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NHL Insider

Zuccarello, Rangers excited forward is staying put

Tuesday, 03.03.2015 / 9:00 AM / NHL Insider

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- New York Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello is happy he'll have the chance to remain "home."

The 27-year-old right wing had been on pins and needles all weekend after reports surfaced of a possible trade in the works as general manager Glen Sather looked to upgrade his team for the stretch run of the regular season and Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Discussions with Zuccarello's agent, Don Meehan, on a new contract had slowed and Sather at the time began exploring his options with the NHL Trade Deadline slated for Monday at 3 p.m. ET. The Norwegian forward was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and Sather had no intentions of losing his top-line player for nothing.

The trade never happened, however, and Zuccarello on Monday agreed to terms with the Rangers on a reported four-year contract worth $18 million for an annual average salary cap charge of $4.5 million. The deal also included a full no-trade clause in the first season (2015-16), according to Northjersey.com.

"I am glad that it worked out, he is a young player that is only in his first couple years in the NHL," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "He's a very competitive player and highly skilled and is only going to get better. I'm very happy we have him locked up for the next four years."

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Leopold's daughter asked for trade to Wild in letter

Monday, 03.02.2015 / 8:26 PM / NHL Insider

NHL.com

Maybe Jordyn Leopold has a future in hockey management.

A handwritten letter from the 11-year-old daughter of Jordan Leopold to the Minnesota Wild coaching staff surfaced Monday shortly after the defenseman was traded from the Columbus Blue Jackets to the Wild.

The Wild added Leopold, a Golden Valley, Minn., native, from the Blue Jackets for defenseman Justin Falk and a fifth-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.

"I didn’t even know she wrote it," her mom Jamie Leopold told KFAN radio in Minneapolis. "She left it on the counter, went to school one day, and I read it and just started bawling."

Jordyn Leopold's letter was a plea for the Wild to start winning more games (it was sent before goaltender Devan Dubnyk arrived and Minnesota became one of the hottest teams in the NHL), because her father was lonely in Ohio without her, her mother and her three siblings.

"My dad is very [lonely] without his family," Jordyn Leopold wrote. "We are living in Minnesota right now and I am lost without my dad and so is my mom, my two sisters and my brother."

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Small deadline moves reveal confidence of Islanders

Monday, 03.02.2015 / 7:25 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

SYOSSET, N.Y. -- Judging by the smiles and the lack of nerves at Islanders Iceworks on Monday, one never would have known it was a few hours away from the NHL Trade Deadline.

It felt like a routine practice for the New York Islanders, who skated for about an hour before heading to the airport to board a flight to Dallas, where they will begin a four-game road trip Tuesday.

One could understand why the Islanders seemed so relaxed. They entered Monday with 41 wins and were atop the Metropolitan Division, two points ahead of the New York Rangers.

"We're really excited about the group we have in here," defenseman Travis Hamonic said. "... If (general manager) Garth [Snow] decides to do something, it's not up to us.

"We're certainly a very tight-knit group. A big group of us have been together for a long time now. We've been through some of the down years and it's certainly been a lot of fun winning together and it's been a good atmosphere around this room (this season).

"I understand there's decisions to be made, [but] it doesn't necessarily come into our minds. Obviously it's done for us, but we hope we can do something really special with this group."

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Vokoun returns to Nashville, reflects on career

Sunday, 03.01.2015 / 11:05 AM / NHL Insider

Robby Stanley - NHL.com Correspondent

NASHVILLE -- Longtime NHL goaltender Tomas Vokoun returned to Nashville this past week to be honored after spending eight seasons as a member of the Nashville Predators from 1998-2007.

Vokoun was honored by Nashville during its game Thursday against the Minnesota Wild and participated in an alumni game against the Detroit Red Wings alumni following Nashville’s game against Detroit on Saturday. Vokoun led Nashville’s alumni to a 9-8 shootout win.

Vokoun played in 700 games in 15 seasons before deciding to retire this past December. While there are some aspects of being an NHL player that he said he misses, Vokoun doesn’t have any regrets about making the decision to retire.

“When I was retiring, two things happened,” Vokoun said. “I still felt like I could have played at a high level, but I also understood the role I would have or the opportunities I had in the market, where I would kind of stand. I thought it was work for me to leave my family for eight months and being the guy who’s maybe a few months here and a few months there.

“Truthfully I’m not sure what my answer should be. I do not miss playing. I think I miss a lot of parts of being a hockey player and being with the guys every day and the comradery, traveling and all that. I do not miss dressing up every day and getting hit with the puck 700 times. When things aren’t going well, obviously a lot of pressure and stuff like that. I don’t have that now. I have different kinds of pressures.”

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NHL teams learning from other sports at Sloan

Sunday, 03.01.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

BOSTON -- Most hockey fans probably have no idea who Michael Niemeyer is. Many of them probably do know who Shane Battier is.

Niemeyer is the head of match analysis for FC Bayern, one of the most successful soccer clubs in the world. Battier played in the NBA for 13 seasons after a decorated college career at Duke and now works for ESPN.

They were among the featured panelists at the 2015 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, and though it might not seem like they have anything to do with hockey, at this two-day event they can. The conference, in its ninth year, has grown into a massive gathering of analytically-inclined minds from all types of sports.

"It is great. I've been coming here for five years," Washington Capitals assistant general manager Don Fishman said. "It just opens your eyes to what people are doing in other sports, what they're doing, what the themes and trends are. As you can see, the conference has grown immensely in popularity. For our sport in particular, there's not that much content. It is growing, but it is a great eye-opener."

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Jagr finds 'new motivation' in debut with Panthers

Saturday, 02.28.2015 / 7:47 PM / NHL Insider

Alain Poupart - NHL.com Correspondent

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Wearing a T-shirt and a smile, Jaromir Jagr talked about his Florida Panthers debut in an interview room at BB&T Center that hadn't been used since the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Jagr didn't have a storybook first game with the Panthers (he was held off the scoresheet against the Buffalo Sabres in a 5-3 win), but all that mattered to him was the result.

"I wish I could score, but it doesn't matter. We won," Jagr said. "It's new motivation. When you come to a new team, you just want the first game to be a victory and I'm happy about that."

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Dubas explains value of hockey analytics at Sloan

Saturday, 02.28.2015 / 5:50 PM / NHL Insider

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

BOSTON -- Kyle Dubas was putting the finishing touches on his list of prospects for the 2015 NHL Draft when he noticed a troubling trend.

The ones who played in the IIHF World Junior Championship were, relatively speaking, ranked higher than similar prospects who did not. Dubas found this to be a form of bias, something he was desperately trying to weed out of his rankings.

"Does playing in the world juniors at 17 make you a better prospect than someone that doesn't?" Dubas said during his presentation of "How Analytics has Limited the Impact of Cognitive Bias on Personnel Decisions" at the 2015 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. "I don't think so. I think we know that from years of going through and measuring at different points."

Dubas, whose hire as an assistant general manager by the Toronto Maple Leafs was the highlight of the NHL's "Summer of Analytics" in 2014, spoke for more than 20 minutes Saturday about his experiences as general manager of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

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NHL pioneer O'Ree continues to command respect

Saturday, 02.28.2015 / 3:18 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

PHILADELPHIA -- Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds has met Willie O'Ree before, but said he hasn't earned the right to address O'Ree on a first-name basis.

"It's Mr. O'Ree," Simmonds said before talking to O'Ree and posing for pictures with him in the Flyers' locker room Saturday. "He's my elder; treat him with respect. … My parents taught me who he was at an early age. I've looked up to him for so long. Going to be a great opportunity to talk to him again."

O'Ree became the first black man to play in the NHL when he made his debut with the Boston Bruins against the Montreal Canadiens on Jan. 18, 1958. O'Ree said he's proud to be called a pioneer and the Jackie Robinson of professional hockey.

"I never get tired," O'Ree said. "It's the thing that I experienced. When I broke the color barrier in 1958 it seemed to stick with me. The media called me the Jackie Robinson of hockey and I'm very happy to be in the same category of Mr. Robinson. I met Mr. Robinson on two occasions; I met him in 1949 in Brooklyn and I met him again in 1962 when he was the keynote speaker at a luncheon in Los Angeles. … He made a big impact with me. I'm just happy when they say there's Willie O'Ree, he's the Jackie Robinson of hockey."

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Rangers' Boyle finally adjusting to new role

Saturday, 02.28.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

NEW YORK -- A broken hand opening night, multiple illnesses that he never before had to deal with, inconsistent play that hadn't existed previously, and a reduced role that hurt his confidence. Dan Boyle didn't expect his first season with the New York Rangers to be as frustrating on a personal level as it has been.

At 38 years old, Boyle knew his days as a No. 1 defenseman were done, particularly because he signed with a team that already featured Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal. But Boyle didn't think he'd have to deal with as much change and adversity as he's had to this season.

"That's been the most frustrating thing about this year for me, just trying to stay steady with that confidence level," Boyle said. "It's hard when you're not used to this."

It looks like it's finally getting easier for Boyle; he at least feels it is. So does McDonagh. So does Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, who said Boyle had one of his best games of the season Thursday in a 4-3 win against the Arizona Coyotes.

Though it might have taken until late February, it appears the Rangers finally are seeing the skilled, slick-skating, puck-rushing defenseman they thought they were getting when they signed Boyle to a two-year, $9 million contract July 1.

New York carries a 10-game point streak (8-0-2) into its game Saturday at the Philadelphia Flyers (8 p.m. ET; NBC, City). Boyle has been in the lineup and contributing in various ways every game.

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Ekman-Larsson is Coyotes' foundation moving ahead

Saturday, 02.28.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

NEW YORK -- It's not totally out of the realm of possibility because nothing is when it comes to trades at this time of the season, but the Arizona Coyotes might have a better chance of storming back into the Stanley Cup Playoff race in the Western Conference than general manager Don Maloney has of trading all-star defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

The Coyotes are 24 points out of a playoff spot and in seller's mode heading into the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline on Monday at 3 p.m. ET. Their hope is to secure some assets and get a good position for the 2015 NHL Draft Lottery in order to enhance their rebuild.

Ekman-Larsson, 23, is the foundation for Arizona's rebuild.

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Quote of the Day

I don’t know if it was more relief for me that [Stamkos] scored or the power play scored. It was a whole compilation of Alka Seltzer.

— Lightning coach Jon Cooper after Steven Stamkos broke a long scoring drought and Tampa Bay's struggling power play scored four times in Game 2 at Montreal