When you ask hockey fans to name the most fearsome enforcers of the last decade, it’s likely that Donald Brashear would be among the first names mentioned. Yet with enforcers becoming less and less prevalent in the NHL, it seems silly for a professional team to waste $1.4 million of cap space on a guy who doesn’t do anything with his hands but throw punches.
So Brashear found himself shuffled around the depths of the New York Rangers and Atlanta Thrashers’ minor league systems the last two seasons, often being paid handsomely to not play hockey.
Jeff Z. Klein of the New York Times caught up with the fading enforcer in the LNAH (Ligue Nord-Américaine de Hockey), an obscure semipro league inhabited almost entirely by French-speaking players who squeeze 44-game seasons into their lives as they work day jobs. Apparently a point-per-game player in the marginal league, Brashear says he still enjoys being one of the guys and is happy to fight far less frequently. (Although that story included video of an ugly LNAH incident in which Brashear more or less loses his mind.)
The most interesting part of the article revolves around Brashear reflecting on his final seasons and the changing landscape in the NHL.
Q. Your last year, with the Rangers [36 games, 0 goals, 1 assist, minus-9, 73 penalty minutes, 13 fights, 6:15 average ice time], did that go well?
A. Not at all. At some point the role I had to fulfill wasn’t — I didn’t like it anymore. It was more like, “Just get on the ice and fight.” When I met with the coach in the summer before, he was telling me I was going to have all sorts of ice time, but he never gave it to me.
Fighting is not a big part of the game in the N.H.L. right now. If there’s fighting it’s more the middleweight guys. I feel like I played at the right time, and they decided to change the rules, and it was toward the end of my career. I tried to make it last. It was good, and now it’s over.
Read the rest of the interview here.
Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.
The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.
Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.
“We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”
Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.
“I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”
OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.
The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.
Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.
The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.
Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.
CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.
The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.
The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.
The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.
The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.
The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.
Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.
The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.