James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.

Taylor Hall views trade as ‘indictment on me as a hockey player’


Taylor Hall admitted it: getting traded by the Edmonton Oilers hurt.

The New Jersey Devils will be delighted if he does indeed channel that negative energy into strong work on the ice.

“I do take this as an indictment on me as a hockey player,” Hall said during his press conference, according to MSG Network’s Deb Kaufman Placey. “I’m a motivated hockey player right now.”

You might find this shocking, but the Devils are really excited.

At 24, Hall’s deep in his prime … and now has some anger to motivate him. (It’s OK for Devils fans to be giddy.)

Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli admitted that Hall sounded “disappointed” when hearing that he had been traded. Hall thought he’d be a part of the “solution” in Edmonton.

(More on the Oilers’ side of the deal and analysis of Adam Larsson here.)

Hall hopes that a “change of scenery is a positive” for him. That’s a nice way to look at things … yet his return to the scene in Edmonton should be that much more entertaining thanks to these comments.

Granted, he had nothing but great things to say about the city and fans:

Lightning for life? Stamkos explains why he re-signed with Tampa Bay


After a brief free agent flirtation and at least a year of conjecture from the general Toronto area, Steven Stamkos decided to stick with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

He raised some eyebrows in doing so for what many believed to be the Bolts’ standing offer: an eight-year deal with a relatively reasonable $8.5 million cap hit ($68 million overall).

People – especially fans of jilted teams – may wonder why.

The official reason from Stamkos is that he’s hoping to stick with the Lightning for the duration of his career.

“I am excited to move forward with the Lightning today for the next eight years,” Stamkos said. “It’s not often that a player gets the chance to spend his career in one organization and I am hopeful that this agreement sets me on that path with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Most importantly, I look forward to working with my teammates, coaches and our management in our pursuit of winning a Stanley Cup.”

In case you’re wondering, the timing was surprising to his team, too:

He gets a nice chunk of money up front:

While it’s possible that Stamkos might not lose much money in choosing the Lightning over what would likely be a bigger cap hit with a team like the Toronto Maple Leafs:

Ah, teams without state taxes. You’d think NHL teams could leverage that advantage more often?

Now, it’s plausible that Stamkos would rake in a lot of extra cash in endorsement deals if he signed with the Leafs, but it’s difficult to argue with his decision. The money difference seems fairly insignificant, while Stamkos enjoys the comfort of a familiar situation on a team seemingly set up to contend for some time.

Re-signing Stamkos ranks as a huge step toward reaching that “ultimate goal.”

Lightning GM Steve Yzerman has plenty of work to do in providing Stamkos with a quality supporting cast, but that’s a better problem to have than trying to replace one of the NHL’s elite snipers.

Shea Weber isn’t going ‘to try to be’ like P.K. Subban


From this day forward, Shea Weber will be compared to P.K. Subban. That’s the nature of the beast when it comes to trades, especially when they’re one-for-one deals like Wednesday’s blockbuster.

The long-time Nashville Predator turned Montreal Canadiens defenseman is wise to realize that he’s a different player.

“I’m not P.K. Subban and I’m not going to try to be,” Weber said during tonight’s press conference.

Critics of the move will point out that Weber is about four years older and his contract goes until he’s 40. Weber hopes that his emphasis on training will soothe any doubts.

Plenty of people believe that Weber’s former team got the better end of the deal.

On the other hand, there are plenty of people who prefer Weber to Subban, citing his intimidating style.

Regardless, it isn’t Weber’s job to convince people one way or another. After all, he’s got the vote of Habs GM Marc Bergevin.

All he can do is put himself in a position to succeed … and maybe find a way to deal with the pressure-cooker environment in Montreal.

To his credit, Weber is more focused on the excitement of playing in that atmosphere rather than fixating on the negative side.

/Bookmarks that comment for the first time the Bell Centre crowd turns on Weber.

Maybe Weber shouldn’t have been stunned by the timing of this trade, considering the savings Nashville enjoys by getting it done before July 1:

Granted, Nashville likely wants Weber to enjoy a healthy enough run in Montreal …

The Predators, for their part, know what they’re losing in trading Weber years after matching that controversial Philadelphia Flyers offer sheet.

More on the Subban – Weber trade

Bergevin’s comments about Weber shine an interesting light on Subban

Subban speaks out

What’s next after a huge day of trades?

Sabres sign Casey Nelson to two-year extension


The Buffalo Sabres might be bummed that “big fish” Steven Stamkos is sticking with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but that didn’t stop them from working on Wednesday.

They signed defenseman Casey Nelson to a two-year extension, keeping the blueliner from becoming an RFA.

Buffalo didn’t provide official terms for the contract, but it should be worth $650K per season, according to the Buffalo News’ John Vogl. That makes it worth $1.3 million overall.

Nelson generated four assists in seven games with the Sabres in 2015-16 after wrapping up his NCAA career with Minnesota State Mankato.

The Sabres are being proactive when it comes to building up their defense before free agency even begins, as they also made a move to bring in Dmitry Kulikov.

Oilers GM justifies Hall trade, even if Larsson isn’t a ‘sexy defenseman’


If you judge a trade based on the resumes at hand, the New Jersey Devils soundly won in getting Taylor Hall from the Edmonton Oilers for Adam Larsson. Some even label it a “landslide win.”

Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli gets that. Even so, he insists that the “need-based trade” justifies the “unfortunate” price of parting ways with Taylor Hall.

Back when he was hired in April 2015, Chiarelli spoke of “the sacrifices that it takes to win.” One sacrifice was telling a disappointed Hall that he wouldn’t be part of the solution.

Yes, Chiarelli comes out and says it: Larsson isn’t a “sexy defenseman.” Chiarelli admits that he could still improve his skating and that he’s useful – but not explosive – from an offensive standpoint.

A “terrific” 2015-16 season, Larsson’s potential at age 23 and some meat-and-potatoes skills have the Swede penciled in as a big-minutes, top-pairing guy by Chiarelli’s estimation.

“I feel he’s barely scratched the surface,” Chiarelli said. “He moves the puck, defends well. He can log a lot of minutes and match up against all the top forwards.”

Still, some of the most intriguing moments of the presser came when the Oilers GM didn’t totally sugarcoat the drawbacks of the trade.

At least Chiarelli is acknowledging the glaring difference in their play up to this moment.

It’s all about needs and potential, even if Hall is knee-deep in his own prime at 24.

Speaking of potential, seeing Jesse Puljujarvi fall to the Oilers at the fourth pick in 2016 helped inspire the move as adding a defenseman became even “more urgent.”

For better or worse, the Oilers are willing to take the heat to make this “need-based trade.”