When Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller was reflecting on the his team’s “Jekyll and Hyde” 2013 campaign, it wasn’t hard for him to determine the turning point.
“A lot of it had to do around the time [goaltender] Cam [Ward] got injured,” Muller told the NHL.com. “Up until then, we were leading our division.”
Of course, Ward wasn’t the only noteworthy Hurricanes player that suffered a significant injury last season, but shortly after he went down, Carolina went on a stretch where it won just two of 17 games.
Carolina has made a habit of leaning heavily on Ward, with him appearing in at least 68 games in four of the last five seasons going into the shortened 2013 campaign. The only exception was in 2009-10 and as you might have guessed, that was also due to significant injuries.
For better and worse, the Hurricanes’ fate has been tied to Ward since he led them to their first and only Stanley Cup championship as a rookie. There’s no question that Ward is still an important piece of the puzzle going into 2013-14, but the Hurricanes hope to have found a solid alternative in Anton Khudobin.
Khudobin has enjoyed years of success at the AHL level and he finally got his big break last season with the Boston Bruins. He took advantage of it, posting a 2.32 GAA and .920 save percentage in 14 games as Tuukka Rask’s understudy.
Of course, Khudobin still is thin on NHL experience, so Ward is still their safest bet. That’s especially true given that Ward should be healthy going into the season and highly motivated after being snubbed from Team Canada’s orientation camp.
Still, if they had Khudobin last season instead of Dan Ellis and Justin Peters, perhaps things would have turned out differently. Perhaps history won’t repeat itself if Ward goes down again.
Tampa Bay has avoided Friday’s scheduled arbitration hearing with forward Vladislav Namestnikov, agreeing to a two-year, $3.875M deal on Tuesday evening, per ESPN.
Namestnikov, 23, had a breakout campaign last year, scoring 14 goals and 35 points in 80 games — all career highs. The former first-round pick also appeared in 17 playoff games for the Bolts, scoring a goal and three points while helping the club to the Eastern Conference Final.
Coming off a one-year deal in which he made $874,125, the diminutive Russian gets a nice pay bump with this latest contract, and a bit of security with the two-year term. He should play a fairly integral role next season, coming off a year in which he finished tied for fourth on the team in goals, with Tyler Johnson.
But while tonight may be about Namestnikov, it’s another Russian forward in Tampa Bay that everybody now has their eyes on — Nikita Kucherov, the playoff scoring sensation that declined to file for arbitration, but still requires a new deal.
Given some of the big-money contracts GM Steve Yzerman has handed out this summer — namely those to Steve Stamkos, Victor Hedman and Alex Killorn — the Kucherov negotiations are definitely ones to keep an eye on.
Talks ongoing between Wild and Dumba, meeting expected soon
A good puck mover with offensive skills — and a right-handed shot — Dumba is definitely a commodity. What’s more, logic suggests the Wild could opt to move him, given the long-term financial commitments to fellow defensemen Ryan Suter (signed through 2025 at $7.53 million), Jonas Brodin (2021 at $4.16M), Jared Spurgeon (2020, $5.18M) and Marco Scandella (2020, $4M).
Minnesota has some other young defensive prospects in the system, too.
There’s former Gophers standout Mike Reilly, Miami of Ohio product Louis Belpedio and Gustav Olofsson, the 46th overall pick in ’13 that’s been honing his game in AHL Iowa (and made his NHL debut last season).
Though he’s slowed down in recent years, Rosehill has long been known as an extremely active fighter. At no time was this more evident than during the ’08-09 campaign, when he fought a staggering 33 times (yeah, thirty-three) while playing for AHL Norfolk.
Rosehill last played in the NHL during the ’13-14 campaign, scoring two goals in 34 games for the Flyers — while racking up 90 PIM.
Here’s an example of some of his most famous handiwork:
As mentioned above, the EIHL has landed a few notable ex-NHL fighters. Cam Janssen, Kevin Westgarth, Paul Bissonnette and Tom Sestito have all played there.
Kurtis Foster, who appeared in over 400 games during a 10-year NHL career, is hanging up his skates to enter the next phase of his hockey life — coaching.
Foster, 34, has rejoined his former junior team in OHL Peterborough as an assistant coach, per the Examiner. The decision comes after Foster spent the last three years playing overseas in the KHL and, most recently, in the German League.
The 40th overall pick in 2000, Foster is often remembered for a horrific leg break while playing for Minnesota during the 2007-08 campaign, in which his femur was shattered by Torrey Mitchell after Mitchell tried to prevent an icing call.