James O'Brien

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

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

With reported Prosser signing, Blues could be done for summer

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The St. Louis Blues might just be done with their off-season moves after reportedly signing defenseman Nate Prosser to a two-way, two-year deal.

(NHL.com’s Lou Korac notes that the Blues haven’t made it official, yet his agent has. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford reports that it’s two-way.)

Rutherford points out some interesting history between the Blues and Prosser, who’s spent all of his NHL years with the Wild.

At 31, Prosser is what he is: a depth defenseman who hasn’t received many shifts at the top level lately. Some wonder if he’s really NHL material at this point, but perhaps the Blues value that experience.

Again, the Blues’ top-level roster looks about full, so GM Doug Armstrong’s work is likely done heading into 2017-18.

Sabres owner discusses report that Jack Eichel seeks 8-year deal


This post is part of Sabres Day on PHT…

The Associated Press reports that the Buffalo Sabres are discussing a possible eight-year contract extension with budding star Jack Eichel.

Eichel, 20, is currently in the final season of his entry-level deal, so he can sign an extension at any point he pleases. To little surprise, Sabres owner Terry Pegula played coy about the specifics of the negotiations, but wasn’t shy about acknowledging mutual interest in keeping Eichel.

Believe it or not, this report didn’t surface because it’s Sabres day here. PHT’s Joey Alfieri did break down what an Eichel contract might look like, so check that out in this post.

Signing an extension for the maximum length of time is quite the statement from Eichel, although there’s at least some sentiment that this shouldn’t be surprising.

Either way, the new-look Sabres would likely be ecstatic to lock up their most important player long-term sooner rather than later, so we’ll see how these talks progress.

It’s Buffalo Sabres day at PHT


The Buffalo Sabres finished last season in an all-too-familiar place: the basement of their division.

Uniform failures meant the end of line for Tim Murray and Dan Bylsma, with Jason Botterill taking over as GM and Phil Housley becoming head coach.

The Sabres are no strangers to off-season changes from a personnel perspective, and this summer was no different.

Marco Scandella and Nathan Beaulieu join the fold via bold trades, while they also signed Matt Tennyson. Meanwhile, Dmitry Kulikov is gone, and the same appears to be true for Cody Franson.

That Scandella trade also brings Jason Pominville back to town while shipping Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno to Minnesota. Benoit Pouliot was also added in a nice little under-the-radar free agent signing.

Chad Johnson also provides Robin Lehner with a credible backup (and maybe viable competition, as both are only on one-year deals).

For the most part, the Sabres hope to improve from within … and maybe enjoy some better luck. The hope is that Jack Eichel doesn’t miss much of the final year of his entry-level deal after being limited to about half of his sophomore season. One hopes that Kyle Okposo‘s health issues are way behind him, both from an on and off-ice perspective.

Change is in the air, but it remains to be seen how much positive change Housley can generate in his first season as an NHL head coach. PHT will discuss the many factors surrounding the 2017-18 season for Buffalo on Tuesday.