Author: James O'Brien

Toronto Maple Leafs V Buffalo Sabres

Sabres expect Kaleta to miss about one month


The good news for the Buffalo Sabres is that Morgan Rielly’s shot didn’t break Patrick Kaleta’s jaw, which the team said might have sidelined the tough guy for about three months. The bad news is that he’s expected to miss at least one, as they told the Buffalo News.

“Kaleta is not as serious as we thought but it’s still serious,” Head coach Ted Nolan said. “Instead of maybe being a three-month thing, it could be down to less than a month so we’re very thankful for that.”

It’s another tough break for Kaleta, 28, who experienced a tough season with bad moments both in and out of his control. In the latter category: he tore his ACL playing for the AHL’s Rochester Americans in November, ending a rocky 2013-14 campaign early.

Kaleta was hurt in an eventful Sabres – Toronto Maple Leafs preseason game from Sunday that also resulted in an injury for Johan Larsson, who the Buffalo News reports will miss about 10 days.

NHL Board of Governors approves Islanders sale

New Jersey Devils v New York Islanders

The NHL’s Board of Governors unanimously approved the sale of the New York Islanders to Scott Malkin and Jonathn Ledecky on Tuesday, though there are a few legal matters to settle before the deal is officially closed.

Here’s the official statement from the league, which you might note only mentions a minority stake in the team:

The National Hockey League’s Board of Governors today unanimously approved the purchase of a minority stake in the New York Islanders by Scott Malkin and Jonathan Ledecky. The purchase remains subject to completion of documentation and further League review before the transaction can be closed.

Commissioner Gary Bettman predicts that things will be settled in about a week, as notes:

“It’s not going to happen tomorrow because there is some work to do, but I think they’re probably shooting to get it done before the start of the season next week,” Commissioner Bettman said. “If they miss it, that doesn’t mean anything bad.”

The plan is for a transition of power that will transfer majority ownership from Charles Wang to Malkin and Ledecky, which describes in greater detail:

Under the terms of the sale agreement, Ledecky and Malkin are purchasing a minority interest in the Islanders from Charles Wang that will transition into a majority interest in two years. Wang will maintain his status as majority owner until the interest transfers.

With the team set for relocation to Brooklyn in the 2015-16 season, it makes sense for the Islanders to try to make some big changes in a step-by-step process rather than one big leap (in theory, at least). Once that two-year transition is complete, Wang is expected to maintain a minority interest in the Islanders, essentially trading with Malkin and Ledecky.

It appears that the Isles sale voting might be the major takeaway from this latest BOG meeting, as it sounds like Bettman spent a chunk of the rest of his time putting out fires, as Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reports:

Johansen, Blue Jackets talks haven’t just resumed, they’re ‘very polite’

Columbus Blue Jackets  v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Two

There are a litany of words that could be used to describe the contract negotiations between Ryan Johansen and the Columbus Blue Jackets – tense and strained come to mind – but “civil” probably doesn’t come up very often. Apparently the recently resumed talks have been a lot less heated, however, as team president John Davidson told various outlets including Sportsnet.

“It had been the first time there’s been discussions in awhile,” Davidson said after a meeting of the NHL’s Board of Governors. “They were very polite, well-mannered.”

One interesting wrinkle is that the often-discussed concept of merely settling for a two-year “bridge” deal isn’t the only possibility being considered, according to Davidson’s accounts. More than anything else, he emphasizes a fair contract for both sides.

“That’s what we’re about, that’s what our ownership’s about, we don’t want to lowball anybody,” Davidson said. “We don’t believe in that. We just want to do the right thing.”

Davidson said that Boone Jenner and Nathan Horton’s injuries have no bearing on discussions, yet it’s difficult to believe that changing context hasn’t affected both sides. The Blue Jackets are in that much greater need for a scorer of Johansen’s caliber while the regular season (aka the time when Johansen starts really losing money) is rapidly approaching. (Also, plenty of RFA’s are signing, and those deals aren’t exactly boosting the 22-year-old’s leverage …)

This sometimes soap operatic situation makes it dangerous to make any overly optimistic predictions, but one of the other promising things Davidson said was that he didn’t believe that any ill will should carry over once a deal is reached.

For the first time in weeks, it’s easier to imagine an agreement actually happening, but for all we know there could be another blowup or two before anyone signs on the dotted lines.

Drouin’s goal is to return for Lightning opener

Lightning Camp Hockey

After returning to practice (albeit in a non-contact jersey) on Tuesday, Jonathan Drouin told the St. Petersburg Times that he’s hoping he can play in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s season-opener on Oct. 9.

“I want the home opener to be my goal,” Drouin said. “If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. But that’s around those days I’m thinking (of coming back). We’ve got a lot of time left to see what’s going to go on with this, not going to rush anything obviously.”

Indeed, the season-opener isn’t that far outside of the three-to-four week prognosis that Drouin received for a fractured right thumb on Oct. 23.

The 19-year-old admitted that “there’s still a little bit of pain” in the thumb but overall “progress has been really good.”

The cautious approach is obviously the wisest here, yet it’s understandable if Drouin is itching to get into the swing of things with the big club. Tampa Bay decided to keep the third pick of the 2013 NHL Draft at the junior level – where he dominated, again – last season while other high draft picks such as Nathan MacKinnon, Aleksander Barkov, Seth Jones and Sean Monahan got their feet wet and even thrived as immediate NHL rookies.

When it comes to picking possible 2015 Calder Trophy winners, Drouin is high on most prognosticators’ lists (or at least he was before the injury), yet the promising prospect has plenty of talented competition for ice time in Tampa Bay.

All that aside, the Lightning are wise to maintain the long view with Drouin, which means making sure he’s really ready to go if that Oct. 9 game is even a possibility.

(H/T to Rotoworld.)

Penguins coach says Kapanen could crack opening night lineup

Kasperi Kapanen, Jared Spurgeon

We’re not that far from the beginning of the 2014-15 season, and it doesn’t appear that the Pittsburgh Penguins are any less impressed with 2014 first-rounder Kasperi Kapanen.

New head coach Mike Johnston said that the 22nd pick of this year’s draft has a solid chance of playing in the team’s season opener on Oct. 9. The original plan was for the 18-year-old to skate with Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis against the Columbus Blue Jackets today, but that didn’t work out for reasons beyond Kapanen’s control.

That didn’t stop Kapanen from finding the net against Columbus, as you can see in these full highlights:

The team’s shown a pattern of being quite excited about the skilled son of former NHL forward Sami Kapanen.

Days after he fell to them in the first round, the Penguins professed a belief that he might make the team right away. Bill Guerin provided rave reviews about his skill after seeing him early on, too.

The real testament will be if the Penguins believe that he’s ready for a full season of work. Pittsburgh can trot him out for up to nine regular season contests before “burning” the first year of his entry-level contract. They haven’t been shy about doing that in the past; Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal made immediate leaps while Evgeni Malkin and Olli Maatta were key players one season removed from their draft years.

With Beau Bennett out for about six weeks, it makes that much more sense for Kapanen to get an extended look. Perhaps he’ll play so well that they won’t be able to resist keeping him around?