Author: Mike Halford

MitchCallahan

‘I don’t want to play in the AHL next year,’ says Detroit’s Callahan

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Mitch Callahan wants his name on an NHL roster this fall — be it in Detroit, or elsewhere.

“There’s always been talk that some teams would be interested if I was on waivers, but it all depends on the timing on everything — I just want to go in and try and make Detroit,” Callahan said on Tuesday, per MLive. “As much as I love Grand Rapids, I don’t want to play in the AHL next year.

“So I’m trying to do everything possible to play with them (Red Wings) or have a good enough camp for someone else to take me.”

Callahan, 24, is another intriguing Detroit prospect that’s spent extensive time grooming in the AHL. He’s played over 200 games for Grand Rapids, won a Calder Cup and was enjoying a great campaign last year — 38 points in 48 games — before suffering a season-ending ACL tear in February.

As such, his time in the NHL has been brief. Callahan’s played in just one game for the Red Wings, during the ’13-14 campaign.

This year, that might have to change.

Callahan would require waivers to get sent down to Grand Rapids and, given how things have gone in the past, there’s good reason to think he’d get claimed. Last year, ex-Red Wing Andrej Nestrasil scored seven goals and 18 points in 41 games for Carolina after getting plucked off waivers, and in June was signed to a two-year, $1.825 million extension.

(Like Callahan, Nestrasil was a solid producer in Grand Rapids, scoring 16 goals and 36 points in his only full season with the team.)

All of this puts both the club and player in tough spots. Though Callahan and new Wings head coach Jeff Blashill have a strong relationship from their time together in Grand Rapids, the forward position in Detroit is deep with a glut of guys on NHL deals.

That said, Pavel Datsyuk isn’t expected to be ready for the start of the season and there’s still no clear picture on Johan Franzen’s (concussion) health, so there could be some temporary spots available.

Still unsigned, Briere contemplating retirement

Vancouver Canucks v Colorado Avalanche
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Could this be it for Daniel Briere?

The 37-year-old, who’s played for three teams over the last three years and struggled with Colorado last season, sounds as though he’s on the fence about returning for an 18th NHL campaign.

More, from ESPN:

“I’ll have to start thinking about it more and more in the next couple of weeks,” he admitted.

Can Briere commit to the rigors of not just the season but preparing for it?

“That’s kind of the big question: Can I imagine committing to it?” he said.

“If I decide to play, I have to commit to full out training. I’m working out and I’m staying in good shape as of right now. But if I decide to play, I’ve got about two months left to really take it to the next level to be ready for next season.”

Briere does have a wealth of playoff success — 116 points in 124 games — and that could entice a team looking for veteran experience, especially in the postseason.

At the same time, his production has declined steadily over the last few seasons and he was a frequent healthy scratch with the Avs.

Rangers rewarded Stepan for playing ‘big in the big moments on the biggest stage’

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The New York Rangers made Derek Stepan their third highest-paid player on Monday and, to hear GM Jeff Gorton explain it, a major reason why was Stepan’s ability to perform under pressure.

“[You] want players who can play big in the big moments on the biggest stage — and there is no bigger stage than New York City,” Gorton said, per Blueshirts United. “Derek has proven he can do that.”

It’s a telling statement for a team in the midst of a Stanley Cup window.

Having been to the Final in 2014 and Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final last season, the Rangers are clearly in win-now mode; Stepan has been a major part of that, and will continue to be moving forward.

The only difference now?

He’s got a contract to live up to.

The 25-year-old more than doubled his annual average value — from $3.075M to $6.5M — and, as mentioned above, trails only Rick Nash and Henrik Lundqvist in terms of New York’s highest cap hits. Gorton said Stepan was rewarded for “success he’s had, the leadership qualities he has,” adding the Rangers identified him as “one of the guys we want to build around.”

With this new contract, Stepan will receive an increase not just in dollars, but also responsibilities and pressure. He’s now getting paid like a true No. 1 center.

And to be fair, Stepan earned his pay bump. His 55 points in 68 games last season resulted in a 0.81 PPG average, on par with the likes of Jonathan Toews and Anze Kopitar. He also finished third on the team in scoring in each of the last two playoffs and, quite memorably, scored the OT winner in Game 7 of New York’s second-round victory over Washington in May:

The hope now, of course, is that the best of Stepan is yet to come. It’s easy to forget this is still a relatively young player; thanks to an early debut (at 20) and his durability (he’s played 362 of a possible 376 games), Stepan has a wealth of experience for someone that only turned 25 last month.

It’s something Gorton banked on by shelling out $39 million over the next six years.

“We’re really happy to get Derek locked up,” he explained. “It’s a really good thing for the Rangers and for Ranger fans.

“This is a 25-year-old player, who has played well for us already, and who now will play his prime years for us moving forward.”

Avs ink former first-rounder Hishon to one-year deal

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Colorado has re-upped with RFA forward Joey Hishon — the club’s first-round pick (17th overall) in 2010 — to a one-year deal.

Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

Hishon, 23, made his NHL debut during the ’13-14 playoffs and his regular-season debut last year, scoring two points in 13 games. The former OHL Owen Sound standout has struggled mightily with health issues over the last few years — most notably, a concussion suffered with the Attack that sidelined him for 22 months, delaying the start of his pro career in the AHL.

Last season Hishon suffered both neck and elbow injuries, which limited him to the aforementioned 13 games.

It’ll be interesting to see where Hishon fits next season. The Avs replaced outgoing center Ryan O’Reilly with ex-Bruin Carl Soderberg, so it could be a struggle for Hishon to find minutes down the middle. If Colorado contemplates a move to the wing, Hishon will have a pair of new faces challenging for playing time: Mikhail Grigorenko, acquired in the O’Reilly trade, and Blake Comeau, who was signed in free agency.

With Lamoriello hire, Leafs hammer home their culture change

Lou Lamoriello
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If it wasn’t abundantly clear before, it is now.

In introducing Lou Lamoriello as the 16th general manager of the Maple Leafs on Thursday, both team president Brendan Shanahan and Lamoriello himself said this is all about a major offseason theme:

Changing the culture in Toronto.

“We are trying to create [an environment] where the players are willing to give up their own identity for that logo on the front,” Lamoriello explained. “Never mixing what’s on the back of the jersey with what’s on the front — that has to be transmitted to each and every player, no matter what their abilities are.

“Success doesn’t come unless each and every one of these individuals are committed to each other.”

Those are telling words in the wake of Toronto’s disastrous campaign. From Phil Kessel’s ongoing feud with the media to Nazem Kadri’s suspension to Dion Phaneuf and Joffrey Lupul threatening to sue TSN to accusations the team quit playing for interim bench boss Peter Horachek, the Leafs were considered one of the league’s most toxic teams.

So, enter the hazmat team. Shanahan cleaned house in the front office. Kessel, the team’s leading scorer, was traded.

At the draft, new head coach Mike Babcock laid down the law for those that remained, saying “anything that’s been going on is going to get cleaned up.”

“The number-one characteristic of a Toronto Maple Leaf is a good human being. Period.” Babcock said. “So if you don’t fit that, you’re not going to be here. We’re going to be a fit, fit team. We’re going to be a team that comes to the media everyday, after a win, after a loss, after practice, and owns their own stuff. Period.”

So the culture change started with Shanahan, continued with Babcock and will now be cemented by Lamoriello.

Few GMs are more adept at establishing culture, and no team in NHL history was defined more by an individual than the Devils were with LouLam. He oversaw nearly every aspect of the organization, right down to the little things — some say petty things — like banning facial hair outside of the playoffs, and not issuing the No. 13.

Lamoriello explained his logic in a February Q&A with the Star-Ledger.

“The word is called tradition,” he said. “That’s the identity of the Devils organization. Those are part of the systemic points that have given us our identity, like our home and away jerseys. Whether you look at the Yankees or the old Montreal Canadiens and their identity, this is the identity of the Devils.

“I look at it as something the players, and hopefully the fans, take pride in.”

As for working with Shanahan and Babcock, well, Lamoriello doesn’t figure to have many problems. The head coach has already praised the hire — “a home run for all of us,” is how he described it to NHL.com — and Shanahan, whose personal relationship with Lamoriello dates back to 1987, sees the 72-year-old as the ideal architect.

“There should be an appreciation and showing of enthusiasm that you’re enjoying being a Toronto Maple Leaf,” he explained. “We want to have enthusiasm, we want to have good people.

“Lou is a great fit for that.”