Author: Jason Brough

Philadelphia Flyers v New York Rangers - Game Five

Panthers hire Hal Gill in player-development role

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The Florida Panthers have hired former NHL defenseman Hal Gill to be their manager of player development.

“We are very pleased to welcome Hal to our organization,” said GM Dale Tallon in a release. “We are honored to have someone with his level of hockey experience work with our prospects and assist them in developing their young careers.”

Gill retired in April after 16 seasons in the NHL. He won a Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009.

Related: Hal Gill says ‘Big Bad Bruins mantra’ can be ‘tough’ for big players

Baertschi expected to be healthy scratch for Canucks

Sven Baertschi, Radim Vrbata
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Sven Baertschi is one of those “top six or scratched” players. For all his skill and creativity, he’s neither big nor tough nor known for his checking prowess.

Which is to say, he’s not the kind of forward who can just be dropped down to the bottom six when he’s not scoring. 

That’s why Baertschi is expected to be a healthy scratch when his Canucks host the Blues tonight. Despite some strong possession numbers, the 23-year-old winger has just one assist in four games, with no goals, while skating mostly on the second line with Bo Horvat and Radim Vrbata.

“I’ve always said that his step was probably the biggest step to make,” said Vancouver coach Willie Desjardins, who last year was able to start Horvat on the fourth line and this year will be able to do the same with big 19-year-old Jake Virtanen.

In fact, Baertschi’s situation is more similar to that of another young Canuck who isn’t exactly a fourth-line type. It’s been third-line center or press box for 19-year-old Jared McCann. Which is why there’s a good chance McCann will be returned to junior before his entry-level contract kicks in.

Baertschi is not expected to be sent to the AHL, as he requires waivers and the Canucks have already lost one player that way.

When he gets back into the lineup, however, he needs to produce.

“The main thing is I have to stay calm,” Baertschi told The Province, “and as soon as I get a chance again, I have to secure a spot.”

Related: Here are the 10 youngest skaters in the NHL

Jackets know there will be ‘consequences’ if they don’t start winning

Dominic Moore, William Karlsson, Sergei Bobrovsky, Scott Hartnell
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They’re not making a change in goal, but the Columbus Blue Jackets will have a couple of new faces in the lineup tonight at home versus Toronto.

Per Shawn Mitchell of the Columbus DispatchCody Goloubef will replace Kevin Connauton on defense and winger David Clarkson will get a chance to play his old team while coming in for Jared Boll.

The Jackets (0-4-0) and Leafs (0-2-1) will each be trying for their first win of the season.

The good news? One of them is guaranteed to get it.

Theoretically, Columbus should be the more desperate side, as “off the rails” and winless in their first four was not how things were supposed to go for this team.

“I think everybody realizes the consequences,” center Brandon Dubinsky told reporters. “Players, coaches, management, we all get it. But you can control what you can control. Until they make a change, whatever it might be, we have to go out and execute. We have to do our jobs.”

On the other hand, this is exactly what was expected for the Leafs, so there’s a bit less pressure on them. Heck, the biggest “hockey” news yesterday in Toronto was that Nick Spaling and Nazem Kadri nearly caught Jose Bautista’s home-run ball.

As mentioned, Sergei Bobrovsky will start in goal for Columbus. For Toronto, it’ll be James Reimer.

Related: Todd Richards among favorites to be fired first

Compared to buyout scenario, Kings get off easy by settling with Richards

Mike Richards
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The NHL may insist that the Los Angeles Kings were not attempting to circumvent the salary cap in their dealings with Mike Richards. However, nobody can deny that the settlement the Kings negotiated with Richards has put them in a far easier position than if they’d been forced to buy him out this past summer.

Click here for yesterday’s post on the reported details of the settlement.

The folks at General Fanager put together a handy chart comparing the two scenarios:

buyout

As you can see, the biggest cap hit in the settlement scenario comes this season. After that, it’s never higher than $1.57 million. And while the settlement scenario extends seven seasons beyond the buyout one, the dollars at the tail end are basically equivalent to one player making the league’s minimum salary. Which isn’t going to make or break any team.

In contrast, if the Kings had been forced to use the buyout route, they’d have much more near-term pressure. Anze Kopitar is a pending UFA. That’s the big one. But so are Milan Lucic and Christian Ehrhoff. Even if the Kings don’t re-sign those two, they’ll need to be replaced somehow. Oh, and Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson will both need new contracts after 2016-17.

Given the above, it’s this part of the buyout that could’ve really forced the Kings into some tough decisions:

buyout2

Instead, the pain has been spread out.

Again, the NHL doesn’t consider what the Kings did to be cap circumvention. And one does have to remember that Richards was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance at the border.

“In our view, the Kings had a ‘Bona Fide’ opportunity to win this grievance,” Daly told Sportsnet. “In that case, they would have no cap hit at all. This way, there’s some penalty.”

Still, it’s not hard to understand why some teams are “screaming bloody murder.” For the cap-crunched Kings, the settlement scenario is superior to the buyout one, no doubt about it.

Things won’t get any easier for the Oilers, just look at their schedule

Paul Stastny, Cam Talbot
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Remember back in May when Todd McLellan was introduced as the Oilers’ new head coach and he basically called them mentally weak?

His exact words were, “They haven’t had a lot of success as far as wins and losses go, so you have to find other ways to build that mental strength. That comes before the games are even played. That comes in practice. That comes in meetings. That comes in being good teammates. So we have some things to work on.”

Now consider what McLellan said after last night’s loss to St. Louis, a result that pushed the Oilers’ record to 0-4-0: “We have a little bit of a roller coaster thing going on right now where we get a little bit of momentum and then the other team will come back and score and we sag a bit. Emotionally, we are up and down quite a bit and that comes from not winning.”

So McLellan’s message hasn’t changed. Nor has his diagnosis: this is a mentally fragile team that’s been beaten down by losing.

On top of all that, as we noted yesterday, the Oilers’ schedule isn’t about to get any easier. Here’s what they’re looking at over the next month:

Oil

Maybe they’ll be slight favorites in one or two of those games at Rexall Place. Otherwise, they’re on the road or playing tough teams at home.

“I think the whole fan base is impatient right now and we are feeling that right now,” Taylor Hall said. “When you looked at it mid-summer, this is probably the worst you could have imagined. We have to find a way.”

If they don’t, it’s going to get even worse.