Mike Halford

You've heard the expression "let's get busy?" Well, Mike Halford is a blogger who gets "biz-zay!" Consistently and thoroughly.

Report: Berra leaves Switzerland without playing a game, signs with Ducks

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Back in April, we passed along word that Florida goalie Reto Berra was returning to his native Switzerland, having signed a three-year deal with Fribourg-Gotteron.

How quickly things change.

Per the club, Berra has opted to return to the NHL for next season, reportedly for a deal with the Anaheim Ducks. Fribourg-Gotteron classified it as a surprise development that led to the 30-year-old exercising the out clause in his contract.

If the report is accurate, landing in Anaheim would make sense. The Ducks are in a state of flux when it comes to goaltending — while John Gibson and newly-signed Ryan Miller are entrenched as the Nos. 1 and 2, there’s uncertainty behind them.

Last year’s No. 2, Jonathan Bernier, has signed with Colorado. Last year’s No. 3, Jhonas Enroth, is also a UFA and has reportedly received interest from a number of teams.

Anaheim still has Dustin Tokarski under contract, so it’s possible Berra’s being brought in as a veteran presence to work in tandem. He’s had some good success at the AHL level previously.

Bolts re-sign Peca after breakthrough campaign

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On Wednesday, Tampa Bay re-upped with one of its feel-good stories from last season.

Matthew Peca, the undersized forward and former seventh-round pick, has signed a one-year, two-way extension with the club worth $650,000 at the NHL level.

Peca, 24, had a really nice ’16-17 campaign, highlighted by his NHL debut, his first big-league goal and 10 games played for the Bolts all told. In addition to that, he also thrived at the American League level. Peca had 12 goals and 41 points in 68 games for Syracuse during the regular season, then another 14 in 22 playoff games as he helped the Crunch advance to the Calder Cup Final.

Peca’s taken the long road to get to this point. He spent four full years at Quinnipiac University before transitioning to the pro game, then spent another two-and-half years with Syracuse before getting the call from the Bolts.

At just 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds Peca is undersized, but certainly in the right organization to thrive. Guys like Tyler Johnson (5-foot-8, 183), Cory Conacher (5-foot-8, 180), Yanni Gourde (5-foot-9, 172) and Brayden Point (5-foot-10, 166) have all found levels of success either with the big club, or the Crunch.

Rangers address center depth, sign Desharnais

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Timing, eh?

Just hours after we asked what the Rangers were going to do at the center position, GM Jeff Gorton went out and addressed the depth issue, signing veteran David Desharnais to a one-year, $1 million deal.

The news, first reported by the New York Post, gives the Rangers a fourth piece down the middle in addition to Mika Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller. Gorton has said the club is comfortable with Miller playing center, even though he’s spent considerable time on the wing.

This is a low-risk move for the Blueshirts. The 30-year-old is coming off a year split between Montreal and Edmonton, in which he scored six goals and 14 points over 49 games. He finished reasonably well with the Oilers, appearing in all 13 games while averaging just under 10 minutes a night.

In Round 1, he scored the OT winner in Edmonton’s 4-3 win over the Sharks in Game 5.

It remains to be seen if Gorton is done adding at the center position. It’s fair to think he’s not. The Rangers are still pretty thin and, over the weekend, he indicated he’s been in trade discussions with teams to try and upgrade.

 

Report: Kovalchuk to play in KHL next season

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Ilya Kovalchuk’s long-rumored NHL return has been put on ice.

Per the New York Post, Kovalchuk has opted to play in the KHL next season. The news comes after weeks of speculation about him returning to North America, with a number of interested suitors — including the Rangers and Blue Jackets — being bandied about.

Kovalchuk’s NHL rights are held by the Devils and, for him to return, New Jersey GM Ray Shero would’ve needed to orchestrate a trade. The Post reports Shero made several attempts to move Kovalchuk, but that it “just did not work out.”

There are two points worth mentioning here. One is that, by waiting another year, Kovalchuk will become a free agent next July. That would allow him to sign wherever he chooses — though he’ll be 35 at that point, and five seasons removed from NHL competition.

The other point? The Olympics.

Staying in the KHL would, conceivably, allow Kovalchuk to represent Russia at the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea. Back in April, Russian hockey federation chairman Arkady Rotenberg said his group would try to keep KHL players from leaving for North America and bring NHL free agents back this summer, with the goal of preparing for and participating in the Olympics.

Kovalchuk has represented Russia in each of the last four Olympics, helping the country capture bronze in 2002.

Report: Niederreiter files for arbitration

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Last month, the agent for Wild forward Nino Niederreiter said he and his client wanted to avoid arbitration.

But on Tuesday, the Niederreiter camp made a somewhat expected, if not required move — filing for arbitration ahead of tomorrow’s deadline, per the Star-Tribune.

Back in June, agent Andre Rufener told the Star-Tribune Niederreiter wanted to stay away from arbitration and hoped to get a long-term deal done Minnesota. Rufener also addressed trade reports involving his client, explaining that — while he doesn’t envision a deal happening — he is aware that Niederreiter’s in demand across the NHL.

“We’re just taking this as a positive thing,” Rufener said. “There’s interest in him across the league.”

It’s easy to see why. Niederreiter is only 24 and has cracked the 20-goal plateau in each of his last three seasons.

As such, one would expect him to get a significant raise from the three-year, $8 million deal he just wrapped. That one carried a $2.67M average annual cap hit.

One has to think Niederreiter is well aware of the big money being splashed to keep talented young forwards locked in long-term. Jonathan Drouin, for example, scored a six-year, $33 million extension from Montreal just hours after being acquired from Tampa Bay.

The tricky part for the Wild, of course, is that Niederreiter isn’t the only talented youngster needing a new deal. Mikael Granlund, who led the team in points last year, is also a RFA that could file for arbitration by tomorrow’s deadline.

It is worth noting, however, that teams and players can continue negotiating after the filing.