Report: Penguins to host Capitals for 2011 Winter Classic

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Dave Molinari
of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
is reporting today that the NHL is
leaning towards the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins
facing off in the 2011 Winter Classic, to be played at Heinz Field.
There has been no confirmation on this news from the Penguins or
Capitals, and I’ve been told by NHL sources that no announcement is
expected anytime soon. So right now this is just pure speculation, based
solely on Molinari’s report.

There was always a good possibility that Alex Ovechkin and the
Capitals would be involved in the Classic next season — presumably at
home — but another nationally televised matchup between the Penguins
and Capitals in the biggest regular season game for the NHL makes sense,
as far as marketing the NHL’s two biggest teams go. But what about the
rest of the NHL?

Nate Ewell, director of media relations for the
Capitals, had this to say on Twitter
about the report when asked about the Caps playing the Penguins:

Was sad when reports weren’t true about Caps in
2010 Winter Classic. Can’t say the same personally if these 2011 reports
prove false.

I can’t justify them
playing in another one when
24 teams haven’t had the chance

The
issue is over the Penguins hosting the Winter Classic, when they’ve
already appeared in one. The goal by the NHL was to spread the Classic
around the league– supposedly– so it’s understandable when there is some resistance
to the Penguins getting another one so soon.

There are some logistical problems that would need to be addressed, however, before an official
announcement is even made. For one, the Penguins are opening a new arena
this season; hosting the Winter Classic would take away a valuable home
game at the new venue. There’s also the small issue of playing the game
at the home field of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Says
Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio:

Though Molinari
says that “approximately two weeks” will be needed to
build and prep an outdoor rink, Molinari also says that the Steelers are
expected to host their home finale on Thursday, December 23, which
would give the crew less than nine days to cover the turf with a
platform coated in ice.  The possibility that the Steelers will host a
playoff game in the wild-card round would give the powers-that-be at
least a week to restore the venue to its football configuration.

The
issue of playing at Heinz Field is most likely the biggest stumbling
block, not the whole “but the Pens already played in a Winter Classic”
argument.

As of now, this is just a report that has sparked debate
across the hockey-verse on a quiet Sunday. But still, one more piece to
the intense rivalry built between the Capitals and Penguins franchises.

After making NHL debut, Jones re-ups with Isles

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One of the Isles’ feel-good stories from last season wrote a new chapter on Thursday.

Connor Jones, the undrafted 26-year-old that made his NHL debut in April, has signed a one-year, two-way extension, the club announced.

Jones certainly earned his way to the show. He spent four years at Quinnipiac before catching on with the Oilers, spending time with both their AHL and ECHL affiliates before jumping to the Isles organization in 2015.

Though he’s not an offensive producer — just 19 points in 58 games with Bridgeport last season — Jones emerged as a good energy guy that proved an effective penalty killer.

With AHL Bridgeport, he also played alongside his twin brother, Kellen, who was in attendance as Connor made his NHL debut in April.

Connor would go on to play four games for the Isles, averaging just under 12 minutes per night.

Report: Dwight King could be KHL-bound

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Dwight King, the burly forward that won a pair of Stanley Cups in Los Angeles, may be on his way to Russia.

Per News 1130 in Vancouver, King is set to sign in the KHL after failing to land a contract this summer. The 28-year-old finished last season in Montreal after spending the first seven years of his NHL career in Los Angeles.

For a time, King was an effective skater for L.A. He posted a career-high 15 goals and 30 points during the ’13-14 campaign, and followed that up with a 13-goal, 26-point effort the year following. He also had a nice showing during the Kings’ 2014 Cup run, finishing with 11 points in 26 games.

King’s biggest issue is his skating ability. At 6-foot-4, 229 pounds, he was never the fleetest of foot, but had been working on his speed this offseason.

More, from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman:

King is still looking for work after finishing the season in Montreal. There are a few Western Conference teams poking around.

“I’m just looking for an opportunity at this point. I’m going to be on the ice more this year, doing a little more skills and skating. Any bit of improvement I can find.”

King is going to try a couple new teachers, then decide which route to take. One also works with former teammate (and new Golden Knight) Brayden McNabb. King is quite the physical specimen, but will take a new approach. He regularly played at 230–231 pounds, but is going to go to 225–226. And he believes the Western Conference is better for him.

News 1130 reported that Vancouver had shown “mild interest” in King, who just wrapped a three-year $5.85 million deal with a $1.95M cap hit.

King appeared in 17 games for the Habs after being picked up at the deadline last season, scoring once. He went pointless in six playoff games.

McLellan excited about addition of ‘utility player’ Strome

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To hear Todd McLellan explain it, Ryan Strome could be wearing many hats next season.

That’s what the Oilers head coach said on Wednesday of the former Isles forward, acquired earlier this summer in the Jordan Eberle trade. McLellan expressed excitement over Strome’s ability to play both center and wing.

“He (Strome) is a utility player,” McLellan said, per the Sun. “He has the ability to play center and has in the past. He’s been able to win faceoffs and he’s comfortable on the wing. We have the luxury of moving players around, and as the fans here know, we like to do that.”

That last sentence is clearly a reference to Leon Draisaitl. Draisaitl has flipped back and forth between playing as Edmonton’s No. 2 center and as a winger on the top line alongside Connor McDavid. The talented German’s had success at both, which is why Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli is still unsure if Draisaitl is a center or a winger.

More: Strome pumped at prospect of playing with Draisaitl, McDavid

As for Strome, he certainly gives Edmonton some flexibility — on the ice, and on the books.

With a $2.5 million cap hit (compared to Eberle’s $6M), he’s provided Chiarelli with more cap space to get the Draisaitl contract done. And there’s also the potential for him to be a real bargain. Remember, Strome is only two years removed from a sophomore campaign in which he scored 17 goals and 50 points in 81 contests. His subsequent two years with the Isles were a disappointment, but the talent is still there.

The wildcard in all this is the fact that Strome’s heading into a contract year. He’ll be a restricted free agent next July, so the ’17-18 campaign will go a long way in determining his value… and, potentially, his future in Edmonton.

McDavid disappointed at NHL decision to skip Olympics

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TORONTO (AP) Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid said he’s disappointed the NHL won’t be sending players to the Winter Olympic in South Korea.

“It would have been a special group, and you’re just hopeful to be a part of it,” McDavid told reporters at a charity event Wednesday. “It’s disappointing, but that’s the way it is. You want to be able to represent your country on the highest stage, and the Olympics is obviously the highest stage possible.”

McDavid’s comments came a day after Hockey Canada announced it was looking for non-NHL talent for Canada’s roster in Pyeongchang.

Sean Burke, the team’s GM, said Tuesday the bulk of Canada’s team will come from players based in Europe.

The NHL’s reasons not to participate in the upcoming Games include disagreements over costs as well as problems accommodating the Games during its regular season.

When asked whether there was the possibility of getting permission from the Oilers to attend the Olympics, McDavid was non-committal.

“I’m not too involved in all that stuff,” he said.

The NHL Players Association has said the league’s decision is “short-sighted.”

The NHL allowed its players to compete in every Olympics since 1998 Nagano Games, and Canada was won three of the last four gold medals.