Mike Halford

Colorado Avalanche v Detroit Red Wings
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Let’s read the tea leaves from Detroit


Ken Holland wasn’t going to come out and explain, in detail, the Red Wings’ plans for this summer.

But he did give a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen.

First off, shoot down the notion of a full scale rebuild. Despite three straight first round playoff exits and Pavel Datsyuk‘s looming departure, it’s not going to happen with this group. Not going to happen on Holland’s watch. Not going to happen with the team heading into a new arena next season.

So, what about free agency?

Holland was unenthusiastic, and that’s probably a combination of two factors: 1) an underwhelming UFA class, and 2) shifting views on free agency in general.

Despite the fact Steven Stamkos might be out there and the Wings are rumored to be an interested suitor, Holland’s take — that this class is filled with complimentary players, not franchise ones — suggests veteran patchwork moves like last summer’s (Brad Richards, Mike Green) are more likely than a big splash.

What does that leave, then?

The draft.

Trades make the most sense for Holland, because he’s got assets to move. Detroit has a glut of forwards, and it’s feasible the likes of Gustav Nyquist and/or Tomas Tatar — 20-25 goal guys (yes, I know Nyquist had 17) on affordable contracts — could be dealt. They’d probably net good returns.

These trades would also have a trickle-down effect, opening up spots for young guys like Andreas Athanasiou, Anthony Mantha, Martin Frk and Evgeny Svechnikov.

Of course, Holland could also move a young guy.

In speaking with TSN 1040 over the weekend, NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika suggested that for a trade of significance to occur, Holland would likely need to accept calls on guys rival GMs would be making calls on. Recent first-round picks. Prospects on entry-level deals. Dylan Larkin, even though Holland ain’t moving Dylan Larkin.

Speaking of trades, there’s the Jimmy Howard situation.

Howard told the Free Press he’d be okay with being dealt, coming off a year in which he lost the starting gig to Petr Mrazek, won it back, then lost it again in the playoffs. Howard’s play suggested he’s still a capable No. 1, but that doesn’t mean an awful lot when there are few starting gigs available across the league.

It also doesn’t mean much with Howard making as much money as he is ($5.29M through 2019). Put it all together, and the odds of a Howard trade returning anything significant are slim.

At the end of the day, though, Detroit still looks primed to shake things up in Buffalo in late June. The draft could also provide an opportunity to move Datsyuk’s contract, should that need to occur (remember, Chris Pronger got traded in Florida last June!)

Finally, it’s worth noting Detroit has close to a full slate of picks at its disposal, which only adds to Holland’s trade potential.

Enroth ‘really thought’ Kings would play him more

Los Angeles Kings goalie Jhonas Enroth, of Sweden, deflects a shot off the stick of a Colorado Avalanche player in the first period of an NHL hockey game, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Situation worth monitoring in L.A. behind No. 1 netminder Jonathan Quick — in his exit interview, backup Jhonas Enroth said he wasn’t thrilled about his usage this season.

“Just being a bigger part of the team is what I would like to do in the summer,” Enroth, a pending UFA, told the Los Angeles Times. “I really thought they were going to play me more.

“If you sign a guy for $1.2 million, you’re not going to play him 13 games, in my opinion.”

Enroth, signed to a one-year deal on the opening day of free agency last summer, made 16 appearances — 13 starts — and finished with just 856 minutes to Quick’s whopping 4034.

At first glance, that disparity might seem alarming… until you remember that, last season, Martin Jones only made 11 starts, and recorded just 775 minutes.

Quick played 4184.

This, in a nutshell, is the problem any backup netminder faces in Los Angeles. Quick is a workhorse, regardless of the circumstances– last year, the Kings were fighting for a playoff spot, and he played a ton.

This year, they were in comfortably, and he played a ton.

What was odd about this year, though, was that Enroth showed pretty well in his limited body of work. He finished with a .922 save percentage (.937 at 5-on-5, one of the better marks in the league.) and posted a .615 quality start percentage, which is a good figure for a backup.

So it remains puzzling why he wasn’t given more work.

Give he turns 28 in June, it’s quite possible Enroth will test the open market and look for a more favorable situation, at least in terms of playing time.

“I thought I earned more games, obviously,” he explained. “I played pretty solid in the games I got, but I got a lot of breaks in between games too, so it’s tough to get a groove going.”

Bolts hoping Stralman ‘will make an appearance’ in second round

Tampa Bay Lightning's Anton Stralman (6), of Sweden, avoids the check of Detroit Red Wings' Joakim Andersson, also of Sweden, during the first period of an NHL hockey game Friday, March 20, 2015, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)

Weird dynamic at play ahead of the Lighting-Islanders second-round series.

Back on Mar. 25, Bolts blueliner Anton Stralman suffered a broken fibula after getting tied up with Isles forward Anders Lee — an injury that forced Stralman to miss the end of the regular season and all of Tampa’s opening-round win against Detroit.

Now, there’s hope Stralman will be back to face the Isles… while Lee remains out with a broken fibula of his own.

“He’s not skating right now,” Bolts head coach Jon Cooper said of Stralman, per the Tampa Tribune. “But we are hopeful that he will make an appearance this series.”

A 22-minutes-per-night guy that’s among the Bolts’ best possession d-men, Stralman is a valuable right-handed shot, on a blueline that doesn’t have many.

It’s why the club has been anxious to get him back in the mix, though it should be noted neither the club nor Stralman put a timeline on his return.

Traditionally, the recovery window is 4-6 weeks. Stralman’s in Week 5.

As for the other injured Bolts?

Captain Steve Stamkos remains out after undergoing vascular surgery in March. His recovery window was pretty large — 1-3 months — so it’s unclear when he’ll be back this spring, if at all.

J.T. Brown, who suffered a series-ending injury in Game 2 versus Detroit, remains out indefinitely. According to the Tribune, Copper sounded “less optimistic” that Brown would be able to play in the Isles series.

Wild say Zucker ‘has to have a way better year next year’


It was a tough year for Jason Zucker in Minnesota, and it ended about as badly as one can imagine.

Which is why his head coach didn’t mince words about what the team needs out of Zucker moving forward.

“He has to have a way better year next year,” John Torchetti said after the Wild’s season-ending loss to Dallas on Sunday, per the Morning-News. “That’s the bottom line.”

After a quality ’14-15 campaign — 21 goals in 51 games — Zucker struggled this season, finding the back of the net just 13 times while sitting as a healthy scratch on a few occasions, under both Torchetti and ex-bench boss Mike Yeo.

The diminutive forward also suffered a concussion on a huge hit from ‘Hawks d-man Michal Rozsival in late February.

In Sunday’s loss, Zucker missed a gifted opportunity from Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen, and was on the ice for three goals against.

A pending RFA, Zucker now heads into an offseason of what figures to be tense negotiations.

The Wild are invested in him — a second-round pick in 2010, he’s spent his entire pro career with the organization — but GM Chuck Fletcher won’t have a ton of cap room this summer, and has other key RFAs (Matt Dumba, Darcy Kuemper) to sign as well.

Regardless, Zucker remains firmly in the Wild’s future plans.

At least according to Torchetti.

“We know [Zucker will] bounce back for us next year, that’s the number one thing,” he explained. “He’s still a great player.”

One-year contract in Boston ‘would be ideal,’ says Connolly

Boston Bruins v Tampa Bay Lightning
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Brett Connolly‘s time with the Bruins hasn’t been great, but it hasn’t been terrible either.

Which sort of sums up his NHL career to this point.

Connolly, the sixth overall pick in 2010, posted career highs across the board this year in Boston — 71 games played, nine goals, 25 points — but has yet to make the leap to full-time, top-six forward status.

The leap may never come.

But Connolly, a pending RFA, wants to try and make it in Boston.

“You’re not really too sure what’s going to happen. But [a one-year contract] would be ideal, to have another crack it to prove yourself,” Connolly said, per the Boston Herald. “There were some good times for me and some rough patches. It’s just a matter of being consistent. I still want to prove to this organization that I could be a good player and a consistent player.”

Connolly, who turns 24 in May, will have his one-year, $1.025 million deal expire in July. He had some good auditions this season for the aforementioned top-six role — receiving several looks on Brad MarchandPatrice Bergeron line — but seemed more effective in a fourth-line capacity.

(As the Herald notes, the Connolly-Noel AcciariLandon Ferraro trio was one of Boston’s more effective checking lines this season.)

Considering he’s an RFA and given what the club gave up to acquire him — two second-round picks — it’s likely Boston sticks with Connolly for another year.

But that hardly means he’s safe.

In his year-end remarks, Bruins president Cam Neely said getting “heavier” at right wing — Connolly’s natural position — was one of three areas of improvement he and GM Don Sweeney would tackle this offseason.

Related: Neely’s sick of Boston media ‘stirring the pot’