Cam Tucker

Getty

Blue Jackets sign Wennberg to six-year deal, reportedly worth $4.9M AAV

Alexander Wennberg has a new contract — just weeks before the start of training camp.

The Blue Jackets announced on Friday that they had signed the 22-year-old center to a six-year contract. The team didn’t disclose financial details, but according to Darren Dreger of TSN, the new deal has an annual average value of $4.9 million.

It’s obviously a sizable raise from the money he made in his entry-level contract, but it’s still reasonable for a center that has improved his offensive totals in each of his first three NHL seasons, including a 13-goal and 59-point campaign in 2016-17, and is part of a core group of young players on a Columbus roster looking to build off a franchise-recording breaking season.

“We are excited to have signed Alexander to a long-term contract through the 2022-23 season, ” said general manager Jarmo Kekalainen in a statement.

“He has shown steady improvement throughout his young NHL career and is coming off a very good 2016-17 campaign. At just 22-years-old, he has tremendous opportunity to become an integral player for our organization for years to come.”

The Blue Jackets still have to get restricted free agent winger Josh Anderson under contract, and they have about $7.98 million in available cap space, according to CapFriendly.

Datsyuk believes ‘recharge started’ after Red Wings miss playoffs

Getty Images
11 Comments

The Red Wings’ streak of playoff appearances came to an end this spring. Twenty-five straight years, Detroit’s NHL club qualified for the post-season, but their entry into the Stanley Cup tournament had featured especially early exits in four of those last five years.

The Red Wings had gone from a Stanley Cup contender — with a championship and back-to-back appearances in the final in 2008 and 2009 — to a team on the decline.

Sure, the streak endured a little longer, but the Red Wings posed hardly a threat to contend for a championship toward its end.

Not making the playoffs? That’s not necessarily a bad thing for the Red Wings, according to one of their former great forwards Pavel Datsyuk, who now plays in the KHL.

“In most recent seasons, there was constant talk: will Detroit make or miss the playoffs,” Datsyuk told Sport-Express, per Sportsnet. “Can Detroit win the Cup did not seem to be of interest to anybody. Everybody talked only about making the playoffs.

“So, it’s very good the Red Wings missed the playoffs. The recharge started. … Now everything will change, there will be no such pressure and they will be to see the ultimate goal. In reality you need to fight for the Cup and not just to make the playoffs.”

Last season’s fall out of the top eight teams in the Eastern Conference has resulted in plenty of talk about a Red Wings rebuild — an idea general manager Ken Holland initially seemed hesitant about. But he’s also aware that the team’s future success will depend on some of their young prospects taking a step and challenging for roster spots for the upcoming season.

Tyler Bertuzzi and Evgeny Svechnikov — had standout performances during the Calder Cup playoffs while playing with Red Wings’ farm team in Grand Rapids.

“To me, rebuild means eight to 10 years, and there are teams that have made the playoffs one year in 10 while rebuilding,” Holland told MLive midway through last season. “I don’t know of anyone that wants to sign up for that program. We’re trying to win every year. What’s winning? Winning is making the playoffs and you’re in the top half of the league.”

Related:

Poll: Is it time for the Red Wings to go through a full rebuild?

Calder Cup win, bounty of picks show pluses of Red Wings rebuild

‘I don’t know where all this talk comes from’ — Flames GM addresses Jagr, Iginla rumors

AP
4 Comments

One of the more fascinating topics of discussion this summer has been the immediate future of future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr.

He’s 45 years old. Despite his age, he has still been productive. He remains incredibly popular with hockey fans. He’s still without a contract.

There has been plenty of talk and speculation that perhaps he’d be a fit with the Calgary Flames, and that they may have interest in Jagr.

With another key addition on the blue line earlier in the off-season, the Flames appear to be on the rise in the Western Conference and in need of another right winger. Add former Flames captain Jarome Iginla to recent rumors, too.

In an interview with Eric Francis of Postmedia, Flames general manager Brad Treliving addressed the Iginla-Jagr talk, initially downplaying it as rumor. But, based on his comments, he didn’t completely shut the door on the possibility of Calgary adding another player for training camp this month.

From the Calgary Herald:

“I don’t know where all this talk comes from — we certainly never made a statement saying we’re looking at so-and-so,” said Treliving, addressing the summertime street talk for the first time.

“Both are Hall of Famers. Nobody has done more as a player in Calgary than Jarome Iginla. You can’t help but respect them. But this notion we’ve been in contract talks with them is rumour and I’m not going to comment on them.”

“Are we going to go to camp with the group we have? Good chance. Are we poking around at a few things and could there be additions before camp? Yes.

“Is that a guarantee? No.

“I wouldn’t say there’s anything significant on the horizon, but we look at everything every day.”

Right now, however, the priority is to get restricted free agent forward Sam Bennett under contract. The Flames currently have about $7.16 million in cap space to work with, according to CapFriendly.

Last season, Bennett’s overall production dipped to 13 goals and 26 points in 81 games after he scored 18 goals and 36 points in 77 games during his first full NHL campaign.

Under Pressure: Jonathan Marchessault

Getty
1 Comment

This post is part of Golden Knights Day on PHT…

Score 30 goals in a season and people around the NHL quickly take notice.

With heightened expectations following a breakout 2016-17 campaign, Jonathan Marchessault will go into this season as a member of the Vegas Golden Knights, having been one of the surprise players left unprotected for June’s expansion draft. He also has one year remaining on his bargain of a contract before he’s eligible for unrestricted free agency.

On a team beset by injuries to key players last season, the undrafted Marchessault — who also stands 5-foot-9 tall and 174 pounds — became a bright spot for the Florida Panthers, who entered the year with high expectations but fell short of the playoffs.

The Panthers made Marchessault available for the Golden Knights, who didn’t pass up the opportunity to land the scoring center. That Florida made him available in the first place was certainly a hit to his self esteem, Marchessault later admitted.

“I don’t know [why I wasn’t protected]. I was surprised also,” Marchessault said this summer, per Sportsnet.

“I tried to give everything I had last year. Everyone was asking me if I’m going to get protected or not. My answer was, ‘I gave everything I had. I have no regrets.”

With 30 goals and 51 points for Florida last season, the now 26-year-old Marchessault provided tremendous value, playing on a two-year contract with a salary and cap hit of only $750,000. Another productive season and he should be able to cash in with a sizable raise. Whether that’s with the Golden Knights or another team via the open market will be determined at a later point in time.

There are the obvious candidates for a Vegas ‘Under Pressure’ post: James Neal is among them. He has nine consecutive seasons in which he has scored at least 20 goals, reaching the 40-goal plateau once and scoring 31 in 2015-16. This Vegas roster will need a player like Neal to produce. He comes with a $5 million cap hit as he enters the final year of his contract before being eligible for unrestricted free agency. Marc-Andre Fleury, by virtue of being a goalie with three Stanley Cup rings and the likely starter for this historical season in Vegas, is another.

Marchessault right now doesn’t make nearly the same amount of money as those two players, though that could eventually change. With a 30-goal season, the surprise of being left unprotected in the expansion draft, and entering a contract year while playing in the league’s newest market, there is going to be added pressure on him to see if he can replicate — or at least come close to replicating — that same production.

“That’s my goal, I want to go there and improve every year,” Marchessault told NHL.com. “I just want to help my team win every night. Now it’s up to me to respond.”

‘Nobody hears from him’ — Ribeiro to retire following relapse, says agent

Getty
11 Comments

Mike Ribeiro’s hockey career “is at an end” after he suffered a relapse, his agent and longtime friend Bob Perno has told Montreal media outlets.

The concern, however, shouldn’t be with his playing career but with his own personal health and well-being. In revealing interviews with La Presse and TSN 690 on Thursday, Perno went into detail about the depths of Ribeiro’s struggle with substance abuse, saying that he has been unable to contact his client.

“All I know, is that Mike hasn’t laced up the skates once since the end of the season,” Perno told La Presse (his quotes have been translated from French into English). “He doesn’t train anymore and he doesn’t go out on the ice anymore. He’s going to retire. There’s not one NHL team or a team in Europe that has reached out to me to ask about him. The way his career is going to end is really disappointing.

“No one knows what he’s up to these days. The problem, is that Mike doesn’t believe he’s sick. In his head, everything is fine. He left the rehab program offered by the NHL last winter. We’re really worried, but we can’t do anything. Every time my phone rings, I hope it’s him calling me.”

Ribeiro, now 37 years old, entered the NHL/NHLPA substance abuse and behavioral health program at the end of the 2013-14 season, according to Puck Daddy. His agent told TSN 690 that Ribeiro was clean for about two years, but that he suffered a relapse before Christmas.

“To answer your question, I don’t think he’s hit rock bottom,” Perno told the radio station. “We’re trying to get a hold of him in Nashville. We know he’s somewhere in Nashville. His family has seen him. His wife has seen him — briefly — and then he disappeared into the woodwork. We’re trying to get a hold of him. He doesn’t answer his phone. Nobody hears from him. I don’t think he’s hit rock bottom.”

Perno added that fellow agent Don Meehan and Dr. Brian Shaw of the NHL/NHLPA substance abuse program have also tried to contact Ribeiro.

Ribeiro split this past season between the Predators and AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals. Nashville put him on waivers after Ribeiro requested a trade, and he was eventually assigned to the minors.

Perno believes that when Ribeiro made the trade request — following time spent as a healthy scratch, said the agent — it was “downhill from there.”

“This past year, Mike’s role was really diminished … and I think it affected him mentally — getting older, having trouble seeing what he was going to do once it was all over,” said Perno.

“His play suffered in consequence. His confidence, his play, and, personally, I think that just about at Christmas time or shortly there after, I think he was — whether he’ll admit it or not — I think he was a little depressive.”