Ben Hanowski

Flames sign Hanowski to one-year, two-way contract

The Calgary Flames re-signed forward Ben Hanowski to a one-year, two-way contract on Saturday. The financial details aren’t clear at this time.

The 23-year-old scored two assists in 11 games with Calgary last season, also collecting 31 points in 55 contests with the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat.

He was part of the trade that sent Jarome Iginla to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2012-13, which explains why he appeared in five games (collecting one goal) in that season, as well. (The Flames also acquired Kenny Agostino and a first-rounder that became Morgan Klimchuk in that deadline deal.)

The Penguins selected him in the third round (63rd overall) of the 2009 NHL Draft.

It appears that the Flames still have some work to do regarding restricted free agents:

Lightning buy out Malone, Callahan signing imminent (Updated)


The Tampa Bay Lightning have used a compliance buyout to get rid of the final season of Ryan Malone’s seven-year, $31.5 million contract, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

The 34-year-old forward is coming off of a rough campaign where he suffered a fractured ankle in November and finished with just five goals and 15 points in 57 games. He’s also facing charges of DUI and cocaine possession, for which he’s pleaded not guilty.

The Lightning’s decision to buy him out might go beyond what Malone did in 2013-14 though. The team is reportedly on the verge of signing forward Ryan Callahan to a five or six year contract that’s projected to come with a cap hit in excess of $5.5 million, per TSN’s Bob McKenzie. Getting Malone’s $4.5 million cap hit off the books would go a long way towards minimizing the short-term impact of that signing.

Assuming the report is true, Malone’s tenure with the Lightning lasted six seasons. Pittsburgh dealt him and Gary Roberts to Tampa Bay back in the summer of 2008 in exchange for a third-round pick (which became Ben Hanowski). Malone has 179 goals and 370 points in 641 career games.

Update: The Lightning have made Malone’s buyout official.

Where did Ray Shero go wrong?


When Ray Shero took over as the Pittsburgh Penguins general manager in 2006, he had a golden opportunity. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin had been drafted in the previous two years, giving the team the foundation for a dynasty.

In 2008, Crosby and Malkin led Pittsburgh to the Stanley Cup Final. One year later, the Penguins won it all. They haven’t done it since, and Shero has been shown the door as a result.

What could Shero have done differently? Certainly, he made some good moves along the way. In recent years he traded for forwards James Neal, Chris Kunitz, and Pascal Dupuis, and signed them all to reasonable contracts. Each member of that trio has grown since joining the Penguins, giving them a formidable group of top-six forwards.

But what about their bottom two lines? Championship teams are known for their depth and that’s hard to get when you have $17.4 million annually ($18.2 million starting in 2014-15) of your cap hit going to two forwards, no matter how talented they might be.

That’s a problem the Chicago Blackhawks haven’t had to deal with. Yet. Like Pittsburgh, Chicago is built around two young superstars in Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, but that duo is costing the team just $12.6 million annually against the cap. Both are pending unrestricted free agents after the 2014-15 campaign, however.

What could Shero have done to prevent this problem? The bold move would have been to trade one of Malkin or Crosby — likely the former rather than latter. He could have practically dictated the price and built the offense around Crosby, while retaining enough cap flexibility to assemble a balanced group.

Or, he could’ve just drafted better. Since the 2008 draft, the Penguins haven’t selected a single player that has gone on to participate in at least 100 NHL games.

Using Chicago as a comparison again, the ‘Hawks have drafted three forwards since 2008 that have surpassed the 100-game mark: Andrew Shaw, Brandon Saad, and Marcus Kruger. Ben Smith is just shy with 95 regular-season contests — which is still more than any Penguins drafted player (Simon Despres, 85) has managed over that span.

All four of those Blackhawks were taken after the first round. Since 2008, the Penguins have just one non-first round pick that has played in at least 15 NHL games: Ben Hanowski, who’s no longer with the organization.

Then of course there’s the Penguins defense. It’s rare for any team to win the Cup without a superb blue line, and while Pittsburgh does have Kris Letang, its defense as a whole is somewhat less than superb.

Shero tried to address that by bringing in defensive defensemen, but his recent experiments — veterans Douglas Murray and then Rob Scuderi — haven’t produced the results he was hoping for. Ultimately, in both cases it might have been a matter of chasing after players that were past their primes.

The next Penguins general manager will have to decide if he wants to stay the course or do something bold. The depth problems in Pittsburgh aren’t going to get any easier to address given that Letang’s eight-year, $58 million contract is about to begin. Can this team stay competitive while giving more than $25 million annually to just three players?

Shero clearly thought they could. The next guy might disagree.

Related: Now is the time to explore trading Letang

Flames prospect Hanowski learns value of conditioning at NHL level


Ben Hanowski’s career in the National Hockey League has been eventful, despite being limited.

He was part of the blockbuster Jarome Iginla trade to the Pittsburgh Penguins toward the end of March, coming to Calgary after the Flames shipped their star captain to what looked at the time like the Eastern Conference powerhouse.

So, he’ll forever be recognized in Calgary for that. His time in the NHL consists of five games. He scored in his debut, and was held without a point after that.

But the pace of the game at its top level proved to be the biggest challenge for Hanowski, who played three years of college hockey at St. Cloud State.

It was at Flames prospects camp where Hanowski discussed the difference in conditioning from the college level compared to the NHL.

“The first practice I was in, I was sucking wind, and those guys were acting like it was nothing,” Hanowski told the Calgary Sun.

“Within the first couple of hours skating, I knew I had some work to do. It’s a pretty big difference from here to college.”

“You would think (I was in top condition possible), but it’s a different animal. Those guys have been putting in years getting in shape, so you really have to push it. For a guy like me — not the fastest guy — I have to make sure I do things the right way.”

Calgary’s not exactly going all out to win tonight in Nashville


The Calgary Flames are going with a decidedly young lineup tonight when they visit the Predators in Nashville.

Names include: Carter Bancks (age 23, making his NHL debut), Mark Cundari (23), Sven Baertschi (20), Max Reinhart (21), Roman Horak (21), Akim Aliu (23), Paul Byron (23), and Ben Hanowski (22).

“It will be to see who’s going to step up,” head coach Bob Hartley said, per the Calgary Sun. “Most of the young players have been with us for a few weeks, and some have just arrived from AHL Abbotsford. But many of them have played a game or two before, so they know what to expect.

“It’s kind of one of the final exams.”

And if the young guys fail the exam, oh well, at least it won’t hurt the Flames’ draft position anymore than it’s already been hurt lately.

You’ll be excused if you haven’t noticed, but Calgary has actually been playing well lately. The Flames have won five of their last six, pushing them up to 24th overall in the standings.


Related: NHL Draft lottery set for Apr. 29, all non-playoff teams eligible for No. 1 pick