Tampa Bay Lightning

‘It’s hard to find players like Phil Kessel’


For all the criticisms of Phil Kessel — and we’re not saying they’re all without merit — here are some facts:

— He has 247 goals in 668 career NHL games. Among active players, that’s the 29th-most goals. And he’s only 27.

— Over the last five seasons, only Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos, and Corey Perry have scored more goals than Kessel. And Kessel’s center has mostly been Tyler Bozak. In Pittsburgh, it’ll be Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.

That’s why Penguins GM Jim Rutherford is excited to have acquired Kessel, whom he considers “right there” in a class with Ovechkin and Stamkos.

“It’s hard to find players like Phil Kessel,” Rutherford told TSN.

Not only did Rutherford get the player he wanted without giving up Derrick Pouliot or Olli Maatta, two young defensemen the Pens will need even more now, he convinced the Leafs to eat $1.25 million per year of Kessel’s salary.

Without that concession by the Leafs, the deal couldn’t have happened, Rutherford said, noting that the Penguins already have Crosby, Malkin, Kris Letang, and Marc-Andre Fleury signed to big, long-term contracts.

Oh, and Rutherford isn’t done yet. He still hopes to add another winger, as well as a fourth-line center.

Wings sign former Hobey Baker winner Miele to one-way deal (Update: McCollum re-signs too)


Another interesting move just prior to the opening of free agency — Detroit has re-upped with Andy Miele on a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000, per TSN.

The most interesting aspect is the one-way contract. Miele, who won the Hobey Baker in 2011 with Miami of Ohio, has spent most of his professional career in the AHL and appeared in just 15 NHL contests.

That said, it’s easy to see why the Wings went this route.

Miele enjoyed tremendous success last year in Grand Rapids under Jeff Blashill, scoring 26 goals and 70 points in 71 games. He was equally strong in the playoffs — 14 points in 16 games — and with Blashill taking over Mike Babcock’s head coaching gig in Detroit, it’s not surprising he’s brought Miele along for the ride.

The knock the 27-year-old is his size — at 5-foot-8 and 175 pounds, he’s been viewed as too small to be a factor in the NHL. But the emergence of Tyler Johnson in Tampa Bay has really changed perceptions on that front, and it’ll be interesting to monitor Miele next season as he looks to make an impact with the Wings.

Update: The Wings also announced they inked AHL goalie Tom McCollum to a one-year extension.

Lightning, Sustr agree on two-year extension


The Tampa Bay Lightning announced that they have signed Andrej Sustr to a two-year contract extension.

Tampa Bay didn’t release the financial terms of the deal other than to confirm that it’s one-way, but the contract is worth $2.9 million, according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun. That’s up from his 2014-15 salary of roughly $874K.

The 24-year-old defenseman participated in his first full NHL campaign last season and registered 13 assists in 72 contests. He also blocked 84 shots and logged 17:42 minutes of ice time per game, including an average of 1:28 shorthanded minutes.

He went on to participate in all 26 of Tampa Bay’s 2015 playoff games during its run to the Stanley Cup Final. He had a goal and an assist and averaged 15:14 minutes per contest.

Tampa Bay now has seven defensemen inked to one-way contracts worth more than $1 million annually, although that includes Mattias Ohlund who hasn’t played since 2011. Ohlund just has one more campaign left on his contract before he’s off the books.

The Lightning didn’t give Mark Barberio a qualifying offer so the 25-year-old blueliner is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent. However, they still need to re-sign RFA Luke Witkowski.

Canucks hand Markstrom two-year, $3.1 mil deal


The Vancouver Canucks announced that they have agreed to a two-year deal with goaltender Jacob Markstrom.

His contract will come with a $1.55 million annual cap hit, according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun.

The 25-year-old is set to enter the 2015-16 campaign as Ryan Miller’s understudy after Vancouver dealt Eddie Lack to Carolina on Saturday in exchange for the 66th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft (Guillaume Brisebois) and a seventh rounder in 2016.

That trade was controversial, in part because Lack was a fan favorite coming off of a season where he posted a .921 save percentage in 41 contests and due to Markstrom’s struggles at the NHL level. In 50 career games, Markstrom has a 3.19 GAA and .896 save percentage.

At the same time, Markstrom posted 1.88 GAA and .934 save percentage in 32 games with AHL Utica in 2014-15 before leading the team to the Calder Cup Final with a 2.11 GAA and .925 save percentage in 23 playoff contests.

That was enough to convince team president Trevor Linden that he’s ready for the next level.

“I think if you look at the history of, whether it be Corey Crawford or Ben Bishop, or these types of players and how they perform at the American Hockey League level, and look at stats and numbers, you can put Jacob in that category,” said Linden. “He’s had an excellent year. He needs to continue to develop at the National Hockey League level, and we’re going to give him that opportunity.”

Vancouver also signed Linden Vey to a one-year, $1 million contract tonight.

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

Barberio looking for a ‘fresh start somewhere else,’ says agent


Defenseman Mark Barberio’s name was not on the list of Tampa Bay Lightning players tendered qualifying offers on Monday. As a result, the 25-year-old is set to become an unrestricted free agent on Wednesday.

Barberio has spent parts of three seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning scoring six goals and 17 points to go along with 44 penalty minutes in 103 games.

His one-year, $874,125 deal is set to expire on July 1.

“I’m not going to say it was disappointing. It’s time to get a fresh start somewhere else,” Barberio’s agent Paul Hamel told PHT on Monday. “It could go either way so at this point, they decided not to make a qualifying offer so we just need to move on.”

Originally a sixth-round selection (152nd overall) by the Bolts in 2008, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound blue liner appeared in 51 regular season games for Tampa during the 2014-15 season scoring one goal and six assists to go along with 16 penalty minutes and a minus-4 rating. He also appeared in one playoff game.

Related: Bolts sign Blunden to one-year, two-way deal