[B][I]Penguins end Predators magical postseason run
June 11, 2017[/I][/B]
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Predators’ amazing, improbable playoff run finally is over.
After capturing the hearts of Nashville’s country music stars and tens of thousands more in and around Music City, Nashville’s season ended at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-0 in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.
P.K. Subban, brought over from Montreal in last summer’s blockbuster swap of All-Star defensemen, said the loss stings and will for a while. Then he made another bold promise, not all that different from his guarantee of a Game 3 that proved true.
”We’re going to be back here again next year,” Subban said. ”We’ve got a lot of guys who are coming into their own. … I think we’re going to take a lot of experience on this run and we’ll be back again next year.”
Not many gave Nashville a chance. The Predators were the bottom seed in the West, seemingly unlikely to advance out of the first round much less be one of the last two teams standing. But Peter Laviolette’s fast-skating bunch with the lockdown defense roared past Chicago in a sweep to get things started and shrugged off the home-ice advantage of St. Louis and Anaheim on the way to the first Final in the franchise’s 19-year history – much to the joy of their catfish-tossing fans.
Injuries to forwards Kevin Fiala and Ryan Johansen opened the door for unsung playoff heroes like Colton Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau to not only get into the lineup but make significant contributions. Sissons recorded a hat trick in the clinching Game 6 of the Anaheim series. The undrafted Gaudreau scored Nashville’s game-winning goals in Games 3 and 4 of the Final.
Sissons had several chances Sunday. He had an apparent goal waived off in the second due to a quick whistle and was later stopped on a breakaway. In the third, both he and Filip Forsberg had shots ring off the post.
Nashville also had a 32-second, 5-on-3 opportunity in the third but could not beat Murray, who did not allow a goal in the last 126:52.
”Things didn’t go our way, but that happens,” said team captain Mike Fisher. ”That’s sport. Like I said, this team never gave up. We believed all the way. Just a great group of guys. Our goal coming into the playoffs was just to unite and inspire a city and obviously win a Cup. We didn’t do that but I think we did the first one. That’s a pretty cool feeling.”
Including Sunday night’s loss, the Predators were 9-2 at Bridgestone Arena this postseason. After selling out each regular-season home game, Nashville’s fans not only packed the arena in the postseason, they attempted to blow the roof off of the building with their constant full-throated yelling beginning even before the opening faceoff. The hockey world was abuzz with talk of who would be the next country music star to sing the anthem at home games. The likes of Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson and Keith Urban among others did not disappoint.
Fans who could not get tickets packed the plaza outside Bridgestone and a nearby park to watch the games on outdoor televisions. In the Final, the city blocked off portions of Broadway, where estimated crowds of 50,000 gathered to watch the games.
Around town, many jumped on the Predators’ bandwagon, driving television ratings for both home and away games to numbers never previously seen in Nashville. ”Go Preds” was a common greeting or goodbye.
They should have plenty to cheer for next season, too.
Approaching the shortest offseason in team history, the 2017-18 version of the Predators should look very similar to the one that made this deep playoff run.
Two members of the team’s top offensive line, Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson are restricted free agents, but the team has enough cap space remaining that signing them shouldn’t be a problem. That duo, along with linemate Forsberg, are all in their early 20s.
On the blue line, Nashville’s top four defensemen of Subban, Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis are all signed for at least the next two seasons. Just 28, Subban is the elder statesman of that group. Fisher is an unrestricted free agent, but he seems likely to stay in Nashville if he wants to.
— Mookie Betts knocked in 8 runs Sunday, tied for most-ever in one game by a leadoff hitter.
— Houston Rockets will have three players making $20M+ next season.
— Kyle Schwarber at AAA Iowa: 10-26 with four homers. He’ll be back soon.
— Detroit 103, New York 78— Knicks are terrible, even in summer league.
— Vince Carter was a TV analyst yesterday on NBA TV; he had zero idea that Canyon Barry shoots his foul shots underhanded. Way to be prepared.
— Arizona State got a commitment from the best basketball-playing 9th grader in the country. Not sure why a kid would commit that early, but Kyree Walker did.
[B][I]Monday’s List of 13: Wrapping up a sports weekend…….
13) Colorado Rockies lost eight games in a row recently and the bandwagon was quickly emptying. Baseball season is very long, though; here is what I mean…….
2012 Giants went 2-7 from June 29-July 8; they won the World Series
2013 Cardinals went 0-7 from July 26-31; they lost the World Series.
2014 Giants went 2-9 from June 23-July 4; they won the World Series.
2015 Mets went 0-7 from June 17-24; they lost the World Series.
2016 Cubs went 1-9 from June 30-July 9; they won the World Series.
Every team hits a rough patch during the season, even the really good ones.
12) Major league teams are 76-228 this season when they score two runs in a game; Cardinals are 7-2 at home when they score two runs.
11) Miami Marlins said Brewers’ PH Jonathan Villar had too much pine tar on his bat, so when Marcell Ozuna batted for the Marlins, Milwaukee returned the favor and had two of his bats taken out of play for the same reason. Ozuna then used one of Giancarlo Stanton’s bats and hit a homer to give the Marlins a 7-3 lead. Weird gamesmanship.
10) Odd Fact of the Day: In the last 40 years, only twice has a team broken a losing streak of 8+ games on its manager’s birthday. Both times, in 2008 and 2017, the manager was Bud Black.
9) Brewers’ pitcher Zach Davies got 30 called strikes from plate umpire Joe West Saturday, which is really unusual; only third time this season a pitcher got 30 called strikes in one game. Dallas Keuchel, Alex Cobb were the other two pitchers.
8) Odd to see the Michigan Wolverines’ football team ranked #127 out of 130 I-A team in terms of experience this season- they only have one starter back on defense.
7) Random All-Star Game fact: Rosters have been reduced from 34 to 32 players this year and every team has be represented.
6) Alex Rodriguez hit six home runs on his birthday, more than any major leaguer hit on their birthday.
5) Chris Paul talked free agent PJ Tucker into choosing Houston over Toronto; he took $32M for four years from the Rockets, turned down $33M for three years from Toronto.
You do the math. Tucker must like hanging around with Chris Paul..
4) Padres called up reliever Kevin Quackenbush from AAA Sunday, the 5th time they’ve called him up this season. Unfortunately, he’s also been sent out five times.
3) Mets-Nationals have an 11am game on the 4th of July (Tuesday). Lot of stuff going on in the nation’s capital, so they play the game earlier in the day.
2) NBA happenings:
— Andre Iguodala gets three years, $48M to stay with the Warriors
— Kyle Korner gets three years, $22M to keep shooting jumpers in Cleveland.
— Jodie Meeks gets $7M for two years from Washington
— Taj Gibson gets two years, $28M from Minnesota
— Serge Ibaka gets three years, $65M to stay in Toronto; Kyle Lowry gets three years, $100M to stay with the Raptors.
— Denver Nuggets sign Paul Millsap; three years, $90M. Good day for the Millsaps.
1) If you watch Ray Donovan on Showtime, the new season starts August 6, and Susan Sarandon is joining the cast, which is excellent news.
[B][I]Former Flyers forward Lyubimov returns to Russia
July 3, 2017[/I][/B]
MOSCOW (AP) Former Philadelphia Flyers forward Roman Lyubimov has decided to return to Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League.
CSKA Moscow announced Monday that Lyubimov signed a three-year deal with the team. Agent Dan Milstein said on Twitter that Lyubimov went home for a chance to play in the Winter Olympics.
NHL players will not participate in the Olympics for the first time since 1994. Lyubimov is the first player to state that intention as a reason for leaving the league.
The 25-year-old Lyubimov had four goals and two assists in 47 games with Philadelphia last season. He had seven goals and seven assists in 52 games during his last KHL season with CSKA Moscow in 2015-16.
[B][I]Capitals sign RW Smith-Pelly, F Albert
July 3, 2017[/I][/B]
The Washington Capitals signed right winger Devante Smith-Pelly and forward John Albert to a one-year, two-way contracts on Monday.
Smith-Pelly’s deal is worth $650,000 at the NHL level and $300,000 at the American Hockey League level. Albert’s contract is for $650,000/$220,000.
Smith-Pelly, 25, registered nine points (four goals, five assists) in 53 games with the New Jersey Devils last season. During the 2015-16 season, the 6-foot, 215-pounder recorded 25 points (14 goals, 11 assists) in 64 games for the Montreal Canadiens and Devils, earning career highs in goals, points and game-winning goals with five.
Smith-Pelly owns 77 points (33 goals, 44 assists) in 266 career NHL games with the Anaheim Ducks, Montreal and New Jersey. The Scarborough, Ontario, native was drafted by Anaheim in the second round (42nd overall) of the 2010 NHL draft.
Albert, 28, recorded 155 points (68 goals, 87 assissts) in 283 career AHL games with St. John’s and Manitoba. The Cleveland, Ohio, native played in Finland for Karpat during the 2016-17 season, collecting 24 points (12 goals, 12 assists).
The 5-11, 190-pound Albert was drafted by Atlanta in the sixth round in 2007. During the 2013-14 season, he appeared in nine games with the Winnipeg Jets and scored a goal. Prior to turning professional, Albert played at Ohio State.
Jagr, Kovy among biggest FAs left in NHL
July 3, 2017[/I][/B]
A busy weekend to kick off NHL free agency has left a few prominent players still looking for landing spots, and teams still needing to fill some holes.
The leftover list is a who’s who of stars from previous decades, notably Jaromir Jagr and Jarome Iginla, while Montreal is working to bring back Andrei Markov and Alexander Radulov. Now that Joe Thornton has returned to San Jose and Patrick Marleau has moved on to Toronto , much of the intrigue has been taken out of the offseason.
There are still a few big loose ends to address with two months left before training camp, though:
Outside of 30-year-old Radulov, the most productive players remaining on the market are on the downside of their careers: Jagr at 45, Iginla at 40, Markov at 38 and Thomas Vanek at 33. Then there are 40-year-olds Shane Doan and Matt Cullen and 37-year-old Mike Fisher trying to decide whether to play another year.
Cullen in particular showed he still has something left by helping Pittsburgh win the Stanley Cup in back-to-back seasons. He could help any contender.
”Cully was just such an amazing friend and an amazing teammate that no one would be surprised, at least that played with him, if he came back,” said former Penguins center Nick Bonino, who signed a $16.4 million, four-year deal with the Predators. ”Physically, he’s in great shape. I think for him, it’s mentally if he wants to do another season of it.”
Jagr won’t be back with Florida, and Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said he won’t consider signing him for a second tour in Philadelphia.
A couple of young players worth watching are former top prospects Nail Yakupov and Mikhail Grigorenko, who weren’t given qualifying offers as restricted free agents. Yakupov and Grigorenko are 23, could come cheap on prove-it contracts and still contribute after rocky starts to their NHL careers.
KOVALCHUK BACK TO KHL?[/I][/B]
Ilya Kovalchuk has been exploring a return to the NHL, but there’s no evidence that’s going to happen next season. The New Jersey Devils own the Russian forward’s rights for one more year, and GM Ray Shero said it’s first up to agent Jay Grossman to talk to interested teams about Kovalchuk before he even gets involved to potentially work out a trade.
That hasn’t happened yet.
”I assume at some point in the next few days, we should have a real good indication of what’s going on or what he’s going to do,” Shero said.
Kovalchuk could play one more season in the Kontinental Hockey League and become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2018 at age 35, when he’d also be eligible for an incentive-based contract.
Washington is making some major changes, which have less to do with an early playoff exit than an impossible salary-cap situation. Either way, the Capitals still need to confront some things. After signing right wing T.J. Oshie ($46 million/eight years), defenseman Dmitry Orlov ($30.6 million/six years) and center Evgeny Kuznetsov ($64.2 million/eight years), they cleared over $4.5 million in cap space by trading forward Marcus Johansson to New Jersey, but they can’t be done.
Washington has about $9.2 million to sign restricted free agent forward Andre Burakovsky and goaltender Philipp Grubauer and have enough remaining to fill out the roster with at least five other players.
July has become a popular time for significant trades because teams have more cap space to maneuver than at the deadline. Because the expansion draft froze player movement for almost a week in June, there has been plenty of chatter, and the deals are expected to continue.
Vegas has already flipped defensemen – Marc Methot to Dallas, Trevor van Riemsdyk to Carolina, Alexei Emelin to Nashville and David Schlemko to Montreal – and acquired center Marcus Kruger from Chicago. The Devils are still looking for a defenseman and could use their forward depth to acquire one.
And then there’s Colorado center Matt Duchene, who was at the epicenter of trade talk in February and still hasn’t been dealt. Columbus, Pittsburgh and Nashville have been rumored as potential destinations for Duchene.
”I don’t create the rumors and I don’t really comment on them, so it doesn’t really matter to me on rumors,” Avalanche GM Joe Sakic said. ”You guys will know if we decide to make a move that we think improves our club.”
New contracts signed already that kick in for the 2018-19 season include Canadiens goaltender Carey Price’s $84 million over eight years, Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s $56 million over eight years and Sharks goaltender Martin Jones’ $34.5 million over six years. Price’s new $10.5 million cap hit ties him with Blackhawks stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane for the highest in the league – for now.
That’s because the Edmonton Oilers are expected to soon finalize a deal with 20-year-old captain and Hart Trophy winner Connor McDavid that could be worth in the neighborhood of $12 or 13 million. Edmonton also has to sign restricted free agent forward Leon Draisaitl this summer, and that won’t come cheap.
John Tavares’ situation with the New York Islanders bears watching, with speculation that he’ll go into next season without an extension. Tavares is a nearly irreplaceable franchise player, though he has to believe that the Islanders are building a Cup contender in order to commit long term.
[B][I]Sharks re-sign Thornton, Leafs get Marleau
July 2, 2017
The San Jose Sharks retained one of the franchise’s cornerstone players and lost one in moves announced Sunday.
The Sharks re-signed free agent center Joe Thornton to a one-year, $8 million contract after they lost free agent left winger Patrick Marleau to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Marleau, 37, signed a three-year, $18.75 million contract with the Leafs.
“Joe has become one of the faces of this franchise since his arrival in 2005 and we feel it’s only fitting that he will be wearing teal going forward,” general manager Doug Wilson said. “He is a generational playmaker and his accomplishments place him amongst the elite players to ever play the game.
“He has helped lead this team to new levels and continues to be one of the top two-way centers in the league. His leadership on and off the ice have been instrumental in this franchise’s success, and we’re excited that he has continued his commitment to this organization and the fans in San Jose.”
Thornton, 38, and Marleau had been together with the Sharks since 2005. They helped lead San Jose to three conference finals and one Stanley Cup Final.
Thornton’s production dropped off some last season. His seven goals were the fewest since he broke into the NHL as a rookie during the 1997-98 season, but he contributed 43 assists.
A left knee injury limited his effectiveness during the playoffs this year. Thornton had surgery in the offseason and hopes to be ready to go by training camp.
Thornton ranks among the NHL’s career leaders in assists (1,007) and points (1,391). He’s also the franchise leader in goals, games and points.
Marleau had been an iron man with the Sharks, producing 508 goals and 574 assists during his long career while rarely missing a game. Last season, he scored 27 goals in 82 regular-season games.
“I think I’ve worn out a few carpets pacing around the house trying to make this decision over the last couple of days,” Marleau said.
Marleau joins the up-and-coming Maple Leafs, who made it into the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs last season led by young star Auston Matthews.
“Patrick has been a pillar of this franchise since he was drafted as a 17-year-old in 1997, and has become one of the elite players in our team’s history,” Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said. “He owns nearly every offensive record in Sharks history, scored some big goals for our team and helped shape San Jose into a true hockey city.
“While we were hoping he would choose to return to San Jose, we wish him the absolute best.””
[B][I]Capitals re-sign Kuznetsov, trade Johansson to Devils
July 2, 2017[/I][/B]
The Washington Capitals made two significant moves on Sunday during the NHL’s free agency period, starting with left winger Evgeny Kuznetsov signing an eight-year, $62.4 million contract to stay with the team.
Kuznetsov’s salary will count $7.8 million against the team’s salary cap through the 2024-25 season. The Capitals will need to make more roster moves to get below the $75 million cap for next season.
That’s a big reason the Capitals traded forward Marcus Johansson to the New Jersey Devils on Sunday for second- and third-round picks in the NHL draft in 2018.
That move will save the Capitals about $4.58 million in cap space.
The 26-year-old Johansson totaled a career-best 58 points (24 goals, 34 assists) while playing in all 82 regular-season games last season for the Capitals, who reached the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. He added two goals and six assists in the postseason.
In 501 career NHL games, all with the Capitals, Johansson has 102 goals and 188 assists. He was drafted in the first round by Washington in 2009.
The 25-year-old Kuznetsov was a restricted free agent. The new contract makes him Washington’s second-highest paid player behind captain Alex Ovechkin.
Last season, Kuznetsov had 19 goals and 40 assists for 59 points. In 261 career NHL games with the Capitals, he amassed 182 points on 53 goals and 129 assists. He led the team in points with 77 in 2015-16.
“Evgeny is a premier center in the NHL and we are pleased that he will remain in Washington for at least the next eight years,” Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan. “It is difficult to find a player of his caliber, who is in his prime and makes his teammates better. Evgeny plays with a tremendous skill, speed and tenacity needed to win in the NHL.”
The Capitals have lost winger Justin Williams to the Carolina Panthers, defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to the New York Rangers and Karl Alzner to the Montreal Canadiens since free agency began.
[B][I]Capitals sign Kuznetsov to $62.4M deal
July 2, 2017[/I][/B]
ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) As the Washington Capitals closed in on a big-money, long-term deal with Evgeny Kuznetsov, they explored ways to make sure they could afford it under the salary cap.
On Sunday, the Capitals signed Kuznetsov to a $62.4 million, eight-year deal and made room for the talented Russian center by trading forward Marcus Johansson to the New Jersey Devils for 2018 second- and third-round picks. The back-to-back Presidents’ Trophy winners committed $7.8 million per season to Kuznetsov, $5.75 million to right winger T.J. Oshie and $5.1 million to Dmitry Orlov and had to do something.
”You can’t argue with signing Orlov and Oshie and Kuznetsov,” Devils general manager Ray Shero said. ”Good teams like Washington, all teams have to do it at some point: You’re making decisions and rearranging the furniture. There’s a salary cap. And if there wasn’t, I’m pretty sure Marcus would still be in Washington.”
Signed through 2024-25, Kuznetsov is now the second highest-paid player on the Capitals roster behind only captain Alex Ovechkin’s $9.54 million cap hit and ahead of center Nicklas Backstrom’s $6.7 million. The 25-year-old had 19 goals and 40 assists for 59 points last season. In 261 NHL games with the Capitals, he has 182 points on 53 goals and 129 assists, and he led the team in points in 2015-16.
”Evgeny is a premier center in the NHL, and we are pleased that he will remain in Washington for at least the next eight years,” GM Brian MacLellan said. ”It is difficult to find a player of his caliber, who is in his prime and makes his teammates better. Evgeny plays with a tremendous skill, speed and tenacity needed to win in the NHL.”
There was no doubt the Capitals would agree to a long-term deal with Kuznetsov, even amid interest from Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League in him and Orlov, who signed for $30.6 million over six years. After giving Oshie $46 million over eight years and still needing to re-sign restricted free agent forward Andre Burakovsky and goaltender Philipp Grubauer, Washington cleared roughly $4.58 million in cap space by sending Johansson to New Jersey.
The Capitals got Florida’s second-rounder and Toronto’s third-rounder next year after not having a pick in the first three rounds of this year’s draft. The Devils get a 26-year-old Swede coming off a career-high 58-point season.
”It’s a trade that obviously helps both teams,” Shero said. ”Washington with their cap and being able to trade a great player like Kuznetsov and certainly a team like ours taking advantage of that and adding a real good young player and an up-and-coming player in Marcus.”
Shero said he’d been monitoring the Capitals’ salary-cap situation for some time. Washington lost in the second round for the second consecutive year, but changes were coming no matter the playoff result.
The Capitals already couldn’t afford to bring back winger Justin Williams and defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk and Karl Alzner. Williams signed a $9 million, two-year deal with Carolina, Alzner a $23.125 million, five-year deal with Montreal and Shattenkirk a $26.6 million, four-year deal with the New York Rangers.
The Devils were in on Shattenkirk, but when that didn’t happen, upgrading their forward depth by getting Johansson was the next step. New Jersey has missed the playoffs in each of the past five seasons, so taking advantage of a perennial contender’s jam is just part of the process to try to get back in the postseason mix.
”I’ve been on the other end,” said Shero, who won the Stanley Cup in 2009 as the Pittsburgh Penguins’ GM. ”Washington’s got a real good team. I want to get there. But this is where we are.”
[B][I]NHL notebook: Canadiens G Price lands 8-year extension
July 2, 2017[/I][/B]
The Montreal Canadiens signed goaltender Carey Price to an eight-year, $84 million contract extension on Sunday to keep him with the team through the 2025-26 season.
The deal is worth a reported $10.5 million per year starting with the 2018-19 season.
Price, 29, completed his 10th season in the NHL, all with the Canadiens, in 2016-17. He maintained a record of 37-20-5 in 62 games, posting three shutouts, a 2.23 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage.
Since 2007-08, Price owns a 270-175-55 record in 509 regular-season games, with a 2.40 GAA and a .920 save percentage. He ranks fourth in Canadiens history with 39 shutouts.
–The Chicago Blackhawks traded forward Marcus Kruger to the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for future considerations.
Kruger, 27, registered 105 points (33 goals, 72 assists) in 398 career regular-season games with Chicago in seven seasons, including winning two Stanley Cup titles. He had five goals and 12 assists in 70 games in 2016-17.
The 6-foot, 186-pound Kruger just completed the first year of a three-year deal that carries a salary-cap hit of $3.083 million. The Blackhawks reportedly were over next season’s salary cap of $75 million by about $2.1 million before the trade.
–The Florida Panthers announced Saturday night that they are parting ways with veteran Jaromir Jagr.
The future Hall of Famer turned 45 in February and is no longer the scoring threat he was in his prime. He ranks third in NHL history with 765 goals and second with 1,914 points.
Jagr, a 10-time All-Star, scored 16 goals and 46 points this past season. He played two-plus seasons with the Panthers.
Jagr recently said on Twitter that he hopes to play next season.
–The Panthers signed forward Sebastian Repo to a three-year, entry-level contract.
Repo, 21, appeared in 46 regular-season games for Tampere Tappara of Finland’s Liiga, collecting 32 points (11 goals, 21 assists), and he appeared in eight games with the Lahti Pelicans, posting three assists. The 6-foot-2, 198-pound native of Lahti, Finland, registered six goals and one assist in 18 playoff games with Tampere en route to a Liiga Championship.
Repo was originally selected by Florida in the sixth round of the 2017 NHL draft.
[B][I]Rangers, Stars winning NHL free agency
July 2, 2017[/I][/B]
Several big winners in the first hours of the NHL’s free-agent signing period didn’t even have to move.
From Carey Price to Cam Fowler to Evgeny Kuznetsov, a bunch of veterans got paid by their current teams when the free-agent floodgates opened during the weekend. Several clubs moved quickly to lock up proven quantities, often a full year before they even got the chance to hit the open market.
The free-agent period has been even quieter because not many big names are available. Teams also did much of their roster shuffling earlier in the summer to prepare for the Vegas Golden Knights’ expansion draft.
So while the first flurries of free-agent movement aren’t quite as exciting as in past years, a few teams and players distinguished themselves with their early offseason maneuverings – and a few left themselves with work to do.
[B]WINNER: [/B]New York Rangers. They landed the biggest prize on the market in Kevin Shattenkirk, who clearly wanted to come home to play on Broadway. The puck-moving defenseman should be a big boost to an already-strong roster, and New York didn’t have to break the bank or lock in for more than three years to get him. The Rangers also re-signed Brendan Smith earlier, further bolstering their defense.
[B]LOSER:[/B] Montreal Canadiens. They locked up the extraordinary Price, one of the NHL’s elite goalies, but paid an extraordinary price to do so. That reported $84 million commitment won’t make it easier for the Habs to keep Andrei Markov and Alex Radulov, who combined to score 90 points for Montreal last season, but are now looking elsewhere. It’s tough to win every game 1-0, even against talent-depleted rosters in a post-expansion season in the low-scoring modern NHL.
[B]PUSH:[/B] Chicago Blackhawks. They got the band back together with the acquisitions of Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad, but they lost quality NHL players in Niklas Hjalmarsson and Artemi Panarin, along with Marian Hossa’s unfortunate woes. Perhaps the Blackhawks needed a roster shakeup after their postseason pasting from Nashville, but Chicago could be playing it too safe by sticking with its old favorites.
[B]WINNER: [/B]Dallas Stars. GM Jim Nill has checked the most important boxes on his presumptive list of offseason priorities. After landing franchise goalie Ben Bishop and defenseman Marc Methot before free agency, he signed center Martin Hanzal to add depth down an already strong middle and another 20 goals to their offense. The pieces appear to be in place for a playoff contender.
LOSER:[/B] Colorado Avalanche. It’s been a rough nine months in the Rockies. After a horrific 48-point regular season and a depressing fall in the NHL draft lottery, the Avs lost valuable goalie Calvin Pickard to Vegas in the expansion draft. During the free-agent weekend, Colorado acquired Colin Wilson from Nashville and signed journeyman goalie Jonathan Bernier. Meanwhile, Matt Duchene remains squarely on the trading block. It’s tough to see improvement.
[B]PUSH:[/B] San Jose Sharks. Joe Thornton is staying in the South Bay on a one-year deal, but Patrick Marleau is gone from the franchise that has employed him since 1997. General manager Doug Wilson also paid top dollar in long-term extensions for defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic – he got more money than the Ducks’ Fowler, who’s five years younger – and goalie Martin Jones. Marleau is gone, but the Sharks’ core is largely locked in, for better or worse.
WINNER:[/B] Nashville Predators. Nick Bonino is a gritty veteran forward who should fit splendidly into a winning core, and Alexei Emelin could slot in well on an already formidable blue line. Even with their free-agent losses, the Western Conference champions probably got better.
LOSER:[/B] Washington Capitals. The NHL’s best regular-season team has lost veteran forward Justin Williams and defensemen Karl Alzner, Nate Schmidt and Shattenkirk during the offseason. Washington locked down Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov with top-dollar deals befitting their talents, but still consuming a chunk of the payroll. The Caps also kept T.J. Oshie, but only with a head-scratching contract. Washington still has a strong talent base, but it took a hit.
[B]PUSH:[/B] Pittsburgh Penguins. The two-time Stanley Cup champions had to make several tough decisions this summer, and they ended up losing a significant portion of their title-winning supporting cast, including Bonino, Chris Kunitz, Marc-Andre Fleury, Trevor Daley and Ron Hainsey. But backup goalie Antti Niemi is on board, and GM Jim Rutherford re-signed defenseman Justin Schultz. The departures will clear playing time for Pittsburgh’s next generation – and as long as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are on the ice, the Penguins can probably change on the fly.
[B][I]Blackhawks ship F Kruger to Las Vegas
July 2, 2017[/I][/B]
The Chicago Blackhawks traded forward Marcus Kruger to the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday in exchange for future considerations.
Kruger, 27, registered 105 points (33 goals, 72 assists) in 398 career regular-season games with Chicago over seven seasons, including winning two Stanley Cup titles. He had five goals and 12 assists in 70 games in 2016-17.
The 6-foot, 186-pound Kruger just completed the first year of a three-year deal that carries a salary-cap hit of $3.083 million. The Blackhawks reportedly were over next season’s salary cap of $75 million by about $2.1 million prior to the trade.
“We thank Marcus for his many contributions to our team — most notably, two Stanley Cup Championships,” general manager Stan Bowman said in a statement. “His work ethic, reliability and strength as a two-way player made him a valuable member of the organization. We wish him the best with Vegas.”
The Stockholm, Sweden, native was a member of the Blackhawks’ 2013 and 2015 Stanley Cup championship teams, collecting six goals and 10 assists in 87 career postseason games.
Kruger was drafted by the Blackhawks in the fifth round of the 2009 NHL draft.
[B][I]Habs lock up G Price on 8-yr, $84M deal
July 2, 2017[/I][/B]
The Montreal Canadiens signed goaltender Carey Price to an eight-year, $84 million contract extension Sunday to keep him with the team through the 2025-26 season.
The deal is worth a reported $10.5 million per year starting with the 2018-19 season.
Price, 29, completed his 10th season in the NHL, all with the Canadiens, in 2016-17. He maintained a record of 37-20-5 in 62 games, recording three shutouts, a 2.23 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage.
Price was one of three finalists for the Vezina Trophy, awarded annually to the best goaltender in the NHL. He took part in his fifth All-Star Game.
Since 2007-08, the 6-foot-3, 226-pound Price owns a 270-175-55 record in 509 regular-season games, with a 2.40 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage. He ranks fourth in Canadiens history with 39 shutouts.
During the 2014-15 season, Price set a Canadiens record for a goaltender with 44 wins, and earned the Hart, Vezina, Jennings and Ted Lindsay trophies.
Price, a native of Anahim Lake, British Columbia, was the Canadiens’ first-round pick (fifth overall) in the 2005 NHL draft.
On the international stage for Canada, Price has won the gold medal at the 2007 World Junior Championship, at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and at the World Cup of Hockey last September. He also helped the American Hockey League’s Hamilton Bulldogs win the Calder Cup in 2007.
[B][I]Penguins sign D Schultz to three-year deal
July 1, 2017[/I][/B]
The Pittsburgh Penguins signed restricted free agent defenseman Justin Schultz to a three-year, $16.5 million contract, the team announced on Saturday.
The contract has an average annual value of $5.5 million and runs through the 2019-20 season.
Schultz recorded career highs in goals (12), assists (39), points (51), plus-minus (plus-27) and power-play points (20) in 78 games last season with the Penguins. The 26-year-old is coming off a one-year, $1.4 million deal.
“Justin plays a very important role for our team,” general manager Jim Rutherford said. “It’s very good to know that he will be returning to us for the next three years.”
Schultz has collected 41 goals and 119 assists in 344 career NHL games since being selected with a second-round pick by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2008 draft. He was unable to agree to a contract with the Ducks and later signed with Edmonton and spent four seasons with the Oilers.
Schultz was ultimately dealt to the Penguins at the trade deadline for a 2016 third-round pick.
[B][I]Mason, Elliott cash in on robust free agent goalie market
July 1, 2017[/I][/B]
Brian Elliott looked at the free agent landscape for goaltenders and knew it wasn’t pretty.
There were only a handful of openings for starters or in platoon situations, making the process plenty stressful for him and his goaltending counterparts around the NHL.
Even in this climate, the goaltending market was robust on the first day of free agency as Elliott signed a two-year deal with Philadelphia, Steve Mason with Winnipeg and Ryan Miller with Anaheim.
”With the spots open to play a majority of the games and be a major contributor and not a backup, there weren’t that many spots,” Elliott said after signing a $5.5 million deal worth $2.75 million each season with the Flyers.
”You kind of knew what was out there and knew what everybody was thinking, so you just make your decision from there.”
Though there were no deals of any kind beyond seven years or more than $30 million, it was a big day for the goaltending carousel.
Despite an inconsistent season, Mason cashed in with an $8.2 million contract to start for the Jets, and despite being on the verge of turning 37, Miller got $4 million from the Ducks to split time with John Gibson.
Mason got the biggest contract among free agent goalies even after his .908 save percentage ranked 34th among those with at least 30 appearances last season.
Five teams expressed serious interest, and Winnipeg was willing to pay him $4.1 million a season to shoulder the load and mentor young Connor Hellebuyck.
”At 29 years old right now, I feel I’m entering the prime of my career,” Mason said. ”I can come up with the big saves that we can need on any given night that can help us get over the edge here.”
Elliott had a number of teams calling about him after an up-and-down season with the Calgary Flames that ended with a first-round sweep. The 32-year-old has led the league in save percentage twice and will be given the chance to win the No. 1 job for the Flyers, competing against Michal Neuvirth in a market that’s no stranger to goalie controversy.
While Mason said upon leaving Philadelphia that he didn’t think a platoon works, Elliott pointed to the Pittsburgh Penguins winning the Stanley Cup with a two-goalie system as evidence.
Explaining his roller-coaster career that led to this free agent opportunity wasn’t so easy.
”I’d write a book if I knew that,” Elliott said. ”Everybody’s been the best goalie in the NHL one night and everybody’s been the worst. … The NHL, there’s so much pressure on every night that you have to perform.”
Miller has endured that pressure as the starter in Buffalo, St. Louis and Vancouver and found a home in Anaheim close to where actress wife Noureen DeWulf works. A good fit for his family also got Miller a two-year deal that’s increasingly rare for goalies in their late 30s.
”I was exploring what people were open to, and the Ducks were open to that,” Miller said. ”I feel like I have a lot of hockey left in me. I’ve been able to take care of myself. I can still play at a fairly high level.”
The biggest goalie contract of the day belonged to the San Jose Sharks’ Martin Jones, who was extended for $34.5 million on a deal that kicks in for the 2018-19 season and counts $5.75 million per season after that. GM Doug Wilson said Jones plays big when it matters.
Not long ago Jones was a backup in Los Angeles to Jonathan Quick, and on Saturday a handful of current or new backups got good money. Jonathan Bernier signed a $2.75 million, one-year deal with the Colorado Avalanche, Chad Johnson got $2.5 million next season from the Buffalo Sabres and Anders Nilsson got $5 million over two years from the Vancouver Canucks.
”I had good conversations with different agents, with different goaltenders, but Jonathan Bernier, he’s a guy that we thought was a good fit for us, especially with his experience,” Avalanche GM Joe Sakic said. ”With (Semyon Varlamov) coming back (off surgery), we don’t want him playing much more than 50 games. Jonathan played almost 40 games last year for Anaheim, so we know he can do it.”
Former Jets starter Ondrej Pavelec signed a $1.3 million, one-year deal to be Henrik Lundqvist’s backup with the New York Rangers, Darcy Kuemper signed for $650,000 with the Kings and Antti Niemi went from being bought out by the Dallas Stars to taking a $700,000, one-year deal to join the Penguins and play behind Matt Murray.
The shifting goalie landscape means Mason and Miller are moving into more mentorship roles at this stage of their careers as they try to compete for jobs at the same time. Mason pointed to teaching young Anthony Stolarz the ropes in Philadelphia, and Miller had a similar circumstance in Vancouver with goalie of the future Jacob Markstrom.
”My role is going to change, and I’m aware of that heading into it,” Miller said. ”You need to play the best you can to give your guys a chance to win. That’s still a priority. That’s what I’m focusing on. If I can help John along the way, I hope to.”
[B][I]Golden Knights get to know each other in development camp
July 1, 2017[/I][/B]
LAS VEGAS (AP) While the rest of the NHL chased veteran players in free agency, the Vegas Golden Knights finished up the franchise’s first player development camp Saturday with optimism for their young future.
The expansion club’s prospects spent the week working out at the diminutive Las Vegas Ice Center, about 15 minutes southwest of T-Mobile Arena and 10 minutes from its nearly-completed practice arena. The rink was packed with fans when the Golden Knights held intrasquad scrimmages over the final three days of camp.
Vegas general manager George McPhee wasn’t active in the veteran free-agent market, only signing six players to minor-league deals. Although he took plenty of calls and swung a trade to send defenseman Alexei Emelin to Nashville for a third-round pick, McPhee largely used the week to learn more about the talent in the Golden Knights’ system.
”I hope they had a great week,” McPhee said of his youngsters. ”I hope they learned something while they were here, hope they got to know future teammates, hope that for the rest of the summer they do what we’ve instructed them to do, in terms of training and eating right and accelerate their development process. It’s been nice to be able to be here and focus on these players that are here.”
The lone player in Golden Knights camp with any NHL experience was Alex Tuch. He wasn’t expected to attend after being acquired in an expansion draft trade with Minnesota last week, but the 21-year-old forward showed up anyway.
”I wanted to get my bearings under me, get the lay of the land and everything,” said Tuch, who played six games for the Wild last season. ”I hadn’t been to Las Vegas at all, so I wanted to get the feel of that, see how the weather is, which is pretty nice. It’s a brand-new organization, a lot to learn, new set of eyes, new management, new coaching staff, and that was my first thought coming in, that it would be awesome to get some more experience and comfortability with the staff and management coming into training camp.”
Tuch said the Golden Knights’ camp was a bit different than the three he has attended in the past, in that they involved more conditioning drills and were overall a bit more grueling. This week was more about fundamentals and going through seminars with coaches and guest clinicians, not to mention bonding with a group of players who barely knew one another.
”They’re not trying to kill us,” said Tuch, who had 37 points in 57 games with Iowa in the AHL last season. ”It’s a learning experience. This has been a real good camp. Everybody has worked hard and you can see everyone wants to be here and wants to make an impact. There’s a lot of younger guys … and I think everyone has learned a lot this week.”
Tuch was an elder statesman in camp with the likes of 18-year-old Cody Glass, Vegas’ first-ever draft selection. The Portland Winterhawks center was chosen sixth overall last week, and while he probably won’t see any NHL action for a couple of years, the camp was a key milestone.
”I think the week went by really fast, but it was a really good experience,” Glass said. ”For me, I was just trying to take it all in. Getting into those games, obviously there’s some strength-related issues I need to work on. To get to the next level you’ve got to be bigger and faster, and that’s why in the summertime, that’s a huge thing for me.”
The Golden Knights are two months away from their first training camp, but they’ve already got most of their inaugural core in place from the expansion draft. McPhee won’t stop looking for talent.
”We talked to people, but we just didn’t see a fit with anyone for our club this year,” McPhee said. ”We’ll keep talking to clubs. If there is a deal there that makes sense, we’ll move the player. If not, we’ll keep him until we get to camp. We did really well in expansion … so why don’t we just see how they can do?”
Vegas retained just under $1.2 million of Emelin’s salary
[B][I]End of an era: Jagr’s time in Florida is over
July 1, 2017[/I][/B]
Jaromir Jagr gave the Florida Panthers some star power, helped them win a division championship and unquestionably played a role in energizing what had been a stagnant fan base.
And now his tenure with the Panthers is over.
Making official what was suspected for some time, the Panthers revealed Saturday that they are going forward without the future sure-fire Hall of Fame forward. On a day dominated by free-agent signings – like adding forwards Evgeny Dadonov, Radim Vrbata and Micheal Haley – the biggest news out of Florida was that Jagr is no longer in the Panthers’ plans.
”I can’t say enough. It was an honor to be touched by a legend,” said general manager Dale Tallon, who ultimately made the call to move on. ”I was torn. It was a tough couple weeks, or months, whatever it was. Can’t thank him enough. What he did for our kids, for myself and everyone in this organization, you can’t measure it.”
Jagr was with the Panthers for 2 1/2 seasons. He’ll turn 46 next season, still wants to play and is coming off a 46-point season for a Florida team that wasn’t exactly loaded with offensive weaponry. But in the end, a person with direct knowledge of the negotiations told The Associated Press, the two sides were simply too far apart on financial terms to make any more talks feasible.
Jagr was a massive presence in the locker room, and teammates picked his brain constantly about his obsession with fitness and how he keeps his game as sharp as possible. He’s the No. 2 all-time scorer in NHL history, behind only Wayne Gretzky.
”I think it’s time now for our guys to take over,” Tallon said. ”Our core young guys need to take over this team.”
Tallon said the Panthers needed to get younger and faster – part of the thinking behind both the decision to move on from Jagr and to give forward Jussi Jokinen a buyout on Saturday. The 34-year-old Jokinen had 28 points in 69 games last season.
”It’s just a matter of going in a different direction,” Tallon said.
Dadonov is the most likely candidate to join young standouts Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau on Florida’s top line, filling the role that Jagr has held.
Dadonov is starting his second stint with the Panthers after being out of the NHL for more than five years. Dadonov appeared in 55 games for Florida between 2010 and 2012, with 10 goals and 10 assists. He’s spent the past five seasons in Russia’s KHL, with 101 goals and 123 assists in stints with Donbass and St. Petersburg.
”In all the three world championships I’ve been involved with with Team USA, he’s been the best player in the tournament,” Tallon said. ”He’s a totally different player than when he first came over.”
Vrbata is 36, but is coming off a 20-goal season with Arizona. And with forwards Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith now gone to Vegas, Florida needed to find more scorers.
”Dale is excited about this team,” Vrbata said. ”And so am I.”
[B][I]Ducks to sign G Miller, ink D Fowler to extension
July 1, 2017[/I][/B]
Ryan Miller has agreed to sign a two-year contract with the Anaheim Ducks, the team announced Saturday.
Terms of the goaltender’s contract were not released by the team, but TSN reports Miller’s deal is worth $4 million.
The Ducks also signed defenseman Cam Fowler to an eight-year contract extension through the 2025-26 season. Fowler will receive $52 million over the life of the deal, the Orange County Register reported.
Miller, 36, won the Vezina Trophy as a member of the Buffalo Sabres in 2010 and ranks 19th all-time in NHL history with 358 victories.
The 14-year veteran is 358-262-73 with a 2.61 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage in 709 career games.
Miller entered the league as a fifth-round draft pick of the Sabres in 1999 and spent his first 10 1/2 seasons with Buffalo. He was traded to the St. Louis Blues during the 2013-14 season and signed with the Vancouver Canucks as a free agent the following season.
Last season with the Canucks, Miller posted a subpar 18-29-6 record with a 2.80 GAA and a .914 save percentage over 54 games.
Fowler, 25, was a first-time All-Star with the Ducks last season after totaling a career-high 11 goals and 28 assists (39 points) in 80 games. He spent his first seven NHL seasons with Anaheim, totaling 45 goals and 172 assists (217 points) in 494 games.
“Cam Fowler is the type of player we want here long term,” Ducks executive vice president and general manager Bob Murray said. “He has the obvious skill set, but also tremendous character and a drive to succeed. As good as he is, he’s not yet in his prime years, so we know the best is yet to come.”
Anaheim went 46-23-13 (105 points) to win the Pacific Division and finish third in the Western Conference last season. The Ducks advanced to the Western Conference finals before being eliminated by the Nashville Predators in six games.
[B][I]Sharks lock up key cogs Vlasic, Jones with long-term deals
July 1, 2017[/I][/B]
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) The San Jose Sharks opened free agency Saturday by signing long-term contracts that will keep two key players off the open market next summer.
The Sharks signed shutdown defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic to a $56 million, eight-year contract and goalie Martin Jones to a $34.5 million, six-year deal. Both players had one year remaining on their contracts and got modified no-trade clauses.
”They were really important,” general manager Doug Wilson said. ”These are guys who fit for now and the future. They are core pieces for our team at key positons.”
The Sharks did not reach deals with longtime stalwarts Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau before they hit the open market officially. San Jose has offers out to both players but Wilson wouldn’t comment about where negotiations stand.
Marleau has been with San Jose since being picked second overall in 1997 and has 508 goals in his career. Thornton was the top pick by Boston that same year and came to San Jose in November 2005. He ranks in the top 25 all-time in assists (1,007, 13th place) and points (1,391, 22nd place).
The team has made three conference finals with the duo and went to the Stanley Cup Final before losing to Pittsburgh in 2016.
”I’d love them to be back,” Vlasic said. ”If they’re not, I totally understand the game. We’ll try to find other guys in the league or in our system to fill the roles as much as they can.”
If Thornton or Marleau leave, the Sharks will have to replace their scoring. The defense should be in good shape for years to come thanks to the new deals with Vlasic and Jones and an eight-year extension for Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns last November.
The Sharks also have key forwards Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture under contract for two more seasons and several young players they hope will develop in the next few years.
”That’s a good starting point,” Vlasic said. ”We’ve been competitive every year since I’ve been on this team. I don’t see us dropping off in the near future and I see us being very competitive many years down the road.”
The 30-year-old Vlasic was a second-round pick by San Jose in 2005 and became a constant presence on the blue line the following year. If he finishes this contract with San Jose he will spend 20 seasons with the Sharks.
Vlasic has played 812 games over 11 seasons and is usually tasked with shutting down the opponent’s top scorers. He had six goals and 22 assists last season, while blocking 146 shots and playing more than two minutes a game short-handed.
”Marc-Edouard is one of the most respected players in the league, certainly one of the best defenseman,” Wilson said. ”Not only the best stopper against other teams’ top players but he can move pucks. We expect even more offense going forward. We think he’s coming into prime of his career.”
The 27-year-old Jones has been a rock in goal since being acquired in a trade with Boston two years ago that included a first-round draft pick for a player who had never been a consistent starter in the NHL.
Jones backed up San Jose’s belief in him and helped the team reach the Cup Final in 2016 and the playoffs this past season.
”Ultimately he plays big when it matters,” Wilson said. ”That’s always been his history. Obviously we don’t get to the Stanley Cup Final two years ago without him. The ultimate compliment for a goalie is that a team loves playing in front of him and trusts him. He has that.”
Jones leads the NHL with 130 games started the past two seasons and is tied for second with 72 wins. He has allowed 2.33 goals per game with the Sharks.
”All I have to worry about is focusing on playing hockey right now,” he said. ”It’s important. I didn’t have a lot of doubts it wouldn’t get done anyway. But it’s nice to get it out of the way and just focus on hockey.”
[B][I]NHL notebook: Avalanche sign former No. 1 overall pick Yakupov
July 4, 2017[/I][/B]
The Colorado Avalanche signed former top overall pick Nail Yakupov to a one-year contract, the team announced Tuesday.
Yakupov, a forward, collected just nine points (three goals, six assists) in 40 games with the St. Louis Blues last season. The 23-year-old Russian, who is coming off a two-year, $5 million contract, was scheduled to become a restricted free agent this summer until the Blues opted against sending him a qualifying offer.
“Nail is a young, skilled winger who will add depth to our lineup,” Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic said. “We look forward to seeing him at training camp.”
Yakupov has yet to live up to expectations since being selected by the Edmonton Oilers with the first overall pick of the 2012 draft. He spent four seasons in Edmonton before being traded to St. Louis in October for forward Zach Pochiro and a conditional third-round pick of the 2017 draft. Yakupov has recorded 53 goals and 67 assists in 292 career contests with the Oilers and Blues.
–The San Jose Sharks signed forward Brandon Bollig to a one-year contract, the team announced.
Financial terms were not disclosed for Bollig, who recorded 11 goals, 11 assists and 136 penalty minutes in 60 games last season with the Stockton Heat of the American Hockey League.
The 30-year-old Bollig spent his previous two campaigns with the Calgary Flames, collecting three goals and six assists in 116 games.
A Stanley Cup champion with Chicago, Bollig notched 10 goals, 13 assists and 392 penalty minutes in 241 career contests with the Blackhawks and Flames.
–The Carolina Hurricanes acquired center Marcus Kruger from the Vegas Golden Knights for a fifth-round pick in the 2018 NHL draft.
Kruger recorded five goals, 12 assists and a plus-7 rating in 70 games last season with the Chicago Blackhawks. The 27-year-old is set to enter the second campaign of a three-year deal worth $9.25 million with a cap hit of $3.083 million.
Kruger also represented his home country of Sweden for the 2017 IIHF World Championship, where he won the gold medal along with fellow Hurricanes Elias Lindholm, Victor Rask and Joakim Nordstrom.
A two-time Stanley Cup winner, Kruger has collected 33 goals, 72 assists and 176 penalty minutes in 398 career games with the Blackhawks.
–The Arizona Coyotes signed forward Michael Latta to a one-year, two-way contract.
Terms of the contract were not disclosed for Latta, who notched four goals and 17 points in 113 games over three seasons with the Washington Capitals from 2013-2016.
Latta, a former third-round pick of the Nashville Predators in the 2009 draft, split last season with the Ontario Reign and Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.