Owen Nolan faces long odds as he tries to find a spot on the Canucks

It’s tough enough for a 39-year-old veteran to make it in the NHL—let alone one coming off of a season in Switzerland that is forced to make an NHL team on a tryout. That’s exactly the challenge Owen Nolan is facing during training camp this season. After playing in 1200 NHL regular season games and netting 422 career goals, Nolan is being asked to prove his worth before the Canucks are willing to make any commitment.

Alain Vigneault has been happy with Nolan’s play throughout training camp and pleased once again during the Canucks 4-3 loss to the Sharks on Sunday night. The first overall pick in the 1990 draft could hypothetically bring an element to the defending Western Conference champs that they could use—a gritty, talented body to put in front of the net.

Of course, there’s a reason that he’s been out of the league for a season. In a league where players can’t lose a step—he’s lost two. Throughout his two decade long NHL career, he’s never been able to play a full 82 game season. It’s hard to believe that a body that has been through so many wars would magically find health as he approaches his 40th birthday. Playing Nolan’s style of game for twenty years is much different than a guy like Mark Recchi playing twenty years of his particular style. Endurance and durability are questions that Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault have thought about:

“Can the body hold up the pace and can his body sustain it on a consistent basis? You have to be able to practise and play to maintain a high tempo. He’s playing today. Is he going to be able to practise tomorrow? That’s part of the body being able to hold up at that age. He’s been able to follow the pace and has brought the skill he might still have — those hands are still there — and he goes to the net hard.

“That power forward type of player, if we could add it to our group, we would.”

The former Sharks captain understands the questions surround his worth, but he’s not ready to hand ‘em up quite yet. Most successful veterans acknowledge that the passion to play the game is almost as important as skill they near retirement. Nolan explains that the fire burns just as bright as ever:

“I know I’m not 20, but the willingness to compete and still do that is there and playing physical has been part of my career and I’m not going to stop. Sometimes you lose a step, but the longer you play the smarter you get. You learn to read certain situations and how to react to them so you don’t get caught out of position.”

Nolan has played for six NHL organizations throughout his lengthy NHL career. If he wants to add the Vancouver Canucks to the list that already includes the Nordiques/Avalanche, Sharks, Maple Leafs, Coyotes, Flames, and Wild, he’ll need the Vancouver organization to value his experience and leadership as much as his play on the ice. There are younger players signed who are itching for an opportunity to play energy roles on the Canucks this season. Players like Cody Hodgson, Mark Mancari, Marco Sturm, and Victor Oreskovich who are all battling to solidify their roles on the team.

Would the Canucks be willing to look past players who are younger, faster, or more physically imposing for a man in the twilight of his career? Thus far in training camp, he certainly hasn’t embarrassed himself throughout his try-out. But has he done enough to make the team?

Update: Minutes after we posted this article, reports surfaced that the Canucks have released Owen Nolan from his professional tryout. Impeccable timing as usual…

Treliving: Flames paid price in Hamonic deal, but ‘you can never have enough top d-men’

AP
Leave a comment

Two years ago, Brad Treliving acquired Dougie Hamilton at the draft. On Saturday, he picked up Travis Hamonic from the New York Islanders.

Those are two moves that have significantly helped the Flames build a formidable top-four defense in the Western Conference, and it’s already been suggested it could be in the conversation with Nashville’s group that includes Ryan Ellis, P.K. Subban, Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm.

Yes, the Flames paid a price — first and second-round picks in next year’s NHL Draft and a second-round pick in either the 2019 or 2020 NHL Draft.

But after making the playoffs this season and then making a recent trade with Arizona to acquire goalie Mike Smith, the Flames seem to feel they’re in their window to win now. Today’s move further solidifies that notion.

“You’ve got to give to get,” said Treliving, the Flames general manager, of the Hamonic deal. “You hate paying the price. But we looked at a lot of things: We looked at the makeup of our team, where he fits. He’s a right shot. We think he fits in real good with our team.

“I like the looks of our top-four. He moves pucks. He’s a character kid. He’s got some bite to him.”

The Flames now have their top four defensemen locked into contracts through at least 2020, which was one of the important factors in acquiring Hamonic, according to Treliving. Mark Giordano, who turns 34 in October, is signed through 2022 and Hamilton is signed through 2021.

Treliving lauded the puck-moving ability of Giordano, Hamilton and T.J. Brodie — who combined for 31 goals and 125 points, led by Hamilton’s 13-goal, 50-point campaign. But, he said, the move to acquire Hamonic brings added toughness and versatility into the group.

“He checks a lot of boxes for us,” he said. “I think you build up through the middle. This, to me, solidifies our defense. I like our center ice position. There’s depth there and we’ll keep tweaking at it, but I like the looks of that defense.”

As a result of injuries, Hamonic played in only 49 games last season.

With the way Hamonic plays, Treliving admitted there may be greater risk for injury, but the Flames don’t have any concerns about that heading into next season.

The Flames also have some young, up-and-coming defensemen in their system, most notably 20-year-old prospect Oliver Kylington, who fell to 60th overall in 2015, even though there was talk he could be a first-round pick.

“I think we’ve got some young kids coming. It allows them to progress and develop at their own timeline,” said Treliving. “But you can never have enough defensemen. You can never have enough top defensemen.”

Snow open to trading picks, prospects to improve roster now

Getty
Leave a comment

CHICAGO — Garth Snow may not be done dealing.

After trading defenseman Travis Hamonic to Calgary, the New York Islanders’ general manager said the return from the Flames could be used as “currency” to bolster the roster.

The Isles received a first-round pick in 2018 and a second-round pick in 2018, plus other considerations, for Hamonic.

“I don’t envision anything happening here in the next two days, though that could always change,” said Snow. “We feel we have a good hockey team. We have a team that’s built for now and for the future. I mean, you look at our prospects and the draft picks, we also have the ability to use some of those assets to bring in a player that can improve our club in the near term.”

Snow has reportedly had his eye on Colorado forward Matt Duchene, but so far has been unable to make a deal with the Avalanche.

As for trading Hamonic, Snow said it was made more palatable by the “great depth” the Isles have got on the back end.

That said, it was a tough, emotional decision.

“I think the world of him, on and off the ice,” Snow said of Hamonic. “Just a first-class player and first-class person.”

Snow would not divulge if the move was related to Hamonic’s trade request from 2015.

“I think he’s in a good place to play for his family, and the Islanders got a solid return,” said Snow. “I think it’s a win-win for both teams.”

Report: Rangers to hire Lindy Ruff as an assistant coach

Getty
5 Comments

More coaching news on Saturday.

Lindy Ruff’s time with the Dallas Stars ended in April following a disappointing regular season, but it appears he’s found another coaching gig in the NHL.

It is, however, a different role than what he’s been used to for the past 20 years.

Per Larry Brooks of the New York Post, a deal has not been done yet, however, Ruff will join the Rangers as an assistant coach on Alain Vigneault’s staff. He’ll reportedly replace Jeff Beukeboom and will be in charge of New York’s defense.

Ruff certainly brings experience, with 1,165 games coached in the NHL. He’s been a head coach since 1997 when he joined the Buffalo Sabres, and hasn’t been an assistant since a four-year tenure with the Florida Panthers from 1993 to 1997.

The Rangers’ defense has undergone notable changes this offseason, with Dan Girardi getting bought out of his six-year, $33 million contract. With about $20 million now in cap space, New York may not be done making moves to their blue line this offseason.

The Rangers made a blockbuster trade with the Coyotes on Friday, sending Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta to the Coyotes in exchange for the seventh overall pick and 21-year-old defenseman Anthony DeAngelo.

Vegas parlays second-round pick into prospect forward Keegan Kolesar

Getty
1 Comment

The Vegas Golden Knights had a surplus of draft picks in the opening two rounds this weekend, and they used one of those to make a deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday.

The Golden Knights sent the 45th overall pick in this year’s draft to Columbus in exchange for 20-year-old prospect forward Keegan Kolesar, who has spent the last four years with the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds.

In each of the last two years, Kolesar has put up good numbers, scoring a junior career high of 30 goals and 61 points in 64 games in 2015-16. He had 60 points this past season, but played in 10 fewer games due to a sports hernia surgery, so he was on pace to far exceed his totals from the previous campaign.

He was most impressive for the Thunderbirds in the 2017 WHL playoffs. In 19 games, he scored 12 goals and 31 points. Great production for that time of year. But in addition to those numbers, what may be most intriguing to Vegas is that Kolesar brings tremendous size down the right wing. Standing 6-foot-2 and 223 pounds, his physical play for the Thunderbirds was lauded during their postseason run, which resulted in a Memorial Cup berth.

“Keegan is one of the most important guys to our success,” Thunderbirds coach Steve Konowalchuk told the Columbus Dispatch. “He could easily have been a co-MVP of the playoffs. Not only does he produce a ton of points, but his physical play has had a huge impact on every playoff series.”

Having turned 20 in April, Kolesar will be eligible to play in the AHL or NHL next season, per the Golden Knights.