Tag:John Madden
Posted on: January 20, 2012 12:57 pm
Edited on: January 20, 2012 3:50 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Rangers and Bruins finally meet

McDonagh's and Seguin's teams renew acquaintances. (Getty Images)

Weekend Schedules: Friday | Saturday | Sunday

By Brian Stubits

Thanks to the scheduling quirks of the NHL, it has taken us until the end of January to get a dose of some real New York-Boston feuding in hockey. No offense to the Devils and the Islanders, but the city-to-city rivalry is reserved for pretty much only the Rangers against the Bruins.

This season, though, the wait has seemed even longer than it really has been. That's because of the little fact that for the first team in a long, long time, the Bruins and Rangers are the best two teams in the Eastern Conference.

There has been some bemoaning lately of the lack of rivalries in hockey. Well this isn't on par with Yankees-Red Sox in baseball, but there's always a little extra flair when it's New York vs. Boston. This one should have a lot of extra flair.

Nobody at this point will dispute the Rangers are one of the best teams in the league this season. You'd be foolish to try. But there are people, myself included, who are still wondering exactly how good are the Rangers? Well what better way to find out than to send them to the hornets’ nest that is TD Garden in Boston to face the defending champs?

Although it’s too bad we could have had this game a week or so ago. By their standards this season, each of these teams has lost some steam going into the game. The Bruins are only 6-4-0 in their last 10 (gasp!) while the Rangers just slightly better at 7-3-0. I laugh about it a little but it was just in the last two weeks that each of these teams had won nine of 10 games.

One of the tricks for each of the coaches is to find ways to keep pushing their guys in the middle of the season, particularly when you've had as much success as these two Original Six squads have. Sometimes that can be as simple as finding a bear to poke (pun clearly intended).

Bruins coach Claude Julien took his poking stick to the midsection of Nathan Horton this week on the Bruins' recent road trip.

"Horton has got to pick up his game. No ifs or buts about it," Julien said after the shootout win at Florida. "A guy his size needs to get more physically involved. He needs to compete a lot harder. He's skating hard, you can see it on the backcheck ... but we need more from him. When he's emotionally engaged, he scores goals and he's a difference-maker. He's got to find his game. We're at the point where we're a little shorthanded and we need him to step up."

Horton responded by scoring twice in the loss to the Lightning and then one more in the win on Thursday night against the Devils. That might be mission: accomplished.

It looks like Rangers coach John Tortorella has his own target to try and prod.

Brad Richards was the star they brought to New York this summer to give Marian Gaborik that other scoring threat and finally give Henrik Lundqvist some much-deserved support. In that regard, Richards has been alright. But that's it.

In 45 games he has 15 goals and 16 assists for 31 points while carrying a minus-3. That stat still means very little, plus/minus, but on a team like the Rangers, it's tough to be negative. He and Ruslan Fedotenko are the only players on the team with more than 10 games played that are in the red.

Going into the game against the Bruins, Richards hasn't tallied a single point in the last six games. Obviously that's not very good, particularly for a guy making $6.7 million per season.

While Tortorella didn't go anywhere close to the level of criticism that Julien did with Horton, he at least made it known that Richards needs to step up some. From Ranger Rants:

Coach John Tortorella said he didn’t want to analyze individual performances after the game when asked specifically about Staal and Brad Richards. But he acknowledged that Richards’ game wasn’t spot on right now (he was a minus-1 in 16:46 though he won 12 of 16 faceoffs).

If the Rangers can get a point-per-game pace out of Richards like he has been doing for most of the past few seasons, then watch out.

This will be the first of four matchups between the foes this season and each will very likely go a long way in determining who gets home-ice advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.

If that leaves you wanting more ...

... Then you'll get it. There is no better way to spend Saturday if you're a hockey fan than to tune in to the NHL Network. Once that Rangers-Bruins tilt is done it's on to the next, but it takes no backseat to the first game.

The Vancouver Canucks seem to have a lot of rivalries these days. We all know about their ongoing feud with the Bruins, they have a fierce battle with the Chicago Blackhawks and pretty much any team from Canada.

But don't forget about their rivals to the south in San Jose, too. They've had some damn good playoff battles as well, including that Western Conference final matchup a season ago where Kevin Bieksa was the only person on the ice who knew what the heck was going on.

The Sharks are an interesting team to me. Perhaps it's a situation of just getting used to it, being desensitized to them, but once again they are right there in the race for the Presidents' Trophy this season. Remember, they have games in hand on every single Western Conference team.

Yet they are just quietly trudging along on the West Coast. It's expected from them now to be honest. That's a great compliment to give to the ownership and front office in San Jose.

Unlike the Eastern powers mentioned above, these Western heavies have already met three times this season, so when they dance on Saturday night in Vancouver, it's the last time they'll see each other until next season. Unless ...

Hot, hot, hot!

The Ottawa Senators are 12-2-2 since Kyle Turris came to town. They are in the midst of a very challenging road trip to the West Coast, starting it off with a win on Thursday in San Jose.

When they looked at the itinerary for the road trip, they had to look at the Saturday visit to Anaheim as a little bit of a reprieve on the tough trip. Not anymore.

It took a while, but Bruce Boudreau is seeing the Ducks play the way we all thought they would this season. All of a sudden, these are the two hottest teams in the NHL (what?!?). The Ducks are 6-0-1 in their last seven games in their own right.

It's likely well past the time for them to get back into the playoff picture. Even with these 13 points in seven games, they are still 13 points behind Colorado for the eighth spot in the West. What a really strong finish can do, though, is affect the way general manager Bob Murray views his team and thus how much of a seller the Ducks will be at the Feb. 27 trade deadline.

In the meantime, each of the Sens and Ducks gets a heat check in one of the few places in either the USA or Canada that it's actually warm right now, Southern California.

Familiar foes

Friday night will feature some old friends facing off as the Florida Blackhawks visit the Chicago Panthers. Wait ...

Since Dale Tallon took over in Florida as general manager, the Panthers have taken on quite a strong feeling of the Blackhawks. They currently carry five former players from Chicago: John Madden, Brian Campbell, Kris Versteeg, Tomas Kopecky and Jack Skille. Of them, only Skille wasn't a contributor to the Stanley Cup a couple of seasons ago.

To make that happen obviously Tallon had to send some of his Panthers players to GM Stan Bowman in Chicago. It's not as strong the other way but the Blackhawks currently employ former Panthers Michal Frolik, Steve Montador and have Rostislav Olesz and Alexander Salak in the system.

But the player to watch in this battle? How about Andrew Shaw, who is quickly making a big name for himself in Chicago. The 20-year-old forward who was a fifth-round pick by the 'Hawks has five points in the last four games on the strength of a goal in each game. That's led to the Twitter hashtag of #ShawFacts where fans have taken their best Chuck Norris jokes and tailored them for Shaw.

Something else worth watching: With weather conditions as bad as they are in Chicago this weekend, will the Panthers have any problems getting out of town and into Winnipeg in time for their game Saturday against the Jets?

Speak of old friends ...

What would the Tampa Bay Lightning give to have the summer over and keep Mike Smith instead of Dwayne Roloson?

The Bolts will get the chance to see firsthand what has happened to Smith since he moved to the desert this offseason. For those not in the know, what has happened is that he has become a quality starting goaltender for the Coyotes.

The Lightning are giving up more goals than any team in the league. Don't you think Smith and his 2.41 goals against average would be handy in Tampa Bay this season?

Then again, it probably wouldn't be too much different if the defenders in front of Smith were playing the same/as injured as they are in front of Roloson and Mathieu Garon.

Fun doesn't stop Saturday

On Sunday there is a nice pair of battles for matinee games in the Eastern Conference.

The Bruins will take on another one of the I-95 corridor powers in the Philadelphia Flyers while the Pittsburgh Penguins will host the Washington Capitals for their final bout this season. It might be a bit watered down without Sidney Crosby playing, but it's still worth watching.

Both games are worth it, so get ready to wear out the "last" button on your remote.

We're going streaking!

A look at the winning and losing streaks heading into the weekend.

Penguins: Remember how they just lost six in a row? This is how you rebound from that. The Pens take a four-game winning streak into Friday night's game against the Canadiens before the game against the Caps.

Detroit Red Wings: For the moment, they have taken the lead in the Central Division, which is an unbelievable race this season. Their five straight wins will be put on the line Saturday vs. the Blue Jackets.

St. Louis Blues: They are doing what they can to keep pace with the Red Wings and Blackhawks, and they're doing it just fine. They ride a three-game run into a home game against the Sabres, losers of 10 straight on the road.

Buffalo Sabres: As just mentioned, 10 straight road losses, four in a row overall. Only the one chance in St. Louis to snap it this weekend.

Panthers: They haven't won a game in their last three chances but they have picked up points in two of those three. The double dip this weekend is at Chicago and at Winnipeg.

Minnesota Wild: The ship keeps on sinking. Remember when they were first in the NHL? I hardly do either. Four straight losses and Dallas on tap this weekend.

Dallas Stars: Misery loves company, I suppose. Dallas brings its own losing streak of three games into the weekend, but they get Tampa Bay before facing the Wild.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.
Posted on: January 6, 2012 12:56 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 4:47 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Bruins and Canucks meet again

By Brian Stubits

Schedules: Friday | Saturday | Sunday

Vancouver to start Schneider over Luongo

The Boston Bruins are out-of-this-world good. Six times this season they have beaten their opponent by at least five goals. That includes Thursday's 9-0 rout of the Calgary Flames.

On the season they have scored 138 goals (most in the NHL) and only allowed 69 (fewest in the NHL). For the mathematically impaired, that's exactly twice as many goals for as against. They have an absolutely staggering plus-69 goal differential on the season.

To put that in further perspective, here's a stat that was pointed out to me by a friend. In only half a season, the Bruins' plus-69 is better than all but three teams' season total in the last three years.

Since their 3-7-0 start, it's been utterly ridiculous what they have done. Their record since is 23-3-1. That means they have earned 47 of the past 54 possible points.

It's scary to think about, but the numbers point to the Bruins being a better team than they were a season ago when they beat the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup Final.

Well the Canucks will get their one and only chance this season to see how much better, if at all, the Bruins are than a season ago.

These teams have had rather similar paths since their great seven-game Final a season ago. The Bruins have received a lot of the attention for the way they have just been steamrolling the competition, but the Canucks are going through a somewhat similar season. They, too, rebounded from the long postseason with a sluggish start but have since come to play the way they were expected. They have retaken their seat atop the Northwest Division and are in the thick for best record in the league.

It's no exaggeration to say that these very well could be the two best teams in the NHL again this season.

Yet this Saturday's matchup in Boston isn't as much about this season as it is about last season, specifically the Finals.

“I know there’s going to be a lot of hype for that game, but we’re a different team than we were last year. We’ve added some different components,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault told ESPN.com. “Boston is pretty much the same team, but it’s a new year. We’re going to just go in there and try and play our best game.”

There was enough hostility in that seven-game series to last for three series. We had finger-biting, tire-pumping, trash-talking and rioting. Well OK, that last one wasn't in the series, but still.

The biggest bit of trash talk that came out publicly wasn't until after the series when now retired Bruins forward Mark Recchi said he has never hated an opponent like he did those Canucks. That prompted Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa to suggest Recchi go play a round of golf or take a nap.

Recchi, now working with NBC, did backtrack this week.

“I probably shouldn’t have said anything and I wish I wouldn’t have, but that’s what happened and that’s how the series was,” Recchi told Vancouver’s The Province. “People know I love B.C. and Vancouver and it was an unbelievable series but there was a lot of dislike on both sides. And it wouldn’t have been a Stanley Cup final if there wasn’t that much dislike -- we really didn’t like each other.”

It's not likely that the dislike has worn off in the half-year since.

The rematch will have about all you could ask for in a midseason contest, assuming the Bruins don't turn it into a snoozer with another rout.

Mr. 499

I haven't come across anybody who doesn't like Jarome Iginla. The Calgary Flames forward has long been the epitome of what people want in their professional athletes. He's humble, approachable, charitable and of course talented.

He's on the cusp of reaching a great milestone, sitting one goal away from No. 500 in his career. Quite honestly, it's about the only reason why non-Flames fans would want to watch Calgary at the moment.

Iginla told CBSSports.com this week that the pursuit of the milestone isn't something that he's been worried about, but he certainly has thought about it.

"No, it hasn't weighed, but now that I'm at 499, you definitely try not to think about it on each shot and think 'well it could be' or whatever. So I think about it a little bit," Iginla said. "But once you get to the game you're just competing and want to win the game. I don't look at it like I'm counting down games. Just keep going and just keep trying to shoot and get chances and keep the same approach. But you definitely think about it a little bit."

Because of the World Junior tournament that just ended on Thursday with one hell of a game between Sweden and Russia, the Flames have been road warriors for the past couple of weeks. But on Saturday night they'll return home to the Saddledome to take on the Minnesota Wild with Iginla still just one away.

In a way it's great that Iginla didn't reach the milestone in the past week for it will give him a chance to do it back home in Calgary. He'd be applauded handsomely in whichever city it happened, but it's always best to do these things at home.

Certainly the team will be happy to be back home, too. The Flames petered out the end of their seven-game road trip, losing the last five, including that 9-0 rout in Boston.

"We feel that we're good at home and that we're confident," Iginla said. They better hope so, they don't want to fall too far behind in the playoff picture.

Capitalizing

One team that has crawled back into the playoff picture is the Washington Capitals. The Caps were, to be frank, very average for a good chunk of the first half. However they have begun to play just how they were expected to. That's every more so the case with Alex Ovechkin.

Ovechkin had gone 23 straight games without multiple points in one night. He snapped that streak and has since run off four consecutive multi-point games. Maybe he had a great Christmas. Or perhaps it was the excitement of his two-year anniversary as captain. Whatever the reason, he has elevated his game big time and probably not coincidentally, so has Washington.

They travel to the West Coast to take on the San Jose Sharks on Saturday riding a four-game win streak. Again, it's no coincidence that Ovechkin has four straight multiple-point games.

But I'm still not 100 percent sold this team is back to its big-time status. Of the four wins, three have come at home where they have been very tough to beat, regardless of the overall mediocre performance. The fourth was a road win at Columbus. So this trip to San Jose, where they haven't won since 1993, will be a better gauge to see how the Capitals are coming along under Dale Hunter. Once they start winning on the road, then I'll start believing in them again.

Boom! Madden's debut

The Florida Panthers are still beating the odds and hanging onto first place in the Southeast Division. On Friday night they'll get some reinforcement to help them stay there.

Recently signed veteran John Madden is expected to make his debut with the Panthers in New Jersey. It's an interesting place for his first game as a Panther considering he spent the majority of his career with the Devils and helped them win two Stanley Cups.

That adds to the storyline this season of Devils coach Peter DeBoer facing his former team. Really, that doesn't hold much weight after the first meeting, so Madden's debut puts a little zest in another game between the two.

I'm sure the Devils fans will give Madden a nice, hearty hand even if he's in the other team's red.

More Wings work

It's going to be an Original Six weekend for the Detroit Red Wings.

On Saturday they will get a crack at their neighbors a little to the Northeast in the Toronto Maple Leafs. Despite not being in the same conference, these two teams still have a good rivalry that stretches way back. Their proximity to each other helps too. It's why so many want to see the Leafs play in next year's Winter Classic against the Wings, possibly in the Big House.

Once they are done with the team from Toronto, they face their other Original Six big rival, the one that's still in their division. The Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks will wage a big battle on Sunday that will continue to help shape the ever-tight Central Division.

Great weekend of hockey for the folks in Hockeytown.

We're going streaking!

Here are the winning streaks and losing streaks in play entering the weekend.

New York Rangers: The Blueshirts keep on winning, taking a three-game streak into Friday's matchup with the Penguins in Pittsburgh.

New York Islanders: The Isles make the list this week, and it's on the good side! A three-game win streak is on the line at the Ducks on Friday and then the Coyotes on Saturday.

Ottawa Senators: The quietest of the NHL's surprise teams, the Senators have a four-game run going into the home-and-home with the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday and Sunday.

Capitals: Aforementioned four-game win streak with the one game at San Jose.

Colorado Avalanche: The up-and-down Avs are playing well again, having won three straight. They have a tough Friday-Saturday road trip of at the Blackhawks and at the Blues.

Sharks: Not mentioned above, the Sharks also come into the game against the Caps hot, having won three in a row.

Flames: They look to end their five-game skid against the Wild on Saturday.

Anaheim Ducks: Three losses in a row and counting? With all their players now on the trade block, they face the Islanders and the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: January 4, 2012 11:00 am
Edited on: January 4, 2012 11:21 am
 

Panthers sign veteran center John Madden

By Brian Stubits

It took a few extra days, but the Florida Panthers have reached a deal with veteran free-agent centerman John Madden on a one-year contract. The team announced the expected move on Wednesday morning.

Madden, who played with the Minnesota Wild last season, was still skating and keeping in hockey shape as the season wore on hoping that he could find a landing spot. When the Panthers were beat up, down seven forwards at one time, the interest grew to Wednesday's climax of Madden officially being announced as a Panther.

The connection to Florida, of course, comes through GM Dale Tallon. It was Tallon who brought Madden on board in Chicago where he played with now fellow Panthers Kris Versteeg, Brian Campbell and Tomas Kopecky on their way to winning the Stanley Cup. Madden also won two Cups while with the New Jersey Devils.

“John is a veteran player who brings to our team a wealth of playing experience having won two Stanley Cups with New Jersey and one with Chicago,” Tallon said in the team's release. “He is a hard working and responsible forward who plays well at both ends of the ice and is excellent on face-offs."

As Tallon noted, one of Madden's big strengths will be his faceoff ability. He has also always been recognized for his ability to kill penalties, an area where the Panthers could use a little help and won the Selke Award in 2001. Plus, he adds a little more veteran presence to the locker room, value that as you will.

In his career, the 38-year-old has also added 162 goals -- including 12 last season -- and 183 assists.

Madden will travel with the team for their two-game, back-to-back road trip to the Rangers on Thursday and then his former Devils team on Friday.

The need for Madden to come in and play immediately is lessening for the Panthers, who are still hanging on to first place in the Southeast, but that's partly due to games in hand. A light but tough schedule in the month of January will tell a lot about this team's staying power. But the good news is that Marcel Goc and Mikael Samuelsson appear to be on the verge of returning after their injuries.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: December 28, 2011 1:07 pm
Edited on: December 28, 2011 2:47 pm
 

Report: Injury-ravaged Panthers to sign Madden

By Brian Stubits

The Florida Panthers are in a world of hurt right now. As in literal hurt.

The surprising Southeast Division leaders are still holding onto a somewhat comfortable lead over the Winnipeg Jets in the division, but they are missing a lot of players. As in seven forwards, all due to some form of injury.

That has general manager Dale Tallon on the verge of signing veteran free agent John Madden. That's according to Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "Hearing John Madden signs with @FlaPanthers tomorrow."

Madden played most recently for the Minnesota Wild and Russo used to be the beat writer for the Panthers, so he can have a rumor like that covered from both sides.

Then current Panthers beat writer George Richards of the Miami Herald tweeted that the timeline perhaps has been quickened. "Word in the #FlaPanthers locker room is John Madden has been signed and is excited to join the Cats."

Richards added that the deal isn't likely to be announced quite yet. "#FlaPanthers say no announcement on John Madden forthcoming; coach Kevin Dineen left practice early" followed by Tallon saying it isn't done quite yet.

“We don't know how long that's going to take [to get rust off] and when we're getting some other guys back," Tallon said Wednesday.

Either way, there's a lot of smoke, so the fire seems to be close behind.

Like a good chunk of the Panthers roster this season, Tallon has some familiarity with Madden, who was part of the Stanley Cup champion in Chicago that Tallon helped build. He is a tough-nosed center that likely still has some gas left in the tank. He scored 12 goals last season for the Wild.

He would also bring along the intangibles that come with being a veteran and a multiple-times champion in the NHL. In addition to winning the Blackhawks he also lifted the Stanley Cup twice while a member of the New Jersey Devils.

But more importantly, he helps the Panthers get through their injury woes at the moment. As mentioned, seven players are currently sidelined, all of them forwards. Stephen Weiss and Mikael Samuelsson could return soon but it doesn't look as good for Jack Skille, Sean Bergenheim, Marco Sturm, Marcel Goc or Scottie Upshall.

I think it is a solid addition for the Panthers even without those intangibles. He's 38 but he can likely still lead a third or fourth line when the injured Panthers get healthy. Coach Kevin Dineen has been clear that he really likes to be able to run all four lines.

What's more, Madden has long been very good on the penalty kill, a department the Panthers could use some improvement. Their 80.2 percent kill rate ranks 24th in the league.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: September 26, 2011 11:04 am
Edited on: September 26, 2011 11:15 am
 

Blackhawks flirting with putting Kane at center

By Brian Stubits

If the Blackhawks have any hole on their roster as it's currently constructed, it would be at the center position. Coach Joel Quenneville would like to have more depth in the circle, especially since Marcus Kruger isn't completely impressing the staff.

So it isn't surprising that the team is looking from within to find an understudy. But it is a slight surprise that Patrick Kane is in the discussion. The star wingman has shown enough to get a tryout at center in the coming days. Tracey Myers of CSN Chicago had the quotes from Quenneville.

"He's been playing center throughout scrimmages and practices now and we'll see," Quenneville said.

"Defensively he's gotten better as he's grown in that position with us, down low on the walls. It's something we're going to at least take a look at."

As Myers points out, how about Michael Frolik? He's been a wing man since coming into the NHL but he has potential in the faceoff dot. And by trying him out you aren't disrupting the rhythm Kane has built with Jonathan Toews on the top line.

Even if he is the best of the rest for the Blackhawks at center, I would think he's too valuable to the team in his current position to move. Sure, he could be a fill-in, but I can't imagine the team is giving serious consideration into Kane being one of the four centers. No way would they move him to the another line just to fill the position.

Much more likely scenarios if Kruger doesn't convince them he can handle the center spot include shifting the aforementioned Frolik or maybe Jamal Mayers to the position. Or they could look to fill the void from within the system or even on the scrap heap that is remaining free agents -- John Madden is available for a return to Chicago.

As for Kane's feelings on the possibility, all Quenneville would say is that Kane is "not complaining."

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: July 23, 2011 1:44 pm
Edited on: July 23, 2011 2:35 pm
 

Vinny Prospal signs with Columbus

By Adam Gretz

When the Columbus Blue Jackets lost Kristian Huselius for four-to-six months after an injury he suffered while lifting weights, it was pretty much assumed that general manager Scott Howson would be bringing in another forward to help replace him. On Saturday, Howson announced -- via his own Twitter feed -- that the club had signed free agent Vinny Prospal to help fill a top-six spot in the lineup.

Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reports it's a one-year deal worth $1.75 million (plus bonuses).

There weren't many strong forward options remaining on the free agent market, but Prospal is probably among the best of the bunch. In 29 games last season with the New York Rangers, the 36-year-old winger scored nine goals to go with 14 assists after missing the first half of the season with a knee injury. He is just one year removed from a 20-goal, 58-point effort.

He's not likely to completely replace Huselius from an offensive standpoint at this point in his career, but for one year and that cap hit it should be a solid addition to a Columbus lineup that's already seen a boost thanks to the offseason additions of Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski.

For his career, Prospal has scored 227 goals in 978 games with six different teams (Ottawa, Philadelphia, Anaheim, Tampa Bay, New York and Florida).

If you remove Teemu Selanne from the list (he's either going to play for Anaheim or retire), the free-agent forwards still available ranked by point total from last season are Sergei Samsonov, Cory Stillman, Alexei Kovalev, Rob Schremp and John Madden.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: July 13, 2011 8:32 pm
Edited on: July 14, 2011 10:36 am
 

Blue Jackets' Huselius could miss 4-6 months

HuseliusBy: Adam Gretz

The Columbus Blue Jackets picked up what should be a huge upgrade to their offense earlier this summer by acquiring Jeff Carter from the Philadelphia Flyers. Unfortunately, due to some bad luck over the weekend, they lost another player that should have been one of their other top six forwards when Kristian Huselius tore a pectoral muscle while lifting weights in Sweden, according to Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch.

General manager Scott Howson said, via Portzline's Puck Rakers blog, that Huselius is expected to miss four to six months, which could keep him out of the Blue Jackets lineup until January.

Huselius is entering the final year of a four-year contract -- that pays him $4.75 million per year -- that he signed prior to the 2008-09 season. He was limited to just 39 games last season due to injury, scoring 14 goals.

Now that that Columbus has another hole on its top lines for a large chunk of the season, the search now turns to the remaining free agent market and anybody that could potentially step in. The options are not promising. Looking at the forwards still available, and ranking them by goals scored in 2010-11, the top 10 players are as follows: Teemu Selanne (31), Antti Miettinen (16), Alexei Kovalev (16), Nikolai Zherdev (16), Sergei Samsonov (13), Rob Schremp (13), Cory Stillman (12), John Madden (10), J.P. Dumont (10) and Brad Winchester (10). Yikes.

Selanne, even at age 41, can obviously still play at a high level as shown by his 31 goals last season, but he is not an option (Selanne is either playing for Anaheim or he's retiring). Madden doesn't really fit seeing as how he's a checking line center as opposed to a goal-scoring winger, and the Jackets have already been through the Nikolai Zherdev experience.

Stillman is a reliable veteran that has been on a pair of Stanley Cup winning teams, while players like Samsonov and Schremp might offer the faint hope of a boom-or-bust signing.

There's never a good time to lose one of your top offensive players -- especially when it's two weeks into the free agent signing period in what was already a weak group -- when all of the best players have already been picked over.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: June 30, 2011 2:25 pm
Edited on: June 30, 2011 5:57 pm
 

Flyers won't offer Stamkos after mulling move

We are now in the window of time teams can send offer sheets to restricted free agents. Thus far, no such offers have been sent to the biggest RFA out there, Steven Stamkos, and the Flyers won't be the first.

Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News confirmed the Flyers have declined to extend a sheet to the young superstar in Tampa Bay.

According to Seravalli the Flyers had been seriously contemplating sending an offer to Stamkos. He reported the deal would have been a 12-year, $115 million contract, which would have carried a $9.58 annual cap hit. The most any team could offer is $12.86 million annually, or 20 percent of the salary cap. Tampa Bay would have seven days to match the offer.

NHL Free Agency

At debate for the Flyers wasn't whether they could afford Stamkos. They wouldn't be able to re-sign players like Ville Leino if they had, but that's a tradeoff they would've taken. Other residual moves, such as possibly sending Scot Hartnell and his $4.2 million contract to the AHL where it doesn't hurt the cap, would have had to be made to make everything fit.

Part of the concern was knowing whether or not Lightning GM Steve Yzerman is bluffing when he says no matter the offer, the Lightning will match it. Maybe he's telling the truth, maybe he's not. But if he is, he could -- and likely would -- take seven days to give a response to any offer a team might send. In that time Philadelphia could have seen all of its potential targets -- Leino, Michael Ryder, Erik Cole, John Madden among others -- sign elsewhere and be left hanging out to dry a bit.

The Flyers have already given the organization a very different look in the past few weeks, but adding Stamkos would be getting a nose job, tummy tuck and facelift all in one stop. Perhaps it was all just a bit too costly for Philly's britches (we didn't even mention that if they somehow did take Stamkos away, they would owe Tampa Bay four first-round draft picks).

It probably would have been all for naught as I am of the mind that Yzerman isn't bluffing when he says Tampa Bay will do whatever it takes to keep Stamkos around. You just don't let franchise players like him go that easily.

By Brian Stubits

Photo: Getty Images

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