Cnotes Off Season News, Notes, Rumours !

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    [B][I]Eastern Conference looks wide open
    September 25, 2017[/I][/B]

    A handful of Pittsburgh Penguins players whose names are on the Stanley Cup, some of them twice or even three times, are gone.

    The same goes for core players from the back-to-back Presidents’ Trophy winning Washington Capitals.

    The goliaths of the East haven’t fallen apart, but maybe they’ve lost just enough to make the conference winnable for just about anyone. Pittsburgh no longer has forwards Nick Bonino, Chris Kunitz and Matt Cullen, defensemen Trevor Daley or goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. Washington couldn’t afford to keep Justin Williams, Karl Alzner and Kevin Shattenkirk.

    The Penguins and Capitals are still favored to finish 1-2 in the brutal Metropolitan Division, but improvements made by the New York Rangers, Carolina Hurricanes and a return to health for members of the Tampa Bay Lightning have cracked the Eastern Conference wide open.

    ”The competition level is as high as ever,” Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask said. ”There’s a lot of teams that have a chance to win the Cup. Making the playoffs, it’s very tough nowadays. I think we’re not the only team when we always say, `We want to make the playoffs and then we’ll see what happens’ because you just want to make the playoffs and then anything can happen. There’s no real favorites.”

    Pittsburgh is still the betting favorite, and if Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Co. make it happen they’d become the first NHL team with three consecutive titles since the early 1980s New York Islanders dynasty. Then again, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos is healthy after a knee injury ended his 2016-17 season, the Hurricanes got a top goaltender in Scott Darling and the Toronto Maple Leafs are only expected to get better now that Auston Matthews and the kids have some playoff experience.

    ”Toronto obviously made a big step forward, Columbus is a team that has tremendous upside, made a big move this summer, and then you look at a team like Carolina who’s going to be knocking on the door in the next few years,” said Shattenkirk, who signed with the revamped Rangers.

    In a league with considerable playoff turnover from year to year, there’s no rest for the eight teams that made it last year: the Penguins, Capitals, Columbus Blue Jackets, Montreal Canadiens, Rangers, Ottawa Senators, Bruins and Maple Leafs. But Fleury, now the starter for the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, believes his old team has a chance to three-peat, and Alex Ovechkin said the Capitals will be good.

    ”Our goal is still to go out there and be the best team in the regular season and be the best team in the postseason,” Washington winger T.J. Oshie said. ”It’s not a very far-fetched goal.”

    [B]Some things to watch in the Eastern Conference this season:


    Matthews is only 20, but now there’s a whole new crop of potential teenage stars, including the New Jersey Devils’ No. 1 pick , Nico Hischier, and the Philadelphia Flyers’ No. 2 pick, Nolan Patrick. The Swiss-born Hischier turned heads with some big-time plays in the preseason and in the process ratcheted up expectations.

    The Canadiens lost defenseman Andrei Markov and winger Alexander Radulov and traded their top defensive prospect for forward Jonathan Drouin. Montreal probably should make the playoffs despite all the changes because of goaltender Carey Price, who won the Hart and Vezina Trophies in 2014-15 and missed most of the 2015-16 season with a knee injury.

    ”He is the best goalie in the NHL,” Drouin said. ”He’s proved it for a lot of years now.”

    Price has some competition in Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky and Washington’s Braden Holtby, the past two Vezina winners. The play of those three and Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray will likely determine the order of finish in the East.

    [B]C’MON, CROSBY[/B]

    After leading the league with 44 goals in the regular season and the playoffs with 27 assists, there’s no doubting Crosby has another MVP season in him. Teammates and opponents always expect him to sharpen another skill, though he could just keep scoring goals better than anyone else.

    ”He was always, I think, a passer a little more – always looking for other guys,” Fleury said. ”But he doesn’t have a crazy hard shot. It’s just how quick the release is. He’s skating, he’s looking around and the shot comes (from) any angle. His backhand is good too, probably as hard as anybody.”


    The Rangers added Shattenkirk, re-signed Brendan Smith and traded Derek Stepan to retool while goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is still in his prime. Across town, the Islanders are hoping to re-sign captain John Tavares before he can become a free agent next summer New York is where it’s at, and there’s no shortage of drama.

    Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon has gone to great lengths to undo some of the moves made in the summer of 2016 when he was shifted out of a position of power. Defenseman Jason Demers and forward Reilly Smith are gone, Bob Boughner is the new coach and big things are expected in South Florida.

    ”We’ve got to go in one direction and never look back,” winger Jonathan Huberdeau said. ”That’s what we want to do, and Dale Tallon knows that. We want to build something with Bob and we’ll see what’s going to happen.”


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    [B][I]Lightning to retire No. 4 of Lecavalier
    September 25, 2017[/I][/B]

    Vincent Lecavalier will become the second player in Tampa Bay Lightning history to have his number retired, the team announced on Monday.

    The Lightning will retire Lecavalier’s No. 4 in a ceremony prior to the team’s home game against the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 10, 2018.

    Lecavalier is the franchise’s all-time leading goal scorer (383) and spent 14 years with the team. The Quebec native was named the club’s captain in his second season, with the then-19-year-old becoming the youngest to wear the “C” in NHL history at the time.

    “It is a great honor to have my number retired and I’d like to thank the Lightning organization and (chairman) Jeff Vinik for recognizing me with this achievement,” the 37-year-old Lecavalier said in a team release. “The Tampa Bay community and our fans have treated me and my family so amazingly that this honor is extra special to share it with everyone. My family and I are very excited for Feb. 10 when we can share so many memories.”

    Lecavalier, who joins Martin St. Louis as the lone members of the Lightning to have their numbers retired, collected 874 points over his 1,037 games with Tampa Bay.

    “We are thrilled to retire another one of our franchise’s great players, and it’s extra special since this year we will be celebrating our 25th anniversary,” Vinik said.

    “Vinny was a tremendous player during his 14 years with the team and a true ambassador and hero for many people in Tampa Bay for his tireless work in the community.”

    Lecavalier helped the Lightning to the Stanley Cup in 2004. His best season was the 2006-07 campaign, when he won the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy as the NHL’s top goal scorer in a season in which he had 52 goals and 108 points for the Lightning.

    The four-time All-Star retired in June 2016 after 17 seasons in the NHL, recording 421 goals and 949 points in 1,212 career games with the Philadelphia Flyers, Kings and Lightning.

    Lecavalier was the No. 1 overall pick by Tampa Bay in the 1998 NHL draft.


    [B][I]NHL notebook: Lightning to retire Lecavalier’s No. 4
    September 25, 2017[/I][/B]

    Vincent Lecavalier will become the second player in Tampa Bay Lightning history to have his number retired, the team announced on Monday.

    The Lightning will retire Lecavalier’s No. 4 in a ceremony prior to the team’s home game against the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 10, 2018.

    Lecavalier is the franchise’s all-time leading goal scorer (383) and spent 14 years with the team. The Quebec native was named the club’s captain in his second season, with the then-19-year-old becoming the youngest to wear the “C” in NHL history at the time.

    Lecavalier, who joins Martin St. Louis as the lone members of the Lightning to have their numbers retired, collected 874 points over his 1,037 games with Tampa Bay.

    [B]–The Pittsburgh Penguins [/B]signed undrafted free agent forward Sam Miletic to a three-year, entry-level contract.

    Miletic, 20, played in two NHL preseason games with the Penguins this year, scoring the opening goal in Pittsburgh’s win in Columbus on Friday. He played in all three Prospect Challenge contests in Buffalo in early September, tallying a goal and an assist in the opening game against Boston. Miletic also skated in Pittsburgh’s prospect development camp in July.

    The 6-foot, 196-pound Miletic led the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League last season with 37 goals in 65 games, a total that ranked 12th in the OHL. He recorded 55 points overall with 18 assists.

    [B]–The Los Angeles Kings[/B] signed forward Jaret Anderson-Dolan to a three-year, entry-level contract.

    The 18-year-old Anderson-Dolan was a second-round (41st overall) selection of the Kings in 2017 NHL draft.

    The 5-foot-11, 191-pound native of Calgary, Alberta, played in 142 career regular-season games with Spokane of the Western Hockey League, totaling 102 points (53 goals, 49 assists) and 43 penalty minutes. In seven postseason games, he had a goal and two assists.


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    [B][I]NHL ’17: Predators facing challenge of staying on top
    September 26, 2017
    The Nashville Predators are proof anything is possible in the NHL playoffs. History suggests they are up against quite a challenge.

    Nashville made it into the last postseason as the eighth-seeded team in the Western Conference and ended up becoming just the third team seeded last to reach the Stanley Cup Final since 1994.

    The Predators couldn’t stop Pittsburgh from repeating, and they’re about to find out how hard it is to defend a championship in their stacked conference. The Western Conference has not had a repeat champion since the Detroit Red Wings pulled off the feat in 2008 and 2009, hosting a Stanley Cup and then losing a Game 7 against the Penguins.

    Nashville’s appearance in the playoffs, though, was not fluke. The franchise was in the postseason for the third straight year and the 10th time in 13 seasons. And, the city should be prepared to have a good time again next spring, catfish and all.

    ”This year, our expectation is to be in the playoffs, but our expectation is also to give ourselves the best opportunity to win hockey games and to play in our building as much as we can because our fans were so great, especially through the run,” defenseman P. K. Subban said. ”It was a huge edge for us in the playoffs being at home. We went most of the playoffs without losing at home. That’s what we’re going to need. We’re going to need our team to realize how important it is for us to win at home.”

    The Predators seem set up for more success.

    Mike Fisher retired and was effectively replaced on the ice by Penguins center Nick Bonino. General manager David Poile has goaltender Pekka Rinne under contract for two more seasons to go with top-line forwards Viktor Arvidsson, Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg, along with defenseman Subban for at least five years.

    ”We all know it was a lot of fun, and it was a tremendous experience going through all that,” Johansen said. ”At the end of the day like 29 other teams, we didn’t reach our goal.”

    [B]Here’s a look at some other things to watch in the West:


    The Colorado Avalanche, easily the NHL’s worst team last season, may be the only team in the Central Division without a legitimate shot to make the playoffs. The division was so tough last year that Nashville finished a relatively distant fourth behind Chicago, Minnesota and St. Louis. Each of those teams figures to be just as good this season and will have to compete with Dallas, which seemed to lead the league in major moves .

    Don’t sleep on Winnipeg, either. The Jets have made the playoffs only once in the last decade, but they could break through this season. Mark Scheifele, a 24-year-old center, quietly ranked among league leaders with 82 points last season. He leads a team with rising stars Patrik Laine, a 19-year-old winger who was taken No. 2 behind Auston Matthews, and 21-year-old Nikolaj Ehlers.

    The Pacific Division is so stacked even the 20-year-old, reigning NHL MVP with a $100 million contract is far from cocky about his team’s chances.

    ”It’s so competitive,” said Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, who was given an eight-year extension last summer. ”It is a grind. And the Pacific, especially, I think you see a lot of teams that are right around that 100-point mark, 95-point mark, that are kind of right on the cusp.”


    Chicago raised some eyebrows by trading Artemi Panarin one season after he was rookie of the year to Columbus for Brandon Saad. The move likely saves the Blackhawks some money as they manage the salary cap in future years. Saad’s return may bring the best out of Jonathan Toews , coming off one of the worst seasons of his career.


    Ryan Getzlaf, who shows no sign of slipping at the age of 32, is back to lead the five-time defending Pacific Division champion Anaheim Ducks. Coming off their second trip to the conference finals in three years, they’re desperately seeking their first trip to the Cup final since winning it in 2007. The San Jose Sharks are without Patrick Marleau for the first time in two-plus decades after he left in free agency for Toronto, and the Los Angeles Kings are hoping to re-open their championship-contending window with coach John Stevens replacing Darryl Sutter.

    The Vegas Golden Knights are betting a few veterans making at least $5 million this season to make help them be relatively competitive in their debut season: goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and forwards James Neal and Reilly Smith. The franchise’s path to potential success won’t be with castaways from other teams, but by drafting and developing talent. The Knights had three of the top 15 picks in the draft, including center Cody Glass sixth overall, but they don’t plan to rush any of them to the big show on the Strip. Prospect Alex Tuch, a 21-year-old forward, was acquired from Minnesota and the 2014 first-round pick may get a chance to play a lot.


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    [B][I]Sharks’ Joel Ward could bring anthem protests to NHL
    September 26, 2017[/I][/B]

    SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) Sharks forward Joel Ward told The Mercury News he might take a knee during the national anthem at an upcoming game, becoming the first NHL player to join the protests that started in the NFL and drew criticism from President Donald Trump.

    The 36-year-old Ward, one of about 30 black players in the league, is from Canada. Asked by the newspaper if he would consider kneeling during the anthem, Ward said it’s something he ”wouldn’t cross out.”

    ”I’ve experienced a lot of racism myself in hockey and on a day-to-day occurrence,” he said. ”I haven’t really sat down to think about it too much yet, but I definitely wouldn’t say no to it.”

    Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the anthem in the preseason a year ago to make a statement about social inequality and police treatment of blacks in the United States. More than 200 players knelt or took other action during Sunday’s anthems in the wake of Trump’s suggestion that NFL owners fire players who protest during ”The Star-Spangled Banner.”

    Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first major league baseball player to take a knee during the national anthem Saturday.

    Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said he would back Ward if he decides to take a knee this season. Ward said general manager Doug Wilson also has been supportive.

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