Moments ago, we passed along Pavel Datsyuk’s moving tribute to his former Detroit Red Wings teammate Ruslan Salei. While Datsyuk will wear number 24 for the duration of training camp and the preseason in honor of Salei, other NHL players are providing their own odes to those lost.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that St. Louis Blues forward Philip McRae will give up number 38 in honor of two former Blues who died in that tragic plane crash: Pavol Demitra and Igor Korolev.
McRae will instead don number 39, which might invite some good natured ribbing from at least one former Blue.
“I just wanted to switch my number just out of respect for both families,” said McRae, who grew up in St. Louis but didn’t know either player on a personal level. “I felt like it was the right thing to do. Obviously, I feel I shouldn’t be wearing it any more after that.”
McRae will wear No. 39, which has been worn by Kelly Chase and Doug Weight among others in St. Louis. “I’m sure once ‘Chaser’ finds out, he’s going to be giving me a hard time,” McRae joked.
That’s a great gesture from McRae, who made his debut with the Blues last season by scoring one goal and two assists for three points with a -10 rating in 15 regular season games. If his early results are any indication, McRae might have a shot at making an impact as number 38. Jeremy Rutherford reports that McRae topped all players at the Traverse City tournament with seven points and also aced the team’s fitness tests.
(H/T to Rotoworld.)
Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov ranks among the many who felt a direct connection to that awful accident. The Russian goalie was a product of the team’s system.
“That was my old team,” Varlamov said softly Friday after undergoing a battery of medical and physical tests at the Pepsi Center in preparation for the first official training camp sessions Saturday.
“I played there for eight years,” he said. “When it happened, I felt I had to go to Yaroslavl and see the fans and the families and everybody. It was a tough time for everybody in Yaroslavl and in Russia. And I’m so sad.”
Sadly, Varlamov isn’t the only Avalanche player who must grapple with the losses of former friends. Winger Milan Hejduk told NHL.com that he knew seven or eight players who died in the crash. Center Paul Stastny shared his memories of Demitra, whom he knew for most of his life because his father Peter played with Demitra in St. Louis and was also a scout for the Blues.
“I was closest to Demitra,” Paul Stastny said. “As a family friend, we’ve known him for 20-plus years. He was one of my role models growing up. ‘Scratch’ (Skrastins) was my roommate my first two years and Rusty (Salei) was my teammate for two years. I think the hardest part is I know their wives and I know their kids. For those kids to grow up without their fathers, who died at such a young age, it’s such a fragile thing. It’s tough to think about.
“I knew Demitra’s wife really well. They lost one kid a couple months after birth and now they’ve lost him. Hopefully they get as much help as possible and get through it, all the families. You realize how important life is. There’s a lot more to life than sports. It’s more about family and friends, and enjoying every second of it.”
The L.A. Kings have brought back pending restricted free agent forward Andy Andreoff.
The Kings announced Saturday that they have re-signed Andreoff to a two-year deal worth an annual average value of $677,500.
He appeared in only 36 games last season, spending time on injured reserve, adding two assists. The previous year, however, he played in 60 games for L.A., scoring eight goals with 10 points.
At 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, Andreoff is known more for his physical style and checking abilities than offensive production, with 146 penalty minutes combined over the last two seasons.
CHICAGO — His stats jump right off the page.
On a Kingston Frontenacs squad that really struggled to score, Jason Robertson had 42 goals as a 17-year-old. Nobody else on his team had more than 26 goals.
For that reason, the Dallas Stars are hoping they got a steal in the second round of the NHL Entry Draft. Robertson, a winger, went 39th overall Saturday at United Center. A lot of scouts had him pegged as a first-rounder.
So why didn’t he go earlier?
Probably his skating.
“Everyone needs to work on stuff,” Robertson said. “Obviously, for me, I need to work on that. It’s something I’m always going to keep working on.”
But skating didn’t stop Robertson (6-2, 192) from shooting up the prospect rankings in 2016-17. At the midpoint of the season, NHL Central Scouting had him as the 34th-best North American skater. By season’s end, he was 14th.
“I think a lot of it came from confidence,” he said. “I gained more confidence in my game, my skating, my shot. Once I did that in the second half of the year, I really took off.”
He sure did, with 30 of his 42 goals coming in the final 40 games of the regular season. He then added five goals and 13 assists in 11 playoff games.
Robertson was born in Los Angeles, where his dad and grandpa were Kings season-ticket holders. He started playing hockey in L.A., then moved to Detroit when he was 10.
It’s been rumored for days that Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic might be on the move.
And now it’s happened.
Per Sportsnet, the Isles have dealt Hamonic to Calgary. It’s the second significant move of the draft weekend from GM Garth Snow who, on Thursday, acquired Jordan Eberle from Edmonton in exchange for Ryan Strome.
Hamonic, 26, is coming off a difficult campaign in which injuries limited him to just 49 games. That said, he’s still a well-regarded blueliner that will make Calgary’s defense one of the deepest in the league.
There, he’ll play alongside Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton and T.J. Brodie, putting the Flames in the conversation with Nashville for the best top-four in the NHL.
Hamonic had made waves during the ’15-16 campaign, when it was learned he’d requested a trade from the Islanders due to a family issue. That request had since been rescinded.
It’s worth mentioning that Hamonic has one of the more club-friendly deals in the league. He has three years left on a seven-year, $27 million deal, one that carries a $3.857M average annual cap hit. For a top-four defenseman that can log big minutes and post solid possession metrics, that’s a pretty low price to pay.
No word yet on what the return is for New York. The Isles selected a pair of defensemen — Robin Salo and Benjamin Mirageas — with their second- and third-round picks on Saturday morning.
UPDATE: Looks as though the Isles are only getting picks in return.
If Calgary misses the playoffs on 2019, the Isles get the pick that year. That condition stems from an earlier one in which Arizona would get the Flames’ second-rounder in 2019 if the Flames make the playoffs.
Got all that?
There’s widespread speculation Snow isn’t done dealing. The bounty of draft picks acquired could be utilized in a future trade, which would be the likely direction for a club that’s in “win-now” mode.
Winnipeg has retained some of its defensive depth, re-signing Ben Chiarot to a two-year deal worth $2.8 million.
It’s a $1.4 million average annual cap hit for the 26-year-old, and a nice pay bump from the $850,000 he was making on his previous deal.
Chiarot had a nice campaign in ’16-17, scoring a career-high 12 points while appearing in 59 games. The season ended on a down note, however, as he suffered an upper-body injury in mid-March and was shut down for the year.
Looking ahead, Chiarot will likely continue to serve in a depth role for the Jets. The club is bringing back nearly all of the same defensemen it had last year, and it’s expected youngster Josh Morrissey will take on an even bigger role.