Author: Mike Halford

Detroit Red Wings v Carolina Hurricanes

Rangers bringing ex-‘Canes d-man Bellemore to camp

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New York is taking a flier on former Carolina blueliner Brett Bellemore.

Bellemore, who spent his entire eight-year career with the ‘Canes organization, is heading to the Rangers’ training camp on a professional tryout, per the Bergen Record.

Bellemore has a fair bit of experience — 121 career NHL contests — good size (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) and isn’t all that old, having just turned 27 in June. This could be a good opportunity for him, potentially challenging the likes of Raphael Diaz and Chris Summers for a depth spot on the Rangers’ blueline.

That said, it remains to be seen if youngsters like Dylan McIlrath and Brady Skjei will be in that competition as well, which could lessen Bellemore’s chances of securing a contract.

Howard confirms ‘open battle’ for No. 1 gig in Detroit

Detroit Red Wings v Los Angeles Kings

The goalie duel is officially on in the Motor City.

“There’s been discussions over the summer,” Wings goalie Jimmy Howard said of his duel with fellow goalie Petr Mrazek, per the Free Press. “Blash [Wings head coach Jeff Blashill] and I sat down and went to lunch together and had a great conversation.

“It’s going to be an open battle, the way it should be.”

Mrazek overtaking Howard’s No. 1 gig was a big story of last season, especially in the playoffs. The 23-year-old Czech rookie, who’d never played in the postseason before, got the nod and was stellar in a seven-game opening-round loss to the Lightning, posting a 2.11 GAA and .925 save percentage.

The demotion was frustrating for Howard but, during his end-of-year media availability, he tried to keep a level head. The 31-year-old said he wouldn’t demand a trade, noting that he looked forward to competing for the No. 1 gig in ’15-16.

And now, the competition begins.

Mrazek is well aware of what’s at stake; in May, he (astutely) noted that “only one goalie can play.” Under regular circumstances, it would be Mrazek’s gig to lose given he ended the year as the No. 1 — but these aren’t normal circumstances in Detroit.

Blashill comes in with a new approach, fresh slate and different philosophies from Mike Babcock, who actually never spoke with Howard about not starting. Howard said it was “weird actually sitting down and actually having a discussion with Blash,” about the situation in goal, but seems to appreciate the clear lines of communication.

Of course, Howard’s optimistic tone could change if Mrazek takes the starting job. Again.

Coyotes bring d-men Aulie, Potter to camp

Edmonton Oilers v Anaheim Ducks

On Wednesday, Arizona announced it had signed veteran blueliners Keith Aulie and Corey Potter to training camp PTOs.

Aulie, 26, spent last year in Edmonton but only appeared in 31 games

Potter, 31, spent last year in Calgary and appeared in just six.

Needless to say, these aren’t earth-shattering acquisitions.

But it’s pretty clear why Arizona extended the invites.

The club is really young on the back end — only Nicklas Grossmann and Zbynek Michalek are over 30 — and has two fairly untested entities looking to make the leap in 23-year-old Brandon Gormley, and 24-year-old Klas Dahlbeck.

Of the two invitees, Aulie is probably more likely to stick with the Coyotes. He’s got good size (6-foot-6, 222 pounds) and could be a good NHL/AHL stopgap to replace Dylan Reese, who will be sidelined for the next 4-6 months after suffering an injury during offseason training.

Home again: Florida signs Booth to PTO

David Booth

David Booth is headed back to the place of his greatest NHL success.

On Wednesday, Florida announced it was bringing Booth to training camp on a PTO, marking the return of the veteran forward that scored a career-best 31 goals for the Panthers in 2008-09.

The 30-year-old winger was drafted by Florida and spent the first six years of his career with the club. His emotional ties to the franchise ran deep; upon learning of his trade to Vancouver in 2011, Booth reportedly “broke down in tears.”

Wonder how he’ll react to the PTO.

Chances are Booth will be happy to return to a happy place, as his career has steadily declined since leaving South Florida. Health issues and diminishing foot speed have seen him score just 17 goals over his last 137 games, split between Vancouver and Toronto.

He also averaged just 11:56 TOI with the Leafs last year, his lowest total since his rookie year.

Isles invite Bernier to training camp

Jonathan Bernier; Steve Bernier

One of the best seasons of Steve Bernier’s 10-year career has netted him… a training camp tryout.

On Wednesday, Newsday reported the Isles were bringing Bernier to their training camp on a PTO. The invite comes after the 30-year-old matched career highs in goals (16) and points (32) with the Devils last season, his fourth with the organization.

The Bernier move is, as many have pointed out, probably an insurance policy should the Isles not reach an agreement with still-unsigned RFA winger Brock Nelson:

The Bernier move also reflects the current landscape for veteran players struggling to find jobs. He’s the third vet signed on to compete at Isles camp, along with Eric Boulton and Matt Carkner.

Elsewhere, the likes of Scott Gomez, Scottie Upshall, Curtis Glencross, Ryan Wilson, Jonas Gustavsson, James Sheppard, Devin Steoguchi, Peter Budaj, Ray Emery and Sergei Gonchar have all agreed to PTOs with various teams, in the hope of landing another contract.