James O'Brien

2012 NHL Entry Draft - Rounds 2-7

Oil change continued: Edmonton fires top scouts

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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
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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.

Glendale aims to withhold $3.75M payment to Coyotes

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The latest wrinkle in the arena lease crisis between the Arizona Coyotes and the City of Glendale comes down to a $3.75 million payment that may just end up in limbo.

As Fox Sports Arizona’s Craig Morgan reports, Glendale filed a motion in court to withhold a $3.75 million fourth-quarter payment to the franchise. (KTAR News phrases it as delaying rather than withholding the payment, if that makes any difference.)

KTAR News points out that the payment is supposed to be due on July 1.

The Coyotes decided not to comment on this latest issue, according to Morgan.

Here are Morgan’s tweets, in case it seems clearer to see them in full:

(The Arizona Republic has an in-depth article on this.)

This situation makes sense considering the span of events that have happened in about the last week or so.

To review the most recent events, Glendale decided to move forward with its plan to end its 15-year, $225 million lease agreement with the Coyotes. This came after a judge provided a temporary restraining order to keep Glendale from voiding the deal. Glendale going forward with its plan prompted some harsh words from Coyotes president, CEO & co-owner Anthony LeBlanc.

It’s unclear when this nightmare situation might end for Coyotes fans, who’ve been through processes like these for years now.

PHT Morning Skate: Miracle on Grass?

Via Rochester Red Wings
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

A collection of fantastic little Tweets from @LordStanley should start your morning off with a chuckle or three. (BarDown)

We’ve frequently seen minor league hockey teams come out with some great promotions revolving around jersey gimmicks, yet the MiLB’s Rochester Red Wings are really outdoing themselves by commemorating the “Miracle on Ice.” Was Miracle on Grass the right call, or should the headline have been Miracle on a Baseball Diamond? (Rochester Red Wings via The Hockey News)

How the Philadelphia Flyers are coping with salary cap “jail.” (Sportsnet)

Sean Avery with a fascinating take on (his) life after hockey. (The Players’ Tribune)

If you’ve seen the great 30 for 30 documentary “Big Shot,” you get the impression that John Spano Jr. – the guy who served hard time for trying to swindle the NHL and New York Islanders – might have a shaky future. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for grand theft and forgery related to a job he took after the fiasco with the Islanders. (The News-Herald)

Brad Richards isn’t ruling out returning to Chicago

Joel Quenneville, Brad Richards, Duncan Keith
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When you’re set for life as far as money goes, why not strive for glory?

All this time, with well-documented belt-tightening coming for the Chicago Blackhawks, the assumption was that Brad Richards would be among those out the door. Not so fast, though.

The 35-year-old told CSNChicago.com that it’s not out of the question for another run, even if it means taking less than he might receive in the free agent market.

“I haven’t talked about anything. My attitude is, everything’s wide open now,” Richards said. “I know the situation here. I knew it before I signed here. But obviously it was an amazing year. So if they want to discuss something I’m obviously going to discuss it.”

After being bought out by the New York Rangers last summer, Richards took a below-market $2 million to chase his second Stanley Cup ring with Chicago. It sounds like he’d at least discuss doing something similar, even if the parameters of the deal might be different.

The expectations may be a little different, too.

Richards enjoyed a sheltered role with Chicago in 2014-15, beginning almost 70 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone, and that would likely continue to some degree. With some supporting cast members likely out, patience might be a little thinner if his production would come and go once again.

Take a look at his monthly output from last season:

October: four points in 10 games
November: 12 points in 14 games
December: three points in 10 games
January: 10 points in 13 games
February: three points in 13 games
March: four points in 13 games
April (before playoffs): one point in three games

In the hypothetical situation of a Richards return, he may feel a little more heat if his numbers are similarly erratic.

Either way, Richards believes he made the right choice, as the Chicago Sun-Times notes.

“I got everything I wanted and more,” Richards said. “I’ll never forget. No matter what happens, where I go, the Chicago Blackhawks are part of my heart forever. … Could have been just a quick stop. But now, I’ll enjoy coming back to this city forever.”