Former Sabres forward Tim Kennedy grows up, looks for a new team

Thumbnail image for timkennedy1.jpgThe weird, wild and disappointing summer for former Sabres forward Tim Kennedy plods along quietly, much to his dismay. After winning a million dollar award in arbitration from the Buffalo Sabres, Kennedy was waived and had his contract bought out making him an unrestricted free agent. If you haven’t been paying attention this off-season, being a free agent of any kind hasn’t been an easy job and for the young Kennedy, it’s been frustrating especially after such a bizarre situation with the Sabres as Bucky Gleason of The Buffalo News details.

For what it’s worth, Kennedy no longer harbors resentment toward the Sabres. Yes, he was hurt and confused after they waived him and bought out a $1 million award he received in arbitration. Their decision to send him packing knocked him for a pretty good loop.

Once the shock and frustration subsided, he plowed forward without wasting time and energy on what couldn’t be undone. He had his reasons for taking them to arbitration, which was within his rights. His refusal to back down from the Sabres is part of what makes him a good player. But their response also was within their rights, no matter how classless it appeared.

“I’m not mad at them,” Kennedy said. “I’m 24 years old. I’m a professional athlete, and I have to act like one. .‚.‚. Maybe it was the right call and maybe it wasn’t the right call. I made the choice to go, and I live with that choice.”

Those are pretty mature words from Kennedy which means he’s at least got a good head on his shoulders. As for who might be looking at Kennedy, there is certainly interest in the former Michigan State product and Buffalo native.

Kennedy said five teams are interested, although he wouldn’t reveal which ones. Toronto figures to be in the mix along with Columbus, Los Angeles, Phoenix and possibly Atlanta. All are looking for good, young forwards to fill their needs for the right price. He’s looking for the right fit.

You can probably cut Toronto off that list presumably after they signed fellow arbitration victim Clarke MacArthur yesterday to a one-year contract. As for the other teams mentioned there, they all certainly could use the depth that Kennedy would provide to them, but what you could reasonably expect to get out of Kennedy on the ice is still relatively unknown considering last year was his first real shot at considerable minutes on the ice. Kennedy finished last year with 10 goals and 16 assists in 78 games with the Sabres.

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    Burns and Thornton pose nude for ESPN Body Issue, and yes, it’s weird

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    Hey, have you ever wanted to see Brent Burns and Joe Thornton essentially line up against each other naked?

    Well, ESPN the Magazine interrupted your answer either way, going ahead and doing it for their vaunted Body Issue.

    Considering Thornton’s UFA status, there’s at least an outside chance that this will be their final action together as members of the San Jose Sharks.

    This is your last chance not to scroll and see Thornton, Burns, beards, tattoos, and not a whole lot else.

    /waits

    Former teammate Jason Demers captured it on Twitter, making it his background, and generally winning the Internet for the day:

    Did anyone else think about Thornton’s line after Tomas Hertl scored four goals? No? OK.

    The real highlight might be Burns and Thornton giggling in robes, honestly.

    Click here for more on that issue, including information on U.S. women’s ice hockey team members who will also be featured.

    Hjalmarsson shocked by Blackhawks trade, but Coyotes could improve soon

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    Who could blame Niklas Hjalmarsson for being surprised that the Chicago Blackhawks traded him? The move blindsided … well, just about everyone outside of the Blackhawks organization, after all.

    “It’s going to take some time to get used to that thought,” Hjalmarsson said, according to the Arizona Republic. “At the same time, I’m trying to always be a positive guy.”

    Indeed, the 30-year-old defenseman did his best to say all the right things about the Arizona Coyotes, praising a roster that includes “a lot of young and promising players.”

    MORE on the trade here

    Described by some as the NHL’s best pure defensive defenseman, Hjalmarsson also gives the Coyotes good reason to be excited by a blueline that’s suddenly quite competitive. Consider the quartet that GM John Chayka helped assemble:

    Hjalmarsson: An often-underrated part of the Blackhawks’ run. Consider some of the praise he received even before this move was made.

    Oliver Ekman-Larsson: One of the league’s best-kept secrets, “OEL” ranks as one of the most dangerous scoring defensemen. At 25, he’s still deep in his prime.

    Alex Goligoski: When you consider the Dallas Stars’ lost 2016-17 season, don’t dismiss the absence of “Gogo.” He might not be perfect, but the 31-year-old is the sort of puck-mover you need to excel in the modern game.

    Jakob Chychrun: At 19, he’s already getting reps at the NHL level. The Coyotes could pair him with a veteran and watch him grow.

    ***

    When you look at those four, in particular, it’s easier to see Hjalmarsson’s excitement as more than just lip service. It probably doesn’t hurt that the Coyotes also added Derek Stepan, another sign that this franchise is taking the next step after absorbing other franchises’ problem contracts in the likes of Dave Bolland and Pavel Datsyuk’s last year.

    Granted, it will still be an adjustment, as the Coyotes are likely aiming for “respectable” while anything less that a deep run was unacceptable for the Blackhawks.

    Still, Hjalmarsson has plenty of power to make this move more palatable than it may have initially seemed.

    And, hey, who would blame him for circling Oct. 21 on his calendar?

    Report: Coyotes to talk to Todd Nelson about coaching vacancy

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    The Arizona Coyotes had a somewhat unexpected shakeup this past week when the team and long-time head coach Dave Tippett mutually agreed to part ways after nine seasons together.

    The search for a replacement began immediately and according to Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal the Coyotes will be speaking to former Oilers coach Todd Nelson about the vacancy.

    Nelson spent 51 games behind the Oilers bench during the 2014-15 season replacing Dallas Eakins. Nelson was replaced at the conclusion of that season by former San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan. While his NHL head coaching experience is limited to that brief time in Edmonton, he has an extensive track record in the American Hockey League with the Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton’s top farm team) and currently the Grand Rapids Griffins (the Detroit Red Wings’ top farm team).

    He has spent the past two seasons in Grand Rapids — replacing Jeff Blashill after he was promoted to the Detroit job — and has had a ton of success, leading the team to the Calder Cup this past season.

    Predators won’t trade defense for forward help

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    After losing James Neal to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft this past week the Nashville Predators have a pretty glaring hole in their top-six that is going to need to be addressed. Along with that, captain Mike Fisher is an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and is also considering retirement.

    Because of those two developments general manager David Poile has made adding a top-six forward a priority for this summer, and he certainly has the salary cap space to get something done.

    One thing he is not going to do, however, is trade one of his defensemen to find that help up front.

    “We’ve traded enough defensemen in my recent history,” Poile said on Saturday, via the Tennessean. “I think everybody would be pretty much on the same page that our defense drives our team and our corps is as good as any in the league. We will not be touching our defense in the near future here.”

    Over the past two years Poile has traded Shea Weber and Seth Jones off of his blue line but has still managed to assemble the NHL’s best defense. The quartet of P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm is so good that Poile made sure to protect all four of them in the expansion draft and leave Neal — a consistent 25-to 30-goal scorer signed for one more year on a pretty good contract — exposed for Vegas to take.

    Without dealing one of their top-four defensemen it might be difficult to find an impact winger via the trade route, which might force them to turn to the free agent market.

    But even that is going to be difficult because it is such a limited market. Now that T.J. Oshie has re-signed with the Washington Capitals Alexander Radulov would probably be the top winger available, but given his history with Nashville there is virtually no chance of that reunion happening. Justin Williams would be an intriguing veteran option, while Joe Thornton could help fill the void at center if Fisher does not return.

    Still, not trading from the defense is the absolute right path for Poile and the Predators to take. Not only is that group the backbone of the Predators’ organization and one of the driving forces behind its success, it is also an extremely young group that is all signed long-term on cap friendly deals.

    Even with the loss of Neal Nashville still has a deep group of forwards, while youngsters Pontus Aberg and Kevin Fiala could get an increased role and an opportunity to shine.