Jumbo Jets? Kyle Wellwood signs one-year deal with Winnipeg

2 Comments

Former Sharks forward and Twitter meme superstar Kyle Wellwood has signed a one-year contract with the Winnipeg Jets. According to RDS reporter Renaud P Lavoie, the deal is worth $700,000 for next season. The former 5th round pick split time between Atlant in the KHL and San Jose Sharks last season. In 35 NHL games last season, Wellwood put up 5 goals and 13 points. He racked up an additional 7 points in 18 playoff games to finish the season.

Wellwood’s signing was one of the more confusing deals of the offseason. After looking for a contract for over two months, there were initial reports that he had re-signed with the San Jose Sharks—only to be quickly corrected. It didn’t take long for hockey fans around the Twitterverse to start recycling the #KyleWellwoodIsSoFat jokes—even if he’s only 180 lbs these days. For the real jokes, look no further than Wellwood’s new teammate Big Dustin Byfuglien. Oh, I’m sure hockey fans will have fun with the Jets this season.

The news of Wellwood’s signing, of course, comes a day after Yaroslavl’s horrific flight tragedy in Russia. For a player who played in the KHL last season, one has to wonder if the flight and conditions in the KHL had anything to do with his quick contract a day later. His $700,000 contract represents a slight raise from the $650,000 two-way deal he signed with the Sharks in the middle of last season.

If Wellwood can come into training camp in shape, he still has the potential to be a productive NHL player. He’s scored double-digit goals in four of his five full seasons in the NHL. In fact, the only year he was unable to score at least 11 goals was in 2007-08 when he only played 59 games with the Maple Leafs. Still, in 2006-07, he was able to put up 42 points in 48 games. People forget that there was a fair amount of expectation swirling around the Windsor native, as he prepared for the 2007 season.

He’s been struggling to fulfill those expectations ever since.

When at his best, Wellwood is a player with very good speed and above-average hands. If his well-documented weight problems are behind him, this is a low-risk, high-reward signing for the Winnipeg Jets. Over his last two NHL seasons with the Canucks and Sharks, Wellwood has shown that he has improved his two-way game immeasurably since his early days with the Maple Leafs. Using his speed, he could fill a valuable depth role for the Jets as they fill out their team (no put intended) and look for the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2007.

The Jets are depending on a few young players to continue their development this season. Evander Kane, Alex Burmistrov, and Patrice Cormier will all have to take significant steps forward for the Jets to threaten for a playoff spot this season. They’ll also need Bryan Little and Nik Antropov to bounce back this season, Andrew Ladd to replicate last year’s success, and Eric Fehr to hit the ground running with his new team.

Kyle Wellwood should fit right in with a team that has so many question marks. If he can rediscover the potential that he showed early in his career, he’ll provide some much needed depth as the Jets look to impress their new fanbase. That’s a huge “if.” If not, fans will always have the fat jokes to fall back on.

Nasty hits, fights, and a blowout in Maple Leafs vs. Canadiens

Leave a comment

First, the Edmonton Oilers fell 6-3 to the Dallas Stars. Next: the Toronto Maple Leafs absolutely throttled the fledgling Montreal Canadiens in a game that was ugly even beyond the 6-0 score.

It’s been a bad day for embattled GMs of teams who’ve made polarizing moves in hopes of solidifying Stanley Cup contenders. The Oilers (7-11-2) and Canadiens (8-11-2) even finish the night with nearly identical records, just to really hammer home their parallel pains.

You almost wonder if something is in the air this week (spoilers: not love), as nastiness has really ratcheted up since the Calgary Flames – Detroit Red Wings line brawl. The Canadiens and Maple Leafs boast one of the NHL’s richest and bitterest rivalries, and it showed on Saturday.

As you can see from the video above this post’s headline, Nazem Kadri played a major role in one of the most explosive moments, taking his frustrations out on Shea Weber. Weber and Jordie Benn wasted no time in going after Kadri.

(Criticisms of the hit are totally fair, but it seems strange to go too heavy on “turtling.” Who would be able to stand up to both Weber and Benn? In the heat of the moment, I’d wager most people would go with flight over fight.)

That was the most bombastic moment, but there was also this seemingly unlikely bout between Nikita Zaitsev and Paul Byron:

This absolute dismantling comes after Claude Julien was steaming mad from a 5-4 loss to the Arizona Coyotes. It’s tough not to read all of this as an indictment of the moves Marc Bergevin has made, especially considering the fact that their rivals dominated them for their sixth win in a row. If you’re the type to draw big conclusions from about a month of a season, you’d look at it as how to build a contender vs. how to waste Carey Price‘s prime.

That’s a little harsh … but either way, these are tough times for Bergevin.

Auston Matthews was definitely part of the fun for Toronto in his return from injury, including scoring this goal:

(You almost wonder if Mike Babcock was rolling the dice even having his star players out there amid all that carnage, but that goal was a sweet reward.)

[MORE: Why Toronto needs Matthews back for a tough stretch]

Yes, this is an 82-game season, and we’re only at about the first-quarter-mark. Still, teams like the Oilers and Canadiens came into 2017-18 with big expectations and big questions, and so far fans and management can’t like the answers.

By the way, asking for a well-dressed GM: what’s the opposite of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?”

Yikes.

Ovechkin returns after being badly bloodied by puck to face

Getty
Leave a comment

It’s still relatively early on Saturday night, and both the Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals could eventually provide further updates that derail this optimism.

With that out of the way, at the moment, the theme of the night might just be teams dodging big injury bullets, even if the star players in question can’t dodge actual damage.

In the case of Corey Crawford, he bounced back for the Blackhawks after Evgeni Malkin‘s thigh area clipped him in the head. Maybe it looked worse than it was?

Now, any time you see people scrape blood off the ice, you get a reminder of how dangerous – and yeah, occasionally strange – hockey can be. That only becomes more disturbing when that blood is coming from a player as important as Alex Ovechkin:

Remarkably, Ovechkin is returning for the third period of the Capitals’ game against the Minnesota Wild.

So:

  • This is a reminder that Ovechkin is tough, in case you foolishly think he isn’t because … his teams have lost in big games or something? Considering how recklessly he often throws his body around, and how infrequently he misses games due to to injury, you’d think that debate would have died a long time ago. Moments like this make it seem that much sillier.
  • Ovechkin must really want to help the struggling Capitals turn things around.
  • Maybe he wants to hang an L on his old boss Bruce Boudreau?

Anyway, PHT will keep an eye on these situations. Sometimes there are more answers the night of events, and sometimes it takes a little longer.

Right now, it’s reasonable for Capitals fans and Blackhawks fans to feel some relative, even if it’s only in the interim.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Video: Corey Crawford seemingly OK after contact by Evgeni Malkin

4 Comments

The Chicago Blackhawks have been up-and-down so far in 2017-18, but Corey Crawford has been brilliant almost every night he’s been in net. It’s to the point that he might be a little underrated, as people assume that Chicago will keep finding ways to win, possibly missing how big a part he’s playing in its successes.

Crawford’s been able to clean up a lot of messes, so Saturday brought a scare, as he seemed to take head contact from Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.

You can see the contact in the video above. It seemed like quite a collision, as part of Malkin (thigh? middle-boy) seemed to connect with Crawford at a fairly high speed.

The penalty call drew at least some complaints from Penguins fans, but the important thing either way is that the Blackhawks took a look at Crawford before allowing him to return to the game.

Now, we’ve seen players return to action only to miss games in the future, so it’s still worth monitoring Crawford. Considering how important he is to the Blackhawks, they have to hope that it was one of those plays that looked more painful than it actually was.

Also, with some justifiable complaints about players not going through concussion protocol lately, a lot of people are pleased with Chicago for at least assessing Crawford. We’ll see if anything changes, but right now, this seems like a dodged bullet (but not a dodged Malkin).

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Coyotes are (gasp) on a winning streak

Leave a comment

As of this writing, the Arizona Coyotes have the least standings points in the NHL (11) despite playing a league-leading 22 games.

Things could change for this young team, but for now, it’s about small victories, which makes actual wins that much bigger. Perhaps what they really needed was this road trip through Canada?

After losing to the Jets in Winnipeg 4-1 on Nov. 14 (no real shame, really, as everyone’s losing to the Jets lately … just ask the Devils), the Coyotes left Claude Julien and the Montreal Canadiens fuming by getting their first regulation win of 2017-18 by a score of 5-4.

Arizona couldn’t make it consecutive wins in regulation, but when Anthony Duclair completed a hat trick with the overtime game-winner, they did something rare: the Coyotes won back-to-back games. Yes, gang, those scrappy kids now have their very own winning streak after today’s 3-2 OT win against the Ottawa Senators.

They wrap up this run of Canadian games by facing the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Monday.

Just like any self-respecting sports team, the Coyotes get to participate in a ceremony after wins.

One would guess that Zac Rinaldo got the “championship belt” stemming from the rough stuff between the Coyotes and Canadiens, which included a Rinaldo fight (no surprise) and Tomas Plekanec‘s first NHL bout (in his 941st career game).

The Coyotes want to bounce back from their bad start, while Duclair hopes to shed the weight of a lousy 2016-17 season.

At 4-15-3, Arizona might already be in too big of a hole to make any waves. Even so, they can gain some respect, and show that they’re not as bad as their record indicates. Heck, a win in Toronto would give them an undeniably successful road trip, something that’s not always a layup even for established, contending teams.

Now, now, all of that aside … it might be a little too early to take them seriously.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.