Author: Mike Halford


Report: Veteran Russian d-man Nikulin eyeing NHL move


Interesting story out of the KHL — Ak Bars Kazan blueliner Ilya Nikulin is reportedly mulling a move to the NHL.

More, from the league’s English website:

In Kazan, fans are following Nikulin’s bid for an NHL deal with interest: many are still hoping that he might come back ‘home’ to Tatarstan if things don’t work out across the Atlantic, but [head coach Zinetula] Bilyaletdinov himself is looking to the future.

“I can understand why players like Medvedev and Nikulin want to try and play in the NHL,” he told Sovietsky Sport during the current pre-season tournament in Nizhny Novgorod. “It’s a good league, and it’s an honor to play there. I’m sure Ilya [Nikulin] will make the right choice and will get his contract over there.” 

“Medvedev” is 32-year-old Yevgeni Medvedev, who spent his entire professional career playing in Europe, most recently with Kazan, before signing a one-year, $3 million pact with the Flyers in May.

Nikulin, 33, was the 31st overall pick at the 2000 draft — taken by Atlanta — but never appeared in a game for the Thrashers, or North America for that matter. He played with Dynamo Moscow for the early parts of his pro career before moving to Kazan, where he’s been since 2005.

It remains to be seen what, if any, interest NHL teams have in Nikulin, or how much he has left in the tank. He is a regular on the Russian national team and is coming off a good offensive year with Kazan, scoring 13 goals and 28 points in 58 games.

Calgary Flames ’15-16 Outlook


For the most part, there should be optimism in Cowtown.

After a great ’14-15 campaign in which they exceeded all expectations, the Flames had themselves an equally successful summer. GM Brad Treliving struck the perfect chord of adding to his upstart team without sacrificing youth or prospects; Dougie Hamilton came aboard at the expense of three draft picks while Michael Frolik joined in free agency, much like Karri Ramo, who was brought back to recreate last year’s successful goalie tandem with Jonas Hiller.

The Flames didn’t lose much, either.

Spare veteran parts like Raphael Diaz, David Schlemko and Brian McGrattan walked in free agency, and with good reason; the postseason emergence of youngsters like Micheal Ferland, Sam Bennett and Tyler Wotherspoon made the older guys expendable.

The real excitement in Calgary, though, is the prospect of putting everything together. Up front, the dynamic trio of Johnny Gaudreau-Sean Monahan-Jiri Hudler will be back for another go-round, only this time they’ll have depth behind them: Frolik, a full season of Bennett, a full season of Mikael Backlund (remember, he missed 30 games last season) and a real wildcard in Ferland, who showed flashes of being a havoc-wreaking power forward in the playoffs.

On defense? Imagine if that all comes together too. Adding Hamilton, getting Giordano back, building off the excellent playoffs from T.J. Brodie, Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell — the Flames could have one of the better bluelines in the Western Conference.

So yes, Calgary certainly has momentum heading into ’15-16, but momentum can be a fickle thing. Especially when you’re trying to carry it from one year to the next.

What the Flames won’t have going for them is the element of surprise. It’s fair to say they snuck up on some few opponents last year, especially during their 17-8-2 start, but that’s unlikely to happen again. They’re a tough out, and the rest of the NHL now knows it. Upon being introduced to the Calgary media in July, Frolik, the former Winnipeg Jet, acknowledged part of his reason for signing in Calgary was recognizing how good the team was — and will be.

“With me and Dougie, I think that [expectations are] just going to be higher and higher,” he explained, per the Herald. “With what the guys did last year, the goal is for sure to make the playoffs.”

Calgary will also likely need to improve on its puck possession and shot-based metrics — we touched on that earlier today — but those improvements have a good chance of happening thanks to the new roster additions, and the maturation of incumbent youngsters.

Put it all together, and it’s easy to see why the organization’s already thinking about another boisterous postseason in front of the Sea of Red.

“Players want to be in a good situation, they want to have a chance to win,” Treliving said. “In the playoffs, seeing the atmosphere in the building, seeing this city come alive, seeing the support and the passion that our fans have, makes players excited.”

Ducks re-sign Silfverberg: four years, $15 million

Jakob Silfverberg

The Anaheim Ducks locked in one of their talented young forwards on Friday, announcing they’ve signed Jakob Silfverberg to a four-year extension.

Per, it’s a $15 million deal with a $3.75M average annual cap hit, a fairly significant bump from the $850,500 he made last season.

Not that Silfverberg didn’t earn it.

The 24-year-old set career-highs across the board last year in games played (81), goals (13) and points (39). But it was in the playoffs where Silfverberg really took his game to the next level; he tied Corey Perry for second on the team in points (18) and finished just four assists back of Ryan Getzlaf — impressive, given Getzlaf is one of the league’s premier table-setters.

The Silfverberg extension is the latest in what’s been a busy summer for Ducks GM Bob Murray. At the draft, he traded for both Anton Khudobin and Carl Hagelin; later, he traded for and gave Kevin Bieksa a two-year, $8 million extension, then inked Ryan Kesler to a monster six-year, $41.25 million extension.

In free agency, Murray added veterans Shawn Horcoff, Chris Stewart, Shane O’Brien and Brian McGrattan.