The latest on Sam Gagner, Phil Kessel, Andrew Ladd, Dan Hamhuis, Chris Neil, Brendan Gallagher and more.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jonathan Willis cites a report from the blog OilersNation claiming Sam Gagner is about to be named the new captain of the Edmonton Oilers, while Linus Omark (who spent last season in Switzerland) will return with the Oilers this season, signing a one-year contract. Omark understands his spot on the Oilers isn’t a certainty, as he could be demoted to their farm team in Oklahoma City.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hopefully we’ll find out soon if Gagner has indeed been named captain of the Oilers. He would be an interesting choice, considering how often he was mentioned in trade rumors the past three years. As for Omark, this is a chance for a clean slate with new GM Craig MacTavish and new coach Dallas Eakins.
TORONTO SUN: Rob Longley reports Maple Leafs star Phil Kessel enjoys playing in Toronto, but doesn’t know how things will play out regarding his contract status. Kessel is entering the final year of his current contract and will be eligible for UFA status next summer. Kessel also suggested he didn’t expect much contract talk during the season, suggesting it would be too much of a distraction.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s a perception among some NHL fans Kessel hates playing in Toronto and doesn’t intend to re-sign, but that’s based on his low-key personality and media shyness. According to reports citing those close to Kessel, he truly enjoys playing in Toronto. Kessel’s contract status will be a media distraction whether he negotiates during the season or not. There’s no escaping that.
His future in Toronto will of course depend upon how much cap space the Leafs have after this season, and they could wait until next June to find out how much the cap will increase (and it will increase) before pitching serious contract offers. If Kessel has another strong performance, the more expensive he becomes to re-sign. Currently, I’d place his value at between $7-$7.5 million per season. If he again leads the Leafs in scoring (which he’s done the past four seasons) and is again among the league’s top-10 scorers (as he was the last two years), his value goes up to $8.5 million. His critics will disagree, but if the Leafs won’t pay that, someone else will. In my opinion, if the Leafs fail to re-sign Kessel, it will be a huge loss.
WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Gary Lawless suggests Winnipeg Jets captain Andrew Ladd is a long shot to make Team Canada, while Jets Dustin Byfuglien, Blake Wheeler, Zach Bogosian and Jacob Trouba could be playing for Team USA.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ladd will need the best start of his career to garner serious consideration for Team Canada. I believe Byfuglien and Wheeler are locks to make Team USA, while Bogosian will need a healthy start. Trouba could be a long shot, which he acknowledged in the article.
VANCOUVER PROVINCE/VANCOUVER SUN: Jason Botchford suggests Canucks left-handed defenseman Dan Hamhuis has a shot to make Team Canada, while Elliott Pap reports Canucks potential backup goalie Eddie Lack is giving teammate Roberto Luongo a run for his money on Twitter.
OTTAWA SUN: Senators forward Chris Neil is ready to get back to action after spending an enjoyable summer with his family.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens sophomore Brendan Gallagher participated in the NHLPA’s rookie showcase at Mastercard Centre. Gallagher, a finalist for the Calder Trophy last season, is eager to prove he’s no one-year wonder.