Toronto Maple Leafs

Heading back to San Jose: Sharks sign McLaren

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The San Jose Sharks are bringing back a familiar face to replace John Scott.

After allowing the 6-foot-8, 259-pound enforcer to sign elsewhere this summer (Scott signed in Arizona), the Sharks announced on Monday they’ve come to terms on a one-year, two-way contract with Frazer McLaren.

McLaren, originally a seventh-round pick of the Sharks (203rd overall) in 2007, spent parts of four seasons in San Jose prior to being claimed off waivers by the Leafs in January 2013.

The 27-year-old has appeared in 102 career NHL games with the Sharks and Leafs scoring four goals and seven assists while racking up 34 fighting majors and 264 penalty minutes.

McLaren spent last season with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies registering one assist and 62 penalty minutes in 22 games.

Kessel will always ‘consider Toronto home’

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Nearly two months after his trade to the Pittsburgh Penguins, Phil Kessel took to Twitter to show his appreciation for Leafs’ fans and the city of Toronto.

The 27-year-old, who spent six seasons with the Leafs, had the following message for fans:

Kessel was dealt to the Penguins along with Tim Erixon, Tyler Biggs and a conditional second-round draft pick on July 1 in exchange for Kasperi Kapanen, Scott Harrington, a conditional first-round draft pick, a third-round draft pick and Nick Spaling.

The former Boston Bruins’ first-round pick appeared in 446 games with the Leafs scoring 181 goals and 213 assists.

Photo courtesy of @Penguins

PHT Morning Skate: McDavid, Hall win their first Cup together

PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

The Oilers are champions once again! Well, sort of — Connor McDavid and Taylor Hall were part of the team that captured the Biosteel Cup, a 4-on-4 tournament held during the pre-training camp gathering of NHLers. (Sportsnet)

The Blue Jackets have inked Paul Bittner — their second-round pick (38th overall) at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft — to a three-year, entry-level contract. (Oregon Live)

Lee Stempniak, still an unrestricted free agent, really wanted to remain a Winnipeg Jet (Sportsnet)

Leafs d-man Stephane Robidas has resumed skating after recovering from a shoulder injury, and getting a screw removed from his previously broken leg. (Toronto Sun)

Good piece here on Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay’s “superstar goalie in waiting.” (Sports Illustrated)

Looking to make the leap: Kevin Fiala

There are a handful of Nashville Predators prospects hoping to make the leap in 2015-16.

Kevin Fiala distinguishes himself by saying that he will pull it off, as Preds GM David Poile noted at a fan gathering back in June.

“At the end-of-the-year meetings when [Head Coach] Peter Laviolette and I are talking to players, we’re usually the ones doing 90 percent of the talking,” Poile said. “So we did the talking to Kevin and then he says, ‘What do I need to do, I’m going to be playing for the Nashville Predators next season. I’m not going to [AHL affiliate] Milwaukee, I’m going to be playing [in Nashville].’”

Those are some bold words, yet the 19-year-old may just sense a pattern forming.

As the 11th pick of the 2014 NHL Draft, Fiala experienced quite the 2014-15 season. It began in Sweden with Jonkoping, but the Predators brought Fiala over to the AHL in January. He performed nicely at both levels (including scoring 20 points in 33 games with the Milwaukee Admirals) and even saw a game of regular season and playoff action with the Predators.

Poile believed that Fiala would benefit from the jump, noting the development process for Swedish sensation Filip Forsberg.

” … By getting a head start on the acclimation process to the North American style of play and smaller rinks, we expect Kevin – like Filip Forsberg two seasons ago – will continue his growth as a dynamic offensive prospect,” Poile said in a release when Fiala came to the U.S. early in 2015.

The pedigree and swagger are there in droves, yet opportunity might not strike.

On the Forecheck spotlights the uphill battle that Fiala (not to mention other intriguing young players like Austin Watson and Colton Sissons) face cracking the Predators’ forward lineup:

Even with shipping Taylor Beck to Toronto, there are too many regular NHLers on the bottom two lines to accommodate the rookies in waiting. The bridge that separates the prospects from the NHL is about ready to collapse under all the weight of those loitering on it.

It won’t be easy, especially if Poile & Co. prefer to see Fiala get big minutes in the AHL rather than a depth role in the NHL, but at least Fiala isn’t going about his business meekly.

Poll: Has the Bruins’ Stanley Cup window closed?

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Back in 2013, the last time the Bruins made the Stanley Cup Final, their leading playoff scorers were, in order, David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton, Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Brad Marchard, Jaromir Jagr, Daniel Paille, Tyler Seguin, and Johnny Boychuk.

Of those 10 players, only four — Krejci, Bergeron, Chara and Marchand — remain on the roster. And Chara is 38 years old now.

Add to the fact Dougie Hamilton is gone too, plus the fact the Bruins missed the playoffs last year, and it’s no surprise that many feel their Cup window has closed.

But you won’t hear new GM Don Sweeney say that. Not with youngsters like Jimmy Hayes, Brett Connolly, Ryan Spooner, David Pastrnak, and Alex Khokhlachev up front. And not after picking up 27-year-old Matt Beleskey in free agency.

Remember that the NHL is a young man’s league. Teams that aren’t constantly refreshing their lineups are teams that get into trouble.

“I don’t think it’s a rebuild. We didn’t strip this down,” Sweeney said in June, per NHL.com. “We have a tremendous core group of guys that are going to obviously carry an even heavier load here in the short term while these other kids can come in and start to take footing.”

OK, time to vote:

Related: Zach Trotman is looking to make the leap