Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky

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.

Keep your head up: Hurricanes reportedly hand Raffi Torres a PTO

VANCOUVER, CANADA - MAY 3:  Raffi Torres #13 of the San Jose Sharks celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal against the Vancouver Canucks for a 3-2 victory in overtime in Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, May 03, 2013 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
Getty
1 Comment

From opting against fighting the NHL’s 41-game suspension to seeing his season derailed by knee issues, there was the feeling that the league had seen the last of controversial forward Raffi Torres.

Perhaps not.

The Carolina Hurricanes reportedly handed the 34-year-old a PTO, according to former Hurricanes defenseman Aaron Ward.

It’s something the Raleigh News & Observer’s Chip Alexander also mentioned on Monday.

With Bryan Bickell added to the mix during this off-season, the Hurricanes seem interesting in adding some beef. It’s unclear if Torres is really in the sort of condition to make a mark, but Carolina’s going to at least take a look at him.

Beware, pre-season opponents and training camp teammates.

Capitals bump Todd Reirden up to associate coach

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 10:  Assistant coach Todd Reirden of the Washington Capitals talks to the power play unit during a time-out against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 10, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Getty
1 Comment

The Washington Capitals announced that Todd Reirden (pictured) was promoted from assistant to associate coach on Monday.

What does that mean, exactly? Well, most directly, the team shared word that he’ll run Capitals training camp while Barry Trotz works with Team Canada at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

Giving Reirden a promotion makes sense, as he’s been linked to some head coaching searches. The Washington Post compiled some of his opportunities:

In the past two years, Reirden has been a serious candidate for two NHL head-coaching gigs. According to the Calgary Sun, Reirden was a finalist to coach the Flames before they settled on Glen Gulutzan, and he was considered for the New Jersey Devils’ vacancy last summer, too. Lane Lambert, another Capitals assistant, was a finalist for the Colorado Avalanche head-coaching job earlier this month, according to the Denver Post.

The Capitals have a pretty well-regarded coaching group, as many credit goaltending coach Mitch Korn with some of Braden Holtby‘s improvement since Trotz took over.

Maybe we’ll see Reirden and Lambert get head coaching gigs at some point, but for now, Trotz’s “coaching tree” stays intact.

Penguins believe Kessel, others can heal up by start of next season

SAN JOSE, CA - JUNE 12:  Phil Kessel #81 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with the Stanley Cup after their 3-1 victory to win the Stanley Cup against the San Jose Sharks in Game Six of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center on June 12, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Getty
2 Comments

Going deep enough into the playoffs to win the Stanley Cup often comes with the cost of stacking up injuries, and the Pittsburgh Penguins paid the price.

As the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and others report, Phil Kessel (wrist) and others aren’t guaranteed to be healthy to start the 2016-17 regular season.

“All the injured guys are tracking in the right direction,” GM Jim Rutherford said. “Until they all get here, we won’t know 100 percent where they’re at, but it sounds like all the guys should be ready for camp.”

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review runs down a significant list of players who likely accrued bumps and bruises that may carry over:

Defenseman Trevor Daley, for instance, suffered a broken ankle on May 20. Kris Letang (foot), Nick Bonino (elbow infection), Bryan Rust (hand), Patric Hornqvist (hand) and Evgeni Malkin (elbow), among others, dealt with physical problems of varying severity at times.

If recent history is any indication, Kessel will probably fight hard not to miss time.

For all the weird criticisms he receives, he’s been remarkably durable, playing in every game during the past six seasons.

That’s impressive stuff, but the Penguins would be wise to keep an eye on the big picture. If it comes down to making Kessel and others swallow a little pride to limit the odds of aggravating injuries, they need to do it.

Even if it means a bumpy start to their title defense.

Win now, worry later: Why the Lightning should go all-in

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 08:  Ben Bishop #30 celebrates with Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 of the Tampa Bay Lightning after defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 in Game Three of the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the United Center on June 8, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Getty
1 Comment

This is part of Lightning day at PHT …

The Chicago Blackhawks employed some great teams in winning three championships so far during the Jonathan ToewsPatrick Kane era, but there was something special about that first group.

For one thing, Toews and Kane were playing out the final years of their entry-level contracts. Those CBA-powered savings gave the Blackhawks a surplus of players who would eventually be too expensive to retain, most notably Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd and Brian Campbell.

That fantastic group never faced elimination during an overpowering run to the 2010 Stanley Cup.

Thanks to deft maneuvering by GM Stan Bowman, the Blackhawks were able to reload and put together other strong supporting casts even after big losses, and that could be a profound lesson for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

It might be tempting for the Bolts to merely keep their window open as long as possible. Instead, they should take a big swing in 2016-17 and then trust management to recover from any fallout.

Bishop’s expiring contract

The safe move would be to trade away some of the expiring contracts on Tampa Bay’s roster instead of risking getting nothing when they leave.

Many believe that Ben Bishop is on his way out. With one year left on a contract that carries about a $6 million cap hit and Andrei Vasilevskiy getting the Jake Allen-style “you’re the man” extension, it seems like a matter of time.

Keeping Bishop around for one more season might just pay off, though.

For one thing, Vasilevskiy’s shown signs of brilliance, yet his current NHL numbers aren’t overwhelmingly strong. Bishop, meanwhile, kept the Bolts afloat during some tough times in 2015-16.

Even if the Lightning feel like Vasy is the guy, what if he gets hurt? They’ve already seen goalies get injured at inopportune times, and the reigning champion Penguins provide another reminder.

(For more on the Bishop situation, click here.)

Win low, worry later

GM Steve Yzerman deserves ample credit for signing Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman to relative bargain deals, but those are still expensive contracts. The squeeze is coming.

That said, the Lightning may want to identify their own Byfugliens and Ladds and go for broke in 2016-17. Let’s not forget how close they were to a second consecutive Stanley Cup Final appearance even with Stamkos on the shelf.

It’s tough to imagine the Bolts managing to keep all of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Drouin. On the other hand, it’s difficult to imagine many opponents managing to contain an attack that features Stamkos, Johnson, Palat, Drouin and other dangerous attackers.

(Plus, another year of evaluation would give Yzerman time to determine who is truly a core member.)

***

It’s a challenging situation, but the Lightning easily rank alongside the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals and maybe a few other select teams as the cream of the East crop.

They’re positioned to jostle with the elites for some time, but why not take their best shot in 2016-17 and then make the best of things later on?

Sometimes the difference between really good and truly great comes down to having the courage to make these tough calls.