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Empty Netter Assists - 07-26-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-Happy 23rd birthday to Penguins defenseman Philip Samuelsson (above). The son of former Penguins defenseman Ulf Samuelsson, Philip Samuelsson was a second-round pick in 2009 and made his NHL debut last season. He appeared in five games and had no points.

Neapolitan Ice Cream Metropolitan Division

-The Capitals signed forward Nathan Walker, a third-round pick in this year's draft, to a three-year entry-level contract. Walker is the first native of Australia to be drafted by an NHL team.

-The Hurricanes re-signed unrestricted free agent defenseman Brett Bellemore to a one-year two-way contract.

-The 14 forwards on the Devils' NHL roster have an average age of 32.

Atlantic Division

-The Maple Leafs re-signed restricted free agent goaltender James Reimer (right) to a two-year contract worth a total of $4.6 million. Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $1.8 million, Reimer's new deal will have a cap hit of $2.3 million. Appearing in 36 games last season, Reimer, 26, had a 12-16-1 record with a 3.29 goals against average, a .911 save percentage and one shutout.

-EN Says: Even if Reimer lost his starting job to Jonathan Bernier, he's still a pretty significant asset for the Maple Leafs. If management feels the need to move him, he can garner a pretty significant return. Having led the Maple Leafs to the postseason in 2013, Reimer and his relatively small cap hit could be traded for just about anything. And if Bernier falters, Reimer is ready to step in and be a more than capable replacement.

-The Red Wings re-signed restricted free agent forward Landon Ferraro to a one-year two-way contract.

Pacific Division

-The Flames signed forward Sam Bennett, a first-round pick (No. 4 overall) in this year's draft, to a three-year entry-level contract.

-The Canucks signed forward Jake Virtanen, a first-round pick (No. 6 overall) in this year's draft, to a three-year entry-level contract.

-Former Penguins forward Jason Williams has signed an AHL contract with the Oklahoma City Barons, an affiliate of the Oilers.

(Photos: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images and Adam Hunger/Getty Images)

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Empty Netter Assists - 07-25-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-New Penguins forward Blake Comeau will be inducted into the British Columbia Hockey Hall of Fame along with other members of the 2003-04 Kelowna Rockets team which won the Memorial Cup.

-Former Penguins defenseman Pat Price (right) will also be inducted.

-Happy 33rd birthday to former Penguins forward Jani Rita. Acquired along with Cory Cross midway through the 2005-06 season in a trade which sent Dick Tarnstrom to the Oilers, Rita's Penguins' career amounted to 30 games and seven points the rest of that campaign. Since the 2006-07 season, he has played for Jokerit Helsinki, now of Russia's KHL.

Neapolitan Ice Cream Metropolitan Division

-The Islanders re-signed restricted free agent goaltender Kevin Poulin to a one-year two-way contract.

Atlantic Division

-The Canadiens re-signed restricted free agent forward Lars Eller to a four-year contract worth a total of #14 million. Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $1.325 million, Eller's new deal will have a cap hit of $3.5 million. Appearing in 77 games last season, Eller, 25, scored 26 points (12 goals, 14 assists).

-EN Says: While Eller is coming off a lukewarm offseason, he had a much stronger postseason as he appeared in 17 playoff games and scored 13 points (five goals, eight assists). He has developed into solid two-way center. Arguably the team's top faceoff specialist, Eller is capable of keeping up with the opponent's top forwards. His biggest issue is consistency. This is a fair contract.

Central Division

-The Jets re-signed unrestricted free agent defenseman Keaton Ellerby to a one-year two-way contract.

Pacific Division

-The Flames re-signed restricted free agent goaltender Joni Ortio (right) to a two-year contract worth a total of $1.2 million. Coming off an entry-level deal with a salary cap hit of $617,500, Ortio's new deal will have a cap hit of $600,000. Appearing in nine NHL games last season, Ortio, 23, had a 4-4-0 record with a 2.51 goals against average and .891 save percentage.

-EN Says: Ortio figures to be in a battle to be the team's backup goaltender next season.

-The Canucks signed forward Jared McCann to a three-year entry-level contract.

Patrick Division

-Former Blackhawks/Hurricanes/Flames defenseman Anton Babchuk has joined Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod of Russia's KHL.

-Former Blackhawks/Bruins/Senators/Canadiens forward Martin St. Pierre has joined Medvescak Zagreb of Russia's KHL.

(Photos: Adam Hunger/Getty Images and Penguins Hockey Cards)

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Camp flashback: 1974 opens with player strike

Written by Dan Gigler on .

This being the 40th anniversary of the Steelers first Super Bowl season, the Post-Gazette will periodically run reprints of articles from that season in print and online. 

The '74 campaign got off to an inauspicious start, not just for the Steelers, but for everyone in the NFL via a players strike that began on July 1, but became 'official' on July 14, when veteran players were to report to training camp (rookies, then not covered by the CBA, had reported a week prior). 

 Below is legendary Pittsburgh sportswriter Phil Musick's column about that first day. While it reads as quaint then -- a 'labor strike' in a town that really knew labor strikes -- it is fascinating to read with the hindsight of what the NFL has become: a multi-billion dollar industry dealing with a grave health crisis regarding it's current employees and retirees. 

(also, late in the column, Chuck Noll gives a great quote regarding the disruption. The ultimate coach.) 

1974strike pic

Steeler Vets Vow They Will Block Pre-Season Games

(From ‘Sound of Musick’ column)

By Phil Musick / Pittsburgh Press

LATROBE – The strikers dismounted their Lincolns and Porsches to fight the good fight against management tyranny. Their leader shook hands warmly with his company counterpart. The pickets lolled in the sun and sipped beer and signed autographs.

It was not a labor battle Samuel Gompers would’ve recognized.

Nevertheless, as the mid-morning heat rays shimmered up from the two-lane blacktop road where they were encamped for the non-confrontation, the Pittsburgh Steelers struck their first blow in behalf of organized labor yesterday.

Caught firmly in the grasp of tedium as the day wore on they held their ranks staunchly and fell back only after, as one wit put it, “the beer ran out.”

So it was yesterday when the Steeler Chapter of the National Football League Players Association, some 13 veterans strong, took to the picket line in defense of the sort of personal and professional liberties Vince Lombardi would have termed treasonous.

Armed with the sage admonishment of Teddy Roosevelt, the Steelers pickets spoke softly – “We’re not trying to eliminate the system, just change it,” said player rep Preston Pearson – but they spoke freely of a big stick.

In this adult version of Blind Man’s Bluff, the NFL owners have adopted the posture that they will, if necessary and unconcerned with the aesthetics of such a maneuver, play the exhibition schedule with rookies.

Sitting in the trunk of his car, Pearson pulled up an NFLPA big gun and swung it into position.

“We’ll shut down the preseason games,” he said. For the very first time, here was talk a red-blooded union man could’ve warmed to.

“We’re not true-blue pickets,” Pearson went on. “But if it gets to the preseason games, then we’ll talk about something different. Then we’ll put up a picket line for that purpose.”

The implication was clear – that here in this two-lane, eight-tenths of a mile from, and out of sight of, the Steeler training facility at St. Vincent, there was something of a charade taking place. But the charade will stop if the owners attempt to use rookies in the exhibitions.

“We feel, after speaking with other labor unions, that we can close down those games,” Pearson said. Beyond the threat, and Dan Rooney’s reaffirmation that the vets would not be permitted entrance to the facility, the first day of confrontation was one of cordiality.

The mood was struck early when Pearson stopped in the Steeler dining hall at breakfast time and was informed by a grinning Steeler official, “No football, no food.”

Pearson and Steeler vice president Dan Rooney shook hands before Pearson, Rocky Bleier and Sam Davis spoke for an hour with the rookies and free agents on the advantages of supporting the strike. Their words fell upon deaf ears and drills will begin in earnest today.

But if the players’ mood was low-keyed, the commitment of most to the goals of the NFLPA seemed resolute.

“The sooner they realize they need the players to play, they’ll start talking and we’ll be able to get going,” Pearson said. “We’re not all wrong; they’re not all wrong. I’m just saying ‘let’s talk.’”

Pearson sought to move the site of the picketing closer to the training facility. The idea was turned down by Rooney, who didn’t want the veterans in sight of the practice fields. Otherwise, everything was harmonious.

“We don’t have it that bad here,” Pearson said. “The club has been good. But other teams are running their camps like concentration camps. But we’re not just concerned about here. What happens if you get traded and slapped with a $1500 fine for not wearing your helmet on the field?”

Still, on the picket line, there seemed no imminent danger of sign swinging. Bored with the 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift for the cause, Jack Ham toyed with the idea of a diversion. “It’s no freedom, no football. They didn’t say anything about basketball,” he told Gerry Mullins. “Let’s go up to the gym.”

Somehow later it seemed more to the point when Dan Rooney sternly insisted Ham would not have been welcome. But, with as much of what took place yesterday, the point was moot. The gym was closed.

*          *          *

Coach Chuck Noll indicated that time lost because of the strike will be made up. “We’ll work Sundays and go to three-a-days,” he said. “We lost 10 days during the last strike (in 1970) and never did catch up.”

*          *

The rookies began two-a-day drills this morning and, for the duration of the strike, the training camp will be closed to the public ...

Top draft pick Lynn Swann hasn’t arrived ... Pearson said the striking veterans will not set up their own camp ... Picketing yesterday were: John McMakin, Jack Ham, Jon Kolb, Sam Davis, Roy Gerela, Franco Harris, Frenchy Fuqua, J.T. Thomas, and Gerry Mullins.

1974strike pic2

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Empty Netter Assists - 07-24-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-The Penguins named Jacques Martin the team’s senior adviser for hockey operations.

-Former Penguins forward Taylor Pyatt (above) has joined Genève-Servette of Switzerland's NLA.

-The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins re-signed defensemen Barry Goers and forward Carter Rowney to one-year AHL contracts.

-Happy 53rd birthday to former Penguins defenseman Pat Mayer. A free agent signing in the 1987 offseason, Mayer's entire NHL career amounted to one game and four penalty minutes with the Penguins in 1987-88. At the 1989 trade deadline, Mayer was dealt to the Kings in exchange for Tim Tookey.

Neapolitan Ice Cream Metropolitan Division

-The Rangers re-signed restricted free agent forward Chris Kreider (right) to a two-year contract worth a total of $4.95 million. Coming off an entry-level contract worth a total of $800,000, Kreider $2.475 million. Appearing in 66 games last season, Kreider, 23, Kreider scored 37 points (17 goals, 20 assists).

-EN Says: Kreider is a big (6-foot-3, 222 pounds) power forward who can skate well. And as he showed in the postseason, he can score goals when they count. This appears to be a "bridge" contract to a longer-term deal.

-The Hurricanes re-signed restricted free agent defenseman Rasmus Rissanen to a one-year two-way contract.

Atlantic Division

-The Sabres signed former Avalanche defenseman Andre Benoit to a one-year contract worth $800,000. Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $900,000, Benoit, 30, appeared in 79 games last season and scored 28 points (seven goals, 21 assists).

-EN Says: This is a good value for the Sabres. Benoit is a puck mover who his capable of being responsible as a bottom-paring defenseman. He isn't all that physical and can be inconsistent but isn't a liability.

-The Bruins hired former Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco as an assistant.

Central Division

-The Avalanche re-signed restricted free agent forward Ryan O'Reilly (right) to a two-year contract worth a total of $12 million. Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $5 million, O'Reilly's new deal will have a cap hit of $6 million. Appearing in 80 games last season, O'Reilly, 23, scored 64 points (28 goals, 36 assists).

-EN Says: O'Reilly is a very talented player and he'll be counted on to do even more with the team parting ways with free agent Paul Stastny. But this seems like an overpayment for a player who has only topped the 20-goal mark once in his career. He's a legit top-six winger but for $6 million a season?

Adams Division

-Free agent defenseman Cory Sarich was hospitalized after a bicycling accident in Invermere, B.C. Sarich, who spent last season with the Avalanche, was struck by a car while training.

-The NHL issued a sustainability report addressing the league's concerns over global warming.

-Former Ducks defenseman Brian Salcido has joined SaiPa of Finland's Liiga.

-Former Predators/Oilers/Stars forward Patrick Cote was sentenced to 30 months of jail for two bank robberies in Quebec.

(Photos: Claus Andersen/Getty Images, Patrick McDermott/Getty Images and Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press)

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Rene Castro scores record 56 points in Pro-Am final defeat

Written by Stephen J. Nesbitt on .

MONTOUR — With his underdog Shale Attorneys nursing an 11-point lead nearing halftime of the Pittsburgh Pro-Am final Wednesday night, Duquesne guard Rene Castro was simply wasting time. He held onto the ball for nearly a full minute, to the chagrin of visibly irritated System One guard James Robinson, and then Castro made his move. He just couldn't help himself.

Castro let a step-back 3-pointer fly, was fouled by Robinson and watched the ball sail through the net. He completed the four-point play and entered halftime with 32 points and a 66-53 lead.

And then things went south.

Castro scored a Pro-Am record 56 points on 21-of-33 shooting, including 7-of-15 from 3-point range, but couldn't quite carry his team to the crown. System One pulled away down the stretch to win, 115-109.

"I was on fire the first half, but in the second half I cooled off," Castro said afterward. "It was just a lucky game."

Fifty-six lucky points?

Fellow guard Jordan Stevens barged in and hollered, "Rene is awesome, man!"

Castro transferred to Duquesne in April after playing a partial season at Butler, where he averaged just 3.3 points and 8.8 minutes per game as a freshman. He'll be forced to sit out the 2014-15 season due to transfer restrictions, but he certainly ended his season with a bang.

"This team needed me to score," Castro said, "but on Duquesne we've got so many scorers. I'm not going to need to do none of that."

And it's true, the odds were heavily stacked against Castro and Shale Attorney, which also features Dukes freshman guard Eric James, who had 15 points in the final. The other bench was stacked with the likes of Pitt big man Mike Young, the Pro-Am MVP, Robinson and Duquesne 3-point machine Micah Mason. Castro carried his squad as far as he could, but that proved to be 20 minutes too short.

For System One, surely a win to write home about?

"No, not really," Mason said with a grin. He scored 21 points on 5-of-10 3-point shooting, one of four System One players to eclipse the 20-point plateau: Young (26), Robinson (22) and Robert Morris freshman Marcquise Reed (21). Gill scored 12 points.

In the end, Mason said, there shouldn't be too much gleaned from summer-league action.

"I don't try to focus my game too much on the Pro-Am, but I had fun here," Mason said. "We got better here as a whole team here and in workouts, in the weight room. Everyone got stronger, especially L.G., who got big. We really got better this summer."

And that Castro kid, well, "he's definitely a scorer," Gill said.

"He's really good," Mason added. "You can tell already that he knows how to play. We're looking forward to him coming in next year ... and especially to having a better practice squad this year, too, with him on the other side along with the new kid Mar'Qywell [Jackson]."


Stephen J. Nesbitt: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.

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