Tag: Bryan McCabe

Aaron Ekblad

Looking to make the leap: Aaron Ekblad

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For the first time since the 1994 NHL Draft, the Florida Panthers had the first overall pick in June, and just like they did in ’94, the Panthers used their No. 1 selection to take a defenseman.

Twenty years ago, it was a kid by the name of Ed Jovanovski out of the Windsor Spitfires organization, who was tabbed to be the franchise’s next star.

In 2014, those pressures are squarely on the shoulders of blue liner Aaron Ekblad.

Ekblad may be just 18-years-old, but comparisons to fellow fresh-faced rookies begin, and end, there.


At 6-foot-3 and 216-pounds, Ekblad is a behemoth among his peers and its that size, coupled with his hands, which the Panthers are hoping will help the Belle River, Ont. native make the leap to the NHL just three months after selecting him.

“I’m really impressed with his hands,” Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon told the Florida Sun Sentinel last month. “I knew he was a well-rounded player, but I’m really happy with his skills … how he handles the biscuit, how he moves it and how he shoots it.

“He’s really got tremendous skills for a kid that size and that young.”

Billed as a two-way defenseman with a cannon for a shot, Ekblad would be a welcome edition to a Panthers blue line, which is taking shape nicely.

In addition to Ekblad, Florida has budding stars Dmitry Kulikov and Erik Gudbranson to go along with savvy veterans such as Brian Campbell and Willie Mitchell.

Bryan McCabe, who is on the Panthers’ player development staff, knows a thing or two about making the leap to the NHL. During the 1994-95 season, as a 20-year-old, McCabe played his rookie season with the New York Islanders.

“He can move; he has a heavy shot from what I saw; he’s composed and mature for his age,” McCabe told the Sun Sentinel. “He’s very confident, not cocky, but he believes in himself, which is a great attribute for a young kid.

“We certainly don’t want to rush any kids, but if he comes into camp and proves he can play we’re certainly not going to sent him back.”

Ekblad is learning from the NHL veteran.

“Just how much it takes,” Ekblad told NHL.com last month. “We had a good talk with Mr. McCabe. It’s just amazing how much mental toughness and how physically and mentally prepared you have to be to make it to the next level. It’s a big jump and I’m really excited and aware of what I have to do.”

Eklbad still has two issues as he moves forward to Panthers’ mini camp in September.

First, he’s coming off of a concussion suffered during an exhibition game at Canada’s player development camp earlier this month.

Ekblad, who is symptom free, has not skated since suffering the injury Aug. 5, but according to TSN is expected to get back on the ice this week.

He is also without a contract.

Tallon didn’t appear concerned when talking about Ekblad’s contract situation last month.

“We’ll wait until rookie camp,” Panthers GM Dale Tallon told the Miami Herald. “He handled himself very well as prospect camp, did a good job. I’m not worried about that. We’ll get him signed when the time comes.”

According to Bob Duff of the Windsor Star, Ekblad should expect the maximum allowable under the collective bargaining agreement for rookies.

Ekblad will likely receive a three-year entry-level contract with a base salary of $925,000. As Duff points out, the maximum signing bonus allowed is 10 percent of the base salary, which amounts to $92, 500 in each of the three years.

Under the CBA, Ekblad is allowed to earn bonuses, which cannot exceed $2.85 million per season.

So Panthers’ fans should expect Ekblad to sign a three-year deal in the neighbourhood of $11.325 million in the coming weeks leading up to the start of the 2014-15 season in October.

Related: Panthers’ power play can only improve next season

Don Cherry blasts Burke for Leafs’ lack of Ontario natives

Don Cherry

Listening to Don Cherry, you would get the impression that rather than fire coach Ron Wilson, Brian Burke should have signed a player from Ontario.

On Saturday night, what started with an inquiry on CBC’s Coach’s Corner about the Leafs coaching change ended with Cherry complaining about how Toronto is the only NHL team without a player from Ontario on their active roster.

Typically local players do become fan favorites, although St. Catharines, Ontario native Bryan McCabe would argue that isn’t always the case. Besides, it’s not as if Burke has avoided Ontario players. In the 2011 NHL entry draft, Toronto used the 25th overall pick to select Stuart Percy, who was born in Oakville, Ontario and has played in the Ontario Hockey League. The Leafs’ next pick, which didn’t come until the third round, was another Ontario-native, Josh Leivo.

In addition to that, the Leafs’ AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, has several Ontario-born players. The most noteworthy of which is Nazem Kadri, who has played in 19 games with the Maple Leafs this season. At the end of the day, it’s the players’ skill that matters. We can assume that Leafs fans would rather have Markham-born Steve Stamkos instead of Matthew Lombardi, but they wouldn’t trade Phil Kessel to get back Mississauga-native Matthew Stajan.

Markov worries? Montreal signs Chris Campoli to one-year, $1.75 million deal

Chris Campoli
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The worries about the health of Andrei Markov’s knee in Montreal might be a bit stronger than you’d think. The Canadiens have signed free agent defenseman Chris Campoli to a one year deal. TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports that the deal is worth $1.75 million to help solidify the depth of the Habs.

Markov has been dealing with lingering issues with his surgically repaired knee during training camp and rather than head into the regular season having to rely upon prospects from the AHL for depth, the Habs have called upon Campoli to fit the bill. Markov’s knee issues have plagued his previous two seasons and heading into a new one with concerns again over how he’ll hold up clearly weren’t entertaining to GM Pierre Gauthier.

Campoli spent last season in Ottawa and Chicago and the conclusion to his season with the Blackhawks was an infamous one getting turned inside-out by Vancouver’s Alex Burrows leading to the series-winning goal in Game 7 of their first round battle. Overall last season, Campoli finished with four goals and 17 assists with both the Sens and Hawks.

Campoli is capable of being an offensive contributor along the blue line and is know better for being a good puck mover than for his defensive capabilities. Looking at the rest of the Canadiens’ blue line corps, without Markov the Habs needed a bit of help. With P.K. Subban, Hal Gill, Jaroslav Spacek, Josh Gorges, and Yannick Weber to hold things down. With the Habs’ farm team lacking in NHL-ready prospects outside of Weber, Campoli will provide the NHL-ready insurance they’ll need if Markov’s knee continues to be an issue.

Montreal opting to sign Campoli over fellow free agent defenseman Bryan McCabe is a bit of a curious move only because if Montreal’s worries over Markov’s health were long-term ones, McCabe would be a helpful player to have on the power play and certainly a better fit there than Campoli. Campoli, right now, we’d have to assume is being brought in as a competitor for the sixth defense spot with Weber or strictly as a fill-in seventh defenseman.