James O'Brien

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

Sabres lock down Ristolainen for six years, $32.4M


The Buffalo Sabres signed defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen to a six-year, $32.4 million contract on Tuesday.

(In a somewhat unusual bit of transparency, the team actually confirmed his $5.4 million cap hit in the press release. That’s refreshing.)

“Rasmus has already proven to be a pivotal player on our blue line and we are eager to have him back with the team,” GM Tim Murray said. “This deal is a reflection of the hard work and improvement Rasmus has shown since being drafted and we hope to see him continue on this trajectory moving forward.”

Ristolainen is indeed a promising blueliner given the same contract as another promising blueliner: Seth Jones.

This signing makes Ristolainen the Sabres’ most expensive defenseman, edging Zach Bogosian‘s $5.14 million cap hit. He’s Buffalo’s third most-expensive player overall, from an average annual value standpoint.

Considering the Finnish blueliner’s size and scoring output, the Sabres have to hope that he works out better than Tyler Myers, the last big, blue-chip-type blueliner they gave a big contract to.

Petry will miss Habs’ opener, possibly more time

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The Montreal Canadiens will be without defenseman Jeff Petry on opening night, if not longer.

Canadiens management didn’t say much about the situation, though they did cancel him out for Game 1 against the Sabres in Buffalo.

The injury might cost Petry more time than that. On the bright side, TVA’s Renaud Lavoie reports that it isn’t likely to be a long-term issue (though it might keep him out for a week).

Even if it’s a minor setback as hoped, it’s still an annoying hurdle for Petry, who hoped to start 2016-17 strong after last season was derailed by hernia surgery.

Petry might not be a star, yet his strong possession play can make life easier for Carey Price. That will have to wait.

Stars pencil in Seguin for opening night


Great news for the Dallas Stars: it looks like Tyler Seguin will be able to suit up for their first game of the regular season.

That’s the word from the team’s official Twitter feed, yet it’s not all good news, as Ales Hemsky is unlikely to play in Thursday’s opener against the Anaheim Ducks.

Mark Stepneski provides some extra information regarding Hemsky: it sounds like the oft-injured winger is dealing with a groin issue.

Hemsky is far from the only Stars player dealing with injury issues, as the team brought in Lauri Korpikoski in part because of injuries to Mattias Janmark and Cody Eakin.

Still, considering the scares they faced with Seguin, it’s pretty great to have him back right off the bat.

Check out the Penguins’ 2016 Stanley Cup rings

via Pittsburgh Penguins

With the 2016-17 season rapidly approaching, the Pittsburgh Penguins want to remind you that they’re the defending champions.

(And maybe distract the hockey world from Sidney Crosby‘s very unfortunate concussion?)

What better way to do that than to unveil the 2016 Stanley Cup championship rings? You can read the press release here – Matt Murray is impressed by the heft of the rings – but here’s what they look like:

Want to compare these rings to the three previous ones by the Penguins? What about versus other teams’ jewelry? The Boston Globe provides a nice collection through 2012.

(The missing 2005 ring is a bummer, right?)

Report: Rangers hope to trade McIlrath


Defense is an obvious question mark for the New York Rangers, and that’s before they possibly move first-rounder Dylan McIlrath.

The New York Post’s Larry Brooks and New York Newsday’s Steve Zipay are among those reporting that the Rangers are looking to trade McIlrath.

Brooks explains that free agent acquisition Adam Clendening “better suits the quick-decision, quick-puck-moving style” Alain Vigneault emphasizes.

The Rangers are in a pickle with McIlrath; they don’t want to waive the 24-year-old, yet he doesn’t seem to fit the bill in the eyes of management.

(Such a viewpoint is, erm, poorly received by certain Rangers fans.)

Beyond the obvious defensemen, the other players who might push McIlrath out of the mix include Nick Holden and Brady Skjei.

It’s weird to picture the Rangers giving up a young defenseman with some pedigree at a time like this, but McIlrath is in a funny place. Maybe a change of location would benefit him while netting the Rangers an asset or two at the same time?

That would be the ideal scenario, yet it’s also possible that things will be as messy as they’ll end up many nights in New York’s defensive zone.