Clarke willing to shake Lindros’ hand at Winter Classic

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Bobby Clarke versus Eric Lindros is one of the most infamous and heated feuds in hockey history. But could it be coming to an end this December?

Clarke seems to think so.

Prior to the Flyers hosting the Rangers at the 2012 Bridgestone Winter Classic on Jan. 2, there’ll be an alumni game on Dec. 31 in which both Clarke and Lindros will play as teammates. The two haven’t spoken since Clarke acrimoniously sent Lindros to the Rangers back in 2001, but the former Philly GM seems ready to let bygones be bygones.

“As far as I’m concerned, (the feud) is over,” Clarke told the Burlington County Times. “I couldn’t be bothered one way or the other. He helped the Flyers, why shouldn’t he be with the Flyers? I’m not mad at him. I’ll shake hands with him. It’s not going to affect my life one way or the other if he doesn’t (reciprocate).”

Yep, sounds like he’s totally over it. No hard feelings there.

To be fair, Clarke v. Lindros was one of the ugliest, nastiest personal feuds in NHL history. The fact that was played out in the media only made it worse, and probably played a large role in why it still resonates today.

If you’re unfamiliar with the gory details, here’s a fairly concise recap from CBC:

Eric Lindros won an NHL MVP award in 1995 and led the Philadelphia Flyers to the Stanley Cup final in 1997, but he quicky fell out of favour with Flyers GM Bob Clarke, who publicly questioned the towering forward’s toughness as he missed time with concussion problems.

The feud boiled over in 1999 when Lindros suffered a collapsed lung during a game in Nashville. Flyers trainers failed to diagnose the injury and were ordered to put Lindros on a plane back to Philadelphia. Lindros got to hospital only at the insistence of his hotel roommate, Keith Jones, leading Lindros’ father to write the team a letter saying his son would be dead had he listened to the Flyers’ medical staff.

After being stripped of his captaincy the following year, Lindros refused to re-sign with Philadelphia in the summer of 2000 and demanded that Clarke trade his rights to Toronto. The GM refused and Lindros sat out the following season, during which a defiant Clarke said, “I don’t give a s— if [Lindros] plays another game.” Eventually, though, Clarke gave in and shipped Lindros to the New York Rangers.

Clarke has maintained it was Lindros and his family that had a problem with the Flyers, not the other way around.

“I haven’t spoken to him,’’ Clarke said. “When he first went to the Rangers, he wouldn’t speak to me. But no big deal. The Lindros family caused the Flyers a lot of grief. (Eric) was bitter at us. They were the ones who were resentful, not me.’’

For the record, Lindros has stated he’s ready to bury the hatchet.

“I can’t wait to get back there, see them and play for the fans again. Looks to be a great event,” The Big E said in an email to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun. “It was very nice of Bob to say some of the things he has said, and I too look forward to catching up with him.”

After Stepan trade, Zibanejad negotiations become even more crucial

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For a good while, the center position in New York was largely carried by the one-two punch of Derick Brassard and Derek Stepan.

Now, the Derick & Derek show is no longer.

Stepan was shipped out during draft weekend in a blockbuster deal with Arizona. Brassard exited a year earlier in a move to Ottawa that brought Mika Zibanejad to the Blueshirts.

Zibanejad, 24, was acquired by GM Jeff Gorton in the hopes of one day becoming New York’s No. 1 center. He certainly showed he was capable this season — despite missing nearly 30 games with a broken fibula, he put together a fine offensive regular season and then surged in the playoffs, finishing with nine points in 12 games.

And now, a big negotiation sits on the horizon.

Zibanejad is a restricted free agent coming off a two-year, $5.25 million deal with a $2.625M cap hit. As we wrote earlier, Gorton is “open to anything” with regards to the extension, saying he’d be willing to go either short- or long-term.

One has to think Zibanejad has a ton of leverage. His acquisition price (Brassard) was significant, Stepan is now gone, and so too is depth center Oscar Lindberg, who was acquired by Vegas at the expansion draft. Right now, New York’s center depth consists of Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes and maybe some spot duty from J.T. Miller.

Lias Andersson, taken seventh overall at Friday’s draft, said he wants to make the Rangers this year. But there’s no guarantee he’ll even play in North America this season, as Gorton could opt to send Andersson back to the Swedish League for further development.

The free agent market isn’t especially inspiring down the middle, unless someone thinks they can land Joe Thornton, and there’s no doubt Zibanejad’s seen the paydays scored by some other good, young, top-line centers. Winnipeg gave Mark Scheifele $49 million over eight years, while Calgary gave Sean Monahan $44M over seven.

Is Zibanejad at their level? If you surveyed folks around the league, the answer would be probably no. But he could be soon and, what’s more, the Rangers may be forced to pay him as if he already is.

Sabres bring back defenseman Fedun on two-year deal

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Taylor Fedun, the Sabres depth defenseman that was set to become a UFA on Saturday, has agreed to a two-year, two-way extension, Buffalo announced on Monday.

Fedun, 29, appeared in 27 games for the Sabres last year, splitting time between the NHL and the club’s AHL affiliate in Rochester. He was a very productive player for the Amerks, scoring 23 points in 29 games.

Moving forward, most expect Fedun to continue in the same role he served this year — a guy that can provide veteran stability at the minor league level, and fill spot duty at the NHL level when injuries strike.

Ottawa extends Pyatt — two years, $2.2 million

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Tom Pyatt, the veteran forward who enjoyed some success reuniting with Guy Boucher in Ottawa last season, has re-signed with the Sens on a two-year, $2.2 million deal, per TSN.

Pyatt was a steady contributor for the Sens, scoring nine goals and 23 points while appearing in all 82 contests. He averaged over 15 minutes per night and was a vital part of the club’s penalty kill, leading all forwards in blocked shots.

He also appeared in 14 playoff games, scoring twice.

Prior to playing in Ottawa, Pyatt had skated under Boucher in Tampa Bay. They spent parts of two years together with the Lightning, before heading off to Switzerland — Pyatt with Geneve Servette, Boucher with Bern SC.

Pyatt was set to become an unrestricted free agent on Saturday, but clearly liked the fit in Ottawa. He’ll get a pay bump — up from the $800,000 he made last year — a bit more long-term security, and possibly a bigger role with the Sens moving forward.

Ottawa has already stated it will cut ties with veteran tough guy Chris Neil, and decisions are still looming on UFA forwards Viktor Stalberg, Chris Kelly and Tommy Wingels.

 

 

Kassian gets three-year, $5.85 million commitment from Oilers

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Zack Kassian, after some terrific performances for the Oilers in the playoffs, has signed a three-year contract extension in Edmonton.

The deal is worth $5.85 million, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie. That’s a cap hit just below $2 million.

Kassian, 26, seems to have salvaged his NHL career after missteps in Vancouver and Montreal. The big winger had seven goals and 17 games in 79 games for the Oilers during the regular season. But it was in the postseason where he really made an impact — especially in the first round against San Jose.

Twice Kassian scored game-winning goals against the Sharks. He was also a physical force:

Granted, Kassian was less noticeable in the second round, but the fact he received a three-year commitment from the Oilers speaks to the organization’s belief that he’s truly turned his life around.

Related: Kassian opens up about struggles with alcoholism