Jeff Carter

Report: O’Reilly wants $6.7M deal, Avs counter at $5.5M

58 Comments

It seemed inevitable that Colorado and Ryan O’Reilly would get to their salary arbitration hearing and, based on a report that surfaced Monday, it now feels like a virtual lock.

O’Reilly is reportedly seeking a $6.75 million deal for next season, per The Hockey News. It’s a big ask from the 23-year-old, as the figure would make O’Reilly the 24th-highest salaried forward in the NHL — on par with the likes of Jeff Carter and Joe Thornton — and give him a bigger cap hit than Colorado’s current highest-paid player, Matt Duchene ($6M per).

The Avs, meanwhile, are countering with a decidedly less expensive number, relatively speaking: $5.525M, which is technically a salary reduction. Per the conditions of Colorado matching Calgary’s offer sheet for O’Reilly two seasons ago, he made $6.5 million in salary last year after netting $3.5 the first (with a $2.5M signing bonus).

So yeah, Colorado’s playing a little hardball.

How this all shakes out remains to be seen. For all the drama surrounding his contractual status over the last two years, O’Reilly is still a quality two-way forward that continues to produce despite the white noise, notching career highs in goals (28) and points (64) last year for the Central Division-winning Avs.

As for those Avs… Colorado will catch some heat for its brazen approach, but remember — the club has been very consistent with the way it’s handled O’Reilly since his entry-level deal expired. The Avs believe they know what O’Reilly’s market value is, and they’re sticking to it.

Hitch says Stastny ‘really fits’ the Blues

16 Comments

For the St. Louis Blues, signing Paul Stastny was all “about understanding the landscape of the West,” according to head coach Ken Hitchcock.

“The landscape of the West is there are at least eight or 10 teams that are extremely deep and it’s about having enough firepower in your lineup to control the puck,” Hitchcock told NHL.com in a wide-ranging interviewing. “You score more when you control the puck more, so Paul’s patience and the way he plays the game, how responsible he is in both ends of the rink, he really fits our team. He fits the way we already play.”

The so-called “advanced” statistics back up Hitchcock’s claim. Stastny was one of the few positive possession players for Colorado last season, and his departure has many wondering how the Avs will fare without his strong two-way play.

The Blues, meanwhile, were already a good possession team; they just couldn’t get it done in the playoffs. As such, they’re hoping the addition of Stastny can put them over the top in an extremely tough Western Conference — one in which Anaheim has added Ryan Kesler to play behind Ryan Getzlaf, Dallas has added Jason Spezza to go with Tyler Seguin, and Chicago has added Brad Richards to slot in behind Jonathan Toews.

All four of those moves to bring in centers came after the Los Angeles Kings won their second Stanley Cup in three years with a top-six forward group that featured Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter playing the middle, and playing it very well.

Related: Lehtera to center Schwartz, Tarasenko; will be ‘contributing factor’ for Blues

Boudreau has ‘never coached a team in the NHL’ with a 2C like Kesler

20 Comments

“I’ve never coached a team in the NHL that’s had a second-line center that you’re going to have with Ryan Kesler. It’s a great [acquisition], and it gets you excited.”

That was Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau (per NHL.com), talking about his team’s big offseason acquisition from Vancouver. A former Selke Trophy winner, Kesler will play behind Anaheim’s top center, Hart Trophy finalist Ryan Getzlaf, giving the Ducks one of the top 1-2 center combinations in the NHL.

“This makes us a bona fide threat to become an elite team,” said Boudreau.

So, exciting times for Ducks fans, who saw firsthand what the Los Angeles Kings did with a one-two combo of Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter in these past playoffs.

But fans of the Washington Capitals may also have perked up at Boudreau’s remarks, given the cavalcade of second-line centers that auditioned in D.C. to play behind Nicklas Backstrom.

From Japers’ Rink:

The last time the Capitals entered an offseason knowing who the second-line center would be for the upcoming season was 2008, and Sergei Fedorov was playing for the Caps. Fedorov retired from the NHL after that 2008-09 season, and in each of the ensuing four and a half seasons the Capitals have had to find a new player to handle the second-line center spot.

The 2C spot is still up for grabs in Washington, with Marcus Johansson, Brooks Laich and Evgeny Kuznetsov expected to compete for the role following the departure of Mikhail Grabovski to Long Island.

Jets can’t let Kane situation fester much longer

57 Comments

Kevin Cheveldayoff is willing to consider trade offers for Evander Kane. The Winnipeg Jets’ general manager said so at the draft in Philadelphia.

“If there’s a [player on the Jets] that a team has an interest in, my phone is open for a phone call,” Cheveldayoff said in response to a question about Kane’s status with the club.

And after yesterday’s “so we’ll see what happens” remark from Kane himself, one wonders if a few GMs around the league might be taking advantage of that open-phone policy.

But if Kane does want out of Winnipeg — and he sure didn’t deny he does — Cheveldayoff will no doubt want to achieve a couple of things with any trade.

1. The 2014-15 Jets can’t get significantly worse. Winnipeg has already missed the playoffs in its first three seasons since moving from Atlanta, and the Central Division is already tough enough. Which is to say, if Kane is traded, a good NHL-ready player better be coming back in return. A package of picks and prospects isn’t going to cut it. Too much uncertainty there. And too much pressure on Cheveldayoff to get results. Now.

2. That NHL-ready player better have a reasonably long future in Winnipeg. Kane, 22, is signed through 2017-18, after which he can become an unrestricted free agent. Which is to say, if Kane is traded, it can’t be for a guy who could leave town in a year or two. Nor can it be for a player who’s going to come to town and pout, a la Jeff Carter in Columbus.

Adding to the challenge for Cheveldayoff is the fact Kane doesn’t have the greatest reputation. For all the undeniable talent the former fourth overall pick possesses, there are questions about his attitude, and about how he gets along with teammates and coaches.

Whatever happens, the Jets can’t let this situation fester (to borrow a phrase from a team that had its own unhappy player) much longer.

As Kane said yesterday, “there’s been speculation and rumors for the three years since” he got to Winnipeg.

And as Cheveldayoff said at the draft, “there’s been lots of different rumors out there.”

The solution? Either Kane is traded or, if it’s not too late, the two sides reconcile and tell the fans they’re committed to each other.

Because it can’t keep going like this.

Kesler makes Ducks better, but are they good enough?

16 Comments

Ryan Kesler wants to win a Stanley Cup. And you can hardly blame him. Turning 30 this summer, the former Selke Trophy recipient has suffered some painful defeats in his career. He lost the 2010 Olympic gold medal-game, and he lost twice with a chance to win the Cup in 2011.

Which is why he agreed to be traded from Vancouver to Anaheim, a deal that’s being seen as a big win for Ducks general manager Bob Murray, who adds one of the premier two-way centers in the NHL to play behind Hart Trophy finalist Ryan Getzlaf.

Having a pair of top centers is how teams win the Cup. The Kings have Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter. The Bruins have Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. The Blackhawks have Jonathan Toews and, well, that’s why everyone’s wondering what the ‘Hawks will do with their vacant 2C spot. Jason Spezza? Paul Stastny? Pressure’s on, Stan Bowman.

Of course, there’s more to winning the Cup than having two top centers, and it’s more than fair to wonder if the Ducks — a team that’s won just a single postseason series in the last five years — really have what it takes.

Let’s start with the blue line, which even Murray admits is lacking that elite defenseman that almost always plays for the Cup winner.

“You watch the Kings, for example, and you watch how Drew Doughty has emerged as a superstar,” Murray said recently. “Do we have a defenseman who can be that way? When we won the Stanley Cup, we had [Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger]. That’s in the back of my mind all the time. Where is that guy, can you find that guy, and can you afford that guy?”

Maybe they already have that guy in 22-year-old Cam Fowler. But that’s a big maybe. Fowler’s good, but can he be Doughty good? Can he be Duncan Keith good? Zdeno Chara? Nicklas Lidstrom? Again, these are the guys that win Cups. They might even be the most important part of a championship team. You could make that argument.

Then there’s the Ducks’ goaltending situation. Jonas Hiller won’t be back, leaving the starter’s job to either John Gibson or Frederik Andersen. To be sure, goaltending could in fact turn out to be a real strength for Anaheim. But that’s not an experienced duo. It’s another big question mark. (Murray reportedly has no interest in Ryan Miller.)

Kesler gets the Ducks closer to winning it all. He gets himself closer. How close, exactly, we shall see.