Cam Tucker

SUNRISE, FL - MARCH 10: Jiri Hudler #24 of the Florida Panthers looks up at the scoreboard as he skates prior to the game against the Ottawa Senators at the BB&T Center on March 10, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida. The Panthers defeated the Senators 6-2. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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UFA of the Day: Jiri Hudler

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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…

Jiri Hudler

In a bid to help bolster their lineup for the playoffs, the Florida Panthers went out just prior to the trade deadline and acquired Jiri Hudler from the Calgary Flames in exchange for two draft picks — a second-round selection in 2016 and a fourth-round selection in 2018.

The Panthers were eliminated in the first round, losing in six games to the New York Islanders. Hudler played in all six post-season games and registered only a single point — held without a shot on goal in three of those games, too — and could now become an unrestricted free agent when July 1 rolls around in less than two weeks.

From the Sun Sentinel:

2016-17 salary status: Earned $4 million this year and is an UFA.

What’s next: The Panthers’ depth in the minors, makes it highly unlikely the Panthers will sign Hudler, 32.

In a contract year, Hudler saw his overall point production drop back down compared to the marvelous, breakout 2014-15 season he put together with the Flames, while playing mostly on a line with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.

That was his final full season with Calgary. Hudler scored 31 goals  and 76 points. Only seven players in the entire league had more points and only 11 players had more goals.

In addition to a lower-body injury in January, Hudler had 35 points in 53 games before he was traded. When he got to Florida, he produced 11 points in 19 regular season games. Things took another turn toward the end of May when Hudler was left off the Czech roster for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey.

Hudler’s previous season in Calgary was what garnered the attention of Dale Tallon, then the Panthers’ GM, leading up to the deadline deal. The Panthers have since gone and acquired 20-year-old forward Jared McCann from the Vancouver Canucks. As per, the veteran forward was 25th in the league with 2.10 points-per 60 minutes for players with more than 750 minutes of ice time as five-on-five.

Other UFA forwards will likely garner more attention and command more term, but despite his age, Hudler may still be able to provide another team with an experienced point producer. But will this season, capped by a lack of production in the 2016 playoffs, have some NHL GMs turning their heads in another direction?

Click here for all our 2016 UFA profiles.

Report: Islanders GM, Nielsen’s agent talking long-term deal

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 03: Frans Nielsen #51 of the New York Islanders prepares to play against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Barclays Center on May 03, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Lightning defeated the Islanders 5-4 in overtime.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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When it comes to the New York Islanders and their pending unrestricted free agents, the writing appears on the wall for forward Kyle Okposo.

For some time now, it has looked like his time with the Islanders is at an end, and he’ll head to the open market.

However, when it comes to Frans Nielsen, the 32-year-old forward and another pending UFA, there appears to be optimism for the Islanders, with July 1 approaching.

From Newsday:

“We’re just in a situation with the salary cap that you really have to analyze where you are today and where you’re going to be in five years from now. So there’s always tough decisions,” Snow said. “Kyle’s a great person. He’s been a terrific player for this organization. Wish him nothing but the best.”

Snow was not asked about Matt Martin or Frans Nielsen, but sources indicated that Snow and Marc Levine, Nielsen’s agent, have been in contact on a long-term deal in recent days.

Martin, like Okposo, appears headed for a new team once free agency begins on July 1.

Nielsen, at the end of a four-year, $11 million contract, finished third on the Islanders in points with 52 in 81 games during the regular season, behind John Tavares and Okposo. He also scored 20 goals, fourth on the team in that category.

In addition to solid production, Nielsen was also relied on for special teams, averaging 1:59 of ice time per game on the penalty kill and 2:43 of ice time per game on the power play.

(The Islanders had the fourth best PK in the league during the regular season, but the 17th-ranked power play.)

There could also be something else in the works for the Islanders.

Citing anonymous sources, Arthur Staple of Newsday also reported that the Islanders GM would be willing to part with the 19th overall pick in next week’s draft as part of a package to land an “established NHL forward.”

Two developments worth keeping an eye on in the coming days.


Pending UFA Boedker isn’t ruling out a return to the Avalanche

DENVER, CO - MARCH 03:  Mikkel Boedker #89 of the Colorado Avalanche celebrates his goal against the Florida Panthers to take a 2-1 lead in the first period at Pepsi Center on March 3, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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The opening of free agency isn’t far off now, but it seems there is at least a chance pending unrestricted free agent Mikkel Boedker could return to the Colorado Avalanche.

Acquired from the Arizona Coyotes at the trade deadline, Boedker had 12 points in 18 games for the Avalanche, which sent Alex Tanguay and prospects Kyle Wood and Conner Bleackley to the Coyotes as part of that deal and then missed the playoffs in the Central Division.

Boedker, who matched his single-season career high in points with 51, doesn’t turn 27 years old until December and could now walk away from the Avalanche for nothing if he chooses the open market.

(The Coyotes won’t sign Bleackley, so they’ll take the second-round compensation pick as a result.)

But Boedker’s camp hasn’t exactly ruled out a return.

“We’ve come this far on shorter deals, now we’re at the point where he can pick a team,” Boedker’s agent Jarrett Bousquet told ESPN.

“We’re going to definitely weigh all the options and make the best decision for Mikkel. He liked everyone from the coaches and the players to the fans in Colorado. It’s definitely a place that’s up there on his list.”

Just a few days ago, Avalanche GM Joe Sakic said that both Boedker and pending UFA Shawn Matthias would test free agency, but added he’d like to have one of those players back for next season.

Blues and pending UFA Backes ‘haven’t been able to find that common ground’

DALLAS, TX - MAY 01:  David Backes #42 of the St. Louis Blues walks off the ice after scoring the game winning goal against Antti Niemi #31 of the Dallas Stars in overtime in Game Two of the Western Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at American Airlines Center on May 1, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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As a pending unrestricted free agent, the prospect of David Backes re-signing with the St. Louis Blues doesn’t seem too promising as July 1 approaches.

At the age of 32, Backes has played his entire NHL career so far in St. Louis. As the Blues’ captain, he scored 21 goals and 45 points in 79 games during the regular season and then added seven goals and 14 points in 20 playoff games, as St. Louis made it to the Western Conference Final.

When speaking about Backes in recent weeks, Blues GM Doug Armstrong has said re-signing the veteran forward is a priority, but doesn’t want a deal that may hamstring the organization down the road, and in a league where speed is becoming such a prized quality.

Backes is at the end of a five-year, $22.5 million contract. In conversation with Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Armstrong reiterated the organization would like to bring Backes back, but again, the deal has to fit for the organization as well as the player.

Backes is one of five pending UFAs with the Blues. Troy Brouwer, who is 30 years old and coming off the best post-season of his NHL career with 13 points in 20 games, also headlines that list.

Beep beep! Coyotes name AHL affiliate the Tucson Roadrunners


Tucson’s American Hockey League franchise now has its name: The Roadrunners.

The announcement was made Saturday afternoon, more than a month after the AHL’s Board of Governors approved the sale of the Springfield Falcons to the Arizona Coyotes and Tucson City Council approved a 10-year lease agreement between the Coyotes and Tucson Convention Center.

“We are very proud to name our AHL affiliate the Tucson Roadrunners,” said Coyotes president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc in a statement.

“The Tucson Roadrunners will build on the great traditions of hockey in Arizona dating back to 1967. Roadrunners was the overwhelming fan favorite during our ‘Name the Team’ contest, and we thank the thousands of fans who helped us select a great name that creates a strong connection to the City of Tucson, reflects our state pride, and extends the reach of the Coyotes brand.”

Related: Naming a new pro sports franchise isn’t always easy