Alexander Khokhlachev Signs in KHL: Report

 

The Boston Bruins are reportedly losing yet another valuable piece once drafted by the franchise. It seems as though Russian prospect, Alexander Khokhlachev, is headed home to the KHL.

 

According to reports, the 22-year-old Khokhlachev has signed a contract with SKA St. Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League – which will become official once his entry-level contract with the Bruins runs out on June 30.

 

Originally, Khokhlachev was a second-round pick of the Bruins in 2011. Since then, he’s racked up 193 points (81g-112a) in 152 games in the OHL with the Windsor Spitfires, 171 points (61g-110a) in 197 regular season games with the AHL’s Providence Bruins and zero points in nine games played with the Bruins.

 

Apparently unhappy with his situation within the franchise, having played just five games with the Bruins in 2015-16, Khokhlachev is looking for another opportunity. Even prior to the season, Khokhlachev’s disappointment was made known.

 
 
 

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“According to sources close to Khokhlachev, the last straw came when the Bruins signed a European free agent – 28-year-old Finnish center Joonas Kemppainen – before last season and gave him more than four months to prove himself at the NHL level,” writes Joe Haggerty of CSN New England. “It was the kind of audition that Khokhlachev never felt like he received during his time in the Bruins organization, despite posting 59 goals and 168 points over the last three years in the AHL.”

 

The unfortunate part for the Bruins is that they will once again lose what was once seen as a valuable asset without any sort of return.

 
 
 

Updated 2017 Lincoln MKZ Priced from $35,935 to $54,485

2017-Lincoln-MKZ-PLACEMENT

A raft of changes are in store for the Lincoln MKZ, the most enticing of which is a new 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 engine. We now have pricing for Lincoln’s updated sedan, which also gets a new front end and a revised interior for 2017. Surprisingly, the base price is slightly lower than before, down $180 to $35,935. But adding options like the new V-6, all-wheel drive, and other packages can take the new MKZ into a much loftier price bracket, with fully loaded versions topping $60,000. Yikes.

Four trim levels are offered, starting with the Premiere ($35,935), then moving to the Select ($37,685), the Reserve ($40,435), and the Black Label ($48,595). One of two powertrains comes standard: either a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 240 horsepower, or a gas-electric hybrid drivetrain with a net power output of 188 horsepower and an estimated EPA combined rating of 40 mpg. Turbo-four-powered cars offer all-wheel drive as a $1890 option regardless of trim level; MKZ hybrids are front-wheel-drive only.

For those who prefer more grunt, all 2017 MKZ trim levels save the base Premiere offer the aforementioned 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 that pairs with a six-speed automatic. It costs $2750 extra for front-drive models and $4000 extra with all-wheel drive. Frankly, we’re shocked that this engine is being offered with front-wheel drive, seeing as it produces a whopping 400 lb-ft of torque. At least Lincoln detunes the V-6 slightly to 350 horsepower for its front-drive application-AWD models get the full 400 horses.

2017-Lincoln-MKZ-INLINE1

Lest you worry that the MKZ’s Ford Fusion–based chassis will struggle to handle that kind of power, Lincoln is touting a new Driver’s Package ($2395 on the Black Label, $3395 on the Reserve) for V-6 AWD models that brings some chassis tweaks. It includes a stiffer suspension and the GKN-supplied torque-vectoring system from the Ford Focus RS, along with some restyled visuals such as 19-inch wheels and a slightly different grille. It also requires adding the $595 Multi-Contour front seats.

For less performance-minded 2017 MKZ buyers, a whole host of luxury options are also available. A $2395 Technology Package offered on most trim levels includes all sorts of active-safety tech, a panoramic sunroof is offered for between $1795 and $2995 depending on trim level, and a 20-speaker Revel audio system is part of a $4400 Luxury package for Reserve models and comes standard on Black Label cars.



Once you start piling on these extras, it’s surprisingly easy to get an MKZ to top $60,000. That strikes us as a lot to pay for this mid-size sedan, especially when the larger Continental runs from around $45,000 to $69,000. The MKZ will hit dealerships sooner than its big brother, as the smaller sedan goes on sale this summer while the Continental goes on sale this fall.

2017-Lincoln-MKZ-REEL

Aligning the Stars: Defensemen and Forwards

 

The Dallas Stars finished the 2015-16 regular season atop the Western Conference, but came up short against the St. Louis Blues in Game 7 of their second-round playoff series. While fans, players and coaches try to shake off the sting of defeat and of promise unfulfilled, general manager Jim Nill and his staff are hard at work.

 

In addition to the upcoming NHL Entry Draft, Nill has decisions to make on free agents and potential trades, as well as projecting which Stars prospects might be ready to make the move from Cedar Park to Dallas. Over the next couple of months, Nill will shape his club for the upcoming season. What calls might he make, and why?

 

In a previous post, the Stars’ options for the goalie situation were examined. Now, let’s see what the forwards and defensemen might look like come October.

 

Defense: Younger and Bigger

 
(Annie Devine/ The Hockey Writers)

(Annie Devine/ The Hockey Writers)

 

Unrestricted Free Agents: Alex Goligoski, Jason Demers, Kris Russell, Jordie Benn.

 

Restricted Free Agents: Jamie Oleksiak.

 

The Dallas defense is getting younger and bigger this summer. A good argument can be made for offering Goligoski a new contract: Partnered with John Klingberg on the Stars’ top defense pair, he was a major possession driver and put up 37 points, second only to Klingberg among Dallas blueliners. Two factors skew the odds against Goligoski’s return, however.

 

First, he and Keith Yandle are the top UFA defensemen available this summer in what is a very shallow talent pool. As such, the 30-year-old Goligoski will command top dollar and significant term in his next contract. Don’t be surprised if he signs a six-year, $36M deal, unless it’s with Dallas. When pursuing free agents, Nill has to consider both Jamie Benn’s contract extension this summer and Tyler Seguin’s next contract three years from now. The Stars’ current cap space is going to disappear quickly.

 
Finnish defenseman Esa Lindell should be a full-time NHLer next season. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Finnish defenseman Esa Lindell should be a full-time NHLer next season. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

 

Second, Nill has to consider the potential (probable) NHL Expansion Draft next summer. For that draft, the GM will have to choose to protect either seven forwards and three defensemen or eight skaters. All of the Stars’ current UFAs aside, these d-men will be eligible for selection in the draft: John Klingberg, Stephen Johns, Patrik Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak, Esa Lindell, Julius Honka, Mattias Backman, Ludwig Bystrom and Troy Vance.

 

If Dallas only protects three defensemen, which three? Klingberg and Johns would seem to be locks, so the real choice is between exposing Lindell or Honka. Want to make the decision even more agonizing? Add one of the Stars’ UFA blueliners to the mix. Do you expose both promising young defensemen, or the veteran you valued highly enough to re-sign just one year prior?

 

Of the Stars’ four UFA defensemen, bringing Jordie Benn back to fill the role of seventh defensemen and challenge the youngsters for a spot on the bottom pair makes sense. With the threat of an expansion draft looming, allowing the other unrestricted blueliners to walk makes sense, as well. When the puck drops in October, the Dallas defense corps could look like this:

 

Lindell-Klingberg

 

Nemeth-Johns

 

Oduya-Oleksiak

 

Jordie Benn

 
 

 Forwards: Mostly Minor Alterations

 

Unrestricted Free Agents: Vernon Fiddler, Patrick Eaves, Travis Moen, Colton Sceviour.

 

Restricted Free Agents: Valeri Nichushkin, Brett Ritchie.

 

While the Dallas defense gets a somewhat radical renovation, the forward corps faces mostly minor alterations. A couple of youngsters muscling their way up Interstate 35 will make two decisions fairly easy for the Stars GM.

 

Travis Moen has almost certainly played his last game as a Star. Left wing Curtis McKenzie has earned a one-way ticket to Dallas, and will take the veteran’s roster spot. Likewise, the talented-but-injury-prone Patrick Eaves and his glorious Civil War-throwback beard will likely be replaced by Brett Ritchie, a sharp-shooting wrecking ball of a right wing.

 
Do other teams see Colton Sceviour's value, or will he re-sign with Dallas? (Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports)

Do other teams see Colton Sceviour’s value, or will he re-sign with Dallas? (Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports)

 

Colton Sceviour offers Dallas excellent value as a depth forward. The only question is: Do other teams recognize his value, as well? Provided he can be re-signed at a reasonable cap hit, Sceviour should be wearing Victory Green again this fall.

 

Will fan favorite Vernon Fiddler return to the fold? Before the Stars’ general manager can answer that question, he has to resolve the Cody Eakin question. In Eakin, Seguin, Jason Spezza and Radek Faksa, Dallas has four centers deserving of spots on the top three lines. Trading Eakin for a goalie could be a very smart move, and the three netminders mentioned in the linked article all play on teams in need of a young, skilled and versatile center.

 

Should the Stars trade Eakin this summer, offering Fiddler a one-year deal gives Dallas a veteran presence on the fourth line and allows highly touted prospects Jason Dickinson and Devin Shore another year to develop while playing top-six minutes in the AHL. This fall, Stars forward lines could look a lot like this (subject to “Ruffling,” of course):

 

Jamie Benn-Seguin-Sharp

 

Janmark-Spezza-Nichushkin

 

Roussel-Faksa-Hemsky

 

McKenzie-Fiddler-Ritchie

 

Sceviour-Veteran UFA TBD

 

Should the Stars decide to carry a 14th forward, they’ll likely sign a player for well under $1M. Scottie Upshall, Ryan Carter and Jonathan Marchessault are potential candidates who, along with Sceviour, could push McKenzie and Ritchie for ice time.

 

With the exception of the fourth line, the forward combos should look quite familiar. Big changes will come in the summer of 2017, when the contracts of both Sharp and Hemsky expire. Until then, expect more of the same from the Stars forwards, which isn’t a bad thing.

 
 
 

Going Electric: The Next Phase in Forced Induction

2018 Audi SQ7 TDI (Euro-spec)

Not long ago, the only info about electric supercharging in these pages was in the classified section next to a male-enhancement ad. Only one of those products actually worked.

Electric supercharging, long rumored but never fully realized, is finally happening. Audi’s upcoming SQ7 TDI pairs an electric supercharger with sequential turbos on the SUV’s 4.0-liter diesel V-8. It’s a first for a production vehicle.

As with a conventional centrifugal supercharger, an e-supercharger uses a traditional compressor wheel but drives it with an electric motor rather than a crank-driven belt. E-superchargers draw their power from batteries or capacitors, which can be charged via regenerative braking or, in the case of the SQ7, a beefy generator and a 48-volt sub-system.

Going Electric: The Next Phase in Forced Induction

The biggest benefits of e-supercharging are power and response, particularly at low engine speeds. Because an e-supercharger’s ability to create boost is not coupled to exhaust energy or engine rpm, it offers flexibility not found in alternatives. Though traditional turbocharging remains a more efficient means of adding power, it has drawbacks such as lag.

As engines downsize and pressurize, e-supercharging offers the ability to size a compressor for a power target without sacrificing low-rpm drivability. It does so by filling in the torque-less void below the turbo’s threshold for creating boost. This is exactly how Audi is using the Valeo-supplied electric supercharger in the SQ7 TDI.



Electric superchargers won’t replace turbos, but they allow for the optimization of turbos and other technologies. For example, deactivated cylinders can remain dormant longer when supported by e-supercharging. And in Miller-cycle engines, which have a longer-than-normal expansion ratio, an electric blower can replace a traditional supercharger to reduce parasitic losses. Valeo describes its e-supercharger as an enabling technology, which gives it at least one thing in common with those male-enhancement products.