Kyle Okposo

PHT Morning Skate: Francis faces criticism; Franzen criticizes Babcock

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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.

• Seattle general manager Ron Francis comes under heavy criticism for his handling of the Carolina Hurricanes player abuse situation. [Seattle Times]

• Former Detroit Red Wings forward Johan Franzen opens up about his time playing for Mike Babcock, telling a Swedish newspaper outlet that Babcock is the worst person he has ever met. [Detroit Free Press]

Kyle Okposo considered retirement following his latest concussion. [Buffalo Hockey Beat]

• Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom is representing himself in his next round of contract negotiations. He is eligible for unrestricted free agency after this season.[ESPN]

• The case of two different Tyler Ennis‘ and a near mistaken diagnosis. [TSN]

• Vancouver Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom has been granted a leave of absence from the team so he can attend his father’s memorial service. [Vancouver Canucks]

• Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak continues to make the case he is the NHL’s best bargain player. [The Hockey News]

• The Montreal Canadiens placed backup goalie Keith Kinkaid on waivers. [Montreal Gazette]

• Who (and what) the Pittsburgh Penguins need to lean on to get through this tough injury stretch. [Pensburgh]

• A new app allows players to rate coaches, agents. [USA Today]

• The Philadelphia Flyers capped off a special November and entered December with their most points since the 1995-96 Eric Lindros season. [NBC Philadelphia]

• The Arizona Coyotes’ tumultuous November still produces a lot of positives. [AZ Central]

Adam Gretz is a writer forPro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line atphtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Sabres’ Okposo out with fourth concussion in less than three years

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — Buffalo Sabres forward Kyle Okposo is out indefinitely after being diagnosed with his fourth concussion in a little more than 2 + years.

The Sabres provided the update in posting their weekly injury report Monday, two days after Okposo was hurt in a 4-2 win over the Ottawa Senators. It happened with five minutes left in the second period when Okposo took the ice and accidently collided with Senators defenseman Ron Hainsey.

This marks the fourth consecutive season the 31-year-old player has been sidelined by a concussion. The most serious one happened when he missed the final two weeks of 2017-18 and spent nearly a week in a hospital after what he called a routine hit in practice.

Okposo missed three games in March 2018 after a concussion from a collision with Ottawa’s Bobby Ryan. And he missed a week last February when punched in the face by New York Rangers defenseman Tony DeAngelo.

Okposo is a 13-year veteran in his fourth season in Buffalo. He has a goal and four assists in 19 games.

The Sabres also announced center Tage Thompson will be out three to five weeks with an upper body injury. He was hurt in a 4-1 loss at Chicago on Sunday and after being called up from the minors to replace Okposo.

Islanders place Andrew Ladd on waivers

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(UPDATE: Ladd has cleared waivers and will report to AHL Bridgeport.)

New York Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello announced that the team put forward Andrew Ladd on waivers on Thursday, and from the sound of things, it’s unclear if we’ll see Ladd in the NHL again.

That said, Ladd’s $5.5 million AAV doesn’t expire until after 2022-23(!) so it’s possible that this saga may not be over.

For now, the Islanders are putting Ladd on waivers with the plan of assigning him to the AHL. Ladd had been on a conditioning stint while on LTIR as he tries to recover from a torn ACL suffered in March, and Lamoriello said that the Islanders hadn’t seen enough from that conditioning stint to have him resume playing. Setting such a standard would always make sense, really, but especially so with the Islanders humming along with an impressive 13-3-1 record so far in 2019-20.

Ladd’s longer-term future is fuzzy, and Lamoriello didn’t want to speculate about his chances (or lack thereof?) to play in the NHL again.

Newsday’s Andrew Gross clarifies that Ladd won’t need to be taken off LTIR to make this happen, which is relevant considering the whole $5.5M thing.

Ladd’s signing ranks as one of the many cursed 2016 free agent contracts, joined by Milan Lucic, Kyle Okposo (the player he essentially replaced for the Islanders), David Backes, Loui Eriksson and more.

To be fair, Ladd had some utility if you looked beyond disappointing numbers for the money at times with the Islanders, but again, it’s hard to get too thrilled about such positives when the price tag was so steep. Still, he had some aptitude, particularly defensively, during his first two seasons for the Islanders, as illustrated by this Hockey Viz heat map:

Looking at Ladd’s contract structure at Cap Friendly, there’s the remote chance that the Islanders might be able to move that $5.5M cap hit (LTIR-bound or not) as the deal goes along. Ladd’s actual salary slips to $4M from 2020-21 through 2022-23, and it’s split up by a $3M signing bonus and $1M base salary each year. Maybe a team hoping to hit the cap floor might be willing to eat that cap hit to inflate their numbers for assets after the signing bonus is already paid, even if that would most realistically be able to happen heading into 2022-23? Perhaps the Islanders could bribe the Seattle expansion franchise to eat that deal, much like Vegas ended up doing with David Clarkson‘s contract?

Ultimately, those details are mostly the concerns of whoever is handling the Islanders’ cap situation in the future, and perhaps other teams hoping to squeeze every ounce of value out of an offseason.

Unfortunately, whether Ladd ever plays for the Islanders (or any other NHL team) again, it’s clear that the Islanders didn’t get much value from signing the former Winnipeg Jets captain.

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.

NHL on NBCSN: Okposo back and feeling ‘great’ following latest concussion

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Monday’s matchup between the Buffalo Sabres and Philadelphia Flyers. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The one bright spot in the Sabres’ continued free-fall Monday night was the 11:40 of ice time given to Kyle Okposo, who returned after missing four games due to a concussion. The 30-year-old forward took a punch from Tony DeAngelo of the New York Rangers on Feb. 15 and suffered his third such injury in the last two years.

The concussion he suffered in 2017 sent him into a dark period where he just wasn’t himself, worrying friends and family around him. So this latest incident had many worried for Okposo, wondering if he would ever play again.

After the fight, he joined the Sabres on their road trip to New Jersey before being sent back to Buffalo for evaluation. Doctors diagnosed him with another concussion, but he was back on the ice two days later and progressed from there.

According to Okposo, this latest concussion was “more precautionary than anything” and the discomfort was more in his neck than head.

Even with his history, Okposo didn’t look back and regret his decision with fight DeAngelo.

“No, I probably should,” he said via the Buffalo News. “It’s part of the game. I missed a grab and that’s what happened. It’s part of the game. I didn’t think we were playing well, just trying to give the team a little spark. It is what it is.”

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

The Sabres’ could use a spark right now as they’re mired in a slump that’s seen them win three times in 11 games and fall six points back of an Eastern Conference wild card spot. Getting a healthy Okposo back helps, as does adding Brandon Montour to the blue line via a trade with the Anaheim Ducks. But there’s still plenty of work to do in order to give themselves a chance. Follow tonight’s game against the Flyers, they have a back-to-back on Friday and Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Toronto Maple Leafs, who beat them 5-3 last night. Time is running out to make their move in the East.

For Okposo, he knows his body and he feels he’s more than ready to continue playing on a regular basis, even with his injury history.

“I think there’s a physiological component to it, too,” he said. “You get hit and obviously I know my history more than anybody. There’s definitely that component of, ‘Am I OK?’ And then you start second guessing. You just got to find a balance.

“You’ve got to really be in tune with your body and your mind and be really honest with yourself and how you feel. I feel great.”

Gord Miller (play-by-play) and Brian Boucher (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Sabres’ Okposo feels good as he recovers from third concussion

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — Buffalo Sabres forward Kyle Okposo tells The Associated Press he’s feeling good while recovering from his third concussion in less than three years.

A smiling Okposo made the comment Saturday while making his way through the press box to watch Buffalo’s home game against Washington.

His appearance came after coach Phil Housley said Okposo has begun skating on his own a little over a week since being felled by a punch to the face during a fight with New York Rangers defenseman Tony DeAngelo.

Okposo was cleared to travel for the team’s game at New Jersey on Feb. 17. He did not play against the Devils and instead was sent home, where he was diagnosed with a concussion.

Housley didn’t provide a timetable in saying he imagines Okposo returning to play this season.

”He skated again today and those are all good signs for us,” Housley said.

Okposo’s concussion history includes him missing the final two weeks of the 2017-18 season and spending nearly a week in a hospital after what he called a routine hit in practice. He also missed three games last March after suffering a concussion in a collision with Ottawa’s Bobby Ryan.