NHL Notes: Jackets hire Kekalainen as new GM

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NHL Notes: Jackets hire Kekalainen as new GM

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Columbus Blue Jackets hurried to make history.

Just more than 24 hours after firing Scott Howson, they announced the hiring of Jarmo Kekalainen of Finland as the first European to be a general manager in the National Hockey League.

Kekalainen, director of amateur scouting with the St. Louis Blues 2002-10, held a news conference Wednesday in his native Finland at the same time the Blue Jackets Blue Jackets held theirs in Ohio.

"One of my dreams since I hung up my skates has been to be a GM of an NHL team sometime. Now that dream has come true," Kekalainen said in Helsinki at the home arena of the Jokerit club, where he's been GM since 2010. "I'm really happy and pleased, even proud, that I've been give this chance."

The 46-year-old, who played sparingly in the NHL, worked closely with Columbus director of hockey operations John Davidson with the Blues. When the Blues hired Doug Armstrong as general manager in 2010 instead of Kekalainen, Kekalainen returned to Finland to take over as GM of Jokerit in Finland's top league (see full story).

Avs' Johnson out indefinitely
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The injury-riddled Colorado Avalanche will be without Erik Johnson indefinitely after the defenseman suffered a head injury in a game against Phoenix.

Johnson was hurt on a hit during an overtime loss to the Coyotes on Monday.

The Avs already are missing captain Gabriel Landeskog (head) and defenseman Ryan Wilson (ankle), along with forward Steve Downie, who's out for the season with a torn ACL.

But they're expecting to have forward John Mitchell (flu) and defenseman Matt Hunwick (torso) back when they play at Minnesota on Thursday. Although Matt Duchene skipped practice on Wednesday, coach Joe Sacco said he will be in the lineup.

Given the rash of injuries, Colorado could certainly use the offensive flair of Ryan O'Reilly, who is holding out due to a contract dispute (see full story).

Wild hire Brunette as adviser
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Former Minnesota Wild player Andrew Brunette rejoined the team Wednesday as hockey operations adviser.

Brunette will help general manager Chuck Fletcher with scouting, free-agent signings and evaluating and developing prospects.

In his 16-year career, Brunette had 268 goals and 465 assists in 1,110 regular-season games.

The 39-year-old Brunette played six seasons with Minnesota, finishing with 321 points in 489 games. He ranks second in franchise history in goals (119) and power-play goals (55).

Brunette was selected by Washington in the seventh round of the 1993 NHL draft. He also played for Nashville, Atlanta and Colorado before finishing his career last season with Chicago (see full story).

Flyers, Ryan White having 'ongoing discussions' with free agency set to begin

Flyers, Ryan White having 'ongoing discussions' with free agency set to begin

If it’s June 30, it must be time to re-sign Ryan White.

Last summer, the Flyers re-signed the versatile swing forward on this very date.

The 28-year-old center/winger becomes an unrestricted free agent on Friday at noon.

Barring some last-minute adjustments, it appears White will go into free agency, even though it’s still likely he re-signs here.

“It’s not done,” his agent Craig Oster said on Thursday afternoon. “Ongoing discussions.”

White’s one-year deal with the Flyers last season was worth $800,000. As a UFA, his next deal should average between $1 and $1.2 million.

White played his 200th career game last December and was a perfect fourth-line fit with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Chris VandeVelde.

A tough-as-nails checker who is willing to fight, he gave the Flyers 11 goals and 16 points in 73 games in his second season as a Flyer.

Oster works for Newport Sports Mgmt., the same group which represents restricted free agent Brayden Schenn.

Don Meehan, who is Schenn’s agent, told CSNPhilly.com earlier this week that negotiations had just begun. Since the Flyers qualified Schenn, there’s no real hurry on his contract.

2016 Flyers free-agent fit: Blues RW Troy Brouwer

2016 Flyers free-agent fit: Blues RW Troy Brouwer

Each day from now until July 1, the day NHL free agency begins, CSNPhilly.com producers Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone will profile some of the league’s top impending free agents and project their likelihood of signing with the Flyers.

Troy Brouwer, right wing

Age: Will turn 31 in August
Height: 6-3
Weight: 210
Last team: St. Louis Blues
2015-16 cap hit: $3.67 million

Scouting report
Veteran Troy Brouwer is proof that late-round draft gems do exist. A seventh-round selection of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2004, Brouwer has carved out an effective career in the NHL. In his eight years in the league with Chicago, Washington and St. Louis, the soon-to-be 31-year old has scored 150 goals and added 144 assists for 294 points.

Brouwer, who won a Stanley Cup with the 2010 Blackhawks, is a very reliable two-way player with the ability to play against the opposition’s best players every night. Case in point, he played the third-most minutes among forwards on a Blues penalty kill that finished the regular season third in the league with an 85.1 percent success rate. He also brings a physical element to the ice as he was second on the Blues last season with 206 hits. He isn’t the fastest guy in the world, though.

As far as offense is concerned, Brouwer’s skill set isn’t going to wow anyone. He scores his fair share of dirty goals and can be a menace in front of the net. That type of player can be a valuable asset to a team, but he’s not a player who should be counted on to pick up the offensive load. Think of him more as complementary piece who can play a top-six role.

He’s about to strike in free agency while the iron is hot as he’s coming off a productive playoff run during which he scored eight goals (fifth-most in the league during the postseason) and added five assists as the Blues made the Western Conference Final for the first time in 15 years before ultimately falling to the San Jose Sharks in six games.

Projection
Brouwer has the gritty, two-way game that the Flyers typically find attractive. But, as mentioned above, Brouwer is more of a complementary piece than anything else.

And, let’s face it, the Flyers already have too many complementary types as it is right now. The Flyers need more scoring from the wing than Brouwer has been known to provide, and they’ll want it from someone younger. He’s not a fit in Philadelphia.

Where is he a fit? Good question. Contenders will have interest in a versatile guy such as Brouwer and he’ll probably get somewhere around the same money he made last year. Maybe slightly higher.

He’s a great fit, if he stays, for a contender like St. Louis, but the Blues have to make a decision on team captain David Backes before they can adhere to any other business. How about a team like the Dallas Stars, who are a legitimate threat but also had their issues last season? Just a suggestion that could make sense.

But Brouwer in Philadelphia at this point in time just doesn’t make much sense.

NHL Notes: Predators acquire P.K. Subban from Canadiens for Shea Weber

NHL Notes: Predators acquire P.K. Subban from Canadiens for Shea Weber

The Nashville Predators pulled off a blockbuster before the start of free agency Wednesday by acquiring P.K. Subban from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Shea Weber, a swap of All-Star defensemen.

Subban won the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman in 2013 and had six goals and 45 assists last season before suffering an injury. The offensive-minded, dynamic 27-year-old has 63 goals and 215 assists in 434 career games, all with the Canadiens.

Weber, who turns 31 on Aug. 14, had been with Nashville since the start of his NHL career in 2005. He signed a $110 million, 14-year offer sheet with Philadelphia as a restricted free agent in 2012, but Nashville matched it to keep him. The three-time Norris Trophy finalist was a team captain and had 20 goals and 31 assists last season.

Devils: Adam Larsson traded to Oilers for former No. 1 pick Taylor Hall 
NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils have acquired former No. 1 overall draft pick Taylor Hall from the Edmonton Oilers for defenseman Adam Larsson.

The teams announced the trade Wednesday, two days before the start of free agency.

The trade gives the goal-starved Devils an exciting young left wing who was the No. 1 pick overall in 2014. The Oilers get a solid defenseman who was the No. 4 overall selection in 2011.

The 24-year-old Hall spent his entire six-year career with the Oilers, collecting 132 goals and 196 assists in 381 NHL games. He has led Edmonton in scoring for three of the last four seasons, and has finished in the top three on the squad in each of his six seasons. This past year, he had 26 goals and 39 assists. He represented the Oilers at the 2016 NHL All-Star Game.

Larsson had 3 goals and 15 assists, playing in all 82 games on the Devils' top defensive pairing.

Blue Jackets: Seth Jones signs 6-year deal worth $32.4 million
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Columbus Blue Jackets have signed defenseman Seth Jones to a $32.4 million, six-year contract.

Jones will count $5.4 million against the salary cap through the 2020-21 NHL season. He was a pending restricted free agent.

General manager Jarmo Kekalainen says reaching a long-term agreement with Jones was an offseason priority.

Agent Pat Brisson confirmed the terms of the contract, which includes a modified no-trade clause in years five and six.

Jones was the fourth overall pick in the 2013 draft to the Nashville Predators. The Blue Jackets acquired him in a January trade that sent center Ryan Johansen to Nashville.

In three NHL seasons, the 21-year-old Jones has 17 goals and 66 assists for 83 points. Kekalainen says Jones was just beginning to tap into his potential.

Lightning: Steven Stamkos elects to re-sign 
Two people familiar with the decision have confirmed to The Associated Press that Lightning captain Steven Stamkos is staying put in Tampa Bay.

The people spoke on the condition of anonymity on Wednesday because the Lightning have not announced the decision. Details of the contract weren't immediately available.

The agreement was reached two days before the 26-year-old Stamkos had the opportunity to test free agency, where he was expected to command lucrative offers from numerous bidders, including the Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres and Detroit Red Wings.

Instead, the two-time NHL scoring champ chose to stay with the franchise that selected him with the No. 1 pick in the 2008 draft.

Blues: Kyle Brodziak signs 2-year contract extension
ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues have signed forward Kyle Brodziak to a two-year contract extension.

The 32-year-old Brodziak had two goals in the playoffs after totaling 11 points in 76 regular-season games leading the checking line.

The 11-year veteran also has played for Edmonton and Minnesota and has 239 points in 697 career games. He was a seventh-round draft pick by the Oilers in 2003.

The Blues also announced Wednesday that the Chicago Wolves, their American Hockey League affiliate, have named Craig Berube head coach. The 50-year-old Berube, former head coach at Philadelphia from 2013-15, got a two-year contract.

Berube played 17 seasons with the Flyers, Maple Leafs, Flames, Capitals and Islanders.

Sabres: Casey Nelson signs 2-year contract extension
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Sabres have signed defenseman Casey Nelson to a two-year contract extension.

Nelson made his NHL debut in March last season after signing a one-year deal with Buffalo shortly after completing his college career at Minnesota State. He had four assists in seven games with the Sabres.

He will have an opportunity to compete for a spot on the Sabres roster this season.

In college, the 6-foot-2, 183-pound Nelson was the WCHA's defensive player of the year last season. Overall, the Wisconsin native had 14 goals and 46 assists for 60 points in 99 career college games.