Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun,
With all the other question marks surrounding the Maple Leafs heading into this summer, add the contractual status of their No. 1 goalie.
Jonathan Bernier hopes to land a long-term deal, but approaching restricted free agency, the club has exercised its option for salary arbitration for 2015-16. Bernier’s numbers last year were down as the Leafs’ second-half collapse consumed him as well as other players.
The Leafs don’t have any in-house options other than coming back with Bernier and James Reimer and because they chose arbitration, they have no walkaway option if the decision goes against them.
So it’s unlikely something won’t be ironed out before an actual arbitration hearing takes place in July or early August. A two- to three-year deal may also result, but the dollar value is in question as the shine came off Bernier after he debuted in 2013-14 with 26 wins and a .923 save percentage. That was the highest in team records since the stat was introduced in the early 1980s, but underlined a poor team defence in front of him.
A year short of being a UFA, Bernier made $5.8 million US on his past two-year deal, more than half of it in Year 2 when he won less games and had a drop in save percentage.
continue for more on the Leafs...
via the Toronto Maple Leafs,
The Toronto Maple Leafs announced today that the hockey club has acquired forward Zach Hyman and a conditional seventh round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft from the Florida Panthers in exchange for forward Greg McKegg.
Hyman, 23, was a First Team All-American and First Team All-Big Ten selection after leading the Big Ten with 54 points (22 goals, 32 assists) while playing for the University of Michigan last season. He was also named a top ten finalist for the Hobey Baker Award. In 152 games with Michigan, Hyman recorded 89 points (35 goals, 54 assists) and 42 penalty minutes. In 2011, he was named the Canadian Junior Hockey League Player of the Year after collecting 102 points in 43 games with the Hamilton Red Wings (OJHL). The Toronto, Ontario native was originally selected in the fifth round (123rd overall) of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
from James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail,
With the NHL draft a week from Friday in South Florida, trade talk has begun to heat up, and there are at least four Leafs in those conversations. Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf are the headliners, but Leafs president Brendan Shanahan and Co. will also be trying to move Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak, who both have three troubling years remaining on their deals.
All four have limited no-trade clauses, which obviously complicates matters, especially given Kessel’s has only eight teams he will allow a deal to. All four also have sizable salaries in a year in which the salary cap is expected to go up less than 3 per cent.
The Leafs cap situation is another wrinkle. They have about $50-million committed, in a year when the NHL’s salary floor will be set at just under $54-million.
New contracts for Bernier and Kadri will bring Toronto closer to $60-million, but if they start moving high-priced players, they’re going to have a ridiculous amount of money to spend on … who knows? Combined, Kessel, Phaneuf, Lupul and Bozak make $24.5-million – or half of what the Leafs currently have on the books.
So Shanahan has plenty of flexibility here. He won’t be forced into bad deals to get rid of these contracts right away, even if that’s the long-term plan.
from Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun,
What happens when three legendary broadcasters, who have been at centre ice to call six decades of Maple Leafs hockey, meet for a beer in a team-themed man cave?
Some of the best stories you’ll ever hear, even though most don’t end with Toronto winning the Stanley Cup the past 48 years.
Brian McFarlane, Joe Bowen and Jiggs McDonald entertained guests on Wednesday night at the home of “Ultimate Leaf Fan’” Mike Wilson, whose downtown residence holds the largest private collection of Leafs memorabilia. The Sun picked some favourites:...
McFarlane and Bowen knew the golden rule at the Gardens: Never rile Harold Ballard.
“He and King Clancy were in the bunker listening to everything you said,” McFarlane recalled. “So you had to be very cautious or you’d be finding other ways to pay the mortgage.”
Bowen and the combustible Ballard coexisted for the most part, but Bowen resented the owner’s rule that broadcasters couldn’t fly or bus with the team as other clubs allowed.
“We had to stand outside Chicago Stadium in a blizzard trying to get a cab, which was absolutely impossible,” Bowen recounted. “Harold would go by us on the warm team bus and give you a little wave.”
In the late 1980s, going commercial also meant Bowen and Watters would share flights with Yolanda MacMillan, Ballard’s on again/off again girlfriend as she pursued him on road trips. MacMillan never travelled light, so Bowen and Watters ended up as her luggage porters.
from Bob McKenzie of TSN,
- There's going to be considerable (trade) speculation, obviously, about the futures of Phil Kessel and many more Maple Leafs leading up to the draft.
Toronto is looking to rebuild and the Leafs' veteran core players will generate varying degrees of interest. Most of them have limited no trade clauses.
Kessel's limited NTC is believed to include eight teams he can be traded to. Prior to the trade deadline, TSN reported those eight teams were believed to be: Boston; Chicago; Los Angeles; Minnesota; Montreal; New York Rangers; Philadelphia; and Pittsburgh.
But that doesn't preclude the possibility of the Leafs finding a suitable deal with a team not on the list and asking the player to amend the list. Also, with each new contract year, it's believed a new list can be submitted by the player so the list can change from year to year. The contract year expires June 30.
- The 2015 unrestricted free agent class is not perceived to have a lot of marquee value, especially as it pertains to forwards, but there does appear to be keen interest in what looks like an intriguing list of defencemen.
Amongst those expected to be available on July 1 are: Pittsburgh's Paul Martin and Christian Ehrhoff; Los Angeles's Andrej Sekera; Chicago's Johnny Oduya; and, Washington's Mike Green, amongst others.
from Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun,
You didn’t expect this to be easy, did you?
You didn’t think this young, brash Tampa Bay Lightning team was simply going to come into the deafening home barn of the mighty Chicago Blackhawks and win back-to-back games in this best-of-seven 2015 Stanley Cup final, did you?
Maybe you didn’t? But the Jon Cooper-led Lightning certainly did.
And they showed it, too, dominating the hosts in the first period, one in which Chicago registered just two shots on rookie Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.
But these Hawks always seem to play their best when their backs are against the proverbial wall. And Wednesday night, faced with going down 3-1 in the series with a loss, Chicago did what it does best — pushed back.
With captain Jonathan Toews scoring his first goal of the final, the Hawks rebounded from their poor opening minutes to register a 2-1 victory, evening the series at 2-2 heading into Game 5 Saturday in Tampa.
The win means this now becomes a best-of-three series in the quest for hockey’s Holy Grail. It also guarantees one more tilt at the raucous United Center, with Game 6 going Monday in Chicago.
Catch the game highlights below...
from Geoff Lowe of Sportsnet,
After coaching in the NHL for 19 straight seasons, Wilson hasn’t been behind the bench since 2012 when he was fired by the Maple Leafs after three-plus seasons in Toronto. After that stint in T.O., the newest coach of the United States National junior team is all too familiar with the pressures that come with the gig.
So what advice would Wilson offer new Leafs coach Mike Babcock?
“I’d just tell him what you have to worry about is keeping everything as tight and as close as you can,” Wilson said on Tuesday’s Dean Blundell & Co. on Sportsnet 590 The FAN. “He’s got to make sure the players communicate with the media, that’s the biggest problem they have in Toronto.”
The overload of media attention is just one of the many things Babcock will be facing as he begins his tenure with the Blue and White. Another is dealing with the team’s core of players — most notably captain Dion Phaneuf and top forward Phil Kessel — a group that struggled mightily over the final weeks of 2015-16 regular season.
“I think they’re going to have to make an adjustment to how Mike (Babcock) demands accountability from everybody,” Wilson answered when asked which players will struggle under Babcock. “And I think anybody who’s a little leery of that might struggle.”
from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,
The template for Brendan Shanahan is found right here — in the rosters, methods and good fortunes of the two-time Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks and the building of an eventual champion, Tampa Bay Lightning.
They didn’t become contenders without first bottoming out, without cashing in on early draft picks, without utilizing their American Hockey League teams to develop talent, without strategically using free agency to finalize spots and touch up the roster and without patience.
Lots of patience.
“We didn’t really set a timeline on it,” said Steve Yzerman, general manager of the Lightning, talking about his five-year run on the job.
“I wouldn’t want to put myself in that position of a time-frame because then I’d be held to it.
“We just felt at the time we’re going to try to draft well, look to free agency where we can to try to expedite the process a little bit.
from Joe McDonald of ESPN,
Nathan Horton has his good days and his bad days.
On Friday, he’s celebrating his 30th birthday with family and friends, and his wish is to some day be healthy enough to resume his NHL career.
Horton has been dealing with a degenerative back injury that has kept him sidelined since April 2014. He missed all of last season and the Columbus Blue Jackets traded him to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 26 in exchange for forward David Clarkson.
“Yeah, I’m doing all right. I’m living my life,” he told ESPN.com. “Obviously, my back’s not great but I have my good days, and some OK days. I’m just taking it easy. Eventually it’s going to go away -- I hope. I’m just enjoying my life. I’m healthy and I’m happy. It’s obviously tough because I want to play. It’s only my 30th birthday today, so I know I’m still young. Life gives you curveballs and I’m just trying to be positive and that’s pretty much all I can do.”
from Scott Feschuk of Sportsnet,
“You don’t win without good people, and we’re going to have good people.”
Surely it was a surreal experience for current Leafs players to listen to Babcock’s remarks. He rarely spoke more than a couple dozen words before circling back to his key message: The Leafs, as currently constituted, bite the big one. He really rubbed their faces in it: “Long journey . . . a hard spot . . . there’s pain coming . . . massive, massive challenge.” One can only imagine what players were thinking.
Dion Phaneuf: “I better get to the gym!”
Nazem Kadri: “I better start packing my bags!”
Phil Kessel: “Man, this hammock is super comfy!”
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
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