Cam Tucker

OTTAWA, ON - FEBRUARY 11: Patrick Wiercioch #46 of the Ottawa Senators skates with the puck against the Colorado Avalanche during an NHL game at Canadian Tire Centre on February 11, 2016 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
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Senators choose not to extend qualifying offer to Wiercioch

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Patrick Wiercioch is now an unrestricted free agent, after the Ottawa Senators declined to extend him a qualifying offer.

This move isn’t unexpected. In fact, it was initially reported in May that the Senators likely wouldn’t qualify the 25-year-old defenseman, who had five assists in 52 games this past season.

As per General Fanager, Wiercioch made $2.7 million in NHL salary this past season, so the Senators had to match that in a qualifying offer to him. The Senators right now have $18.4 million in cap space dedicated to three defensemen — Dion Phaneuf, Erik Karlsson and Marc Methot — for next season.

Senators GM Pierre Dorion foreshadowed today’s news with his comments ahead of the NHL Draft.

“There is an appetite, but we have to think that it’s 2.7 [million dollars] to qualify him. Is he worth that money? Is he better off going somewhere else?” said Dorion, as per TSN. “I said we’d explore options. At 2.7 to qualify him, that’s a significant number. We’ve talked to his agent and we’ll see what happens going forward over the next 10 days.”

The club also announced it sent a qualifying offer to 22-year-old defenseman Cody Ceci, who scored 10 goals and 26 points last season and is also a restricted free agent.

While his point production has slipped from a career year of 23 points (four goals) in 53 games in 2013-14, he had strong possession numbers at even strength in three of his five seasons with Ottawa, registering a 56.8 per cent Fenwick For rating at five-on-five during the lockout-shortened 2013 season.

UFA of the Day: Darren Helm

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 11: Darren Helm #43 of the Detroit Red Wings skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on December 11, 2015 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Red Wings 3-2 in overtime.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Every day until June 30, we’ll write about a pending unrestricted free agent. Today’s UFA of the Day is…

Darren Helm

For the first time in his career, Darren Helm could become an unrestricted free agent.

At the age of 29, Helm is coming off a regular season in which he scored 13 goals and 26 points in 77 games. In training camp, he suffered a shoulder injury and a concussion after colliding with prospect Jerome Verrier, so his season didn’t get off to the greatest start.

(He’s also dealt with back issues in the past.)

He then had one goal in five playoff contests, before the Detroit Red Wings were eliminated in the first round.

Overall point production has never been what Helm is about. He hit single-season career highs for goals (15) and points (33) during the 2014-15 campaign.

Instead, he’s known for his speed. He also used on the penalty kill (1:48 per game on the kill) and power play (0:43 per game with the advantage), and can play center and the wing.

But it seems he has questions about how he is best used within the organization’s group of forwards under head coach Jeff Blashill, who took over behind the Detroit bench when Mike Babcock left for Toronto. (Remember, Babcock once referred to Helm as a “top-four forward.”)

“It was definitely a different year for myself,” said Helm, as per the Detroit Free Press. “I’ll need to talk to Blash and (GM Ken Holland) and see where everything is headed, see where I see myself fitting into this organization and where they see me fitting into this organization. Then I’ll have to make some tough decisions.

“I want to win. I don’t really mind playing in the bottom lines as long as there is that respect factor. You’re getting opportunities in different situations. If it looks like that is the case, I’ll get to play in those situations that I feel I can play in, then I’ll be happy. If not, if they tell me right away it’s not going to happen, I might not want to stay.”

As per General Fanager, Helm’s last contract, a four-year deal, had an annual cap hit of $2.125 million.

He’s one of four pending UFAs from the Red Wings roster this season — Brad Richards, Drew Miller and Kyle Quincey being the others. The Red Wings could also go after pending UFA Steven Stamkos, especially after freeing up cap space by unloading Pavel Datsyuk’s contract at the draft.

Speed could be Helm’s most attractive asset, especially after what occurred in the playoffs, if he does go to free agency.

The Pittsburgh Penguins seemed to overwhelm opposing teams with their speed during their run to the Stanley Cup, and Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan saying he thought his team struggled at times against quicker opponents.

And as per the Detroit Free Press, the Capitals, as well as the St. Louis Blues, would be among the suitors for Helm this summer.

Click here for all our 2016 UFA profiles.

Brian Burke pays sixth overall pick Tkachuk the ultimate compliment

Brian Burke, Calgary Flames' president of hockey operations, announces the firing of general manager Jay Feaster and assistant general manager John Weisbrod during a NHL hockey news conference Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013, in Calgar, Alberta. Burke will serve as acting general manager. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Larry MacDougal)
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Brian Burke has delivered an abundance of quips in his time.

One of his classics, from 2002 when he was GM of the Vancouver Canucks: “Sedin is not English for ‘punch me or headlock me in a scrum.'”

Now the president of hockey operations for the Flames, Burke spouted more memorable lines when describing Matthew Tkachuk, the sixth overall pick to Calgary during the first round of the NHL Draft on Friday.

“Kid’s a kind of pain in the ass,” said Burke, as per the Calgary Herald. “We don’t have enough guys who are pains in the ass. And the way I like to play, I like guys who are pains in the ass.

“So, I thought that was a real important pick for us.”

After 107 points in 57 games for the London Knights during the OHL’s regular season, Tkachuk followed that up with an impressive 40 points in 18 playoff games, capped off with a Memorial Cup victory.

For the Flames, the addition of Tkachuk should strengthen a group of young, talented forwards, including Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, who have already established themselves in the NHL.

“Everybody talks about his brawn and his ability to score, but this guy, he’s got an elite mind,” said Flames GM Brad Treliving of Tkachuk.

“He can play with top players, he can think the game at a high level and he plays in the areas that aren’t fun to play in.”

Stars GM Nill confident in getting Jamie Benn signed to extension

Fans celebrate along with Dallas Stars left wing Jamie Benn (14) after a score by Benn in the first period of Game 3 of a first-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series game, Monday, April 21, 2014, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
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The Dallas Stars recently signed Jordie Benn to a three-year contract extension. They can soon sign his younger brother and team captain Jamie Benn to an extension that will be far more lucrative.

The 26-year-old Benn finished second in the league with 89 points in 82 games during the regular season and was a finalist for the Hart Trophy. He’s entering the final year of his five-year, $26.25 million and would be a pending UFA after next season.

And the Stars are bent on keeping Benn beyond 2016-17, as soon as they’re eligible to sign him to an extension.

Benn, who has risen from a fifth-round pick in 2007 to an Olympic gold medalist and star in the NHL, has already gone on record as saying he wants to play in Dallas, so it seems the two sides are on the same page there.

From the Dallas Morning News in May:

Benn, who is one of three finalists for the Hart Trophy as league MVP, is probably in the market for a deal similar to the eight years, $80 million that was recently signed by Anze Kopitar of the Kings. While Benn could become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2017, he said he doesn’t want to leave the Stars.

The Stars right now have three forwards — Jason Spezza, Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin — signed through 2018-19, with Spezza holding the most expensive cap hit at $7.5 million, as per General Fanager.

Related: Dallas GM doesn’t think Kopitar deal will affect Benn negotiations

There is plenty of reported interest in pending UFA Okposo

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 07:  Kyle Okposo #21 of the New York Islanders looks on before a face off against the Philadelphia Flyers on April 7, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.The Philadelphia Flyers defeated the New York Islanders 5-4.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Did you hear? Steven Stamkos is the “big fish” — the most coveted free agent this year, should he go to the open market on Friday.

That said, another scoring forward that is reportedly garnering plenty of attention, as teams are now allowed to talk to pending unrestricted free agents, is Kyle Okposo, the 28-year-old right winger who has scored at least 20 goals in three of the last five seasons.

In the final year of his five-year contract worth $14 million, Okposo scored 22 goals and 64 points this past season for the Islanders. It’s been no secret of late that the Islanders aren’t expected to re-sign Okposo, who is due for a substantial raise in free agency.

The Sabres and Panthers would certainly make for interesting destinations for Okposo.

The Sabres are also one of the teams interested in Stamkos, while the Panthers have already made a big move prior to the draft by acquiring the rights to defenseman Keith Yandle and then signing the pending UFA to a seven-year deal, a move he described as such: “You feel like it’s an all-in organization.”

Both teams also have plenty of cap space heading into the week. The Panthers have more than $18 million in cap space, while the Sabres have more than $19.5 million in space, according to General Fanager.