Mike Halford

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Alexander Nylander gives an inteview after being selected eighth overall by the Buffalo Sabres during round one of the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)

Looking to make the leap: Alex Nylander


This post is part of Buffalo Sabres day at PHT…

If history is any indicator, Alex Nylander — taken eighth overall by Buffalo at June’s draft — should have a decent shot at some NHL action this season.

Mikhail Grigorenko, one of Buffalo’s club’s first-round picks in 2012, spent considerable time with the team in his draft year. Rasmus Ristolainen did the same the season following, and Sam Reinhart made a nine-game cameo in his draft year.

Last season, Jack Eichel — the No. 2 overall pick at the ’15 draft — had a terrific campaign, scoring 24 goals in 81 games to finish fourth in Calder voting.

So what does Sabres GM Tim Murray see for Nylander?

“If you ask me, ‘Could I see him going back to junior?’ I guess there’s a scenario,” Murray said in mid-July, per the Buffalo News. “If you ask me, ‘Could I see him playing wing with [Eichel and Reinhart]?’ I think there’s a scenario.

“He’s just high-end talent, high-end skill. He’s going to be a real good NHL player. It’s a matter of time.”

Nylander had 75 points in 57 games for the OHL Mississauga last season. For that, he was named the league’s rookie of year. He thinks he can make the jump to the Sabres right away, and vowed to do everything in his power this summer to make it happen.

Nylander also has bloodlines working on his behalf. His brother, William — taken eighth overall by Toronto in ’14 — didn’t make the Leafs in his draft year, but was brought over to play with the AHL Marlies.

Last season, as a 19-year-old, William made his NHL debut and fared very well, scoring 13 points in 22 games.

Of course, there are some things working against the younger Nylander.

For one, Alex is looking to crack a much different Buffalo roster than the aforementioned rookies did. This is a team with heightened expectations — earlier this summer, head coach Dan Bylsma said the team was “stronger” and “deeper” than last year, and suggested the Sabres “should be above 95 points at the end of the season.”

Buffalo finished with 81 last year.

High priced veteran Kyle Okposo was brought aboard in free agency, which furthered the notion the Sabres aren’t in a position to play youngsters that aren’t ready.

On that note, it has to be said that Nylander has a multitude of options for next season — he could play in the NHL, the AHL, Europe, or be returned to the Steelheads.

But according to Murray, the kid will get his shot.

“When we selected Alex, we obviously knew he was a talented, skilled player,” Murray said upon signing Nylander to his ELC back in July. “We look forward to him coming to training camp and competing for a job.”

‘Essentially a formality’ — Leafs name Hunter assistant GM

Guelph Storm v London Knights

The Toronto Maple Leafs have a new assistant general manager though, in reality, it’s the same assistant general manager they’ve had all along.

From the club:

The Toronto Maple Leafs announced today the club has named Mark Hunter as Assistant General Manager. Hunter, who first joined the Leafs as Director of Player Personnel in October 2014, will share the role along with current Assistant General Manager Kyle Dubas.

“Mark’s new title is essentially a formality as these are duties he’s already been performing,” said Maple Leafs General Manager Lou Lamoriello. “Brendan and I have been discussing this change of title since last season – as it’s a more appropriate recognition of Mark’s role with the organization since joining the Maple Leafs.

“There are no changes to Mark or Kyle’s duties, or to that of Brandon Pridham, Assistant to the General Manager.”

To hammer home that final quote, Toronto’s PR department explained that Hunter will continue to oversee pro scouting, amateur scouting and player evaluation, while Dubas will continue as GM of the AHL Marlies, overseeing prospects already within the organization, and “leading the Maple Leafs’ player development and hockey research and development departments.”

Hunter, 53, was one of the three Hunter brothers to play in the NHL (Dave and Dale were the others). After retiring, he went on to a decorated coaching and front office career in the OHL, before making the leap to the pros two years ago.

What will Brad Marchand’s next contract look like?

COLUMBUS, OH - FEBRUARY 16:  Brad Marchand #63 of the Boston Bruins lines up for a face-off during the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on February 16, 2016 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Boston defeated Columbus 2-1 in overtime. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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Brad Marchand is going to get paid.

That fact is, barring a monumental collapse or major injury, a foregone conclusion. At 28, the pesky winger just put forth the best season of his career — finishing sixth in the NHL with 37 goals, earning a spot Canada’s World Cup team — and is heading into the last of a four-year, $18 million deal with a team-friendly $4.5 million cap hit.

So yeah, Marchand’s going to get a raise.

How big of a raise, of course, is the important question.

Reports suggest Marchand’s initial ask is a seven-year deal worth $49 million, one that carries a $7M average annual value. That payday would put him on par with the likes of Vancouver’s Daniel and Henrik Sedin, and St. Louis’ Paul Stastny — and, most interestingly, ahead of fellow B’s forward Patrice Bergeron (who makes $6.875 million through 2022.)

At first glance, $7 million annually for Marchand might seem like a stretch.

Part of that could be due to the fact that he’s a unique player, and a somewhat difficult one to define. He’s been a consistently good goalscorer, but last year he emerged as one of the league’s best. He’s also been remarkably durable over his seven-year career, rarely missing games.

But he does miss games.

And often because he’s forced to.

Marchand’s earned a reputation as one of the league’s, ahem, less gentlemanly players, and has paid the price with a myriad of punishments:

— March 2011: Suspended two games for elbowing R.J. Umberger in the head.

— December 2011: Fined for slew-footing Matt Niskanen.

— January 2012: Suspended five games for clipping Sami Salo.

— January 2015: Suspended two games for slew-footing Derick Brassard.

— November 2015: Fined for roughing Gabriel Landeskog.

— December 2015: Suspended three games for clipping Mark Borowiecki.

(There was also the incident in Vancouver in 2013, when he taunted the Canucks by pretending to raise the Stanley Cup and kissing his ring finger. Those antics drew the ire of head coach Claude Julien, who said “sometimes [Marchand’s] emotions get the better of him.”)

(There was also that time Brandon Prust was fined $5K for spearing Marchand in the groin, which Prust said was the best money he ever spent.)

The sheer length of Marchand’s rap sheet — and the fact three of his offenses came within the last 18 months — suggests there are probably more disciplinary issues to come. But don’t expect that to give Bruins GM Don Sweeney much pause. He and Julien realize Marchand’s effectiveness is partly due to toeing the line between aggressiveness and recklessness, and his Bruins teammates appreciate what he brings to the table.

But will Sweeney really pay Marchand more than Bergeron?

On the surface, it would seem a bit strange. Without getting into all the cliched and syrupy narratives, it has to be said that Bergeron is, in a lot of ways, the anti-Marchand. Bergeron is quiet. Bergeron is stoic. Bergeron is widely presumed to be the team’s captain once Zdeno Chara moves on. Bergeron is admired by his peers, and receives a handful of Lady Byng votes nearly every season.

Boston’s financial structure, though, would (theoretically) allow for Marchand to make elite-level money. Remember that Chara’s $6.9 million cap hit comes off the books in 2018, and one would have to assume a good chunk of that is being reserved for No. 63.

And if there was any doubt about the organization’s feelings for Marchand, Sweeney essentially nullified them earlier this summer, confirming to WEEI that he envisions Marchand being in Boston for the long haul.

“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.”

It’s New York Islanders day on PHT

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 24:  John Tavares #91 of the New York Islanders celebrates his game winning goal at 10:41 of the second overtime against the Florida Panthers and is joined by Thomas Hickey #14 in Game Six of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Barclays Center on April 24, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Islanders win the series 4 games to 2 to move on to the next round.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The 2015-16 season was one of change for the Isles.

The biggest, of course, was the move from Long Island to Brooklyn — one that wasn’t exactly smooth. The Barclays Center had its challenges: bad ice, travel issues and logistical problems when it came to game day operations.

But in the end, the Isles fought through and put together a pretty solid campaign. They finished with 45 wins and 100 points, and won a playoff round for the first time since 1993.

Then, more changes came.

Kyle Okposo, taken seventh overall by the Isles in 2006, departed in free agency after nine seasons with the club. Same story with veteran center Frans Nielsen, who left after 10 seasons to join the Red Wings.

Fan favorite and heavy-hitting fourth liner Matt Martin also departed, and caught on with Toronto.

And those exits weren’t the only changes. GM Garth Snow was active in free agency, making a huge splash by signing former Winnipeg captain Andrew Ladd to a lucrative seven-year, $38.5 million deal. Snow also inked veteran winger Jason Chimera, formerly of the Capitals, and brought back a familiar face in P.A. Parenteau, the former running mate of captain John Tavares.

There was a change in ownership, too.

On July 1, Jon Ledecky officially took over the reigns from Charles Wang, and one of his first promises was to make the Isles a “world-class destination.”

Unsurprisingly, Ledecky pointed to making some changes at Barclays. He said he wanted to make the arena feel less generic, and more like the Isles’ home, and vowed to make the transportation “flawless” from Long Island, where many of the players live.

In late July, though, the whole situation got flipped on its head. A Bloomberg report claimed the Isles were pondering leaving Brooklyn, and were in talks with the New York Mets to build a hockey arena in Queens, next to Citi Field.

Which means the Isles might not be done with changes. They might just be getting started.

Ducks sign WHL Kamloops standout Sideroff to ELC

ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 22: The new logo of the Anahaim Ducks is presented at the unveiling of the new Anaheim Ducks logo and jersey at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim on June 22, 2006 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

Deven Sideroff, the 85th overall pick at the 2015 draft, has signed a three-year, entry-level deal with the Anaheim Ducks, per TVA.

The deal reportedly carries a $620,000 average annual value at the NHL level. Sideroff, 19, scored the contract after a good campaign with WHL Kamloops, finishing third on the team with 59 points in 63 games.

This past spring, the Ducks rewarded Sideroff with a one-game cameo with AHL San Diego (Kevin Roy, another Ducks prospect out of Northeastern, also got a game).

Sideroff will almost assuredly be back in junior next year, but still could be one to moving forward. He’s currently participating with Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Summer Showcase, and could have a shot at playing in Finland at the world juniors this winter.