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Depth allowed Blue Jackets to pull off trade for Saad

Tuesday, 06.30.2015 / 8:30 PM / NHL Insider

Craig Merz - Correspondent

COLUMBUS -- The Columbus Blue Jackets have been stockpiling draft choices and prospects for years now to allow them to pull off a trade like they did Tuesday, when they sent four players and a future pick to the Chicago Blackhawks for left wing Brandon Saad.

"If we get good depth, some quality depth, then maybe we can put together a package and try to get an elite player like Brandon Saad on our team," Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said.

Columbus traded forwards Artem Anisimov, Marko Dano, Jeremy Morin and Corey Tropp, and a fourth-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft to Chicago.

In addition to Saad, the Blue Jackets received two prospects: center Alex Broadhurst and defenseman Michael Paliotta.

Saad can become a restricted free agent at noon ET on Wednesday, but Kekalainen said he is confident the 22-year-old forward will sign a long-term contract with Columbus, possibly even Tuesday night. The Blue Jackets have scheduled a teleconference with Saad for Wednesday morning.

Saad's eight goals were third on the Blackhawks in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. In 67 NHL playoff games, Saad has 34 points, including 15 goals.

"He's a winner," Kekalainen said. "We want winners here, and he's a proven winner. He's won two Stanley Cups. He's 22 years old and been a big part of it. He's got all the right tools. He's got size (6-foot-1, 204 pounds) and strength.

"He's exactly what we were looking for. He's going to be a big piece of our team for many, many years to come."

Vladimir Kuznetsov picked first in CHL Import Draft

Tuesday, 06.30.2015 / 4:20 PM / Prospects

Russian forward Vladimir Kuznetsov, a prospect for the 2016 NHL Draft, was selected by the Acadie-Bathurst Titan of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the first pick of the Canadian Hockey League Import Draft on Tuesday.

The 6-foot-2, 189-pound right wing had seven goals and five assists in 43 games with Yekaterinburg in Russia's Junior League this season. He also had one point in six games to help Russia win the gold medal at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.

"We are very excited to select a player like Vladimir," Titan general manager Sylvain Couturier said. "He is a big and strong winger with skill. Being 17 years old, it fits exactly with our age group. The future is continuing to look really good for our organization."

Bruins GM Sweeney says team not rebuilding

Tuesday, 06.30.2015 / 3:14 PM / NHL Insider

Matt Kalman - Correspondent

BOSTON -- Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said Tuesday they are not in rebuilding mode.

During the past week the Bruins traded forward Milan Lucic and defenseman Dougie Hamilton for draft picks and prospects. Lucic's 44 points were third on the Bruins this season, and Hamilton's 42 points led Boston defensemen.

"I don't think it's a rebuild. We didn't strip this down," said Sweeney, who was promoted last month from assistant general manager to replace Peter Chiarelli. "We have a tremendous core group of guys that are going to obviously carry an even heavier load here in the short term while these other kids can come in and start to take footing. ... I've always referenced that we need patience in terms of development and then we also, we can't be impatient in terms of the integration."

Sweeney made another trade Tuesday, sending goaltender Martin Jones to the San Jose Sharks for a first-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft and the rights to forward prospect Sean Kuraly.

Saad, Tarasenko among top restricted free agents

Tuesday, 06.30.2015 / 3:06 PM / NHL Free Agency 2015

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

In many respects, the players set to become restricted free agents Wednesday are more intriguing than those expected to become unrestricted free agents, because they're younger and flush with potential.

The difference is they're not available on the open market. That doesn't mean they can't change teams, which leads us to the contract offer sheet dilemma.

Many people wonder why offer sheets aren't used more frequently by general managers. It's a fair question, considering only eight have been signed in the past 10 years and only one player, Dustin Penner in 2007, actually changed teams because of it.

Eriksson Ek, Larsson to head to Sweden WJC camp

Tuesday, 06.30.2015 / 2:25 PM / Prospects

Center Joel Eriksson Ek and defenseman Jacob Larsson, first-round picks at the 2015 NHL Draft, are among the 24 players who will take part in a summer evaluation camp for Sweden. It's one of the first steps toward picking the team that will represent Sweden at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship.

The camp will be held Aug. 2-8 in Lake Placid, N.Y., as part of the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp. Sweden will practice and play games against the United States and Finland.

Larsson, selected at No. 27 by the Anaheim Ducks, had eight goals and 19 points in 30 games with Frolunda's team in Sweden's under-20 league and one goal and two assists in 20 games with Frolunda in the SHL. The 6-foot-2, 191-pound defender was No. 3 on Central Scouting's final ranking of the top European skaters.

Kopitar, Stamkos headline free agent class for 2016

Tuesday, 06.30.2015 / 2:00 PM / NHL Insider

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

Role players and depth defensemen are going to be the biggest currency of the day Wednesday when the 2015 NHL free agent market opens.

A big reason for that is most of the impact players who could be free agents have already signed new contracts with their current employers. Players in the free agent class of 2016 can begin signing extensions Wednesday, so it's time to take a look at the biggest names who can become unrestricted and restricted free agents a year from now.

There are plenty of impact players on these two lists, and any number of them signing a new contract could end up being the biggest news of the day and have the greatest lasting impact on a franchise.

O'Reilly excited to take on leadership role with Sabres

Tuesday, 06.30.2015 / 1:18 PM / NHL Insider

Kristen Nelson - Correspondent

Buffalo Sabres center Ryan O'Reilly, acquired from the Colorado Avalanche in a draft-day trade Friday, will be looked upon to help their future franchise center to acclimate.

With forward Jack Eichel set to take the spotlight after the Sabres selected him with the No. 2 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, coach Dan Bylsma will have O'Reilly, a six-year NHL veteran at the age of 24, to mentor him.

"It's flattering to be looked at that way," O'Reilly said Monday. "To come in with confidence in myself and them having confidence in me, it's definitely a huge honor and I'm looking forward to it."

Top 20 players available via free agency

Tuesday, 06.30.2015 / 12:05 PM / NHL Free Agency 2015

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

The next phase in the run-up to the 2015-16 season begins at noon ET on Wednesday, when the unrestricted free agent signing period begins.

The list of unrestricted free agents grew to include forwards Mike Richards, PA Parenteau, Cody Hodgson and Viktor Stalberg in the past few days. Richards cleared unconditional waivers and had his contract terminated by the Los Angeles Kings. The others cleared waivers and were bought out.

Meanwhile, forwards Jay Beagle (Washington Capitals) and Drew Stafford (Winnipeg Jets), goaltender Antti Niemi (Dallas Stars) and defenseman Adam McQuaid (Boston Bruins) were re-signed prior to reaching free agency. Niemi had his rights traded to the Stars from the San Jose Sharks during the 2015 NHL Draft.

Here are the 20 best unrestricted free agents (in alphabetical order) expected to be available when the market opens Wednesday:

Top 2015 NHL Draft picks with fantasy value

Matt Sitkoff - Contributor

Rookies can make a major impact on fantasy teams and can lead to long-term success in dynasty and keeper leagues. Seven players from the 2014 NHL Draft class played in at least one regular-season game in 2014-15. That group was made up of defenseman Aaron Ekblad (Florida Panthers)  and forwards David Pastrnak (Boston Bruins), Sam Reinhart (Buffalo Sabres), Leon Draisaitl (Edmonton Oilers), Viktor Arvidsson (Nashville Predators), Samuel Bennett (Calgary Flames), and Kevin Fiala (Predators).

Ekblad won the Calder Trophy and his 39 points were two shy of the NHL record for a defenseman to start the season as an 18-year-old, set by Bobby Orr in 1966-67 (13-28-41). Ekblad was joined by forwards Johnny Gaudreau (2011 fourth-round pick) and Mark Stone (2010 sixth-round pick) as finalists for the Calder, showing rookie production doesn't just come from freshly drafted players. But with two generational talents at the top of its class, some members of the 2015 draft class should play a big role in fantasy sooner rather than later.

Lidstrom, Pronger among 2015 Hall candidates

Monday, 06.29.2015 / 12:18 PM / Hall of Fame

Defensemen Nicklas Lidstrom and Chris Pronger are among the players who could be voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday.

The Hall of Fame will announce its Class of 2015 entrants at 4 p.m. ET.

Lidstrom, in his first year on the ballot, is a near-certainty for election into the Hall. He spent his entire 20-season career with the Detroit Red Wings and helped them win the Stanley Cup four times; in 2008 he became the first European-born and -trained player to captain a team to the Cup.

Lidstrom also won the Norris Trophy seven times, one fewer than Bobby Orr's eight. He was a First-Team All-Star 10 times and played in the NHL All-Star Game 11 times.

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Quote of the Day

It's cool when you think about how many great American players have played the game and the two players that were at that 18-game point streak and what they've done in their careers. It's pretty cool right now, but it was kind of overshadowed by the loss.

— Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane after breaking the record for longest point streak by an American-born player with a goal and an assist in a 3-2 overtime loss against the Kings
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