James O'Brien

Calgary Flames v Winnipeg Jets

Devils sign Tlusty, give Kennedy PTO


As training camps approach, Jiri Tlusty stood out as “the guy who wouldn’t accept a PTO.” Perhaps it makes sense, then, that he made a deal with the (New Jersey) Devils?

The team announced that they signed the 27-year-old to a one-year, one-way contract on Wednesday.

New Jersey didn’t reveal financial details, but multiple sources including the Bergen Record’s Tom Gulitti report that it’s worth $800K.

No doubt about it, that’s a bargain.

That wasn’t the only interesting move the Devils made heading into camp, either, as they also handed Tyler Kennedy a professional tryout contract today.

It’s an interesting situation, as one must ask: is Tlusty (pictured) much more deserving of a guaranteed deal than Kennedy, or even more deserving at all? Perhaps it simply comes down to Tlusty saying “full contract or bust,” while perhaps Kennedy was a little more malleable?

One would guess that Kennedy, 29, would get a reasonable shot at making the Devils. If anyone knows how capable he can be as a depth forward, it would be GM Ray Shero, who watched him skate alongside Jordan Staal for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Neither Tlusty nor Kennedy should be seen as the difference-makers who would push the Devils to contender status, yet they may very well make New Jersey a little peskier.

Flyers’ Umberger: ‘I feel like a different person’

Philadelphia Flyers v New Jersey Devils
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Vincent Lecavalier isn’t the only Philadelphia Flyers forward who treasures a clean slate, as R.J. Umberger must want to run far away from his 2014-15 season.

He told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he feels “like a different person” coming into next season, and it sounds like that ultimately points to being a healthier player.

Apparently hip and abdominal surgery did that for Umberger, and he’s feeling more spry than he has in some time.

“It was bothering me so bad, I wasn’t able to train as intensely or as hard as I normally would,” Umberger said. “And from the start of the season, I wasn’t up to par or where I needed to be – and it continued to get worse as the season went on …”

“I was basically skating on one leg.”

In defense of Umberger, his numbers really do give the impression that he could improve quite a bit.

Umberger has been pretty reliable to score at or around 20 goals, yet he was way off the mark last season, only managing nine goals and 15 points.

A change of scenery must have been jarring, but it’s reasonable to expect at least a slight bump in production.

That’s certainly the hope, as every Scott Hartnell fall-and-goal digs the knife a little deeper for Flyers fans.

Krejci: Lining up without Lucic will be ‘weird’

Florida Panthers v Boston Bruins

Amid the many, many changes for the Boston Bruins, the most jarring alteration for David Krejci must be playing on a line without Milan Lucic.

Since the two players really got their careers off the ground in 2007-08, they’ve been almost inseparable, especially when you consider how often coaches juggle lines in the modern NHL.

Krejci admitted that it will be odd to suit up without the towering winger, as CSNNE.com notes.

“It’s gonna be weird,” Krejci said. “We’ve been together for a long time, and now he’s gone. So that was obviously a really sad day.”

Sad days have been a bit too common for Krejci as of late, even with that hefty contract extension in tow.

He’s seen other linemate changes as Nathan Horton transitioned to Jarome Iginla and then a revolving cast of partners in 2014-15. Really, last season almost demands a mulligan, as he dealt with recurring injury headaches.

The 29-year-old expects to be fully healthy heading into 2015-16, and that’s important, as he’ll skate with two wingers who are far less familiar.

So, who would you put on Krejci’s wings, maybe Matt Beleskey and David Pastrnak?

PHT Morning Skate: Protecting Connor McDavid

Connor McDavid

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.

So, how should the Edmonton Oilers protect Connor McDavid? (Sportsnet)

Another one from Sportsnet, because seriously, this article about Drew Doughty‘s Toronto Blue Jays hat collection is just too good. (Sportsnet)

University of Virginia goalie Jake Anderson learned that you can’t celebrate a hockey win as if you’re “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. (Puck Daddy)

Derek Roy might have a real shot to make the Washington Capitals, even if Nicklas Backstrom‘s injury issues do not linger. (Monumental Network)

A chunky look back at Kyle Wellwood’s career. (Greatest Hockey Legends)

Finally, the St. Louis Blues pull back the curtain and share Ken Hitchcock (plus his coaching staff) trying to wrap their heads around 3-on-3 OT.

Report: Canes, Eric Staal aren’t close to deal

Carolina Hurricanes v Florida Panthers

With one year left on his current contract, Eric Staal and the Carolina Hurricanes aren’t close to hashing out a new one, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

Here’s what Friedman told The FAN 960 on Monday:

“I don’t think anybody is going to come out and say that, but I have heard they’re not really that close in negotiations,” Friedman said. “He has control. He has a no-move clause, just like Cam Ward does. Carolina can’t do anything without his approval.”

Staal has control … and he’s also “very comfortable” in Carolina. And, really, the “comfortable” thing to do would be to extend their captain.

Diminishing returns

Success in sports and “comfort” don’t always mix so well – competition tends to make you leave that security blanket behind, after all – so one has to wonder if it’s really the right decision for Staal or the Hurricanes.

Ever since the Hurricanes’ unexpected Stanley Cup win in 2005-06, this team has been sinking or swimming based on the play of Staal and Ward.

Let’s be honest: that hasn’t worked out all that often. Yes, there was a deep postseason run in 2008-09, but that was Carolina’s only playoff appearance since that title run.

Is that all Staal’s fault? Of course not, but the Hurricanes might just be better off passing the torch … and Staal could benefit in going from the guy in Carolina to just one of the guys on another team.