James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.

Report: Schmidt, Golden Knights actually went to salary arbitration


Something rare happened on Thursday: a salary arbitration hearing actually happened as scheduled.

The Vegas Golden Knights and defenseman Nate Schmidt appeared before a Toronto arbiter today, according to a report by Steve Carp of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Carp reports that the two sides are seeking the following parameters:

Schmidt: one year, $2.75 million.

Golden Knights: two years, $1.9 million.

(More on that here.)

These processes can sometimes be brutal, bringing certain players to tears. This case might be a little different, as Vegas selected Schmidt via the expansion draft. There isn’t quite the same development history since he was a member of the Washington Capitals, although Vegas GM George McPhee likely has some familiarity with Schmidt from his late Caps days.

The two sides still have 48 hours to hash something out before the arbiter actually makes a ruling on Saturday.

It’s Detroit Red Wings day at PHT


A lot ended for the Detroit Red Wings last season.

After making the playoffs for all 26 seasons since 1990-91, the Red Wings finally failed to reach the postseason in 2016-17.

There was a sad symbolism of this being the end of an era in another way, as the Red Wings played their final games at Joe Louis Arena.

So … what now?

At the moment, the Red Wings still seem primed to be a big-spending team. After somewhat surprisingly reaching a deal with Tomas Tatar and with Andreas Athanasiou still in need of a deal, it looks like Detroit will be close to the cap ceiling to begin 2017-18.

This comes even though the Red Wings don’t really seem like a dramatically different team on paper. Aside from adding another veteran defenseman in Trevor Daley, this is largely the same group, especially after Petr Mrazek wasn’t scooped up by the Vegas Golden Knights.

Detroit still employs an array of aging players, and in the case of its forwards in specific, the Red Wings possess a lot of worrisome deals. One would assume that, eventually, GM Ken Holland and/or someone else needs to start cleaning that up.

But, could this team still scrap together a decent season in 2017-18? If so, which factors work for and against them? PHT tackles the Red Wings on Thursday, so stay tuned.

Kucherov’s agent: ‘Everything is good’ with Lightning after comments


Nikita Kucherov fumed about last season early this summer, something his agent Dan Milstein did not deny. Now Milstein’s back to claim that Kucherov and Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman smoothed things over in a meeting, according to Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times.

“(Kucherov and Yzerman) did have a meeting,” Milstein said to Smith. “They got on the same page. There’s no disagreements.

“Everything is good. What was said is done, stays in the past.”

Milstein added that Kucherov “hopes to have a redo this year,” which probably seems to apply to the Lightning as a team in 2017-18.

And, honestly, Kucherov had a point when he seared some of his linemates, though it wasn’t particularly fair to compare them to Steven Stamkos. After all, with 40 goals ranking second and 85 points coming in fifth in the NHL overall – despite the injuries and line juggling – Kucherov clearly came to play, each and every night.

The real test will come soon enough, anyway, as Kucherov’s current ridiculous bargain of a $4.77 million cap hit only lasts through 2018-19, even though he’ll be an RFA after that season.

As usual, winning can heal a lot of wounds, and Kucherov would likely factor into that success in a big way.

More on that from the Tampa Bay Times.

Duchene tries to be ‘relaxed’ about Avs, trade rumors


“It is what it is.”

“Whatever’s going to happen is gonna happen.”

Honestly, those are the sort of phrases you hear when someone’s … well, unhappy at work.

Those are also phrases Matt Duchene uttered while mostly putting on a brave face to TSN about the trade rumors swirling Duchene and the Colorado Avalanche. Here’s the full quote he provided when asked if all that talk makes him nervous.

“Yes and no,” Duchene said. “I think right now I’m pretty relaxed, I know whatever’s going to happen is gonna happen. I don’t really have control of it and I’m just worried about being at the top of my game and kind of getting to where I was kind of the first half of last season, before everything kind of fell apart in Colorado. I feel good right now, probably as good as I felt at any point during the year.

“It is what it is and let it happen. “

Credit Duchene with not trashing the Avalanche, at least not publicly, even as a move hasn’t happened as of Aug. 2. Though it makes sense it’s plausible that he’ll remain with the team.

You know, not that even Duchene necessarily believes that he’s sticking with the Avalanche:

That doesn’t seem ideal.

Also not ideal, apparently: lining him up with Gabriel Landeskog if he does remain with the Avalanche for a significant length of time.

Granlund expects Wild to finally deliver in playoffs


This offseason for the Minnesota Wild was never going to be about making major additions.

This was simply the summer of maintenance and sustenance, with a new contract for Mikael Granlund one of the biggest priorities.

Now that Granlund has agreed to the deal, for $17.25 million over three years, the dynamic Finnish forward has his focus on a much deeper push by the Wild through the playoffs. Performing up to the value of the contract is not his concern.

Even without obvious roster upgrades after a five-game loss in the first round to St. Louis, the strength of the core that fueled a top-five finish in the NHL regular season has not diminished.

“There’s always something to prove, but I think the biggest thing is as a team I really want us to make a deeper playoff run,” Granlund said Wednesday on a conference call. “Obviously we need to make it to playoffs first, but I think we have a really good group of guys and we can do some damage.”

Granlund’s deal was done two days after the new contract was finalized for fellow restricted free agent and right wing Nino Niederreiter, who will get $26.25 million over five years.

The Wild acquired left wing Marcus Foligno and right wing Tyler Ennis from Buffalo last month, but they traded right wing Jason Pominville and defenseman Marco Scandella to get them. They lost center Erik Haula in the expansion draft to Vegas and traded former first-round draft pick Alex Tuch to the Golden Knights to keep them away from others. They signed defenseman Kyle Quincey in free agency, but all the other pick-ups were designed for injury protection and AHL depth.

General manager Chuck Fletcher wasn’t going to be able to do much more than that, given the salary cap situation and the requirement to lose a player to the league’s newest team. So the Wild will be banking on good health for their veteran players and continued improvement by their younger teammates, with Granlund squarely in the spotlight after a breakthrough under new coach Bruce Boudreau.

“He was super great last season, and we improved a lot as a team and individually too,” said Granlund, who was the ninth overall pick in the 2010 draft. “He gave me a lot of responsibility.”

With a permanent move from center to right wing and the installation of an offense-friendly system, Granlund produced 26 goals, 43 assists and a plus-23 rating, all career highs. His 69 points were tied for the fourth most in franchise history, and he was one of three finalists for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy for exceptional sportsmanship and skill.

“People across the league are now surely aware of what our management group has always known: Mikael has a tremendous level of talent and skill,” Fletcher said. “Coupled with his excellent work ethic and tremendous character, we know he’ll play a large role in the future success of our team.”

For more NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey