Jason Brough


Looking to make the leap: Vladislav Kamenev


This post is part of Predators Day on PHT…

There are not many, if any, holes to fill on Nashville’s roster. But in the event of an injury to a forward, don’t be surprised if Vladislav Kamenev gets the first call-up this season.

Kamenev, who turns 21 Saturday, was a second-round draft pick in 2014, and he’s coming off another fine year in the AHL. In 70 games for the Milwaukee Admirals, he had 21 goals and 30 assists.

“He’s a big, strong centerman that you can use in all situations,” said Jeff Kealty, the Preds’ chief amateur scout, per NHL.com. “He’s got really good offensive abilities. He plays on the power play. He’s got a really good shot. He’s also going to kill penalties. He can be responsible in his own zone. So he’s really the complete centerman with size that you’re always looking for.”

Related: Nick Bonino is under pressure

Kamenev had hoped to make the leap last season, and he did make his NHL debut in January. Ultimately, though, he only played two games for the Preds, failing to register a point in limited ice time.

“I was told the usual words that they will follow me, so that I continue to work,” he told Russian newspaper Sport-Express about being sent back to Milwaukee. “But to be honest, I’m very glad that I still made my debut in the NHL. I realized that I can play at this level.”

Expect Kamenev to be a motivated player at training camp. Even if he’s sent back to the AHL, he’ll want to show the coaching staff that he’s a worthy call-up.

At his age, and after two years developing in the minors, it’s time to take the next step.

Under Pressure: Nick Bonino


This post is part of Predators Day on PHT…

For two years, Nick Bonino was one of the best bargains in hockey.

Over that time, he won a couple of Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins, his best work coming as a third-line center behind superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

On July 1, Bonino cashed in on his success, signing a four-year deal with Nashville, where his cap hit will go from $1.9 million to $4.1 million.

Also expected to increase is his role, from third-line center to second-line center.

“It’s great to be behind (Crosby and Malkin), but at the same time … you want to do more,” the 29-year-old said after signing, per the Tennessean. “That’s just the way it was in (Pittsburgh), and that’s what happens when you have two players like that on the team that are great players. I’m happy for an opportunity.”

It will not be Bonino’s first opportunity to play second-line center in the NHL. His first came in Anaheim behind Ryan Getzlaf. His second was in Vancouver behind Henrik Sedin.

Ultimately, both the Ducks and Canucks chose to trade Bonino in an effort to upgrade the 2C position. Anaheim got Ryan Kesler from Vancouver, and Vancouver got Brandon Sutter from Pittsburgh.

In other words, Bonino has something to prove in Nashville. He’s well-aware that second-line center is no picnic. It comes with tough matchups and minimal shelter from above. It demands both defensive responsibility and offensive production.

Next season, the Predators could start with Ryan Johansen centering the first line, Bonino on the second, and then there’s Colton Sissons and Calle Jarnkrok for the bottom six.

“I think we really are strong down the middle for the first time in a long time,” said GM David Poile, per NHL.com. “This might be as good of a center ice as we’ve ever had.”

It might be, as long as Poile’s right about Bonino’s ability to handle a bigger role.

Otherwise, it may be Sissons or Jarnkrok on the second line, with Bonino back on the third. Because don’t forget, Mike Fisher isn’t an option anymore.

Related: Fisher announces retirement after 17 seasons in NHL 

Washington’s Verizon Center will become Capital One Arena


WASHINGTON (AP) The downtown home of the NBA’s Wizards and NHL’s Capitals is now called Capital One Arena.

Owner Ted Leonsis announced the change from Verizon Center on Wednesday, along with an investment of $40 million in the arena. Leonsis’ Monumental Sports & Entertainment is not disclosing the financial terms or length of the new naming-rights agreement.

It goes into effect immediately, with new signage expected by the fall.

The 20,500-seat arena located in Washington’s Chinatown neighborhood was built by late Wizards owner Abe Pollin and opened in in 1997. It was previously known as MCI Center before Verizon bought MCI in 2006.

Capital One founder, chairman and CEO Richard Fairbank is a minority owner of Monumental Sports & Entertainment. A Monumental official said Fairbank recused himself from the negotiations.

Karmanos still not sure offer to buy Hurricanes ‘cuts the mustard’


Peter Karmanos is willing to give Chuck Greenberg some time to put his investment group together.

But in an interview with Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer, Karmanos wanted to be clear that he has not yet agreed to sell the Carolina Hurricanes.

Before a transaction is finalized, there are still a few stumbling blocks to get over.

From Alexander’s conversation with Karmanos:

So there’s still a ways to go before the ‘Canes have a new owner that’s willing to keep the team in Raleigh.

First, Greenberg has to raise the money — and a few weeks ago, it was reported he was “not even close” to doing that.

Then, if Greenberg does manage to pull the funds together, a purchase agreement has to be reached that satisfies both sides.

In other words, a lot could still go wrong in this process.

Fingers crossed, ‘Canes fans.

Related: Forbes calls report of offer to buy Hurricanes ‘bogus’ and ‘fake news’

Under Pressure: David Backes


This post is part of Bruins Day on PHT…

David Backes had a tough first year in Boston.

Not as tough as Loui Eriksson‘s first year in Vancouver, mind you.

But you know things didn’t go all that well when management is forced to defend your signing at season’s end.

“David had a hard time adjusting,” said team president Cam Neely. “He mentioned that at the end of year. It was more of a challenge for him to come to a new city and a new team, to get to know 22, 24 other players. That took a while for him to get adjusted.

“I feel like David is really built for the type of playoff hockey you have to play to go deep. He’s a great leader. He’s helped the young kids a ton. If he could pick up a little bit of a step in his game, which he’s going to work on in the offseason, I think that would be beneficial for him and us.”

Backes notched 17 goals with 21 assists in 74 regular-season games — which isn’t the worst production ever. And to be fair, he did produce in the playoffs, with one goal and three assists in six games.

The concern is his age. At 33, it’s easier said than done to “pick up” a step — even with a hard, focused offseason of training. And with four years left on a $30 million contract, it’s fair to wonder if the B’s should’ve just let Eriksson go and saved the cap space for use down the road.

Alas, nothing can be done about that now. But at this point in his career, Backes is probably best suited for a bottom-six role. That’s why the Bruins would love to see a youngster like Anders Bjork come in and show he can play in the top six.

In theory, Backes could form a complementary duo with Ryan Spooner, another player who will enter the season under pressure to perform. The former is defensively responsible and can win battles, while the latter’s strength is offense. Heck, throw in another player with something to prove, Matt Beleskey, and perhaps you’ve got yourself a third line.

So much will depend on Boston’s young forward prospects and whether any are ready to play at the NHL level. If one or two of them show well, Backes could be a solid third-liner. If not, he might have to play in the top six again, and that may not be the best thing for the B’s.