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Empty Netter Assists - 07-13-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Neapolitan Ice Cream Metropolitan Division

-“It was kind of cool to hear his voice and meet him over the phone. Heard a lot of good stories about him and his personality, so I can’t wait to see that every day.” - Capitals defenseman and former Penguin Matt Niskanen (right) on receiving a "welcome-to-the-team" phone call from captain/forward Alex Ovechkin after signing with Washington.

-"I was a little disappointed that it's not the right way to welcome somebody to a new team and a new city, a guy who has been in the league a long, long time." - Capitals owner Ted Leonsis on the negative reaction fans and media have given to the signing of former Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik.

-The Islanders re-signed restricted free agent forward Anders Lee and defenseman Aaron Ness to one-year two-way contracts.

Atlantic Division

-The Sabres signed forward Sam Reinhart, their first-round pick (No. 2 overall) in this year's draft, to a three-year entry-level contract.

-The Sabres signed forward Jordan Samuels-Thomas to a one-year entry-level contract. Acquired from the Jets in exchange for a draft pick, Samuel-Thomas was selected by the Thrashers in the seventh round of the 2009 draft.

Central Division

-“I wanted to go to St. Louis. That was my No. 1 spot. I told my agent, ‘Listen, let’s make this work any which way we can.’ My heart was already locked up with St. Louis. I’m happy that my family and myself, we’re where we wanted to be. That was my No. 1 thing, to be a Blue again.” - Blues forward Steve Ott on re-signing with St. Louis.

Pacific Division

-The Flames re-signed restricted free agent forward Ben Hanowski, a former Penguins prospect, to a one-year two-way contract.

(Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

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Empty Netter Assists - 07-12-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-The Penguins signed forward Kasperi Kapanen, their first-round pick in this year's draft, to a three-year entry-level contract.

-The Penguins announced their development camp roster.

-Happy 64rd birthday to former Penguins goaltender and former goaltending coach Gilles Meloche (right). Acquired in the 1985 offseason in a deal which sent Marty McSorley, Tim Hrynewich and Craig Muni to the Oilers, Meloche spent the final three seasons of his 18-year NHL playing career with the Penguins. Platooning with Roberto Romano in 1985-86, Meloche appeared in 34 games and had a record of 13-15-5 with a 3.59 goals against average and .881 save percentage. In 1986-87, Meloche took over as the team's primary starter as he saw action in 43 games. He had a record of 13-19-7 with a 3.43 goals against average and .881 save percentage. His final season in the NHL was 1987-88 as he only appeared in 27 games and compiled an 8-9-5 record with a 4.09 goals against average and .868 save percentage. He retired in the 1987 offseason having appeared in 104 games for the Penguins with a record of 34-43-17, a 3.65 goals against average and .878 save percentage. Meloche rejoined the organization in 1989 with a front office role and eventually moved into a position as goaltending coach. He is currently a scout with the team. A member of all three of the franchise's Stanley Cup championship teams, Meloche is the father of former Penguins forward Eric Meloche.

Neapolitan Ice Cream Metropolitan Division

-The Blue Jackets signed forward Brandon Dubinsky (right) to a six-year contract worth a total of $35.1 million. Entering the final year of a contract with a salary cap hit of $4.2 million, Dubinsky's new deal will have a cap hit of $5.85 million. Dubinsky, 28, appeared in 76 games last season and scored 50 points (16 goals, 34 assists).

-EN Says: Dubinsky was a big part of the Blue Jackets' surge last season which saw them reach the postseason for on the second time in franchise history. He plays a pretty rambunctious brand of two-way hockey and can be counted on to clamp down on any opposing center in the NHL. Him committing to the Blue Jackets long term is significant. That said, he is approaching 30 and he will be 34 by the time this deal expires. The way he plays doesn't spare his body much wear and tear. For a franchise with limited financial resources, this is a somewhat questionable signing.

-The Hurricanes are considering re-signing free agent forward Chad LaRose after he sat out the 2013-14 season.

Atlantic Division

-The Lightning signed former Penguins forward Brenden Morrow to a one-year contract worth a total of $1.55 million. Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $1.5 million, Morrow, 35, appeared in 71 games last season and scored 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists).

-EN Says: At this stage of his career, Morrow (right) is a bottom-six forward. Injuries and age have sapped the meager speed he did have earlier in his career. For a younger team like the Lightning, he offers quite a few intangibles as a veteran who has been a captain and can fill in with the top six forwards from time to time.

-The Lightning re-signed restricted free agent forwards Richard Panik and Philippe Paradis to a one-year two-way contracts.

-The Maple Leafs hired former Panthers head coach Peter Horachek as an assistant coach.

-The Maple Leafs re-signed restricted free agent forward Jamie Devane to a two-year two-way contract.

-The Red Wings re-signed restricted free agent goaltender Thomas McCollum to a one-year two-way contract.

Central Division

-The Stars re-signed restricted free agent defenseman Cameron Gaunce to a one-year two-way contract.

-The Wild re-signed restricted free agent defenseman Jonathan Blum to a one-year contract. Financial terms were not reported.

-The Wild signed former Canucks forward Jordan Schroeder to a two-year contract. Financial terms were not reported.

Pacific Division

-The Coyotes re-signed unrestricted free agent forward David Moss (right) to a one-year contract worth a total $800,000. Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $2.1 million, Moss, 32, appeared in 79 games last season and scored 22 points (eight goals, 14 assists).

-EN Says: Moss is a role player who fits in well under head coach Dave Tippett's system.

-The Ducks signed former Canadiens forward Louis Leblanc to a one-year two-way contract.

Patrick Division

-Former Flyers/Blackhawks/Thrashers/Sharks/Oilers forward Ben Eager has joined CSKA Moskva of Russia's KHL.

-Former Senators forward Stéphane Da Costa has joined CSKA Moskva.

-Former Maple Leafs/Thrashers forward Tim Stapleton has joined Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk of Russia's KHL.

(Photos: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images, Christian Petersen/Getty Images, Gregory Shamus/Getty Images and Penguins Hockey Cards)

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Empty Netter Assists - 07-11-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-The Penguins hired Gary Agnew (right) as an assistant coach. Agnew, 54, spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach with the Blues under head coach Ken Hitchcock. One of Agnew's primary duties in St. Louis was directing the team's power play which was ranked fifth in the NHL this past regular season at 19.8 percent but was last among all teams in the postseason at 6.9 percent. Agnew was fired after the Blues were eliminated in the first round. Before that, Agnew served as an assistant coach with the Blue Jackets and had a brief five-game stint as an interim coach with that team in 2006-07 which saw him compile a 0-4-1 record. A native of Niagara Falls, Ont., Agnew has also served as a head coach in the OHL and AHL.

-“I’ve been coaching so long, I’ve pretty much worked with everybody. One season in Columbus at one point I even took over in the goalie department for a few months. I think I’m experienced in all areas.” - Agnew.

-The Penguins re-signed restricted free agent forward Jayson Megna to a one-year two-way contract worth $874,125 at the NHL level. Megna, 24, appeared in 36 NHL games last season and scored 15 points (nine goals, six assists).

-EN Says: With the Penguins trying to re-build their bottom-six forwards, Megna stands a good chance at nailing down a full-time gig at the NHL level next season. He has a decent size (6-foot-1, 195 pounds) and has shown he isn't adverse to physical contact. He even showed a litle bit of scoring touch scoring nine goals in limited ice time. Injuries, consistency and a lack of trust from the previous coaching staff were his biggest issues last season.

-The Penguins re-signed restricted free agent defenseman Philip Samuelsson (right) to a one-year two-way contract worth $550,000 at the NHL level. Samuelsson, 22, made his NHL debut last season by appearing in five games with no points. In 64 games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins last season, Samuelsson, a second-round pick in 2009, scored 22 points (three goals, 19 assists).

-EN Says: When injuries hit the defense last season, Samuelsson showed he was capable of playing at the NHL level in a brief cup of coffee. With the team parting ways with free agents Deryk Engelland, Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik while also dealing with injuries to Olli Maatta and Derrick Pouliot, it would seem a role at the NHL level is certainly up for grabs for Samuelsson and the other defensive prospects in the system. If he does make it at the NHL level, Samuelsson will be a bottom-four defenseman in a shutdown role.

-The Penguin announced jersey numbers for their new players:

  1 - Thomas Greiss
10 - Christian Ehrhoff
13 - Nick Spaling
17 - Blake Comeau
23 - Steve Downie
72 - Patric Hornqvist

-The AHL approved two new rule changes. First, in order to reduce the number of shootouts in the regular season, the league will experiment with three-on-three overtime. Games will go from four-on-four to a three-on-three format at the first whistle after the three-minute mark. Additionally, the overtime period will be increased from five minutes to seven minutes. The second rule the league approved was giving a game misconduct to players who get into two fights in a game. Previously, game misconducts were given out after three fights.

-EN Says: This is a testing ground for the NHL. If either rule - especially the overtime change - has success in the AHL, expect it to take hold in the NHL in 2015-16.

Neapolitan Ice Cream Metropolitan Division

-Two Capitals prospects - forward Patrick Koudys and defenseman Zach Saar - are helping build Penn State's men's hockey program.

Atlantic Division

-The Panthers re-signed restricted free agent defenseman Erik Gudbranson (right) to a two-year contract worth a total of $5 million. Coming off an entry-level contract with a salary cap hit of $900,000, Gudbranson's new deal will have a cap hit of $2.5 million. Appearing in 65 games last season, Gudbranson, 22, scored nine points (three goals, six assists).

-EN Says: The third overall pick in 2010, Gudbranson has yet to truly display his considerable potential. A massive body at (6-foot-5, 215 pounds), Gudbranson is fully capable of battling just about any power forward in the NHL in one-on-one battles but injuries and a lack of organizational stability with Florida's coaching staff have delayed his development as an NHLer. If he can overcome both issues, he can become a top-tier shutdown defender. This deal appears to be a bridge contract to a long-term agreement.

-The Red Wings re-signed unrestricted free agent forward Danny Cleary to a one-year contract worth $1.5 million. Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $1.75 million, Cleary, 35, appeared in 52 games last season and scored eight points (four goals, four assists).

-EN Says: The Red Wings are loyal to their players but sometimes, they're too loyal. This appears to be a case of the latter. At one time, Cleary (right) was a truly effective two-way player who could chip in 20 goals and fit in nicely to the team's puck possession game under head coach Mike Babcock. These days, Cleary is worn down from years of abuse on his body and he struggles to stay healthy. With the Red Wings seeing so many young forward step up this past season from the AHL level, Cleary might have trouble making the NHL roster out of training camp.

-The Maple Leafs re-signed unrestricted free agent forward Trevor Smith, a former Penguin, to a one-year contract worth $550,000. Coming off an identical contract, Smith, 29, appeared in 28 games last season and scored nine points (four goals, five assists).

-EN Says: Smith is a "tweener" who bounces between the NHL and AHL. He's useful to fill out the lineup when injuries hit the NHL level.

-The Maple Leafs signed defenseman Rinat Valiev, a third-round pick in this year's draft, to a three-year entry-level contract.

-The Lightning re-signed restricted free agent forward Brett Connolly to a one-year two-way contract.

-The Lightning signed former Hurricanes forward Jerome Samson to a one-year two-way contract.

-The Senators re-signed restricted free agent defenseman Derek Grant to a one-year two-way contract.

Central Division

-The Blues re-signed unrestricted free agent forward Steve Ott (right) to a two-year contract worth a total of $5.2 million. Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $2.95 million, Ott's new deal will have a cap hit of $2.6 million. Appearing in 82 games last season, Ott, 31, scored 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists).

-EN Says: Ott is one of the league's best agitators is a pretty fair third-line center who is strong in the faceoff circle. His possession numbers aren't good but given his "talent" as an agitator, he has found a way to be valuable in other ways.

-Defenseman Nolan Zajac, younger brother of Devils forward Travis Zajac, is trying to make his own name with the Jets.

-The Wild moved Andrew Brunette from hockey operations advisor to assistant coach.

Pacific Division

-The Sharks re-signed unrestricted free agent defenseman Scott Hannan to a one-year contract worth $1 million. Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $1 million, Hannan, 35, appeared in 56 games last season and scored 12 points (three goals, nine assists).

-EN Says: At his age, Hannan isn't nearly as effective as he was a decade ago as a shutdown defender but he can still offer a respectable 17 to 18 minutes a game as a bottom-pairing defenseman. And as a veteran of 15 seasons, he brings plenty of intangibles as as leader.

-The Sharks re-signed restricted free agent defenseman Matt Tennyson to a two-year contract worth a total of $1.25 million. Coming off an entry-level contract with a salary cap hit of $925,000, Tennyson's new deal will have a cap hit of $625,000. Appearing in 54 AHL games last season, Tennyson, 24, scored 21 points (seven goals, 14 assists).

-EN Says: With Dan Boyle leaving the Sharks as a free agent, Tennyson has a chance to claim a full-time NHL gig. Tennyson has offensive skill but doesn't play an overly physical game despite decent size (6-foot-1, 205 pounds).

-The Sharks signed former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins forward Bryan Lerg to a one-year two-way contract.

-The Sharks signed former Rangers forward Micheal Haley to a one-year two-way contract.

-The Ducks re-signed restricted free agent defenseman Mat Clark to a one-year two-way contract.

Adams Division

-Former Blues forward Vladimir Sobotka (right) has joined Avangard Omsk of Russia's KHL. A restricted free agent in the NHL, Sobotka's contract talks with the Blues had hit a stalemate.

-Former Sharks forward Lukas Kaspar has joined Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk of Russia's KHL.

-Former Sabres/Canucks/Hurricanes defenseman Marc-André Gragnani has joined Bern of Switzerland's NLA.

(Photos: Claus Andersen/Getty Images, Joel Auerbach/Getty Images, Al Bello/Getty Images, Doug Pensinger/Getty Images, Gregory Shamus/Getty Images and Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

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Empty Netter Assists - 07-10-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-The Penguins claim no final decision has been made regarding Sidney Crosby's (right) injured right wrist.

-Restricted free agent Nick Spaling is scheduled to have an arbitration hearing July 31.

-Former Penguins forward Aleksey Morozov had his contract terminated by the KHL's CSKA Moscow.

-Former Penguins coach/general manager Eddie Johnston will be inducted into the Cambria County Sports Hall of Fame Saturday. Johnston spent one season as a goaltender with the Johnstown Jets of the former Eastern Hockey League and helped the team win the league championship in 1959-60.

-Happy 39th birthday to former Penguins defenseman Alain Nasreddine. Acquired at the 2004 trade deadline in a deal which sent Steve Webb to the Islanders, Nasreddine spent parts of three seasons with the Penguins. Following the 2004-05 lockout, he appeared in six games and didn't record a point for the Penguins in 2005-06. The 2006-07 campaign was his finest as an NHLer as he appeared in a career-high 44 games and scored five points. In 2007-08, Nasreddine was limited to six games and no points. During the 2008 offseason, he joined the Sinupret Ice Tigers Nurnberg of the DEL in Germany. He is currently an assistant coach with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

Neapolitan Ice Cream Metropolitan Division

-The Devils signed goaltender Cory Schneider (right) to a seven-year contract extension worth $42 million. Entering the final year of a contract with a salary cap hit of $4 million, Schneider's new deal will have a cap hit of $6 million. Appearing in 45 games last season, Schneider, 28, appeared in 45 games last season and had a 16-15-12 record with a 1.97 goals against average, .921 save percentage and three shutouts.

-EN Says: After years of backing up or platooning with Roberto Luongo in Vancouver and Martin Brodeur in New Jersey, Schneider finally has his chance to be a full-time No. 1 goaltender. The Devils acquired him to be Brodeur's successor and he took the job from Brodeur in the latter half of the 2013-14 campaign. A first-round pick in 2004, Schneider has shown the ability to be a franchise goaltender in spurts but has never truly held the role. While he certainly has the ability to be worthy of this contract, he hasn't necessarily had the results. To this point of his career, Schneider has been more potential than success.

-Capitals forward Tom Wilson will be sidelined until the start of training camp in September following surgery for a fractured left fibula.

Atlantic Division

-Lightning forward prospect Adam Erne will undergo wrist surgery.

Central Division

-The Blackhawks signed forwards Patrick Kane (right) and Jonathan Toews to identical eight-year contract extensions each worth a total of $84 million. Both players, each entering the final years of their current contracts with salary cap hits of $6.3 million, will have salary cap hits of $10.5 million under their new deals beginning in 2015-16. Kane, 25, appeared in 69 games last season and scored 69 points (29 goals, 40 assists). Toews, 26, appeared in 76 games last season and scored 68 points (28 goals, 40 assists).

-EN Says: These contracts will give Kane and Toews the highest individual salary cap hits in the NHL. They deserve it. Kane and Toews have been the biggest reason the Blackhawks have transformed from the NHL's laughingstock to arguably the best franchise in the league. Their impact on the ice has been monumental as evidenced by the two Stanley Cup championships they helped the Blackhawks wins but their impact off the ice might be bigger in terms of ticket and merchandise sales as well as television ratings. As far as the salary cap implications for the Blackhawks, they already have over $71 million committed to contracts for 2015-16. Trying to re-sign young role players such as Marcus Kruger and Brandon Saad - each scheduled to become restricted free agents after next season - could be tricky. These contracts will make the Blackhawks all the more dependent on their abilities to draft and develop NHL-caliber players. League-wide, this contract raises the bar for a player such as Steven Stamkos who is scheduled to become a restricted free agent in 2016.

-The Predators re-signed restricted free agent defenseman Mattias Ekholm to a two-year contract worth a total of $2.075 million. Coming off an entry-level contract with a salary cap hit of $900,000, Ekholm's next contract will have a salary cap hit of $1,037,500. Appearing in 62 games last season, Ekholm, 24, scored nine points (one goal, eight assists). Ekholm was scheduled to have an arbitration hearing with the Predators.

-EN Says: A fourth-round pick in 2009, Ekholm broke through as a full-time NHLer last season. He has a large body (6-foot-4, 204 pounds) and can play physical. Inconsistency is his biggest issue.

-The Wild re-signed former forward Cody Almond to a one-year contract worth a total of $550,000. Almond spent the past two seasons with Genève-Servette of Switzerland's NLA. In 44 games last season, Almond, 24, scored 34 points (18 goals, 16 assists). 

-EN Says: Almond is a bottom-six forward.

Pacific Division

-The Ducks have signed former Wild forward Dany Heatley (right) to a one-year contract worth a total of $1 million. Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $7.5 million, Heatley, 33, appeared in in 76 games last season and scored 28 points (12 goals, 16 assists).

-EN Says: How the mighty have fallen. At one point, Heatley, a two-time 50-goal scorer, was arguably the best goal-scoring winger in the NHL. Now, he's barely a top-six forward in the NHL. A healthy scratch at times last season, Heatley saw his game steadily decline the past three seasons with Minnesota. The Ducks are taking a chance on him with a low-risk high-reward contract. While he'll never reach the 50-goal mark again, Heatley still have a good shot and if teamed with either Ryan Getzlaf or Ryan Kesler, he can still hit the 20-goal mark. Another aspect of this deal is the fact Heatley has been a strong power-play player throughout his career. Anaheim's power play struggled quite a bit last season and Heatley can provide a boost for this unit.

-The Oilers re-signed restricted free agent goaltender Richard Bachman to a one-year contract. Financial terms were not reported. Appearing in three NHL games last season, Bachman, 26, had a 0-2-1 record with a 3.02 goals against average and .916 save percentage.

Smythe Division

-Former Stars/Thrashers/Coyotes forward Niko Kapanen has joined Jokerit of Finland's Liiga.

-Former Bruins forward Jamie Tardif has joined Adler Mannheim of Germany's DEL.

(Photos: Al Bello/Getty Images, Paul Bereswill/Getty Images, Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images and Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

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Empty Netter Assists - 07-09-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-Sidney Crosby (above) will require surgery on his right wrist. He is expected to be ready for training camp.

-The Penguins will host their prospect development camp beginning Tuesday.

-Former Penguins forward Nick Johnson has joined the Växjö Lakers of Sweden's SHL.

-Happy 87th birthday to former Penguins coach and general manager Leonard "Red" Kelly (right). A member of the Hockey Hall of Fame for his playing days with the Red Wings and Maple Leafs, Kelly was hired as the Penguins' coach in the 1969 offseason. His first campaign (1969-70) with the Penguins saw the team go 26-38-12 and reach the postseason for the first time in franchise history. In 1970-71, the Penguins went 21-37-20 and missed the playoffs but were able to rebound in 1971-72 with a 26-28-14 record and a second playoff appearance. After going 17-19-6 in 1972-73, he was replaced midway through the season by former player Ken Schinkel. During his tenure as head coach, he also assumed the position of general manager from the 1970 offseason until midway through 1971-72. As general manager, he pulled off one of the best trades in franchise history when he acquired future all-star Syl Apps, Jr. - one of the best players in franchise history - and serviceable Sheldon Kannegiesser from the Rangers in exchange for third-liner Glen Sather. In 274 games as the Penguins' coach, Kelly had a record of 90-132-52. His 90 wins are sixth-most in franchise history. As a player, Kelly holds the distinction of having won the most Stanley Cup titles (eight) in NHL history without having played for the Canadiens.

Neapolitan Ice Cream Metropolitan Division

-“First time I went to the U.S. they asked me if I had a pet kangaroo. I say, ‘Yeah, everyone has a pet kangaroo in Australia.’ There’s nothing to do but embrace it.” - Capitals forward prospect Nathan Walker on the notoriety of being the first Australian player drafted by an NHL team.

-The Blue Jackets re-signed restricted free agent forward Sean Collins to a one-year two-way contract.

-The Islanders renewed their affiliation agreement with the ECHL's Stockton Thunder.

Atlantic Division

-The Panthers re-signed unrestricted free agent defenseman Greg Zanon to a one-year two-way contract.

-The Lightning signed former Devils defenseman defenseman Matt Corrente (right) to a one-year two-way contract.

-The Senators re-signed former Penguins defensive prospect Alex Grant to a one-year two-way contract.

Central Division

-Jamie Kompon will leave his position as an assistant coach with the Blackhawks to take over as general manager and head coach of the WHL's Portland Winterhawks. New Penguins head coach Mike Johnston previously held both positions.

Pacific Division

-The Sharks re-signed restricted free agent forward James Sheppard to a one-year contract worth $1.3 million. Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $830,000, Sheppard, 26, appeared in 67 games last season and scored 20 points (four goals, 16 assists).

-EN Says: A failed first-round pick of the Wild, Sheppard has found a home as a third-liner in San Jose. This is a fair but short contract.

-Sharks forward Tomas Hertl (right) is dealing with a knee injury.

Norris Division

-Former Hurricanes/Flames defenseman Brett Carson has joined the Vienna Capitals of Austria's EBEL.

-Former Oilers/Islanders/Thrashers/Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins forward Robbie Schremp and former Blues defenseman Cade Fairchild have joined Metallurg Novokuznetsk of Russia's KHL.

-Former Lightning/Kings/Stars/Rangers forward Brandon Segal has joined Medvescak Zagreb of Russia's KHL.

(Photos: Dennis Brodeur/Getty Images, Ezra Shaw/Getty Images, Mike Stobe/Getty Images and Elsa/Getty Images)

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