James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
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Golden Knights claim Malcolm Subban off waivers

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The Malcolm Subban era ended before it ever really began with the Boston Bruins. NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty and others report that the Vegas Golden Knights scooped the goalie off of waivers on Tuesday.

In 2012, the Bruins selected Subban with the 24th pick of that draft. The 23-year-old only managed to make two brief (according to hockeydb, both strangely 31-minute) appearances at the NHL level.

Subban’s AHL work has leveled off a bit in the last two seasons after putting up pretty impressive save percentage stats in both 2013-14 and 2014-15. This just about confirms that Zane McIntyre is the “goalie of the future” in Boston – beyond Tuukka Rask, of course – instead.

Perhaps he’s mostly a victim of the numbers game: there are only 31 starting jobs and only 62 spots for goalies at this level. In claiming Subban, the Golden Knights now have several options in net, yet it might actually be easier for the former first-rounder to find solid footing in Vegas.

It’s possible that Subban needed a fresh start. That’s a refrain from many observers after the Colorado Avalanche claimed defenseman Patrik Nemeth from the Dallas Stars.

The Avalanche need NHL defensemen, so that could be a symbiotic relationship.

These other players (including Tomas Jurco, David Booth and Matt Read) cleared waivers.

Stay tuned for some thoughts on Read later today.

Trotz to Capitals: ‘It’s step up time’

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ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) Facing some salary-cap math that wasn’t pretty, the Washington Capitals took a beating in the offseason with the loss of several significant contributors players.

Now they go about the unenviable task of trying to fill the void left – including the 68 goals scored last season – by Marcus Johansson, Justin Williams, Daniel Winnik, Nate Schmidt, Karl Alzner and Kevin Shattenkirk.

“It’s step up time,” coach Barry Trotz said. “It’s by committee. Next man up.”

For the Capitals to remain Stanley Cup contenders, the burden is on star forwards Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie and goaltender Braden Holtby to step up even more. Coming off back-to-back Presidents’ Trophy seasons for leading the NHL in regular-season points and losing in the second round each time to the eventual champion Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington is a very different team with an infusion of youth that veterans hope will help rather than hurt.

The Capitals could have eight players age 25 and younger in their opening night lineup, including defenseman Madison Bowey and Australian forward Nathan Walker potentially making their NHL debuts. Center Lars Eller sees those young players and others, like top prospect Jakub Vrana, and feels excitement about what could be.

“Experience is hard to replace, but they’re going to bring something else,” Eller said. “And the truth is, I think on a Stanley Cup-winning team you got to have all kinds of guys bringing something different to the table. … I still think we have a very good mix of experience and youth and these guys are going to be really, really hungry to prove themselves and to take the next step.”

For the Capitals to take the next step after three first- and six second-round exits over the past decade, Ovechkin and the top players will have to assume a bigger chunk of the responsibility. General manager Brian MacLellan hopes for big things from Kuznetsov and fourth-year winger Andre Burakovsky.

“They want more from me and I understand that,” said Kuznetsov, who signed a $62.4 million, eight-year deal that makes him Washington’s second-highest paid player behind Ovechkin. “I want people to ask more from me. If they give me a bigger role, I will try to do my best.”

Some things to watch with the Capitals this season:

ADJUSTING OVECHKIN: Going into his 13th NHL season at age 32, Ovechkin is hoping to make good on an offseason request to get a bit quicker. MacLellan wanted him to train more for speed than power after the lowest goal output in a non-lockout season since 2010-11. “You always ask players to evolve,” Trotz said. “What can you add to your game that you haven’t added? In his case, the game is getting quick and he has to stay relevant from the quickness aspect.”

HOLTBY WITHOUT KORN: Holtby won the Vezina Trophy in 2015-16 and was a finalist again last season under the tutelage of goaltending coach Mitch Korn, who moved on to director of goaltending with Scott Murray taking over day-to-day duties. Along with backup Philipp Grubauer, Holtby leads arguably the best goaltending tandem in hockey and doesn’t expect anything to change with his elite play. “You’re not revamping styles or anything like that,” said Holtby, who had a combined 2.17 goals-against average and .923 save percentage over the past three seasons. “You’re grooming things, looking for trends, looking at little ways to get better.”

TROTZ CONTRACT WATCH: Trotz is in the last year of his contract, an interesting situation to say the least for a veteran coach with such a strong resume. But like many of his players, Trotz hasn’t made it past the second round of the playoffs, and MacLellan said after last season he wanted to see “evidence” of improvements before talking extension. Trotz said his contract status has “0.0 effect” on him, adding he’s not worried about it at all.

ROCKY ROAD: Eight of the Capitals’ first 12 games are on the road, and six overall come against playoff teams from last season. There won’t be any easing into the year, but if Washington can stay afloat through a rough first month and not dig too much of a hole in the stacked Metropolitan, it could be on the way to a third consecutive division title.

WHO’S ON D: Matt Niskanen, Dmitry Orlov and pending free agent John Carlson are clearly the top three defensemen. After that, the blue line will be filled out by the likes of Bowey, Christian Djoos, Taylor Chorney, Brooks Orpik and Aaron Ness, whose play will determine a lot of the Capitals’ success this season.

Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SWhyno

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

Possible bad news for Jagr? Blues reportedly sign Upshall

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With a rash of injuries, the St. Louis Blues are making at least one move to improve their depth at forward, as reporters including Sportsnet’s Rick Dhaliwal indicate that they’re bringing back Scottie Upshall.

Upshall, 33, had been with the Vancouver Canucks on a PTO. There were rumblings that something was in the works when Upshall was scratched in favor of Anton Rodin on Thursday.

Do note that the Upshall signing isn’t official, especially according to the Canucks organization.

You might call this Upshall’s second stint with St. Louis, but that’s really a matter of semantics. He just concluded two seasons with the Blues, including 2016-17, when he scored 18 points. The sixth pick of the 2002 NHL Draft has settled into a role as an energy guy in the NHL, and he provides some familiar insurance.

Of course, the question is: would this hurt the chances of Jaromir Jagr signing with the Blues? The team acknowledged considering signing Jagr, though they also want to make sure he’s a stylistic fit. Upshall has already played with this group, so that’s not as much of a mystery.

This isn’t to say that Upshall cancels out a Jagr signing altogether, though. With Robby Fabbri out for the season, Zach Sanford missing possibly that much (if not close), Patrik Berglund out months, and Alex Steen likely to start on IR, it’s perfectly reasonable to imagine the Blues bringing in Jagr and Upshall.

We’ll just have to wait and see. In this case, Upshall’s a lower-risk, lower-reward pickup for the Blues.

Video: Nolan Patrick’s first NHL fight comes against David Krejci

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As the second pick of the 2017 NHL Draft, Nolan Patrick was already bound to excite Philadelphia Flyers fans.

Still, there are certain ways to endear yourself to a fan base, and dropping the gloves – particularly against a solid rival like the Boston Bruins – is a solid way to do so. Patrick might have earned some kudos in that regard, then, as he engaged in his first NHL fight with David Krejci.

Check out the bout in the video above this post’s headline.

Now, if you don’t count this because the fists flew in the preseason, then consider this an audition for his first fight. Either way, it’s a scrap between two unlikely foes, so enjoy.

Quick hits: Sens waive Hammond, Rangers send Andersson to Sweden

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NHL teams have until Tuesday to get their rosters down to 23 players (or perhaps less in specific, tight cap situations), so the waiver wire could be intriguing to watch until then.

Between that and sending prospects to the AHL, juniors, or even overseas, there are quite a few things going on. Let’s take care of some of those items in one convenient spot.

(Note: this isn’t necessarily comprehensive; if you want to cover every base, check out Rotoworld’s NHL page.)

  • First things first, waiver notes for Thursday. The two most prominent names are Matt Puempel of the New York Rangers and Andrew Hammond of the Ottawa Senators.

Hammond is an especially interesting case.

The 29-year-old memorably saved the Senators’ season in 2014-15, also earning McDonald’s for life. Since then, he’s largely been lost in the shuffle of Ottawa: seemingly too prominent for the AHL but not quite established enough to take starts from Craig Anderson (and eventually passed by Mike Condon).

Hammond’s numbers haven’t been the greatest since then, and his $1.35 million cap hit isn’t the cheapest for someone who might not be a difference-making backup. Still, it’s plausible that some team – maybe one with a lot of space and some questions – might want to take a look. In this specific case, the odds increase because at least that cap hit will expire after 2017-18.

  • The New York Rangers loaned their first-round pick Lias Andersson to Sweden, where he’ll play for Frolunda of the Swedish Hockey League. As the seventh pick of this past draft, Andersson is a guy to keep an eye on, possibly not too long from now.
  • There’s some belief that, while it isn’t official, the Dallas Stars are expected to send Julius Honka to the AHL, meaning that he’d lose out to the likes of Jamie Oleksiak.

Some believe that the Stars would be making the safe move as far as waivers go, rather than opting to put the best team on the ice.