Tobias Rieder

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Pominville and other bargain bin NHL free agents to consider

With training camps nearing, it’s not surprising that you won’t find a ton of great NHL-ready options in free agency as of Sept. 3.

That’s especially true once you start crossing certain names off of the list with the help of context. Jake Gardiner’s either dealing with back issues, or waiting for a team (possibly the Maple Leafs) to sort out cap issues before signing a deal. Justin Williams just announced that he’s taking some time off, at best. Patrick Marleau’s potential options seem cloudy. Joe Thornton appears primed to sign with the Sharks, eventually (maybe).

When you knock those four names off of the list at a place like Cap Friendly, things start to look pretty stark.

Nonetheless, it’s worthwhile to bat around a few names, even if there might only be one or two players who end up being worth anything more than a tryout. Let’s consider some that stand out; feel free to bring up other UFAs who might be worth a mention in the comments.

Jason Pominville: One of the few on this list that I’d consider signing to an actual one-year contract, rather than merely a PTO, if it came down to it. Sportsnet’s Eric Engels reports that the Montreal Canadiens are considering Pominville, but also reports that nothing is “imminent,” so you’d assume another bidder could roll in.

On one hand, yes, Pominville is 36. There’s some risk that his already marginal potential would boil down to zero considering all of his mileage.

Yet, you’ll note that Pominville managed a respectable 31 points despite minimal ice time, and while much of that offense came alongside Jeff Skinner and Jack Eichel, Pominville was one of the best fits with those two. Teams probably won’t ask Pominville to play on a top line very often, but he could be a cheap option to plug into different scenarios.

Pominville comes off reasonably well by a number of metrics, and his RAPM chart from Evolving Hockey looks positive enough:

If it wasn’t already clear, we’re so deep in the discount aisle, we’re actually looking at the stuff that’s in some sad bin outside the store. By those standards, Pominville is reasonably intriguing.

Brian Boyle: At 34, Boyle is no longer the type of center you’d ask to play a “shutdown” role, and he struggled once he was traded to the Predators last season, but this assessment from after that move away from New Jersey still captures Boyle’s value:

If your team’s coach is barking incessantly about adding a big body, you could do worse than Boyle, especially if a team could use someone to screen goalies on the power play. Boyle is a very large human, after all.

Troy Brouwer is another gritty option who could be decent filler.

Thomas Vanek: While Boyle’s largest utility is defense (and being large) at this point, Vanek is all-offense, to the point that he’d likely torment many coaches, particularly since that offense isn’t flowing like it once was.

Still, one could see an argument for Vanek being a power play specialist on a team that lacks a trigger. Is he enough of a net positive to really be worth considering? Debatable.

Tobias Rieder: He was never good enough for an Oilers executive to give him the scapegoat treatment, and it’s undoubtedly been a rough couple of years, but he’s a speedy winger, so there’s at least some appeal there.

Ben Hutton: OK, look … Hutton was abysmal last season. There’s a reason the defense-starved Canucks passed on bringing him back.

Still, Hutton stands out from a pack mostly consisting of way-past-their-prime veterans (Dion Phaneuf, Dan Girardi) in that he’s merely 26 years old. Could Hutton be a serviceable bottom-pairing option after being played well out of his depth with 22:21 ATOI last season? Maybe 2017-18 is a better guide. While Hutton provided marginal offense (six assists in 61 games), his possession numbers were somewhat OK, at least relative to his (bad) teammates, while Hutton averaged a more reasonable 18:25 per night.

There aren’t many signs pointing to Hutton being a “good” defenseman, but could he be an upgrade over a team’s sixth or even seventh option? It’s not out of the question, as the bar is pretty low for bottom pairing defensemen.

***

Ideally, your team already has better options than the names mentioned above. Still, there could be some use for players like Pominville, particularly for squads lacking depth.

Now, if your team is looking for a goalie? Well, you could always cross your fingers …

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

Oilers’ Rieder responds to CEO criticism: ‘It’s disappointing’

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Edmonton Oilers forward Tobias Rieder had the same reaction everyone should have had when he first read the comments from team CEO Bob Nicholson on Thursday, essentially blaming him for the Oilers’ struggles this season and missing the playoffs for what will be the second year in a row (and 12th time in the past 13 years).

“You look at it and kind of can’t believe it,” said Rieder on Friday, just less than 24 hours he was thrown under the bus by the team’s CEO.

Speaking at an event with season ticket holders, Nicholson did not hold back in his criticism of Rieder, saying that he went to Edmonton as a free agent hoping to play with one of the team’s two superstars (Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl), score 15 or 16 goals, and turn that performance into a larger contract.

Nicholson then criticized Rieder, who has not scored a goal in 60 games this season, for missing “so many breakaways” and then capping it all off with the remark that if Rieder had scored 10 or 12 goals this season the team might be in the playoffs.

“I feel like it’s disappointing, and I’m offended by it,” said Rieder, via AM 630 in Edmonton. “I’m the first one to admit I’m not having a good year. It has not been an easy season for me, it’s been hard. But I’m still going out there and giving 100 percent every time I am on the ice, every game, trying to help the team win. It was tough to read for somebody to get singled out like that and kind of thrown under the bus. It is what it is now. I’m not proud of the season I’m having. Like I said, I’m the first one to admit I’m not playing to my capabilities. I think it went a little too far, and I think Bob knows that too.”

[Related: Oilers’ CEO apologizes for comments about Tobias Rieder]

Even after their win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday, the Oilers are still five points out of a playoff spot in what has been a historically weak playoff race in the Western Conference and still have five teams ahead of them for the second Wild Card spot. Their goal differential of minus-35 is 24th in the NHL and they are the 20th in the league in goals per game despite having two of the top-five scorers in the NHL (McDavid and Draisaitl), both of whom are likely to top 100 points this season.

An additional 10 or 12 goals from Rieder, or anyone else for that matter, would still give them a minus-23 goal differential (which would still only be 23rd in the league) and only improve them to 18th in the league in goals per game. Unless those “10 or 12 goals” all happened at the exact right time and only occurred in one-goal losses, it is an outrageous statement to make, and perhaps the most outrageous any team executive has made this season (not an easy accomplishment).

When asked what bothered him the most about the criticism, Rieder said it was a combination of the timing and the way it came across.

“Thought the timing was a bit weird,” Rieder said. “We are still in the race for the playoffs. Still going to go out there and play my heart out, and play for the guys and my friends in the locker room and do my best to help the team win.

“We are talking all year going through adversity, and the guys in the room we have to stick together. I just don’t think it’s right to single somebody out in a team sport. I get where he’s coming from, like I said, I’m not having my best year, and I just don’t think it’s the right place to single somebody out and throw them under the bus.”

Rieder said he first got word of the comments when Nicholson phoned him to apologize. He was not fully aware of what was happening as he had been taking his pre-game nap in preparation for Thursday’s game, and then his phone began blowing up.

While Rieder was clearly not happy with the criticism and being singled out, he said he still accepted Nicholson’s apology.

“Yeah I did,” said Rieder. “I think that’s the grown up thing to do, you don’t want to get it dragging on forever. It is what it is. Whatever happened, happened, and that’s how it is in this business, you got to get over it.”

Rieder signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the team in free agency this past season. He has 11 assists in 60 games while playing just a little more than 12 minutes per night.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Oilers CEO apologizes for comments about Tobias Rieder

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If Bob Nicholson is to be believed, it’s Tobias Rieder’s fault the Edmonton Oilers aren’t in the playoffs at the moment.

Yes, a fourth-liner who is averaging 12:42 of ice time this season is the scapegoat for the disaster the Oilers have been this season.

The Oilers CEO said so.

Of course, Nicholson is wrong about that, and he’s since apologized and backtracked on the comments he made on at a season ticket holder event on Thursday, where he bashed Rieder and blamed him for the team’s failings.

The Edmonton Journal’s Bruce McCurdy reported that Nicholson said Rieder would not be re-signed by the team at the end of the season.

He went on to say that Rieder was wanted by other teams but chose Edmonton because he wanted to play with fellow German-born player in Leon Draisaitl, and if not with his compatriot, then he could play with Connor McDavid, where he’d score 15 or 16 goals and re-up with the club at higher price point than the $2 million he’s making on a one-year deal this season.

And then he said that if Rieder had 10 or 12 goals this season, “we’d probably be in the playoffs.”

*facepalm*

Rieder might be the last reason why the Oilers won’t sniff the postseason this year.

Peter Chiarelli is the name that Nicholson should have uttered (and he kind of, but not really, did). If you’re going to throw someone under the bus, at least throw the guilty party and not the innocent victim. And let’s not forget all of the draft duds and all the good players that were traded away.

What the Oilers really need is to throw a stick of dynamite into the country club that still runs the organization, clean up the mess and start fresh. Get rid of everybody from the long-gone glory years and stop trying to rekindle something that couldn’t catch a spark if it was rolling around in Death Valley.

Nicholson, himself, said that the insane contract handed out to Mikko Koskinen was a decision made by the organization, and all of those go through him before they’re made final.

As mentioned, Nicholson told TSN’s Darren Dreger that he apologized to Rieder, saying that he “stepped out of bounds.”

Apparently, Nicholson and Rieder laughed about it and will move on.

Who hasn’t moved on yet is Rieder’s agent Darren Ferris, who expressed his unhappiness to TSN’s Ryan Rishaug.

“I am totally astonished and disappointed that the president of an NHL team can make such a callous and reckless statement about a player,” Ferris said. “This is unacceptable.”

Ken Hitchcock, who was probably just as blindsided as Rieder was with the comments, defended his player follow Edmonton’s big win against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“From our standpoint, you want to see a guy score and have success offensively because it makes him feel good,” Hitchcock said. “But if he’s not doing that, he helps us in a number of other areas, Hitch said of Rieder.

An already awkward situation is even more so given that Rieder has to play for an executive who doesn’t want him.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Ex-NHLer Sturm named coach, GM of German national team

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Marco Sturm, the highest-scoring German player in NHL history, has agreed to become the head coach and general manager of Germany’s national team.

“I’m very proud that the DEB [German hockey federation] gives me the huge responsibility and I’m really immensely looking forward to this challenging and exciting task I will work on with huge motivation,” Sturm said, per the IIHF website. “Together we want to go the next step with German ice hockey.”

Sturm, 36, retired last January after a 15-year NHL career that went through San Jose, Boston, Los Angeles, Washington, Vancouver and Florida. He also represented Germany at nearly every international level, participating in three Winter Olympics.

As mentioned in his quote above, this new gig will be a challenge. Sturm, who doesn’t have any pro coaching experience, inherits a struggling national team; Germany finished a disappointing 10th at the 2015 World Hockey Championships, suffering one of the biggest blowouts of the tournament, a 10-0 loss to Canada.

This came on the heels of an equally disappointing effort at the ’14 tourney, in which the Germans needed group stage wins over Latvia and Kazakhstan to avoid relegation.

Currently, there are seven German skaters in the NHL: Tobias Rieder, Dennis Seidenberg, Christian Ehrhoff, Marcel Goc, Leon Draisaitl, Korbinian Holzer and David Wolf. Thomas Greiss and Philipp Grubauer are the country’s lone netminders.

Coyotes recall ’12 first-rounder Samuelsson, youth movement underway?

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Plummeting down the standings and likely to be a seller leading up to Monday’s trade deadline, Arizona kicked off what could be a youth movement by recalling Henrik Samuelsson from AHL Portland on Wednesday.

Samuelsson, 21, was the club’s first-round pick (27th overall) at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. He’s scored 10 goals and 25 points in 50 games with the Pirates this season — his first in the AHL — this coming after a stellar junior career in which he led WHL Edmonton to a Memorial Cup.

Samuelsson will join a Coyotes’ forward group that already includes two 22-year-olds in Lucas Lessio and Tobias Rieder. On defense, Arizona is currently carrying the likes of 21-year-old Connor Murphy and two 23-year-olds in Brandon Gormley and Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

In late January, Coyotes GM Don Maloney said the club might also give 19-year-old Max Domi — the team’s first-round pick at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft — his big-league debut this season, once he was done playing with OHL London.

All of this points to the likelihood of an Antoine Vermette trade happening in the not-too-distant future. Other vets like Martin Erat, Zbynek Michalek, David Moss and Keith Yandle could also be on the move.