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Posted On Thursday, 06.28.2012 / 9:27 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - NHL Free Agency 2012 blog

Schultz rules out Red Wings

Free-agent defenseman Justin Schultz appears to be shrinking the number of teams he's interested in.

The Detroit Red Wings, thought to be a favorite to sign the coveted 21-year-old blueliner, were told Thursday that Schultz would not be signing with them.

"I was told we are not on his list of teams," Red Wings GM Ken Holland told the Detroit News. "We expressed our interest to his agent (Don Meehan). They went over all the information (Wednesday)."

Schultz has spent the last two days in Toronto meeting with his agents and prospective teams, including the Edmonton Oilers.

A native of West Kelowna, B.C., Schultz is eligible for a two-year entry-level contract, which reportedly will contain a base salary of $925,000, and with bonuses can reach $3.77 million. So while the financial offers are the same from each team, Schultz is basing his decision on where he could fit on a team's roster -- he reportedly wants to play for a team that can offer him top-four defense minutes.

He also reportedly is hoping to play for a Canadian team, and preferably stay in the west. That means the Canucks, Flames and Oilers -- who sent a delegation led by team president Kevin Lowe to meet with Schultz on Wednesday -- could be front-runners. Other reported possible landing spots are the Maple Leafs (Wisconsin teammate and close friend Jake Gardiner plays there), Rangers, Flyers, Blackhawks and Senators, but their hopes could be dwindling like the Red Wings.

Selected by the Anaheim Ducks in the second round of the 2008 draft, Schultz blossomed in three seasons at the University of Wisconsin. He was a two-time conference defensive player of the year and a Hobey Baker finalist the past two seasons. He led all NCAA defensemen last season in goals, points and power-play goals.

He withdrew from school after his junior year, and when he didn't sign with Anaheim during a 30-day window of exclusivity that ended last week, he became an unrestricted free agent.

Schultz is considered by many to be third on the list of most desired free agents this summer, after New Jersey's Zach Parise and Nashville's Ryan Suter.

While some are questioning why so much attention is being paid to a player yet to skate in an NHL game, Schultz is considered by many to be the best player not currently in the League.

"His foundation of skating is excellent," NHL Network analyst Craig Button told NHL.com. "He has speed, quickness and agility and is able to use his abilities to beat pressure defensively and to move into advantageous positions and be a threat offensively. … Overall, he's a player who is capable of controlling the pace and tempo of play when he has the puck. He's a player who wants to make a difference in the game. I think he has a chance to be a top-end defenseman."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Thursday, 06.28.2012 / 9:27 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - NHL Free Agency 2012 blog

Schultz rules out Red Wings

Free-agent defenseman Justin Schultz appears to be shrinking the number of teams he's interested in.

The Detroit Red Wings, thought to be a favorite to sign the coveted 21-year-old blueliner, were told Thursday that Schultz would not be signing with them.

"I was told we are not on his list of teams," Red Wings GM Ken Holland told the Detroit News. "We expressed our interest to his agent (Don Meehan). They went over all the information (Wednesday)."

Schultz has spent the last two days in Toronto meeting with his agents and perspective teams, including the Edmonton Oilers.

A native of West Kelowna, B.C., Schultz is eligible for a two-year entry-level contract, which reportedly will contain a base salary of $925,000, and with bonuses can reach $3.77 million. So while the financial offers are the same from each team, Schultz is basing his decision on where he could fit on a team's roster -- he reportedly wants to play for a team that can offer him top-four defense minutes.

He also reportedly is hoping to play for a Canadian team, and preferably stay in the west. That means the Canucks, Flames and Oilers -- who sent a delegate led by team president Kevin Lowe to meet with Schultz on Wednesday -- could be front-runners. Other reported possible landing spots are the Maple Leafs (Wisconsin teammate and close friend Jake Gardiner plays there), Rangers, Flyers, Blackhawks and Senators, but their hopes could be dwindling like the Red Wings.

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Posted On Tuesday, 06.26.2012 / 11:48 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - NHL Free Agency 2012 blog

Avs elect not to extend qualifying offer to Mueller

When Peter Mueller has been healthy, he's shown himself to be a highly-skilled NHL forward.

Staying healthy, however, has been a major issue the last three seasons, and likely was part of the reason the Colorado Avalanche on Monday declined to give the restricted free agent a qualifying offer, making him an unrestricted free agent July 1.

Taken by the Phoenix Coyotes with the eighth pick of the 2006 Draft, Mueller broke into the NHL the following season. His 22 goals as a rookie were second only to Chicago's Jonathan Toews, and his 54 points trailed only Chicago's Patrick Kane and Washington's Nicklas Backstrom.

He slumped to just 13 goals the following season, and after a slow start to the 2009-10 season, the Coyotes traded him to the Colorado Avalanche on March 3, 2010.

The change of scenery lit a fire under Mueller, who had nine goals and 11 assists in 20 games. That hot run ended April 4, 2010, when he suffered a concussion on a hit by the San Jose Sharks' Rob Blake.

He was close to returning when the 2010-11 season started, but he suffered another concussion in his first preseason game -- Mueller said he was hit by a stick in the left temple, the same place he was injured on the Blake hit -- and that led to him sitting out the entire 2010-11 season.

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Posted On Saturday, 06.23.2012 / 11:13 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2012 NHL Draft blog

New favorite team for Stolarz

PITTSBURGH -- Corpus Christi IceRays goalie Anthony Stolarz grew up in Jackson, N.J. -- about an hour north of Philadelphia -- rooting for Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils.

But after being selected by the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round of the 2012 NHL Draft, the 6-foot-5, 200-pounder said, "It looks like I'm a Flyers fan now."

Stolarz does have a connection to the Flyers, as growing up in central New Jersey, he played with and against Philadelphia forward James van Riemsdyk.

"I played against Trevor in high school when I was a freshman [at St. John Vianney], he was a senior at Christian Brothers [Academy]. There were a few times playing open hockey I'd play with James, Trevor and the youngest brother, Brandon."

Stolarz has taken a circuitous route to his NHL draft day. He played in the Atlantic Youth Hockey League and was recommended for an open camp Corpus Christi was having in Albany, N.Y. From there he was invited to the IceRays' main camp and posted a 2.84 goals-against average and .920 save percentage in 50 games.

He admits he had no idea what hockey in Texas would be like.

"It was right on the beach," he said. "I figured it'll be a good spot."

However, playing in Texas made it a bit hard for NHL scouts to find him, which made his selection in the second round a bit of a surprise.

"To start the year I really wasn't focused on the NHL," he said. "I was focused more on getting a college scholarship. Anything after that was an added bonus."

He'll play at the University of Nebraska-Omaha next season, but said he's already looking forward to meeting Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.

"He looks like an interesting character," Stolarz said. "He's a good goalie. Watching him in Phoenix and now Philly, hopefully I'll be able to pick up a few things from him."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Saturday, 06.23.2012 / 10:46 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2012 NHL Draft blog

Awkward reunion

PITTSBURGH -- Back in February at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, Red Deer defenseman Matt Dumba and Baie-Comeau left wing Raphael Bussieres and engaged in a pretty spirited fight.

When Bussieres was picked by the Wild in the second round of the 2012 NHL Draft on Saturday, the first person he saw at the team's table on the draft floor was the team's first-round pick -- Dumba.

"I shook his hand," Bussieres told NHL.com. "It was a little awkward, but just funny. We both laughed."

Bussieres said there's no hard feelings or about what happened, saying it was just part of that game.

"I have nothing against Dumba," Bussieres said. "The game is intense. He hit one of the players I played with and I just fight him."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Saturday, 06.23.2012 / 12:40 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2012 NHL Draft blog

Ceci staying home -- again

PITTSBURGH -- Cody Ceci knows for sure he'll be playing his home games in Scotiabank Place in Ottawa. Whether he's doing it as a member of the Ottawa Senators, however, is another story.

Ceci, taken by the Senators with the 15th pick of the 2012 NHL Draft, plays his junior hockey for the Ottawa 67s. With their home arena, the Ottawa Civic Center, under renovations, the 67s will play their home games next season at Scotiabank Place, home of the Senators.

And if he does eventually play for the Senators, it'll be easy for his family to see the games -- Ceci was born and raised in the Ottawa suburb of Orleans, Ont.

"It's a crazy feeling for me," he told NHL.com. "I never thought it would happen. To stay at home for major junior was crazy enough. Now doing it at the [NHL] level is indescribable. My mom's really happy."

Ceci said he met with the Senators in May at the NHL Scouting Combine, and said he was told then that if he were still available when the Sens' turn came at the draft -- he was No. 6 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters -- he would be a player they would consider.

"When it got to be closer to them I was hoping that everything would work out," he said. "Just having everything work out is special. I'm really fortunate and I feel lucky that it did work out."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Saturday, 06.23.2012 / 12:25 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2012 NHL Draft blog

Laughton gets first taste of rivalry

PITTSBURGH -- Oshawa Generals forward Scott Laughton got a rough introduction to the bitter Flyers-Penguins rivalry.

Philadelphia GM Paul Holmgren nearly was drowned out by the Consol Energy Center crowd, and Laughton said he never really heard his name called with the 20th pick.

"It definitely was loud, and I really couldn't hear my name being called," he told NHL.com. "But I heard Oshawa Generals and I knew it was me. We know the rivalry is alive and well. Pretty excited about it."

A 6-foot, 177-pound center, Laughton had 21 goals, 32 assists and 101 penalty minutes in 64 games with the Generals. He also had seven points in seven games for Canada at the 2012 IIHF World Under-18 Championship. He was No. 28 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2012 NHL Draft.

"He came on strong at the end [of the season]," Holmgren said. "We had four or five guys over there at the Under-18 World Championships, and they all thought Scott was Canada's best player."

Laughton said he didn't mind getting booed by the Penguins fans on Friday -- but also said he wouldn't forget it when he gets to Philadelphia.

"I think I will try and pay them back," he said.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Friday, 06.22.2012 / 11:58 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2012 NHL Draft blog

Fairy-tale ending for Pearson

PITTSBURGH -- Barrie Colts forward Tanner Pearson was passed over in two drafts, but had a dominant season in the Ontario Hockey League, finishing third with 91 points and helping Canada win the bronze medal at the 2012 World Junior Championship.

He culminated his fairy-tale season by being selected by the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings with the final pick of the first round of the 2012 NHL Draft.

"I think it puts the icing on the cake, for sure," Pearson told NHL.com.

Pearson said as the final picks of the first round came off the board, he wasn't sure if he would have to wait until Saturday to hear his name called.

"It goes through everyone's head," he said. "If I didn't get picked today I don't think it would have been the end of the world for myself. I would have come in tomorrow with the exact same attitude I had today and hopefully get picked up. But I was fortunate to get picked up today. Last but not least, but it's going to be fun."

Pearson said he's already put his 2011-12 season behind him and shifted his focus to doing what he can to play for the Kings in 2012-13.

"Something new is starting," he said. "It was a great year, it happened, and now I have to focus on making the Kings. … I know it's going to be a hard team to make. I want to do everything I can to do that."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Thursday, 06.21.2012 / 4:34 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2012 NHL Draft blog

Upholding the pride of the WHL

PITTSBURGH -- The last time NHL draft prospects took batting practice was two years ago at Angels Stadium in Anaheim, and the only player to reach the outfield seats was current Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brett Connolly, an alum of the Prince George Cougars of the Western Hockey League.

Two prospects from the WHL -- Everett's Ryan Murray and Moose Jaw's Moran Rielly -- were among the seven taking batting practice Wednesday at PNC Park, but neither was able to equal Connolly's feat.

"I'm extremely disappointed," a laughing Rielly told NHL.com. "I was hoping to come out here and just rake it, but I didn't. It's a lot harder than I thought."

Only Jacob Trouba of the U.S. National Team Development Program came close to reaching the outfield fence.

"I was clearing the infield by the end of it, which I was happy about," Rielly said. "It was pretty impressive he could hit a home run. That's good for him."

"I didn't even hit it out of the infield," Murray told NHL.com. "I don't think I got one airborne outside of there. I definitely did not keep up to his reputation."

Despite not living up their WHL predecessor, the players still enjoyed themselves.

"It was a good time," Murray said. "It was fun coming out here. I hadn't touched a bat in a long time -- since I was a little kid. It was fun to come out here. You really appreciate the game a lot more."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Thursday, 06.21.2012 / 4:14 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2012 NHL Draft blog

Twins manager a big hockey fan

PITTSBURGH -- Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and his team were on the road when the 2011 NHL Draft came to Minnesota, so he wasn't going to miss a chance to watch the top prospects in action this year.

Gardenhire met the prospects and watched some of their batting practice session at PNC Park prior to his team's game Thursday against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

"These guys slap a ball around pretty good," he told NHL.com. "We've seen some pretty good hockey players come through and whack the baseball. I've thrown a lot of BP to them."

Gardenhire also is a hockey fan, and owns a pair of goalie pads. He's even stepped into a net to take shots from Wild players.

"I got the pads," he said. "I was wearing my ice boots because there's no way I can skate -- I can't stand up on skates. I got in there and had Darby Hendrickson shoot some pucks at me. It was a blast. I didn't realize how fast the pucks came until they started hitting it at me, and that probably wasn't even fast. It is an amazing thing. I love hockey."

And like any smart baseball man, he's always keeping his eyes open for extra talent.

"Any of them pitch?" he asked.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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