It appears that the Detroit Red Wings are out of the hunt for free agent defenseman Willie Mitchell. The team announced today that they’ve reached a one-year deal with free agent defenseman Ruslan Salei. Much like Willie Mitchell, Ruslan Salei is a tough customer and a veteran player coming off an injury-laden season himself missing most of last season thanks to a back injury. When he is playing, however, he’s a shot-blocking defense-first defenseman playing about 20 minutes a game while adding snarl to the lineup. What’s different than Willie Mitchell is that the Wings are getting Salei at a good cost, $750,000 plus a possible $350,000 in bonuses.
Salei spent most of his career with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim after being a first round pick (9th overall) for them in 1996. While you won’t see Ruslan Salei much on the score sheet picking up goals and assists (he’s got 194 career points in 842 games played) you will see him mix things up physically as he’s earned 1,017 penalty minutes throughout his NHL career. Salei has also been the stalwart member of Belarus’ national team playing in the Olympics three times (2010, 2002, 1998).
Salei figures to be Jonathan Ericsson’s defensive partner on the third pair to start the year in Detroit as Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart fill out the other two defensive pairs. Salei gives head coach Mike Babcock and experienced veteran to use in the spot as well as opposed to Derek Meech, Jakub Kindl or rookie Brendan Smith.
That first day of training camp might be interesting for Ruslan Salei if Mike Modano has a long memory about things. Salei crushed Modano with a ruthless hit from behind years ago as a member of the Mighty Ducks that lead to a huge brawl. Lets hope that bygones are bygones for these two cagey veterans.
Jyrki Jokipakka was one of the three Finnish d-men added to the World Cup roster last week but, according to Calgary president Brian Burke, Jokipakka isn’t a lock to play this fall.
“He had hip surgery after the season, and it’s not 100 percent that he’s going to be able to compete in this tournament,” Burke told Sportsnet’s Fan 960. “But the fact he was named recognizes his accomplishments to date, and we’re very proud of [him].”
Jokipakka, acquired in the Kris Russell-to-Dallas deadline trade, appeared in 58 games last year — 18 for the Flames, 40 for the Stars. He finished with two goals and 12 points.
Still only 24 years old, Jokipakka could be a nice piece for the Flames moving forward. He’s 6-foot-3, 215 pounds and was rated highly enough to crack the Finnish roster (granted, the country isn’t overwhelmingly deep on the blueline).
So it’s understandable why the club might be wary of letting him play in the World Cup. In addition to coming off major surgery, Jokipakka is headed into the last of a two-year, $1.8 million deal with a $900,000 average annual cap hit.
Once that expires, he’ll become a restricted free agent.
PITTSBURGH — Kris Letang will play tonight. He confirmed it this morning, albeit in rather unusual circumstances.
Letang did not participate in yesterday’s Media Day at the Stanley Cup Final. He didn’t practice either. The Penguins said it was simply a “maintenance day” for their best defensemen, but when it was learned he would hold a press conference this morning, all of a sudden people started to wonder about his status for Game 1 against the Sharks.
He was asked if he was playing.
So, no problems?
And that was that.
No explanation was provided about yesterday, but Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said a few minutes later that he was confident that Letang would be able to log his usual amount of minutes.
“Very confident,” said Sullivan.
Penguins center Nick Bonino also confirmed that he’ll be able to go tonight. He didn’t skate Saturday or Sunday, but was on the ice this morning.
Jan Bulis, who appeared in 552 games with the Capitals, Canadiens and Canucks, announced his retirement from professional hockey today, per Czech news outlet Ceske Noviny.
Bulis, 38, last played in North America with Vancouver during the 2006-07 campaign, and has since carved out a pretty lengthy career in the KHL, playing for both Mytishchi Atlant and Chelyabinsk Traktor.
Picked 43rd overall by Washington at the 1996 draft, Bulis’ best years came with the Habs. He posted a career-high 20 goals and 40 points in 2005-06 — that year, he also represented the Czechs at the Winter Olympics in Turin (capturing bronze) and at the World Hockey Championships (capturing silver).
It seems there will be no NHL comeback attempt by Alex Semin. At least not in 2016-17.
Instead, Semin has inked a one-year extension with Magnitogorsk Metallurg, according to Sport-Express writer Igor Eronko.
At 32 years old, Semin still could have a lot of years left in him as a professional hockey player, but at this point it wouldn’t be surprising if he has played in his last NHL game. Early in his career his talent was clear and demonstrated by some great showings offensively, but he was plagued by inconsistency. In recent years though, he wasn’t so much inconsistent as he was underwhelming.
After being limited to six goals and 19 points in 57 games with Carolina in 2014-15, the one-time 40-goal scorer was bought out of his five-year, $35 million contract just two seasons into it. Montreal took a chance on him for 2015-16, but he only appeared in 15 games with the Canadiens before they put him on unconditional waivers on Dec. 9.
He’s fared better in the KHL though, with five goals and 14 points in 20 regular season games followed by another seven markers and 15 points in 23 playoff contests.