Free agent right winger Radim Vrbata appears to be getting closer to signing a contract. His agent Rich Evans told AZ Sports’ Craig Morgan that they “have been discussing the structure of a contract with four teams and hope to come to an agreement shortly”. He picked up 13 goals and 14 assists in 63 games with Vancouver last season. Vrbata ranked 27th on our Top 50 UFA list and while Evans didn’t provide any specifics about which teams he was talking to but we suggested in his free agent profile that the Senators, Hurricanes, Rangers, Ducks, Bruins, and Sabres all could have a spot for him.
More news and notes from around the hockey world:
- Former first round pick Kyle Chipchura has signed a one year contract with HC Slovan Bratislava, the KHL team announced. He was Montreal’s first round pick in 2004 (18th overall) but didn’t turn into the high end checking center that the Canadiens envisioned. Chipchura was able to churn out a decent NHL career though, playing in 482 career games with Montreal, Anaheim, and Arizona, collecting 104 points and at just 30 years of age, could potentially earn another NHL deal with a good showing overseas.
- Zemgus Girgensons’ negotiations with the Sabres on a new deal could prove to be a challenge, writes Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News. Harrington suggests that the 22 year old is likely looking for a two or three year deal but that will be more difficult since he’s coming off a down year. Last season, Girgensons had career lows across the board with just seven goals and 11 assists in 71 games while seeing his average ice time drop over four minutes from 2014-15. Buffalo’s $874K qualifying offer to him expired last week.
- The Russian Ice Hockey Federation announced that Tampa Bay defenseman Nikita Nesterov has been named to Team Russia for the upcoming World Cup. He will replace former Los Angeles rearguard Slava Voynov who was deemed ineligible by the NHL as he remains under indefinite suspension for his arrest on felony domestic violence in late 2014. Nesterov is the fourth member of the Lightning to be named to the Russian team, joining forwards Nikita Kucherov and Vladislav Namestnikov as well as goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.
- One of the bigger off-ice battles has been surrounding Arizona 2016 first round pick Clayton Keller, notes Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News. He has committed to Boston University of the NCAA but the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires hold his junior rights and are trying to entice him to forego school and go there instead. Kennedy reports that at this stage, Keller is intent on sticking to his college commitment but as we’ve seen in past years, things can change in a hurry in these recruitment battles.