Author: Mike Halford

Carolina Hurricanes v Boston Bruins

Farewell, Merlot: Bruins parting ways with Paille, Campbell


The Merlot Line has officially been put out to vineyard.

On Monday, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli announced that UFA forwards Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell — who, along with the already departed Shawn Thornton, once formed Boston’s popular fourth line — wouldn’t be re-signed this summer.

Paille, 30, has been the Bruins since 2009 and achieved some good success, emerging as a useful contributor during the 2011 Stanley Cup victory and the ’13 Finals appearance (Paille scored four goals and nine points during that latter run, averaging 12:32 TOI per night.)

Campbell, 31, spent the last five years in Boston. A gritty checking forward, he forever etched himself in Bruins lore with this shift against Pittsburgh in the ’13 Eastern Conference Final — in which he played on a broken leg:

This year, though, Campbell and Paille struggled. They were two of the club’s worst forwards in terms of possession (click here) and neither produced much offensively; Campbell scored just six goals in 70 games while Paille had six in 71.

In the wake of Boston missing the playoffs for the first time in eight years, Paille and Campbell aren’t expected to be the only changes — but their departures are still significant. Aside from being the first (and, speediest) moves by Chiarelli this offseason, the two veterans contributed largely to Boston’s identity over the last five years.

Now that they’re gone, only a handful of regulars remain from the Cup-winning team: Zdeno Chara, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Dennis Seidenberg, Adam McQuaid and Milan Lucic — the latter of whom has already seen his name appear in trade speculation.

After 11-game absence, Sens get Michalek back for playoffs

Milan Michalek
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The red-hot Ottawa Senators are getting a key piece of their lineup back for the postseason.

On Monday, head coach Dave Cameron confirmed that veteran winger Milan Michalek — out since Mar. 21 with a concussion — will return from an 11-game absence and dress for Game 1 of Ottawa’s first-round series against Montreal.

Michalek, 30, had just 13 goals and 34 points in 66 games this season, but really started to find his form in February and March following a slow start to the campaign. He scored 18 points over his final 22 games of the regular season, that after scoring just seven in his first 22.

With Michalek drawing it, Zack Smith will sit for the series opener on Wednesday.

Devils sign backup goalie Kinkaid to two-year, $1.45M extension

Keith Kinkaid

The New Jersey Devils have shored up their goaltending position for the foreseeable future, signing backup Keith Kinkaid to a two-year extension on Monday.

The deal, first reported by the Star-Ledger, will keep Kinkaid as Cory Schneider’s No. 2 through 2017 and comes on the heels of Kinkaid’s first full season in the role, during which he fared reasonably well — the 25-year-old went 6-5-4 in 19 appearances, posting a .915 save percentage and 2.59 GAA.

An undrafted free agent that the Devils signed out of Union College in 2011, Kinkaid spent nearly three full seasons with AHL Albany before making the jump to the bigs.

UPDATE: Per the Bergen Record, it’s $1.45 million over the two years for Kinkaid on a one-year deal, meaning he checks in with an average annual cap hit of $725,000.

NHL announces Stanley Cup playoff officials


The NHL has announced the 20 referees, 20 linesmen and four standby officials that will work the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Referees: Francis Charron, Gord Dwyer, Eric Furlatt, Jean Hebert, Dave Jackson, Marc Joannette, Steve Kozari, Frederick L’Ecuyer, Chris Lee, Wes McCauley, Brad Meier, Dan O’Halloran, Dan O’Rourke, Brian Pochmara, Kevin Pollock, Chris Rooney, Francois St. Laurent, Justin St. Pierre, Kelly Sutherland, Brad Watson.

Linesmen: Derek Amell, Steve Barton, David Brisebois, Scott Cherrey, Michel Cormier, Greg Devorski, Scott Driscoll, Ryan Galloway, Darren Gibbs, Shane Heyer, Brad Kovachik, Steve Miller, Kiel Murchison, Brian Murphy, Derek Nansen, Tim Nowak, Brian Pancich, Pierre Racicot, Jay Sharrers, Mark Shewchyk

Standbys: Ghislain Hebert, Mike Leggo (referees); Brian Mach, Matt MacPherson (linesmen).

Notably absent from the referee list is Tim Peel, a 20-year veteran who, earlier this season, found himself in hot water after an interview with Yahoo’s Puck Daddy (in which Peel was photographed holding a shot of alcohol.)

Peel was suspended one game for the incident. Last year, he was selected to work both the playoffs and the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Leafs clean house, fire Nonis and Horachek


Just hours after wrapping up one of the worst seasons in franchise history, the Toronto Maple Leafs made sweeping changes.

On Sunday morning the Leafs announced that GM Dave Nonis has been relieved of his duties, along with interim head coach Peter Horachek. The news comes on the heels of a regular-season in which Toronto had already fired another head coach — Randy Carlyle, dismissed in early January — and absolutely flatlined down the stretch, winning just nine times over the final 44 games of the season.

Nonis was turfed after just two years on the job. He inherited the GM gig from Brian Burke prior to the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign; on his watch, the Leafs handed out long-term extensions to Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf, Joffrey Lupul, Tyler Bozak and David Clarkson — the latter of whom Nonis traded to Columbus for Nathan Horton (essentially Horton’s contract, given his significant back injury) at this year’s deadline.

Upon firing Nonis, the Leafs announced that assistant GM Kyle Dubas and director of player personnel Mark Hunter will share GM duties on an interim basis. Steve Staois, the club’s manager of player development, will also stay on board.

As for the coaching side of things, the Horachek regime — which lasted less than 50 games — will be remembered mostly for off-ice incidents, like the Nazem Kadri suspension and Kessel’s ongoing feud with the media. It’s worth noting that in addition to Horachek, the Leafs also fired assistant coaches Steve Spott and Chris Dennis, and goalie coach Rick St. Croix.

Following Saturday’s season finale, a teary Horachek met with the media and acknowledged his time in Toronto would soon be up, saying “it’s evident that there’s lots of change that has to happen.”

“There has to be a better-conditioned (group), a better attitude, a new approach to how we want to do things,” he explained. “Whatever the group is, this has to change. You have to have a respect Toronto deserves.

“If we continued right where we were in November we might not make the playoffs, we might be fighting for the playoffs. And if you’re in that situation, and we’re fighting for the playoffs or we make the playoffs, we weren’t going to win. Is that what we want? Do we want to be competitive or do we want to build something to win a Stanley Cup?”

As for team president Brendan Shanahan’s take on things, well, that will have to wait. Shanahan won’t meet with the media until Monday, and early reports suggest he won’t be the one to eventually assume GM duties.