Filip Kuba

Is Filip Kuba the answer for help on defense for the Islanders?

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Making a trade that works out to be a marriage of convenience happens every now and again in the NHL. We saw one agreed to today between Calgary and Phoenix, and while it’s rare when it does happen, things can work out that way sometimes.

Could we see a pair of Eastern Conference teams work out an agreement that helps each other out in the best of ways before the season starts? If idle speculation and making sense out of current situations occurs, we could.

The New York Islanders are believed to be in the hunt for an experienced defenseman to solidify their blue line corps. Islanders Point Blank’s Chris Botta says the team is snooping around to see what they can find but are having a tough time finding solid options at the moment. With guys like Mark Streit, Mike Mottau, and Mark Eaton all coming back from injury and guys like Milan Jurcina, Andrew MacDonald, Ty Wishart, and Travis Hamonic battling for the other three spots on defense there’s more question marks than there are answers and getting a veteran presence would go a long way for New York.

The Ottawa Citizen’s Ken Warren opines that the Senators can offer up someone perfect for the taking in Filip Kuba because GM Bryan Murray may have some tough moves to make during training camp thanks to a couple of youngsters making themselves known in David Rundblad and Jared Cowen.

Murray would likely jump at the opportunity to unload Kuba, who has one year and $3.7 million remaining on his contract.

Kuba was plagued by injuries and uninspired play last season.

Even if the Islanders believed he might rebound, he would be an expensive gamble for any team. There are also a few veteran defencemen who remain unrestricted free agents, including Bryan McCabe and ex-Islander Chris Campoli, but Long Island is a Long Lost destination in the minds of many players.

Well that’s a bit of a dire take for the Islanders especially given that they’re likely going to be a tougher team to deal with thanks to the host of their younger talent getting more adept at handling the NHL game. Besides, it’s not as if the Senators are shaping up to be monsters themselves. Their defensive unit could use the new blood that Rundblad or Cowen can provide given how poorly Sergei Gonchar played last year.

Gonchar along with steady veteran Chris Phillips, exciting offensive defenseman Erik Karlsson provide a decent top three of their own but elsewhere? Dicey. Matt Carkner is physical but not solid positionally and Brian Lee is as big a bust of a first round pick as there has been in the last ten years. Kuba is a decent player in that mix, but flawed… Just like the rest of the bunch.

If nothing else, seeing Garth Snow deal for Kuba would be a surprise. Kuba’s price tag is high, he’s an older player (turns 35 in December), and while he could help out with his big shot on the point, he’s an injury worry after missing 47 games the last two seasons in Ottawa. The last thing the Isles would need is to bring in a guy with injury problems after letting previous injury-prone guys like Radek Martinek walk in free agency.

Making such a move goes against what we’ve seen out of Snow in the past and for the kind of youth building he’s doing in New York, giving a shot to guys like MacDonald to improve and to see what Wishart and Hamonic actually have as well as taking a long look at Calvin de Haan in training camp makes a lot more sense. After all, if the answers aren’t there right away in camp, Snow would be better off waiting to see who hits the waiver wire first before swinging a deal for a high-priced guy like Kuba.

Coyotes GM ‘called right away’ on Hamonic

Don Maloney
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You can add Arizona to the list of teams that tried to get in on the Travis Hamonic sweepstakes.

“[He’s] a talented player,” Coyotes GM Don Maloney said, per the Arizona Republic. “We certainly called right away, but we do not have a good fit for them right now.

“That’s the bottom line. They’re looking for a ready-made complement player.”

Hamonic, who requested a trade out of New York, is garnering plenty of interest across the league. TSN’s Darren Dreger reported five clubs — Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Colorado and Minnesota — were in the mix, with Sportsnet floating potential trade chips like the Jets’ Jacob Trouba, and the Flames’ T.J. Brodie.

It’s unsurprising the Coyotes didn’t have a fit for Isles GM Garth Snow.

It’s hard to imagine — nearly impossible, really — to think Oliver Ekman-Larsson would be on the move, and the rest of the Arizona defense is comprised of unheralded youngsters (Michael Stone, Connor Murphy) or grizzled vets (Nicklas Grossmann, Zbynek Michalek).

But Maloney’s remarks are still noteworthy, because he more we hear about the Hamonic situation, the clearer the asking price gets.

Related: Hamonic willing to finish season with Isles

Star struck: Sens chase Niemi after three goals on nine shots (Update: And now he’s back)

Milan Michalek, Antti Niemi
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Bet Antti Niemi misses playing Buffalo.

Niemi, who stopped 46 of 47 shots in back-to-back wins over the Sabres last week, was hooked during Tuesday’s game against the Senators after allowing three goals on nine shots.

In Niemi’s defense, tonight’s goals weren’t exactly his fault.

John Klingberg coughed up the puck badly on Bobby Ryan‘s opening tally…

And on Ottawa’s second goal, Jyrki Jokipakka lost a board battle moments before Milan Michalek snapped one home:

The Sens’ third marker also came on a turnover.

Update: Well, this is quite the night for Dallas netminders. Kari Lehtonen replaced Niemi, allowed a goal, then got hurt in this collision with Klingberg, which forced him from the game and Niemi back into action.

Foley aware of Seattle reports, but says Vegas is ‘proceeding as if we will play in 2017’

Gary Bettman, Bill Foley
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Bill Foley, the man behind Las Vegas’ prospective NHL expansion team, says he knows about reports claiming the league is keeping an eye on a proposed Seattle arena.

He also says he isn’t going to worry about things out of his control.

“I’m aware of what’s going on (in Seattle) but in my communication with the league, our situation isn’t dependent on third parties,” Foley said Tuesday, per the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “We believe we’re in good shape and we’re proceeding as if we will play in 2017.”

Over the weekend, a Seattle Times piece suggested the NHL had yet to award Vegas or Quebec City an expansion franchise because the league is “avoiding any expansion decision until after an upcoming Seattle City Council vote likely to decide the fate of Chris Han­sen’s proposed Sodo District arena.”

The piece also suggested Seattle could be granted an expansion club for the 2018-19 campaign.


That vote, on granting Hansen part of Occidental Avenue South for his arena, is expected by January. No one knows how it will go, only that the lead-up should be politically charged and fiercely contested.

But passing it — future legal appeals notwithstanding — paves the way for Hansen to obtain his Master Use Permit and have his arena “shovel ready” should he choose to build.

And that means, once a vote passes, it’s entirely possible the NHL could conditionally award Seattle an expansion team.

To his credit, Foley remains solely focused on his Vegas bid — not what potential rival bids could bring to the table. And while he confirmed he has yet to be invited to the Dec. 7 NHL Board of Governor’s meeting in Pebble Beach, he re-iterated his only objective is to strengthen Sin City’s case for a hockey team.

“I’m focused on trying to find a place to build our practice facility,” he said. “I’m focused on the new arena and our fans who’ve put down deposits on season tickets.”

Report: Sabres’ Lehner (ankle) suffered minor setback in recovery

Robin Lehner
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Sabres fans hoping Robin Lehner would return early from his high ankle sprain received some tough news on Tuesday — per ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, Lehner suffered a “little setback” in his recovery.

Lehner was hurt in Buffalo’s opening game of the year and, originally, slated to miss 6-10 weeks. Six weeks have now passed, but optimism he’d be able to return in the earlier part of the timeframe has been dashed — LeBrun says Lehner’s projected return is now for mid-to-late December.

(So, closer to the 10-week estimate.)

While it’s not great news for the Sabres, it’s a positive development for the club’s other Swedish netminder, Linus Ullmark.

Recalled from AHL Rochester shortly after Lehner got hurt, Ullmark is on a really nice run in November — just check his last five games played:


The last Lehner update from the Sabres came in early November, when head coach Dan Bylsma told the News his goalie was “doing really well,” but “not close yet to getting back on the ice.”