The New Jersey Devils have traditionally been against any player wearing the number 13, to the point where Mike Cammalleri had to switch to No. 23 after being signed to a five-year, $25 million contract last summer.
“I just showed up and No. 23 was in my stall,” Cammalleri told NJ Advance Media last year. To be fair, he didn’t ask for No. 13, but he had been wearing it since he was seven with the exception of times when it wasn’t available to him.
“Signing in New Jersey and all the respect I have for Lou [Lamoriello], that’s not a conversation you have, what number you wanted to wear,” Cammalleri explained, per the Devils’ website.
With Lou Lamoriello gone though and Ray Shero now in charge, Cammalleri took the opportunity to become the first player in New Jersey’s history to claim No. 13. Including the franchise’s time prior to being relocated, Cammalleri will become the second player after Robin Burns.
Jordin Tootoo will also switch from No. 20, which he wore last season, to his more common No. 22. That leaves 24-year-old Eric Gelinas, who wore No. 22 last season, with No. 44.
The Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks will take their battle outdoors on Feb. 21 as part of the Hockey Day in America tripleheader that will be featured on NBC and NBCSN. As part of those festivities, there will be an alumni game on Feb. 20, but Chicago will have to face more than just the Wild’s veterans, per NHL.com.
Former members of the Minnesota North Stars, which moved to Dallas in 1993, will join forces with the Wild franchise that made its debut in 2000. That means that players like Hall of Famers Dino Ciccarelli and Mike Modano will participate in the contest alongside former Wild forward Andrew Brunette.
Chicago’s squad will feature Ed Belfour, Jeremy Roenick, and Denis Savard.
The alumni game and Stadium Series contest will both take place in the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium. The two franchises have met for three consecutive years in the playoffs and are gearing up to once again compete against each other in the competitive Central Division.
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Las Vegas and Quebec City’s expansion bids have earned the attention of the NHL by getting through the first phase of the expansion process, but there’s still more hurdles they must clear in order to earn franchises.
Bill Foley, who is leading the charge to bring hockey to Vegas, announced that they’ve been asked to participate in Phase II.
“In this phase, we will be providing the League with additional information, including information about the Las Vegas market and the MGM AEG Arena being developed between Monte Carlo and New York New York,” Foley explained in a statement. “We will also be permitted access to information provided by the League that it deems important to us. We are hopeful that at the conclusion of this phase, the League will invite us to participate in Phase III.”
Quebecor has gotten the same invitation by the NHL for its Quebec City bid, per TSN’s Frank Seravalli.
Meanwhile, Quebecor is seeking partners to help cover the $500 million expansion fee while Poker star Daniel Negreanu would like to buy a stake in the prospective Vegas team.
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After finishing with a 30-44-8 record last season, the Maple Leafs have undergone substantial changes, but none of the decisions made were about getting back into the playoffs in the short-term. When the Maple Leafs dealt Phil Kessel to Pittsburgh, it was a clear sign that they were embracing a rebuild and its 2015-16 roster will reflects the early stages of that transition.
Toronto isn’t likely to enter the season with a lot of promising youngsters on its squad, but that will come later. For now, the Maple Leafs have signed veterans that can serve as placeholders like Shawn Matthias and P.A. Parenteau to give the top prospects time to develop properly. Matthias and Parenteau are only inked for one season and both might be traded at the deadline for picks or prospects to continue the Maple Leafs’ long-term goals.
Other veterans like Dion Phaneuf, Joffrey Lupul, and Tyler Bozak might also end up being dealt either before the season or at the deadline. In addition to providing the Maple Leafs with more assets, moving them would also increase Toronto’s chances of ending up with projected 2016 top pick Auston Matthews.
Meanwhile, Toronto has undergone a massive transformation on the management side as president Brendan Shanahan is now supported by GM Lou Lamoriello and coach Mike Babcock, which provides the franchise with the experience to see this rebuild through to the end. That’s a new thing for Toronto because while the franchise has barely seen any playoff actions since the start of the salary cap era, that hasn’t previously led to the Maple Leafs fully embracing a long-term rebuilding effort.
In fact, trading Kessel is the perfect symbol of the philosophical shift, not just because of what he represented now, but also due to the context of his acquisition. When Toronto got him back in 2009 for two first-round draft picks, it was a sign that then GM Brian Burke wanted to move forward without a traditional rebuild. That didn’t work, so now a new group is trying a different, more patient approach.
Head coach Mike Babcock has predicted that “there’s pain coming” to Toronto, which is pretty much all Maple Leafs fans have known during the salary-cap era anyways. But as difficult as the 2015-16 campaign might be, their fans also have some reasons to be optimistic, with one of the big ones being forward William Nylander.
Taken with the eighth overall pick in the 2014 draft, Nylander is coming off a strong and unusual season. He started with MODO of the Swedish League, but left Europe after scoring eight goals and 20 points in 21 contests. He reported to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies where he added another 14 goals and 32 points in 37 games.
That stint in the AHL was a big test for Nylander. Unlike most freshly drafted players, he already had experience playing against men in Sweden, but this was an opportunity to get used to a North American travel schedule as well as adjust to a more physical style of play.
His success under those conditions certainly helped his cause, but he still has a lot of work ahead of him in order to secure a roster spot with the Maple Leafs. Toronto already has 13 forwards signed to one-way contracts (not including Nathan Horton) and some other forward prospects that should get serious looks during training camp, including Kasperi Kapanen, Mitch Marner, and Zach Hyman. Ultimately, what his physical conditioning is like by the start of training camp could go a long way towards determining how well the 19-year-old will do against that level of competition.
“You don’t worry about his speed, you don’t worry about his skill,” Leafs assistant general manager Kyle Dubas said of Nylander, per the Toronto Sun. “You just worry about him, as you would with any 18- or 19-year-old, being strong enough.”
Perhaps having more time to work on his conditioning will prove to be the best route for him, but Nylander could nevertheless force the Maple Leafs to make some tough decisions.