James O'Brien

2015 NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Championship - Northeast Regional
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Skjei sets sights on roster spot with Rangers

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The deck is stacked against Brady Skjei cracking the New York Rangers’ lineup for more than a few games in 2015-16, except for one overriding factor: they want to win now.

With that in mind, he might just have a shot. Maybe.

Seriously though, it will be an uphill battle

On paper, it seems a bit foolish to picture the 21-year-old making it, even as a seventh defenseman.

The Rangers already boast seven blueliners under contract, and that’s assuming that Brett Bellemore cannot convert his PTO into a full contract.

Most teams would require nothing short of brilliance for Skjei to make it, but again, the Rangers are in a position where they might just let the best men win.

Boiling it down

Ultimately, that could mean cutting their losses with someone like Dan Boyle.

Injuries were a problem for the 39-year-old last season, but you know things went poorly when Blueshirt Banter seemed generous in giving him a “C” grade for 2014-15.

It’s tough to bury Boyle and his $4.5 million cap hit on the bench, yet it’s not outside the realm of reason … especially considering the comparison he inspired from Mike Reilly (who’s trying to make a leap of his own with Minnesota):

“Brady has really grown a lot the past three years at [Minnesota],” Reilly told NHL.com. “He’s a great skater, one of the best I’ve ever seen in college. He’s strong, put on some good weight, and he’s very agile. His stick skills are getting better and I think that’s an underrated part of his game. One player I’d compare him to is Ryan McDonagh in the way he plays and leads. Brady is going to have a great career.”

Skjei boasts the right size and speed to fit right into what Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault is looking for, maybe making him a better option than the likes of Bellmore, Boyle or Raphael Diaz.

It would be foolish to pronounce him as a favorite to do so (or to try to pronounce his last name in general), yet he’s a player to watch during training camp.

Nabbed: Sharks add Nabokov to front office

Evgeni Nabokov
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In a time of uncertainty for San Jose Sharks goalies, the team decided to bring back the most familiar face they’ve ever had in net.

This time around, Evgeni Nabokov will help others stop pucks, rather than doing so directly. The Sharks hired him as their “goaltending development coach and special assignment scout” on Saturday, rounding out a day full of familiar faces joining various front offices.

Nabokov spent a decade with the Sharks organization, playing for San Jose from 1999-2000 to 2009-10. (Nabokov finished his career with the Tampa Bay Lightning last season after spending a few years with the New York Islanders.)

How much of a difference will Nabokov make in the performance of new No. 1 Martin Jones and returning backup Alex Stalock, not to mention netminders in the pipeline? That’s tough to say, but no one knows what it’s like to be the Sharks’ go-to guy quite like Nabokov does.

Here’s a little more about his role, via CSNBayArea.com’s Kevin Kurz.

Columbus hires former player Modin as adviser

Columbus Blue Jackets v Calgary Flames
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Much like the Boston Bruins, the Columbus Blue Jackets bolstered their front office group with familiar former NHL players on Saturday.

The Blue Jackets hired Fredrik Modin as an adviser while Dan Hinote returns to the fold after taking off the 2014-15 season to attend to a “family matter,” according to the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline.

Modin last played in the NHL during the 2010-11 season, collecting 10 points in 40 games. He spent a healthy chunk (four out of 14 seasons) of his NHL career in Columbus, including a 22-goal campaign.

Chances are, Modin will probably talk more about his Stanley Cup run with the Lightning back in 2004, a postseason in which he played the best hockey in his career.

Hinote also has tons of experience to his name, so the Blue Jackets’ front office is getting a nice boost in practical experience.

Bruins bring in Langenbrunner, promote Pandolfo

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The makeup of the Boston Bruins’ franchise continues to transform this summer, whether it be those wearing skates or suits.

The team announced an array of front office tweaks on Saturday, most notably the promotion of Jay Pandolfo and the hiring of Jamie Langenbrunner.

Pandolfo gets a promotion from hockey operations assistant to director of player development, which boils down to developing players and prospects. The Bruins likely hope that younger players can learn from a scrappy forward who managed to grind 899 NHL games out of his limited set of skills.

Sadly, Langenbrunner won’t be called the minister of excessively long last names. Instead, Langenbrunner will be a development coach.

Beyond adding two seasoned veterans fresh off of lengthy careers, the Bruins continue a sub-trend of former New Jersey Devils taking front office jobs with other teams (see: Martin Brodeur in St. Louis).

You can read the full array of changes in this article from the Bruins.

Chicago reportedly gives Jan Hejda a tryout

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By dumping Kris Versteeg‘s salary on Friday, the Chicago Blackhawks opened up room to fill some final roster spots. They didn’t waste much time in that regard.

After re-signing Marcus Kruger later last night, the Blackhawks gave defenseman Jan Hejda a PTO, according to the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline.

Hejda obviously has his limitations – his possession stats weren’t even that great relative to his Colorado Avalanche teammates last season, and that team is notorious for being poor in that area – but he does bring bountiful experience to the table.

The 37-year-old has 627 regular season games and 10 postseason contests on his resume, all in the West.

Hejda stands as a big body who, ideally, would be the hockey equivalent to an “innings eating pticher.”

Considering how much the Blackhawks were forced to lean on their top four defensemen in their last Stanley Cup run, getting a depth guy who can at least survive his shifts could be a nice luxury.