Ottawa Senators v Florida Panthers

Ryan Shannon signs with Lightning; A new Sean Bergenheim?

The Tampa Bay Lightning hit the free agent market on Thursday as they signed speedy Ryan Shannon to a 1-year, $625,000 contract. Shannon is expected to immediately compete for a bottom six role on a team that was one game away from the Stanley Cup Final last year. What he lacks in size (he’s only 5’9”), he makes up for his elite level skating and a strong understanding of the game.

The Lightning will be Shannon’s fourth NHL team in the last five years. He bounced between the AHL, Ducks, Canucks, and Senators before he finally solidified his place in the NHL in 2009-10. His versatility was one of the major sales points for Lightning GM Steve Yzerman:

“”He can really skate. He’s a smart player. He’s got good skills and he can play any of the three forward positions, and his contract fits in with what we’re trying to do right now.”

Just take a quick look at their roster and it certainly looks like he’ll be filling the role Sean Bergenheim played a season ago. Last year, Yzerman and the Lightning signed Sean Bergenheim away from the New York Islanders with a 1-year, $700,00 contract offer. He rewarded the team’s optimism by scoring 29 points and playing solid two-way hockey on Tampa’s third line. More importantly, he caught fire in the playoffs as he netted 9 goals in only 16 games. For the first time in his career, he started to show the world why the Islanders used a first round pick on him back in 2002. He parlayed the breakout performance into a 4-year, $11 million contract from the Florida Panthers. But for one year, the Lightning got a tremendous bang-for-the-buck value.

This season they’ll hope to replicate their success with former-Senator Ryan Shannon. His 11 goals and 27 points are similar to Bergenheim’s regular season stats—albeit without the successful playoffs that lead to Bergenheim’s huge payday. Also like Bergenheim, he’s struggled to find his way in the NHL—but has the skill set to be a good depth player on a good team. The Lightning aren’t acquiring him to be a star forward that fills up the net; they’ll expect him to play good two-way hockey, get in on the forecheck, and play responsible hockey for head coach Guy Boucher. Shannon is excited to join the Lightning and show them what he can do:

“”The impression I got from playing against them and then watching them in the playoffs is like a boxer always hitting the body and then just pouncing on teams as the game went along,” Shannon said. “It’s a winning culture and to be part of that, there really is nothing better in the league. I think it’s a great fit the way they team plays.”

Sure, the Lightning would be pleasantly pleased if Ryan Shannon explodes in the playoffs like Bergenheim did this year. However, the main reason the Lightning are bringing Shannon into the fold is because he’s the right kind of player for their system. Like Bergenheim, he’s a very good skater who’s just a good hockey player. The Lightning hope he scores approximately 30 points like he did last season and be a dependable player that Guy Boucher can put on the ice in any situation.

If he can play responsible hockey for about 15 minutes per game, he’ll be a great acquisition for only $625,000 next year.

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
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The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”