Author: Joe Yerdon

Brian Elliott, Steve Montador, Mike Weber

Report: Montador signs in KHL


Veteran NHL defenseman Steve Montador is off to the KHL.

Croatian KHL club Medvescak Zagreb announced they’ve signed the 10-year NHL veteran to a new deal.

Last season, Montador had a rough go of things as he struggled with concussion problems and was later sent to the AHL. He wasn’t around to help the Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup but he was part of the committee of players who negotiated with and against the owners during the lockout.

Curiously enough, Zagreb has become a home-far away-from home for many former NHL players.

Checking out the Medvescak roster they’ve also got goalie Mark Dekanich, defenseman Kurtis Foster, and a host of forwards including one-time 50-goal scorer Jonathan Cheechoo, 2003 first-round pick Hugh Jessiman, Bill Thomas, as well as AHL vets Boyd Kane, Andrew Murray and Matt Murley.

At the very least, Montador is headed to a place with some familiar faces.

New Blues owner calls new spending a ‘smart investment’

Tom Stillman

St. Louis Blues owner Tom Stillman has been spending plenty of money this summer to retain key restricted free agents. He’ll have to spend even more to keep Alex Pietrangelo around as well, but that doesn’t bother him one bit.

The Blues haven’t been a spend-heavy team in a while, but Stillman tells Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he’s OK with the money because of what it’ll bring.

“When we purchased the Blues a little over a year ago, we said that our plan was to straighten out the business side and put a strong, competitive, contending team on the ice,” Stillman said. “In my view, all we’re doing here is following through on what we said we would do. We’ve invested more heavily in the team itself, and we’re doing that because we want to win. We also think that is a smart investment because that is what’s going to make the franchise stable and sustainable as a business.”

Attendance has been a bit of a problem in recent years for the Blues thanks to issues with their ownership holding things down.

Now with Stillman in charge, the purse strings have loosened up a bit and guys like Kevin Shattenkirk, Chris Stewart, Jay Bouwmeester, and Derek Roy have benefited from that.

Now if they can just get Pietrangelo’s deal done everyone can get ready for the regular season.

Coyotes defensive surplus may be a blessing

Oliver Ekman-Larsson

One big reason for that is the play of the Coyotes defense and they’re not lacking in quality along the blue line throughout the organization.

Taking a look at their top performers last year, the two who stand out most are 26-year-old Keith Yandle and 21-year-old phenom Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Yandle led the team in points with 30 while Larsson played the most minutes and still finished just six points back of Yandle.

It’s not just the offensive ability of their top defensemen that get it done, however. Larsson’s minutes played show he was more than that, but guys like Rostislav Klesla and Zbynek Michalek helped pick up the defensive side of things while Derek Morris, David Schlemko, and Michael Stone rounded things out.

Those guys were good for steady play, but there’s help waiting in the wings for a shot to prove themselves.

David Rundblad (he of the new two-year deal and 2009 first-round pick of the Blues ) and 2010 first-round pick Brandon Gormley had big seasons in AHL Portland last season. Rundblad was the top defensive point man with 39 while Gormley put up 29 of his own in his first professional season.

When you throw 2011 first-round pick Connor Murphy into the mix (he’ll make his pro debut this season), you’ve got a lot of potential and guys itching to make the NHL right away. It’s a good problem for coach Dave Tippett and GM Don Maloney to have.

When you consider the Coyotes needs up front for scoring forwards, you can’t help but think there’s a trade to be made here some day. For now, they’ll be eager to see what the competition for starting spots turns out to be when camp opens in September.

Sidney Crosby is so good he gets to skip DMV lines

Sidney Crosby

Think of the ways your favorite local sports hero can become a heel. We’ve seen a few of them lately. You can be accused of murder, use performance-enhancing drugs, or find other ways to wind up on the back page.

Sidney Crosby managed to upset some Pittsburgh-area people by cutting to the front of the line at the Pennsylvania DMV. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette shares Sid the Kid’s tale of living the dream (via Puck Daddy) and the others who didn’t much care for it.

“I disapprove,” said 46-year-old Susan Campbell of Cranberry, who later in the day spent an hour and half at the center off McKnight Road and waited in line twice to help her 20-year-old daughter, Jessica, renew her license before heading off to college. “He should have to sit and wait with everyone else.”

As for why Sid the Kid was allowed to jump ahead of everyone, DMV employees have the ability to let anyone who might cause a disruption go to the front.

Crosby in an office with lots of Pittsburgh sports fans and potential starstruck teenagers alike? They’re fortunate the line to get into the DMV didn’t go down the block. As for the rest of us who still have to wait in an interminably long line, we’ll be over here seething with jealousy.

Don Maloney happy to lead Coyotes into the future

Don Maloney, Dave Tippett
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LAKE PLACID — One constant through the Phoenix Coyotes troubled times of late has been GM Don Maloney.

His abilities to get the most out of a team shackled by the financial strain of not having an owner have been well noted in the past. Now that that’s all in the rear-view mirror, he’s ready to move the franchise forward.

When it comes to finally not having the NHL as his boss, he’s happy to have some worries put to rest.

“I don’t want to say the job’s easier, but a lot of uncertainties have been limited,” Maloney said while taking in the World Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, NY.

“We feel as much relief as anything else in the sense that we’ve just eliminated those questions. When you feel like you’re a ward of the state, which basically we were, it’s nice to know people don’t have to talk about this anymore and we can just talk about the job we do on the ice.”

source: Getty ImagesForward competition in training camp could be open to seeing a youthful takeover, but Maloney is hoping to add another big offensive weapon to coach Dave Tippett’s arsenal.

“I think if we find one more offensive player, scorer it would certainly help. I like our defense, I like our goaltending depth. Even our organization, I just think up front we need more skill,” he said.

“We still have three forward positions available for either finding someone in a trade, signing a free agent, or somebody like a Max Domi or a Henrik Samuelsson comes to camp and wins a job. We have very good flexibility right now, but If we can find another bonafide top two NHL player that’d be our preference.”

One way to do that could be to move a defenseman.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson isn’t going anywhere as he’s their young superstar-in-wait, but the blue line depth the team has is impressive. Youngsters like David Rundblad, Brandon Gormley, and Connor Murphy are waiting for their shot to crack the NHL full-time which means guys like Keith Yandle and Derek Morris will pop up in trade rumors, Yandle especially.

It’s a situation that bears watching especially if Phoenix struggles offensively, but don’t expect the Coyotes to just add payroll if it comes right down to it.

“We’re still going to work within a budget that will keep us within a realistic bottom-third of the league [in payroll] and that’s fine,” Maloney says. “I think money gives you a little more flexibility so that you can get away with more mistakes, quite frankly.”

Thankfully for Maloney and the fans in Arizona, mistakes have been minimal