James O'Brien

Matt Carkner, Ryane Clowe

Isles announce tryout invites, including Carkner (updated)

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Sure, it’s not as exciting as the Pittsburgh Penguins handing Sergei Gonchar a tryout offer, but the New York Islanders’ announcement reminds us that we’re about to enter that fascinating stage of the offseason.

We’ll find out more names soon enough: who will need a strong training camp to earn an NHL gig?

The Islanders handed professional tryout contracts to Matt Carkner, Tyler Barnes and Parker Milner on Monday.

Carkner, 34, appeared in 22 games with the Islanders in 2012-13 and 53 in 2013-14, racking up 195 combined penalty minutes in that time.

The pictured pugilist fought four times in the AHL in 2014-15 and dropped the gloves on nine occasions in 2013-14 with the Islanders, according to Hockey Fights.

He received a one-game suspension back in 2012 for this altercation with Brian Boyle:

Barnes, 25, is an undrafted forward. He spent most of the 2014-15 in the ECHL. Milner, 24, is a goalie who also spent much of last season in the ECHL.

Update:

O, Dear: Russia fined $85K for skipping Canadian anthem

kovalchukgetty
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Remember when Russian hockey players stormed off the ice instead of sticking around for Canada’s national anthem after a drubbing at the 2015 World Hockey Championship? Apparently that gesture will come at a cost beyond making Matt Duchene really, really mad.

The IIHF fined the Russian Hockey Federation $85K (in the form of 80,000 Swiss francs) for those actions, pointing to an “unmistakable head gesture” from “the captain,” aka Ilya Kovalchuk.

(As you may remember, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and some other players did stay out for at least a portion of the ceremony, so it wasn’t necessarily a team-wide action.)

Here’s a portion of the release, which is soaked in somewhat amusing legalese:

The panel is of the opinion that the occurrences on the ice show that this is not a result of an unfortunate misunderstanding. The Russian players and officials left the ice after a short discussion between the Russian team captain and some Russian officials and the unmistakable head gesture of the captain. It was also noted that the Russian team and management should have been aware of the postgame/victory and closing ceremony procedure because of their vast experience with IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships. The open gate was irrelevant.

Therefore the violation of the IIHF Championship Regulations should be sanctioned by a fine as provided in Articles 5.1, 5.2 of the Disciplinary Code.

So the “oops” excuse didn’t work?

Here are the highlights from Canada’s 6-1 win:

This seems like a good time to share a couple extra sad/angry Kovalchuk photos:

source: AP
Via AP
source: Getty Images
Via Getty

Winnipeg Jets ’15-16 Outlook

Bryan Little
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As crucial as it was to make the playoffs for the first time since returning to Winnipeg, the 2015-16 season is even bigger for the Jets.

After years of frustration, management’s slow-and-steady approach showed serious returns, but the franchise is heading toward multiple forks in the road.

Let’s consider some of the big factors ahead.

Contract years for key players – Hockey fans can debate whether Dustin Byfuglien’s the biggest name on the Jets or not, but he’s the earth-shaking wild card. Andrew Ladd is the gritty, stable winger who might just be the polar opposite. They’ve been immensely important players in Winnipeg, but what does the future hold?

Aging core –  It’s easy to look at 21-year-old Jacob Trouba and 22-year-old Mark Scheifele and picture a bright future, especially with a generally well-regarded farm system.

For all the future talk, it’s a make-or-break season for the current crop of key players. Byfuglien is 30, Ladd is 29, Blake Wheeler is 28 and Bryan Little is 27.

Those core players aren’t ancient, but management probably needs to see them win some playoff games (or even series) to justify keeping the band together.

Goalie question – To especially weary Winnipegers, Ondrej Pavelec’s contract probably feels endless, and it does still have two years remaining. Management is sticking with Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson, which is a short-term gamble. Are they any closer to making a decision that reaches a little further?

***

The Jets have some big questions to answer next season, yet let’s not forget: Winnipeg hasn’t been home to an NHL team with this sort of potential for a long, long time.

It’s Winnipeg Jets day at PHT

Anaheim Ducks v Winnipeg Jets - Game Three
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Using the term “close sweep” might start a brawl at the wrong Winnipeg bar, yet it feels like a reasonable depiction of the Jets’ first-round exit.

Whether you agree or disagree about their margin of defeat against the Anaheim Ducks, the bottom line is that if you trace the Jets’ history back to the Thrashers era, the franchise remains at zero playoff wins all-time.

Yes, as in they haven’t ever won a playoff game not a series.

Despite that doom and gloom, Jets were a popular dark horse candidate heading into the 2015 postseason for a reason. They were an impressive possession team by most metrics.

Winnipeg combined an increasingly deep defense corps with its underrated high-end forwards to scare at least a few Western Conference observers. Hey, they even occasionally received competent goaltending, albeit from an uneven mix of Michael Hutchinson and Ondrej Pavelec.

(There was some poetic justice in Pavelec playing out of his mind down the stretch to get them into the playoffs.)

It all feels empty thanks to the sweep, but the Jets zoomed up a level or two in 2014-15. As wild card berths go, Winnipeg can point to some positives.

Off-season recap

The biggest change technically happened during the season, yet the Evander Kane swap is significant enough to at least get a quick mention.

It’s relevant enough to the summer anyway, as Drew Stafford played well enough to gain a two-year deal that carries a $4.35 million cap hit. Stafford is sticking around, while a surprise return is in store for Alex Burmistrov, who went on a two-year KHL sojourn.

Michael Frolik headlines a group of departing players who helped move the needle a bit depth-wise, also including Lee Stempniak, Jiri Tlusty and T.J. Galiardi.

Maybe the most significant off-season storyline is what Winnipeg did not do: Dustin Byfuglien and captain Andrew Ladd are currently entering the final season of their respective contracts.

Daniel Carcillo ponders retirement (and helping others retire)

Chicago Blackhawks v Philadelphia Flyers
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Daniel Carcillo doesn’t know if he’ll play another game in the NHL. He does know that he wants to help other players who are pondering life after retirement.

That’s why the 30-year-old began a not-for-profit organization called Chapter 5, in honor of Steve Montador, who passed away at 35.

Carcillo explained what he’s going for with Chapter 5, and his uncertain future in the NHL, with the Chicago Tribune on Thursday.

“We’ve done this one thing our whole lives and now all of a sudden someone makes a decision for you or if you’re lucky enough, you can make that decision for yourself and say, ‘I’m done and I want to move on.’ When that time comes there’s just no way around not missing what you did for all those years,” Carcillo said.

“I just want to be somebody one or two or 20 or 50 guys can rely on to kind of guide them through.”

It’s one thing to criticize the NHLPA’s exit plan, as he did back in April, but Carcillo is taking the intiative to do something about it.

In a way, it only heightens the impact of his memorable Players’ Tribune entry.