Author: Joe Yerdon

Tyson Barrie

Sakic on RFA Barrie: ‘I’m confident he’ll be here’


The Colorado Avalanche are so close to having all their business wrapped up for the summer.

The team has one restricted free agent left to re-sign in defenseman Tyson Barrie. At 23 years old, he’s got a bright future ahead of him and showed the Avs how vital he can be last season.

According to Colorado’s president of hockey operations Joe Sakic, they’ll have Barrie back in the fold sooner than not as Mike Chambers of The Denver Post shared.

“I’m confident he’ll be here,” Sakic said. That sentiment from Sakic isn’t any different from what he said a month ago when he was “confident” they would get a deal done.

Last season, Barrie had a breakout season with 13 goals and 38 points in 64 games. He was a key player for them in the first round of the playoffs against the Minnesota Wild until he was taken out of action by Matt Cooke.

With the Avs not making any big moves on defense in the offseason, they’re banking on Barrie to come back from his knee injury in full health and to pick up where he left off.

It’s New York Islanders Day at PHT

Travis Hamonic, Kyle Okposo, John Tavares

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

Last season was a disappointment for a lot of reasons for the Islanders.

After making the playoffs in 2013, they plummeted to last place in the Metropolitan Division. While the offense was all right, the Isles problems centered around their defense and goaltending as they finished 28th out of 30 in the league in goals allowed per-game giving up 3.18 per. Only the Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers were worse.

Even the brightest spot on offense, John Tavares, suffered his own pitfalls. He suffered a season-ending knee injury during the Olympics in Sochi, something that didn’t sit well with GM Garth Snow. As for how he played when healthy, he had 66 points (24 goals) in 59 games and still nearly finished the season as the team leader in points.

Instead, Kyle Okposo picked up the slack in Tavares’ absence and ended the season leading the team in goals (27) and points (69) – both career highs. Just think of what he would’ve done if Tavares could’ve finished the season with him and Thomas Vanek (44 points in 47 games).

Frans Nielsen provided another bright spot up with career-highs in both goals (25) and points (58) as well. With Nielsen and Okposo providing highs, seeing Michael Grabner regress to 12 goals in 64 games was disappointing. The Isles did get a glimpse of the future as both Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome showed signs they’ll be key contributors soon.

Where the Isles had their biggest problems were on the back end. Injuries kept Lubomir Visnovsky off the ice for most of the season and they dealt Andrew MacDonald to the Flyers at the trade deadline. Travis Hamonic came back to the pack a bit after strong play two seasons ago, but guys like Calvin de Haan and Matt Donovan had a chance to show what they had and should get a shot to own a spot in the top six next season.

After seeing Evgeni Nabokov come up small against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs, he showed basically what he is putting up a .905 save percentage while dealing with a handful of injury issues. Both Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson showed how young they were by not being able to keep up with NHL-level players when Nabokov was out. Things in goal will be decidedly different next season or else coach Jack Capuano might be in real trouble.

Offseason recap

It was an adventurous offseason on Long Island for both GM Garth Snow and owner Charles Wang.

The Islanders fixed their biggest problem, goaltending, right away by trading for Jaroslav Halak and then signing him to a new deal. Adding Chad Johnson as his backup after a successful season in Boston means, suddenly, stopping pucks shouldn’t be their biggest concern.

Adding Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin to their crew of forwards should bring a marked improvement in depth. With Tavares, Grabovski, Nielsen, and Casey Cizikas they’re looking strong up the middle. They didn’t exactly address their needs on the blue line, but may have gotten a bit of a steal signing the AHL’s top defenseman T.J. Brennan.

The biggest change, however, came recently that Wang is selling the team to former Washington Capitals owner Jon Ledecky. With next season being the last one on Long Island, they’re trying to go out with a bang.

Sabres’ Larsson says he’s proven what he can in AHL


The Buffalo Sabres might be in line for a long season, but Johan Larsson wants to be a big part of it.

Uffe Bodin of HockeySverige in Sweden (link in Swedish) interviewed the 22-year-old forward and found out he thinks he’s proven all he can in the AHL and is ready to make the jump to the NHL for good. Poorly translated quotes ahead:

“I’ve proven what I can in the AHL by playing well there,” Larsson said. “Now it’s time to take the next step.”

Larsson added that he feels he’s meant to play in the top-six and he’s worried he’ll start being thought of as a defensive forward rather than an offensive threat. He also said he’ll take any place on the big club if he’s earned it.

Last season in Rochester, he had 41 points in 51 games with 15 goals. In Buffalo, however, he played third and fourth line minutes and had no goals and four assists in 28 games.

If Larsson wants to be in the top six, there’s going to be a lot of competition.

Tyler Ennis, Cody Hodgson, Sam Reinhart, and Mikhail Grigorenko will all battle in camp for spots up the middle in training camp. While Hodgson is likely to wind up on the wing, Larsson’s performance could help force coach Ted Nolan’s hand with both Reinhart and Grigorenko.

Reinhart, the second overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, could be sent back to junior hockey while Grigorenko could wind up back in the AHL. Of course, Larsson could wind up back in the AHL as well. Long story short – training camp will be where the drama is at.