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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Former Oilers d-man Nikitin signs in KHL

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Nikita Nikitin, whose name is fun to sing to the tune of Hakuna Matata, has rejoined the club of his youth.

Oh Friday, KHL side Avangard Omsk announced it signed Nikitin, reuniting him with the club he played for from 2003-10.

Nikitin, 30, split last season between Edmonton and its AHL affiliate in Bakersfield. Saddled with a two-year, $9 million contract that the Oilers eventually saw as an albatross — yes, even though they negotiated it — Nikitin was the subject of trade rumors last year, none of them coming to fruition.

So the Oilers tried to find other ways to salvage the situation. Nikitin was waived ahead of the start of the regular season, but recalled twice during the year.

In his prime, Nikitin was a fairly useful defenseman, and netted a career-best 32 points in just 54 games with Columbus during the ’11-12 campaign. His play steadily declined over the last few seasons, though, and there were questions about his fitness level in Edmonton.

 

Devils sign Gibbons to PTO as Shero’s Pittsburgh-to-New Jersey train rides again

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More like the New Jersey Penguins, right?

C’mon, it’s not the worst lede you’ve read on this site.

On Friday, the Devils announced that diminutive winger Brian Gibbons — who the Penguins signed as a undrafted free agent in 2011 — would be attending training camp on a professional tryout, continuing GM Ray Shero’s theme of bringing in guys from his time with Pittsburgh.

Shero signed Gibbons out of Boston College, and Gibbons eventually worked his way up to the NHL, peaking with 17 points in 41 games during the ’13-14 campaign (and another three in eight playoff games).

Since leaving the Pens organization, Gibbons has spent time with both the Blue Jackets and Rangers organizations, though mostly with their American League affiliates.

As mentioned above, Shero loves him some Penguins.

His coach in New Jersey, John Hynes, came from the Pittsburgh organization. So too did his assistant GM, Tom Fitzgerald.

And players? Oh yeah, Shero loves his old Pittsburgh players. Since taking the New Jersey GM gig in May of 2015, Shero has brought Lee Stempniak, Bobby Farnham, Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, David Warsofsky, Beau Bennett and Ben Lovejoy into the fold.

Related: New Jersey also gave Anders Lindback, who has shockingly never played for Pittsburgh, a PTO

Devils ink journeyman goalie Lindback to training camp PTO

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The New Jersey Devils are bringing in some veteran netminding for training camp, as Anders Lindback will join the club on a professional tryout.

The move will put Lindback on his sixth team in six seasons. He spent the ’11-12 campaign with Nashville and was then acquired by Tampa Bay, where he spent the next two seasons.

After losing out on the Bolts’ starting gig to Ben Bishopremember when that was a thing? — Lindback signed in Dallas but struggled mightily, and was flipped to Buffalo at the ’14-15 trade deadline.

The 28-year-old then caught on with Arizona last season, and appeared in 19 games before suffering a freak accident — Lindback hurt his Achilles while getting up from a pregame stretch in February, and damaged the tendon so badly that it required season-ending surgery.

A veteran of 130 career contests, Lindback has good size (6-foot-6) and has always managed to find work, despite not putting up very good numbers for the last few years.

It should be noted, however, that Lindback might be nothing more than a warm body for Devils camp.

Montreal has received trade calls for Nathan Beaulieu

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Say this about the Habs — they’re never boring.

Before the club even began training camp, another player’s name has surfaced in trade talks: Nathan Beaulieu, the defenseman taken 17th overall at the 2011 draft.

In an interview with RDS, Montreal GM Marc Bergevin said that he has received calls about the 23-year-old rearguard, adding “it’s my job to listen.”

That mantra, you’ll recall, is almost exactly what Bergevin said this summer when addressing P.K. Subban trade rumors.

And those, of course, ended with the blockbuster deal to Nashville for Shea Weber.

Beaulieu doesn’t have the same cache as Subban, but would still fetch a nice return on the open market. He had a pretty solid campaign last year, matching a career-high in games played (64) while establishing a career-high in points, with 19.

A quality skater, Beaulieu is also a good puck mover that can man the point on the power play, so there’s no denying that clubs would be interested in acquiring him.

And from the Montreal perspective, there have been rumblings that prized draftee Mikhail Sergachev — taken ninth overall at this year’s draft, the second d-man off the board — could make the leap to the NHL this year, which would fill the Beaulieu void.

As for what the Habs want in return? Well, the left wing position is pretty thin behind captain Max Pacioretty: Andrew Shaw, Phillip Danault and Daniel Carr round out the depth chart. A scoring LW would (presumably) be the return price.

Like we said, never a dull moment in Montreal.

Here are PHT’s World Cup of Hockey predictions

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As evident in last year’s playoffs, the PHT staff is very mediocre at predictions. So let’s see if we can keep it going!

The 2016 World Cup of Hockey begins Saturday. The eight competing squads have been split into two groups:

Group A
Team Canada
Team USA
Team Czech Republic
Team Europe

Group B
Team Finland
Team North America
Team Russia
Team Sweden

The top two teams from each group will advance to the tournament semifinals, and the semifinal winners will compete in a best-of-three finale.

So, who’s going to win?

Jason Brough: Canada

North America’s speed and skill is impressive, and Sweden has the best blue line. But I can’t pick against Team Canada. The overall talent level is just too high. The only way I see the Canadians losing is if they run into a hot goalie. That happened in their first exhibition game when Jonathan Quick shut them down, so it’s definitely possible. But that’s always possible in a short tournament — just ask the 1998 Canadian Olympic squad that ran into Dominik Hasek. Most of the time it’s the team that controls the puck that wins, and I’m fairly confident that that will be Team Canada.

Mike Halford: Finland

Look, sometimes you gotta go off the board, and that’s what I’m doing here — though to be honest, it’s not even that far off the board. The Finns always perform well at these best-on-best international events. In fact, NHLers have competed in the last five Olympic Games, and no country has medalled more. I also really like the makeup of this squad. Led by the likes of Patrik Laine, Rasmus Ristolainen, Mikael Granlund, Sami Vatanen and Aleksander Barkov, it’s younger, faster and more dynamic than previous, grinding Finnish squads. Barkov, in particular, is a superstar in the making. This tourney could be his launching pad.

Adam Gretz: Canada

Team North America is going to be the most exciting team in the tournament, but Canada still has an obscene level of talent at pretty much every position, one that nobody else can match. Canada’s roster construction is always put under a microscope, and there are always a couple of head scratching decisions — not taking P.K. Subban or Kris Letang, for example — but it never makes a difference in the end. When Joe Thornton is skating on your fourth line, “loaded” doesn’t even begin to describe your team.

Cam Tucker: North America

More than ever before, hockey is about speed, skill and youth. Team North America has an abundance of all three. Nathan MacKinnon was right to call them the most skilled team in the tournament. They should enter this event highly motivated, too — they’re not the favorites, but what this team might lack in experience is made up with a dynamic roster, one that has something to prove.

Joey Alfieri: North America

North America is the squad I was most looking forward to watching and, through a couple of pre-tournament games, they haven’t disappointed. With youth and speed on their side, they can compete with anyone in this tournament. The Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup with speed and skill in 2016, and Team North America is loaded with players possessing both: Connor McDavid, Mark Scheifele, Jonathan Drouin, Jack Eichel and Shayne Gostisbehere, to name a few. In goal, Matt Murray is fresh off a Stanley Cup run, and that certainly doesn’t hurt.

James O’Brien: Sweden

Chemistry and goaltending are strong pluses for Sweden, but my goodness, look at that defense. Erik Karlsson is basically on another planet and he’s joined by other standouts such as Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Victor Hedman. From explosive offensive ability to sound positional acumen, this group has it all. A mobile, creative, puck-moving back end is more and more important these days, and Sweden is flat-out loaded.