2010 NHL Free Agency: Devils, Mark Fraser reach deal, will NJ utilize buyout window?

fraserpunching.jpgIn yet another move to avoid salary arbitration, the New Jersey Devils signed young defenseman Mark Fraser to a one-year, one-way contract worth $500K according to Tom Gulitti. With all due respect to Fraser, the signing might be most interesting because it gives the Devils a new 48-hour buyout window; some wonder if the team might take advantage of that opportunity to clear up space for an eventual Ilya Kovalchuk contract.

Gulitti asked Devils GM Lou Lamoriello if he’d exercise that option, but “Loophole Lou” didn’t seem interested in sharing his plans.

Devils GM Lou Lamoriello would not discuss whether he will utilize second buyout window (following Fraser signing) to clear cap space.

As you may know, buying out a player is far from a cure-all since there are still salary cap repercussions and a general manager must also face the embarrassment of essentially paying a player not to perform for his team.

Moving on, Gulitti provides a little bit of background on Mark Fraser.

Fraser also made $500,000 in 2009-10, but had a two-way contract. He was willing to take a one-year, low-paying deal in order to get the security of a one-way contract, with the hope of further establishing himself as an NHL regular in the upcoming season.

Lamoriello was pleased with the progess Fraser made in his first full season in the NHL in 2009-10. Fraser, who will turn 24 on Sept 29, had three goals, three assists, 36 penalty minutes and had a plus-3 defensive rating in 61 games. Former Devils coach Jacques Lemaire tried to bring the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Ottawa native along slowly, limiting his ice time to 12:22.

After the Devils added Martin Skoula in a trade and Paul Martin returned from injury, Fraser ended up as a healthy scratch for 13 of the final 19 regular season games and played in only one of the team’s five playoff games.

Could the Devils end up buying someone out in the next two days? Lamoriello isn’t tipping his hand on that one, but if he does, we’ll let you know.

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    Ekblad out again, this time with a sore neck

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    It’s not concussion-related, Panthers interim coach Tom Rowe told reporters today — but defenseman Aaron Ekblad woke up this morning with a sore neck and will miss tonight’s game against Arizona.

    Ekblad had only just returned to the lineup after missing four games with a concussion. He logged 18:14 in Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to Carolina.

    And now he’s out again.

    Certainly, the timing of Ekblad’s latest injury, not to mention the fact it’s a sore neck, will lead many to doubt Rowe’s assertion that it’s not concussion-related.

    But Rowe said before the Hurricanes game that the club was being cautious with its 21-year-old star defenseman.

    “We didn’t want to rush him back because he’s such a young guy,” said Rowe, per the Miami Herald. “With a concussion, we didn’t want to rush him back.”

    Stars’ Janmark won’t play this season, and there’s a ‘question mark’ about next year

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    In a season filled with injuries, one of the biggest Dallas suffered this season was Mattias Janmark‘s knee issue.

    The 24-year-old Swede has missed the entire season thus far, but recently resumed skating and practicing with the club. That said, Janmark confirmed he won’t play this year — meaning he’ll miss the entire 82-game campaign.

    And what’s more, he might miss games next season as well.

    “I think there’s a question mark (about next season), but we don’t know to what degree yet,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff, per the Dallas Morning-News. “He’s progressing nicely. He still has a ways to go, but I think the fact he is practicing now and has gone this far always gives a guy like that a better chance for next year.”

    Janmark’s original injury occurred during the preseason, when he knee locked up in a game against Colorado.

    “He had a small segment, approximately 21 millimeters by 11 millimeters, that became displaced and is locked in his knee,” GM Jim Nill said at the time. “It’s the bone and the cartilage, they both came off together.”

    Janmark underwent surgery to correct the issue, but his recovery was plagued by a preexisting congenital condition called osteochondritis dissecans. Nill said the likelihood of a full recovery was 80 percent.

    Losing his services was a big blow for Dallas. After surprising onlookers by making the team out of camp in ’15-16 — a “great story,” according to Nill — Janmark had a pretty successful rookie campaign, scoring 15 goals and 29 points in 73 games.

    He also fared well in the playoffs, with five points in 12 contests.

    Janmark’s contract situation complicates things. He’s a pending RFA, currently in the last of a two-year, $1.6 million deal with an $733,750 cap hit. The Stars would (presumably) like to keep him, but the uncertainty regarding his health might made negotiations difficult.

    Fehr injures hand, spotted in cast following Leafs debut

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    Eric Fehr finally played his first game as a Maple Leaf on Wednesday night, suiting up for the first time since being acquired from Pittsburgh at the trade deadline.

    It didn’t go especially well.

    Fehr, who logged 10:44 TOI in a 5-2 win over Columbus, suffered a hand injury while blocking a shot in the third period and was seen afterward wearing a cast, per TSN.

    According to the Toronto Sun, the 31-year-old forward confirmed he spent the night in hospital.

    While a break or fracture might rule him out for the remainder of the season, it’s worth noting Fehr won’t be done entirely in Toronto. He’s in the second of a three-year, $6 million deal with a $2M cap hit. Prior to joining the Leafs he appeared in 52 games for the Pens, scoring six goals and 11 points while averaging just under 11 minutes a night.

    He was also a regular in last year’s Stanley Cup run, scoring three times in 23 games.

    Though his role decreased, Fehr was still frequently used by head coach Mike Sullivan — albeit in a more limited capacity. He is a good PK contributor, and can play both center and wing. Those were some of the attributes the Leafs were hoping Fehr could bring down the stretch and, should they make it, into the postseason.

    He’s back: With 10 games left, Isles recall Halak

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    The Isles are in full playoff push mode, and on Thursday made a move to bolster their chances.

    Jaroslav Halak, the veteran netminder that’s been in AHL Bridgeport since early January, has been recalled ahead of New York’s crucial three-games-in-four-days stretch, the club announced.

    It’s the latest in what’s been a tumultuous move for the 31-year-old. Halak opened the year as part of an uncomfortable three-goalie rotation — along with Thomas Greiss and Jean-Francois Berube — and was soon on the trading block after agent Allan Walsh criticized the setup on Twitter.

    With no takers — and after then-head coach Jack Capuano called him out for his poor play — Halak was placed on waivers, and sent to the minors.

    Halak has been really good in Bridgeport. He’s posted a 17-7-1 record with a 2.15 GAA and .925 save percentage, and a pair of shutouts. And given how spotty Berube’s play has been as Greiss’ backup, there’s a shot Halak could be making a start for the Isles soon.

    As mentioned above, the club is in the midst of a compacted part of the schedule. Greiss was excellent in last night’s win over the Rangers — stopping 34 of 36 shots in a 3-2 victory — but he was also busy.

    The Isles head to Pittsburgh on Friday, then host the Bruins on Saturday, then host the Preds on Monday. The Boston game looms large because, after last night, New York found itself just two points back of the B’s for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

    Per Newsday, there’s a real chance Halak will face the Pens on Friday, which would open the door for Greiss to take on the Bruins the following day.