Tag:Rick Nash
Posted on: September 28, 2011 1:48 pm
Edited on: September 28, 2011 4:15 pm
 

Central Division Preview: 'Hawks, Wings battle on

By Brian Stubits

Enjoy this while you can, there's no telling what the Central will look like next season.

One of the premier rivalries in the sport is the Blackhawks vs. the Red Wings. The only two Original Six teams in the West, they have long been fierce combatants. In recent years the Blackhawks have awoken from the doldrums, making this a great series once again.

But this could be it, especially if Detroit has its way. Realignment is coming to the NHL, that much is guaranteed after Atlanta moved to Winnipeg. The Red Wings organization has made it no secret it wants to move East, rivalry with Chicago be damned. Columbus and Nashville would both welcome a move East as well. Something's gotta give, and it will be the Central Division.

It's too bad. Because this year the division is set up to be about more than just these two powers.

Nashville is always sneaky good. People seem to sleep on the Predators every season, but you know they will be there. They are looking to build off the first postseason series win in franchise history with their three Stars in contract seasons. St. Louis seems to think its Blues are ready to make a leap, so long as they can stay healthy. That was a challenge last season. And Columbus? Well there is at least optimism for the first time in a while and some buzz around the team after the addition of Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski to join Rick Nash.

But as many strides as those teams have and are taking, in the end it will likely still be about the two powerhouses. That's because the Blackhawks are back. They suffered a little last year after winning the Stanley Cup as they had to shed a lot of salary. That meant jettisoning a good chunk of the team that won the Cup. But the core remained together and the team found its groove in the end, pushing the Canucks to the brink in the first round. But after an offseason of reinforcing the roster, Chicago figures to be in the thick until the end.

And Detroit? The Red Wings are ... well they're just the Wings. It's hard to imagine them not being good. Although this year they don't seem to be as loaded as usual, those are some pretty lofty standards. They will still be a threat not only for the division title but in the Western Conference, they can flat out score. That much we know.

So if this is it as division rivals, it should be fun.

Central Division (in predicted order of finish)

PenguinsChicago Blackhawks: Ah, it's nice to be out of salary cap hell, isn't it Chicago? After having to do major salary shedding, the Blackhawks still come out with a cast of characters that includes the names Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp and newcomer Andrew Brunette. Throw in Dan Carcillo and Jamal Mayers to give the team some nastiness power and the forwards are well-rounded.

On defense they will miss Brian Campbell, just not his salary. Sure, he is overpaid, but that doesn't mean he didn't bring anything to the table for the 'Hawks. But the defensive corps is still solid, led by Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson. Expectations are very high in Chicago once again.

Strenghts: It's tough to find a better pair of linemates than Toews and Kane. They are both still stepping into their primes, so they have a lot more to show. Those two are also part of the reason why the power play should once again be successful. Last season the unit ranked fourth in the NHL with the man up, led by Sharp's 12 goals on the power play.

They figure to be better at killing penalties thanks to the additions of Mayers, Steve Montador and Sean O'Donnell, an area where Chicago struggled last season.

Weaknesses: Depth at center is a major concern at this point. The team has been experimenting during camp with Patrick Kane, of all players, manning the center position. Maybe it's an indictment on the centers on the roster. Perhaps it's an indication of Patrick Sharp's health (or lack thereof). Whatever the reason, it's slightly concerning.

I would also be a little worried about the backup goaltender situation behind Corey Crawford. Alexander Salak is going to have the job and he might be more than adequate in the role, we just don't know much about him at the NHL level where he has little experience.

PenguinsDetroit Red Wings: The Wings are remarkably consistent as they have made the playoffs in each of the past 20 seasons. They also stay consistent in their roster, retaining a lot of their players over time. Case in point, this year's forward group. The Wings will trot out mostly all the same forwards as a year ago for when they finished second in the NHL in scoring.

But the defensive corps received quite a shakeup after last season's 2.89 goals against average, the retirement of Brian Rafalski and loss of Ruslan Salei.

In net they have Jimmy Howard with Ty Conklin backing him up. You have to wonder how much confidence Ken Holland and Mike Babcock have in their starter Howard, though, after the team had a failed pursuit of Tomas Vokoun.

Strengths: As mentioned, the Red Wings can score, almost all of them. Last season there were 13 players that recorded double digits in goals scored, led by Johan Franzen's 28. There is certainly loads of experience in Detroit, too. These guys aren't in their first rodeos. That especially includes defensive stalwart Nicklas Lidstrom, who put of retirement for another year on the ice.

Having the leadership that players like Lidstrom can provide certainly doesn't hurt. Also, you might have heard this Babcock fellow on their bench isn't so bad.

Weaknesses: Defense, defense, defense. That is the major concern/question mark here. They revamped the D, bringing in Mike Commodore and Ian White through free agency. Young defenseman Jonathan Ericsson received a pretty lucrative new deal, so he will be expected to improve.

In the defensive vein, the goaltending will also need to get better. Of course, that goes hand in hand with the defense, but Howard has room to improve. Playing for the Wings, his record was solid -- a nice 37-17-5 mark -- but the goals against average of 2.79 (36th out of 47 eligible goalies) and save percentage of .908 (33rd best) aren't worth writing home about.

PenguinsNashville Predators: Hope is high in Smashville coming off the best showing in franchise history, making it to conference semifinals. The Predators have more or less become the NHL's version of a Moneyball team, continuing to cultivate home-grown talent and win on the cheap.

The team is led by the high-profile trio of goalie Pekka Rinne (Vezina finalist) and defensemen Shea Weber (Norris finalist) and Ryan Suter, who are all going into contract seasons. It will be interesting to see how that plays out for each of them. For some players, it's a major distraction, for others it brings out the best playing for a new deal.

If there's anything we've learned about the Predators in recent years it's not to count them out, at least as long as Barry Trotz is on the bench. Maybe this will be the year he finally wins the Jack Adams as the best coach?

Strengths: The Preds have one of the best defenses in all of hockey. That's due to a multitude of reasons stretching from Trotz's system and philosophy to the outstanding personnel on the blue line -- which might get stronger with the addition of heralded prospect Ryan Ellis -- and the elite goaltending of Rinne. All in all, it led to the team posting the third-lowest GAA a season ago.

The farm system is also a strength, it usually is for Nashville. In addition to Ellis, they have forward Craig Smith, who drew rave reviews by scoring six goals in two games in the team's rookie tournament games.

Weaknesses: You would love to have somebody who is the clear-cut scorer on the team. Unfortunately, the Preds just don't score a lot, period, forget about one player. Only two players (Sergei Kostitsyn and Patric Hornqvist) topped the 20-goal mark with Kostitsyn pacing the team with 23. Perhaps a healthy Mike Fisher can help with that, at least that's the hope.

As you'd expect with low offensive numbers, the power play placed in the bottom five of the entire league a season ago. The leading power-play scorer was Martin Erat last season with seven.

PenguinsSt. Louis Blues: After coming out of the gate firing 9-1-2 last season, the Blues slowed down as the season wore along, eventually missing the playoffs by 10 points partly because the team dealt with a rash of injuries. Despite that finish, there is positive momentum going in St. Louis and the ownership sees it. That's why they left the young core of the team pretty much untouched this offseason, just electing to bring in a couple of savvy veterans in Jamie Langenbrunner and Jason Arnott to make an impact.

You can see the potential here, especially with another year under their belts. It will be interesting to see how they fare over a full season with Chris Stewert, who they acquired midseason from Colorado last year. After getting the forward, the Blues' offense saw a big uptick in scoring, eventually finishing 10th in the league.

Defensively they came in just below the median at 18th in the league. The Blues should be in the playoff picture all season long.

Strengths: There is a good amount of individual talent here, starting with Stewart and new captain David Backes. In all, they had six players last season score 20 goals or more and one of them, Andy McDonald, reached that plateau in just 58 games. With the abundance of talented and skilled skaters this is a team with plenty of speed up and down the lineup.

You also have to like the young defensive corps that has two stars in the making with Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk, who each had 43 points from the back end a season ago.

Weaknesses: We weren't entirely sure where to put goaltending in this equation since Jaroslav Halak had some struggles in his first season as a No. 1 goaltender. However he showed what he's capable of when he was with the Canadiens. But based on his just average numbers of a season ago and the unsure situation behind him (Ben Bishop vs. Brian Elliott), we'll put this as our best guess.

Another area where the Blues are lacking is in the physicality department. You wonder where exactly the toughness will come from.

PenguinsColumbus Blue Jackets: What is that coming from Columbus? Is that hope? Why yes, I think it is. GM Scott Howson was active this summer by bringing in Wisniewski and Carter along with Vinny Prospal and Radek Martinek on the blue line. In addition to signing new players, Howson was also busy in signing his current players to long-term deals, specifically R.J. Umberger and Fedor Tyutin.

Yes, the Jackets are spending money, that's not the problem. What is is the matter of how bang for the buck they are getting. To put it in perspective, the Jackets currently have a higher payroll than the Boston Bruins. The hope is that it translates into success, and a few more fans at the turnstiles as Columbus was 27th in the league in attendance last season.

Strenghts: They have struggled to score recently, but that should be done with, or at least minimized. They have a true No. 1 center now in Carter, which should only further help Nash show he is one of the best players people don't talk about in the NHL. The power play, perhaps Columbus' biggest bug-a-boo in recent seasons, should be significantly better now that they have a quarterback for the unit in Wisniewski (when he's back from suspension) and two very capable scorers up front. It had to get better from last year's 29th-ranked unit.

Weaknesses: Did somebody say goaltending? This is one area where the Blue Jackets didn't do a whole lot of upgrading. Instead, they elected to give the starting reins back to Steve Mason and signing the inexperienced Mark Dekanich to be his backup. Since winning the Calder as the league's top rookie, Mason has struggled. Last season he had a 3.01 goals against average and .901 save percentage. That's a big reason why the Jackets were 26th in scoring in the league.

And while Wisniewski helps, there still isn't much scoring threat from the blue line. Tyutin led Columbus in scoring among defensemen with just 27 points.

NHL season preview schedule
Wed., Sept. 21: Step-back players Tues., Sept. 27: Atlantic Division
Thur., Sept. 22: Breakout players Wed., Sept. 28: Central Division
Fri., Sept. 23: Southeast Division Thur. Sept. 29: Northeast Division
Mon., Sept. 26: Pacific Division Fri., Sept. 30: Northwest Division

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: August 31, 2011 11:12 am
Edited on: August 31, 2011 11:13 am
 

Blue Jackets re-sign D Tyutin for six seasons

By Brian Stubits

The Columbus Blue Jackets signed defenseman Fedor Tyutin to a six-year extension on Wednesday morning, giving him $27 million in the deal. As is often the case with the Blue Jackets, GM Scott Howson broke the news on Twitter.

"Pleased to announce 6 year extension for Fedor Tyutin. Fedor has been our top dman since we traded for him. He signed the deal this morning."

Aaron Portzline at the Columbus Dispatch had a little more information on the contract, dishing out the financial numbers.

"Tyutin's deal begins in 2012-'13: 4.0, 4.5, 4.75, 5.0, 4.75, 4.0. It includes a no-trade clause in first 3 years, a modified NTC in final 3."

With Tyutin locked in for some time, the Jackets have a pair of top defensemen who have plenty of time to get acquainted and become a cohesive unit. The other, of course, is James Wisniewski, the high-priced free agent they landed first thing right away in the free-agency period. His contract was also a six-year deal. That gives the Blue Jackets four players with deals that extend six years or longer, joining Rick Nash and Jeff Carter in the forward corps. Clearly Howson believes all of these players are the building blocks to get competitive in the West.

Tyutin has provided a solid game for the Jackets since coming over from the Rangers in a trade that netted New York Nikolai Zherdev among others. In his seven seasons split between the two teams, he has logged plenty of ice time, holding a career average of 21:46 per game. He provides decent offensive numbers (7 goals, 20 assists last season), but when he's with Wisniewski, you have to figure the majority of the puck moving will be the Wiz's responsibility.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: August 22, 2011 9:48 am
Edited on: August 22, 2011 10:37 am
 

Steve Mason talks mask, upcoming season

Mason1By: Adam Gretz

Steve Mason, goaltender for the Columbus Blue Jackets, introduced his new mask (pictured) to the world last month and, wow, it's something else.

The incredible piece of artwork features the skull from the 1987 movie Evil Dead II, as well as a few other grim images on the left side, including a skeleton dressed as a civil war soldier.

The 23-year-old goaltender is still one of the youngest players at his position in the NHL, and following a rookie season where he quickly burst on the scene, leading the league in shutouts, winning the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year and qualifying for the Vezina Trophy, he's had some struggles the past two seasons. That's not entirely uncommon for a goalie that young, especially one that's counted on to be the unquestioned No. 1 starter.

Mason, entering his fourth season in the NHL, and his teammates are facing a big season in Columbus after an exciting summer that saw the Blue Jackets acquire forward Jeff Carter from the Philadelphia Flyers and defenseman free agent James Wisniewski.

I had a chance to speak with Mason on Friday afternoon about the new artwork he'll be wearing this year, as well as the 2011-12 season.

Adam Gretz: I guess the first thing I want to ask you about is your new mask. I saw some pictures of it last month and, man, that thing is crazy. Can you tell us a little bit about what all is going on there because it kind of scared the hell out of me.

Steve Mason: (laughs) Yeah that's kind of the feeling I was going for. The past couple of years I've been with Columbus I've had kind of cartoony stuff on there and this year I wanted to go with a different look. Kind of realistic looking pictures and kind of a scary theme.

I conversed with David Gunnarsson on a couple of emails back and forth and a couple of different sketch designs. I told him I wanted something that would give the fans a different perspective as to what goalie helmets can be about. There's a couple of skulls on there, the guy with the Blue Jacket is on there, then on the other side you have a completely different look. It has the Blue Jackets logo but it's not just a plain old logo.  it kind of ties in with that scary theme.

Gretz: You mentioned you spoke with the artist on some things, I wanted to ask you about the process for how one of these things gets completed. Is it as simple as you going to the artist and giving him an idea as to what you want and letting him come up with the design? Or do they present you with certain ideas or themes?

Mason: Yeah, at the end of the day it's entirely up to the goaltender as to what he wants and they have pretty much free rein of their helmets, as long as it doesn't have anything derogatory on there, of course. For this season it was really all my doing, all the design thoughts and David was able to put it on a piece of paper and finally onto the helmet.

I told him what I wanted to see on the helmet, he sketched up a couple of things, and then I told him the things I liked, the things I'd like to see changed, and he put together a pretty good piece of work.

Gretz: Yes, he really did. It's very interesting. It's certainly different.

Mason: It is. It's unbelievable what he can do. I actually received it a few days ago. It was the first time I saw it in person, and it looks just as good as it did in the pictures. It's amazing what these artists can do today, taking life-like pictures wherever they come up with them in their mind and putting them on a goalie helmet. It's an incredible talent these guys have, and in my opinion David is probably the best.

Gretz: Let's talk some hockey. You're only entering your fourth year but for some reason it feels like you've been around a lot longer than that. You came on the scene so fast your rookie season, and it seemed like that set expectations really high going forward. I think sometimes it's easy to forget that you're still the youngest starting goaltender in the league, and if you look around the NHL, a lot of the guys that are starting weren't even in the NHL at this age. It Just seems like that's a position that takes plenty of time to develop and there's going to be some bumps early on. Your thoughts on that?

Mason: Yeah, absolutely, my first year was everything I could have asked for and more. I think a lot of those things came to me easier than they should have. It was one of those years where pucks just seemed to hit you, and if a guy had an open net he might have missed it.

I think I was 19 or turning 20 that year, so by far I was the youngest starting goalie in the league other than maybe Carey Price. It's something you have to relish and you can't take it for granted because it can be taken away from you pretty quick. For myself I just have to have the confidence to get back to that level. Obviously this is a big year for us, we made some big changes in the offseason.

Gretz: That first season, and even into your second season, you played under Ken Hitchcock who plays a pretty defensive system, and now you're playing under Scott Arniel, who seems to play a more up-tempo style; you guys seem to want to play with the puck, get in the other zone and all of that. How different is that for you as a goaltender?

Mason: Yeah, they're two different coaches. Ken has had a great career and I hope he gets another job soon, and with Arnie, it was obviously his first year and he was getting to know the players and they were getting to know him and his style.

They have two different systems in a lot of ways, but for a goaltender, at the end of the day your job is to stop the puck. For myself playing with Scott Arniel, his system might be a little more up-tempo where we want to control the puck more and hang on to it, where Ken's was more dump-and-chase. But again, for myself it really doesn't matter as I'm just focusing on the position and not really worrying about what's going on with the other guys.

Gretz: You mentioned the offseason changes a little bit ago. You guys brought in Jeff Carter, who along with Rick Nash gives you two of the top goal-scorers in the NHL over the past couple of years, and James Wisniewski, a guy that can bring some offense from the blue line. That added offense has to make a goaltender pretty excited for the upcoming season, yes?

Mason: Yeah it's something I'm really looking forward to. It was a huge offseason for the organization and I think (general manager) Scott Howson did an unbelievable job getting some guys that can help push us over the top and get a good playoff under our belts and keep going for our ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup.

I mean, with Jeff Carter you have a perennial 30-goal scorer, so for us to add that offense is going to be huge to help out Rick Nash and R.J. Umberger and Derick Brassard. So to have a guy like that coming in, a guy that's been to a Stanley Cup Final, that's going to be huge for us.

And obviously getting Wisniewski locked up for six years on the back end, a physical presence who has put up huge numbers the past couple of seasons, that's another big thing to do for our back end, and most importantly for myself to help clear rebounds and help clear guys out from in front of me. And he's played in Montreal, so he knows what it's like to play under pressure with high expectations and all that. So it was really nice to see the organization step up and go after some really sought-after players this offseason.

Gretz: There has to be some excitement for the fans, as well, because the best, and really one of the only ways, to build a strong fan base is to win, and those are the type of additions that can help make that happen.

Mason: Yeah, the fans are in 100 percent there in the city and the surrounding area. When we made the playoffs my first year the city really rallied itself around the organization. I think the fans have been more than patient. It's a fun spot to play and it's one of the nicest rinks in the league, and when they're filling up the building it's a loud place, has a great atmosphere, and when the team puts together a winning streak there's a definite buzz in the city, and we want to get in that spot more often than we've been.

Gretz: And just to finish up here real quick, I see you've recently joined Twitter and fans can find you at @1masey. How long have you been on there, and have you enjoyed the interaction with fans?

Mason: Yeah, the reason I got it was actually for the free agency signing period. I wasn't going be able to see everything up to the second, so that was my reason for getting it. It was just to follow all the updates.

It's been good to stay up to date in the world of hockey, and really, just sports in general. I'm not that exciting like some other guys, like Paul Bissonnette or players like that, but the following has been pretty cool. You get some messages from fans here and there, younger players asking questions and asking for tips, and from a player's perspective that's pretty cool, and to get some words of encouragement, so it's been really good.

Photo: Steve Mason Twitter

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

Posted on: August 8, 2011 9:46 am
Edited on: August 9, 2011 3:22 pm
 

Recent No. 1 picks going straight to NHL

By: Adam Gretz

Fans in Edmonton were able to get an up close look at their most recent No. 1 overall pick, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, at team Canada's prospect development camp this past week, and the early returns are very promising. He helped cap off a come-from-behind win for the White team during their Red-White scrimmage on Saturday, tying the game in the third period and then winning it with 20 seconds to play.

Donna Spencer of the Canadian Press wrote about the skills he displayed on Friday, while Oilers forward Ryan Smyth, and potentially a teammate of Nugent-Hopkins this upcoming season, called him a "nifty little player" after sitting behind the bench for the Red team during the scrimmage.

It's still not known whether or not he's going to play in the NHL this season, but if recent history is any indicator, it would seem to be a mild upset if he didn't. Going back to 1997 there have been 11 forwards taken with the top pick in the NHL draft, and 10 of them made their debut the same year they were drafted. The only player that didn't, technically speaking, was Washington's Alex Ovechkin, and that was due to circumstances beyond his and his team's control: the NHL lockout. Had it not been for the work stoppage he would have been a lock to make his debut.

What can be reasonably expected of Nugent-Hopkins should he play for the Oilers this upcoming season? Here's a look at what the recent straight-to-the-NHL top picks have done during their rookie seasons:

Top Picks NHL Draft Rookie Season
Player Games Goals Assists Points Avg. Mins. Per Game
Taylor Hall (2010) 65 22 20 42 18:12
John Tavares (2009) 82 24 30 54 18:00
Steven Stamkos (2008) 79 23 23 46 14:56
Patrick Kane (2007) 82 21 51 72 18:21
Sidney Crosby (2005) 81 39 63 102 20:07
Alex Ovechkin (2005)* 81 52 54 106 21:37
Rick Nash (2002) 74 17 22 39 13:06
Ilya Kovalchuk (2001) 65 29 22 61 18:34
Patrik Stefan (1999) 72 5 20 25 14:48
Vincent Lecavalier (1998) 82 13 15 28 13:39
Joe Thornton (1997) 55 3 4 7 8:05

*Ovechkin's first season came after the lockout, which was a year after his draft year.

With the exception of Patrik Stefan, every one of these players has gone on to be a productive player or a star player in the NHL (the jury is still out on Taylor Hall at this point after just one season, but we like his chances).

What's a reasonable expectation for Nugent-Hopkins should he play for the Oilers this season? Well, nobody should expect Crosby/Ovechkin levels because those guys are from a different planet. But 20 goals seems like it would be a solid goal based on recent performances by other top picks, assuming he's able to withstand the physical toll of the NHL. And that seems to be the chief concern for Nugent-Hopkins; it's not his skill or ability, but simply whether or not he has the strength to do it at this point. He currently weighs in at 175 pounds according to Spencer's Canadian Press report from over the weekend. That would make him one of the smallest players in the league

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

Posted on: July 24, 2011 12:40 pm
Edited on: July 24, 2011 1:16 pm
 

How will the Carter-Nash duo work in Columbus?

nashBy Adam Gretz

Now that the Columbus Blue Jackets have acquired a No. 1 center, the discussion has shifted from whether they will ever find a player capable of matching Rick Nash's ability on their top line, to whether the player they acquired -- Jeff Carter -- is the right fit.

The concern now is that Carter and Nash might be too similar to complement each other as they are nearly identical players. They both have roughly the same build; they both score a lot of goals; and both take a lot of shots. Over the past three years, they've been two of the top-five goal-scorers in the NHL, while both finished last season in the top six in shots on goal.

Assuming the two are paired on Columbus' top line, somebody is going to have to take on more of a playmaking role because, well, you have two guys that love to shoot and only one puck to go around. The expectation seems to be that Carter, the center, will be that player, and he's been asked about it since being officially introduced to the Columbus media this past week.

AJ Mazzolini put together a story in the Columbus Dispatch on Thursday talking about the expectations Carter will be facing, where he acknowledged passing will have to become a larger part of his game. But should it?

As the center it's easy to assume Carter will distribute the puck more, and while neither player has put up huge assist numbers throughout his career, I think Nash, based simply on personal observation, possesses more playmaking skills and could be a better set-up man on the wing.

Nash has taken on such a shooting role in Columbus for, I think, two main reasons: 1) because, obviously, he's an excellent sniper on the wing, but also 2) because he's been forced to take on such a role.

He's been forced to take on such a role because he's been the only consistent goal-scoring threat in Columbus over the past seven seasons. Since 2003-04, he's been the only Blue Jackets player to score at least 30 goals in a season, while only three others (Antoine Vermette in 2009-10, R.J. Umberger in 2008-09 and 2010-11, and Nikolay Zherdev in 2005-06) have managed to score more than 25 in a season. If he doesn't do it, nobody is doing it.

Not only does Columbus have another option, Nash has somebody else on his line that will also be capable of finishing plays. And Nash brings more to the table than just the ability to shoot. He has vision, he can create space for himself and his linemates, he works along the walls and he even has some touch to his passes. Take this play for example:



He's just needed somebody else to take advantage of all of it.

I don't expect Nash's game to change all that much, but I do think we'll see his performance go to another level. He's going to have a much better player on his line -- perhaps the best player he's ever played with in the NHL -- that is also capable of scoring goals and highlighting his playmaking ability that has gone relatively unnoticed the past seven years.

Photo: Getty Images

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


Posted on: July 11, 2011 10:05 am
Edited on: July 11, 2011 3:42 pm
 

Daily Skate: Hanson joins Capitals

By: Adam Gretz

HANSON SIGNS WITH WASHINGTON: Christian Hanson, the son of Slap Shot's Dave Hanson, signed with the Washington Capitals over the weekend and is expected to compete for a roster spot with their minor league affiliate, the Hershey Bears, according to Katie Carrera of the Washington Post. The 25-year-old Hanson spent parts of the last three seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs and scored three goals in 42 career games. He appeared in six games last season and did not record a single point. He played most of the season with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL and scored 12 goals.

STALBERG RE-SIGNS WITH CHICAGO: The Chicago Blackhawks and restricted free agent Viktor Stalberg reached a two-year agreement over the weekend for a reported salary of $875,000 per year, according to the Chicago Sun Times. He has great speed and recorded 24 points (12 goals, 12 assists) with the Blackhawks a year ago.

MORE ON RICHARDS DEAL: Larry Brooks of the New York Post has some thoughts on the Brad Richards signing with the Rangers (Brooks likes it) and also believes the NHL anticipated more deals like this (a front-loaded, nine-year contract) even after last year's saga with Ilya Kovalchuk and the New Jersey Devils.

HOWSON TALKS JACKETS: It's been an exciting offseason for the Columbus Blue Jackets as they've added a top goal-scorer, Jeff Carter, to go with Rick Nash, and they made a huge investment in defenseman James Wisniewski. General manager Scott Howson spoke with Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch about the team's record payroll and what, if any, additional moves could be made.

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

Posted on: June 23, 2011 4:14 pm
Edited on: June 23, 2011 5:42 pm
 

Busy Flyers ship Carter, Richards; add Bryzgalov


The Philadelphia Flyers afternoon of blockbuster moves has concluded. Maybe.

The Flyers made three massive moves in as many hours on Thursday, signing Ilya Bryzgalov for nine years, $51 million after trading captain Mike Richards to the L.A. Kings for Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds and Jeff Carter to the Blue Jackets.

Before it could sign goaltender Bryzgalov to a new contract, the Flyers had to release some salary. Just nobody expected them to release THIS much salary.

The moves started when Philly sent Carter to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Jake Voracek, the No. 8 pick in Friday's draft and a third-round selection as well.

The Carter deal itself wasn't surprising. A few weeks ago we noted a report that the Flyers had been discussing trading Carter with the Blue Jackets, but the biggest obstacle was Carter's massive contract, both in length (through 2020-21) and in dollar figures ($5.272 million per season). But if they were to sign Bryzgalov, who's rights they obtained from Phoenix earlier this month, they would have to clear space to get under the salary cap.

The Blue Jackets are clearly pleased with landing a scorer like Carter. “The Columbus Blue Jackets are very pleased and excited to acquire Jeff Carter,” GM Scott Howson said. “Jeff is a proven number one center in the National Hockey League and we look forward to him having many productive seasons as a Blue Jacket.”

Rick Nash in Columbus is the biggest beneficiary, and is understandably excited, telling Aaron Portzline at the Columbus Dispatch "We needed a guy like this. [Opponents] can't just key on one guy. The best teams have two guys. This is a huge help, not just for me but for the whole team." That is a line now that could realistically provide 75-85 goals next season for the Jackets.

It was the second move that came as a surprise and left people wondering what was GM Paul Holmgren's plan. Richards isn't known for being the most captain-like guy in the NHL and has another hefty contract ($5.75 million until 2019-20), but it seemed like the Flyers could sign Bryzgalov in clearing just one player, specifically Carter.

But this was a team that seemed like it was just a goaltender away, so getting rid of two offensive standouts begs the question if they aren't swinging too far in the other direction. Only time will tell, but it sure is hard for me to see the Flyers improved today. They are certainly still a favorite to make it into the playoffs, but did they chances at winning the Stanley Cup go up? I'm not sold the answer is yes.

"I just got home and I was surprised. You wouldn't think that those two guys would be leaving any time soon," Flyers forward Claude Giroux told Frank Saravali of the Philadelphia Daily News. "But I guess it's just part of the business. It's going to be a fresh start for both of those guys. For the rest of us, it's going to be a challenge. We still have a lot of veterans but different young guys are going to need to step up now."

The Kings, however, just got a lot tougher in the already competitive Pacific Division.

“We felt at this stage of the franchise it was time to make a significant move for an impact player," Kings GM Dean Lombardi said. Mike Richards is not only one of the top players in the league, he’s also universally recognized as one of the finer leaders in the game and one of its elite competitors. Additionally, given that he’s only 26-years-old and he’s on a long-term contract, he fits our plan now and for the long-term future.”

Bryzgalov will make an average of $5.67 million per season (the presumably front-loaded salary will pay as much as a reported $10 million) over the length of the contract, but at this point it's unsure how much room the Flyers will have under the cap to find some help to fill the offensive void left by Carter and Richards.

Betwen Carter and Richards, the Flyers are losing a combined 59 goals (36 for Carter last season, 23 for Richards) and 73 assists (30, 43 respectively). However, in return they get Voracek (14 goals, 32 assists) from Columbus and then Schenn (young center with just nine career games) and Simmonds (14/16 for the Kings last season).

-- Brian Stubits (A.J. Perez contributed to this report)

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl on Twitter or @BrianStubitsNHL

Posted on: March 28, 2011 2:08 am
Edited on: March 28, 2011 2:13 am
 

Vancouver's Hamhuis suffers another concussion

Vancouver Canucks Dan Hamhuis suffered his second concussion in less than two months Sunday, leaving the defenseman’s status for the postseason in doubt. 

Hamhuis and defensive partner Kevin Bieksa converged on Columbus Blue Jackets forward Rick Nash as he drove toward the net in the first period. All three players went down in the collision, but Hamhuis' head struck the ice hard. He remained on the ice for a few seconds and went directly to the locker room with the assistance of the team's trainer. 



Vancouver went on to beat the Blue Jackets, 4-1, for their 50th win on the season to inch closer to the franchise’s first Presidents’ Trophy, not that it seemed to be a priority for players after the game. 

"Obviously, that sucks and doesn't feel good," said Bieksa told The Province. "Let's hope it's not serious and he's back soon. And let's not read into that (retirement threat_ too much. Guys are emotional after a concussion. Give him some time and see how he feels."

This is his fourth concussion of his career. After his third suffered on Feb. 9, the 28-year-old said another would make him reassess things, The Province reported at the time: 

"If there is more (concussions) to come, I think you have to take a look at what is important," Hamhuis, the father of two, said after suffering a concussion last month when his head struck the glass on a heavy check by Ryan Getzlaf. "If I ever felt like it's like putting myself at risk long term, then I'll have to step back and think about things.”

Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault already lost center Manny Mahotra for the season with a an eye injury and forward Mikael Samuelsson has now missed three consecutive games with an undisclosed injury. 

“He’s been one of our best defensemen of the year with his steady play both offensively and defensively,” Vigneault told the Vancouver Sun. “It’s part of the game. It’s not our first injury and we’re going to play through it.”

-- A.J. Perez
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com