NHL News and Rumors – June 23, 2011


Ryan Smyth not right fit for rebuilding club

Jagr movement could be coming very soon

Senators eye Super Six

From Minnesota: NHL draft scuttlebut

Jagr to Habs? Smyth back to Oilers? NHL rumour mill goes crazy

Ballard Headed for Waivers?


The new Winnipeg NHL franchise has chosen its first bench boss.

Claude Noel will be the man behind the bench when the team hits the ice of the MTS Centre to begin its inaugural season.

Noel is the former head coach of the American Hockey League’s Manitoba Moose, where he spent one season compiling a 43-30-7 record and losing in the second round of the playoffs.

Prior to that, he spent four seasons as the head coach of the Milwaukee Admirals and three as an assistant coach with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

He was the interim head coach of the Blue Jackets for 24 games in 2010


Ryan Smyth not right fit for rebuilding club

The sports homecoming is an often irresistible manoeuvre, soaked in sentimentality, but short on logic, business sense and much else.

Fans respond to the mere possibility of a return of their departed hero with unbridled passion, which is understandable. Pro sports operators sell their heroes very well.

Even more powerfully, fans fall in love with players on their own and sometimes stay in love with them even when their favourite is traded away.

In the case of Ryan Smyth, the Oilers marketing department didn’t have to do much work, if any.

As Joe Thornton once said of the man dubbed Captain Canada for his distinguished service with Team Canada at the world hockey championship, “He’s what a Canadian hockey player is, he’s what a Canadian hockey player looks like, how he acts.”

No argument here. A fine son of the Rocky Mountain resort town of Banff, Smyth was perfect for the post-glory years Oilers -a tough, reliable, fan-friendly digger and scorer with a blue-collar work ethic and the most genuine post-goal celebration in the game.

Fans at Rexall Place got to see that smile on a regular basis.

The news item generated Monday by the estimable Bob McKenzie of TSN that Smyth would prefer to play out the final year in his current Los Angeles Kings contract back in Edmonton went viral in minutes, if not seconds, as well it should.


Jagr movement could be coming very soon

Jaromir Jagr’s agent, Petr Svoboda, will be at the NHL Entry Draft this weekend. So will Penguins general manager Ray Shero and Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland.

It’s time to make a deal.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, fresh off winning the Jack Adams Award as NHL Coach of the Year, certainly sounded in favor of bringing the team’s former star back on board.

“I envision a guy coming back to the NHL with a high amount of motivation,” Bylsma said Wednesday in Las Vegas. “He doesn’t need to. He could probably make more money somewhere else, but he’d be coming back to prove he could play in the league and to win a Stanley Cup. And to think of a guy who scored 75 points his last year in the league, and then you see him in the world championships be outstanding. … His work ethic is high and the leadership is there, and that’s a real intriguing factor to think about the possibility of adding him to your team.”

The Penguins and Red Wings are the teams known to have interest in Jagr, and he is believed to desire a return to Pittsburgh. Svoboda’s arrival Friday in St. Paul, Minn., for the draft could make for an interesting weekend.

“Nothing is going to happen in the next couple of days,” Svoboda said. “On Friday, I’m coming to the States.”

Svoboda said Jagr was set to have a conversation with Shero and Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux on Tuesday. Jagr has long admired Lemieux, his former teammate.

Svoboda confirmed that the Penguins and Red Wings remain the front-runners for Jagr’s services. A third team — either another NHL team or a squad from Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League, where Jagr played the past three seasons — reportedly also is showing interest.


Senators eye Super Six

As the Senators look to climb back into the NHL’s upper echelon, they know it’s important that they hit a couple of home runs in this weekend’s draft.

The Senators started rebuilding by unloading veterans Mike Fisher, Chris Kelly, Jarrko Ruutu and Chris Campoli in exchange for draft picks at the NHL trade deadline in February. Now, with six picks in the first 66 selections — including two first round picks (No. 6 and 21) — in the two-day NHL draft starting Friday at the XCel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., the Senators have to turn all their pre-draft talk to action.

With 12 picks in total, assistant GM Tim Murray and director of scouting Pierre Dorion are confident they’ll have a strong couple of days at the draft table.

“At No. 6, I think you’re going to get a front-line player, a top two-line player or a top-three defenceman,” said Dorion. “At No. 21, you’re probably looking at a top-three line player or a top 4-5 defenceman.

“Obviously, the guy at No. 21 won’t play (next season for the Senators) barring unforeseen expectations, but will be on our team in the next few seasons.”

The big decision for the Senators is whether they move up from No. 6. They’ve talked to Edmonton GM Steve Tambellini about the No. 1 overall selection, but judging by what scouts are saying, the best-case scenario is the No. 4 pick from the New Jersey Devils.


From Minnesota: NHL draft scuttlebut

Greetings from the land of 10,000 lakes and all that. One of these days, I would actually like to visit the inner parts of Minnesota, as I hear nothing but good things about it all. I have visions of cabins and fish and marshmallows roasting on a fire and plaid shirts and general stores with quirky small-town newspapers. Unfortunately, looks like I only have time to mostly hang out by a suburban hotel and do things like crank out the copy for this blog.

On the way to Minneapolis this morning, members of Avalanche management were on my flight, including the coach, Joe Sacco. He seemed in good spirits. Unfortunately, they did NOT spill to me who they plan to take in Friday’s first round of the NHL draft. I kept trying to buy them drinks from those little bottles in the cart coming down the aisle, but they wouldn’t bite.

Two nights before the draft, and there are rumors aplenty that the Edmonton Oilers have NOT firmly decided on taking Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, that they are still mulling things over. Most people have assumed RNH is going No. 1, leading to the guessing game of who the Avs want at No. 2 – Landeskog, Larsson or Huberdeau. But if RNH is available, I say the Avs should grab him. I’ve seen a fair amount of video on him now, and he has definitely impressed me with his skill and hockey sense. Yeah, he’s skinny as a rail, though, but he’ll fill out.

If the Avs get RNH, that could open up furt
her rumor-mill possibilities of a trade involving Paul Stastny. RNH and Matt Duchene would make for a pretty nice, young 1-2 center combo for the future, and could make Stastny expendable. Don’t forget, the Avs also have Ryan O’Reilly up the middle, and Joey Hishon on the way.


Jagr to Habs? Smyth back to Oilers? NHL rumour mill goes crazy

The rumour mill has churned out any number of interesting possibilities. Jaromir Jagr, almost certainly coming back to the NHL, possibly with the Detroit Red Wings, maybe with his old team, the Pittsburgh Penguins. But why couldn’t it be the Montreal Canadiens, where Jagr could play with close friend Tomas Plekanec or former linemate Scott Gomez and wear the uniform of an Original Six team for the second time in his career?

Most people suspect Ryan Smyth will finish his career with the Edmonton Oilers, but will it happen next year – which would necessitate a trade with the Los Angeles Kings – or the year after, when his contract expires and he becomes an unrestricted free agent?

Though the Flyers insist negotiations are ongoing, Ilya Bryzgalov has a chance to become the highest-paid goaltender in the game, assuming he signs with Philadelphia as soon as the NHL confirms that next year’s salary cap will top out at $64-million (all currency U.S.), giving the Flyers the payroll room to absorb a $5-million to $7-million annual salary hit. And who does GM Paul Holmgren move to shoehorn Bryzgalov’s salary onto his already hefty payroll? Kris Versteeg? Jeff Carter? Or does he permit Ville Leino to depart as a free agent? If Carter is ever in play, any number of teams looking to fill gaping holes at centre (yes, we mean you Toronto Maple Leafs) will be lining up to take a crack at a deal.


Ballard Headed for Waivers?

Vancouver is trying hard to sign both Kevin Bieksa and Christian Erhoff. If the Canucks can’t move Keith Ballard they will likely place him on waivers and eat the contract in the minors. Toronto has done this with Jeff Finger and the Rangers did the same with Wade Redden so it’s not like we haven’t seen this before. Vancouver can afford to eat Ballard’s deal.