Mike Halford

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

Calgary adds to talented forward crop, takes Tkachuk at No. 6


BUFFALO — Johnny Gaudreau. Sean Monahan. Sam Bennett.

And now, Matthew Tkachuk.

Calgary bolstered what was already a deeply talented — and young — group of forwards on Friday night, taking Tkachuk sixth overall at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.

One of the key members of the Memorial Cup-winning London Knights, Tkachuk is the son of longtime NHLer Keith Tkachuk and considered to be a very strong prospect. He racked up 30 goals and a whopping 107 points in just 57 games this year, then piled up another 40 in 18 playoff games.

The move was a really nice turn of events for Calgary. Some thought Tkachuk would be off the board at No. 6, but he fell into the Flames’ lap after Vancouver went with d-man Olli Juolevi at No. 5.

In Calgary, Tkachuk should be a near-perfect fit.

The No. 2-ranked North American skater, he has good size — 6-foot-2, 200 pounds — and, like his dad, is a strong net-front presence with a knack for tipping home pucks. He’ll have plenty of talented playmakers to skate alongside in Calgary, and will bring a little more size and a little more sandpaper to the group.

Looking ahead, the Flames are pretty well-positioned for the future.

They’ve got good depth at forward and good depth on defense, which is why new head coach Glen Gulutzan said he saw great promise in the Flames, a “team that’s on the cusp.”

Trade: Habs get Shaw from ‘Hawks, send Eller to Caps


BUFFALO — Didn’t take long for the trades to start at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.

Just moments after Toronto made Auston Matthews the No. 1 pick, Montreal pulled off a pair of deals — first sending Lars Eller to Washington for a pair of second-round picks, then acquiring Andrew Shaw from Chicago for a pair of second-round picks.

It was a lot to digest in a short period of time.

For Montreal, they move on from Eller, the oft-criticized center. Halfway through a four-year, $14 million deal with a $3.5M cap hit, Eller had a down year production-wise — just 13 goals and 26 points — but will give the Caps some extra depth down the middle, behind Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeni Kuznetsov.

Shaw, meanwhile, will certainly give the Canadiens some more bite.

A grinding, hard-nosed forward that was a fan favorite in Chicago, Shaw is a pending RFA that — based on reports from earlier today — was seeking $4.5 million annually on his new deal. Though he’s definitely in line for a raise — he’s a two-time Cup winner with at least 14 goals in each of the last three seasons — it was difficult for the cap-strapped ‘Hawks to pay that kind of money.

With Shaw off the books, and Marcus Kruger possibly on the move as well, Chicago could have the available cap space to bring home former defenseman Brian Campbell, who is reportedly keen on going back to the Windy City.

Jets get another Finnish Flash, take Laine at No. 2


BUFFALO — Back in 1988, the Winnipeg Jets were forever changed when they used their first-round pick on Teemu Selanne.

Twenty-eight years later, the ‘Peg landed another high-scoring Finn with franchise-defining potential.

The Jets did the expected on Friday night, selecting 18-year-old super prospect Patrik Laine with the second overall selection at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. The decision came after Toronto took American phenom Auston Matthews at No. 1, paving the way for Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff to select Laine, a gifted offensive winger with the size (6-foot-4, 206 pounds) and pedigree to play immediately in the NHL next season.

In May, Laine became the youngest player in the 80-year history of the World Hockey Championships to win MVP. He finished with 12 points in 10 games and tied Sweden’s Gustav Nyquist for the tournament goal-scoring title. He set up the game-winning goal against the host Russians in the semifinal, and was also named the tournament’s top forward.

Pretty impressive.

Following that performance, Laine made some big statements at the scouting combine. He said he thought he could be the next Alex Ovechkin. He said he has the ability to be the best player in the NHL. He said he was just as good as Matthews, and his goal was to go No. 1 overall.

Laine will now have to settle for second overall. But he may have fallen into the perfect situation.

The Selanne comparisons have been endless, and with good reason. There’s the heritage. The’s the lethal release and shot. The ability to pile up massive goal totals. There’s also the unforgettable energy that Winnipeg had during Selanne’s rookie campaign, when he scored a still-record 76 goals.

While it’s unfair to think Laine will match that kind of production, it’s easy to think Jets fans will be equally excited about his arrival — and Laine seemed excited about it, too, when asked about the possibility of landing in Winnipeg during the Stanley Cup Final.

“It would be nice to play there, of course, where he used to play,” Laine said. “The city was crazy about him.”

Probably going to be crazy about Laine as well.

Report: Wild inform Vanek of buyout (Updated)

Getty Images

What a difference two years can make.

On Friday, the Star-Tribune reported that Minnesota informed Thomas Vanek he’d be bought out of the last of his three-year, $19.5 million deal — just two years after Vanek called signing for his hometown team “beyond my wildest dreams.”

Which makes today something of a rude awakening.

The Wild have since made the buyout official. The rumors of it have been around for a while, so it doesn’t come as a huge surprise. But it is a major development, the latest in a series of disappointments for Vanek since returning to Minnesota, where he starred with the Golden Gophers and captured the 2003 NCAA championship.

Vanek scored 21 goals in his first year with the Wild, only to disappear in the playoffs (no goals in 10 games). There was also the distraction of his ties to an illegal gambling ring.

This year, he was made a healthy scratch on a few occasions — by both Mike Yeo and John Torchetti — and didn’t play at all in the postseason.

“In order to give our team more salary cap flexibility we needed to make this difficult decision,” said GM Chuck Fletcher. “We thank Thomas for his time with the Minnesota Wild and wish him the best going forward.”

The financial details of today’s buyout, per Cap Friendly:


The move could free up money for Fletcher to go after another guy with Minnesota ties — Kyle Okposo, all but certain to hit free agency on July 1 after spending his entire career with the Islanders.

Okposo is from St. Paul and he played college hockey for the Gophers. He’s also coming off a solid campaign (22 goals, 42 points) and is only 28 years old, so the fit with Minnesota is definitely there.

As for Vanek, it’ll be curious to see where he lands. Though his production has plummeted and he turns 33 next season, there’s probably a number of teams that’ll be interested in bringing him aboard, especially at a discounted rate.

For what it’s worth, he believes he’s still capable of being a quality scorer at the NHL level.

“I’m not happy with my year,” he said back in April. “But I still believe I’m a 30-goal scorer.”

Update: Gerbe not going to Swiss League, has interest from NHL teams

1 Comment

Earlier, we passed along a report from Swiss newspaper Le Matin about Nathan Gerbe signing with Swiss National League A side Geneve-Servette.

Now, Gerbe’s camp is refuting the report:

Gerbe, 28, has spent the last three seasons in Carolina, but only appeared in 47 games last year due to a high ankle sprain that cost him considerable time.

He just wrapped the last of a two-year, $3.5 million deal with the ‘Canes, one that carried a $1.75M average annual cap hit. He’s set to hit unrestricted free agency on July 1.