Mike Halford

Daniel Alfredsson Eugene Melnyk Bryan Murray
Getty Images

‘Valuable asset’ Alfredsson re-ups as Ottawa’s senior advisor of hockey ops

Daniel Alfredsson will be back working in the Senators’ front office next season — on Monday, he agreed to a one-year extension to continue serving as the club’s senior advisor of hockey operations.

“Daniel offers a fresh perspective and unique insights on what we do in hockey operations,” said Senators general manager Pierre Dorion, in a release. “We feel this year we’ll be able to build on his experiences from last year and he’ll continue to be a valuable asset to our staff.”

Alfredsson, 43, joined the organization last year in the same role, albeit under the tutelage of former GM Bryan Murray, who stepped down and ceded his position to Dorion earlier this offseason.

It’s not surprising Ottawa wanted to keep Alfie in the fold, given he’s the most decorated player in franchise history. Alfredsson is the Senators’ all-time leader in goals (426), assists (682), points (1,108), power-play goals (131), shorthanded goals (25), game-winning goals (69), shots (3,320) and hat tricks (eight).

Looking ahead, it’s possible Alfredsson could be groomed to eventually become Dorion’s assistant. Currently, Ottawa only has one AGM on staff — longtime club employee Randy Lee — and, in today’s release, Alfredsson certainly sounded like someone interested in a front office career.

“When I started this last year, I was not really sure what to expect,” said Alfredsson. “This job has turned out to be exactly what I am looking for – the opportunity to be flexbile and see so many of different requirements of working in an NHL front office.

“I’ve been able to do just about everything I could imagine, from being part of scouting meetings to working one-on-one with the players on the ice.”

Buyout window opens Wednesday, here are some candidates

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 19:  Thomas Vanek #26 of the Minnesota Wild looks on during the first period against the Boston Bruinsat TD Garden on November 19, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Getty Images
14 Comments

Now that the Stanley Cup has been awarded, it’s time to move on to an equally enjoyable topic — players that will be paid to go away this summer!

The NHL’s buyout window opens on Wednesday, 48 hours after the final game of the season. A quick refresher on the math (per General Fanager):

Buyouts are paid over twice the number of years remaining on the player’s contract.

The rate is one-third of the total salary remaining for players under the age of 26, and two-thirds for those 26 and older.

There are a bunch of other smaller rules and regulations so, if you’d like to read about those, head over to the General Fanager page. It’s a good site.

Now, for the potential buyout candidates?

— Rumblings have Minnesota considering a Thomas Vanek buyout. Vanek, 32, is heading into the last of a three-year, $19.5 million deal with a $6.5M cap hit, and is owed $7.5 million in salary. He’s coming off a disappointing year in which he scored a career-low 18 goals.

— Nashville GM David Poile said buying out veteran forward Eric Nystrom could happen, if he’s unable to trade Nystrom prior to the window. Nystrom, 33, carries a $2.5 million cap hit but is set to pull in $3M in salary next season.

R.J. Umberger said he expects the Flyers to buy him out. Umberger, 33, is heading into the last year of a contract that pays $4.6 million annually.

Toronto is expected to do the same with d-man Jared Cowen, who was acquired in the Dion Phaneuf trade but never played for the Leafs.

Alex Burrows and Chris Higgins, both facing uncertain futures in Vancouver, are also candidates to be bought out.

Chicago could finally decide to part ways with Bryan Bickell, whose four-year, $16 million contract has been an albatross the last couple of seasons.

— Former Oilers captain Andrew Ference, who only played in six games last year before getting shut down, could be in line for a buyout. This one may be more complicated, though, depending on Ference’s health. He underwent season-ending hip surgery in January, and it’s unclear if he’s fully recovered.

Preds re-sign goalie Mazanec to one-year deal

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 05: Marek Mazanec #39 of the Nashville Predators skates against the Carolina Hurricanes at the Bridgestone Arena on December 5, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Hurricanes defeated the Predators 5-2.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

Per agent Allan Walsh, the Nashville Predators have re-upped with RFA goalie Marek Mazanec on a one-year deal.

Per the Preds, it’s a two-way contract worth $575,000 at the NHL level and $100,000 at the AHL level. So essentially the same deal he played the ’15-16 campaign on.

Mazanec, 24, has appeared in 27 career games for the Preds, though none this past season, having spent the entire campaign in AHL Milwaukee (where he posted a 2.45 GAA and .912 save percentage in 39 games).

Mazanec made his big-league debut during the 2013-14 season in the wake of Pekka Rinne‘s hip injury, getting significant minutes in tandem with Carter Hutton. The Czech netminder earned NHL Rookie of the Month honors for November that year and finished with a .902 save percentage and 2.80 GAA, but was then jettisoned back to Milwaukee, with Rinne and Hutton filling the Preds’ No. 1 and 2 spots.

Now, one has to wonder if Hutton’s time is up.

He’s set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, and the Preds boast some pretty good goaltending depth. There’s Mazanec, Jonas Gunnarsson — a Swedish League standout GM David Poile signed two weeks ago — and another good young prospect in Juuse Saros, who’s coming off a solid campaign in AHL Milwaukee.

Blues hire Yeo, will become head coach in ’17-18

Minnesota Wild head coach Mike Yeo argues a call in the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Nashville Predators Tuesday, March 17, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
7 Comments

Ten days ago, we passed along a report that the Blues were considering bringing ex-Wild head coach Mike Yeo on board to work on Ken Hitchcock’s staff — with the long-range plan of having Yeo take over when Hitch steps down after next season.

Well, that report is now official.

From the Blues:

St. Louis Blues President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Doug Armstrong announced today the Blues have named Mike Yeo Associate Coach.

In addition, Armstrong announced that Yeo will be named Head Coach to begin the 2017-18 season and his contract will run through the 2019-20 season.

Armstrong also announced that Rick Wilson has been named an Assistant Coach, while Assistant Coach Ray Bennett, Goaltending Coach Jim Corsi and Video Coach Sean Ferrell will return to the coaching staff.

So, busy day in St. Louis. Let’s unpack this one-by-one.

Yeo: After Hitchcock announced next season would be his last as Blues coach, Armstrong set about finding a replacement now, rather than wait for next offseason. It wasn’t at all surprising St. Louis had interest in Yeo, who’s been a fairly hot commodity since being dismissed in Minnesota, where he spent 4.5 years, making the playoffs three straight times.

Previous reports claimed Yeo interviewed for the Ottawa, Anaheim and Calgary gigs.

MORE: Two weeks before the draft, still no head coach in Calgary or Anaheim

The Yeo hire marks a significant shift behind the bench. Hitchcock, 64, is one of the NHL’s oldest bench bosses while Yeo, 42, was the NHL’s youngest during his first four seasons in charge of the Wild.

Wilson: One of Yeo’s right-hand men in Minnesota, Wilson has history with Hitchcock as well — they captured the 1999 Stanley Cup together in Dallas. At 65, he will become the elder statesman on St. Louis’ bench but is almost a near-perfect fit for this gig. In addition to his previous relationships with Yeo and Hitchcock, Wilson also played for the Blues, manning the club’s blueline from 1974-76.

Bennett: He’s the lone holdover from last year’s assistant coaching staff. Kirk Muller took a similar position in Montreal while Brad Shaw, who was with the organization for the last 10 years, opted to look for other opportunities, rather than return on a one-year deal, like Hitchcock.

Despite reports to the contrary, Matt Murray was nervous every day

1 Comment

SAN JOSE — So, question for Matt Murray:

You just won the Stanley Cup, a 22-year-old rookie playing the sport’s most pressure-packed position.

How did you manage to avoid getting nervous?

“I said every day that I was nervous,” he replied.

Oh.

“You guys are the ones that said I wasn’t nervous,” he continued, following Pittsburgh’s 3-1 win in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. “I said every day I was nervous. It’s no secret. It’s not easy, but it’s just not being overcome by your nerves.”

Oh.

Perhaps the question shouldn’t have been how Murray avoided being nervous, but rather how he dealt with it.

‘Cause let’s be honest, the way he’s handled the last few months has been almost unbelievable. A year ago at this time, he was enjoying the offseason after an abbreviated Calder Cup playoff run with AHL Wilkes-Barre. He was the fourth goalie on Pittsburgh’s depth chart — behind Marc-Andre Fleury, Thomas Greiss and Jeff Zatkoff — and destined for another campaign in the American League.

How things change.

Griess exited via free agency, and injuries to Fleury and Zatkoff opened the door. Now, Murray’s a Stanley Cup champion. He’s etched into the NHL record books, having tied the mark for most playoff wins by a rookie netminder — 15, along with Cam Ward, Ron Hextall and Patrick Roy.

He also joined some exclusive company with his accomplishments in this series:

And while there’s no official record book for overcoming nerves, Murray definitely set a few marks this postseason.

Perhaps no stat better illustrates this than his perfect 6-0 record after a loss. Against San Jose, that bounce-back ability proved to be especially vital, as it nullified the Sharks from gaining any sort of momentum.

There was some thought that, after a shaky Game 5 in which he allowed three goals on seven shots in the opening frame, the Sharks could expose Murray’s jitters tonight. Didn’t happen. San Jose had some looks, and a few quality scoring chances early, but Murray was sharp throughout and finished with 18 saves on 19 shots.

“[Murray] was unbelievable for us,” Pens defenseman Ian Cole said. “He was able to come in and just be our backbone. I mean, Fleury got us here and in this position and with his injury, Murray replaced him and played out of his mind.

“Enough can’t be said about how he stepped up.”

Thankfully for Murray, the nerves will now subside. There are no more games to play, no more questions to answer, no more cameras to face. Sure, he’ll have to deal with all the media scrutiny again in a few months, when the Penguins enter camp and he’s no longer Matt Murray, goalie prospect, but Matt Murray, Cup-winning netminder.

The nerves will probably come back. But they can wait until then.

“We got it done,” Murray exhaled. “So now I can take a deep breath here, and enjoy it.”