James O'Brien

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

Flames acquire Eddie Lack, Ryan Murphy from Hurricanes


Rather than seeking out goalie fixes through free agency, the remarkably busy Calgary Flames instead opt for trades.

First, they landed Mike Smith from the Arizona Coyotes. Now, on Thursday, they helped the Carolina Hurricanes clear up their logjam in net by taking Eddie Lack off their hands.

Here’s the breakdown of the parameters, via TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Cap Friendly, and other sources:

Flames get:

Lack at half of his salary
Ryan Murphy
2019 seventh-rounder

So Calgary clears up its goaltending situation …

Murphy, 24, was the 12th pick of the 2011 NHL Draft. He’s played 151 regular-season games for Carolina, collecting 37 points. Murphy has bounced between the NHL and AHL for quite some time, so you certainly get the impression that the Hurricanes lost patience with him.

Hurricanes receive:
Keegan Kanzig
2019 sixth-rounder

It’s ultimately about savings for the Hurricanes.

No, Kanzig isn’t the former lead singer of The Misfits.

The 22-year-old defenseman was the 67th pick of the 2013 NHL Draft. He spent most of last season in the ECHL, playing six games with the AHL’s Stockton Heat.

Ultimately, the Hurricanes save money while sanding down their goalie duo to Scott Darling and Cam Ward. The Flames clarify their pairing as Smith and Lack, too. So it’s a pretty straightforward and beneficial deal for both sides.

Jaromir Jagr is having fun with his (supposed) lack of offers


Whether it’s growing out his mullet or making old jokes, Jaromir Jagr is having a great time during his “elder statesman” phase.

(It’s probably more fun, if a lot less lucrative, then his “occasionally scapegoated superstar” days.)

Not long ago, reports surfaced that Jagr might need to take a slight cut in pay to return to the Florida Panthers next season.

There are plenty of reports swirling about other free agents getting teams to line up for them, causing Jagr some frustration … or at least some faux frustration. Either way, he delighted the Internet with some self deprecating tweets on Thursday.

It started with this:

And then he topped himself, with Jagr almost doing his own version of the “You vs. the guy she told you not to worry about” meme.

Fantastic, and also where did that vintage Jagr photo come from? Is that a tennis racket? Glorious.

Let’s hope the 45-year-old sticks around for another free agency period, if for nothing more than the Twitter gold.

Devils sign backup G Kinkaid for two years, $2.5M


While the New Jersey Devils are a work in progress these days, they’ve been able to enjoy good-to-great goaltending.

They took a step to maintain that standard on Thursday, signing solid backup netminder Keith Kinkaid to a two-year, $2.5 million contract. With Cory Schneider signed at $6 million through 2021-22, New Jersey has that position covered for some time.

Kinkaid, 27, established himself as an NHL regular over the last three seasons, playing in 69 regular-season games with a career save percentage of .912. He actually enjoyed a stronger 2016-17 from that perspective than Schneider (.916 vs. Schneider’s unusually weak .908).

He hasn’t been able to translate respectable numbers to a lot of wins, however, as Kinkaid’s career record is 23-27-8. Much like Schneider, he’ll need more help – particularly more goal support – to drive those totals up.

Still, with this duo, the Devils enjoy stability in net … which they’re quite used to.

Moving on: Williams leaving Capitals, Penguins lose Daley


It sounds like “Mr. Game 7” will no longer be a Washington Capitals forward.

TSN’s Darren Dreger reports that Justin Williams narrowed down his list of teams down to three or four, and the Capitals aren’t one of them.

The 35-year-old has been a bargain basically during his entire career, settling for a $3.25 million salary even after cementing his clutch credentials (not to mention being very effective even in your mundane, everyday regular-season game).

One wonders if the Capitals essentially chose Brett Connolly and especially T.J. Oshie over Williams. Maybe a 35+ contract was also too much for the team to consider.

Dreger believes that the Dallas Stars are on that short list.

It’s not the only interesting bit of expected-departure news, even beyond this full post on Steve Mason likely leaving the Philadelphia Flyers.

Trevor Daley is expected to leave the Pittsburgh Penguins after helping them win back-to-back titles, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Jason Mackey.

Daley might have his list narrowed down to two or three teams, and Mackey notes that he followed the Boston Bruins on Instagram. The Detroit Red Wings have been mentioned as a team interested in a veteran blueliner such as Daley, something that was even noted on their team website.


Free agency kicks into gear on Saturday, July 1. Still, it sounds like we might get at least a loose idea of who might go where – or at least who might go somewhere new – before that day hits. It should be fun.

Report: Steve Mason won’t be back with Flyers


The free agent market figures to be crowded and unpredictable, but one thing seems clear: Steve Mason won’t return to the Philadelphia Flyers. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi reports that “his ship has sailed” when it comes to re-signing with Philly.

One got the impression that this would be a possibility when the Flyers signed Michal Neuvirth to a two-year extension with Mason’s situation unresolved, although the expansion draft opened up the possibility for more twists in that story.

Redemption (but also more stumbles)

Mason resurrected his career in Philly, managing an impressive .918 save percentage during his five seasons with the Flyers after managing a mediocre .903 mark during his Columbus days. The 29-year-old essentially went from “Sieve Mason” to a darling among many analytics-minded observers.

Still, the Flyers must have soured after he went 26-21-8 with a middling .908 save percentage in what was apparently his final season with Philly.

So, what’s next for Mason and the Flyers? Let’s consider some possibilities for both the goalie and his (former?) team.

Philly possibilities

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman predicts that the Flyers will roll with Brian Elliott (backed up by Michal Neuvirth). GM Ron Hextall seems savvy enough to look beyond a season of struggles to see a goalie with an overall history of production.

That said, the Flyers might not want a “quick fix” at age 32.

There’s at least an outside chance Hextall might stay in-house by combining Neuvirth and big prospect Anthony Stolarz.

One other interesting name in a platoon setup: Jonathan Bernier. Hextall has experience with Bernier during their time with the Los Angeles Kings, and the Kings lamented his loss when he went to Toronto.

Hextall tried to land a veteran goalie during draft weekend, so that might have been a preview for his free agent inclinations. If so, Elliott seems like a reasonable favorite, though the market could provide quite a few other choices.

Options for Mason

Interestingly, Mason bashed a two-goalie system back in April. If he insists upon being the clear No. 1 goalie, you have to wonder how many teams would give him the net outright.

The Winnipeg Jets were already a logical possibility, and it turns out that the two sides were in contact on Wednesday. The franchise has desperately lacked a goalie since Kari Lehtonen was a Thrasher, and if nothing else, Mason brings experience and some swagger.

Friedman also predicts Mason to Winnipeg, only making the rumblings more reasonable.

Beyond the Jets, Mason would likely need to accept a platoon situation. With that in mind, you wonder if Winnipeg might be able to get him at a discount rate.


Mason and the Flyers benefited from their time together, yet it appears that those days are over. It’s a sad end for some, but they’ll add some spice to this off-season, particularly for the goalie market.