James O'Brien

Chris Kreider
AP

Rangers coach: Kreider could become elite

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The New York Rangers are going to need guys like Chris Kreider to step up if they hope to take another swing at a Stanley Cup run.

With the retirement of Martin St. Louis and trade that sent Carl Hagelin away – among other moves – the spotlight is set to shine brighter on Kreider and a few others (such as Derek Stepan and his big, new contract).

Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault thinks Kreider has what it takes, as he told reporters including Andrew Gross of the Bergen Record.

“I believe he can become an elite player in the league,” Vigneault said. “He’s got everything to become a dominant power forward. It’s his time to shine now, be a go-to guy on this team.”

Wow, that’s some strong praise.

The 24-year-old is going great lengths to get better. Back in June, he basically told the New York Post that he won’t leave a stone un-turned.

“I’m going to reach out to people and I have already reached out to people who I believe can help me improve and get to the level I want to reach,” Kreider said. “I’m going to work with a skills coach, I’m going to continue to work with my conditioning and skating instructor, I’m probably going to take some boxing lessons and I’m going to consult with a sports psychologist.”

“Whatever resources are there, I’m going to use.”

As of this moment, Kreider is set to become an RFA after next season. It’s up to him to generate a huge upgrade from his current cap hit of $2.475 million.

If nothing else, it seems clear that Vigneault will give him every chance to wring the maximum amount of cash out of this contract year (and help his team along the way).

Isles give Zidlicky a one-year deal

Washington Capitals v Detroit Red Wings
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The New York Islanders inked offensive defenseman Marek Zidlicky to a one-year contract on Friday.

The Isles didn’t confirm this, but multiple reporters place the value of the deal at $1.5 million.

He has some added incentive to perform well, too, apparently. HNIC’s Elliotte Friedman reports that the seasoned veteran could earn bonuses:

That affordable contract leaves New York with some flexibility going forward; Hockey’s Cap pegs their space at $6.6 million after Zidlicky’s contract.

No one will confuse Zidlicky, 38, with a Norris Trophy candidate. Still, he has 783 regular season games and 44 playoff contests under his belt.

Obviously, at his age, he’s likely best off as a power-play specialist who receives protected minutes.

The Islanders serve as a nice landing spot for Zidlicky, as he can more or less transition into Lubomir Visnovsky’s vacated role.

Deep Wild D could mean fewer minutes for Suter

Chicago Blackhawks v Minnesota Wild - Game Three
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Even Ryan Suter‘s critics must wonder: do his stats dip because of his resounding workload?

The 2015-16 season may provide that answer, at least based on the beginning of Minnesota Wild training camp.

Head coach Mike Yeo plans on playing Suter about 24-26 minutes per game, which is a significant drop from his run of playing almost half of every contest, as the Pioneer Press’ Chad Graff notes.

A few days ago, Yeo gave Suter the vote of confidence in a Q & A with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, although his praise also gives the impression there’s room for improvement.

“He had statistically maybe not his best year, but he did a lot of really good things,” Yeo said. “Second half of the year we were the best team in the league, and he was our leader on the back end. I don’t think he deserves to beat himself up, especially given the circumstances of the passing of his father and the mumps. He’s motivated, he’s excited to have a good year.”

There’s no response from Suter just yet, but if he feels the same way as fellow workhorse Drew Doughty, then he’s eating hockey Brussels Sprouts on Friday:

This is less about Suter being put in timeout and more about other defensemen joining “the grown-up table.” Just ponder Minnesota’s impressive depth:

Mathew Dumba said he “isn’t taking anything for granted,” and with good reason. Despite receiving plenty of offers, Mike Reilly isn’t necessarily guaranteed a spot on the team heading into next season.

Suter probably wants to be on the ice as much as possible, yet this situation bodes well for the Wild overall. Perhaps we’ll even see the end of (some) “overrated” debates in the process?

Warm greeting from ‘Hawks fans gives Kane ‘chills’

Patrick Kane
AP
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A day after a very poorly received Chicago Blackhawks press conference, things went a lot better for Patrick Kane & Co. at training camp on Friday.

The crowd of about 4,000 people reacted warmly to Kane’s presence at Compton Ice Arena at Notre Dame, according to Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News.

“That’s a pretty cool reaction, especially given the circumstances,” Kane said . “You didn’t really know what to expect. I thought it was one of those things when you’re going on the ice you don’t know what’s going to happen. To hear that reaction from the crowd definitely gave me chills. It was an exciting moment.”

Harrington posted this Vine, so see for yourself:

On Thursday, Kane didn’t really answer many questions while Chicago denied claims that they’ve handled the situation in a “tone-deaf” way.

Puck Daddy shares more reactions from Blackhawks fans.

Clitsome fails physical, unlikely to play for Jets

Grant Clitsome
AP

Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice said that Grant Clitsome failed the team’s physical and is unlikely to play hockey next season, TSN’s Michael Remis reports.

The 30-year-old defenseman’s 2014-15 season was cut short because of a back injury that eventually required surgery, and it’s likely that is still the issue for him.

Winnipeg dealt with quite a few injuries on defense last year, yet they made big steps forward without Clitsome.

In all honesty, the team is probably comfortable moving on without him, whether this setback keeps him out for the 2015-16 season or perhaps even longer.