Ryan Lambert

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  • Stars trade Jack Campbell, a.k.a. goalie of the future, to Kings

    BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Dallas Stars had an ongoing goaltending controversy throughout last year.

    While neither Antti Niemi nor Kari Lehtonen could seize the starting job, it was largely thought that while the struggles were real this year, there was at least the idea that Goalie Of The Future Jack Campbell™ could be there to take over from them one day soon. 

    Now, not so much.

    Campbell, a pending RFA who hasn't played in the NHL since a single game in 2013-14, went to the Los Angeles Kings for defenseman Nick Ebert early in the fourth round, though no picks were exchanged.

    Ebert, 22, projects as a low-scoring defender, having compiled just 10 goals and 26 points across two partial AHL seasons. He was a Kings seventh-round pick in 2012.

    Meanwhile, this trade could serve to highlight just how far Campbell's prospects have fallen. The former No. 11 overall pick (2010) not only has just one NHL appearance since his draft year, he has also been rather poor even in the lower levels. His 2014-15

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  • Penguins address cap concerns, trade Beau Bennett to Devils

    BUFFALO, N.Y. — Many of the trades being made at the draft this year were less about hockey and more about cap flexibility. Such is the nature of a flat-cap league. 

    To that end, Pittsburgh, the league's most capped-out team by a fair margin (they entered the day with some $74.4 million in cap obligations), loosened its concerns at least a little going forward by sending Beau Bennett, a pending RFA, to division rival New Jersey for the No. 77 overall pick.

    While Bennett doesn't actually have a contract for next year yet, it's at least one fewer deal to sign for a team already dealing with negative cap space before July 1.

    Bennett, who will be 25 at the end of November, would likely have been due a marginal raise from his one-year, $800K deal. He struggled with injuries this year and tallied 6-6-12 in just 33 games for the Cup champions. He only got into one playoff game.

    This is a worthwhile gamble for the Devils because Bennett, when healthy, is a decent enough possession driver when

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  • Boston University foursome makes history at NHL Draft

    BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Boston University/Minnesota rivalry isn't what it once was in college hockey. But Friday's NHL Draft results might just ratchet it up once again. 

    In 2006-07, the Minnesota Golden Gophers roster boasted freshmen Kyle Okposo, David Fischer and Erik Johnson, as well as sophomore Blake Wheeler in their lineup on a nightly basis.

    That summer, Johnson went No. 1 to the St. Louis Blues and Okposo was selected No. 7 overall by the New York Islanders. Fischer went 20th to Montreal. Two years prior, Wheeler was drafted out of high school by the Arizona Coyotes No. 5 overall.

    That gave them four first-round picks on one team at the same time, tying the most ever for an NCAA team. It also tied a high set by three CHL teams, though all those were in the 1960s and '70s, and hockey has obviously changed quite a bit since then.

    While four is still the NCAA record, BU just simultaneously tied it and bested it. Because while the Gophers had four on the same team, the Terriers not

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  • Auston Matthews vindicates NHL expansion efforts in U.S.

    BUFFALO, NY – One of the more important games in Toronto Maple Leafs history, as far as myth-building goes, didn’t actually involve the Maple Leafs.

    Or maybe it did. Auston Matthews honestly can’t remember.

    Matthews was maybe two or three years old the first time he went to a Phoenix Coyotes game, likely in the 1999-2000 season. “I don't really remember much,” the presumptive No. 1 pick said on the Buffalo waterfront, on the eve of the NHL Draft. “I was so young. I just remember it being extremely loud. I don't really remember who they were playing or what the score was, but I just found it very intriguing, just watching it. I started playing a couple years later and just fell in love with it.”

    The rest, of course, we know. He dominated the sport basically everywhere he played, such was his work ethic and overwhelming talent. But growing up in Scottsdale, Ariz., one can easily understand that there wasn't exactly a lot of opportunity to play against his peers. So he played pickup games

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  • Market for defensemen drying up quickly (Trending Topics)

    The days before the draft brought important moments for NHL teams, especially those who traded for the rights of outgoing free agents.

    Arizona, after giving up a low pick for his exclusive negotiating rights, quickly locked up Alex Goligoski on a five-year deal that will pay him a little less than $5.5 million against the cap. Solid deal.

    Then late Thursday night, word started to get out that the Panthers were able to sign Keith Yandle, whose rights they also acquired for a low pick, for seven years at $6.35 million per. Not as solid a deal, but he can clearly still play and his time in New York is painted with far less flattering strokes than it probably deserves. At worst, you have to think this is one of those "perfectly fine for the first few years, but unlikely to be anything other than ugly on the back end” deals. Fortunately, the CBA has an opt-out before the 2019-2020 season, and that might mean another round of amnesty buyouts after Yandle Year 3.

    But here's the real issue

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  • Huge if True: Columbus trying to relieve cap concerns

    [Breaking down the plausibility of the week's biggest rumor.]

    The Columbus Blue Jackets are in a tough spot.

    They're a really bad team, first and foremost. They finished fourth from the bottom of the league last season, and that was a number that felt more or less correct, to be perfectly honest.

    But perhaps a worse problem they now face is the fact that, in terms of cap commitments for next season, they're currently second in the league(!!!!!) at more than $68 million. That's against a likely cap of no more than $73 million or so, and with a little-known free agent called Seth Jones still unsigned.

    Clearly, this is the first order of business for Jarmo Kekalainen. He has to put very little thought into the draft in a lot of regards — pick Jesse Puljujarvi at No. 3 and then figure the rest out — but he has a lot of rotten contracts that need to be cleared out ASAP.

    I mean, you look at this list and there are, what, seven deals where you start to get flop sweat just thinking about

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  • Puck Daddy's 2016 NHL Mock Draft

    The NHL draft is this week, and that means every hockey media outlet is doing a mock draft and trying to make sense of 20-plus teams effectively trying to throw darts at a dartboard with one eye closed and the other one held kinda squinty 

    Drafting is an inexact process, and even now, with all the data we have about prospects that we didn't used to get, teams can still make serious missteps. Sometimes they draft for positional need (rarely a good idea!). Sometimes they simply misevaluate a player's talent level (especially if that player is big!).

    So here we go. We'll try not to make your favorite team pick the guy you don't want them to take.

    1. Toronto Maple Leafs select Auston Matthews (center, Zurich, Swiss league) 

    Yeah a lot of people are acting like “Oh maybe Patrik Laine will go first overall instead!” But hey that happens every year. The Leafs aren't going to pass up the chance to draft a franchise center. Sorry.

    2. Winnipeg Jets select Patrik Laine (right wing, Tappara,

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  • Best and worst of the 2016 NHL Awards Show

    Maybe it's Stockholm Syndrome. Maybe I'm softening in my old age. Maybe (probably) it's greatly diminished expectations. But so help me, this awards show tonight — and I can't believe I'm saying this — wasn't terrible. 

    Don't get me wrong: It also was not good. There were still plenty of jokes that got less than nothing from the routinely dead crowd. There was a little too much filler. A little too much joke-explaining. Way too much going back to the well on jokes that didn't work.

    But let's say we're grading on a curve here — like maybe the curve on a hockey stick!!!!!!! Hire me to write for this show next year I'm telling you I'm great at this — you have to say that if last year's best-in-recent-memory show was something like a C+, this was at least a B.

    It really started to drag in the second half, which I guess isn't surprising because you can only work so much magic to inject actual entertainment into this show. There's no way you make it watchable for two straight hours.

    So

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  • (Ed. Note: The column formerly known as the Puck Daddy Power Rankings. Ryan Lambert takes a look at some of the biggest issues and stories in the NHL, and counts them down.)

    7. That Cam Ward contract

    You gotta be out of your mind to think this ends any other way but badly for Carolina. The only thing I can imagine is that this is a goalie they will not be protecting in the expansion draft. Which, who cares, honestly?

    The deal is bad. The goalie is bad. There's no real justification here, other than he's a nice guy who has been around a long time. One thing Ron Francis said after signing the deal is that the Hurricanes' D is getting better than it used to be, and Ward's numbers would likely improve as a result. Tough to buy that logic.

    More likely, this is another example of NHL teams having no idea what to do with goaltenders, or how to evaluate them properly.

    6. The Leafs

    Speaking of which!

    The idea that the Leafs overpaid for Frederik Andersen, which was a big issue many people had

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  • Puck Lists: Marc-Andre Fleury and five potential destinations for him

    (As the NCAA hockey season is done, our own Ryan Lambert needed something on which to opine. Say hello to a special Tuesday series from yer boy RL, PUCK LISTS, in which he arbitrarily lists hockey things.)

    The problem with needing to unload a contract is that you need to find a willing party to take it off your hands. In the NHL these days, that's not always easy. And when that contract is for a 31-year-old goaltender with three years left on a deal paying him $5.75 million in AAV, it gets even harder to find a buyer.

    But that's the problem Marc-Andre Fleury now poses to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Conventional wisdom says that he'll be moved at some point in the next week or two, as the newly minted Cup champions are already over the likely salary cap next year (somewhere in the $73 million range). That's with a few RFAs to re-sign, and a few pending UFAs to replace.

    It's not an enviable situation. So of course, the trade rumors are flying. But the thing with the NHL these days is that

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