Yzerman and Stamkos not worried about a contract extension just yet

stevenstamkos2.jpgWhile we’ve paid more than enough attention to the players that are restricted free agents this year, next year one of the biggest names in the NHL is set to become a restricted free agent. Steven Stamkos of the Lightning is in the final year of his entry-level contract and after scoring 51 goals last year, it’s time for the Lightning and GM Steve Yzerman to step up and lock him in for the foreseeable future. The contract process hasn’t begun yet with Stamkos, but as Erik Erlendsson of The Tampa Tribune finds out, neither side seems to be worried about getting something done.

Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman, who has plowed through plenty of other items on his docket in his first summer at the helm, wants to ensure Stamkos never hits the free agent market. Although there have not been any discussions between the Lightning and Stamkos’ agent to this point, Yzerman said re-signing Stamkos remains a priority.

“I haven’t had a chance to really start on that, but once we get into (training) camp … I will start to get prepared and make contact with Steven’s representation at some point,” Yzerman said. “I would prefer (it didn’t linger) but you can never be really certain as to which direction it will go, but he is an important part of the organization and we will make our best effort to get it done as quickly as possible.

“Our goal is to get Steven re-signed and he is an important part of the franchise, which is an understatement.”

Whether a new contract gets hammered out quickly or it takes time to come to terms, Stamkos said the process won’t weigh heavily on his mind.

“There is no rush for me, I’m not pressing on anything to get done on a certain timeline,” he said. “I have thought about it, for sure, but not to any kind of big extent. It’s obviously a big year because it’s the last year of a contract, but … there have been some others in the past who struggle in those years and let it get to them.

“For me, I’m lucky to have great guys on this team to be here with and our team is looking really good. I’m just excited to get the season going, contract or not.”

Must be nice to have a situation that isn’t fraught with anxiousness to get something done and squared away. With what we’ve seen this off-season concerning Bobby Ryan in Anaheim and Marc Staal with the Rangers, having both Yzerman and Stamkos say that they’re not concerned about things and eager to get something done is a nice change of pace. Yzerman has yet to make a seemingly bad move as GM, seeing how he handles a contract extension of this magnitude will be interesting to watch. It’ll also be interesting to see what Stamkos does for an encore following his breakout season.

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    After another productive season, Cam Atkinson enters contract year with Blue Jackets

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    This post is part of Blue Jackets Day on PHT…

    Cam Atkinson had already proven himself to be a 20-goal scorer in the NHL. It was a mark he hit three consecutive times prior to last season.

    And that’s when the former sixth-round pick from 2008 really broke out.

    Atkinson, now 28 years old, led the Blue Jackets in scoring with 62 points. What highlighted his point totals was the fact he scored 35 goals — leading the team in that category, as well — in a year when only seven other players in the entire league were able to best his total, Sidney Crosby leading the way with 44.

    Despite his output at the time, Atkinson was originally a snub from the 2017 All-Star Game before getting added to the event when Evgeni Malkin couldn’t participate because of injury.

    Another area where Atkinson has been so valuable for the Blue Jackets has been on the power play. Of the 62 points he recorded last season, 21 of those were with the man advantage. He finished in a three-way tie for second on the team in that category.

    It is worth pointing out that with the addition of Artemi Panarin, the Columbus coaching staff may have an adjustment in mind for Atkinson, according to assistant coach Brad Larsen.

    From The Columbus Dispatch:

    Larsen said plans can change – prospects are still a month away from leaving for Traverse City – but his first thought is to play Panarin at his familiar spot and slide Atkinson to the middle slot, one open with the free-agent defection of Sam Gagner.

    “Panarin has had a ton of success on that off side with his one-timer,” Larsen said. “If I was going to say right now, I would say he’s going to start there. Cam has done an outstanding job there and we might shift him into the middle. Again, there are going to be discussions and we haven’t really gotten into it.”

    While the Blue Jackets enter the season looking to build on a franchise record-setting 2016-17 campaign, Atkinson enters the final year of his current contract, which has a cap hit of $3.5 million and a total salary of $4.5 million, according to CapFriendly.

    Aaron Portzline of The Athletic recently suggested market value on a long-term contract for Atkinson — who turns 29 years old next June, only a few weeks before free agency opens — may be between $5 million to “maybe” $6 million annually.

    That’s a nice raise. Not bad for a player taken 157th overall in 2008. He now sits fourth among players from that draft class in career goals, behind only Steven Stamkos, Jordan Eberle and Derek Stepan.

    Atkinson is now eligible to sign an extension, but for right now, the Blue Jackets still need to get restricted free agents Josh Anderson and Alexander Wennberg under contract for the upcoming season.

    Looking to make the leap: Pierre-Luc Dubois

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    This post is part of Blue Jackets Day on PHT…

    Columbus surprised people when they took Pierre-Luc Dubois over Jesse Puljujarvi with the third overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Now Dubois is tasked with showing that they made the right call.

    While Puljujarvi did get his first taste of the NHL last season with Edmonton, Dubois spent the full campaign in the QMJHL. However, Dubois is entering training camp with a real shot of landing a job with Columbus.

    His versatility should work in his favor throughout his battle for a roster spot. Dubois is capable of serving as a winger or center and while he’s offensively gifted, he’s also a physical force.

    It doesn’t hurt that he took his additional season at the junior level as a learning experience. He was able to play a full campaign at center and work on his positioning. He was also dealt from the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles to the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada during the season, which gave him the benefit of experiencing a different system.

    “It was a little more of a defensive (style),” Dubois said of Blainville-Boisbriand’s system, per NHL.com. “That’s how we won our games, by scores of 2-1. It was a more pro-style game. I learned a lot from that.”

    All that being said, he still has an uphill battle ahead of him. There’s a potential opening for him, but it’s not a given that he’ll secure that job and even if he does get a chance with Columbus, he’ll have to work hard to make his stint with them be more than just a nine-game trial.

    The 19-year-old can’t play in the AHL yet either, so if he doesn’t find a role with the Blue Jackets then he’ll have to play in the QMJHL again. By contrast, Puljujarvi was able to be sent to the AHL last season and if he doesn’t play for Edmonton in 207-18 then he’ll at least be able to get ice time against men in the minors.

    When PHT asked the question last year if the Blue Jackets were right in selecting Dubois over Puljujarvi roughly two-thirds of voters said no. Perhaps Dubois will be able to change some minds this season.

    Related: Getting sent to junior made Blue Jackets prospect Dubois a ‘more mature’ player

    Callahan (hip) will be fine for start of training camp

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    Ryan Callahan could only play in 18 games last season and underwent two hip surgeries, but perhaps 2017-18 will be different. The news is certainly good so far.

    “I’m full go, right from Day One,” Callahan told the NHL.com. “It’s going to be nice to be able to do a hard training camp this year.”

    His statement was reinforced by the fact that he participated in the first day of voluntary workouts on Monday.

    Tampa Bay signed him to a six-year, $34.8 million contract in the summer of 2014 and while he was great for the first year of the deal, he declined in 2015-16 and then of course barely played last season. That’s led to concerns that the 32-year-old’s contract might prove to be disastrous in its back half.

    “I know there’s chatter and people doubt me — if I can come back and what I’ll be like when I come back,” Callahan said. “I’ve always tried to use it as motivation. That’s how they propelled me to the place I am right now in my career. I’m looking at this the same way. I’m excited to get going this year. I think it’s going to be one of the best years I’ve ever had.”

    Tampa Bay could certainly use the help. The Lightning fell short of the playoffs last season, but also missed Steven Stamkos for much of the campaign as well as Callahan. If those two stay healthy and if Callahan bounces back then Tampa Bay could be one of the major contenders in 2017-18.

    Report: Flames might have interest in Jagr

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    We’re mere weeks away from the start of training camp, but Jaromir Jagr remains unsigned. Even at the age of 45 he can still contribute as he did last season with Florida, but is there a team out there that ultimately will pay the future Hall of Famer to extend his NHL career?

    That remains to be seen, but it sounds like there is some interest out there for his services.

    “I know some teams that have kind of talked and taken a look at it,” said Elliotte Friedman on the NHL Network (H/T to FanRag Sports). “I think Calgary has been one that has kind of looked at it. One of his former coaches, Glen Gulutzan, is coaching up there.”

    Friedman also heard teams suggesting that Anaheim might be interested in Jagr, but based on his own investigation that doesn’t appear to be the case. Ultimately Jagr might end up starting the season in the Czech Republic and would have the option of playing in the Olympics if that happens, but even if he does begin the year in Europe, he could still re-sign with an NHL squad later on in the 2017-18 campaign.

    Jagr is the second all-time player in terms of total points and third in goals behind Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky. If he did play another season, the main statistical achievement that he could chase would be fourth place on the assists list as he’s 20 behind Ray Bourque.

    He finished the 2016-17 campaign with 16 goals and 46 points in 82 contests.

    Related: The case for Hurricanes signing Jaromir Jagr