KHL calling: Brent Sopel headed to Russia; Alex Kovalev to follow?

With the NHL free agent market all but running out of jobs for those available, some players are taking the initiative and finding work elsewhere.

Former Penguins star and former Rangers and Canadiens forward Alex Kovalev is reportedly heading to the KHL. According to sources, Kovalev will sign a deal with Atlant Mytishchi to play hockey next season in his home country. Kovalev spent last season with the Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins and scored 16 goals and 18 assists in 74 games combined with each team. In his time with the Penguins, he scored just two goals and five assists.

Over 18 NHL seasons, Kovalev has scored 428 goals and amassed 1,024 points but at 38 years-old he’s lost a step and isn’t as dynamic of a scorer as he once was. While it’ll be sad to see him leave the NHL, he’s seen the game rocket past his abilities to be a big time offensive producer.

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Former Montreal defenseman and Stanley Cup winner with the Chicago Blackhawks Brent Sopel announced via Twitter that he’s headed to Russia to play in the KHL. Making his signing all the more official was the posting made by Sopel’s wife on her blog saying as much.

Sometimes, well most of the time, things don’t go as planned.  This is one of them.  We have been back in the Syracuse area visiting family for over a week now, and Sopes and Paul returned to Chicago two days ago.  I received a phone call that he signed with the KHL.  Metallurg Novokuznetsk to be exact.  The hardest part is that he’s got to leave by August 9th – not much time.

While Kovalev’s departure would be sad, Sopel’s is a bit surprising given that he’s got some defensive abilities on the blue line and is a capable shot blocker. Last season with Atlanta and Montreal, Sopel had two goals and five assists all with the Thrashers. With the Canadiens, Sopel registered no points and was a -1 in plus/minus in 12 games. Being a defensive defenseman means not scoring points and not getting noticed in your own end.

There’s certainly a place for Sopel in the NHL, but waiting it out and potentially ending up with a two-way deal and winding up in the AHL at some point isn’t too appealing. You can’t fault Sopel for going for the sure thing and the sure money, even if it is so far from home.

Ducks add Konowalchuk, Morrison to Carlyle’s staff

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Anaheim has added two assistants to Randy Carlyle’s coaching staff — longtime NHLer Steve Konowalchuk, and AHL Manitoba assistant Mark Morrison.

Konowalchuk, 44, comes over after a successful stint as the bench boss in WHL Seattle. Last year, he led the Thunderbirds to a league title and a spot in the Memorial Cup. He has history with Carlyle from their days together in Washington — Konowalchuk as a player, Carlyle as an assistant coach.

Konowalchuk also has NHL experience, having served two years as an assistant in Colorado.

Morrison, 54, has spent the last six years with the Moose/IceCaps, Winnipeg’s AHL affiliate. Prior to that, he was the head coach of ECHL Victoria.

Today’s moves after the Ducks parted ways with Paul MacLean. He’d been with the organization for two seasons, serving under both Carlyle and Bruce Boudreau.

Report: Senators plan to keep Phaneuf, after asking him to waive NMC

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It’s been an interesting few weeks to say the least for the Ottawa Senators and Dion Phaneuf.

He was asked to waive his no-movement clause ahead of the expansion draft, which would’ve left him unprotected had he agreed to that request. There were also reports of trade interest in Phaneuf, who is 32 years old and with four years remaining on a pricey seven-year, $49 million contract.

Phaneuf denied Ottawa’s request to waive, and the Senators ended up losing Marc Methot to Vegas, which then flipped him to Dallas in exchange for a 2020 second-round pick and prospect goalie Dylan Ferguson.

Now, it’s been reported, the Senators plan to keep Phaneuf after the market for him apparently to cool off.

What has transpired over the past few weeks likely makes for some awkward conversations down the road.

“They’re not easy conversations when you ask someone (to waive a no-move clause), but he understood,” Senators general manager Pierre Dorion told Sportsnet.

“It was a man-to-man conversation. There was no bulls**t. When we talked to him I explained to him: ‘I said it’s not that you’re the fourth-best defenceman on this team, Dion.’ It’s ‘we want to try to top keep our top-four intact.’”

Phaneuf played in 81 regular season games for Ottawa in 2016-17, scoring nine goals and 30 points. He scored one goal and five points in 19 playoff games.

The Senators currently have six defensemen under contract for next season, with their star Erik Karlsson facing a four-month recovery from offseason foot surgery. With Methot gone, prospect blue liner Thomas Chabot should also have quite an opportunity to crack the Senators’ lineup next season.

Preds’ Ellis says he underwent ‘minor procedure’ after Stanley Cup Final

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Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis made an appearance on a Hamilton, Ont., television station Wednesday, sporting a large brace running almost the full length of his right leg.

Ellis left Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final with an undisclosed injury and didn’t return in what was a blowout loss to the Penguins. He did, however, return to the lineup for Game 6, but Nashville’s playoff run came to an end on home ice with a stunning 2-0 loss.

During his appearance on CHCH, Ellis said he had a “minor procedure” done on his right leg.

“It looks worse than it probably is,” he continued. “Hopefully be back on the ice in no time.”

Predators general manager David Poile had acknowledged in the days following the Stanley Cup Final loss to Pittsburgh that Ellis undergoing surgery was a possibility.

From The Tennessean:

Ellis played in each of Nashville’s 22 playoff games, but coach Peter Laviolette said following the team’s season-ending loss Sunday that Ellis’ ailment was “pretty serious.” Poile said that more should be known next week.

The Predators made the playoffs as the second wild card team in the West, but swept Chicago in the first round and surged all the way to the final. Their top-four defensemen, including Ellis, played such a pivotal role in the team’s historic postseason. Ellis finished third on the Predators in playoff scoring, with 13 points in 22 games.

Carolina re-signs ‘physical, smart’ McGinn — two years, $1.775 million

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After a breakout campaign, Brock McGinn has cashed in with the Hurricanes.

McGinn has signed a two-year, $1.775 million extension, the club announced on Wednesday. The deal carries a $887,500 average annual cap hit, and comes on the heels of a campaign in which he scored 16 points in 57 games, averaging 12 minutes per night.

“Brock took a step forward last season and was a regular presence in our lineup,” GM Ron Francis said in a release. “He is a young player who plays a physical, but smart brand of hockey, and can contribute offensively.”

McGinn, 23, is the youngest of the McGinn brothers. Tye spent last year with Tampa Bay’s AHL affiliate in Syracuse, while Jamie wrapped the first of a three-year deal in Arizona.