Author: James O'Brien

Report: No further discipline for Kesler’s hit on Granlund


Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Kesler won’t face a fine or a suspension for his charging major on Minnesota Wild forward Mikael Granlund, HNIC’s Elliotte Friedman reports.

Kesler, 30, received a charging major for hitting Granlund, 22, in the dying moments of Anaheim’s 2-1 win against Minnesota on Friday night. Here’s video of the fracas:

Kesler hasn’t ever been suspended by the NHL despite sporting a game that has some edge to it (601 penalty minutes in 660 career regular season games). Zach Parise, who received a game misconduct and cross-checking major during the scrum that ensued at the end of the game, had this to say afterward:

Stupid or not, Kesler won’t face any further discipline for his actions. Anaheim’s next game against Minnesota is on Dec. 5.

Murray (knee) could return during Columbus’ California trip

Columbus Blue Jackets v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Five

The Columbus Blue Jackets won’t get defenseman Ryan Murray back against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday, but there’s a possibility he might make the team’s road trip against all three California teams, according to the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline.

Murray, 21, is awaiting results from a procedure on his knee, as Portzline notes:

Here’s the Blue Jackets’ California trip (all away games):

Thursday: at Sharks
Friday: at Ducks
Sunday: at Kings

That’s a rough stretch of three games in four nights, even if travel shouldn’t be much of a headache. It’s unclear how likely Murray is to really play there, but perhaps getting him in on Friday – when another defenseman might be a little fatigued – would serve Columbus best.

It’s been a frustrating run of injuries for Murray, who was the second overall pick of the 2012 NHL Draft. The Blue Jackets memorably passed on the New York Islanders’ entire 2012 draft package to grab the offensively gifted blueliner, but so far the grade on that non-deal is an “incomplete.” In case you’re wondering, Griffin Reinhart has appeared in three Islanders games so far in 2014-15, although he hasn’t been particularly effective just yet.

Report: Islanders were sold for $485 million

New York Islanders Media Day

It sounds like Charles Wang made his money back after years of bleeding cash as the owner of the New York Islanders.

At least, that would seemingly be the case if Forbes’ report is accurate, as Mike Ozanian passes along a $485 million price tag “according to multiple sources familiar with the transaction but who are not authorized to speak publicly.” Even with heavy operating costs as a partial owner since 2000 and sole owner in 2004, one would think Wang at least broke even after acquiring the team for $187 million.

A New York Newsday followup story suggests that soon-to-be majority owners Jonathan Ledecky and Scott Malkin may indeed have agreed to a sum in that range:

In a lawsuit filed two weeks before the completed sale, [Andrew] Barroway alleged that Wang backed out of a handshake agreement to sell the Islanders to a group of investors led by Barroway for $420 million. Barroway’s suit contended that Wang sought $548 million for the team in June, causing negotiations to end.

Barroway completed a deal to buy 51 percent of the Arizona Coyotes last week and dropped his suit against Wang.

Forbes’ Ozanian seems generally amazed by the deal, only nothing that a possible (but not confirmed) $304 million price for the Arizona Coyotes would make the Islanders’ sale “not that insane.”

A hot ticket in Brooklyn?

Here’s the thing: the Islanders losing ways – at the box office and on the ice – might be fading into the past.

The team’s 4-0-0 record may be a little misleading in some ways (two of those wins came against the fledgling Carolina Hurricanes), but many would agree that the team has a promising roster. That roster is also remarkably clean – there’s something symbolic about Alexei Yashin’s buyout finally being in its last year – as John Tavares’ cap hit remains at a ridiculously low level of $5.5 million through the 2017-18 season. There really isn’t a deal in their salary structure that screams “glaringly bad.”

Beyond that, by moving to Brooklyn, the Islanders could become one of the hottest tickets in town. Ozanian touches on that issue, though he doesn’t sound overly excited:

The Islanders will move into the Barclays Center, which is owned by Mikhail Prokhorov, the majority owner of the Brooklyn Nets and  Bruce Ratner, the NBA team’s minority owner, for the 2015-16 season. One reason why the Islanders have been losing money is they have a lease at the antiquated Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum that generates scant revenue for the team. The Barclay’s Center agreement will guarantee more money for the Islanders, but not enough to keep them from the bottom half of the NHL.

Perhaps the Islanders will be such a compelling contender by 2015-16 that they’ll be able to make more money from a limited seating capacity (Newsday noted that the capacity was 15,813 during a preseason game on Sept. 21, 2013) than people may expect?

Granted, it’s true that the Islanders would likely lag behind popular teams with cavernous arenas such as the Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks, but that doesn’t totally rule out the possibility that the Islanders could grow into a money-making machine in two years, when Malkin and Ledecky go from minority to majority owners of the team.

Either way, it’s obviously difficult to deny that Wang has been rewarded for his patience with selling the team.

Would Carolina be better off trading Eric Staal?

Eric Staal

Expectations were already pretty low for the 2014-15 Carolina Hurricanes, but after a slew of injuries, the team is in such a state that grim comments like these ring true:

With all the doom, gloom and injuries, there’s the impulse to wonder if the organization might be best served by cleaning house or at least making some big changes. That’s an especially interesting consideration since new GM Ron Francis and head coach Bill Peters inherited this ‘Canes core from an old regime.

In other words, all the ingredients are coming together to produce the latest round of Eric Staal trade rumors.

TSN’s Darren Dreger reported on Tuesday that, at some point before the season began, the 29-year-old expressed a willingness to waive his no-trade clause to join the Toronto Maple Leafs. The asking price would be steep: possibly some combination of a first-round pick, occasional healthy scratch victim Jake Gardiner and one of Tyler Bozak or Nazem Kadri.

The Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons shed some additional light on the rumors, noting the following:

  • A deal involving Gardiner and Kadri may be more realistic, as a first-rounder (particularly in the 2015 NHL Draft) would be too steep. (Some believe even that package would be too steep.)
  • Nothing has been discussed since the regular season kicked off.

HNIC’s Elliotte Friedman was a little more coy about the situation in his weekly 30 Thoughts for Sportsnet:

There’s no guarantee the Hurricanes move Staal, and he controls the situation. But teams are going to take a close look at him — just in case. You forget he’s still a week shy of 30.

Keeping in mind that this is pure speculation – possibly stemming from talks that cooled since the first meaningful hockey began, according to Simmons – would such a move be worth it for the Hurricanes or a team looking to grab the big center?

Carolina’s concerns

During the offseason, PHT readers were asked about various trade routes for Carolina. The most common answers were “Blow it up” and “Stay put,” but after that, a greater number of readers opted for trading Eric Staal than those who recommended moving the likes of Alexander Semin, his brother Jordan or Jeff Skinner.

(Names like Cam Ward were excluded because, frankly, that would have been too easy.)

From a box office standpoint, trading Staal could be risky for Carolina. He’s the captain, a four-time All-Star and a player who truly blossomed in the Hurricanes’ unexpected run to winning the 2006 Stanley Cup.

Let’s also not forget that Carolina isn’t necessarily a marquee destination for free agents; aside from Semin, the Hurricanes’ best players tend to come from the draft (Eric Staal, Skinner, Ward) or trades (Jordan Staal). The franchise may very well regret parting with its No. 1 center.

Staal’s value

That said, he’s two weeks from turning 30 and carries a hefty salary cap price tag of $8.25 million through the 2015-16 season.

Stats blogger turned NHL team employee Eric Tulsky broke down how quickly things tend to go so south as a forward hits the big 3-0:

In addition, we now have an estimate of how even strength scoring ability changes through a player’s 30’s. On average, players retain about 90% of their scoring through age 29, but the drop from there is pretty sharp — they hit 80% at age 31, 70% at age 32-33, and 60% at age 35.

If anything, Eric Staal might be showing earlier signs of decline. His 100-point season from 2005-06 almost seemed like a mirage, as he eventually settled mostly in the mid-70’s during what might be considered his prime years. The 2012-13 season provided some renewed hope for true dominance – his 53 points in 48 games would translate to 90 over a full season – but he dropped down to 61 points last season.

Plenty of teams would gladly add a guy with 60-point or 70-point potential, but that might not be satisfying at Staal’s price tag, especially at the cost of some nice assets. Still, Simmons lays out a solid argument for why Staal might be especially enticing:

But Staal, the Hurricanes captain, is the kind of gem of a player, if available, who would interest just about anybody. He is 6-foot-4. He has played some of his best hockey at the Air Canada Centre. He has had 100- and 90-point seasons in his career. He is coming off one of the few poor seasons of his career. But the year before, the shortened 48-game lockout year, he scored at 90-point pace.

The last Leafs centre to have a 90-point season was Mats Sundin. That was 17 years ago.


It’s important to note that talks have reportedly simmered down, yet with Carolina struggling and teams hungry to improve, it’s plausible that they could rev back up again.

Trotz raves about ‘very coachable’ Ovechkin

Montreal Canadiens v Washington Capitals

It’s almost tempting to say that Alex Ovechkin is “back,” even if such a notion is kind of odd considering the fact that he scored 51 goals last season.

Maybe it’s more accurate to say that the positive energy surrounding the 29-year-old forward is returning, then? After witnessing Ovechkin’s second-consecutive multi-point game (three points last night, two goals on Saturday), Barry Trotz seemed impressed with Washington’s captain. As he noted to USA Today, it’s about the complete picture, not just his offense.

“For all of the questions I took when I got this job, right through the summer and training camp, I have to be honest and say I wasn’t too sure what was going to happen,” Trotz said. “But he has been very coachable, and he’s been excellent as a captain and a person.”

” … All of the things that were said about him have been the exact opposite.”

While Trotz is working with Ovechkin on his defensive game, perhaps the wisest thing he’s doing is simply staying out of the Russian star’s way, for the most part.

After being asked to limit his game under Dale Hunter and moved to right wing by Adam Oates, the plan seems to revolve around keeping him at his more comfortable LW spot and asking him to merely make tweaks (rather than wholesale changes) to the way he plays.

The Capitals have been solid so far, managing four out of a possible six points thanks to one win and two shootout losses, with Ovechkin having a hand in five of Washington’s 10 goals.

After facing questions about how he’d “fix” Ovechkin, getting the most out of his teammates may be the real test for Trotz.

(H/T to Japers Rink.)