Author: Mike Halford

Montreal Canadiens v Arizona Coyotes

Habs cutting ties with Gonchar, Malhotra, Weaver

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Three of the oldest players on the Montreal roster are on their way out.

Manny Malhotra, Mike Weaver and Sergei Gonchar — the Habs’ elder statesman this year, at 41 — won’t be brought back for next season, GM Marc Bergevin confirmed during Friday’s end-of-season presser.

The moves don’t come as a huge surprise, given all were pending UFAs and none played in the playoffs. Malhotra had the biggest role on the team during the regular season, appearing in 58 games, and Gonchar did provide some offense on the back end, racking up 13 points in 45 games.

Weaver, a renowned shot-blocker that played regularly in last year’s run to the Eastern Conference Final, was largely a spare part this season and appeared in just 31 games, one of the lowest totals of his career.

It’ll be interesting to see what each player does next. The 34-year-old Malhotra, the youngest of the three, said he wants to keep playing; Weaver, who just turned 37, has played for six different teams over the last 13 years and always seems to find somewhere to sign. Gonchar could very well be done.

Finally, it’s worth noting that over $7 million comes off the books with Gonchar, Weaver and Malhotra leaving town. Important, because the club has said that re-signing pending UFA d-man Jeff Petry is a priority, and Petry isn’t going to come cheap.

Red Wings name prospect tourney trophy after CapGeek founder Wuest

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The Detroit Red Wings are doing their part to honor the late Matthew Wuest.

Wuest, founder of the popular NHL salary website CapGeek, is the new namesake of the championship trophy at Detroit’s annual prospects tourney in Traverse City — the Matthew Wuest Memorial Cup.

Wuest, who passed away in March following a battle with colon cancer, had strong ties to the Red Wings organization. In addition to his work with CapGeek, Wuest developed and maintained the now-defunct RedWingsCentral site, which played a key role in covering the early days of the Traverse City tournament.

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RWC’s exclusive coverage of the NHL Prospect Tournament and Detroit Red Wings training camp were one of the most read sections of the site. With the help of an on-site contributor, Wuest provided statistical data on the participating teams and players along with exclusive box scores before the use of an online system was employed.

Without his early efforts, the tournament would not have accurate historical statistical data or a complete list of tournament winners, spanning back to the inaugural tournament in 1998.

This year will mark the 17th time the tournament has been played in Traverse City and is slated to feature teams from Carolina, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, New York and St. Louis.

Avs sign big Norwegian power forward Martinsen

Norway's Andreas Martinsen (R) and Switz
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The Colorado Avalanche have made an interesting signing — 24-year-old forward Andreas Martinsen, who spent the last three seasons playing in Germany.

Martinsen, who’s represented Norway internationally on a number of occasions, scored 18 goals and 41 points in 50 games for Dusseldorfer last year. His size (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) and physical play (team-high 99 penalty minutes) are what’s intriguing; in some ways, he’s not unlike another German League player to come to the NHL — David Wolf, the 6-foot-3, 225-pounder that joined the Flames this season after racking up a league-high 152 PIM in 2013-14.

(Wolf, 25, appeared in three regular-season and one playoff game for Calgary this year. He did make a name for himself, though, by getting after Corey Perry in warmups prior to Game 2 of the Ducks series.)

This isn’t the first time the Avalanche have combed the European leagues for talent. Last year, the club signed Borna Rendulic out of the Finnish league, and he went on to become the first Croatian born and trained player to play in the NHL (appearing in 11 games all told.)

Agent: Comeau interested in sticking with Pens

New York Rangers v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Four
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Blake Comeau enjoyed his time in Pittsburgh this season and, according to his agent, would welcome a return to the organization for next year.

“[Blake] is definitely interested in the possibility of returning to Pittsburgh,” Kurt Overhardt told PHT on Thursday. “It’s our goal to try and work something out, but of course we always have July 1 pending.”

Comeau, 29, finished sixth on the team in goals last season, with 16, and averaged over 15 minutes per night — often on a line with Evgeni Malkin. The former Islander, Flame and Blue Jacket also netted his highest point total (31) since scoring 24 goals and 46 points on Long Island four years ago.

Considering GM Jim Rutherford signed Comeau to a one-year deal for $700,000 last July, the Pens received pretty good return on their investment. Head coach Mike Johnston sung Comeau’s praises throughout the season, most notably after a Game 1 loss to the Rangers in the opening playoff round.

“[Comeau] is a guy we can move in our lineup like we have during the year,” Johnston said, per ESPN. “He can play up, he can play the middle. He’s an energy guy. And he’s most effective when he uses his speed and shot.”

The former WHL Kelowna standout also brings a sandpaper element. He finished second on the team in hits this season, with 118, and said he enjoys playing a physical, gritty game. Add it all up, and Comeau could be a guy that generates a fair amount of interest on the open market.

“Hard, tough, two-way player,” said one Western Conference scout, also per ESPN. “I’d take him on [my team].”

Pending UFA Ward would ‘love’ to stay in Washington

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After another stellar postseason — cementing his reputation as a quality playoff performer — Capitals forward Joel Ward said he’d like to stick with the club, but isn’t sure how his future will play out.

“I’d love to stay — it was a good group,” Ward told Sportsnet’s Fan 590 on Friday. “I thought maybe we could go all the way with this group and I’d definitely like to stay, for sure.”

Ward, 34, just wrapped the last of a four-year, $12 million deal and was full value for his $3M cap hit over the final two seasons. He scored a career-high 24 goals in 2013-14 and potted 19 this year, punctuated by yet another stellar playoff run.

Ward scored three goals and nine points in 14 games this spring, replicating the success he had with the Predators under Barry Trotz (perhaps you’re sensing a connection there.) Ward’s minutes jumped up, big time — after getting 16:52 per game during the regular season, he averaged over 19 — which was similar to how Trotz utilized Ward in Nashville; during the 2011 playoffs, Ward averaged 20:25 a night and scored seven goals and 13 points in 12 games.

There figures to be plenty of interest in Ward should he hit the open market. It’s important to note that he’s not your typical 34-year-old, having made his NHL debut at 26. He has just over 500 regular-season games on his resume and, by the sounds of it, welcomes playing a few more at Verizon.

“I’ve been here for a couple years now and it’s a great city, fanbase is great and we must be up there in selling jerseys,” he said. “People come to the games, they come to ‘Rock the Red’ every game and it’s a good chance to play some superstars, like [Ovechkin] and Backstrom, which made things more fun obviously.

“Hopefully I’ll come back.”