Mike Halford

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 24:  John Tavares #91 of the New York Islanders celebrates his game winning goal at 10:41 of the second overtime against the Florida Panthers and is joined by Thomas Hickey #14 in Game Six of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Barclays Center on April 24, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Islanders win the series 4 games to 2 to move on to the next round.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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It’s New York Islanders day on PHT

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The 2015-16 season was one of change for the Isles.

The biggest, of course, was the move from Long Island to Brooklyn — one that wasn’t exactly smooth. The Barclays Center had its challenges: bad ice, travel issues and logistical problems when it came to game day operations.

But in the end, the Isles fought through and put together a pretty solid campaign. They finished with 45 wins and 100 points, and won a playoff round for the first time since 1993.

Then, more changes came.

Kyle Okposo, taken seventh overall by the Isles in 2006, departed in free agency after nine seasons with the club. Same story with veteran center Frans Nielsen, who left after 10 seasons to join the Red Wings.

Fan favorite and heavy-hitting fourth liner Matt Martin also departed, and caught on with Toronto.

And those exits weren’t the only changes. GM Garth Snow was active in free agency, making a huge splash by signing former Winnipeg captain Andrew Ladd to a lucrative seven-year, $38.5 million deal. Snow also inked veteran winger Jason Chimera, formerly of the Capitals, and brought back a familiar face in P.A. Parenteau, the former running mate of captain John Tavares.

There was a change in ownership, too.

On July 1, Jon Ledecky officially took over the reigns from Charles Wang, and one of his first promises was to make the Isles a “world-class destination.”

Unsurprisingly, Ledecky pointed to making some changes at Barclays. He said he wanted to make the arena feel less generic, and more like the Isles’ home, and vowed to make the transportation “flawless” from Long Island, where many of the players live.

In late July, though, the whole situation got flipped on its head. A Bloomberg report claimed the Isles were pondering leaving Brooklyn, and were in talks with the New York Mets to build a hockey arena in Queens, next to Citi Field.

Which means the Isles might not be done with changes. They might just be getting started.

Ducks sign WHL Kamloops standout Sideroff to ELC

ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 22: The new logo of the Anahaim Ducks is presented at the unveiling of the new Anaheim Ducks logo and jersey at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim on June 22, 2006 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
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Deven Sideroff, the 85th overall pick at the 2015 draft, has signed a three-year, entry-level deal with the Anaheim Ducks, per TVA.

The deal reportedly carries a $620,000 average annual value at the NHL level. Sideroff, 19, scored the contract after a good campaign with WHL Kamloops, finishing third on the team with 59 points in 63 games.

This past spring, the Ducks rewarded Sideroff with a one-game cameo with AHL San Diego (Kevin Roy, another Ducks prospect out of Northeastern, also got a game).

Sideroff will almost assuredly be back in junior next year, but still could be one to moving forward. He’s currently participating with Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Summer Showcase, and could have a shot at playing in Finland at the world juniors this winter.

 

Conroy: Tkachuk’s ‘mindset is to make the Flames’

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Matthew Tkachuk gives an interview after being selected sixth overall by the Calgary Flames during round one of the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)
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Matthew Tkachuk, taken sixth overall by Calgary at this year’s draft, was supposed to partake in the U.S. national junior team development camp, currently underway in Plymouth.

But he’s not.

Instead, Tkachuk is taking the camp off to rest, after playing through an injured ankle for the Memorial Cup-winning London Knights this past spring. The absence shouldn’t hurt his chances of making the junior team — Flames assistant GM Craig Conroy said it was “kind of the plan” for Tkachuk to skip — but something else might prevent him from representing the U.S. this winter:

The NHL.

It’s hard not to look at the 18-year-old’s decision to rest up his body as a sign that he’s gunning to crack the Flames roster out of training camp this fall.

Conroy all but confirmed as much to the Calgary Sun.

“You talk to [Tkachuk] right now and his mindset is to make the [Flames],” he explained. “And that’s what we’ve always said … just like with [Sean] Monahan.

“He came in and played great and then he was on the team. He took it out of our hands. That is his mindset and that was Monny’s mindset too.”

Monahan wasn’t supposed to make the Flames two years ago, but did, and played exceptionally well, finishing second on the team in scoring as a 19-year-old.

And it sure sounds like Calgary’s as high on Tkachuk as it was on Monahan (and Sam Bennett, who also debuted in his draft year).

The team wasted little time signing Tkachuk to an entry-level deal, and president Brian Burke suggested the rugged power forward had attributes the Flames could use right now.

“Kid’s a kind of pain in the ass,” said Burke, per the Calgary Herald. “We don’t have enough guys who are pains in the ass. And the way I like to play, I like guys who are pains in the ass.

“So, I thought that was a real important pick for us.”

Bruins add Leach, Whitfield to AHL coaching staff

PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 22:  Trent Whitfield #42 of the Boston Bruins skates against the Philadelphia Flyers on October 22, 2009 at Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers won the game 4-3 after a shootout.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
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Boston has added a pair of coaches to Kevin Dean’s staff in AHL Providence.

From the club:

The Bruins have hired Jay Leach and Trent Whitfield as assistant coaches of the Providence Bruins. Leach and Whitfield will serve on the coaching staff of head coach Kevin Dean, who was named to his position on July 18, 2016.

Leach will be working primarily with the team’s defensemen while Whitfield will work primarily with the team’s forwards.

Leach, 36, most recently served as an assistant coach in AHL Wilkes-Barre. Prior to coaching he enjoyed a lengthy, journeyman career that included 70 games at the NHL level.

Whitfield, 39, is a familiar face, having suited up for both Boston and Providence during his playing career. He spent last year behind the bench with WHL Calgary.

Washington got better down the middle, which is vitally important in the East

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 07:  Caps senior vice president and general manager Brian MacLellan of the Washington Capitals speaks with the media prior to the game against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on January 7, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Given that Washington has the reigning coach of the year, goalie of the year and goalscorer of the year, it’s tough to say the addition of a third-line center will make a huge difference.

But Lars Eller isn’t just another third-line center.

And the hole he’s filling isn’t just another hole.

“We identified Lars probably a year ago,” Caps GM Brian MacLellan said upon acquiring Eller from Montreal at the draft. “We’ve been asking about him. We’re trying to fill a third-line center with a good two-way guy that can give us a little offense and play defense. Little PK and probably a little power play too.

“We identified him probably over a year ago, and he was on our list this year.”

Then — when asked if he’d finally solved Washington’s longstanding problem at 3C — MacLellan smiled, and gave a one-word reply.

“Yes.”

The importance of depth down the middle cannot be understated. Last year’s Eastern Conference Finalists, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay, had it in spades — the Penguins rolled Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Nick Bonino and Matt Cullen, while the Bolts had Tyler Johnson, Steve Stamkos, Valtteri Filppula, Brian Boyle and, when Stamkos was sidelined, cycled in a quality fifth option in Vladislav Namestnikov.

Washington, conversely, was top-heavy.

Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom did most of the lifting, which was fine during the regular season. But when the playoff clamp down began, and Kuznetsov faded, it was up to Jay Beagle and Mike Richards to give something more.

And no offense to either of those guys… but they are what they are.

The Eller acquisition essentially ended Richards’ time in Washington, and will (presumably) push Beagle back from 3C to 4C, where he’s better suited.

Eller, 27, will also increase Washington’s team speed. And this is another big deal in the East.

Following the loss to Pittsburgh in Round 2, MacLellan acknowledged the Pens’ speed “took over” at times. This was a familiar refrain.

Jon Cooper, the coach of a pretty speedy Bolts team — the only team to push Pittsburgh to seven games — said the Pens were just too fast. Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer, who’s team looked outmatched in the Stanley Cup Final, called Pittsburgh the fastest team in the league.

Eller should combat this. He has good speed, and captured the fastest skater title at a number of Montreal’s skills competitions.

Eller also has some nice offensive upside, scoring 13 goals in 79 games last year. Comparatively, Beagle and Richards combined to score 10.

But will it be enough?

As stated at the top, Eller’s not going to be a front-line guy for the Caps. And the speed he brings might only offset the loss of Jason Chimera, who was arguably the team’s fastest skater last season.

Whatever the case, one thing is clear. MacLellan knew he needed to fix his 3C problem, and he believes he’s found the perfect solution.