Author: Jason Brough

Calgary Flames v Vancouver Canucks - Game Five

Benning doesn’t think Ryan Miller is too old

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Jim Benning still has faith in 35-year-old Ryan Miller.

“These top-flight goalies, they can play to 40 years old,” the Canucks’ GM told TSN’s Bob McKenzie. “Some people look at his age, but I think he’s going to be real good for us this year.”

Benning better hope so, given he had the opportunity to trade Miller this offseason, but chose to deal Eddie Lack instead. As we saw this summer, it wasn’t a popular decision with fans.

Miller had a .911 save percentage last season, below the league average (.915). And in 2015-16, only a handful of NHL goalies will be older than the 2010 Vezina Trophy recipient.

On top of the scrutiny that will be on Miller, the Canucks’ backup will be Jacob Markstrom, a 25-year-old who’s been excellent in the AHL, but has yet to prove he can play in the NHL.

Benning would like to see Markstrom start 25 to 30 games this season.

“We’re excited about Jacob,” said Benning. “I think he’s worked hard. He deserves the opportunity. So we’ll see where it goes.”

Related: Benning trying to figure where Markstrom ‘fits in’

Leafs to develop Marner, Nylander as centers

William Nylander
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They may not be the biggest guys, but William Nylander and Mitch Marner are both being groomed to play center, not wing, for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

For a team that hasn’t had a truly elite center since Mats Sundin, it’s reason for optimism in Leaf-land.

“I think as a center you’re skating more and when you’re skating more you’re into the game,” said Nylander, per TSN.ca. “Center’s a position where you’ve got to be all over the ice; that helps me get into the game.”

Of course, while both youngsters have tremendous skill, their size and strength will be tested playing down the middle. Today’s NHL may be a more welcome place for smaller skill players, but that doesn’t mean big, strong centers have gone out of fashion. Successful teams like the Kings and Ducks are proof of that.

Marner, the smaller of the two top prospects, believes he’ll start his NHL career as a winger, and “then develop back into a centerman, try and get a little stronger on the draws and stuff like that.”

Related: Babcock expects Kadri to be ‘an elite player’

Flames sign ‘that Micheal Ferland’ to extension

Alexander Edler, Michael Ferland
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The Calgary Flames have signed big, physical forward Micheal Ferland to a two-year contract extension, with a reported cap hit of $825,000.

Ferland had just two goals in 26 games during the 2014-15 regular season, but the rookie became a real factor in the Flames’ first-round playoff victory over Vancouver, as the 23-year-old winger racked up hit after hit on the Canucks’ defense.

“It was that Micheal Ferland running around,” Canucks GM Jim Benning lamented during the offseason. “We need to be able to rise to the occasion in the playoffs and play with emotion.”

On top of all the hits, Ferland scored three goals in nine playoff games.

Coyotes upset with city of Glendale…again

PNI Coyotes Deal 0611
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Another day, another spat between the Arizona Coyotes and the city of Glendale.

The latest point of contention involves the city’s decision to search for a new arena manager — a job that’s currently held by the Coyotes’ ownership company, IceArizona.

From the Arizona Republic:

Vice Mayor Ian Hugh said Wednesday the city hopes to select an arena manager as early as January and IceArizona will be considered if it responds to the city’s request for proposals.

Coyotes President Anthony LeBlanc said he had expected to begin negotiating with the city on an extension of the two-year agreement, but the city’s sudden move on the request for proposals makes that a moot point.

“The fact that (Glendale) jumped forward … changes the dynamics,” LeBlanc said.

Adding to the above? A long-awaited audit that was released earlier in the week. More on that from Phoenix Business Journal:

An audit released this week of the city of Glendale’s arena deal with the Arizona Coyotes claims problems in verifying the team’s financial losses, and contends the city may have been shortchanged in shared naming-rights and ticket-fee revenue.

The audit also shows the city believes the Coyotes losses might be higher than the $34.8 million the team reported in March.

The Coyotes have just two seasons left on their renegotiated agreement with Glendale. The way things are trending, they may have to look elsewhere for a place to play, be it downtown Phoenix or beyond.

Related: Is there a future for the Coyotes in Glendale?

Jets seem hesitant to lock up Byfuglien, Ladd

Edmonton Oilers v Winnipeg Jets
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True to form, Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff was careful not to show his hand when asked yesterday about the futures of pending unrestricted free agents Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd.

“At different points and times, you try to move the process along,” Cheveldayoff told the Winnipeg Sun. “Sometimes, there are circumstances – internally or externally – that come into play here. At this point and time, there are various levels of dialogue that are happening on both of their fronts.”

Which is a lot of words, with very little actually said.

But reading between the lines, Cheveldayoff may be hesitant to lock up both veterans to long-term contracts. Perhaps he’ll only re-sign one. Or possibly even neither.

“The long and short answer of it is that you just don’t know where things may or not go in the future (with regards to the salary cap) and you have to plan accordingly,” he said.

“It’s not just a one year type of thing.”

Byfuglien, 30, and Ladd, 29, have both logged significant mileage in the NHL, and a budget team like Winnipeg — particularly one with good, young prospects in the pipeline — has to be especially careful with how it allocates its dollars.

Related: ‘Nothing more than preliminary discussions’ between Jets, Byfuglien