James O'Brien

Patrick Sharp, Michal Jordan

Nill hopes Sharp trade moves Stars from ‘infant stage’ to Chicago’s level

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Patrick Sharp tried not to cry when discussing the trade that sent him from the Chicago Blackhawks to Dallas, but Stars GM Jim Nill provided the most interesting fodder.

For one thing, a theme seemed obvious: while Sharp is the headliner of the swap, Dallas seems awfully excited about acquiring defensive prospect Stephen Johns.

On a skill-heavy team like the Stars, it could be a boon to add such a big body.

“Stephen was a big part of that trade,” Nill said. “We’re trying to change a little bit of the dimension of our back end … he’s 6-foot-4, 220 lbs. and can skate.”

Of course, Nill also pumps up the Sharp acquisition, saying “anyone who’s won Stanley Cups, you can’t replace that.”

On the future

Nill said he’s “very comfortable” heading into the 2015-16 season as is, yet he also noted that the Stars still enjoy healthy cap space. By Cap Friendly’s measure, the Stars enjoy about $6.4 million in room, which would easily allow for another move if something comes up. (Of course, not every team budgets to hit the cap ceiling, though.)

The way Dallas’ GM looks at this trade, the Stars are hoping to go from what he calls their “infant stage” to Chicago’s level.

They definitely have a long way to go before they’re a perennial Cup contender, but when you look at that roster on paper, it’s not outrageous to imagine much more than baby steps going forward.

Hemsky stands as interesting wild card for the Stars

Dallas Stars v New Jersey Devils
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The beauty of adding a player like Patrick Sharp is that, theoretically, it could make life easier for other Dallas Stars. Imagine, then, if Ales Hemsky sheds the “free agent bust” label in 2015-16?

Line combinations are subject to significant change, yet it’s plausible that Dallas will sport a second line featuring Hemsky and Sharp on the wings and Jason Spezza at center.

That’s a pretty tantalizing thought for some Stars fans:

The biggest question might just be if the 31-year-old can really stick with Sharp and Spezza (assuming first, of course, that there aren’t any other big moves coming for Dallas).

Hemsky was frequently a diamond in the rough for the Edmonton Oilers, at least when he managed to play. These days, things really have just been rough, though.

As much as injuries and other bits of bad luck factor in, one cannot help but wonder if Hemsky is already past the point where he can turn things around. He was limited to 32 points in his Dallas debut, and he’s only enjoyed one 40+ point season (43 in 2013-14) since 2011-12. When does benefit of the doubt run out?

He stands as one of those summer conundrums. On paper, with those linemates, he could stand as a pivotal player. On the other hand, Hemsky could just as easily be lost in the shuffle … again.

Canes sign first-rounder Hanifin to entry-level deal

2015 NHL Draft - Portraits

Carolina Hurricanes fans enjoyed a festive moment at Saturday’s fan fest when Noah Hanifin signed his three-year, entry-level contract.

The Hurricanes provided some details regarding the deal: it pays $832,500 at the NHL level and $70K in the AHL for each season through 2017-18, while he also gets a $277,500 signing bonus.

Carolina selected Hanifin, 18, with the fifth pick of the 2015 NHL Draft. Some penciled him in behind Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel as the third-best prospect, so the defense-needy Hurricanes seem pretty excited about the blueliner.

“Noah has had a great week here during our prospect development camp,” GM Ron Francis said. “He is big, he can skate and he can move the puck. Noah fits the mold for the type of player and person we want in a Hurricanes uniform.”

For more on Hanifin, check out this profile.

Dubas wouldn’t be surprised if Kadri makes Leafs pay with next deal

Ottawa Senators v Toronto Maple Leafs
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After signing a one-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Nazem Kadri seems to be at a fork in the road. His team realizes that at least one path could lead to riches, too.

Stats-leaning types believe that Kadri could be capable of big things, and that seemingly includes some executives in the Leafs organization. Assistant GM Kyle Dubas told Sportsnet 590 on Friday that he expects Kadri to “show a lot of people what he’s made of this year.”

“I know with Mike [Babcock], he’s put it to Naz and he expects him to be an elite player, he expects him to reach his potential, and if he does that he’s going to play a ton and he’s going to score a lot,” Dubas said. “… He’ll have the chance to take us to the bank.”

If that happens and Kadri shows that he’s worth a lot more than the $4.1 million he’ll make in 2015-16, Dubas said that the Leafs will be “happy to pay him.”

One thing seems clear: it’s tough to imagine this mulligan of a contract year going much worse than 2014-15 did.

We can spout out numbers for and against the 24-year-old, yet you only need to note how his season ended to get a picture of how rough things were. A snooze button malfunction prompted the team to suspend him and tell Kadri to “grow up.” He followed that reprimand with a suspension-worthy hit that was poorly timed, even by suspension standards. Former coach Ron Wilson also piled on for whatever reason.

Amid all that drama, Kadri only managed 39 points last season, down from 50 in 2013-14 and 44 in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign.

Yep, that’s a bad year.

The talent is indeed there for a big turnaround, so here’s hoping Kadri pulls out some cool training videos like he did last summer (he’d prefer with better results):

Related: Mike Babcock thinks Kadri has elite potential

Eichel Effect: More than 17,000 fans attend Sabres scrimmage

2015 NHL Draft - Round One
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If Buffalo Sabres fans are disappointed about their team landing Jack Eichel instead of Connor McDavid, they have a funny way of showing it.

More than 17,000 people – the Buffalo News pegs it at 17,115 – showed up to watch the Sabres scrimmage on Friday night. That’s a crowd that exceeds some NHL arena’s capacities to witness low-importance hockey in July.

(Italics seemed appropriate in a case like this.)

Even Dan Byslma, Stanley Cup-winner, was taken aback as onlookers “jammed around the rink.”

WGRZ reports that Eichel said he wasn’t surprised when hundreds showed up for a development camp practice back on Monday, but this is a pretty impressive turnout by any measure.

Fans shared a few shots of the surprising atmosphere:

Wild stuff.