James O'Brien

Ryane Clowe

Devils’ Shero: No decision yet regarding Clowe’s future

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The New Jersey Devils have a new GM* in Ray Shero, but it doesn’t sound like Ryane Clowe’s murky future is any clearer.

Shero essentially said that it’s a status quo situation for Clowe, which basically means that he’s unsure if the power forward will be forced (or will flat-out choose) to retire. He told the Newark Star-Ledger that it’s not so much a good or a bad thing to say this, then.

“I don’t have that answer for you at this point,” Shero said. “That’s not negative or positive. I don’t know what the immediate future holds for Ryane. Certainly Lou has the background and file and knows everything about Ryane and where he is, so we’ll see where it goes. No decision as of today.”

Earlier this offseason, Clowe said the decision is “not in my hands right now,” but Shero said he believes the choice will come down to “a combination of the player, the organization and doctors.”

The elephant in the room might be style, though.

Even a “finesse” player must cope with the risks involved with playing despite a history of concussions, but Clowe is the hard-nosed type who may struggle to make a difference if he can’t really go all-out.

By Yahoo’s count, he delivered 621 hits from 2009-10 to 2014-15 (more than one per game). Even if you ignore hits absorbed, that’s a lot of collisions. He drops the gloves with frequency, as well, with peak years of 12 fights in 2010-11 and 11 in 2009-10, as well as five in each of 2012-13 and 2013-14.

That amounts to a ton of physical play, and that’s style is obviously Clowe’s calling card. He’d obviously have to play that gritty game to even be worthy of dressing in the Devils’ lineup.

Does this mean that the 32-year-old should quit right now? Not necessarily, but it doesn’t seem overly promising.

Clowe has three seasons remaining on his contract which brings an annual cap hit and salary of $4.85 million.

* – That’s still kind of weird, right?

Schmaltz to Schwartz? Blues sign 2012 first-rounder

2012 NHL Entry Draft - Portraits
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Copy-editors and announcers beware: the St. Louis Blues signed 2012 first-round pick Jordan Schmaltz to a three-year, entry-level contract on Thursday.

If the potential for humor didn’t sink in already, considering the fact that the Blues have a high-profile forward named Jaden Schwartz.

/Brain explodes

On the bright side for the potentially confused, Schmaltz is a defenseman, so at least that cuts down on slip ups.

It’s unclear how close the 21-year-old might be to making a jump to the big time. He spend the last three seasons with the University of North Dakota, generating similar numbers in 2013-14 (24 points in 41 games) and 2014-15 (28 in 42 contests).

Question: could they pull a prank on people if they switched jerseys at some point? You be the judge:

Chicago Blackhawks v St Louis Blues
Schwartz via Getty
2011 NHL Research And Development Camp
Schmaltz via Getty

Hmm, that could get tricky.

All of that aside, the Blues probably wouldn’t mind if that ended up being a source of confusion for the rest of us, especially if they’re assisting on each others’ goals.

Ward’s agent makes it (very) clear that Washington is his first choice

New York Rangers v Washington Capitals - Game Six
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In a strange way, hearing a player’s agent say that his client would prefer returning to a team (rather than testing the free agent waters) is almost a bigger deal than the player saying so himself.

After all, there might be some temptation for said player to “say the right thing,” especially right after the emotional tug-of-war of a playoff series. So, yes, Joel Ward said that he’d like to return to the Washington Capitals a couple weeks ago, yet it’s a bit of an eyebrow-raiser that his agent Peter Cooney confirmed it so forcefully to the Washington Post on Tuesday.

“Washington is his first choice over going to unrestricted free agency,” Cooney said. “We would like to re-sign with Washington and come back. Our door is open for the Capitals, absolutely first and foremost.”

Cooney also said that “we’re not committed to going to unrestricted free agency,” another clear sign that they’d love to hear some offers from Washington between today and July 1.

Of course, after the sort of postseason the 34-year-old enjoyed, a plausible stream of offers could return any leverage lost – perceived or otherwise – from these comments. In some ways, this could put a little pressure on Capitals GM Brian MacLellan, too.

It’s not the simplest situation due to Ward’s age and the Capitals’ branching free agent paths, as the Post considers:

Coming off a starring postseason role in which he tied for the team lead with nine points, facing the end of a four-year deal annually worth $3 million, Ward figures to receive a raise, regardless of his destination. At 34 years old, this could be Ward’s last deal structured longer than two years, and MacLellan already predicted that term length would “be an issue,” provided Ward for asks for a three- or four-year contract, which seems all but certain.

(The article delves into more detail and is worth a read.)

On one hand, the Capitals head into the summer with a lot of cap space – somewhere around $20 million – yet they also have some key players needing new deals. Even beyond UFAs, Braden Holtby is likely to get a beefy raise, even with his restricted status. That pile of cash starts evaporate when you consider the questions MacLellan must eventually answer.

That’s the thing, though: Ward and his agent have made it perfectly clear that the ball is Washington’s court/puck is in their rink.

Related: Ward says he would love to stay in Washington.

Blackhawks’ Teravainen: ‘I’m living my dream’

Chicago Blackhawks v Anaheim Ducks - Game Five
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As foreboding as the future may seem salary cap-wise, some Chicago Blackhawks fans may find themselves daydreaming when they ponder what’s ahead for Teuvo Teravainen. If you blink, there are times when silky-smooth No. 86 looks a lot like No. 88.

Even if others imagine even better days for the 20-year-old, Teravainen isn’t struggling to live in the moment. If anything, it sounds like he’s having a blast, as CSNChicago.com notes.

“It’s been a fun time, for sure,” Teravainen said. “Right now, I’m living my dream.”

Teravainen came into the 2014-15 season with considerable hype, and not just because he was the 18th pick of the 2012 NHL Draft. The Finn poses the kind of skills that even catch the attention of the likes of Patrick Kane.

The results weren’t immediate, however. Through 34 regular season games, he only had four goals and nine points.

After starting the playoffs strong with three points in his first four contests, Teravainen went four games without a single point. That last pointless contest might have been the difference-maker confidence-wise, however, as he looked dangerous in receiving a playoff career-high 22:17 time on ice in Chicago’s marathon win in Game 2.

Since then, it seems like head coach Joel Quenneville’s given him more trust …a dn ice time. The results have been there, too, as Teravainen has three points in the past two games.

“Patience, good play recognition, it’s nice to see him score a big goal for us as well,” Quenneville said. “He’s got a nice shot through the middle of the ice. That line got going and gave us a good push to start the second.”

Much of the Blackhawks’ success has come from the usual suspects shouldering the burden, but you need help from the supporting cast, so Teravainen’s surge may just come at the right time.

They might need him to keep that dream going with a big performance in Game 6 tonight, too.

So much for Rick Nash’s slump

150527-Rick-Nash
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Hey, remember when everyone was burying New York Rangers winger Rick Nash?

OK, to be fair, his postseason struggles were starting to border on their weird. It’s not as if these were isolated incidents, as he’s now at 59 career playoff games (with No. 60 coming in Game 7 on Friday).

Whatever the case may be, the 30-year-old is firing on all cylinders all of a sudden. While Nash and the Rangers failed to score on Ben Bishop in Game 5, the power forward has otherwise been making up for lost time. Including last night’s four-point performance, seven of his 14 playoff points came in Games 4 and 6.

He really seems to be asserting himself overall, too, as he has five shots on goal in three straight games.

There’s a solid chance that Nash is just trying to supply standard answers when asked about his recent successes, yet it’s also plausible that he’s getting a dig or two in on his critics by chalking up much of his recent breaks to sticking with the gameplan (and playing stout defense).

That brings us to the chicken-and-the-egg argument regarding how much of his success comes from the red-hot work of linemates Derick Brassard and J.T. Miller.

All three forwards made some beautiful music together in Game 6, so it’s likely a collaborative effort. Brassard pegs Miller as the “energizer bunny” of the trio, which made for a fairly amusing interplay between the young forward and Pierre McGuire:

Much like Nash, Miller’s teammates have noticed his efforts even if it took some time for the results to really come, as Brassard noted to the New York Daily News.

“His attitude for the past two weeks, he’s been working really hard,” Brassard said. “I can remember the day when I was saying (J.T.) is really close to making a difference here and being on the board. And Rick was a beast.”

There’s also, uh, this.

A week ago, many believed that Nash’s confidence was shattered; now his line is being described as New York’s answer to “The Triplets.” (Hey, it’s not like there’s anything identical about Tampa Bay’s trio, right?)

Nash would be the first to note how quickly things can turn … but at the moment, he is silencing his critics.