Author: Mike Halford

Detroit Red Wings v Edmonton Oilers

Out since January, Franzen (concussion) suits up for Wings


Detroit forward Johan Franzen will play for the first time in seven months tonight when the Wings host the Penguins in exhibition action at the Joe.

Franzen, plagued by post-concussion symptoms since taking this hit from Edmonton’s Rob Klinkhammer in January, was medically cleared to return prior to training camp and has been practicing regularly over the last few weeks.

But he knows he’s pretty susceptible to another concussion.

“If I would get a really bad hit again, and I would feel the same way again, that’s probably it,” he said earlier this week, per WXYZ Detroit.

Franzen is a Red Wing to watch this season.

His lengthy deal — an 11-year, $43.5 million contract with five years left on it — has always been a bone of contention with Detroit fans, partially due to the fact the 35-year-old has had troubles staying healthy.

Franzen has missed 77 games over the last two seasons, and scored a career-low seven goals in ’14-15.

Zuccarello to play first game since skull fracture


Tonight will be a special night for Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello, as he’ll play for the first time since suffering a brain contusion that left him unable to speak.

Zuccarello, who had his skull fractured by a Ryan McDonagh shot during New York’s opening-round playoff win over Pittsburgh in April, will skate on a line with Rick Nash and Derick Brassard on Thursday evening when the Rangers take on the Bruins in Boston.

“I just want Zucc to have fun tonight,” Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said.

The 28-year-old, who underwent weeks of speech therapy following the incident, has been medically cleared to resume play and build upon last year’s solid campaign, in which he scored 49 points and averaged a career-high 17:16 TOI per night.

This year also marks the start of Zuccarello’s contract extension — a four-year, $18 million pact that carries a $4.5M average annual cap hit.

Hulking prospect McCarron making noise at Habs camp

Michael McCarron

This summer, we pegged Michael McCarron as a guy looking to make the leap into Montreal’s lineup.

So far in training camp, he’s done the job.

After scoring a goal and being named the game’s first star in a OT loss to Toronto earlier this week, McCarron jumped into the “A” group at Canadiens camp — the one filled with veteran NHLers.

“We gave opportunities to players,” head coach Michel Therrien said of the move, per the Gazette. “I think, honestly, it’s still early at camp — we’ve only played one exhibition game.

“A guy like McCarron played a good game yesterday.”

McCarron, the 25th overall pick in ’13, is one of Montreal’s most intriguing prospects, if not the most. The 20-year-old boasts tremendous size — 6-foot-6, 225 pounds — and is coming off a banner junior campaign, in which he scored 68 points in 56 games for OHL London and Oshawa, then another 18 in 21 playoff games, helping the Generals win the Memorial Cup while earning a spot on the tournament all-star team.

Last year’s position change added to the intrigue.

McCarron moved to center in the OHL last year and, as the above numbers and accolades suggest, took to the position well. That’s a big thing for a Montreal team that’s not overly deep down the middle; currently, the club boasts Tomas Plekanec, David Desharnais, Lars Eller and Torrey Mitchell as its centers.

Plekanec is a UFA at season’s end. And Alex Galchenyuk, the No. 3 overall pick in 2012, once thought to be the top-line pivot of the future, has yet to establish himself as a center.

At Wednesday’s practice, McCarron was working at center on a line with Sven Andrighetto and Devante Smith-Pelly.

Flyers return first-rounders Provorov, Sanheim, Konecny to junior, Morin to AHL

2015 NHL Draft - Portraits

Philly’s collection of young prospects was on display in Tuesday’s 5-3 win over the Rangers but, on Wednesday, a bunch of ’em were sent packing.

Defenseman Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim, along with forward Travis Konecny, were all returned to their junior clubs today. It’s a fairly high-profile round of cuts; Provorov was the seventh overall pick at this year’s draft, Konecny the 24th, and Sanheim was taken 17th overall at last year’s draft.

All three had fared reasonably well against the Rangers last night, too.

Provorov had an assist in 21:25 of ice time, while Konecny notched his second point in as many games (this after Vincent Lecavalier said Konecny reminded him of Tyler Johnson.)

Sanheim made his preseason debut last night and had 24 shifts for 18:56 of ice time.

Despite these good showings, it’s not entirely surprising the three dropped from training camp — especially Provorov and Sanheim.

They were trying to crack a defense that has eight guys on one-way NHL contractsMark Streit, Michael Del Zotto, Luke Schenn, Andrew MacDonald, Nick Schultz, Evgeni Medvedev, Radko Gudas, and Brandon Manning — with fellow prospects Shayne Gostisbehere, Sam Morin and Robert Hagg still in the mix.

Update: The Flyers made additional reductions later on Wednesday, with Morin being the most noteworthy player who was sent to the AHL.

First, here are the list of “players under NHL contracts” who were loaned to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms:

RW Brandon Alderson
D Mark Alt
C Cole Bardreau
LW Tyrell Goulbourne
D Maxim Lamarche
LW Taylor Leier
LW Danick Martel
RW Derek Mathers
D Sam Morin
D Jesper Pettersson
G Anthony Stolarz
RW Petr Straka

Finally, here are players who just under AHL contracts who were sent back to the Phantoms:

G Connor Knapp
D Nick Luukko
G Martin Ouellette
RW Pavel Padakin
RW Michael Parks
D Logan Pyett
LW Jay Rosehill

There are now 35 players on the Flyers’ training camp roster. Click here for a PDF with that updated group.

Sakic: Barrie and MacKinnon ‘not going anywhere,’ contract talks to begin soon

Chicago Blackhawks v Colorado Avalanche

Not long after inking No. 1 defenseman Erik Johnson to a big seven-year, $42 million extension, Colorado GM Joe Sakic said he’ll begin work on deals for two of his prized restricted free agents — d-man Tyson Barrie, and former Calder winner Nathan MacKinnon.

“[Johnson was] one UFA we wanted to get done and we know we have some other guys,” Sakic said on Tuesday, per the Denver Post. “We’re going to have talks with both of their representatives.

“They’re RFAs, so they’re not going anywhere.”

Of the two, the focus will primarily be on MacKinnon, the former No. 1 overall pick that’s currently in the last of his three-year, entry-level deal. Negotiations should prove interesting, as he’s got a lot riding on this season — after a stellar rookie campaign followed by last year’s sophomore slump, the pressure to rebound is on.

Barrie, though, should not be overlooked.

One of the better young offensive defensemen in the league — he finished eighth in NHL d-man scoring last year, with 53 points — the 24-year-old is vitally important to the Avs, especially on the power play (he led the team with 14 PP assists.) As such, he could be in line for a nice raise from his current deal, a two-year, $5.2 million pact with a $2.6M average annual cap hit.

Cap space doesn’t project to be an issue for Colorado. Per, the club has just over $51 million committed to the payroll for next season.