John Gibson

Looking to make the leap: John Gibson

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Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson has just three regular-season NHL games under his belt, but with the offseason departure of Jonas Hiller, the 21-year-old is set to make the leap as a potential starter in Orange County.

Gibson was recalled by the Ducks from its AHL affiliate in Norfolk on Apr. 6 due to an upper-body injury to Frederik Anderson.  The following night he made his NHL debut, making 18 saves and shutting out the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena for his first career win.

The Pittsburgh native went on to pick up wins at home against San Jose (April 9) and Colorado (April 13), before making his playoff debut on May 10, making 28 saves in a shutout victory over the Los Angeles Kings in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals.

The Ducks’ 2011 second-round pick went 2-2 in four playoff appearances.

Gibson made seven appearances in all during the 2013-14 season, posting a 1.33 goals-against average and a .954 save percentage.

On July 1, Hiller, an unrestricted free agent, signed with the Calgary Flames, paving the way for Gibson and Andersen, who have a combined 31 career regular season games under their belt, to battle it out for the starting job this season.

Speaking with the Ducks’ website last month, Gibson isn’t taking anything for granted heading into camp.

“We’ve had some good conversations, but obviously nothing is ever set in stone,” said Gibson of the vacant starting position. “I just want to come into training camp and play my game and hopefully have a good season.”

The 6-foot-3, 212-pounder says he plans on using his playoff experience against the Kings as motivation heading into what will be his rookie season.

“I think we’ll all use it for motivation for next year,” he said. “I don’t think we have to worry about in a negative way, but I think we’ll use it as a positive. “Obviously (the season) ended a little earlier than I would have liked, but I think I learned a lot. I’ll be ready to go next year, take what I learned, be better and hopefully go further in the playoffs.”

Pushing the two young goaltenders will be veteran Jason Labarbera, who signed a one-year, $750,000 contract on July 1. However, during his state of the franchise address in June, general manager Bob Murray seemed satisfied entering the 2014-15 season with his oldest goaltender, Andersen, being just 24 years of age.

“I like our two young goaltenders a lot, I’ll tell you that. I’m very pleased with the progress they made this year,” he said. “They both feel they can get better, and so do I. But they’re two real good kids. I think they both have a chance to be NHL No. 1 goalies, yes.”

With Andersen ($1.15 million) and Gibson ($722,000) making under $2 million combined this season, it gives Murray, who according to CapGeek has just over $11 million to play with, the freedom to add to an already veteran-laden lineup.

What has to be exciting for Ducks’ fans is, if Gibson manages to earn the starting role out of camp and maintain his albeit-brief NHL success, Anaheim still has one more year to give the goaltender a thorough look in 2015-16 at a bargain price of $721,667.

Related: Under Pressure: Bruce Boudreau

Blues GM: We may take ‘half a step back,’ while young veterans grow into leadership roles

DALLAS, TX - MARCH 12:  Alex Pietrangelo #27 of the St. Louis Blues celebrates with Jaden Schwartz #17 of the St. Louis Blues, Dmitrij Jaskin #23 of the St. Louis Blues and Jori Lehtera #12 of the St. Louis Blues after scoring the game-winning goal against the Dallas Stars in overtime at American Airlines Center on March 12, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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After a few early exits from the Stanley Cup playoffs, the St. Louis Blues were finally able to make a long run. Granted, they didn’t win the Stanley Cup or make it to the final, but they did manage to reach the Western Conference Final.

Unfortunately for the Blues (and a lot of other teams), the NHL’s salary cap number didn’t increase very much and it forced the organization to part ways with a number of key veterans. Gone are captain David Backes, winger Troy Brouwer and goalie Brian Elliott.

There could be even more change between now and the start of the year, as Kevin Shattenkirk could find himself elsewhere.

Those key departures mean that the Blues will need some of their younger players to step up and take on more of a leadership role starting this fall. How will the team respond? Nobody knows, not even GM Doug Armstrong.

“It’s going to be an interesting case study on how quickly this group takes up the leadership,” Armstrong said, per the Boston Globe. “Can they do it in September? Or does it take them a year? There’s certainly a faith that over time, they’re going to pick it up without any issue. Obviously you want them to pick it up as quickly as possible. We don’t want to take any backwards movement in our organization. But sometimes you do expose yourself to maybe taking half a step back to take a couple steps forward.”

Young leaders like Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz and Alex Pietrangelo will need to “step up” in the leadership department, but the Blues aren’t completely out of veterans. Jay Bouwmeester, Paul Stastny and Alex Steen are all still on the roster. Still, it’ll be interesting to see if the Blues take that “half step back” that Armstrong was talking about.

Related:

Jake Allen still needs to prove he’s a ‘legit’ number one goalie

Blues sign Schwartz to five-year deal

Backes doesn’t want to ‘sling mud’ at Blues on his way out

Newest Coyote Schenn is looking forward to playing in a market with no ‘outside added pressure’

SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 20:  Luke Schenn #52 of the Los Angeles Kings looks back at Joe Thornton #19 of the San Jose Sharks after Schenn was called for roughing in Game Four of the Western Conference First Round during the NHL 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on April 20, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Since coming to the NHL as an 18-year-old in 2008, Luke Schenn has had the opportunity to play in Toronto, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. Playing in cities that love hockey is great, but it also comes with a certain amount of pressure.

Schenn, who is a former fifth overall pick, hasn’t lived up to his lofty draft status and when you underachieve in Toronto and Philadelphia, the fans and media make sure you know it.

On Saturday, Schenn signed a two-year deal in Arizona, which is a non-traditional hockey market. It sounds like it may have been done by design.

“I’m looking forward to coming to a market where I can just worry about playing hockey and not outside added pressure, and hopefully growing with the team,” Schenn said of signing with the Coyotes, per the team’s website. “I know they have a lot of upside and I still feel like I’ve hopefully got some upside, too. (I’m) still at a good age where I can continue to grow with them and evolve.”

The Coyotes have Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Alex Goligoski who are more than capable of moving the puck up the ice and players like Schenn and Zbynek Michalek will be counted on to provide some defensive stability.

“They’ve got a lot of guys who can shoot the puck and move the puck well and (who’ve) got a good offensive instinct for the game, so I just want to try to play solid defensively and help out in the defensive zone and on the penalty kill and play physical,” added Schenn. “Obviously, the way the game is now there’s a lot of skating so you’ve definitely got to pick your spots to be physical, but I still think there’s definitely still a need for that.”

Arizona still needs to work out deals with restricted free agents Michael Stone and Connor Murphy. Even if both players return next season, Schenn should still have a role as a four, five or six defenseman with the ‘Yotes.

Flyers’ Couturier has street named after him in his hometown

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Most people will never be able to say they have a street named after them, but Flyers center Sean Couturier isn’t most people.

The 23-year-old’s name is now on a street sign in his hometown of Bathurst, New Brunswick. Sean Couturier Avenue leads to the rink where he began his minor hockey career.

“It’s special, it’s a great honour,” Couturier said, per CBC.ca. “It’s not something you dream of growing up, but if you can be an example for other young kids and remind them even coming from a small town like Bathurst, anything is possible if you make the sacrifices and believe in what you can do.”

The month of July has been kind to Couturier for the second straight year. Last year at around this time, he signed a six-year contract extension worth $26 million. The new deal kicks in at the start of the upcoming season.

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Report: Veteran center Moore says he has offers on the table

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The chaos of free agency has subsided. And the list of notable players out there has thinned down as the summer has carried on.

Still looking to sign an NHL deal is veteran center Dominic Moore, who is about to turn 36 years old next month and is coming off a two-year deal with the New York Rangers that paid him an AAV of $1.5 million. It was evident way before free agency that Moore likely wouldn’t be back in New York, and would go to the open mark.

“The free agency period goes in fits and starts. Things open up and close along the way. You just try to be proactive but patient. You also don’t want to put yourself in the wrong spot, so you wait to find the right fit, the right role,” Moore told Sportsnet.

“You want to be on a good team that has a great chance to win but you also want to have a responsibility, some value on that team. It’s about marrying all of those factors and making the best decision.”

Moore has never been known for offence. With the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2010-11, he hit 18 goals. That was a career high. His highest point total? Forty-one in 2008-09 with Toronto.

But a team looking for a veteran player in the middle, on a reasonable contract and among the bottom six group of forwards, that can have success in the faceoff circle and play on the penalty kill may eventually get him under contract.

According to Sportsnet, there have been offers made to Moore. Now, it appears, the ball is in his court.

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