Author: Joe Yerdon

Brett Clark

Panthers release veteran defenseman Clark from PTO

Brett Clark’s chance to make the Florida Panthers roster is at an end.

The team released Clark from his professional try-out agreement in their latest round of roster cuts. The 36-year-old veteran of 14 seasons was looking to latch on with the Panthers after a brief stint with the Minnesota Wild last year.

In Minnesota, Clark played just eight games finishing with one assists and a minus-9 plus-minus rating. He averaged just over 14 minutes of ice time.

Through his career he’s had stops in Montreal, Atlanta, Colorado, and Tampa Bay to go along with his short stop in Minnesota. He joins Ian White in the free agent pool after he was released from his try-out with Winnipeg yesterday.

Lightning coach Cooper thinking big on rookie Sustr

Andrej Sustr

One of Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper’s biggest missions in training camp is to find a way to make the Bolts’ defense a lot better. One guy who is looking to do that is young defenseman Andrej Sustr.

Erik Erlendsson of The Tampa Tribune hears from Cooper about how much Sustr has improved on his game in just a short time.

“You can just see he has grown,’” Cooper said. “Poise, poise under pressure, it looks like the game has slowed down for him a little bit, so he’s making some savvy plays out there. And he has confidence, and you need to play in games to get that confidence. You can sit there and do all the talking you want, but until you are put in the fire you don’t really know how hot it is. I think Sustr has grown, and that’s a good sign with the limited number of games he has played.”

Good thing he doesn’t mean he’s grown literally. At 6’8″ he makes for an imposing figure and at 22 years old he’s a more mature rookie than others.

The Lightning signed Sustr out of the University of Nebraska-Omaha last year and he played in just two late-season games before joining their farm team in Syracuse. If he can produce the way he did in Syracuse and Omaha, Tampa’s defense will get a much-needed boost.

Leafs’ Franson may consider playing in Europe if unsigned

Cody Franson

Toronto Maple Leafs restricted free agent Cody Franson is still without a new contract. Now with training camp well underway and the start of the season approaching, he’s looking for a place to play and may wind up in Europe to do it.

Franson tells Chris Johnston of Sportsnet he’s looking at playing overseas if he and the Leafs can’t come to an agreement.

“I haven’t explored (overseas options) but I know that’s definitely something I might have to consider,” Franson said. “Hopefully it doesn’t come to that, but it’s not like I haven’t been over there before.”

He did play there last year, in Sweden, during the lockout. It’s not where he wants to be this year, however.

Franson’s negotiations with Leafs GM Dave Nonis have been awkward to say the least. The Toronto Star reports talks are at a “standstill” with Franson looking for a one-year deal while the Leafs want to get him for two.

With the salary cap likely going up next year, Franson wants to be able to cash in then knowing he can’t really do that now with the team in a salary cap bind.

Report: Four or five outdoor games possible in 2014-15

AT&T Park

With the announcement that the Washington Capitals will host the 2015 Winter Classic, without an opponent or location mind you, thoughts turn to what other places may see an outdoor game next season.

Chris Botta of Sports Business Journal and Daily reports the 2014-15 season could see four or five outdoor games happen, similar to what’s going on this season. With the Winter Classic already chosen, another Heritage Classic could be on the way as well as more Stadium Series-like events.

But where could we see things happen? Here are a few ideas.

Beaver Stadium — State College, Pennsylvania

This has been kicked around for some time to have an all-Pennsylvania showdown between the Penguins and Flyers at Penn State’s legendary football stadium. The deal to make something happen there has reportedly hit some snags. If the Flyers wind up in the 2015 Winter Classic against the Capitals, as has been rumored possible, you can pretty much nix this one from happening sooner than not.

Cowboys Stadium — Dallas, Texas

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wants to have his massive stadium play host to an outdoor game. Meanwhile, Stars TV man Darryl Reaugh says they’ll get a Winter Classic in the next three years. Hmm… With the Stars doing their part to become more relevant, they’d make a great host, but don’t expect them to “settle” on a Stadium Series game.

Target Field or TCF Bank Stadium — Minneapolis, Minnesota

The Twin Cities have been clamoring for an outdoor game basically since the inception of the Winter Classic. They’re going to get an outdoor game one of these years, the question is: How big of a game? If they want one right away, a Stadium Series game at Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins, would be an instant hit.

That said, Minnesota fans will pack out any stadium for outdoor hockey and the home of the Minnesota Golden Gophers football team, TCF Bank Stadium, could fill out easily for a Winter Classic. If the Vikings’ new stadium is built (tentative opening in 2016), that would all but guarantee a Winter Classic in Minnesota… If it had a retractable roof. D’oh!

AT&T Park — San Francisco, California

The Stadium Series has shown they don’t fear California weather as the Kings and Ducks will play at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles this year. The Sharks want an outdoor game badly and the home of the San Francisco Giants, AT&T Park, would make for one of the most picturesque settings for a game.

Weather in the Bay Area is already winter-like during the summer. This seems like a no-brainer to do and the Sharks would likely have their pick of opponents wanting to play there.

Capitals will play host to 2015 Winter Classic

Capitals Winter Classic

It turns out all the speculation was true for the Washington Capitals.

Team owner Ted Leonsis announced at the team’s Capitals Convention that they will be hosting the Winter Classic in Washington, D.C. on January 1, 2015. Leonsis says he’s happy to reward his fans with a great event.

“We are extremely excited to host the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic and bring this great event to the D.C. area,” Leonsis said. “Our great fan base deserves to experience the magnificence of an outdoor game. We are thrilled to once again be part of this great event.”

A venue and an opponent for the event are still needed, but it’s believed Nationals Park in Washington is at the front of the line. FedEx Field and RFK Stadium could also be possibilities.

As for the opponent, it’s believed the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins are the favorites to face the Capitals, but that will be determined at a later date.

The last we saw of the Capitals in the Winter Classic was back in 2011 in Pittsburgh at Heinz Field against the Penguins. That day was overshadowed by not just warm weather and rain but also by the concussion suffered by Pens captain Sidney Crosby.