Nichols' Notes

Related: Nichols' Notes (June 24) Related: Trade Watch: Jason Spezza Edition

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How might the free agent interview period impact a team like the Arizona Coyotes?

"I think it not only levels the playing field, it might even tilt it to the Coyotes' side a little bit," Jarrett Bousquet of Titan Sports Management, which represents Nashville's Shea Weber and the Coyotes' Oliver Ekman-Larsson, told Sarah McLellan of AZCentral.com. "On the hockey side, you've got the owners and a good general manager and a great coach. So the hockey side is there. Obviously, it might be one of the top-five nicest cities in the NHL. So when people come in and really look at what Arizona has to offer, it's affordable, great schooling. It's safe, clean. Those type of things from a lifestyle perspective — that can be very attractive to a free agent."

Updates given on Radim Vrbata, Derek Morris, David Moss, Paul Bissonnette, Jeff Halpern and Thomas Greiss in the article, with quotes from GM Don Maloney on the budget too.


The St. Louis Blues reached out to Paul Stastny's agent on Wednesday to express an interest, according to league sources for Post-Dispatch writer Jeremy Rutherford. See the Jason Spezza-related update too.


NHL sources tell Michael Russo that Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher has contacted the agents for at least Thomas Vanek, Matt Niskanen and Willie Mitchell. Russo reiterates the Wild has 'significant interest' in Niskanen. The Wild also has interest in Paul Stastny. Full details, as usual, in his story.


Michigan Live's Ansar Khan reports that Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland will be meeting face-to-face with agents for Matt Niskanen, Dan Boyle and others Thursday.


The Edmonton Sun's Robert Tychkowski profiles - with interviews - Leon Draisaitl and Aaron Ekblad, believed to be the Oilers' top two prospect preferences headed into Friday's draft. The article opens with this blurb on the potential of the Oilers and Florida Panthers swapping picks.

Unless the Oilers up their ante by a significant margin or the Florida Panthers lower their demands, don’t expect Edmonton to pick first overall for the fourth time in five years.

Oilers senior vice-president of hockey operations Scott Howson says the Oilers and Panthers had been talking off and on since May about the prospect of flipping picks, but weren’t able to come to terms and the conversation has since cooled off.

“There’s not much discussion,” Howson said of what’s been transpiring the last few days. “We’ve talked to Florida a little bit over the past month about moving up, but there’s nothing imminent.

“Having said that, there is still 48 hours to go and a lot of things can happen.”


Adrian Dater has the latest on the Colorado Avalanche/ Paul Stastny situation, although the article doesn't have much more info than was noted by Dater late Tuesday night. Basically, Stastny wants to get a taste of what's available on the free agent front, but won't do anything without meeting with the Avs first.


The latest edition of TSN's Insider Trading has many items of note, as usual. Darren Dreger and Bob McKenzie were in on this one with James Duthie.

There was some Jason Spezza talk off the top from McKenzie, but it was basically the same info he tweeted earlier in the day. Four teams talking to Bryan Murray. Dreger says it's believed Dave Bolland is looking for an eight-year deal from the Toronto Maple Leafs at $4.9 million per. Dreger says the Edmonton Oilers are 'very active' looking for a centre and a defenceman. The No. 3 overall pick and Sam Gagner are apparently each in play, while the Oilers are ultimately still in the game for the No. 1 overall pick from the Florida Panthers. McKenzie says the San Jose Sharks would ideally like to trade Joe Thornton, but as of right now Thornton has no intention of waiving his no-move clause. There is no list from Thornton. If there were, McKenzie speculates it would include teams the Sharks wouldn't like: the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings or Chicago Blackhawks. McKenzie says Ryan Kesler has a list of six teams and that the Blackhawks and Ducks seem the most interested. Nothing imminent on that front. Vancouver Canucks will not do this deal unless they get the right amount. McKenzie says Dale Tallon has three legitimate offers for the No. 1 overall pick, but right now it's more likely he'd use the pick instead. Dan Boyle's agent has been contacted by eight teams today, according to Dreger.  Many will meet face-to-face Thursday, including Toronto Maple Leafs.


Here are the full quotes from Patrick Sharp’s agent, Rick Curran, via Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times.

“There’s no truth to any rumor that Patrick Sharp is available to trade,” Curran told the Sun-Times. “He absolutely is not available. I had a meeting with Stan Bowman a week ago to ask him what was going to happen. He said, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I can tell you that Patrick Sharp is not available right now.’ When the Sportsnet guy, Nick Kypreos, erroneously made a statement and everyone went crazy, I called Stan again. I asked, ‘Has anything changed?’ He said, ‘absolutely not.’ He’s full of [expletive].”

Also: “Stan Bowman said he’s the last guy that would be traded,” Curran said. “As far as I’m concerned, the whole thing’s a fabrication from a puke out of Toronto trying to make headlines, an absolutely, completely irresponsible report, based on absolutely nothing other than his own whim or fancy.”

Curran also spoke with Chris Kuc from The Tribune. There were a number of quotes, including this one.

"I had met with Stan about six or seven days earlier and I knew there was absolutely no truth to anyone suggesting that in spite of whatever negotiations were going on on behalf of Toews and Kane that Patrick Sharp was available for trade, because he's not," Curran said. "Then when Kypreos said it, knowing that it wasn't true, I just got really pissed off. There's no way a guy should say it with such certainty when it's absolutely not true. So I called Stan, because I recognize that things can change, and said 'Is there any change?' And he said, 'Absolutely not.'

"There is no way this guy should get away with saying what he said and have Patrick and his family have to suffer the consequences of an absolutely irresponsible remark."


Via Greg Cote of The Miami Herald:

“We’ll listen to any deal to make us better,” Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon said of the No. 1 pick.

Tallon also conceded, “Maybe it’s time to package some of our youth in a deal.”

I asked what he meant. Here’s what he meant:

If the Panthers were to make defenseman Aaron Ekblad the No. 1 pick Friday, as most mock drafts suggest, he’d be the team’s 12th defender 6-3 or taller.

“You can only dress six,” Tallon said. “Might be able to package one or two defensemen for a young forward, somebody who’ll be with us seven to 10 years. Maybe we can package assets to get that goal scorer. We’ve been building the foundation. Now we’re deep enough.”


Montreal Canadiens defenceman Andrei Markov, freshly-inked to his three-year contract extension, spoke at length with Dave Stubbs of The Gazette.

“I feel comfortable in Montreal,” said Markov. “My first priority was to sign there. I didn’t think about other options.

“Maybe if I go on the free market I can get more. But after the money, maybe I lose more – maybe I lose the atmosphere, the city and the organization of Montreal.

“I’m not the type of guy who likes to change his life completely in hockey. What is happening in Montreal right now, I feel like it’s my home. I don’t want to move to another city. Plus, I have a chance to spend the whole of my career on one team. The Canadiens have a great history and it’s nice to be part of that.”


Philadelphia Flyers forward Sean Couturier provides NJ.com's Randy Miller a health update, including why he was on crutches today. All is good, don't worry - he'll be fully ready to go by training camp.

On the subject of his offense: “I think if I get put in offensive opportunities, I can maybe take advantage of that and produce more,” Couturier said. ”In the role I’ve been in, I just try to play my game. It’s not easy every night going against top lines. You know you’re not going to get as many chances as you do playing against third or fourth lines, but it’s a great challenge.

“Eventually for sure in the future I don’t only want to shut down those first lines, but maybe also outscore them. That’s the goal in the next few years.”


In Pierre LeBrun's Rumblings, sources tell him the Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings and New York Rangers have shown interest in Dan Boyle. The New York Islanders remain an option too. Boyle's agent, George Bazos, is confident he can get Boyle - who turns 38 in a few weeks - a two-year deal. Boyle says he still has enough gas left in the proverbial tank.

"It’s not to say that I can’t play any longer than that, but mentally and physically I’ve committed myself to two years. I feel great right now," said Boyle. "The only thing I know for sure is that I have two very good years left in me and then I can see after that." 


Columbus Blue Jackets star-in-the-making Ryan Johansen joined Sportsnet 960 Wednesday morning. The wide-ranging interview covered his off-season plans, the R.J. Umberger-Scott Hartnell trade, the John Davidson-Jarmo Kekalainen era, the playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Boone Jenner, Ryan Murray, the tough first few years of being a pro, and more. No contract talk though.

Two quotes in particular stood out.

On the future: "As a young team we've taken some huge strides. You know, I sit on my couch here at home excited for the next season because our future is so bright and so much talent in our group."

On the turning point last summer: "Just kind of looked yourself in the mirror, really. Said 'That's enough of that. I'm too good to be doing this. I've got too much skill and it's time for me to take that next step and become the player I know I can become.'

"And I just tried to start the year off with a lot of confidence and believe in myself and I kind of got off to a pretty good start and just kind of rolled with it and tried to stay as consistent as possible and I thought I did that for the most part of the year."


So all of the hot free agents will be gathering in Philadelphia at the draft this weekend since every team will be there, right? Not so fast. The Star Tribune's Michael Russo spoke with several key agents - Steve Bartlett and Don Meehan - who will NOT be doing that with their clients. That player list includes Thomas Vanek, Jarome Iginla, Brad Richards, Matt Moulson and David Legwand. There will be some free agents there, to be sure, but it may not be the in-person feeding frenzy imagined.


Dave Bolland's agent, Anton Thun, replied "correct" when asked by The Toronto Sun's Mike Zeisberger if his camp and the Toronto Maple Leafs remained significantly apart on a deal.

In terms of the free agent interview period in general, there is much less confusion this summer compared with last year.

“To be honest, there was still a lot of questions being asked at this time last year,” Thun said on Tuesday evening. “Some general managers weren’t quite sure what they could and could not do. It was all pretty new.”

Now?

“What you are allowed to do is discuss the parameters of a deal,” Thun said. “But nothing can be finalized until July 1.”


Adrian Dater has the latest from the Colorado Avalanche/ Paul Stastny situation, with Joe Sakic telling Dater that Stastny wants to "see what's out there" on the free agent market, now that the interview period is underway. Dater underscores that Stastny's camp will come back to the Avs before doing anything though, while also noting that Sakic said talks with Stastny's agent, Matt Keator, were "good."


The Post-Dispatch's Jeremy Rutherford writes about the concerns regarding the St. Louis Blues' defense following the team's playoff loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

“Obviously a disappointing a year, but I think a player like Kevin Shattenkirk learned that there’s a higher level that he can get to,” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said. “I talked to him quite recently, actually, and he’s excited about that opportunity.

“He wants to be an impact player, he wants to be an All-Star player and I really think you’re going to see a different player when he gets back here — in his mental approach to the game — and we’re going to need that from him.”

Armstrong also said Ian Cole "will be given every opportunity to start in our group of six and all he has to do is maintain that."


Victor de Bonis, chief operating officer of Canucks Sports & Entertainment, tells The Vancouver Sun's Brad Ziemer that renewals for Canucks season tickets are down five percent or so. Normally the renewal rate is around 95 percent, but it dropped to 90 percent or so this year after a season of turmoil.

A new season ticket program has been launched and while the team is working its way through the season ticket holder wait list, which numbers around 2,000, they do expect ticket packages will be available to the general public.

“What has been exciting about this process is that there have been so many people who have been waiting to get tickets and it’s been a really great injection of energy for them and for us, too," de Bonis said. "It has been a refreshing couple of months to say the least around our offices with everybody and the changes that have been made. Everyone is excited.

“Right now, the opportunity is there for (fans). Over the next couple of weeks we are confident the majority of these seats get sold. We just allocated 300 or 400 seats, I am not sure of the exact number, for this program, because we have to go through our renewal process so we have to be careful not to put out too much inventory."