Roberto Luongo

No parka needed: Players ponder possible NHL team in Vegas


The drive to bring an NHL team to Las Vegas one way or another has been a big story for some time, yet it only makes sense that the subject is cropping up when much of the hockey world is fighting off sunburns and/or hangovers in Sin City as we speak.

While the process – which would likely come via expansion – is creeping along slowly, players seem intrigued by the idea … and maybe a little frightened.

For one thing, Winnipeg Jets forward Andrew Ladd pointed to the obvious weather advantages, as the Canadian Press’ Stephen Whyno reports.

“You talk to any human, whether they play hockey or not, they’d rather go to work in shorts and a T-shirt than a parka,” Ladd said.

(One almost wonders if Jets fans collectively cringed at that commentary, although at least he was discussing parkas and not parks.)

The Las Vegas Review-Journal collected a few players’ thoughts on the matter (from Carey Price praising a “glamour city” to Jonathan Toews’ typically serious approach), including Florida Panthers rookie Aaron Ekblad discussing the rather obvious about temptations.

“I think there are a lot of places where you can get in trouble,” Ekblad said. “We’re professionals. I think we can learn to adapt to working and living in a place like Las Vegas.”

Honestly, Ekblad’s teammate Roberto Luongo probably said it best, though:

Even if Vegas does get a team, it will take a while. It sounds like quite a few players would be more than fine – though a little apprehensive – about such a concept.

Benning: Canucks waiting ‘for the domino effect’ in goalie market


In 2013, the Vancouver Canucks, then under former general manager Mike Gillis, had goalies Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo and decided to send the former to New Jersey for the ninth overall pick.

In 2015, Jim Benning, entering his second year as the Canucks’ GM, is facing a similar decision in the goaltending department with the first round of the NHL Draft now just six days away. It’s not a Schneider-Luongo situation, but with Vancouver needing draft picks, and three goalies with varying degrees of NHL experience and success in Ryan Miller, Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom, a decision looms.

The Canucks select 23rd overall, but as of right now, they don’t have another pick until the fourth round in what is considered to be a deep draft.

Benning made it known immediately after the trade deadline that he’d like to recoup picks for the draft.

Markstrom, who was the backbone for the Utica Comets in their run to the AHL championship series, is a pending restricted free agent. Lack has one year remaining on his current deal, which is cap-friendly at $1.15 million.

Ben Kuzma of The Province reported this week that Benning has taken trade calls from other teams on both Markstrom and Lack.

Any potential move the Canucks make at this position might be dependent on what, if anything, happens with New York goalie Cam Talbot. Previous reports had as many as six teams having “some interest” in Talbot.

“There’s good depth in the second round and I’d like to have a second-round pick but it’s a balancing act for us,” Benning told The Province newspaper in Vancouver.

“It might not be a pick but a way of making our team better — we’re looking at all options. But I think I’ll be able to figure something out on that (draft pick) because when one goalie goes, they’re going to move on to the next guy. We’re waiting for the domino effect.”

Related: Canucks might move a goalie, but it won’t be Ryan Miller

UFA of the Day: Shawn Matthias


Check PHT every day until June 30 for a new pending unrestricted free agent of the day. Today’s UFA of the Day is…

Shawn Matthias

Canucks GM Jim Benning said yesterday that Matthias would probably test the market on July 1. The club doesn’t have the cap space to re-sign the 27-year-old forward, who came to Vancouver as part of the Roberto Luongo trade.

Matthias is coming off a quietly productive season. Following a slow start, he finished with a career-high 18 goals, and he did so in a bottom-six role with barely any time on the power play.

In fact, his 17 even-strength tallies ranked second on the Canucks, behind only Radim Vrbata’s 19.

“I would love to be back,” Matthias said in April, per the Vancouver Sun. “But, in the business side of things, you never know what could happen. It’s a salary cap world. I mean, if I go to July 1st, I’m going to do what’s best for myself. So we’ll see what happens.”

Matthias’s expiring contract came with a cap hit of $1.75 million. Safe to say he’ll be looking for a good-sized raise.

Matthias is listed as a center but spent much of 2014-15 on the wing. His most common linemates were center Brad Richardson and winger Zack Kassian.

Click here for more UFAs.

So far, contract talk is all about term for Panthers, Huberdeau


Despite missing the playoffs, the Florida Panthers made some nice strides in 2014-15, and Jonathan Huberdeau was a big part of that climb. Now the two sides need to determine how his next contract will go.

At 22, Huberdeau is a restricted free agent. The leverage is largely on Florida’s side, even considering the fact that the young forward led the team in scoring by ten points with a career-high 54.

As the third pick of the 2011 NHL Draft, the belief is that Huberdeau will only get better from here. So what kind of price is right?

It turns out that the biggest issue is actually term, or at least that contract talks won’t really kick off until the two sides agree on that direction. Panthers GM Dale Tallon told the Miami Herald that the team is pretty open-minded when it comes to the length of a deal.

“The biggest thing is agreeing on terms, and once we figure that out we’ll start talking numbers,” Tallon said. “We’re looking at a bridge [contract] or something a little longer or a long-term contract. We’re open to anything. We’ll get something done that’s best for both of us.”

His RFA status limits his leverage, yet at just 22, there are quite a few ways things can go. (A longer deal might not be so bad since he’s so far from unrestricted status.)

Aside from Brian Campbell’s notorious (and soon to expire) $7.14 million cap hit, the Panthers don’t boast a ton of big-money contracts (unless you count Roberto Luongo’s deal, which is more about term). That situation can change as Florida’s young players mature, so Huberdeau’s next contract could very well be the benchmark for other important pieces of the Panthers’ future.

Tire pump? Yzerman says Toews is ‘bigger, stronger, better’ than he was


TAMPA — In 2011, Roberto Luongo and Tim Thomas brought tire pumping to the forefront at the Stanley Cup Final.

Four years later, the practice may be back in vogue.

During Tuesday’s media availability, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman was effusive in his praise for Chicago captain Jonathan Toews, claiming Toews is the superior player of the two.

“The reality is Jonathan’s bigger, stronger, better,” Yzerman said. “He just is. He’s just a tremendous all-around player, great person.

“Over the course of my career my play evolved and through Scotty Bowman. The way he wanted our team to play, we all became more defensive-minded players, more well-rounded players. Jonathan’s been that from day one.”

The Yzerman-Toews comparisons are nothing new (Chris Chelios noted it a while back): No. 19s, Canadians, centers, top-five draft picks (Yzerman fourth overall, Toews third) with each having won Stanley Cups, Olympic gold medals, Selke and Conn Smythe awards.

Yzerman’s point, however, is interesting. The knock on him prior winning the Cup in ’97 was that he didn’t have the complete game necessary to lead the Red Wings to a championship; Yzerman broke into the NHL as an offensive player, a scorer by trade, and his early point totals (155 points in 1988-89, remember) reflected as much.

Toews, meanwhile, isn’t the same offensive dynamo — he’s never broke the 80-point plateau — but attained playoff success far quicker than Stevie Y. Toews was a captain before he turned 21 and Stanley Cup winner before he was 23, whereas Yzerman didn’t hoist Lord Stanley’s Mug until he was 32.

That said… it’s Steve freaking Yzerman.

A first-ballot Hall of Famer and three-time Cup winner, Yzerman is now regarded as one of the greatest leaders in NHL history. He was the longest-serving captain of any team in North American major league sports upon retiring, and is an icon in Detroit. That reputation of winning has extended to his front office work, where he’s led Tampa Bay to an Eastern Conference and Stanley Cup Final in just five years on the job.

And this could be why he said what he did today.

Yzerman’s a shrewd guy, and knows how to work the media. The quiet, humble, aw-shucks-he’s-better-than-me routine fits into the narrative that many have written already, where the Bolts are the young, inexperienced, new kids on the block, underdogs against a Chicago team that’s been here before, done this before and is now looking to win a third Cup in the last five years.

To wit, I asked veteran Tampa forward Brenden Morrow — at 36, one of the few guys in this series to play against both Yzerman and Toews — what he thought of his GM’s remarks.

“They’re both competitors, but that’s just Steve being Steve,” Morrow said, smiling. “He’s a very modest and humble guy.

“He was a pretty special player.”