Report: Cleary-to-Philly hits snag — back to Detroit? (Updated)

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The Dan Cleary saga isn’t over. Far from it.

The 34-year-old veteran — who had signed a professional try out to attend Flyers camp — will not be joining the team, according to CBC’s Elliotte Friedman.

The saga began when Cleary, who’d spent the last eight years in Detroit, rejected the Wings’ offer of attending their camp on a PTO because he had “guaranteed contract” offers from other NHL clubs.

One of those was believed to be from Philadelphia. The Flyers reportedly offered Cleary a three-year, $8.25 million deal — one that could not be made official until the Flyers became cap compliant (which would’ve occurred when Chris Pronger was put on LTIR at the beginning of the regular season in October).

As such, it came as no surprise on Tuesday when Flyers GM Paul Holmgren told the Philadelphia Inquirer “there are no promises” for a Cleary contract.

Holmgren said Cleary was only in Philadelphia on a professional try out (PTO) for training camp, which was followed by this official word from the Flyers website…

Cleary signed a PTO with the Flyers Tuesday and will be in camp with the team Thursday. This likely means the Flyers will not bring Simon Gagne to camp on a tryout.

If the Flyers want to sign Cleary – or Gill for that matter – they’ll have to clear some cap space first, which could be on Sept. 30, when Chris Pronger is officially moved to the long-term injury list and his money comes off the salary cap.

It’s possible the Flyers got in hot water for agreeing to a “handshake deal” with Cleary prior to having the actual cap space to sign him. That remains to be seen.

A similar situation occurred in Washington a few years ago when center Eric Belanger had verbally agreed to sign with the Caps, but needed to wait until Washington cleared cap space via trade.

Once the story got out, the Belanger-to-Washington deal was scuttled and he signed with Phoenix instead.

More on this story as it develops.

UPDATE

According to CSN Philly’s Tim Panaccio, the Flyers had no comment on the Cleary situation. Earlier, the club stated Cleary was supposed to be in attendance Wednesday, but that appearance had been pushed back to Thursday instead.

Panaccio also notes Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette said he’d spoken with both Cleary and Hal Gill, also in Philly on a PTO, about their roles in camp.

UPDATE 2

The Philly Inquirer spoke to Holmgren, who said he still expects Cleary to report to camp on Thursday.

UPDATE 3

TSN’s Aaron Ward is now reporting of a meeting on Wednesday between Cleary, Detroit GM Ken Holland and head coach Mike Babcock.

Busy Blackhawks bring back Pokka, reportedly let Rasmussen walk

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A busy off-season for the Chicago Blackhawks continued with some smaller moves that may still surprise some.

The eyebrow-raiser, at least in some quarters, came when the Blackhawks decided not to hand Dennis Rasmussen a qualifying offer, thus allowing the 26-year-old forward to hit free agency. That news comes from The Athletic’s Scott Powers.

Rasmussen played in 68 games last season (along with three playoff contests), receiving almost 12 minutes of ice time per night. Both were examples of him seeing more of a role in his second year with Chicago.

Still, he didn’t put up big numbers at either the AHL or NHL level, so apparently the Blackhawks decided to spring him free. The Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus reports that the team might have soured on Rasmussen after he rejected an offer for a contract extension back in March.

Powers also notes that Ville Pokka was signed to a one-year deal, opening the door for him to possibly make Chicago’s roster.

These developments aren’t likely to add to what’s already been a frustrating off-season for Joel Quenneville in particular, but this still lines up with a pattern of changes. In the latest edition of “30 Thoughts,” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman shares some details of Coach Q’s irritation:

21. Joel Quenneville was at the draft Saturday after not appearing on Friday. He stormed out of a coach’s meeting — in full view of reporters — as news broke of the Chicago trades. It would have been very tough for him to lose Hjalmarsson, one of the NHL’s underappreciated great players.

Quenneville’s cage was already rattled by the firing of assistant Mike Kitchen, so here’s hoping he at least signed off on these latest moves.

Report: Red Wings grant Coyotes permission to interview Todd Nelson

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There’s some activity as far as the Arizona Coyotes’ coaching situation goes, and soon there may be some answers.

As noted during the weekend, the Coyotes were interested in speaking with Todd Nelson, who most recently coached the Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings’ AHL affiliate) to a Calder Cup victory. The Red Wings granted Arizona permission to interview Nelson, according to the Detroit Free Press’ Helene St. James.

(Red Wings fans are greeting this news with despair.)

It’s not the only noteworthy development, either, as the Arizona Republic’s Sarah McLellan reports that the Coyotes parted ways with associate coach Jim Playfair today. (The Coyotes confirmed the news moments after this post went up.)

This is a time of change for this organization, and some are bristling at the way they’re handling things. Still, there’s also an argument that the team is ultimately making wise choices, and Nelson could end up being a big part of that.

Assuming they convince him to come on board, of course.

Gryba sticks with Edmonton on two-year, $1.8 million deal

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After spending the last two seasons with the Oilers, Eric Gryba has signed on for two more.

Gryba, the veteran blueliner that was set to go unrestricted on Saturday, has signed a two-year, $1.8 million extension with Edmonton, per TSN. The deal comes after the 29-year-old appeared in 40 games for the Oilers last year, and three during the club’s playoff run.

Gryba is the second UFA blueliner Edmonton has re-upped with, having previously inked Kris Russell to a four-year, $16 million pact. It’s the byproduct of available cap space GM Peter Chiarelli created by shipping out Jordan Eberle to the Islanders in exchange for Ryan Strome.

It’s likely Gryba will continue to play his existing role in Edmonton — a physical, hard-nosed depth defenseman that won’t play every night, but can jump into the lineup in case of injury or when the Oilers face a particular matchup.

This move also gives the Oilers seven defensemen under contract for next season: Gryba, Russell, Andrej Sekera (who could miss extensive time with a torn ACL), Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Matthew Benning and Darnell Nurse.

So, perhaps Chiarelli isn’t done signing blueliners.

 

 

Report: Kings in contact with Joe Thornton

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Yesterday, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported 12 teams were in contact with San Jose’s Joe Thorton who, on Saturday, will become an unrestricted free agent.

Now, it’s been revealed that one of those teams is also one of San Jose’s biggest rivals — the Los Angeles Kings.

Per LA Kings Insider, the Kings have “been in contact” with Thornton, who just wrapped the last of a three-year, $20.25 million deal with a $6.75M average annual cap hit.

More:

On top of Thornton’s abilities are his relationships with key figures in Los Angeles’ front office. He played with Kings General Manager Rob Blake in San Jose, while Senior Advisor to the General Manager/Development Mike O’Connell was Thornton’s general manager when he played in Boston.

On top of these relationships, Thornton also remains very close with Glen Murray, a figure in Los Angeles’ player development, and I’m told the two, who played together with the Bruins for three and a half seasons, regularly communicate.

LeBrun reported that staying with the Sharks remains Thornton’s No. 1 option, but it’s pretty clear interest in him is sky-high — and coming from a number of different places.

Los Angeles has been making moves to clear cap space, recently buying out the remainder of defenseman Matt Greene’s contract. The Kings also lost blueliner Brayden McNabb to Vegas at the expansion draft.

What happens with Marian Gaborik‘s $4.875M cap hit remains to be seen. The veteran winger underwent an offseason procedure for a “chronic” knee issue and, depending on his recovery, could open the year on long-term injured reserve.

Thornton would give L.A. a formidable one-two punch at center along with Anze Kopitar (and a truly formidable 1-2-3 punch with Kopitar and Jeff Carter, for that matter). It’s also worth noting that as he’s gotten longer in the tooth, Thornton has successfully platooned as a winger — most notably during San Jose’s Stanley Cup run in 2016.