Mike Halford

NEW YORK - APRIL 20: George McPhee, VP and GM of the Washington Capitals speaks with reporters following the National Hockey League Board of Governors meeting at the Westin New York Hotel on April 20, 2005 in New York City. Representatives from all 30 NHL teams met in New York for the second time in seven weeks. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Vegas hires former Capitals scout as player development director

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Nice timing on this news, breaking during PHT’s Washington Capitals day — Las Vegas announced that former Caps scout Wil Nichol has been hired as the club’s first-ever director of player development.

Nichol, 42, had been with Washington since 2011, where he worked under current Vegas GM George McPhee.

Prior to the Caps gig, Nichol served as head coach with two different outfits — USHL Chicago and the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point — and pulled double duty with the Steel, working as the club’s GM as well.

Long story short, he’s worn several hats during his front office career.

Which seems to be a theme with McPhee’s hires thus far.

Earlier, Vegas announced that Kelly McCrimmon would serve as McPhee’s assistant GM. McCrimmon joined the expansion outfit after a do-it-all career with WHL Brandon, where he was the owner, general manager and head coach.

More on McPhee’s hiring process, from Sports Illustrated:

Five more contracts have been signed to fill various high-level roles, McPhee told SI.com via telephone, including a salary cap expert, a director of hockey operations, a director of player development (former Capitals scout Wil Nichol was announced on Aug.4), and an organizational goalie director.

He hopes that directors of pro and amateur scouting will be found within the week.

Related: McPhee wants to play ‘attack’ hockey in Vegas

 

 

Poll: Are Washington’s Cup chances better or worse next season?

Washington Capitals head coach Barry Trotz, top center, shouts to his players during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the New Jersey Devils Friday, March 25, 2016, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
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This is part of Washington Capitals day at PHT…

At February’s trade deadline, Caps GM Brian MacLellan had a very clear outlook on his team’s chances of capturing a Stanley Cup.

“I view it as a two-year window,” MacLellan said at the time. “We’re going for it this year, we’re going for it next year, and then after that we’re evaluating where we’re at.”

Year one, obviously, wasn’t Washington’s year. The Caps again failed to advance past the second round, and are now faced with the pressure of trying to win a championship in the final salvo of their GM’s imposed window.

Which begs the question — did the Caps miss their best shot?

It’s hard to look at the ’15-16 campaign and feel like something wasn’t left on the table. Washington had the most wins (56), the most points (120), the best coach (Barry Trotz), the top goalie (Braden Holtby) and the No. 1 goalscorer (Alex Ovechkin).

It finished second in goals for per game, second in goals against, second in penalty killing and fifth with the power play.

Many saw it as the year the Caps were finally going to break on through. But instead, they ran in to the buzzsaw that was the Pittsburgh Penguins.

And it’s those Penguins that loom large in this conversation. They’re returning nearly all of the Cup-winning team from a year ago, only this time they’ll have a full year of Matt Murray, Carl Hagelin, Trevor Daley, Justin Schultz, Bryan Rust and Connor Sheary (remember, none of those guys played more than 53 games last season).

There are potential roadblocks outside of Pittsburgh, too. Tampa Bay is a big one. Florida could be another. Same with the Islanders and Canadiens, the latter especially if Carey Price returns to form.

And, as mentioned above, there’s always the weight of expectation. While MacLellan was candid with his “two-year window” remarks, they could come back to bite him. It stands to reason Ovechkin and the rest of his teammates will be subjected to the “is there a sense of desperation this season?” narrative, and all the questions that come with it.

So with that said, let’s turn it over to you.

It’s Washington Capitals day at PHT

Washington Capitals right wing Alex Ovechkin (8), from Russia, celebrates his first goal in the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Calgary Flames, Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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The Caps were the class of the league during the regular season, finishing atop the standings with 56 wins and 120 points.

Yet in the playoffs, they met a familiar fate.

In what’s become a repeat trend throughout the Alex Ovechkin era, Washington failed to advance to the Eastern Conference final, bowing out to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Penguins in Round 2.

The end result was disappointing, no doubt.

But it’s hard to look at the ’15-16 campaign and not pull some positives.

Year two of the Barry Trotz era — which ended with Trotz winning the Jack Adams as coach of the year — saw eight different capitals score 17 goals or more. Ovechkin hit 50 for the third consecutive season, while newcomers T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams netted 26 and 22 respectively.

Evengy Kuznetsov had a breakthrough campaign, leading the team with a career-high 77 points, and Braden Holtby was terrific all season, capturing his first Vezina Trophy as the league’s top netminder.

The club’s special teams were also a force to be reckoned with, finishing with the fifth-best power play and second-best penalty kill.

Which explains why GM Brian MacLellan was relatively quiet this summer.

MacLellan’s biggest move came at the draft, when he appeared to fix the club’s third-line center issue by acquiring Lars Eller from Montreal. Though Eller did face criticisms during his time as a Canadien, he is coming off a 13-goal, 26-point campaign and should be an upgrade over last year’s bottom-six centers, Jay Beagle and Mike Richards.

The Caps then added some decent depth up front by signing Brett Connolly and Brad Malone in free agency, and MacLellan took care of business with RFA forward Marcus Johansson with a three-year, $13.75 million extension.

The end result?

Next year’s Caps will look an awful lot like this year’s Caps.

The most notable departure is Jason Chimera, the veteran speedester who racked up an impressive 20 goals and 40 points last year.

Outside of that, though, it’s largely the same group returning — no big surprise, given MacLellan said the current group had “a two-year window” to try and win the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

Coyotes ‘have some work to do’ in re-signing Rieder

New York Islanders v Arizona Coyotes
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While it might seem premature (or maybe hyperbolic)  to call it a saga, what the heck — the Tobias Rieder saga in Arizona sounds like it’s hit a stalemate.

Rieder, coming off a career year with personal bests in goals (14) and assists (23), doesn’t appear to have closed the negotiating gap on a new contract, according to the Arizona Republic.

More:

“We have some work to do on him,” [Coyotes GM John] Chayka said.

There’s still more than a month to go before the team will gather for training camp, but the two sides don’t appear close to a resolution with Rieder’s camp considering the Kontinental Hockey League as an option.

“It’s just status quo,” said Darren Ferris, Rieder’s agent. “There’s been no discussions at this point that have made any meaningful change in anyone’s position.”

According to an Arizona Sports report, Rieder is seeking a two-year, $5.5 million deal, one that carries a $2.75M average annual cap hit. That would be a sizeable raise from the $925,000 he made on his now expired entry-level deal.

Per that same report, the Coyotes are offering “somewhere between $2 million and $2.3 million per year on a two-year deal.”

It’ll be interesting to see how this all shakes out.

Having only turned 23 in January, Rieder would seem to have reasonably good value. He’s a very quick skater that can play up and down the lineup, and didn’t just avoid a sophomore slump last season after appearing in 72 games as a rookie — he thrived.

Looking ahead, the next date of significance

One would think the next big date for both sides is Sept. 4, when Team Europe opens training camp for the World Cup. Rieder, who was born in Germany and played there prior to joining OHL Kitchener, was named to the European squad in late May.

Rangers add McCambridge to AHL staff

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 16: The New York Rangers logo is seen before the start of Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on May 16, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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Didn’t take long for Keith McCambridge to find work again — on Wednesday, the Rangers announced McCambridge has been hired as an assistant coach on Ken Grenander’s staff in AHL Hartford.

McCambridge, 42, was dismissed by Winnipeg in April after five years as the head coach of its AHL affiliate (in Manitoba and St. John’s).

McCambridge had worked closely with a number of Winnipeg’s prized young prospects this past season — Connor Hellebuyck, Josh Morrissey, Nic Petan, Brendan Lemieux and J.C. Lipon all spent time in Manitoba, with several getting a look at the NHL level — and helped IceCaps advance to the Calder Cup Final two years ago.

Of course, the club has fallen on hard times lately. It failed to make the playoffs in consecutive seasons, and won just 26 games this year.

McCambridge’s connection in New York comes courtesy Rangers assistant Scott Arniel. The two worked together in 2009-10 in AHL Manitoba, where they coached one of New York’s recent signings — speedy forward Michael Grabner.