James O'Brien

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Five
Getty

Quick work: Blackhawks sign Kruger for one year

6 Comments

In case it wasn’t already clear, the Chicago Blackhawks did indeed move Kris Versteeg to make room for Marcus Kruger‘s newest contract.

The team hasn’t revealed the dollar terms of the deal, but the Blackhawks confirmed that Kruger was signed to a one-year contract on Friday.

General Fanager estimates Chicago’s cap space at about $2.43 million, yet GM Stan Bowman would likely prefer to fill one more roster spot with at least a minimum wage player, so it’s not guaranteed that Kruger ate up every cent of that remaining money.

The 25-year-old plays mostly a defensive/depth role with Chicago, although it’s possible that the team might want more from Kruger considering this tumultuous off-season.

One assumes Kruger might drive a harder bargain for his next contract:

Update: It’s worth $1.5 million, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie.

Trade: Blackhawks send Versteeg to Hurricanes

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Six
AP
22 Comments

The Chicago Blackhawks needed to shed some salary to re-sign Marcus Kruger, so why not ship out Kris Versteeg, aka the guy who always gets traded?

That’s what happened on Friday, as the Blackhawks made this deal with the Carolina Hurricanes:

To Carolina: Versteeg and Joakim Nordstrom, plus a 2017 third-round pick

To Chicago: Prospect defensemen Dennis Robertson and Jake Massie, plus a 2017 fifth-rounder

Most obviously, the Blackhawks save money; Versteeg carries a $2.2 million cap hit that expires after the 2015-16 season. That’s actually a discounted rate stemming from the swap that sent him from the Florida Panthers to Chicago, but that still ended up being too rich for the ‘Hawks. Nordstrom’s cap consideration was pretty negligible at $605K.

One would feel bad for Versteeg, 29, although he managed to win two Stanley Cups with Chicago despite bouncing around the NHL like a pinball.

Just looking through the archives of PHT alone, check out his recent history of being traded:

November 2013: Blackhawks got him back from Florida

July 2011: Flyers send him to the Panthers

Feb 2011: Maple Leafs traded Versteeg to Philly

June 2010: The other time Chicago traded him

Versteeg is becoming a solid yet constantly traded journeyman. Think of him as hockey’s answer to former NBA player Chris Gatling, only with goofy hair and hopefully without the legal issues.

Sabres know what they want from Franson

Vancouver Canucks v Nashville Predators
Getty
3 Comments

Once you get beyond the class of elite players who can dominate under just about any circumstance, you move to those who can excel if placed in the right situation.

Nashville wasn’t the best scenario for Cody Franson late in the 2014-15 season. With top-shelf scoring threats on the blueline in Shea Weber and Roman Josi, Franson got lost in the crowd.

The Buffalo Sabres nabbed him for a bargain price on Thursday, and to the delight of fans, it sounds like they’ll have a much better chance of getting the most out of a talented defenseman.

More specifically, it seems as though GM Tim Murray envisions the 28-year-old as something of an offensive specialist.

In case you don’t want to watch the video, Murray touched on some specifics:

  • He doesn’t expect Franson to be a heavy-hitting, stay-at-home defenseman. It sounds like any big checks will just be “gravy” to the Sabres.
  • The blueliner sounds primed for a role on the first power-play unit.
  • While Murray pencils Franson in as a “top four or five” defenseman, he noted that new head coach Dan Bylsma will try to put him into advantageous on-ice matchups and emphasize offensive zone starts for Franson.

Murray paints a picture of Franson in his ideal situation: sending crisp passes that hit the likes of Evander Kane in stride or firing a well-placed shot from the point.

Buffalo’s off-season presents such a drastic change that it’s difficult to gauge expectations for this team. If the Sabres touch the right buttons with players like Franson, this team could be awfully intriguing, awfully quick.

Habs will name new captain before start of 2015-16

Max Pacioretty, Pk Subban,
Associated Press
4 Comments

After opting for four alternate captains during the 2014-15 season, the Montreal Canadiens are going to give one guy a “C” before the 2015-16 season begins.

GM Marc Bergevin said that the franchise’s 29th captain will be named by the end of training camp.

“We look for a leader who is respected by his teammates. I think that’s important,” Bergevin said on Thursday. “The transition that began last year has changed us a lot and has helped us make a decision as to whether the team was ready. And after a long discussion, we believe it is.”

“But who will it be?” screamed/typed the teeming the masses.

Sadly, no obvious foreshadowing took place. Neither Bergevin nor head coach Michel Therrien even dropped a hint regarding who will be the first captain since Brian Gionta left town.

Let’s not kid ourselves, though; it’s easy to at least identify the most likely candidates.

Max Pacioretty, P.K. Subban, Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Markov served as the four alternates in 2014-15. You might be able to throw Carey Price‘s name in the hat, even if the goalie-as-captain thing didn’t work out too well when Vancouver tried it out with Roberto Luongo. You might even throw in a dark horse candidate such as Brendan Gallagher.

Pacioretty, 26, may not get healthy soon enough to be ready to play on opening night, but he sounds game if management decides that he’s the guy.

“I think last year prepared me a lot for this,” Pacioretty told the team website. “I think whether you have a ‘C’ on your jersey or not, you are expected to lead this team and we expect everyone to be a leader but like I said, I would be honored if that opportunity came.”

Interestingly, PHT readers voted Subban as the right choice for Canadiens captain back in August 2014. What about today?

Report: Ryane Clowe’s NHL career is over

Ryane Clowe
AP
7 Comments

For all intents and purposes, it sounds like Ryane Clowe‘s NHL playing days are finished.

That’s the report from the Bergen Record’s Tom Gulitti, who passes along word from New Jersey Devils GM Ray Shero that Clowe “will be unable to play hockey now or in the future.”

Clowe, 32, admits that he’d rather continuing playing for the Devils, yet doctors recommend that he hang up his skates.

Shero told Gulitti that Clowe will go on IR or long-term injured reserve for the remaining three years of his contract, depending upon how his $4.85 million cap hit affects the Devils’ situation.

Clowe’s hard-hitting style helped him earn the five-year, $24.25 million contract the Devils handed him heading into 2013-14, but it ultimately caught up to him.

Concussion issues plagued him almost since day one with the Devils, doing little to silence critics of that deal.

While it’s clear Clowe wanted to try to play, it’s tough to imagine him being a difference-maker without taking physical risks. It’s a shame that Clowe isn’t the one making the call, but it might be the right move.