Is Langenbrunner trade first of many to come in New Jersey?

While discussing the trade of Jamie Langenbrunner to the Dallas Stars for a conditional draft pick, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello bristled at talk of rebuilding, but what choice do the Devils have with an older team that can’t win? He can start by gauging interest around the league for useful older players that could bring back useful players in return.

The motivation here being that the Devils will have to get team star and young stud Zach Parise signed to a long term contract after this season because he’s due to become a restricted free agent. Getting Parise locked up with Ilya Kovalchuk gives the Devils two outstanding scorers in which to build around, and with little else to get excited about, cleaning house isn’t the worst idea. But who on this Devils roster offers the kind of ability to bring in a decent return in a trade? There’s a few that stand out.

Patrik Elias is a lifetime Devil and a guy who’s produced solidly on offense every year he’s been in New Jersey. He’s the team’s current leading scorer and equally dangerous as a playmaker and goal scorer. What makes dealing him difficult for the Devils is a $6 million cap hit the next two years after this one. Getting his talent on another team would be an easy sell if it wasn’t for that cap hit and we’re doubting that the Devils would be in the market to take on someone else’s financial disaster.

Jason Arnott is another veteran that could be useful to a team in the market for a playoff-savvy centerman. Arnott’s contract expires after this year, however, which means the return on him would be similar to what the Devils got for Langenbrunner. Arnott also comes with a bigger price tag than Langenbrunner.

Guys like Dainius Zubrus and Brian Rolston would be looked at a bit stronger if their contracts weren’t huge problems. Zubrus’ deal goes for two more years and has a cap hit of $3.4 million. Rolston has been waived, put on re-entry waivers and gone unclaimed meaning that even if he came at half the price teams still didn’t want him. The chances of him being dealt away are virtually slim and none.

That leaves one guy who could bring in a huge trade package that could help the Devils get back into competing shape sooner than not. That guy is Zach Parise. Parise is young, capable of scoring 40+ goals a season, and would require any team acquiring him to have the cap space to get him locked up long term.

The chances of Parise being traded away are very slim, but the possibility is out there in the most fantasy-filled realms. Still, the only guy Lamoriello has declared that he absolutely will not trade is Martin Brodeur. Parise will demand a monster deal and with the Devils being littered with so many bad deals as it is getting a deal done for Parise that won’t hamstring the franchise looks difficult.

According to CapGeek.com the Devils already have $49 million committed to next season and that’s only counting up 14 players. Parise’s deal would almost certainly be in the range of what Ilya Kovalchuk got if not more on a cap hit-basis. Say if Parise’s deal is good for $7 million a year on the cap, you’d be looking at the Devils having $56 million on the cap with up to eight more players to get on the NHL roster and (depending on how much the cap goes up by) anywhere from $5 – $7 million to get them signed. The Devils have suffered plenty this year under a cap crunch and doing it again next year and for years to come can’t be in Lamoriello’s designs.

We’d like to think that Parise would be the absolute last guy that would be traded from New Jersey, but there are teams out there with the combination of prospects, NHL-caliber players, and future cap space to be able to make a deal happen. Virtually every team would have interest in a player of Parise’s ability so finding a team interested wouldn’t be hard. Finding a team that could swing such a monstrous deal and make it work for both sides would be the trick. Getting Lou Lamoriello a safe house to protect him from an angry mob of Devils fans wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

Pre-game reading: Bettman insists NHL isn’t ‘anti-Olympics’

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— Up top, members of the Detroit Red Wings and their fans recall some of their fondest memories from Joe Louis Arena, which will host its last NHL game on Apr. 9.

— Here’s NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, speaking Friday in Chicago: “The league isn’t anti-Olympics. The problem is, the clubs are anti-disruption to the season. To disappear for almost three weeks in February when there is no football and baseball and it’s only basketball and … there’s no programming for the NHL Network, for NHL.com (and) all of our social media platforms. … If somebody proposes something dramatic and radically different that gets the attention of the clubs where they say, ‘You know what? We don’t like going but on balance it’s worth it because of this,’ we’ll have to look at it again. But overwhelmingly the sentiment of the clubs is it’s too disruptive.” (Chicago Tribune)

— The players have said they won’t negotiate with the league for the right to participate in the Olympics. But they’ve made no secret about their desire to go, as evidenced by ESPN’s lengthy list of player quotes on the topic. Said Steven Stamkos: “In talking to a lot of players, I’ve yet to hear someone say they didn’t want to get a chance to represent their country at the Olympics.” (ESPN)

— Whether the NHL continues its Olympic participation or not, it’s clear the league is eyeing China as part of its growth strategy. In September, the Canucks and Kings are expected to play a couple of exhibition games in Beijing and Shanghai. And according to deputy commissioner Bill Daly, there may even come a time when an NHL franchise is owned by Chinese business interests. (The Globe and Mail)

— Are the Bruins on the verge of collapse? CSNNE columnist Joe Haggerty saw some concerning signs in last night’s loss to Tampa Bay — a loss that put the B’s in further danger of falling out of a playoff position. Haggerty concludes: “Their next wrong move will cause a nosedive straight out of the playoffs for the third year in a row, and that will spell changes far and wide on Causeway Street for the Boston Bruins.” (CSN New England)

— Islanders rookie Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, is ready for — and even looking forward to — a hostile crowd tonight at PPG Paints Arena. “For me, Pittsburgh is the one city as a whole where I’m totally OK with them hating me. For wearing No. 66. Mario Lemieux is a hero, a pioneer for them there, and for them to take it as disrespect is completely understandable.” (Newsday)

Enjoy the games!

PS — Lemieux said he was “fine” with Ho-Sang wearing his old number.

In prepping Vegas for draft, McPhee cites ‘outstanding’ record with Caps

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George McPhee is a veteran of the draft process, having presided over nearly 20 during his time with the Caps.

This year, he’s in a unique position — spearheading the first draft for the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights — and he suggests his past success should set him up well for the future.

“I think we have an outstanding staff,” McPhee said, per the club website. “I think our draft record in my previous job was outstanding.”

Assessments like these are always up for debate — draft success is somewhat subjective, and there are inevitably a bunch of misses among the hits — but McPhee does have a strong history of drafting and developing players, and could point to the current Capitals as validation to his claim.

The active roster has 11 players that were original draftees (Braden Holtby, Philip Grubauer, Dmitry Orlov, John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Tom Wilson, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Marcus Johansson, Andre Burakovsky and Nicklas Backstrom), with goalies Holtby and Grubauer — both fourth-round picks — emerging as pretty good finds.

McPhee’s strategy? Go big or go home.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever played it safe going to the draft,” he explained. “I believe in swinging for the fences, and trying to find someone who can be a real difference maker. The difference makers are those core guys on your team, those 4-5 players that become elite players are the ones that can really take you a long way.

“They are hard to find. Those are the ones I’d like to swing for.”

At this year’s draft in Chicago, Vegas should have a shot at landing an impact guy. The club will have the same odds of winning the lottery as the team that finishes with the third fewest points this season and, though it’s considered a weak draft overall, there is some serious talent at the top end.

WHL Brandon’s Nolan Patrick, QMJHKL Halifax’s Nico Hischier and OHL Windsor’s Gabriel Vilardi are all considered high-end prospects and — importantly — all three play center. For a team that’s building from scratch, filling that position is of vital importance.

McPhee acknowledged this is a weaker draft, but contended those are the ones “where the best teams excel.” He theorizes that with fewer quality players available, the strongest teams emerge with the good ones.

He also shared how the Golden Knights plan to land ’em.

“We’re really aggressive,” he said. “We try not to play it safe very often.”

B’s ink prospects Fitzgerald, Johansson to entry-level deals

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Boston has brought a pair of talented youngsters into the fold.

Forward Ryan Fitzgerald, who just wrapped his senior season at Boston College, and defenseman Emil Johansson — who spent this year playing in the Swedish Hockey League — have signed their entry-level deals and will begin playing with the club’s AHL affiliate in Providence.

Fitzgerald — who’s father, Tom, is the assistant GM in New Jersey — scored 31 points in 34 games for BC this year, serving as an alternate captain. He was originally taken by Boston in the fourth round (120th overall) of the ’13 draft.

Johansson, 20, was a seventh-round pick in ’14 that’s panned out pretty well. He scored a career-high seven goals and 17 points in 49 games for Djugardens this year, appearing in three playoff contests.

 

 

Ducks send Stoner to AHL on conditioning loan

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Clayton Stoner is going to play some hockey again.

The Anaheim Ducks announced today that the 32-year-old defenseman has been assigned to AHL San Diego on a long-term injury conditioning loan.

Stoner has not played since Nov. 15. He had abdominal surgery in December, at which point the Ducks said he’d miss an additional 4-6 weeks. But a setback in his recovery extended the time frame.

“The setback was kind of just me trying to get back maybe a little bit quicker than I should,” Stoner told the O.C. Register recently. “And I wasn’t ready. Things have been good here for a little while so hopefully I’m just trying to string some days together and earn a spot back and kind of prove that I can be healthy and stay healthy.”