John Ferguson Jr.'s major miscalculation eight years ago as the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs has served to stabilize the Boston Bruins goaltending for what should be years to come. Now that Ferguson has joined the Bruins as executive director of player personnel, he finally can cash in on the ability of the best player he drafted in his nearly five years in Toronto.
What's the Oilers best shot at landing a second-line center? Potential fits? -- @Willyy91
The Oilers landed another center in the 2014 NHL Draft by selecting Leon Draisaitl with the No. 3 pick. Draisaitl still has to prove in camp and through preseason games that he's ready for the NHL, but the feeling around the League is that the Oilers are going to give him the chance to ride shotgun with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. If he plays well enough he might take the keys from Nugent-Hopkins and eventually be Edmonton's No. 1 center.
Ideally the Oilers would have a Brad Richards-type center to buy some time for Draisaitl in the way that Richards is supposed to do with the Chicago Blackhawks and Teuvo Teravainen. For now they'll have to rely on Boyd Gordon to play that role. Gordon will take some of the pressure off Draisaitl because of his ability to win faceoffs, but he's not an ideal No. 2 center.
In your opinion which team improved the most this offseason and why? - @miczahn
I'll give you one from each conference.
In the East I'm saying it's the New Jersey Devils. They needed to address their offense, and ideally their shootouts. I think they did that with Mike Cammalleri. He can score 30 goals for them and he's a shade above 25 percent in the shootout for his career. That's not great, but it's better than New Jersey was last season and he provides coach Peter DeBoer another option in the shootout. If Marty Havlat can stay healthy (a big if), he'll help the offense too. I know they lost defenseman Mark Fayne, but that gives more opportunity for Adam Larsson and he's overdue for it. Cory Schneider needs to thrive as the unquestioned No. 1 goaltender, something he never has been in the NHL, and he should. I think the Devils will make the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They didn't miss by much last season.
In the West I'm saying it's the Vancouver Canucks based on some addition by subtraction. The Canucks will purge last season with coach John Tortorella and start fresh with new general manager Jim Benning and new coach Willie Desjardins. They will be able to push their offense and be the team they were built to be. Ryan Miller gives them stability in goal, which they didn't have when last season ended with Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom. I'm not a huge fan of Miller in the playoffs, but he's an excellent regular-season goalie. I like the addition of forward Radim Vrbata as it puts pressure on Alexandre Burrows. Vrbata might play with the Sedin twins and that could be a formidable first line. Ryan Kesler is a big loss, but if Nick Bonino can be a suitable No. 2 center and play the 200-foot game Kesler played it will take some of the sting away. It remains to be seen, but I know the Los Angeles Kings management staff really liked Linden Vey but didn't have room on the roster for him because of their center depth; he's in Vancouver now. Alexander Edler needs to have a bounce-back season to make the Canucks defense better.
Is the Rick Nash experiment going to end in New York? Another disappointing postseason. Can't see him staying long term? -- @r0bertwaters
It's not an experiment, and it's not going to end any time soon. Nash is not going to be traded. I can't say for sure he'll play out the remainder of his contract in New York (four years, $7.8 million salary-cap charge annually), but he's not getting traded now. The Rangers will not be able to get back anything close to the value they'd be giving up in a trade that involves Nash.
Rangers fans never have warmed to Nash, and he gave them even more ammunition in the playoffs last season. However, I wonder if their opinion of Nash would be different now had his shot in overtime of Game 5 against the Los Angeles Kings gone into the net instead of off the shaft of Slava Voynov's stick. That's bad luck, which haunted Nash throughout the postseason. I still think he was among the Rangers' best players a lot of nights but he didn't have the production to show for it. That has to change. That can't happen again. But this is not an experiment.
Besides trading Vincent Lecavalier, what other moves can the Flyers make to free up cap space? -- @gavinmeyers28
They can trade Braydon Coburn, who eats up $4.5 million of the cap for the next two seasons, but that leaves them depleted on defense, which they already will be if Kimmo Timonen can't start the season because of his blood clots. Timonen might be a candidate for long-term injured reserve, which could save the Flyers some cap space. Otherwise, I don't see much that they can do now other than trading Lecavalier, which obviously is a tough sell. Even if the Flyers find a trading partner for Lecavalier, it's highly unlikely they'll be able to make the trade without keeping at least a portion of his $4.5 million salary-cap charge.
General manager Ron Hextall inherited a cap mess that doesn't appear to be going away any time soon. Except for Timonen and Michael Del Zotto, all of the Flyers' key players are signed for at least two more seasons. Andrew MacDonald is starting a six-year, $30 million contract this season. Mark Streit has three more years left on his contract that carries a $5.25 million cap charge. R.J. Umberger is making $4.6 million in each of the next three seasons. Trading any of them would be difficult.
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Yes, we're talking about the trade of Tuukka Rask for Andrew Raycroft from June 24, 2006. Maple Leafs fans can proceed with caution through the next several paragraphs.
Ferguson thought he was doing the right thing when he traded Rask to the Bruins for Raycroft. He thought Justin Pogge was the future No. 1 goalie in Toronto, meaning Rask, the No. 21 pick in the 2005 NHL Draft, was expendable, especially if the return was Raycroft, a goalie who was supposed to be entering his prime.
Raycroft lasted two seasons in Toronto and hasn't played in the NHL since 2012. Pogge played seven games in Toronto in the 2008-09 season. They remain the only seven games he has played in the NHL. Ferguson was fired midway through the 2007-08 season.
Meanwhile, Rask has become a star in Boston and a Vezina Trophy winner last season. He was the backup when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011 and helped get Boston back to the Stanley Cup Final in 2013.
As if Maple Leafs fans weren't angry enough about watching Rask become an elite NHL goalie, imagine how they'll feel if the person who traded him out of Toronto gets to raise the Cup with him in Boston.
"To join an organization of this stature with this kind of success behind them really was a great fit for me," Ferguson said earlier this summer after Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli announced he had joined the front office. "It's a great opportunity to join Peter and a tremendous group with a record of winning. I just look forward to jumping aboard, grabbing an oar and helping the club win."
Being that he's back in the Eastern Conference, back in the same division as the Maple Leafs, Ferguson's past is an obvious storyline. He's not running from it.
"There are different reasons for it, but the entire experience [as Toronto GM] was invaluable and I wouldn't trade it for anything," Ferguson said.
Toronto made the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2004, but Ferguson barely put his stamp on that team because he was hired Aug. 29, 2003, only 44 days before the 2003-04 regular season began. The Maple Leafs didn't make the playoffs again under Ferguson, who was fired Jan. 22, 2008.
"I said it at the time, and it's interesting too, I felt they had fired a better manager than they had hired," Ferguson said. "The five years of experience there really was invaluable in so many ways. Managing a club on your own, to have that seat, have that experience, really is nothing that frankly you can adequately prepare for.
"I felt very prepared for it. … But there really is no substitute for that experience."
While the decision to trade Rask has turned out to be a boon for the Bruins, Chiarelli is adamant in his belief of Ferguson as a talent evaluator. For the Bruins, Ferguson's past six seasons as the San Jose Sharks director of pro scouting is a better indication of what he now brings to Boston.
The Sharks reached the Western Conference Final twice, won the Presidents' Trophy, and had four 100-point seasons during Ferguson's tenure as an aide to general manager Doug Wilson. He left the Sharks after last season to take the job with Boston.
"I spent time with him during his time in Toronto and he got a raw deal; he really did," Chiarelli said. "This is a smart hockey man. This guy works hard and he knows players. I've known him for a long time and I see how he works and I see how he thinks.
"In this business there are people that lose jobs and learn from those experiences and get better. … He's a smart guy, a humble guy, and he's really going to help our organization."
Ferguson said San Jose's ability to maintain success while infusing young players into the lineup on the fly will be a model he brings with him to Boston.
"To recognize when it's time to turn things over and bring in some youth and add some speed and energy, those are things that really stood us well," Ferguson said. "There were a couple of years where it looked like it was dropping off a little bit, but last year with the additions of [Tomas] Hertl, [Matt] Nieto, and the evolution of [Marc-Edouard] Vlasic and [Justin] Braun, [Joe] Pavelski and [Logan] Couture, it was a growth on the fly. To have sustained success over time, it requires that."
Ferguson's role with the Bruins requires him to spend the bulk of his time working with the Providence Bruins, Boston's American Hockey League affiliate. He also will be involved in all the Bruins' personnel decisions and will go on scouting trips as well.
Odds are he won't encourage Chiarelli to trade Rask.
Peverley trying to return
Despite the likelihood he'll never being able to scratch out of his mind what he witnessed March 10, Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff said he knows why forward Rich Peverley is trying to return to playing hockey and he supports his goal of making it happen.
Hurricanes coach Bill Peters on Jeff Skinner and what he can do to help Carolina's power play:
"Skinner is very explosive coming off the half-wall. He can turn the corner in between a seam. He reminds me of trying to defend Patrick Kane with his quickness and skating ability. He's elusive and he likes to shoot it, and our power play is going to be a power play that shoots it and creates the chaos."
Senators coach Paul MacLean on if center Curtis Lazar, 19, can make the team:
"He had a great World Juniors, had a great junior career, but that's junior hockey. We're talking about the National Hockey League. Am I excited about Curtis Lazar? Yes, I'm as excited as everybody else is about what he brings; the obvious leadership he brought to the World Junior team and his Edmonton Oil Kings team. Those are things that excite me, but at the same time the National Hockey League is different. Is he going to be big enough to take the wear and tear of the 82 games? I'm looking forward to training camp to see Curtis and what he brings. If he earns the opportunity to be on our team, he'll be on our team."
"I know it's hard, and you didn't have to witness what we witnessed, but it's still something I understand," Ruff said. "In my meeting with him [at the end of last season], I totally understood where he was at. It's part of being an athlete. He can't take that away. There's not many that say, 'I've got this injury, I can't play.' It's usually, 'What can I do to get over this injury to get back?'"
Peverley collapsed on the Stars bench during a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets and had to be revived by emergency medical personnel. He had surgery March 18 at the Cleveland Clinic to correct an abnormal heart rhythm.
Ruff didn't have an update on Peverley other than to say, "He's been working out and everything is good." Stars general manager Jim Nill said Peverley is being monitored by Dallas' team doctors and there is "no definite decision on his status for next season."
A Stars spokesperson said the team won't provide a full medical update on Peverley or make him available to the media until there is a clearer picture of his status. Peverley did a radio interview with 1310 The Ticket in Dallas in July and said, "We're just in the middle of the process here."
Babcock curious about Mantha
Before Anthony Mantha even came up in the phone interview, Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock asked a question he'd love to know the answer to.
"We've never talked about a kid making the team," Babcock said. "Can [Anthony] Mantha make the team?"
Mantha is the Red Wings' prized forward prospect. He was the No. 20 pick in the 2013 NHL Draft and scored 107 goals in 124 games during the past two seasons for Val-d'Or of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He led the QMJHL with 57 goals and 120 points last season.
"I don't know a lot of guys who scored  goals in junior last year that are [6-foot-5] and shoot the puck like him," Babcock said. "There is room on every roster for great players. Is he mentally ready?"
Babcock needs to see it before he can figure out Mantha's chances of making the Red Wings this season.
"Last year when I saw him play in the Memorial Cup, his shifts were 1:46 long. That's just the way they played there," Babcock said. "He was that smart and that good, but now he's got to learn to play 40 seconds at a time. If you think you're going to play on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and say, 'Hey Pav, do the work,' well, Pav ain't doing that. So you've got to be a worker. You've got to put your work in front of your skill."
The reviews of Mantha's work ethic are positive, Babcock said.
"Last summer at the [Canada] World Junior camp they didn't like him, Brent [Sutter, coach] didn't think he worked hard enough," Babcock said. "Well, he ended up being a heck of a player for them. Sutter said the harder he was on him the harder he played. I loved to hear that. That means you're not a mental midget. That means you're finding a way. I thought that was a glowing review for the kid."