On the first day of the free agent signing period, the Penguins made a blockbuster trade.
The Penguins acquired all-star right winger Phil Kessel, center prospect Tyler Biggs, defensive prospect Tim Erixon, and conditional draft picks in exchange for right winger prospect Kasperi Kapanen, center Nick Spaling, defensive prospect Scott Harrington, a 2016 third-round draft pick and other conditional draft picks.
One of the NHL's best goal-scorers, Kessel has seven-years remaining on a contract with a salary cap hit of $8 million. The Maple Leafs will retain $1.25 million of the cap hit as a provision of trade. Kessel, 27, appeared in 25 games last season and scored 61 points (25 goals, 36 assists).
A first-round pick in 2011 (No. 21 overall) Biggs has two years remaining on a entry-level contract with a salary cap hit of $832,500. Biggs, 22, appeared in 47 games with the AHL's Toronto Marlies and scored five points (two goals, three assists).
A first-round pick of the Flames in 2009, Erixon is signed to a one-year deal worth $600,000. Erixon, 24, appeared in 42 games last season split between the Blue Jackets, Blackhawks as well as Maple Leafs and scored seven points (one goal, six assists).
Kapanen, the Penguins' first-round pick (No. 22 overall) last year, has yet to activate the first year of a three-year entry-level contract with a salary cap hit of $894,166. Kapanen, 18, appeared in 41 games last season for KalPa of Finland's Liiga and scored 21 points (11 goals, 10 assists). Kapanen appeared in four regular season games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and scored two points (one goal, one assists). In seven postseason games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Kapanen had five points (three goals, two assists).
Spaling (right), 26, has one year remaining on a contract with a salary cap hit of $2.2 million. Appearing in all 82 games last season, Spaling scored 27 points (nine goals, 18 assists). Spaling and right winger Patric Hornqvist were acquired from the Predators last offseason in a deal which sent left winger James Neal to the Predators.
Harrington, 22, was a second-round pick (No. 54 overall) in 2011. He has two years remaining on an entry-level contract with a salary cap hit of $589,166. Harrington appeared in 10 NHL games last season and had no points. In 48 AHL games, he had 12 points (two goals, 10 assists).
The 2016 third-round pick the Penguins dealt will be a pick originally held by the Devils. The Penguins acquired the pick as compensation for former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins coach John Hynes taking the Devils' heading coaching job.
There are a number of conditions on the other draft picks the Penguins acquired. From the Penguins' press release:
-If Pittsburgh qualifies for the 2016 postseason, Toronto will receive the Penguins’ 2016 first-round draft pick; and the Penguins will receive Toronto’s 2016 second-round selection. The second-round pick would be the one Toronto originally acquired from Pittsburgh for [center] Daniel Winnik earlier this year.
-Should Pittsburgh miss the 2016 playoffs, Toronto will INSTEAD receive the Penguins’ 2017 first-round pick; with Pittsburgh getting Toronto’s 2017 second-round selection in return.
-If the Penguins were to miss the postseason the next two years, Toronto would receive Pittsburgh’s 2017 second-round draft pick and Pittsburgh would not receive a draft pick.
According to General Fanager, the Penguins now have $6,418,334 of salary cap space following this deal.
-Here's a mashup of all of Kessel's goals this past season:
-EN Says: Red meat.
The Penguins have once again served up sirloin to their fans in the name of making the Penguins a Stanley Cup contender.
Having seen the Penguins struggle to generate offense down the stretch run last regular season and in their brief five-game playoff run, they went out and acquired the best pure goal scorer available on the trade market.
The fact that they got Kessel without giving up a high-end defensive prospect such as Derrick Pouliot or Olli Maatta is a victory for the Penguins. The Penguins plan on turning to youth on defense and Pouliot as well as Maatta will be major factors in that transition.
Kessel gives the Penguins a 30- to 40-goal threat off the right wing regardless if he plays with centers Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Additionally, he should provide a boost to a power play which sagged as the season wore on. Since 2010-11, Kessel has scored 44 power-play goals, 11th most in the NHL in that span.
And while he hasn't had many opportunities to see postseason action, he has been a productive playoff player. In 22 career postseason games, he has 21 points (13 goals, eight assists).
Kessel has been a durable player during his career. He has not missed a game (aside from the 2012-13 lockout) since 2009-10. For the Penguins, a team which has endured massive health woes over the past half decade, durability like that is refreshing.
Kessel's presence will have an effect on the bottom two lines as well. With Kessel, that presumably forces the Penguins to move left winger Chris Kunitz and/or Pascal Dupuis to a third-line role. The trickle-down effect will benefit the third line.
Kessel doesn't arrive without baggage. He was a major part of a toxic environment in Toronto which festered as the team plummeted in the standings last season. Additionally, the introverted Kessel did not function well in the monster media presence of Toronto.
That issue should be alleviated as the media won't be nearly as much of an issue in Pittsburgh where a large portion of the media doesn't really show up to practice until the Steelers' season is done. Additionally, with Sidney Crosby, Kessel won't be counted on to be as big of a presence in terms of serving as the team's face. Those duties are taken up by the likes of Crosby, Malkin and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
It should be noted, Kessel will not be in contention for the Selke Trophy anytime soon. He is not a strong defensive player. That said, is offensive prowess makes it easier to overlook any of his defensive lapses.
We'll have more on this trade following media availability by general manager Jim Rutherford at 4 p.m.
In addition to Kessel, the Penguins got back two mid-level prospects who have not developed quite as well as their draft positions would dictate.
Biggs (right) is a power-forward with a little bit of size (6-foot-2, 205 pounds) who has a mean streak and can kill penalties. But the results have not been there. The Maple Leafs, under former executive Brian Burke, traded a first-rounder (no. 30) and a second rounder (No. 39) to the Ducks in order to move up in the draft to select Biggs. Consider he spent some time in the ECHL this past season, it's safe to say Biggs has not live up to expectations. Perhaps a chance in scenery can benefit him.
Erixon, the son of former Rangers forward and Penguins pest Jan Erixon, has bounced around the NHL like a warm puck on soft ice. Drafted by the Flames, he was dealt to the Rangers in a 2011 trade featuring prospects and draft picks. had a cup of coffee with the Rangers before being dealt to Columbus as part of the blockbuster trade which sent left winger Rick Nash to Manhattan in the 2012 offseason. After failing to nail down a regular rule with the Blue Jackets, he was dealt to the Blackhawks this past December for left winger Jeremy Morin. After eight games in Chicago, the Maple Leafs claimed him off waivers in March. Toronto re-signed him as a restricted free agent last month.
Both players are reclamation projects. They have the skill. They just need results. They seem poised to get an opportunity, at least at the AHL level, with the Penguins.
The primary return for the Maple Leafs is Kapanen. The Penguins' first draft pick under Rutherford, he's a slick skilled waterbug of a winger. He was poised to get a chance to earn a spot on the Penguins' top-two lines next season. That said, he's lean on experience. He was occasionally a healthy scratch during his brief time in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last season. He still needs to adjust to the North American game, but the Finn, who grew up in North America around his father, former NHLer Sami Kapanen, is more than used to being around NHL arenas.
Spaling leaves the Penguins after one steady but unspectacular season. Capable of playing either center or win, Spaling was used in a variety of roles last season ranging from first-line left winger to fourth-line center. With all the health woes the Penguins dealt with last season, Spaling was forced to wear many hats. But at a salary cap hit of $2.2 million, the Penguins needed to clear him off the roster to create some cap space. He will presumably take on a bottom-six role in Toronto.
Harrington was one of the Penguins defensive prospects the franchise often touted. But he had fallen behind Maatta, Pouliot and Brian Dumoulin on the organizations' depth chart. A defensive player capable of taking on a shut-down role, Harrington is an NHL-caliber talent. He just got caught up in the ample numbers the Penguins have on the blue line. He will get a better chance to reach the NHL with Toronto.
The really intriguing aspect of this deal is the number of conditions on the draft picks involved. After getting a scare with the first-rounder they dealt to the Oilers for left winger David Perron last season, the Penguins wanted some insurance in the event of the 2016 or 2017 first-rounders they potential surrender end up being lottery picks. The Penguins nearly gave up a lottery pick to the Oilers for Perron and did not want to run that risk again.
We'll transcribe some quotes in a little while, but general manager Jim Rutherford said discussions on this trade went on for approximately a month. Couple that with the somewhat light package of assets the Penguins gave up, it's a pretty clear illustration of how badly the Maple Leafs wanted to get rid of Kessel.
The Penguins took full advantage of the Maple Leafs' determination to jettison and made their NHL roster much, much more dangerous. Additionally, they didn't have to give up that much in return while also avoiding the full brunt of Kessel's salary cap hit.
(Photo: Claus Andersen/Getty Images, Bruce Bennett/Getty Images, Daniel Kubus/Getty Images and Elsa/Getty Images)
(Photo: Miami Herald)
Cornerback Antonio Crawford, a transfer from Miami, is officially enrolled at West Virginia, a team spokesman confirmed Wednesday.
In accordance with NCAA rules, Crawford will sit out next season before becoming eligible for the Mountaineers' 2016 campaign.
In late April, Crawford announced that he was headed to Morgantown after leaving Miami in late February.
A former three-star recruit, Crawford started two games in his three seasons with the Hurricanes, both of which came in 2013. Last season, he had 19 tackles and no interceptions.
The NHL's free agency signing period opens at noon (EDT) today. We will be hosting a chat for it beginning at approximately 11:50 a.m.
Feel free to participate in the chat below:
Note: In the event of the Penguins holding any sort of media availability, we will cut the chat short.
(Photo:Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
-Free agency day is here.
-Former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins goaltender Scott Munroe has joined the OHL's Moncton Wildcats as a goaltending coach.
-Former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins forward Paul Crowder has joined Amiens of France's Ligue Magnus.
-Happy 48th birthday to former Penguins forward Mike Eastwood. A free agent signing in the 2003 offseason, Eastwood spent one season with the Penguins. In 2003-04, he appeared in all 82 of the team's games and recorded 19 points. He retired in 2004.
-Happy 38th birthday to former Penguins forward Jarome Iginla (right). Acquired prior to the 2013 trade deadline which sent forwards Ben Hanowski, Kenny Agostino and a draft pick, Iginla appeared in 13 games for the Penguins in 2012-13 and scored 11 points. Iginla saw action in 15 postseason games that spring and scored 12 points. He joined the Bruins as a free agent the following offseason. Iginla is currently a member of the Avalanche.
-The Blue Jackets acquired the signing rights of pending restricted free agent forward Brandon Saad, forward prospect Alex Broadhurst and defensive prospect Michael Paliotta from the Blackhawks in exchange for for forwards Artem Anisimov, Marko Dano, Jeremy Morin, Corey Tropp and a fourth-round pick in 2016.
Coming off the last year of an entry-level contract with a salary cap hit of $764,166, Saad, 22, appeared in 82 games last season and scored 52 points (23 goals, 29 assists). Entering the last year of a contract with a salary cap hit of $925,000, Paliotta, 22, was a third-round pick (No. 70 overall) in 2011. As a senior at Vermont last season, Paliotta appeared in 41 games and scored 36 points (nine goals, 27 assists). Entering the final year of an entry-level deal with a salary cap hit of $643,333, Broadhurst, 22, was a seventh-round pick (No. 199 overall) in 2011. Broadhurst appeared in 29 games with Rockford of the AHL last season and scored 14 points (six goals, eight assists).
Entering the last year of a deal with a salary cap hit of $3,283,333, Anisimov, 27, played in 52 games last season and scored 27 points (seven goals, 20 assists). With two seasons remaining on an entry-level deal with a salary cap hit of $925,000, Dano, 20, was a first-round pick (No. 27 overall) in 2013. He played in 35 NHL games last season and scored 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists). Entering the final year of a deal with a salary cap hit of $800,000, Morin, 24, played in 28 games last season and scored six points (two goals, four assists). Entering the final year of a deal with a salary cap hit of $625,000, Tropp, 25, played in 61 games last season and scored eight points (one goal, seven assists).
-EN Says: This is a game changer. With the Blackhawks facing a salary cap crunch, they moved Saad (right) before another team could swoop in and sign him to an offer sheet they had no hope of matching. Despite being young, Saad has a lifetime of experience, particuarly in the postseason. A strong player with an ability to take the puck to the net, Saad is a legitimate top-line winger who can flourish alongside any high-end center. He was excellent with Jonathan Toews as his center in Chicago and he figures to fit in well with Ryan Johansen in Columbus. Additionally, Saad is a solid penalty killer. The Blue Jackets still need to shore up a weak blue line, but this improves their stock immensely in the Neapolitan Ice Cream Metropolitan Division. Broadhust and Paliotta are mid-level prospects who were likely throw-ins.
The Penguins made an effort to pursue Saad, a native of Gibsonia, but there is no word on what they offered. It's hard to imagine they could not match the quality of what Columbus gave up. That said, Columbus did send a nice bundle of role players to Chicago. Anisimov is an underrated two-way player who offers a very complete game. With the Blackhawks facing the possibility of losing pending unrestricted free agent center Brad Richards, Anisimov could end being the Blackhawks' No. 2 center. Dano is a high-end prospect who, like Saad, can take the puck to the net. He might not be as talented or gifted as Saad, but he plays a similiar style. Morin is a former Blackhawks prospect who produced offensively at the AHL level but never put it together at the NHL level. A skilled player, he'll get a second chance. Tropp is a bottom-line winger who will hit and fight but offer little else.
-“We both tried hard to make it work. It just wasn’t going to work in this scenario. I don’t think we ever came close on a contract.” - Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman on Saad.
-The Hurricanes placed forward Alexander Semin (right) on waivers with the intention of buying out the remaining three years on his contract.
-EN Says: No.
There's a lot of reasons to connect Semin to the Penguins. His history with general manager Jim Rutherford. His familiarity with fellow Russian Evgeni Malkin. His great possession numbers. But this guy is a headache. The fact that a team with limited finances and limited talent like the Hurricanes cut him loose with a buyout cost of $14 million speaks volumes for how awful he was the last few seasons. He may be worth signing on a one-year deal in order to keep him motivated for a longer-term deal. But sinking anything resembling a long-term contract in him would be mind-numbing.
-The Islanders re-signed restricted free agent forward Anders Lee to a four-year contract worth a total of $15 million. Coming off a one-year two-way contract with a salary cap hit of $850,500, Lee's new deal will have a cap hit of $3.75 million. Lee, 24, appeared in 76 games last season and scored 41 points (25 goals, 16 assists).
-EN Says: Lee broke though as a full-time NHLer and played on the team's top line alongside franchise center John Tavares. Lee did slow down as the season wore on and was even a healthy scratch in the Islanders' final two playoff games. Despite that, this is a good signing. The Islanders re-signed a bright, young power forward who has a nose for the net and can play with an elite playmaker like Tavares.
-The Flyers re-signed pending unrestricted free agent forward Ryan White (right) to a one-year contract worth $800,000. Coming off a one-year contract with a salary cap hit of $575,000, White, 27, appeared in 34 games last season and scored 12 points (six goals, six assists).
-EN Says: After recovering from an offseason pectoralis injury, White settled into a bottom six role and provided a level of rambunctiousness which is always welcome with the Flyers.
-The Flyers will not buy out the remainder of forward Sam Gagner's contract.
-The Devils hired former goaltender Scott Clemmensen as a goaltending development coach.
-The Red Wings re-signed pending restricted free agent defenseman Brendan Smith to a two-year contract worth a total of $5.5 million. Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $1.2625 million, Smith's new deal will have a cap hit of $2.75 million. Smith, 26, appeared in 76 games last season and scored 13 points (four goals, nine assists).
-EN Says: This is a bridge contract for Smith. If he lives up to his ample potential, he can earn a longer-term deal. A former first-round pick, Smith has a pretty well-rounded skillset. He just needs more consistent results.
-The Red Wings bought out the remaining three seasons on forward Stephen Weiss' contract.
-The Canadiens re-signed pending restricted free agent forward Brian Flynn to a two-year contract extension worth a total of $1.9 million. Coming off a two-way contract with a salary cap hit of $637,500, Flynn's new deal will have a cap hit of $950,000. Appearing in 63 games last season with the Canadiens and Sabres, Flynn's new deal will have a cap hit of 17 points (five goals, 12 assists).
-EN Says: Flynn is a solid fourth-line caliber winger who can kill penalties. This contract won't make or break the Canadiens.
-The Panthers placed forward Brad Boyes (right) on waivers with the intention of buying out the remaining year on his contract.
-The Lightning re-signed restricted free agent defenseman Andrej Sustr to a two-year contract worth a total of $2.9 million. Coming off a one-year contract with a salary cap hit of $874,125, Sustr's new deal will have a cap hit of $1.45 million. Sustr, 24, appeared in 72 games last season and recorded 13 assists.
-EN Says: Sustr broke through as a full-time NHLer last season and nailed down a bottom-pairing role. A massive player (6-foot-8, 225 pounds), Sustr moves pretty well for his size. This seems like a bridge contract for him to earn a longer-term deal.
-The Lightning re-signed forward Mike Angelidis to a one-year, two-way contract.
-“I don’t think it’s a rebuild. We didn’t strip this down. We have a tremendous core group of guys that are obviously going to carry an even heavier load here in the short term, while these other kids come in and start to take footing.” - Bruins general manager Don Sweeney on how he's handled his team's offseason.
-The Senators re-signed minor league defenseman Patrick Mullen to a one-year, two-way contract. He is the son of former Penguins forward Joe Mullen.
-Pending unrestricted free agent forward Patrick Kaleta wants to re-sign with the Sabres.
-Maple Leafs forward and former Penguin Zach Sill is a good person.
-The Jets re-sign unrestricted free agent forward Drew Stafford (right) to a two-year contract worth a total of $8.7 million. Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $4 million, Stafford's new deal is worth $4.35 million. Stafford, 29, appeared in 76 games last season with the Jets and Sabres and scored 43 points (18 goals, 25 assists).
-EN Says: Stafford was set to be one of to the top wingers available on a lean free agent market. As it is, the Jets retained his services and did so with a fairly small contract. Stafford drives to the net and has some solid scoring touch. Consistency is his biggest issue. Presumably, he can find a little more consistency playing a full season with the skilled Jets.
-The Blackhawks re-signed minor league goaltender Michael Leighton to a one-year two-way contract.
-The Blues are still trying to work out a contract with pending restricted free agent forward Vladimir Tarasenko.
The Blues re-signed pending unrestricted free agent forward Jeremy Welsh to a one-year two-way contract.
-The Sharks acquired pending restricted free agent goaltender Martin Jones from the Bruins in exchange for a first-round pick in 2016 and unsigned forward prospect Sean Kuraly. After the trade, the Sharks signed Jones to a three-year deal worth a total of $9 million. Coming off a two-way contract with a salary cap hit of $550,000, Jones' new deal will have a cap hit of $3 million. Jones, 25, appeared in 15 games with the Kings last season and had a 4-5-2 record with a 2.25 goals against average, a .906 save percentage and three shutouts. The Bruins acquired Jones' rights in a trade with the Kings last week. A fifth-round pick in 2011, Kuraly, 22, appeared in 40 games with Miami, Ohio last season and scored 29 points (19 goals, 10 assists). He is expected to return to Miami for his season season.
-EN Says: When you're desperate for goaltending, you'll overpay. Jones (right) is a talented player. He came out of the goaltending farm that is the Kings' system. But his resume is lean. He has only 34 games of NHL experience. Despite that, the Sharks were willing to trade him for a first-rounder and sink a good chunk of change into him. Kuraly is a mid-level prospect who plays a two-way game.
-The Sharks re-signed pending unrestricted free agent forward Bryan Lerg, a former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguin, to a one-year two-way contract.
-The Ducks acquired defenseman Kevin Bieksa from the Canucks in exchange for a second-round pick in 2016. Entering the final year of a contract with a salary cap hit of $4.6 million, Bieksa, 34, appeared in 60 games last season and scored 14 points (four goals, 10 assists).
-EN Says: Negotiations on a contract extension between the Canucks and Bieksa did not bear fruit so the Canucks moved him for a fairly high draft asset. The Ducks are getting a veteran defenseman who plays a nasty, physical game. His addition likely spells the end of pending unrestricted free agent defenseman Francois Beauchemin's days in Anaheim.
-The Ducks officially hired former Senators coach Paul MacLean as an assistant coach.
-The Canucks re-signed pending unrestricted free agent defenseman Alex Biega to a one-year two-way contract.
-The Flames signed pending restricted free agent defenseman Dougie Hamilton to a six-year contract worth a total of $34.5 million. Coming off an entry-level contract with a salary cap hit of $894,166, Hamilton's new deal will have a salary cap hit of $5.75 million. Hamilton, 72, appeared in 42 games this season and scored 42 points (10 goals, 32 assists).
-EN Says: Like the Saad trade, this contract shows how lean the the unrestricted free agent market is. Hamilton (right) is a very talented player. He is set to become a franchise defenseman. But he's young. This is an immense investment into an inexperienced player. That said, the Flames had little choice but to sign him to this deal. With such little quality on the unrestricted free agent market, teams are poised to pursue restricted free agents. A less-than-secret gentleman's agreement among general managers has existed since the start of the salary cap era which makes signing restricted free agents a no-no. But the horrendous unrestricted free agent market is blowing that agreement out of the water. In order to avoid the risk of losing Hamilton, the Flames sunk a heavy contract into him.
-The Flames signed assistant general manager Craig Conroy to a contract extension. Terms were not reported. The Flames also granted contract extensions to associate coach Jacques Cloutier as well as assistant coaches Martin Gelinas and Jamie Pringle.
-The Coyotes re-acquired forward Boyd Gordon from the Oilers in exchange for forward Lauri Korpikoski. Entering the final year of a contract with a salary cap hit of $3 million, Gordon, 31, appeared in 68 games last season and scored 13 points (six goals, seven assists). With two years remaining on a contract with a salary cap hit of $2.5 million, Korpikoski, 28, appeared in 69 games last season and scored 21 points (six goals, 15 assists).
-EN Says: Korpikoski was in the doghouse of head coach Dave Tippett last season after what Tippett described as a "poor season." When things are going right for Korpikoski, he's a versatile player who can play multiple positions and can use his speed to be an effective penalty killer. The Coytoes will replace him with Gordon who is a prototypical bottom-six center. One of the league's top faceoff specialists, Gordon is much more consistent than Korpikoski but not nearly as physically gifted.
-The Coyotes re-signed pending restricted free agent forward Craig Cunningham to a one-year, two-way contract.
-NHL commissioner Gary Bettman refuted a New York Post story which said the Coyotes would be moving to Las Vegas. Bettman referred to the story as "garbage."
-According to the Winnipeg Sun, former Kings forward Mike Richards was held at a border crossing in Manitoba for approximately four hours after he was allegedly found to be possessing OxyContin pills June 17. Monday, the Kings terminated his contract citing a "material breach" of his contract.
(Photos: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images, Frederick Breedon/Getty Images, Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images, Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images, Christian Petersen/Getty Images and Patrick Smith/Getty Images)