Countdown to awkwardness? Dubinsky, Callahan and Purcell among 22 players filing for arbitration

We’ve already seen some big names file for salary arbitration, as New Jersey Devils standout forward Zach Parise and Nashville Predators stud defenseman Shea Weber filed for what could be some lucrative one-year deals (if they get that far). Today’s signings also helped two players avoid that tense process, as the Columbus Blue Jackets forked over a four-year deal to Marc Methot and the Toronto Maple Leafs made a sensible two-year pact with Clarke MacArthur.

There were 22 players who filed for salary arbitration today*, with the New York Rangers topping the list with four potential hearings (with crucial players in play). The deadline for arbitration filing is July 6 at 5:00 p.m. ET, so there might be some more interesting filings tomorrow as well. Keep in mind that the hearings are set anywhere between July 20-August 4, 2011. Those hearings aren’t guaranteed, though; two sides could hash out an agreement right up to the deadline (which has happened plenty of times before, by the way).

* Technically speaking, Methot filed too, but that was obviously just a formality since he signed with the Blue Jackets shortly afterward.

The NHLPA released a list of the 22 players who filed for salary arbitration today. We’ll give you the 4-1-1 on some of the most interesting names for your own nail-biting/entertainment purposes.

Anaheim Ducks

Dan Sexton – the forward christened “Big Sexy” enjoyed a nice run for a while in the 2009-10 season, but shouldn’t be too tough to sign after 19 and 13 point seasons.

source: Getty ImagesBuffalo Sabres

Andrej Sekera – He averaged a bit more than 20 minutes per game in 2010-11 and scored 29 points in 76 games played. Sekera seems like a valuable piece for the Sabres’ defense but it might be tough to squeeze him under the salary cap after Pegulamania ran wild.

Carolina Hurricanes

Derek Joslin

Chicago Blackhawks

Chris Campoli – I’m not Campoli’s biggest fan, but he does have some offensive talent. Unfortunately he’s also a bit dangerous in his own end; many Blackhawks fans will remember him for the turning the puck over to Alex Burrows, who ended Chicago’s season with an overtime Game 7-winning goal. Their solid off-season additions might make Campoli the odd man out if the cost is too high.

Viktor Stalberg – Stalberg came to Chicago in the Kris Versteeg trade and scored a replaceable 24 points during the season. He played in all seven of their playoff games, so maybe he’ll back if the price is right.

Colorado Avalanche

Kevin Porter

Ryan Wilson

Edmonton Oilers

Andrew Cogliano – He can skate like the wind and seems pretty versatile, but one wonders how long people will wait for him to do much more with speed (35 points in 2010-11).

Los Angeles Kings

Alec Martinez

Brad Richardson

source: APMontreal Canadiens

Josh Gorges – Gorges might be the most intriguing test for the arbitration system of this bunch. Injuries ravaged his 2010-11 season and the Habs survived reasonably well, but he played an important shutdown role during their 2010 Cinderella run. Gorges averaged 20 minutes per game for three straight seasons and received noticeable increases when playoff time rolled around.

Nashville Predators

Sergei Kostitsyn – The most mercurial of the two mercurial Kostitsyn brothers, Sergei experienced a career year with Nashville. They received a nice return on a limited investment after he scored 23 goals and 50 points, but will his one-dimensional style make him expendable in their eyes? Maybe it shouldn’t … after all, someone needs to score for that team, right?

New Jersey Devils

Mark Fraser – A lesser man would make a Kelsey Grammer joke here.

New York Islanders

Blake Comeau – The budding power forward had a career year with 24 goals and 21 assists for 45 points while averaging almost 19 minutes per night. He might be able to get a nice little payday.

New York Rangers

Brian Boyle – The hulking forward showed why he was a first round draft pick, unexpectedly scoring 21 goals and 35 points last season. It wouldn’t be shocking if the Rangers walk out on a too-rich ruling for Boyle after he only put together one strong season.

Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky – I’m putting these two together because they experienced such great chemistry on a line that helped the Rangers make the playoffs. Considering the funny money Glen Sather dishes out to unworthy and/or risky ventures, why not shell out some dough for two heart-and-soul guys who are producing impressive amounts of offense to boot? In a sane world, they won’t make it to arbitration but Sather’s team-building vision isn’t always the clearest.

Michael Sauer – Like Boyle, Sauer boasts a sparse resume but was a genuine contributor last season.

Phoenix Coyotes

Lauri Korpikoski

source: Getty ImagesTampa Bay Lightning

Teddy Purcell – When debating the merits of keeping Purcell vs. Sean Bergenheim, I sided with retaining Purcell. That discussion dissolved once Bergenheim bolted to Dale Tallon’s wacky hockey resort, but it’s worth mentioning that Purcell seemed to have a nice regular season (51 points) before lighting up the playoffs (17 points in 18 postseason games). The Lightning might be wise to avoid arbitration if they want to keep him, because judges might smile upon his impressive contract year.

Vancouver Canucks

Jannik Hansen – He won’t light the world on fire, but Hansen is the type of forward who can absorb spot duty in the top six forwards group, is reasonably proficient in both ends and owns a rare right-handed shot in the Canucks’ winger ranks. Hansen simply might be too expensive, though.

Winnipeg Jets

Blake Wheeler – Wheeler seems like he’s in a perpetual state of negotiations. When he’s not, he’s often getting traded. He’s a decent scorer (44 points in 1o-11) has great size and the pedigree of a first round pick, but teams sour on him at an almost alarming rate. It’ll be interesting to see if the Jets think they have a place for him in their lineup.

Oilers cap situation is scary, and not just because of Draisaitl, McDavid

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The Edmonton Oilers pulled the trigger – and likely made teams with big RFA headaches like the Boston Bruins grimace – in signing Leon Draisaitl to a massive eight-year, $68 million contract on Wednesday.

You have to do a little stretching to call it a good deal, although credit Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshysnki with some reasonably stated optimism.

Either way, the per-year cap bill for Connor McDavid and Draisaitl is $21 million once McDavid’s extension kicks in starting in 2018-19; that’s the same combined cost that Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane receive … and those two got those paydays after they won three Stanley Cups for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Now, if the Oilers struggle in the near future, plenty of people will heap blame on McDavid and/or Draisaitl. Really, though, the true scapegoats should be a management team with more strikeouts than homers.

(As usual, Cap Friendly was a key resource in studying Edmonton’s salary structure.)

Bloated supporting cast

There are some frightening contracts on the books in Edmonton, especially if a few situations work out unfavorably.

At 29, there’s severe risk of regression with Milan Lucic, even if he enjoys a more stable second season with Edmonton. He carries a $6M cap hit through 2022-23, so he’ll be on the books for all but two years of Draisaitl’s new deal.

Kris Russell costs $4.167M during a four-year stretch, and even now, he has plenty of critics. Those complaints may only get louder if, at 30, he also starts to slip from his already debatable spot.

Andrej Sekera‘s been a useful blueliner, yet there’s some concern that time won’t treat him kindly. He’s dealing with injuries heading into 2017-18, and at 31, there’s always the risk that his best days are behind him. Not great for a guy carrying a $5.5M cap hit through 2020-21.

One can’t help but wonder if Ryan Nugent-Hopkins might be an odd man out once the shackles of the salary cap really tighten. Just consider how much Edmonton is spending on a limited number of players, and you wonder if the 24-year-old will be deemed too pricey at his $6M clip.

Yeah, not ideal.

It’s not all bad

Now, let’s be fair.

RNH could easily grow into being well worth that $6M. Draisaitl may also justify his hefty price tag. McDavid honestly cut the Oilers a relative deal by taking $12.5M instead of the maximum.

The Oilers also have two quality, 24-year-old defensemen locked up to team-friendly deals: Oscar Klefbom ($4.167M through 2022-23) and Adam Larsson ($4.167M through 2020-21). They need every bargain they can get, and those two figure to fit the bill.

Crucial future negotiations

GM Peter Chiarelli’s had a questionable history of getting good deals. He’ll need to get together soon, or the Oilers will really struggle to surround their core with helpful support.

Cam Talbot is a brilliant bargain at the strangely familiar cap hit of $4.167M, but that value only lasts through 2018-19. After that, he’s eligible to become a UFA, and could be massively expensive if he produces two more strong seasons.

The bright side is that the Oilers aren’t locked into an expensive goalie, so they can look for deals. That isn’t as sunny a situation if you don’t trust management to have much success in the bargain bin.

Talbot isn’t the only upcoming expiring contract. The Oilers have serious questions to answer with Darnell Nurse and Ryan Strome. Also, will they need to let Lucic-like winger Patrick Maroon go? Even with mild relief in Mark Fayne‘s money coming off the books, the Oilers might regret this buffet when the bills start piling up next summer.

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Look, the truth is that management is likely to be propped up by the top-end in Edmonton, particularly in the case of McDavid’s otherworldly skills. As much as that Draisaitl deal looks like an overpay – possibly a massive one – there’s a chance that he lives up to that $8.5M, too.

It’s not just about those stars, though.

The Pittsburgh Penguins gained new life by complimenting Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin with the likes of Phil Kessel. The Blackhawks have struggled once they couldn’t afford as much help for Kane and Toews.

You have to mix your premium items with bargains, and one wonders if the Oilers will be able to spot sufficient value beyond the no-brainer top guys. Their recent history in that area certainly leaves a lot to be desired.

Cullen signs with Wild, opting against retirement (and Penguins)

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Matt Cullen is going home, but that doesn’t mean that he’s retiring from hockey.

Instead, the Minnesota native decided to sign a one-year, $1 million deal with the Minnesota Wild. It’s unclear why, precisely, Cullen didn’t ink a deal to try to “threepeat” with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Wild note that his deal also includes $700K in potential performance bonuses.

This will be the 40-year-old’s second run with the Wild. His first run came from 2010-11 through 2012-13, where he appeared in 193 regular-season games and five postseason contests for Minnesota.

Cullen managed back-to-back 30+ point seasons with the Penguins while providing useful all-around play as a veteran center. If he can maintain a reasonably high level of play, this gives the Wild quite the solid group down the middle, even with Martin Hanzal gone.

Oilers ink Draisaitl to monster eight-year, $68 million deal

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The Edmonton Oilers have locked up their cornerstone players for the foreseeable future.

They didn’t come cheap.

Just weeks after signing Connor McDavid to a eight-year, $100 million deal, the Oilers signed fellow forward Leon Draisaitl to an eight-year, $68 million deal. The contract carries a $8.5M average annual cap hit and, combined with McDavid’s $12.5M, will now cost the Oilers $21M annually through 2025.

McDavid certainly warranted his payday. The same can be said of Draisaitl.

The 21-year-old just wrapped his three-year, entry-level deal, and couldn’t have done so in finer fashion. Draisaitl enjoyed a terrific season, platooning between the second-line center position and the wing alongside McDavid, and finished with 29 goals and 77 points.

Then, the playoffs happened.

Draisaitl had a terrific postseason, racking up six goals and 16 points in 13 games. At the time of elimination he was sitting second among all scorers — trailing only Evgeni Malkin — and was downright brilliant in Edmonton’s seven-game loss to Anaheim, finishing with 13 points.

More to follow…

 

Report: Vegas among teams in on Pens draftee Byron

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Will Butcher isn’t the only college free agent garnering interest in free agency.

University of Maine senior Blaine Byron, Pittsburgh’s sixth-round pick in ’13, has passed on signing with the club and can now ink with a team of his choosing. Per The Hockey News, the four “lead suitors” for Byron are Vegas, New Jersey, Ottawa and Buffalo.

Byron, 22, is coming off a great year. He racked up 18 goals and 41 points in 36 games, finishing tied for 18th in the country in scoring. It’s unclear where he would’ve fit in the Pittsburgh organization, though, and one has to think the signing of Northeastern’s Zach Aston-Reese might’ve played a factor in his departure.

In a recent Tribune-Review piece, Byron did make a list of the club’s top-20 prospects, coming in at No. 17.

Yesterday, Butcher — the reigning Hobey Baker winner — announced that he wouldn’t sign with Colorado, the team that drafted him four years ago. Instead, Butcher will parlay a successful senior campaign at Denver University into interest on the open market.