Josh Bailey

Race to the salary floor: Four teams still have cash to spend to compete

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While we’ve been busy taking a look at the cap room a handful of teams will have next year and the lack of cap room others have, there’s still a few more teams that have a lot of money left to spend so that they too can compete this year. Four teams are still under the NHL salary floor of $48.3 million and with most, if not all, of the prime free agent targets signed these teams could be facing a bit of a bind.

Who are those four? CapGeek.com has us covered in knowing who they are and how much they’ve got left to spend. We’ll take a look at each team’s scenario and just what they’ve got left to do to cover the rest of their payroll bill to play next season.

New York Islanders

The Isles have over $9 million left to spend to get to the salary floor. CapGeek lists the Islanders as having just over $39 million committed to next season’s payroll and for a team that’s got most of their roster set for next season, that’s a bit of an issue. To help chip away at that daunting amount, the Islanders have four restricted free agents left to sign. Josh Bailey and Blake Comeau will get a decent pay day once they’re signed to new deals but Micheal Haley won’t get paid much at all and likely ends up in the AHL. Jesse Joensuu has already departed to play in Sweden.

Making things more fun for the Islanders is the talk of bringing back former captain and major buyout victim Alexei Yashin. Yashin is reportedly being offered a deal around $2 million but the stunning part about that is he’s already being paid $2.2 million by the Islanders for the next four years thanks to being bought out back in 2007. Whoops.

If Yashin is signed by the Islanders again, he’ll be double dipping on the team and still unlikely to help them reach the salary floor. That is unless they offered him a contract similar to the one that got the Isles in so much trouble the last time around. Of course, if things play out like that they’ll have to completely rebuild the Nassau Coliseum really fast after hordes of angry Isles fans burn it to the ground.

If the Isles can acquire a defenseman worth a couple million in a deal and get Bailey and Comeau re-signed to improved deals and bring in Yashin, they’ll get closer to the $48.3 million they need to reach the floor. Finding another team to deal with for a defenseman might be tricky and the isles seem unlikely as an option to bring back newly unrestricted free agent Chris Campoli.  It’s never a dull moment on the Island.

source: APNashville Predators

Nashville’s situation can get figured out really fast and really easily. The Predators payroll is sitting at $41.2 million, just over $7 million from the salary floor and they’ve got one really big restricted free agent left to get signed in captain Shea Weber. Weber is one of the top defensemen in the NHL and more than worthy of a big raise and a long term deal with the Preds.

Weber should get a contract somewhere in the range of $6 million-$7 million per year against the cap and with that coupled up with potentially Ryan Ellis making the Predators roster and bringing his entry level deal worth over $1.4 million against the cap the Predators are shaping up just fine to be in compliance with the floor.

The key is getting Weber’s deal done and while the Preds are a frugal team that doesn’t break the bank for anyone, doing so for Weber makes a lot of sense. He’s their best player, the team captain, and he loves playing in Nashville. While the Preds may have headaches next season dealing with Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne, it’s not as if they’re pushed up against the cap. Time to “get ‘er done” in Nashville.

source: Getty ImagesColorado Avalanche

The Avalanche aren’t too far off from getting things done. Colorado’s payroll is at $45.4 million putting them about $2.8 million off from reaching the salary floor. The Avalanche have just one restricted free agent left to get signed in defenseman Kyle Cumiskey. Cumiskey’s potential deal likely won’t pay him enough to get the Avs to the floor but there’s another guy waiting in the wings that could solve all of Colorado’s problems.

2011 first round pick Gabriel Landeskog is a distinct possibility to make the team in his first year out of junior hockey and should he do that, his first-year entry-level contract will come with a cap hit of over $3 million as the second overall pick in the draft. The trick there is that Colorado still has to sign him to it and then he’ll have to make the team out of training camp. If he does that, the Avs salary floor worries are all taken care of and the addition of Cumiskey’s deal will push them over the floor limit.

source: Getty Images

Phoenix Coyotes

Phoenix doesn’t have much to do to get over the salary floor. With a payroll currently at $47.8 million, the Coyotes only have just over $430,000 left to spend to break the barrier. With restricted free agents Kyle Turris and Mikkel Boedker left to get signed, it’s mathematical that the Coyotes will get over the salary floor. Even if somehow both Turris and Boedker signed contracts worth the league minimum they’d go flying past the salary floor and into compliance.

As it is, the Coyotes will be looking to Turris to have the breakout season they’ve been waiting on since drafting him third overall in 2007. Turris has had his ups and downs in Dave Tippett’s system in Phoenix and being rushed to the NHL under Wayne Gretzky’s watch in 2007-2008 did him no favors. Boedker similarly could use a breakout year as well and he too has struggled under Tippett’s watch. They’ll get paid, but they may not be long for the desert if things don’t pick up.

‘I’ve got to be more aware’ on the ice, says Ekblad after recent injury

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 17: Aaron Ekblad #5  of the Florida Panthers leaves the ice following warmups prior to Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the New York Islanders during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Barclays Center on April 17, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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As per multiple reports, Aaron Ekblad practiced with his Florida Panthers teammates Thursday.

Good news. That marks another step in the progress he’s made from a neck injury — initially reported to be a concussion — suffered on a hit from Leo Komarov that ultimately ended the defenseman’s experience for Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey.

On Thursday, Ekblad told reporters the injury was actually whiplash.

The 20-year-old Ekblad has had a history of concussions, including one from a Hockey Canada camp in August, 2014 — almost two full months after the Panthers selected him first overall.

He was injured again in January of last season when Matt Hendricks caught him with a dangerous hit against the end boards, resulting in a suspension for Hendricks.

Despite supplemental discipline from the league on that specific incident involving Hendricks, Ekblad, a valuable part of a young Panthers team that has increased expectations surrounding it, put the onus on himself to be more aware on the ice.

“When I think about it in the Edmonton game last year, there were a couple of big hits on their guys. I should have expected to someone was going to come after me,” Ekblad told NHL.com.

“Obviously you don’t think that. You think there’s a little bit more respect among players out there. I turned, I saw him. I didn’t think he was going to drive my head into the glass. The Komarov hit there, he got me on the shoulder, not much on the head or anything like that. It was more of the whiplash effect. Again, I’ve got to be more aware. You train your body, you train your brain to do that kind of thing. I do a lot of eye exercises and stuff like that. We’re working on that right now and just trying to be a better hockey player that way.”

The Panthers have a preseason game with the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight. Ekblad is not in the lineup.

Stars sign WHL d-man Vala to entry-level deal

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The Dallas Stars have added another defenseman to their group of prospects.

On Thursday, the club signed 18-year-old Czech blue liner Ondrej Vala to a three-year entry-level contract. Vala is currently playing for the Kamloops Blazers in the Western Hockey League. He had four goals and 21 points in 72 games last season — his first with the Blazers.

Having represented the Czech Republic at U-17 and U-18 international events and played for the Stars prospects team at the Traverse City Tournament, Vala is also listed at six-foot-four-inches tall and 209 pounds.

He certainly brings size on the blue line, which is a quality the Stars appear to value in him.

“Ondrej has shown a combination of size and physicality along with the ability to play a defensively responsible game at the junior hockey level,” said Stars GM Jim Nill in a statement.

Related:

Another — yes, another — blow for Dallas as Janmark spotted on crutches

Capitals send first-round pick Johansen back to junior

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Lucas Johansen poses for a portrait after being selected 28th overall by the Washington Capitals in round one during the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images)
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The Washington Capitals have sent prospect defenseman Lucas Johansen, selected 28th overall in this year’s NHL Draft, back to the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League.

From the Kelowna Capital News:

The Kelowna Rockets have yet to play a regular season game with a full lineup.

That will change this weekend in Prince George when defenceman Lucas Johansen and forward Calvin Thurkauf rejoin their WHL club for a two-game set against the Cougars.

Johansen, a first-round NHL draft pick this summer, is back from the camp of the Washington Capitals, while Thurkauf returns from the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Capitals confirmed the news via Twitter.

Johansen, the younger brother of NHL center Ryan Johansen, appeared in Monday’s exhibition game for the Capitals, apparently leaving a positive impression on the coaching staff.

Still, Johansen doesn’t turn 19 years old until the middle of November. He also has some growing left to do at six-foot-one-inch tall and just 174 pounds, so sending him back to junior is the logical step.

“For a first game, to have that kind of poise playing defense, you don’t see it very often,” Capitals’ associate coach Todd Reirden told the Washington Post.

“So, it’s fun to watch, how he goes about the game. Certainly, I think it’s helped growing up in the family that he has and being around some of the players he’s practiced with. I think he has some special tools, in terms of his ability to slow down the play and see some things that other players don’t. He’s looking like an outstanding draft pick for us and a real great prospect moving forward.”

Shaw suspended three preseason games for boarding Connor Hobbs

TAMPA, FL - JUNE 02:  Andrew Shaw #65 of the Chicago Blackhawks speaks during Media Day for the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena on June 2, 2015 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The National Hockey League has suspended Montreal Canadiens forward Andrew Shaw for three preseason games for boarding defenseman Connor Hobbs of the Washington Capitals in an exhibition game Tuesday.

The Habs have five more exhibition games remaining before the regular season begins Oct. 13.

Shaw was given a major penalty and a game misconduct on the play, as he slammed Hobbs “through the numbers, with speed” from behind into the end glass, as per Thursday’s video from the NHL outlining the suspension.

From the video: “It is important to note that Hobbs is never eligible to be checked by Shaw on this play. From the moment Shaw arrives at the faceoff dot, he sees nothing but Hobbs’ numbers. Hobbs makes no sudden movement just prior to contact that turns this hit from a legal hit into an illegal one.

“The onus is on Shaw to ensure that he can deliver this hit in a legal fashion, minimize the force, or avoid this hit completely. Instead, he hits forcefully through Hobbs from behind, driving him dangerously into the glass.”

In a bid to land a gritty forward to their lineup, the Habs acquired Shaw from the Blackhawks, who had been dealing with a cap crunch, during the NHL Draft. He later signed a six-year contract extension with Montreal.