Martin Rose/Getty Images Europe
Martin Rose/Getty Images Europe

As Blick journalist Stephan Roth reported yesterday evening, Genève-Servette star Kaspars Daugavins could find his way back into the NHL next season with the Buffalo Sabres.

Daugavins has had quite the season this year. Just months before Latvia’s impressive run at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, where they almost took down Canada in the quarter-finals (he missed the game due to an illness), Daugavins had a strong performance at the 2013 Spengler Cup in his team’s eventual tournament winning run. In 45 games this season in the NLA, Daugavins has posted 19 goals and 45 points.

If the deal ever does in fact become official, it will act as somewhat of a reunion for the former Boston Bruins/Ottawa Senators forward. The Sabres are currently coached by Latvian national coach Ted Nolan, one of the major elements in the success of the team throughout the past few years. It will be interesting to see how the GSHC forward reacts to playing under his former boss. Hopefully, Nolan will be able to rejuvenate Daugavins’ NHL’s career, which only has 15 points in 91 career games to his credit.

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Roberto Luongo (right) follows Eddie Lack (left) to the locker room. (Photo by Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA Today)

Vancouver Canucks head coach John Tortorella made a stunning goaltending decision prior to Sunday afternoon’s Heritage Classic against the Ottawa Senators at BC Place. Tortorella told Eddie Lack he would be the starter.

“I have to make decisions each and every time right now, with such short strokes, on what’s going to give us the best chance to win,” Canucks coach John Tortorella told reporters after the game. “Eddie was playing lights out in the games he’s played. He has been very good all year long. He deserved to play this game.

“This is part of the business.”

A disappointed Roberto Luongo had to watch his team lose 4-2.

Fans were not happy with the decision, as well. After Cody Ceci gave the Senators a 3-2 lead at 10:11 in the second period, fans began chanting, “We want Lu! We want Lu!”

Reporters asked Luongo how he felt on not being able to play the day before. He was honest, saying, “I don’t want to start going through this whole thing again.”

His thoughts after the game didn’t change. In obvious heartbreak, he told the media, “Sorry guys, I’m not talking.”

There is no question that Luongo wants a secure starting job in another city. He has done just about everything he can in British Columbia to prove himself. When describing the Luongo situation, the word “unfair” comes to mind.

At the trade deadline last season, he had his heart set on being moved for the remainder of the season and so on. However, general manager Mike Gillis was unable to move him because not one team was open to taking on his contract. At the press conference following morning skate, Luongo stated, “My contract sucks.

“That’s what the problem is . . . it’s more honestly a hit on your pride that teams aren’t willing to give up much.”

In 2009, Luongo signed a 12-year, $64 million contract at the age of 30.

Not many teams are willing to take on that contract, but that is just something Luongo will have to unfortunately deal with for the rest of his career unless the Canucks decide to buy it out. There has to be a sense of respect for him because, unlike many professional athletes who put money before performing, he would rather be on the ice than making millions every season sitting on the bench during big-time situations.

The NHL’s Trade Deadline is Wednesday at 3pm EST. Luongo will be kept an eye on, but it is still far fetched that a team is ready to pay $5.3 million contract annually for his services.

According to Syracuse.com reporter Lindsay Kramer, Riku Helenius has agreed to report back to the ECHL, just days after getting suspended for breaching his contract.

Earlier in the week,Tampa Bay reporter Erik Erlendsson revealed some interesting news:

Riku Helenius, the one-time first round pick, informed the Florida Everblades of the East Coast Hockey League on Wednesday that he was leaving the team to return home to Finland, thereby resulting in a suspension from the Lightning for breach of contract.

With usual Syracuse Crunch goaltender Cedrick Desjardins and Kristers Gudlevskis on their way to Montreal to fill in with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Crunch were forced to sign journeyman AHLer Allen York and Central Hockey League puck stopper Grant Rollheiser to fill in. Rollheiser was unable to make it in time due to travel issues, leaving the team to sign 46 year old emergency backup John Parks to sit on the bench.

But what about Helenius, a long time prospect with the team? Well, on Wednesday, it was reported that the Finnish netminder had left the ECHL’s Florida Everblades without permission, leaving the team no choice but to suspend him for breaching the terms of his contract.

Yikes.

On Monday, Helenius agreed to return to the ECHL for at least the time being, but the Everblades weren’t interested. With the team already committed to former NHL draft picks Connor Knapp and Trevor Cann, the roster spot isn’t available for a third goaltender. Lightning assistant general manager Julien BriseBois said he is trying to find room for the goalie elsewhere, likely in the ECHL, but a team has yet to been found.

When Gudlevskis leaves to play for Latvia in the Olympics later this week, BriseBois said Desjardins will return to Syracuse to team up with York, who will likely get released once the Olympics are over. All this makes a return to Syracuse highly unlikely for Helenius, minus an unforeseen injury. He struggled with the Crunch in an early stint last month, going 2-3-0 with a 3.43 GAA and .875 SP in five games. 

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Thomas Vanek’s future with the New York Islanders doesn’t appear to have any longevity attached to it.

According to Newsday’s Arthur Staple, his sources indicate the 30-year-old goal scorer has turned down a “substantial” contract offer from the Islanders.

His tenure with the club hasn’t been for too long, as the team acquired Vanek from the Buffalo Sabres back in late October in exchange for forward Matt Moulson and a first round draft pick.

Vanek’s ability to consistently put up strong offensive numbers anywhere he goes will make him a huge trade chip once March 5th rolls around. He has looked sharp this season, scoring 15 goals and added points to date with the Islanders. While the Islanders may be left without the top player from the early blockbuster, it will be interesting to see if the GM Garth Snow will be able to translate the high profile winger into major stepping stones in their pursuit of rebuilding.

The Minnesota Wild have been rumored to be the favorite team in the Vanek sweepstakes, even before his trade to the Islanders. Not only did Vanek play his college hockey at Minnesota, his wife is from the area, the couple owns a house and former linemate and good friend Jason Pominville also plays with the team. The Wild currently have just over $2.8M in cap space, but the team would likely not pass on a forward that would make their top six Zach Paise, Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley, Mikael Granlund, Pominville and Vanek.

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According to SwissHockeyNews.ch, Matthew Lombardi has reached a verbal agreement with Swiss club Genève-Servette.

Lombardi was selected in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft 215th overall by the Edmonton Oilers. Lombardi failed to sign with the Oilers, re-entering the draft where he was picked 90th overall by the Calgary Flames in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. Lombardi played in the 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs, during which he suffered a vicious elbow to the head from Red Wings defenceman Derian Hatcher and was unable to play for several months. The Flames eventually lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals. During the locked-out 2004–05 season, he played for the Flames affiliate Lowell Lock Monsters in the American Hockey League, after he recovered fully from the elbow, returning to the NHL and the Flames when the league resumed play in 2005–06.

On March 4, 2009, he was traded along with Brandon Prust and a 1st round draft pick to the Phoenix Coyotes for Olli Jokinen. After a season with the club, he signed a four year deal with Nashville, only to play two games due to a concussion. With no roster spot available, he was traded along with Cody Franson to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Brett Lebda and Robert Slaney during the 2011 off-season. He was sent to Phoenix prior the the NHL season this year, and during the 2013 NHL trade deadline, he was sent to Anaheim for Brandon McMillan.

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Marc-Andre Bergeron, a defenseman with the Carolina Hurricanes last season, has signed with the Zurich Lions in Switzerland.  As well, former AHLer Ryan Keller has signed with the club as well.

The Tampa Bay Lightning traded Bergeron to the Hurricanes for a seventh round pick and Adam Hall earlier in April after recording one goal and four assists prior to the trade. With the Hurricanes, Bergeron was unable to pot a single goal, but did add an additional four assists for nine points on the season.

To begin his NHL career, Bergeron was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Edmonton Oilers in 2001.After parting ways with the Oilers, Bergeron went on to play with the New York Islanders, Anaheim Ducks, and Minnesota Wild. On October 6, 2009, after star defenceman Andrei Markov was injured, Bergeron signed a 1-year contract worth $750,000 US with the Montreal Canadiens. Bergeron proved to be a valuable component to the Canadiens, playing forward on the fourth line as well as defence on power plays. He was signed by the Tampa Bay Lightning as a free agent on January 4th, 2011 and helped the team reach the Eastern Conference Finals, against the Boston Bruins. On the 28th of June 2011, Bergeron was resigned to a two-year, one-way contract worth $2,000,000.

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Myers had three goals and five assists in 39 games this season, with a minus-8 rating. He was in the first season of a seven-year, $38.5 million US contract. Myers suffered a season-ending injury on April 11th, 2013 in a game against Montreal that saw the Habs clinch a playoff spot.

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According to Josh Rimer, another big name appears to be in play today.

The 21-year-old had 17 goals and 33 points this year. Kane concluded the 2013 campaign with injuries to his wrist and foot, and underwent successful surgery to remove pressure from a nerve in his left foot earlier this month.

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Can you recall a draft weekend with more drama?

It’s hard to gauge how good Bobby actually is. Yes, he won the Vezina trophy this year, but it was in a shortened season. How would he perform with a normal season under his belt with the Blue Jackets?

SKA of the KHL, the team he played for during the lockout, reportedly offered $10 million a year to Bobrovsky earlier this week. Columbus and SKA have both made offers to Bobrovsky, who would become the KHL’s biggest-ever signing were he to return to Russia.

Bob had a 21-11-6 record with a .932 save percentage and 2.00 goals against average this past season, his first season in Columbus since being traded from Philadelphia.

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According to Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch, the Columbus Blue Jackets have had discussions with the Blues regarding a trade that would bring St. Louis Blues forward David Perron to the Columbus.

Perron had 25 points and 44 penalty minutes in 48 games last season. The Columbus Blue Jackets might be willing to part with one of their first-round picks, but it’s unknown what St. Louis has been offered in return. Perron is signed through 2015-16 at a $3.8 million cap hit.

Columbus GM  Jarmo Kekalainen originally drafted Perron 26th overall in 2007, so the ties between Perron and the Blue Jackets make sense.

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Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

 

Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

According to The Fourth Period editor in chief David Pagnotta, Keith Ballard is likely done in Vancouver.

Ballard tallied a pair of assists, a -2 rating and 29 penalty minutes in his 36 games. Ballard was also just sixth on the team in minutes for defensemen, spending most of his time on a surprisingly effective third pairing with Chris Tanev. While he did look decent on the third line, he isn’t worth $4.2M, the amount Ballard is scheduled to earn in each of the next two years.

If he was to get bought out, that would provide the Canucks with approximately $2.8M in cap room. Vancouver already has a replacement blueliner in Frankie Corrado, the fifth round, 150th overall selection by the Canucks during the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. He signed a three-year entry level contract with the Canucks after a successful training camp in 2011.

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According to Craig Custance, Manny Malhotra met with a group of teams on Friday in New York and is generating interest on the open market for his comeback.

On his first day of free agency on July 1, 2010, Malhotra signed a three-year, $7.5 million deal with the Vancouver Canucks that included a no-trade clause. Near the end of the season, Malhotra was struck in the eye by a puck during a game against the Colorado Avalanche on March 16, 2011. He immediately left the ice and underwent eye surgery the following day. It was announced on March 21, 2011 that Malhotra would not be returning to the lineup for the rest of the regular season and the playoffs.

Having lost a significant amount of his vision in his left eye, Malhotra struggled in his first full season since the injury in 2011–12. He was supplanted as the Canucks’ third-line centre by rookie Cody Hodgson and later Samuel Pahlsson. Continuing to struggle with his eye injury, Malhotra was put on the injured reserve a month into the 2012-13 season. Fearing for his long-term health, Canucks general manager Mike Gillis took him out of the lineup for the season, a decision that he described as the “hardest thing [he has] done in [his] job.” Malhotra had appeared in nine games without recording a point.

Maholtra could provide teams with depth up the middle if he does in fact play next year. At the age of 33, he has the potential to play a couple more seasons at a low price, and it seems as though he doesn’t intend on retiring just yet.

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Gregory Shamus/Getty Images North America
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images North America

TSN is reporting that Magnus Paajarvi’s name has been linked to Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn, but the Flyers would prefer “a better forward” out of the Oilers system.

Some, including myself, may see the potential trade of Braydon Coburn as puzzling, seeing as defense is one of the areas Philly needs to improve on, but Coburn could help net the team a significant asset on the trade market. Coburn is a good fit for Edmonton’s needs, as he has size (6’5″, 220 pounds), a physical game, skates well, and has some ability to move the puck. On the downside, Cobourn did fall to a career-low minus-10 rating, went from 24 points in 81 games to five in 33, so it almost seemed like the Flyers weren’t going to get any help from the blueline when he was patrolling it.

Paajarvi made positive strides in 2013 to get back to becoming a regular on Edmonton’s roster. In 42 games during the lockout-shortened campaign, he recorded nine goals and 16 points. Former coach Ralph Krueger praised Paajarvi for consistently driving to the opponent’s goal with speed. If he starts to capitalize on those chances then there’s a chance that he could skate in the Oilers’ top-six group. However, he is probably better suited for a third-line role. Paajarvi spent a sizable chunk of the 2011-12 season in the minors, but he appears to be getting back on track. 

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TSN’s Bob McKenzie dropped a bombshell today. TSN has been on a roll.

Horton was traded to the Boston Bruins on June 22, 2010 along with Gregory Campbell for Dennis Wideman, the Bruins first round pick (15th overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, and third round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. He got off to a great start in his first season in Boston, with seven goals and six assists, including a six game point streak, in the first 12 games of the season. He finished second on the team in goals and fourth in assists. He had 22 points in 43 games with the Bruins during the regular season this year.

Seguin is 21 years old and the best days for him are ahead. In order to grab this talented forward, Dreger said it would take a “kings ransom” to take him off the hands of Boston. I just can’t see it happening. Seguin just signed a long-term extension with the Bruins prior to the lockout that has him under contract through the end of the 2018-19 season at more than $5.75 million per year. The Bruins, however, are tight against the salary cap and need to work out a long-term contract extension for Tuukka Rask, Patrice Bergeron and Dennis Seidenberg.

The Bruins selected Seguin with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 draft, a pick they acquired as part of the blockbuster trade with Toronto that sent Phil Kessel to the Maple Leafs.

 

UPDATE (1:39pm):

 

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According to Minnesota beat writer Michael Russo, the Wild might trade tough guy Cal Clutterbuck this weekend.

The Wild tendered qualifying offers to retain the rights of Clutterbuck on Tuesday this week, however it sounds as though General Manager Chuck Fletcher has been in the mood to trade the winger this week. Russo says that the Wild aren’t looking for a roster player due to cap restrictions, but are instead looking for a draft pick, maybe in the range of a second or third rounder.

The 25 year old Clutterbuck was drafted in the third-round in 2006. To date, he has 62 goals and 110 points in 346 games for the Wild and is coming off of a less than desirable campaign that saw him record only four goals and six assists in 42 games.

The Wild are also looking to trade defenseman Tom Gilbert prior to the NHL buyout deadline of 4pm eastern on July 4th. Getting rid of him would result in an additional $4 million in cap space to add to the $3.6M they currently sit on.

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Just days after getting bought out, ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that former Tampa Bay Lightning first overall pick Vincent Lecavalier is receiving interest from multiple teams in the NHL.

“We have been reached out to by a number of teams, easily a dozen or more,” Kent Hughes, Lecavalier’s agent, told ESPN.com Friday afternoon. “This is the beginning of the process in trying to understand the various situations and trying to narrow it down.”

Lecavalier could be the most-pursued player in this summer’s market, a free agent class that will see the likes of Jarome Iginla, Ilya Bryzgalov, Danny Briere and Jarmoir Jagr. Lebrun said that the Detroit Red Wings have interest in Lecavalier, which wouldn’t surprise many considering he mentioned in a media call that they were one of his favorite teams growing up. Montreal is also a likely target after perusing the french forward a few years back in the free agent market.

Lecavalier becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 5 and can’t talk to teams until then. The 33-year-old had $45-million left on his contract and will be paid two-thirds of that over the next 14 years.

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Derek Leung/Getty Images
Derek Leung/Getty Images

Darren Dreger woke up the hockey community on Saturday morning with news that the Canucks could in fact be putting goalie Cory Schneider into the trade market leading up to the draft.

 

 

Vancouver’s general manager Mike Gillis has been trying to trade Roberto Luongo and his obnoxious 12-year, $64 million contract for more than a year now, but you can already figure out why he isn’t getting a ton of interest. Schneider’s deal could be much easier to move, as he has two years remaining on his current contract, and is worth a cap hit of $4 million.

Schneider finished the season with a 17-9-4 record to go along with an impressive 2.11 goals-against average and five shutouts during the regular season.

One must wonder how Luongo would react if Schneider was traded. What if he was mentally prepared to move on? Would he be able to regroup and gain back his Olympic gold medal winning form? The Canucks acquired Luongo at the 2006 NHL Draft, and the team will now try to deal him at this year’s draft, a little more than seven full years since he officially began his roller coaster career with Vancity.

Per Dreger, teams that have interest in Schneider include Edmonton, Calgary, and the New York Islanders.

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Flashback to June 21st, 1997 at the NHL Entry Draft. An Islander team a few years removed from a great upset of the Pittsburgh Penguins spent its time in the basement of the NHL, with only 70 points on the season. The Islanders had received the Toronto Maple Leaf’s first round draft pick in a trade, which wound up being fourth overall. They choose the highly-touted goaltender Roberto Luongo. The Islanders, who seem to love making history in interesting ways, did so when he was chosen as the highest drafted goalie in NHL history at the time. The Islanders still hold this title– only the player himself is now somebody the fans know all too well– Rick Dipietro, who was taken first overall in 2000. Remember his name…

November 28th, 1999, Luongo made his NHL debut for the Islanders. He had an amazing 43 save performance against the Boston Bruins, winning 2-1. It only took him seven more games to reach another milestone, his first NHL shutout. Things seemed to be going well. Then what happened? Mike Milbury happened. At the NHL draft in 2000, the team picked goaltender Rick DiPietro first overall. This came as a huge surprise, given the fact that they already had an insanely talented young goalie in Luongo, and that they passed up on tremendous players such as Dany Heatley and Marion Gaborik. In the ex-GM-turned-NBC-analyst’s typical “win-now” fashion, he made one of the worst trades in NHL history. He flipped Luongo and future-star Olli Jokinen for Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha, both players that never amounted to what Luongo/Jokinen did. The young goalie was caught off guard by the trade and expected his entire career on Long Island.

Luongo would be with the Panthers until 2006, and eventually find himself in Vancouver, where he still is to this day. Over that timespan, he has amassed tremendous career numbers and various NHL awards/nominations. He reached the Stanley Cup finals, where the Canucks lost in a heartbreaking game 7. Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, Rick DiPietro’s career would sing a very different song. He had star potential as well, but always relied on his athleticism a bit too much. It was only a matter of time before he got injured, but nobody could predict that it would be THIS bad. Surely to be in any Islander fans memory, that fateful game against the Montreal Canadiens in March of 2007 was the beginning of the end. In typical DP fashion, he came way out of his net to try to poke check a puck away from forward Steve Begin, and found himself concussed. The 2008 all-star skills competition saw his first of many hip injuries. I still remember him cursing over the mic on national TV when Marian Gaborik came in with speed on a breakaway. Since then, there’s been a huge string of injuries.

Then there was… THE CONTRACT. In 2006, he signed a 15 year, 67.5 million dollar contract. It would be genius if he had stayed healthy, but now is widely known as the worst contract in the entire league because of his inability to stay healthy and play well. In the past 6 years, he’s only started 50 games, and his play has gotten worse and worse, to the point this season that he was sent down to the AHL (although one could argue he belongs in the ECHL or a beer league). Luongo’s contract isn’t much better. On September 2nd, 2009, the Canucks announced that they signed him to a 12-year extension, worth 64 million dollars. The salary structure is important to note, as it is quite heavily front-loaded.

So, at this point in time, the Islanders have a huge contract buried in the minors for a goalie that simply cannot play at a high level anymore. The Canucks have a goalie with a huge contract who still plays at a very high level, but they don’t believe he’s their starter. That position would belong to Cory Schneider, as was confirmed by his new three-year deal. Luongo has stated that he would waive his no-trade-clause if the team asked him to.

It would seem there may be a deal to be made here between these two teams. And as reported by TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the Islanders do have interest in bringing Luongo back and finishing this story full-circle. McKenzie said on TSN 1050 Toronto this evening, “Under the right circumstances, Roberto Luongo would be a great fit for the New York Islanders.” Why does this make more sense than meets the eye?

First, Charles Wang doesn’t have to buyout anybody at this time. He could finally be rid of the DiPietro fiasco, without committing to paying anybody for the next 16 years. Second, GM Garth Snow and the Islanders get a very good– perhaps elite– goalie, shoring up the position that they need help with the most. For Vancouver, they get rid of the Luongo fiasco. They get to focus on having their starter that they prefer in Schneider. They save a few million dollars on the buyout, as Luongo’s contract would cost slightly more to buy out. They also would most likely get a mid-round draft pick or a lower-echelon prospect.

From the Islanders perspective, I actually like this possibility. I still think I prefer young LA Kings goaltender Jonathan Bernier, just for the long-term implications. However, whoever has Bernier can only hope he becomes as good as Luongo is now. And Luongo will still probably be that good for at least 4 more years. In terms of the “horrific contract”, I believe that’s a bit overstated in the media. Currently, his salary is a bit above 6 million, with a 5.33 million dollar cap hit until his contract expires. He makes that 6+ million for 5 more years, which is a standard going rate for a very good starting goaltender. When Luongo turns 39, in 5 years, his contract will have 4 more years remaining and only a total of $7 million left. That’s very minuscule, especially in 2020 when the salary cap will probably be north of $70-$75 million, so a buyout wouldn’t be too awful.

It may seem like  a joke that the Islanders would re-acquire Luongo. The goaltender himself had some hilarious insight on the possibility:

 

 

The Islanders are not the same team they were a long time ago under GM Mike Milbury. Current GM Garth Snow has shown (arguably too much) patience, so fans can be sure he won’t be giving up too much for Luongo. He’s still a great starting goalie that, if he starts 65 games for the team next year, most likely will lead them to a playoff berth. It actually makes more sense than one would think.

According to Finnish website Kavela.fl, Kärpät, a team in the SM-Liga, will likely sign Toronto Marlies goaltender Jussi Rynnas, replacing former Philadelphia Flyers goalie Johan Backland who is expected to leave at the end of the season.

As a younger player, Rynnäs was never considered a prime talent and was, for example, never drafted in the NHL. After becoming over-aged to play in the Ässät Junior team, Rynnäs had serious trouble in finding himself a team, ending up in the Finnish 3rd division. However, Ässät signed him for the 2009–2010 season and, after impressive performances in the pre-season games, Rynnäs got more and more responsibility and ended up becoming Ässät’s number one goalkeeper and a fan favorite. Since signing with Toronto in 2010, Rynnas has spent time with the Marlies (with a call-up to the Maple Leafs in 2011-2012), and has been given a lot of starts with the club as Ben Scrivens graduated to the big club once the lockout ended. However, with Mark Owuya, Drew MacIntyre and Garret Sparks all looking for spots on the roster next year, it’s unlikely Rynnas would return for 2013-2014.  A big goalie at 6’5, Rynnas takes up a ton of the net and moves extremely well for his size.  He has an extremely wide stance that allows him t0 appear big in the net, and move with NHL-level quickness. When he’s crouching and looking through bodies, his glove is at a perfect height, something that takes practice.Combined with his skill, Rynnas is a hard-working individual with a fierce, competitive edge to his game. Most over-sized goalies are considered a bit passive, but Rynnas is active and agile.

Backlund, who went undrafted in the NHL, was signed by the Philadelphia Flyers back in 2009 prior to the playoffs.  After the 2009 training camp he was sent to the Adirondack Phantoms as Ray Emery and Brian Boucher were slated to be the Flyers goaltending tandem for the 2009-10 NHL season. Backlund was called up briefly in early October when Brian Boucher was injured but did not play before being returned to the Phantoms. After a moderate start he earned his first shutout on North American ice against the Syracuse Crunch on November 1, 2009. On March 27, 2010, Backlund made his NHL debut against the Pittsburgh Penguins.He allowed 2 goals on 24 shots, but had to exit the game after 2 periods, having re-aggravated a groin injury. After mostly playing with the Adirondack Flyers in the AHL, Backlund decided to ink a deal with Karpat for the 2012-2013 campaign, taking them to the playoffs, where the club lost in the first round.

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A few days ago, the New Jersey Devils announced the signing of first-line center, Travis Zajac, to an 8 year deal worth 46 million dollars (an annual average value of 5.75 million). Here is the breakdown of his contract (courtesy of mynhltraderumors.com): 2013-14: $3.5 million salary with $1 million bonus, 2014-15: $5 million salary with $1 million bonus, 2015-16: $6.5 million, 2016-17: $6.5 million, 2017-18: $6.5 million, 2018-19: $6.5 million, 2019-20: $5.75 million and 2020-21: $5.75 million.

Main stream media outlets and hockey “gurus” all over the world are questioning this recent Lou Lamoriello signing. Without proper knowledge of Zajac’s style of play, they would have every right to criticize this deal; after all, Zajac has only broken the 60 point mark twice in five full seasons with the Devils. But it isn’t the point totals that makes Zajac such an assest to the Devils; its the work he puts in to perfecting the little details of the game. Heck, there may be no one in the league better at stripping an opposing forward while on the backcheck, then reading the play to turn it immediately up ice than Zajac. His reads on the forecheck to break up the opposing team’s breakout is tops on the team (now that Zach Parise is gone anyway). The guy plays on the first PP and PK unit, hasn’t been lower than 50% on his face-off draws since his rookie campaign, and has some of the slickest moves along the boards in the offensive zone that I’ve ever seen. When people think of a guy making an average salary of nearly 6 million dollars, they expect production; usually in the form of putting points on the board at a near point per game level. While Zajac may not be a prototypical point per game center, the intangibles he brings to the Devils is eerily similar to that of Zach Parise, which is no surprise considering the two developed under the same North Dakota system. Zajac isn’t a prototypical NHL first line center; but he is, as Lou Lamoriello put it, a “typical New Jersey Devil”. In a few years from now, NHL analysts will be looking back on this deal with a completely different frame of mind. This was an excellent signing and a must need for the Devils because losing two of your top line players in back to back years is a no-no in General Managing 101. With fellow centers Adam Henrique and Jacob Josefson still in their maturing stage of their NHL careers, the Devils depth at center looks promising.

Shifting focus here, one of the hottest topics of the summer/lockout was who would take over for Zach Parise as the Devils next captain. Kovalchuk was the obvious choice considering his length of contract, his super-star status on the team, his “face of the franchise” capability, and just the simple fact he has captained every team he has ever played on. Dark horse candidates for the ‘C’ were guys like Bryce Salvador, Travis Zajac, and even the only guy on the team who seemingly didn’t want to be captain, Patrik Elias. But then came the signature ‘Kovalchuk drama’ where main stream media outlets everywhere were questioning whether or not Ilya wanted to leave his KHL team to return for the start of the NHL season. Though there was never any question in this fans mind that he’d return, there were signs that the organization did not appreciate Kovalchuk’s lack of directness with what his intentions were. Elias was even quoted (paraphrased here) as saying that he was not a fan of Kovalchuk arriving late to camp because ‘they were all expected to arrive for the start of camp, why shouldn’t he?’. That right there is the sole reason I believe Kovalchuk wasn’t named captain. He lost some faith in the locker room and that’s something the captain can’t lose. The captain is a model player; one who every single guy in the locker room respects, admires, and tries to act like. Bryce Salvador is that type of player. If you missed out on my Salvadorian analysis in my last blog, then shame on you cause I’m not giving you a second chance. Fine, you caught me in a good mood; I’ll explain.

Personally, I always thought Salvador was more than qualified to captain this team. He’s well respected by his teammates, the coaches, and upper management. He plays the game the right way: blocks shots, throws big hits, lays his body on the line every night. Salvador is the kind of player you want to model your game after. His three year contract was the main reason I didn’t think about the possibility that Pete DeBoer would name Bryce captain. But truthfully, a players contract doesn’t determine his leadership qualities. Salvador will lead, and these Devils will follow. Great choice DeBoer.

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