Author: James O'Brien

Matt Hackett

Kaleta, Hackett among six Sabres placed on IR


The Buffalo Sabres announced roster moves on Tuesday, confirming that the following six players have been placed on IR: Matthew Hackett (pictured), Patrick Kaleta, Johan Larsson, Jake McCabe and Mark Pysyk.

Earlier today, head coach Ted Nolan said that McCabe, 20, was going through a “maintenance day.” That gives the feeling that he isn’t that far off from being game-ready, but then again, it’s really just as opaque as referring to someone as day-to-day.

Pysyk, 22, was at least healthy enough to do some charitable work on Tuesday:

There’s no word regarding whether any of these moves might help Mikhail Grigorenko get some NHL reps. With Sam Reinhart likely to test the waters at the highest level, that might need to wait, if such an opportunity was in the cards in the first place.

Buffalo isn’t without good news today overall, as they announced new captain Brian Gionta as well alternates Josh Gorges and Matt Moulson.

Bruins’ Krejci will miss some time on IR

Montreal Canadiens v Boston Bruins - Game Seven

The Boston Bruins announced that David Krejci is among the players they placed on the injured reserve Tuesday, but early reports indicate that it won’t be that big of a deal.

Update: Bruins head coach Claude Julien provides his perspective to It doesn’t seem overly concerning or overly promising.

“He’s still considered, I think, minor. We were told originally that it was really a minor injury, and we didn’t think much of it,” said Claude Julien on Tuesday afternoon prior to Krejci being placed on IR. “It hasn’t healed as well as we thought it would.

“We’ll have to see how he feels, so it’s one of those injuries that could be a questionable one. We’ll have to reassess with our trainers. I got off the ice and came right here, so I don’t have more details than what I had before our morning skate.”

Krejci, 28, suffered this issue during the second period of Saturday’s exhibition against the Detroit Red Wings. While it’s unclear how bad this injury might be, ESPN’s Joe McDonald lays out the black-and-white fact that CBA rules will require Krejci to miss a few games since his injury is retroactive to Saturday.

This is not exactly an ideal scenario for a player who probably wants to silence critics of his six-year, $43.5 million extension, but Krejci obviously has plenty of time to take care of that. (Besides, that contract doesn’t kick in until 2015-16, anyway.)

There were some other noteworthy takeaways from the Bruins’ roster moves, though as Benjamin notes, some of them might not stick for very long:

  • To little surprise, Marc Savard was placed on the LTIR. Gregory Campbell and Anthony Camara are on the non-roster IR.
  • Jordan Caron and David Pastrnak find themselves in the AHL.
  • Brian Ferlin and Malcolm Subban are with the big club, though that could change pretty rapidly for one or both of these young players.

It’s not really a major crisis, but injuries increase the likelihood for slow starts for the likes of Krejci and Milan Lucic.

Risk Factors: Colorado Avalanche edition


From the same bunch of pessimists who brought you“Why your team won’t win the Stanley Cup,” PHT presents a new series called “Risk Factors,” i.e. three reasons to be worried about each NHL team in 2014-15.

Colorado Avalanche

1. Asking the world of Varly (again) – There’s no shame in voters handing Tuukka Rask and his sparkling .937 save percentage the 2014 Vezina Trophy, but Semyon Varlamov had a strong argument in his own right.

Simply put, no successful team asked more of their netminder than Colorado did in 2013-14. Varlamov faced 2,013 shots on goal while no other goalie cracked 1,900 (Kari Lehtonen came in second with 1,888 save attempts). The Avalanche allowed 32.7 shots per game overall, the sixth-worst rate in the NHL. No team below them made the playoffs and only two in the bottom 10 managed to make it past game 82.

Varlamov shouldered that burden last season, but one would understand if the team said “Look, we got away with that once, but let’s not allow that to happen again.”

Instead, it sounds like Patrick Roy seems content to defiantly stick with his “Ride Varly” plan, at least publicly speaking.

“I would expect Varly to continue to do the same thing,” Roy told Yahoo in a fascinating piece regarding the team’s polarizing philosophies. “He’s in his age where I think it’s time for him to shine, and I believe it’s only the start.”

Asking any goalie to replicate such success is a bit much, but Varlamov carries a few extra worries.

The 2013-14 season was the only time he carried the workload of a true No. 1 “workhorse.” (It’s difficult to put too much stock in 2012-13, since that campaign was limited to 48 regular season games.) Glancing at his year-by-year work, it seems like he’s endured two tough seasons, one middling one and two very good years:

2009-10: 26 games played, 15 wins, .909 save percentage
2010-11: 27 GP, 11 W, .924
2011-12 (first with Colorado): 53 GP, 26 W, .913
2012-13: 35 GP, 11 W, .903
2013-14: 63 GP, 41 W, .927

Is it impossible to picture Varlamov being great again? No, if nothing else, his talent is pretty apparent.

Still, the Avalanche are asking a lot from a guy who’s had an up-and-down career, and to say that the jury’s out on Reto Berra being worth the honestly startling amount of confidence management has in him is to make a serious understatement.

2. Defense – Time and time again, teams with seemingly crippling possession stats have trotted out the “shot quality” argument in pumping up their defensive systems. In the long run, results haven’t been kind to the teams that get massively out-shot and seem to live off of high shooting and save percentages. The disastrous finishes of the Randy Carlyle Era Toronto Maple Leafs simply illustrate such thoughts in the most dramatic ways.

Roy steadfastly believes that the Avalanche’s defense is better than people think.

“We’re not that far away on defense,” Roy told the Denver Post. “You look at (Erik) Johnson, who had a really good year, we have (Tyson) Barrie, who played really well at the end of the season, and we have Nick Holden, who we think is a solid defenseman. Are they where (the Kings are)? The answer is no, but now the (question) is, ‘Who are we going to add?’ You cannot just add the top players. You have to have a great mix, and you look at some teams as a model, and I think L.A. is a good example. If we could get the good mix — stay-at-home, physical defensemen playing with high-skill defensemen — I think that’s the approach that we’d like to have, and I think we’re heading in a pretty good direction. I think the future of our franchise on the defensive side of the game is a lot better than people think it is.”

Most people don’t share Roy’s optimism, and when you look at the group on paper and the massive amount of shots Colorado is supposedly OK with allowing, it’s easy to see why.

3. Losing Stastny and getting older in the offseason – The funny thing about the Avalanche is that youth is one of their biggest strengths … yet they may have erred in seemingly exchanging prime-age players for big names who might be a little long in the tooth.

The general feeling is that Colorado balked at Paul Stastny’s asking price, ultimately allowing him to become the most coveted free-agent center of the 2014 summer. At 28, he still has at least a few more prime years and generally did things that people believe Avalanche forwards do too rarely: drive play. Stastny’s deal is bigger and longer than Jarome Iginla’s three-year, $16 million pact, but many will frame the situation as giving up Stastny for Iggy.

Iginla’s much older than Stastny at 37, and he’s not quite the dominant force he once was, even if he can clearly still put the puck in the net. In a league where center play is at a premium, the Avalanche swapped a versatile prime-age pivot for an aging winger.

The Avalanche also leaned toward experience by trading a second-rounder for Brad Stuart, 34, and swapped P.A. Parenteau, 31, for Daniel Briere, 37.

Avalanche GM Joe Sakic emphasized that he was deliberately adding experience, but time will tell if the team’s better for essentially exchanging fresher legs for veteran voices.

It should be fascinating to see if Roy and Sakic will end up looking brilliant or foolish and stubborn as the 2014-15 season goes along.

Quick Hits: Plenty of notable names on the IR

St. Louis Blues v New York Islanders
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During the weekend, some big waves of players were placed on the injured reserve, with the Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Rangers moving the likes of Nathan Horton and Derek Stepan there respectively. (Note: Stepan might even begin 2014-15 on the long-term IR.)

Monday prompted plenty of other IR moves. Here’s a collection of some of the most noteworthy moves. There were a lot today, so if you notice any omissions, feel free to share more in the comments.

(Note: Rotoworld’s NHL page was helpful in putting this list together and is another great source for injury updates.)

Johansen’s agent blames media for perceived nastiness with Columbus

Ryan Johansen

After what seemed like some downright uncomfortable negotiations – including a stonewall moment here and there – the Columbus Blue Jackets finally locked up Ryan Johansen to a very affordable three-year, $12 million contract on Monday.

Some wonder if there could be residual hard feelings from those talks, yet Johansen’s agent Kurt Overhardt told the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline that any bitterness was blown out of proportion by the media.

“Reports of it being a nasty negotiations …the media may have created that,” Overhardt said. “It hasn’t been negative and nasty.”

Only the parties involved can really know for sure, but things certainly seemed a little … heated from time to time. There was at least a brief period in which Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen delegated negotiations to his assistant, giving the impression that the team was losing its cool with Overhardt. Those feelings only seemed to be backed up by Kekalainen and team president John Davidson taking the very unusual step of making contract offers public and throwing the word “extortion” around.

It’s probably important to note that Overhardt is claiming things weren’t as nasty as they seemed, but the organization may not see it that way. While they focus on getting the 22-year-old ready to go, it’s reasonable to assume that the franchise might not have the warmest feelings about the sometimes-combative agent.

Then again, many believe the mark of a fair deal is when both sides leave the bargaining table a bit upset.

If you believe Overhardt’s comments, it was all business, though.