Cam Tucker


Talks continue with pending UFA Miller, but Markstrom is Canucks No. 1 goalie … eventually


The Canucks finally made the definitive statement last month that they are, in fact, rebuilding.

On Tuesday, another proclamation, this time from general manager Jim Benning: Jacob Markstrom will be the team’s starting goaltender.

Benning, in conversation with Pierre LeBrun of TSN, again admitted that he continues to talk with Ryan Miller‘s camp. Miller turns 37 years of age on July 17, and is a pending unrestricted free agent, having spent the last three seasons in Vancouver. The last two have certainly been difficult, with the team plummeting near the bottom of the NHL’s overall standings.

“We’re in conversations with [Miller’s] agent and with him,” Benning told TSN.

“Jacob Markstrom’s going to be our No. 1 goalie going forward. We feel like Ryan — he had a really good year last year, and he can help Jacob in that transition to being the No. 1 guy. We feel with where we’re at, we need good goaltending every night to be competitive with these young players up front.”

Oh, wait a minute. . .

This past season, Miller was actually pretty good considering how bad the team in front of him was, as they went through a rapid fall that culminated in the Canucks trading away veterans Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen for talented forward prospects Nikolay Goldobin and Jonathan Dahlen.

In a bid to keep the Canucks — as they further the transition of younger players into their roster — “competitive,” Benning has expressed his interest in keeping Miller in Vancouver. However, that same transition will continue in goal. Markstrom, who is about to enter the first year of his three-year, $11 million extension, played only 26 games last season, with a .910 save percentage, and eventually had to undergo knee surgery.

Goalie prospect Thatcher Demko saw improvements as his rookie AHL season continued, and he could be the future in net for Vancouver. At 27, the need to get Markstrom more playing time was a hot topic of conversation during the season in Vancouver.

It appears the Canucks are finally going to allow him that opportunity.

At some point.

Senators ink d-man Jaros to entry-level deal


A day after Pierre Dorion outlined a myriad of postseason injuries and a potentially difficult decision ahead of the expansion draft, the Ottawa Senators general manager got some work done, signing a prospect defenseman.

The Senators on Tuesday announced the signing of 21-year-old defenseman Christian Jaros to a three-year entry-level deal.

Jaros has represented Slovakia at numerous international events, including the World Juniors and World Hockey Championships, and recently finished his third season in the Swedish Hockey League.

The Senators selected Jaros in the fifth round of the 2015 NHL Draft. He scored five goals and 13 points in 36 games this season with Lulea HC in Sweden.

His offensive numbers certainly don’t jump off the page, but his size (6’3″ tall and 201 pounds) and physical play seemed to gain the attention of scouts. It was suggested earlier this season Jaros plays a style similar to current Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki.

Here’s an example of Jaros’ physical style.

That’s quite a hit.

Flyers sign prospect Oskar Lindblom, who could challenge for a roster spot next season


After a breakout season in the Swedish Hockey League, Oskar Lindblom has signed an entry-level contract with the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Flyers selected Lindblom in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL Draft. Now 20 years old, the prospect left winger led Brynas IF with 22 goals and 47 points in 52 games.

That’s a substantial increase in production from the 25 points he had the previous season, and that improvement wasn’t lost on the staff in Philadelphia.

Earlier this spring, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said a number of Philadelphia’s young prospects were going to get a “long look” at making the team next year.

Lindblom, who stands six-foot-one-inch tall and 192 pounds, certainly falls into that category.

The opportunity to further advance the youth movement in Philly has been well documented, particularly on defense with the club parting ways with Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz. The move to get younger doesn’t seem restricted to just the blue line.

“Oskar, he’s had a great year,” Hextall told CSN Philly. “He’s in a really good league. He’s a good hockey player. He’s come a long way since his draft year. The Swedish Elite League is a very good league and he’s done a good job.

“I hope he’s here in September fighting for a spot along with a number of other guys.”

Islanders officially add Scott Gomez and his ‘immense hockey knowledge’ to coaching staff


New York Islanders bench boss Doug Weight wanted ex-NHLers to join his coaching staff.

On Tuesday, the Islanders announced the hiring of Scott Gomez — and his 1,079 games of NHL experience from a playing career that only ended in 2015-16 — as an assistant coach.

“Scott brings an immense amount of hockey knowledge to our coaching staff,” said Weight in a statement.

“His offensive instincts, expertise on the power-play and the way he could control the game with his skating and smarts, are all key elements that we want implemented into our group. He played in the league as recently as the 2015-16 season so he can relate to today’s NHL player in an effort to bring out the best in each member of the team.”

Gomez has never served in an official coaching capacity. It’s safe to assume he learned something from working with ex-Caps coach Adam Oates, who has turned himself into a personal player consultant/individual skills coach. Gomez praised Oates for salvaging his career and getting a contract from the Blues in 2015.

“That guy brought me back from the dead,” Gomez said, per the Star-Ledger. “You bet I was going to take advantage.”

And it looks like Gomez has done just that, as he joins the Islanders.

No changes to Caps coaching staff, but no extension talks with Trotz yet, either


Another great regular season nullified by another playoff disappointment kickstarted talk earlier this month about the future of Barry Trotz as head coach of the Washington Capitals.

However, based on reports from general manager Brian MacLellan’s Tuesday press conference, there will be no changes to the coaching staff, led by Trotz.

To recap: The Capitals won the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top regular season team, but were sent to another second-round elimination to the rival Penguins.

In three years behind the Washington bench, Trotz and the Capitals have amassed 156 regular season wins and three straight 100-plus point seasons. The third round of the playoffs, however, has been elusive, which put his future with that club into question.

From Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet:

Incredibly, Barry Trotz’s future isn’t secure. (One GM, hearing that, texted, “This league is a joke if [that’s] real.”) The surest predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. Trotz said all the right things about Ovechkin accepting a move to the third line, but check Washington’s history. Dale Hunter didn’t return after demoting Ovechkin in 2012. Adam Oates faced pushback when he moved the captain into unfamiliar positions, and a harsh team meeting late in the 2013–14 season (where Ovechkin was ripped by several teammates) caused significant problems before a coaching change.

This is still a situation worth keeping an eye on in the coming weeks and months leading up to next season. According to Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post, Trotz is entering the final year of his contract and MacLellan said there has yet to be any contract extension talks between the two sides.

While MacLellan said there will be no changes to the coaching staff, they may still indeed lose assistant coach Todd Reirden to one of the vacant head coaching gigs in the NHL.

Reirden was reportedly going to interview for the Panthers coaching position, and could be a candidate in Buffalo, as well.

Meanwhile, MacLellan has plenty of decisions ahead of him, with 11 players on expiring contracts. Next year’s projected salary cap could have a huge impact on which pending unrestricted free agents the club decides to and can bring back.

The Capitals have five pending UFAs: Justin Williams, Daniel Winnik, T.J. Oshie, Karl Alzner and Kevin Shattenkirk. They also have six pending restricted free agents, most notably Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky and Dmitry Orlov, who are in line for substantial raises. Based on his comments today, the pending RFAs are the main focus right now for MacLellan.

MacLellan did say Oshie is a good fit in Washington. He was tied for the team lead in goals (33) with Alex Ovechkin. But with the restricted free agents he must get under contract, re-signing Oshie will depend on the salary cap.

Following another playoff disappointment, the prospect of a decline is certainly possible in Washington.