James O'Brien

Carolina Hurricanes v Florida Panthers
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Report: Canes, Eric Staal aren’t close to deal

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With one year left on his current contract, Eric Staal and the Carolina Hurricanes aren’t close to hashing out a new one, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

Here’s what Friedman told The FAN 960 on Monday:

“I don’t think anybody is going to come out and say that, but I have heard they’re not really that close in negotiations,” Friedman said. “He has control. He has a no-move clause, just like Cam Ward does. Carolina can’t do anything without his approval.”

Staal has control … and he’s also “very comfortable” in Carolina. And, really, the “comfortable” thing to do would be to extend their captain.

Diminishing returns

Success in sports and “comfort” don’t always mix so well – competition tends to make you leave that security blanket behind, after all – so one has to wonder if it’s really the right decision for Staal or the Hurricanes.

Ever since the Hurricanes’ unexpected Stanley Cup win in 2005-06, this team has been sinking or swimming based on the play of Staal and Ward.

Let’s be honest: that hasn’t worked out all that often. Yes, there was a deep postseason run in 2008-09, but that was Carolina’s only playoff appearance since that title run.

Is that all Staal’s fault? Of course not, but the Hurricanes might just be better off passing the torch … and Staal could benefit in going from the guy in Carolina to just one of the guys on another team.

Junior hockey is last resort for Jets’ Ehlers

Nikolaj Ehlers
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If Nikolaj Ehlers has his way, he’ll make the Winnipeg Jets’ roster in 2015-16.

The situation gets more complicated if the ideal scenario doesn’t play out. During TSN’s Insider Trading segment on Monday, Bob McKenzie noted the avenues Ehlers and the Jets would prefer to explore if he doesn’t make the Jets:

  • The AHL, after “reading the fine print” of the transfer agreement.
  • Developing overseas.

At the bottom of the list: returning to the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads.

It’s not meant to be an insult to the wonderfully named Mooseheads; it’s just a matter of Ehlers having very little room to improve at the junior level, generating a little more than two points per game during the past two seasons.

Just recently, Ehlers told the CBC he sees “an opportunity” to make the Jets, especially since some veterans weren’t re-signed this summer.

“I don’t have any other plans than playing in the NHL this year,” Ehlers said. “It’s what my focus is on and it’s going to stay like that until they say otherwise. I’m excited to start this season and looking forward to it.”

What a better idea of Ehlers’ chances of landing a roster spot? Check out his making the leap post here.

Ducks invite Brookbank, Vishnevski(!) to camp

Vitaly Vishnevski skates with the puck
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Sometimes a training camp long-shot can be a great story, especially when an inclusion comes from left field.

In the case of Vitaly Vishnevski (pictured) taking part in Anaheim Ducks’ training camp – in 2015 – it’s more like an invitation that came from outside the ballpark.

He’s one of two veteran defensemen of note who will try to turn heads this pre-season alongside Sheldon Brookbank (who one would assume has a much better chance to make an impact). You can check out the Ducks’ full camp roster here.

It’s really one of those double-take moments that can be refreshing as hockey season is still a few weeks away.

Dreger: Kane likely to be at Blackhawks camp

Patrick Kane
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Patrick Kane‘s longer term future is still unclear, but it sounds like he will attend Chicago Blackhawks training camp.

Darren Dreger said as much during the latest edition of TSN’s Insider Trading on Monday, noting that Kane hasn’t been charged with a crime and that there’s no “logistical” reason for him to be withheld from training camp.

That said, Dreger also stated that we should know for sure in the next 24-48 hours.

It’s unclear when there will be a resolution regarding Kane’s alleged rape investigation, although a postponed grand jury process is expected to resume “soon.”

Naturally, nothing is official at this point:

‘Build the Thunder’ – Bolts’ $6M youth hockey plan

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Two
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Apparently you need to hand out a ton of hockey sticks to “Build the Thunder.”

The Tampa Bay Lightning announced their plan to “grow the game of hockey and teach life skills lessons to Tampa Bay’s young people” on Monday. The franchise is investing more than $6 million during a five-year span in conjunction with the NHL and NHLPA.

Some of the numbers being thrown around are pretty impressive, as the Lightning shared in their release:

• Equip the Thunder – distributing 100,000 street hockey sticks and balls to third through fifth graders through an extensive school outreach program
• Train the Thunder – offering 10,000 hours of progressive training opportunities for players and coaches
• Develop the Thunder – increasing the number of youth players (7-13 year olds) registered with USA Hockey in the Tampa Bay area by 1,000
• Guide the Thunder – utilizing Lightning players, coaches and alumni as life skills mentors to identify and work with 100 at-risk youth from diverse backgrounds
• Create the Thunder – establishing 10 junior varsity hockey programs for aspiring high school hockey players

Pretty cool stuff. There are already some efforts involving Lightning players sharing the game with children:

Both Florida NHL franchises are trying to grow their audiences (and general awareness of the sport) in ambitious and interesting ways, as the Panthers took hockey overseas to the Dominican Republic last week.