Andy Sutton not happy with "expert" reporter

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Leopold.jpgUpdate: Follow the jump for a still shot of the moment of impact of the hit.

It didn’t take long, but we may have our first round of controversy and drama in the playoffs.

Late in the first period of the Pittsburgh and Ottawa game, Jordan Leopold was skating the puck up the near boards in the neutral zone, when the Senators’ Andy Sutton laid a disastrously monster hit on the defenseman. Sutton was not penalized for the hit, and Leopold did not return to the game.

You can see video of the hit here, and it’s pretty obvious right away how dangerous a play like this might be. More on that in a bit.

First, let’s get to the drama that occurred after the game, when a reporter asked Sutton about the hit. You can see the video here, but here’s the transcript:

Reporter: You didn’t know your elbow came up and hit him in the head?

Sutton: Are you asking me or are you telling me?

Reporter: No, I’m asking you.

Sutton: Are you an expert?

Reporter: No, it was on the replay.

Sutton: So you’re an expert?

Reporter: No, it was on the replay.

Sutton: You saw it, you’re saying you saw it, you’re an expert.

Reporter: Yes.

Sutton: You’re not an expert.

Reporter: I saw it. I’m asking if you knew you got your elbow up.

Sutton: You’re telling me I got my elbow up?

Reporter: It was on the replay.

Sutton: So you’re an expert. You know it was up.

And….enter PR representative to get Sutton out of there.

Anyone else getting a “Who’s on first” vibe here?

After the jump, thoughts on the hit and a still frame look at the moment of impact.

Here’s a still frame look at the moment of impact. It’s not perfect, but you can see that Sutton’s elbow was tucked and his skates were on the ice. As much as I hate to see head injuries and as much as such devastating hits can hurt players, there little doubt that this was a clean hit. Leopold had his head down, didn’t see Sutton coming and then turned away at the last instant, making the hit much, much worse. But it was clean

Screenshot courtesy of Versus.

The original report is below.

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The best thing that Andy Sutton could have done was to dismiss the question with a “no comment”. There’s no way he’s going to own up to hitting Leopold with his elbow, because that admission of guilt alone could earn him a suspension.

According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, however, the NHL will not be handing out any supplemental discipline to Sutton as it’s been deemed a “clean hit”.

It certainly raises the eyebrows a bit that the hit has been dismissed so quickly, as it seemed that there was certainly some contact between elbow and head. Was his elbow raised for the hit? That’s debatable, but for a league that is seemingly so concerned with head injuries I’m surprised it’s been passed over so quickly.

This adds to the debate that if a player has his head down low, and an player making a hit makes contact with the head with his elbow, is it still illegal? I’m of a mind to say that this hit should be illegal, but as the rules are
now it’s not.

It’s also tough to say this was a ‘blind side’ hit, as Leopold turned at the very last instant as the hit was coming.
I’m sure that Pittsburgh fans aren’t going to be too happy with the non-suspension and lack of even a penalty.

Still, we should be thankful that we at least had this glorious exchange between player and reporter. You have to hand it to him; he never backed down in the face of a player who obviously was a bit angry with his line of questioning.

Zibanejad looking for $5.35 million from Rangers in arbitration

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The New York Rangers and restricted free agent forward Mika Zibanejad are scheduled for an arbitration hearing on Tuesday if they can not come to an agreement on a new contract before them.

On Sunday, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported the numbers both sides are looking at heading into that hearing and they don’t seem to be too far apart. According to Friedman, Zibanejad is seeking a $5.35 million salary while the Rangers have countered with an offer of $4.1 million. If the two sides were able to meet in the middle that would be in the neighborhood of around $4.7 million per season, which probably seems about right given Zibanejad’s performance and some of the contracts that have recently been signed by the likes of Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat (both will make a little more than $5 million per season, while both have been more productive).

Zibanejad, 24, is coming off of his first season with the Rangers after being acquired from the Ottawa Senators in the Derrick Brassard trade.

He was limited to just 56 games due to injury, scoring 14 goals to go with 23 assists. He scored at least 20 goals in each of the previous two seasons.

With Derek Stepan gone to Arizona Zibanejad figures to take on a bigger role this season for the Rangers.

The Rangers still have $8.4 million in salary cap space to work with, via CapFriendly.

New addition Thompson thinks Senators are ‘ready to win’

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Even after reaching Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2016-17 there is still probably some skepticism as to how good the Ottawa Senators will be this upcoming season and whether or not they can repeat that success.

They didn’t do much to add to that roster over the summer outside of the addition of gritty forward Nate Thompson on a two-year contract from the Anaheim Ducks.

Thompson is excited about the opportunity to join the Senators and believes the success of the team last season was not a fluke.

“This team now is ready to win,” he told Ken Warren of the Ottawa Sun this past week. “I don’t think this was a Cinderella team, it was the real deal. They have a pretty good window to win games and hopefully do something even more special.”

It’s going to probably be a little more difficult this season given some of the improvements that have been made by teams around them (Tampa Bay and Toronto should be better than they were a year ago; Montreal and Boston will still be fierce contenders as well) and the fact the Senators themselves might see a bit of a regression in the standings if their overall play doesn’t change much. Keep in mind, for all of the success they had in the playoffs this was still a team that gave up more goals than it scored during the regular season. That is not typically a recipe for long-term success.

Thompson, who will turn 33 at the start of the season, will be relied on primarily to fill a bottom-six role and perhaps help in the faceoff circle. He is coming off of a 2016-17 season in Anaheim that saw him be limited to just 30 games, scoring one goal and adding one assist before recording six points (two goals, four assists) in the playoffs for the Ducks on their run to the Western Conference Finals. He spent the past three seasons playing for the Ducks and also has experience playing for Senators coach Guy Boucher during their time together in Tampa Bay.

Preds GM Poile still has work to do, with Johansen in need of a deal

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David Poile got some work done Saturday.

The Nashville Predators re-signed Viktor Arvidsson on the day the two sides had an arbitration hearing scheduled. The new deal? Seven years at a total of $29.75 million — an annual average value of $4.25 million for a player that just scored 31 goals while playing on the top line with Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg.

The Predators made a run at the Stanley Cup last month, doing so with great goaltending from Pekka Rinne, a top-four group of defensemen that you can argue sets the standard around the league and a talented group of forwards — a number of them with age on their side.

They didn’t win it all, but Poile was recognized for his work by claiming General Manager of the Year.

This is likely among the reasons why.

Roman Josi still has three years left on his deal, while Mattias Ekholm, who was a valuable and reliable top-four d-man playing alongside P.K. Subban, has five years remaining on his deal.

With the Arvidsson contract completed, the priority is now to get Johansen — a restricted free agent — signed. At age 24, he’s Nashville’s No. 1 center coming off a 61-point season, which completed his three-year, $12 million deal.

He was also in the midst of a terrific playoff performance before he suffered a thigh injury and postseason-ending surgery. He’s in line for a significant raise from the $4 million AAV he made on his last contract.

The Predators have about $14.5 million remaining in cap space, per CapFriendly.

Vegas GM doesn’t appear to be in any hurry to move extra d-men

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The Vegas Golden Knights currently have 10 defensemen under contract — and that is without Nate Schmidt signed.

Schmidt and the Golden Knights have an arbitration hearing scheduled for Aug. 3, so there is still plenty of time for them to negotiate a new deal for the restricted free agent blue liner without having a neutral third party decide the matter.

Schmidt’s agent, Matt Keator, told the Las Vegas Review Journal that talks with the Golden Knights have been positive, which lends to optimism that perhaps the club and player will avoid this whole process with a deal.

A new contract between Schmidt — left unprotected by Washington in the expansion draft — and Vegas would put the Golden Knights at 11 d-men less than two months before training camp opens.

Granted, that number is considerably less than what Vegas had following the expansion draft, when they stockpiled 15 defensemen and eventually moved players like David Schlemko, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Marc Methot.

While it seems more moves are likely on the back end for Vegas, general manager George McPhee doesn’t seem to be in any particular hurry right now, per the Vegas Review Journal.

“We’re at a manageable number right now,” said McPhee. “We’re pretty close to where we want to be and we’re comfortable with the roster we have.”

Their blue line also includes five players — Jason Garrison, Luca Sbisa, Clayton Stoner, Brayden McNabb and Deryk Engelland — that are pending unrestricted free agents at the end of next season. As far as Vegas’ defensive group is concerned, this could mean future trades during the season as other clubs, perhaps playoff bound, look to possibly add a rental late in the year.

One thing McPhee has made clear in the past: He planned on keeping Schmidt and fellow d-man Shea Theodore (only 21 years old). Now, they just have to get Schmidt under contract.

Related: Vegas has more ticket revenue than Boston, Philly and Pittsburgh, says Foley