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: Ex-Sens forward Da Costa drawing NHL interest

Stephane Da Costa’s strong showing at the World Hockey Championship could kickstart his NHL return.

Per TSN’s Darren Dreger, teams have expressed interest in Da Costa, who’s scored six goals through five games for France. That puts him tied with USA’s Johnny Gaudreau as the top goalscorer in the tourney.

Da Costa, 27, broken in with the Sens during the ’10-11 campaign, and appeared in 47 contests over a four year window. He spent most of his time in AHL Binghamton, where he was a consistent producer, scoring 58 points in 56 games in his final campaign before heading overseas.

For the last three years, Da Costa has played for KHL powerhouse CSKA Moscow. He scored 20 points in 24 regular season games this year, then another eight in 10 playoff appearances.

At the time of Da Costa’s departure, then-assistant GM Pierre Dorion said the Sens wanted to retain him, but noted there was a big payday on the table from CSKA.

“We’d like to keep him but it has to make sense for both parties,” Dorion said. “It’s no secret that the KHL is offering him big money and it’s up to Steph if he wants to pursue his NHL dream or not.

“I think we’ve made a very fair offer. (Ottawa general manager Brian Murray) feels that way, I feel that way, I think his agent feels it’s a fair offer and we’ll just see where we go from there.”

Is Brian Elliott a fit for Winnipeg?

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With the goalie market in full fluidity — Carolina got Scott Darling, and Dallas landed Ben Bishop — focus has turned to the clubs still in need of help between the pipes.

Like in Winnipeg, for example.

After a year in which Connor Hellebuyck, Ondrej Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson failed to provide consistent netminding, the Jets will need to add something in goal. GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said the club would “look at all the different options” for upgrading the position this summer, but two of those options — Darling and Bishop — are now off the table.

So, what about veteran Brian Elliott? From the Winnipeg Sun:

Elliott is a name that’s being tossed around as a candidate for the Jets.

He’s 32, has plenty of experience in the Central Division as both a starter and a backup and while his past season started slowly, he provided strong enough goaltending to get the Flames into the playoffs.

There’s no doubt Elliott struggled in the playoffs against the Ducks but he also helped the St. Louis Blues reach the Western Conference final the previous season.

He would also be a good mentor for Hellebuyck.

Elliott just wrapped a three-year, $7.5 million deal with a $2.5M average annual cap hit. He could, in theory, re-up with the Flames, but it’s been widely speculated his time in Calgary is done.

 

 

 

After ‘bad’ season, Lehtera at crossroads in St. Louis

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Jori Lehtera‘s first NHL campaign was an unquestioned success. He scored 14 goals and 44 points in 75 games, and looked to have great chemistry with Vladimir Tarasenko.

Since then? Things have gone south.

Lehtera’s sophomore campaign was down slightly in terms of production — nine goals and 34 points in 79 games — though he had a decent playoff, scoring nine points as St. Louis advanced to the Western Conference final.

This year, though, was a major letdown.

Lehtera missed extensive time with an upper-body injury then, after recovering, was parked as a healthy scratch. The 29-year-old Finn then suffered a concussion in March, missed another 12 games, and was in and out of the Blues’ lineup during the playoffs.

Lehtera told the Post-Dispatch “it was a bad season for myself,” adding that he needed to come back next season and show “I can play much better hockey.”

But will he even get the chance?

Lehtera’s three-year extension — which GM Doug Armstrong gave him after the aforementioned first NHL campaign — kicked in this past season. He has two years left at $4.7 million per, a big price to pay for a forward that scored seven goals in 64 games.

More, from the Post-Dispatch:

The Blues might not be able to trade Lehtera, but he could be lost in the NHL expansion draft June 21, when the Vegas Golden Knights select their roster. The Blues will protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender, and Lehtera is likely to be left off the list.

“We’ll be talking to Vegas the first of June on what they want to do,” Armstrong said. “It’s not only what we’re going to protect, but what other teams are going to make available. I think there could be a flurry of activities.”

If there’s no traction at the expansion draft, Armstrong could move Lehtera simply to get some younger forwards in the mix, something fans in St. Louis have been clamoring for. Ivan Barbashev made strides this year, while ’15 first-rounder Tage Thompson turned pro, and gained valuable experience playing for AHL Chicago.

Speaking of the Wolves, will AHL leading scorer Kenny Agostino get a look? He captured league MVP honors on the strength of 83 points in 65 games, and is only 25 years old. In seven games with the Blues this year, he racked up three points.

Report: Panthers to interview Reirden for head coaching gig

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Yet another candidate has emerged in Florida’s wide ranging search for a new bench boss.

Todd Reirden, one of Barry Trotz’s assistants in Washington, will reportedly interview for the Panthers’ vacant head coaching gig, per TSN.

TSN also notes that Reirden could be a candidate for the still-unfilled Buffalo job. That move would reunite him with new GM Jason Botterill, as the two spent a few years together in the Pittsburgh organization (Reirden was an assistant with the Pens and Baby Pens, Botterill the club’s AGM).

It makes sense that Reirden is on Florida’s radar.

As we’ve written earlier, GM Dale Tallon has cast a pretty wide net to find his new head coach. He expected to interview at least a dozen candidates and, while we don’t know them all, the likes of Denver University’s Jim Montgomery, ex-Habs boss Michel Therrien and Sharks assistant Bob Boughner have been reported as interviewees.

More: Therrien reportedly gets second interview with Panthers

Reirden, 45, played nearly 200 games in the NHL before quickly transitioning to coaching post-retirement. He coached at his alma mater, Bowling Green, before spending time in the Pittsburgh organization both at the NHL and AHL levels.

In 2014, he was dumped by the Pens and quickly joined Trotz’s staff in Washington. He’s since steadily risen the head-coach-in-waiting ranks. Last summer, Reirden was reportedly a finalist for the Calgary job that went to Glen Gulutzan.

Russell wants to re-up in Edmonton

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A pending unrestricted free agent for the second straight summer, Kris Russell is hopeful he won’t have go through last year’s experience again.

“Obviously I’d like to come back but there is a business side to this and you never know what’s going to happen,” he said over the weekend, per the Edmonton Journal. “(The Oilers) have to make decisions too, the brass here. But I’m an Oiler and I’m not going to look past that until I’m told otherwise or come July 1 maybe (if something else happens).

“I want to be here. I’m not worried about other teams, I want to be an Oiler.”

More: Some big decisions remain for the Edmonton Oilers

Russell, 30, had quite the interesting campaign. He caught on with the Oilers just days prior to the start of the regular season, which ended a difficult summer where the big contract many figured he’d sign never came to fruition.

Instead, Russell inked a one-year, $3.1 million pact with Edmonton.

His year was classically Kris Russell — doing all the things that put him smack in the middle of the “advanced analytics vs. old school hockey men” debate. He averaged over 21 minutes per night and blocked a ton of shots (213, to be exact), but struggled in possession metrics.

Either way, he was a big part of what Edmonton did this year, helping the club snap an 11-year playoff drought and getting to within one win of the Western Conference Final. He averaged over 22 minutes a night during the postseason, scoring four points in 14 games.

What happens to Edmonton’s defense will be interesting to watch. Adam Larsson, Andrej Sekera, and Oscar Klefbom are all signed long term. Russell isn’t going to sign another one-year deal.

So, do the Oilers lock him up? Or do they let Matt Benning and Darnell Nurse step into bigger roles? At the very least, GM Peter Chiarelli can’t afford to overpay Russell. And it’s worth noting that Edmonton made a couple of nice picks in the 2015 draft, getting Caleb Jones (Seth’s brother) in the fourth round and Ethan Bear in the fifth.