James O'Brien

Gary Bettman
AP

Bettman: overwhelmingly players do the right thing

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This off-season presents a slew of bad headlines for the NHL, something its players and commissioner both notice.

ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun caught up with some of the league’s biggest movers and shakers to find out how they feel about these situations.

In the case of the players, stars like Tyler Seguin and Sidney Crosby said that you must learn to be careful.

The league itself may try to do something a little more concrete to prevent or least limit future issues, including what Bill Daly describes as “an additional educational program.”

Even so, Gary Bettman seems confident that most players conduct themselves properly. He also argues that the NHL is doing its part, too.

“… We’ve had a variety of programs in place, we’re constantly looking at what we can do to make sure that the programs are touching the right bases and are effective, but we focus on what we think is best for our players and our game,” Bettman said. “As I’ve said, overwhelmingly our players do the right things.”

It’s been a week of updates regarding legal situations for the likes of Slava Voynov, Patrick Kane, Ryan O'Reilly and Mike Richards, yet closure has been tough to come by. With proceedings getting postponed, these negative headlines continue to reverberate.

Going forward, the league can only do so much, but officials would indeed be wise to consider every avenue.

For more thoughts from Bettman, Crosby, Seguin and others on this subject, check out LeBrun’s full article.

Quick work: Blackhawks sign Kruger for one year

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Five
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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
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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
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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
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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?