LOS ANGELES, CA – JANUARY 07: Jack Johnson #3 and Anze Kopitar #11 of the Los Angeles Kings react to a 1-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets at Staples Center on January 7, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
New Jersey has won the Yohann Auvitu sweepstakes.
On Friday, the Devils announced they’ve signed Auvitu to a one-year, two-way, entry-level contract for the upcoming campaign. The 26-year-old Frenchman had previously garnered widespread NHL interest, largely due to a ’15-16 campaign in which he won the Pekka Rautakallio Trophy for the best defenseman in the SM-Liiga — an award that’s previously gone to the likes of Sami Vatanen and Brian Rafalski.
Auvitu had six goals and 15 assists in 48 games, then six goals and seven assists in 18 playoff games.
There were only three French-born players were in the NHL this season: Philadelphia’s Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Detroit’s Xavier Ouellet, and Dallas’ Antoine Roussel. It’ll be interesting to see if Auvitu can make it a quartet. He recently played alongside Bellemare for France at the Worlds, scoring three points in seven games.
Brown, 31, was named the 13th captain in team history back in 2008, and has worn the “C” ever since. He’s also served as an alternate captain for Team USA’s silver medal-winning side at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
While there’s been no confirmation or report, one has to think this paves the way for Anze Kopitar to assume the club’s captaincy. Kopitar signed an eight-year, $80 million extension with L.A. in January, and has been Brown’s alternate captain since ’08.
While Brown achieved great things during his run as Kings captain, the tenure ended badly. He’s been largely ineffective over the last two seasons, and his lackuster play has been called out by head coach Darryl Sutter on a number of occasions (see here and here and here.)
Compounding things is Brown’s contract. Despite the fact he’s now essentially a bottom-six forward, he’s still owed a whopping $5.875M annually through 2022. That’s a lot of scratch for a guy that’s posted career-lows in goals (11) in back-to-back seasons.
Compounding that is the fact L.A. doesn’t have a ton of cap space moving forward. Brown’s hit could prevent them from re-upping with pending UFA Milan Lucic, or finding some blueline help in free agency.
Perhaps we should’ve seen the writing on the wall for Brown a couple weeks ago, when Kings GM Dean Lombardi extended Sutter’s contract.
Lombardi admitted the Kings are in “uncharted waters,” and “not where we want to be.” He also suggested there would be significant changes throughout the team, and that those changes would be difficult.
“To get this back on track,” Lombardi said, “there’s going to be some minor punches in the gut as we fight our way through.”
If TSN’s report holds true, the first punch has already been thrown.
In Pete DeBoer’s first season as head coach of the New Jersey Devils, he went to the Stanley Cup Final with a roster that was headlined by two pretty talented players in Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise.
For DeBoer and the Devils, it never got better than that. By the time he was fired, the team had missed the playoffs two years in a row, Kovalchuk and Parise were elsewhere and the roster was looking pretty, darn barren.
Now, in his first season with San Jose, DeBoer is once again off to the final, this time with a Sharks team that’s headlined by Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau, Brent Burns, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
Why, you could almost draw the conclusion that a head coach has a much better chance to win with a roster full of talented players.
Certainly, the teams DeBoer had in Florida wouldn’t hurt that theory.
A motivated roster is nice to have as well, and DeBoer definitely had that when he took over in San Jose.
“I inherited a similar team in New Jersey when I went in there,” DeBoer said Wednesday. “First time they missed the playoffs for a long time the year before I got there.
“I think when you go into that situation, when you have really good people like there was in New Jersey when I went in there, like I was with this group, they’re pissed off, they’re embarrassed by the year they just had, and they’re willing to do and buy into whatever you’re selling to get it fixed again.”
DeBoer was also the benefactor of some fine work by GM Doug Wilson, who signed veterans Joel Ward and Paul Martin in free agency and got goalie Martin Jones in a trade. Wilson also signed Joonas Donskoi out of Europe, a year after he did the same with Melker Karlsson. Throw in a few draft picks that have come along — youngsters like Tomas Hertl, Chris Tierney, and Matt Nieto — and it’s hard to find a real weakness on the roster.
“The additions that Doug made, it just came together,” said DeBoer.
“They were coming off a down season, but they were coming off a decade of great hockey. They’d been well-coached. Todd McLellan and the previous staff are as good as there are in the business. These guys had a great foundation. Right place, right time.”
The Florida Panthers are operating on the premise that veteran d-man Brian Campbell will go unrestricted on July 1.
[GM Tom] Rowe said that the Panthers told Campbell and his agent they want to re-sign him but it appears Campbell, who turned 37 on Monday, will test the market first.
Campbell will be one to watch on the open market. A terrific puck-mover, he finished with six goals and 31 points for Florida last season while averaging a healthy 22:17 TOI per game.
He rarely gets hurt — Campbell hasn’t missed a game in five years — and has excellent skating ability. All of these attributes mask the fact that 1) he’s not overly physical, 2) he’s not what you’d call a “defensive defenseman,” and 3) he’s had an albatross of a contract.
Signed to a whopping eight-year, $57.1 million deal back in 2008, Campbell has been pulling down $7.14M annually, which has sort of skewed perceptions of him. His $7M+ cap hit puts him alongside the likes of P.K. Subban, Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Kris Letang and Drew Doughty.
But at a lesser price, Campbell might be a really good acquisition.
And what’s more, the market for transitional defensemen is already heating up.
Earlier this week, GM Don Sweeney said the Bruins would be “aggressive” in their pursuit of a puck-moving blueliner.
Finally, there are those Campbell would be up against on the open market.