Puck Daddy - NHL

  • When Mike Babcock was announced as the head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, it was a foregone conclusion that Phil Kessel would have to change his off-season workout habits. And by change, I mean, actually work out more than a couple times (in between poker hands, natch).

    Kessel is often ribbed for his less than athletic physique; yet, he doesn't change anything from year to year. Perhaps scoring 25-plus goals over a majority of his career allows him to be more complacent, and take an 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' attitude.

    Babcock is not the same lame duck(s) Kessel had been coached by before. He expects nothing but complete buy-in from his players, so it wasn't surprising when the Gary Roberts (off-season trainer to the stars) rumors resurfaced a few days ago:

    Now Phil has been traded to Pittsburgh. The 'Burgh happens to be the in-season home of one of Roberts most famous clients: Sidney Crosby.

    So, with Phil and Sid as teammates, does that increase the likelihood of Kessel ascribing to the idea to becoming a better version of himself?

    Anyone who thinks that Phil has escaped the microscope of media analysis by getting out of Toronto is wrong. Pittsburgh's media contingent, God bless 'em, are similarly as hyper-focused as Toronto; there's just a lot less of them.

    Phil is more or less used to that media circus by now, though. (Doesn't mean it won't still bother him, but he gets it.) What's going to be new for Phil is the accountability he's going to be held to by teammates. There as rumors of scuffles and tiffs in Toronto, but he's not 'THE guy' now who calls the shots.

    Simply said: Sid won't take any of Kessel's BS. No more shifts off. No more days where he's just not feeling it. No more lumpy, grumpy Phil.

    And it's going to start this summer with Gary Roberts.

    (It wouldn't be completely surprising to see Penguins PR cheering on Phil and Sid working out together during the off-season.)

    Unfortunately for Phil, one thing that's not on the Gary Roberts' nutrition plan: Primanti Brothers sandwiches. The legendary eatery was kind enough to extend an invitation to the newest Penguin. He might want to take them up on the offer before he starts the Phil Kessel 2.0 makeover:

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    Jen Neale is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow her on Twitter!

  • And the top offensive defenseman of unrestricted free agency is off the market. 

    The Detroit Red Wings have signed former Caps blueliner Mike Green for three years at $6 million per-season. That’s slightly less than his prior contract, which was for three years at $6.083 million per-year.

    That’s an interesting deal for the 29-year-old Green – a power play specialist who averaged 19:06 of ice-time per-game last season – his lowest  total since the 2006-07 season. But as Japers' Rink notes, Green wasn’t forced to try to play more defensively like prior coaches.

    New bench boss Barry Trotz tried to accentuate Green’s offensive skills.

    The result? His most productive offensive season since 2009-10, with 45 points on the year... a far cry from his career high of 76, of course, but his best mark since and the second-most among Caps' blueliners. That total also put him into the top-20 among NHL defensemen, tied with Duncan Keith and Shea Weber (each of whom played more games over the course of the season)

    Is Green the offensive monster who had 76 points in 75 games with Washington in 2009-10? Not anymore. But he’s still effective. And $6 million for a player in 2015 isn’t quite the same mega deal as it was a few years ago.

    The Caps had the NHL’s top power play last year at 25.3 percent. Detroit was No. 2 at 23.8 percent. Last season Green’s SAT differential was at plus-89, per the NHL’s enhanced stats site. His STA Rel % at 1.6. The previous year his SAT Rel % was at plus-4.6 

    “We want to thank Mike for 10 great seasons with the Washington Capitals. Mike was an ultimate professional in his long tenure with our organization and had a huge impact on our community. We wish Mike all the best with the Detroit Red Wings organization,” the Caps said in a statement. 

    This helps sets the market for Cody Franson – another unrestricted free agent offensive defenseman. Then again if history is a guide, we may wait a while for Franson to sign. Andrej Sekera signed earlier with Edmonton at six years for $5.5 million per-year, which is another guide for Franson. 

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    Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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  • The Pittsburgh Penguins have acquired Phil Kessel from the Toronto Maple Leafs, along with Tyler Biggs and defenseman Tim Erixon in exchange for Kasperi Kapanen, Nick Spaling, Scott Harrington and a 2016 third-round draft pick previously acquired from New Jersey, as well as a complicated scenario in which other picks will change hands. 

    Who won the trade? Who lost the trade? Here’s our take:

    WINNER: Phil Kessel

    Since he arrived in Toronto, only four players have more goals that Kessel’s 156 in 446 games. The idea that his setup man will now be either Sidney Crosby (most likely) or Evgeni Malkin is indeed a scary thought. Granted, we still have to see how his style – he and Crosby both like the puck – meshes with his new teammates, but 40 goals is the floor for what to expect from Kessel. 

    LOSER: Phil Kessel

    The Maple Leafs were a bad, bad situation and Kessel’s attitude was certainly commiserate with it. His minus-34 disaster of a season could be chalked up to that of a tire fire, but now he’s gone from outhouse to penthouse. No excuses left, and Crosby’s not going to stand for a lack of consistent effort. Oh, and anyone who thinks he's now third-fiddle and out of the spotlight doesn't understand how the Pittsburgh media works. 

    WINNER: Sidney Crosby and/or Evgeni Malkin

    They wanted more elite offensive talent on this roster, and they got arguably the second-best scoring winger in the game behind Alex Ovechkin. The Penguins were 19th in 5-on-5 scoring last season; part of that was their system under Mike Johnston, but Kessel was second in the NHL in even-strength goals in 2013-4 with 29 – behind only Ovechkin. This move helps their offense is a huge way. 

    LOSER: Tyler Bozak

    Bozak was nearly a 50-point center three times with his best bud on his wing with the Buds. One assumes he’ll revert to being The Other Guy in Wham! now that Kessel’s gone. (And one assumes Bozak will be as well.)

    WINNER: Jim Rutherford

    The embattled general manager targeted Kessel, presented one of the only logical landing spots for Kessel, managed to get him without giving up prized defensive prospect Derek Pouliot and had the Leafs pick up some salary. Not a bad day, especially in making his stars happy.

    LOSER: Pittsburgh’s Depth

    That said, there’s still a lot of work to be done on the blue line and in the bottom six for the Penguins before they can truly contend with the NHL’s best. But Kessel addresses a huge need.

    WINNER: Leafs Salary Cap

    The Leafs retained salary, $1.2 million against the cap through 2022, but they also open up $6.8 million and subtract a player that clearly was at the end of his journey in Toronto. New coach, new regime, fresh start and more cap space.

    LOSER: Chris Kunitz

    At some point, someone is going to have to be sacrificed in the name of cap room for the Penguins, who only have eight forwards signed, need another defenseman and have just $6.4 million open.

    WINNER: Gary Roberts

    The NHL fitness guru, credited with turning players like Steven Stamkos into specimens, will tackle perhaps his greatest challenge: Working with Kessel and changing his diet.

    LOSERS: Toronto Mitten-stringers

    The Toronto media loses their favorite target of derision. No word if there will be a special section in tomorrow’s Toronto Star dedicated to the memory of Phil Kessel’s Attitude Problem.

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  • Another piece of Tim Murray’s plan is falling into place for the Buffalo Sabres.

    As Scott McLoughlin of WEEI and Shawn Stepner of Buffalo’s WKBW reported Wednesday morning, Jack Eichel has left Boston University following his freshman year and has signed with the Sabres. 

    Eichel was the nation’s leading scorer with 71 points, guiding the Terriers to the NCAA title game and taking home the 2015 Hobey Baker Award. The 6-foot-2 forward was the first freshman to win the award since Paul Kariya in 1993.

    “Even though I hadn’t been selected until today, it seems like I’ve been a part of the Buffalo Sabres for a while now,” Eichel said during Draft weekend.

    The No. 2 overall pick in last weekend’s NHL Draft wouldn’t say at the time whether he’d be leaving BU, but all signs indicated he would be with the Sabres for the 2015-16 season. 

    “As a city and the Sabres as a team, it’s heading in the right direction,” said Eichel. “When you look at some of the moves that they’ve made, the guys they’ve acquired, some of the guys on the team, there are a lot of positives. 

    “I just want to be a piece of the puzzle, because Buffalo wants success and wants success soon.”

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    Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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  • We’re keeping track of the big unrestricted free agent names here at Puck Daddy. But how are some of the smaller signings working out?

    Sometimes it's the little pieces that can help your team fill in the puzzle and push it to the Stanley Cup. Not everyone today is named Cody Franson or Matt Beleskey. Could one of these guys play a big role this season? Take a look at the players and their new (or same) teams. 

    John Moore, D, New Jersey Devils: Three years, $5M

    P.A. Parenteau, F, Toronto Maple Leafs: One year, $1.5M

    Barret Jackman, D, Nashville Predators: Two years, $4M

    Victor Stalberg, F, New York Rangers: One year, $1.1M

    Raphael Diaz, D, New York Rangers: One year, $700,000

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  • There’s probably a good reason why the Winnipeg Jets let Michael Frolik walk in unrestricted free agency. It’s because they likely knew wayward forward Alexander Burmistrov would return from AK Bars Kazan in the KHL on a two-year deal worth $3.1 million.

    The 23-year-old Russian bolted the Jets in 2012 for the KHL. But according to the Winnipeg Sun, things changed with Burmistrov. He didn't mesh well with former coach Claude Noel. Now Paul Maurice is in charge of Winnipeg's bench. 

    Burmistrov was the No. 8 overall pick of the Jets/Atlanta Thrashers in 2010.

    Burmistrov, who has 23 goals and 58 points in 194 NHL games, figures to be in the mix to compete for a spot on the third or fourth line, depending on how things sort out in free agency.

    But his ability to play both centre and wing makes him an intriguing option.

    Said Arctic Ice Hockey:

    Burmistrov should be able to fill in the defensive role of Frolik, but he has less of an offensive right now. Burmistrov could end up scoring more at the NHL level, which would be really good news for the Jets.

    That’s the point of free agency if you lose a guy – replace him with someone else. 

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    Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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  • The Pittsburgh Penguins made their trade of Toronto Maple Leafs star Phil Kessel official on Wednesday: Kessel, forward Tyler Biggs and defenseman Tim Erixon in exchange for Kasperi Kapanen, Nick Spaling, Scott Harrington and a 2016 third-round draft pick previously acquired from New Jersey for their signing of coach John Hynes. 

    The deal also involves two conditional picks. And that’s where it gets a little complicated:

    *If Pittsburgh qualifies for the 2016 postseason, Toronto will receive the Penguins’ 2016 first-round draft pick; and the Penguins will receive Toronto’s 2016 second-round selection. The second-round pick would be the one Toronto originally acquired from Pittsburgh for Daniel Winnik earlier this year.

    *Should Pittsburgh miss the 2016 playoffs, Toronto will INSTEAD receive the Penguins’ 2017 first-round pick; with Pittsburgh getting Toronto’s 2017 second-round selection in return.

    *If the Penguins were to miss the postseason the next two years, Toronto would receive Pittsburgh’s 2017 second-round draft pick and Pittsburgh would not receive a draft pick.

    Everybody got that?

    The last option is a fun one: If in fact this trade turns out to be a massive bust, and the Penguins completely implode and miss the playoffs for the next two seasons, the return actually gets worse for the Maple Leafs.

    Sorry, Leafs fan, but you won’t have the Penguins’ lottery pick this year to go along with your own in the Auston Matthews derby. 

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  • The Nashville Predators signed former St. Louis Blues defenseman Barret Jackman on Wednesday to a two-year deal with $2 million annually. 

    Jackman had narrowed his choices down to the Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville, but opted for the Preds. He was coming off a three-year, $9.5 million contract with the Blues, who opted not to bring him back. He had been the longest-tenured athlete in St. Louis at the time.

    It’s not a bad signing or landing spot for Jackman. He’s going to be a second or third pairing guy, and could be a defensive foundation for a player like Seth Jones to get his offense on. He was a strong possession player for the Blues, with a plus-1.2-percent Fenwick-Relative to his teammates last season. And he'll still drop the gloves, with five fights last season. 

    For what it’s worth, Jackman felt he had plenty left. As he told STLToday.com:

    “I have lots left in me,” he said in April. “I don’t know, four or five years. I take care of myself away from the rink. The body’s the best it’s felt in years. This is actually the best I’ve felt in years health-wise. I don’t see myself as a 40-year-old playing the game, but I’m still only 34 and feel like I’ve got lots left. I’ll continue playing.”

    As Dan Buffa of St. Louis Sports Minute wrote: “While he wasn’t the greatest defenseman to ever don skates, he was a durable strong and fearless leader for this team during his years in blue.”

    On The Forecheck is down with this:

    This is a good signing. The Predators needed a strong, steady blue liner to play on the lower end of the roster, as well as be a reliable presence for Seth Jones. Jackman provides exactly that.

    In a limited role, this should be OK. Wonder why the Blackhawks couldn’t secure him?

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  • There was once a magical time when forward Zack Kassian was sort of mentioned as the next Milan Lucic.

    That period is over, and Kassian, 24, is on his way to Montreal for 31-year-old Brandon Prust and a fifth-round draft pick, per Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

    "It was actually my dad's favorite team. It's an emotional day for me and my family. I'm at a loss for words right now," Kassian said on TSN’s broadcast.

    Why did it not work out for Kassian in Vancouver? His best season came in 2013-14 with 29 points in 73 games. He was the 13th overall pick in the 2009 draft of Buffalo and was part of a 2012 trade for Cody Hodgson. Clearly the deal did not work out for both sides. Hodgson was waived by Buffalo and signed by Nashville on Wednesday. 

    “I need to find consistency, and honestly, after spending four years in the league I know what I need to do to be the player I need to be," he added, "I can't pinpoint one reason. Deep down, I could have gave more. And they knew that."

    It gives Montreal a big body of unfulfilled potential at $1.75 million next year. And in Prust the Canucks get someone who is somewhat less productive – 18 points last season – at a $2.5 million cap hit for one more season. 

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    Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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  • We’re keeping track of the big unrestricted free agent names here at Puck Daddy. But how are some of the smaller signings working out?

    Sometimes it's the little pieces that can help your team fill in the puzzle and push it to the Stanley Cup. Not everyone today is named Cody Franson or Matt Beleskey. Could one of these guys play a big role this season? Take a look at the players and their new (or same) teams. 

    Matt Bartkowski, D Vancouver Canucks: One year, $1.75M

    Brad Richardson, C, Arizona Coyotes: Three years, $6.25M

    Zbynek Michalek D, Arizona Coyotes: Two years, $6.4M

    Anders Lindback, G, Arizona Coyotes: One year, $875,000 

    Viktor Tikhonov, F,  Chicago Blackhawks: One year, $1.04M

    Cal O’Reilly, F, Buffalo Sabres: One year, $700,000

    Ryan Carter, F, Minnesota Wild: One year, $625,000

    Steve Downie, F, Arizona Coyotes: One year, $1.75M

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