NHL teams look to restrict blogger access in certain locker room situations

This is an issue that might only be relevant to a small segment of readers out there (likely the ones who have their own blogs), but it’s been the talk of the Virtual Hockey Town this morning so I thought it would be prudent to pass along the story.

Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski discussed the fact that the NHL might change its policies when it comes to the kind of locker room access bloggers receive. Here is an excerpt from that in-depth piece.

Credentialed bloggers usually enjoy the same access as a newspaper or radio reporter on a game night: a seat in the press box, fresh popcorn and access to the teams’ dressing rooms for postgame interviews. They cover the game, pass information to their audience, and have done so for the last several years without many incidents of unprofessional behavior, despite approaching the coverage from a fan’s perspective.

Yet several prominent NHL franchises, including the New York Rangers and Edmonton Oilers, have strict “no blogger” policies in their arenas. They don’t see them as working journalists, and they certainly don’t see a need for them to have access to cramped locker rooms after the game.

On Monday, these teams emphatically voiced those concerns during an annual preseason conference call between NHL executives and team media-relations directors. Their issue: If my team doesn’t credential bloggers in its home arena, why should bloggers haves access to my team’s locker room on the road?

In essence, these teams wish to see bloggers become a second-class citizenry in the press box: Given a ‘B-grade’ credential that allows them on press row and in the home-team dressing room, but prohibits them from interacting with players from the visiting team if that team has a policy against alt-media access.

Again, I know for most of you, this issue comes down to “pulling back the curtain” or navel gazing. Feel free to scroll down from this article if means nothing to you.

Moving on, earning credentials – and thus dealing with NHL teams – has been a big issue for hockey bloggers as they’ve grown in prominence over the last few years.

On one hand, many teams might be justified in giving a prominent blogger access because of the increase in publicity that could come with it. This is especially justified with teams who lack a palpable buzz (like the New York Islanders and their “Blog Box” concept) or a standard major newspaper beat writer. One of the reasons hockey blogs are successful is because they fill a need that isn’t being met thanks to struggling print operations.

That being said, NHL teams cannot be totally guilty when they give a pause. As Wyshysnki wrote, it’s true that the “no accountability” talk is going by the wayside as big blogs are being tied to corporate entities more and more, but there certainly is more mystery with bloggers. After all, with a beat reporter, you can call upon his or her editor to bring the hammer down. Blogs often range in professional aims so wildly that it’s often difficult to identify the chain of command.

(Not to mention the fact that many bloggers bring a sardonic, satirical approach to hockey that understandably makes some teams nervous.)

There isn’t really a “one size fits all” answer to this issue, which is why the NHL allowed case-by-case decisions of access. It’s a shame that some NHL teams are so adamant when it comes to restricting bloggers, but ultimately its their right to choose who can and cannot gain access to their players and other employees.

Still, blogs aren’t going to disappear even if their access is restricted, especially since “blog” is such a vague term that could describe any number of endeavors. Naturally, I’m in favor of bloggers gaining as much access as possible, but that doesn’t mean I think the league is crazy for being reluctant to allow more than their comfortable with. It will take time for bloggers to become a part of the “mainstream” and I, for one, think that isn’t strictly a bad thing.

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    Liam Kirk 1st born-and-trained Brit selected in NHL draft

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    DALLAS (AP) Liam Kirk has become the first player born and trained in England to be selected in the NHL draft.

    The Arizona Coyotes picked the 18-year-old left wing 189th overall on Saturday with their seventh-round pick.

    Kirk was home, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean about 4,600 miles away from Dallas, when he was drafted.

    The 6-foot, 161-pound Kirk played this season for Sheffield Steelers in the Elite Ice Hockey League, the highest level of competition in the United Kingdom. He had nine goals and seven assists in 52 games for the Steelers in his second season with the team.

    When Kirk attended this year’s NHL scouting combine in Buffalo, he became the first player born and trained in Britain to attend that annual pre-draft event.

    More AP NHL: http://www.apnews.com/tags/NHLhockey

    Winners and losers from the 2018 NHL Draft

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    DALLAS — The picks are in and the 2018 NHL Draft has come to a close. The weekend began with the Buffalo Sabres selecting Rasmus Dahlin No. 1 overall and it ended with the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals choosing Eric Florchuk with the 217th and final pick.

    A lot happened, like some surprise selections, a few trades and plenty of intrigue as we approach free agency. Let’s take a look at some winners and losers from draft weekend.

    Winner: New York Islanders

    Landing Oliver Wahlstrom and Noah Dobson in back-to-back picks was something GM Lou Lamoriello probably didn’t expect when arrived at the draft, but that’s how things fell for the Islanders in the opening round. A dynamic offensive player in Wahlstrom and a good puck-moving blue liner in Dobson really add to the franchise’s prospect pool. The good off-season continues for them days after hiring Barry Trotz as their new head coach. Aside from finding a new goaltender, the biggest concern now facing the team is re-signing John Tavares, which we should know what his plans are within the next week.

    Winner: 2018 NHL Draft music

    The American Airlines Center DJ — Michael Gruber — spun an impeccable playlist during Friday night and Saturday afternoon. From the Beastie Boys to Weezer to Red Hot Chili Peppers to Sublime to Radiohead, the soundtrack to the weekend was flawless.

    Loser: Fans who like trades involving players

    One of the most exciting moments of the NHL draft is when Commissioner Gary Bettman steps to the podium and says, “We have a trade to announce!” Those words were uttered many times this weekend, but majority of the moves were teams swapping selections. Only two big trades that included players went down this weekend, which is kind of disappointing considering all of the speculation as the hockey world decended on Dallas. Maybe now that all of the teams are shifting their focus to free agency, some moves will happen this week before the market opens July 1.

    Winner: Colorado Avalanche

    The Avs made the first big move of the weekend by trading for goaltender Philipp Grubauer and defenseman Brooks Orpik from the Washington Capitals. Grubauer, a restricted free agent, is expected to sign a deal in the neighborhood of three years and $10 million, which gives Colorado a netminder for the future as Semyon Varlamov enters the final year of his deal.

    Loser: Calgary Flames

    The Flames dealt Dougie Hamilton, Micheal Ferland and highly-touted defense prospect Adam Fox to the Carolina Hurricanes for Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm. That move breaks up one of the league’s top blue line pairings in Hamilton and Mark Giordano. Hanifin and Lindholm, who both rejected contract extension before being dealt, are set to become restricted free agents on July 1.

    Winner: Sweden

    With 28 Swedish-born players selected this weekend that matches the country’s record which was set during the 2011 draft. Also celebrating are England (Liam Kirk, Arizona) and Jamaica (Jermaine Loewen, Dallas). Kirk is first British-born and trained player to be drafted, while Loewen is the first Jamaican-born player to be picked.

    Loser: Slovakia

    While the number of Slovakian players drafted this year (5) is up from 2017 (2), the amount continues to remain low for a country that once regularly produced NHL players. Slovakia has seen only 15 players selected over the last six NHL Drafts.

    Winner: Brooks Orpik

    It’s been quite a month for the 37-year-old defenseman. First, he wins his second Stanley Cup. Then two weeks later he’s traded to the Colorado Avalanche along with goaltender Philipp Grubauer. But as soon as the deal was consummated, Avs GM Joe Sakic said the plan was to try and flip him or buy him out. No suitable offers were made, so Orpik was placed on waivers Saturday with the intent to buy him out. That sets up a situation that could see him headed back to the Capitals.

    Loser: Adam Mascherin

    Mascherin was originally a 2016 second round pick by the Florida Panthers, but could not agree to a contract wth the team. “He didn’t want to play for the Panthers. That’s what happened,” GM Dale Tallon said earlier this week. He was eligible to re-enter the draft this year and ended up dropping to the fourth round where the Dallas Stars picked him. In the two seasons since being picked by the Panthers, he’s posted 75 goals and 186 points in 132 games with the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers.

    Winner: The Sutter legacy

    The only thing that will outlast us all are cockroaches, Jaromir Jagr and a hockey playing Sutter. Riley Sutter was selected by the Capitals at No. 93 and is the son of Ron. The Sutter NHL tree dates all the way back to 1976 and doesn’t look like it will stop growing any time soon..

    Loser: Max Pacioretty trade rumors

    A rumor going around late in the draft was that Pacioretty was going to be traded to the San Jose Sharks. But that was quickly shot down despite it being “confirmed.” The only news about the Montreal Canadiens captain, who has one year left on his deal, was that he’s parted ways with Pat Brisson and has hired Allan Walsh as his new agent.

    Winner: Unique names

    There were 217 picks in the 2018 draft and many, if you scour all of the selections, featured some pretty interesting names. Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Jett Woo, Semyon Der-Arguchintsev, Jasper Weatherby, Angus Crookshank, Blade Jenkins, Magnus Chrona, Dmitry Zavgorodniy, and Shamil Shamakov are just a handful of what we heard over the two days.

    Loser: Nando Eggenberger

    The Swiss winger who owns arguably the best name out of any of the eligible 2018 prospects did not get to hear his named called in Dallas. There’s always next year in Vancouver.

    Winner: The Krygier family

    Christian and Cole Krygier went five picks apart in the seventh round. The twin sons of former NHLer Todd Krygier, Christian landed with the Islanders while Cole ended up with the Panthers.

    ————

    Sean Leahy is a writer forPro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line atphtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

    Goalie of the future: Avs reportedly sign Grubauer

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    Heading into the off-season, the Colorado Avalanche’s future in net was a little blurry. Now it’s clear that Philipp Grubauer will be their go-to guy.

    On Friday, the Avalanche sent the 47th pick to the Washington Capitals for Grubauer, also absoring Brooks Orpik‘s contract. Today, Colorado got the wheels turning on a buyout for Orpik, and reportedly agreed to a three-year deal with Grubauer.

    Significant investment

    The three-year pact will be worth about $10 million, according to TVA’s Renaud Lavoie. If that’s accurate, the 26-year-old would carry about a $3.33M cap hit from 2018-19 through 2020-21. Do note that the Avalanche haven’t made the signing official just yet.

    So, let’s consider the cost, then:

    • Cap hit between Grubauer and Orpik in 2018-19: About $5.83M.
    • In 2019-20: About $4.83M.
    • 2020-21: Just Grubauer’s $3.3M.
    • Also, the 47th pick of the 2018 NHL Draft, which ended up being Kody Clark, Wendel Clark’s son.

    Not exactly cheap, but the Avalanche have a pretty clean slate, and Grubauer was the most coveted goalie believed to be available this summer.

    As usual with goalies, there are risks

    Aside from brief struggles during the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Grubauer’s passed just about every test thrown in way. In accruing 101 total regular-season games of NHL experience, Grubauer generated a strong .923 save percentage, the same mark he produced over 35 games during the 2017-18 campaign.

    It’s easy to play hindsight 20/20 and say that Braden Holtby was “the clear choice” for the Capitals the whole time, but the truth is that Grubauer deserved that nod considering his superior play. While Holtby regained the starting job in Washington during the Stanley Cup run, Grubauer’s steadying presence was important.

    Much like other rising backups, there’s a risk factor to investing heavily in Grubauer, who’s never carried a big workload.

    The scariest comparison is probably Scott Darling.

    Like Grubauer, Darling amassed a small but impressive resume as a backup for a good team. In Darling’s case, the towering goalie had only played 75 regular-season games for Chicago, generating a (wait for it) .923 save percentage, playing in 32 games during his final campaign with the Blackhawks. The Hurricanes are already regretting the four-year deal they handed to Darling, which carries a $4.15M cap hit.

    There are plenty of counterpoints. Darling is three years older than Grubauer, and rarely excelled at other levels. Grubauer, on the other hand, put together respectable numbers in the ECHL and AHL before becoming a sturdy backup for the Caps.

    Colorado likely hopes that Grubauer works out as well (or better) than more successful backup-turned-starters such as Antti Raanta and Cam Talbot.

    Interesting setup

    Will the Avalanche roll with a platoon situation involving Grubauer and Semyon Varlamov, whose $5.9M cap hit is set to expire after 2018-19? That’s at least the public plan right now.

    It wouldn’t be one bit surprising if the Avalanche tried to find a trade partner for Varlamov, an expensive performer who’s dealt with some injury issues and other concerns in recent years. (One can’t help but note that, amusingly, the Avalanche also sent quite a bit of future assets to Washington in hopes that Varlamov would fix their goalie issues. Life moves fast.)

    A Grubauer – Varlamov duo would cost about $9.2M in cap space, while Varlamov’s salary ($5.75M) is only slightly cheaper than his $5.9M cap hit next season.

    You would think that would be too rich for the Avs, but maybe Colorado would just eat the coast with the advantage being that Varlamov’s presence could help Grubauer ease into the No. 1 role?

    ***

    With Varlamov seemingly on his way out sooner or later and valuable backup Jonathan Bernier headed out the door, the Avalanche are passing the torch to Grubauer.

    We’ll see what happens regarding who the other goalie will be in Colorado, but either way, Grubauer gets his wish: to be the man. Will the Avalanche look back at this as a smart decision, or could this be another case where an understudy flops in a headlining role?

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    Huge Flames – Hurricanes trade features Hamilton, Hanifin, Lindholm

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    For a while, things were getting a little sleepy on draft weekend, but the Calgary Flames and Carolina Hurricanes changed that with a massive trade.

    Here’s how the five-player trade looks for each side.

    Calgary Flames receive: Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm.

    Carolina Hurricanes receive: Dougie Hamilton, Micheal Ferland, and defensive prospect Adam Fox.

    There are a lot of facets to break down here.

    Contract challenges

    One factor is that both Hanifin and Lindholm need new contracts as RFAs, so the prices they eventually come in on for Calgary will play a big role in how we judge this franchise-altering trade.

    The Hurricanes have changed huge portions of their front office, and this appears to be the first major shockwave stemming from the new regime.

    Apparently the contract tiffs aren’t just on the Carolina end. There’s some belief that Fox, a well-regarded prospect who was taken in the third round (66th overall) in 2016, was not going to sign with the Flames. SBNation Flames blog Matchsticks & Gasoline posits that Fox could tip the scales of this trade depending upon how his development goes.

    Prime-age players exchange hands on both sides, but one objective remark is that the Flames generally landed the younger players.

    The talent is young and substantial enough that plenty of players involved could affect how we look back at this massive move. Let’s consider the biggest names.

    Blue chippers, plus a big forward

    It’s honestly bewildering to consider the high-end draft picks involved in this move.

    Dougie Hamilton, 25, was drafted ninth overall by the Boston Bruins in 2011. This is the second time the high-scoring defenseman’s been traded, as the Bruins sent him to Calgary for a first-round pick and two second-rounders back in 2015.

    Despite scoring a career-high 17 goals and continuing a four-season streak of 10+ tallies, Hamilton remains a divisive figure in the NHL, not unlike players like P.K. Subban and Phil Kessel, who he’ll be connected to for the rest of his career thanks to how his pick landed in Boston. Hamilton has been excellent for much of his days, yet plenty of people either believe that he’s ineffective in his own end, brings chemistry issues, or …?

    Hamilton’s cap hit is $5.75 million running through 2020-21. Much like everything else with the defenseman, hockey people are likely divided regarding that contract being a bargain or being too rich.

    (Fun.)

    Noah Hanifin, 21, was the fifth pick of the 2015 NHL Draft.

    While Hamilton’s resume is pretty robust with tangible evidence that he’s a difference-maker, Hanifin stumbled a bit out of the gate. He’s corrected in promising ways recently, however, generating career-highs of goals (10) and points (32) in 2017-18.

    As much as anything else, it’s his youth, speed, and potential that makes him fascinating. Of course, on the other hand, you can talk yourself into expecting too much thanks to that high draft pick pedigree.

    Elias Lindholm, 23, also went fifth overall, but in 2013.

    The Swedish forward has been productive, yet not exactly spectacular, so far during his NHL career. He’s already played in 374 regular-season games, generating 64 goals and 124 assists for 188 points.

    Micheal Ferland, 26, isn’t of the same draft pedigree, as he went in the fifth round (133rd overall) back in 2010.

    You could make a reasonable argument that Ferland could be reasonably comparable to Lindholm from an immediate viewpoint, though. Ferland is coming off of a 21-goal, 41-points season from 2017-18.

    Some of that production is likely inflated by playing with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. Still, it’s worth noting that he fit in very nicely with those two players, bringing a big body and some nice finishing ability to the table.

    Ferland has one year left on a team-friendly $1.75M cap hit.

    If you want a fancy perspective:

    ***

    This is a really fascinating move for both teams. No doubt about it, the Flames’ take has to be heavily influenced by the hiring of former Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters. The contract situations for Lindholm, Hanifin, Fox, and eventually Ferland will play a role in how hindsight gazes upon this blockbuster.

    Let’s get a feel for the immediate viewpoint, though. Who do you think got the better end of the trade?

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.