James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
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Islanders GM basically says goodbye to Kyle Okposo

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There were plenty of signs pointing to Kyle Okposo hitting free agency instead of re-signing with the New York Islanders, yet Garth Snow really added credibility to such claims.

Earlier on Friday, Snow said to Sirius XM’s Stellick and Simmer that he wishes Okposo “nothing but the best.”

Such phrasing is a hockey executive’s answer to “It’s not you, it’s me” or “We need to talk …”

The Score’s Ian McLaren transcribed some key bits:

“We’re just in a situation with the salary cap that you really have to analyze where you are today and where you’re going to be five years from now,” Snow said. “There’s always tough decisions. We’re not the only team that has tough decisions to make and potentially could lose free agents on July 1.”

This does bring up a tough question, though: would the Islanders have been better off trading Okposo?

It seems that way in hindsight, but punting away your second-leading scorer during a playoff run isn’t such an easy choice. These notes won’t make it much easier to shake off the “huge interest” the 28-year-old sniper is likely to draw in free agency.

Such is life for a quality team with a challenging budget, even while residing in Brooklyn.

(H/T to Newsday’s Arthur Staple.)

Will Pavel Datsyuk leave Red Wings, NHL? We’ll find out Saturday

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Pavel Datsyuk will announces his plans for next season on Saturday, according to a variety of outlets and his own agent. At the moment, it sure sounds like we’ve seen the last of the magical forward’s days in the NHL.

Datsyuk met with Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland on Friday after postponing the discussion for a week.

Reports and gut reactions indicate that the most likely scenario is that Datsyuk will share the news that he’ll stay in Russia instead of returning to the Red Wings in 2016-17.

Here’s a selection of well-connected reports:

As a refresher, Datsyuk has a year and $7.5 million cap hit remaining on his contract with the Red Wings. General Fanager lists his actual 2015-16 salary as $5.5 million, so Detroit would be wise to direct its aggressive trade pitches toward teams hoping to hit the cap floor.

Bruins reportedly want Panthers’ Kulikov, might be out of luck

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Simply put, there’s plenty of demand for quality defensemen, but teams aren’t especially anxious to supply them.

CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty reports that the Boston Bruins are hoping to trade for Florida Panthers blueliner Dmitri Kulikov. They’re being proactive yet could also be described as merely “kicking the tires.”

There are two pretty big bumps in the road, however.

First, the price would probably be pretty difficult to stomach:

The sticking point with Kulikov is that he’s essentially a rental with one year to go until unrestricted free agency, and the cost would something in the neighborhood of Boston’s 29th pick in the first round and a Frank Vatrano-level prospect. That’s a stiff cost, and it should give everybody the kind of premium price tags associated with defensemen on the trade market for the next few months.

Yikes.

The other consideration is that Kulikov might not even be on the rental shelves, according to the Miami Herald’s George Richards:

As this video illustrates, the Bruins might just be stuck.

The Bruins say they’re being aggressive to improve in this area, but it could really be a sellers’ trade market this summer, especially with the list of targets shrinking with each day.

Blue Jackets sign goalie Anton Forsberg to two-way, one-year deal

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If nothing else, the Columbus Blue Jackets have plenty of options in net.

That’s a pretty good thing, too, with Sergei Bobrovsky frequently sidelined with nagging injuries. Columbus maintained some depth on Friday by signing goalie Anton Forsberg to a one-year, two-way contract.

The financial details weren’t shared, but one would expect Forsberg to come with minimal cost.

Update: This is believed to be the split –

Forsberg played a big role in the 2016 Calder Cup win for the Lake Erie Monsters, the Blue Jackets’ AHL affiliate, going undefeated in that postseason with sparkling numbers.

While he hasn’t enjoyed much success, the 23-year-old has also gotten his feet wet at the NHL level, playing four games in 2015-16 and five in 2014-15.

With Curtis McElhinney under contract through 2016-17 and Bobrovsky making buckets of money, one would assume that the Blue Jackets hope that Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo enjoy most of their time outside of the NHL next season.

Still, if Bob gets hobbled again, Forsberg can help hold down the fort.

Report: Players likely to vote to bump up 2016-17 salary cap

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It’s already been hinted at before, but it sounds like the NHLPA will vote in favor of a five-percent escalator for the salary cap in regard to the 2016-17 season.

The precise bump is unclear, yet such a move would mean that the ceiling for each team would rise by a little more than $3 million.

Keep in mind that it’s still not quite official that the players will give it the thumbs up, although it sounds awfully close:

This is a win for fans – more money to retain beloved players/gain a decent new piece, not to mention a little more room for exciting free agency – aside from the possible argument that it could inspire higher ticket prices.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and the New York Post’s Larry Brooks both report that the escalator would boost the ceiling to $72.8 million.

Here’s the explanation for the range via Brooks:

According to a source with ties to the Players’ Association, the cap — set at $71.4 million this year — would be reduced to approximately $69.3M for 2016-17 unless the PA triggers the 5 percent escalator. If the union does exercise the bump, then the cap should increase to approximately $72.8M. The union, which debated the issue at meetings at the end of the week, has voted for the increase all but once.

That might not sound like a night-and-day difference, although you’d get, say, a Cam Ward‘s worth of extra cap space.

For more on the implications – including why some players bristle at this idea – check out this post.