Top Line: Alternative NHL awards; final draft rankings; new SI.com; more

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Sean Monahan of the Calgary Flames

Calgary’s Sean Monahan deserves an award for his trenchant Twitter posts about his toaster and other key matters. (Icon SMI)

By Allan Muir

An annotated guide to this morning’s must-read hockey stories:

With this post, we bid a slightly misty adieu to the Home Ice blog. The all-new SI.com sports a fresh look that will offer both enhanced content and a more interactive approach to bring you all the latest news and hottest opinions from the world of hockey, including our daily Top Line compendium. We think you’ll dig it…but we couldn’t say goodbye without first saying thanks to all of you for following along, for supporting the blog and, occasionally, knocking it down a notch or two. We couldn’t have done it without you.

• On the eve of the NHL Awards ceremonies, here are a few alternative “honors” to consider. Glad to see Ville Leino picking up something other than his jock for a change.

• Jonathan Toews, Ryan Getzlaf and other NHLers who are in town for tonight’s awards ceremony (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN) weigh in on Las Vegas as a possible NHL expansion site. Sounds like they wouldn’t mind it at all. (s/t to Sharly Payne)

• Toews was in a talkative mood yesterday. Here he is on the state of his contract negotiations with the Blackhawks. Lots of speculation that he and Patrick Kane will sign identical deals to be announced on the same day.

• After flaming out in the second round, the Anaheim Ducks need to make a big splash this offseason. The trick for their trading partners will be to pry a couple of the organization’s talented prospects out of the hands of GM Bob Murray.

• TSN’s Bob McKenzie has released his final NHL Draft rankings. Pretty solid list, as always.

• Former referee Paul Stewart talks about his complicated relationship with the late Pat Burns and what it means to him to see the former coach finally admitted to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

• David Shoalts says it’s no coincidence that Burns finally made the grade after a pair of his ex-bosses were removed from the selection equation.

• Is Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli making the fatal mistake of overvaluing his roster? Michael Felger says a team that failed to get out of the second round needs more work than a fresh coat of paint.

Read More…


  • Published On Jun 24, 2014
  • Canadiens’ re-signing of veteran Andrei Markov shows they’re going for it

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    With his new contract, Andrei Markov will stay with the Habs for another three years. (Charles Laberge/SI)

    With his new contract, Andrei Markov will stay with the Habs for another three years. (Charles Laberge/SI)

    By Allan Muir

    I suppose it’s not too difficult to justify Monday’s decision by Montreal GM Marc Bergevin to re-sign Andrei Markov to a three-year, $17.25 million extension. The veteran defender enjoyed a solid season during which he produced 36 assists and 43 points–both top-20 numbers among blueliners–while leading the Habs in ice time (25:14).

    With Montreal coming off a surprising run to the Eastern Conference Finals, a decision to cut the 35-year-old from the equation in the name of fiscal sanity would suggest the Canadiens weren’t focused entirely on improving.

    But would letting Markov go really be a bad thing? Read More…


  • Published On Jun 23, 2014
  • Canucks capitalize on Penguins’ miscue, hire Willie Desjardins as head coach

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    Willie Desjardins has been hired as coach of the Vancouver Canucks

    Willie Desjardins brings a stellar resume and flexible approach to the Canucks. (John Rivera/Icon SMI)

    By Allan Muir

    In Dallas, he’ll be remembered as the guy who earned his shot.

    In Pittsburgh, he’ll be remembered as the one that got away.

    And in Vancouver? They hope Willie Desjardins will be the remembered as the guy who turned it all around.

    Desjardins (remember to pronounce the s at the end) was named this morning as the new head coach of the Canucks after a lengthy search to replace the failed experiment that was John Tortorella. And going by the skins on Desjardins’ wall, this looks like a brilliant hire.

    “Willie Desjardins has won at every level and we believe he’ll be an excellent fit as we strive to return to the playoffs and build with youth for long-term success,” Canucks general manager Jim Benning said on Monday. “Willie is a great teacher, motivator and communicator; his teams have competed with a style of play we believe will help us compete in our division and in the playoffs. With Willie’s leadership behind the bench we look forward to bringing back this team’s winning qualities and our fans’ passion and excitement for the Canucks.”

    Desjardins comes to Vancouver with a starry resume. He just led a moderately talented Texas club to the Calder Cup championship. The year before, he was the AHL’s coach of the year. Before joining Texas for the 2012-13 season, Desjardins coached the Medicine Hat Tigers for eight seasons, leading them to two Western Hockey League titles. He was on Canada’s staff for two World Junior tournaments and one World Championship.

    That’s a lot of talent for Dallas to give up, but it says two things about the organization: the Stars have full faith in Lindy Ruff as a long-term option behind the bench with the big club and they won’t stand in the way of anyone’s success.

    Read More…


  • Published On Jun 23, 2014
  • Blue Jackets dump R.J. Umberger on Flyers in trade for Scott Hartnell

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    R.J. Umberger of the Columbus Blue Jackets

    Former Flyer R.J. Umberger returns as a kind of Swiss Army knife role player. (Derik Hamilton/Icon SMI)

    By Allan Muir

    Apparently there was a market for R.J. Umberger after all. Either that or Jarmo Kekalainen is some kind of wizard.

    On Monday morning, the Columbus Blue Jackets GM avoided having to buy out the disgruntled forward, sending him along with a 2015 fourth-round pick to Philadelphia in exchange for Scott Hartnell.

    Yes, that’s exactly as lopsided as it sounds.

    Umberger had requested a trade after a series of healthy scratches late in the season left him at odds with coach Todd Richards. A lack of early interest in him  led to speculation that the Jackets might have to swallow his contract just to get the stink out of the room. Instead, Kekalainen was able to ditch his problem in exchange for a viable top-six winger with more consistent bite in his game and a proven ability to drive possession — an area where Umberger failed miserably.

    Granted, the 32-year-old Hartnell is trending toward the end of his career, but he has scored 20 or more goals in seven of the last eight full NHL seasons, including a pair of 30-goal campaigns. Last season, he went 20-32-52 with 103 penalty minutes in 78 games with the Flyers.

    The one downside for Columbus: Hartnell is signed through the 2018-19 season at $4.75 million per year. That’s a heavier cap burden than Umberger, who is at $4.6 through 2016-17, but still a fair trade-off for a productive, happy player. We assume that Hartnell is happy because he had a no-movement clause that he had to waive for the deal to go through.

    Read More…


  • Published On Jun 23, 2014
  • Top Line: Hall Fame to summon Class of 2014; torture for Sharks; more links

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    Eric Lindros and Dominik Hasek

    Eric Lindros, an on-the-fence candidate, may crash the Hall of Fame with shoo-in goalie Dominik Hasek. (AP)

    By Allan Muir

    An annotated guide to this morning’s must-read hockey stories:

    Dominik Hasek, Mike Modano and Peter Forsberg top the list of likely honorees as the Hockey Hall of Fame gets set to name its Class of 2014.

    Modano is a bundle of nerves as he awaits the call from the Hall.

    • Is this the year that Eric Lindros finally gets the call? There’d be some nice symmetry if he made the cut the same year that Forsberg–who was part of the trade that sent Lindros from Quebec to Philadelphia–earned his jacket.

    • Ron Cook writes that Penguins GM Jim Rutherford has made such a mess of his coaching search that Pittsburgh has become a laughingstock around the league. Rutherford clearly screwed up by offering a two-year deal to his top choice, Willie Desjardins, that gave the coach no authority to hire his own assistants. Now the Pens will have to pay more and commit longer to someone Rutherford wanted less than Desjardins. Not the best start to his tenure.

    Alex Ovechkin says he’s going to win the Rocket Richard Trophy again next year. So, I guess the rest of us can cross that one off our to-do lists, eh?

    • If the Ottawa Senators trade Jason Spezza, they’ll need to stitch a C onto someone else’ sweater. And the most likely candidate is…

    • Eric Duhatschek considers several key dates to watch on the newly-released NHL schedule, including a possible outdoor game in February featuring a Stanley Cup playoffs rematch.

    • And how about this cruel twist of the knife? When the Los Angeles Kings raise the Stanley Cup banner at their home opener, the team that has to sit through it will be the San Jose Sharks.

    Read More…


  • Published On Jun 23, 2014
  • Top Line: Penguins botch coach search; P.K. Subban hits up Tinder; more links

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    New Pittsburgh GM Jim Rutherford is already under fire for bungling the Pens' coach search. (Keith Srakocic/AP)

    New Pittsburgh GM Jim Rutherford is already under fire for bungling the Pens’ coach search. (Keith Srakocic/AP)

    By Allan Muir

    An annotated guide to this morning’s must-read hockey stories:

    • There’s no telling whether Willie Desjardins will be a great NHL coach, but we know this much: He doesn’t want one of the best jobs in hockey and it’s because of the bungling of new GM Jim Rutherford.

    • Here’s why he’s not a Penguin and here’s where he’s going instead.

    • Back to the Pens, here’s an outstanding video feature our own Michael Farber worked up for TSN on the 1983-84 Pittsburgh team that may have tanked to secure Mario Lemieux. Either way, it worked out pretty well for them, eh?

    • The New York Rangers decided it was time to rip off the band-aid and bought out the remainder of Brad Richards’ contract.

    • The Los Angeles Kings have finally made a decision on the future of fourth-line center Mike Richards. Will they use a compliance buyout to shed that massive cap hit?

    • Tanner Pearson was passed over his first time through the NHL draft and he went on to become a top-six forward for the Stanley Cup champion Kings. This year, teams have a chance to correct their 2013 oversight and snag massive forward Hunter Smith. That’s a good Windsor boy right there, so you know someone’s getting a beauty.

    Read More…


  • Published On Jun 21, 2014
  • Top Line: NHL free agent frenzy coming; Darryl Sutter’s best one-liners; more

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    Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu of the Anaheim Ducks.

    Finn-ito: Free agent Saku Koivu (right) will follow the retired Teemu Selanne (8) out of Anaheim. (Getty images)

    By Sarah Kwak

    An annotated guide to this morning’s must-read hockey stories:

    • According to the Canadian Press, the Washington Capitals will host the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2015 Winter Classic. The game will reportedly be played in Nationals Park.

    • Free agency is set to begin on July 1, and in a rather significant change, the NHL is now allowing teams and player agents to discuss “general parameters of a potential future contractual relationship” with other clubs’ restricted or unrestricted free agents during a specified interview period that begins next Wednesday. It could mean a slew of quick signings as soon as the green light goes on.

    • The Sharks have been talking about rebuilding and have already made some bold moves, including trading defenseman Dan Boyle’s rights to the Islanders. Speculation is that Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau will be the next to go. But is such housecleaning warranted or is San Jose just having a nervous breakdown? Tim Kawakami of the Mercury News thinks it may be the latter.

    • The Ducks are walking away from pending UFA forwards Saku Koivu, Daniel Winnik and goalie Jonas Hiller, according to GM Bob Murray. This could mean that Koivu will join fellow Finn Teemu Selanne in retirement. A bit of a shame, as Koivu deserves a better send-off.

    • That said, does this mean that Anaheim is plotting a big move to fill the hole at center? It is believed that the Ducks are a major contender in the Jason Spezza sweepstakes, but Senators GM Bryan Murray may hold out until he gets what he wants. “I don’t think when you trade a player of Jason’s calibre that you ever win,” he said. “I know that. I think we try to get the best return we can and if it’s not satisfactory we can’t do it.”

    • Let’s not forget, there may be another big center on the market: Ryan Kesler of the Canucks. And if he gets traded, my goodness, look at the salary cap space in Vancouver, especially after the presumed David Booth buyout.

    Kings Insider Jon Rosen has probably heard Darryl Sutter speak the most this year. So he put together this great compilation of the reticent, ultra-literal zen master’s best one-liners from the season.

    Read More…


  • Published On Jun 20, 2014
  • Top Line: Corsi complexity vexes GMs; coaching-candidate carousel; more

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    Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks skates against the Los Angeles Kings

    The San Jose Sharks may be rethinking their enthusiasm for advanced statistics. (Rocky Widner/Getty Images)

    By Sarah Kwak

    An annotated guide to this morning’s must-read hockey stories:

    •  Happy birthday, Jim Corsi. The former netminder, who is now goalie coach for the Blues, and the godfather of the NHL’s growing analytics movement, turns 60 today. Jonathan Willis of the Edmonton Journal explores how putting advanced stats to their best use isn’t always a simple thing for NHL teams.

    • Gary Bettman has long been the man fans love to hate, but former NHL ref Paul Stewart offers you a take on the human side of the Commish.

    • The Penguins should have a new coach by the end of next week. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist Dejan Kovacevic has put his support firmly behind Rangers assistant Ulf Samuelsson.

    •  While the Penguins search for a new coach, former bench boss Dan Bylsma’s name is among those being mentioned for the Canucks’ job. Vancouver GM Jim Benning has interviewed three other candidates, according to Sportsnet, and will question two more by week’s end.

    • Among the other candidates for the gig in Vancouver is Willie Desjardin, the coach of the AHL’s Texas Stars, who is fresh off a Calder Trophy triumph. In fact, the Canucks aren’t the only NHL team that’s interested in Desjardin. Pittsburgh has also received permission to talk to him.

    •  Why hasn’t Kings assistant John Stevens been on the coaching-candidate carousel? Well, because Los Angeles doesn’t want to give him up. They re-signed and promoted the one-time Flyers coach on Wednesday, leading some to believe that he may be Darryl Sutter’s successor.

    Read More…


  • Published On Jun 19, 2014
  • Buffalo Sabres send five prospects to Team USA World Junior summer camp

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    Buffalo Sabres prospect Hudson Fasching

    Sabres prospect Hudson Fasching was acquired from the L.A. Kings in a trade last March. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    By Allan Muir

    The rebuilding Buffalo Sabres are in for another rough ride next season, but days like today offer reassurance that better times lie ahead.

    The team learned on Wednesday that five of its prospects will attend Team USA’s World Junior summer evaluation camp in Lake Placid (Aug. 2-9), the most sent by any one NHL organization. Earning invites were defenseman Anthony Florentino (143rd overall, 2013) and forwards J.T. Compher (35th, ’13), Connor Hurley (38th, ’13), Hudson Fasching (138th, ’13) and Sean Malone (159th, ’13).

    Phoenix (two) and Florida (two) were the only other teams with multiple prospects on the list.

    The Americans have just one certain 2014 first rounder attending–power forward Michael McCarron is coming off a disappointing season with London (OHL) after being taken 25th overall last year by Montreal–but he likely won’t be the only one by the time next weekend’s draft plays out. The camp roster includes 17 players who are eligible for selection this year, including likely first rounders such as forwards Alex Tuch, Sonny Milano, Dylan Larkin, and Nick Schmaltz, plus blueliner Jack Dougherty. A pair of 2015 eligibles–forward Jack Eichel and defenseman Brandon Carlo–and Auston Matthews, a 16-year-old right wing who is eligible for the 2016 draft, will also attend.

    Read More…


  • Published On Jun 18, 2014
  • Detroit Red Wings waive Jordin Tootoo, setting up compliance buyout

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    Jordin Tootoo of the Detroit Red Wings

    Ten-year veteran Jordin Tootoo may be on his way out of more than just Detroit. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

    By Allan Muir

    It looks like Jordin Tootoo will be the next to join the pay-to-go-away club.

    According to Hockey Night In Canada’s Elliotte Friedman, the rambunctious Red Wing has been placed on waivers and will have the remainder of his contract bought out.

    No one should be surprised by this long-rumored decision. The Wings tried to find a taker for the veteran winger, but no one was willing to assume the final year of a deal that’s set to earn him $1.9 million.

    The Wings originally signed Tootoo in 2012, but he never quite fit on the roster–or earned the trust of coach Mike Babcock. He spent most of this past season with AHL Grand Rapids, going viral while playing 51 games in the minors as opposed to only 11 in Detroit, where he earned one assist and five penalty minutes.

    It’s possible that Tootoo hooks on somewhere else as a fourth-line winger at a commensurate salary–Winnipeg, near where he played his junior hockey in Brandon is a possibility–but his lack of foot speed and scoring touch means that this could be the end of his NHL career.

    Canucks ditch Booth, Sabres slash Leino | Two Richards among top buyout candidates


  • Published On Jun 18, 2014


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