Thornton ‘confident’ about playing in opener, but doubts remain

1 Comment

The Edmonton Oilers and San Jose Sharks will kick off their opening-round series tomorrow at Rogers Place, and it remains unclear if Joe Thornton will play.

Thornton, who missed the final two games of the year after suffering a knee injury on Apr. 4, has been a sporadic participant in practices and skates lately. Despite saying he had “no doubt” he’d be ready for the opener, Tuesday’s session suggested otherwise.

“I’m confident,” Thornton said, per the Sharks’ Twitter account. “But it’s still day-to-day, so we’ll see how it goes.”

Watch Sharks vs. Oilers on NBC Sports

Jumbo skated on a makeshift fourth line today, between Micheal Haley and Kevin Labanc. He also wasn’t out with the club’s top power play unit, throwing major doubt on his availability for tomorrow.

This could all be posturing from head coach Peter DeBoer. It wouldn’t be the first time a bench boss played coy with his lineup decisions in the postseason, and don’t forget there’s an added element of drama given DeBoer is going up against Todd McLellan.

The same Todd McLellan that coached Thornton and the Sharks for seven seasons, and is the franchise’s all-time leader in wins.

In other San Jose injury news, looks as though Logan Couture is ready to return from a nasty facial injury. Couture sat out the final seven games of the year, but has been outfitted with a protective shield on his helmet and, today, took reps as the club’s No. 1 center.

 

 

Salary-cap increase makes for ‘more fun’ NHL offseason

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Thanks, Vegas.

That’s what NHL general managers are saying this offseason after the success of the expansion Golden Knights contributed to what’s expected to be a healthy increase for the salary cap. With elite center John Tavares, No. 1 defenseman John Carlson and a strong group of free agents available soon, the ceiling for player spending will rise to between $78 and $82 million from $75 million.

“The higher the better,” Washington Capitals Stanley Cup-winning GM Brian MacLellan said. “It makes it a lot more fun.”

Gentlemen, open your wallets – players like Tavares, Carlson and forwards James van Riemsdyk and Paul Stastny won’t come cheap. They’re just a few of the big-name players who could be on the move this offseason.

With GMs meeting Thursday in Dallas and around each other this weekend at the draft, trade talk is percolating before free agency opens in July. Ottawa forward Mike Hoffman, Buffalo center Ryan O'Reilly, Pittsburgh forward Phil Kessel, Montreal captain Max Pacioretty and Washington backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer could all be on the move in the next several days.

Ottawa captain Erik Karlsson is the star who will go to the highest bidder if the Senators are willing to trade the Norris Trophy-winning defenseman with one year remaining on his contract. GM Pierre Dorion is in a tough spot, potentially having to deal either Karlsson or Hoffman after it was revealed last week that Karlsson’s wife Melinda has filed an order of protection against Hoffman’s girlfriend, Monika Caryk, alleging harassment and bullying.

Decisions are far more immediate for the Islanders and Capitals. New York should probably make a move to re-sign Tavares before its face of the franchise can begin speaking with other teams June 25, and recently hired president of hockey operations Lou Lamoriello has to hire a new coach.

The Islanders might’ve gotten a fortunate bounce there when Barry Trotz resigned from his job with Washington less than two weeks after lifting the Cup. Re-signing Tavares and hiring a replacement for fired coach Doug Weight go hand-in-hand.

If it doesn’t work out and Tavares hits the open market, a contract with a salary approaching Connor McDavid‘s $12.5 million isn’t out of the question. Nashville GM David Poile said cap situations put five or six teams in position for top-end free agents and knock about half the league out of the running.

“We all have different commitments already of contracts,” Poile said. “Some teams have a lot of room. Some teams don’t have very much room.”

Big-revenue teams with money to spend include the retooling New York Rangers and the rising Toronto Maple Leafs. The Rangers are among several teams linked to Russian Olympic MVP Ilya Kovalchuk, who’s looking to return to the NHL after five seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League.

Former Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov, who won an Olympic gold medal with Kovalchuk, is back in the U.S. and could also be on the way to returning. Voynov was convicted of domestic abuse and is suspended indefinitely by the NHL, which makes it unclear how a team will pave the way for him to play.

Even excepting Voynov, hundreds of current free agents don’t know where they’ll be playing next season. Beyond Tavares, Carlson is the most in-demand pending free agent after leading all defensemen in regular-season and playoff points.

Carlson plans to have his day with the Stanley Cup in Washington, but because of the uncertainty of the offseason, there’s no guarantee he’ll be there this fall.

“We’ll see what happens,” Carlson said. “We’ll talk and go from there. I don’t really know what else to say other than that. I love it here and all that, I want to stay here, but there’s more to it than that.”

Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SWhyno

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

PHT Morning Skate: Bob McKenzie’s final prospect rankings; Pens need to make moves

Getty
Leave a comment
Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• TSN hockey insider Bob McKenzie came out with his final prospect rankings for the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. These are always must-see for every hockey fan. Yes, Brady Tkachuk is in the top three and Jesperi Kotkaniemi makes an appearance in the top five. (TSN.ca)

• Now that the Capitals won the Stanley Cup after many thought their championship window had closed, Sean McIndoe looks at eight teams who enter next season in a similar position. (Sportsnet)

• Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy had one of the best seasons between the pipes in franchise history, but is it enough for him to come away with the Vezina Trophy? Bryan Burns makes a case for Vasilevskiy. (NHL.com/Lightning)

• TSN’s Frank Seravalli looks at the three biggest priorities for every Canadian team in the NHL this summer. The Sens have already accomplished one of their three goals, so that’s pretty good! (TSN.ca)

• Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty made an appearance at the Open Door homeless shelter in Montreal. Pacioretty and his wife donated sandwiches and hors d’oeuvres to the shelter. (Montreal Gazette)

• Sportsnet breaks down all the latest news and rumors regarding the top 12 potential free agents. Yes, John Tavares is at the top of the list, but there’s also some other quality free-agent options. (Sportsnet)

• The best way to improve the Penguins roster is for GM Jim Rutherford to make a splash or two at this week’s NHL Draft. (Pittsburgh Hockey Now)

• Hall-of-fame defenseman Denis Potvin has some advice for Rasmus Dahlin: “I know the great career Phil (Housley) had as a player, the fantastic skating abilty he had and the way he was able to put up points so consistently. I just sure hope his focus is to make sure the young man plays defense first. And that will take teaching, I don’t care where he comes from.” (Buffalo News)

• Former NHL defenseman Sheldon Souray opened up about his battle with pain medication. “At the beginning, it was embarrassing. I never felt really like telling my story. All my friends know, obviously, and I’m very proud of it now. (Montreal Gazette)

• Adidas has created a custom Washington Capitals Stanley Cup Champion shoe. It looks exactly how you’d expect it to look. (BarDown)

• How would signing John Tavares affect the Vegas Golden Knights’ forward lines? Let’s just call that a classy problem. (SinBin.Vegas)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Trade: Sens send Hoffman to Sharks for underwhelming return

Getty
5 Comments

(UPDATE: The Sharks have now flipped Hoffman to the Florida Panthers for draft picks. More to come.)

The Mike Hoffman era in Ottawa is officially over.

On Tuesday morning, the Senators shipped Hoffman, defenseman Cody Donaghey and a fifth-round pick in 2020 to the San Jose Sharks for forward Mikkel Boedker, defenseman Julius Bergman and a sixth-round pick in 2020.

“Today’s trade showcases our determination to strengthen the future of the team by improving chemistry, leadership and character in the locker room and on the ice. We are confident it is a step in the right direction for the long-term success of this organization,” Senators general manager Pierre Dorion in a release.

That certainly seems like an underwhelming return for an established top-six forward like Hoffman, but it’s not surprising given what we found out last week.

It was reported by the Ottawa Citizen that Sens defenseman Erik Karlsson‘s wife, Melinda, filed an order of protection against Hoffman’s fiancee, Monika Caryk, for “a campaign of harassment that has plagued the Karlssons after the death of their son and through much of the last NHL season.”

The Hoffmans have since denied those allegations, but the damage had clearly been done.

So, with everything that we know, it’s easy to see why the Sens weren’t able to get much for a forward that has scored between 22 and 29 goals in each of his last four seasons. In 2017-18, Hoffman finished with 56 points in 82 games.

The 28-year-old has two years remaining on his contract that comes with a cap hit of $5.187,500.

Donaghey made his professional debut last season, as he accumulated nine goals and seven assists in 54 games with the ECHL’s Brampton Beast.

As for what the Sharks gave up, it really doesn’t seem like much if we strictly look at this from a talent-for-talent point of view.

Since signing with San Jose as a free agent two years ago, Boedker has put together back-to-back average seasons. The 28-year-old had just 10 goals and 26 points in 81 games in 2016-17, but he managed to increase those totals to 15 goals and 37 points in 74 games last season.

Boedker will make $4 million per season for the next two years.

“Mikkel Boedker is a competitive, versatile, two-way forward who can play both wings,” added Dorion. “He has a track record of playing his best hockey in the most important games, including the playoffs and internationally. His skill set – in particular his speed – along with his veteran leadership fits with our vision for the team.”

Bergman was San Jose’s second-round pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. The 22-year-old had 10 goals and 10 assists 65 games with the San Jose Barracuda in the AHL.

From a Sharks perspective, it’s the second time in a few months that they pull off a trade for a talented winger (they landed Evander Kane from Buffalo at the trade deadline). In both cases, they seemed to pay a remarkably cheap price for a good amount of skill. Both players seemed to come with their share of (very different) concerns, but that doesn’t seem to bother GM Doug Wilson.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Contract request led to breakup between Barry Trotz, Capitals

Getty Images
26 Comments

Barry Trotz’s desire for a big salary raise and five-year extension was the beginning of the end of his tenure with the Washington Capitals.

Trotz, who resigned on Monday after earning a two-year extension that was triggered by the Capitals’ Stanley Cup victory, wanted to be paid as one of the NHL’s top coaches, but the team was hesitant to make that kind of commitment. It was reported that Trotz was earning $1.5 million per season and the new deal would have only increased his salary by $300,000 a year.

The money and the term requested was a little too much for the Capitals.

“There are probably three, four guys that are making that money, so it’s the upper echelon. It’s the big-revenue teams,” Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said, referring to the salaries of coaches like Mike Babcock, Claude Julien and Joel Quenneville.

“I don’t think all teams pay that type of money and years. Certain teams are open to it and the rest of the league isn’t,” he added.

MacLellan described the five-year contract ask as a “sticking point.”

“You have a coach that’s been here four years, you do another five, that nine years,” he said. “There’s not many coaches that have that lasting ability. It’s a long time and it’s a lot of money to be committing to a coach.”

[Barry Trotz steps down as Capitals head coach]

If you look at the Capitals’ head coaching history over the last 16 years, they haven’t gone out of their way to open up the checkbook to pay for a big-name, high-priced coach. Before Trotz arrived in 2014, you had Adam Oates, Dale Hunter, Bruce Boudreau, Glen Hanlon and Bruce Cassidy all getting their first NHL head coaching gigs in D.C.

MacLellan said he was hopeful that both sides could work out a short-term deal, but Trotz clearly wanted security and to rightly use the leverage of a Cup victory to cash in. The GM did note that he accepted Trotz’s resignation so he’s free to pursue offers from other teams to coach next season.

As for where the Capitals go next, Todd Reirden is the front-runner to replace Trotz. Bumped up to “associate coach” in 2016, the organization values him and has been grooming him to become a head coach, either with the franchise or elsewhere. MacLellan said Reirden will get a formal interview.

“We’ll see how the talk goes with him and then we’ll make a decision based on that,” he said. “If it goes well, we’ll pursue Todd. If it doesn’t, then we’ll open it up a little bit.”

MORE:Where does NHL’s coaching carousel stop after Trotz resignation?

————

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.