Mike Halford

Boston Bruins v Anaheim Ducks

Ducks angling for ‘hometown discounts’ from Lindholm, Andersen et al?

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Some very important Ducks will be RFAs at season’s end: Frederik Andersen, Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen, to name a few.

So with that in mind, consider what GM Bob Murray said yesterday, in the wake of signing goalie-of-the-future John Gibson to a three-year extension.

From the O.C. Register:

Murray sent out a signal Monday that he hopes some of those impending free agents will pick up on. The Ducks want you for the long haul but there’s an internal salary structure to work within.

“A lot of our players in the past — and they’ve been here for a long time — have taken a hometown discount, haircuts, whatever word you want to use,” Murray said. “But they want to play here. And I want young players who want to stay and be part of this organization.

“It’s not a bad place to play.”

Murray said this while confirming talks are already underway with Lindholm, the 21-year-old blueliner that looks to be a star in the making.

Which begs the question — how will Anaheim afford these guys?

Next year is when three of Murray’s more, ahem, questionable contracts could come home to roost: Ryan Kesler‘s extension ($6.875M cap hit), Kevin Bieksa‘s extension ($4M) and year three of the Clayton Stoner deal, in which Stoner — who was basically Anaheim’s sixth d-man in the playoffs last year — makes $3.25M.

Per war-on-ice.com, Anaheim already has nearly $50 million committed to the payroll for next season and, as the Register points out, is working under an internal cap. In addition to Lindholm, Andersen and Vatanen, the likes of Rickard Rakell, Simon Despres and Jiri Sekac also need new contracts.

It’s a strong possibility Murray offers bridge deals for most, if not all, of his key RFAs — the club’s had success with this strategy, like last year with Jakob Silfverberg — but there is risk involved; if a player like Lindholm takes the bridge and continues to progress, his asking price gets way higher once the bridge deal expires (and we’re seeing more teams try and work against this, like Edmonton, which took a calculated risk in giving Oscar Klefbom a seven-year deal.)

For now, though, Murray’s focused on keeping RFA negotiations simply moving in the right direction.

“I’ll work at them one at a time,” Murray said. “That’s all I can do.”

Lecavalier: Flyers rookie Konecny reminds me of Tyler Johnson

2015 NHL Draft - Round One
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The Philadelphia Flyers were pleased when Travis Konecny, the 14th-ranked North American skater by Central Scouting, fell to the bottom of the first round of this year’s draft.

So pleased, in fact, that they flipped a pair of picks to move up to No. 24 to select him — a move that looks fairly shrewd in the early stages of the preseason.

“He’s fast,” Vincent Lecavalier told the Inquirer after Konecny scored in Monday’s exhibition win over the Isles. “He’s turning one way, turning the other way. I don’t know him that much, but on that one shift, I was just kind of watching him, mesmerized by what he was doing.

“Nobody could catch up. Kind of like [Tyler] Johnson in Tampa. He reminds me of him a little bit.”

Like Johnson, Konecny is on the smallish side — 5-foot-10, 175 pounds — and, like Johnson, was an absolute offensive machine in junior. In two seasons with OHL Ottawa, Konecny had 55 goals and 138 points in 123 games.

As for the Johnson comparison, Lecavalier knows of what he speaks. His final year in Tampa Bay (’13) coincided with Johnson’s NHL debut campaign; in fact, a Lecavalier injury late in the year paved the way for one of Johnson’s recalls from the AHL.

So the former Bolts captain’s opinion has merit.

Of course, we should probably tap the brakes on Konecny for a moment. He’s still only 18 years old and a major, major longshot to crack the Flyers roster this year.

But for now, Flyers GM Ron Hextall can be pleased his draft day deal seems to be a good one.

“He’s got the heart of a lion, and that’s huge for us,” Hextall said at the time. “I didn’t think we had a chance to get him, and we got a call and acted on it quick.”

There’s a real ‘last chance’ vibe at Rangers camp

St Louis Blues v New York Rangers
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Dylan McIlrath and Oscar Lindberg have a few things in common. They’re both 23. Both were taken at the 2010 draft. Both split last year between New York and AHL Hartford, and both are facing what could be their last chance to become Rangers.

So says the New York Post, anyway.

First, the skinny on McIlrath:

This training camp truly does represent Dylan McIlrath’s last chance to make the Rangers, because if the 2010 first-rounder can’t earn a spot as the club’s seventh defenseman, he would have to clear waivers to remain in the organization at AHL Hartford.

Given his age (23), position (right side), and contract (one year at $600,000 NHL, $90,000 AHL), it is extremely unlikely McIlrath would clear. Indeed, if he can’t beat out journeyman Raphael Diaz for the spot, the Rangers most likely would seek to deal the defenseman in order to get at least something in exchange for losing him.

Then, Lindberg:

[He] would have to clear waivers in order to be assigned to the AHL Hartford Wolf Pack.

That’s unlikely given the combination of the 23-year-old’s upside and his modest $650,000 contract. Both he and the Rangers know it.

Which is why Lindberg’s last chance is likely his best chance, as the Rangers’ management and coaching staff are committed to giving him every chance to make the squad.

Of the two, McIlrath has the potential for bigger blowback. He was already considered a reach in his draft year — 10th overall, two spots ahead of Anaheim d-man Cam Fowler — and has failed to materialize at the NHL level. Losing him via waivers would compound what many already see as a mistake.

Losing Lindberg, a natural center, would be more understandable. The Rangers have a logjam down the middle — Derek Stepan, Derick Brassard, Kevin Hayes, Jarret Stoll and Dominic Moore — and there are questions about Lindberg’s ability to produce offensively.

That said, head coach Alain Vigneault has floated the idea of moving Lindberg to wing.

Whatever happens, the McIlrath and Lindberg situations are worth monitoring. The Post is right in that both would undoubtedly be scooped off waivers if made available, and everybody knows the scorn front offices face when they don’t get anything in return for departing assets.

Debut delayed: Saad to miss Jackets’ split-squad games

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Four
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Columbus fans will have to wait to see Brandon Saad in a Blue Jackets uniform.

Saad, who on Monday took a puck to the mouth that required “some work,” is being held out of tonight’s split-squad games against St. Louis, per the Dispatch.

Acquired in a monster seven-player trade this summer, Saad was supposed to be in the CBJ lineup this evening after sitting out last night’s 1-0 exhibition loss to the Penguins. While the injury isn’t believed to be serious, it will delay Saad’s team debut until at least Thursday, when the Jackets take on the Wild in their third preseason game.

In training camp, Saad was skating on the club’s top line with center Ryan Johansen and team captain Nick Foligno.

Veteran G Mason retires, transitions to radio booth

Chicago Blackhawks v Nashville Predators
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Longtime NHL netminder Chris Mason has hung up his skates.

Mason, 39, announced his retirement this week by revealing the next chapter in his career — starting this season, he’ll be providing color commentary for Nashville Predators radio broadcasts.

“I am excited and happy to be back in Nashville with my family for the next chapter of our lives,” Mason said in a statement. “I am really looking forward to rejoining the Nashville Predators family and working with all my friends in the organization.

“I love hockey, I love the fans of hockey and this opportunity gives me a chance to stay involved in the sport I have dedicated so much of my life to.”

A fan favorite in the Music City, Mason enjoyed some of the finest seasons of his career as a Predator. In 2006-07, he finished top-10 in Vezina voting on the strength of a .925 save percentage and 2.38 GAA, but was traded to St. Louis just one year later.

With the Blues, Mason was the starter for a surprising ’08-09 team — they were in last place on Jan. 19 before going on a 17-7-5 run to make the playoffs — and racked up 57 wins over two seasons.

Following his time in St. Louis, Mason played in Atlanta and Winnipeg before returning for a final season with Nashville in ’13.

He spent the last two years playing in the Italian and German Leagues.