Simon Gagne aims for a contract extension with the Tampa Bay Lightning

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for simongagne6.jpgThere are a lot of reasons why I thought that – while he wasn’t technically a free agent – Simon Gagne was quietly the best forward value on the market this summer. When healthy, Gagne is a speedy winger with at least some defensive conscience who also brings a goal scoring ability to the table. Beyond a $100 million player such as Ilya Kovalchuk and a wallflower with a lower ceiling such as Alex Frolov, there weren’t many players to compare to Gagne on the open market.

But what really set Gagne apart in my mind is the (relative) low-risk nature of his situation. While $5.25 million is far from cheap, he’s in the last year of his deal, so if things don’t work out the Tampa Bay Lightning will only suffer for one season. Compare that to the extraordinary risk the New Jersey Devils are taking with Kovalchuk (and the fact that the Lightning gave up very little to acquire Gagne) and GM Steve Yzerman quite possibly landed one of the coups of the summer.

Of course, most athletes playing a dangerous, high-impact sport would prefer to enjoy the security of a longer deal. Mike Corcoran shares Gagne’s stated goal for the 2010-11 season: to earn a contract extension with the Lightning.

Much was made over some comments made before the start of training camp, when the term “one year” was heard, but there is no doubt what Gagne is hoping for in the long term.

“I didn’t come here to be here one year and move somewhere else after [this year],” Gagne said. “I would love to make things work here with Vinny, and the boys here, the coaching staff, Mr. Yzerman, having a good start, and hopefully finding a way to get an extension. That’s my goal and hopefully that is going to work.”

Gagne is expected to be a huge part of what the team is trying to accomplish this year. He is an integral part of what many believe is one of the best top-six in hockey. The Lightning are hoping that Gagne can stay healthy and return to the player that had back-to-back 40-goal seasons. He has looked good in practice and preseason games, including a three-point night against the defending Stanley Cup-champion Chicago Blackhawks.

With his history of nagging injuries (from less serious ailments such as groin problems to scary stuff like concussions), you cannot blame Tampa Bay if they test the waters for most of – if not all – of the season. The team also will need to re-sign Steven Stamkos this summer and Victor Hedman the next, so Gagne will need to keep his expectations realistic.

Still, Gagne is only 30 years old right now, which means he should still have a few more years were he’s at-or-near his prime. He’s probably gearing up for his last “big” contract before he becomes a cheaper veteran option, so don’t be surprised if the talented winger puts up some nice numbers this season.

He certainly has every incentive to do so.

(H/T to John Fontana of Raw Charge.)

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    Report: Skinner among leading candidates for Hurricanes captaincy

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    The Carolina Hurricanes went last season without a captain. That will change once training camp is over, and, according to a recent report, Jeff Skinner is one of the prime candidates to possibly wear the ‘C’ for this season.

    The Hurricanes selected Skinner seventh overall in 2010. He made an instant impact on the NHL club, scoring 31 goals and 63 points in his rookie season as a teenager. He’s been a valuable offensive weapon for Carolina ever since.

    This past season, he scored 37 goals — a career best. Although the consideration to potentially make him the next captain goes beyond his skills around the opposing net.

    From NHL.com:

    “He’s a passionate guy and he’s a passionate player,” Peters said. “He’s a real good pro in the fact that he looks after himself, he trains properly and the guys have unreal respect for the way he looks after his body. The maturity shows. I know guys bring it up quite a bit.”

    To that end, Peters said he was at a staff golf outing prior to the start of training camp with about 16 people, including members of the Hurricanes’ medical and strength training staffs, and he polled as many people about the captaincy candidates as he could.

    “[Skinner’s] name came up in the conversation quite a bit, and they bring up that type of stuff, the way he looks after himself and the way he prepares,” Peters said. “He’s passionate about it and he’s hungry to win.”

    The Hurricanes have, over the past few years, done a nice job of building a talented young roster that has shown signs of being able to compete in the Eastern Conference. They do, however, play in a difficult Metropolitan Division, which features the Blue Jackets, Penguins, Capitals and Rangers.

    The biggest change in Carolina this offseason was in net, with the addition of Scott Darling, who was the capable back-up in Chicago but is now taking over the No. 1 role with the Hurricanes.

    Another change is still upcoming. Eric Staal was the captain in Carolina for six years, but the team is expected to soon name a replacement. There are other candidates for the Hurricanes captaincy, as well, like Justin Faulk and Jordan Staal.

    “Someone is going to wear one, for sure,” said Peters earlier this month, per TSN. “Our leadership group is fine and we’ve got real good candidates. They’ll all provide leadership whether they wear a letter or not.”

    Islanders sign 2016 first-round pick Bellows to entry-level deal

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    The New York Islanders made a few roster moves Friday. That included sending 2016 first-round pick Kieffer Bellows back to the Portland Winterhawks in the Western Hockey League.

    Shortly after that, it was announced that Bellows and the Islanders agreed to terms on a three-year entry-level contract.

    The Islanders originally selected Bellows with the 19th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.

    The 19-year-old left winger played one year at Boston University, tallying seven goals and 14 points before deciding to leave school to play this season in the WHL, which has a completely different schedule from college.

    “Play more games,” Bellows told NHL.com in July. “I think just the 72 games in the [WHL] regular season is the biggest thing. I can’t thank [Boston University coach David] Quinn enough and all the guys on the team. I had an unbelievable first year at Boston University, but I just felt it was best for me to go and play more games.”

    Stamkos to make preseason debut tonight vs. Predators

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    For the first time since Nov. 15, 2016, Steven Stamkos will be in the Tampa Bay Lightning lineup.

    Per Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times, the prolific scorer will play tonight for the Bolts, as they continue the preseason against the Nashville Predators.

    Stamkos suffered a knee injury last November. He underwent surgery but didn’t make it back to the lineup for the remainder of the year, marking the second time in four years his regular season was derailed by a significant injury.

    “Listen, I snapped my leg in half and came back and was playing the best hockey of my career,” Stamkos told the Tampa Bay Times, referring to his broken leg suffered during the 2013-14 season.

    “So this is another hurdle. I’m confident that when you put in the work, you’re going to find ways. It may be different ways. You may have to adjust certain parts of your game. But we’ll handle that when I see how it feels in a game situation. We’ll know more tonight.”

    Given such a lengthy time away from game action, it might be wise — at least early on — to temper expectations of Stamkos.

    He is one of the league’s most dangerous scorers. But he also hasn’t played a game in 10 months. In a conversation with the Tampa Bay Times, Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise, who had the same surgery in 2010, said it “took probably a year and a half to get back to feeling back to normal.”

    It appears Stamkos will center a line tonight with Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov, who should certainly be pleased to be playing alongside No. 91.

    Habs place Redmond on waivers — again

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    A number of players found themselves on waivers Friday, including Montreal depth defenseman Zach Redmond.

    (CapFriendly has an extensive list of players on waivers, which you can check out here.)

    Redmond is in the final year of a two-year contract with the Habs, who already had a crowded blue line with eight defensemen signed for this season and Jakub Jerabek making the move from the KHL and looking to earn a roster spot out of camp.

    Noah Juulsen was also a prospect defenseman to watch in camp, however, he recently suffered a fractured foot and is out six weeks.

    Redmond, who was previously placed on waivers in January, split last season between Montreal and the Habs’ AHL affiliate in St. John’s, where he had 18 points in 26 games.

    Now 29 years old, Redmond has 130 games worth of NHL experience with Winnipeg, Colorado and Montreal.