Author: Jason Brough

Edmonton Oilers v Winnipeg Jets

Jets seem hesitant to lock up Byfuglien, Ladd


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

Spooner hopes to build on solid finish to ’14-15

Boston Bruins v Detroit Red Wings

Once labeled a “liability defensively” by coach Claude Julien, Bruins center Ryan Spooner will head into the 2015-16 season with five pounds of additional weight, not to mention some well-earned confidence after finishing 2014-15 on a tear.

“When I was called up before, I was more focused on trying to score and getting shots on net, and all of that stuff,” said Spooner, per CSN New England. “I think at the end of last year I just decided I was going to try to play a little more on the defensive side of things. If I did get the puck then I would go down [the ice], and just sort of do my thing. That seemed to work out pretty well.”

Indeed it did. From late February on, he had 18 points in 24 games, mostly on a line with Milan Lucic and young David Pastrnak.

The B’s re-signed Spooner in the offseason, giving them two years of his services at a cap hit just below $1 million. That could turn out to be a great deal, provided he keeps progressing.

The Flames have a crease conundrum

Joni Ortio

Any team in need of a goalie may want to call the Calgary Flames. They’ve got three of them in Jonas Hiller, Karri Ramo, and Joni Ortio, the latter of whom is no longer exempt from waivers.

Hiller and Ramo are both pending unrestricted free agents, which has led to speculation that one of them could be moved. But the risk in that would be gambling on the inexperienced Ortio as the back-up.

Ortio conceded yesterday that the situation was “unusual,” the 24-year-old telling the Calgary Herald that his goal is simply to be the “No. 1 goalie” at training camp.

“We can probably affect the decisions – well, for sure, we can – but it’s not up to us to make that (ultimate) call,” said Ortio. “We just play hockey.”

The Flames could always roll the dice that Ortio isn’t claimed on waivers — like the Canucks did last year when they sent Jacob Markstrom to the AHL — but losing him for nothing would be a sour outcome.

Related: Ortio wants to steal the No. 1 goalie job in Calgary

Sabres sign Franson for two years

Toronto Maple Leafs v St Louis Blues

The Buffalo Sabres made it official today, announcing a two-year contract for defenseman Cody Franson.

The deal is reportedly worth $6.65 million total, a far cry from what the 28-year-old was targeting heading into free agency.

But the tight market is the Sabres’ gain. Franson should help a Buffalo power play that scored a league-low 30 goals last season.

That Franson went to the Sabres may be disappointing for Bruins fans. He was reportedly in talks with Boston (and Pittsburgh) as recently as last week.

Related: Franson close to signing with Sabres

Canucks coach Desjardins has hip surgery, will miss training camp

Calgary Flames v Vancouver Canucks - Game Five
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Not your traditional injury update:

Canucks coach Willie Desjardins has undergone successful hip surgery, the club announced today. The 58-year-old bench boss is expected to return to regular coaching duties by opening night (Oct. 7 in Calgary).

“Willie has been dealing with the chronic discomfort for a long time and our medical staff has been monitoring it since he joined us last year. Unfortunately his hip deteriorated rapidly in recent weeks and it required immediate attention,” said GM Jim Benning. “Willie’s expected to recover quickly and will be connected every day until he’s ready to be back in person.”

Obviously, not the best timing. Vancouver’s prospects have a tournament in Penticton, British Columbia, this weekend. Training camp is scheduled for the following weekend in Prince George. Desjardins will not be able to attend either.

The Canucks say that training camp and “some pre-season duties” will be shared by assistant coaches Doug Lidster, Glen Gulutzan and Perry Pearn.

Though the Canucks’ roster is mostly set, the club still needs to decide whether young Jake Virtanen deserves a spot in the lineup. Certainly, the Canucks would love the big winger to prove he does; otherwise, it’ll be back to junior for another year.