James O'Brien

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

Kris Versteeg headlines wave of players leaving NHL, going overseas


Some will remember him for the goals. Others will cherish the two Stanley Cups he won with the Chicago Blackhawks. Maybe there’s some company in grinning at memories of his funny hair.

However you think of Kris Versteeg, it sounds like you won’t see him as an NHL player in 2015-16.

TSN’s Darren Dreger reports that Versteeg is expected to sign with Bern of the Swiss League this weekend:

Versteeg is the biggest of three names slated to play overseas instead of the NHL.

Andre Benoit is going to play for Malmo in Sweden while Versteeg’s former Blackhawks teammate Kyle Cumiskey is also Sweden-bound, as he got a gig with AIK.

These players have seen better days, whether a free agent squeeze made a difference or not. It’s often a little sad to see them go, even if it makes sense (especially with a struggling player like Cumiskey).

It’s especially sad to see Versteeg leave, and not just because he seemed to have the most left in the tank:

Leafs send Holland a message by placing him on waivers


With a potential salary arbitration hearing looming on Monday, the Toronto Maple Leafs took a page from the Minnesota Wild’s book and waived Peter Holland.

The message – whether it’s more intended for Holland or a possible arbitrator – is that the Maple Leafs believe that Holland is merely worthy of a two-way deal.

The Wild did something similar with Jordan Schroeder, who cleared waivers.

The Globe & Mail’s James Mirtle believes that Holland won’t be back with Toronto, with a few paths leading to such a conclusion.

Holland, 25, has been serviceable for the Leafs, scoring 27 points in 65 games last season with similar numbers in 2014-15.

He already has 195 regular season games under his belt between the Maple Leafs and Ducks (the team who drafted him 15th overall in 2009).

None of his numbers scream big payday, but it’s plausible that someone might at least believe that he’s worthy of a one-way deal. The Leafs might disagree, however.

Report: Evander Kane arrested by Buffalo Police


Sabres forward Evander Kane was arrested by Buffalo Police, according to WGRZ-TV and WKBW’s Ashley Rowe.

The Buffalo News reports that the arrest is stemming from a bar incident from June, with it being a misdemeanor charge for criminal trespassing. WIVB reports that there are four harassment violations in addition to that misdemeanor charge.

(You can read about the two crime reports here.)

Buffalo News photographer Jane Kwiatkowski apparently photographed Kane while he was being placed in handcuffs:

Sabres GM Tim Murray commented on Kane’s off-the-ice issues following word of the alleged incidents.

As a reminder:

Kane’s representatives are denying any wrongdoing.

Kreider is part of the best thing going for the Rangers


Much like the Montreal Canadiens with Carey Price, it’s true that, to some extent, the New York Rangers still go as far as Henrik Lundqvist can take them.

Still, this summer and Chris Kreider‘s new deal reminds us of one of the best things going for the Rangers: their young group of forwards.

As you can see here, Rick Nash and Tanner Glass are the only forwards above age 30 (both at 32).

New York got younger in its recent, splashy trade; Mika Zibanejad generates comparable production to Derick Brassard and is five years younger.

That move seems nice now (getting the better pick is quite the cherry on top), but it could look even better down the line.

The Rangers still eye a possible salary arbitration session for 24-year-old Kevin Hayes, who’s seen his ups and downs lately. Still, a core of Kreider (25), Derek Stepan (26), Zibanejad (23), J.T. Miller (23) and Mats Zuccarello (28) is nothing to sneeze at. Bonus points if Hayes breaks through.

Management added two 28-year-olds in Nathan Gerbe and Michael Grabner, so fresh legs abound in their forwards group.

The less-than-bright side is that Lundqvist may be flirting with a decline at 34, and that defensive group looks a little dicey these days.*

So, yes, there are some flaws … but the Rangers’ outlook seems brighter when you focus on that collection of prime-age forwards.

* – Although the picture would look an awful lot brighter if the Rangers went for Kevin Shattenkirk.

Rangers get a good deal in re-signing Chris Kreider


The New York Rangers avoided Friday’s scheduled arbitration session with Chris Kreider, instead signing the restricted free agent.

Terms aren’t quite official yet, although it appears that the consensus is that it’s a four-year deal with a cap hit a bit under $5 million per season.

Aaron Ward reports that it’s $4.625 million per year, although there might be some fluidity to that exact number.

The New York Post’s Larry Brooks backs that up:

Even if Kreider experiences peaks and valleys from a production standpoint, this continues the Rangers’ run of getting good deals on RFAs. Whether they inspire loyalty or merely drive a hard bargain, they tend to keep their homegrown guys for reasonable prices (while breaking the bank for big names with sometimes iffy results).

Kreider is 25, so this deal eats up a healthy chunk of UFA potential.

Echoing Leonard’s point, Brooks believed that Kyle Palmieri could serve as a comparable for Kreider, yet Kreider took one few year and $4.625 million to Palmieri’s $4.65 million.

(Of course, that could be to Kreider’s advantage if the cap climbs in the future and he ends up signing a well-timed deal then.)

The Rangers initially faced five possible arbitration hearings, but now only Kevin Hayes remains, with that scheduled for July 27.

It’s not a big surprise to see most of these hearings being avoided. Feelings can be hurt in many of those cases.