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Jiri Hudler’s return to Detroit isn’t going so hot

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This summer when Jiri Hudler returned to the NHL after a year away in the KHL, it was viewed to be a great re-addition to the Wings lineup. After all, Hudler was on the brink of breaking out as a power play threat and solid occasional scorer. In 2008-2009, Hudler finished the year with 23 goals and 34 assists. Getting 57 points from a third line player is virtually unheard of.  His year away in Russia was due in part to Detroit’s salary cap problems forcing him to go away for a year. Hudler was a restricted free agent and Detroit wasn’t about to trade his rights away.

This season, however, Hudler has seemed to regress. Through 16 games he’s got just one goal and four assists while playing on the same line with Mike Modano and Dan Cleary. While Modano has had some struggles of his own, Cleary’s been on fire and the Wings are thriving in spite of Hudler’s lack of production. What does that mean for him with the team mostly healthy and looking for a little bit more?  It means it’s time to hit the press box as Hudler is going to be a healthy scratch tonight and he’s not the least bit happy about it.

Asked whether he’s disappointed, Hudler paused. “I don’t know what to tell you,” he said. “If I say yes, it would look bad. If I say I’m upset … obviously, I’m not happy. I’m not happy. There’s nothing else I can do about it.”

“We’ve got a great team,” he said. “We’ve got four lines rolling. … I don’t know what I want to say — I don’t know how. You’ve got a lot of good things going for you. And I’m not disappointed with the way I played last games, but this is the way it is. It’s game day in Atlanta, and I’m not in.”

What I’ve taken out of this situation with Hudler is that (and get ready for obvious talk) his year away in Russia was about the worst thing he could’ve done at the time. That’s not to say that it’s any fault of his own, he didn’t want to leave Detroit and the Wings didn’t want to trade him away knowing full well they had a good player. It’s a factor of living in the salary cap world that sometimes sacrifices have to be made.

That said, a year away from the Wings system, one which Hudler just started to thrive in, has seemingly set his game back to the point it was at before his breakout season in 08-09. Before then, Hudler had similar struggles in Detroit fighting for ice time, struggling to get shots and putting them home.

Luck plays a bit of a factor in that as well and right now Hudler doesn’t have any and he’s not able to create his own luck. Everyone could use a little Harvey Dent-like motivation and the feisty Hudler from 08-09 hasn’t shown up yet this year. Detroit isn’t missing his production right now, but at some point they’re going to need that added lift from the third and fourth line and he’ll need to be that guy to help out.

Report: Caps draftee DiPauli heading to free agency

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 23:  Thomas Dipauli, 100th overall pick, walks on the draft floor during day two of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft at Consol Energy Center on June 23, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Just like Jimmy Vesey, Thomas DiPauli appears ready to test the open market.

DiPauli, a Notre Dame forward taken 100th overall by Washington at the 2012 draft, will reportedly hold out past the Aug. 15 deadline to sign with the Caps and head to unrestricted free agency, per ESPN.

A 22-year-old that’s spent the last four years playing for the Fighting Irish, DiPauli scored 14 goals and 32 points in 37 games last year, finishing as the team’s offensive MVP while earning honorable mention Hockey East All-Star honors.

DiPauli was a notable absence at Washington’s recent prospect development camp. More on that, per CSN Mid Atlantic:

[DiPauli] has attended previous Caps development camps, so the club decided not to invite him this summer.

According to a team spokesman the Caps remain interested in signing DiPauli by the NHL’s Aug. 15 deadline.   

ESPN corroborated DiPauli’s interest in signing with the Caps, but it’s not surprising to hear he’s looking for opportunities with another organization.

Washington is fairly loaded at forward, and still has a handful of young prospects in the system — including ’14 first-rounder Jakub Vrana, recent Boston College signee Zach Sanford and 24-year-old Russian winger Stanislav Galiev, who was stuck in healthy scratch limbo for long stretches this season as the club didn’t want to lose him on waivers.

As mentioned above, DiPauli could play the open market like Vesey plans to later next month.

Though Buffalo traded to acquire his rights from Nashville, the reigning Hobey Baker winner has a shortlist of other teams he’s interested in signing with.

Bolts avoid arbitration with Namestnikov — two years, $3.875M

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Tampa Bay has avoided Friday’s scheduled arbitration hearing with forward Vladislav Namestnikov, agreeing to a two-year, $3.875M deal on Tuesday evening, per ESPN.

Namestnikov, 23, had a breakout campaign last year, scoring 14 goals and 35 points in 80 games — all career highs. The former first-round pick also appeared in 17 playoff games for the Bolts, scoring a goal and three points while helping the club to the Eastern Conference Final.

Coming off a one-year deal in which he made $874,125, the diminutive Russian gets a nice pay bump with this latest contract, and a bit of security with the two-year term. He should play a fairly integral role next season, coming off a year in which he finished tied for fourth on the team in goals, with Tyler Johnson.

But while tonight may be about Namestnikov, it’s another Russian forward in Tampa Bay that everybody now has their eyes on — Nikita Kucherov, the playoff scoring sensation that declined to file for arbitration, but still requires a new deal.

Given some of the big-money contracts GM Steve Yzerman has handed out this summer — namely those to Steve Stamkos, Victor Hedman and Alex Killorn — the Kucherov negotiations are definitely ones to keep an eye on.

Talks ongoing between Wild and Dumba, meeting expected soon

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There’s just one piece of business left for Minnesota this summer — a new contract for RFA defenseman Matt Dumba.

And it sounds like that piece of business will soon be attended to.

From the Star-Tribune:

There have been ongoing talks between Wild assistant GM Brent Flahr and [Dumba’s] agent Craig Oster.

The two are expected to meet face to face in Calgary at the Hockey Canada camp.

Dumba, the former No. 7 overall pick, just wrapped his entry-level deal, coming off a campaign in which he set career highs in games played (81), goals (10) and points (26).

He also notched a pair of assists in the Wild’s six-game loss to Dallas in the playoffs.

Dumba, 22, did see his name surface in trade talks this season. There was a report in late January that he was the return piece in a potential swap for Tampa Bay’s Jonathan Drouin, and he’s been tied to teams looking for a blueline upgrade.

A good puck mover with offensive skills — and a right-handed shot — Dumba is definitely a commodity. What’s more, logic suggests the Wild could opt to move him, given the long-term financial commitments to fellow defensemen Ryan Suter (signed through 2025 at $7.53 million), Jonas Brodin (2021 at $4.16M), Jared Spurgeon (2020, $5.18M) and Marco Scandella (2020, $4M).

Minnesota has some other young defensive prospects in the system, too.

There’s former Gophers standout Mike Reilly, Miami of Ohio product Louis Belpedio and Gustav Olofsson, the 46th overall pick in ’13 that’s been honing his game in AHL Iowa (and made his NHL debut last season).

The Wild are in control of the Dumba situation and can slow play negotiations, possibly while re-exploring trade scenarios. Don’t forget the Bruins are still in search of the “transitional” defenseman they desperately want.

But should things go the expected way and Dumba re-signs in Minnesota, the Star-Tribune said a bridge deal is the “likeliest” outcome.

Journeyman enforcer Rosehill signs with Scottish team

Paul Bissonnette, Jay Rosehill
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Noted pugilist Jay Rosehill has followed in the footsteps of his fellow tough guys, and will try his hand overseas.

Specifically, in the United Kingdom.

On Tuesday, the EIHL’s Scottish-based outfit in Braehead — the Clan — announced it had signed Rosehill for the upcoming campaign. The move comes after the 31-year-old spent each of the last two seasons with Philly’s AHL affiliate in Lehigh Valley.

Though he’s slowed down in recent years, Rosehill has long been known as an extremely active fighter. At no time was this more evident than during the ’08-09 campaign, when he fought a staggering 33 times (yeah, thirty-three) while playing for AHL Norfolk.

Rosehill last played in the NHL during the ’13-14 campaign, scoring two goals in 34 games for the Flyers — while racking up 90 PIM.

Here’s an example of some of his most famous handiwork:

As mentioned above, the EIHL has landed a few notable ex-NHL fighters. Cam Janssen, Kevin Westgarth, Paul Bissonnette and Tom Sestito have all played there.