More changes to the Florida Panthers’ hockey operations to pass along this morning.
From a press release:
Jason Bukala has been named Co-Director of Amateur Scouting while Al Tuer has been named Head Pro Scout.
Bukala spent the last five seasons with the Panthers as assistant head amateur scout while Tuer spent the last six years as a professional scout.
Additionally, the Panthers announced the hiring of Toby O’Brien as Co-Director of Amateur Scouting.
These moves, of course, follow the firing of Scott Luce, the Panthers’ director of player personnel. Luce had just been promoted into that role a year ago; he’d been their director of scouting the previous five seasons.
But new GM Tom Rowe “wanted to get a different voice at the top.” He told the Sun-Sentinel, “We’re going through a process of bringing in new people, changing things up a little.”
And today we saw the results of that process. From their website, here’s the Panthers’ new scouting hierarchy:
Related: Florida adds to crowded front office, promotes Mahovlich
Anze Kopitar has officially been named the new captain of the Los Angeles Kings. He’ll take the ‘C’ from Dustin Brown, who’s worn it since 2008.
It was reported in late May that Brown would be relieved of the captaincy, so today’s announcement was not unexpected. Kopitar, 28, is about to start an eight-year, $80 million contract extension, while Brown, 31, is coming off a second straight season in which he scored just 11 goals.
Kings GM Dean Lombardi is scheduled to address the media later today. When he does, expect him to be asked about Brown’s future with the club.
Brown is signed through 2021-22 for a cap hit of $5.875 million. His salary next season will be $7 million. Which is to say, even if the Kings wanted to trade him, and even if they were willing to assume part of his contract, they may not find a taker.
And per CapFriendly, this is what a buyout would like:
A couple of tweets from Lombardi’s conference call:
The Vancouver Canucks have not yet decided if they’ll buy out veteran forwards Alex Burrows and/or Chris Higgins.
GM Jim Benning told Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy that what happens in free agency could be a factor. Benning is expected to try and add a top UFA winger like Milan Lucic, Loui Eriksson, or Kyle Okposo.
And that’s where it could get a bit tricky. The Canucks can start interviewing free agents on June 25, but they can’t officially sign them until July 1, after the buyout window ends June 30. So those could be an interesting few days for Benning. He’ll have to gain a good idea of his chances of landing one of his targets.
Burrows, 35, and Higgins, 33, each have a year left on their contracts, with cap hits of $4.5 million and $2.5 million, respectively. Buying out the former would mean a $2.5 million cap hit next season, and a $1 million hit in 2017-18. Buying out the latter would mean an $833,333 hit in each of the next two seasons.
Besides buyouts, other options include trading one or both of them (if possible, which it might not be), or keeping one or both of them.
Burrows had just nine goals in 79 games last season, though he did finish fourth on the team with 135 shots.
Higgins had just three goals in 33 NHL games. He spent part of the season with AHL Utica.
Related: Higgins clears waivers, assigned to AHL
Cam Ward is staying in Carolina. The Hurricanes announced today that they’d re-signed the 32-year-old goalie to a two-year contract with a $3.3 million cap hit.
“Cam has been a major face of the Hurricanes both on the ice and in our community for more than a decade,” said GM Ron Francis. “We are happy he has chosen to continue his career in Carolina.”
Ward has been with the ‘Canes his entire NHL career. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy as a rookie during their Stanley Cup run in 2006.
But there’s a reason he had to take a significant pay cut. The past four seasons, he has not put up particularly good numbers. In 2015-16, during which he earned a salary of $6.8 million, he went 23-17-5 with a .909 save percentage.
The ‘Canes now have both Ward and Eddie Lack under contract through 2017-18, for a combined cap hit of just $6.05 million. Both can become unrestricted free agents when their deals are done. In the meantime, 20-year-old prospect Alex Nedeljkovic will get an opportunity to hone his game in the minors, and there will almost certainly be an expansion draft.
Related: Watch out for the Carolina Hurricanes
Every day until June 30, we’ll write about a pending unrestricted free agent. Today’s UFA of the Day is…
If it weren’t for the Kings’ cap crunch, he’d probably already be re-signed. Lucic has been consistent with his wish to stay in Los Angeles, saying way back in February that his “plan is to remain a King and hopefully finish off my career here.”
The cap crunch, though. With Anze Kopitar‘s big new deal kicking in next season (Kopitar is one of nine Kings signed for at least the next three years), there just isn’t much money to go around. Plus, GM Dean Lombardi may feel that adding another defenseman is the best way to spend any available cash.
Meanwhile, this is Lucic’s best opportunity to cash in. He just turned 28. He had 20 goals and 28 assists last season. On the open market, he could possibly push for a six-year deal with a cap hit around $6 million.
Two teams — Vancouver and Edmonton — are reportedly the favorites to sign Lucic if the Kings can’t. The former is his hometown, and he’s said he’d listen if the Canucks made him an offer. The latter’s GM is his old GM from Boston, Peter Chiarelli, who’s been trying to make the Oilers bigger and tougher. Chiarelli has already added forwards Zack Kassian and Patrick Maroon, but Lucic would give them size and strength in a more prominent role.
Of those two teams, the Oilers may be the best bet. Though they still need to address the defense, the future is bright with Connor McDavid. And the potential to win another championship is important to Lucic.
Click here for all our 2016 UFA profiles.