Author: Mike Halford

Edmonton Oilers v Anaheim Ducks

Oilers’ Pinizzotto signs in German League

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Well-traveled grinder Steve Pinizzotto has signed with ECH Red Bull Munchen of Germany’s Deutsche Eishockey Liga, the club announced on Tuesday.

Pinizzotto, 31, posted career highs across the board in 2014-15, appearing in 18 games while scoring four points, including his first-ever NHL goal. The former RIT product had toiled in the minors for six years before making his big-league debut with Vancouver during the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign, and was acquired by Edmonton in a trade with Florida in January of 2014.

Known largely as a bottom-six forward with a tireless work ethic and willingness to drop the mitts, Pinizzotto racked up four scraps in his 18 NHL contests last year, and four more with AHL Oklahoma City.

With Red Bull, Pinizzotto will be coached by former NHL bench boss Pierre Page.

Mrazek knows ‘only one goalie can play’ as battle with Howard awaits

Florida Panthers v Detroit Red Wings

This could be a really big year of change for the Red Wings.

The club will have a new coach when training camp opens next fall and, in goal, there’ll be a fight for playing time that could see longtime starter Jimmy Howard pushed into a timeshare — or even a backup role.

The guy battling Howard in net, Petr Mrazek, knows the situation at hand.

“Only one goalie can play,” Mrazek said recently, per the Detroit News. “I’m going to do my best to play as much as I want to and do the best job.”

Mrazek overtaking Howard’s No. 1 gig was one of the biggest stories of the postseason; the 23-year-old Czech rookie, who’d never played in the playoffs before, got the nod from Mike Babcock and was stellar in a seven-game opening-round loss to the Lightning, posting a 2.11 GAA and .925 save percentage.

The demotion was frustrating for Howard but, during his end-of-year media availability, he tried to keep a level head. The 31-year-old said he wouldn’t demand a trade, noting that he looked forward to competing for the No. 1 gig next season.

The issue, of course, is that Howard carries a pretty hefty pricetag — a six-year, $31.8 million deal with a $5.3M average annual cap hit — and has four years left on the contract. He’s also eight years older than Mrazek, who’s widely considered to be the franchise’s goalie of the future… and based on what we saw in the playoffs, the future might be now.

What’s more, Wings GM Ken Holland all but guaranteed a goalie battle for next year, saying Mrazek would definitely be with the Red Wings next season — even though Mrazek could be sent down to AHL Grand Rapids without having to clear waivers.

Report: No teams have asked Sens’ permission to interview MacLean, Richardson

Paul MacLean 2

In relatively surprising news, the Ottawa Sun reports that no NHL clubs have tried to gain permission to interview former Ottawa bench boss Paul MacLean or Luke Richardson, the head coach of the team’s AHL affiliate in Binghamton.

Richardson, the longtime NHL defenseman that’s been in Bingo for the last three years, has been tied to the vacant Buffalo gig thanks largely to his relationship with Sabres GM Tim Murray. The pair spent several seasons together in Ottawa and Richardson, still only 46 years old, has good coaching experience for a guy his age (he was a Sens assistant coach for three seasons prior to the AHL gig, under both MacLean and Cory Clouston.)

Speaking of MacLean… it’s unclear why he’s not getting interviews. The 2013 Jack Adams winner for NHL coach of the year, MacLean had some great early success in Ottawa — in 2013, he scored the organization’s first playoff series win six years — though he was fired amid criticisms of being too harsh and critical with his players.

That said, MacLean has enjoyed plenty of success behind the bench. Prior to his time in Ottawa he served as Mike Babcock’s right-hand man in Anaheim and Detroit, going to the Stanley Cup final in 2003 with the Ducks before winning it all in 2008 with the Wings.

MacLean, fired in the second of a three-year extension signed in 2013, is still under contract with the Sens, which could’ve played a factor in teams not wanting to interview him (see: compensatory draft picks.)

Agent: No active talks between Greiss and Pens, but ‘neither side has closed the door’

Anaheim Ducks v Pittsburgh Penguins

There could be a new backup goalie in Pittsburgh next season, though it’s still a bit early to rule out Thomas Greiss’ return.

“We’ve spoken and neither side has closed the door but we’re not actively negotiating at this time either,” Greiss’ agent, Ray Petkau, told PHT via email on Monday. “We’ll speak again before July 1st.”

Greiss, 29, arrived in Pittsburgh last summer with a fair bit of intrigue. After going 10-8-5 with a .920 save percentage as Mike Smith’s No. 2 in Arizona, some thought Greiss could be in the mix for the Pens’ starting gig, given 1) Marc-Andre Fleury was going into the last year of his deal, and 2) the organization was in the midst of a overhaul, having already fired head coach Dan Bylsma and GM Ray Shero.

The push never seemed to materialize, though.

Fleury signed a four-year, $23 million extension just one month into the season and proceeded to carry a big workload, finishing tied for seventh in the league with 64 starts. Griess, meanwhile, started just 18 times (9-6-3, 2.59 GAA, .908 save percentage), got the mumps and played just a handful of times down the stretch.

It’ll be interesting to see what Pittsburgh does in goal behind Fleury next year. Matt Murray, the 21-year-old prospect that racked up a bunch of AHL awards this season (including rookie of the year and top goalie) could be promoted, though the organization’s developmental strategy probably calls for Murray playing a bunch of games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, rather than sitting behind Fleury.

That means Jeff Zatkoff, who split time with Murray in the American League last year, could end up being the guy. He’s under contract for one more year and has experience as Fleury’s backup, a role he filled during the 2013-14 campaign, when he played 20 games.

As for Greiss, he could test free agent waters for the second summer in a row, in a goalie market that’ll likely feature Antti Niemi, Karri Ramo and Michal Neuvirth, among others.

Leafs sign Carrick to one-year extension

J.T. Brown; Sam Carrick

The Toronto Maple Leafs saw enough good things from Sam Carrick this year to keep him around for another.

On Monday, Toronto announced it had signed Carrick, 23, to a one-year contract extension. The deal comes after the former OHL Brampton standout made his NHL debut and appeared in 16 games for the Leafs, scoring two points while averaging 6:29 TOI per game.

Financial terms of the extension weren’t disclosed. Carrick, who was set to become a restricted free agent, had just wrapped his three-year, entry-level deal that paid $631,666 annually.

Though not overly big — listed at 6-foot, 188 pounds — Carrick has made a name for himself as a bottom-six energy guy that works hard, can throw hits and isn’t afraid to fight. Here’s some handiwork from a scrap in March against Tampa Bay’s J.T. Brown:

All told, Carrick has fought 16 times over the last two seasons while down in the AHL with the Marlies.