Tag Archives: Free Agency

THE NHL EXPANSION DRAFT ALL-PURPOSE PRIMER

Now that the dust has settled from another year of hockey (and the Pittsburgh Penguins reign supreme once again), the offseason begins. This summer will not be your prototypical offseason, though. No, no, no. For the first time since the turn of the new millennium, the NHL will have an expansion draft.

And that event will be here before you know it.

Vegas gold

With the addition of the Vegas Golden Knights as the NHL’s 31st member club, the new team will fill out a roster through the expansion draft. The NHL has done this well before the advent of Sin City hockey, too. The league has held 11 prior expansion drafts, the first of which took place in 1967 when the NHL’s “Original Six” franchises were joined by the congregation of the Los Angeles Kings, Oakland Seals, Minnesota North Stars, St. Louis Blues, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins.

The landscape of the game has altered significantly since 1967 (and, for that matter, from 2000, the last time an NHL Expansion Draft took place). The league exists in a salary cap era now, contract details have become increasingly more complex and widespread media coverage has evolved hand-in-hand with rampant fan fervor. Therefore, there are a lot of moving parts going into this upcoming event, and it can be very, very confusing.

Fret not, hockey fan, because we will happily explain everything you need to know about the upcoming NHL Expansion Draft and hope to answer any questions you may have.

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PITTSBURGH STOCKS UP ON DEFENSEMEN IN FREE AGENCY

The Pittsburgh Penguins weren’t expected to make a big splash in the free agency pool.  After their recent Stanley Cup victory and having most of their roster locked up already, only a few holes would have to be filled headed into the 2016-17 season.

But that didn’t stop the Pens from making an half dozen moves within the first few hours of the free agent frenzy – most of which figure to benefit the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

WE’RE STAYING

The first two players to sign on the dotted line were holdovers from last season. 

Forward Tom Sestito appeared in 41 regular season games with the AHL club, picking up 14 points and 104 penalty minutes (the second highest total on the team) despite missing significant time to injury.  The Rome, NY native brings a physical presence to the Pens, and provides the big club with an intimidating force when needed.

Steve Oleksy had a career year with Wilkes-Barre, setting single season highs in assists (17) and points (19) while donning the assistant captain’s ‘A’ in 63 AHL games.  The feisty blueliner also received several recalls to Pittsburgh, though he did not appear in a game with the NHL squad. 

FAMILIAR FACE

David Warsofsky started last season in the Penguins organization, splitting time between Wilkes-Barre and Pittsburgh.  The NHL club attempted to return the defenseman to WBS, but the New Jersey Devils swooped in and claimed the former Bruins blueliner off of waivers.  In total, Warsofsy appeared in 22 NHL games last season, posting one goal.  He also suited up in 17 games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, recording six points (2+4).

THE NEW GUYS

Pittsburgh continued to stock up on defensemen by bringing in three players on one-year, two-way deals.

Stuart Percy 23, is a former first-round draft pick by the Toronto Maple Leafs (25th overall in 2011).

A 6-foot-1, 187-pound left handed-shooter, Percy tallied 24 points (4G-20A) and was plus-3 in 58 AHL regular-season games for the Toronto Marlies last season, and contributed four assists in 14 playoff contests.  During the regular season he also made three appearances with the Maple Leafs.

Percy has played three full seasons and parts of two others with the Marlies, notching 64 points (10G-54A) in 177 regular-season appearances. He had three assists in 12 total NHL games with Toronto.

Chad Ruhwedel, 26, played the past four seasons in the Buffalo Sabres organization, appearing in a total of 33 NHL games with the Sabres, registering two assists.  The 5-foot-11, 191-pound righthanded-shooting defender posted 26 points (10G-16A) in 59 games with the Rochester Americans last season, the second-straight year he reached double digits in goals.

A San Diego, California native, Ruhwedel (ROO-WEE-dehl) has appeared in 178 career AHL contests with the Americans, tallying 24 goals, 66 assists and 90 points. He had five points (2G-3A) in five AHL playoff contests.

Cameron Gaunce, 26, is coming off of a career year with the Portland Pirates, where his 35 assists and 37 points in 75 games both represented the highest totals of his pro career, and ranked him 17th (tied) among all AHL D-men in scoring. The 2016 AHL All-Star was also an alternate captain for the Pirates.

The lefthanded-shooting native of Sudbury, Ontario has played in 20 career NHL games with the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars, scoring one goal. He was originally selected by the Avalanche in the second round (50th overall) of the 2008 NHL Draft.

Gaunce has appeared in 419 career AHL regular-season games for Lake Erie, Texas and Portland, producing 19 goals, 115 assists and 134 points to accompany his plus-51. He has 34 career games of AHL playoff experience as well.

C.J. Yakimowicz wants to make an impression


When C.J. Yakimowicz was making drives from his home in Kingston to skate at the old Ice Box rink in Pittston, he had dreams of playing the game he loved for a living.

He crept closer to pro hockey when he was selected by the St. Louis Blues in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. However, his dreams were put on hold when St. Louis chose not to sign Yakimowicz to an entry level deal before June 24, thus exposing him to the draft process one again and subsequently free agency.blog_Yakimowicz dev camp

Enter the Pittsburgh Penguins, who extended an invite to one of Wilkes-Barre’s native sons to attend their development camp this week. After one day on the ice, Yakimowicz is not taking this opportunity for granted.

“I’m coming here to leave a mark,” Yakimowicz said. “I want everyone to know who I am.”

Yakimowicz, who just won the Memorial Cup with the London Knights a month ago, isn’t just determined to work his way to a contract. He now has the added motivation to earn a spot with the organization that he grew up idolizing.

“I’ve been a Pittsburgh Penguins fan my whole life. You know, to be here and to be from Wilkes-Barre, it’s pretty special,” Yakimowicz said. “I talked to my agent, and he said a couple teams were interested. Pittsburgh was the first one, and I said yes right away. There were no questions about it. I wanted to be a Penguin my whole life. This is my opportunity, and I’m going to run with it.”

This opportunity didn’t come by accident, either. Even though Yakimowicz is among a throng of prospects hand-picked by Pittsburgh scouts as draft selections over the past few years, an invitation to development camp doesn’t just go to anyone. They go to players who the Penguins feel can potentially be a part of plan moving forward.

“A guy could definitely earn his spot here,” said Penguins Development Coach Mark Recchi. “[Free agents] could open our eyes, and that’s what we want.”

“We don’t take it lightly,” added Assistant GM Bill Guerin when speaking to the Citizens’ Voice. “We’re picky.”

Yakimowicz has no intention of taking his time at development camp lightly, either. He plays a physical brand of hockey that isn’t necessarily appropriate in a relatively relaxed atmosphere such as a mid-summer prospect gathering, but that isn’t going to stop him from finding ways to stand out.

“It’s a development camp. There’s not a lot of hitting,” Yakimowicz said. “But I can show my game in other aspects and still physically… I’m a big body. I like to go to the net and be a power forward. I like to be a presence, and that’s what I’m going to bring here.”

And don’t think Yakimowicz hasn’t tracked the career trajectory of Shavertown native Patrick McGrath, who carved himself a roster spot with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the second half of the season. He never attended Pittsburgh development camp, but he was a participant in rookie tournaments where Penguins brass got a good hard look at the hard-nosed McGrath.

“[McGrath] paved the way for guys from Wilkes-Barre, for sure,” Yakimowicz said. “Hopefully, I can follow in his footsteps.”

OTHER NOTES

Austin Ortega skated with both Josh Archibald and Jake Guentzel at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. In fact, Ortega slid into Archibald’s slot on a line with Guentzel in 2014-15 after “The Buzzsaw” left school for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The speedy, free agent forward and fellow Maverick gave his thoughts on his first day at development camp and career at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

The Daily Penguin – March 30, 2016

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Recaps from last night’s win over Springfield (TimesLeader.comCitizensVoice.com)

Recaps from Pittsburgh’s shootout victory over Buffalo (TribLive.comPost-Gazette.com)

The Penguins organization has shown a penchant for tracking down and attracting NCAA talent (TribLive.com)

Matt Murray is taking every one of his NHL experiences and locking his memories in the vault. A shooter’s vault. (Post-Gazette.com)

OPPONENT NEWS

Bridgeport: The Sound Tigers stayed hot with a lunchtime triumph over Portland yesterday (CTPost.com)

 

 

The Daily Penguin – July 29, 2015

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The big news out of the Steel City Tuesday was the trade that sent Brandon Sutter to Vancouver for Nick Bonino and Adam Clendening. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Only five forwards from Pittsburgh’s opening night roster remain with the team after the Sutter trade. (Pittsburgh Tribune Review)

Sutter’s true worth to the Pens couldn’t be counted in goals and assists.  (Pittsburgh Tribune Review)

Bonino was shocked but excited to be joining the Pens. (Penguins.nhl.com)

Pittsburgh also signed former Washington Capitals/Hershey Bears forward Eric Fehr on Tuesday.  (Pittsburgh Tribune Review)

Fehr chatted with the Pens web team after signing. (Penguins.nhl.com)

The moves were just the latest in general manager Jim Rutherford’s plans to mold the Pens into a more skilled, speedy team. (DKonPittsburghSports.com)

Rutherford spoke to the media after the day of wheeling and dealing.  (Penguins.nhl.com)

The Daily Penguin – July 10, 2015

DailyPenguin

It’s a Friday morning edition of the Daily Penguin, full of news on the Pens schedule, a prominent defensive signing, and more info on the WBS coaching staff.

100 days and counting…the Pens will open the home portion of the 2015-16 AHL season on October 17. (wbspenguins.com)

The new WBS coaching tandem of Mike Sullivan and Jay Leach has a bit of a history (The Times Leader)

Pittsburgh re-signed restricted free agent defenseman Brian Dumoulin to a two-year, one-way contract on Thursday. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

That one-way deal has given Dumoulin some security, but he’s not resting on his past performance. (Pittsburgh Tribune Review)

Dumoulin seems to have a new sense of confidence after a good showing in the NHL playoffs. (DKonPittsburghSports)

 

The Daily Penguin – July 9, 2015

DailyPenguinGrab a doughnut and munch on these delicious bits in this morning’s Daily Penguin:

Shavertown native Patrick McGrath has signed an AHL contract with the Pens. (Citizens Voice)

McGrath isn’t sitting back and relaxing after signing his deal. (Times Leader)

The Pittsburgh Penguins are making a push to host the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships. (Pittsburgh Tribune Review)