Mike Halford

Report: Jets, Ladd break off contract talks


Pretty compelling stuff here from TSN senior correspondent Gary Lawless on the rocky relationship between Winnipeg and captain Andrew Ladd:

Talks with Ladd’s agents have broken off. In the meantime, Jets’ GM Kevin Cheveldayoff was recently seen huddling with defenceman Dustin Byfuglien’s representative.

Winnipeg has chosen Buff ahead of Ladd. It’s a reversal in direction that must have surprised the captain and his teammates.

Lawless goes on to report that relations between Ladd and the Jets have “soured,” adding the 30-year-old pending UFA is seeking a six-year extension “with an average annual value north of $6 million.”

Ladd’s currently in the last of a five-year, $22 million deal with a $4.4M cap hit.

Last year, Ladd was one of the main catalysts behind Winnipeg’s first playoff appearance since moving from Atlanta, scoring a career-high 62 points in 81 games while playing through the pain of a sports hernia.

He was also nominated for the Messier Leadership Award, which “recognizes an individual as a superior leader within their sport, and as a contributing member of society.”

This year, though, has mostly been a disaster.

The Jets are one of the league’s biggest disappointments, sitting nine points back of a playoff spot (and just two ahead of Edmonton for last place in the Western Conference). Ladd’s production has slumped — 10 goals, 27 points through 48 games — and, fairly or not, he’s shouldered much of the blame while also facing some criticism for his contractual demands.

All of which begs the question:

Will he still be a Jet by Feb. 29?

Ladd would certainly be a welcome addition for a number of clubs at the deadline. A big-bodied winger with two Stanley Cups on his resume, he’s the kind of impact player many teams only dream about adding — because, well, they don’t often become available.

Related: Will the Jets trade Byfuglien to a contender?

Chicago recalls ’11 first-rounder McNeill


Mark McNeill’s less-than-ideal claim to fame might soon be a thing of the past.

McNeill, the highest-drafted player (18th overall) from 2011 yet to make his NHL debut, has been recalled by the Blackhawks prior to tomorrow’s game against Carolina, the club announced.

The 22-year-old has scored nine goals and 19 points in 29 games this year with Rockford, a place he’s become quite familiar with. McNeill has appeared in 180 games with the IceHogs over the last five seasons, scoring a career-high 23 goals in ’14-15.

It’s unclear if he’ll make his NHL debut tomorrow when Chicago takes on the ‘Canes at PNC.

One would think he’s champing at the bit to get in, though. McNeill is one of just three first round picks from his draft class that hasn’t played in the big leagues — the others are Tyler Biggs (taken 22nd overall by Toronto) and Zack Phillips (28th, by Minnesota).

Lamoriello will be busy at first deadline as Leafs GM

Lou Lamoriello
Getty Images

With the NHL’s trade deadline now just 35 days away, there’s serious attention being paid to what players might be in play.

But what about the front office folk in the mix?

In Toronto, a pretty unique situation is shaping up — the Leafs, clearly demarcated as sellers in what projects to be a buyers’ market, will be wheeling and dealing under first-year GM Lou Lamoriello.

That’s 73-year-old Lou Lamoriello, of course.

The guy with nearly 40 trade deadlines under his belt.

Per the Globe and Mail, Lamoriello has his obvious assets — pending UFAs like Roman Polak, P.A. Parenteau, Shawn Matthias — but also identifies two that aren’t as obvious: Dan Winnik, the forward signed to a two-year, $4.5 million deal last summer, and goalie Jonathan Bernier.


Neither has had a good season. Winnik’s production and ice time are down, and he’s played through a nagging injury that has affected his skating and ability to fore-check.

Bernier, meanwhile, had a disastrous start to the year, with no wins and an .883 save percentage in his first 11 games. He is 6-4-0 with a .915 save percentage since mid-December, but Leafs coach Mike Babcock has obviously lost a degree of confidence in him.

There are other players potentially on the move, too.

Newly-minted CP hockey writer Jonas Siegel was on TSN 1040 this past Saturday, and suggested that the three players most likely to be on the move were Parenteau, Polak and Michael Grabner — the latter described as a “pretty good penalty killer.”

So, to recap — the Leafs and Lamoriello could have as many as six guys in play in Matthias, Winnik, Bernier, Parenteau, Polak and Grabner.

There’s also probably a seventh that teams would clamor for, but is unlikely to hit the market — defenseman Matt Hunwick.

“Mike Babcock loves Hunwick,” Siegel explained. “They’ve been using him in a role that he’s probably not suited for — he’s on their top pair with Morgan Rielly — but he’s a guy that Babcock loves.”

Of course, we can’t really say who’s untouchable and who’s not with any great certainty.

This is Lou Lamoriello, after all.

Report: Prized Russian d-man Zaitsev to sign with Toronto

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 26: Defenseman Nikita Zaitsev #2 of Russia dumps the puck in as forward Cody Eakin #21 of Canada tries to block the puck during the 2011 IIHF World U20 Championship Group B game between Canada and Russia on December 26, 2010 at HSBC Arena in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
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Sounds like the Maple Leafs are on the verge of landing a very intriguing prospect.

Nikita Zaitsev, the 24-year-old rearguard out of the KHL, is reportedly telling teams he’ll be signing with Toronto for next season, per Sportsnet.

Zaitsev has previously been linked to the Leafs, after spending all of his professional career in Russia with Novosibirsk Sibir and, over the last three seasons, league powerhouse CSKA Moscow.

Undrafted by any NHL club, Zaitsev has been a staple of various Russian national teams, including the 2011 squad that captured gold at the World Juniors.

This year, he’s enjoying a pretty successful offensive campaign — he has 24 points through 40 games, putting him 12th in the KHL among d-man scorers.

Goalie nods: Sens go with the Hamburglar after Anderson torched by Devils

Andrew Hammond

After arguably their worst first period of the season last night against New Jersey, the Ottawa Senators will change starting netminders.

Andrew Hammond gets the nod on Friday at home against the Isles, just one evening after Craig Anderson was lit up for four goals on seven shots in just over a half-period of play.

While the back-to-back in Ottawa’s schedule always suggested this would be Hammond’s game, Anderson could’ve easily been available for selection, given he only played 13:56 last night. Hammond actually had a significantly busier workload, facing 12 New Jersey shots over the final 40-plus minutes of action.

Regardless, it’s Hamburglar who’s in tonight. He’ll be up against Jaroslav Halak in the Islanders’ goal.


— No sense fixing what isn’t broken for Detroit, as the Wings will continue to ride the red-hot Petr Mrazek against the Sabres. For Buffalo, Robin Lehner gets the start.

— Looks as though Henrik Lundqvist will get the nod when the Rangers take on the ‘Canes in Carolina. Bill Peters hasn’t announced his starter yet, but it’s likely to be Eddie Lack, even though Lack did play last night (a shutout win over Toronto).

— After Al Montya started, and lost, on Monday, Roberto Luongo is back in goal for the Panthers as they host Chicago. Looks as though Scott Darling will start for the ‘Hawks, and give Corey Crawford the night off.

— In Colorado, no surprises in goal: Semyon Varlamov goes for the Avs, Brian Elliott for the Blues.