Mike Halford

Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin (27) celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal against the Florida Panthers in the third period during an NHL preseason hockey game, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

‘Door is open’ for Drouin to return to Tampa Bay


Maybe the situation is salvageable after all.

Not long after opting not to trade Jonathan Drouin by Monday’s 3 p.m. EST deadline, Bolts GM Steve Yzerman told reporters he’d still welcome Drouin back to the club — even though the former No. 3 overall pick has been under team-issued suspension for over a month.

“Jonathan is suspended,” Yzerman said, per the Tampa Bay Times. “If he wants to come back, the door is open. That’s up to him.”

It sounded like Yzerman had plenty of suitors for Drouin leading up to the deadline, but several factors got in the way. One, unsurprisingly, was concern from inquiring teams about Drouin’s playing shape, given he’s been out of action since Jan. 20.

Another factor was what Yzerman got offered.

Earlier, he said he’d like to get his club some help on the power play, and there were also reports of Tampa Bay seeking a right-handed shooting defenseman. But the end of the day, acquiring rentals on expiring contracts just didn’t make sense.

Now that the deadline has passed, it’s clear that, regardless of how pear-shaped the situation with Drouin has become, Yzerman understands 1) how talented the kid is, and 2) how much value he has.

Which is why bringing up a potential return to the Bolts is interesting, but not really surprising.

Remember, it was Drouin’s old Quebec League GM, Bobby Smith, who back in January predicted Yzerman would ‘get this back on the rails.”

“I know the teams that have traded away this type of player, whether his name is Joe Thornton or Tyler Seguin, normally live to regret it,” Smith told the Tampa Bay Times. “I think Steve Yzerman, having been not an elite player, a super elite player, is going to get this back on the rails and Jonathan is going to have a long and very good career.”

Of course, we should tap the brakes on a Drouin reunion just a bit. Yzerman did say he hasn’t spoken with Drouin or agent Allan Walsh about a return, and hasn’t thought about reaching out to them.

Related: Trade deadline day 2016 — in like a lamb, out with a whimper

Bruins stay busy, acquire Devils’ leading scorer Stempniak


Just when it looked like Boston was going to stand pat at the trade deadline, GM Don Sweeney flipped the script.

Shortly after getting veteran d-man John-Michael Liles out of Carolina, Sweeney acquired New Jersey’s leading point-getter, Lee Stempiak, per TSN.

Update: Per Sportsnet, 2nd- and 4th-round picks are going back to New Jersey.

Stempniak, 33, is enjoying a terrific campaign with the Devils and has emerged as one of the league’s best bargains. After going to New Jersey’s training camp on a PTO, the veteran winger scored a one-year, $850,000 deal and has since gone on to rack up 16 goals and 41 points in 63 games played.

That Boston was interested in Stempniak is no surprise. Prior to landing with the Devils, there were rumblings he would instead attend Bruins camp on a professional tryout.

As for the Bruins, today’s moves give a pretty clear indication of where Sweeney thinks the team is at, at least in terms of being a playoff contender. He didn’t move pending UFA forward Loui Eriksson, as many expected, and instead acquired two veteran rentals to help with postseason play.

Stempniak has been to the playoffs in each of the last two seasons — in ’13-14 with Pittsburgh, and ’14-15 with Winnipeg.

Bruins add d-man depth, get Liles from Carolina


The Boston Bruins, long rumored to be in the market for blueline help at the deadline, have acquired veteran defenseman John-Michael Liles from Carolina, per TVA.

Update: The ‘Canes acquire ’11 third-round pick Anthony Camara, a third- and fifth-round pick, per ESPN.

Liles, 35, has enjoyed a good season in Carolina — he’s been durable (averaging over 20 minutes while appearing in all 64 games) and his offense has been decent, with six goals and 15 points.

Head coach Bill Peters was full of praise for the 35-year-old, calling Liles “a real good pro,” that’s been “excellent with our young guys.”

The former Avalanche, Maple Leaf and Hurricane should provide some good experience for the B’s come playoff time. He’s appeared in 40 career contests, most of which came with Colorado.

Liles is in the last of a four-year, $15.5 million deal with a $3.875M cap hit. It’s worth noting his salary is only $2.75M this season.


Ducks acquire Pirri from Panthers

Florida Panthers center Brandon Pirri (73) goes down after being checked by Boston Bruins center Chris Kelly (23) in the first period of an NHL hockey game in Sunrise, Fla., Saturday, March 21, 2015. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

The Anaheim Ducks, who have rebounded from their early offensive woes and started scoring some goals, have added an intriguing piece in that department — Brandon Pirri, who had 11 markers and 24 points through 52 games for Florida this season.

Per Sportsnet, it’s a sixth-round pick headed to Panthers in exchange.

Pirri, a former second-round pick (59th overall, 2009), is currently sidelined with an ankle injury, stemming from a nasty collision into the boards earlier this month.

When healthy, he’s shown an affinity for finding the back of the net — last year, he scored a career-high 22 times in just 49 games played, good enough to finish second on the team in goals (only Nick Bjugstad had more).

Pirri’s in the last of a two-year, $1.85 million deal with a $925,000 cap hit. He is expected to return at some point in early March and, when he does, could gather some of the minutes now available with veteran winger Chris Stewart out of action.

Stewart suffered a broken jaw in a fight earlier this month, an injury that will sideline him for 4-8 weeks.

Stars beef up blueline, acquire Russell from Calgary

Calgary Flames defenseman Kris Russell skates to his teammates after scoring against the Nashville Predators during overtime period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn. The Flames won 2-1. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

The playoff-bound Dallas Stars have added an experienced defenseman, picking up Kris Russell from the Flames, per Sportsnet.

UPDATE:  Per ESPN and the Dallas Morning-News, it’s believed d-man Jyrki Jokipakka, prospect Brett Pollock (a forward) and a conditional second-round pick are going to Calgary. If Dallas makes the Western Conference Final, that second rounder becomes a first.

“Kris is ultra-competitive and a solid two-way defensemen,” Stars GM Jim Nill said in a release. “He will bring a steadying presence to our blueline and we feel he will help us improve in several areas.”

Russell, 28, has 15 points through 51 games this year for the Flames, while averaging a healthy 22:52 TOI per night. He’s also coming off a very impressive ’14-15 postseason, in which he scored seven points in 11 games while averaging a whopping 26:45 TOI in the Flames’ series against Vancouver and Anaheim.

For a Dallas team returning to the postseason after a one-year hiatus, that experience will be invaluable.

Russell’s overall value, however, has been a topic of great debate lately. Some saw him as one of the top available defensemen on the market, thanks to his puck-moving ability and last year’s career-high 34 points during the regular season.

Others, meanwhile, looked at his less-than-stellar possession metrics and thought he might be an overvalued asset.

How it plays out remains to be seen.

Russell’s in the last of a two-year, $5.2 million deal with a $2.6M average annual cap hit. A pending UFA, it’s believed the he’ll be highly sought after in free agency, and reports suggest he could be gunning for a contract worth $5M annually on the open market.

UPDATE 2: More on the conditional pick, from ESPN…