NHL GMs say NFL lockout likely won’t help

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Conventional wisdom goes like this: NFL is big, NFL lockout gives other sports a chance to get some attention, NHL steps into the spotlight, everyone falls in love with the fastest sport on earth, and everyone lives happily ever after. There’s no question that an NFL lockout will help get more eyeballs of the general sports fan to focus on hockey at the beginning of next year – just like more eyes would be focused on college football and the NBA (assuming they start their season on time). The NFL dominates today’s sports landscape to such a degree that even a sliver of their portion of the pie would be a marked increase to the NHL’s brand.

However, some folks inside the NHL see a hidden pitfall to the NFL’s labor struggles. From the incomparable Craig Custance over at the Sporting News:

“Labor unrest in professional sports is damaging across the board. I don’t think anyone benefits,” Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke told Sporting News. “There is a fan fatigue factor. They don’t understand why professional athletes would strike, they don’t understand why wealthy owners would lock them out.”

In Burke’s opinion, labor negations gone bad in any sport reflect poorly on all the others. When the NHL collective bargaining agreement expires after next season, the three other major professional sports in the States will have gone through their negotiations and the possible work stoppage that comes with them.

It’s easy to conclude that a Sunday afternoon in which the Flyers and Penguins game is the only sport worth watching on national television is a win for the NHL. But that win wouldn’t necessarily translate to a long-term benefit for the sport of hockey.

“I just think lockouts in sports aren’t good,” Blues GM Doug Armstrong told Sporting News. “I like the sport being the topic and not the business being the topic. If they lock out and miss three or four weeks, is it really going to move the needle on our sport that much? I don’t buy it.”

It’s an interesting point that both Burke and Armstrong point out when talking about the NFL’s labor strife. Most hockey fans look at their sport and simply see an opportunity—but both are correct that there’s a backlash directed at ALL sports when there’s a lockout or strike. There are everyday sports fans – we’re talking about the casual observer who casually enjoys sports, not the season-ticket holding diehards – who will watch football’s problems and see it as a bunch of billionaires fighting with even more millionaires about how to divide up a sum of money that most third-world countries would kill for. It happened when hockey had its problems a few years ago and it happened when baseball had its problems in the 1990s. Whenever it happens, there’s a carry-over effect that goes from “there’s something wrong with football” to “there’s something wrong with sports.” Fans may not be concerned with the potential backlash, but it’s interesting to see that a couple of GMs have thought about it.

Once again, it’s great to see someone like Brian Burke speak out on a subject with such honesty and candor. With the NHL still recovering from the lockout that cost fans the 2004-05 season, the last thing hockey executives want to do is bring attention to a lockout. For some hockey fans, talking about owners and players who can’t agree on a suitable agreement will rip open the healing scars that are finally getting better.

One thing both Burke and Armstrong can probably agree on today—it’s better that it’s the NFL with these problems than the NHL. Hopefully Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr agree as well.

Sabres hire Sexton, Greeley as assistant GMs

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It was reported Saturday and made official today — Randy Sexton is joining the Buffalo Sabres as an assistant general manager. He will also serve as GM of the AHL’s Rochester Americans.

Also joining the Sabres as assistant GM is Steve Greeley, who spent the past two seasons as assistant director of player personnel with the New York Rangers.

“Randy and I developed a positive working relationship during our time in Pittsburgh and I think his experience and insight will be advantageous for our front office,” said Sabres GM Jason Botterill in a release. “In Steve, we have hired a talented hockey executive who will offer unique insight to our organization. They both have experience at all levels of the game and we think they will be valuable assets for the Buffalo Sabres moving forward.”

Sexton’s job with Rochester will be especially important for what Botterill is trying to do with the Sabres.

“I think one of the successes of the organization that I’m coming from is the relationship between Wilkes-Barre and Pittsburgh,” Botterill said when he was hired in May. “We want to re-strengthen the relationship with Rochester and Buffalo.”

The last two years, Sexton has been the Penguins’ director of amateur scouting.

Report: Elliott making ‘tentative’ plans to live in Winnipeg

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The talk of Brian Elliott joining the Jets isn’t going away.

This morning, Rick Ralph of TSN 1290 tweeted that Elliott has “been making tentative accommodation plans for Winnipeg.”

The 32-year-old goalie is an unrestricted free agent, and the Jets’ goaltending was once again a sore spot last season.

“We’re going to a take a look at whatever is available to us and if there’s a good opportunity there that can help us, we’ll jump at it,” GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said Saturday at the draft, per the Winnipeg Free Press. “We’ve got a list of names lined up to reach out to their representatives and see if we’re a fit for them and as far as they want to consider us.”

Read more: Is Brian Elliott a fit for Winnipeg

The Jets have Michael Hutchinson under contract for one more year before he can become unrestricted.

Connor Hellebuyck, meanwhile, is a restricted free agent. The Jets are still high on him, but perhaps rushed him into the No. 1 job last year.

“We want forward progress for the team,” said head coach Paul Maurice. “Either Connor or Michael has to step up on that or we’ve got to get some help for those guys.”

Elliott, of course, had a tough first year in Calgary. The Flames then went a different way by acquiring Mike Smith from Arizona.

‘That’s definitely a huge option for us’: Brian Boyle wants to go back to Tampa

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Brian Boyle spent almost three full years with the Tampa Bay Lightning before being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs at last March’s trade deadline.

The veteran center liked his stint in Tampa so much that he’s willing to go back there when he becomes a free agent in less than week.

“We love Tampa,” said Boyle, per the Tampa Bay Times. “If Tampa wanted to work out a deal, that’s definitely a huge option for us. That’s something that I’ve kind of always thought about. I haven’t closed the door on anything.”

Boyle enjoyed quite a bit of success with the Bolts. During his time there, he scored at least 13 goals in each of his three seasons, which isn’t bad considering he was more of a bottom-six player when he was there.

It’s unclear if the Bolts would be willing to take him back at this point, but a big factor will likely be his contract demands.

“(Tampa) is a great place to be, great place to start a family. And, honestly, we’ll see what they say. You want to be wanted. That’s the other part.”

The Lightning have just over $23 million in cap space right now. That seems like a good amount, but they still have to sign Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Andrej Sustr. It’s also pretty clear that they’re in the market for a top four defenseman, and that won’t come cheap. As of right now, they only have three blue liners on one-way contracts.

The 32-year-old is coming off a contract that paid him $2 million per season. He should be able to fetch a higher number if he hits the open market.

‘Canes re-sign Masterton Trophy finalist Derek Ryan to one-year deal

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The Carolina Hurricanes have reportedly taken care of some business on Monday morning, as they’ve re-signed forward Derek Ryan to a one-year deal worth $1.425 million, per TSN’s Frank Seravalli.

Update: The Hurricanes have confirmed the news.

The 30-year-old had 11 goals and 29 points in 67 games during his first full NHL season.

Ryan’s journey to the NHL is a great story.

He played three full seasons of junior hockey with the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs (2004-2007) before joining the University of Alberta hockey program for four years (2007-2011). Once he completed his Canadian University hockey eligibility, Ryan went on to play three seasons of pro hockey in the Austrian League and one year over in Sweden. He came back to North America for the 2015-16 season, where he played 70 games with AHL Charlotte and six games with the ‘Canes.

Ryan was a finalist for the Masterton Trophy, which is awarded to “the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.”

“I feel a little out of place,” Ryan told NHL.com during the 2017 NHL Awards. “A couple of years ago, I was battling my way through the European leagues and all of a sudden here I am at the NHL Awards and just kind of taking it all in.”