Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Rick Sadowski at NHL.com,
The Colorado Avalanche will need to tighten their defensive play for a return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after falling short last season. Overworked goalies Semyon Varlamov, Reto Berra and Calvin Pickard faced 40 or more shots on goal a combined 16 times, and they permitted four or more non-shootout goals 21 times.
The Avalanche also need to regain their swagger on offense. Their goal production fell from 250 to 219, the power play skidded from the fifth-best percentage in the NHL to 29th, and they were shut out eight times.
Game management and puck possession were other troublesome areas.
Here are three questions facing the Avalanche this season:
Did they do enough to improve a leaky defense? It remains suspect, but the additions of Francois Beauchemin and Nikita Zadorov should help. Beauchemin will be a stabilizing presence. He's 35 but logged major minutes with the Anaheim Ducks and will be expected to do the same while paired with Erik Johnson. Zadorov, 20, plays a physical game and his size (6-foot-5, 235 pounds) should make him a good partner for the puck-rushing Tyson Barrie.
via Rob Mixer of BlueJackets.com,
Typically, I don't deal in the hypothetical, but since there seems to be a bit of conversation about this player, we'll take a closer look. The first thing that comes to mind is the money: can the Blue Jackets sign Christian Ehrhoff at a salary number that fits under the cap? They have $3,728,693 in salary room (according to our friends at General Fanager), and assuming a short-term deal here, the agreed-upon amount would need to be a bit lower than that to afford the Blue Jackets some wiggle room throughout the season.
Let's say they sign Ehrhoff. Where does he fit? If I'm the coach (and thankfully for everyone reading, I'm not), he goes right into my top-four and is a top pair power play quarterback. But again, this situation is probably not close to a resolution and may not be for some time. Is there mutual interest? Multiple outlets have reported that to be the case, but as my made-up saying goes, 'it takes two to tango at a reasonable price so the team has salary maneuverability in case something inevitably happens along the way.'
from Evan Webster of the Herald News,
Three Nova Scotia NHL players got the star treatment Monday while having supper at Acadian Fish & Chips on Hammonds Plains Road.
Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, Colorado Avalanche centre Nathan MacKinnon and Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Andrew MacDonald dropped by the restaurant on their way back from a round of golf.
Restaurant manager Evelyn LeBlanc offered them a free meal.
“Sidney came to the counter, and I looked at him and said, ‘Are you who I think you are?’” she said.
“He just smiled and grinned at me, then said ‘Maybe.’ So I said, ‘Well, your meal is on the house.’”
LeBlanc said the players do a great job representing Nova Scotia, and that she was happy to feed them for free.
from Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post,
Roy, however, has long believed it's the players who set a winning tone in a locker room. One of the primary reasons the Avalanche signed 35-year-old defenseman Francois Beauchemin as a free agent is to establish an unwavering standard of professionalism with younger teammates.
"I don't believe we were a soft team, but I don't think we were a tough team to play against," Roy said. "I don't think anybody was coming into our building saying, 'Holy (expletive), tonight we have this guy from the Avs in our face,' " Roy said.
"Now, we know that Beauchemin is going to be a physical guy, Blake Comeau is going to be a physical guy and (Patrick) Bordeleau back healthy to be a physical guy. I think that's going to change our team a lot. It's going to bring the energy we were missing at times."
Many Avalanche fans hoped the team would sign Andrej Sekera or Paul Martin to help on defense. And know what? Roy bluntly admits he also wanted those players, but the Avs' refusal to offer more than a three-year contract to a free agent eliminated them in pursuit of Sekera, who signed for six years and $33 million with Edmonton, or Martin, who got four years and $19.4 million from San Jose.
from Terry Frei of The Denver Post,
Last week, word came that the Buffalo Sabres signed former Avalanche forward Ryan O'Reilly to a seven-year, $52.5 million contract extension that kicks in after he make $6.2 million this season and takes him through 2022-23. The deal calls for him to make $11 million in 2016-17 and slide down to $6 million in each of the final four years. The annual cap hit is $7.5 million.
O'Reilly is respected for his work ethic, which stacks up with that of anyone in the NHL. Fans, media and, most important, the Avalanche "got" that his contributions go far beyond the simply quantifiable. (No, I'm not stooping to citing analytics, but offering conclusions reached by actually watching him play.) Yet the virtually universal reaction to his departure has been: Good riddance. I'm not sure I've ever seen a player so respected told so universally to not let the door hit him on the way out....
O'Reilly already had been inordinately rewarded for his contributions. The salary benchmark was raised when the Calgary Flames signed him to an offer sheet — that involved organizational spite as much as coldhearted evaluation — but the Avalanche willingly went along with it by matching and then reaching a two-year, $12 million deal with him last year minutes in advance of an arbitration heading.
The Avalanche finally had enough.
from John Vogl of the Buffalo News,
Murray talked with O’Reilly’s agent after the trade.
“I walked over and introduced myself around the fifth pick or sixth pick,” Murray said in BB&T Center. “They got him on the phone and I spoke to him. I told them that I hoped we could start talking contract extension whenever we’re able to, and that’s July 1.”
The Denver Post reported Friday night that O’Reilly asked the Avs for an eight-year, $64 million extension.
“You know going in when you make a trade like this that negotiations are going to be starting a high number,” Murray said. “We’re fully prepared for that.”
The 6-foot, 210-pounder joins a center corps that includes Jack Eichel, Zemgus Girgensons and Sam Reinhart. O’Reilly won 53.4 percent of his faceoffs last season and will give a boost to the Sabres, who finished last in the category at 44.9 percent.
“His hockey sense is off the charts,” Murray said. “I think he makes everybody around him better. I love his work ethic on and off the ice. I love his compete level. There’s nothing I don’t like about him.
from Mike Chambers of the Denver Post,
added 7:29pm, Colorado release is below...
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
The Colorado Avalanche acquired the rights to pending unrestricted free agent center Carl Soderberg on Thursday, and it makes you wonder, if they can sign him, is it a pre-cursor to dealing away Ryan O'Reilly?
At least insurance, anyway.
"O’Reilly is in play, but they’ll want a boat load for him," said one rival NHL executive on Thursday evening.
Plus, you can’t imagine any team paying a boat load for O’Reilly unless they can sign him to a contract extension first. O’Reilly has one year left on his deal.
The Avs, meanwhile, didn’t waste any time trying to get Soderberg signed after acquiring his rights for a sixth-round pick from the Bruins, immediately commencing contract talks with agent J.P. Barry.
I doubt Soderberg is the last pending UFA to get dealt this weekend. Might as well get at least something for a player that’s walking away next week.
continued plus more player talk...
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