He’s baaaaaack: Leafs pull a stunner, hire Lamoriello as GM (Updated)

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In a surprising move that few saw coming, the Toronto Maple Leafs filled their vacant general manager position by hiring longtime Devils GM Lou Lamoriello.

More, from the club:

Lamoriello has been named the 16th General Manager in the Club’s history. Lamoriello joins the Leafs after previously spending the last 28 years in the New Jersey Devils organization.

On May 4, 2015, Ray Shero was introduced as the Devils’ new General Manager while Lamoriello remained in his role as President of Hockey Operations. He finished as the longest serving General Manager of any one team in the history of the NHL at 28 years (1987-2015).

In conjunction with this announcement, the Devils announced that Lamoriello had stepped down as president, a role he retained after shifting GM duties to Shero.

UPDATE: Despite Lamoriello’s resignation, the Leafs will still be required to compensate New Jersey for the hire, per Sportsnet. According to NorthJersey.com, it’s a third-round pick.

Is it fair to say this hire came out of left field?

Yes. But it’s not hard to see the connection between Lamoriello and the Leafs organization.

Lamoriello was Toronto team president Brendan Shanahan’s first boss upon breaking into the NHL in 1987. In fact, Shanahan referenced Lamoriello this season while suspending Nazem Kadri for behavioral issues; Shanahan said he never forgot getting parked for three games during his rookie season with the Devils, and referenced it while discussing Kadri’s punishment.

A known disciplinarian, Lamoriello’s strict, no-nonsense approach fits with Toronto’s organizational overhaul. At the NHL draft in June, new head coach Mike Babcock explained exactly what that overhaul would look like.

“The number-one characteristic of a Toronto Maple Leaf is a good human being. Period.” Babcock said. “So if you don’t fit that, you’re not going to be here. Anything that’s been going on is going to get cleaned up.

“We’re going to be a fit, fit team. We’re going to be a team that comes to the media everyday, after a win, after a loss, after practice, and owns their own stuff. Period.”

As for the long term ramifications of this big hire — at 72, it’s fair to speculate that Lamoriello might not be long for the Toronto job. He could be in a similar “caretaker” position to the one ex-‘Canes GM Jim Rutherford took in Pittsburgh; Rutherford is mentoring assistant GMs Jason Botterill, Tom Fitzgerald and Bill Gueirn, and it’s likely that Lamoriello will do the same for Kyle Dubas and Mark Hunter.

The Leafs have scheduled a press conference with Shanahan and Lamoriello for 2 p.m. ET today. More to follow.

Vey admits his ‘preparation last summer wasn’t what it needed to be’

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While 10 goals and 14 assists aren’t exactly terrible numbers for a rookie, Linden Vey knows that his first season with the Vancouver Canucks did not match expectations.

Though he started relatively well, registering 12 points in his first 22 games, his production fell off dramatically. In the end, he was a healthy scratch for five of Vancouver’s six playoff games, and it was fair to question whether he could play center in the NHL.

“Sitting out (in the playoffs), I already had a lot of time to look at where things went wrong,” Vey told TSN.ca. “I was really honest. My preparation last summer wasn’t what it needed to be.”

Vey, who just turned 24, was acquired last summer in a trade with the Kings. He was essentially gifted a spot on Vancouver’s roster, despite having skated in only 18 NHL games up to that point.

Vey should once again be given a chance to play regularly in 2015-16. While centers Henrik Sedin, Nick Bonino, and Bo Horvat remain in Vancouver, the options beyond those three are limited, as the Canucks don’t have Brad Richardson or Shawn Matthias anymore.

“I’ve already worked the hardest I ever have in a summer,” Vey said. “In every league I’ve played in, I made a big jump in my second season. … Last season, I wasn’t the same player that got me to the NHL.”

Pouliot trains under Gary Roberts with big opportunity looming

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With Paul Martin gone and current unrestricted free agent Christian Ehrhoff unlikely to return to the Pittsburgh Penguins, 21-year-old defenseman Derrick Pouliot has been presented with a golden opportunity.

The top-end blueline prospect got his first taste of NHL action last season, scoring two goals and seven points in 34 NHL contests. It made him realize that he needs to be in even better physical condition going forward, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

In order to do that he’s been training with fitness guru and former NHLer Gary Roberts. He’s also made substantial changes to his diet.

“It’s about getting my conditioning up so if I get caught out there I’m not dying trying to keep up,” Pouliot said. “It’s a little bit of a lifestyle change. I mean I’m not really a picky eater.”

Pouliot’s goal is to become a two-way defenseman and take on more, or at least “harder,” minutes after averaging 17:32 minutes per game last season.

Even with two veteran defensemen gone though, he will still be competing with Olli Maatta, Tim Erixon, and Brian Dumoulin for one of potentially two or three roster spots.

Caps hand Chris Brown a two-year, two-way pact

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The Washington Capitals really beefed up on Thursday.

After making the Zac Sill signing official, the team also announced that Chris Brown agreed to a two-year, two-way contract.

Perhaps they’ll need Brown on nights when Sill and/or Tom Wilson need to ice their knuckles?

Brown hasn’t really piled up penalty minutes during his sparse NHL appearances (21 PIM in 22 career NHL games spread out over four seasons, most recently with the Capitals). He wasn’t shy about dropping the gloves last season, getting into six fights in the AHL during the 2014-15 regular season and two preseason bouts at the NHL level.

The 24-year-old showed a dash of scoring ability in the AHL last season, too, with 28 points in 64 contests as a member of the Hershey Bears. Brown also played five games with the Caps in 2014-15, scoring one goal.

Caps sign tough guy Sill to one-year, two-way deal

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Washington has brought in someone to lessen Tom Wilson and Michael Latta’s fight load — Zach Sill, who announced his one-year, two-way deal to the Truro Daily News on Wednesday.

“They came with an offer and it was a good one,” Sill said. “I think there’s a good chance I’ll be able to play there. They have a good strong team and it looks like a good situation to go into.”

The 27-year-old split last season between Pittsburgh and Toronto, finishing with four points in 63 games… and nine fights. Sill’s willingness to drop the gloves should make Washington an even feistier team next year; the Caps were tied for the eighth-most fighting majors (31) last year, thanks in large part to Wilson (who fought 12 times — once against Sill!) and Latta (who fought eight).

No word yet on the financial details of Sill’s deal.