Winnipeg Jets

No parka needed: Players ponder possible NHL team in Vegas

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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.

Get to know a draft pick — Lawson Crouse

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Like we’ve done in the past, we’re profiling top prospects who may hear their names called Friday in the first round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. But this year, something new — we’re featuring special guest analysis from former Minnesota Wild scout Mark Seidel, who currently serves as the president of North American Central Scouting.

Lawson Crouse (LW)

Height: 6’4 Weight: 215 Shoots: Left

Team: Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)

Country: Canada

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 5 among North American skaters

What kind of player is he?

One of the biggest in this year’s draft. A hulking, physical presence, Crouse’s strength is his size yet he showed good offensive skills this season, leading OHL Kingston in goals (29) and points (51) despite playing just 56 games.

Still, the jury’s out on what kind of player Crouse projects to be at the NHL level. Optimists think he’ll be a power forward along the lines of Milan Lucic; pessimists suggest he’ll be more like Tom Wilson — not necessarily a bad thing, but a bit underwhelming (offensively speaking) for a potential top-10 pick.

The wildcard with Crouse are his intangibles: work ethic, grit, dedication and leadership. The stuff that flies in the face of analytics and fancy stats, but endeared him to his GM in Kingston — former Maple Leafs captain Doug Gilmour.

“He’s a great kid in the dressing room, he’s going to be a great leader,” Gilmour said recently, per Sportsnet. “He’s a big body. He can skate, he’s got a pro shot — his release is phenomenal.

“He’s going to compete.”

Seidel says:

“Crouse is a man-child that skates exceptionally well and is comfortable in all three zones. Nicknamed ‘The Sheriff,’ he plays a heavy game, loves to finish checks and make opponents pay the price on every shift. His offensive game still has to evolve as he isn’t a naturally gifted scorer or set-up man, but does possess a pro-caliber shot that will serve him well in the NHL. He’s also a guy that will go into high-traffic areas. A surprise selection to Team Canada’s gold medal-winning team at the World Juniors, Crouse is the type of player coaches love to have in their arsenals.”

NHL comparable: Andrew Ladd/Scott Hartnell

For more 2015 NHL Draft profiles, click here.

UFA of the Day: Drew Stafford

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

Drew Stafford

Recently, it was reported that the Jets and Stafford were working on a contract extension. No surprise there, after the 29-year-old was traded from Buffalo to Winnipeg and proceeded, according to Jets coach Paul Maurice, to make a “huge impact.”

Stafford finished with nine goals and 10 assists in 26 games for the Jets, an 82-game pace of 28 goals and 32 assists. Even in a limited sample, it reminded everyone that Stafford once scored 31 goals in 62 games for the Sabres.

Still, there are those who think the Jets should move on, perhaps in favor of top prospect Nikolaj Ehlers. Winnipeg also has to be mindful of its spending, considering Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd can become unrestricted free agents next summer.

Which takes us nicely into these tweets, from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman:

Besides Stafford, the Jets’ other UFA forwards include Michael Frolik, Jiri Tlusty, Jim Slater and Lee Stempniak.

Click here for more UFAs.

Toews admits Chicago’s cap crunch feels ‘a lot like 2010’

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Much like in 2010, the Chicago Blackhawks are celebrating a triumphant Stanley Cup win. The unfortunate similarity seems to be that, with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane getting raises, key supporting cast members are likely out.

With the salary cap ceiling officially set at $71.4 million, that reality is even setting in for Toews, who shared this sobering comment during media availability heading into the 2015 NHL Awards.

“All of a sudden, it does feel a lot like 2010, where it’s imminent,” Toews said, according to Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times.

In a way, it’s a metaphorical hangover from a Stanley Cup celebration … although Toews & Co. might still be recovering from (and creating new) literal ones.

As of this moment, General Fanager pegs Chicago’s cap space at about $7.35 million. That figure includes eight forwards, three defensemen and three goalies (Chicago has some breathing room with Scott Darling’s 2015-16 season being two-way). It also doesn’t include free agent concerns, which is certainly relevant with UFAs such as Johnny Oduya and RFAs including standout Brandon Saad.

Indeed, looking at this situation, it’s easy to see parallels from that first Toews-Kane-era Cup win, when the Blackhawks let Antti Niemi go following arbitration while being forced to trade away the likes of Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd.

Those losses hurt as the Blackhawks limped into the 2011 postseason, yet they obviously bounced back.

In case you’re wondering, GM Stan Bowman is currently gauging the value of trade pieces such as Patrick Sharp, as ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reports.

LeBrun notes that Chicago would be willing to take salary back in potential moves, though only to a certain extent. Getting something done fast would grease the wheels, too:

What is preferable for the Blackhawks, however, is to make the deal happen before the draft, in a perfect world. That way they could recoup a draft pick, which is key given what they gave up from this year’s draft for Antoine Vermette (a first-round pick, 30th overall) and Kimmo Timonen (second-round pick, 61st overall). Mind you, the Blackhawks do have the 54th-overall selection, a compensatory pick for not signing 2010 pick Kevin Hayes.

In other words, it’s wise for Toews to realize that times are changing … because some big moves could be coming as soon as this week.

Here’s video from the Chicago-Sun Times:

Rangers RFA Klingberg heads to KHL

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Carl Klingberg announced today that he will begin “a great adventure” with Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod of the Kontinental Hockey League.

The move, which confirms an earlier report by Igor Eronko, means that the Rangers have lost the only asset they acquired in the Lee Stempniak trade with the Winnipeg Jets back in March. Klingberg was a restricted free agent this summer after completing his one-year, two-way contract that came with a $650K cap hit at the NHL level.

The 24-year-old forward had 17 goals, 41 points, and 45 penalty minutes in 64 AHL games in 2014-15. He also has a goal in 12 career NHL contests.

The then Atlanta Thrashers selected him with the 34th overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

His younger brother is defenseman John Klingberg, who enjoyed a breakout 40-point campaign in 2014-15.