First rounder round-up: Landeskog, Siemens, and Miller sign entry-level deals

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Both the Colorado Avalanche and the New York Rangers did a little planning for the future today as they signed their 2011 first round draft picks to entry-level deals. Colorado signed 2nd overall pick Gabriel Landeskog and 11th overall pick Duncan Siemens to three-year entry-level deals worth $832,500 per season and $277,500 signing bonus per RDS reporter Renaud P Lavoie. Likewise, the Rangers were able to reach an agreement with their first round selection, 15th overall JT Miller. Terms of Miller’s deal have not been released, but like Landeskog and Siemens, it’s a three-year entry-level deal.

Signing an entry-level deal is only the first step for three players who are traveling very different paths. Both Landeskog and Siemens will head to Colorado’s training camp in September, but the organization and fans have different expectations for the two prospects.

Duncan Siemens will get the opportunity to go through his first NHL training camp, but it would be shocking if he stayed with the big club this season. More than likely, the defenseman will head back to the Saskatoon Blades to continue his development at the junior level. Last season, Siemens had 5 goals, 38 assists, and 121 PIMs with an extremely talented Blades team. Stay-at-home defenders usually take a little longer to fully develop their game and Siemens is no different. If he can continue to add muscle and round out his offensive game over the next few years, he’ll be a nice addition to the Avalanche blueline.

On the other hand, Landeskog will have every chance to make the NHL out of training camp. Entering the draft, the Swedish left-winger was widely regarded as the “most NHL ready” player in the entire draft. His leadership and high-end skill should help him make the transition sooner rather than later. But there’s another factor that will help push Landeskog into the NHL next season: his cap hit. No, not because he has a rookie salary that is relatively cheap; because his approximate $3.75 million cap hit will help the Avs hit the cap floor. Adrian Dater has the specifics of the two Colorado contracts:

“Both players’ base salaries — if they make the Avs’ roster this coming season — will be $925,000. But their salary cap number would be considerably higher. In Landeskog’s case, he’ll have a $3.575 million cap hit if he makes the team — with his base salary, an $850,000 signing bonus and $1.8 million in other potential bonuses built into the contract. Siemens has a similar deal, but exact figures beyond the base salary were not available.”

For the Rangers, their first round prospect JT Miller has still a different path than Siemens and Landeskog. The 18-year-old spent last season with the U.S. Under-18 team before signing his entry-level deal today. Originally slated for the University of North Dakota, Miller de-committed in favor of the Plymouth Whalers in the Ontario Hockey League. The gritty forward that loves to throw the body will continue to improve his overall game in the OHL over the next few years. If he can improve his skating, he could end up as a valuable player creating energy and chipping in some points for the Rangers.

Signing entry-level deals is only the first step for all of these prospects who have plenty of pro potential. If they play this season in juniors, the three-year contracts will be delayed and the clock will not start ticking on their deals. The next step is for each player to continue developing and fulfilling all of the promise that will have both the Rangers and Avalanche organizations excited for years to come.

Pending free agents, Radulov and Zaitsev won’t play for Russia at Worlds

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Montreal’s Alexander Radulov and Toronto’s Nikita Zaitsev will not play for Russia at the upcoming World Championship, even though the Canadiens and Maple Leafs have been eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Both Radulov and Zaitsev are pending free agents, and it would be a risk to play ahead of contract negotiations.

Zaitsev just recovered from an upper-body injury, possibly a concussion. It may, in fact, have been the Leafs who refused to let him go.

Radulov, 30, can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Zaitsev, 25, will be of the restricted variety, assuming he doesn’t sign an extension first. 

Read more: Radulov denies he wants eight-year extension

They aren’t the only players skipping the Worlds due to their contract situations. Chicago’s Richard Panik and Vancouver’s Bo Horvat will not be taking the risk either.

Longtime Berenson assistant Pearson named new Michigan coach

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Michigan went the familiar route in replacing legendary head coach Red Berenson.

Mel Person, who spent 23 years as Berenson’s assistant before taking the head gig at Michigan Tech, has been named the ninth head coach in UM Hockey history, the school announced on Monday.

“I am thrilled to select Mel to lead our hockey program and for him to return home to U-M following tremendous success in leading the Michigan Tech program,” said director of athletics Warde Manuel. “I’ve known Mel for years and experienced his leadership ability when I was the sport administrator for hockey and he was an assistant under Red (Berenson).

“Mel’s qualifications are well known throughout the hockey community and reach far beyond his ability to coach. Simply put, I couldn’t have selected a finer person to lead our ice hockey program into the future.”

Pearson, 58, took Michigan Tech to a pair of NCAA Tournaments during his six years on the job. Several players advanced to the NHL on his watch including Chicago’s Tanner Kero, Edmonton’s Jujhar Khaira and New Jersey’s Blake Pietila.

Two weeks ago, Berenson stepped down from his post at Michigan after 33 years on the job. Together, he and Pearson captured two national championships together.

Backstrom believes Caps are ‘underdogs’ against Pens

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The Washington Capitals won the Presidents’ Trophy by seven points over the Pittsburgh Penguins this season, but someone forgot to tell Nicklas Backstrom.

Heading into their second-round matchup against Pittsburgh, Backstrom believes the Capitals are the underdogs in the series, per beat reporter Isabelle Khurshudyan.

Well Nicklas, that’s one way to look at it.

Backstrom is clearly trying to take some of the pressure off of his team’s shoulders, but maybe he’s onto something.

As you may remember, a similar situation arose last year. The Capitals had more points than any other team in 2015-16, but that didn’t stop them from being eliminated by these same Penguins in the second round. Eventually, Pittsburgh went on to hoist the Stanley Cup.

This time, the Capitals won’t have to worry about star defenseman Kris Letang, as he’s out with an upper-body injury. Pittsburgh was able to overcome the Letang injury (Matt Murray too) in round one against Columbus, but Washington is a different animal.

Even without Letang, getting by Pittsburgh won’t be easy, especially when stars like Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Sidney Crosby are rolling.

Malkin finished the first round with two goals and an incredible 11 points in five games, while Kessel and Crosby had eight and seven points respectively against Columbus.

Things were a little more difficult offensively for Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, as they posted six, three and three points in six games against the Leafs.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who has the most points and it doesn’t matter who the underdog is in the series either. All that counts is advancing through to the next round.

PHT Morning Skate: Are Thornton and Marleau done in San Jose?

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–After reaching the Stanley Cup Final last year, the San Jose Sharks lasted just one round in 2017. With both Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton set to become unrestricted free agents on July 1st, could their time in San Jose be over? We know that Logan Couture wants both players to come back, but would that be the right decision? Allowing them to leave could thrust young players into roles they’re not ready for, but keeping them around and icing a similar team could lead to another first-round exit. (Mercury News)

–The Philadelphia Flyers took a step back this season, as they failed to make the playoffs, but at least the future appears to be bright. They’ve managed to stockpile quality prospects and their farm team finished with the second best record in the AHL. (Philly.com)

–Former NHLer Brandon Prust spent a couple of months hanging around the Leafs earlier this season, but he never ended up getting a contract so he went off to Germany. Prust said the experience was great, but he was a little frustrated that Toronto decided to acquire players like Eric Fehr and Brian Boyle instead of giving him a shot. “I feel I belonged there and I could have helped that team; but what are you going to do? That’s hockey. I felt they really needed a guy like me; and I know I could have helped them. Then they go and make trades for players similar to me. It’s tough.” (Yahoo)

–Justin Bieber made an appearance at the ACC last night. He was wearing a custom Leafs jersey, and he seemed to be pretty into it. Unfortunately for Biebs, his team couldn’t extend the series to seven games. (BarDown)

–The Toronto Maple Leafs pushed the Washington Capitals as much as they could, but they just ran out of steam in Game 6. Check out the highlights from the Caps’ 2-1 OT win by clicking the video at the top of the page.

Braden Holtby, Sergei Bobrovsky and Carey Price were named finalists for the Vezina Trophy. The Hockey News makes a case for each of the three goaltenders, but Bobrovsky’s gotta be considered the favorite.  Jared Clinton writes: “It’s not just Bobrovsky’s base numbers that are impressive, either. His underlying numbers makes his case further. The only goaltending with 1,000-plus minutes at 5-on-5 to post a better SP than Bobrovsky’s .939 mark was Craig Anderson.” (The Hockey News)

–It sounds like Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski is pretty confident that Auston Matthews is going to walk away with the Calder Trophy this year: