Mike Halford

NEWARK, NJ - SEPTEMBER 25:  Steve Bernier #16 of the New York Islanders skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on September 25, 2015 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Islanders 4-2.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Bernier back with Isles on training camp PTO

New York liked enough of what it saw from Steve Bernier last season to offer him another kick at the can.

On Monday, the Isles announced that — for the second year in a row — Bernier would be coming to training camp on a PTO.

Last fall, Bernier parlayed his tryout into a one-year, $750,000 deal but only saw a limited body of work. The former first-round pick scored six points in 24 regular season games, then dressed for six playoff contests.

Bernier isn’t the only veteran forward attending Isles camp on a PTO, as longtime Devils winger Stephen Gionta is also there (Gionta and Bernier were once teammates in New Jersey).

There are holes to fill up front. The Isles lost three key forwards in free agency — Frans Nielsen, Matt Martin and Kyle Okposo — which will result in some of last year’s third- and fourth-line players getting bumped to more prominent roles.

Those promotions could bode well for Bernier and Gionta.

 

Cashing in: Marchand inks eight-year, $49M extension in Boston

Brad Marchand
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This summer, we wondered what Brad Marchand’s next contract might look like.

Now we know.

Per Sportsnet, the Bruins have inked the talented, agitating winger to a hefty eight-year, $49 million contract extension — one that carries an average annual cap hit of $6.125 million per season.

“I have been a Bruin since the start of my pro career and there is no place I would rather play,” Marchand said in a statement. “I look forward to doing everything I can to help our team achieve success and bring the Stanley Cup back to Boston.”

This news comes with Marchand heading into the final year of his current deal, a four-year, $18 million pact with a $4.5M AAV — so it’s a pretty nice pay bump.

This extension will also make Marchand the club’s third highest-paid forward, behind David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron, and will keep him in the black and gold through 2025.

Earlier reports suggested Marchand’s initial ask was for $49 million over seven years.

That the B’s were willing to tack on an extra year of term wasn’t surprising, especially in light of what GM Don Sweeney told WEEI earlier this summer.

“I’ve identified March as a core guy, and we want to continue down that path,” Sweeney said. “It always takes two sides to make a deal, and I would envision that he’d like to be part of this organization for what could be arguably his whole career.”

Coming off a year in which he finished sixth in the NHL in goals, with 37, Marchand has only upped his value in recent weeks with a terrific effort for Team Canada at the World Cup.

The 28-year-old has starred on a line alongside Bergeron and Sidney Crosby, sitting second on the team in scoring with three goals and five points through four games. He also sits second on the team in shots on goal, with 17.

Though his reputation is somewhat checkered and his disciplinary rap sheet is a mile long, Marchand has done plenty in trying to shed that label. He’s morphed into one of the better snipers in the league, and his presence on the Canadian national team will only further help erase perceptions he’s primarily an agitator.

This contract will help, too.

After failing physical, Grabovski placed on IR

New York Islanders v Philadelphia Flyers
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Mikhail Grabovski won’t be suiting up for the Islanders anytime soon.

Grabovski, absent from Isles camp after failing to pass his physical, has been placed on IR with an upper-body injury, a byproduct of concussion symptoms he’s suffered since last season.

The 32-year-old hasn’t suited up since Mar. 15, when he returned from a 10-game absence to play 17 minutes in a shootout loss to Pittsburgh.

At the time, the Isles were happy to have Grabovski back in the lineup, but the feeling was fleeting. Immediately after the Pittsburgh game, the club sent Grabovski back to New York for medical evaluation.

He didn’t play another game that year, or in the club’s playoff run.

In the midst of a four-year, $20 million deal — set to expire in 2018 — it’s possible Grabovski will be placed on LTIR, in order to give the club financial relief from his $5 million cap hit.

The Isles are pretty tight to the cap ceiling with Grabovski on the books, approximately $2.5M under (per General Fanager).

Update:

Embroiled in contract dispute, Rieder won’t attend Coyotes camp

New York Islanders v Arizona Coyotes
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Still-unsigned RFA Tobias Rieder is currently loving life as a member of Team Europe’s surprising World Cup entry.

His life with the Arizona Coyotes is less idyllic, though.

Over the weekend, Rieder’s agent told the Arizona Republic his client won’t attend Coyotes training camp after the World Cup is over, the latest move in what’s been a contentious negotiation that’s lasted the entire offseason.

“We’ve made them a fair offer at two years at $2.5 million a year, and they’re unwilling to do it,” Darren Ferris explained. “Tobi brings a lot of intangibles to that team. I know he’s a fan favorite.

“He loves Arizona, but it’s disappointing that they’re unwilling to compensate this kid fairly.”

Coyotes GM John Chayka called the decision ‘disappointing,’ saying that he wouldn’t comment on negotiation specifics publicly.

(Of course, Chayka did tell the Republic the Coyotes made “some real considerable long-term offers that are right on par with the longest offers we’ve ever made in this organization.” Which would classify as a negotiating specific, no?)

According to an earlier Arizona Sports report, Rieder was seeking a two-year, $5.5 million deal, one that carries a $2.75M average annual cap hit. That would be a sizeable raise from the $925,000 he made on his now expired entry-level deal.

Per that same report, the Coyotes were offering “somewhere between $2 million and $2.3 million per year on a two-year deal.”

Rieder, who turned 23 in January, would seem to have reasonably good value. He’s coming off a career year with personal bests in goals (14) and assists (23), and is a very quick skater that can play up and down the lineup.

There have been rumblings of a potential KHL move, though Ferris said Rieder’s No. 1 goal is to stick in the NHL. The next big date for the Rieder situation is Dec. 1 — if RFAs are still unsigned by then, they’re ineligible to play for the remainder of the NHL campaign.

Sticking in St. Louis: Steen signs four-year, $23 million extension

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 06:  Alexander Steen #20 of the St. Louis Blues during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on January 6, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. The Blues defeated the Coyotes 6-0.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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In shooting down reports of a contract ultimatum last week, Alex Steen said “I want to be in St. Louis, and the organization knows that.”

Turns out the organization wanted him, too.

On Friday, the Blues announced they’ve signed Steen to a four-year, $23 million extension — one that carries a $5.75 million average annual value.

“We are extremely excited to have Alexander signed for the next four seasons,” Blues GM Doug Armstrong said in a release. “He has developed into one of the league’s premier 200-foot players and is a key member of our leadership group.

“He has shown tremendous loyalty to the Blues organization, its fans and the St. Louis community.”

While the AAV is lower than his previous deal — a three-year pact that paid $5.8M per season — Steen gets an extra year of term, which is significant.

Steen turns 33 in March, and while he’s been a very productive player — a career-high 33 goals in ’13-14, and a career-high 64 points in ’14-15 — he’s also had major health concerns, missing 37 games over the last three years combined.

That trend carried over to this summer, as shoulder surgery prevented him from representing Sweden at the World Cup of Hockey.

In light of that, some wondered how comfortable the Blues would be investing in Steen. It was also unknown what the organization had planned for him, especially given how David Backes‘ time ended in St. Louis.

Like Steen, Backes was a vested, veteran leader and, like Steen, Backes was pretty long in the tooth heading into the final year of his deal.

But unlike Steen, Backes left the club and signed elsewhere (Boston) in free agency.

Looking ahead, Steen said he’s recovered from his shoulder injury and will be ready for the start of the year. That’s key, as the Blues will likely lean on Steen and running mate Paul Stastny for some offense in Ken Hitchcock’s final year behind the bench.