What a year it’s been for Kevin Bieksa. Last summer, Bieksa fought off rumors of being traded as he was viewed to be the odd man out on a Canucks team that was dealing with salary cap issues. After this season, one where he was rock solid providing consistent play at both ends of the ice and stayed healthy amidst a team mired in injury problems, he proved himself to be one of Vancouver’s best defenseman.
The Canucks opted to reward Bieksa’s play with a new contract and a long-term commitment. Vancouver signed him up for five more years at a cost of $23 million. The deal works out to a cap hit of $4.6 million over the term of the deal and for Bieksa, it takes him off the market which he was set to join on July 1 as an unrestricted free agent.
While the cap hit is still a bit of a bite, it’s not as much as Bieksa could’ve been set to make as a free agent. With the likes of Detroit and other teams looking to reach the salary floor, Bieksa could’ve cleaned house financially. Instead, he locks in in Vancouver while his teammate, Christian Ehrhoff, will likely head to free agency looking for a new team.
For Bieksa, while his point totals didn’t take a drastic jump, he proved to be one of their most reliable defensive players seeing his plus/minus rating jump to a career high +32. His career total before this season saw him as a -20. Thanks to Vancouver scoring the most goals in the league and the team tightening things up defensively all around, Bieksa’s play helped make that possible. His irritating play in the playoffs and snarly nature helped endear him to Canucks fans and made opponents lose their minds.
Vancouver locking up Bieksa also helps them square around on how they’re going to shape up their defense next season. They also have Dan Hamhuis, Keith Ballard, Alexander Edler, and Aaron Rome committed to contracts next season. Ballard was a healthy scratch through most of the playoffs and was even benched in favor of youngster Chris Tanev in the Stanley Cup finals. One would think he’s likely on his way out of town as well while GM Mike Gillis will attempt to work out deals on the free agent market as well as with in-house free agents Sami Salo and Andrew Alberts.
Vancouver’s summer of free agency will be curious to watch, but for now, the guy they once wanted to move out of town in Bieksa is their main man on the blue line for the next five years. It’s a start for a team that’s itching to correct their failure in the Stanley Cup finals.
Ray Emery has agreed to join the Ontario Reign on a professional tryout, according to a team release.
The Reign are the minor league affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings.
Emery attended Tampa Bay’s training camp on a PTO, but he was released after the team claimed Kevin Poulin on waivers from the Islanders.
The 33-year-old had a 10-11-7 record with a 3.06 goals-against-average and a .894 save percentage in 31 games with the Flyers last season.
Even with starter Jonathan Quick struggling, it’s hard to envision this move leading to a return to the NHL for Emery.
The Kings have Quick and Jhonas Enroth with the big club, while veteran Peter Budaj was signed to a two-way contract on Friday.
James Reimer will get his first start of the 2015-16 season on Saturday night against Ottawa.
Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock made it clear from the beginning that Jonathan Bernier was going to start on Wednesday against Montreal and Friday in Detroit, while Reimer would get in against the Sens.
“I’ve known this for a long time that (Bernier is) starting and he’s starting on Wednesday and he’s starting on Friday. Reims is starting on Saturday,” Babcock said before the season began.
Things haven’t gone according to plan for Toronto through two games.
Not only have they lost both contests, but Bernier was pulled in yesterday’s 4-0 loss to the Red Wings, and the team has scored only one goal this season.
Reimer, who stopped 12 of 13 shots in just under 40 minutes of action against Detroit, will go up against Craig Anderson.
–Cam Talbot will try to get his first win as an Oiler as they travel to Nashville to take on the Predators. Pekka Rinne will start for the Predators.
–Carey Price and Tuukka Rask will face-off when the Canadiens and Bruins renew hostilities at the TD Garden in Boston.
–Petr Mrazek will be between the pipes when the Red Wings take on the ‘Canes in Carolina. Cam Ward gets the nod for the Hurricanes.
–Keith Kinkaid for the Devils. Braden Holtby makes his first start of the year in the Capitals’ season opener.
–Steve Mason for the Flyers. Roberto Luongo for the Panthers in their opener.
-Columbus hasn’t confirmed who their starter will be in the back half of their home-and-home with the Rangers. Henrik Lundqvist will start for New York.
–Jake Allen makes his first start of the regular season for St. Louis. Devan Dubnyk for the Wild.
-The Islanders have yet to confirm their starter for tonight’s game in Chicago. Scott Darling for the ‘Hawks after Corey Crawford helped spoil the party in Brooklyn yesterday.
–Antti Niemi gets the call for Dallas after he blanked the Penguins in his first start. Semyon Varlamov for Colorado.
–Jonas Hiller for Calgary. Ryan Miller for the Canucks.
-The Penguins haven’t confirmed who their starter will be in Arizona tonight. Mike Smith will likely play in back-to-back games after beating the Kings on Friday.
-The Ducks have yet to confirm their starter. Martin Jones will start for San Jose.