Author: Joe Yerdon

Marc Staal

Marc Staal’s agent: ‘There’s been no discussion at all’ on extension


New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal could be headed for unrestricted free agency next summer. The 27-year-old blue liner wants to stay in Manhattan, but there’s a snag in that plan.

The Rangers haven’t started talking with him about a new deal yet.

Staal’s agent Paul Krepelka tells Larry Brooks of the New York Post that while his client wants to sign a long-term deal to stay with the Rangers, the two sides haven’t had a discussion about it.

“There’s been no discussion at all, but I did get a call from Jeff early in the offseason telling me that they were working on their arbitration cases, so not to interpret it as a sign of disrespect toward Marc,” Krepelka told Slap Shots on Thursday, referring to assistant general manager Jeff Gorton. “I expect that we will be talking at some point before training camp.”

The last thing the Rangers need to do is lose one of their top young defensemen. Given how the Rangers took care of Ryan McDonagh, Henrik Lundqvist, and Dan Girardi recently, there’s not much reason to stress over them not getting something done with Staal.

If they somehow don’t get something done before next summer, things could get very stressful quickly. The Rangers will have Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin to get re-signed as RFAs and both Mats Zuccarello and Martin St. Louis are also UFA eligible.

Under Pressure: Ondrej Pavelec

Ondrej Pavelec

“Under Pressure” is a preseason series we’ll be running on PHT. For each team in the NHL, we’ll pick one player, coach, GM, mascot or whatever that everyone will be watching closely this season. Feel free to play the song as you read along. Also feel free to go to the comment section and tell us we picked poorly.

For the Winnipeg Jets, we pick… goalie Ondrej Pavelec.

If there’s a guy that’s beyond worthy of being put under the microscope in Winnipeg it’s the 26-year-old Czech netminder.

Pavelec has been a lifer in the Jets organization getting his start with the team back in Atlanta. In the team’s final year in Georgia, he posted what have turned out to be the best numbers of his career going 21-23-9 with a .914 save percentage and a 2.73 goals-against average.

Since moving to Manitoba, life hasn’t been great for him on the ice. Check out his stats from the past three seasons:

2011-12:  29-28-9   .906    2.91

2013:      21-20-3   .905    2.80

2013-14:  22-26-7  .901    3.01

It was following that 2011-12 season the Jets re-signed Pavelec to a five-year, $19.5 million deal. Considering how average that season was, many people questioned it.

Now that his numbers haven’t improved (they’ve gotten worse) and he’s got three years left on a deal that counts for $3.9 million against the cap, it had some wondering if the Jets would use a compliance buy out on him during the offseason. That didn’t happen and now it’s on him to prove he’s worthy of the faith being put in him. After all, Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff declared Pavelec as their No. 1 goalie heading into next season.

To make things a bit more dramatic, the Jets re-signed backup Michael Hutchinson to a two-year deal after he had three impressive games at the end of last season. Will he be enough to put pressure on Pavelec to perform at his peak best? That’s up to Paul Maurice, but he was outplayed by Al Montoya last season and still held down the starting job.

With the fans in Winnipeg growing weary of losing and Pavelec’s numbers not living up to the billing of being a starting NHL goalie, a shake-up could be on the horizon if he doesn’t improve quickly. It may be time for him to become “Pavelectric” on a nightly basis.

More Jets day coverage:

It’s Winnipeg Jets Day on PHT

Largely unchanged Jets will have tough time in reloaded Central

Jackets’ Horton happy having a full summer to prep for next season

Nathan Horton

Nathan Horton’s first season with the Columbus Blue Jackets wasn’t exactly one to remember.

While he was part of a team that went to the playoffs for just the second time in franchise history, recovery from offseason shoulder surgery and other injuries held him to just 35 games in the regular season and none in the postseason.

As Horton told Alex Busch of, he’s hoping a healthy offseason is just what he needs to help Columbus return to the playoffs again next season.

“It’s nice having a (full) summer where I can train. I haven’t had one in a while,” Horton said. “It’s different than the last few years that I was in Boston. I’ve got the whole summer, I can make myself stronger and work on things that I need to work on and get healthy.”

Last summer, Horton’s shoulder operation kept him out of the lineup until January 2. He was able to stay in action until April when he had to undergo abdominal surgery that knocked him out of the postseason.

Horton signed a seven-year, $37.1 million deal with the Jackets last summer. It was a deal that raised some eyebrows then given his injury history and the fact they knew he was getting shoulder surgery as it was. Still, a healthy Horton in the Columbus lineup makes a big difference and could help make them contenders in the Eastern Conference next season.

It’s Winnipeg Jets Day on PHT

Dustin Byfuglien, Blake Wheeler

Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team?  The Winnipeg Jets.

Ahh, the Jets.

It’s been three seasons since they’ve moved from Atlanta to Winnipeg and each of them has ended without a playoff appearance. As the lack of success rolls on, the frustration with the organization is growing in Manitoba. After all, the excitement of having the NHL return to the city has calmed down but the team is treading water.

Their first season in the Western Conference saw the Jets finish with 84 points going 37-35-10 and finishing last in the Central Division and 11th in the West. Their disappointing play cost Claude Noel his job as head coach after going 19-23-5 under him and resulted in Paul Maurice taking over and doing  a bit better going 18-12-5. Of course, it wasn’t all hunky-dory for Maurice either.

Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little had solid seasons leading the team in scoring, but Maurice had his issues with star forward Evander Kane and kept former defenseman Dustin Byfuglien at forward, a move Noel made in an effort to keep his job.

Despite changing positions, Byfuglien still had 20 goals and 56 points. Kane slumped all season though and finished with 19 goals and 41 points. Captain Andrew Ladd was a bright spot as well with 23 goals and 54 points. Mark Scheifele did well in his first full season in the NHL with 13 goals and 34 points in 63 games. Olli Jokinen had a solid season, but will play in Nashville next season.

While the offense was encouraging, goaltending was a major sore spot.

Ondrej Pavelec struggled all season and finished with a .901 save percentage and a goals-against average of 3.01. Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has already declared him his No. 1 goalie next season and he could benefit next season from a defensive corps that gains another year together and has a lot of upside.

Rookie Jacob Trouba had an impressive first season in Winnipeg even in spite of suffering a scary injury. If Zach Bogosian can avoid the injury bug, those two along with Tobias Enstrom can team up with Mark Stuart and a hopefully recovered from back surgery Grant Clitsome to make up a solid group on the blue line.

If they keep it together, it’ll put the onus on Pavelec to play to the best of his ability – something he’s struggled to do in Winnipeg after having success in Atlanta.

Offseason recap

While the rest of the Central Division underwent an arms race to commence beating each other’s heads in all season, the Jets essentially stayed out of the fray.

They replaced Olli Jokinen with Mathieu Perreault from the Anaheim Ducks, re-signed Michael Frolik to avoid arbitration, and added T.J. Galiardi. They also re-signed Chris Thorburn to a three-year, $3.6 million contract which was… odd.

The Jets also parted ways with Al Montoya (who signed with Florida) and will go with Michael Hutchinson as the backup goalie to/guy to potentially unseat Pavelec.

The highlight of the Jets’ summer may have come at the NHL Draft in Philadelphia when they selected Halifax winger Nikolaj Ehlers with the ninth overall pick.

Wild bring back Falk with one-year, two-way deal

Justin Falk

If we’ve learned anything in free agency this summer it’s that you can go home again.

The Minnesota Wild announced they’ve signed defenseman Justin Falk to a one-year two-way deal. He was a fourth-round pick of the Wild back in 2007.

Last season, Falk was with the New York Rangers where he played in 21 games and had two assists. He did not get in any playoff games for the Rangers on their run to the Stanley Cup Final.

Falk, 25, did spend his first four seasons in the NHL with the Wild and was a big-bodied blue liner to bring into the lineup occasionally. Now that Clayton Stoner left for the lucrative landscape of the Anaheim Ducks, that role was ripe to be filled by an experienced player with knowledge of Mike Yeo’s system. The 6-foot-5, 215 pound Falk fits the bill.