Josh Harding, Niklas Backstrom

Wild say ‘everything’s a go’ with goalies Backstrom, Harding

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Yesterday, Brough wrote about the state of Minnesota’s goaltending and how it will rely on the trio of Niklas Backstrom, Josh Harding and Darcy Kuemper for next season.

On Thursday, GM Chuck Fletcher shared some good news about the two veterans of the group.

From the Minnesota Star-Tribune:

“Everything’s a go with both goalies,” Fletcher said of Backstrom and Harding. “Everybody seems to be feeling pretty good, and at this stage, knock on wood, all of our players who were banged up at the end of the season is feeling better. Josh has felt good. Right now we’re not expecting any issues for anybody with respect to passing training camp medicals.

“Now’s the time of the year, with about a month to go, you want to reach out and make sure there’s no issues you don’t know about so if there is something you have time to help the process. With Josh and Nik, you’re just trying to reach out and see how they’re doing. They’re both doing really well.”

Harding, 30, was brilliant through the first three months of last season and a legit Vezina candidate (not to mention the Wild’s MVP). But complications from multiple sclerosis forced him from the net in late December, and he didn’t play at all in 2014.

Backstrom, 36, was below average in just 21 appearances last season and finished with a .899 save percentage. The veteran Finn has had injury problems and underwent season-ending core muscle surgery in March.

The timing of Fletcher’s comments about the health Backstrom and Harding are interesting, though. The Wild are currently at a contract standstill with Kuemper, who’s an RFA and appears to be angling for a certain type of deal — one Fletcher suggested he’s not ready to put on the table.

“Darcy certainly has great potential and played very well in stretches for us this season, but at the end of the day I think he’s played around 30 games in the NHL,” Fletcher told the Star-Tribune earlier this month. “Usually this isn’t the time to fight for the big contract. We feel Darcy right now is trying to establish himself in the league and once he does that it’ll be a little simpler to come up with terms.”

Fletcher said he hasn’t spoken to Kuemper’s camp recently, and one wonders if declaring Backstrom and Harding fit isn’t strategic with regards to the Kuemper negotiations.

Report: Stone and Coyotes agree to one-year, $4M deal

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Another day, another scheduled arbitration hearing avoided.

According to multiple reports, defenseman Michael Stone and the Arizona Coyotes have settled on a one-year, $4 million deal, well ahead of their scheduled arbitration hearing set for Aug. 4.

Stone, 26, was a restricted free agent coming off a three-year contract with an AAV of $1.15 million.

Last season in Arizona, he hit new career highs in points with 36 and assists with 30. He also logged some heavy minutes, playing more than 22 minutes per game, which was second behind only Oliver Ekman-Larsson. That includes being used on both the power play and penalty kill.

Just more work done for the Coyotes on Thursday.

Earlier in the day, they announced they had signed defenseman Connor Murphy to a six-year contract extension, worth a total of $23.1 million.

Related: Coyotes’ defensive makeover continues with Luke Schenn signing

‘Nothing’s different’: Dale Tallon says he still has final say in Panthers’ personnel decisions

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 28: Dale Tallon, General Manager of the Florida Panthers, speaks on the phone on Day Two of the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 28, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Despite having a terrific season in 2015-16, the Florida Panthers made a number of changes to their front office. Some of the moves include: Tom Rowe being promoted to general manager, Dale Tallon being named the director of hockey operations and Eric Joyce and Steve Werier serving as assistant general managers.

There’s a lot of confusion as to who gets to make the final call on player personnel decisions in Florida, but Tallon tried to clear that up during a radio interview with 560 WQAM on Thursday.

“It allows me to focus on what I do best,” Tallon said of the front office changes. “And that’s evaluate, travel, scout and give us information on players that will help us win a championship and keep us as a top team for the next 15 years.

“I have a lot to say. I’m a stubborn guy, I have opinions, I have strong opinions and I let them know where I stand and I let them know how I feel. That’s the way it is. The bottom line is what’s best for the team.”

When asked if he still has the final say on personnel decisions, Tallon said: “yes, I do”.

When pressed on the issue, Tallon said this:

“Like I said, it’s by committee, we do it together. We’ve always done that. Nothing’s different. We’ve got great support and things are terrific. We’re really excited about our future, we’re excited about having a chance to win this year.”

It seems curious that the Panthers made all these changes after finally having success and qualifying for the playoffs, but they appear to have strong, committed owners, who are willing to do whatever it takes to put a winning product on the ice. We’ll soon find out if the changes were for the better or not.

To listen to the full interview, click here.

Update: Coyotes sign Connor Murphy to six-year extension

GLENDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 18:  Connor Murphy #5 of the Arizona Coyotes during the NHL game against the Washington Capitals at Gila River Arena on November 18, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona. The Capitals defeated the Coyotes 2-1 in overtime.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Coyotes GM John Chayka is putting the finishing touches on a productive off-season. Chayka was able to acquire Alex Goligoski, re-sign Shane Doan, sign Jamie McGinn, he improved his position in the draft by acquiring Pavel Datsyuk and also signed former King Luke Schenn.

Now, it sounds like he’s close to locking up another piece of the puzzle. Connor Murphy‘s agent, Brian Bartlett, believes that his client will have a new deal with the Coyotes by the end of the week, according to Arizona Sports 98.7. 

UPDATE: The Coyotes announced that they’ve re-signed Murphy to a new six-year contract reportedly worth $23.1 million (3.85 AAV).

“We are extremely pleased to sign Connor to a long-term contract,” said Chayka, in a team release. “At only 23, Connor has established himself as a very good NHL defenseman. He’s a great skater, a fierce competitor and he has an excellent work ethic. We look forward to him taking the next step and having him on our blue line for many years to come.”

Murphy is coming off his entry-level deal. He scored six goals and 17 points in 78 games with Arizona last season. The 23-year-old was the Coyotes’ first round pick, 20th overall, back in 2011.

The Coyotes now have two restricted free agents to sign before the start of the season, as defenseman Michael Stone and forward Tobias Rieder also need new deals.

Stone and the Coyotes are scheduled to go to arbitration on Aug. 4, while negotiations between the club and Tobias Rieder don’t seem to be going very well.

Marchand might be ‘obnoxious,’ but he helped convince Backes to sign in Boston

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Brad Marchand is one of those players that you hate to play against, but you love him if he’s on your team. That much is fairly obvious.

But last month, Marchand (as well as teammate Patrice Bergeron) proved to be effective recruiters for at least one free agent. David Backes admitted that the phone calls he received from the two veterans definitely helped him settle on the idea of joining the Bruins.

“Talking to [Marchand] a little bit during the interview process before July 1, I hung up the phone and kind of had to take a deep breath and say, ‘Is that the little disturber, pain-in-the-butt? He’s actually a pretty good guy,” joked Backes, per the Bruins’ website.

In an exclusive interview with CSN’s Joe Haggerty, Backes reiterated that both Bergeron and Marchand are a “pain-in-the-butt” to play against, but he quickly added (with a smirk) that Marchand is more ‘obnoxious’ (click the video at the top of the page for the full interview).

So what exactly did Marchand and Bergeron say to Backes during the phone calls?

“Those guys are the best teammates when you get them on your team,” Backes said of Marchand and Bergeron. “When they talk about sharing critical ice, and hard ice, and hard minutes with a couple of lines, to me that’s what you need in this league.”

Backes has always been known for his physical style of play, but at 32-years-old he may not be able to do all the dirty work for much longer. It sounds like both Marchand and Bergeron convinced Backes that the heavy lifting will be a team-effort, as opposed to a one-man or one-line thing.

Of course, the five-year, $30 million contract the Bruins gave Backes was also an effective recruiting tool.