Senators need help to miss the playoffs

The fact that there is a very real chance the Ottawa Senators could
miss the playoffs should surprise nobody, yet the fact that they most likely
will make it to the postseason should not be very surprising either.

See, the Senators play
in the Eastern Conference; home to two great teams, two pretty good team
and a bunch of middling and mediocre teams bringing up the rear. If the
Senators are going to collapse and fallout of a playoff spot, then
they’re going to need teams below them to actually play well enough to
overtake them as well, even if they do win just one out of five games
the rest of the season.

It doesn’t appear that’s going to happen
anytime soon.

The Senators are currently in 5th in the East, five
points ahead of 8th-place Boston and eight points up on the New York
Rangers in 9th. The Rangers and the Atlanta Thrashers — and perhaps the
Tampa Bay Lightning — represent teams that have to at least play their
way into a playoff spot to actually knock the Senators out.

Right
now, there’s a good chance that Ottawa can fall all the way out to 8th
place. But with the Rangers and Thrashers not exactly lighting the
hockey world on fire right now, they’ll most likely stay in the playoffs
based solely on the incredibly poor play of the other teams in the
conference.

The Rangers do face Boston on Sunday (on NBC!) and
could make a four-point swing in the standings with a win. Yet Boston is
three points up and could build more of a lead tonight against
Pittsburgh.

The Senators are 5th in the East; with 79 points,
they’d be out of the playoffs in the Western Conference.

It may
not matter much anyways. Even if the Senators do hold on after falling
to 8th, they’ll face Washington in the first round. That playoff series
won’t last very long.

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    Habs sign Mark Streit — is he Markov’s replacement?

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    The Montreal Canadiens have signed 39-year-old defenseman Mark Streit to a one-year contract worth a reported $700,000.

    This will actually be Streit’s second stint with the Habs. He started his NHL career in Montreal, all the way back in 2005.

    Streit split last season between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. In the playoffs, he only appeared in three games for the Penguins, all of them in the Eastern Conference Final against Ottawa when Justin Schultz was hurt.

    What the Streit signing means for Andrei Markov remains to be seen. Streit, like Markov, can run a power play, so it’s tempting to conclude that Streit is Markov’s replacement.

    That being said, almost all of Streit’s contract could be buried in the AHL if necessary, so that conclusion may be premature. This could even be a move by GM Marc Bergevin to gain leverage and convince Markov to sign.

    Markov, 38, remains an unrestricted free agent. The Canadiens want him back, but only at a certain price.

    Devils give Mirco Mueller two-year extension

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    The New Jersey Devils have signed defenseman Mirco Mueller to a two-year contract extension with a cap hit of $850,000.

    Mueller, a first-round draft pick of the Sharks in 2013, has only played 54 NHL games, scoring two goals with four assists. In June, after spending most of 2016-17 in the AHL, San Jose traded the 22-year-old to the Devils.

    In New Jersey, Mueller should get a good chance to crack a rebuilding roster.

    “Mirco is adding another piece to what we’re trying to build here,” Devils coach John Hynes said, per NJ.com. “He’s a young player, he can play with pace. He’s a very good skater. He’s got size, which is something we need on the back end. He makes a good first pass. He allows you to get out of your own zone because he can break out, he can end plays defensively, get possession, make the pass to be able to transition yourself out of defensive situations.”

    The Devils have also re-signed goalie Scott Wedgewood and forward Joseph Blandisi.

    Rangers lock up Zibanejad for next five years

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    The New York Rangers have locked up a key piece of their future, signing center Mika Zibanejad to a five-year deal with a cap hit of $5.35 million.

    Zibanejad had an arbitration hearing scheduled for today, but that won’t be required anymore.

    The 24-year-old had 14 goals and 23 assists in 56 games last season. It was his first year in New York after getting traded from Ottawa for Derick Brassard.

    With Derek Stepan in Arizona now, Zibanejad is arguably the Rangers’ No. 1 center. Kevin Hayes is in that conversation as well, and perhaps Lias Andersson will be soon.

    But getting Zibanejad signed long term was a top priority for GM Jeff Gorton this offseason. Hayes can become a restricted free agent next summer, but that’s a bridge to cross at a later date.

    Related: Andersson to get ‘every opportunity’ to make Rangers next season

    Avalanche reportedly settle with Nieto, avoiding arbitration

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    Matt Nieto won’t need his arbitration hearing on Monday.

    According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Nieto has agreed to a one-year, $1 million contract with the Colorado Avalanche.

    Nieto split last season between San Jose and Colorado, which claimed him off waivers in January.

    In 43 games for the Avalanche, the 24-year-old forward scored seven goals with four assists.

    Nieto was the only Colorado player on this summer’s arbitration list. However, the Avs still have a restricted free agent in Nikita Zadorov, who could be off to the KHL next season.