Tag: Toronto Maple Leafs

Phil Kessel

Kessel on moving on from Toronto: ‘It’s a different world there’


After six seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Phil Kessel is looking forward to a fresh start. The 27-year-old was dealt to the Pittsburgh Penguins as part of a multi-player trade on Wednesday.

Kessel appeared in 446 regular season games with the Leafs scoring 181 goals and 394 points.

“It should be different. It’s a different world there,” Kessel told Dkonpittsburghsports.com. “Obviously, I’m looking forward to this and having a fresh start. I’m actually really excited about that part of it.

“Toronto was a place I loved, and it’s not easy leaving that, even with everything else. That’s the first thought. And then after that, I just see this as an opportunity, a great opportunity to be part of something special in Pittsburgh.”

Kessel is especially excited at the prospect of playing with the talented mix of forwards in Pittsburgh.

“For it to be Pittsburgh … with everything that franchise has meant and two of the best players in the world there … I never would have thought I’d have the chance to play with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, to play on a team like the Penguins,” he said. “It’s just amazing. I’m so pumped.”

During his time in Toronto Kessel played in just one playoff series scoring four goals in six points during the Leafs first round series with the Boston Bruins in 2013. A return to postseason hockey is something the Madison, WI native is looking forward to.

“That’s huge. Obviously, when you have a chance to play on a great team, you’re thrilled. Being in Toronto, I got to play in one playoffs in all my years there,” Kessel said. “But that’s the best time of the year, right? Playoff hockey. Hopefully, I’ll get to play in many in Pittsburgh.”

Kessel also believes his game is suited for Pens’ coach Mike Johnston’s system and that he’ll fit in well.

“I think it’ll mesh well. I like to score goals, but I also like to pass the puck,” he said. “In today’s game, you need to have options when you have the puck. And with defensemen like we have joining the rush in Mike’s system, and those guys are great players, yeah, that’ll work with my game. I take a lot of pride in my ability to work with the options I’ve got.”

For those wondering, the Pens and Leafs meet for the first time on Oct. 17 in Pittsburgh. Kessel will make his return to Toronto on Oct. 31.

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

Carolina Hurricanes v Columbus Blue Jackets

Alex Semin isn’t the only NHLer who’s been accused of wasting his God-given talent.

Two others — Phil Kessel and Zack Kassian — were traded yesterday. The latter vowed today to figure out in Montreal.

But Semin remains unsigned. Earlier this week, he was bought out by the Hurricanes, whose GM proceeded to say of the 31-year-old winger: “He did not have that high compete level, for whatever reason.”

He didn’t score many goals either. Just six of them in 57 games last season, while seeing his ice time fall to an average of 15:55, the lowest since his rookie campaign over a decade ago.

In 2009-10, Semin scored 40 goals for the Capitals. He has 238 tallies in 638 career NHL games.

Hence, his agent’s claim that there was immediate interest in his client.

For a cheap, short-term prove-it deal, signing Semin has the potential to pay off.

Maybe he joins a contending team, unlike Carolina, and rediscovers his enthusiasm.

Maybe he has a little more puck luck. His shooting percentage dipped to 6.5 percent last season, whereas his career rate is almost double that (12.8).

Maybe he’s a complete bust and at least he was cheap.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are still looking for a winger. Imagine Semin and Phil Kessel on the same team with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin?

The Florida Panthers could use a scoring winger, though there may be a concern about Semin’s attitude around all those talented young players.

The Devils need to score more.

Any other teams come to mind?

Shots fired! ‘Canes owner Karmanos rips into Jim Rutherford (Updated)

Hurricanes Front Office Shakeup Hockey

Well, this is interesting.

Speaking with Raleigh-area media on Wednesday, Carolina owner and recent Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Peter Karmanos took several shots at Pittsburgh GM Jim Rutherford — the same Jim Rutherford that worked under Karmanos for 20 years as ‘Canes GM.

Per the Post-Gazette, the shots fired included:

• A stinging criticism of Rutherford’s cap and budget management, by way of heaping praise on Rutherford’s replacement, current Carolina GM Ron Francis.

“Ron is far more inclusive, so he’s asking a lot of questions and I give him my opinion. … He’s far more astute on the financial end of the game. Jim liked to talk about the fact that we’re a ‘budget team.’ I’m not sure what that ever meant. Every team has a budget. That means we had a budget until Jim needed a player, then I’d say, ‘OK,’ and we had a different budget.

“Ronnie is a no-nonsense guy when it comes to those kinds of contracts. He’s not worried that he might get criticized if his team doesn’t do as well as people think it should. So he doesn’t panic when it comes to signing players or worrying about that type of thing.”

More: Pens’ Rutherford to columnist: ‘You’re a (expletive) jerk’

• A reference to what shape Rutherford might have the Penguins in by the time their rumored sale is complete.

“Pittsburgh has no first-round picks anymore. They traded their first-round pick from the year before. They traded their first-round pick for this year, and now they’ve traded their first-round pick for next year.

“The guy’s trying to sell the team. … I think they’ll sell that team for between $700 and $800 million in Pittsburgh, and the cupboard will be pretty bare by that time.”

Karmanos, 72, also drew parallels between Rutherford’s ill-fated Alex Semin signing in Carolina — Francis bought out the remainder of Semin’s contract yesterday — and Wednesday’s big Phil Kessel trade, suggesting that Kessel may score as many goals (six) for the Pens as Semin did for the ‘Canes last season.

At this time, it’s probably worth noting that, in September of 2013, Karmanos fired his son, Jason, as Rutherford’s assistant GM in Carolina. Jason later landed as the VP of hockey operations in — you guessed it! — Pittsburgh, where he reconnected with Rutherford.

Updated: Rutherford and the Penguins organization have responded, sorta.

Related: Citing age, Karmanos sells OHL team — so when will he sell ‘Canes?

PHT’s 2015 free agent frenzy tracker

Mike Green

Throughout the day, we’ll be keeping tabs on all the signings across the NHL. Check back regularly for all the biggest signings, trades and other acquisitions from July 1:

Wednesday, July 1

• Washington signs Justin Williams: two years, $6.5 million (link)

• Arizona signs Antoine Vermette: two years, $7.5 million (link)

• Anaheim signs Shawn Horcoff: one year, $1.75 million (link)

• New Jersey signs Jim O’Brien to one-year, two-way deal

• Boston signs Matt Beleskey: five years, $19 million (link)

• Toronto signs Daniel Winnik: two years, $4.5 million (link)

• Columbus signs Gregory Campbell: two years, $3 million (link)

• Montreal signs Mark Barberio: one-year, two-way deal worth $600K at NHL level (link)

• Anaheim signs Matt Hackett to a two-year deal and Chris Mueller and Joe Piskula to one-year deals

• Detroit signs Brad Richards: one year, $3 million (link)

• Minnesota signs Zac Dalpe: one year, $ TBA

• Toronto signs Mark Arcobello: one year, $1.1 million

• Florida signs Cameron Gauce and Brett Regner: term and $ TBA

• Pittsburgh signs Steven Oleksy: one year, $575,000

• Pittsburgh signs Kevin Porter and Kael Mouillerat to matching one-year, $575,00 deals

• Detroit signs Mike Green: three years, $18 million (link)

• Boston extends Ryan Spooner: two years, $1.9 million (link)

• Pittsburgh signs Sergei Plotnikov: one year, $ TBA

• Ottawa signs Mike Kostka: one year, $800,000

• Minnesota signs Ruslan Fedotenko: one year, $ TBA

• Toronto extends  Richard Panik: one year, $975,000

• Vancouver signs Taylor Fedun: one year, $ TBA

• Ottawa signs Zack Stortini: two years, $ TBA

• Dallas extends Curtis McKenzie: two years, $1.35 million

• Buffalo signs Cal O’Reilly: two years, $1.4 million

• New York Rangers sign Viktor Stalberg: one year, $1.1 million (link)

• Toronto signs P.A. Parenteau: one year, $1.5 million (link)

• New Jersey signs John Moore: three years, $4.8 million (link)

• Nashville signs Cody Hodgson: one year, $1.05 million (link)

• New York Rangers sign Raphael Diaz: one year, $700,000

• Tampa Bay signs Eric Condra: three years, $3.75 million (link)

• Vancouver signs Richard Bachman: two years, $ TBA

• Pittsburgh signs David Warsofsky: one year, $600,000

• Minnesota extends Ryan Carter: one year, $625,000

• Chicago signs Viktor Tikhonov, one-year, $1.04 million (link)

• Winnipeg signs Alex Burmistrov: two years, $3.1 million (link)

• Nashville signs Barrett Jackman: two years, $2 million (link)

• Carolina extends Riley Nash: one year, $1.5 million

• St. Louis extends Chris Butler: one year, $675,000

• Minnesota extends Nate Prosser: two years, $1.25 million

• San Jose signs Paul Martin: four years, $19.4 million (link)

• Los Angeles signs Jhonas Enroth: one year, $1.25 million (link)

• Calgary signs Michael Frolik: five years, $21.5 million (link)

• Vancouver signs Matt Bartkowski: one year, $1.75 million (link)

• Arizona signs Zybnek Michalek: two years, $6.4 million (link)

• Arizona signs Dustin Jeffrey: one year, two-way deal

• Arizona signs Steve Downie: one year, $1.75 million (link)

• Arizona signs Anders Lindback: one year, $875,000 (link)

• Arizona signs Brad Richardson: three years, $6.24 million (link)

• Colorado signs Francois Beauchemin: three years, $13.5 million (link)

• Colorado signs Blake Comeau: three years, $7.2 million (link)

• Edmonton signs Mark Letestu: three years, $5.4 million (link)

• Edmonton signs Andrej Sekera: six years, $33 million (link)

• Winnipeg extends Matt Halischuk: one year, $750,000

• Philadelphia signs Michal Neuvirth: two years, $3.25 million (link)

• New York Islanders sign Thomas Greiss; two years, $3 million (link)

• Washington extends Stanislav Galiev: two years, $1.15 million

• Toronto signs Matt Hunwick: two years, $2.4 million (link)

• Winnipeg extends Adam Pardy: one year, $1 million (link)

• Vancouver extends Yannick Weber: one year, $1.5 million (link)

• Minnesota extends Mikael Granlund: two years, $6 million (link)

• Detroit extends Tom McCollum: one year, $ TBA

• Detroit extends Andy Miele: one year, $575,000 (link)

• Calgary extends Karri Ramo: one year, $3.9 million (link)

• Dallas extends Patrick Eaves: one year, $1.15 million (link)

• Nashville extends Mike Ribeiro: two years, $7 million (link)

• Chicago extends Artem Anisimov: five years, $22.75 million (link)

• Anaheim extends Kevin Bieksa: two years, $8 million (link)

Previous deals of note (post-draft)

• Brandon Saad, Michael Paliotta and Alex Broadhurst to Columbus for Artem Anisimov, Marko Dano, Jeremy Morin, Corey Tropp and a ’16 fourth-rounder (link)

• Detroit re-signs Brendan Smith: two years, $5.5 million (link)

• Kevin Bieksa to Anaheim for a ’16 second-rounder (link)

• Isles re-sign Anders Lee: four years, $15 million (link)

• Martin Jones to San Jose for a ’16 first-rounder and Sean Kuraly; Sharks sign Jones to three-year, $9 million deal (link)

• Jets re-sign Stafford: two years, $8.7 million (link)

• Calgary signs Dougie Hamilton: six years, $34.5 million (link)

Getting clutch? Capitals sign Justin Williams for two years, $6.5M

Justin Williams

Fair or not, Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals are associated with losing “the big game.” With that in mind, is there any better way to change that than by adding “Mr. Game 7?”

In one of the surprises on a free agent frenzy that’s actually amounted to a series of pretty reasonable deals, it sounds like the Capitals got Justin Williams at a very reasonable price. The two-year pact is worth just $6.5 million ($3.25 million cap hit per season), the team confirmed.

When Williams was on his way to winning the 2014 Conn Smythe Trophy, it seemed preposterous to picture him not making a big raise from his old cap rate of $3.65 million.

It turns out that was true … but unexpectedly, he’ll make even less. Wow.

The Montreal Canadiens and Los Angeles Kings were also in the running for Williams, according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun.

A down year

There’s no denying that Williams, 33, fell short of having a strong contract year.

Most obviously, the Kings missed the playoffs and basically faced one disaster after another. Williams saw a slight decrease in regular season production (from 43 points in 2013-14 to 41 last year) and his outstanding playoff performances must have faded from some minds. One could argue that, like Antoine Vermette, Williams didn’t sign a deal at the height of his earning power.

Even so, Williams is more than just a guy who scores big goals. He’s frequently been a possession monster, even standing out on a puck-hogging team like the Kings.

With the Pittsburgh Penguins making a splashy trade to get Phil Kessel and the Caps adding Williams on the cheap, the Metropolitan Division is shaping up to be fascinating in 2015-16.

Have we already seen the best bargain of the summer?