Mike Halford

You've heard the expression "let's get busy?" Well, Mike Halford is a blogger who gets "biz-zay!" Consistently and thoroughly.

Get to know a draft pick — Auston Matthews

1 Comment

THN Banner

Like we’ve done in the past, we’re profiling top prospects who may hear their names called in the first round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.

But this year, something new — we’re featuring special guest analysis from Ryan Kennedy, associate senior writer and prospect expert at The Hockey News.

Auston Matthews (C)

Height: 6-foot-2 Weight: 210 pounds Shoots: Left

Team: Zurich (Switzerland)

Country: U.S.

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 1 European skater

Kennedy says: “Even though he has been the top prospect all season long, it still seems like Matthews is underrated. Perhaps it’s because of the flashiness of Patrik Laine, or the fact Zurich games weren’t easy to watch in North America, but trust me: Matthews is the real deal.

“He’s the big, dominating center that teams are built around. Matthews has already drawn comparisons to Jonathan Toews (in terms of style and potential — ­ chill out, folks) and his performance at the World Championship confirmed just how deadly he is.

“His shot and creativity are weapons, while his motor makes him elite. He played against men all year in Switzerland and exceeded expectations.”

Related: Matthews ‘physically and mentally’ strong enough for pressure of Toronto

Click here for all the 2016 NHL Draft profiles

As expected, Leafs waive Cowen for buyout purposes

Getty Images

The Jared Cowen era in Toronto is over, and what an era it wasn’t.

Cowen, acquired as part of the Dion Phaneuf blockbuster with Ottawa, was placed on waivers today by the Maple Leafs, a precursor to the club buying him out of his contract.

The former ninth overall pick never played a game for Toronto after being acquired. Dealing with a hip injury that’s dogged him throughout his career, Cowen was sent home shortly after the Phaneuf trade.

The Leafs didn’t want to risk playing him and potentially re-aggravating the injury, because the goal all along was to buy Cowen out.

See, Cowen has a curious clause in his deal — per Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, any team that buys out Cowen this summer gets a salary cap credit of $650,000.

The 25-year-old rearguard — the ninth overall pick in 2009 — has one year left on his four-year, $12.4 million deal.

Of course, once the buyout’s complete, that won’t be of concern for teams looking to acquire him — and it’s safe to assume there will be teams looking.

Despite questions about his mobility, Cowen is still a 6-foot-5, 240-pound defenseman that showed some promise early in his career.

Trade: Hawks unload Bickell to Carolina, but it costs them Teravainen

Getty Images

The albatross that is Bryan Bickell’s contract has cost Chicago one of its brighter young prospects.

On Wednesday, the ‘Hawks sent Bickell and Teuvo Teravainen to Carolina in exchange for a second-round pick in 2016 and a third-rounder in ’17.

“I would like to thank both Bryan and Teuvo for their contributions to the Blackhawks organization,” ‘Hawks GM Stan Bowman said in a release. “Both players were drafted by our organization and developed to play important roles on Stanley Cup championship teams.

“We wish them the best as they continue their careers with Carolina.”

Chicago has been trying to unload Bickell’s four-year, $16 million contract for quite some time. With a $4 million cap hit, he was a major problem for a team routinely pressed up against the cap ceiling — and even though the club gained some financial relief by sending him to AHL Rockford last season, it was obvious that solution wasn’t ideal for the team or player.

With the NHL’s buyout window opening today, there was some thought Chicago would rid itself of Bickell, and take a reduced cap hit.

But in the end the ‘Hawks got Bickell off the books entirely, though it did cost them a good young talent in Teravainen, who had 13 goals and 35 points in 78 games last year — his first full NHL campaign.

The Finnish center is under contract for one more year and will now join for a pretty intriguing group of centers in Carolina, along with Jordan Staal, Elias Lindholm and Victor Rask.

From the ‘Canes perspective, this is a very nice move from GM Ron Francis, who had an excess of draft picks at his disposal thanks to deadline deals for Eric Staal, Kris Versteeg and John-Michael Liles.

“This deal allowed us to use some of our collected draft picks to improve our group of forwards for the coming season by added two Stanley Cup champions,” said Francis. “Teuvo is a young, highly-skilled player still on his entry-level contract who is coming off of a strong first full NHL season, and Bryan is a veteran who has experienced great success in his career.

“Both players give our organization more options and flexibility among the forward ranks.”

‘Canes fans should be excited about the recent influx of young talent at forward.

As mentioned, Teravainen is only 21, as is Lindholm. Rask isn’t much older (23), and the club also recently signed prospects Aleksi Saarela (19, acquired in the Staal trade) and Sebastian Aho (18, coming off a terrific World Championship performance with Finland.)

Sens add ‘knowledgeable, detail-oriented’ Cookson to coaching staff

Getty Images

Ottawa has found an ideal fit to join Guy Boucher’s coaching staff for the upcoming campaign.

On Wednesday, the Sens announced that Rob Cookson would be coming aboard, joining Marc Crawford as one of the club’s two assistant coaches.

“Rob is a knowledgeable, detail-oriented and resourceful hockey man who brings considerable NHL experience to this team,” Boucher said in a statement. “In addition to having already worked for two NHL organizations, his winning track record at the international level and his exceptional ability to break the game into teaching segments all provide valuable intangibles.

“Given Rob’s history with both Marc and I, I’m certain that our existing chemistry will see him serve as a perfect complement to our staff.”

To say Cookson is familiar with Boucher and Crawford would be an understatement.

Cookson, 55, was behind the Team Canada bench with Boucher at the 2015 Spengler Cup, helping the Canadians capture gold. Cookson called the experience “an awesome opportunity,” adding that the entire staff was thrilled to win “such a prestigious tournament.”

Cookson’s ties to Crawford run even deeper.

For the last four seasons, he was Crawford’s right-hand man for Zurich of the Swiss League — and, like he did with Boucher, Cookson won a championship with Crawford. Two, actually, as Zurich won the Swiss National League A title in 2013-14 and ’15-16.

Prior to his time with Boucher and Crawford, Cookson worked with the Flames and Flyers organizations.

Thousands gathering for Pens’ Stanley Cup parade


PITTSBURGH — Thousands of fans have gathered in downtown Pittsburgh for the 2016 Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins victory parade.

The parade is scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday. Some fans began lining up 12 hours ahead of time.

It comes seven years to the day after a 2009 parade celebrating the team’s last Stanley Cup championship. That parade drew nearly 400,000 people.

Players and coaches are expected to be driven along a triangular route to a temporary stage, where other dignitaries will join them for remarks and festivities.

The team was founded as an expansion franchise in 1967. The Penguins also won the Stanley Cup in 1991 and 1992.

The Penguins clinched the championship with a 3-1 victory Sunday night against the San Jose Sharks, winning the best-of-seven series 4-2.