHLer.
The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy discusses two AHL veterans hoping to make the leap from the minors to the big-time. He discusses Brett Sterling, who came to the Penguins this off-season after failing to stick with the Thrashers and Keith Aucoin, a 31-year-old center in the Capitals’ system. As Kennedy points out, the two teams are in opposite situations; Pittsburgh needs wingers while Washington could use a center or two.
This is where Sterling can make his mark. Much like Haydar, Sterling has wreaked havoc on the AHL throughout his career – 97 points with the Chicago Wolves in ’06-07 (with Haydar, no less) was his best – but failed to impress in the NHL with Atlanta. Of course, as a left winger, he was buried behind Ilya Kovalchuk and Slava Kozlov at the time. In Pittsburgh, a good camp could mean Crosby or Malkin feeding him pucks.
Plus, the Pens have about $2 million in cap space left for the season and Sterling’s stipend is a very reasonable $500,000.
Pittsburgh’s archrivals, the Washington Capitals, have the opposite problem – great wingers, but only one great center, Nicklas Backstrom. Last season, the Caps tried to plug the second-line center hole with Brendan Morrison, but decided against a sequel this summer.
That opens the door for 31-year-old Keith Aucoin, another career minor leaguer with an impressive resume. The 5-foot-9 Aucoin (sensing a theme here?) actually had five points in nine games for the Caps last year, so he has contributed. Now, he’ll have to fight off fellow Hershey Bears alumnus Mathieu Perreault and Swedish rookie Marcus Johansson for a spot on the big club.
Considering the fact that both teams have Stanley Cup dreams, I’d imagine each club would rather not settle for AHL table scraps.
Still, if players like Matt Moulson teach us anything, it’s that some players take time to develop or simply benefit from a change of scenery. Time will tell if they finally find a way to stick in the NHL or if their teams go in a new direction.
Matt Nieto won’t need his arbitration hearing on Monday.
According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Nieto has agreed to a one-year, $1 million contract with the Colorado Avalanche.
Nieto split last season between San Jose and Colorado, which claimed him off waivers in January.
In 43 games for the Avalanche, the 24-year-old forward scored seven goals with four assists.
Nieto was the only Colorado player on this summer’s arbitration list. However, the Avs still have a restricted free agent in Nikita Zadorov, who could be off to the KHL next season.
The International Ice Hockey Federation has announced that three KHL players have been suspended after testing positive for banned substances.
Here’s an excerpt from the KHL’s website:
The IIHF has informed the KHL that three players – forward Danis Zaripov (then with Metallurg Magnitogorsk), defenseman Andrei Konev (Admiral Vladivostok) and defenseman Derek Smith (Medvescak Zagreb) – have tested positive for banned substances.
Derek Smith tested positive for a category S6.а stimulant.
Andrei Konev tested positive for a category S6.b stimulant.
Danis Zaripov tested positive for a category S6.b stimulant plus category S5 diuretics and masking agents.
Zapirov, who was part of Team Russia at the 2010 Olympic Games, has been banned from suiting up in “competitive hockey” until May 22, 2019. Konev will be unable to play until Nov. 19, 2017, while Smith, who is Canadian, will be suspended until Sep. 2, 2018.
Smith, 32, played in 94 NHL games with the Ottawa Senators and Calgary Flames between 2009-10 and 2013-14.
The Arizona Coyotes have a new head coach, but Rick Tocchet still has to fill out the rest of his staff.
According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the ‘Yotes might be looking to add John MacLean to their coaching staff.
MacLean, 52, spent six years as an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils (2002-2009) before becoming the head coach of their AHL affiliate. After one year of coaching in the minors, MacLean was promoted to head coach of the Devils. His tenure didn’t last very long, as he was fired after just 33 games (they were 9-22-2 under his watch).
He spent the following three seasons as an assistant in Carolina, but he was let go after the 2014 season.
MacLean hasn’t been back behind an NHL bench since being let go by the ‘Canes. Instead, he’s served as a hockey analyst on various television networks.
—Tocchet wants Coyotes’ young players to be ‘creative’ and ‘calculated’
—Tocchet brings lessons from past mistakes (and successes) to Coyotes
The Buffalo Sabres avoided salary arbitration with goalie Robin Lehner, as they inked him to a one-year, $4 million contract on Tuesday morning.
Lehner and the Sabres were scheduled to have their hearing on July 27, but that obviously won’t be necessary anymore.
The 26-year-old played a career-high 59 games in 2016-17. He finished the year with a 23-26-8 record, a 2.68 goals-against-average and a .920 save percentage.
There’s no doubt that he’s a talented netminder, but he’s had his share of struggles when it comes to staying healthy and being consistent. Of course, the team in front of him hasn’t been very good either.
Both of Buffalo’s goalies (Lehner and Chad Johnson) will have something to prove this season because they’re both on one-year contracts. When their deals expire next summer, Lehner will be a restricted free agent again, while Johnson will be free to test the market on July 1st.
The Sabres now have just over $10.9 million in cap space with RFAs Zemgus Girgensons, Nathan Beaulieu and Evan Rodrigues still needing new contracts.
A huge extension for Jack Eichel is also on the horizon, but his new salary won’t count on the cap until 2018-19.