James O'Brien

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

Avs rentals Boedker, Matthias will test free agent market


Giving up assets for an ineffective player at the trade deadline stings, especially if you aren’t going to re-sign that guy. The bruises really double when you don’t even make the playoffs on top of that.

It appears that this will be the case for two big Colorado Avalanche acquisitions, as GM Joe Sakic told the Denver Post that both Mikkel Boedker and Shawn Matthias will hit unrestricted free agency.

“I did speak with both representatives. They’re going to test the open market and see what’s out there,” Sakic said. “I’d like to have one back for sure, or both, but we’ll see where that goes. They have the right to test it, so they’re going to do that. We’ll revisit that early July.”

Missing the playoffs heightens the cost of those acquisitions, although it must be said that both players were reasonably productive in Colorado.

The most noteworthy pieces the Avalanche gave up were Conner Bleackley (who the Coyotes won’t sign, so they’ll instead receive a second-rounder) along with a fourth-round pick and some other pieces. Alex Tanguay enjoyed some nice moments with Arizona, yet if the plan was never to bring the veteran back, that eases some of the discomfort.

It stinks to lose some picks and pieces when you’re not even making the playoffs, but right or wrong, the Avalanche seem to believe that they’re in the mix.

If Boedker and/or Matthias agree, perhaps they’ll indeed be back even after courting other suitors?

Schultz’s price probably won’t be right for Penguins


Look at that: Justin Schultz, months removed from being booed by Edmonton Oilers fans as an Edmonton Oiler, raising the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Unlikely as that was, that image was the best-case scenario for the Penguins and Schultz when Pittsburgh made that “Eh, let’s give it a shot” trade with Edmonton.

The “What happens after 2015-16?” question was left blank. In all honesty, the Penguins were probably pretty comfortable with the idea of Schultz being a pure rental.

Maybe that idea stings a bit more in June than it did in March, yet that still appears to be the case:

Simply put, the Penguins sheltered Schultz, which was fine when the Oilers were paying part of his salary.

As a team that repeatedly battles with the salary cap ceiling, it’s tough to imagine the Penguins forking over anything close to the $3.9 million cap hit Schultz generated with his most recent deal.

Considering how desperate NHL teams get when it comes to securing defenseman – especially ones with Stanley Cup rings – it’s plausible that some other GM will ignore a few red flags and pay Schultz near or even above that level. Especially if said executive hopes to emulate the Penguins’ hard-charging style.

Sometimes this really does come down to pure business … and hey, the Schultz – Penguins relationship was pretty fruitful while it lasted.

Canucks sign Sven Baertschi to two-year, $3.7M contract


With expectations lowered, Sven Baertschi has been a relative bright spot at times for the Vancouver Canucks.

Vancouver rewarded the former Calgary Flames prospect on Thursday, keeping him from RFA status by locking him down to a two-year, $3.7 million contract.

The team breaks his deal down as such:

The contract will carry a value of $1,700,000 in the first year and a value of $2,000,000 in the second year for an annual average value of $1,850,000.

Keeping Baertschi around is a simple enough decision, yet the bigger questions revolve around Vancouver’s next steps.

Do they continue to try to scrap for a playoff spot or maybe except a step closer to the basement to regroup?

The team isn’t sure whether it will buy out Alex Burrows or Chris Higgins. There are rumored free agent flirtations with the likes of Milan Lucic and Troy Brouwer. Their Erik Gudbranson trade smelled of a “win now” feeling. There are even mutterings that the team would have made the playoffs if it weren’t for an injury.

So … a lot of the signs point to the Canucks focusing on the present more than the future, but the good news is that Baertschi can fit into either gameplan (even if only in a minor role).

Trade: Stars send Goligoski’s rights to Coyotes for fifth-rounder


The Dallas Stars are looking to get younger on the blueline, and Alex Goligoski won’t be a part of that transition.

Instead, Dallas sent Goligoski’s negotiating rights to the Arizona Coyotes for a fifth-round pick (128th overall) in the 2016 NHL Draft.

Do note that acquiring the bargaining rights for “Gogo” does not mean that the Coyotes are guaranteed to sign the offensive defenseman. Instead, it gives them a window to try to lock him down before he can become an unrestricted free agent:

That’s a decent chunk of time to get something done. Theoretically, Goligoski might be able to serve a similar role for the Coyotes that Keith Yandle once played.

(Goligoski can literally help the Coyotes with their breakout, too, as a nice puck-mover.)

This trade is a nice gain for the Stars, as they don’t lose a valuable defenseman to free agency for nothing. This bumps them up to six 2016 draft choices.

Dallas acquires the 128th overall selection from Arizona and will now have six total selections in the 2016 NHL Draft. The Stars have one selection in the first round (25th overall), one in the third round (90th), which was acquired from San Jose, one in the fourth round (116th), two in the fifth round (128th, 146th) and one in the sixth round (176th).

Goligoski can sign with Arizona or not, but either way, he distances himself from being “that guy the Stars got in the James Neal and Matt Niskanen trade.”

We’ll find out soon enough if this is the beginning of an exodus of UFA defensemen in Dallas, as Jason Demers and costly trade acquisition Kris Russell also need new deals.

Either way, it’s pretty easy to see the logic for each side of this trade.

More on Goligoski

His UFA of the Day entry

Blues check Jaskin off big list of summer signings


Even with Ken Hitchcock sticking around for another season (and a possible heir in line with Mike Yeo), the St. Louis Blues figure to be busy during the summer.

“Sign Dmitrij Jaskin” likely wasn’t all that high on the to-do list, but now it’s marked off as the team announced a two-year deal for the 23-year-old forward.

A variety of outlets report that the contract is worth $2 million overall (so a $1 million cap hit), including Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Jaskin played in a career-high 65 regular season games in 2015-16 while also playing in six postseason contests. His production and ice time went down from 2014-15, yet the 41st pick of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft comes pretty cheap.

People generally seem pleased with the move, at least if they’re not outright indifferent:

Again, there’s no denying that the Blues have bigger fish to fry during the off-season.

They must decide whether they want to re-sign UFAs like David Backes and Troy Brouwer while also needing a new deal for a high-value RFA in Jaden Schwartz. There’s also the notion of trading Kevin Shattenkirk, who could be awfully expensive once his bargain deal expires.

Jaskin could conceivably stem some of the tide if thrust into a higher-profile role in the event that the Blues part ways with a key forward or two.

“It’s great to be part of a group like this,” Jaskin said, via the Blues website. “It’s great to have the opportunity to be part of this team. To get the conference final, it’s a big motivation. You want to get there again and in (these) two years, I hope we’ll get even further.”


A big summer of decisions looms for the Blues