Chris Drury

Best of the rest update: The remaining top free agents on the market

3 Comments

We’re over three weeks removed from the start of free agency and the signing season was quick to start and now heads into its slower days as teams rosters have filled out. While some teams have yet to get to the salary floor, the big money deals are all but over with and finding that key depth contributor to perhaps lead to a Stanley Cup run next summer can be tricky.

As it is, there’s a host of guys with famous names still out on the market and with recent salary buyouts and arbitration rejection there’s a few more interesting names out there for teams to sniff around at. By interesting we mean guys you know and might even ask, “He’s still playing?” about.

Without further ado, here’s the free agent hit-list as it stands according to the wise guys at CapGeek.

At forward you have recent buyout victims Chris Drury and J.P. Dumont. Drury’s days with the Rangers are over with and as an experienced third or fourth line center he could be useful for a team in need. Perhaps a team like Ottawa or Phoenix could stand to have a guy like him to help provide depth and leadership to the host of youth on both rosters.

If veteran centers are your thing, there’s also Mike Modano and Kris Draper who spent last year in Detroit, Todd White who spent time with the Rangers, and John Madden who played in Minnesota last year.

Dumont could bring some solid big-body depth to a team in need along the wings. He was able to do reasonably well there for Nashville over the last few seasons, but last year was a bad one for him with reduced ice time and just 11 goals.

Other wingers with some name recognition and perhaps a little bit to bring to the table include Sergei Samsonov, Alex Kovalev, Cory Stillman, and Ethan Moreau. If you want pure offense and potentially frustrating production there’s always Nikolay Zherdev whose 16 goals in 56 games with the Flyers last year showed that he’s still able to get it done in the NHL after a year in the KHL.

Teemu Selanne is still, technically, an unrestricted free agent the word out there is that if he doesn’t sign with the Anaheim Ducks again, he’s going to hang it up for good. Here’s to hoping we see Selanne back in black and orange for one more season.

At defense, the recently let go Chris Campoli heads the list of available and useful players there. The Blackhawks and Campoli went to arbitration early so the Blackhawks could refuse his arbitration victory and set him free. With older options like Bryan McCabe, Scott Hannan, Steve Staios, Steve Eminger, Craig Rivet, and Brent Sopel out there on the market, a team in need of another experienced defenseman has some options available to them.

A team like the New York Islanders that needs to reach the salary floor and has a need for more experience on the blue line could go dipping into the pool here but don’t expect Campoli to be their possible target, they’ve been there before with him. Besides, the Isles are busy with a reclamation story of a different kind.

With goalies, the availability list is short and the market may be impossible to get through. After Detroit signed Ty Conklin to be their backup goalie once again, for guys that are still out there they’ll have a hard time finding work. That means for Pascal Leclaire, Marty Turco, and Ray Emery landing an immediate NHL job may not happen. Waiting around for injuries to happen elsewhere across the league will help potentially lead to ironic headlines in the future. For Turco, it could mean an earlier start to a television career.

The pickings are slim, but there’s help to be had for some teams out there. The key will be to not make a signing end up being too foolish to make it work.

Video: Frustrations boil over as Stars lose again

1 Comment

The Dallas Stars just cannot get it together. And this afternoon in Buffalo, where the Stars dropped a 4-1 decision to the Sabres, captain Jamie Benn‘s frustrations boiled over.

As you can see in the video above, Benn snapped three sticks in total — one on the ice, two while on the bench.

It’s worth noting that Benn committed a bad giveaway on the Sabres’ winning goal in the first period. With the Stars on the penalty kill, Benn had a chance to clear the puck. Instead, he put it right on the stick of Jake McCabe, who beat Antti Niemi to make it 2-0 Buffalo.

With the loss, the Stars’ record fell to 18-19-8. And after 45 games, last year’s Central Division champs find themselves four points back of Los Angeles for the second wild-card spot in the West, with the Kings holding two games in hand.

Credit to the Sabres, who improved to 17-17-9 with today’s well-earned victory. But this one will be remembered for Benn’s very public display of frustration. The Stars get right back at it tomorrow in Manhattan against the Rangers.

Pre-game reading: On Willie O’Ree, who ‘broke so many barriers’ for black hockey players

Leave a comment

— Up top, enjoy Rick Jeanneret’s call after Tyler Ennis opened the scoring this afternoon in Buffalo. Ennis was making his first appearance for the Sabres since Nov. 7. He missed 30 games with a groin injury.

— Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States. To honor it, Willie O’Ree will drop the puck in a ceremonial faceoff prior to this afternoon’s Kings-Lightning game in Los Angeles. O’Ree was the NHL’s first black player and has served as an inspiration for present-day players like Tampa Bay’s J.T. Brown. “He broke so many barriers, made it possible for me to play the game that I love. Anything I can do to keep growing the game, keep doing the things he did to help, that’s something I’m willing to do.” (Tampa Bay Times)

— The Detroit Red Wings are probably going to miss the playoffs for the first time since 1990, and that could turn them into sellers at the trade deadline. Might Thomas Vanek draw interest? The 32-year-old winger is a pending unrestricted free agent with a cap hit of $2.6 million. He’s also the Wings’ co-leading goal-scorer with 11 tallies in 32 games. (The Detroit News)

— Speaking of the trade deadline, Sportsnet’s Luke Fox has written a “Who’s Buying and Who’s Selling” post. Halfway through the season, only Colorado and Arizona are totally out of the race, but teams like the Wings, Devils, Sabres, Islanders and Canucks need to be realistic about their chances of making the playoffs. At the very least, a Plan B should be put in place now, because March 1 isn’t all that far away. (Sportsnet)

— Derek Boogaard’s father, Len, wants fighting banned from all levels of hockey. And he’s not just passing the buck — he fully accepts responsibility for allowing, or even encouraging, his late son to become an NHL enforcer. “You’re supposed to be looking after your kids. In hindsight it is always, ‘Well, maybe I should have done this, maybe I should have done that.’ When I was taking him to Saskatoon for boxing lessons at 15, it’s like, ‘What was I thinking?'” It’s a compelling read, even if you still think there’s a place for fighting in the game. (Globe and Mail)

— Edmonton used to have the best ice in the league. But that’s not the case anymore at their new downtown rink, Rogers Place. Milan Lucic gives the ice a 6.5 out of 10, which is at least better than the 3 he gave it back in October. “I don’t think there is a 10 out there, but I definitely do feel that they’re going to eventually get it to be an eight and a half or nine.” (Edmonton Sun)

Enjoy the games!

Waived at start of year, Watson’s become ‘a real force’ for Preds

NASHVILLE, TN - JANUARY 12:  Austin Watson #51 of the Nashville Predators is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal against the Boston Bruins during the second period at Bridgestone Arena on January 12, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

Seven years ago, hopes were high for Austin Watson.

A big-bodied forward from the OHL, Watson was selected 18th overall by Nashville at the 2010 draft — ahead of the likes of Nick Bjugstad, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Charlie Coyle, among others.

“We were really happy to get Austin. He’s certainly a Predator- type player, doing all the little things to help your team win,” GM David Poile said at the time, per the Peterborough Examiner. “He’s got leadership qualities, and he’s been compared to Ryan Kesler in Vancouver.

“If he’s anything close to that, we’ll have had a very good day at the draft.”

Needless to say, expectations were high.

Yet expectations couldn’t have been much lower at the start of this campaign when Watson, who’d only played 63 games for the Preds over four seasons, was placed on waivers after training camp.

He’d failed to establish himself at the big-league level and was off to AHL Milwaukee, where he’d already spent a good part of his professional life.

That, it seems, was the motivation Watson needed.

Since being recalled in late October, the 25-year-old has been impressive, scoring a career-high 11 points through just 39 games. He’s averaging over 12 minutes per game and has earned not just the trust of head coach Peter Laviolette, but praise as well.

“He’s been doing everything right,” Laviolette said, per the Preds website. “His physicality, his defensive play, his offensive play, he’s been a real force for our team.”

Watson’s been on a tear lately, with three goals and four points in his last four games. Poile said he’s starting to play like the power forward the Preds envisioned back in 2010, and Watson has certainly acquitted himself physically, sitting second among all Nashville forwards with 76 hits.

That’s key for a team that doesn’t boast a ton of physicality. With Watson and the newly-acquired Cody McLeod in the lineup, the Preds feel they’re a tougher team to play against — and they are playing some of their best hockey of the year at the moment, with five wins in their last eight.

Isles chase Rask with three goals on just 15 shots (Updated)

SUNRISE, FL - NOVEMBER 1: Goaltender Tuukka Rask #40 of the Boston Bruins watches a replay during first period action against the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on November 1, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida. The Bruins defeated the Panthers 2-1. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

Boston’s maddening inconsistency was on display once again Monday.

Fresh off a 6-3 win against the Flyers on Saturday, spirits were high. The B’s felt like their offense was finally starting to connect, and there was hope the club could string together victories for the first time this calendar year.

Then the opening 40 minutes of today’s game transpired.

After a nondescript first period, Boston came out flat in the second and were smacked by an Islanders team down the services of Andrew Ladd and Cal Clutterbuck. By the time the middle frame ended, Tuukka Rask had been beaten three times in just over five minutes — two of those goals courtesy Nikolai Kulemin — and was hooked at the intermission, with Zane McIntyre coming out to start the third.

The B’s did out-shoot the Isles 24-15 through two periods, but that hardly impressed the TD Garden faithful:

If the Bruins can’t turn things around in the third, they’ll head into a tough stretch on a rather sour note. Four of Boston’s next seven games are on the road — in Detroit, Tampa, Pittsburgh and Washington — and their home dates include tough matchups against the Blackhawks and Penguins.

Update: Well, that was ugly. Jason Chimera added a shorthanded marker in the third to make the final score Isles 4, Bruins 0.

“Whether it was fatigue or not, I don’t know,” head coach Claude Julien said postgame, per CSNNE. “But we were flat today. It’s very disappointing.”