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Free agency looks likely for Loui Eriksson; Bruins to take ‘one more stab at it’ 06.23.16 at 7:52 pm ET
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Loui Eriksson

Loui Eriksson

BUFFALO — Don Sweeney has long been hopeful that he and super agent J.P. Barry would be able to bridge the gap and get a new contract done for veteran right wing Loui Eriksson.

With two days left until Eriksson will be free to interview with other teams and over a week until he’ll become an unrestricted free agent, Sweeney didn’t appear to be in a very hopeful state.

“It may not happen,” Sweeney said of an extension.

“I’m going to have a conversation again with J.P. and see if things have changed and take one more stab at it to see if he thinks the internal landscape is as green as we think it is as opposed to what the outside may look like,” Sweeney said. “Obviously he’s on the cusp of maybe exploring things.”

Term has long been a stumbling block between the two sides. The Bruins have been unwilling to go beyond four years on a contract for Eriksson, who will turn 31 next month.

In other free agency news, the Bruins will not bring back Jonas Gustavsson. Zach Trotman will go to market, while the team has had contact with Lee Stempniak and John-Michael Liles.

Read More: Loui Eriksson,
Peter Chiarelli puts idea of getting a No. 1 defenseman in perspective 06.23.16 at 3:19 pm ET
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Peter Chiarelli

Peter Chiarelli

BUFFALO — In rewatching Edmonton president of hockey operations Peter Chiarelli’s availability with reporters from Thursday morning, it was hard not to notice a point he made regarding his own team’s issues that applies to the Bruins.

A reporter asked Chiarelli about trading for a No. 1 defenseman. Chiarelli shed light on such a pursuit by noting something that fans in every market probably don’t consider often enough.

“Over the years, we’ve had discussions with teams I’ve been with, like, how many true No. 1 D are there? Maybe there’s 12,” Chiarelli said. “So there’s 30 teams and there’s 12 No. 1 D, so to think that you’re going to get a No. 1 D, it’s tough.”

While one of Chiarelli’s biggest blunders in Boston involved losing a top-pairing defenseman (Johnny Boychuk), the point he raises is correct. Look around the league. Keith Yandle isn’t a No. 1 defenseman and just god paid $6.35 million annually on a seven-year deal. Alex Goligoski isn’t a No. 1 (on a good team, anyway) and he got $5.45 million a year over five years. Kevin Shattenkirk, a top-four guy who would play big minutes in Boston but is far from a stud, might get traded for a haul. Food for thought.

Watch the video of Chiarelli’s press conference here, courtesy of TSN

Read More: Peter Chiarelli,
Jack Eichel wants Jimmy Vesey in Buffalo, but understands Bruins are probably ‘in the back of his mind’ 06.23.16 at 1:25 pm ET
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Jack Eichel hopes his friend Jimmy Vesey will sign with the Sabres. (Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports)

Jack Eichel hopes his friend Jimmy Vesey will sign with the Sabres. (Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports)

BUFFALO — When the Sabres sent a third-round pick to the Predators for the rights to North Reading native and stud left wing prospect Jimmy Vesey, their hope was obvious: Vesey would pass up his promise to go to unrestricted free agency and instead team with fellow Massachusetts native and Jack Eichel to solidify a young offensive nucleus in Buffalo.

The promise hasn’t changed, however. Vesey’s camp said the day of the trade that the player would still go to free agency on Aug. 15. Should that hold true, all the Sabres have is time to sell him on their plan so that when all is said and done, Buffalo is the player’s choice in free agency.

Fortunately for the Sabres, they have one of the most talented young players in the league as a recruiting tool. Yet while Eichel put in his sales pitch soon after Monday’s trade (the two work out together every day), he doesn’t expect any good news before Aug. 15.

“I don’t think in his mind anything has changed,” Eichel told WEEI.com Thursday. “I think he’s still going to wait until free agency, but it’s nice to have him part of the organization, I guess. It would be great if he came to the Sabres, but he’s going to do whatever’s best for him at that point.”

Furthermore, the 2015 second overall pick is aware of the looming threat on Causeway Street. Shortly after Vesey announced his intentions to not sign with the Predators and instead head for free agency, chatter began (and a Boston Herald report outwardly said) that Vesey had his sights set on signing with the hometown Bruins.

Though Eichel thinks Vesey would make a hell of a Sabre, he can recognize that the Bruins might represent a threat to his teams odds of landing the player.

“I mean, he grows up in Boston watching the Bruins and obviously I think that’s got to be in the back of his mind,” Eichel said. “He went to school in Boston at Harvard, so he’s comfortable and familiar with that area. If that’s his preference and that’s what he wants to do, then I’m sure he’ll do it. But I’m sure he has options and a lot of things going through his head, so I know he’ll just take his time and make his decision. [I wish him] all the best.”

Eichel, who played with Vesey for Team USA at last year’s World Championships and is currently playing in a summer league with Vesey, was modest in expressing how much influence his recommendation will have with Vesey. He noted that Vesey will take advantage of his options as a free agency and consider his own preferences and those of his family and agents.

“Obviously he’s a great player, he’s a good kid,” Eichel said. “He’d bring a lot to the [Sabres]. Any time you can get good players, it’s always good. If he comes to Buffalo, I know he’ll enjoy it. It’s a great city to play for, [but] I think at the end of the day he’ll make whatever decision is best for him.”

Read More: Jack Eichel, Jimmy Vesey,
Anze Kopitar beats out Patrice Bergeron for Selke, somehow 06.22.16 at 8:27 pm ET
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Patrice Bergeron

Patrice Bergeron

The Kings cleaned up at the NHL Awards Wednesday night, with “cleaning up” meaning “won awards they probably shouldn’t have won.”

Moments after Drew Doughty beat out Erik Karlsson for the Norris Trophy (an award with which Karlsson should have run away), Anze Kopitar was awarded the Selke Trophy to deny Patrice Bergeron his third-straight win.

Statistically speaking, Bergeron figured to be the favorite to win the Selke, which is given to the league’s top two-way forward. The Boston center had 32 goals to Kopitar’s 25 and though Kopitar had more assists (49 to 36) and points (74 to 68), defensive and possession metrics heavily fell in Bergeron’s favor. Bergeron’s Corsi Relative of 20.4 was vastly superior to Kopitar’s 2.4 mark.

Bergeron also led the league with 1,130 faceoff wins to Kopitar’s 950 despite Kopitar playing one more regular-season game. Bergeron won 57.1 percent of his draws, with Kopitar winning 53.5 percent.

Despite Bergeron’s statistical advantages, Kopitar received 31 more first-place votes by Pro Hockey Writers Association members than Bergeron, who finished second. Bergeron has now finished first or second in Selke voting in five straight seasons. Had he won Wednesday, he would have tied Bob Gainey for the most career Selke wins (four) and become the second player in league history (Pavel Datsyuk) to win three straight.

The voting breakdown was as follows:

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 8.18.21 PM

Bruins not yet discussing Loui Eriksson’s rights with teams 06.22.16 at 6:58 pm ET
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Loui Eriksson

Loui Eriksson

The Bruins and agent J.P. Barry still plan to negotiate further as they try to bridge the gap on Loui Eriksson’s next contract. According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, Sweeney and Barry will meet Wednesday night.

With the sides still not close on a deal, however, the clock is ticking on the team to decide whether they’re going to keep the player unsigned through the draft or flip his rights to another team for draft pick compensation. Given that such trades involve mid-round picks (as has been the case for free-agents-to-be Alex Goligoski, Keith Yandle and Jimmy Vesey), the Bruins would realistically have until Saturday (the second day of the draft) to make such a move if they were to seek 2016 compensation. According to a league source, the Bruins are not currently discussing Eriksson’s rights with other teams.

Considering that the team shopped Eriksson leading up to the trade deadline, it figures that the team has some sort of indication as to which teams might be interested should it come to that. Last summer, the Bruins traded the rights of UFA Carl Soderberg to the Avalanche the night before the draft in exchange for a sixth-round pick in the 2016 draft.

Read More: Loui Eriksson,
NHL awards expansion franchise to Las Vegas 06.22.16 at 6:43 pm ET
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Gary Bettman

Gary Bettman

The NHL announced Wednesday that an expansion franchise has been granted to Las Vegas. The team, which has yet to be named, will debut in the 2017-18 season and will play in the Pacific Division.

Per the NHL’s press release, following are the parameters of the Las Vegas team’s addition, which includes, among other things, alignment, scheduling and next offseason’s expansion draft:

Alignment

The Las Vegas franchise will begin play in the Pacific Division of the Western Conference in 2017-18. There will be no other changes to the NHL’s alignment.

2017-18 Schedule Matrix

Each club will continue to play an 82-game schedule, with 41 home games and 41 road games.

The schedule matrix, which ensures that all teams play in all arenas at least once each season, will be adjusted to the following in 2017-18:

Eastern Conference (Atlantic and Metropolitan Divisions – 8 Teams)

Within Conference (Division): 28 games
* 7 Teams: 2 Home / 2 Away
* 7 x 4 = 28 games

Within Conference (Non-Division): 24 games
* 4 Teams: 2 Home / 1 Away
* 4 Teams: 1 Home / 2 Away
* 4 x 3 = 12 games
* 4 x 3 = 12 games

Non-Conference: 30 games
* 15 Home / 15 Away
* 2 x 15 = 30

Western Conference (Central Division – 7 Teams)

Within Conference (Division): 26 games
* 4 Teams: 2 Home / 2 Away
* 1 Team: 3 Home / 2 Away
* 1 Team: 2 Home / 3 Away
* 4 x 4 = 16
* 1 x 5 = 5
* 1 x 5 = 5

Within Conference (Non-Division): 24 games
* 4 Teams: 2 Home / 1 Away
* 4 Teams: 1 Home / 2 Away
* 4 x 3 = 12 games
* 4 x 3 = 12 games

Non-Conference: 32 games
* 16 Home / 16 Away
* 2 x 16 = 32 games

Western Conference (Pacific Division – 8 Teams)

Within Conference (Division): 29 games
* 6 Teams: 2 Home / 2 Away
* 1 Team: 3 Home / 2 Away
* 6 x 4 = 24 games
* 1 x 5 = 5 games

Within Conference (Non-Division): 21 games
* 4 Teams: 2 Home / 1 Away
* 3 Teams: 1 Home / 2 Away
* 4 x 3 = 12 games
* 3 x 3 = 9 games

Non-Conference: 32 games
* 16 Home / 16 Away
* 2 x 16 = 32 games

2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs

The NHL’s current playoff format will not change.

Expansion Draft  Read the rest of this entry »

Podcast: Kirk Luedeke discusses which defensemen Bruins could select in NHL draft 06.22.16 at 4:01 pm ET
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In case you missed it, Kirk Luedeke of Red Line Report joined me this week to discuss the first round of Friday’s NHL draft. Click here for the writeup on his thoughts regarding where Boston’s 2015 selections currently stand.

Following are Luedeke’s thoughts on a number of the defensive prospects that could be available at the 14th overall pick, which the Bruins currently own along with No. 29. Red Line Report has Jake Bean as their top defenseman in the draft, while Luedeke has BCHL defensemen Dante Fabbro as his No. 1 defenseman this year.

“I don’t think there’s any clear emerging dominant defenseman this year,” Luedeke said. “There’s quality at the top of the draft. I think this draft has really good value from picks 1 to 15 or 16 depending on the order of where those players go. There might be a couple of guys that jump into that 15 or 16 that are not currently projected there. But the defensemen are a solid crop.”

Luedeke thinks there is a strong group of D in the first half of the first round and that there are enough quality forwards to push some of the defensemen down. As such, Luedeke feels that moving up would be a waste of assets.

“I don’t think that there’s any defenseman that you need to be moving up to get because I think someone good is going to fall to them,” Luedeke said.

He also noted that he doesn’t feel Kevin Shattenkirk “constitutes good enough to move 14” given that Shattenkirk is ideally not a top-pairing defenseman and only has one year left on his contract.

Here are Luedeke’s thoughts on some of the individual players:

Jakob Chychrun, LD, Sarnia (OHL), 6-foot-2, 194 pounds

“I will tell you that Jakob Chychrun has been a tad disappointing. He was the one that was projected to be ‘the guy’ entering this season. A lot of people felt he would go No. 2 overall behind Auston Matthews. That hasn’t materialized. On the plus side, he’s a big kid, he can really skate, handles the puck with confidence. On the downside, there are questions about his vision, his instincts. He didn’t have a strong Under-18 tournament, didn’t have a strong second half of the OHL season, so there are some questions. Chochrun’s sliding. I don’t he’ll slide all that far, to be honest with you, just because there are teams out there that value him, but I see Chychrun has a high-floor, low-ceiling kind of defenseman.

“He was seen as a franchise cornerstone at the beginning of the year, and he just hasn’t performed at that level. Having said that, I think he plays.”

Mikhail Sergachev, LD, Windsor (OHL), 6-foot-3, 195 pounds

“A real toolsy defender.”

Jake Bean, LD, Calgary (WHL), 6-foot-0, 165 pounds

“In Red Line Report, our No. 1 defenseman is Jake Bean, who scored 24 goals for the Calgary hitmen. He’s a left-shot defensemen and he set a franchise record for goals by a defenseman. He’s got this real wicked sneaky little wrist shot that he gets off quickly and it’s one of those seeing eye puck kind of shots where there might be a maze of people in front and it somehow just will sneak through and will handcuff goalies. They won’t see it coming and it’s by them.

“Real good passer. He’s more of an offensive defenseman at this stage of his development, but I think he kind of gets diminished a little in his defensive ability. He’s a guy that wants to work, but he’s pretty average-sized and he’s slight. During the season, he’s the kind of guy that’s going to have trouble keeping weight on, so he’ll start the season heavier and then as the grind goes on, he’ll lose weight.

“In that WHL, it’s a rugged league, and guys are bigger and stronger and more physical. I think that kind of tends to play into some of the perceptions that Bean is not good defensively, but that overshoots the fact that he’s smart, sees the ice, has good, savvy positional skills, is learning and wants to be good.

“That’s the thing about Bean: he wants to be a complete three-zone player and he doesn’t want to be pigeonholed as a single-dimension one-way threat. He understands what he needs to do, and it’s just a matter of maturing physically and continuing to learn, get good coaching and go out and work.

“At Red Line we’ve got Bean like No. 6 overall. He’s our No. 1 defenseman.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Dante Fabbro, Jake Bean, Kirk Luedeke,

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