Getty

McLellan likes Oilers defense, but ‘it’s Christmas, and we all have wish lists’

2 Comments

Through 36 games, the Oilers have shown well — 42 points, one point back of San Jose for first place in the Pacific Division — and much of that has to do with the club’s improved defense.

While hardly an awe-inspiring unit, it is better than the group of a year ago. GM Peter Chiarelli’s two major additions — Adam Larsson and Kris Russell — have been polarizing figures at times, but have solidified themselves as top-four, 20-minute-per-night guys, along with Oscar Klefbom and the club’s “No. 1” defenseman, Andrej Sekera.

All that said, head coach Todd McLellan certainly wouldn’t mind an upgrade.

“It’s Christmas and we all have wish lists,” said McLellan, per the Edmonton Journal. “We’re coaches and we’re never happy but when you talk of those type of players … say a power play quarterback, somebody who puts up points, we don’t have that.”

The Oilers are defending by committee this season, as Sekera is really a No. 1 in name only. Sure, he’s the team leader in ice time, at 21:44 a night, but doesn’t log anywhere hear the heavy workloads of Erik Karlsson, Drew Doughty, Duncan Keith, Kris Letang, Ryan Suter or Dustin Byfuglien.

And though Sekera scores reasonably well (17 points, putting him top-30 among NHL blueliners), he doesn’t produce at a clip that compensates for the remainder of the unit. Edmonton’s defense hasn’t done much in terms of points this year — Russell only has five , Larsson just six — which is probably why an offensive d-man is high on McLellan’s shopping list.

The club also has a hole to fill on its blueline following Darnell Nurse‘s ankle surgery, which projects to sideline him until mid-March. Nurse, 21, was the seventh overall pick in 2013 and had been a mainstay on the club’s blueline — he averaged just under 18 minutes a night through 25 games this year while racking up 60 hits, which was second among all Oilers d-men.

Add it all up, and you’ve got a team that sure sounds like it’s in the market for upgrades Lest we forget Chiarelli’s history in Boston of picking up defensemen at the deadline: Andrej Meszaros in ’14, Wade Redden in ’13, Greg Zanon/Mike Mottau in ’12 and Tomas Kaberle in ’11.

Throw in the desperation factor — the Oilers are in line for playoffs, a place they haven’t been in 10 years — and perhaps McLellan will get a late Christmas present.

Habs president Molson pens glowing farewell letter to Markov

Getty
Leave a comment

Another bold move by GM Marc Bergevin, another statement from Montreal Canadiens president/CEO Geoff Molson.

However Molson actually feels about the franchise’s decision to let Andrei Markov leave for the KHL, he provided quite the goodbye letter regarding the 38-year-old defenseman. One can’t help but wonder how Molson feels about Montreal’s overall makeover, whether you believe Mark Streit is really “replacing” Markov or not.

Anyway, that will need to wait. In the meantime, here’s the very kind statement from Molson to Markov:

“On behalf of the entire organization, I would like to thank Andrei for his great contributions during his 16 seasons as a proud member of the Montreal Canadiens. Arguably one of the best defensemen in franchise history, Andrei was a model of dedication to the great game of hockey. A respected figure around the league and among his teammates, Andrei demonstrated leadership both on and off the ice. Andrei’s commitment to our franchise was second to none, proven by his overcoming three serious and potentially career-ending injuries. I would like to wish Andrei the best of luck in the next step of his career, and happiness with his family.”

Speaking of Canadiens all-timers, Larry Robinson had plenty of nice things to say about Markov, too.

Related

Markov, Habs officially part ways.

Markov is headed to the KHL.

Sabres re-sign Eichel’s buddy Rodrigues for two years

Getty
Leave a comment

The Buffalo Sabres might have signed Evan Rodrigues back in 2015 in part because he enjoyed so much success as a college linemate with Jack Eichel at Boston University, but the undrafted forward seems like he’s making a case that he’ll be a part of their future in his own right.

The Sabres handed Rodrigues a two-year deal that is two-way in 2017-18 and one-way in 2018-19. Whenever he’s at the NHL level, it’s worth $650K per season.

Rodrigues debuted in 2015-16, scoring a goal and an assist in two games. He managed to play in 30 regular-season contests for the Sabres last season, collecting six points.

He’s shown quite a bit of improvement at the AHL level, in particular. After collecting 30 points in 72 games for the Rochester Americans in 2015-16, he scored 30 again in 2016-17, although he only needed 48 contests to do so. Rodrigues isn’t quite Matt Moulson to Eihel’s John Tavares just yet, but it’s possible that he might at least development into a regular NHL player.

Buffalo’s work isn’t done for the summer just yet, as RFAs Zemgus Girgensons and Nathan Beaulieu still need deals.

Andrei Markov opts for KHL after saying goodbye to Canadiens

Getty
Leave a comment

Andrei Markov wanted to play his entire career with the Montreal Canadiens. With that option officially off the table, Markov announced that he’s headed for Russia and the KHL.

“I didn’t see myself with any other NHL team,” Markov said during a conference call wrapping up his lengthy stay with the Habs. “I didn’t see myself wearing another jersey.”

(At least not the jersey of another NHL team.)

The 38-year-old also noted that he hasn’t closed the door to a return to Montreal. That makes sense since it seems like it was largely the Canadiens’ decision to part ways with Markov, essentially replacing him with Mark Streit at a heavily discounted rate.

Beyond the comforts of home, Markov was almost certainly motivated to play in the KHL because of the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The veteran blueliner did not mention which KHL team he’ll end up playing for. There were some rumblings that Markov might sign with the Florida Panthers, but that turned out to not be true.

If it’s a one-year deal, a return to the Habs is at least feasible in 2018-19. Considering his age, it sure seems like this is the end of Markov’s lengthy run with the Canadiens, though.

After making NHL debut, Jones re-ups with Isles

Getty
Leave a comment

One of the Isles’ feel-good stories from last season wrote a new chapter on Thursday.

Connor Jones, the undrafted 26-year-old that made his NHL debut in April, has signed a one-year, two-way extension, the club announced.

Jones certainly earned his way to the show. He spent four years at Quinnipiac before catching on with the Oilers, spending time with both their AHL and ECHL affiliates before jumping to the Isles organization in 2015.

Though he’s not an offensive producer — just 19 points in 58 games with Bridgeport last season — Jones emerged as a good energy guy that proved an effective penalty killer.

With AHL Bridgeport, he also played alongside his twin brother, Kellen, who was in attendance as Connor made his NHL debut in April.

Connor would go on to play four games for the Isles, averaging just under 12 minutes per night.