Carolina Hurricanes

Kesler says Ducks letdowns are ‘not going to happen again’


Anaheim Ducks management stepped up to the plate in handing Ryan Kesler a hefty six-year, $41.25 million contract extension. Now it’s up to Kesler & Co. to prove that it’s all worth it.

The 30-year-old told the team website that he believes the Ducks “have all the pieces, we just need to put them together.” Kesler also said that falling short of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final ultimately serves as a valuable learning experience for the team.

At what point do you need to put those lessons together for an even deeper playoff run, though? Kesler looked back at the Ducks’ inability to put the Chicago Blackhawks away, including a 5-2 loss in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final:

“We needed a killer instinct in Game 6. We didn’t have it,” Kesler said. “There are two ways we can go about it: We can sulk about it or we can learn from it. I’m gonna make sure, just like all the other leaders on this team, that we learn from this and we learn not to let it happen again. That’s our job as leaders on this team. That’s not gonna happen again, I’ll tell you that.”

One cannot help but wonder how wide open the window really is for the Ducks, actually.

Wrong side of 30

Look, the West remains brutal, particularly with the ascension of Anaheim’s old nemesis, the Dallas Stars.

Still, this may just be the Ducks’ best chance to go all the way. The Blackhawks suffered some significant losses during this summer, and many others seemed to idle or even get worse. On paper, Anaheim might just be the favorite in its conference.

Beyond that, the team’s big names aren’t getting any younger, and the days of having a glut of cap space might be fleeting.

As of this writing, Kesler, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are all 30 years old. According to many, that’s roughly the age where big scorers start to see diminishing returns.

Costly contracts coming

The Ducks will also see a squeeze in contracts, particularly if they don’t get some other extensions done early (like they did with Kesler).

They still have some haggling to do with Carl Hagelin* and Jakob Silfverberg before the 2015-16 season begins. Gearing up for 2016-17 may prove costly, too, as their three goalies (Frederik Andersen, John Gibson, Anton Khudobin) and significant young defensemen Sami Vatanen, Simon Despres and Hampus Lindholm will all need new contracts.

Even with the bright side of Khudobin being the only UFA in mind, the Ducks seem rapidly shift from being a contender with a startling salary cap cushion to another championship hopeful with little room to breathe.


Kesler can shrug off the pressure to win all he wants, but with that big new deal, he’ll shoulder a lot of the blame if the Ducks fall short once more.

* – Sorry, had to do it.

There are some interesting players left on the UFA market


The unrestricted free agent market has slowed to a crawl, but there are still some noteworthy players left for the taking and they might end up with buyer-friendly contracts at this point.

Here’s a sampling of the most interesting names:

Cody Franson — His return to Nashville didn’t go as scripted, but he’s still a 27-year-old (28 in August) defenseman that recorded 33 and 36 points in each of his last two seasons. Agent Gerry Johannson felt back in June that Jeff Petry’s six-year, $33 million extension was in the right “ballpark” for Franson, but at this point it would be interesting to see if he would settle for a one-year contract in the hope of finding more favorable conditions with his next deal.

Alex Semin — He had just six goals and 19 points in 57 contests last season and Hurricanes GM Ron Francis cited his compete level as a reason for buying him out. Semin has had a wildly inconsistent career, but when he’s at his best, he’s a top-tier goal scorer. The fact that he’s reportedly interested in a one-year deal suggests that the risks involved in signing him will be managed. Under those conditions, he at least has the potential to provide any team with a significant boost.

Christian Ehrhoff — Concussion problems limited Ehrhoff to just 49 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins last season and that’s likely part of the reason he’s still on the open market. However, he has breached the 30-point mark six times and most recently in 2013-14. So perhaps his next one-year deal will go better than his last.

Marek Zidlicky — He’ll celebrate his 39th birthday in February, but he can still be a big contributor with the man advantage. In fact last season he was tied for 12th place among defensemen with 20 power-play points (34 overall).

Brad Boyes — He had a decent 14 goals and 38 points in 78 contests in 2014-15 with a Panthers team that didn’t do much offensively, but was nevertheless bought out. Although he’s unlikely to ever rise to the level he was at in 2007-2008 when he scored 43 goals, he’s still a decent secondary scorer and has traditionally be very effective in shootouts.

While Johnny Oduya is out there too, he’s expected to make his decision within the week. The Buffalo Sabres and Chicago Blackhawks are among his potential destinations.

Benning takes heat after admitting he could’ve traded Miller


A curious thing happened Thursday night during a town hall for Canucks ticketholders:

The GM got booed.

Jim Benning, who’s already come under fire this offseason, took some serious heat after admitting that — rather than dealing popular backup goalie Eddie Lack — he could’ve traded away veteran starter Ryan Miller.

More, from The Province:

Up to now, most believed the Canucks didn’t have many options when it came to their goalies.

Turns out, they had all the options.

“We could have moved Ryan Miller,” Benning revealed matter-of-factly. “There were teams calling on Ryan Miller.”

Benning was cut off by boos. Something that happened a couple of times.

He did not waver. He double downed in his belief in Miller, pointing out his high win total this year and reiterated that he wants a veteran as his No. 1 and a young goalie as his backup.

The Lack trade — Benning sent the 27-year-old to Carolina at the draft in exchange for a third round pick this year and a seventh-rounder next year — was widely critiqued by Canucks fans, who liked the personable Swede and didn’t like the middling return.

There was also widespread belief that, after backstopping the Canucks to the playoffs last year while Miller was injured, Lack would’ve been a capable and less expensive ($1.15M to Miller’s $6M) starter for a Vancouver team that appears to be in a transitional phase anyway.

Some saw Lack as the better goalie than Miller, period.

Benning, though, never saw it that way. The Province notes that a Lack-Jacob Markstrom tandem “was never going to be a thing” under this regime, and Benning essentially said the ‘Canes brought Lack in to be Cam Ward’s backup.

Which now makes the Carolina situation one worth monitoring. Should Lack wrestle the gig away from Ward and have success in a different market, it’ll only further stoke the flames under Benning’s chair.


Linden defends Lack trade, thinks Canucks will have ‘real good goaltending next year’

Benning knows he ‘could get criticized’ for trading fan favorite Eddie Lack

Report: Kopitar, Kings in ‘early stages of negotiations’ for extension


Kings center Anze Kopitar is “in the early stages of negotiations for what will probably be a lengthy contract extension,” reports the Los Angeles Times.

Kopitar, along with Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos, headline the top pending unrestricted free agents of next summer. Also in that group are Eric Staal, Dustin Byfuglien, Ryan Kesler, Jakub Voracek, Brent Seabrook and Milan Lucic.

For the Kings, if Kopitar re-signs, it’ll be another long-term contract on the books. Los Angeles currently has seven players locked up through at least 2019-20.

Kopitar, 27, will almost certainly become the Kings’ highest cap hit. At present, that belongs to Drew Doughty, at $7 million through 2018-19.

Related: Toews, Bergeron, Kopitar are the Selke Trophy finalists

Report: Semin looking for a one-year deal, not interested in KHL


Less than a week after being bought out by the Carolina Hurricanes, Alex Semin is looking to prove he still belongs in the NHL.

According to Igor Eronko of, Semin is looking for a one-year deal for next season. The 31-year-old isn’t considering a move to the KHL for the 2015-16 season.

Semin scored a career-low six goals and 19 points in 57 games with the Canes last season.

During the 2012-13 lockout Semin played 20 games with Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod of the KHL scoring seven goals and 10 assists.

Carolina placed Semin on unconditional waivers last Tuesday and bought him out. He will cost the Canes $2.3 million against the cap until 2020-21.

Report: Discuss: Where’s the best fit for Alex Semin?