NHL

2014 in review in poetry

Photo courtesy New York Times

Photo courtesy New York Times

 

This is the final entry for Designated For Assignment. Coming January 5, 2015, D4A becomes “On the Warning Track”, dedicated to baseball at all levels.  See you there at http://onthewarningtrack.com.

Our Brandon Karsten gives his year in review a poetic twist. Good night to all and to all a good night.

 

By Brandon Karsten

This year started with the crowning of a national champ in Florida State.

When it came time to select Jameis Winston for the game’s MVP, there was no need to hesitate.

This year’s Super Bowl was quite boring.

Seeing Peyton Manning’s Broncos fail miserably reduced all of us to snoring.

 

The Winter Olympics for this year saw Russia playing host.

After two weeks of competing for medals, Russia came away with the most.

From March to April, we saw UConn march from a seventh seed to champions in the Final Four.

With so many exciting finishes, next year we’ll be back screaming for more.

 

With the beginning of spring came another season of baseball,

And with it came the eager anticipation of who will win in the fall.

Before Spring Training, Derek Jeter said the 2014 season would be his last,

And seeing him get the game winning hit in his last Yankee Stadium at-bat was a blast.

 

Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda was caught with something on his neck called pine tar.

And with that stunt he did not go very far.

One pitcher who was dominant this year was Clayton Kershaw.

On his way to the NL Cy Young and MVP, he left all of us in awe.

 

We saw an exciting World Cup in Brazil.

Every minute of soccer action seemed to offer a thrill.

The most talked about incident was Uruguay’s Luis Suarez’s bite,

But Mario Götze’s game-winning goal in the Final showed Germany’s might.

 

In the NBA Finals, the Spurs finally got to the Heat,

Showing the trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can be beat.

It was hard to hear L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling ripping black fans and Magic.

Seeing that racism and prejudice in sports still exists today is quite tragic.

 

LeBron ultimately decided to return home to the Mistake by the Lake,

And we hope to see if a Cleveland title drought will finally break.

In the NHL, the L.A. Kings won Stanley’s Cup with Alec Martinez scoring the game-winner.

In five games, the New York Rangers were done like a TV dinner.

 

The NFL had a PR crisis with Ray Rice punching his then-fiancé Janay.

Rice and Adrian Peterson showed when it came to domestic violence, the NFL was in disarray.

Rest in peace Ralph Wilson, Don Zimmer and Kevin Ward, Jr. and others who died in 2014.

But we can’t forget Tony Gwynn, one of the best sluggers baseball has seen.

 

The person we’ll miss the most is Robin Williams, Giants fan and king of funny.

His wit and humor seemed to turn even the gloomiest of days bright and sunny.

With him gone, in our lives he has left a big gaping hole.

I think what we will miss is what he put into every one of his movies: Soul.

 

Robin would be happy to know that the Giants won the World Series, their third in five years.

But the story was the red-hot Royals who brought K.C. fans a lot of joy and cheers.

Those Royals ran into a pitcher by the nickname of MadBum.

After seeing Madison Bumgarner pitch in the Fall Classic, he left all of us feeling numb.

 

This year for Michigan football was a complete joke.

AD Dave Brandon resigned and the next guy looking for a job was coach Brady Hoke.

With 2015 upcoming, something new called a college football playoff will begin.

Right now it’s hard to predict who will win.

 

Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton signed the biggest contract extension in sports history.

Whether that will help the Marlins make the playoffs in 2015 is only a mystery.

Let’s rejoice in the reason for the season: God sending His son to show us the light.

I say Merry Christmas to you all and to all a good night.

 

Brandon Karsten is a contributor to Designated Four Assignment. He can be found on Facebook or reached through bkarsten2009@hotmail.com.

Kreider’s Play Is Just What The Sather Ordered

kreider

Rangers Chris Kreider and Rick Nash have found their scoring touch so far this season

by Drew Sarver

Before the season started we previewed the current New York Rangers squad. One of the biggest question marks for the season was, where will scoring come from?  Two names came to the forefront as players that needed to step up in order for the Rangers to build on last season’s success as Eastern Conference champions. Veteran Rick Nash, a former two-time 40-goal scorer, was one of the players mentioned and the other was 23-year old Chris Kreider.

Nash has done his part so far – entering play on Wednesday night, he led the NHL with eight goals. The speedy, aggressive Kreider showed flashes of brilliance over the 89 games he played in his first year-plus in the league, but his 37 points in 66 games last season was a disappointment. He finished 10th in the Rookie of the Year voting, a “mere” 1,100 votes behind the Calder Trophy winner, Colorado’s Nathan McKinnon. Expectations for this season are high for Kreider and so far #20 has come through.

Tuesday night the Rangers met one of their arch rivals, the New Jersey Devils, for the first time this season. Down 3-1 on the road the Rangers rallied to tie the game in the third period, with Nash getting the goal that knotted things at three apiece. Kevin Klein wristed the game winner past Devils’ goalie Corey Schneider at 2:04 into overtime, But it was the play of Kreider that made things happen. The left winger picked up the puck behind his own net and skated it out of the defensive zone. He made a give and go pass with Chris Mueller  as they crossed the red line and then charged towards the Devils’ net. He turned his back to Schneider and fed the puck on to Klein’s stick.. The defenseman, trailing on the play, beat Schneider with a swift shot for the game winner.

It’s that type of play, a mixture of speed and strength that team President/GM Glen Sather was counting on when he selected Kreider with the 19th overall pick in the 2009 NHL entry draft. A product of  Masconomet Regional High School and Phillips Academy, the Massachusetts native played three seasons at Boston College and was a member of the 2010 NCAA squad that beat Wisconsin for the national championship. Kreider found the back of the opponent’s net 49 times in 114 regular season collegiate games and finished his college career with just under a point (112 total) per game average. He also amassed 129 penalty minutes as part of the physical part of his game.

Kreider added to his amateur resume with six goals in the 2010 World Junior championships won by the US. He added four more tallies when the US finished in third place a year later.  With Kreider ready to go pro and the Rangers lacking scoring as they entered the playoffs, the team added the then-20-year old to their postseason roster. Though he was on the ice for just 51 minutes in the opening seven game series with Ottawa, Kreider scored his first NHL goal – the game winner – in a 3-2 victory in Game 6.

With five one-goal games and two overtime games in the first round, coach John Tortorella increased Kreider’s play in the quarterfinal match with the Washington Capitals. The Rangers once again emerged victorious in a closely played, seven games series. Kreider played over 93 minutes, but was limited to a goal and an assist and was -4 for the series. His goal was another game winner (He became the first rookie to score back-to-back game winners in the postseason),  in a 3-1 Game 1 triumph, but Kreider’s contribution on offense in the series was minimal. He had just nine shots on goal in a series that saw six games decided by one goal.

If the first two series were considered tightly played, everyone knew the conference final against the New Jersey Devils was going to be even tighter. The Rangers led the best-of-seven series 2-1, but the Devils won three straight games to capture the series. Adam Henrique got the series game winner just 1:03 into overtime in Game 6. Again, Tortorella increased Kreider’s playing time in hopes of finding more scoring. Kreider, who had turned 21 during the Washington series, scored goals in each of the first three games, including a pair of power play goals. However, he and much of the rest of the squad couldn’t solve Martin Brodeur for the rest of the series.

Kreider had a less than stellar 2012-2013 season with 12 goals in 48 games for the Connecticut Whale of the AHL and just two goals in 23 games for the Rangers, though much of the latter can be attributed to his assignment to the fourth line. The Rangers won another seven games series with Washington to open the playoffs, but were dominated by the Boston Bruins in the conference semis and were eliminated in five games. With his ice time limited, Kreider managed just a goal and an assist, though the goal was an overtime winner in Game 4 that kept the Rangers from being swept.

A mundane 2013-2014 season was cut short by a hand injury that required surgery and caused Kreider to miss the first 10 games of the playoffs. Fans were beginning to wonder if Kreider was the real deal.  Upon his return from the injured list, he registred five goals and eight assists in 15 games as the Rangers returned to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in 20 years. The Rangers knocked off division rivals in the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins, and then topped the Montreal Canadiens in a conference final in which Kreider left his mark.

Kreider’s impact in the series was both good and bad, and may influence how referees handle him this season. Specifically, the BC product’s collision with Montreal goalie Carey Price which caused the netminder to miss the remainder of the series. (The Rangers and Canadiens meet on Saturday for the first since the series.) The Canadiens wanted Kreider suspended for the hit, but league officials did not agree.

There seems to be a carry over in confidence and maturity from last season’s playoffs for Kreider. Through seven games this season, Kreider has a pair of goals, four assists, and is a +5. He’s also amassed 23 penalties, which may or may not be connected in some way to his crash with Price. The most important thing is that Kreider has been in the mix around the net and not afraid to continue his speedy, physical style of play. The Rangers will most certanly benefit from it.

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Drew Sarver is the founder, publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes and @d4assignment or contacted by email at dsarver@d4assignment.com.

NHL Suspends Kings D On Domestic Violence Allegation

Slava Voynov in happier times.

Slava Voynov in happier times.

by D4Assignment Staff

Having learned from his NFL counterpart’s mistakes, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has suspended Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov for an undetermined amount of time due to allegations of domestic violence.

Bettman moved swiftly after Voynov was arrested early Monday morning. Yoynov’s suspension, as announced by the NHL, comes under Section 18-A.5 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which provides that, during the pendency of a criminal investigation, “The League may suspend the Player pending the League’s formal review and disposition of the matter where the failure to suspend the Player during this period would create a substantial risk of material harm to the legitimate interests and/or reputation of the League.”1

Voynov will be paid during the period of the criminal investigation. He’s in the second year of a six-year, $24MM contract extension signed in June, 2013. The 24-year old defenseman was a fourth round draft choince in 2008 and is in his fourth year with the Kings. He was arrested at 3:45 am on Monday by Redondo Beach (CA) police.

ESPN contacted Voynov’s agent, Rolland Hedges, but he could not comment at that time.2


Update – 3:40 EDT

Several media outlets are reporting that the woman allegedly abused by Voynov was hospitalized due to the injuries she received. The woman, who said she was in a relationship with Voynov, was being treated in the emergency room of the Little Company of Mary Hospital in Torrence, CA when the staff called the police. Voynov accompanied the woman to the hospital where he was subsequently arrested.

Voynov was scheduled to be in court on Wednesday, but since he was released on $50,000 bail, the date was moved back to December 1. (No one has ever said that justice moves quickly.) Voynov’s lawyer tried to downplay things:

“We’re conducting our own investigation,” Craig Renetzky, Voynov’s attorney, said. “We don’t have anything to comment on quite yet. There should be no rush to judgment, and we’ll see what we find out.”3

The police had received a call on their business line earlier in the evening with reports of a woman screaming and crying, but the caller could not provide an address.

1 – NHL.com

2 – ESPN.com

3 – ocregister.com

 

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NY Rangers Preview: The King Must Lead Them

For the NY Rangers to have success, Henrik Lundqvist must remain a world class goalie.

For the NY Rangers to have success, Henrik Lundqvist must remain a world class goalie.

by Drew Sarver

The New York Rangers fanbase is one of the most loyal and most frustrated of any sports franchise’in history. Fans waited all or part of 54 years to watch the Rangers hoist the Stanley Cup after a drought that lasted from 1940 to 1994. When the playoffs arrive this Spring, it will have been 21 years since the Rangers won their last Cup, and their window of opportunity is running out.

The Rangers reached the Stanley Cup finals last season, where they ultimately lost to the Los Angeles Kings in five games, due in large part to their goalie, Henrik Lundqvist. The two-time Olympic medalist. is one of the top five ranked goalies in the world, arguably one of the top three. The Swedish native will turn 33-years old one month before the playoffs begin in 2015. If you check the history books you won’t find too many goaltenders past the age of 35 that won the Stanley Cup as the “go to guy” in the nets. (The Boston Bruins’ Tim Thomas was 37 when he kicked and gloved his way to the 2011 Stanley Cup.)

It’s remarkable to think back and realize that the Rangers really did not know what they had when they took Lundqvist in the 7th round of the 2000 entry draft. Al Montaya was thought to be the Rangers goalie of the future. In the year prior to his rookie season with New York, Lundqvist played for Frolunda HC Goteborg in the Sweden Elitserien League. (Now, the Swedish Hockey League.) He finished with a 33-8-2 record with a 1.79 Goals-Against-Average (GAA) in 44 games. (With the NHL season wiped out by a strike/players’ lockout, teammates included his twin brother Joel, Sami Salo, Daniel Alfredsson, and Loui Eriksson.) Lundqvist recorded a 1.05 GAA in the playoffs as Frolunda captured the league championship. By then the Rangers knew they had a head turning goalie.

The Rangers made the playoffs in eight of Lundqvist’s nine seasons in the NHL, no small coincidence for a team that missed the playoffs for seven straight seasons before “The King” arrived in New York. In 2012, the Rangers lost to one of their chief rivals, the New Jersey Devils, in a six-game Eastern Conference finals. Last season the Rangers seemed dead in the water in the conference semi-finals, but rallied from a 3-1 deficit in games to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins and then advanced to the Cup finals with a six-game defeat of the Montreal Canadiens.

The Rangers lost the cup in five games to a faster, harder hitting, nastier, better scoring team in the Kings. LA also had the 2012 Cup MVP in goal, in the person of Jonathan Quick. The off-season apeared to severely damage the chances for a return to the Cup finals due to the free agent departure of defenseman Anton Stralman and forwards Brian Boyle and Benoit Pouliot.

To supplant the losses, Rangers’ President and General Manager Glen Sather signed forwards Lee Stempniak, Ryan Malone and Tanner Glass, offensive-minded defenseman Dan Boyle, and defenseman Matt Hunwick. The Rangers will need to lean on their young core even more – Carl Hagelin, Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, and rookies Anthony Duclair and Kevin Hayes.

Wingers Martin St. Louis and Rick Nash must fill opponent’s nets with pucks like they did in Tampa Bay and Columbus, respectively. The Rangers ranked in the lower half (18th) in the league in scoring goals last season and were 15th on the power play. The latter is the main reason that Dan Boyle was brought in. The Rangers also need a breakout season from Kreider, whose speed, puck handling, strength and tenacity should produce more than the 17 goals and 37 points he scored in 66 games last season.

But what will make the Rangers tick first and foremost is Lundqvist and their group of solid to stellar defenseman. Newly appointed team captain Ryan McDonagh, and fellow veterans (an assistant captains) Dan Girardi and Marc Staal need to stay healthy and productive, and be more aggressive on the power play.

Did You Know?

Lundqvist, who got his nickname from the Rangers’ fans was the recipient of two of Sweden’s most prestigous hockey awards, the Golden Helmet and the Golden Puck. Guldhjälmen (Golden Helmet) is the Swedish League’s MVP Award, which Lundqvist won for his extraordinary 2005 season. He also captured Guldpucken (Golden Puck) that same season as the league’s ice hockey player of the year.

Wild Cards

Goalie Cam Talbot made his NHL debut last season at 26-years of age. His timing was perfect; Lundqvist went through a stretch when he struggled and was actually benched in favor of Talbot. The rookie’s play was so good, some fans called for him to be the #1 goalie. Lundqvist returned to normal and those fans had their sanity restored.

Talbot stuck with the team though and provided a solid and dependable backup goaltender. He recorded a 1.64 GAA in 21 games and finished with a 12-6-1 regular season record. Talbot will need to be sharp from the start of the current season with the first five games scheduled in eight nights.

When the Rangers found out that center Derek Stepan would miss a minimum of 10 games with a broken leg, St. Louis volunteered to move from his usual wing spot to center. Coach Alain Vigneault agreed and St. Louis will be the top center on opening night against, you guessed it, the St. Louis Blues. Kreider and Nash will be his wingmen.

Outlook

Media pundits have wide ranging opinions as to the status of the Rangers this season, from not making the playoffs to finally capturing the Stanley Cup again (the NY Post’s Larry Brooks endeared himself to his readers with that prediction.) The Rangers certainly have the manpower on paper to return to the league finals, but they need scoring from their first three lines.

They will need Stepan to not miss much more time than expected, for Matt Zuccarello to work his stick handling magic, for the power play to improve drastically, to remain one of the top penalty killing teams (third in the NHL last year at 85.3%), for Nash to remember how to score in the playoffs, and of course, for the King to be his outstanding himself.

The Rangers get a break at the start of the season with 11 of the first 16 games scheduled at home. They need to take advantage of that situation and get off to a good start. Look for the Rangers to once again finish second in the Metropolitan division to Pittsburgh.

Will they win the Cup? We’ll find out come Springtime.

 

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Drew Sarver is the founder, publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes and @d4assignment or contacted by email at dsarver@d4assignment.com.

NJ Devils Preview: Schneider the New Man Behind the Mask

schneider

After more than 20 years, the Devils have a new #1 between the pipes.

by Drew Sarver

Martin Brodeur has had his face hidden behind a New Jersey Devils’ goaltender’s mask since he made his debut in the 1992-1993 season and won the Calder trophy for Rookie of the Year a year later. In his two decade career, Brodeur has played in 70-plus games a dozen times. But when the Devils acquired Cory Schneider from the Vancouver Canucks prior to the 2012-2013 season, the writing was on the wall.

Brodeur, in the last year of his contract, played in 39 games last season and recorded the second highest Goals-Against-Average (2.51) of his career. Schneider, by comparison, appeared in 45 games with a 1.97 GAA and stopped 92.1% of the shots on goal that he faced. As the 2014 trade deadline approached, Brodeur told the press he wanted to be a #1 goalie. While Devils’ President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello entertained trade offers for his future first ballot Hall of Fame goalie, Brodeur remained a Devil for the rest of the season.

As of this writing, Brodeur is a man without a job. He feels like he could still help a team, but with the NHL opening last evening (Wednesday), a #1 job is not likely without an injury to a team’s top netminder. Meanwhile, the Devils have moved on with Schneider holding down the top spot and former Devil Scott Clemmensen back as the back up.

It’s a huge opportunity for the 28-year old Schneider, who began his career as Roberto Luongo’s back up in Vancouver. The duo won the William M. Jennings Trophy, for least goals allowed, for the 2010-2011 season. Schneider played 25 games and recorded a 2.23 GAA (Luongo held opponents to 2.11 goals over 60 games.).

Despite his excellent GAA last year, Schneider’s record was a mere 16-15-12 as the Devils struggled to score goals. As a result, the team missed the playoffs for the third time in four years. One of the first things Lamariello did to address the team’s issues was to get Schneider signed to a contract extension. The native of Marblehead, MA would have been a free agent after the upcoming season, but agreed to deal that will keep him on the Devils through 2021-2022. (At an average of $6MM per year.)

With his future secure, Schneider can concentrate on playing 60-70 games a year.

Did you know?

The Los Angeles Kings defeated the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the 2012 playoffs en route to their first Stanley Cup championship. Down two games to none, then Canucks coach Allain Vigneault started Schneider over Luongo for the final three games. Schneider was simply outstanding, but the Canucks lost 1-0 in Game 3, and after a 3-1 victory in Game 4, lost 2-1 in overtime in Game 5 and were eliminated. Schneider held the Kings to 1.31 goals per game and stopped 96% of their shots.

Hello and Goodbye

To address his team’s scoring problem, Lamoriello signed free agents forwards Martin Havlat (San Jose), Mike Cammalerri (Calgary), and Jordan Tootoo (Detroit). Players  moving on include defensemen Anton Volchenkov (Nashville) and Mark Fayne (Edmonton)

Outlook

With Havlat and Cammalerri, Lamariello picked up good scorers, not great scorers. Cammalleri, in particular, will need to improve on his 26-goal, 19-assist performance of last season. The 32-year old hasn’t produced 30 goals since the 2008-2009 season, but the Devils need him to score between 30 and 35 this season. One of last season’s free agent acquisitions, Michael Ryder, will need to do the same. After putting the puck in the net 35 times for Dallas in 2011-2012, the right wing has slumped the past two seasons. The Devils can only hope that concussion-prone Ryane Clowe can stay healthy and return to his younger form.

The Devils will also need 42-year old Jaromir Jagr to replicate his 67-point season – remarkably playing in all 82 games – and need more consistency from Adam Henrique and veteran star Patrik Elias.

The Devils’ special teams also have to be at least as good as they were last when the team ranked 9th on the power play (19.5%) and were the number one penalty killing unit (86.4%).

With Schneider in the nets and a solid defense (Andy Greene, Bryce Salvador, Marek Zidlicky) , the Devils should return to the playoffs, albeit as a wild card team.

 

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Drew Sarver is the founder, publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes and @d4assignment or contacted by email at dsarver@d4assignment.com.

NHL Free Agency: Which Signings Will Have the Most Impact?

IginlaJarome Iginla’s signing is a big boost for the Avalance and a blow to the Bruins (photo courtesy of sportsglory.com)

by Alli Baker

The first of July is like Christmas for hockey fans. Once free agency begins, every team has a chance to ink a big-name player and drastically change their upcoming season. This year’s free agency frenzy didn’t disappoint, as many superstar players moved around the league on July 1. These new additions will no doubt have a sizable impact for their new teams in the 2014-2015 season:

Dan Boyle and the New York Rangers: After losing Benoit Pouloit and Anton Stralman to free agency, the Rangers had some holes to fill. Not having much cash to work with, GM Glen Sather made some shrewd moves, signing veteran defenseman Dan Boyle to a two-year, $9 million contract. The 38-year old  provides a veteran presence and experience. The defenseman made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2004 and won gold in the 2010 Olympics with Team Canada. Boyle can provide offense for the Blueshirts, as well – the ex-Shark scored 12 goals in 75 games last year with San Jose. In signing Boyle, the Rangers acquired a top defenseman for a low price, allowing the team to also sign Tanner Glass and resign Dominic Moore.

Jarome Iginla and the Colorado Avalanche: In order to follow up its impressive turn-around season and playoff push during the 2013-14 season, the Avalanche knew a top player would be needed if the team was to continue to be a contender. Losing Paul Statsny to the Blues was not a step in the right direction for the Avs. Signing Jarome Iginla to a three-year, $16 million contract was. One of the younger teams in the NHL, the Avalanche are definitely going to benefit from having the veteran added to the roster. The former Boston Bruin is undoubtedly a top six forward for Colorado and will provide the team with extra offense. In 78 games last year with Boston, Iginla posted 30 goals and 61 points. The 37-year old doesn’t look to be slowing down, either, and should become a solid part of Colorado’s lineup over the next few years.

Mike Camallerri and the New Jersey Devils: The New Jersey Devils desperately needed to make a big move this offseason and acquire a player or two to provide some much-needed offense. GM Lou Lamoriello did just that, inking ex-Calgary Flame Mike Camallerri to a five year deal worth $25 million. The 11-year NHL veteran scored 26 goals in 63 games last year with the Flames and has consistently been a 20-plus goal scorer. The Devils had tried on two other previous occasions to acquire Camallerri, and finally did so on the first day of free agency. The 32-year old said that he was most looking forward to having the chance to play alongside superstar Jaromir Jagr. The Devils also added Martin Havlat, hoping the two new acquisitions will be able to boost the team’s lackluster offense from the previous season.

Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, and the Washington Capitals: After a less-than ideal finish to the 2013-14 season, the Caps had some serious work to do this offseason. The organization started by hiring former Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz in hopes that he could provide some wisdom for the defensively-challenged team. Washington, home to NHL superstar Alex Ovechkin, didn’t have a problem scoring goals. Defense, on the other hand, was a challenge. GM Brian MacLellan added some depth by signing Penguins’ defensemen Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik to massive contracts. Niskanen was signed for seven years and $40.25 million, while Orpik got five years and $27.5 million. Although these signings will definitely reinforce Washington’s defensive depth, they are considered to be the worst deals of free agency thus far by many. Orpik, who is already 33 years old, has been injured often throughout the past few seasons and may not provide the consistency the Caps need. The contracts also take up a sizable amount of cap space.

Ryan Miller and the Vancouver Canucks: The Vancouver Canucks added some talent in goal Tuesday by signing two-time Olympian Ryan Miller to a 3-year, $18 million contract. The 33-year old will bring his experience and work ethic to Vancouver and it’s the hope of GM Jim Benning that Miller will become a good role model for many of the team’s younger players.Miller, who has reached 30-plus wins seven times, is without a doubt an improvement for the Canucks.

Brad Richards and the Chicago Blackhawks: The Hawks started free agency already over the cap limit, but still needed to make a move to remain competitive in the Central Division. This goal was accomplished by signing veteran Brad Richards to a one year, $2 million contract. Richards, who scored 20 goals last year with the Rangers, will no doubt add offensive talent to the Blackhawks. For this bargain, the Hawks also get a number two center who could possibly play alongside Patrick Kane. Although this isn’t a massive deal, it’s exactly what Chicago needed to do.

Thomas Vanek and the Minnesota Wild: It was the deal everyone knew would eventually happen: the Wild finally acquired Minnesota native Thomas Vanek on Tuesday, signing him to a three-year, $19.5 million contract.  The 30-year old will replace the holes left by the departure of Dany Heatley and Matt Moulson. Vanek, who played college hockey at the University of Minnesota, should help to fix the Wild’s goal-scoring problem. The former Montreal Canadien scored 27 goals and had 41 assists in 78 games last year. It’s that ability that GM Craig Leopold is counting on to make the Wild a legitimate Stanley Cup contender next year.

Ryan Callahan, Brian Boyle, Anton Stralman and the Tampa Bay Lightning: The former New York Rangers captain Ryan Callahan gave the Tampa Bay Lightning some inside information on Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman and quite possibly provided an incentive for the two other ex-Rangers to head to the Bolts. The trio played together in New York for parts of three years, so a Tampa reunion was not out of the question. Stralman signed for five years, $22.5 million; Boyle signed for three years, $6 million. The Lightning moved Nate Thompson and Teddy Purcell in order to make enough room for the two new contracts, so the big question is whether the addition of Boyle and Stralman will make Tampa better or worse.

Free agency is far from over and signings will continue to occur throughout the summer, but the biggest names are already off the market. Now all there is to do is wait three months to see how the moves will work out when the 2014-15 season begins.

1 – CBC.CA

2 – ESPN.com

Alli Baker is a hockey fanatic and contributor for Designated for Assignment.  She can be reached at allibaker23@aol.com or followed on Twitter at @allibaker23

NHL Breaking News: Ducks Get Kesler

keslerRyan Kesler is the latest Canucks player hoping to land in greener pastures.

We will never know just how close the Vancouver Canucks’ Ryan Kesler came to being traded at this past season’s NHL trade deadline, but it has been reported that Kesler is now a member of the Anaheim Ducks.

ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reported, and later confirmed, that the Ducks have sent forward Nick Bonino, defenseman Luca Sbisa, and their first round pick (24th overall) in tonight’s NHL draft to the Canucks for the former Selke Trophy winner.  According to LeBrun the teams will also swap third round draft slots.

Kesler is just another piece in the dismantling of the Canucks. The 29-year old joins goalie Roberto Luongo (traded) and David Booth (buyout) as former Canucks. The team also fired team president and GM Mike Gilles, and coach John Tortorella. The two were replaced by Jim Benning and Willie Desjardins, respectively. Former Canucks’ star Trevor Linden was also named president of hockey operations.

Kesler has two years remaining on the six-year, $30MM deal he signed with Vancouver prior to the 2010-2011 season. His contract will have a $5MM impact on Anaheim’s salary cap for those two years.

The 23rd overall pick in the 2003 NHL draft, Kesler has played his entire 10 year career with Vancouver. His best season was the first of his current contract, in which he tallied career highs in goals (41) and assists (32), won the Selke for best defensive forward, and finished eighth in the league MVP voting.

Bonino blossomed this season, with 47 points in 77 games. Acquired from the San Jose Sharks in 2009, the 6’1″ centerman appeared in 189 games over five seasons with Anaheim. He has three years remaining on his deal with an annual $1.9MM cap hit.

Sbisa was the 19th overall pick by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2008. He was sent to Anaheim as part of a package that brought defenseman Chris Pronger to Philly the following year. The native of Italy has struggled the last two years after putting up a stellar 2011-2012 campaign. He’s in the final year of his contract, with a $2.175MM cap hit.

Salary information obtained from capgeek.com

Statistics obtain from hockey-reference.com

Bennett, Ekblad, Lead Pack of 2014 NHL Prospects

aaron_ekblad_barrie_colts[1]Aaron Ekblad is expected to be the #1 pick in the NHL Amateur Draft (photo courtsy of fansided)

by Alli Baker

The 2014 NHL draft is upon us ( 7 pm EDT).  And while this year’s group of prospects may not look as dynamic or exciting as last year’s crop, this annual event always seems to have an impact in some way.

These prospects now have the chance to change the 2014-2015 season for their new teams. Take the Avalanche’s Nathan MacKinnon, for example. MacKinnon, who was the first overall pick last year, provided a huge presence for Colorado this year, and won the Calder Trophy in the process. While this is the goal of all draft prospects, only a few succeed in truly having a dramatically positive effect.

This year’s draft prospects are not projected to have this same sort of influence. “I don’t recall a year recently when there were as many question marks.” an NHL scout recently commented on this year’s prospects. “Skilled kids who lack size; players who might have issues with attitude or commitment. It seems to be a really volatile draft.” 1 Nonetheless, these top prospect like Samuel Bennett, Aaron Ekblad, and Sam Reinhart who are expected to go near the top of the draft, are still projected to provide some kind of an impact.

Here’s a closer look at the projected Top Ten prospects of the 2014 NHL draft:

10. Jake Virtanen: Known for his scoring ability, Virtanen would provide any team with extra offense and aggressiveness. The Calgary Hitman scored 45 goals last year in the WHL.  He also accumulated 100 penalty minutes, demonstrating that he has both goal-scoring talent and a mean streak. Although he possesses obvious talent, it has been said that he lacks “great vision or hockey sense,” which puts Virtanen at the bottom of our top 10. 2

9. Haydn Fleury: Considered the second-best defenseman available in this year’s draft, Fleury is quite the package. The 6’3″, 201 lb. Canadian possesses size, speed, and good hockey sense. However, unlike defenseman Aaron Ekblad, Fleury doesn’t display the same offensive knack. Although he scored 46 points last year in the WHL, Fleury lacks offensive explosiveness.

8: Nikolaj Ehlers: A speedy player with good puck-handling skills, Ehlers would provide any team with some explosive offense. The Dane scored over 100 points while playing in Halifax, however, he played alongside Jonathan Drouin, who was also a very talented goal scorer. This leads one to wonder whether Ehlers has goal-scoaring talent, or he just had an extremely talented line mate. Ehlers’ size is also somewhat of a concern. At 5’11”, 162 lbs, he may end up getting pushed around in the NHL.

7: William Nylander: Son of veteran NHL player Michael Nylander, William has inherited his father’s hockey skills and is known for his impressive agility, quickness, and great hands. Nylander scored an insane 16 points in seven games during last year’s under-18 games, proving he has offensive talent. However, at 5’11”, 175 lbs.,the left wing is small in size and he has some strength to gain. He has also been said to be “sometimes selfish, always a diva.” Although he definitely has talent, his attitude problems have lowered his draft value. <sup>2<sup>

6: Nick Ritchie: This big forward possesses both formidable size and scoring talent. Ritchie scored 39 goals for the Peterborough Petes, showing his goal-scoring talent. On top of that, Ritchie isn’t afraid to throw his weight around. At 6’3″, 236 pounds, this combination of size and offensive talent lands Ritchie at number six on the list.

5: Leon Draisaitl: Draisaitl appears to be the total package; he has size, speed, and he has been a consistent goal scorer. Nicknamed “The German Gretzky,” Draisaitl is set to become the highest-drafted German player. This center for the Prince Albert Raiders scored 38 goals in 64 games during the 2013-14 season, and he doesn’t appear to be slowing down offensively. Yet, he has been said to lack hockey instincts and therefore he likely won’t be draft higher than number five.

4: Michael Dal Colle: Dal Colle is a talented goal-scorer with a solid two-way game. The left wing has been compared to Ryan Getzlaf and has the ability to provide a real offensive impact wherever he plays. However, his lanky frame and lack of weight are a possible concern at the NHL level. If Dal Colle bulks up, he really doesn’t have many other flaws. 3

3: Sam Reinhardt: Reinhardt has intelligence on the ice and the ability to handle the puck, yet his size is nothing extraordinary and his speed has caused him to be described as “barely an average skater.” However, it’s possible for his smart play and exceptional puck-handling to make up for his lack of speed and size. With a little more time to develop, Reinhardt has the potential to develop into a solid NHL forward.

2: Sam Bennett: Bennett’s character and play on the ice have been given rave reviews by almost everyone out there, and there’s no doubt he has offensive skill. However, Bennett failed to do even a single pull-up at the draft combine, leading some to wonder about his strength. Even so, Bennett is still a solid goal scorer and his NHL future is most likely not going to be impacted much by the fact that he couldn’t do a pull-up. “He’s a fantastic player and a highly skilled guy,” according to Matt Nichol, a former strength coach for the Maple Leafs. With that being said, Bennett is projected to be taken within the top three. 4

1. Aaron Ekblad: Ekblad, a defenseman for Barrie Colt, has been projected to go within the top three by every scout that has surveyed him. The 18-year-old from Winsdor, Canada, stands at 6’4″ and weighs 213 pounds, making him a physical force as well as a talented puck handler. He leads the OHL in goals scored by a defenseman (23), and he has been compared to Shea Weber and Chris Pronger. A scout recently told the Toronto Sun that “He’s an NHL passer already. He’s the most flawless of the top players and he’s the most NHL-ready.” Ekblad has a little bit of everything and is by far the best defenseman of the 2014 draft, making him the top pick on this list. 1

1 – TSN CA

2 – Bleacher Report

3 – Pro Hockey Talk (Colle)

4 – Pro Hockey Talk (Bennett)

Alli Baker is a hockey fanatic and contributor for Designated for Assignment.  She can be reached at allibaker23@aol.com or followed on Twitter at @allibaker23

Hartnell and Umberger Switch Places As Draft Nears

scott-hartnellHartnell says he was forced out of Philadelphia (photo courtesy of rantsports.com)

by Drew Sarver

It’s been only 11 days since the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup, but the front offices of the National Hockey League teams are in full swing in preparation for the amateur draft (June 27-28) and the free agent period, which begins on July 1.

The week started out yesterday with a trade between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Columbus Blue Jackets. The two exchanged veterans with Scott Hartnell sent from Philly to Ohio for R.J. Umberger, a 4th round pick in next year’s draft.

Will this be the beginning of another shakeup for the Flyers, who have not won the Stanley Cup since 1975? It’s hard to tell so far. For once, they finally have a quality goalie in Steve Mason, but they finished third in the division, not far above the two wild card teams.

Hartnell, 32, shook off some early injuries to have a decent year – 20 goals (9 on the power play), 103 penalty minutes, and +11 in 78 games played – but he was pretty much invisible in a seven-game, first-round playoff loss to the New York Rangers. He will have a $4.75MM impact on the Blue Jackets’ salary cap and he has five years remaining on his current contract.

Hartnell plays with a rough-and-tumble style that should give the Blue Jackets a more physical presence on the ice. The former 1st round draft pick, sixth overall in 2000, Hartnell spent the last seven years in Philadelphia after six seasons with Nashville. The Predators dealt the left wing along with current Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timmonen for a first round pick after the 2006-2007 season. Hartnell scored a career-high 37 goals and 60 points for the Flyers three seasons ago.

Though he produced five 20-plus goal seasons, Umberger has never been a big point producer. This past season, he posted the second-worst total of his career, with 34 points in 74 games. Also 32-years of age, Umberger played for the Flyers for the first three seasons of his career before he was dealt to Columbus after the 2007-2008 season. He received one vote for the Selke Trophy, for best defensive forward, in his first year with the Blue Jackets. His last year in Philly was arguably his best season when he scored 10 goals and added five assists in 17 postseason games. (The Flyers lost in the Eastern Conference finals to the Pittsburgh Penguins in five games.)

Umberger doesn’t represent much of a savings on the cap, (his cap hit is $4.6MM),  but his contract is two years shorter than Hartnell’s.

Hartnell spoke with reporters on Monday and said he was forced out of Philadelphia. “A few days ago … four or five days ago now … my agent got the call from Hexy (new Flyers GM Ron Hextall) and said there were a couple of teams that inquired about me. He hummed (sic) and hawed about my role and my position in Philadelphia, and he decided it was best for me to move on from the Flyers”.1 Hartnell had to waive his no-trade clause to make the deal happen.

Part of the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was to grant each team two amnesty buyouts. The move allows team to take two salaries off their books without a hit to the salary cap. The team cannot renegotiate a new deal with the bought-out players. Just three players, listed below, have been bought out so far by their current teams.  Teams have until June 30 to give players the boot. The salary cap for next season is expected to be about $71MM.

Dallas Stars – D Aaron Rome
Rome represented just a $1.5MM hit to the cap in what would have been the final year of his contract. He averaged just over 13 minutes of ice time per game. He’s a stay-at-home defenseman, who has been criticized for not using his size (6’1″, 218 lbs) enough.2

New York Rangers – C/LW Brad Richards
This was a no-brainer for Rangers’ GM Glen Sather. Richards’ time in New York has been underwhelming to say the least. While he had a much better season under first-year coach Alain Vigneault than he did  in his two years under John Tortorella, Richards was invisible in the Stanley Cup finals, except when he made a mistake. Last season, he managed just one point in 10 playoff games. Even if the Rangers had won the cup, his fate was likely sealed, since the 34-year old stood to make $6.67MM for each of the next six years.

Vancouver Canucks – LW David Booth
Booth scored 60 points in 72 games in the 2008-2009 season, but it has been all downhill from there. The speedy winger, with a history of concussions, tallied just 9 goals and 10 assists in this past season.

 

1 – Puck Daddy

2 – The Hockey News – Aaron Rome

3 – The Hockey News – David Booth

Cap statistics courtesy of Capgeek.com

Drew Sarver is the founder, publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes and @d4assignment or contacted by email at dsarver@d4assignment.com.

NHL Stanley Cup: Kings 2 Games From Coronation

DustinBrownKings’ captain Dustin Brown’s Game 2 winner put the Kings halfway to another Cup.

by Drew Sarver

Watching the relentless style of the Los Angeles Kings makes you wonder why the Kings aren’t going for a three-peat of the Stanley Cup rather than their second title in three years.  The Kings have taken the first two games from the New York Rangers in overtime and double overtime. Both games played on the left coast saw Los Angeles come back from two goal deficits to force the extra ice time. They’re the first team to come back from two goal deficits to win in three straight games. The first was the finale of the Western Conference Finals when they topped the Chicago Blackhawks.

While the Rangers tremendous speed has been their biggest asset in the series, the big-bodied Kings hit from beginning to end. And they just keep coming.

Saturday night the Rangers were hoping to bounce back from their Game 1 disappointment and it appeared they might just do that. Game 2 started out in much the same manner as Game 1 with the Rangers netting the first two goals. But things turned around in the third period with New York ahead 4-2.

The Kings’ controversial third goal will be talked about for some time to come, but the aftermath was more frustrating for fans who saw the Rangers lose control of the game. It started when the Kings’ Matt Greene shot the puck from the right point. Kings’ winger Dwight King was  a sandwich between goalie Henrik Lundqvist and defenseman Ryan McDonagh in the Rangers crease. Greene’s shot hit King and got past Lundqvist for the goal. A two-goal lead was suddenly one and the shift in momentum was palpable.

Lundqvist immediately expressed his frustration to referee Brian O’Halloran, who signaled good goal. O’Halloran’s two part explanation was the puck was already past Lundqvist when contact was made and the contact was initiated by McDonagh.1 There is currently no video review for goaltender interference, but that could change as a result of the impact of the Kings’ goal. It was an odd no-call considering the Rangers Benoit Pouliot had gotten called for goaltender interference earlier in the game on a play that had less contact with the puck nowhere in sight.

The goal came within the first two minutes of third period and fired up the Kings’ fan base. Just as they had in the first game and throughout this year’s playoffs, the Kings took advantage of their opportunities. Former Ranger Marian Gaborik swept a loose puck in the slot past Lundqvist to tie the game at four apiece with a little over 12 minutes remaining in regulation.

After a scoreless first overtime – kept that way when Kings’ goalie Jonathan Quick stopped the Rangers’ Chris Kreider on a breakaway – Dustin Brown redirected Willie Mitchell’s blast from the left point past Lundqvist for the game winner at 10:26 of the second extra session. Just like that the Kings are in command of the best of seven series.

Notes

Many in the media predicted the Kings would be tired entering the series after having gone the full seven games in their three previous series. The Western Conference semi-finals concluded with a Game 7 overtime. While the Kings may be tired, they don’t look tired. In fact, it’s the Rangers who appear to be more tired. The Rangers, particularly in Game 2, often fell to the ice without contact. Bad skates or tired legs?

Only five teams in the history of the Stanley Cup playoffs have come back from a 2-0 deficit to win the championship. The 2011 Boston Bruins and 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins rallied from two down to win the title. They’re the only teams to do so in the last 40 years.

Rangers defenseman John Moore returned from a two game suspension for elbowing Montreal’s Dale Weise in the Eastern Conference semi-finals. Defenseman Rafael Diaz was a healthy scratch. Dan Carcillo’s 10 game suspension, for abusing an official, was reduced to six games and he could return for the fourth game of the series.

1 – sports.yahoo.com

 

Drew Sarver is the founder, publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes and @d4assignment or contacted by email at dsarver@d4assignment.com.