John-Michael Liles

Liles curious to see if Zadorov will make the Avs next season


Former Avalanche d-man John-Michael Liles has been getting an up-close look at new Avalanche d-man Nikita Zadorov.

The two players, along with some other NHLers, have been skating together in the Denver area during the offseason.

Liles, now a 34-year-old member of the Carolina Hurricanes, is curious to see what kind of an impact, if any, Zadorov can make with the Avs next season.

“He’s a big kid, obviously very skilled, skates well,” Liles said of Zadorov, per the Denver Post. “It will be interesting to see because at 20 years old it can be a daunting task to jump in when expectations are high. It’s never easy playing D in this league.”

Zadorov was drafted 16th overall by the Sabres in 2013. He was dealt to Colorado in June as part of the Ryan O’Reilly blockbuster trade.

“We really like the potential of Zadorov,” Avs GM Joe Sakic said after the trade, per “He’s could be a solid, solid [defenseman] for the next 10 years.”

The Avs can afford to be patient with the big blue-liner. Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Tyson Barrie are all 24 years or younger, so it’s not like the clock is ticking loudly on their core.

Zadorov is also waiver exempt, raising the possibility he could be sent to the AHL next season.

Related: Sabres angry that Zadorov keeps showing up late for stuff

Under Pressure: Ron Francis

With two key members of the franchise heading into the final year of their respective contracts, ‘Canes GM Ron Francis is under pressure to make some big decisions in Carolina.

Both Eric Staal and Cam Ward are set to become unrestricted free agents after the 2015-16 season. Both players were first-round picks of the ‘Canes and have spent their entire careers in the Carolina organization.

“We’ve had some conversations with Rich (Curran). When Eric and Cam get back into town, I’m sure we’ll have conversations with them,” Francis said. “I feel pretty comfortable with my relationship with Rich, and with both players that when the time is right and the numbers are right that we can get something done.

“Am I in a hurry to get this done this week or before camp or into the season? I really don’t have a timeframe on it. It’ll get done when it gets done.”

Ward, who went 22-24-5 in 51 appearances last season while posting a 2.40 G.A.A. and a .910 save percentage, is no stranger to being the subject of trade rumors. The 31-year-old expected to be dealt last summer.

“There was a lot of chatter about it last year and I learned a lot from that too,” Ward told PHT in January. “(Last) summer I was really able to take a break mentally and realize that I can only control what I can control – that’s just having fun and enjoying the game of hockey.”

Staal scored 23 goals and 54 points in 77 games last season registering his lowest totals since his rookie season.

“We’ll look at the whole situation and try and figure out what’s best,” Francis said. “As we said from Day 1, it has to make sense for our organization. We always talk about the term of the contract and the money in the contract – making sure we’re not blocking things going forward either.”

In addition to Staal and Ward, Francis will have to make decisions on Nathan Gerbe and Riley Nash up front. The only defenseman set to become an unrestricted free agent is John-Michael Liles while Eddie Lack is also headed into the final year of his contract.

Related: Poll: What should the ‘Canes do with Eric Staal?

Will Carolina fill defensive openings on UFA, trade markets?


The Carolina Hurricanes have just four defensemen signed with at least 100 games worth of NHL experience. That makes their blueline a major question mark going into training camp, but even as we near the end of July, there are still plenty of options out there for teams looking to bolster their defense.

For example, Christian Ehrhoff and Cody Franson are both still available on the open market. There’s also presumably cheaper options out there like Andrej Meszaros and Jan Hejda.

“There’s been some dialogue with some guys, but we’re still sitting and waiting to see where the numbers go,” Hurricanes GM Ron Francis told the News & Observer. “The guys we’ve talked about are not in a range we’d be comfortable with yet, so we’re keeping an eye on it. I’m not in a hurry to jump in.”

Francis added that as more arbitration eligible players either get judgments or otherwise sign, more players might be made available. Additionally, Jeff Skinner is still reportedly on the block, so Carolina might end up making a more substantial trade before the summer is done.

All that being said, Francis sees some appeal in maintaining the status quo.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to have a spot open going into camp,” Francis said. “It sends a good message to our younger guys.”

With James Wisniewski, Justin Faulk, John-Michael Liles, and Ron Hainsey all presumably locks to make the roster, that would leave 2015 fifth overall pick Noah Hanifin, Ryan Murphy, Danny Biega, Michal Jordan, Rasmus Rissanen, and Haydn Fleury to compete for the final three openings.

Skinner may be parked as Peters keeps swinging ‘ultimate hammer’ in Carolina


First it was Alex Semin, then Elias Lindholm.

Now… Jeff Skinner?

The 22-year-old might be parked as a healthy scratch tomorrow when the ‘Canes take on the Coyotes in Arizona. Head coach Bill Peters — who, upon taking the ‘Canes job, said “I have the ultimate hammer as the coach, and the hammer is the ice time,” — had Skinner rotating in and out of Wednesday’s line rushes, and delivered a not-so-subtle message afterward.

“He’s an offensive player who needs to provide offense. You’ve got to provide that primary dimension as an athlete, doing what you’re paid to do. And if you’re not doing that, you’ve got to have a B-game,” Peters explained, per the ‘Canes website. “Right now, his B-game is not good enough to make up for the lack of offense.”

The former Calder winner has had a rough go the last few games, going eight straight without a goal (while posting a minus-5 rating). Tuesday night in Anaheim, with the Canes up one and on a 5-on-3 power play, Skinner was whistled for an offensive-zone tripping penalty.

Peters hasn’t been afraid to send messages this season via the healthy scratch. Semin’s been parked in the press box on numerous occasions and, over the weekend, Lindholm was scratched for a game against the Rangers in New York.

Now, it could be Skinner’s turn.

“I talk about competitive people being in a competitive environment and we want to win,” Peters said in late January after dropping Semin from the lineup, per the Raleigh News & Observer. “We are playing our best 20 players in order to win hockey (games).

“That’s the lineup. It’s not hard.”

Peters has been no-nonsense since Day 1 in Carolina and this latest instance with Skinner — and center Riley Nash, who was skating as a d-man with John-Michael Liles today — shows that he’s not afraid to discipline those that don’t fall in line.

And to be fair, the approach seems to have paid off. After a terrible start to the year, Carolina is 7-3-3 in its last 13 and gave Anaheim all it could handle last night at the Honda Center, losing 5-4 in OT after blowing a two-goal third period lead.

Hurricanes recalled Murphy, placed Liles on IR


It’s tough to spin any injury situation, especially for a team as ravaged by ailments as the Carolina Hurricanes have been.

Still, the bright side of John-Michael Liles being placed on injured reserve is that it opens up room for Ryan Murphy to be called up on Tuesday.

The Canes get a chance to see how much Murphy, 21, has progressed. The AHL results are promising so far: his 17 assists lead his teammates on the Charlotte Checkers, which also ties him for the team’s points lead. As the 12th pick of the 2011 NHL Draft, Carolina has to hope that Murphy’s top-level impact isn’t that far away.

Canes Country believes that Murphy has his game back together after struggling during his first look with Carolina earlier in 2014-15:

Murphy endured a difficult start to the season with the Canes, only scoring one point in six games while serving as a healthy scratch twice. With the Checkers, though, Murphy rediscovered his offensive ability, leading the Checkers with 17 assists. While he is still looking for his first goal of the season, his 17 points are tied for the Checkers’ team lead despite playing eight fewer games than co-leader Chad LaRose.

With Carolina located at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, some may already be looking to the 2015-16 season. Murphy stands as one of the reasons to be more optimistic about such thoughts, but he’d make a stronger argument in that regard if he shows progress with the Hurricanes.

Carolina faces the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night.