Author: Mike Halford

Carolina Hurricanes v Detroit Red Wings

‘Canes re-sign Nestrasil: two years, $1.825 million


Carolina has rewarded Andrej Nestrasil — claimed off waivers last year from Detroit — with a two-year deal worth $1.825 million.

Nestrasil, 24, will carry an average annual cap hit of $912,5000 and, per Carolina GM Ron Francis, will be paid $875,000 in 2015-16 and $950,000 in 2016-17.

“Andrej is a big body and a good fit for our team and what we’re trying to do,” Francis said in a statement. “He battled an injury last season, but proved he could produce offensively on the NHL level.”

The Czech forward was a good pickup for the ‘Canes last year. After floating in and out of the lineup with Detroit, Nestrasil became a pretty productive player in Carolina, scoring seven goals and 18 points in 41 games while averaging over 14 minutes per night.

Blues make it official: Sobotka to stay in KHL next season

Vladimir Sobotka

After months of uncertainty, the St. Louis Blues finally know the status of forward Vladimir Sobotka — on Monday, the club announced Sobotka would spend the 2015-16 season with KHL club Avangard Omsk.

The 27-year-old, who fled to the KHL last season following an arbitration hearing with the Blues, had been linked to a possible North American return following the end of Omsk’s season. Sobotka’s contract reportedly contains an annual window for a return to the Blues at the culmination of each KHL campaign.

Earlier this month, it looked as though Sobotka going back to St. Louis was all but dead, until GM Doug Armstrong gave a faint glimmer of hope by saying the organization hadn’t received official word.

Today, it was made official.

Looking ahead, it’ll be interesting to monitor the relationship between player and club. It’s clear the Blues are interested in eventually getting Sobotka back in the fold — his departure came on the heels of his best NHL season, in which he scored nine goals and 33 points in 61 games.

For Ducks, Hagelin trade is all about keeping up — literally — with the NHL’s elite

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Rangers - Game Five

SUNRISE — To hear Bob Murray explain it, acquiring Carl Hagelin from the Rangers was his way of keeping up with the NHL’s top teams.

“We can play with some speed now,” the Ducks GM explained. “If you watched Tampa Bay and Chicago [in the Stanley Cup Final], that was pretty quick.

“You see who’s in the finals and you see how we got beat — the speed element of the game is getting bigger and bigger and bigger. So we have to move along with the times, and we got a guy that can really skate.”

Hagelin, who won the NHL’s fastest skater at the 2012 All-Star Game, certainly gives the Ducks some wheels. Widely regarded as one of the quickest wingers in the game, he now joins a team that already boasted one tremendous skater in Andrew Cogliano who, like Hagelin, has also won the ASG’s fastest skater competition (in 2009).

Of course, Anaheim had to give to get. That meant shipping out another speedster and former first-round pick Emerson Etem who, despite his skating ability and skill set, never seemed to find his niche with the club.

“He’d just gotten to a point where a change was good for him,” Murray explained. “With our coaching staff the way it was, I felt it was time for him to move on.”

Hagelin figures to play much larger role with the Ducks than Etem did. Coming off a year in which he posted career highs in nearly every category — games (82), assists (18) and points (35) — Hagelin could see even more minutes than the 15:14 he averaged for the Blueshirts last year.

“We’re quite excited about that,” Murray said. “Hagelin has speed, tenacity and he’s on the puck. Really good penalty killer, and I think he can play the power play with the right guys.”

The endgame, of course, is for Hagelin’s speed to help Anaheim get over the hump. Built to win now, the club came within a game of the Stanley Cup Final this year, only to lose Game 7 of the Western Conference Final to one of those speedy teams Murray referenced — the Chicago Blackhawks.

It’s a loss that’s stuck with the Ducks GM.

“We didn’t win,” Murray said. “We didn’t win. It’s the object to win, isn’t it?”

More trades: Oilers send Marincin to Leafs, get Gryba from Sens

Martin Marincin

New Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli stayed busy on Day 2 of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft — shortly after acquiring Cam Talbot from New York, Chiarelli shipped out d-man Martin Marincin to Toronto, then acquired blueliner Eric Gryba from Ottawa.

The deals:

Marincin, a 23-year-old pending RFA, appeared in 41 games for Edmonton last year, scoring five points. The former second-round pick (46th overall, 2010) has split most of the last three seasons between the Oilers and their AHL affiliate in Oklahoma City.

Gryba, 27, heads to Edmonton with a more polished NHL resume and one year left on his two-year, $2.5 million deal. The Boston University product is coming off his best season, posting career highs in games (75) and points (12). He’ll be part of a new-look Oilers blueline next season, which will likely feature Griffin Reinhart — acquired from the Islanders yesterday — and Darnell Nurse, who could become a full-time NHLer next season.

Stars say Niemi was top target, but still have faith in ‘elite’ Lehtonen

Antti Niemi

SUNRISE — Dallas GM Jim Nill knew he needed to upgrade his goaltending position.

So on the second day of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, he did exactly that.

Following Saturday’s intriguing trade — acquiring Antti Niemi’s negotiating rights from San Jose for a seventh-round pick, ahead of free agency opening on July 1 — Nill said Niemi was always the club’s primary target to pair with incumbent No. 1 Kari Lehtonen.

“[Niemi] was the top guy that we targeted as a free agent, if we were going to go that route,” Nill explained. “You don’t like to lose picks, but it was a chance to get the guy, let’s talk to him and try to get a deal done.

“You don’t know where the goalie market’s going to go. It can change fast. We knew it was a position we had to take care of.”

Nill said Dallas was already “very close” to signing Niemi, who brings a wealth of experience with him to Texas. A Vezina nominee in 2013, the veteran Finn has started at least 60 games in four of the last five seasons and notched a career-high 39 wins in ’13-14.

So, what does that mean for Lehtonen?

“Kari’s still an elite goalie,” Nill explained. “We’re in a tough situation with our travel. We probably travel as much as anybody in the league, back-to-back games, I really think it’s becoming a two-goalie league now.

“Kari’s the first one to admit he had a tough year last year. He’s going to bounce back. He’s been working on changing his conditioning over the summer, and competition’s healthy. Our goal is to win the Cup and this is going to help us get there.”

It’ll be interesting to see how Niemi fits in Dallas, both in terms of finances and with Lehtonen. At 31, it’s unlikely Niemi will score as big a deal as his previous one — a four-year, $15.2 million deal with a $3.8M cap hit — and it remains to be seen how he’ll co-exist with his fellow countryman (the two were teammates on Finland’s bronze medal-winning team at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi).

To hear Nill explain it, though, money wasn’t going to get in the way of landing the guy he wanted.

“We have cap room right now,” he said. “We knew we had to improve this position, so we went this direction.”