Mike Halford

Jets get another Finnish Flash, take Laine at No. 2


BUFFALO — Back in 1988, the Winnipeg Jets were forever changed when they used their first-round pick on Teemu Selanne.

Twenty-eight years later, the ‘Peg landed another high-scoring Finn with franchise-defining potential.

The Jets did the expected on Friday night, selecting 18-year-old super prospect Patrik Laine with the second overall selection at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. The decision came after Toronto took American phenom Auston Matthews at No. 1, paving the way for Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff to select Laine, a gifted offensive winger with the size (6-foot-4, 206 pounds) and pedigree to play immediately in the NHL next season.

In May, Laine became the youngest player in the 80-year history of the World Hockey Championships to win MVP. He finished with 12 points in 10 games and tied Sweden’s Gustav Nyquist for the tournament goal-scoring title. He set up the game-winning goal against the host Russians in the semifinal, and was also named the tournament’s top forward.

Pretty impressive.

Following that performance, Laine made some big statements at the scouting combine. He said he thought he could be the next Alex Ovechkin. He said he has the ability to be the best player in the NHL. He said he was just as good as Matthews, and his goal was to go No. 1 overall.

Laine will now have to settle for second overall. But he may have fallen into the perfect situation.

The Selanne comparisons have been endless, and with good reason. There’s the heritage. The’s the lethal release and shot. The ability to pile up massive goal totals. There’s also the unforgettable energy that Winnipeg had during Selanne’s rookie campaign, when he scored a still-record 76 goals.

While it’s unfair to think Laine will match that kind of production, it’s easy to think Jets fans will be equally excited about his arrival — and Laine seemed excited about it, too, when asked about the possibility of landing in Winnipeg during the Stanley Cup Final.

“It would be nice to play there, of course, where he used to play,” Laine said. “The city was crazy about him.”

Probably going to be crazy about Laine as well.

Report: Wild inform Vanek of buyout (Updated)

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 19:  Thomas Vanek #26 of the Minnesota Wild looks on during the first period against the Boston Bruinsat TD Garden on November 19, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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What a difference two years can make.

On Friday, the Star-Tribune reported that Minnesota informed Thomas Vanek he’d be bought out of the last of his three-year, $19.5 million deal — just two years after Vanek called signing for his hometown team “beyond my wildest dreams.”

Which makes today something of a rude awakening.

The Wild have since made the buyout official. The rumors of it have been around for a while, so it doesn’t come as a huge surprise. But it is a major development, the latest in a series of disappointments for Vanek since returning to Minnesota, where he starred with the Golden Gophers and captured the 2003 NCAA championship.

Vanek scored 21 goals in his first year with the Wild, only to disappear in the playoffs (no goals in 10 games). There was also the distraction of his ties to an illegal gambling ring.

This year, he was made a healthy scratch on a few occasions — by both Mike Yeo and John Torchetti — and didn’t play at all in the postseason.

“In order to give our team more salary cap flexibility we needed to make this difficult decision,” said GM Chuck Fletcher. “We thank Thomas for his time with the Minnesota Wild and wish him the best going forward.”

The financial details of today’s buyout, per Cap Friendly:


The move could free up money for Fletcher to go after another guy with Minnesota ties — Kyle Okposo, all but certain to hit free agency on July 1 after spending his entire career with the Islanders.

Okposo is from St. Paul and he played college hockey for the Gophers. He’s also coming off a solid campaign (22 goals, 42 points) and is only 28 years old, so the fit with Minnesota is definitely there.

As for Vanek, it’ll be curious to see where he lands. Though his production has plummeted and he turns 33 next season, there’s probably a number of teams that’ll be interested in bringing him aboard, especially at a discounted rate.

For what it’s worth, he believes he’s still capable of being a quality scorer at the NHL level.

“I’m not happy with my year,” he said back in April. “But I still believe I’m a 30-goal scorer.”

Update: Gerbe not going to Swiss League, has interest from NHL teams

Nathan Gerbe
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Earlier, we passed along a report from Swiss newspaper Le Matin about Nathan Gerbe signing with Swiss National League A side Geneve-Servette.

Now, Gerbe’s camp is refuting the report:

Gerbe, 28, has spent the last three seasons in Carolina, but only appeared in 47 games last year due to a high ankle sprain that cost him considerable time.

He just wrapped the last of a two-year, $3.5 million deal with the ‘Canes, one that carried a $1.75M average annual cap hit. He’s set to hit unrestricted free agency on July 1.

Stars ink Jordie Benn to three-year, $3.3 million extension

Jamie Benn, Alex Goligoski,Jordie Benn

The Benn brothers will be in Dallas for the foreseeable future.

On Friday, the Stars announced that Jordie Benn — the older brother of team captain Jamie — has agreed to a three-year contract extension.

Per ESPN, it’s a $3.3 million deal with a $1.1M average annual cap hit. Benn’s previous deal was also of the three-year variety — a $2.1 million pact with a $700,000 average annual cap hit.

The 28-year-old appeared in 64 games last year, averaging 15:38 TOI while scoring three goals and 12 points. Largely used as a third-pairing defenseman, he only appeared in one game during the postseason.

Stars GM Jim Nill made the decision to keep Benn over a number of other veteran blueliners. Nill has already parted ways with one — Alex Goligoski, who was traded to and then signed by Arizona — and it’s likely that Jason Demers and Kris Russell are going to hit the open market as well.

Benn, meanwhile, sticks around.

It’ll be curious to see how this extension plays into brother Jami’s extension, which Nill said he’d like to get signed this summer.

Preds part-owner suing team for $250 million

NASHVILLE, TN Ð OCTOBER 8:  Nashville Predators salute their fans after defeating the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1at Bridgestone Arena on October 8, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Sanford Myers/Getty Images)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) A part–owner of the Nashville Predators is suing the team and its chairman, saying they breached their fiduciary obligations and contractual commitments to him after he helped keep the franchise in Nashville

The lawsuit filed Thursday by David Freeman and Commodore Trust lists Predators Holdings LLC and Predators chairman Tom Cigarran as defendants. The plaintiffs say they’re seeking $250 million in damages.

The Tennessean first reported the lawsuit.

The complaint says Freeman “led the fight” to keep the Predators in Nashville by organizing the Holdings investment group in 2007. It says certain members of that group “have conspired to repay his dedication to the team and community by claiming that Commodore owns less than one percent of Holdings, by refusing to treat it as an owner and by repudiating Holdings’ commitment to compensate plaintiffs in return for tens of millions of dollars of loan guarantees that kept the Predators solvent and in Nashville.”

The complaint names Cigarran “the chief architect of this scheme.”

The Predators issued a statement calling the suit a “meritless and inappropriate court filing.”

“The club will use all appropriate means to vigorously defend its position,” the team said in its statement. “The club believes this issue should be resolved by the NHL as mandated by the NHL Constitution, to which all owners, including Freeman, are bound.

“The franchise is healthier than ever and this frivolous suit has no impact or bearing on our organizational operations.”