Packing up (some for the Island)

The Islanders have made the playoffs. Well played for the Big Club. They’re likely to be joined shortly by a few players who were here.

With the Islanders on the road, hanging out in Bridgeport for a little while: Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson, John Persson, Johan Sundstrom, Anders Nilsson, Aaron Ness, Matt Donovan, as well as Calvin de Haan. The Islanders had talked about Andrey Pedan and Scott Mayfield sticking around as well, but apparently technicalities in their contract status as ATOs keep them away. That bunch is likely to move to the Island at some point after the regular season to join the Black Aces. (Not that the Big Club’s short-handed, with the routine 16-9-2 up there right now.)

Nino Niederreiter said there’s a good chance he’ll play for Switzerland in the World Championships; he seemed excited about the prospect of going for the third time in four years.

Most of the crew was in the house for exit interviews Tuesday (which moved along much more briskly than last year’s). A few of the college guys had gone back to school already, and didn’t see Rick DiPietro there while I was. Got a metric boatload of notes to transcribe (and, beautifully, my pen ran out of ink just as I was scribbling out the last sentence of the last interview). That may or may not happen tonight. But it’ll happen in the next 24 hours or so, on the bottom of this post. (The -more- should pop up at the bottom. Or at the bottom of the main text. Or somewhere. I’m still getting used to this new thing, too. Rearranging the right-hand column after some help from Lidia Ryan getting them moved over.)

Edit: Quotes are up now.

Wolf Pack in the house! Glad to see the name reportedly coming back. And not only because I assume it’ll stop the snarky “Hartford?????” and “you mean Connecticut” on Twitter. Because yes, Hartford, I knew where I was; and no, I usually didn’t.

Nathan Lawson sat out of practice Tuesday in Binghamton.

The Blues announced an affiliation with the Chicago Wolves. This has seemed to be fait accompli for a long time.

Phil was talking about this in the room today: New York is converting the Kingsbridge Armory into a building full of ice rinks.

Thank you/darn you @sepinwall for mentioning “Skid Row” in this week’s “Mad Men” review and cementing this in my head. (The fact that I can’t find this movie anywhere in my apartment is aggravating. Could’ve sworn I had a VHS copy. Also aggravating is that a couple of stores appeared not to have copies, either.)


So here’s what I’ve got for contract status. Corrections gladly welcomed.

As of April 19, 32 NHL contracts next year (2 G, 12 D, 18 F), including Reinhart (who doesn’t count if sent to junior) but not including Thomas (who conceivably could be tolled). Numbers in parentheses for signed players are years remaining on the contract; those without numbers are signed only through next season. All signed players are NHL deals unless noted. Lots of help, as you can surely expect, from CapGeek and other sources.

Rick DiPietro (8), Anders Nilsson, Marc Cantin, Mike Dalhuisen (AHL), Calvin de Haan, Matt Donovan, Scott Mayfield (3), Aaron Ness, Andrey Pedan (3), Jason Clark (2), Joey Diamond, Mike Halmo (2), Kirill Kabanov (2), Greg Miller (AHL), Brock Nelson (2), Nino Niederreiter, John Persson (2), Ryan Strome (3), Johan Sundstrom (2), Riley Wetmore (AHL)
GROUP 2: Brandon DeFazio, Brett Gallant
GROUP 3: Jon Landry, Nathan McIver (V), Sean Backman, Blair Riley
GROUP 6: Ty Wishart (V), Matt Watkins
AHL: Kenny Reiter, Jordan Hill, Dallas Jackson, Mike Keenan, Scott Campbell, Max MacKay, Ben Rosen

Matt Carkner (2), Joe Finley, Andrew MacDonald, Griffin Reinhart (3/”slide” possibility next year), Brian Strait (3), Lubomir Visnovsky (2), Casey Cizikas, Michael Grabner (3), Anders Lee, Matt Martin (3), Colin McDonald (2), Matt Moulson, Frans Nielsen (3), Kyle Okposo (3), John Tavares (5)
GROUP 2: Kevin Poulin, Travis Hamonic, Thomas Hickey, Josh Bailey, Jesse Joensuu* (or VI – needs 12 NHL to stay GII), David Ullstrom
GROUP 3: Evgeni Nabokov, Tim Thomas, Radek Martinek, Mark Streit, Keith Aucoin, Eric Boulton, Brad Boyes, Marty Reasoner
*-Joensuu is 25 and has played four years on NHL contracts, so Group 6 is in play with him. From what I’m told, because of the lockout, the usual 80-game provision for Group 6 free agency is reduced, according to service time, with this year’s share pro-rated. If I’ve added all that right, Joensuu needs to play 72 career NHL games to be a restricted free agent, so he needs five more. NHL playoff games do count toward this.

Group 2 players are restricted free agents if given a qualifying offer. The other free agents are all unrestricted. (V) indicates he’ll be a veteran next year by AHL rule. (V-320) means he’ll be a veteran but will qualify as that one exempt player a night with 320 or fewer pro games.


Thanks as always for reading. Long summer, but we’ll be around.

Mike Halmo

“It was a really good learning experience, really good to see what this league’s about. It was a great year playing with a lot of great guys. I can’t wait for next year already. I know what I need to do to get better, improve, and be a better player.” That’s… “I’ve got to continue to work on my skating. I think that always needs to improve. Get a little stronger, a little quicker.”

That lower body injury… “I blocked a shot in Providence, and I didn’t think much of it. (But it kept hurting.) They X-rayed, and there’s a fracture. I’ve just got to keep off it for a few weeks.”

Brock Nelson

Losing time to the broken jaw, coming back, finishing strong: “I think so. Missing time is not a part of playing that — it wasn’t fun, that’s for sure. … I was able to get back my game legs. The end of the year went pretty well.”

Did he feel there was a turning point for him? “I don’t know if there was any high point like that. Continuing to build from the start of the year, being with guys like Colin McDonald, Cizikas, Ullstrom, who are with New York, I learned from them. I was learning the whole year, being my first year.”

The next step: “I’ve got to continue to work, get better, stronger, mature a little bit in terms of my body, work on getting faster. Every level is bigger, stronger, faster guys. … Developing that, it’s a long year. You’ve got to stay mentally sharp.”

Andrey Pedan

“It was a great time, a great experience, to meet a lot of the guys, my new teammates. I tried to get better every day. … I need to get bigger and stronger, make quicker decisions on the ice, first-pass.”

He got some good opportunities: “Yeah, I played some penalty kill, power play, so it was a good experience to have.”

Johan Sundstrom

“I’ll remember most, I think, the games we played here at Webster. It was a great experience for me, the fans, as well. The games, and the guys. It was a terrific group.”

Johan Sundstrom through Jan. 19: 39 games, 11-14-25, plus-10. Johan Sundstrom after returning from that, ahem, upper-body injury: 20 games, 0-7-7, minus-3… interrupted things, did it? “Yes, it did. Five weeks off like that, it’s always tough to come back. You learn from it, move on, grow as a person. You want to get stronger. Physically, it takes a lot of getting in shape. The coaching staff did a lot of things to get me where I was before the injury. … You just have to deal with it. Unfortunately, it happened to me this season. Hopefully I’ll be fresh next year.”

Calvin de Haan

How’s it feel? “It feels fine. There’s not much else to say. It’s not bothering me at all. Obviously it’s a big offseason.”

“It felt good when I did play.”

So… were you looking to try to play here? I’m champing at the bit. I was on the ice every day. I feel like I could play. It’s obviously not my decision. It’s for the best, whatever the doctors and trainers decide. … I think at a time I was just craving it really bad.”

Brandon DeFazio

“I thought it was a good year, a consistent year for me. Obviously still you find things you can get better at and attend to those in the summer, come back a better hockey player. Every asset, you can get better at.”

The 42-4-20 line: “It was a lot of fun playing with those guys. Obviously we had some success, and that’s always fun to be a part of. The most important thing was we were used in situations that mattered. Every game, we knew what our line was going to bring.”

Kenny Reiter

“It was just a big year in development for me, pretty much just learning the pro game. It was really great working with Steve Valiquette. He made me a lot more complete goaltender, and I think it showed when I played.”

The difference in the pro game: “I’d have to say just being professional, coming to the rink every day, understanding that you’re being paid to do this.”

Coming back? “It’s a possibility. … I don’t know now. I probably won’t know for a little bit here. They gave me the opportunity here, and I’m really grateful for that. I’d like to stay here if it’s possible.”

Marc Cantin

Good experience going to Vegas? “It was, actually. It was a long year with the lockout, the injuries. It got frustrating. It was also frustrating to get sent down, but I really saw it more as an opportunity. Hockey’s a journey. You meet a lot of people. I enjoyed my time there. It was a good team, and I was able to play that 30 minutes a night I want to get back to playing. It was definitely a confidence boost, but at the same time, I’m still looking to get where I want to be. … As soon as I started getting it going, I got myself injured again for a couple of months. That was definitely pretty frustrating, but it gives me fuel for next year.”

Nathan McIver

Leaving out some stuff that was in the wrap story, for him and Matt Watkins

“Looking back at the last two months, every game we played, we were in, even against some top teams. We did have a playoff team here.”

“I enjoyed being here. It was a pretty good year. I liked playing here.”

Matt Watkins

“We had too many stretches where we lost too many games in a row. We couldn’t stop the bleeding a couple of times. You look back, and if we win a couple of those games, it’s a different story. But hindsight’s 20/20.”

On wearing the ‘C’: It was nice, for sure. Signing with a new organization, you don’t know not only your teammates, but the coaches, management. You’ve got to familiarize yourself with everything; it’s kind of an uncomfortable situation being new in something you haven’t been part of. I just wanted to come in and be myself.”

Nino Niederreiter

“There’s a good chance I’m going to go play te World Championships. I have to talk with my agent and everything, see how it’s going to be.”

“I learned a lot. I played a lot of minutes. It was a good group of guys, definitely fun. … The more you play, the easier it is on the ice. At the end of the day, I definitely learned a lot here this year.”

“Last year was really tough for myself, but I worked hard last summer. It was a good year this year.”

Sean Backman

A step forward this year? “I think this year I had my penalty kill duties and being a responsible forward, but on top of that some power-play time this year. That was pretty exciting. As a player, I thought overall it was a good year for me.”

Consistency for the team: There were flashes, but they didn’t always hold:: Any time you go on a seven or eight game losing streak, you kind of dig yourself a hole there. Like you said, we had flashes of greatness there (and) inconsistency in our play.”

Matt Donovan

Turning point? “I had a couple of meetings with the coaching staff kind of going over stuff I needed to focus on — really focus on. … I think the meetings really helped me see where I needed to focus.

“I didn’t have the start I wanted this year, but I think I finished the way I wanted to — definitely improved. That’s kind of what I want to do.”

Joey Diamond

Got the contract out of the way: “That’s a good feeling heading into the summer, knowing where you’re going to be. I’m really excited about the opportunity they’re giving me here.”

His tryout tenure:: “Just to get that experience and everything was really big. I know what I’m getting myself into next year. It’s been great. … I want to come in and work 110 percent on every shift and capitalize on opportunities. I felt I did that, for the most part.”

Scott Pellerin

“Unfortunately we’re all really disappointed we’re not playing. We’ll learn from our mistakes and get better.”

“Looking back and reviewing the whole season, talking to some of the veteran players and some of the young guys — if you have inconsistency in any profession, you’re not going to have that success. Hockey’s no different. I think that comes with youth and understanding the pro game, that you have to be ready every period, every shift.”

“It was frustrating. That’s my job, to make sure they’re prepared and ready. At the end of the day, they have to make that decision mentally to be prepared every night.”

“A new coach coming in, everyone had to kind of start over. … I had to get to know them, what were their strengths, what were their weaknesses. What I was excited about, from Day 1 to the last day, was the progression and improvement of a lot of players, individually and as a team. If you look at individual skills, skating, hockey situations, decision-making, being a professional, we saw a lot of improvement by a lot of young players. Guys had great seasons. Look at guys like Matt Donovan, Brock Nelson, Sundstrom and Persson with some of their injuries, but there was improvement. Look at Nino. Look at guys still earning thier way, like Scott Campbell, establishing himself as an AHL player. The leadership quality we had on the back end with Landry, McIver, Wish. The speed and continued development of the younger D like Donovan and Ness. We were missing Cal as a big part of our team we weren’t able to use.”

“The guys that came in at the end of the season, they adjusted, and the leadership of Matt Watkins.”

“Goaltending, we all had our challenges and adversity in goal, the four goaltenders. Our goaltending coach, Steve Valiquette, did a great job with our players. I can honestly say we got their best effort. The rest of the coaching staff did a great job working with the defense. Bogy, Cairnsy, Doug and Bernie, I couldn’t ask for better attention to detail. And the rest of the staff, Leni, Dave, Kevin. We had great support from Garth and Kerry.”

Any surprises making the jump to head coach: “I learned a lot. It was really tough being away from my family, but we made it work. I tried to do my best every day to help players develop and enjoy their time here.”

Maine: I really haven’t been able to comment on it. That’s one thing we’ll keep in-house and talk to Garth at the appropriate time.”

Here was the quote that’s in the wrap story about preferring “growth” to “inconsistency”: “Maturity, even though we were young, we matured as a group as we went along. … Though we didn’t have the success we’d hoped for, in the bigger picture, we’re headed in the right direction.”

He said he was thankful for the fans’ support: “We wanted to make the playoffs. As a group, we have to find a way to make it. That’s our challenge.”

Scott Mayfield, during which my pen died intermittently, then suddenly; sorry

The ATO: “It was really beneficial. … I learned to kind of handle the pro life, the game, how much different it is from college. … The lifestyle’s different. You’re not going to class (it’s a job). Hockey, mostly the speed of the game. It’s two or three steps faster than college.”

Michael Fornabaio