James O'Brien

Kasperi Kapanen, Jared Spurgeon

Kapanen is OK with Pens fans throwing his ‘name around’

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The Pittsburgh Penguins seem poised to improve by getting better on the wings, but that doesn’t have to come through free agent moves alone.

Improvement may come from within, and Kasperi Kapanen seems like a pretty obvious catalyst for possible internal improvement.

The 18-year-old appears aware that some are clamoring for him to be a full-time member of the Penguins, and he gets it, as Kapanen told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Saturday.

“People throw my name around. That’s acceptable,” Kapanen said. “I know they want me to play over there. I want to play over there too. I’m trying to be there next year. If it’s meant to be, then I will be.”

The 22nd pick of the 2014 NHL Draft turned heads early on, including making a great first impression on Bill Guerin last summer. He got a little taste of the North American game, too, participating in four regular season contests and seven playoff games for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in 2014-15 after finishing up his campaign in Finland.

While excitement continues to build about his potential, the young player continues to ready himself for the highest level, training with his father (former NHL player Sami Kapanen). It won’t be long before we find out if he can help the Penguins in 2015-16 or if the wait will continue a little bit longer.

At least he’s not denying his own excitement, though.

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GM Jim Rutherford hopes to improve Penguins’ supporting cast

Report: Leafs would take a contract back in a Kessel trade

The Toronto Maple hold their post season media availibility and team President Brendan Shanahan holds a press conference to answer questions
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There’s more than one way to grease the wheels for a big trade.

When it comes to the Toronto Maple Leafs and Phil Kessel, all sorts of details have been seeping through. Will Toronto need to retain some of his salary to make a move? Might Kessel block a trade that doesn’t suit his interests? Are the Buds asking for too much?

In his always-essential “30 Thoughts” column, Elliotte Friedman notes that the Maple Leafs would be willing to eat salary in a more direct way: by taking a contract from another team to make a deal happen.

There are some caveats, though:

Toronto’s let it be known it will take salary back for Phil Kessel, but there is a limit. It’s got to be less (in term and value) than Kessel’s. The Maple Leafs are more interested in prospects and draft picks, but recognize that alone won’t get a deal done. Since the idea is to help create cap flexibility, it doesn’t make sense to receive a similar contract in return.

With an $8 million cap hit (not to mention $10 million in salary for 2015-16), it should be no surprise that the 27-year-old would be too expensive to trade for picks alone.

The Maple Leafs might need to get creative, and considering their deal for Nathan Horton’s dead money – not to mention other progressive recent decisions – it wouldn’t be shocking to see them jump through a few hoops to find a trade partner.

You know, assuming that the many rumors are true, of course.

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

Edmonton Oilers v Los Angeles Kings
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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

paulmartinap
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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

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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:

source:

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: