Tonight's games: Playoff battles heating up

A couple of big games tonight with playoff spots on the line.

Calgary Flames (32-24-9, 73 PTS) @ Detroit Red Wings
(31-22-12, 74 PTS); 7:00 p.m. EST
— Jarome Iginla hasn’t scored
against the Red Wings in 19 regular season games. They’ll need him to
make a difference tonight, as the Wings have rediscovered their scoring
touch and the Flames are the 3rd-worst offense in the NHL.

Vancouver Canucks (40-23-2, 82 PTS) @ Colorado Avalanche
(37-22-6, 80 PTS); 9:00 p.m. EST —
It’s a battle for the top spot
in the Northwest division, although a Colorado win would still leave
them in second place based on tie breakers. The Canucks have had trouble
away from home, but at least they don’t have to worry so much about
keeping Kyle Wellwood away from the hotel breakfast bar. He
plays better fat
.

The rest after the jump…

Boston Bruins (29-24-11, 69 PTS)@ Toronto Maple Leafs (20-33-12,
52 PTS); 7:00 p.m. EST–
I’m predicting an actual negative score in
this one, especially with Savard and Chara out.

Nashville Predators (35-25-5, 75 PTS) @ Atlanta Thrashers
(28-26-10, 66 PTS); 7:00 p.m. EST —
If the Thrashers are able to
make the playoffs after the trades they made, then we all owe Don
Waddell a big apology.

NY Islanders (26-31-8, 60 PTS) @ Philadelphia Flyers (34-26-4, 72
PTS); 7:30 p.m. EST —
Still no Rick DiPietro on Long Island. Does
that surprise anyone?

Tampa Bay Lightning (27-26-11, 65 PTS)@ Montréal Canadiens
(32-29-6, 70 PTS); 7:30 p.m. EST —
The Canadiens need to continue
winning to hang onto their playoff spot, but a quick aside; is it
amazing to anyone else how there are three teams in the East with a
negative goal differential that could make the playoffs? Two in the
West.

Ottawa Senators (36-25-5, 77 PTS)@ Edmonton Oilers (21-38-6, 48
PTS; 9:30p.m. EST —
The Oilers have won twice in a row since the
trade deadline, while the Senators are reeling. It’s a struggling
offensive team against the worst defensive squad in the NHL. Something
has to break.

Columbus Blue Jackets (25-30-11, 61 PTS)@ Anaheim Ducks (30-27-8,
68 PTS); 10:00 p.m. EST —
The Ducks still have an outside shot at a
playoff spot. Good thing they’re facing a Columbus team that was just
destroyed last night by Los Angeles.

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    Yzerman knows Bolts have ‘to be under the cap at some point,’ so Callahan (hip) could open on LTIR

    Steve Yzerman
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    It might feel complex, but the financial situation in Tampa Bay is actually straightforward — GM Steve Yzerman has roughly $5-$6 million in cap space, with forward Nikita Kucherov and d-man Nikita Nesterov still to sign.

    And Yzerman thinks he has a way to get ’em done.

    “We’ve got to be under the cap at some point,” Yzerman said, per the Tampa Bay Times. “Depending on the health of players, Ryan Callahan had surgery and if he’s not ready to to start the season, that buys us some time.

    “We can do that (long-term injured reserve) if we need to. At some point, we’re going to have to be cap compliant to start the season, there’s no way around it.”

    Callahan underwent major hip surgery in late June, and was expected to miss the next five months of action. He’s already been ruled out of competing for Team USA at the World Cup of Hockey, and now it sure sounds like his absence will extend into the regular season.

    Which could suit the Bolts just fine.

    While they’ll miss Callahan’s presence, the temporary relief of his $5.8 million cap hit could allow Yzerman to take care of Kucherov and Nesterov now, and figure out the finances later.

    Trades at the end of the preseason/start of the regular season are commonplace, especially with teams looking to get cap compliant. Last year, in a mid-September deal, Chicago was forced to flip Kris Versteeg and Joakim Nordstrom to Carolina in order to sign Marcus Kruger.

    Of course, Kucherov is going to demand significantly more money than Kruger did from the ‘Hawks.

    The Times floated the idea of Filip Forsberg‘s new contract in Nashville — six year, $36 million — as a potential comparable, which could mean Yzerman will be forced to trade a fairly noteworthy contributor, not just a couple of spare parts.

    Names that have been floated include veteran centers Valtteri Filppula and Brian Boyle. Yesterday’s signing of promising pivot Vladislav Namestnikov suggests the team thinks Namestnikov is ready to assume a larger role down the middle, making Filppula and/or Boyle expendable.

    Preds sign veteran d-man Matt Carle for one year

    TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 15:  Matthew Carle #25 of the Tampa Bay Lightning stretches in the warm-up prior to playing against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on December 15, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Lightning defeated the Leafs 5-4 in overtime. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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    Bought out by the Tampa Bay Lightning, defenseman Matt Carle has landed in Nashville on a one-year deal worth $700,000.

    The Predators announced the signing today. Carle, 31, will join what’s considered one of the best blue lines in the NHL, led by P.K. Subban and Roman Josi.

    Carle played 64 games for the Lightning last season, plus 14 more in the playoffs. But his ice time fell dramatically, to the point he logged under 10 minutes in each of the Bolts’ final three postseason games.

    In Nashville, Carle will bring over 700 games of NHL experience, plus two trips to the Stanley Cup Final, to a team that just traded its captain, Shea Weber, and also bought out veteran defenseman Barret Jackman.

    In fact, of the eight Preds d-men under contract, only Carle is over 30. The next oldest is Subban, who’s 27.

    Canucks president doesn’t rule out acquiring a player with Evander Kane’s type of history

    BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 01: Evander Kane #9 of the Buffalo Sabres warms up to play the Edmonton Oilers at First Niagara Center on March 1, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)
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    Trevor Linden didn’t mention Evander Kane by name, because, well, you know…

    But yesterday on the radio, the Vancouver Canucks’ president of hockey operations sure didn’t close the door on acquiring a player with Kane’s type of history.

    You can listen to the audio of Linden’s interview with TSN 1040 here. (The Kane discussion starts at around the 3:10 mark.)

    The main takeaway is that Linden refused to say that a player with a history of getting into trouble with the police would absolutely not be welcome on the Canucks.

    “I think with any situation, they’re all unique to themselves,” Linden said, before warning against the temptation to jump to conclusions prior to knowing all the facts.

    “Ultimately we’d prefer not to have that situation arise, certainly with our own players,” he added. “It’s a big world out there. Obviously, the challenges are significant for young guys who make a lot of money and get themselves into spots that they make mistakes.”

    The Kane speculation has been kicked into overdrive in Vancouver (where Kane was born and raised and played his junior hockey), despite the absence of any hard evidence that the Canucks are talking seriously with Buffalo about a deal.

    It’s been reported that the Sabres’ ability to sign Jimmy Vesey could impact their willingness to trade Kane. Vesey can’t make his decision until Aug. 15, so perhaps we’ll have to wait until then.

    But according to Canucks beat writer Jason Botchford (The Province), Kane is definitely on Vancouver’s radar.

    “There’s no doubt about it, the Vancouver Canucks are going to be in on Evander Kane,” Botchford told TSN 1040 radio. “Ownership loves Kane. Jim Benning really likes Kane. Trevor? He’s maybe a little bit ambivalent, but he could be won over. They’re going to be in on Evander Kane.”

    Related: Canucks made Jets ‘fair offer’ for Kane

    Preds sign Jarnkrok for six years, with a cap hit of just $2 million

    DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 09:  Calle Jarnkrok #19 of the Nashville Predators skates against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on December 9, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. The Predators defeated the Avalanche 3-0.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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    Nashville’s momentous offseason continued today with the signing of forward Calle Jarnkrok to a six-year, $12 million contract.

    That’s a cap hit of just $2 million, all the way through 2021-22.

    Suffice to say, it’s not often that a player signs such a long deal, for such a modest cap hit. Jarnkrok notched career highs in goals (16) and assists (14) in 81 games last season for the Preds. He kills penalties, too.

    At the very least, the 24-year-old has some financial security now. But for Nashville, as long as his production doesn’t fall off a cliff, he could end up being a great bargain.

    Jarnkrok had an arbitration hearing scheduled for Aug. 4.

    Related: Preds avoid arbitration with Petter Granberg — two years, $1.225 million