James O'Brien

St. Louis Blues v Minnesota Wild - Game Four
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Stastny more ‘at ease’ in second Blues season

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For years, critics believed that Paul Stastny wasn’t worth the money in Colorado.

Even he would probably admit that he didn’t produce on the level of a $7 million player in his first year with the Blues, either.

Stastny told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he second-guessed his decision to sign with St. Louis during some of the lower moments of last season, but he’s far more “at ease” heading into 2015-16.

“When I’m at my best, I’m loose, I’m smiling,” Stastny said. “That’s who I am and I don’t want to change that. Not everything is going to go smoothly, but I’ve got to learn to deal with it better and I’m more prepared for that.”

Let’s face it, keeping players “loose” and “smiling” isn’t one of head coach Ken Hitchcock’s many strengths. Still, when you sign a big deal like Stastny did, people are going to expect results.

Different linemate situations and opportunities could help him generate more points, and there’s at least one thing going for him next season: Vladimir Tarasenko replaces him as the Blues’ most expensive player.

Hey, sometimes you have to reach for reasons to loosen up.

Devils sign Tlusty, give Kennedy PTO

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As training camps approach, Jiri Tlusty stood out as “the guy who wouldn’t accept a PTO.” Perhaps it makes sense, then, that he made a deal with the (New Jersey) Devils?

The team announced that they signed the 27-year-old to a one-year, one-way contract on Wednesday.

New Jersey didn’t reveal financial details, but multiple sources including the Bergen Record’s Tom Gulitti report that it’s worth $800K.

No doubt about it, that’s a bargain.

That wasn’t the only interesting move the Devils made heading into camp, either, as they also handed Tyler Kennedy a professional tryout contract today.

It’s an interesting situation, as one must ask: is Tlusty (pictured) much more deserving of a guaranteed deal than Kennedy, or even more deserving at all? Perhaps it simply comes down to Tlusty saying “full contract or bust,” while perhaps Kennedy was a little more malleable?

One would guess that Kennedy, 29, would get a reasonable shot at making the Devils. If anyone knows how capable he can be as a depth forward, it would be GM Ray Shero, who watched him skate alongside Jordan Staal for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Neither Tlusty nor Kennedy should be seen as the difference-makers who would push the Devils to contender status, yet they may very well make New Jersey a little peskier.

Flyers’ Umberger: ‘I feel like a different person’

Philadelphia Flyers v New Jersey Devils
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Vincent Lecavalier isn’t the only Philadelphia Flyers forward who treasures a clean slate, as R.J. Umberger must want to run far away from his 2014-15 season.

He told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he feels “like a different person” coming into next season, and it sounds like that ultimately points to being a healthier player.

Apparently hip and abdominal surgery did that for Umberger, and he’s feeling more spry than he has in some time.

“It was bothering me so bad, I wasn’t able to train as intensely or as hard as I normally would,” Umberger said. “And from the start of the season, I wasn’t up to par or where I needed to be – and it continued to get worse as the season went on …”

“I was basically skating on one leg.”

In defense of Umberger, his numbers really do give the impression that he could improve quite a bit.

Umberger has been pretty reliable to score at or around 20 goals, yet he was way off the mark last season, only managing nine goals and 15 points.

A change of scenery must have been jarring, but it’s reasonable to expect at least a slight bump in production.

That’s certainly the hope, as every Scott Hartnell fall-and-goal digs the knife a little deeper for Flyers fans.

Krejci: Lining up without Lucic will be ‘weird’

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Amid the many, many changes for the Boston Bruins, the most jarring alteration for David Krejci must be playing on a line without Milan Lucic.

Since the two players really got their careers off the ground in 2007-08, they’ve been almost inseparable, especially when you consider how often coaches juggle lines in the modern NHL.

Krejci admitted that it will be odd to suit up without the towering winger, as CSNNE.com notes.

“It’s gonna be weird,” Krejci said. “We’ve been together for a long time, and now he’s gone. So that was obviously a really sad day.”

Sad days have been a bit too common for Krejci as of late, even with that hefty contract extension in tow.

He’s seen other linemate changes as Nathan Horton transitioned to Jarome Iginla and then a revolving cast of partners in 2014-15. Really, last season almost demands a mulligan, as he dealt with recurring injury headaches.

The 29-year-old expects to be fully healthy heading into 2015-16, and that’s important, as he’ll skate with two wingers who are far less familiar.

So, who would you put on Krejci’s wings, maybe Matt Beleskey and David Pastrnak?

PHT Morning Skate: Protecting Connor McDavid

Connor McDavid
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

So, how should the Edmonton Oilers protect Connor McDavid? (Sportsnet)

Another one from Sportsnet, because seriously, this article about Drew Doughty‘s Toronto Blue Jays hat collection is just too good. (Sportsnet)

University of Virginia goalie Jake Anderson learned that you can’t celebrate a hockey win as if you’re “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. (Puck Daddy)

Derek Roy might have a real shot to make the Washington Capitals, even if Nicklas Backstrom‘s injury issues do not linger. (Monumental Network)

A chunky look back at Kyle Wellwood’s career. (Greatest Hockey Legends)

Finally, the St. Louis Blues pull back the curtain and share Ken Hitchcock (plus his coaching staff) trying to wrap their heads around 3-on-3 OT.