Author: Ryan Dadoun

Kevin Shattenkirk

Report: Blue Jackets sought to add top defenseman

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If the Columbus Blue Jackets enter the 2015-16 campaign with largely the same defense as last season, it won’t be because they didn’t try to make a big change.

Per Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch:

The Blue Jackets were in on trade talks concerning Dougie Hamilton before Boston sent him to Calgary, and they’ve contacted the St. Louis Blues about Kevin Shattenkirk. The Jackets also made a contract offer to free agent Paul Martin before he signed with San Jose.

Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen plans to keep looking, but it’s worth noting that Columbus is only about $4 million below the ceiling after signing Brandon Saad and Matt Calvert, per General Fanager. That’s not to say that Columbus can’t still acquire a top defenseman, but it’s more likely that it would have to involve the other team either retaining salary or taking a contract in order to make things work.

As things stand, the Blue Jackets have one of the cheapest defenses in the league as their money has instead flowed to their forwards and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. That’s thanks in part to the fact that blueliners David Savard, Dalton Prout, Ryan Murray, and Kevin Connauton each come with a cap hit of $1.3 million or less, but all of them will be restricted free agents next summer and the raises they might demand has to also be a consideration.

So ultimately Columbus might stick with what it has and hope Murray can stay healthy as the 2012 second overall pick has run into serious injury problems early in his career.

“To me, getting him healthy would be the best addition any team has made this summer,” Kekalainen said. “It would make a huge difference for us.”

Big decisions remain for Flames as Treliving shifts to re-signings

Mark Giordano
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The Calgary Flames’ eventful summer is no where near its conclusion and the decisions they make in the coming weeks could change the look of this franchise is big ways.

Now that the trade and unrestricted free agent markets have settled down, the Flames can shift their focus to internal roster matters and easily the highlight of them is defenseman Mark Giordano’s contract situation. He’s the captain, a workhorse, and if not for the biceps injury he suffered in February, he would perhaps be the reigning Norris Trophy winner as well.

His impact on this team is substantial and with just a year remaining on his contract, re-signing him this summer was previously listed as the team’s number one priority. But since then a report surfaced that the 31-year-old blueliner was seeking $9 million annually and the Flames acquired 22-year-old Dougie Hamilton and inked him to a six-year, $34.5 million deal.

While a strong addition, it’s intensified the questions about how Calgary will handle its cap situation beyond the 2015-16 campaign. If they re-sign Giordano, would they trade Dennis Wideman ($5.25 million annually) before his contract expires in 2017 to make room? Will it impact their ability to re-sign Jiri Hudler, who has a season left on his contract, in addition to giving Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau the big raises they’re likely going to justifiably demand next summer?

It makes their comparatively smaller, current RFA talks with Lance Bouma, Paul Byron, and Josh Jooris higher stakes as every dollar saved on potential multi-year contracts there is one they’ll still have for the bigger summer on the horizon. All three of them filed for arbitration, but can re-sign before their hearings.

It will also likely impact the Flames decisions when it comes to signing any of the remaining UFAs to multi-year deals.

Or as Flames GM Brad Treliving put it to the Calgary Sun: “You’re constantly monitoring the market, but from a priority standpoint, it’s time to get our house in order with our own people.”

Trotz: ‘Up in the air’ if Backstrom (hip) will be ready for opener

Nicklas Backstrom
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Nicklas Backstrom is recovering from the arthroscopic hip surgery he underwent in May and while he should be able to skate during training camp, his overall timetable remains uncertain.

“Will he be ready for the start of the season? That part is up in the air right now,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said when asked about Backstrom’s availability on DC101’s Elliot In The Morning.

One of the concerns surrounding his recovery is his conditioning as Trotz noted that the 27-year-old forward will be limited in that regard over the summer, per CSN Washington. He consequently might be significantly behind his teammates in that regard come October even if he is otherwise healthy enough to play.

The Capitals initially projected that Backstrom would be “completely healthy prior to the start of the 2015-16 regular season.” However, Trotz’s update meshes with a report last month from Swedish news outlet Gefle Dagblad, which claimed that Backstrom could be sidelined for up to five months. The high end of that timetable would translate to a late October return.

He finished 2014-15 with 18 goals and 78 points in 82 contests. He hasn’t missed a game since the 2011-2012 campaign.

PHT Morning Skate: Burns would have a tiger, but wife vetoed

Brent Burns
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns loves animals and has pet reptiles at home, in part because with his travel schedule a cat or dog isn’t as feasible. Speaking of cats though: “I’d have a tiger if my wife would let me, but she kiboshed that.” (Sportsnet)

It might seem weird for Sam Bennett to be participating in the Calgary Flames’ development camp after his strong showing in the 2015 playoffs, but he sees the benefit in it. (Calgary Sun)

Jack Eichel is naturally dominating the headlines at the Sabres’ development camp, but Buffalo has another big prospect there in fellow second overall pick Sam Reinhart. (Buffalo News)

James Duthie will have a role in Goon: Last of The Enforcers:

Retired defenseman Jay Leach is joining the AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins as an assistant coach. (Penguins.nhl.com)

After Philadelphia selected three goaltenders in the 2015 draft, Anthony Stolarz realizes he has to elevate his game. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Voracek’s agent begins extension talks with Flyers

Jakub Voracek
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The Philadelphia Flyers need to agree to terms with restricted free agent Michael Del Zotto, but they’re otherwise pretty much set for training camp. That doesn’t mean the rest of the summer will be uneventful though.

Jakub Voracek is going into the final season of his four-year, $17 million contract and the Flyers might avoid the uncertainty that comes with that by re-signing him this summer. His agent Petr Svoboda has begun talks with the team, per CSN Philly.

The 25-year-old forward scored 22 goals and 81 points in 82 contests last season, so he’s in line for a big raise. He’s not much older than Vladimir Tarasenko, who signed a eight-year, $60 million deal on Tuesday. It’s not a perfect comparable because Tarasenko is more of a goal scorer while Voracek has more NHL experience. Voracek also has a better track record over the last three seasons with 189 points in 212 games compared to Tarasenko’s 135 points in 179 contests.

In fact, over the last three campaigns, Voracek ranks eighth in total points among players that are 28 years old or younger. Of those in the top-10, the only ones to re-sign within the last year were Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews (ninth and 10th respectively), who inked matching eight-year, $84 million contracts. But of course, Kane and Toews are being paid for more than just their point production.

CSN Philly speculated that Voracek is probably looking at a five-year deal that comes with at least a $7 million annual cap hit and in this market, that would probably be seen as good value.