Author: Mike Halford

Buffalo Sabres v New York Islanders

Stalemate between Isles, Nelson getting contentious


The contract squabble between New York and Brock Nelson — who finished third on the team with 20 goals last year — is on the verge of getting ugly.

If it isn’t ugly already.

“We haven’t heard from them in six weeks,” Nelson’s agent, Ron Salcer, told Newsday. “Garth [Snow, the Islanders’ general manager] and I talked six weeks ago after they made an offer, which was nowhere near commensurate with what players like Brock are making.

“Garth said he’d get back to me and that was it. No negotiations whatsoever.”

This situation is loaded with landmines. Chief among them is the Isles’ team policy with restricted free agents where, if the player doesn’t sign by the start of training camp, he is forced to sit out the season.

Training camp is set to begin on Sept. 17 — two days from now.

Another landmine is that fact that, last year, fellow Isles forward Anders Lee took a decidedly different approach to restricted free agency. Lee accepted his qualifying offer of $850,000, had 25-goal season, and was rewarded with a four-year, $15 million extension.

So from the club’s perspective, that’s what Nelson should do.

Thing is, Nelson and Salcer aren’t following the plan and Salcer is now basically negotiating through the media:

Nelson’s camp rejected his qualifying offer and the Islanders have offered a two-year deal that, according to Salcer, is not a fair contract.

“I don’t want to get into numbers, but for the first year, it’s half of what players similar to Brock are making,” Salcer said. “And in [a] year [or] two, it’s a third of what players similar to Brock are making . . . We’re not being unreasonable. This is all their doing.”

Salcer named four players who received significant raises this offseason despite being in the same situation as Nelson: Mikael Granlund got two years and $6 million from the Wild, Alex Galchenyuk got two years and $5.6 million from the Canadiens, Mika Zibanejad received two years and $5.25 million from the Senators and Elias Lindholm got two years and $5.4 million from the Hurricanes, though Lindholm still is a year away from that contract kicking in.

“I don’t want to get into numbers, but here are some numbers.”

Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see what happens over the next 48 hours.

The Isles don’t appear to be bluffing and seemed primed to play hardball. Last week, the club invited veteran winger Steve Bernier to training camp, a move many saw as insurance should Nelson not be there.

Wings invite tough guy Rechlicz to camp

Ryan Reaves, Joel Rechlicz

Bit of a curious move in advance of Detroit’s training camp — the club announced that Joel Rechlicz, aka “The Wrecker,” has been signed to a professional tryout.

Rechlicz, 28, was with the Wild organization last year and has pent most of his professional career duking it out in the American League, appearing in a handful of games for the Islanders and Caps between 2008-12.

The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder fought a combined 55 times for Bridgeport and Hershey during that span, including this tilt with Isles tough guy Brett Gallant:

The camp PTO is interesting.

Not because of Rechlicz so much, but rather what he represents — the Wings have been enforcer-free for quite a while and are traditionally at the bottom of the NHL table when it comes to fighting majors.

That, of course, coincided with the Mike Babcock era. The former Red Wings coach had little time for players that were out there solely to fight.

“The reality is the league has gone this way because the league is so fast you can’t get these guys on the ice,” Babcock said in 2012, to Sportsnet. “I don’t think it’s as much about not wanting toughness as it is about, how do you play them? How do you get them out there if you can’t fly up and down the rink? How do you play in today’s game?”

It remains to be seen if new head coach Jeff Blashill has a different philosophy.

It’s hard to imagine he does — he’s been groomed in the Detroit system for the last four years, after all — and the Rechlicz invite could simply be about getting a warm body into camp.

Still… it’s interesting.

McInnis, Tkachuk, Bellows highlight All-American prospects game


On Monday, USA Hockey announced the rosters for the CCM All-American Prospects game, which will be played in Buffalo on Sept. 24 and feature 42 of the top American-born prospects eligible for next year`s draft.

It`s a roster filled with familiar names, including:

— Kiefer Bellows (pictured), the son of former Minnesota North Stars forward Brian Bellows.

— Matthew Tkachuk, the son of 500-goal man Keith Tkachuk.

— Luke McInnis, the son of longtime NHLer Marty McInnis.

— Max Jones, the son of former Winnipeg Jet Brad Jones.

— Graham McPhee, the son of ex-Washington GM George McPhee.

This event has become something of a marquee showcase for draft-eligible players. Last year`s game featured several first-round picks, including Jack Eichel, Noah Hanifin, Brock Boeser, Jack Roslovic, Colin White and Kyle Connor.

This year`s teams will be coached by Jeremy Roenick and Derek Plante.

Sharks ‘cautiously optimistic’ Torres (knee) can participate in camp

Los Angeles Kings v San Jose Sharks - Game Five

Raffi Torres has played just 12 games over the last two years due to a myriad of knee problems.

But there is hope for his return.

“He’s heading in the right direction,” new Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer said this week, per CBS Sacramento. “[That’s] probably the best way I can term it. We’ll see. We’re all cautiously optimistic.”

The optimism, specifically, is for Torres to try and take the ice when San Jose’s camp begins on Friday, Sept. 18. Torres, who didn’t play at all last year and underwent season-ending knee surgery in February, is heading into the last of a three-year, $6 million deal with a $2 million average annual cap hit — a contract that, for the most part, he’s been unable to live up to.

Though it wasn’t for a lack of effort.

Torres initially had ACL replacement surgery in ’13-14 and worked hard to return, which he did during the club’s opening-round playoff collapse to Los Angeles. What followed, though, was a series of infections that led to a second ligament replacement procedure (the aforementioned February surgery.)

It’ll be very curious to see how Torres fares this season.

He turns 34 in October, hasn’t played in over 16 months and has to fight with a number of young wingers for minutes up front, including new Finnish rookie Joonas Donskoi who, according to AHL coach Roy Sommer, could be with the big club to start the season.

Wild bringing ex-Flames goalie Irving to camp

Leland Irving

Leland Irving, a former first-round pick that spent two seasons with Calgary, has signed a professional tryout contract to attend Minnesota’s training camp later this week.

Irving, 27, spent last season with KHL club Ufa Salavat Yulayev. The decision to play in Russia came after he planned to attend the Lightning’s training camp last fall, only to later change his mind and sign overseas.

Irving has only played in 13 NHL games, and the numbers aren’t great — 3.25 GAA, .902 save percentage. That said, he did work his way back onto the radar with a strong ’13-14 campaign with Finnish-based KHL club Jokerit, posting a 2.14 GAA and .922 save percentage in 55 games.

It’ll be interesting to see if Irving can score a deal with the Wild.

The club has recent history with reviving once-promising goalies: Devan Dubnyk, the former first-rounder that was nearly out of the NHL, caught fire with Minnesota last season and finished as a Vezina nominee.

Dubnyk went on to sign a six-year, $26 million extension with the Wild this summer. He’s one of the club’s three goalies on NHL contracts, along with Niklas Backstrom and Darcy Kuemper.


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