Ryan Dadoun

Marcus Kruger
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With training camp looming, there’s still RFAs

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The start of training camp is just around the corner, but any player that’s still a restricted free agent is likely to hold out unless he agrees to terms ahead of time. While it’s still entirely possible that every noteworthy RFA will sign before that happens, the fact remains that there’s still some unresolved cases.

In total there are seven remaining RFAs, per General Fanager: forwards Brock Nelson (NYI), Freddie Hamilton (COL), John Albert (WPG), Jonathan Huberdeau (FLA), Marcus Kruger (CHI), Micheal Ferland (CGY) and defenseman Stefan Elliott (COL).

Of them, Huberdeau is arguably the highest profile player as he was taken with the 2011 third overall pick and won the Calder Trophy in 2013. He’s reportedly come to an agreement with the Florida Panthers as far as term goes, but the two sides are still negotiating when it comes to compensation, per the Miami Herald’s George Richards. The team is confident this matter will be settled ahead of training camp.

There’s less to go on when it comes to Nelson. After scoring 20 goals and 42 points in 82 games last season, it seems reasonable to assume that the 23-year-old is looking for a significant payday after completing his entry-level contract. The Islanders have had an offer on the table for him for weeks, per Newsday’s Arthur Staple, but beyond that news regarding his situation has been scarce.

The other player on that list that has already spent a substantial amount of time in the NHL is Marcus Kruger. His case is a bit different as Chicago’s cap situation has limited its ability to negotiate with the 25-year-old.

Kruger, who completed a two-year, $2.65 million deal, made it clear that he wants to re-sign with the Blackhawks and they’ve been patient with Chicago given its cap issues. At this point though, something has to give soon.

Of course the same could be said for all of those cases.

Coaching change ‘one of the reasons’ Larkin signed with Wings

Dylan Larkin
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The Detroit Red Wings have a reputation for letting their prospects stay in the minors until they are overripe, but 19-year-old Dylan Larkin thinks the timing is right for a young player to compete for a roster spot. Part of the reason for that belief is the fact that head coach Mike Babcock has left and been replaced by Jeff Blashill.

“That is one of the reasons I decided to sign and leave college,” Larkin told NHL.com. “There is a new coach and there seems to be some older players who might be on their way out. I think it is a great opportunity for me to learn from them. Growing up in Detroit you hear so much about those guys. I have watched Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk my whole life, so to be in the same room as them would be an incredible experience.”

Larkin had 15 goals and 47 points in 35 games with the University of Michigan last season. It was his freshman season, but the Michigan-native felt that a single year was enough time in the NCAA under the circumstances. He signed with Detroit on May 21, the day after Babcock left the Red Wings.

Regardless of who the head coach is though, Larkin will have a tough time making the roster out of training camp. Red Wings GM Ken Holland suggested as much back in July, noting that Larkin can’t make the team unless Blashill sees a lineup spot for him, as it wouldn’t make sense to keep him with Detroit if he’s just serving as a depth forward.

Taken with the 15th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, Larkin is one of Detroit’s top prospects. However, cracking Detroit’s top-12 this year won’t be a small task for him as the Red Wings have a logjam up front with 15 players signed to one-way contracts.

Coaching Leafs ‘scares the crap’ out of Babcock, sees it as a positive

Mike Babcock
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There aren’t many active coaches with a better resume than Mike Babcock, but even after dealing with the weight of leading Team Canada to gold (twice) in the Olympics and guiding the Detroit Red Wings to a Stanley Cup championship, he admits that the bench job in Toronto “scares the crap out of (him),” per the Toronto Sun.

And he meant that as a positive.

Venturing away from a franchise he’s grown familiar with to an intense market hungry for success after a decade of nearly uninterrupted failure was a bold decision on his part and one he made with eyes wide open, but he thinks the fear associated with it will get him “dialed in.”

At the same time, he is putting it all in perspective.

“The reality is, I’m the coach of this team,” Babcock said. “I’m not carrying the weight of the world on my back.

“I’m going to go to work in the morning. I’m going to work as hard as I can. I’m going to go home to my family and then the next day I’m going to do it again. But if you think I’m carrying around the weight of the world, I didn’t do it when I coached Canada at the Olympics (and) I didn’t do it when I coached Detroit.”

With the Leafs engaged in what might prove to be a long-term rebuilding process, this season isn’t likely to be about competing for a playoff spot. Instead this is an opportunity for Babcock to establish his system and do his part to help instill a culture change that involves a team-first mentality. So while fans might not rate this season in terms of wins and losses, they will be looking for evidence that a foundation is being set that will eventually lead to success.

In the short-term, that’s likely how Babcock will be judged. Eventually, more will be expected.

Shea Weber’s knee feels good, is motivated after watching Preds’ exit

Shea Weber
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The Nashville Predators took the Stanley Cup-winning Chicago Blackhawks to six games in the first round of the 2015 playoffs, but they were missing Shea Weber for most of that series. That has to lead to “what if” scenarios playing in some fans heads, but the silver lining is that the subluxed kneecap that prevented Weber from playing beyond Game 2 shouldn’t be an issue going forward.

The top-tier defenseman “feels good” as he awaits the start of training camp.

“It’s exciting to be back,” Weber told the Predators’ website. “As more and more guys roll in here, it’s just going to get more exciting and feel like we’re ready to go for the season. It’s good seeing familiar faces and try to get back into a routine.”

As for what could have been, Weber admits to thinking about that over the course of an offseason that was far longer than Nashville had hoped. At the end of the day, Weber sees it as a source of motivation and confidence.

“We know we’re capable of doing anything we put our minds to, but we also can’t take our foot off the gas,” he said.

Linden: Canucks summer moves about ‘long-term vision’

Trevor Linden
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The Vancouver Canucks have certainly had their critics this summer, but president Trevor Linden insists everything is going according to plan.

“There’s no question that, after seeing things for a year, I knew we had to make some changes and get to a better place,” Linden told the Vancouver Province. “There were things I wasn’t happy with. I knew we had to do some restructuring and put new processes in place.

“That’s what I’ve spent the last month doing, and I’m really excited about the changes we’ve made. Whether they show up in wins and losses this season, I don’t know, but this is a long-term vision.”

Convincing others that his and Canucks GM Jim Benning’s vision is the right one though will take some doing. After all, Benning got booed by season ticket holders when he revealed that he could have traded Ryan Miller, but opted to deal Eddie Lack instead (that trade came with a return of two picks — third and seventh rounders). There’s been a number of other divisive moves in Vancouver, from giving Luca Sbisa and Derek Dorsett’s significant contracts to the acquisition and five-year, $21.875 million signing of “foundation piece” Brandon Sutter.

How those moves work out will go a long way towards determining Benning and Linden’s popularity in the short-term. However, if Vancouver is to be successful, it will need to see results when it comes to the drafting and developing of prospects. That was an issue for the Canucks for years beginning with the start of the cap era, but Bo Horvat’s solid rookie season might someday be viewed as a turning point.

“To me, the two most important things moving forward are the amateur scouting side and the player development side, and there are many aspects to player development,” Linden said. “There’s strength and conditioning, there’s sports science, there’s the medical side, nutrition, and they all have to be integrated.

“The only way we’re going to get better is to draft and develop our players. Then we have to do a good job of developing them and getting them here as quickly as possible. That takes up most of my time.”

So for now the Canucks still have a pretty old core, but perhaps in a few years the franchise will start to see the rewards of Linden’s focus on drafting and developing. In the end, the work he’s doing there could pay far greater dividends than the more high profile trades and signings Vancouver has recently engaged in.