Weekend wrap: Teams going overseas, Clouston's future, Sharks' coaching
Still very much in the preliminary stages, the NHL has pegged its six teams to start next season overseas.
The Edmonton Oilers, Washington Capitals, Buffalo Sabres, New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks have been asked by the league to partake in next season's Premiere Games, multiple industry sources told ESPN.com Saturday.
My colleague E.J. Hradek of ESPN The Magazine first hinted as much in a tweet Friday night.
Again, I stress that this is preliminary. The six teams still haven't signed off on it and are contemplating the league invite.
For the Rangers, Kings and Ducks, it would be a second go-around at the Premiere Games. The Rangers opened in Prague against Tampa in October 2008, while the Kings and Ducks played the first Premiere Games in London, to kick off the 2007-08 season.
It makes sense for the Rangers to go again since Madison Square Garden, undergoing impressive renovations/improvements next summer, won't be ready for the Rangers until mid-October, a source said Saturday.
But perhaps the most intriguing possibility is the Caps playing a game in Moscow. You know how much Washington captain Alex Ovechkin would love that.
The tentative plan is for six NHL games in six cities and the Caps in Moscow is one of several options being looked at.
Blake's hire almost finalizedIt's taken quite a while, but the NHL should soon finalize the hiring of future Hall of Famer Rob Blake. I'm told it might get done in time for the All-Star Game, which Blake is expected to attend. Blake, who retired last season, will begin work in hockey ops under Colin Campbell but will remain based in Southern California. Blake has already been helping out, consulting with Brendan Shanahan on the All-Star weekend changes.
Senators coaching rumorsThe rumor that just won't go away is that GM Bryan Murray tried to dump coach Cory Clouston but owner Eugene Melnyk denied him.
"Simply not true," Murray told ESPN.com Saturday before his team flew to Washington.
Having said that, if the Senators keep losing games, I can't help but think Murray will finally fire Clouston. Obviously he wouldn't comment when I asked him that Saturday. The veteran GM continues to work the phones hard trying to make a trade.
An important discussion needs to take place between Murray and Melnyk on the GM's future. Murray's deal is up at the end of the season. He has to decide if he still wants to run this team, and in turn, Melnyk must decide if he still thinks Murray should be the man to run it. That's a discussion that will happen before the end of the season.
Slumping Sharks' coachingWell, you knew it would happen at some point with the Sharks' season going the way it is. People have begun to ask whether San Jose would consider a coaching change. I spoke with Sharks GM Doug Wilson on Saturday and he said no way, that Todd McLellan and his staff were not the issue. The players have underperformed and the team has had key injuries, the latest being to Ryane Clowe. McLellan is one of the best coaches in the NHL and I can't imagine how a change there would do any good. This is about the core of this team waking up and playing up to its potential.
Limping Red WingsOK, this is getting ridiculous. The Red Wings, already without Pavel Datsyuk, Dan Cleary, Brad Stuart, Mike Modano and Chris Osgood, lost veteran winger Tomas Holmstrom to a broken finger Friday night. Wings GM Ken Holland told ESPN.com Saturday that Holmstrom doesn't need surgery but is out three to four weeks. Star goalie Jimmy Howard also left Friday night's game in Columbus with a bruised knee. Holland said he's day to day, so that at least doesn't appear serious. The Wings GM was able to laugh when I suggested he get rid of the black cat hanging around the team.
"We just need to survive until the All-Star break," Holland said. "We should get Datsyuk and Cleary back after that. Just need to keep grinding it out."
Emery's comebackAn update on a story I wrote earlier this season on the amazing comeback attempt of Ray Emery. His four-month rehab stint is nearly complete, his agent J.P. Barry told ESPN.com Friday. Barry said Emery is very close to getting the green light to return. What appears likely is a return to the AHL at first to prove himself. Guess who's been pelting him with shots lately to get him ready? None other than Eric Lindros.
This and that
- Kim Johnsson left the Blackhawks last season after suffering another concussion. I'm told he feels better but not well enough to come back and play. He's an UFA.
- The Islanders have already shipped out Dwayne Roloson and James Wisnewski. What will they do with Matt Moulson? He's also an UFA July 1. I'm told the plan is to try to sign him, but if that fails, they have to listen to offers. He wants to stay so hopefully a contract can be worked out.
- The Blue Jackets on Saturday placed defenseman Mike Commodore, 31, on re-entry waivers, hoping a team will claim him at half the price. Weekend waivers end at noon ET Monday. Commodore has two more years left on his deal after this season at a $3.75 million cap hit, although his actual salary decreases from $3.8 million this season to $3.5 million next season and $3.35 million in the last year. So a team claiming him this weekend would be on the hook for half of all that.
- Owen Nolan entered the weekend with 21 points (6-15) in 19 games with Zurich of the Swiss League. He turns 39 next month and hopes to catch on with an NHL team this season. He would have to clear NHL waivers if he returned.