Mike Halford

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 07:  Cory Conacher #89 of the Tampa Bay Lightning in action against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 7, 2013 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Lightning 4-2.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Welcome back: Bolts sign Cory Conacher


What’s old is new again in Tampa Bay.

Cory Conacher, who burst onto the scene with the Bolts four years ago as a rookie, has signed back on with the club on a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.

Back in 2013, Conacher parlayed a strong AHL showing — including winning the ’11-12 MVP — into a banner first year with the Lightning, scoring 24 points in 35 games to finish sixth in Calder voting.

That led to one of Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman’s savviest trades — sending Conacher to Ottawa for Ben Bishop — but marked the beginning of a wild and often disappointing ride for Conacher.

He appeared in just 72 games for Ottawa over two years, only to get waived. Buffalo claimed him, but wasn’t impressed enough to offer Conacher a qualifying offer at season’s end.

That made the diminutive forward a UFA. Conacher then proceeded to sign with the Isles, who only played him 15 times before putting him on waivers.

Nobody claimed Conacher that time around, so he was dispatched to AHL Bridgeport, then traded to the Canucks and immediately dispatched to AHL Utica.

Last year, the 26-year-old signed overseas with Bern of the Swiss League, and starred. He had 52 points in 48 games, and helped Team Canada win the 2015 Spengler Cup.

It’s unclear how much playing time Conacher will get with Tampa Bay next season. He does have a significant history with Jon Cooper — Cooper was Conacher’s coach during the aforementioned AHL MVP year, and the two won the Calder Cup together — and the one-way deal will ensure Conacher makes $575,000 regardless if he’s with the Bolts, or the Syracuse Crunch.

Rangers, Miller avoid arbitration with two-year deal

New York Rangers center J.T. Miller celebrates after scoring his second goal of the game against the New Jersey Devils during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, in Newark, N.J. The Devils won 3-2. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

The Rangers and 22-goal man J.T. Miller agreed to a two-year contract extension on Wednesday, the club announced.

Per CBC, it’s a $5.2 million pact with a $2.625M average annual cap hit. It’s a nice bump for Miller, who made just under $900,000 on his last deal.

The 23-year-old enjoyed something of a breakout campaign in ’15-16, appearing in all 82 games for the first time in his career, while finishing tied for third on the team in goals. Miller also added three assists in a five-game opening round loss to the Penguins in the playoffs.

This deal was important for the Blueshirts. Miller is a key piece of the club’s forward group in the future, and he’s now under contract through 2018. What’s more, it knocks one of the many things to do on GM Jeff Gorton’s list, as three other RFAs — Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes and Dylan McIlrath — have also filed for salary arbitration.

Miller’s heading was scheduled for Aug. 2, but that’s now moot. McIlrath is scheduled for July 21, Kreider July 22, and Hayes July 27.

Vegas names McPhee first GM in franchise history

ARLINGTON, VA - NOVEMBER 28:  Washington Capitals Vice President and General Manager George McPhee speaks to members of the media at Kettler Iceplex on November 28, 2011 in Arlington, Virginia. McPhee announced that Dale Hunter will become the new head coach of the Washington Capitals after Bruce Boudreau was fired.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

“George McPhee is our guy.”

That was Las Vegas owner Bill Foley on Wednesday, announcing the first-ever general manager in franchise history — McPhee, the 58-year-old hockey veteran who will now construct and oversee one of the most unique teams in NHL history.

“I was looking for a guy who was going to be dedicated, focused and have a take-no-prisoner attitude,” Foley said in introducing McPhee. “Someone I could identify with, and have a symbiotic relationship with.”

Vegas settled on McPhee after a lengthy interview process, which began with seven candidates and was eventually whittled down to three.

That trio was then subjected to individual two-day meetings with Foley and chief advisor Murray Craven, the longtime NHL center.

It’s believed the two final candidates were McPhee, and former Arizona GM Don Maloney.

It sure sounds like Craven’s influence and history with McPhee loomed large. Foley relayed an anecdote about how McPhee picked up Craven at the Vancouver airport back in ’93, after McPhee, then the Canucks’ assistant GM, acquired Craven from Hartford at the trade deadline.

As for Vegas’ future, McPhee wasn’t big on particulars.

He said he’s in no rush to hire a head coach, and doesn’t have any candidates in mind yet. He noted the expansion draft rules will make for a more “generous” group of players to choose from, but added the entry draft will be equally important in terms of building the organization.

If there was one key takeaway, it was that McPhee seemed to understand his new market. Vegas often refers to itself as the “Entertainment Capital of the World,” and the veteran GM played right along.

“I’ve built really entertaining teams,” McPhee said, alluding to his high-powered offensive clubs in Washington. “Teams that entertained, and teams that won.

“That’s what I’d like to do here.”

Oilers sign Puljujarvi, who made it easier for Chiarelli to trade Hall

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Jesse Puljujarvi poses for a portrait after being selected fourth overall by the Edmonton Oilers in round one during the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images)

Edmonton did the expected on Wednesday, agreeing to a three-year, entry-level deal with first-round draft pick Jesse Puljujarvi.

And with that, the pressure begins.

Not long after taking Puljujarvi fourth overall in Buffalo, Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli traded away a coveted young asset in Taylor Hall — who, like Puljujarvi, also plays the wing.

So, did that factor into the decision to trade Hall to New Jersey for Adam Larsson?

Remember, the 18-year-old Finn wasn’t supposed to be available to Edmonton at No. 4. For the months leading up to the draft, Puljujarvi — the reigning world juniors MVP — was part of the “big three” along with countryman Patrik Laine and No. 1 overall selection Auston Matthews.

The “big three” designation was a result of the trio being a cut above the rest of the draft class, and all expected to play in the NHL next season. But on draft night, Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen flipped the script, opting to land a potential No. 1 center in Pierre-Luc Dubois with the third overall selection.

That paved the way for Chiarelli to select Puljujarvi, who now has a very good chance of playing a top-six forward role in his rookie campaign, possibly alongside Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Leon Draisaitl.

Calder runner-up Gostisbehere (hip, abdomen) to resume skating next week

Gostisbehere goal
1 Comment

Some good news for star Flyers rookie d-man Shayne Gostisbehere — he’ll be hitting the ice very soon.

Gostisbehere, who finished second to Chicago’s Artemi Panarin for this year’s Calder Trophy, expects to resume skating next week after undergoing mid-May surgery to repair the labrum in his right hip and bilateral lower-abdominal muscle tears.

“I feel good,” Gostisbehere said, per NHL.com. “It’s been about eight weeks now. I feel good. Just getting back to it. I’m going out of town for a week here, but when I get back I can finally get on the ice. It’ll be good.”

The 23-year-old’s original window for recovery was 10-12 weeks. Based on how well he’s healed thus far, he should have no problems being ready for Flyers training camp in the fall, and is still gunning to represent Team North America at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

Gostisbehere burst onto the scene this season, scoring 46 points in 64 games. His 17 goals were the most by a rookie blueliner since Dion Phaneuf scored 20 for Calgary 10 years ago.