The final two restricted free agents left in the pool are now signed. The Dallas Stars announced the signings of forward James Neal and defenseman Matt Niskanen to two-year contracts. Neal will make $5.75 million over the next two years while Niskanen will make $3 million. Neal’s cap hit comes to $2.875 million while Niskanen’s is a nice, neat $1.5 million per year.
With these signings, the Stars’ roster is set for training camp which opens tomorrow in Prince Edward Island, Canada. With everyone being squared away and no holdouts to occur during training camp we’re all left to wonder just one thing now: What in the world did we get all worked up about in the first place? Everyone who was having “issues” getting signed all got into camp on time. At the moment, no one is grumbling about their pay and everything will go back to normal as far as playing time and lines go.
For the Stars, Neal represents their hopes for the future as he’s a big scoring winger whereas Niskanen is coming off a rough season last year but still more than young enough to improve his game. Neal scored 27 goals last season, good for second on the team. His 55 points ranked him third on the Stars in scoring. Niskanen had three goals and 12 assists last season, a decided drop off after his 2008-2009 season that saw him earn six goals and 29 assists.
Both players are 23 years-old so getting them under contract for the next two years to avoid the restricted free agency dance for a little while is helpful. While the Stars might struggle in a very difficult Pacific Division this year, this will be a big year for both Neal and Niskanen’s development.
John Tortorella could only blame John Tortorella after the Blue Jackets got blown out in both their split-squad games Sunday against the Blues.
The Jackets dropped a 7-3 decision in St. Louis and lost 5-0 at home.
“Let’s not make any judgments here as far as today,” Tortorella said, per the Columbus Dispatch. “Today was going to be a mess. I give the guys credit. I’m not being negative about the team. They did what we asked of them (the first three days). They pushed. They gave it to us there and it suffers in these games.”
Tortorella, who runs notoriously tough training camps, wants to “make sure our conditioning is there by the 13th,” when the Jackets open the regular season.
Columbus plays its first three games at home, against Boston, San Jose and Chicago. A good start is going to be key for the Jackets, especially after starting last season 0-8-0.
New York liked enough of what it saw from Steve Bernier last season to offer him another kick at the can.
On Monday, the Isles announced that — for the second year in a row — Bernier would be coming to training camp on a PTO.
Last fall, Bernier parlayed his tryout into a one-year, $750,000 deal but only saw a limited body of work. The former first-round pick scored six points in 24 regular season games, then dressed for six playoff contests.
Bernier isn’t the only veteran forward attending Isles camp on a PTO, as longtime Devils winger Stephen Gionta is also there (Gionta and Bernier were once teammates in New Jersey).
There are holes to fill up front. The Isles lost three key forwards in free agency — Frans Nielsen, Matt Martin and Kyle Okposo — which will result in some of last year’s third- and fourth-line players getting bumped to more prominent roles.
Those promotions could bode well for Bernier and Gionta.
The Ottawa Senators announced today that they’ve purchased the AHL franchise in Binghamton, N.Y. and will move it to Belleville, Ont. for the start of the 2017-18 season.
From the press release:
The Ottawa Senators and the City of Belleville have also agreed on an eight-year agreement to welcome the newly minted Belleville Senators to the city.
In order to properly accommodate a new professional AHL team, the City of Belleville will immediately undertake more than $18.5 million in important renovations to modernize Belleville’s Yardmen Arena and prepare it for professional hockey for the first time in the city’s history.
The Baby Sens have played in Binghamton since 2002, winning a Calder Cup in 2011. AHL officials are reportedly working to secure another franchise for the city for the 2017-18 season.
Belleville to Ottawa is a mere 2.5-hour drive, according to Google. The Belleville Bulls were an OHL team that started playing in 1981 before moving to Hamilton in 2015.
Dennis Seidenberg has been a key player for Team Europe at the World Cup, and he doesn’t even have an NHL contract.
Seidenberg, 35, logged 23:30 in Europe’s 3-2 overtime upset of Sweden on Sunday. Only Roman Josi (29:00) played more for the winning side. Seidenberg even played more than his old Boston teammate, Zdeno Chara (22:26).
“I’ve played quite a bit,” Seidenberg said earlier in the tournament, per the Associated Press. “People should know what I can do and can’t do by now, but nonetheless this is an important tournament for me.”
A Stanley Cup champion in 2011, Seidenberg became an unrestricted free agent when he was bought out by the Bruins over the summer. At first, the decision shocked him, but the shock eventually passed. So far, he’s been holding out for a guaranteed contract, as opposed to a tryout.
The Ottawa Senators are reportedly a potential landing spot.
Seidenberg may not be a full-time, top-four defenseman anymore, but he should still be able to hold down a bottom-pairing role, with the ability to log top-four minutes if there’s an injury.
He’ll get another good look from the scouts on Tuesday when Team Europe opens its best-of-three series with the heavy favorites from Canada. He’s not the only UFA blue-liner on his team, as 34-year-old Christian Ehrhoff is also playing a role, albeit a smaller one.