Nichols: MPS excited for NHL

June 2, 2010, 5:39 PM

Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson was the 10th overall pick in last summer’s draft and the Edmonton Oilers have signed their first round pick to a three-year entry level deal. He’ll be at the rookie camp in early July and then he’ll return for training camp in September.

The Edmonton Journal notes that with the Oil in a rebuilding mode, MPS elected to make the leap from the Swedish Elite League to the National Hockey League.

“I made the decision a couple of months ago to come over,” the fleet-footed forward said.

“I feel the timing is perfect. They want to start over with young players and that’s going to be even better for me.”

If he doesn’t make the Oilers roster, he has an out clause to head back to Sweden. He says he’s willing to play in the AHL briefly if that’s what it takes too, but he’ll cross that bridge when he gets to it. In the meantime, he’s really looking forward to being a key component of Edmonton’s youth movement.

“I know they have a first-round pick now. Whether it’s Hall or Seguin I don’t know,” he said. “I do know too they have a bunch of young guys coming. (Jordan) Eberle. (Linus) Omark. (Sam) Gagner. (Anton) Lander (signed for one more year in the SEL).”

He had nine points in nine starts at the world championships last month for the bronze medalist Swedes (leading his team in points and coming third overall) and he knew after that experience that the decision to spend last year developing overseas again was the right one.

“After the draft, I decided to take another year to develop and it was the best thing for me. Then I went to the world championship and that was a big part of my development because I know now I can play at that level.”

The Journal notes that MPS is just comfortable on the left wing as he is on the right, which means that he could be playing enough at both positions to earn dual eligibility for poolies early in his career. Either way, this is a kid with major offensive talent and even though expecting results in single-season pools for ’10-11 may be asking too much, he’ll be a legit threat for keeper league owners at some point as part of a potentially lethal nucleus being formed in Edmonton.

“This is an exciting day for the Oilers organization,” GM Steve Tambellini said in a news release. “Magnus has demonstrated … that he is an explosive player who exhibits great determination going to the net. We look forward to seeing him at his first NHL training camp this fall.”

He told The Edmonton Sun that he wants to be an impact player for his new team eventually.

“I see myself as an Oiler, taking more responsibility every year,” he said. “I want to make a great impact on that team. I want to be an offensive player.

“I know I have to take defensive responsibility, but I want to play offensive hockey, I want to make goals and assists. I’ve been doing that for the last few years and I’m planning on doing that in the future.”

The Vancouver Province reports that the Canucks have signed winger Anton Rodin to a three-year contract and that the good news is the Swedish prospect upon whom the team is so high continues to grow.

Rodin is now over six feet tall after reporting to the club’s prospect camp last summer needing elevator shoes to reach his listed 5-foot-11. He looks like he might eventually be able to play at 190 pounds or more once he fills out.

Rodin told that he and the team have agreed that it’d be best for him to stay in the SEL for another season to develop. Hockey Expressen also notes that he told Gavle News Agency that his contract with the Canucks – where the Sedin twins play – is a dream coming true.

The Montreal Gazette indicates that Louis Leblanc was the centre of attention as the Montreal Canadiens opened the first of two development camps in Brossard, Que., Tuesday but the team’s top draft choice last June (18th overall) shed little light on his future plans.

Leblanc recently completed his freshman year at Harvard University (11-12-23 with 50 PIM in 31 GP) and there has been speculation that he will abandon the halls of academe to pursue his NHL dreams at either the major junior or American Hockey League level. Leblanc said he is keeping his options open but he sounded like someone who’s content to spend another year in university.

“As of now, I’m signed to go to Harvard and that’s what I’m getting ready for and I’m excited,” said Leblanc. “But if I find something better, then I’ll do it. Harvard’s the better fit right now. I get to do my schooling at the best university in the world. My coach (Ted Donato, Harvard Class of 1991) played 13 years in the NHL and I think it’s the best combination.”

He told The Gazette he’s still open to other possibilities though.

“I’ll discuss (any change), firstly with myself, I’ll think about it,” said Leblanc. “And I’ll talk with people who don’t have an agenda to follow, (people who) don’t own a team. I’ll make a decision with people who like me and want the best for me.”

Leblanc said his experience at Harvard was positive.

“I really enjoyed my school year,” he said. “It was an adjustment for school and hockey. It was the first time playing college hockey. It was the first time at Harvard University and it was tough at school a bit but, as the year went on, you get into a routine and get a feel for it. I enjoyed the coach and the guys I played with. It was good.

“It’s been fun but you still have to keep working, do the work in the gym, do the work at school in my case and do the work on the ice.”

“I’m rooting for him — how do you not?” Rod Brind’Amour told The Raleigh News & Observer of hoping former Canes coach and current Philadelphia bench boss Peter Laviolette succeeds in the Stanley Cup Finals. “Other than Andrew Ladd on Chicago, who’s out, I don’t know any of those guys. I know (McCarthy) really well and ‘Lavi’ and (Leighton). I’m rooting for (Leighton), too. He’s been great. He’s played really well.”

He said he sees Laviolette motivating the Flyers the same way he motivated the Hurricanes in 2005-06, recalling how during the first game of that season, Laviolette chastised the team in the dressing room, telling them they weren’t playing like a Stanley Cup champion.

Eight months later, they were.

“His coaching style isn’t Xs and Os so much,” Brind’Amour said. “I really don’t know that that’s his specialty. He gets you to believe. And at this time of year, that’s what it’s all about — everyone kind of believing they’re going to win, maybe that they’re a little bit better than they are.”

The Globe and Mail has a Reuters story on 45-year old Dominik Hasek, who is apparently set to join Spartak Moscow of the KHL. He came out of retirement last year to play for Pardubice in his native Czech Republic. He was 23-10-0 with a 2.26 GAA, .921 SV% and two shutouts. He last played in the NHL during the ’07-8 campaign with the Detroit Red Wings, where he was 27-10-3 with 2.14/ .902 splits and five shutouts.

The article notes that he had been persuaded to move to Spartak by the club’s Czech coach Milos Riha, the goalie told Russian media.

“I know Pardubice would have liked me to stay for another season but I wanted a new challenge,” said Hasek, who helped the small-town team to the national title this year.

“Hockey experts say KHL is the top league in Europe so I want to try it. Mr Riha has told me a lot of interesting things about Moscow and the Russian league.”

A few quick notes from the New York Post: it appears the Devils are close to re-signing defenseman Mike Mottau, who would otherwise become a UFA July 1.

Both term and salary are yet to be finalized, but sources say early talks have yielded optimism that the 32-year-old Mottau will return for at least a fourth season with New Jersey. Mottau earned $775,000 last season.

Meanwhile, defenceman Paul Martin told The Post that he and GM Lou Lamoriello agreed to wait until after a new Devils coach is hired to discuss contract. He made $4.5M last year with a cap hit of just over $3.8M.

The blurb also notes that the Devils have launched talks with Ilya Kovalchuk, but it appears the superstar left wing who earned $7.5 million last season will be testing the market, seeing if any team can make the expected massive bid from Russian team St. Petersburg an offer that can be refused.

Also in The Post, Rangers centre Artem Anisimov underwent surgery yesterday to remove a small bone chip in his right wrist. He sustained the injury May 23 while skating with Russia in the gold-medal game at the 2010 World Championship in Cologne, Germany and he should be fine by training camp.

Some quotes from future Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom, who agreed to that one-year, $6.2M deal yesterday to return to the Wings, from The Detroit News.

“About 10 days ago or so I met with (GM Ken Holland) and I knew then that I wanted to come back,” Lidstrom said. “Once I made up my mind, it was an easy decision to make. We had some family decisions to make first; that’s why I wanted to take some time after the season. But once I sat down with my wife and family and we made our decision, it wasn’t tough.”

What was tough for Lidstrom, though, is the idea of spending most of next season apart from his oldest son, who is going to be attending school in Sweden next fall.

“My oldest son enrolled in the hockey academy in Sweden and we are leaning toward doing that,” Lidstrom said. “He really wanted to go to school in Sweden, so that was a major issue. But we have family there, so — it’s a hard decision to make, but when your family is getting older, they have to make decisions, as well.”

Everything else, Lidstrom said, fell easily into place, including agreeing to a $1.25M pay cut over what he made last season.

“Kenny asked if I wanted a two-year deal, but I am more comfortable doing it year by year,” Lidstrom said. “There were some negotiations, of course. Kenny wanted me to take less and I wanted to give them a chance to have some flexibility to improve the team and sign players. I am real happy with my contract.”

The Red Wings have made the playoff in all of Lidstrom’s 18 seasons and won four Stanley Cups. He said he wouldn’t have come back if he didn’t think the team could contend for another.

“That was part of it,” he said. “If the team was looking to rebuild or to get rid of some of the older players and bigger contracts, my decision might have been different. But in all the years I’ve been a Red Wing, this front office and especially the owners, Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch, have always been in it to win it. They want to put a winning team on the ice and I knew that wouldn’t change.

“I wanted to come back; I wanted another shot at winning another Cup,” Lidstrom said. “I believe in this team and in these players. I think we have a strong foundation and a solid system and I believe we can make a run — that really helped in my decision.”

The San Jose Mercury News incidates that Evgeni Nabokov’s agent, Don Meehan, suggested that it still might be another couple weeks before he hears anything from the Sharks in terms of where his client stands with the team going forward. Nabokov will be a UFA July 1st if he’s not signed to a new deal beforehand.

“We don’t really have any information from Doug (Wilson) at this time,” Meehan said just before the holiday weekend. “Doug is the kind of individual, I know he’ll get back to us when they have a better idea what they have in mind.”

He said that’ll likely come in the next few weeks.

“I had expected that I would hear from Doug sometime in the middle of June to let me know what his intentions were,” the agent said. “There’s no concern in our end that we haven’t heard.”

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that defenceman Brooks Orpik is getting closer to undergoing the surgery needed to repair an abdominal injury that bothered him for the second half of the season. GM Ray Shero said the operation is scheduled for around the middle of this month and that Orpik will be able to start training “two or three weeks” after it is performed.

The Florida Sun Sentinel reports that fourth line forward Kamil Kreps reportedly has signed to play professionally in Finland next season. Kreps, 25, is a restricted free agent and the Panthers were not expected to tender him a qualifying offer this month to remain with the team.

SUPER-EXTENDED QUOTABLE has been running some fantastic quotes lately from Kings GM Dean Lombardi, looking at various aspects of the team. Today there were a few areas in particular that drew really interesting answers that just had to be included fully here. The conditioning of Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty is first up, in addition to the thinking behind locking up the young franchise defenceman to his next contract and how Washington handled the Nicklas Backstrom negotiations. Doughty’s entry level deal will run out after next season.

Question: At this time last year, we talked about the possibility of you adding pieces to the team, and you said that, by far, the most important thing was for the young players to improve. As we sit here a year later, would you have the same answer going into this summer?

LOMBARDI: “You can start seeing the core of this team develop, and yes, I would say that is still the key. Because none of them, to me, have reached their potential. When they left, I told them that it starts right now. No question they took a step, a large step, and there are things that show up when your best players have to lead in all categories. Like Kopitar and Doughty, for instance. They raised their conditioning from awful, dead last, to average.

So take those two guys, for instance, who are obviously key guys. Quick, you could probably throw him in there, too. Jack has always been pretty good about it. But using those two as an example of the core starting to develop, they have to now raise that to being at the top of the chart. And I think it was reflected in their play. Kopi, he used to look really tired at times. You didn’t see it as much this year, and a huge part was that he showed up in average condition. His scores this year were at least average.

Same with Drew. Drew came from being 30 pounds overweight in junior, to losing the weight to putting it back on. He’s just beginning to learn to train. He came in a little below average. So I’m expecting those guys, when they come back in September, to start getting to the top of that list. That’s leading by example, not only maximizing your abilities but also showing that, `Follow me.’ If we’re going to be a contender, our best players have to be at the top in all of these categories. So there’s no question that that still holds.

“But, just like last year, that didn’t stop us from going and getting two pieces. I think it’s similar this year. If they were maxed out on their potential, if they were 27 years and basically they were in their primes, then they would either be maintaining or going backward, and our focus would have to be, `OK, we’ve got to change this mix.’ But when you’re at this stage — and I’ll probably say the same thing next year — they’re nowhere near their potential. But there’s too many times with these kids, whether it’s too much money or getting lazy or complacent or bad environment, they peter out, and that’s it. That’s not good enough.

So like I say, as good as Kopi is, he’s got to raise himself to that Datsyuk level. Same with Drew, in his own way. He’s still not Lidstrom yet. But those guys have the potential. Same with Simmonds. `OK, you got some time on the first line, but you’re a long way from Brenden Morrow.’ So yeah, I’m going to stick by that, knowing, like I said, that it doesn’t stop us from doing other things. And I’ll answer your question next year the same, until they reach their maximum potential.”

Question: Looking at things that you might want to do this summer, roster-wise, does Doughty’s contract extension hang over your head? Is there any thought that you need to get that done first, to see what you’re going to be working with, cap-wise?

LOMBARDI: “Well, I don’t think that’s practical, but it does hang over your head. Washington kind of went through this a little with Backstrom. I called George (McPhee, Washington’s GM) before Backstrom was done. Obviously they’re putting together a core there in Washington, and I said, `Take me through the whole thing.’ Because they tried to sign him right away. It’s two things, like he was saying. It’s trying to get the contract done, but it was also knowing what you were going to have to pay, so you could go get other pieces.

So, in talking to him about the whole thing — and we talked for a couple hours, because I wanted to know the whole scenario, and, `If you had this to do different, would you have done this different’ — it’s really hard, like he was saying, and obviously it didn’t get done until the end. So when you ask about it hanging over me, it hangs over you in a different sense. Because you’re not going to lose him. The difference between `hang over me’ because he’s a year from free agency is very different from `hang over me’ because, even though he’s a guy we intend to have here a long time, I don’t know what else I can get until I know what his number is. So that’s where it hangs over you. As a practical matter, we’ve had very preliminary discussions, but it’s awful hard to think we’re going to get this thing done here, ideally, before July 1 so that you know. I just don’t think it’s practical. I wish it was.”

Question: So how do you go forward then, in terms of adding other pieces?

LOMBARDI: “It’s just pounding away. You can make fun of all my charts, but you end up looking at 50 different options. `If this happens, that happens. If that happens, this happens.’ I guess the good part is, it’s safe to say we’ve got a player. At least the box is filled.”

Question: Is it particularly hard to project with him? There can’t be a lot of comparables out there for a 20-year-old Norris Trophy finalist.

LOMBARDI: “That doesn’t complicate it as much, for me, as being able to learn this system. It’s just mind-boggling. I was at a similar point in San Jose, when I had those three guys up, Marleau, Nabokov and Stuart. They were all good, young players, all on their way up. They held out on me. It was the year I got fired. All three of them held out. It just started us off on the wrong track. But I was arguing about $1.5 million to $2.5 million. I would love to have that argument now. It’s just mind-boggling. Sure, these are great young players, some of them, but that whole trend, to think that the system has gone from arguing about $1.5-$2.5 million to already talking about the numbers we’re talking about, it’s mind-boggling. As good as Drew is, there have been a lot of good, young, top players. Don’t get me wrong. Obviously I think Drew’s potential to be special is pretty good. Still, there used to be the element of experience, the thought that a guy who had put six years in the league, because he was more `predictable,’ had value. Because that’s all you’re doing when you’re paying a guy, unfortunately. You’re predicting what he’s going to be worth.

“So obviously when a guy has six, seven years under his belt, the `unknown’ factor becomes less. To think that, now, you have to predict, when a guy has two or three years in the league and has played in one playoffs, and we’re already talking about the numbers that we are, it’s just… I think back to the way it used to be, before the lockout, and the way it is now, and there’s no question that this part, before the lockout, made a lot more sense. So when you ask me if it’s difficult with Drew, because of the `uniqueness’ of the player, no. Don’t get me wrong. I think he’s a special player, but it’s more about this other stuff. You could be looking at a $90-million contract for a guy with two years in the league. As good as Ovechkin was, at the time he got (his new contract), he hadn’t played a playoff game. That’s what is difficult for me, sometimes. That’s when I have to slap myself and say, `Stop acting old and deal with it.’ But I find that more challenging than the fact of, `OK, what’s a guy worth who has been nominated for the Norris Trophy?”‘


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