James O'Brien

Dallas Stars v New Jersey Devils

Hemsky stands as interesting wild card for the Stars

4 Comments

The beauty of adding a player like Patrick Sharp is that, theoretically, it could make life easier for other Dallas Stars. Imagine, then, if Ales Hemsky sheds the “free agent bust” label in 2015-16?

Line combinations are subject to significant change, yet it’s plausible that Dallas will sport a second line featuring Hemsky and Sharp on the wings and Jason Spezza at center.

That’s a pretty tantalizing thought for some Stars fans:

The biggest question might just be if the 31-year-old can really stick with Sharp and Spezza (assuming first, of course, that there aren’t any other big moves coming for Dallas).

Hemsky was frequently a diamond in the rough for the Edmonton Oilers, at least when he managed to play. These days, things really have just been rough, though.

As much as injuries and other bits of bad luck factor in, one cannot help but wonder if Hemsky is already past the point where he can turn things around. He was limited to 32 points in his Dallas debut, and he’s only enjoyed one 40+ point season (43 in 2013-14) since 2011-12. When does benefit of the doubt run out?

He stands as one of those summer conundrums. On paper, with those linemates, he could stand as a pivotal player. On the other hand, Hemsky could just as easily be lost in the shuffle … again.

Canes sign first-rounder Hanifin to entry-level deal

2015 NHL Draft - Portraits

Carolina Hurricanes fans enjoyed a festive moment at Saturday’s fan fest when Noah Hanifin signed his three-year, entry-level contract.

The Hurricanes provided some details regarding the deal: it pays $832,500 at the NHL level and $70K in the AHL for each season through 2017-18, while he also gets a $277,500 signing bonus.

Carolina selected Hanifin, 18, with the fifth pick of the 2015 NHL Draft. Some penciled him in behind Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel as the third-best prospect, so the defense-needy Hurricanes seem pretty excited about the blueliner.

“Noah has had a great week here during our prospect development camp,” GM Ron Francis said. “He is big, he can skate and he can move the puck. Noah fits the mold for the type of player and person we want in a Hurricanes uniform.”

For more on Hanifin, check out this profile.

Dubas wouldn’t be surprised if Kadri makes Leafs pay with next deal

Ottawa Senators v Toronto Maple Leafs
7 Comments

After signing a one-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Nazem Kadri seems to be at a fork in the road. His team realizes that at least one path could lead to riches, too.

Stats-leaning types believe that Kadri could be capable of big things, and that seemingly includes some executives in the Leafs organization. Assistant GM Kyle Dubas told Sportsnet 590 on Friday that he expects Kadri to “show a lot of people what he’s made of this year.”

“I know with Mike [Babcock], he’s put it to Naz and he expects him to be an elite player, he expects him to reach his potential, and if he does that he’s going to play a ton and he’s going to score a lot,” Dubas said. “… He’ll have the chance to take us to the bank.”

If that happens and Kadri shows that he’s worth a lot more than the $4.1 million he’ll make in 2015-16, Dubas said that the Leafs will be “happy to pay him.”

One thing seems clear: it’s tough to imagine this mulligan of a contract year going much worse than 2014-15 did.

We can spout out numbers for and against the 24-year-old, yet you only need to note how his season ended to get a picture of how rough things were. A snooze button malfunction prompted the team to suspend him and tell Kadri to “grow up.” He followed that reprimand with a suspension-worthy hit that was poorly timed, even by suspension standards. Former coach Ron Wilson also piled on for whatever reason.

Amid all that drama, Kadri only managed 39 points last season, down from 50 in 2013-14 and 44 in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign.

Yep, that’s a bad year.

The talent is indeed there for a big turnaround, so here’s hoping Kadri pulls out some cool training videos like he did last summer (he’d prefer with better results):

Related: Mike Babcock thinks Kadri has elite potential

Eichel Effect: More than 17,000 fans attend Sabres scrimmage

2015 NHL Draft - Round One
46 Comments

If Buffalo Sabres fans are disappointed about their team landing Jack Eichel instead of Connor McDavid, they have a funny way of showing it.

More than 17,000 people – the Buffalo News pegs it at 17,115 – showed up to watch the Sabres scrimmage on Friday night. That’s a crowd that exceeds some NHL arena’s capacities to witness low-importance hockey in July.

(Italics seemed appropriate in a case like this.)

Even Dan Byslma, Stanley Cup-winner, was taken aback as onlookers “jammed around the rink.”

WGRZ reports that Eichel said he wasn’t surprised when hundreds showed up for a development camp practice back on Monday, but this is a pretty impressive turnout by any measure.

Fans shared a few shots of the surprising atmosphere:

Wild stuff.

Report: Mikkel Boedker files for salary arbitration

Mikkel Boedker
11 Comments

Arizona Coyotes winger Mikkel Boedker filed for salary arbitration, his agent Jarrett Bousquet told Fox Sports Arizona.

As always, the two sides could break the impasse before a hearing actually takes places, as Bousquet noted.

“We can still talk, but at this point we’re looking to see if we can get a one-year deal done to avoid letting the system take care of it,” Bousquet said.

Boedker brings a nice amount of speed to the table, and he’s one of the best scoring options on the Coyotes’ offense-starved roster. The 25-year-old had a somewhat disappointing 2014-15 season, scoring 14 goals and 28 points after being limited to 45 games. His best year came in 2013-14, when he set career highs in goals (19), assists (32) and points (51).

It’s been a tough time for the franchise, obviously, yet it would also be difficult to let Boedker go. The Coyotes have been “arm-wrestling” with the winger’s reps since at least April, so perhaps an arbitrator would have better luck finding a match?

The deadline for players is Sunday while team-elected arbitration must happen by Monday, so expect more stories along these lines.