Mike Halford

You've heard the expression "let's get busy?" Well, Mike Halford is a blogger who gets "biz-zay!" Consistently and thoroughly.
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Report: Kings expose Brown, Gaborik for expansion draft

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One of the first big decisions for new Kings GM Rob Blake has been made.

Per Mayor’s Manor, Los Angeles opted for the eight skaters and a goalie format for its expansion protection list: Forwards Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson; defensemen Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin, Alec Martinez and Derek Forbort; and goalie Jonathan Quick.

That leaves two of the club’s highest-paid forwards available for selection by Las Vegas: Dustin Brown and Marian Gaborik.

It’s not a huge surprise the two were exposed. Both have rather onerous contracts — Brown, 32, carries a $5.875 million cap hit through 2022, while Gaborik, 35, is locked in through 2021 at $4.875M per.

In April, L.A. announced that Gaborik underwent an “in-depth medical procedure for a chronic issue related to his left knee.” The surgery means he’ll be questionable for the start of training camp, and could miss some time to start the year. Gaborik struggled through this past season, scoring just 10 goals in 56 games while missing extensive time with a foot injury suffered at the World Cup.

Brown hasn’t experienced such health issues — he’s missed just two games over the last three years — but his production has tailed off. He posted back-to-back 11-goal seasons in ’14-15 and ’15-16 and, prior to this year, had his captaincy taken away and given to Kopitar.

The gritty winger did bounce back with improved numbers, scoring 14 goals and 36 points this season. But he’s clearly not the impact player he was earlier in his career.

Other notable Kings exposed include forwards Trevor Lewis, Jordan Nolan, Kyle Clifford and Nick Dowd. Andy Andreoff and Nick Shore are RFAs, while Jarome Iginla is an unrestricted free agent.

On defense, the Golden Knights could make a play for Brayden McNabb. The 26-year-old carries a $1.7 million cap hit appeared in 49 games last year, this after playing a career-high 81 in ’15-16. McNabb missed extensive time with a collarbone injury in ’16-17, and also sat as a healthy scratch.

NHL, NHLPA have ‘conceptual agreement’ on Despres buyout

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Yesterday, Anaheim announced it was waiving d-man Simon Despres for buyout purposes — which raised a few eyebrows, given Despres was sidelined for nearly all of last year with concussion problems.

There are rules that prohibit buying out contracts of injured players. But now it appears as though both the NHL and NHLPA have reached an agreement on the Despres situation.

From the O.C. Register:

“There have been a number of unique aspects related to Mr. Despres’ situation and we and the Players’ Association have worked together to help define the appropriate collectively bargained rules that can be applied to his contract,” Daly wrote in an e-mail. “We now have a conceptual agreement on treatment and we are in the process of documenting that resolution.”

The union has apparently signed off on it, with NHLPA spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon saying, “The NHLPA is engaged in settlement discussions with the NHL regarding Simon Despres contract and the parties hope to have this matter resolved soon.”

Despres, 25, has missed 131 games over the last two years combined while dealing with concussion problems, and suited up for just one contest in ’16-17.

Acquired in a trade with Pittsburgh two years ago, Despres had a good initial showing in Anaheim. He scored seven points in 16 playoff games during the ’15 postseason, averaging nearly 21 minutes per night. Ducks GM Bob Murray rewarded that showing with a five-year, $18 million extension — one that kicked in this past season, and carries a $3.7 million cap hit through 2021.

In October, Murray suggested that Despres’ career might be in jeopardy due to the aforementioned concussion problems.

“The Despres situation is one that is a very sensitive issue and it’s one that my whole goal hopefully is make it that Simon at the end of all this lives a happy, healthy, normal life,” Murray said, per ESPN. “It’s going to take some time before we get to that point. Really, it’s all I want to say at this time on that because it is sensitive and I feel real bad for Simon.”

The timing of this buyout is crucial for the budget-conscious Ducks. It was their last chance to get Despres for one-third of his contract:

Per the Register, Despres was activated from long-term injured during the playoffs but never participated in a team practice.

Welcome Jonathan Marchessault to the trade rumor mill

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And this is what Vegas can to do people.

Per Sportsnet, Florida forward Jonathan Marchessault may soon hit the trade market, as the Panthers are caught in a protection issue for the upcoming expansion draft.

Marchessault, 26, is a coveted asset the Panthers would love to keep. He’s on a great contract — heading into the last of a two-year, $1.5 million deal with a $750,000 cap hit — and provides terrific value for the money. Marchessault led the team in goals last year, with 30, and finished tied with Connor McDavid for 25th in the league.

There have been rumblings Florida was facing some issues about who to protect from the Golden Knights. There were reports the club asked veteran d-man Keith Yandle to waive his no-movement clause, though those rumblings were eventually shot down.

Florida may be loathe to lose a defenseman — potentially Mark Pysyk or Jason Demers — so perhaps that’s coming into play. It’s also worth noting the club does have a wealth of offensive talent up front, especially with Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov, and it’s expected Jaromir Jagr will be back in the fold once the dust settles on expansion.

Finally, there’s what Florida could get in return. There’s no denying Marchessault has major value across the league, especially with his contract.

 

Rutherford: Star player treatment still a concern, Pens will beef up in free agency

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At the start of the Stanley Cup Final, Pittsburgh GM Jim Rutherford sounded off on the lack of protection the NHL gives star players, saying “the league has got to fix it.”

Now the season is over, and the Pens are again the champs. But that hasn’t changed Rutherford’s views — and, what’s more, he’s planning on making some fixes himself.

“We are going to try to add a player or two that maybe we can have more protection in our lineup,” Rutherford said, per the Tribune-Review. “That’s not that easy because [coach Mike Sullivan] likes to roll four lines and you’ve got to plug a guy in that can play on a regular basis, but hopefully that’s what we can do.”

Rutherford also doubled down on his criticisms of the liberties opponents are taking with the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. He said “the “hits are becoming more than hits — they’re more of an impact where it can end a player’s career,” which, if you’re reading between the lines, sure sounds like an allusion to the Matt Niskanen cross check that concussed Crosby in Round 2.

Niskanen was ejected for his actions, but avoided supplemental discipline.

That lack of additional punishment might be why Rutherford wants to take matters into his own hands.

The Pens did not regularly dress a dedicated tough guy this year. Enforcer Tom Sestito only played in 13 games this year and still led the team in fights, with three.

What Rutherford wants to add is probably someone along the lines of Kyle Clifford or Matt Martin — a tough guy that can play regular shifts and chip in with the occasional bit of offense. Both Clifford and Martin were among the league leaders in scraps this season. Clifford scored 12 points in 73 games while averaging just under 11 minutes per night, while Martin played all 82 regular season and six playoff tilts for the Leafs.

Of course, finding those types of guys is easier said than done. And even if you do, there are those that contend salaries and usage aren’t commensurate with the actual value tough guys provide, especially in terms of possession.

Oilers extend Khaira — two years, $1.35 million

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Jujhar Khaira, Edmonton’s third-round pick at the 2012 draft, has inked a two-year deal to remain with the club through 2019, the team announced on Friday.

Per Sportsnet, it’s a $1.35 million pact with a $675,000 average annual cap hit.

Khaira, 22, has appeared in 25 games for the Oilers over the last two years. In doing so, he became just the third Indo-Canadian to play in the NHL — joining Robin Bawa and Manny Malhotra — and scored his first career tally last season.

Khaira has prototypical power forward size — 6-foot-4, 219 pounds — and enjoyed a very solid scoring campaign with AHL Bakersfield last year, with 20 points in 27 games. It’s possible he’ll crack the Edmonton lineup to start next season, possibly as a bottom-six replacement for the departing Matt Hendricks.

Of course, he could also be Vegas-bound. It’s expected Edmonton will protect Leon Draisaitl, Milan Lucic, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Patrick Maroon, Zack Kassian and Mark Letestu under the 7-3-1 format, though things could change if a trade happens before tomorrow’s deadline.

Related: Oilers reportedly have offers on table for Eberle