Posts Tagged ‘NHL’

Former Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne is having a great time watching Juuse Saros seamlessly fill his shoes in the Music City.

“I knew one day he was going to be the No. 1 goalie, and not only (Nashville’s) No. 1 goalie, but one of the best goalies in the league, and he proved that last year,” the franchise legend said, according to NHL.com’s Zach Gilchriest. “He’s the backbone of this team, and obviously, just as a friend, I’m very proud of him.

“It’s fun to watch him, and obviously, like everybody else, I’m expecting big things from him this year, and he looks great. I’m just always impressed when I see him skate.”

Rinne served as the face of the organization himself for 15 seasons. The Finn retired last July, ending his playing career with 369 wins and 60 shutouts across 683 games. He captured the Vezina Trophy in 2018 and was a finalist on three other occasions.

Now, Nashville seems to have another perennial Vezina Trophy threat on its hands in Saros, who was nominated for the coveted award this past season after logging a .918 save percentage and 2.64 goals against average in 67 appearances – the most in the league.

The 27-year-old’s underlying numbers were also stellar: He ranked fourth amongst all goaltenders in goals saved above average (16.9) at five-on-five, according to Evolving-Hockey.

Saros wasn’t able to help the Predators fend off the Colorado Avalanche in the postseason thanks to a late-season injury, but the way he handled the frustrating situation impressed Rinne.

“It was a big disappointment for him, for sure, missing out on the playoffs. He had such a strong season and played a ton of games, and right at a key moment, he got hurt,” Rinne said. “So, I’m sure mentally it was a disappointing time. But he is a pretty level-headed guy, and he knew that it was just a hurdle, and I knew he was going to bounce back.”

Saros told reporters earlier this month that he was “all good” for the 2022-23 campaign.

The puck-stopper’s emergence has certainly helped ease the Predators into life without Rinne, who is still serving the franchise as a special alumni advisor.

Saros will be key to Nashville’s success this season, as will defenseman Roman Josi and forwards Matt Duchene and Filip Forsberg, who both eclipsed the 40-goal mark for the first time in 2021-22.

The first season of Seth Jones‘ eight-year, $76-million megadeal is about to begin, but the Chicago Blackhawks aren’t quite where the defenseman thought they would be when he signed last July.

“It was a little frustrating to see (the trades this summer) at first. It’s not really what I or anybody had in mind, looking back a couple years,” Jones said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times’ Ben Pope. “But it is what it is. It’s going to make a lot of us better in here. We’ll be patient with each other and help each other through this.”

He added, “I don’t have any regrets.”

The Blackhawks’ last two offseasons have been radically different. In 2021, Chicago made a series of splashy moves and seemed poised to make a push up the Central Division standings. The organization traded for Jones then signed him to a hefty extension, and they picked up veteran goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury from the Vegas Golden Knights.

The wheels swiftly fell off, though. The Blackhawks went 1-9-2 to begin 2021-22 and fired head coach Jeremy Colliton in early November. Far out of the playoff picture at the trade deadline in March, Chicago dealt Fleury to the Minnesota Wild and sent talented young forward Brandon Hagel to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Blackhawks ended last season in seventh place in the Central Division with a 28-42-12 record, and the losses continued this summer. Chicago moved on from Alex DeBrincatKirby DachDominik Kubalik, and Dylan Strome, while the futures of franchise mainstays Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are hazy at best.

In the midst of all the turnover that comes with a rebuild, Jones said he’s focusing on the “bigger picture.”

“Patience is going to be important this year. At the same time, we’re going into every game trying to win,” he said. “We’re going to have to be a disciplined, structured team this year (and) make sure teams earn their wins and goals against us.”

Jones, 27, posted five goals and 46 assists in 78 games during his first season in Chicago. He averaged a career-high 26:13 of ice time per contest, the most on the team.

St. Louis Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly can become an unrestricted free agent once the 2022-23 season concludes, but the veteran center isn’t rushing to put pen to paper before the new campaign begins.

“I feel like because we have such a good team and some new faces, the focus is getting ready for the season,” he said, according to NHL.com’s Lou Korac. “But, obviously, we’ve kind of started some dialogue. There’s just no real rush. We’ve got a long time to figure that out and I’m not worried. I don’t think (general manager) Doug (Armstrong) is worried either.

“It’ll work itself out as it goes. The focus here is on training camp and getting in shape and getting ready to go.”

The Blues already handed out hefty extensions to Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas in the summer. The identical eight-year, $65-million pacts won’t kick in until the 2023-24 season but will take a sizeable chunk out of St. Louis’ available cap space. The Blues also have winger Vladimir Tarasenko, whose current contract expires at the end of this campaign, to think about.

However, O’Reilly isn’t spending much time worrying about the Blues’ salary cap situation.

“I think if I was younger, I think it would be more of an issue and such, but I feel like I’ve been established,” he said. “I kind of know where I stand. There’s no real urgency. Hopefully, we find a way to make it work. I feel I’m happy with just waiting and just focusing on the season.”

O’Reilly, 31, has donned the “C” for St. Louis since 2020. His 250 points in 287 games since arriving via trade ahead of the 2018-19 campaign are the most on the team.

The two-way talent put up 21 goals and 37 assists in 78 contests last season. He will carry a cap hit of $7.5 million in 2022-23.

The Blues finished third in the Central Division after posting a 49-22-11 record. The Colorado Avalanche eliminated them in the second round of the playoffs.

Anaheim Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek won’t negotiate extensions with pending restricted free agents Trevor ZegrasTroy Terry, and Jamie Drysdale until after the 2022-23 season.

“That way, the players don’t have a distraction,” Verbeek said, according to The Athletic’s Eric Stephens. “It gives the players the full year to kind of just concentrate on playing hockey and then at the appropriate time we’ll talk with the agents and do what we got to do.”

Zegras and Drysdale are each playing out the final year of their entry-level pacts, while Terry is entering the last season of a three-year contract with a cap hit of $1.45 million.

Anaheim currently has just under $16.6 million in projected cap space, with the regular season just weeks away. They also have some pricy contracts coming off the books soon: John KlingbergKevin Shattenkirk, and Dmitry Kulikov are all scheduled to become unrestricted free agents next summer.

“We’re going to have to see how their years go this year, and then obviously, we’re going to have to get some new contracts out,” Verbeek said. “Having flexibility with the cap is vital moving ahead. At the end of the day, there’s only so much money to go around. We have to make sure we can all fit it in.”

Zegras, one of the NHL 23 cover athletes and a frequent viral sensation, will likely command the most money of the three. The 21-year-old Calder Trophy finalist potted 23 goals and 38 assists in 75 contests during his first full NHL season.

Terry enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2021-22 and paced the team with 37 goals and 67 points – 52 of which came at even strength. His previous career high in points was 20.

The 25-year-old also led the Ducks in goals above replacement (16.3) and wins above replacement (2.9), according to Evolving Hockey. Whether he can carry that momentum into the new season will dictate the kind of contract he can command.

Drysdale is a key piece in the future of Anaheim’s blue line. The 20-year-old ranked fourth on the team in average ice time per game (19:53) last year and was second among rookie defensemen with 32 points in 81 games.

The Ducks will look to take a step forward in 2022-23 after finishing seventh in the Pacific Division with a 31-37-14 record last season. Anaheim opens its preseason slate on Sept. 25 against the Arizona Coyotes.

Despite being a trending topic for most of the dog days of the offseason, Chicago Blackhawks superstar Patrick Kane says he hasn’t paid much attention to swirling trade rumors.

Kane is entering the final year of his contract while Chicago is set to embark on a potentially lengthy rebuild, leading to plenty of speculation about his availability.

“Like I said before, it’s not really something I’ve thought of or anything I’m thinking about right now,” Kane said Thursday, per The Athletic’s Scott Powers. “Maybe it’s getting attention because of the situation that people might think we’re in as a team or because of our contracts. It’s just a lot of noise right now.”

Kane continued: “It was just all rumors. I don’t think there was really any legitimate discussions between any team or the Blackhawks, as far as I know.”

The Blackhawks made several moves this offseason that suggest they aren’t gunning for a playoff spot in 2022-23. They traded 40-goal man Alex DeBrincat to the Ottawa Senators and dealt 2019 third overall pick Kirby Dach to the Montreal Canadiens. Chicago also decided not to extend qualifying offers to forwards Dylan Strome and Dominik Kubalik, walking both players straight to unrestricted free agency.

Kane admitted the loss of DeBrincat was particularly tough.

“It’s kind of crushing at first when you hear the news,” he said. “Not only did I feel like we had some great chemistry on the ice, but he was one of my best friends and closest teammates off the ice as well.”

The eight-year, $84-million contract Kane signed in 2014, which has a full no-movement clause, is set to expire after this season. If Chicago is outside the playoff picture as expected at the trade deadline, rumors are sure to heat up again.

Kane, 33, is still one of the league’s top producers. The 2016 MVP registered 92 points in 78 games last season and has a playoff resume that includes three Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe Trophy, and 132 points in 136 contests.

Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun still wants to be traded to a playoff contender. He’s not going to let that impact how he plays while he’s still in the desert.

“I’ve been here a while now and the way I operate and take care of my business, I try to get better every day,” Chychrun said Wednesday, a day before the Coyotes start training camp. “All I’m going to focus on is continuing to get better, get healthy — that’s obviously the biggest thing right now.”

Chychrun will not be ready for the start of training camp and possibly preseason games after having wrist and ankle surgery in the offseason. He will play for the Coyotes once he is healthy, but the team will likely move him to a contender at some point.

The Coyotes are in year 2 of a rebuild that started with trading away veteran players for draft picks before that season. Arizona finished with the second-fewest points in the NHL last season and is expected to be near the bottom again this year.

The team approached Chychrun about a possible trade to a contender before last season and again early in the season, but the Coyotes could not find a suitable deal for one of their best players.

“Throughout the start of last season, I had a lot of reflection time and some really, really emotional, hard reflections with my loved ones and family,” he said “We ultimately decided to take them up on that offer and try to get moved on to a better situation.”

The 24-year-old Chychrun has been one of the anchors of Arizona’s team, both as a top-line defenseman and a leader in the locker room. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound defenseman is a physical presence at the blue line and a capable scorer, eclipsing 20 points five times in his six NHL seasons.

“It’s kind of a mutual position for me to get moved on to a situation with a chance to win and a team that’s fighting for the Stanley Cup and for them here to be able to get assets,” Chychrun said. “I understand how rebuilds work. I think it could be mutually beneficial.”

Though his rebuilding job is far from complete, Buffalo Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams signed a contract extension on Wednesday, an indication that ownership believes he has the franchise pointed in the right direction.

Terms of the extension were not revealed. Adams, who’s in his third season as GM, signed the deal as players reported for the start of training camp.

The team that has undergone a significant transformation since Adams — a former NHL player with no hockey management experience — was promoted from a job on the team’s business side following the abrupt firing of Jason Botterill in June 2020.

In that time, the Sabres have changed coaches, going from Ralph Krueger to Don Granato, and purged much of the core of their team, highlighted by the trade that sent captain Jack Eichel to the Vegas Golden Knights in November.

Adams’ plan was to rebuild the Sabres through youth and around players who valued being in Buffalo. What remains unfinished is the Sabres contending for a playoff spot to end an 11-year postseason drought which now ranks as the longest in NHL history.

“Kevyn’s leadership and vision over the past two seasons has proven invaluable, and I’m confident in his ability to continue move us forward as an organization,” owner Terry Pegula said in statement. “I, along with fans and community, am happy to see Kevyn continue to build a winning culture both on and off the ice.”

The Sabres showed signs of promise last season, closing 12-6-3 to finish with a 32-39-11 record. Buffalo finished fifth in the Atlantic Division, matching the team’s best since it was third in 2011-12.

More important, the Sabres were led by their youngsters, including center Tage Thompson, who scored a career-best 38 goals. Thompson blossomed under Granato after struggling during Krueger’s tenure.

Adams’ influence was also apparent from the impact of forwards Alex Tuch and Peyton Krebs, who were acquired in the trade for Eichel. Through other moves, Adams has restocked the Sabres’ farm system with a series of first-round draft selections, and freed up space under the salary cap by ridding the team of overpriced and underperforming players.

The 47-year-old Adams is from the Buffalo area and enjoyed a 10-year NHL playing career. He won a Stanley Cup in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes.

After briefly serving as an agent, Adams joined the Sabres in 2009 in a player-development role and eventually served as an assistant coach. He also helped establish the Sabres-backed Academy of Hockey program, and was the team’s vice president of business operations when he took over as general manager.

Toronto Maple Leafs superstar Auston Matthews won’t let contract discussions turn into a distraction this coming season.

“I want to be clear about the contract stuff. I’m going to touch on it today, and that’s it,” the reigning MVP said Wednesday as Toronto opened training camp, per Sports Illustrated’s David Alter. “I’m focused on the season, and we’ll deal with it then. I love playing here, I consider it home now.”

Matthews is under contract with the Leafs for two more seasons at an $11.64-million cap hit. He isn’t eligible to sign an extension until next summer but was asked about the topic in the wake of Nathan MacKinnon inking an eight-year, $100.8-million megadeal Tuesday.

“It’s well-deserved,” Matthews said of MacKinnon signing the league’s biggest contract. “As far as my situation, I’m not too focused on that, it’s still a couple of years away.”

Matthews is currently the NHL’s third-highest-paid player, trailing only Connor McDavid and Artemi Panarin until MacKinnon’s new deal kicks in for the 2023-24 campaign.

The 25-year-old Matthews will surely be in the running to usurp MacKinnon’s contract. He’s recorded 457 points in 407 games since being drafted first overall in 2016 while leading the league in goals (259) over that span. Matthews – who’s scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency in 2024 – has won the Calder Trophy, Hart Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award, and two Maurice “Rocket” Richards through the first six years of his career.

“Big Z” is finally hanging up his skates.

Veteran defenseman Zdeno Chara announced his retirement Tuesday after 24 seasons in the NHL. The 45-year-old will sign a one-day contract later Tuesday to retire as a member of the Boston Bruins, his team for 14 seasons.

The Bruins saluted Chara following his announcement:

“When I started playing hockey as a young boy, I never imagined to be one day sitting at a press conference after playing in the NHL for 25 years,” he said during his retirement press conference on Tuesday. “This all feels surreal.

“I know I can walk away from the game with gratitude, honor, and pride. I’m not walking completely away from the game, but now it’s time I walk along (with) my family.”

Patrice Bergeron succeeded Chara as captain of the Bruins, and the veteran forward reflected on how his longtime teammate impacted the organization.

“His competitive drive, the way that he prepared, practices for games, in the gym, his focus, I learned from all of that,” Bergeron said, according to NHL.com’s Amalie Benjamin. “It was a privilege to be a part of it. It was also a privilege for me at a young age to learn from him. He had a great impact. … It’s been an honor to be with him.”

Bruins president Cam Neely said the club plans to retire Chara’s No. 33, though no date has yet been determined, according to 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Ty Anderson.

Chara, who also spent time with the New York IslandersOttawa Senators, and Washington Capitals, retires as the all-time leader in games played by a defenseman (1,680) and sits seventh on the all-time list. The 2008-09 Norris Trophy winner tallied 209 goals and 680 points over his career and was named to seven postseason All-Star teams.

Originally drafted 56th overall by the Islanders in 1996, Chara spent his first four seasons on Long Island before joining the Senators in 2001 as part of the infamous Alexei Yashin trade. He broke out as an impact blue-liner in Ottawa, helping lead the Sens to one conference finals appearance over four seasons in Canada’s capital.

But Chara truly left his mark on the NHL after signing with the Bruins as a free agent in 2006. Boston’s captain for all 14 of his seasons with the club, Chara led the Bruins to three Stanley Cup Finals appearances, including the 2011 win that snapped the franchise’s 39-year drought. One of only three blue-liners to play over 1,000 games with the Bruins, he ranks top five among Bruins defensemen in goals, assists, points, power-play goals, and game-winning goals.

Chara left Boston for a one-year stint with the Capitals in 2021 before returning to the Islanders for a final season. Even at age 45, he made an impact on the ice, registering 14 points in 72 games and scoring a goal in his final contest.

Internationally, the native of Trencin, Slovakia (formerly Czechoslovakia), goes down as one of his country’s most decorated athletes. Chara represented Slovakia on the international stage 10 times and led it to silver medals at the World Championships in 2000 and 2010. He also served as the nation’s flag bearer at the 2014 Winter Olympics.

The 6-foot-9 blue-liner was the tallest player in NHL history and until Tuesday was the oldest active player in North America’s major professional sports leagues. His retirement makes Joe Thornton, who’s currently a free agent, the last active athlete in North American pro sports to have played in the 1990s.

Keith Yandle, who broke the NHL’s consecutive games played record in January, says he’s calling it a career.

The longtime defenseman announced his plans to hang up his skates on Tuesday’s episode of the “Spittin’ Chiclets” podcast.

“I’m shutting it down, I’m retiring from the game of hockey,” Yandle said.

He added: “I’m really at ease with (the decision), and I’m looking forward to the next chapter, for sure.”

Yandle broke Doug Jarvis’ ironman record by suiting up for his 965th straight contest on Jan. 25. His streak ended at 989 contests on April 2 when he was a healthy scratch. Yandle’s run stretched from March 26, 2009, to March 29, 2022.

The Boston-born blue-liner played his final season with the Philadelphia Flyers. He previously spent five campaigns with the Florida Panthers, parts of two seasons with the New York Rangers, and nine seasons with the Arizona Coyotes, who were known as the Phoenix Coyotes for his first eight campaigns.

Yandle was one of the best defensemen in the NHL during his prime and continued to produce late in his career. The veteran amassed a career-high 62 points in 2018-19 and collected at least 50 points in four other campaigns. He retires with 103 goals and 516 assists over 1,109 games.

Yandle played 16 NHL seasons after the Coyotes drafted him 105th overall in 2005. He turned 36 on Sept. 9.