Mike Halford

You've heard the expression "let's get busy?" Well, Mike Halford is a blogger who gets "biz-zay!" Consistently and thoroughly.
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What are the Rangers going to do at center?

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After trading Derek Stepan to the Coyotes and losing Oscar Lindberg to Vegas at the expansion draft, the Rangers have found themselves with some serious holes down the middle.

On paper, the club’s top two centers are Mika Zibanejadwho still needs a new contract — and Kevin Hayes. J.T. Miller could be relied upon for spot duty. Swedish pivot Lias Andersson, taken seventh overall at last week’s draft, said he wants to make the Rangers this year, but there’s no guarantee he’ll even play in North America this season.

GM Jeff Gorton is aware the position needs an upgrade.

“We know it’s a need,” Gorton said, per Newsday. “We have the luxury of [winger] J.T. Miller, who we feel is a natural center and at some point we’re hoping to make that move, but we’ve had discussions with some teams and some trade scenarios.

“We’ll see where it takes us.”

One avenue that’s becoming less and less enticing is the free agent market. It’s been open for four days now, and some of the best center options available are gone. Joe Thornton re-upped in San Jose, Nick Bonino landed in Nashville and Martin Hanzal signed in Dallas.

Signing any of the remaining UFA centers would be for depth purposes only. Which probably explains why Gorton is gauging the trade market.

It’ll be interesting to see where it takes him. There aren’t many teams with an abundance of talent and/or depth down the middle, but some may be more willing than others to part with it.

Report: Tatar seeking $5 million annually from Detroit, with term

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Tomas Tatar has been Detroit’s most consistent goalscorer over the last three years. He’s netted 29, 21 and 25 in each campaign, for a grand total of 75 — more than Phil Kessel, Patrick Marleau and Matt Duchene have scored over the same timeframe.

Now, Tatar wants to be paid accordingly.

From the Free Press:

Negotiations with forward Tomas Tatar may not be as easy. Tatar is likely to file for arbitration unless a deal gets done by Wednesday.

Tatar is looking for term and in the $5 million range.

Tatar, 26, is a restricted free agent coming off a three-year deal that paid $2.75 million annually. Based on his production, there’s no doubt he’s in line for a sizeable raise.

Detroit GM Ken Holland seems aware of this. Tatar and speedy forward Andreas Athanasiou both require new contracts this summer and, with his team hovering around the cap ceiling, Holland was relatively quiet in free agency. He made a noteworthy splash by inking veteran d-man Trevor Daley, but has been largely quiet aside from that.

If Tatar and Athanasiou get their expected pay bumps, Detroit could find itself over the $75 million ceiling, which would force Holland’s hand. Specifically, with regards to veteran defenseman Niklas Kronwall, who carries a $4.75 million cap hit.

Kronwall, who turns 37 next season, has been dealing with a chronically injured knee for several seasons. He’s been placed on long-term injured reserve before, and could be headed back there to clear up Detroit’s cap situation.

On the move, again: Kruger traded from Vegas to Carolina

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Marcus Kruger‘s stay in Las Vegas was a short one.

Just one day after he was acquired by the Golden Knights from Chicago, Kruger was on the move again Tuesday as the Carolina Hurricanes acquired him from Vegas for a fifth-round pick at next year’s draft.

“We were determined to bring in experienced players with winning pedigrees and Marcus is another addition who fits that mold,” ‘Canes GM Ron Francis said in a release. “He’s a solid, two-way center who has achieved success both in the NHL and internationally.”

A good defensive forward that will provide solid depth to Carolina’s bottom six, Kruger will be surrounded by familiar faces. Former Blackhawks teammates Teuvo Teravainen, Scott Darling, Klas Dahlbeck and Trevor van Riemsdyk are there, as are Elias Lindholm, Victor Rask and Joakim Nordstrom — Kruger’s teammates from the Swedish squad that captured the 2017 World Hockey Championship.

(Nordstrom is also a former Blackhawk too, for what it’s worth).

A two-time Stanley Cup winner, Kruger will add some veteran experience and know-how to a young ‘Canes group. That was one of Francis’ objectives this offseason, and a big reason why the club also brought back Justin Williams in free agency.

The Blackhawks would’ve liked to have kept Kruger. They valued his defensive play so much that they gave him a three-year contract worth more than $9 million. But for as good as he is on the defensive side of things, Kruger just became too expensive for the Blackhawks to fit under the cap — especially with all the money needed to retain their star forwards.

Detroit re-signs Ouellet — two years, $2.5 million

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Defenseman Xavier Ouellet has inked a two-year, $2.5 million extension with the Red Wings, per TVA.

Ouellet, 23, made a significant leap last season, posting career highs in games played (66) and points (12). It also marked the first time in his professional career he played only at the NHL level, after spending the previous three seasons shuttling between Detroit and AHL Grand Rapids.

The 48th overall pick in 2011, Ouellet has become a steady, dependable defenseman for the Wings. That development is partly why GM Ken Holland was able to move on from the likes of Alexey Marchenko and Brendan Smith last year.

Ouellet could fill an even larger role next season. Veteran blueliners Niklas Kronwall (knee) and Jonathan Ericsson (wrist) are coming off injury-plagued campaigns, and may need reduced minutes.

Bolts extend d-man Koekkoek — one year, $800,000

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Looks like Slater Koekkoek could be a full-time member of the Bolts next season.

On Monday, Tampa Bay extended Koekkoek with a one-year, one-way deal worth $800,000, suggesting the 10th overall pick in 2012 will have a larger role in ’17-18.

Previously, Koekkoek split his time between Tampa and the club’s AHL affiliate in Syracuse. The 23-year-old appeared in a career-high 29 NHL games last season, but featured more prominently for the Crunch. He played 48 regular-season games and was a big part of the club’s Calder Cup Final run, scoring seven points in 22 contests.

There are some blueline minutes up for grabs in Tampa next year. Jason Garrison was lost to Vegas at the expansion draft, while depth guy Luke Witkowski signed with Detroit in free agenc

It also remains to be seen if head coach Jon Cooper will give youngsters like Koekkoek, Jake Dotchin and Mikhail Sergachev bigger roles, while dialing back the workloads of his veterans. Newly signed Dan Girardi is 33 years old with a lot of miles on the odometer. Braydon Coburn is 32, while Anton Stralman is 30.