<span class="vcard">Mike Halford</span>

Joonas Kemppainen, Jan Laco

B’s sign Finnish forward Kemppainen to one-year, $700K deal


Don Sweeney made his first move as Boston’s GM on Thursday, signing veteran Finnish forward Joonas Kemppainen to a one-year, two-way deal worth $700,000 at the NHL level.

Kemppainen, 27, had 11 goals and 32 points for Karpat of the Finnish league this year, then blew up in the playoffs by scoring 24 points in 19 games, helping his team win the championship. Kemppainen’s Karpat teammate, Joonas Donskoi, captured the Jarri Kurri Trophy as playoff MVP and was recently signed by San Jose.

Also like Donskoi, Kemppainen recently represented Finland at the World Hockey Championships and fared well, finishing third on the team in goals (three), second in assists (six) and second in points (nine) in eight games played.

At 6-foot-2, 213 pounds, Kemppainen will provide some good size to a Boston team looking to get back to its “Big Bad Bruins” personality; upon being presented as the club’s new GM, Sweeney promised the B’s would get back the “aggressiveness” he felt they lost in recent seasons.

(Video) PHT Extra: On Babcock, sticking to the process and housebuilding analogies

Mike Babcock

Brough and I discussed the Mike Babcock hire in Toronto, an under-the-radar story that’s struggled to gain mainstream media coverage.

Tune in next week when we cover David Letterman, who quietly and without great fanfare stepped away from his Late Show hosting duties on Thursday. Came out of nowhere!



Milbury’s ‘tongue-in-cheek’ remarks about Perry discussed, says NBC exec (Video)

Mike Milbury

Comments about Corey Perry made by NHL on NBC analyst Mike Milbury have been addressed and discussed, per NBC/NBCSN executive sports producer Sam Flood.

“I talked to Mike and told him that even though it was a tongue-in-cheek segment that built to a compliment — with Mike saying that he’d want Corey Perry as a teammate — word choice matters, even when attempting to be humorous,” Flood said in a statement, released Thursday.

“Mike understood.”

The comments occurred during Wednesday night’s broadcast of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final between the Rangers and Lightning. In discussing the Western Conference Final between the Ducks and Blackhawks, Milbury was asked how he’d stop Perry, the second-leading playoff scorer with 16 points.

Here’s video of the discussion:

Game 3 of the Chicago-Anaheim series goes tonight at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Report: Five years, $15M for McLellan in Edmonton

Todd McLellan, Peter Chiarelli

According to multiple outlets (see here and here and here), Todd McLellan has struck it rich.

McLellan, who on Tuesday was introduced as the new head coach in Edmonton, has reportedly received a five-year deal worth $15 million — a $3M average annual salary that, for a brief time, made him the NHL’s highest-paid coach.

He has since been eclipsed by new Toronto bench boss Mike Babcock, who signed a reported eight-year deal worth $50 million on Wednesday — an AAV of $6.25M but, due to the contract’s front-loaded nature, could possibly reach $8 million in salary in each of Babcock’s first three seasons.

As for McLellan, his deal — though not as long as Babcock’s — still has plenty of term, which will allow him to grow with a young Oilers team that will get even younger next season when Connor McDavid (in all likelihood) makes his NHL debut at age 18. McLellan will also be tasked with further developing a relationship with 23-year-old Taylor Hall and 25-year-old Jordan Eberle, who he coached on Canada’s gold medal-winning team at the 2015 World Hockey Championships.

Babcock predicts ‘pain’ for Leafs, who are a ‘massive, massive challenge’

Mike Babcock

If there was anything to take from Mike Babcock’s introductory presser in Toronto on Thursday, it’s that the newly minted head coach really, really gets the challenge at hand.

“If you think there’s no pain coming, there’s pain coming,” Babcock said, one day after agreeing to become the 30th head coach in team history. “I’m looking forward to the process, the battle, the pain, the fun and the journey.

“It’s gonna be a long one, but it’s gonna be a lot of fun.”

Babcock, who yesterday stunned the hockey world by inking a mega eight-year, $50 million contract to join the Leafs after 10 seasons in Detroit, didn’t get into specifics about a pending rebuild (he deferred questions about Dion Phaneuf’s future, for example, saying he still needed to speak with players.) Babcock was, however, brutally honest and blunt about tough times ahead, suggesting things will get worse in Toronto before they get better.

“This is going to be a long process,” Babcock said. “This is going to be a massive, massive challenge.”

Babcock then presented an interesting juxtaposition with regards to Toronto itself. He was effusive in his praise for the city and market — “I’m thrilled, excited and proud to be [here]”– but also acknowledged it’s been a difficult place for players.

At no time was this more evident than last season. Phil Kessel constantly feuded with the media, Nazem Kadri was in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, players were ripped for an ill-fated decision to stop saluting fans, and Phaneuf and Joffrey Lupul threatened to sue TSN after an unseemly tweet about them went to air.

So, how to solve such a toxic situation?

Victories, said Babcock.

“We need to create a safe environment for the players — right now, it’s a hard place,” he explained. “Winning creates a safe place for players.”

There doesn’t promise to be much winning in the immediate future, though. While Babcock was relatively mum on which players could or might be moved, the writing’s been on the wall since team president Brendan Shanahan and assistant GM Kyle Dubas conducted their rip-it-back-to-the-studs renovation of the front office and coaching staff in April. It was a clear indication of a wholesale remodel, which means players will eventually be on the move — Kessel and Phaneuf topping the list — and, in speaking with Sportsnet after the presser, Babcock did hint that part of the long-term plan included stockpiling draft picks, so that director of player personnel Mark Hunter could “go get some good players.”

It’s why Babcock was keen to sign a contract with lengthy term (heck, the Leafs were willing to go even longer than the eight years). He knows this isn’t a one- or two-year plan. For him to see it fully through, he needs to be in Toronto for the long haul.

“I never came here to make the playoffs, I came here for the Cup process,” Babcock said. “I don’t just want to get there.

“I want to win the Cup.”

Related: Babcock wants to ‘put Canada’s team back on the map’