As the NHL free agent market continues to thin out in a second wave of signings, veteran defenseman Sami Vatanen still stands out as one of the top available names. PHR’s No. 14-ranked UFA, Vatanen is a veteran of more than 400 NHL games averaging over 21 minutes per outing and at 29 still has plenty of gas left in the tank. Although he hasn’t been the healthiest player in recent years, Vatanen has continued to produce when on the ice. Yet, perhaps it is that lack of reliability that has left him in the lurch this off-season, even if his talent is unquestioned. With that said, teams have been kicking the tires on Vatanen – at this point surely for an affordable one year deal – and the Vancouver Canucks have been confirmed as one of the interested parties. TSN’s Rick Dhaliwal reports that the team has checked in on Vatanen, but to this point there has only been casual talks. Should the Canucks ultimately land the veteran, which would take some salary cap acrobatics, Vatanen could certainly serve a role on the team. Vancouver currently has just one right-shot defenseman slated for the NHL roster. They also have just two defenseman who scored at a higher clip than Vatanen last season. The skilled blue liner can score at even strength and could also help to elevate the Canucks power play to one of the best in the league. He checks a number of boxes, but it remains to be seen if the two sides share a mutual interest in a deal and, if so, can make the numbers work.
- When New York Islanders training camp opens next week, it will do so without Josh Ho-Sang. The Athletic’s Arthur Staple reports that Ho-Sang has not been invited to NHL camp, despite re-signing with the Islanders in October. The polarizing prospect, a 2014 first-round pick, has played exclusively in the AHL in each of the past two season after seeing significant NHL action in each of his first three pro seasons. It now seems as if Ho-Sang could be headed back to full-time AHL duty again judging by his absence from NHL camp. Ho-Sang has been the topic of trade speculation for some time and this new development implies that the relationship between player and team has not improved. The future of Ho-Sang with the Islanders remains a mystery.
- When his time at the World Juniors is over, Adam Raska will not return to the Czech Republic nor will he compete for a roster spot with the San Jose Sharks. Instead, Raska will report to his QMJHL club, Rimouski Oceanic, the team announced. Raska spent last season with Rimouski, but had been playing in his native Czech Republic with HC Ocelari Trinec so far this season leading up to the WJC. The hard-working winger, who was selected in the seventh round by San Jose this year as an overage prospect, will look to take on a greater offensive role with Rimouski this season.