Apr 042014

By Chris Block

This is way later than I targeted for this week, but better late than never.  Today was my first chance to get to this.  And just in time now to start working on next week’s… Anyhow, on with it.

Stephen Johns Signs

On Wednesday (April 2) the Chicago Blackhawks inked Notre Dame senior defenseman Stephen Johns to a two-year entry-level contract that will begin with the 2014-15 season.

Johns has also agreed to a professional try-out contract for the remainder of this season with the Rockford IceHogs.

He traveled with the IceHogs to Abbotsford, British Columbia on Thursday for Rockford’s big 2-game set with the Heat this weekend.

Johns is expected to make his professional debut tonight in Abbotsford.  It looks like he’ll wear number #36, which was Maxim Shalunov’s number earlier in the season.

Because Johns couldn’t sign an NHL contract until his college season, or career, was over, the Blackhawks couldn’t get Johns’ contract on the books in time for the defenseman to be eligible for the NHL postseason.

The same is the case for Matt Carey, who signed with the Blackhawks and worked it so he’d burn the first year of his entry-level contract  this season, getting in a couple of games (Carey is too old to be “slide-eligible”) and get closer to his 2nd contract.  That’s a part of how the Hawks enticed Carey to sign with them.  To get him, they agreed to let him reach restricted free agency in the summer of 2015, whereas Johns won’t get there until 2016.  Carey was quoted when talking to the media that he chose the Blackhawks because of their “track record” developing prospects, but a truer depiction is as outlined above.

Once any NCAA player of any class signs an NHL contract, his collegiate playing career is then immediately over.  Players signed after the NHL trade deadline are not eligible for the NHL playoffs.  So, it made more sense for the Blackhawks to have Johns’ ELC begin next season.

It’s clear now Johns didn’t drive a hard bargain, because if he was being difficult about signing with the Hawks he could have forced the issue of burning the first of his two year ELC now.

The Blackhawks tried hard to sign Johns out of college last spring after Notre Dame got bounced from the NCAA tournament, but Johns was non-committal at that time and wound up deciding to finish his collegiate career.

Johns’ Rockford arrival will likely spell the end of playing time for Brett Skinner and Wade Brookbank.  Brett Skinner’s second 25-game contract will come to an end this week.  At that point, the IceHogs can either sign him for the remainder of the season or they have to let Skinner go.

Theo Peckham has been decent since returning to the lineup full-time four games ago.  Mathieu Brisebois (acquired along with David Rundblad in the deal from Phoenix) has acquitted himself nicely in a third pair role.  I could see Bobby Shea never suiting up in another game for the IceHogs.  The biggest question as far as whose ice time will be impacted the most would be team captain Jared Nightingale.  Nightingale (6 game suspension for leaving the bench to fight Eric Selleck on March 21 at Chicago) is eligible to return for next Tuesday’s game (April 8th) at Milwaukee.  Shea (8 game suspension) is eligible to return April 12th vs Iowa, which is Andrew Shaw bobblehead night at the BMO.

There’s some question whether Trevor van Riemsdyk will be ready to play at all the rest of this season.  Ted Dent said as much in his weekly “Hog Talk” visit on Monday night out in Rockford.

Van Riemsdyk broke his ankle in a game against Union on January 18th while playing for UNH.  He has joined the IceHogs and is continuing his rehab as he works toward a potential professional debut should he be cleared medically to do so before this season ends.

The IceHogs released van Riemsdyk from his AHL contract this week which seems to be an indication that they’ve decided to err on the side of caution with the ankle and not risk any further setbacks which could keep van Riemsdyk out of July’s prospect camp.  But that’s just a guess on my part at this point.

Johns and van Riemsdyk are in similar situations contract wise as both signed ELC’s with the Hawks that won’t begin until next season.

The AHL playoff rosters are submitted the day after the AHL season ends.  The “clear day roster” was done away with as part of the new NHL CBA.

Typically players coming out of college sign ATOs.  I don’t have an answer as to why Johns did a PTO and not a standard AHL player contract.  But since he’s a signed NHL draft choice, it shouldn’t affect his AHL playoff eligibility in any event.  Although, I did try to verify that and was unable to get a definitive answer.

The rules for playoff eligible players are (1st) any player on the AHL team’s roster at the trade deadline, (2nd) and player after the trade deadline called up from the ECHL on a PTO and (3) any college or junior player who signs an ATO for the remainder of the season.  Signed draft choices can also join after the fact.

Johns only has two classes this semester and doesn’t feel like completing those courses remotely will be an issue.  He’ll graduate from Notre Dame next month.

Blackhawks thoughts

–I thought Brandon Bollig played a few of his worst games this season last week.  With the amount of lineup juggling Joel Quenneville has done of late (some of which is due to injuries, and some that has been forced upon him), I don’t see a legitimate excuse how you don’t scratch Bollig a game or two.

It wouldn’t be a permanent thing, as his overall play on the line with Kruger and Smith has earned him that spot, but I think there comes a time when a player in that role can become too relaxed.  It would do the Hawks, and Bollig, some good to humble the player.  Force him to recognize that his game has slipped and he will be held accountable when it does.

Brandon Mashinter is able to slide into that spot for a game or two, if Quenneville and Bowman feel like they can’t go a game without a Bollig-type role guy in that 12th forward spot.  Or, you can just skate Sheldon Brookbank as your 12th forward.

The point is, Bollig’s performances of late have fallen off.  He should be held accountable by the coach just like other non-core guys typically are.

–I don’t understand why Hawks fans feel like Antti Raanta should be playing in Rockford.

Corey Crawford will be the Blackhawks number one for the next five or six years.  (Crawford’s new six-year contract extension hasn’t even kicked in yet.)

There will probably be 4 or 5 different backup goalies during that time.  If you’re concerned about Antti Raanta’s development, you’re worrying about it for one of 29 other organizations.

CapGeek.com has Matt Carey’s contract information up.  He got the maximum allowed under the collective bargaining agreement.

Carey’s deal is two-way (NHL/AHL) for the remainder of this season and next.  He’ll make the maximum rate under the CBA for an entry-level contract at the NHL level – $925,000.  And in the AHL he’ll earn the maximum minor league compensation – $70,000.  Again, these figures are according to information provided by CapGeek.com.

Since Carey signed his first contract at age 22, he’s limited to a 2-year entry-level contract and becomes eligible for Group 2 restricted free agency after two seasons.

Signing age is the player’s age on September 15th of the calendar year in which he signed his first contract.  Since Carey turned 22 on February 28th, his signing age is 22 as well.  If his signing age was 18-21, it would be a three-year ELC.

The reason Antti Raanta signed a 1-year contract is because the CBA says a player (signing) age 24 or older getting his first NHL contract shall be eligible for restricted free agency after 1 year.

Ryan Hartman told me on Sunday that he hasn’t made a decision on whether he’ll return for his final year of OHL eligibility next fall, or if he’ll turn pro.

Together, he and the Blackhawks will decide based on how he performs down the stretch and in the playoffs with Rockford.

The Blackhawks want Hartman to play every game in Rockford.   I expect the same with Johns.

Hartman jumped into the IceHogs lineup on Sunday without having practiced with the team at all – not even a morning skate.  He talked with the ‘Hogs coaches in the afternoon to go over things like structure and forward responsibilities, but that was the extent of his preparation.

Hartman’s Plymouth Whalers were eliminated from the OHL postseason on Friday night.  Hartman new all along (as we wrote about beforehand as well), that he was heading to Rockford as soon as the Whalers were eliminated.

He drove home to his northwest suburban family home on Saturday, then to Rockford on Sunday hours before making his pro debut.

Odds and Saads

–An IceHogs fan literally crawled into the press box in Rockford on Friday night to get a picture with Chris Chelios.  The adult male, probably in his 40s, was said to have been told twice that he couldn’t come into the press box area.  While the game was going on, the man snuck in.  He tapped Chelios on the shoulder while Chelios was watching the game.  Chelios took a picture with the guy.  On Sunday there was a security guard positioned in that area.

–Speaking of Chelios, his son Jake signed a contract with the Chicago Wolves today.

Joakim Nordstrom‘s parents were in town last week visiting.  They just missed his recall to Chicago.  Mathieu Brisebois‘s folks were at Sunday’s game in Rockford.

–The minimum salary for players on standard AHL contracts this year is $41,500.  This is for players strictly on AHL-contracts (Nightingale, Skinner).  There is no maximum salary.  The minimum salary for those on try-out deals is $32,500.  The current AHL – PHPA (Professional Hockey Players Association) collective bargaining agreement expires in August.

–If you’re tracking the IceHogs playoff status, the team to keep an eye on is the Oklahoma City Barons.  Despite being besieged by injuries and recalls, OKC just won’t go away.

The Barons lost both games at Charlotte last weekend, but forced overtime and eventually shootouts in the process, thus picking up 2 points in losing both contests in the Queen City.  The Barons then used the shootout at home to beat Hamilton on Wednesday.  Now, Charlotte visits Oklahoma City for a back-to-back this weekend.  Rockford would like to see Charlotte put the Barons away with a couple regulation wins Saturday and Sunday.  Rochester, the other team still with a shot at the 7th or 8th spot (Rockford and Charlotte have those currently), hosts Binghamton tonight (an Eastern conference team, don’t get me started on AHL scheduling imbalance.) and then travels to Toronto on Saturday.  Charlotte’s also at San Antonio tonight, so it’s a tough 3-in-3 weekend for them.  And that bus ride from San Antonio to Oklahoma City is a jaunt.

Joe Gleason was returned to the Toledo Walleye after Stephen Johns signed with Rockford.  Gleason was recalled from Toledo prior to last weekend’s games as a roster security measure.  He knew he probably wouldn’t play unless there were injuries.

–This brings to mind a great story about Simon Danis-Pepin.

Danis-Pepin was a former Blackhawks 2nd round draft pick who was toiling in the ECHL for the organization a couple years ago when the IceHogs had a need for an extra defenseman for a road trip.

The Blackhawks called Danis-Pepin, looking to reassign the six-foot seven blue liner to Rockford for the road trip.  He was educated on the situation – they needed him for insurance on the road trip and he could play if there was an injury.

To the ‘Hawks disbelief, Danis-Pepin tried to decline the promotion from the ECHL to the IceHogs.

The team then got word through the grapevine that Danis-Pepin didn’t want to go back to Rockford because there was a big Halloween party he wanted to go to that same weekend.

The Hawks swore up and down they’d never use Danis-Pepin again, but a lack of bodies later on that season gave Danis-Pepin one final shot.  After that season he was not re-signed.

Danis-Pepin now plays for the Fort Wayne Komets in the ECHL.

Kyle Beach update: In 37 games since he was traded to the NY Rangers and assigned to the Hartford Wolf Pack on December 6th, Kyle Beach has 2 goals and 5 assists.  He had 4 goals in 7 games with Rockford.  Hartford won’t make the playoffs so the end of the road could come for Kyle here in the next few weeks, at least with the Rangers.


In the Odds and Saads post last Tuesday (3/25), I incorrectly wrote that the Hawks were maxed out against the 50 contract limit and could not add any more players to NHL deals for this season.

That’s technically incorrect.  The Hawks do now have 50 players under contract for this season.  However, there is a loophole that affords them one more contract should they choose to use it.

I posted a correction in the 3/25 post but it wasn’t until after I received an email about this the morning of 3/26.  This is what happens when I attempt to figure out everything myself.

Ryan Hartman (Hawks’ 1st round pick – 2013] signed his entry-level contract [ELC] this past November.  Since he signed as a teenager, his ELC is slide-eligible.  The loophole in the rule here is that Hartman was returned to junior after signing his contract.  The rule declares if a player on an ELC who signed as a 18 or 19 year old doesn’t dress in 11 NHL games in that season, the first year of his ELC slides over to next year and his contract is “exempt” from counting against the 50-man roster (also referred to as the Reserve List).   Since odds are Hartman won’t skate in 11 games for the Blackhawks this season, his contract is considered “exempt” from the 50-man determination according to the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement.  So, despite having 50 contracts on the books, the Hawks do have one slot open they could utilize.  Teravainen, of course, would fall into the same slide-status as Hartman, but there’s still a chance, if Teravainen were to play well enough, that the Hawks couldn’t reasonably keep him out of the playoff line up.  As we noted previously, that wasn’t the original plan and at this point still doesn’t appear to be the case.


Odds and sods, and declarative statements based on little, or nothing, but not necessarily in 140 characters or less

–I feel like if you merged the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs, you still may not have a playoff team.

–I’m convinced Mike Gillis is trying to get fired.  The Vancouver GM has gone to great lengths lately to throw just about everyone but himself under the bus.  That’s because he’s standing in front of it.  Not that John Tortorella should be excused from that process.  Our friend Steve Ludzik has said on many occasions that Tortorella is not “a fox-hole guy.”  And he worked with Tortorella years back.  Gillis and Torts deserve each other.  For the good of the Canucks, they both need to go.

–What will happen first? The Cubs score 200 runs or Teuvo Teravainen plays in 10 NHL games.  I was excited for baseball until I watched the Cubs and Sox first few games.  Now I just want to drink and pass out.

–Teravainen will either play for Finland in the World Championships or join Rockford pretty soon.  That’s just me thinking out loud though.

–Linus Omark, 27, the former Edmonton Oilers prospect who most recently played for Buffalo before being released to play out this season in Europe, will join Jokerit for that team’s move into the KHL next season.  Jokerit is the club Teuvo Teravainen played for in his hometown of Helsinki, Finland.

Jokerit GM Jari Kurri announced the acquisition on Tuesday.  Omark was traded from the Oilers to Buffalo on December 19th of this season.  Exactly two months later, the Buffalo Sabres, after dressing the player in just 13 games, agreed to allow Omark to finish out the season for Lulea (the team Omark played for prior to journeying to North America) of the Swedish Hockey League.  6-seed Lulea had a bye out of the play-in round of the SHL playoffs.  They were defeated 4 games to 2 in the quarter-finals by the Colby Armstrong, Jan Hlavac and Liam Reddox led, 3-seed, Vaxjo Lakers.  Vaxjo is now facing Farejstad in the semis.  Farejstad IK is the club that came over this year to play against the AHL All-Stars in the feature of the AHL All-Star event.

–I wanted to do it in this week’s Odds and Saads, but I’ve run out of time.  So, in a few days I want to tackle my view on the Toews-Orpik incident and the whole to-or-not-to “retaliate” bit.  As well as some thoughts on Brent Seabrook’s play and the criticism of it.


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  2 Responses to “Odds and Saads; Stephen Johns signing notes, Hartman debuts; Bollig, Raanta, Blackhawks and IceHogs bits”

  1. Chris,

    Just an amazing column for hockey junkies like me, even at 47 years old, who drink this stuff up. You truly have out done yourself. Love the Danis papin story. Couple questions, these guys like Carey and van riemsdyk who sign for the nhl salary cap limit of 925,ooo. Does the organization then view the same as first round draft picks ? Because I notice guys like Fournier, Clendening, dahlbeck, a broadhursr are a cap hit of 675,ooo. Those guys at lesser amounts are equally good prospects, but it seems these college free agents get the max.

  2. Good observation on Bollig. He is definitely not in a position to become complacent. He needs to bring it every night.

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