Breaking down the Eastern bubble race

bruinsrangers.jpgLast night I chronicled the comparatively straightforward race for the Western Conference’s eighth seed. In the East, things are a lot more complicated; there are essentially four teams competing for the bottom three spots. The top team (Montreal) and bottom team (Atlanta) are only separated by five points. It’s close – really close – in other words.

Take a look at this fun little spreadsheet I made that summarizes the team’s remaining schedules, games against non-playoff teams (“softer games”), the games left against bubble teams and matches versus division title winners. It also includes useful information like the current/most points teams can reach and the current/maximum wins for each team. (From the Rink inspired the “maximum wins” inclusion and has a great rundown in its own right.)

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I considered leaving Montreal and Atlanta out of the scenario for wildly different reasons. The Habs have the most points, are tied with the Flyers for the most wins (39) and finish the season with a fairly manageable last three games. On the other hand, the Thrashers are on life support with the least points, wins and a brutal closing schedule.

To me, it’s really about the last two spots going to two of the Rangers, Bruins and Flyers. The home-and-home between New York and Philadelphia might not necessarily cancel those two teams out (what with “charity” points) but could work out nicely for Boston. Clearly, the Bruins are going to be rooting against overtime in those games. If I had to pick two teams I would go with Boston (beating Carolina, squeezing one more point out of the two other games for 88 points) and Philadelphia (beating Toronto, winning once in regulation and losing once in overtime for 89 points). Then again, the Rangers have four games left and Henrik Lundqvist. Who knows.

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    Bolts avoid arbitration with Namestnikov — two years, $3.875M

    Vladislav Namestnikov
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    Tampa Bay has avoided Friday’s scheduled arbitration hearing with forward Vladislav Namestnikov, agreeing to a two-year, $3.875M deal on Tuesday evening, per ESPN.

    Namestnikov, 23, had a breakout campaign last year, scoring 14 goals and 35 points in 80 games — all career highs. The former first-round pick also appeared in 17 playoff games for the Bolts, scoring a goal and three points while helping the club to the Eastern Conference Final.

    Coming off a one-year deal in which he made $874,125, the diminutive Russian gets a nice pay bump with this latest contract, and a bit of security with the two-year term. He should play a fairly integral role next season, coming off a year in which he finished tied for fourth on the team in goals, with Tyler Johnson.

    But while tonight may be about Namestnikov, it’s another Russian forward in Tampa Bay that everybody now has their eyes on — Nikita Kucherov, the playoff scoring sensation that declined to file for arbitration, but still requires a new deal.

    Given some of the big-money contracts GM Steve Yzerman has handed out this summer — namely those to Steve Stamkos, Victor Hedman and Alex Killorn — the Kucherov negotiations are definitely ones to keep an eye on.

    Talks ongoing between Wild and Dumba, meeting expected soon

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    There’s just one piece of business left for Minnesota this summer — a new contract for RFA defenseman Matt Dumba.

    And it sounds like that piece of business will soon be attended to.

    From the Star-Tribune:

    There have been ongoing talks between Wild assistant GM Brent Flahr and [Dumba’s] agent Craig Oster.

    The two are expected to meet face to face in Calgary at the Hockey Canada camp.

    Dumba, the former No. 7 overall pick, just wrapped his entry-level deal, coming off a campaign in which he set career highs in games played (81), goals (10) and points (26).

    He also notched a pair of assists in the Wild’s six-game loss to Dallas in the playoffs.

    Dumba, 22, did see his name surface in trade talks this season. There was a report in late January that he was the return piece in a potential swap for Tampa Bay’s Jonathan Drouin, and he’s been tied to teams looking for a blueline upgrade.

    A good puck mover with offensive skills — and a right-handed shot — Dumba is definitely a commodity. What’s more, logic suggests the Wild could opt to move him, given the long-term financial commitments to fellow defensemen Ryan Suter (signed through 2025 at $7.53 million), Jonas Brodin (2021 at $4.16M), Jared Spurgeon (2020, $5.18M) and Marco Scandella (2020, $4M).

    Minnesota has some other young defensive prospects in the system, too.

    There’s former Gophers standout Mike Reilly, Miami of Ohio product Louis Belpedio and Gustav Olofsson, the 46th overall pick in ’13 that’s been honing his game in AHL Iowa (and made his NHL debut last season).

    The Wild are in control of the Dumba situation and can slow play negotiations, possibly while re-exploring trade scenarios. Don’t forget the Bruins are still in search of the “transitional” defenseman they desperately want.

    But should things go the expected way and Dumba re-signs in Minnesota, the Star-Tribune said a bridge deal is the “likeliest” outcome.

    Journeyman enforcer Rosehill signs with Scottish team

    Paul Bissonnette, Jay Rosehill
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    Noted pugilist Jay Rosehill has followed in the footsteps of his fellow tough guys, and will try his hand overseas.

    Specifically, in the United Kingdom.

    On Tuesday, the EIHL’s Scottish-based outfit in Braehead — the Clan — announced it had signed Rosehill for the upcoming campaign. The move comes after the 31-year-old spent each of the last two seasons with Philly’s AHL affiliate in Lehigh Valley.

    Though he’s slowed down in recent years, Rosehill has long been known as an extremely active fighter. At no time was this more evident than during the ’08-09 campaign, when he fought a staggering 33 times (yeah, thirty-three) while playing for AHL Norfolk.

    Rosehill last played in the NHL during the ’13-14 campaign, scoring two goals in 34 games for the Flyers — while racking up 90 PIM.

    Here’s an example of some of his most famous handiwork:

    As mentioned above, the EIHL has landed a few notable ex-NHL fighters. Cam Janssen, Kevin Westgarth, Paul Bissonnette and Tom Sestito have all played there.

     

     

    Veteran d-man Foster retires, moves into coaching

    UNIONDALE, NY - DECEMBER 13:  Kurtis Foster #26 of the Minnesota Wild looks on during their NHL game against the New York Islanders on December 13, 2005 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.  The Wild defeated the Islanders 4-3.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
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    Kurtis Foster, who appeared in over 400 games during a 10-year NHL career, is hanging up his skates to enter the next phase of his hockey life — coaching.

    Foster, 34, has rejoined his former junior team in OHL Peterborough as an assistant coach, per the Examiner. The decision comes after Foster spent the last three years playing overseas in the KHL and, most recently, in the German League.

    The 40th overall pick in 2000, Foster is often remembered for a horrific leg break while playing for Minnesota during the 2007-08 campaign, in which his femur was shattered by Torrey Mitchell after Mitchell tried to prevent an icing call.

    The severity of the collision and Foster’s injury — he underwent emergency surgery, nearly bled out and almost lost his leg — prompted an immediate rule tweak from the NHL, and has since been viewed as a catalyst for the league’s adoption of no-touch icing.

    Impressively, Foster recovered from the broken femur to post a career-high 42 points in 74 games with the Lightning in ’09-10.

    In addition to the Wild and Bolts, Foster spent time with the Thrashers, Oilers, Ducks, Devils and Flyers.