James O'Brien

Edmonton Oilers v Los Angeles Kings

Report: ‘Not much common ground’ between Kings, Williams


In the latest edition of Elliotte Friedman’s “30 Thoughts,” a quick blurb likely felt like a swift stab to Los Angeles Kings fans: it sounds like negotiations aren’t going well with Justin Williams.

Specifically, Friedman noted that there isn’t “much common ground” between the two sides at the moment. Yikes.

It’s interesting timing, as the 33-year-old was the featured UFA of the Day on Saturday, even acknowledging the possibility that he sticks with the Kings. While that could still happen, plenty of fans whose teams are missing that “one piece” might feel like their dreams of adding “Mr. Game 7” are more credible with this update.

One can understand why Williams would want to test the market.

Frankly, the pool of free agents is sparse both in terms of quantity and quality. You simply don’t see players of Williams’ caliber hit UFA status very often, and he could greatly inflate his asking price – both in dollars and term – thanks to the lack of competition.

Granted, about a month ago, the veteran winger told Sportsnet that it isn’t just about money; it’s plausible that he’d compromise his payday at least to some degree to try to land with a winner. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’d only stick with Los Angeles, though (hey, have you heard that the Pittsburgh Penguins might be in the market for wingers?).

Williams has never carried a cap hit of more than $3.65 million and his largest single contract total was $17.5 million overall. Could you really blame him if he sought out a big deal considering all he’s accomplished?

UFA of the Day: Paul Martin


Check PHT every day until June 30 for a new pending unrestricted free agent of the day. Today’s UFA of the Day is …

Paul Martin

There’s always the possibility that the Pittsburgh Penguins will bring Martin back – GM Jim Rutherford insists it could happen – but the blueliner would rank among the best options on defense if he hits the market.

While he’s no better than solid offensively, the veteran is responsible in his own end and possesses the sort of puck-moving skills that seemingly become more marketable with each passing season.

That said, at 34, his best days are likely behind him.

One obvious concern is his injury issues. He managed to play 74 regular season games in 2014-15, yet he was limited to 34 in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign and 39 in 2013-14. Even if he his injury luck improves, there’s also a natural concern that he’ll lose one too many steps with age.

When you think about it, the vast majority of free agent options come with some flaws, and the bottom line is that Martin’s array of abilities should be very desirable.

If the Penguins don’t lock him down, defense-needy teams that play at a frenetic pace may make for the best match; perhaps the Dallas Stars, Colorado Avalanche or even the New York Islanders might be wise to give his agent a call?

Click here for more UFAs.

National Women’s Hockey League held its first draft on Saturday


The first entry draft in the history of the National Women’s Hockey League took place at Harvard’s Bright-Landry Center on Saturday, with Alex Carpenter going first overall to the New York Riveters.

The Riveters boast one of the best sports logos you’ll ever see, by the way:


The NWHL’s “Founding Four” includes the Riveters, Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts and Connecticut Whale. The league’s Twitter feed has the full results.

The league’s inaugural season will begin in October, as you can see from this great video:

Oil change continued: Edmonton fires top scouts

2012 NHL Entry Draft - Rounds 2-7

The Edmonton Oilers have radically revamped their front office this offseason, and those changes now include a makeover for their scouting departments.

The Oilers fired head of amateur scouting (Stu MacGregor) and head of professional scouting (Morey Gare) on Saturday, according to HNIC’s Elliotte Friedman and TSN’s Bob McKenzie. McKenzie also mentions that two other amateur scouts were dismissed.

As the Edmonton Journal remarks, the timing might seem a touch unexpected since the 2015 NHL Draft takes place next week, but it otherwise makes sense.

When sports fans root for “tank jobs,” they picture a powerhouse club being built off the backs of blue chip prospects. One must not forget that top-five no-brainers need to be supplemented with gems found outside the first round (Duncan Keith went 54th overall in 2002, for example).

Read more about Edmonton’s draft failures here.

From the pro scout perspective, the Oilers have seen their fair share of free agent disasters; Nikita Nikitin’s disastrous season is merely the latest in an almost uninterrupted stream of gaffes.

Even development paths have been clunky, which could come down to wider failures. Burning the first year of Leon Draisaitl’s rookie deal looked more foolish with each passing day.

Change really does seem in the air for the Oilers now – finally – so it’s not too shocking to see a changing of the guard in Edmonton’s under-performing scouting departments.

Sabres GM wonders why Grigorenko is ‘afraid’ of two-way contract

Carolina Hurricanes v Buffalo Sabres

About a week ago, rumors circulated that the Buffalo Sabres were trying to find out if Mikhail Grigorenko would opt for the KHL, especially if the Sabres only offer a two-way contract.

According to the Olean Times Herald, GM Tim Murray said that he believes Grigorenko, 21, needs extra seasoning in the AHL (“whether that’s 10 games, half a year, whatever it is”). More than anything else, he’s bewildered that Grigorenko insists on a one-way deal, though.

“They tell me he’s ready to play,” Murray said during a press conference on Thursday. “I don’t know why they’d be afraid of a two-way contract. I’m baffled, actually.”

Is it really that confusing, though?

If Grigorenko takes a two-way deal, he could be caught in the same AHL/NHL limbo he was before. His development has been stunted at times, and while the prospect could always perform better – his work with the Sabres has been a little lacking – it’s also true that things have been bumpy for Buffalo.

Maybe bouncing between the AHL and NHL is actually appropriate for where he is, but why would Grigorenko just volunteer for that?

Beyond that, a KHL deal isn’t just promising in its potential to provide a better salary and maybe a superior standing with a team; it’s also rare leverage for a player coming off of an entry-level contract. RFAs don’t enjoy much bargaining power, especially ones in Grigorenko’s standing.

It’s an interesting situation to watch, especially since it seems a touch confrontational at this stage. One thing we know beyond the two sides’ preferences regarding the type of contract is that Murray told the Olean Times Herald that he’s at least leaning toward handing Grigorenko a qualifying offer.

After that? Who knows.