Mike Halford

You've heard the expression "let's get busy?" Well, Mike Halford is a blogger who gets "biz-zay!" Consistently and thoroughly.
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‘Hawks prospect Snuggerud leaves school, signs pro contract

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Luc Snuggerud, Chicago’s fifth-round pick in 2014, will skip his senior season at the University of Nebraska-Omaha after signing his entry-level contract today, the ‘Hawks announced.

Snuggerud — who’s uncle, Dave, played nearly 300 NHL games with the Sabres, Sharks and Flyers — just finished his junior campaign and performed well, scoring 11 goals and 31 points in 39 games. He finished tied first in the country for goals by a defenseman, and seventh in points.

The 21-year-old’s departure comes one day after longtime head coach Dean Blais announced he was leaving Omaha after eight years behind the bench.

Snuggerud, listed at 6-foot, 187 pounds, will join AHL Rockford on a tryout basis, and his ELC will kick in next year.

Stars land talented NCAA blueliner Bayreuther

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It’s been a tough year for Dallas, so some welcome news on Wednesday — the club will soon announce it’s signed St. Lawrence blueliner Gavin Bayreuther to an entry-level deal.

Bayreuther, 22, just wrapped his senior season at SLU, leading the team with 29 points in 30 games. TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported his decision came down to either Dallas or Buffalo and, in the end, the Stars won out.

Undrafted out of the USHL, Bayreuther spent four years with the Saints and matured into one of the top collegiate free agents available. He’s expected to sign an amateur tryout with Dallas’ AHL affiliate in Texas, and finish out the year there.

Looking ahead, this is a nice coup for Stars GM Jim Nill. Despite everything that’s gone wrong this year, the organization has to be pleased about adding another prospect to a young blueline group that includes the likes of Julius Honka, Ludwig Bystrom, Esa Lindell, Jamie Oleksiak, Stephen Johns and John Klingberg.

All of them are 24 or younger.

 

Report: Pens draftee Byron expected to test free agency

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Yesterday, Pittsburgh landed a prized collegiate prospect in Northeastern’s Zach Aston-Reese, the NCAA’s leading scorer this season.

Today, it might’ve lost one.

Per Sportnet, University of Maine senior Blaine Byron — Pittsburgh’s sixth-round pick in ’13 — is expected to pass on signing with the club and will instead test free agency this summer.

It’s a similar move to what former Harvard star Jimmy Vesey did (and, before him, Boston College standout Kevin Hayes). Both balked on signing with the teams that drafted them, played through their senior years in college and were eventually able to sign with teams of their choosing.

Ironically enough, both ended up inking with the Rangers.

Byron, 22, is coming off a great year. He racked up 18 goals and 41 points in 36 games, finishing tied for 18th in the country in scoring. It’s unclear where he would’ve fit in the Pittsburgh organization, though, and one has to think the Aston-Reese signing might’ve played a factor.

In a recent Tribune-Review piece, Byron did make a list of the club’s top-20 prospects, coming in at No. 17.

 

U.S. women to boycott World Championships over stalled wage negotiations (Updated)

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The U.S. women’s national team, which has won each of the last three World Hockey Championships, will not participate in this year’s tournament due to stalled negotiations with USA Hockey over fair wages and support.

This year’s tournament begins on March 31 in Plymouth, Michigan. The U.S. team was set to begin training camp on March 21 but, on Wednesday, informed USA Hockey they wouldn’t participate unless there was significant development in negotiations.

“We are asking for a living wage and for USA Hockey to fully support its programs for women and girls and stop treating us like an afterthought,” said captain Meghan Duggan, per ESPN. “We have represented our country with dignity and deserve to be treated with fairness and respect.”

More on the situation, from ESPN:

Half of the current team works second and third jobs just so they can continue to afford to play on the national team and represent their country.

“Out of a four-year cycle, USA Hockey pays for only six months out of an entire four years. They pay us $1,000 per month in those six months. So, for the other 42 months we don’t get paid at all by USA Hockey,” says Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, a two-time Olympic silver medalist. “It is a full-time job and to not get paid is a financial burden and stress on the players, obviously.

“That is the conversation my husband and I are having right now. Is playing going to be more stress than we can handle? Sadly it becomes a decision between chasing your dream or giving in to the reality of the financial burden.”

The U.S. has won gold in six of the past eight world championships and has medaled in every Olympics, including winning gold in 1998. This is also the first time in four years the Worlds will be played on American soil.

UPDATE: USA Hockey has addressed the issue with the following statement…

“We acknowledge the players’ concerns and have proactively increased our level of direct support to the Women’s National Team as we prepare for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games,” said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey. “We have communicated that increased level of support to the players’ representatives and look forward to continuing our discussions.”

The support USA Hockey is implementing in order to prepare the Women’s National Team for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games includes a six-month training camp, additional support stipends and incentives for medals that could result in each player receiving nearly $85,000 in cash over the Olympic training and performance period. The sum is in addition to a housing allowance, travel allowances, meal expenses, medical and disability insurance and the infrastructure that includes elite-level support staff to train and prepare the players.

USA Hockey has a long-standing commitment to the support, advancement and growth of girls and women’s hockey and any claims to the contrary are unfounded.

While USA Hockey is disappointed that players from the Women’s National Team program have said today they do not intend to participate in the upcoming IIHF Women’s World Championship unless their financial demands are met, USA Hockey remains committed to continuing dialogue and will field a competitive team for the upcoming 2017 IIHF Women’s World Championship in Plymouth, Michigan.

“In our role as the national governing body, USA Hockey trains and selects teams for international competition,” said Jim Smith, president of USA Hockey. “USA Hockey’s role is not to employ athletes and we will not do so. USA Hockey will continue to provide world-leading support for our athletes.”

Pre-game reading: When it comes to expansion draft, nobody’s sure what will go public

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— ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun set hockey Twitter ablaze last week. Reporting from the GMs meetings in Boca Raton, he relayed that the NHL was leaning toward not making the protected lists public before June’s expansion draft, news that was met with anger and outrage from both fans and media alike.

Well, there’s been a development on that front.

Sort of.

In speaking with both NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon, LeBrun learned that no decision has been made regarding protected and available lists. Daly said the league hasn’t made a final decision, and that one would be made in “due time,” adding that there’s “no rush.”

Weatherdon only said the league and players’ union would continue to discuss the matter.

But LeBrun did discover one new thing — the possibility that fans, media and 30 NHL clubs could be kept in the dark.

More:

Perhaps even more intriguing to me is the possibility — which another GM alerted me to on Monday — that the protected lists might also not be shared among teams before the draft, meaning they would be shut out just like the rest of us.

The issue here, I think, is that some GMs are hesitant to let everyone else in the league see how they are ranking or otherwise valuing their own players.

I would argue that they already do show their cards when they reveal how they compensate the players in terms of salary. But I suppose that, if lower-paid players end up getting protected over higher-paid players in some cases, teams might not want that kind of naked truth being blatantly blasted out there for posterity.

Perhaps the information could affect future trade negotiations, if a team now knows how a competitor truly feels about a certain player its trying to move?

One GM told ESPN.com on Monday that if all the protected lists aren’t shared among teams, “I think that’s an advantage for Vegas. They’d be the only team with all the info.”

So yeah, stay tuned.

— Harrison Browne, the first openly transgender professional hockey player, has announced his retirement from the NWHL. From the league:

Browne, who is pursuing a career in sports business, will serve on the NWHL’s Board of Advisors for season 3, lending his insight and experience on matters of inclusion.

“Harrison is leaving quite a legacy from his two years in our league,” said NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan. “He is a pioneer for transgender rights and has been a great hockey player at every level of the game. He is going to be missed, but it’s gratifying to know that Brownie is remaining a part of the NWHL family.”

Browne and the Buffalo Beauts will play an Isobel Cup semifinal against the New York Riveters on Friday, with the winner advancing to the Cup Final.

The New York Times wrote about Browne’s pending retirement today.

Over at TSN, Travis Yost takes a look at Erik Karlsson‘s accomplishments, achievements and point production through his age 26 season. The synopsis? Ottawa’s prized defenseman is on pace for a Hall-of-Fame career.