James O'Brien

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

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A big summer of decisions looms for the Blues

Capitals say Alzner will be ready for 2016-17 after surgery

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ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) The Washington Capitals say defenseman Karl Alzner had sports hernia surgery and is expected to be “completely healthy” before the start of next season.

Alzner had the operation Wednesday.

He was injured during Washington’s second-round playoff loss to eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh.

Alzner had four goals and 17 assists during the regular season, helping the Capitals win the Presidents’ Trophy. He appeared in every one of the team’s 94 games, including the postseason.

The 27-year-old Alzner’s contract expires after the 2016-17 season.

Flyers will reportedly wait to make Umberger buyout decision

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If the Philadelphia Flyers are going to buy out R.J. Umberger, they’re not going to do so on Wednesday, according to CSNPhilly.com.

As a reminder, Umberger himself believes that the Flyers should go ahead and do it.

“I expect one,” Umberger admitted back in late April. “Who wouldn’t after my season? That’s something up to them, their decision. Business side of it, you can’t control that.”

Ouch, that’s kind of depressing, isn’t it?

Umberger carries a $4.6 million cap hit (and $4.5 million salary) into 2016-17. This is what the buyout would look like, according to Cap Friendly:

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In case that chart is too small, the Flyers would rake in short-term gains (saving $3 million in 2016-17) in exchange for eating costs and spreading a $3.1 million cap hit over two seasons ($1.6 million in 2016-17, $1.5 million in 2017-18).

If they do not buy out Umberger, they’d eat that big cost of $4.6 million for 2016-17 but it would then expire.

One thing to consider beyond the contract in a vacuum the Flyers’ serious cap freedom after 2016-17.

Just look at their defense. Mark Streit ($5.25M cap hit), Michael Del Zotto ($3.875M) and Nick Schultz ($2.25M) will be off the cap … yet Shayne Gostisbehere‘s rookie deal also expires.

Perhaps those larger machinations explain why the Flyers are taking their time. Regardless, we’ll find out which way they’ll lean soon enough.

Sorry Oilers, you can’t buy out Andrew Ference

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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:

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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

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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.