Author: Mike Halford


Bylsma free to pursue any coaching gig, says Rutherford


Teams wanting to interview Dan Bylsma for their head coaching position will no longer need to ask permission.

Bylsma, who’s been out of work since getting fired by Pittsburgh last season, is free to pursue any other job across the NHL, Penguins GM Jim Rutherford said on Thursday.

More, from the Associated Press:

Rutherford made his comment Thursday in response to a question as to whether Sabres have asked him permission to interview Bylsma for their vacancy. Though Bylsma was fired last June, he remains on the Penguins’ payroll because his contract runs through the end of next season.

San Jose, New Jersey and Detroit also have openings.

Both the Sabres and Sharks have reportedly asked permission to speak with Bylsma. Many assume the Devils will eventually check in on Bylsma, given the strong connection at play; New Jersey’s new GM is Ray Shero, Bylsma’s former boss with the Penguins (the two won the Stanley Cup together in 2009.)

As for Rutherford, his first move upon being hired as Penguins GM was to dismiss Bylsma, so this latest move doesn’t come as a huge surprise.

Bolts say no update on Carle (undisclosed) after Stepan collision

New Yoprk Rangers v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Three

To nobody’s surprise, the Lightning weren’t offering much in the way of a status report for defenseman Matt Carle, who was knocked out of Wednesday’s OT win over the Rangers following a collision with Derek Stepan.

“No update,” head coach Jon Cooper said on Thursday. “What’s the line? Day to day, but then again, aren’t we all?”

Here’s a replay of the injury:

Carle, 30, had appeared in all 16 of Tampa Bay’s playoff games prior to getting hurt, and was averaging 16:35 TOI per night. The Bolts are relatively well equipped to deal with his loss, should Carle be out any length of time; Cooper dressed seven d-men on Wednesday — as he has on numerous occasions this postseason — and has Mark Barberio waiting in reserve if need be.

Sabres GM Murray lauds ‘great’ process with Babcock, confirms no deal ever in place


A key player in trying to woo Mike Babcock to Buffalo has no problem with how things played out.

“It was a great process for me,” Sabres GM Tim Murray said of interviewing and negotiating with Babcock, per WRG 550. “This was my first real shot at doing interviews and hiring my coach, and he was the first guy that we looked at. It was a great process.

“To have a guy of his ilk, considered one of the best coaches in the National Hockey League, taking a real good hard look at us in Buffalo after a 30th-place finish — I thought the process was great.”

Murray appeared on radio amid reports the Sabres believed they had a deal in place with Babcock, and were upset he spurned them in favor of Toronto. At today’s presser, one reporter asked specifically if Babcock had agreed to a contract with Buffalo owner Terry Pegula, suggesting Babcock lied to the Sabres in order to leverage a better deal for himself from the Leafs.

“That ‘lying’ word’s an interesting word for me,” Babcock replied, admitting he and the Sabres did negotiate contractual framework. “I’ve been real straight forward and honest in the process with all the teams I talked to. I worked for six years in Spokane and 10 years in Detroit.

“As a head coach, you don’t work in places for a long time unless you have good relationships and treat people with respect.”

Murray backed up Babcock’s version of the story to WGR, saying that — while the two sides discussed dollars and term — no actual deal was agreed upon. (He also added the only people in negotiations were himself, Babcock, Pegula and his wife, Kim.)

“We were in negotiations of a contract, knowing full well that there’s no deal done until he says ‘I’m coming to you.’ He told us he’d call us Wednesday morning at 11:30, so he wasn’t a man of his word because he actually called me at 11:33,” Murray joked. “He told us he wasn’t coming, and that was it.

“I said OK, and we move on. That’s it.”

Murray’s reaction to losing out on Babcock was much more positive — and, polished — than his reaction last month to losing out on the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft (and the chance to selection OHL Erie’s Connor McDavid). The Sabres GM was highly criticized for saying “I feel for the fans,” and suggesting that losing the lottery was akin to getting cut from the Canadian junior team.

Now, Murray and the Sabres are looking forward, focused on the task of hiring a head coach after losing out on their No. 1 target.

“I’ve talked to other candidates. I talked to one or two before Mike, and I’ve talked to guys during and since,” Murray explained. “This is a job search. We’re looking for the best candidate for our needs and for his needs.

“We talk to people every day.”

Related: Report: Sabres get permission to interview Bylsma

B’s sign Finnish forward Kemppainen to one-year, $700K deal

Joonas Kemppainen, Jan Laco

Don Sweeney made his first move as Boston’s GM on Thursday, signing veteran Finnish forward Joonas Kemppainen to a one-year, two-way deal worth $700,000 at the NHL level.

Kemppainen, 27, had 11 goals and 32 points for Karpat of the Finnish league this year, then blew up in the playoffs by scoring 24 points in 19 games, helping his team win the championship. Kemppainen’s Karpat teammate, Joonas Donskoi, captured the Jarri Kurri Trophy as playoff MVP and was recently signed by San Jose.

Also like Donskoi, Kemppainen recently represented Finland at the World Hockey Championships and fared well, finishing third on the team in goals (three), second in assists (six) and second in points (nine) in eight games played.

At 6-foot-2, 213 pounds, Kemppainen will provide some good size to a Boston team looking to get back to its “Big Bad Bruins” personality; upon being presented as the club’s new GM, Sweeney promised the B’s would get back the “aggressiveness” he felt they lost in recent seasons.

(Video) PHT Extra: On Babcock, sticking to the process and housebuilding analogies

Mike Babcock

Brough and I discussed the Mike Babcock hire in Toronto, an under-the-radar story that’s struggled to gain mainstream media coverage.

Tune in next week when we cover David Letterman, who quietly and without great fanfare stepped away from his Late Show hosting duties on Thursday. Came out of nowhere!