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.

Fisher also contacted by Canada for Olympics along with Doan, Iginla

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Add Mike Fisher to the list of veteran free agents who’ve at least been contacted to represent Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Hockey Canada VP of hockey operations Scott Salmond revealed as much to TSN 1040 on Thursday while also noting their interest in Shane Doan and Jarome Iginla.

“As Hockey Canada we have tremendous respect for all of those players,” Salmond said. “There’s no question that their leadership and their experience could be invaluable to our team.”

(Read more about Canada contacting Doan and Iginla specifically in this post.)

Fisher, 37, shares certain similarities with Doan and Iginla. All three players have captained NHL teams, each brings a mixture of scoring ability and grit to the table, and they all obviously have plenty of experience.

Pending talks with Nashville

On the other hand, there are a few potential differences that make Fisher’s case interesting.

For one thing, Fisher hasn’t decided – or hasn’t shared his decision – regarding a return to the Nashville Predators just yet. That choice is expected to come sometime next week.

The thing is, Fisher at least has some say in that matter, as he might make the choice not to come back. In the cases of Doan and Iginla, they might struggle to find suitors in free agency (or at least find suitors willing to give them the specific deals they seek).

A first for Fisher?

While that might hurt Canada’s chances, there’s another wrinkle: Fisher hasn’t really gotten “the call” quite like Doan or Iginla have. Fisher hasn’t ever suited up for Canada in the Olympics and, according to Hockey Reference, hasn’t suited up for Canada since the 2009 World Championships.

Perhaps that rare opportunity might trump playing another season in the NHL? A few weeks of international hockey wouldn’t represent the same wear-and-tear as playing through an 82-game season.

(There’s also at least the concept of playing in the Olympics and then trying to find a deal with the Predators, however unlikely that might be.)

While Doan and especially Iginla stand as bigger names, you could make a very reasonable argument that Fisher actually has more left in the tank. He’s also a center, which Canada might deem a lacking position heading into the 2018 Winter Olympics.

For all we know, none of these three forwards will bite at the opportunity. This seems like one of those creative ideas that might not work out.

It’s easy to see why Canada’s reps would at least get the conversation going, and Fisher might just be the best target to aim for.

Hurricanes give Di Giuseppe a two-way deal for 2017-18

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The Carolina Hurricanes signed forward Phil Di Giuseppe to a one-year, two-way contract on Thursday.

The team announced that Di Giuseppe’s deal is worth $725K at the NHL level and $125K in the AHL in 2017-18.

Di Giuseppe, 23, was the 38th pick of the 2012 NHL Draft. He’s been getting some looks at the NHL level with Carolina:

2015-16: 17 points in 41 games
2016-17: seven points in 36 games

He’s also been splitting time between the AHL and NHL lately, so a two-way deal works well enough.

Carolina doesn’t have much more to do on the free agent front, but that doesn’t mean that their off-season is wrapped up, as there’s still that whole ownership situation to settle.

Habs president Molson pens glowing farewell letter to Markov

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Another bold move by GM Marc Bergevin, another statement from Montreal Canadiens president/CEO Geoff Molson.

However Molson actually feels about the franchise’s decision to let Andrei Markov leave for the KHL, he provided quite the goodbye letter regarding the 38-year-old defenseman. One can’t help but wonder how Molson feels about Montreal’s overall makeover, whether you believe Mark Streit is really “replacing” Markov or not.

Anyway, that will need to wait. In the meantime, here’s the very kind statement from Molson to Markov:

“On behalf of the entire organization, I would like to thank Andrei for his great contributions during his 16 seasons as a proud member of the Montreal Canadiens. Arguably one of the best defensemen in franchise history, Andrei was a model of dedication to the great game of hockey. A respected figure around the league and among his teammates, Andrei demonstrated leadership both on and off the ice. Andrei’s commitment to our franchise was second to none, proven by his overcoming three serious and potentially career-ending injuries. I would like to wish Andrei the best of luck in the next step of his career, and happiness with his family.”

Speaking of Canadiens all-timers, Larry Robinson had plenty of nice things to say about Markov, too.

Related

Markov, Habs officially part ways.

Markov is headed to the KHL.

Sabres re-sign Eichel’s buddy Rodrigues for two years

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The Buffalo Sabres might have signed Evan Rodrigues back in 2015 in part because he enjoyed so much success as a college linemate with Jack Eichel at Boston University, but the undrafted forward seems like he’s making a case that he’ll be a part of their future in his own right.

The Sabres handed Rodrigues a two-year deal that is two-way in 2017-18 and one-way in 2018-19. Whenever he’s at the NHL level, it’s worth $650K per season.

Rodrigues debuted in 2015-16, scoring a goal and an assist in two games. He managed to play in 30 regular-season contests for the Sabres last season, collecting six points.

He’s shown quite a bit of improvement at the AHL level, in particular. After collecting 30 points in 72 games for the Rochester Americans in 2015-16, he scored 30 again in 2016-17, although he only needed 48 contests to do so. Rodrigues isn’t quite Matt Moulson to Eichel’s John Tavares just yet, but it’s possible that he might at least develop into a regular NHL player.

Buffalo’s work isn’t done for the summer just yet, as RFAs Zemgus Girgensons and Nathan Beaulieu still need deals.