James O'Brien

Keith Yandle, Alex Killorn

Yandle’s healthy, ready for Rangers


Many would agree that Keith Yandle wasn’t the catalyst the New York Rangers were hoping for after sending a considerable bounty to the Arizona Coyotes in 2014-15.

That said, a shoulder injury and the confusion of learning a new system may have slowed the offensive defenseman a bit at times, and the 29-year-old provided a cheery outlook to the Bergen Record.

“I was so used to playing a certain system with certain guys,” Yandle said. “You have the freedom to play here and play with guys who are higher skilled and highly competitive. It’s a lot of fun to come to the rink every day. It probably took me a little bit, maybe a couple of weeks before the playoffs, before I felt really comfortable with myself.”

That shoulder issue – an AC separation, according to Yandle – probably made things less comfortable as well, but Yandle avoided off-season surgery.

His first, abbreviated run with the Rangers was pretty bumpy, and that “freedom to play” might open up moments where Yandle draws the ire of fans with flubs.

On the other hand, New York has enjoyed some big bursts from mid-level players in contract years before, so Yandle could be a prime candidate for a significant rebound.

For better or worse, Yandle can be an adventure on the ice. Rangers fans might just enjoy those experiences a little more in 2015-16.

Canadiens move Galchenyuk to center

Alex Galchenyuk

The Montreal Canadiens could take a big step forward if Alex Galchenyuk does the same, so perhaps that will happen as he moves to his natural position.

That good news surfaced on Thursday, as the team discussed his transition from left wing to center heading into 2015-16.

It doesn’t sound like it was the easiest decision.

“Centerman is a hard position to learn,” Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin said. “There’s a lot of responsibility as a centerman, offensively and defensively. There’s signs that hockey people, our staff, look for, and we felt that he wasn’t ready at the time. Now we feel that he is getting really close, and it’s time for us to know and for him to know if he can really fill that role.”

Galchenyuk isn’t just sliding into a more defensively taxing position; he’s doing so for a defensive-minded head coach in Michel Therrien.

It sounds like Therrien is taking a supportive approach, or at least he’s continuing to portray himself as a kinder and gentler bench boss.

“I don’t want Alex to lose any confidence,” Therrien said. “I think that’s a big part of having success as a player. But we’re at a time in his career where we have to go to the next level. This is what I shared with Alex and he embraced the challenge. He’s looking forward to it and I can’t wait for training camp to start.”

Therrien won’t be forced to stick with Galchenyuk if he flops down the middle, especially when you consider how rapidly coaches tweak line combinations.

Even so, it sounds like the team hopes to take a step forward along with the talented 21-year-old.

Bettman: overwhelmingly players do the right thing

Gary Bettman

This off-season presents a slew of bad headlines for the NHL, something its players and commissioner both notice.

ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun caught up with some of the league’s biggest movers and shakers to find out how they feel about these situations.

In the case of the players, stars like Tyler Seguin and Sidney Crosby said that you must learn to be careful.

The league itself may try to do something a little more concrete to prevent or least limit future issues, including what Bill Daly describes as “an additional educational program.”

Even so, Gary Bettman seems confident that most players conduct themselves properly. He also argues that the NHL is doing its part, too.

“… We’ve had a variety of programs in place, we’re constantly looking at what we can do to make sure that the programs are touching the right bases and are effective, but we focus on what we think is best for our players and our game,” Bettman said. “As I’ve said, overwhelmingly our players do the right things.”

It’s been a week of updates regarding legal situations for the likes of Slava Voynov, Patrick Kane, Ryan O'Reilly and Mike Richards, yet closure has been tough to come by. With proceedings getting postponed, these negative headlines continue to reverberate.

Going forward, the league can only do so much, but officials would indeed be wise to consider every avenue.

For more thoughts from Bettman, Crosby, Seguin and others on this subject, check out LeBrun’s full article.

Quick work: Blackhawks sign Kruger for one year

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Five

In case it wasn’t already clear, the Chicago Blackhawks did indeed move Kris Versteeg to make room for Marcus Kruger‘s newest contract.

The team hasn’t revealed the dollar terms of the deal, but the Blackhawks confirmed that Kruger was signed to a one-year contract on Friday.

General Fanager estimates Chicago’s cap space at about $2.43 million, yet GM Stan Bowman would likely prefer to fill one more roster spot with at least a minimum wage player, so it’s not guaranteed that Kruger ate up every cent of that remaining money.

The 25-year-old plays mostly a defensive/depth role with Chicago, although it’s possible that the team might want more from Kruger considering this tumultuous off-season.

One assumes Kruger might drive a harder bargain for his next contract:

Update: It’s worth $1.5 million, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie.

Trade: Blackhawks send Versteeg to Hurricanes

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Six

The Chicago Blackhawks needed to shed some salary to re-sign Marcus Kruger, so why not ship out Kris Versteeg, aka the guy who always gets traded?

That’s what happened on Friday, as the Blackhawks made this deal with the Carolina Hurricanes:

To Carolina: Versteeg and Joakim Nordstrom, plus a 2017 third-round pick

To Chicago: Prospect defensemen Dennis Robertson and Jake Massie, plus a 2017 fifth-rounder

Most obviously, the Blackhawks save money; Versteeg carries a $2.2 million cap hit that expires after the 2015-16 season. That’s actually a discounted rate stemming from the swap that sent him from the Florida Panthers to Chicago, but that still ended up being too rich for the ‘Hawks. Nordstrom’s cap consideration was pretty negligible at $605K.

One would feel bad for Versteeg, 29, although he managed to win two Stanley Cups with Chicago despite bouncing around the NHL like a pinball.

Just looking through the archives of PHT alone, check out his recent history of being traded:

November 2013: Blackhawks got him back from Florida

July 2011: Flyers send him to the Panthers

Feb 2011: Maple Leafs traded Versteeg to Philly

June 2010: The other time Chicago traded him

Versteeg is becoming a solid yet constantly traded journeyman. Think of him as hockey’s answer to former NBA player Chris Gatling, only with goofy hair and hopefully without the legal issues.