James O'Brien

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

Sorry Oilers, you can’t buy out Andrew Ference


Like it or not, the Edmonton Oilers are stuck with their captain Andrew Ference.

Ference was listed as a possible buyout candidate with the window opening today, but the health caveat in that post apparently matters; his agent confirmed that Ference can’t be bought out for health reasons, as the Edmonton Journal reports.

“He’s not cleared to play ice hockey and a cartilage repair takes a long time,” Kurt Overhardt said. “He’s nowhere near being cleared so it’s not even an issue. If you are hurt, you’re hurt. He has to be able to run, he has to be able to skate.”

There’s no denying that it hurts to eat that $3.25 million cap hit and salary in 2016-17. Even when Ference has been healthy, he hasn’t been very effective, even compared to other members of the Oilers’ leaky defense.

It’s not as dire as other “albatross contract” situations for one reason: the light at the end of the tunnel approaches. Ference’s contract runs out after next season, so one can look at this as the Oilers being forced to pull off the Band-Aid quickly.

If they bought the veteran defenseman out, there would be savings … but they would need to spread the damage over two seasons. Here’s what the math would look like according to Cap Friendly’s buyout calculator:


It’s easy to say “that’s not that big of a difference” when it isn’t your own money but … it could be worse, right?

Even if the Oilers believe that the difference is significant, they’re stuck with Ference’s cap hit for one more season either way.

Report: Bickell, Teuvo trade means Blackhawks might re-sign Shaw


No doubt about it, giving up Teuvo Tervainen to get rid of Bryan Bickell’s cap hit really stings the Chicago Blackhawks. Bickell himself describes Tervainen as “crazy skilled.”

GM Stan Bowman isn’t giving up a quality piece for nothing, though.

The Blackhawks have grown accustomed to making tough choices to keep the core together, and it sounds like management identified Andrew Shaw as a key member. The space cleared by that trade to Carolina might help Chicago retain the talented pass, according to Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Update: Bowman commented on the matter.

Shaw brings a mixture of decent scoring ability and nuclear agitation to the table. It feels like he’s been a fixture in Chicago for ages, yet at 24, he’s still in his prime.

Still, the question is: Did the Blackhawks just clear Bickell’s cap space to make a similar mistake with Shaw, at least when it comes to being forced to part ways with Teravainen? Needless to say, plenty of ‘Hawks fans are unhappy.

Second City Hockey captures the mood of those who are upset:

From here, this all looks like a major miscalculation in asset management. GM Stan Bowman has overvalued Shaw relative to the more valuable asset in Teravainen, effectively giving up the latter in order to clear cap space for the former. It’s a clear decision to choose Shaw over Teuvo because the draft picks (or other assets) would’ve come Chicago’s way regardless, whether it was through this set of moves, trading Shaw or letting him sign an offer sheet. Now you’ll have to find a way to protect Shaw in the expansion draft, just as you would’ve with Teravainen.

Ouch. From the sound of things, this might be a decision that the Blackhawks will ultimately regret. Time will tell.

‘I hope he doesn’t elbow too many angels’ – Eulogizing Gordie Howe

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The hockey world gathered for Gordie Howe’s funeral on Wednesday, with thousands paying their respects to “Mr. Hockey.”

The service included an emotional eulogy by his youngest son, Dr. Murray Howe, who combined humor and reverence for his dad, who passed away at age 88. When Murray asked Gordie what to say at his funeral, No. 9 responded “Finally, the third period is over” and “I hope there is a good hockey team in heaven.”

Speaking of which, there was a great line relayed by TSN:

Once in heaven, the funeral’s celebrant priest joked: “I hope he doesn’t elbow too many angels.”

Murray provided an eloquent account of his father’s life and impact, yet Mark Howe also captured the essence of the legendary player.

(The full eulogy is on NHL.com.)

Along with hundreds of fans and supporters, some of the biggest names in the sport attended Howe’s funeral.

Wayne Gretzky was honored to be one of the pallbearers, for instance.

Gretzky wasn’t alone.

Fellow “Production Line” member Ted Lindsay attended Howe’s funeral. So did Scotty Bowman, Guy Lafleur, Chris Chelios and plenty of younger players:

Not surprisingly, NHL bigwigs were also there.

Howe’s funeral service serves as a reminder that “Mr. Hockey” made a huge impact on the sport, even for people who only got to see him play on YouTube.

The funeral took place in Detroit.

Here’s a little more information via the Associated Press:

Murray Howe has said his father’s remains will be cremated. The family requested donations be made to the Gordie Howe Traumatic Brain Injury Initiative, the Howe Foundation or the Gordie Howe Fund for Alzheimer’s Research.

More on Gordie Howe

His bond with Wayne Gretzky

Remembered by Obama, the hockey world

Wild facts about “Mr. Hockey.”

Here’s the full order of picks for the 2016 NHL Draft


The Carolina Hurricanes and Chicago Blackhawks reminded us that there’s still time for some picks to change hands, but the NHL’s official list of 2016 NHL Draft selections remains handy nonetheless.

As far as how to watch it: note that the first round will be televised by NBCN on Friday, June 24 at 7 p.m. ET. Teams will fire off picks for rounds two through seven on Saturday, starting on NHL Network at 10 a.m. ET.

(Sportsnet carries coverage in Canada.)

Anyway, here’s the full list of picks as of Wednesday, via the NHL’s press release:

Round 1
1. Toronto
2. Winnipeg
3. Columbus
4. Edmonton
5. Vancouver
6. Calgary
7. Arizona
8. Buffalo
9. Montreal
10. Colorado
11. New Jersey
12. Ottawa
13. Carolina
14. Boston
15. Minnesota
16. Detroit
17. Nashville
18. Philadelphia
19. NY Islanders
20. Arizona (from NYR)
21. Carolina (from LAK)
22. Winnipeg (from CHI)
23. Florida
24. Anaheim
25. Dallas
26. Washington
27. Tampa Bay
28. St. Louis
29. Boston (from SJS)
30. Toronto (from PIT)

Round 2
31. Toronto
32. Edmonton
33. Florida (from VAN)
34. Columbus
35. Calgary
36. Winnipeg
37. Arizona
38. Buffalo
39. Montreal
40. Colorado
41. New Jersey
42. Ottawa
43. Carolina
44. Tampa Bay (from BOS)
45. Montreal (from MIN via BUF)
46. Detroit
47. Nashville
48. Philadelphia
49. Boston (from NYI)
50. Chicago (from NYR via CAR)
51. Los Angeles
52. Philadelphia (from CHI)
53. Arizona *
54. Calgary (from FLA)
55. Pittsburgh (from ANA via VAN)
56. Calgary (from DAL)
57. Toronto (from WSH)
58. Tampa Bay
59. St. Louis
60. San Jose
61. Pittsburgh

* compensatory pick – ARI did not sign 2014 1st-round pick Conner Bleackley (acquired in trade with COL)

Round 3
62. Toronto
63. Edmonton
64. Vancouver
65. Columbus
66. Calgary
67. Carolina (from WPG)
68. Arizona
69. Buffalo
70. Montreal
71. Colorado
72. Toronto (from NJD via PIT)
73. New Jersey (from OTT)
74. Carolina
75. Carolina (from BOS)
76. Buffalo (from MIN via FLA, NJD, ANA)
77. New Jersey (from DET)
78. Nashville
79. Philadelphia
80. Ottawa (from NYI)
81. NY Rangers
82. Philadelphia (from LAK)
83. Chicago
84. Edmonton (from FLA)
85. Anaheim
86. Buffalo (from DAL)
87. St. Louis (from WSH)
88. Tampa Bay
89. Buffalo (from STL)
90. Dallas (from SJS)
91. Edmonton (from PIT)

Round 4
92. Toronto
93. Anaheim (from EDM)
94. Florida (from VAN)
95. Chicago (from CBJ)
96. Calgary
97. Winnipeg
98. NY Rangers (from ARI)
99. Buffalo
100. Montreal
101. Toronto (from COL)
102. New Jersey
103. Ottawa
104. Carolina
105. New Jersey (from BOS)
106. Minnesota
107. Detroit
108. Nashville
109. Philadelphia
110. NY Islanders
111. San Jose (from NYR)
112. Los Angeles
113. Chicago
114. Florida
115. Anaheim
116. Dallas
117. Washington
118. Tampa Bay
119. St. Louis
120. San Jose
121. Pittsburgh

Round 5
122. Toronto
123. Edmonton
124. Montreal (from VAN)
125. St. Louis (from CBJ)
126. Calgary
127. Winnipeg
128. Arizona
129. Buffalo
130. Buffalo (from MTL)
131. Colorado
132. New Jersey
133. Ottawa
134. Carolina
135. Boston
136. Boston (from MIN)
137. Detroit
138. Nashville
139. Philadelphia
140. Vancouver (from NYI via FLA)
141. NY Rangers
142. Los Angeles
143. Chicago
144. Chicago (from FLA)
145. Washington (from ANA via TOR)
146. Dallas
147. Washington
148. Tampa Bay
149. Edmonton (from STL)
150. San Jose
151. Pittsburgh

Round 6
152. Toronto
153. Edmonton
154. Vancouver
155. Columbus
156. Calgary
157. Winnipeg
158. Arizona
159. Buffalo
160. Montreal
161. Colorado
162. New Jersey
163. Ottawa
164. Carolina
165. Boston
166. Calgary (from MIN)
167. Detroit
168. Nashville
169. Philadelphia
170. NY Islanders
171. NY Rangers
172. Philadelphia (from LAK)
173. Chicago
174. Florida
175. Florida (from ANA)
176. Dallas
177. Washington
178. Tampa Bay
179. Toronto (from STL)
180. San Jose
181. Pittsburgh

Round 7
182. Toronto
183. Edmonton
184. Vancouver
185. Columbus
186. Calgary
187. Winnipeg
188. Arizona
189. Buffalo
190. Buffalo (from MTL)
191. Colorado
192. New Jersey
193. NY Islanders (from OTT)
194. Vancouver (from CAR)
195. Boston
196. Minnesota
197. Detroit
198. Nashville
199. Philadelphia
200. NY Islanders
201. NY Rangers
202. Los Angeles
203. Chicago
204. Minnesota (from FLA)
205. Anaheim
206. Tampa Bay (from DAL via EDM)
207. Washington
208. Tampa Bay
209. St. Louis
210. San Jose
211. St. Louis (from PIT)

Stars announcer Dave Strader diagnosed with cancer

via Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars shared awful news on Monday: play-by-play announcer Dave Strader was diagnosed with cancer.

The team did not provide other details about Strader’s condition, but both the team and the widely regarded announcer released statements.

First, here is what Strader said:

“I realize I have a challenge and fight ahead of me. With my wife Colleen and our family, along with the full support of the Dallas Stars organization, we are ready to meet this challenge. We don’t have to look very far for inspiration as Bekki Nill has shown us all how to meet this dreaded disease head-on. Personally, her example will serve as a great guide. I want to thank everyone for their support as I proceed with treatment.”

This is the Stars’ statement:

“The Dallas Stars are deeply saddened to learn of Dave Strader’s cancer diagnosis. As he goes through his treatment, all of our thoughts and prayers are directed to Dave, his wife Colleen, their son Christopher and his wife Karen and daughter Sydney, their son Casey and his wife Dr. Mary, and their son Trevor. We wish Dave a full recovery and will support him through his battle.

“Dave’s work in both local markets and on the national stage have made his voice synonymous with hockey to fans all over the globe in his 36 years in the booth. We know that he’s touched a lot of people throughout his career thus far and those wanting to send well-wishes are encouraged to send Dave a note at WellWishesForStrader@dallasstars.com.”

His current Dallas Stars broadcast partner Daryl “Razor” Reaugh tweeted this:

Strader began working with Reaugh and the Stars during the 2015-16 season. Before that, he was a longtime NBC sports play-by-play announcer.

Plenty of other people from around the hockey world are sharing their best wishes.