Author: Mike Halford

Valeri Nichushkin

Nichushkin says surgically repaired hip is pain-free

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With all the big moves Dallas made this summer — Patrick Sharp, Johnny Oduya, Antti Niemi — it’s easy to forget that one of the club’s biggest acquisitions could come from in-house.

Valeri Nichushkin, who missed 74 games last year following hip surgery, is currently working out with teammates and giving positive reviews on his health:

Nichushkin, 20, lost nearly all of his sophomore campaign to the hip ailment, which he tried to play through at the beginning of the year, only to go under the knife in mid-November. That prevented him from following up on a rookie year in which 14 goals and 34 points and finished 12th in Calder voting; Nichushkin did return for a handful of games at the end of the regular season, and also represented Russia at the 2015 World Hockey championships.

Now at full health, the big-bodied Russian should slot into Dallas’ dynamic top-six forward group, one that projects to feature last year’s Art Ross winner Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza, Ales Hemsky and Sharp.

Pens sign prospect Sprong to entry-level deal

2015 NHL Draft - Portraits

Daniel Sprong, the Quebec league sniper Pittsburgh took with its top pick at this year’s draft, has signed his three-year, entry-level deal with the club.

Sprong, 18, scored 39 goals and 88 points in 68 games for Drummondville last season, his second with the team. Prior to the ’15 NHL Draft, Sprong was rated the 20th-best North American skater by NHL Central Scouting and the 26th-best player overall by International Scouting Services — yet fell all the way to No. 46, which is where Pittsburgh selected him.

Sprong is currently scheduled to participate on Pittsburgh’s prospects team at an upcoming rookie tournament (Sept. 10-13) to be held in London, Ontario.

Kings bringing veteran goalie Budaj to camp on PTO

Peter Budaj
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The Los Angeles Kings are giving Peter Budaj a shot at earning a contract in training camp, per LA Kings Insider.

Budaj, the 32-year-old veteran that spent last year with Winnipeg’s AHL affiliate, will attend camp on a professional tryout, the club confirmed on Friday.

The news comes after L.A.’s backup from last season, Martin Jones, was traded away to Boston. The Kings later filled their No. 2 void by signing Jhonas Enroth in free agency.

Budaj will now try to secure a deal as the club’s No. 3 or 4 option and, if he’s successful, would presumably land with the club’s new AHL affiliate in Ontario (CA).

Though Budaj has fallen on hard times and was beaten out of the backup spot last year in Montreal by Dustin Tokarski, it’s easy to see why the Kings are giving him a shot.

L.A. is a little light on goalie prospects, having traded away the likes of Jones, Ben Scrivens and Jonathan Bernier in recent seasons, and could use a veteran stopgap. The Kings do have a pair of young fifth-round picks (Alec Dillon and Patrick Bartozek) in the system, though, along with J.F. Berube, who helped the Monarchs capture the Calder Cup last year.

Detroit adds analytics specialist to front office

Colorado Avalanche v Detroit Red Wings

You can add Detroit to the growing list of NHL teams employing a full-time analytics advisor.

On Friday, the Red Wings announced the hire of Bryan Campbell as their their Director of Statistical Analysis and Hockey Administration. More on the new hire, courtesy Winging It In Motown:

Joining the organization in the summer of 2015, Campbell will work closely with Executive Vice President and General Manager Ken Holland and Assistant General Manager Ryan Martin, focusing advanced statistical analysis and analytics in the areas of salary trends, contract valuations, free agent market acquisitions, trades and other areas, as well as comparative research for contract negotiations and salary arbitrations, collective bargaining agreement administration and compliance and coordinating player transactions. He will also scout games locally at the professional, collegiate and junior levels.

A 2006 graduate of Union College with a degree in mechanical engineering, Campbell played college hockey and skated in 100 games with the Dutchmen from 2002-06. He went on to earn a master’s degree in business administration at York University.

Before his time with the Red Wings, Campbell worked in finance in New York.

As mentioned above, the Red Wings are just the latest to jump aboard the “let’s get us a fancy stats guy” bandwagon that’s been prevalent over the last couple of years.

In the last few months alone, the Carolina Hurricanes hired Eric Tulsky, and Arizona hired John Chayka.

Stars re-sign Eakin: four years, $15.4 million

Columbus Blue Jackets v Dallas Stars

Cody Eakin has cashed in on the best offensive season of his young career.

On Friday, Dallas announced it had signed Eakin to a four-year contract extension which, per the Dallas Morning-News, is a $15.4 million pact with a $3.85M average annual cap hit.

Eakin, 24, is coming off a solid season in which he posted career bests in goals (19) and points (40). He’s making $1.9 million annually on his current deal, which has one year remaining.

It’s a nice payday for the former Washington draftee and good value for Dallas. It stands to reason that, at a relatively young age, Eakin has yet to reach his ceiling; this spring, he joined fellow Stars teammates Jason Spezza and Tyler Seguin on Team Canada’s gold medal-winning side at the 2015 Worlds and had a strong tournament, scoring four goals and six points in nine games.

It’s also worth noting that, along with top-two centers Spezza and Seguin, the Eakin extension now puts all three of Dallas’ top pivots under contract through 2018.