Devils Re-sign Eric Gelinas

After a long wait, the Devils finally re-signed Eric Gelinas. The 23-year old offensive defenseman posted seven goals and 22 assists for 29 points in 60 games last season. Despite some defensive deficiencies which limited ice-time, Gelinas was productive. His 29 points ranked third among New Jersey blueliners. Five of his seven markers came on the power play.

Gelinas gets a one-year deal worth a reported $900,000. Along with Andy Greene, Marek Zidlicky, Bryce Salvador and Jon Merrill, Gelinas will be in competition with Adam Larsson and veteran Peter Harrold for the final spot. Given his offensive capabilities, he remains a strong candidate to man the Devils power play. With Zidlicky quarterbacking the first unit, Gelinas could slot in on either unit. Boasting a cannon, his offense is valuable. Much will depend on how much he improves in his end.

“Just happy to have everybody here, everybody ready,” Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said. “It’s the first step towards getting our team together. We’ve got all our players here and now training camp begins.”

The Devils have also invited vets Tomas Kaberle and Mike Komisarek to camp. They’ll also take another look at top prospect Damon Severson, who posted 15 goals and 61 points for the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League. Only 20, the 2012 second round pick is on the fast track. But with New Jersey boasting a lot of depth, there’s no need to rush him.

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Traverse City: Rangers Prospect Lineup For Tonight

Tonight, Rangers prospects are back in action at Traverse City. The eight-team tournament concludes tomorrow. Thus far, they’ve split two games losing and winning in overtime. In Sunday’s 2-1 win over the Sabres, Sam Noreau and Adam Tambellini scored with the latter getting the OT winner. They got strong goaltending from MacKenzie Skapski, who finished with 35 saves.

On Saturday, they blew a two-goal lead falling to the Stars in extras 4-3. Rangers goalscorers were Ryan Haggerty, Michael Kantor and Richard Nejezchleb. Haggerty had a sweet finish going five-hole to convert a breakaway while Kantor and Nejezchleb were each set up in front. Despite being unable to hold onto the lead, Brandon Halverson was impressive in net. He gets the start tonight.

Here are tonight’s lines:

Anthony Duclair-Kevin Hayes-Ryan Haggerty

Chris McCarthy-Adam Tambellini-Josh Nicholls

Logan Nelson-Nickolas Latta-Michael Kantor

Paxton Leroux-Bryan Moore-Keegan Iverson

Mat Bodie-Sam Noreau

Ryan Mantha-Petr Zamorsky

Daniel Walcott-Dallas Valentine

Brandon Halverson

MacKenzie Skapski

Scratches: Troy Donnay, Nathan Burns, Richard Nejezchleb

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Rangers Expected To Announce McDonagh New Captain

Already into the middle of September, the Rangers are preparing for the upcoming season. With camp officially beginning on Thursday at MSG Training Center, the team is expected to announce Ryan McDonagh as new captain. Following a strong ’13-14 regular season that saw the defenseman establish career bests in goals (14), assists (29) and points (43), he emerged as an emotional leader during the team’s run to the Stanley Cup Final. Mac Truck lead the club with 17 points (4-13-17). Ten came against the Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Final.

“We’ve got a really good mix of guys here, so I don’t see that happening,” the 25-year old McDonagh told Jim Cerny about whether he expected a drop off from last year. “I think we all learned a lot, saw what it takes to be a champion, and are hungry for that chance again.”

Already one of the league’s premier defensemen, McDonagh will enter his fifth season. Since coming over from Montreal on June 30, 2009, the former Habs’ 2007 first round pick has been nothing short of spectacular. Entering last year, he was already considered one of the best defensive blueliners in the NHL. Under Alain Vigneault, he developed into a two-way threat also running the power play. Able to contribute more consistently on offense, it made him one of the league’s best bargains. Locked into a long-term deal that averages $4.7 million per cap hit, he’s signed through 2018-19.

If he does indeed become the Rangers’ 27th captain in franchise history, it’s well earned. McDonagh has always answered questions win or lose. Built with tremendous character, he’s an honest player who teammates can look upon for leadership. Encouraging for the Blueshirts is that even with the departures of key cogs Brad Richards, Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman, there’s still plenty of experience. Featuring veteran blueliners Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, the club also has number one center Derek Stepan ready to assume more responsibility. Elder statesman Martin St. Louis can also be looked upon along with Henrik Lundqvist. Glen Sather also went out and signed vet Dan Boyle to bolster the power play. Throw in Rick Nash, Carl Hagelin and Dominic Moore.

For the Blueshirts, they can take solace knowing they boast a strong core. With younger players such as Derick Brassard, Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello and John Moore ready to take the next step, it should still be a competitive roster capable of challenging for first in the Metropolitan Division and a high seed.

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Back to the future yet again

Scott Gomez in better times (during the 2000 SCF)

For the first time today, it feels like hockey’s just around the corner to me – which it is, with Devils camp opening in less than two weeks on the 15th and the preseason schedule beginning a week later on the 22nd.  Labor Day always seems to mark a turning point in the calendar between the beginning of the NFL and the end of summer – although you wouldn’t know it by the weather this week.  With the arrival of the fall comes the beginning of hockey, which is especially welcome this year for local fans that haven’t had much to cheer for with their baseball teams.  And as much as I’m looking forward to the NFL (even if I’m antsy – to put it mildly – about the Jets’ secondary issues) it IS only sixteen games plus playoffs and the national party day known as Super Sunday.  Hockey’s a marathon with six plus months where there’s a game nearly every night and another two months of postseason action.  Locally there’s a certain level of excitement with the defending Wales conference champion Rangers again expected to be a contender, the Islanders finally under new ownership with the move to Brooklyn imminent and a now-healthy John Tavares back in the fold.

Then there’s the Devils…truly, the more things change the more they stay the same around here.  Although clearly one of the big stories in the first couple of months this season is going to be the changing of the guard in net with Cory Schnieder firmly entrenched as the starter after signing an eight-year extension this offseason, and Martin Brodeur still in professional limbo wondering what the future holds after two decades of being in the net for New Jersey.  On defense, the Devils retained Andy Greene with a five-year extension, Marek Zidlicky with another one-year deal and also have captain Bryce Salvador returning, but they let Mark Fayne walk in free agency and bought out Anton Volcheknov to make room for youngsters Jon Merrill, Adam Larsson and Eric Gelinas.  Clearly there is going to be change in net and on the back end.  Maybe even more change is coming considering Gelinas hasn’t signed a contract yet and with rumors swirling about a camp holdout or even a trade, the Devils have been in touch with former Leaf/Canadien/Bruin Tomas Kaberle and seem ready to offer him a tryout conract.

Up front, the motto seems to be more is better.  In the case of UFA signings Mike Cammalleri and Martin Havlat, they’re being looked at to provide more scoring which is badly needed.  Aside from forward Ryan Carter still being unsigned though, every other forward from last year’s team has returned leading to a situation where we have fourteen guys signed to one-way deals.  Right now it would seem that Steve Bernier and Jacob Josefson would be the odd men out of the lineup given the fact they have the lowest salaries on the team plus the fact that Bernier was publicly scolded for his bad year last season while Josefson’s been mostly in the doghouse during the last two years.  Despite that, the former first-rounder signed a two-year deal this offseason so clearly he’s hoping to play at some point.  Our forward lineup would be enough of a story without Carter waiting around for a contract – and just recently saying that he will attend camp despite still being unsigned.  Clearly it seems as if he’s waiting for someone to get moved.  If someone is moved, my money’s on Brunner being kicked overseas since he’s also been on the outs with this staff at times despite playing most of the season last year.

And that’s not even including our other camp invite up front…it seems like every season GM Lou Lamoriello will bring back at least a couple of former Devils, it’s become a running joke to the point where one-time defenseman Anssi Salmela remarked when he was traded that he’d be back someday – and he was!  Bringing back unexpected 2009 savior Scott Clemmensen to finish out his career in Albany and be insurance for Keith Kinkaid as Schnieder’s backup is one thing.  However a few days ago in a move that was alternately astonishing and not surprising, the Devils invited Scott Gomez for a tryout as well.  Astonishing because quite honestly Gomez hasn’t been a good NHL player in five years…people that have been comparing this to Petr Sykora a couple years ago are missing the obvious point that Gomez is much farther removed (timewise) from being a useful NHL player than Sykora was two years ago.  And not surprising because this is what we do.  No matter how acrimonious the departure – whether it’s Sykora, Bobby Holik, Claude Lemieux, John MacLean – Lou always brings guys back cause it’s what he’s comfortable with, and they know the system/how things work.

Still, arguably no other ex-Devil was more hated and jeered than Gomez.  Our venom toward Holik was close (of course both guys had an obvious common demoninator – leaving the Devils for the Rangers), but the Devils won a Stanley Cup the year after Holik left so that quelled some of the venom while Gomez did what few others have accomplished and punked us the year after he left in the playoffs.  Although after 2010 Gomez became more mocked for his poor play than anything else – at one point going more than a calendar year without scoring a goal.  It’ll be interesting to see the crowd reaction during the preseason this year if Gomez does get into a game at home this preseason…our first three preseason games are on the road though so who knows?  If nothing else it adds yet another layer of intrigue to camp.

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Who’s Ready For Hockey?

Are you ready? The one and only Michael Buffer announces that with energy and enthusiasm before a high profile boxing match. The same applies for hockey fans with the sport finally returning after a long summer. Who’s ready for hockey? With the U.S. Open wrapping up later this week in Flushing Meadows and the NFL starting up, NHL training camps are set to begin.

Before they do, prospect camps will also open up next week including Traverse City which the Rangers and Sabres participate in. The first game is September 12 with the Blueshirts facing the Stars. For more on the tournament roster, the Rangers announced who will take part featuring Anthony Duclair, Brandon Halverson, Keegan Iverson, Adam Tambellini, Kevin Hayes and MacKenzie Skapski. It’s a good way to evaluate young players to see where they are in terms of development. 

Buffalo has yet to announce their roster but features talented prospects Sam Reinhart, Justin Bailey, J.T. Compher, Hudson Fasching, Brendan Lemieux, Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov. With Ristolainen, Zadorov and Reinhart likely to start the season with the Sabres, it’ll be interesting to see if they’re included for Traverse City. A great prospect tournament that features host Detroit, Dallas, Carolina, Columbus, St. Louis, Minnesota and the Rangers. The Sabres and Rangers play in the Ted Lindsay Division with Carolina and Dallas while the Red Wings, Blackhawks, Blues and Wild comprise the Gordie Howe Division.

The best part of September is tracking prospects. Which players will stand out during camps and catch our eye in preseason? There’s always competition. Young players are looking to make a good impression and stick around. For the Rangers, there should be several to follow including Duclair, Hayes, J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast, Oscar Lindberg, Ryan Haggerty, Danny Kristo and Ryan Bourque. Only a handful will have the chance to compete for a roster spot. 

As the days near, we’ll have more on each Battle team. Stay tuned.

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Rangers sign former Blackhawks’ first round pick Kevin Hayes

Kevin Hayes is the newest Blueshirt with the former Blackhawks' pick signing an entry level deal today.

Kevin Hayes is the newest Blueshirt with the former Blackhawks’ pick signing an entry level deal today.

The Rangers agreed to terms with rookie free agent Kevin Hayes. The former Blackhawks’ 2010 first round pick opted not to sign with the club who took him. The deadline expired last Friday allowing Hayes to become unrestricted. Less than a week later, he chose New York over rumored suitors Boston, Calgary and Colorado.

At 22, the younger brother of current Panther Jimmy Hayes is coming off a breakout year with Boston College. After putting up decent numbers his sophomore and junior seasons, he erupted for 27 goals, 38 assists and 65 points, which ranked second best to linemate Johnny Gaudreau, who won the Hobey Baker. Listed at 6-3, 205 pounds, the left-handed shooting forward combines size and speed with the ability to finish. However, prior to his senior year he only totaled 17 goals. Is he a late bloomer or the beneficiary of being surrounded by great talent? Hayes played with Gaudreau and Bill Arnold, who like Johnny Hockey is a Flames prospect. A Calgary fourth round pick in 2010, Arnold was more consistent during his collegiate career hitting double digits in goals every year and posting at least 35 or more points his final three years at BC. That included his best output of 14 goals and 39 assists totaling 53 points in ’13-14.

It’s curious as to why Chicago didn’t sign Hayes prior to the Aug. 15 deadline. Editor’s Note: Correction. It was actually Hayes who refused to sign with a team that’s won two of the last 5 Stanley Cups. According to a post from Black & Blueshirts blogger Melissa Andus, Hayes had “character issues” which included a suspension during his junior year stemming from an incident at a BC dorm. The details are well known and cringe worthy. According to Andus’ sources, that wasn’t the only issue. Anytime a player of this nature becomes available, you have to think character comes into play. Especially with it involving one of the NHL’s premier franchises. Of course, the Hawks boast better prospects including highly rated Teuvo Teravainen and former 2013 first round pick Ryan Hartman.

None of this means Hayes won’t have a successful NHL career. It all depends on him. Like Ranger prospects Ryan Bourque, Jesper Fast, Ryan Haggerty, Danny Kristo, Oscar Lindberg and J.T. Miller, he’ll get the chance to compete in training camp for a spot. Competition comes from Matt Lombardi and Chris Mueller. When it comes to young players, never assume anything. I’m excited for Hayes but at the same time guarded. That comes from understanding development. Don’t assume he just blows everyone away and jumps right into the NHL. Remember Chris Kreider as exhibit A. While he had a dream run in the 2012 playoffs, he didn’t become a full-time regular until after Alain Vigneault sent him down to Hartford following a disappointing preseason. It had zilch to do with John Tortorella. Only once Vigneault liked what he saw did Kreider stay and fully develop.

You can’t rush prospects. I prefer to see the Rangers do it the way Detroit does. They are patient and give kids a taste before sending them back down for more development. No wonder Gustav Nyqvist looks like the next sensation followed by Tomas Tatar. Everyone’s already projecting Anthony Mantha following a monster year in the QMJHL that saw him score 57 goals and 120 points in 57 games. But he’s only 19. Coincidentally the same age as Rangers’ 2013 third rounder Anthony Duclair, who had a similar breakout in the same league notching 50 goals and 99 points in 59 games. Duclair turns 19 on Aug. 26. Already you’re seeing other Rangers bloggers tout him. Be careful. Duclair should also be part of Traverse City and training camp. It’ll be interesting to see how he does. I’ll echo the same for Hayes.

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Islanders sold to Ledecky and Malkin

Yesterday, the Islanders sold a minority stake of the team to former Capitals co-owner Jon Ledecky and investor Scott Malkin. No terms were announced. Current owner Charles Wang retained a majority for the next two years. Once it’s up, the partnership of Ledecky and Malkin will take over ownership. The deal must still get approved by the NHL board of governors in September. They also meet again in December.

“We are pleased to have the opportunity to become partners in the New York Islanders with Charles, and to pursue our shared dream of winning a fifth Stanley Cup for the greatest fans in the NHL,” Ledecky said in a statement Tuesday.


“I’m thrilled that Jon and Scott have agreed to join me as we start the Islanders’ final year at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum,” Wang said. “I look forward to a long and successful partnership.”

Wang became a part-owner of the franchise with partner Sanjay Kumar in 2000. The co-founder and CEO of Computer Associates International, Inc. (CA Technologies) bought out Kumar’s investment share in 2004 to become majority owner. Since the cancellation of the 2004-05 season, the Islanders have struggled only qualifying for the playoffs twice. Their last appearance was during the abbreviated 2012-13 season when a John Tavares-led team pushed the Penguins to six games before getting eliminated in the first round. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to follow up that success finishing last in the Metropolitan Division with 79 points. 

Following the disappointment of his proposed Light House Project being voted down by Nassau County, Wang was able to keep the team in New York by reaching agreement for the franchise to move to Brooklyn and play at Barclays Center in 2015. The Islanders’ lease with Nassau Coliseum expires following the upcoming season. Amazingly, it will be the final one at the only arena they’ve known since entering the NHL in 1972. It promises to be an emotional year for Long Island.

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