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Sabres owner to address media tomorrow

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Sabres owner Terry Pegula will address the media tomorrow morning — and, boy, will Buffalo reporters have some questions for him.

Pegula cleaned house today, firing general manager Tim Murray and head coach Dan Bylsma.

The moves came after Pegula met with Murray, who’d just held his own press conference last week.

Murray had hinted that ownership may demand changes.

“There’s going to be a review, top to bottom,” he said. “I have to meet with ownership next week in Florida. I’m sure I’m going to be reviewed. I’m sure I’m being reviewed right now, as I should be.”

Still, today’s announcement came as a surprise. Most observers felt that perhaps Bylsma would be relieved of his duties. But Murray as well?

To be sure, Murray has made his share of mistakes. He was the one who hired Bylsma, and clearly there was a disconnect between the coaching staff and players.

“I think the players have legitimate gripes about the coach,” Murray conceded. “I think players have legitimate gripes about the way our team is built, and I think the players have gripes that aren’t legitimate and are excuses.”

Speaking of the way the Sabres are built, Murray’s biggest roster failure was the defense, and that’s no easy thing to fix overnight. Whoever succeeds him, the blue line will be arguably the biggest challenge.

But the new GM will also have to return a sense of calm and cohesion to the organization. The way Murray described things last week, the GM was not on the same page with the coach, the coach was not on the same page with the players, and the players were one frustrated bunch, including young star Jack Eichel.

Expect Pegula to get asked about Eichel — especially in the wake of yesterday’s report that the 20-year-old wanted Bylsma gone.

Because, today, Bylsma is gone.

So, how much did Eichel have to do with with that?

If Pegula’s smart, he’ll shield his young star and say it was 100 percent ownership’s decision, that there were other reasons for the firings, nothing to do with Eichel. No need for the face of the franchise to be painted as a guy who gets people fired.

Anyway, it should be an interesting morning in Buffalo.

Pegula must be getting pretty used to these things by now.

Related: Eichel denies report, says he wants to be a Sabre ‘for a long time’

Sheary’s agent — who’s also Dumoulin’s agent — hoping to avoid arbitration

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Conor Sheary‘s agent is hopeful that an arbitration hearing won’t be needed with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

And that same agent has reason to be optimistic, since he’s also the agent for Brian Dumoulin, who settled at the last minute today.

“Each (case) is so different,” Andrew Gross told the Post-Gazette this morning. “Ultimately, though, team and player would like to avoid going in that room. It’s not a pleasant experience.”

Sheary’s hearing isn’t scheduled until Aug. 4. The 25-year-old forward is coming off a 53-point regular season. In his young NHL career, he’s already won two Stanley Cups.

That said, the Penguins can’t afford to break the bank on an extension. After all, a big reason for their success has been having players like Sheary on affordable deals — a necessity with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, and Kris Letang taking up so much cap space.

Sheary wasn’t all that productive in the 2017 playoffs either, scoring just two goals with five assists in 22 games, while finishing a team-worst minus-5 for the postseason.

“We’re prepared to go to arbitration,” Pens GM Jim Rutherford said last week.

Of course, Rutherford was also speaking about Dumoulin, and the two sides were able to reach an agreement on him.

You can probably expect a similar outcome with Sheary.

Just don’t bet the house on it.

Preds avoid arbitration with Austin Watson

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Another narrowly avoided arbitration to pass along.

The Nashville Predators have signed forward Austin Watson to a three-year, $3.3 million contract that will pay him $1 million next season, $1.1 million in 2018-19 and $1.2 million in 2019-20.

Watson’s hearing was scheduled for today.

From the press release:

Watson, 25 (1/13/92), set career highs in goals (5), assists (7), points (12), penalty minutes (99) and games played (77) during the 2016-17 season as he established himself as an integral member of the Nashville roster. The 6-foot-4, 204-pound winger then added four goals and nine points in 22 postseason contests as the Predators advanced to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. Watson also appeared in 57 games for the Predators during the 2015-16 season, recording three goals and 10 points.

The Pittsburgh Penguins also avoided an arbitration hearing today by signing defenseman Brian Dumoulin to a six-year contract.

Spooner seeking $3.85 million in arbitration

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Ryan Spooner‘s arbitration hearing with the Boston Bruins is scheduled for Wednesday. And if it goes ahead, it could be a rather contentious one.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Spooner is seeking $3.85 million on a one-year deal, while the B’s are thinking almost half that at $2 million.

Spooner, a 25-year-old forward, will certainly be able to sell his offensive statistics. He had 49 points in 2015-16, then 39 points last season.

“Ryan’s a talented player,” said GM Don Sweeney, per CSNNE.com. “He’s had a lot of success. Our power play is better when he plays as well as he’s capable of playing, and he can really be a good complement to our group.”

But the knock on Spooner has always been his defensive play. The past two seasons, he’s a combined minus-17. Back in May, it was reported that the B’s were entertaining trade offers for him.

Spooner’s last contract paid him $1.9 million over two years.

Dumoulin agrees to six-year contract with Penguins

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Brian Dumoulin won’t need his arbitration hearing today.

The Pittsburgh Penguins announced this morning that the 25-year-old defenseman has agreed to terms on a six-year contract with a $4.1 million cap hit.

From the press release:

Dumoulin, 25, has been a key component to the Penguins’ back-to-back Stanley Cup championships, as he played in all 49 playoff games in that span, and recorded 14 points (3G-11A). In the 2017 playoffs, Dumoulin had an average ice time of 21:59 minutes, the most of any Penguins skater, and his plus-9 paced all team defenders. He assisted on Carl Hagelin‘s empty-net goal that sealed the 2-0 victory in the decisive Game 6 of the Cup Final against Nashville. 

Dumoulin is coming off of a contract that paid him just $800,000 in each of the past two seasons.

With Dumoulin signed, Pittsburgh now has five defenseman under contract for at least the next three seasons, the other four being Kris Letang, Justin Schultz, Olli Maatta, and Matt Hunwick.

The Pens still have one more arbitration case in forward Conor Sheary. His hearing is scheduled for Aug. 4.

Related: Without Letang, the ‘simple bunch’ gets it done for Penguins