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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Rangers address center depth, sign Desharnais

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Timing, eh?

Just hours after we asked what the Rangers were going to do at the center position, GM Jeff Gorton went out and addressed the depth issue, signing veteran David Desharnais to a one-year, $1 million deal.

The news, first reported by the New York Post, gives the Rangers a fourth piece down the middle in addition to Mika Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller. Gorton has said the club is comfortable with Miller playing center, even though he’s spent considerable time on the wing.

This is a low-risk move for the Blueshirts. The 30-year-old is coming off a year split between Montreal and Edmonton, in which he scored six goals and 14 points over 49 games. He finished reasonably well with the Oilers, appearing in all 13 games while averaging just under 10 minutes a night.

In Round 1, he scored the OT winner in Edmonton’s 4-3 win over the Sharks in Game 5.

It remains to be seen if Gorton is done adding at the center position. It’s fair to think he’s not. The Rangers are still pretty thin and, over the weekend, he indicated he’s been in trade discussions with teams to try and upgrade.

 

Report: Kovalchuk to play in KHL next season

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Ilya Kovalchuk’s long-rumored NHL return has been put on ice.

Per the New York Post, Kovalchuk has opted to play in the KHL next season. The news comes after weeks of speculation about him returning to North America, with a number of interested suitors — including the Rangers and Blue Jackets — being bandied about.

Kovalchuk’s NHL rights are held by the Devils and, for him to return, New Jersey GM Ray Shero would’ve needed to orchestrate a trade. The Post reports Shero made several attempts to move Kovalchuk, but that it “just did not work out.”

There are two points worth mentioning here. One is that, by waiting another year, Kovalchuk will become a free agent next July. That would allow him to sign wherever he chooses — though he’ll be 35 at that point, and five seasons removed from NHL competition.

The other point? The Olympics.

Staying in the KHL would, conceivably, allow Kovalchuk to represent Russia at the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea. Back in April, Russian hockey federation chairman Arkady Rotenberg said his group would try to keep KHL players from leaving for North America and bring NHL free agents back this summer, with the goal of preparing for and participating in the Olympics.

Kovalchuk has represented Russia in each of the last four Olympics, helping the country capture bronze in 2002.

Report: Niederreiter files for arbitration

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Last month, the agent for Wild forward Nino Niederreiter said he and his client wanted to avoid arbitration.

But on Tuesday, the Niederreiter camp made a somewhat expected, if not required move — filing for arbitration ahead of tomorrow’s deadline, per the Star-Tribune.

Back in June, agent Andre Rufener told the Star-Tribune Niederreiter wanted to stay away from arbitration and hoped to get a long-term deal done Minnesota. Rufener also addressed trade reports involving his client, explaining that — while he doesn’t envision a deal happening — he is aware that Niederreiter’s in demand across the NHL.

“We’re just taking this as a positive thing,” Rufener said. “There’s interest in him across the league.”

It’s easy to see why. Niederreiter is only 24 and has cracked the 20-goal plateau in each of his last three seasons.

As such, one would expect him to get a significant raise from the three-year, $8 million deal he just wrapped. That one carried a $2.67M average annual cap hit.

One has to think Niederreiter is well aware of the big money being splashed to keep talented young forwards locked in long-term. Jonathan Drouin, for example, scored a six-year, $33 million extension from Montreal just hours after being acquired from Tampa Bay.

The tricky part for the Wild, of course, is that Niederreiter isn’t the only talented youngster needing a new deal. Mikael Granlund, who led the team in points last year, is also a RFA that could file for arbitration by tomorrow’s deadline.

It is worth noting, however, that teams and players can continue negotiating after the filing.

What are the Rangers going to do at center?

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After trading Derek Stepan to the Coyotes and losing Oscar Lindberg to Vegas at the expansion draft, the Rangers have found themselves with some serious holes down the middle.

On paper, the club’s top two centers are Mika Zibanejadwho still needs a new contract — and Kevin Hayes. J.T. Miller could be relied upon for spot duty. Swedish pivot Lias Andersson, taken seventh overall at last week’s draft, said he wants to make the Rangers this year, but there’s no guarantee he’ll even play in North America this season.

GM Jeff Gorton is aware the position needs an upgrade.

“We know it’s a need,” Gorton said, per Newsday. “We have the luxury of [winger] J.T. Miller, who we feel is a natural center and at some point we’re hoping to make that move, but we’ve had discussions with some teams and some trade scenarios.

“We’ll see where it takes us.”

One avenue that’s becoming less and less enticing is the free agent market. It’s been open for four days now, and some of the best center options available are gone. Joe Thornton re-upped in San Jose, Nick Bonino landed in Nashville and Martin Hanzal signed in Dallas.

Signing any of the remaining UFA centers would be for depth purposes only. Which probably explains why Gorton is gauging the trade market.

It’ll be interesting to see where it takes him. There aren’t many teams with an abundance of talent and/or depth down the middle, but some may be more willing than others to part with it.

Report: Tatar seeking $5 million annually from Detroit, with term

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Tomas Tatar has been Detroit’s most consistent goalscorer over the last three years. He’s netted 29, 21 and 25 in each campaign, for a grand total of 75 — more than Phil Kessel, Patrick Marleau and Matt Duchene have scored over the same timeframe.

Now, Tatar wants to be paid accordingly.

From the Free Press:

Negotiations with forward Tomas Tatar may not be as easy. Tatar is likely to file for arbitration unless a deal gets done by Wednesday.

Tatar is looking for term and in the $5 million range.

Tatar, 26, is a restricted free agent coming off a three-year deal that paid $2.75 million annually. Based on his production, there’s no doubt he’s in line for a sizeable raise.

Detroit GM Ken Holland seems aware of this. Tatar and speedy forward Andreas Athanasiou both require new contracts this summer and, with his team hovering around the cap ceiling, Holland was relatively quiet in free agency. He made a noteworthy splash by inking veteran d-man Trevor Daley, but has been largely quiet aside from that.

If Tatar and Athanasiou get their expected pay bumps, Detroit could find itself over the $75 million ceiling, which would force Holland’s hand. Specifically, with regards to veteran defenseman Niklas Kronwall, who carries a $4.75 million cap hit.

Kronwall, who turns 37 next season, has been dealing with a chronically injured knee for several seasons. He’s been placed on long-term injured reserve before, and could be headed back there to clear up Detroit’s cap situation.