The Detroit Red Wings continued their streak of playoff appearances earlier this spring, making it to the Stanley Cup tournament for a 25th consecutive season.
But their appearance was short, as they were once again bounced in the first round — for the third straight year, so consider that a streak of its own — by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
With another early post-season exit, attention turned to the offseason. The big story was the future of Pavel Datsyuk, who is 38 years old and had one more year left on his contract, which came with a cap hit of $7.5 million. Speculation started with a report that the long-time Red Wing could leave that organization for his homeland, Russia, at the end of the NHL season and continued from there.
His contract — and cap hit — was eventually dealt to the Arizona Coyotes at the NHL Draft, officially ending Datsyuk’s time in Detroit. He won two Stanley Cups there, and scored 314 goals and 918 points in 953 games with the Red Wings.
Datsyuk has since signed a two-year contract in the KHL.
The Red Wings also brought back goalie Petr Mrazek and defenseman Danny DeKeyser with no arbitration hearing necessary in both cases. Luke Glendening was signed to a four-year contract extension and Darren Helm avoided free agency, signing a five-year, $19.25 million deal.
Brad Richards also retired after 15 NHL seasons.
The Red Wings and the hockey world also lost the legendary Gordie Howe, who passed away at the age of 88.
This post is part of Buffalo Sabres day at PHT…
The prolonged Jimmy Vesey saga has been over for almost a week now.
After weeks of hearing about which teams were interested and where he may end up and all the star power used to help make the case of those interested teams, Vesey chose the New York Rangers — in case you missed it.
The Buffalo Sabres were unable to get Vesey under contract, despite acquiring his negotiating rights from the Nashville Predators, the team that originally drafted Vesey four years ago. The Sabres used their star, Jack Eichel, as a recruiting tool in this case. A number of teams used the same tactic with their big-name players.
For the Sabres, the move has been called a risk. It’s been called a gamble. It didn’t pay out, which happens. All that it cost general manager Tim Murray was a third-round pick in this year’s draft and the Sabres had four of those. Why not spare one to get, at least for several weeks before Vesey became a free agent, the exclusive negotiating rights to a young player they clearly coveted?
Still, it’s a gamble Murray’s clearly comfortable with. According to the Sabres’ metric, teams only draft players like Vesey in the third round 7 percent of the time. Nashville drafted Vesey in the third round, 66th overall, in 2012.
“To me, he’s got top-six potential,” Murray said during a pre-draft news conference inside the First Niagara Center. “If we do get him signed, we’re not going to tell you he’s in our top six, but that’s his potential, that’s his pro rating for us. He’s a complete forward. He’s big and strong. He can shoot the puck but he can also make plays. He’s got a great hockey IQ.”
Despite not getting Vesey — it seemed his intentions all along were to go to free agency after his college career ended — the Sabres still have a strong cast of forwards.
(It was reported that had Vesey signed in Buffalo, the Sabres would’ve been more willing to trade Evander Kane, who has been sued by a 21-year-old Buffalo woman after she said Kane seriously injured her in the hotel room.)
Having Eichel, the second overall pick in 2015, certainly builds that promise. Their aspirations of becoming a playoff team next season aren’t far-fetched, especially after locking up Kyle Okposo when the free agent market officially opened last month. In that case, the Sabres committed a total of $42 million over seven years to gain an established scoring forward.
They have Ryan O'Reilly.
Sam Reinhart had a good first season. Alexander Nylander was taken eighth overall and the Sabres have high hopes for him.
In 2015, Murray was eventually able to take solace in the fact that, despite not getting the No. 1 overall pick and Connor McDavid, he was able to select Eichel at No. 2.
The Sabres boast a promising group of forwards, even if that doesn’t include Jimmy Vesey. He’s played exactly zero NHL games. But he did score at nearly a goal-per-game in his senior year with Harvard, with 58 points in 37 games and definitely had potential to add to Buffalo’s talent level up front.
It certainly didn’t hurt the Sabres to pay the price they did in trying to sign him, in trying to see if Vesey could be a fit. Sometimes, you’ve got to take a chance.
This post is part of Buffalo Sabres day at PHT…
It seemed Robin Lehner‘s 2015-16 season was defined by two things.
The ankle issue, which included a setback before he was able to finally return to the lineup, reached a pinnacle when the Sabres announced Lehner had undergone surgery and was done for the season.
By that time, Lehner had appeared in 21 games for the Sabres. He posted a 5-9-5 record and a .924 save percentage, eight points above his career average. Beyond that, his first season in Buffalo can be difficult to evaluate because an injury cut into three months, before he was shut down for good.
The Sabres paid a hefty price to bring the now 25-year-old Lehner to their team, which makes his health and his subsequent performance so important to their success, especially as they look to get beyond the rebuilding stage.
Last summer, Sabres GM Tim Murray sent a first-round pick to the Ottawa Senators to get Lehner — as well as veteran David Legwand — and bring in a goalie that could be the No. 1.
It helps, too, when a No. 2 overall pick can turn into Jack Eichel, and Okposo could play on a line with either Eichel or O’Reilly. Sam Reinhart had a strong first full season in Buffalo, breaking the 20-goal mark. And Alexander Nylander, the eighth overall pick this year, could perhaps make the jump to the NHL with a strong showing in the pre-season.
They didn’t make the playoffs last season, but improved dramatically on their point total, from 54 in 2014-15 to 81 in 2015-16. Their coach, Dan Bylsma, is setting the bar high for next season.
In goal, however, is where there are question marks.
Nilsson and Kasdorf have combined for 53 games of NHL experience. One of those games belongs to Kasdorf, who signed a two-year, two-way deal with Buffalo in July.
Given their situation in goal, the Sabres need Lehner to stay healthy. Ideally, given the price they paid, the Sabres would love elite goaltending to be what defines Lehner’s upcoming season.
Another day, another hire for the Las Vegas NHL franchise.
On Tuesday, the team named Vaughn Karpan as its new director of player personnel. He most recently held the title of director of professional scouting with the Montreal Canadiens.
Karpan joined the Habs in 2005, after spending 13 years with the Coyotes franchise, including five years as director of amateur scouting.
This latest move comes after the Vegas franchise named Murray Craven as a senior vice president.
Craven had been an advisor to owner Bill Foley during the process of getting an NHL team in Las Vegas and hiring a general manager.
Craven will be responsible for establishing the club’s top minor-league affiliate in the American Hockey League, developing the practice facility in Summerlin, Nevada, building up facilities at T-Mobile Arena and overseeing projects at the request of general manager George McPhee.
Oh yeah, the Vegas franchise still doesn’t have a team name yet.