Mike Halford

Report: Kings, Kopitar on verge of monster eight-year, $80M extension

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Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and now, Anze Kopitar.

On Wednesday, TSN reported that Kopitar’s on the verge of joining Kane and Toews as one of the NHL’s three $10-plus million cap hits — according to Bob McKenzie, Kopitar and the Kings are “very close” to locking in an eight-year, $80 million extension.

It’s an absolutely massive deal, one that’s long been in the works.

Kopitar, a two-time Stanley Cup champion and Selke finalist as the NHL’s best defensive forward, came into this season as a marquee pending UFA, along with Steve Stamkos.

Yet unlike Stamkos, there was never a real sense the 28-year-old would leave the only club he’s known. Taken 11th overall by the Kings in 2005, Kopitar has been a staple of the club’s resurgence — he’s racked up 645 points in 725 career games, and another 60 in 70 playoff appearances.

All of those games came in a Kings uniform.

Yes, the negotiation process dragged on. And yes, there are questions about committing so much money and term to a guy that’ll be 29 in August.

But at the end of the day, Kings GM Dean Lombardi understood it was vital to keep Kopitar in Hollywood for the long haul, and managed to get it done.

And in that sense, Kopitar isn’t alone.

The Kings, as has been well-documented, have a number of lengthy contracts on the books. Jonathan Quick‘s mega-deal goes all the way to 2023. Captain Dustin Brown is under contract through 2022, as is Jeff Carter. Alec Martinez and Marian Gaborik‘s deals run through 2021, while Jake Muzzin is locked in through 2020.

All those players make between $4M and $5.875M annually, which gives you an idea of Lombardi’s challenge moving forward.

Throw in Kopitar’s massive cap hit, and there has to be real questions about how the club will retain the likes of youngsters Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson, or pending UFA forward Milan Lucic.

Update:

Experiment over: Preds waive Hodgson

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Cody Hodgson‘s time in Nashville could soon be up.

The former first-round pick, acquired on the cheap by Preds GM David Poile this summer, has been placed on waivers, per The Tennessean:

Hodgson, signed to a one-year, $1.05 million contract on the opening day of free agency, was expected to enhance the Predators’ scoring depth, but failed to deliver in that regard.

In 39 games, Hodgson scored three goals and eight points, recently enduring a three-game stretch as a healthy scratch.

Now 25, Hodgson’s stock has plummeted a long way from 2008, when Vancouver made him the 10th overall pick at the draft.

His trade to Buffalo and subsequent time there was a disaster, ending with the Sabres buying out his six-year, $25.5 million extension last June.

There was hope Hodgson could rediscover his game with the Preds, and provide a quality scoring option in the club’s bottom-six forward group. That plan never came to fruition, however — in addition to the meager production, Hodgson only averaged 10:44 TOI per game, the lowest full-season total of his NHL career.

Should Hodgson clear waivers, his next stop would (presumably) be Nashville’s AHL affiliate in Milwaukee. It’s the same place another one of Poile’s offseason gambles — KHL scoring sensation Steve Moses — ended up, before ultimately terminating his deal with the Preds, and returning to Russia.

Coyotes claim Connauton off waivers from Columbus

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 17:  Kevin Connauton #4 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates with the puck during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on December 17, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Blue Jackets defeated the Coyotes 7-5.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Kevin Connauton‘s NHL journey will see him head back West — on Wednesday, the Coyotes claimed him off waivers from Columbus, per TSN.

Connauton was deemed expendable by the Jackets in the wake of the Seth Jones acquisition and the activation of Cody Goloubef (broken jaw) off IR.

That left CBJ with a surplus of blueliners — previously, Andrew Bodnarchuk had been claimed by Colorado — and the decision was made to expose Connauton on the wire.

And that’s when Arizona swooped in.

A decent offensive defenseman — he had eight points in 27 games this year — Connauton is still relatively young and has over 100 games of NHL experience. The 25-year-old is also in the last of a three-year, $2.05M deal with a $683,333 cap hit, and will be a nice insurance policy on Arizona’s back end.

Veterans Nicklas Grossmann and Zbynek Michalek have dealt with injuries this season, combining to miss 16 games.

For Connauton, the move back West should be familiar. He began his NHL career with the Vancouver organization, before spending a few years in Dallas.

Devils’ Farnham to have disciplinary hearing for Jaskin hit

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New Jersey forward Bobby Farnham is being called to the carpet for his actions in Tuesday’s 5-2 loss to St. Louis.

On Wednesday, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced Farnham would receive a hearing for his heavy hit on Blues forward Dmitrij Jaskin, which occurred midway through the third period of last night’s game.

Farnham received an interference major and 10-minute misconduct on the play. Jaskin was shaken up and sat out for a while, but did return for one final 36-second shift at the end of the contest.

Farnham doesn’t have a history of supplemental discipline with the DoPS. He was, however, fined $2,000 for diving/embellishment earlier this season.

 

Report: Wild in on Drouin, Lightning want Dumba

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From the Star-Tribune’s Mike Russo, on his weekly podcast:

“To get Drouin, it would probably cost Matt Dumba. That’s what I’m being told. That is who the Lightning want — and the Wild, if they haven’t already agreed to that being the price, [are] definitely considering that.

“The problem is you don’t know what everybody else is offering. They Wild thought they had a great chance at [Ryan] Johansen, but then all of a sudden, the second Seth Jones was the name that swooped in, Columbus was making that move.

“It’s very clear right now that [Wild GM] Chuck Fletcher is trying to give this team a shot in the arm. They’re bland on the ice.”

Some notes:

— Russo later confirmed what Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman wrote in his latest 30 Thoughts: Minnesota did dangle Jonas Brodin to Columbus for a possible Johansen deal.

— Russo went on to add that, given the Wild’s depth on defense (Brodin, Dumba, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Marco Scandella, Mike Reilly, Louie Belpedio), Fletcher is able to trade from a position of strength, which is why Dumba’s on the table.

— Dumba checks all the boxes for what Bolts GM Steve Yzerman reportedly wants. The seventh overall pick in 2012, he’s a talented, offensively capable, right-handed defenseman (much like St. Louis’ Kevin Shattenkirk, who’s also been linked to Drouin).

— But the big difference between Shattenkirk and Dumba is that Dumba, 21, is younger and still on his entry-level deal, which means Tampa Bay would have more control over his contract situation.

From 30 Thoughts:

Here’s what I understand Lightning GM Steve Yzerman is looking for: a young player who is under team control for some time. He has enough contractual concerns over the next few years that he doesn’t need any more.

He can’t take on money without sending it back. (Some other execs speculated he might try to package Matt Carle with Drouin.) That’s why, as good as Kevin Shattenkirk is, it’s not an easy fit for Tampa, because he’s going to get paid big-time in 2017 and you can’t extend him until July 1 at the earliest, assuming he is even willing to sign.

— Dumba’s in the last of his three-year ELC with an average annual cap hit of $894,166. It’s basically on par with Drouin’s financials, though Drouin has one year left on his contract.