James O'Brien

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

Check out the Penguins’ 2016 Stanley Cup rings


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.

The Flames’ future looks awfully bright


In a salary cap age, locking up your core isn’t cheap. The teams who can sign players affordably – thanks to RFA leverage, timing and other factors – can enjoy some significant advantages.

The Calgary Flames are in a tight financial situation heading into 2016-17, with about $500K in cap space … but after this season, things really open up.

It wasn’t easy, but things look really promising for the Calgary Flames after signing Johnny Gaudreau to a very reasonable six-year deal.

Cost-efficient core

Take a look at the most important Flames contracts that cover multiple years:

Gaudreau: six years, $6.75M cap hit
Mark Giordano: five years, $6.75M
Sean Monahan: seven years, $6.375M
Dougie Hamilton: five years, $5.75M
T.J. Brodie: four years, $4.65M
Troy Brouwer: four years, $4.5M
Michael Frolik: four years, $4.3M

You can quibble with certain deals – that Brouwer contract is a little worrisome – but there are some huge savings there. Those bargains could look even more significant for certain younger players; Gaudreau is 23, Monahan’s just 21, Hamilton is 23 and Brodie is 26.

Dead money soon dissolving

The Flames will also see some shaky contracts leave their books soon.

Dennis Wideman‘s problematic $5.25 million might get moved for all we know, but if not, it ends after this coming season. Deryk Engelland‘s near-$3 million mistake and Ladislav Smid‘s $3.5 million will wash away after 2016-17, too.

Flexibility in net

Some of that money may eventually go to Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson, but the beauty of the situation is that the Flames get to choose.

Elliott’s likely to get a big raise from $2.5 million, yet we’ll see if it’s with Calgary. The Flames may very well decide to go with Chad Johnson (currently at $1.7 million) or someone else instead.

Plenty of teams are locked down to questionable goalie deals. The Flames could benefit greatly from what may end up being a buyer’s market.

(Perhaps Ben Bishop will merely end up in Calgary a year later?)


With Sam Bennett and Matthew Tkachuk among those likely to be considered core players sooner rather than later, Calgary has room to pay them as they grow.

The Flames already looked pretty promising before the Gaudreau deal, but now they’re the envy of a healthy chunk of the NHL. Or at least they should be.

Flames sign Johnny Gaudreau, reportedly for six years, $40.5M


BREAKING: it costs about $40 million to “move Heaven and Earth.”

With the 2016-17 season looming, Johnny Gaudreau finally came to terms with the Calgary Flames on a six-year contract, covering one year of potential unrestricted free agency.

Neither Gaudreau nor the Flames revealed the financial terms, but reporters including TSN’s Bob McKenzie report that it’s a cap hit of about $6.75 million. Over six years, that would work out to $40.5 million.

Gaudreau announced the signing on his Twitter feed:

It looks like the deal stands as another example of lockout-proofing. McKenzie reports that Gaudreau will receive at least two signing bonuses: one $3 million bonus now and another $3.5 million one during a potential work stoppage in 2020-21.

Gaudreau’s deal is pretty similar to that of his partner in crime, Sean Monahan, who signed a seven-year deal with an annual value of $6.375 million. That $6.75 million mark also matches Mark Giordano‘s cap hit for the team lead.

Calgary’s cap situation is pretty snug now. General Fanager puts them at about a half million.

Will we see Nikita Kucherov hash something out with the Lightning today, too? It’s possible.

NHL hands Radko Gudas a six-game suspension


The NHL handed Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas a six-game suspension for his hit on Austin Czarnik of the Boston Bruins.

As a repeat offender, Gudas will lose $245,121.95 thanks to this six-game suspension.

That hit came soon after he avoided a suspension for another questionable preseason hit. Here’s the league’s video explanation for the decision:

So far, reactions range from the punishment being a “good start” to something that won’t register enough with the frequent hitter. Most believe that his run-ins with the league’s disciplinarians are far from over, however.

His history of violence

If the Department of Player Safety had a speed dial list of regulars, Gudas would have a prominent spot on it. He’s actually dodged quite a few disciplinary bullets in a short period of time.

Back during his astounding month of February, Gudas said “I can’t be doing this on the ice” … and then kept doing the same things, over and over again.

The Flyers actions haven’t always matched their words considering the contract extension they handed him in June.

Maybe a more severe punishment will get through to the rugged defenseman?