Steve Yzerman

On Yzerman, the Lightning plan and new scout Callahan


Gotta love it when a plan comes together.

On Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Lightning made a big free agent splash by bringing aboard two key members to the Rangers’ Stanley Cup run — center Brian Boyle and defenseman Anton Stralman.

And, per the Tampa Tribune, a prominent ex-Blueshirt played a big role bringing them aboard:

[Lightning GM Steve] Yzerman said he solicited information on Stralman and Boyle with Lightning forward Ryan Callahan, who was captain of the Rangers and played with both players before being dealt to Tampa Bay at the trade deadline in March, .

“We got (Callahan’s) thoughts on them, make sure that what we see of them as players is correct and get the character reference and if they will fit into our locker room,’’ Yzerman said. “So, he was a wealth of information for us.’’

No huge surprise. The Callahan-Boyle-Stralman trio spent parts of three years together in New York — for Boyle and Callahan, it was five — and as the free agent market began to unfold, it was clear the Lightning were freeing up money for UFA targets (which, hindsight being 20/20, were guys Callahan provided valuable intel on.)

On Sunday, Yzerman made a flurry of moves designed to land said targets, first shipping Teddy Purcell to Edmonton for Sam Gagner, then flipping Gagner and B.J. Crombeen to Phoenix for a draft pick. Shortly thereafter, Yzerman sent gritty forward Nate Thompson to Anaheim for a pair of picks — and when the dust settled, the Lightning GM suddenly had $9 million in cap space.

The moves were in lockstep with the plan Tampa Bay executed throughout the offseason: clear cap space and roster room.

Previous transactions also freed up money (like the compliance buyout for Ryan Malone) so the club could spend dollars to improve areas of need — notably on defense, where, in addition to Stralman, ex-Canuck Jason Garrison was brought aboard.

The plan also called for Yzerman to clear roster room so his young forward prospects could make the leap to the NHL. It worked last year with Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat — who put forth Calder-worthy seasons — and the Bolts are hopeful it’ll work again now with the likes of Jonathan Drouin (3rd overall, ’13) and Brett Connolly (6th overall, ’10).

Overall, Yzerman finished his work — “I don’t see us doing a whole lot [more],” he said yesterday — sounding pretty happy with how it all came together.

“We like the moves that we’ve made,” Yzerman said. “I’m cautiously optimistic and I like what we’ve been able to do and I’m pleased.

“And the end of the day on July 1, we feel OK.”

Video: Ryan Suter doesn’t seem very happy with his coach


As you can see in the video, apparently Ryan Suter doesn’t like being paired with fellow lefty Jonas Brodin.

The Wild defenseman rather openly questioned the coaching staff’s decision-making today after practice.

“Yeah, I don’t know what they’re thinking,” said Suter. “I need to play with a right-handed defenseman. To give me more options. Neutral zone. Offensively. And even coming out of the D zone, it’s not fair to put a guy on his off side.”

Suter didn’t know if the pairings were just for practice or not. The Wild play tomorrow in Chicago. Minnesota has just one win in its last seven games.

Suter also had something to say about that.

“It does no good to pout and get pissed off at each other,” said Suter. “You’ve got to come together and dig out of this. Now’s when you need leadership more than ever. It’s easy to be a coach and a leader when things are going good.”

Yeo, by the way, has not been very happy with the Wild lately.  In fact, one could go so far as to say he’s been acting pretty “pissed off.”

For example, at today’s practice:

The Star Tribune has more on what went down today.

Yeo, you may recall, went a little “nuts” during a Wild practice last season.

Goalie nods: Sparks to make NHL debut for Leafs

Garett Sparks

We already knew this yesterday, but in case you missed it, Garret Sparks will make his NHL debut in goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight against Edmonton.

Sparks, 22, has been excellent in the AHL this season, going 8-2-1 with a .938 save percentage. He spent most of last season in the ECHL, where he also posted good numbers.

Sparks is getting the nod tonight because James Reimer is hurt and Jonathan Bernier has been struggling badly.

“He’s got an opportunity like lots of kids have had before him and it’s up to him to grab it,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said, per “He’s got the [second-best] save percentage in the AHL and he’s winning all the time down there. Obviously we’re in need of some saves and we’ll have to play well in front of him for sure. But it’s an opportunity for him.”

Bernier, meanwhile, will have to sit and watch. The 27-year-old has allowed at least four goals in four of his last five starts. His save percentage has fallen all the way to .888.

Anders Nilsson will be in net for the Oilers.


Cam Ward for the Hurricanes. Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers, who will try not to rely on him so much.

Semyon Varlamov for the Avs. Thomas Greiss for the Isles.

— The Canucks aren’t saying if it’ll be Ryan Miller of Jacob Markstrom. For the Ducks, it’ll be John Gibson.

Vigneault: ‘After three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention’

Alain Vigneault

Alain Vigneault has maintained for much of the season that the New York Rangers needed to play better.

The head coach said it a week ago, after the Blueshirts had beaten the Predators, 3-0, despite getting outshot, 31-19.

He’d said it a couple of weeks before that, after they’d beaten the Hurricanes in very similar fashion. (Final score: 3-0. Shots: 33-23 for Carolina.)

But as long as the Rangers kept winning, it was tough, according to Vigneault, to get the message across.

“Sometimes, the results might be going your way, so when you’re pointing out certain things, it might be a little bit more challenging for them to understand because the results are so positive,” Vigneault said, per the New York Post.

“But after three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention.”

Derek Stepan‘s injury — he’ll miss 4-6 weeks with broken ribs — has no doubt captured their attention as well. (Oscar Lindberg will center Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast tonight at home to Carolina.)

The Rangers also play Wednesday, in Brooklyn against the Islanders (on NBCSN).

Benn, Holtby and Galchenyuk are NHL’s three stars of the week

Cory Schneider, Alex Galchenyuk ,
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Stars winger Jamie Benn, Capitals goalie Braden Holtby and Canadiens center Alex Galchenyuk have been named the NHL’s three stars for the past week.


Benn shared the League lead in goals (4) and points (6) as the Stars (19-5-0, 38 points) won two of three games to continue their best start to a season in the franchise’s 48-year history.

Holtby posted a 4-0-0 record with a 1.75 goals-against average, .945 save percentage and one shutout to backstop the Capitals (17-5-1, 35 points) to the top of the Metropolitan Division standings.

Galchenyuk tied for first in the NHL with four goals and added one assist to help the Canadiens (18-4-3, 39 points) earn five of a possible six points and reclaim first place in the League standings.

As much as the injuries to Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher have been frustrating for the Canadiens, those are short-term issues that should be forgotten soon enough. Galchenyuk’s play, in contrast, is reason for long-term optimism. The 21-year-old is trending towards becoming the elite No. 1 center the Habs have needed so badly. He’s not there yet, but when’s all said and done, he could turn out to be the best forward (or player, period) taken in the 2012 draft.