James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
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Canucks sign Sven Baertschi to two-year, $3.7M contract

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With expectations lowered, Sven Baertschi has been a relative bright spot at times for the Vancouver Canucks.

Vancouver rewarded the former Calgary Flames prospect on Thursday, keeping him from RFA status by locking him down to a two-year, $3.7 million contract.

The team breaks his deal down as such:

The contract will carry a value of $1,700,000 in the first year and a value of $2,000,000 in the second year for an annual average value of $1,850,000.

Keeping Baertschi around is a simple enough decision, yet the bigger questions revolve around Vancouver’s next steps.

Do they continue to try to scrap for a playoff spot or maybe except a step closer to the basement to regroup?

The team isn’t sure whether it will buy out Alex Burrows or Chris Higgins. There are rumored free agent flirtations with the likes of Milan Lucic and Troy Brouwer. Their Erik Gudbranson trade smelled of a “win now” feeling. There are even mutterings that the team would have made the playoffs if it weren’t for an injury.

So … a lot of the signs point to the Canucks focusing on the present more than the future, but the good news is that Baertschi can fit into either gameplan (even if only in a minor role).

Trade: Stars send Goligoski’s rights to Coyotes for fifth-rounder

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The Dallas Stars are looking to get younger on the blueline, and Alex Goligoski won’t be a part of that transition.

Instead, Dallas sent Goligoski’s negotiating rights to the Arizona Coyotes for a fifth-round pick (128th overall) in the 2016 NHL Draft.

Do note that acquiring the bargaining rights for “Gogo” does not mean that the Coyotes are guaranteed to sign the offensive defenseman. Instead, it gives them a window to try to lock him down before he can become an unrestricted free agent:

That’s a decent chunk of time to get something done. Theoretically, Goligoski might be able to serve a similar role for the Coyotes that Keith Yandle once played.

(Goligoski can literally help the Coyotes with their breakout, too, as a nice puck-mover.)

This trade is a nice gain for the Stars, as they don’t lose a valuable defenseman to free agency for nothing. This bumps them up to six 2016 draft choices.

Dallas acquires the 128th overall selection from Arizona and will now have six total selections in the 2016 NHL Draft. The Stars have one selection in the first round (25th overall), one in the third round (90th), which was acquired from San Jose, one in the fourth round (116th), two in the fifth round (128th, 146th) and one in the sixth round (176th).

Goligoski can sign with Arizona or not, but either way, he distances himself from being “that guy the Stars got in the James Neal and Matt Niskanen trade.”

We’ll find out soon enough if this is the beginning of an exodus of UFA defensemen in Dallas, as Jason Demers and costly trade acquisition Kris Russell also need new deals.

Either way, it’s pretty easy to see the logic for each side of this trade.

More on Goligoski

His UFA of the Day entry

Blues check Jaskin off big list of summer signings

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Even with Ken Hitchcock sticking around for another season (and a possible heir in line with Mike Yeo), the St. Louis Blues figure to be busy during the summer.

“Sign Dmitrij Jaskin” likely wasn’t all that high on the to-do list, but now it’s marked off as the team announced a two-year deal for the 23-year-old forward.

A variety of outlets report that the contract is worth $2 million overall (so a $1 million cap hit), including Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Jaskin played in a career-high 65 regular season games in 2015-16 while also playing in six postseason contests. His production and ice time went down from 2014-15, yet the 41st pick of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft comes pretty cheap.

People generally seem pleased with the move, at least if they’re not outright indifferent:

Again, there’s no denying that the Blues have bigger fish to fry during the off-season.

They must decide whether they want to re-sign UFAs like David Backes and Troy Brouwer while also needing a new deal for a high-value RFA in Jaden Schwartz. There’s also the notion of trading Kevin Shattenkirk, who could be awfully expensive once his bargain deal expires.

Jaskin could conceivably stem some of the tide if thrust into a higher-profile role in the event that the Blues part ways with a key forward or two.

“It’s great to be part of a group like this,” Jaskin said, via the Blues website. “It’s great to have the opportunity to be part of this team. To get the conference final, it’s a big motivation. You want to get there again and in (these) two years, I hope we’ll get even further.”

Related

A big summer of decisions looms for the Blues

Capitals say Alzner will be ready for 2016-17 after surgery

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ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) The Washington Capitals say defenseman Karl Alzner had sports hernia surgery and is expected to be “completely healthy” before the start of next season.

Alzner had the operation Wednesday.

He was injured during Washington’s second-round playoff loss to eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh.

Alzner had four goals and 17 assists during the regular season, helping the Capitals win the Presidents’ Trophy. He appeared in every one of the team’s 94 games, including the postseason.

The 27-year-old Alzner’s contract expires after the 2016-17 season.

Flyers will reportedly wait to make Umberger buyout decision

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If the Philadelphia Flyers are going to buy out R.J. Umberger, they’re not going to do so on Wednesday, according to CSNPhilly.com.

As a reminder, Umberger himself believes that the Flyers should go ahead and do it.

“I expect one,” Umberger admitted back in late April. “Who wouldn’t after my season? That’s something up to them, their decision. Business side of it, you can’t control that.”

Ouch, that’s kind of depressing, isn’t it?

Umberger carries a $4.6 million cap hit (and $4.5 million salary) into 2016-17. This is what the buyout would look like, according to Cap Friendly:

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In case that chart is too small, the Flyers would rake in short-term gains (saving $3 million in 2016-17) in exchange for eating costs and spreading a $3.1 million cap hit over two seasons ($1.6 million in 2016-17, $1.5 million in 2017-18).

If they do not buy out Umberger, they’d eat that big cost of $4.6 million for 2016-17 but it would then expire.

One thing to consider beyond the contract in a vacuum the Flyers’ serious cap freedom after 2016-17.

Just look at their defense. Mark Streit ($5.25M cap hit), Michael Del Zotto ($3.875M) and Nick Schultz ($2.25M) will be off the cap … yet Shayne Gostisbehere‘s rookie deal also expires.

Perhaps those larger machinations explain why the Flyers are taking their time. Regardless, we’ll find out which way they’ll lean soon enough.