James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
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Petry will miss Habs’ opener, possibly more time

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The Montreal Canadiens will be without defenseman Jeff Petry on opening night, if not longer.

Canadiens management didn’t say much about the situation, though they did cancel him out for Game 1 against the Sabres in Buffalo.

The injury might cost Petry more time than that. On the bright side, TVA’s Renaud Lavoie reports that it isn’t likely to be a long-term issue (though it might keep him out for a week).

Even if it’s a minor setback as hoped, it’s still an annoying hurdle for Petry, who hoped to start 2016-17 strong after last season was derailed by hernia surgery.

Petry might not be a star, yet his strong possession play can make life easier for Carey Price. That will have to wait.

Stars pencil in Seguin for opening night

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Great news for the Dallas Stars: it looks like Tyler Seguin will be able to suit up for their first game of the regular season.

That’s the word from the team’s official Twitter feed, yet it’s not all good news, as Ales Hemsky is unlikely to play in Thursday’s opener against the Anaheim Ducks.

Mark Stepneski provides some extra information regarding Hemsky: it sounds like the oft-injured winger is dealing with a groin issue.

Hemsky is far from the only Stars player dealing with injury issues, as the team brought in Lauri Korpikoski in part because of injuries to Mattias Janmark and Cody Eakin.

Still, considering the scares they faced with Seguin, it’s pretty great to have him back right off the bat.

Check out the Penguins’ 2016 Stanley Cup rings

via Pittsburgh Penguins
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With the 2016-17 season rapidly approaching, the Pittsburgh Penguins want to remind you that they’re the defending champions.

(And maybe distract the hockey world from Sidney Crosby‘s very unfortunate concussion?)

What better way to do that than to unveil the 2016 Stanley Cup championship rings? You can read the press release here – Matt Murray is impressed by the heft of the rings – but here’s what they look like:

Want to compare these rings to the three previous ones by the Penguins? What about versus other teams’ jewelry? The Boston Globe provides a nice collection through 2012.

(The missing 2005 ring is a bummer, right?)

Report: Rangers hope to trade McIlrath

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Defense is an obvious question mark for the New York Rangers, and that’s before they possibly move first-rounder Dylan McIlrath.

The New York Post’s Larry Brooks and New York Newsday’s Steve Zipay are among those reporting that the Rangers are looking to trade McIlrath.

Brooks explains that free agent acquisition Adam Clendening “better suits the quick-decision, quick-puck-moving style” Alain Vigneault emphasizes.

The Rangers are in a pickle with McIlrath; they don’t want to waive the 24-year-old, yet he doesn’t seem to fit the bill in the eyes of management.

(Such a viewpoint is, erm, poorly received by certain Rangers fans.)

Beyond the obvious defensemen, the other players who might push McIlrath out of the mix include Nick Holden and Brady Skjei.

It’s weird to picture the Rangers giving up a young defenseman with some pedigree at a time like this, but McIlrath is in a funny place. Maybe a change of location would benefit him while netting the Rangers an asset or two at the same time?

That would be the ideal scenario, yet it’s also possible that things will be as messy as they’ll end up many nights in New York’s defensive zone.

The Flames’ future looks awfully bright

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In a salary cap age, locking up your core isn’t cheap. The teams who can sign players affordably – thanks to RFA leverage, timing and other factors – can enjoy some significant advantages.

The Calgary Flames are in a tight financial situation heading into 2016-17, with about $500K in cap space … but after this season, things really open up.

It wasn’t easy, but things look really promising for the Calgary Flames after signing Johnny Gaudreau to a very reasonable six-year deal.

Cost-efficient core

Take a look at the most important Flames contracts that cover multiple years:

Gaudreau: six years, $6.75M cap hit
Mark Giordano: five years, $6.75M
Sean Monahan: seven years, $6.375M
Dougie Hamilton: five years, $5.75M
T.J. Brodie: four years, $4.65M
Troy Brouwer: four years, $4.5M
Michael Frolik: four years, $4.3M

You can quibble with certain deals – that Brouwer contract is a little worrisome – but there are some huge savings there. Those bargains could look even more significant for certain younger players; Gaudreau is 23, Monahan’s just 21, Hamilton is 23 and Brodie is 26.

Dead money soon dissolving

The Flames will also see some shaky contracts leave their books soon.

Dennis Wideman‘s problematic $5.25 million might get moved for all we know, but if not, it ends after this coming season. Deryk Engelland‘s near-$3 million mistake and Ladislav Smid‘s $3.5 million will wash away after 2016-17, too.

Flexibility in net

Some of that money may eventually go to Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson, but the beauty of the situation is that the Flames get to choose.

Elliott’s likely to get a big raise from $2.5 million, yet we’ll see if it’s with Calgary. The Flames may very well decide to go with Chad Johnson (currently at $1.7 million) or someone else instead.

Plenty of teams are locked down to questionable goalie deals. The Flames could benefit greatly from what may end up being a buyer’s market.

(Perhaps Ben Bishop will merely end up in Calgary a year later?)

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With Sam Bennett and Matthew Tkachuk among those likely to be considered core players sooner rather than later, Calgary has room to pay them as they grow.

The Flames already looked pretty promising before the Gaudreau deal, but now they’re the envy of a healthy chunk of the NHL. Or at least they should be.