The Edmonton Oilers are taking a significant risk, but it’s one that could pay off nicely.
Defenseman Oscar Klefbom has officially agreed to a seven-year contract extension, per the team’s website. That follows yesterday’s report that the two sides were close to reaching a deal of that length.
The Oilers didn’t release the financial terms, but ESPN’s Craig Custance reported on Saturday that the contract would come with an annual cap hit of $4.167 million.
That would make Klefbom’s deal comparable to the six-year, $25 million contract Adam Larsson signed in July. Both defensemen are 22 years old and were first round picks in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
In each case, the young blueliner is getting paid based more on his potential than past results. If the two defensemen develop as their respective teams hope, then those cap hits will look very good in a few years. However, Klefbom has only played in 77 NHL games so far, so the potential that this move could backfire is very real.
Klefbom will join blueliner Andrej Sekera along with forwards Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, and Benoit Pouliot as Edmonton players signed through at least 2018-19. The six players come with a combined annual cap hit of roughly $31.7 million starting in 2016-17.
Roughly a month and a half away from the 10-year anniversary of his first NHL game, Ryan Whitney announced that he’s decided to hang up his skates.
“Today I am retiring from the game of hockey,” he said in a statement. “It’s impossible to put into words how much I love this sport. My mind has been flooded with so many amazing memories all day. From early morning rides to the rink with my dad, to having the privilege of representing my country in the Olympic Games, it truly has been a wonderful journey.
“Unfortunately my body broke down on me sooner than I had hoped. I’m 32 years old and you’re likely to find stronger and more stable ankles and feet on the residents at your local nursing home.
“I will miss my teammates and bring around the locker room the most. My best friends are guys I played this game with. I share so many different memories with all of them that span over 20 years. That is what makes hockey so special.
“It is remarkable how quickly it went by. There were many ups and obviously plenty of downs, but I wouldn’t change a thing because it all made me into the person I am today. I dreamt of playing in the NHL my entire life and I’m forever thankful to everyone who helped make my dreams come true.”
Whitney was taken with the fifth overall pick of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins and early in his career he was a great offensive defenseman. He tied sixth among blueliners in points with 59 in his 2006-07 sophomore season. He followed that up with a 40-point campaign in 2007-08, but that would be his last full season with the Penguins.
Pittsburgh traded him to Anaheim in February 2009 in exchange for Chris Kunitz and Eric Tangradi. Just over a year later, the Ducks sent him to Edmonton along with a sixth round pick in exchange for Lubomir Visnovsky.
It wasn’t long after that second trade that his career started to unravel. From 2010-11 through 2013-14 he only participated in 127 NHL games. Last season he played primarily in the KHL.
At the end of the day, he’s retiring after scoring 50 goals and 259 points in 481 contests.
Missing the playoffs for the second time in three seasons hasn’t dampened Flyers owner Ed Snider’s enthusiasm when it comes to the 2015-16 campaign.
“Quite frankly, I’m looking for big things,” Sniders said, per the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I think we’re going to turn things around. I think we’re going to be a playoff team this year.”
Aside from replacing bench boss Craig Berube with new head coach Dave Hakstol, the Flyers have made some noteworthy, but not major moves this summer. However, the complimentary players that Philadelphia did bring in, like backup goaltender Michal Neuvirth and defenseman Evgeni Medvedev, do help address some areas of concern from the 2014-15 campaign. More importantly though, Snider thinks they already have the core to compete.
“That same team last year that did not make the playoffs, made the playoff the year before,” he said. “It’s not like they’re chopped liver. We have a good team. We have some good stars with (Claude) Giroux and (Jake) Voracek. We have second-level guys that are getting older and more mature … (Sean) Couturier and (Wayne) Simmonds. I expect a lot from these players.”
Couturier in particular is a player they need more from — at least from an offensive perspective. While he’s earned a lot of praise for his defensive work, the 22-year-old has yet to reach the 40-point mark in a single season despite appearing to have a substantial amount of offensive upside when he was drafted. Along with Brayden Schenn, Couturier could be the difference between Philadelphia being a mediocre and good team offensively this season.
Bryan Bickell has been participating in the Chicago Blackhawks’ training camp, but that unfortunately doesn’t mean he’s completely over the vertigo symptoms that plagued him during the Stanley Cup Final.
“There [are] still symptoms over the course of different situations but I’m working on it every day to get better and better and hopefully it leaves sooner than later,” Bickell told CSN Chicago. “You just want to be out there. Then [over] the course of the summer you think things are getting better, then you kind of take a couple steps backwards. But I think these last couple weeks we’re taking the right steps and just need to stick with the system that’s working and hopefully it doesn’t have to take a couple steps backwards. Just keep moving forward.”
Bickell’s an important part of the Blackhawks’ supporting cast, especially after Chicago parted ways with forwards Daniel Carcillo, Kris Versteeg, Patrick Sharp, Antoine Vermette, Brad Richards, and Brandon Saad over the summer. That being said, Bickell also left something to be desired last season.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville thinks the 29-year-old can be “that power forward every team craves,” but he still needs to become more consistent. We did see a glimpse of what he’s capable of during the 2013 playoffs when he had 17 points in 23 contests. That didn’t carry forward into the 2013-14 campaign though and it remains the high water mark of his career.
Darren Helm might not be ready for the start of the season after colliding into 21-year-old prospect Jerome Verrier during the first day of training camp on Friday.
Helm sustained a Grade 1 slight shoulder separation, per MLive.com writer Ansar Khan. He’s also going through the concussion protocol, but the 28-year-old forward feels good as far as that goes, according to the Detroit News’ Ted Kulfan.
Even if his possible concussion proves to be a non-factor though, he’s still projected to miss the next two-to-four weeks just due to the shoulder injury. So even in a best case scenario, it seems unlikely that he’ll play in any preseason games. The mid-point of his timetable is close to Detroit’s season opener on Oct. 9.
Helm’s dealt with more than his fair share of injury problems in the past as a variety of ailments resulted in him only playing in 43 games over the 2013 and 2013-14 campaigns. He was able to participate in 75 contests last season though.
Verrier’s right leg was broken due to the same incident.