Ryan Dadoun

Aaron Dell

Sharks re-sign Aaron Dell after strong AHL campaign

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The San Jose Sharks announced that they re-signed Aaron Dell to a one-year contract.

Dell, 26, went undrafted and spent parts of three seasons with the University of North Dakota. He went pro in 2012-13 and has been battling in the minors ever since. He took a step up in 2014-15 by posting a 2.06 GAA and .927 save percentage with the AHL’s Worcester Sharks .

That gave Dell the fifth best GAA and fourth ranked save percentage in the AHL.

With After Niemi gone, Martin Jones and Alex Stalock are expected to battle for playing time with San Jose next season. That leaves Dell to fight with Troy Grosenick and Joel Rumpel for a spot on the AHL squad. Each member of the trio will also be competing to establish himself as the third-string goaltender in order to be positioned for a potential summoning if Jones or Stalock get hurt.

What does Jack Eichel mean to the Buffalo Sabres?

Jack Eichel
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It takes a special type of player to dramatically alter the perception of your franchise and the mood of the fanbase before playing a single minute in the NHL, but Jack Eichel is not your typical high-end draft pick.

He’s the reason over 17,000 fans in Buffalo wanted to see a prospects scrimmage in July. By extension Eichel is the primary source of the optimism surrounding the team despite the fact that the Sabres are coming off of a 23-51-8 record.

In fact, that might even been underselling his impact because as an American he has the potential to accomplish things that no other U.S.-born talent has done before.

That’s what he is to the fans, but just how important was taking him to the Buffalo Sabres? What would it have meant to this franchise if it had missed out on the rare opportunity to draft a player of Eichel’s potential?

Getting Eichel, regardless of how well he does, isn’t nearly enough to guarantee the Sabres an era of long playoff runs and one or more championships. He doesn’t change the fact that Buffalo’s goaltending is an X-Factor, that they’re still dependent on several other prospects to breakout, or that they need forwards like Evander Kane to bounce back to help close the massive gap that existed between the Sabres offensively in 2014-15 and even just the league average. Buffalo still needs plenty of work and that’s true with or without Eichel.

And yet, while Buffalo might ultimately end up with little to show for the Eichel era, even if he proves to be a superb forward, he is the foundation that gives this franchise a good fighting chance at a championship in the mid-term.

He’s potentially a top-tier center, which is something most serious Stanley Cup contenders have and isn’t typically available on the free agent or trade markets unless you happen to be Jim Nill. Beyond that, he’s a potential “big-time” player and those are equally rare and near essential for success.

For much of the last six seasons, Chicago would have been a team with depth, a great defense, and significant scoring threats even if Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were simply good rather than the elite forwards they have proven themselves to be. But that one downgrade alone might have proven to be the difference between a franchise locked in a dynasty debate and one that enjoyed some deep playoff runs without ever lifting the Stanley Cup.

As Mike Babcock put it in April when talking about the aging Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, “In the end, you’ve got to have big-time players up the middle and on the back to be successful. So those are questions in our organization that we work towards, drafting good and developing good, but we’ve been winning too much (in the regular season to get high draft picks). That’s the facts.”

That’s what Eichel represents to Buffalo. Even if he lives up to the hype, he’s just a piece of the puzzle, but he’s one of the toughest ones to find.

MacLellan doesn’t think summer additions have to take from Johansson

Marcus Johansson
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Marcus Johansson was handed a one-year, $3.75 million contract in arbitration, but there’s been speculation that Washington’s offseason additions might eat into his playing time in 2015-16. Capitals GM Brian MacLellan doesn’t see that as inevitable.

“We just have a deeper top six and you’re going to have to play well and it’ll be hard to keep your job there,” MacLellan told the Washington Post. “He’s going to have to play well from the start.”

At the same time, MacLellan believes that Johansson can maintain a spot on one of Washington’s top two lines and serve on the first power-play unit. The general manager even hinted at Johansson’s role actually expanding as the 24-year-old might help kill penalties.

Washington added Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie over the summer and both of them are expected to serve as top-six forwards along with Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Evgeny Kuznetsov. So when everyone is healthy, that will leave just one slot for Johansson or Andre Burakovsky.

Johansson had 20 goals and 47 points in 82 contests last season while averaging 16:28 minutes per contest.

Arbitrator awards Sens’ Hoffman one-year, $2M contract

Mike Hoffman
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The Ottawa Senators went two-for-two in arbitration cases this summer.

Senators forward Mike Hoffman requested a salary of $3.4 million from an arbitrator while the Senators countered at $1.75 million. The ruling came down this afternoon largely in favor of Ottawa as Hoffman will earn $2 million in 2015-16, per the team’s Twitter feed.

This comes after forward Alex Chiasson asked for $2.475 million against Ottawa’s $1 million and was ultimately awarded a $1.2 million deal. Chiasson had 11 goals and 26 points in 76 contests last season, down from 35 points in 79 games with Dallas in 2013-14.

Hoffman was coming off of a considerably stronger season offensively though as he scored 27 goals and 48 points in 79 contests. However, the 25-year-old had only participated in 29 NHL contests prior to the 2014-15 campaign, so he still needs to prove that he can maintain or build upon his recently established career-highs.

Ottawa has now settled with all of its restricted free agents, although the stage is set for the Senators to renegotiate with Chiasson and Hoffman again next summer as they’re scheduled to become restricted free agents again. If Hoffman has another strong season and Chiasson is able to bounce back, then Ottawa will be in a considerably more difficult negotiating position.

For now though, the Senators are getting both forwards at close to the price they wanted.

Looking to make the leap: Sam Reinhart

Sam Reinhart
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All eyes in Buffalo will be on Jack Eichel during training camp, but it would be a shocking turn of events for him to be left off the team’s opening game roster, so let’s talk about the Sabres other second overall pick because he arguably has a lot more to play for during the preseason.

Reinhart earned that high 2014 selection after scoring 36 goals and 105 points in 60 contests with WHL Kootenay in 2013-14. He managed to secure a roster spot with Buffalo out of training camp, but was given just 10:21 minutes of ice time per game and returned to the juniors after registering one assist in nine NHL contests.

Despite that setback, he went on to record 65 points in 47 WHL contests before heading to AHL Rochester where he registered three assists in three games. On the international stage, he helped guide Canada to a gold medal in the World Juniors by scoring five goals and 11 points in seven contests.

By the time this year’s development camp rolled around, Reinhart looked like a matured player, as Mike Harrington noted for the Buffalo News:

When most of you last saw Reinhart, he looked lost. He was overmatched through his nine NHL games, failing to score a goal, when the Sabres mercifully sent him back to junior hockey. He returned to Kootenay of the Western League needing to work on his skating and, most of all, on his conditioning.

Early returns are very good. Reinhart looks more chiseled. His skating appears eons better, with strong, confident strides and sharp turns. Every step had a purpose. No energy was wasted.

Eichel is the Sabres’ top prospect now and so much of their aspirations rest on his shoulders, but there isn’t a player in this league that can single-handily carry a team. Buffalo needs a core that extends beyond Eichel and Reinhart has the potential to be a vital part of it.