Monthly Archives: July 2017

Pen, Conor Sheary avoids arbitration with a 3-year, $ 9 million deal

The Pittsburgh Penguins agreed to a three-year contract with forward Conor Sheary on Sunday to avoid arbitration.

The contract has an average annual value of $3 million, the team announced.

Sheary, 25, scored two goals and an assist in the Stanley Cup Final against the Nashville Predators. He had 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) in 45 playoff games the past two seasons, helping the Penguins win back-to-back Stanley Cup titles.

In two seasons with the Penguins, Sheary has 63 points in the regular season (30 goals, 33 assists). Last season in 61 games he had 23 goals and 30 assists in 61 games.

Bruins, Ryan Spooner avoid arbitration with a one-year, $ 2.8 million deal

BOSTON — The Bruins and center Ryan Spooner avoided arbitration on the day of their hearing, agreeing to a one-year, $2,825,000 deal on Wednesday.

The 25-year-old Spooner became a restricted free agent on July 1, after finishing a two-year contract that was worth $950,000 per season.

Spooner said he didn’t want to go through the hearing because it’s “not a pleasant thing” and he didn’t think the Bruins wanted to participate, either. He’s the 24th player to settle this summer without a hearing after filing for arbitration.

Spooner can be a restricted free agent again next summer.

“For me, I’m going to spin that into a positive and say that I’m going to take that as a challenge to have a good year and show that I can be the player that they want me to be,” Spooner said during a conference call. “And then on the [other] side too, it kind of just shows that they need to see a little bit more out of me as a player. There’s a lot of things that I can also bring to the table that I need to work on.”

He had 11 goals and 28 assists in 78 games last season, his second full season in the NHL. He has 32 goals and 85 assists in 214 regular-season NHL games.

“I think the next step that I need to make is when the offense kind of dries up, I need to be able to be more of a dependable, defensive guy,” Spooner said. “And if that’s strength or kind of the mental side of the game, that’s kind of for me to figure out.

“I think the biggest strive that I can make is show that I can be trusted and bring some grit to my game.”

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney, who protected Spooner as one of Boston’s seven forwards in the Vegas Golden Knights’ expansion draft in June and retained his services even after Spooner filed for arbitration, echoed Spooner’s thoughts about his game.

“We know Ryan has the offensive skills to be an impactful player, especially while on the power play,” Sweeney said in a statement. “We expect Ryan to continue to take the necessary steps with his development to be an even more complete two-way player.”

Sweeney has signed all but one of his restricted free agents this offseason. Forward David Pastrnak, who was second on the Bruins with 34 goals and 70 points, doesn’t have a contract or arbitration rights. The Bruins have around $10 million in projected salary cap space remaining.

Zibanejad, Rangers agree to terms on five-year contract

Mika Zibanejad

 

Center Mika Zibanejad agreed to terms with the New York Rangers on a five-year contract with an average annual value of $5.35 million on Tuesday.

The sides came together the same day Zibanejad, a restricted free agent, was scheduled to have an arbitration hearing in Toronto.

“Obviously it was something we hoped was going to happen,” the 24-year-old said. “I’m super happy a deal got done. I’m super happy to be staying in New York for the next five years and I’m really, really looking forward to next season.”

This season presents an opportunity for Zibanejad to play as a No. 1 center in the NHL, an opening created when Derek Stepan and goalie Antti Raanta were traded by the Rangers to the Arizona Coyotes for defenseman Anthony DeAngelo and the No. 7 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft on June 23.

“Even before signing, seeing Derek being traded was a little bit of an alert to me that I might get a chance to play a bigger role,” Zibanejad said. “I don’t think there’s a single guy out there that would say ‘No’ to an opportunity like this. I’m super, super happy and excited about next season. You always want to improve whatever situation you might be in. You always want to be better than last season or your last game. I’m super pumped and excited for this upcoming season.

“There’s always been moments when you feel like you can take your game to the next level and that’s what I’m working on here in the summer, trying to do all the things I can do to prepare myself for this opportunity.”

The Rangers will open training camp in September with a different look at center. Stepan and fourth-line center Oscar Lindberg (Vegas Golden Knights) are gone, which leaves a projected depth chart of Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes, David Desharnais and Cristoval Nieves. Versatile forward J.T. Miller could see time at center, and first-round pick Lias Andersson, 18, impressed during development camp and is expected to get a long look.

That leaves Zibanejad to handle a heavier burden after playing as a No. 2 and 3 center with the Ottawa Senators and Rangers.

“As a player, you always want more responsibility and a bigger role,” Zibanejad said. “It’s something I’m working really hard to make sure I’m taking advantage of the chance I’m getting.”

Chosen by the Senators with the sixth pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, Zibanejad was traded to the Rangers for center Derick Brassard on July 18, 2016. He had 37 points (14 goals, 23 assists) in 56 games last season (an NHL career-high 0.66 points per game), missing almost two months because of a broken fibula, and had nine points (two goals, seven assists) in 12 Stanley Cup Playoff games before New York was eliminated by Ottawa in the Eastern Conference Second Round.

“As a group, we’re obviously disappointed with how the season ended last year,” Zibanejad said. “We had a good group and a good team to go further than we did. I’m really excited about our team and our chances to do better this year.”

Fantasy Face: Jonathan Drouin and Taylor Hall

Jonathan Drouin vs. Taylor Hall

 

All offseason long, NHL.com will cover all the angles leading up to your fantasy hockey draft. For some of the most compelling debates, our fantasy staffers will compare two players at a given position in the same projected draft range.

Value is quantified based on factors including (but not limited to) line combinations, power-play usage, team goalie situations, injury history, bounce-back, breakout or sleeper potential, possible regression and age. Once each writer has made his argument, fans can cast their votes in our @NHLFantasy Twitter poll.

Today, we compare left wings Jonathan Drouin of the Montreal Canadiens and Taylor Hall of the New Jersey Devils:

PETE JENSEN: Drouin, 22, is coming off NHL career highs in four of the six standard fantasy categories; he had 21 goals, 32 assists, 26 power-play points and 183 shots on goal for the Tampa Bay Lightning last season. After center Steven Stamkos sustained a season-ending knee injury Nov. 15, Drouin stepped up to score 48 points (19 goals, 29 assists) in 63 games. Drouin, the No. 3 pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, remained in a second-line role but thrived on the Lightning’s first power-play unit with two top 25 fantasy finishers, right wing Nikita Kucherov and defenseman Victor Hedman. We finally got a glimpse of Drouin’s fantasy potential after a mostly disappointing and controversial start to his NHL career.

Now, Drouin has a chance to take another step forward after being traded to the Canadiens on June 15. Drouin has a real chance to challenge left wing Max Pacioretty for the Montreal scoring lead whether he continues playing wing or is shifted to center. Drouin didn’t have strong even-strength linemates for much of his tenure in Tampa Bay, so he could improve at 5-on-5 if he lands with center Alex Galchenyuk or on the opposite wing of Pacioretty. There are some glaring concerns, no doubt; the Canadiens could move Galchenyuk to wing, have weak center depth as it is, and lost right wing Alexander Radulov to the Dallas Stars in free agency. But Drouin’s fantasy upside as the focal point of the Canadiens offense and power play is very appealing in the sixth or seventh round of a 12-team draft.

Drouin still brings exposure to high-end fantasy assets Pacioretty and defenseman Shea Weber after being traded. The same cannot be said about Hall in New Jersey, at least in the short term. Drouin should have a heavy enough workload to reach at least 60 points and 200 SOG for the first time in his NHL career, and is likely to improve his plus/minus on a strong defensive team with an elite goaltender like Carey Price. Hall, who’s more than three years older than Drouin, has not had more than 17 PPP in any of the past five seasons and has taken steps back since scoring 80 points for the Edmonton Oilers four seasons ago. Each left wing comes with concerns, but Drouin’s breakout potential should be the overriding factor when comparing the two.

BEN ZWEIMAN: Many would consider Hall’s first season with the Devils a disappointment. He had 53 points (20 goals, 33 assists) and was minus-9 with 32 penalty minutes, 15 PPP and 238 SOG. Those numbers weren’t good enough to land Hall among the top 100 in Yahoo fantasy hockey last season, but there were plenty of encouraging signs. He was productive despite playing for the third-worst offense in the NHL (2.20 goals per game). Had Hall not missed 10 games because of knee surgery, he likely would have finished with 60 points for a second straight season and had a chance to surpass his previous NHL career high of 286 SOG from 2015-16. He had the third-highest PPP total of his NHL career despite New Jersey ranking 22nd in PP percentage (17.5). Should the Devils improve — which appears likely — Hall can return to being one of the top left wings in fantasy.

Among the reasons New Jersey should improve its offense this season are the additions of multiple talented forwards. Most notably is center Nico Hischier, the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. The 18-year-old will bring skill and playmaking ability to an offense starved for such a player, and he could play center on the top line with Hall or play with him on the power play. The Devils also acquired forward Marcus Johansson in a trade from the Washington Capitals. The 26-year-old set NHL career highs in goals (24), points (58) and plus/minus (plus-25) for the Capitals last season. Johansson should boost the power play, having scored 19 points (five goals, 14 assists) on the man-advantage in 2016-17. The Devils will surround Hall, the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, with much more talent and speed to suit his strengths this season.

A change of scenery isn’t always a good thing. Drouin had a breakout season in 2016-17, seeing increased playing time with Stamkos missing 65 games. The Lightning have a far superior roster compared to the Canadiens, featuring a deeper forward group that includes Kucherov, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Brayden Point, and a defense group that is led by Hedman. Drouin will get every opportunity to succeed in Montreal but will be under scrutiny and immense pressure in one of the top markets in the NHL. He also has to deal with a new coach in Claude Julien, who may not give Drouin the playing time or role everyone expects. Ultimately, Hall is the more proven player, and the Devils’ improved roster suggests he should rebound and outperform Drouin.

Lehner signed a one-year contract with Sabres

Robin Lehner

 

Goaltender Robin Lehner signed a one-year contract worth $4 million with the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday.

Lehner was a restricted free agent and was scheduled to have an arbitration hearing in Toronto on Thursday.

Lehner, who turned 26 on Monday, set NHL career highs in games (59), starts (58), wins (23) and shutouts (two) with the Sabres last season. He was 23-26-8 with a 2.68 goals-against average and .920 save percentage.

Selected in the second round (No. 46) of the 2009 NHL Draft by the Ottawa Senators, Lehner has played 166 NHL games (155 starts) and is 58-71-26 with a 2.76 GAA, a .918 save percentage and five shutouts with the Sabres and Senators.

Find the target Sharks after Marleau left

San Jose SharksAfter the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, NHL.com is taking a look at where each team stands. Today, the San Jose Sharks:

After 19 seasons with the San Jose Sharks, forward Patrick Marleau left as an unrestricted free agent and signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs on July 2.

Marleau’s departure will oblige the Sharks to make changes on one of the most durable power-play units in recent NHL history. Auditions for his position will open in training camp, and it is expected coach Peter DeBoer will try any number of options.

The Sharks coaxed center Joe Thornton, 38, into staying after he, like Marleau, received free-agent overtures from a number of teams. San Jose also signed two core members — defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic and goaltender Martin Jones — to long-term contract extensions, keeping them off the free agent market next year.

San Jose believes that a replacement for Marleau’s offense can be found from within. The hope is forwards Mikkel Boedker and Jannik Hansen can find some chemistry if they can play together for a full season. They also must figure out if Tomas Hertl is a third-line center or first-line left wing.

Here is what the Sharks look like today:

Key arrivals

Brandon Bollig, F: A Stanley Cup winner with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013, Bollig played last season for Stockton of the American Hockey League, the Calgary Flames’ affiliate. He had 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists) in 60 AHL games and provided leadership and physical play. The Sharks signed him as a free agent to a one-year, two-way contract reportedly worth $650,000 on July 4. … Antoine Bibeau, G: Signed out of the Maple Leafs’ system on a one-year, two-way contract reportedly worth $650,000 on July 1, Bibeau played in two NHL games last season and gives the Sharks depth behind Jones and Aaron Dell. Bibeau played 32 games with Toronto of the AHL and went 13-14-5 with a 3.08 goals-against average. The Sharks signed him as a free agent after the Maple Leafs did not tender a qualifying offer.

Key departures

Patrick Marleau, LW: The Sharks’ all-time leader in games (1,493), goals (508), points (1,082), power-play goals (160), shorthanded goals (17), game-winning goals (98) and shots on goal (3,798) signed a three-year, $18.75 million contract (average annual value $6.25 million) with the Maple Leafs. He had 46 points (27 goals, 19 assists) in 82 games last season. … David Schlemko, D: Selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL Expansion Draft on June 21, he was traded the next day to the Montreal Canadiens for a fifth-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. He had 18 points (two goals, 16 assists) in 62 games with the Sharks last season and averaged 16:44 of ice time. … Mirco Mueller, D: The No. 18 pick in the 2013 NHL Draft was traded with a fifth-round pick in 2017 to the New Jersey Devils for two draft picks on June 17. Mueller had one goal and one assist in two games with the Sharks last season and had 20 points (two goals, 18 assists) in 62 games with San Jose of the AHL.

On the cusp

Marcus Sorensen, RW: Another player who spent more time in the AHL last season, Sorensen, 25, played 19 NHL regular-season games (one goal, three assists) and six Stanley Cup Playoff games (one goal, one assist), a sign he may be ready for a greater role. He was chosen by the Ottawa Senators in the fourth round (No. 106) in 2010 and signed with the Sharks as a free agent on May 13, 2016. … Ryan Carpenter, F: At 26, he’s a bit older than up-and-comers such as 20-year-old forward Timo Meier, San Jose’s first-round pick (No. 9) in the 2015 NHL Draft. But Carpenter, who was undrafted, is expected to compete for a roster spot. He played 11 games with the Sharks last season and had four points (two goals, two assists). He has 94 points (32 goals, 62 assists) in his past two AHL seasons. … Tim Heed, D: The Swedish defenseman, 26, was selected by the Anaheim Ducks in the fifth round (No. 132) of the 2010 NHL Draft. He signed with San Jose on May 20, 2016, after his NHL rights were not retained by the Ducks. Heed had 56 points (14 goals, 42 assists) in 55 AHL games last season. He did not have a point in his NHL debut on Jan. 11.

What they still need

More scoring and additional depth on defense. Marleau’s departure took 27 goals out of a lineup that ranked 19th in the NHL last season. Defenseman Brent Burns, forward Joe Pavelski and center Logan Couture each scored at least 25 goals, but after that, production fell off dramatically to forwards Chris Tierney and Melker Karlsson, who each scored 11. With Schlemko gone, there is a top-six opening at defenseman; if San Jose can’t fill it externally, there will be an opportunity for Heed or Dylan DeMelo.

Pete Jensen’s fantasy focus

Marleau’s longtime spot on the Sharks’ first power-play unit is up for grabs. That opening alongside Burns, Pavelski, Thornton and Couture is prime fantasy real estate that could lead to a bounce-back season for Hertl or Boedker, or a breakout season for Joonas Donskoi. Marleau, who turns 38 on Sept. 15, had 16 power-play points last season even with San Jose’s offensive regression.

Sign a one-year contract with Canadians

Mark StreitDefenseman Mark Streit signed a one-year contract with the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday. It is worth $700,000 plus performance bonuses, according to CapFriendly.com.

Streit, 39, was selected by the Canadiens in the ninth round (No. 262) of the 2004 NHL Draft and played three seasons for them (2005-08).

“This is a good contract for me,” Streit said. “The most important thing for me was being able to play for Montreal. I started with the Canadiens, I had three incredible years. The money wasn’t the most important thing for me, it was more important for me to come back to Montreal and be [with the Canadiens] again.”

Goaltender Carey Price and forward Tomas Plekanec are still with the Canadiens from Streit’s first time with them, and coach Claude Julien, who was hired by the Canadiens on Feb. 14, was Streit’s first NHL coach.

“I know a few guys on the team,” Streit said. “Carey Price is still there, [Tomas] is still there, those are two good friends of mine. So I’m excited to go back and meet the new players, the younger guys. I’m really thrilled and really proud to be a Canadien again.”

Streit had 27 points (six goals, 21 assists) with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers last season. The Penguins acquired him March 1 in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning, who acquired him in a trade with the Flyers earlier that day. He had two assists in three Stanley Cup Playoff games and won the Cup with Pittsburgh.

He has 434 points (96 goals, 338 assists) in 784 NHL games with the Penguins, Flyers, New York Islanders and Canadiens.

“I started playing in the NHL when I was 27,” Streit said. “My passion is still there. I want to play as long as possible. I’m still a pretty good power-play player. That was my biggest asset 12 years ago, and it still is.”