Author: Mike Halford

Carolina Hurricanes v New York Islanders

Report: Cory Conacher signs in Swiss League


Sounds like Cory Conacher is headed overseas.

Conacher, the diminutive forward that broke onto the NHL scene during the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign, has reportedly signed with SC Bern of the Swiss League — a team that’s coached by his former Tampa Bay bench boss, Guy Boucher.

Conacher enjoyed his greatest NHL success under Boucher in ’13, scoring 24 points in 35 games before being traded to Ottawa at the deadline (in exchange for Ben Bishop.) Conacher finished sixth in Calder voting that season but failed to match the same level of success in subsequent years — after failing to establish himself with the Sens, he moved to Buffalo, then to the Islanders, before finishing off with Vancouver’s AHL affiliate in Utica.

News of Conacher’s move, first reported by Utica’s PR staff, means his time with the Canucks organization is over — for now. A pending RFA, Conacher’s rights can be retained should Vancouver make him a qualifying offer.

The 25-year-old did enjoy some success with the Comets this year, scoring 16 points in 20 regular season games, then eight in 23 playoff appearances.

Leafs file for arbitration on Bernier, contract talks ongoing

Jonathan Bernier

The latest between RFA goalie Jonathan Bernier and the Toronto Maple Leafs, per ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun:

Bernier, 26, just wrapped a two-year, $5.8 million deal with an average annual cap hit of $2.9M. In case you’re wondering about the differences between team- and player-elected arbitration — aside from the obvious — a few things to pass along:

• A player can only be subjected to team-elected arbitration once in his career. A player can elect arbitration himself as many times as possible, so long as a qualifying offer has been made.

• Players can still receive offer sheets after being subjected to team-elected arbitration (deadline is July 5).

• Team-elected arbitration must be filed within 48 hours of the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Final.

For historical context, three players were subjected to team-elected arbitration last summer:

• Michael Frolik, Winnipeg. The two sides agreed to a one-year, $3.3 million deal before the hearing.

• Ryan O’Reilly, Colorado. The two sides agreed to a two-year, $12 million deal before the hearing.

• Vladimir Sobotka, St. Louis. Arbitrator awarded Sobotka a one-year, $2.725 million deal. Sobotka then proceeded to sign in the KHL.

Bernier went 21-28-7 for the Leafs last year, posting a .912 save percentage and 2.87 GAA. His counterpart in goal, James Reimer, is heading into the last of a two-year deal worth $2.3 million annually.

All quiet between Devils and UFAs Bernier, Gomez

Steve Bernier, Scott Gomez, Adam Henrique

New Jersey’s penchant for leaning on veteran skaters could soon be coming to an end.

Pending UFAs Steve Bernier, 30, and Scott Gomez, 35, haven’t heard much of anything from new GM Ray Shero about their futures with the club, per the Bergen Record.

Bernier said his agent, Kent Hughes, also has yet to hear from Shero about his contract. So, though Bernier is understanding about how busy Shero has been, he also has to prepare for the possibility that the Devils might not want him back and see what other teams would be interested if/when he officially becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

“Obviously, it’s the same for every player,” Bernier said. “We don’t know where New Jersey stands in terms of me, so we have no choice but to talk to other teams and see what’s available.”

That’s not his first choice, though.

“I don’t know if I should be, but I’m still positive that New Jersey might call,” Bernier said. “I’m hoping, actually. I’m hoping they’re going to call, but you need to be prepared to move if you have a chance to. My family likes it a lot in New Jersey, so, hopefully, we’re going to know a lot more before July 1.”

Center Scott Gomez’s agent, Ian Pulver, said that there was “nothing to report” as far as contract talks with the Devils other than some initial contact from Shero.

While it’s been widely assumed the team’s other veteran UFAs — Martin Havlat and Michael Ryder most specifically — were done in New Jersey, there was some belief the Devils could retain Bernier and Gomez, based largely on their impressive performances last season.

Bernier tied for second on the team with 16 goals while playing on a relatively inexpensive one-year, $600,000 deal. Gomez, who made $550,000, was even better — he finished tied for third on the team in scoring, with 34 points, and led all skaters with 27 assists.

Panthers cutting ties with Kopecky, Upshall

Detroit Red Wings v Florida Panthers

Two members of Florida’s big 2011 free agent haul are on their way out of town.

Tomas Kopecky and Scottie Upshall — both primed to become UFAs on July 1 — won’t be offered contract extensions, Panthers GM Dale Tallon announced on Thursday.

Kopecky, 33, had a disappointing campaign in ’14-15, scoring just two goals in 64 games while routinely sitting as a healthy scratch. Upshall, 31, had slightly better production — eight goals and 15 points in 63 games — but, like Kopecky, also spent time as a healthy scratch under first-year head coach Gerard Gallant.

That Florida’s cutting ties with both isn’t surprising.

Signed in July ’11 to similar deals — Kopecky’s was a four-year pact for $12M, Upshall’s was $14M over four — the pair helped Florida make the playoffs in their first season, but struggled to be impact players over the following three (Upshall, it has to be said, was repeatedly plagued by injury.)

The duo will likely be replaced in-house. Florida has a number of young forwards looking to make the leap to the NHL next season, which includes the likes of Rocco Grimaldi, Logan Shaw, Connor Brickley and Quinton Howden.

Change of plans: Murray joins Bylsma’s staff in Buffalo, not Hakstol’s in Philly

Terry Murray, Jack Johnson

On Thursday, Buffalo filled out Dan Bylsma’s coaching staff by adding two assistants — Terry Murray, the uncle of Sabres GM Tim Murray, and former New Jersey Devils assistant Dave Barr.

The Murray hire is an intriguing one. The 64-year-old veteran bench boss is highly regarded in NHL circles, having spent time as a head coach in Washington, Philadelphia, Florida and Los Angeles.

Most recently, he served as Philly’s AHL coach in Lehigh Valley and was thought to be a leading candidate — if not a lock — for an assistant gig with the Flyers under new head coach Dave Hakstol.

“Obviously, if there were another head-coaching position with another team in the NHL, I would want to do that,” Murray said in late May. “I’m also very realistic where things are in the game and my age now and years of experience I have in the game as a head coach.

“Would I embrace an assistant’s role? Absolutely.”

Well, Murray certainly embraced the assistant’s role… just in a different city than most expected.

As for Barr, the 54-year-old is a veteran of over 600 games and has a wealth of experience as an NHL assistant, having served in that role for the Devils, Wild and Avalanche. He was dismissed by then-New Jersey GM Lou Lamoriello midway through last season, along with Peter DeBoer.