Mark Bell returns to the NHL, signs one-year deal with Anaheim Ducks

For those who believe in second chances, this is the story for you. The Anaheim Ducks, the same team that caught lightning in a bottle by signing Ray Emery last season, will hope to do the same as they signed Mark Bell to a one-year, two-way contract worth $575,000. Bell hasn’t stepped foot on NHL since his 35 game stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2007-08 season. That year he managed 4 goals, 6 assists, and 60 penalty minutes in 35 games. The next season he split time between the Toronto Marlies and Hartford Wolf Pack in the AHL before heading to Kloten in the Swiss League for the last two years.

He put up respectable totals over the course of the short Swiss League seasons (29 goals over the last two seasons), but statistics in Europe are only a footnote to Bell’s story.

In 2006, Bell pled no-contest to driving under the influence charges in Northern California. A judge ordered the former San Jose Sharks forward to serve six months of jail time; a sentence that ended up being reduced to two months of work in a California jail and a 15-game suspension from NHL commission Gary Bettman. He played that final season with the Maple Leafs after the conviction, but ended up falling off the NHL radar afterwards. Today’s signing with the Ducks signifies a second-chance.

A year after the incident, Mark Bell spoke to the Toronto Star about the accident and how it affected his career and his outlook on life:

“Sometimes it takes something like that (accident) to change your life and it has. I’m taking the negative that happened a year ago and turning to a positive. The decision I made one year ago has changed my life in many ways.”

(snip)

“It’s been a learning experience this whole past year. I feel I’ve really grown as a person. I’m very confident in the way I live my life now. It’s taking one step at a time,” he said.

“Now, every day I wake up I realize I’m living a dream. It’s taken a while for me to understand that. Now that I have, I’m going to grab it. My fun now is at the rink.”

(s/t to Eric Stephens for the link)

The next step in Bell’s evolution will be to actually make the opening night roster for the Ducks. As it stands now, he will compete for a bottom-six role at the NHL level or will provide leadership with the Ducks’ AHL affiliate in Syracuse. If he’s grown as much as he says, Bell could be the second success story in as many years for the Ducks. Ray Emery overcame a career threatening hip-injury and a stint in the KHL to put up a 7-2 record and help launch the Ducks into a playoff spot last year. Honestly, Anaheim would be pleased if Bell has half of Emery’s success. The first step is proving that he can hang with on an NHL roster on an everyday basis; anything beyond that would be icing on the cake for the 30-year-old Ontario native.

One thing is for sure—he’ll appreciate it this time around.

Poll: Will John Tavares re-sign with the Islanders?

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This post is part of Islanders Day on PHT…

Is this going to be the last year we see John Tavares in a New York Islanders uniform?

That will likely be the question that surrounds the Islanders as long as Tavares is around and he hasn’t signed a long-term extension with the only club he’s ever played for.

The Tampa Bay Lightning went through this a couple of years ago with Steven Stamkos. In the end, the sniper opted to remain with the club that drafted him. Will Tavares do the same thing? Only time will tell. But what happens if Tavares doesn’t sign before the trade deadline?

The Bolts had to chose between keeping Stamkos for a playoff push and risk losing him for nothing, or trading him for a few assets to make sure they got something to show for him. The situation worked out well for Lightning GM Steve Yzerman.

Players like Tavares rarely make it to free agency, which is why it could be tempting for him to wait until July 1st to see what he could fetch on the open market.

The 26-year-old holds all the cards. He’s already said that he’s in no hurry to sign a new contract extension.

“For me, there’s really no rush,” Tavares told Newsday last week. “I’m trying to determine things, let the process run its course, keep the lines of communication open, keep it all internal and it’s been good so far . . . In terms of signing a new contract, there’s a lot that goes into it. To really dive into all the details, get into all the conversations I’ve had with Garth [Snow], the team and Doug [Weight], I don’t think it’s productive to the situation and the negotiating. I prefer to keep it all internal, that’s the best way to keep it all open, honest and healthy.”

Since he joined the Islanders as an 18-year-old in 2009-10, he hasn’t exactly been surrounded by incredible talent. Sure, New York has had some quality players on their roster, but they’ve always leaned heavily on Tavares.

This summer, they traded away inconsistent forward Ryan Strome to the Oilers for proven scorer Jordan Eberle, who could see some time on Tavares’ wing. Will it be enough to convince him to stay?

The biggest difference between the Tavares/Stamkos situation, is that Stamkos expected to Lightning to be very competitive over the next few years (yes, they missed the playoffs this year, but the future still looks bright). Can the Islanders superstar expect the same from his organization?

Many have already speculated that he could decide to sign with his hometown team, the Toronto Maple Leafs. Even though the Leafs have plenty of talented forwards on their roster, they could still benefit from having a guy like no. 91 around.

Will he stay or will he go? Let us know what you think by voting in the poll below. Feel free to leave your opinion in the comments section.

It’s New York Islanders day at PHT

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Understatement 1: the 2016-17 season was rough for the New York Islanders.

Understatement 2: John Tavares‘ future is a pretty big deal, to Islanders and hockey fans alike.

Many of the worries surrounding the second understatement stem from the first one; last season was rough, to the point that people are worried that Tavares’ confidence might be shaking in the Isles.

Of course, it’s not just about the 2016-17 season.

After all, they’ve only won one playoff series (eliminating the Panthers in 2016) since 1992-93. If Tavares is growing impatient with the Islanders’ process, then 2017-18 stands as potentially integral in keeping him around. Islanders fans cringe at such talk, but there’s no sense pretending that isn’t an issue on Isles day.

Ouch. Sorry.

The Islanders are sticking with Doug Weight as head coach after a largely successful interim run.

As far as changes go, GM Garth Snow traded Ryan Strome for Jordan Eberle, a player Tavares has some history and chemistry with. That was a good way to entice Tavares … but trading away Travis Hamonic might not have been the most endearing move. At least since the Islanders didn’t land, say, Matt Duchene for their troubles.

There’s always the chance that a Duchene deal – or some other upgrade – could still be in the works, but as is, this off-season feels more like a lateral move for the Islanders. The draft picks they got for Hamonic probably don’t mean much for Tavares, after all.

Islanders day will explore many facets of the team on Monday. Some might not even revolve around that Tavares fellow.

Malkin on ‘workaholic’ Crosby, Penguins’ chances for three Cups in a row

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Evgeni Malkin shared some interesting observations with Sports-Express’ Igor Eronko this weekend, including that he believes that the Pittsburgh Penguins “have all the tools” to win a third Stanley Cup in a row.

Quite reasonably, Malkin notes that the team kept its core intact.

Of course, Malkin and Sidney Crosby are still the catalysts for the Penguins, so it’s always fun to come across the latest observations from the Russian star.

Good stuff.

It’s not surprising to see Malkin praise Crosby and pump up the Penguins’ chances. Last year, he showed confidence in Pittsburgh’s repeat chances and professed an interest in being on the same team with Crosby for the next “10 years.”

This summer’s been a great one for Geno, with plenty of team honors mixing with some great individual feats. For example:

Habs’ Byron got to skate(board) with Tony Hawk

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Montreal Canadiens forward Paul Byron is so speedy on the ice, his skating can sometimes be intimidating, particularly when he’s on the penalty kill.

Every now and then, we’ll see, say, a floppy-haired snowboarder also show some serious skateboarding acumen, and skateboarding seems to blend well with surfing to boot. So what about ice skating and skateboarding?

Well, Byron apparently got to meet Tony Hawk – along with his kids – and at least made a solid impression, as the Canadiens website notes.

“Paul can hold his own. I bet he’d do better on my board,” Hawk said. “It wouldn’t be so wobbly.”

The only bummer is that it doesn’t seem like footage of Byron skateboarding is available. There is some cute footage of Hawk with Byron’s kids, though:

Little B's turn💙

A post shared by Sarah Byron (@sarahannbyron) on

There’s also Hawk skateboarding in a Canadiens sweater. Fun stuff.

(H/T to Sportsnet.)