Mike Halford

You've heard the expression "let's get busy?" Well, Mike Halford is a blogger who gets "biz-zay!" Consistently and thoroughly.
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Preds trying to trade Nystrom, rather than buy him out

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The window for NHL clubs to buy out players could open soon, which is why a number of teams are currently in the thick of making tough decisions.

Like Nashville with Eric Nystrom, for example — the Preds have already indicated they’re going to part ways with the veteran forward.

So now it’s a matter of how they’ll do it.

“It has to happen pretty soon,” Preds GM David Poile said, per the Tennessean. “The buyout period starts 48 hours after the Stanley Cup playoffs, and I want to be in position to know whether we can trade him or whether we’d keep him or whether we’d buy him out.

“We’re about a week away from needing to make one of those three decisions.”

Nystrom, 33, carries a $2.5 million cap hit but is set to pull in $3M in salary next season. The Tennessean reports Poile is actively trying to flip Nystrom rather than go the buyout route.

But it could be tough to find a taker.

Nystrom was a press box regular during the playoffs — sitting up there for 13 of Nashville’s 14 games — though he did manage to score seven goals in just 46 regular-season appearances.

If there’s no taker for his services, the Preds have a decision. Do they buy Nystrom out, and absorb the cap hit penalty? Or do they keep him on board for another year, and let his contract expire next July?

If Poile goes the latter route, the possibility of waiving Nystrom would seem to be in play. That would give Nashville the option to send him to the AHL (should he clear), and recoup some cap space.

Detroit ‘working away’ on Miller extension

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Veteran forward and pending UFA Drew Miller said he wanted to stay in Detroit and now, it sounds like the Wings want him to stay as well.

“We’re working away, hopefully find a solution,” Detroit GM Ken Holland told MLive. “He’s a good penalty killer, he’s a good leader in the room.”

Scooped off waivers from Tampa Bay seven years ago, Miller has really flourished during his time with the Red Wings and developed his niche as a defensively responsible forward that logs prime shorthanded minutes.

He didn’t miss a single game from 2013-15, appearing in 82 contests each season while racking up 15 and 13 points, respectively. Miller, 32, was also one of the Red Wings’ best shot-blocking forwards and a staple of the penalty kill.

Last year, though, it was tough for him to flourish in that role.

Miller struggled through a nightmarish campaign in ’15-16, missing extensive time with a broken jaw and torn ACL. The result? Just 28 games played, and only two points scored — a tough situation to go through in a contract year (a three-year, $4.05 million deal that paid $1.35M annually.)

Those injuries could end up being a blessing, however.

Per MLive, Miller can sign a contract featuring games-played bonuses because he spent more than 100 days on injured reserve last year. That could provide some cap flexibility for Holland, who has a number of key financial decisions to make this summer.

“[Miller] doesn’t wear a letter but he’s well-respected by the younger players,” Holland said. “Hopefully we find a solution to keep him here for another year.”

One win away from Calder Cup, Lake Erie has ‘everybody under contract’ in Columbus on notice

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Columbus’ AHL affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters, can complete a Calder Cup sweep of Hershey with a win on Saturday.

And if that happens, you can expect guys with NHL jobs to be taking even longer looks over their shoulders.

From the Columbus Dispatch:

[GM Jarmo] Kekalainen’s job this summer will have more to do with unloading NHL contracts than adding players via free agency or trade. His task is to clear space on the roster and under the salary cap.

“Everybody under contract in Columbus is noticing what’s going on (in Cleveland),” he said, almost ominously.

Rumors have persistently swirled around Columbus and its more expensive veteran players. Scott Hartnell ($4.75M annually through ’19) was the subject of trade rumblings throughout the year, as was d-man Fedor Tyutin ($4.5M through ’18).

David Clarkson, he of the albatrossian seven-year, $36.75 million deal — that expires in 2020 — is considered to be a buyout candidate.

And with Lake Erie’s success, one has to wonder if more moves will happen.

Kekalainen says he “loves” the comparison between his AHL affiliate and Tampa Bay’s cup-winning Norfolk side of 2012. That team featured the likes of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Alex Killorn, all of whom quickly graduated to the NHL — with great success.

Like that Norfolk team, Lake Erie’s fueled by a crop of quality young prospects: Zach Werenski, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Josh Anderson, Sonny Milano and Kerby Rychel, to name a few.

Werenski and Bjorkstrand are probably the most exciting — the former, still only 18 years old, projects to star on the CBJ blueline next to Seth Jones (Werenski is the No. 2 scoring d-man in the playoffs).

The latter, meanwhile, is tied for the AHL playoff lead with nine goals in 16 games.

This is why Kekalainen might have some difficult decisions moving forward. The Jackets have a lot of well-paid veterans that haven’t been getting it done in recent years, and have five forwards under contract next season that are 30 or older.

Maybe it’s time for some new (and, less expensive) blood?

“I always tell the young players, ‘You play too well for us to send you down, and we’ll make room for you,’” Kekalainen said. “It might take a little while, but we’ll make it happen.

“If somebody deserves to play in the NHL, they’re going to make it.”

If you think Fehr ‘kind of flopped’ for key penalty call, DeBoer probably agrees with you

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SAN JOSE — Evgeni Malkin‘s deciding goal in Pittsburgh’s Game 4 victory over the Sharks came on the power play, after Melker Karlsson was whistled for interference on Eric Fehr.

It was a pivotal call, to say the least.

And it’s one San Jose head coach Peter DeBoer didn’t like.

Quick transcript, from the postgame presser:

Q: Coach, the penalty on Melker that led to the goal, it looked like the guy kind of flopped. How did you see it?

DeBoer: Probably the same way you did.

The decision to penalize Karlsson was a big one, especially in a game that featured just two power play opportunities for each team (and especially in a series where whistles have gone away for long stretches.)

The play in question:

Karlsson was demonstratively upset with the decision, and it’s pretty clear DeBoer didn’t think much of it either.

The head coach did, however, stop short of saying that penalty calls and power play opportunities were a major factor in the outcome.

“That wasn’t the difference in the game tonight,” DeBoer said. “The special teams battle has been even in the series, and I don’t think that’s a deciding factor either way for either team.”

On the brink: Pens silence Sharks, now one win away from Stanley Cup

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SAN JOSE — The Sharks haven’t quite faded to black yet.

But they’re close.

On a night when Metallica provided a surge of energy by performing the national anthem, the home team failed to respond in kind, mustering just a single goal in a 3-1 loss to Pittsburgh in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Evgeni Malkin‘s second-period goal, his first of the series, proved the game winner, while Melker Karlsson scored the lone marker for San Jose.

Ian Cole and Eric Fehr also netted for the Penguins, who got a pair of assists from Phil Kessel, now the team’s leading scorer — and legitimate Conn Smythe favorite — with 21 points in 22 games.

With the win, the Penguins took a commanding 3-1 series lead, and can now capture their first championship in seven years on Thursday night at Consol.

With the loss, San Jose found itself in in serious trouble.

Fair or not, the face of that trouble is the captain, Joe Pavelski. He had another difficult night on Monday, and remains pointless in this series — a stunning development for a guy that had 38 goals during the regular season, and 13 during the playoffs.

Pavelski’s struggles were also compounded by Malkin’s big night.

Like Pavelski, Malkin entered Game 4 having failed to register a single point. The big Russian looked a frustrated player and clearly had more to give — which is exactly what his head coach, Mike Sullivan, said prior to tonight.

Unlike Pavelski, Malkin finally broke through. He finished with two points tonight, two shots and a hit in what was easily his best game of the final.

Looking ahead, the storylines for both teams are pretty simple.

The Sharks now face the unenviable task of trying to do something only one other team in NHL history has — rally from 3-1 down to win a cup final.

That team? The 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, who actually came from 0-3 down against the Red Wings to win it all.

So all San Jose has to do… is something that hasn’t been done in 74 years.

As for the the Penguins, they get their own chance at history. The club’s three previous Stanley Cups were all won on the road — in Minnesota in ’91, in Chicago in ’92 and in Detroit in ’09.

Now they get a chance to hoist Lord Stanley’s Mug in front of the Pittsburgh faithful.