Craig Ramsay will not coach Winnipeg next season, search narrowed to Noel and Haviland

The writing must have been on the wall when Craig Ramsay was told that he’d have to interview for his own job, but Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff made it official when he told Ramsay he would not be retained for next season. The move isn’t terribly surprising as the team has already opened the interview process for a new coach. In fact, it was rumored that Cheveldayoff was going to bring in his own coach from the day he was hired. Still, the decision must hurt as Ramsay still had a year on his three-year contract.

Bringing in a lame-duck coach for an interview sounded uncomfortable to say the least. If the GM wasn’t happy with the direction of the team, they why would he bring in the former coach for an interview? The always classy Ramsay expressed that it was an awkward process for all involved, but respected the way Cheveldayoff handled an extremely difficult situation:

“The whole situation was pretty awkward. Kevin handled his part well. They just didn’t feel they could make a significant commitment to me. He must have had other coaches in mind.”

“It was tough on everybody. It’s too bad it took so long. … I’ve been in the league for 40 years. I don’t want to stop coaching. Hopefully, something pops up. It will work out.”

The second part of Ramsay’s quote is certainly worth noting. Even though most of the head coaching vacancies stayed open for an extended period of time, most of the openings were filled last week amidst a flurry of hirings. Now Ramsay is left without a chair as the music is about to stop in the NHL coaches’ annual game of musical chairs. If he were given his walking papers when Kevin Cheveldayoff took over the GM role on June 7, Ramsay could have had the opportunity to apply for openings in Minnesota, Dallas, or Ottawa. As of today, only New Jersey and Winnipeg have head coach openings.

Then again, this was a different situation that called for different solutions. It’s normal for a new GM to want to bring in his own guys to make it “his team.” Since it’s a new team with a new GM in a new city—it’s natural for the team to be led by a new head coach as well.

According to the Winnipeg Free Press, the search for a new head coach has been narrowed down to Chicago Blackhawks assistant Mike Haviland and Manitoba Moose head coach Claude Noel. Included in the same article is speculation that a final decision could be made this week before the NHL Draft in Minnesota this weekend.

Both of the remaining candidates have ties that could give them the inside track to the job in Winnipeg. Haviland has been an assistant with the Blackhawks over the last three seasons. For the last two seasons, he’s worked with Cheveldayoff who had been the assistant GM under Stan Bowman. On the other hand, True North is familiar with Claude Noel since they also own the Manitoba Moose.

Neither applicant has ever held a permanent head coaching position at the NHL level—a fact that could change as early as this week.

NCAA standout Foo leaving school, will sign NHL deal this summer

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Spencer Foo, who racked up a whopping 62 points in 38 games this year for Union College, is forgoing his senior season to achieve his “life long dream of playing in the NHL.”

Where that dream takes place remains to be seen.

Foo, 22, won’t be back at Union in the fall, but will complete his spring term at Union and not sign with a pro organization until summer, per the Daily Gazette. The decision comes after a banner three seasons in school, capped off with a junior campaign in which he was nominated for ECAC Hockey Player of the Year and shortlisted for the Hobey Baker.

Foo has reportedly drawn interest from the Flyers. There have also been rumblings of the Oilers being in the mix — Foo is an Edmonton native — but it appears nearly every team has some level of interest. Consider this, from LA Kings Insider:

The Kings are among the teams involved in [Foo’s] courtship, and asked where the stiffest competition was coming from, I was told, “about 29 other teams.”

Foo is an undrafted free agent, so there’s no real rush for him to make a decision. Sounds like NHL teams are more than willing to wait it out.

Announcing the Hobey Hat Trick: Aston-Reese, Butcher, Vecchione

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Northeastern’s Zach Aston-Reese, Denver’s Will Butcher, and Union’s Mike Vecchione are the three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award.

Aston-Reese, a 22-year-old forward, had 31 goals and 32 assists in 38 games this season. Undrafted, he signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier this month.

Butcher, a 22-year-old defenseman, had seven goals and 29 assists in 41 games for the Frozen Four-headed Pioneers. A fifth-round pick of the Avalanche in 2013, Butcher is still unsigned and is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent Aug. 15. It remains to be seen if the Avs will offer him a contract, though it’s been reported they will.

Vecchione, a 24-year-old forward, had 29 goals and 34 assists in 38 games. Undrafted, he’s expected to sign with an NHL team shortly — possibly the Flyers or Wild.

Jimmy Vesey, Jack Eichel, and Johnny Gaudreau were the Hobey Baker winners in each of the last three years.

After 12-game absence, Boychuk back for Isles

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The New York Islanders, four points back of the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference and having lost their last two games, will get a huge boost tonight on the blueline.

Johnny Boychuk, who’s missed the last 12 games with a lower-body injury, will return to the lineup on Thursday when the Isles take on the Flyers in Philadelphia. It’ll mark the first time the veteran defenseman has played since getting hurt back on Mar. 3.

(Boychuk draws in at the expense of Thomas Hickey, who’ll sit tonight.)

Needless to say, this is a massive addition for the Isles. Boychuk was averaging close to 21 minutes per night and had 21 points through 59 games before his injury, and led all New York defensemen in shots on goal.

The Isles are going to be an interesting team to watch down the stretch. It’s tough sledding, with five of their final seven contests being played on the road, though that’s mitigated by the fact they’re playing a bunch of teams outside of the playoff picture (Philly, New Jersey x2, Buffalo and Carolina).

McAvoy has the talent to improve Bruins right now

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Charlie McAvoy could be in the Providence Bruins’ lineup as soon as Friday against Albany.

Providence also plays Saturday and Sunday, so even if it’s not Friday, the 19-year-old defenseman is expected to get his first taste of pro hockey sometime this weekend.

Of course, the real question is when his Boston Bruins debut may occur.

“He has the attributes to be able to play NHL games right now, absolutely,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney, per the Providence Journal. 

McAvoy has yet to ink an NHL contract. He’s in Providence on an amateur tryout after making the decision to leave Boston University. If he plays an NHL game this season, the first year of the three-year entry-level contract he’ll sign would be burned.

Hence, Sweeney’s desire to see McAvoy in the AHL before making any decisions.

“This gives an opportunity for him, first and foremost, to get a chance to play professional games, which is another level for him. [We’ll] evaluate from there,” said Sweeney.

It’s certainly possible, given McAvoy’s talent, that he could help the NHL Bruins right now. The bar is essentially Kevan Miller, Boston’s third-pairing defenseman on the right side. (If McAvoy were a left shot, the bar would be slightly lower, with all due respect to John-Michael Liles.)

The NHL Bruins, who’ve yet to book a playoff spot, have six games left in their regular season. They host Dallas tonight, Florida Saturday, and then they’re in Chicago Sunday.

Assuming McAvoy stays with Providence all weekend, his first real chance to get into an NHL game would be Tuesday against Tampa Bay.

Stay tuned.

Read more: Bruins will leave door ajar for McAvoy