Simmonds leaves Czech team as fans arrested for racist chants

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Wayne Simmonds’ time in Europe has come to an abrupt end.

On Wednesday, Czech Extraliga club Liberec announced Simmonds and St. Louis Blues forward Chris Stewart had left the team — departures that, related or not, coincided with the arrest of eight fans alleged to have made racial taunts towards Simmonds during a Oct. 28 game between Liberec and Chomutov.

News of Stewart leaving the club actually broke yesterday, when it was announced he’d be rejoining German league team Crimmitschau, which he left in October to join to Liberec.

Simmonds’ departure seemed to catch the Czech club by surprise. That’s the impression one gets from a statement released by Liberec GM Ctibora Jecha (WARNING: Sketchy Google translate ahead.)

The end of the engagement Wayne Simmonds and Chris Stewart, we did not expect. Their course of action was very substandard and also in view of the fact that both had an interview a few days ago with a new head coach Philip Pesanem with which discussed the current situation and their future with the White Tigers.

We also meet their wishes not to go with us to match European Trophy in Bern, with regard to new negotiations in the NHL. This unilateral decision by the two players, came at a time when the whole production team traveled to Switzerland for a game with the players, there was no negotiation or consultation. Their decision was communicated to us by telephone through an agent…

…The player [Simmonds] told us that is some serious family reasons forced to immediately return home to Canada, and thus end their engagement in Liberec.

In the case of the continuation of the NHL lockout is not excluded by Simmonds return to Liberec in the Czech Republic has ever had a valid contract. This option but does not seem too likely.

As for the eight Chomutov fans facing trial for “misdemeanor disorderly conduct and defamation,” here’s Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy:

They face a hearing on Jan. 9, 2013, in Chomutov District Court and could be sentenced to a maximum of three years in prison.

The Czech site [iDNES.cz] reports that the rowdy fans calls themselves the “Black Commandos”, attending games in a black hooded sweatshirt and scarf, imbibing a considerable amount of booze before games.

(One of the accused fans, Radek Pribyl, said he had 10 beers and two shots but was only “mildly drunk” because he’s “trained” for that level of consumption.)

Some of the fans claim they joined the “monkey” chants but didn’t start them; others claim they didn’t join them at all.

It should be noted that, last week, Simmonds told Yahoo’s Nick Cotsonika he didn’t plan on letting the racist taunts affect him.

“I’ve enjoyed myself since I’ve been in Europe, and I intend to keep enjoying myself,” he explained. “That’s definitely not going to keep me down. I can tell you that.”

UPDATE: For more context on the situation, here’s Cotsonika…

Related

Czech club fined for fans’ racist taunts toward Simmonds

Blues’ Stewart leaves Czech team, heads back to Germany

Zibanejad looking for $5.35 million from Rangers in arbitration

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The New York Rangers and restricted free agent forward Mika Zibanejad are scheduled for an arbitration hearing on Tuesday if they can not come to an agreement on a new contract before them.

On Sunday, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported the numbers both sides are looking at heading into that hearing and they don’t seem to be too far apart. According to Friedman, Zibanejad is seeking a $5.35 million salary while the Rangers have countered with an offer of $4.1 million. If the two sides were able to meet in the middle that would be in the neighborhood of around $4.7 million per season, which probably seems about right given Zibanejad’s performance and some of the contracts that have recently been signed by the likes of Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat (both will make a little more than $5 million per season, while both have been more productive).

Zibanejad, 24, is coming off of his first season with the Rangers after being acquired from the Ottawa Senators in the Derrick Brassard trade.

He was limited to just 56 games due to injury, scoring 14 goals to go with 23 assists. He scored at least 20 goals in each of the previous two seasons.

With Derek Stepan gone to Arizona Zibanejad figures to take on a bigger role this season for the Rangers.

The Rangers still have $8.4 million in salary cap space to work with, via CapFriendly.

New addition Thompson thinks Senators are ‘ready to win’

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Even after reaching Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2016-17 there is still probably some skepticism as to how good the Ottawa Senators will be this upcoming season and whether or not they can repeat that success.

They didn’t do much to add to that roster over the summer outside of the addition of gritty forward Nate Thompson on a two-year contract from the Anaheim Ducks.

Thompson is excited about the opportunity to join the Senators and believes the success of the team last season was not a fluke.

“This team now is ready to win,” he told Ken Warren of the Ottawa Sun this past week. “I don’t think this was a Cinderella team, it was the real deal. They have a pretty good window to win games and hopefully do something even more special.”

It’s going to probably be a little more difficult this season given some of the improvements that have been made by teams around them (Tampa Bay and Toronto should be better than they were a year ago; Montreal and Boston will still be fierce contenders as well) and the fact the Senators themselves might see a bit of a regression in the standings if their overall play doesn’t change much. Keep in mind, for all of the success they had in the playoffs this was still a team that gave up more goals than it scored during the regular season. That is not typically a recipe for long-term success.

Thompson, who will turn 33 at the start of the season, will be relied on primarily to fill a bottom-six role and perhaps help in the faceoff circle. He is coming off of a 2016-17 season in Anaheim that saw him be limited to just 30 games, scoring one goal and adding one assist before recording six points (two goals, four assists) in the playoffs for the Ducks on their run to the Western Conference Finals. He spent the past three seasons playing for the Ducks and also has experience playing for Senators coach Guy Boucher during their time together in Tampa Bay.

Preds GM Poile still has work to do, with Johansen in need of a deal

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David Poile got some work done Saturday.

The Nashville Predators re-signed Viktor Arvidsson on the day the two sides had an arbitration hearing scheduled. The new deal? Seven years at a total of $29.75 million — an annual average value of $4.25 million for a player that just scored 31 goals while playing on the top line with Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg.

The Predators made a run at the Stanley Cup last month, doing so with great goaltending from Pekka Rinne, a top-four group of defensemen that you can argue sets the standard around the league and a talented group of forwards — a number of them with age on their side.

They didn’t win it all, but Poile was recognized for his work by claiming General Manager of the Year.

This is likely among the reasons why.

Roman Josi still has three years left on his deal, while Mattias Ekholm, who was a valuable and reliable top-four d-man playing alongside P.K. Subban, has five years remaining on his deal.

With the Arvidsson contract completed, the priority is now to get Johansen — a restricted free agent — signed. At age 24, he’s Nashville’s No. 1 center coming off a 61-point season, which completed his three-year, $12 million deal.

He was also in the midst of a terrific playoff performance before he suffered a thigh injury and postseason-ending surgery. He’s in line for a significant raise from the $4 million AAV he made on his last contract.

The Predators have about $14.5 million remaining in cap space, per CapFriendly.

Vegas GM doesn’t appear to be in any hurry to move extra d-men

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The Vegas Golden Knights currently have 10 defensemen under contract — and that is without Nate Schmidt signed.

Schmidt and the Golden Knights have an arbitration hearing scheduled for Aug. 3, so there is still plenty of time for them to negotiate a new deal for the restricted free agent blue liner without having a neutral third party decide the matter.

Schmidt’s agent, Matt Keator, told the Las Vegas Review Journal that talks with the Golden Knights have been positive, which lends to optimism that perhaps the club and player will avoid this whole process with a deal.

A new contract between Schmidt — left unprotected by Washington in the expansion draft — and Vegas would put the Golden Knights at 11 d-men less than two months before training camp opens.

Granted, that number is considerably less than what Vegas had following the expansion draft, when they stockpiled 15 defensemen and eventually moved players like David Schlemko, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Marc Methot.

While it seems more moves are likely on the back end for Vegas, general manager George McPhee doesn’t seem to be in any particular hurry right now, per the Vegas Review Journal.

“We’re at a manageable number right now,” said McPhee. “We’re pretty close to where we want to be and we’re comfortable with the roster we have.”

Their blue line also includes five players — Jason Garrison, Luca Sbisa, Clayton Stoner, Brayden McNabb and Deryk Engelland — that are pending unrestricted free agents at the end of next season. As far as Vegas’ defensive group is concerned, this could mean future trades during the season as other clubs, perhaps playoff bound, look to possibly add a rental late in the year.

One thing McPhee has made clear in the past: He planned on keeping Schmidt and fellow d-man Shea Theodore (only 21 years old). Now, they just have to get Schmidt under contract.

Related: Vegas has more ticket revenue than Boston, Philly and Pittsburgh, says Foley