Who's more valuable, Sidney Crosby or Jaroslav Halak?

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HalakCrosby.jpgI know the majority of you read this headline and either scratched
your head in confusion or slammed your keyboard in anger. “How could
this even be a debate,” you ask. “They don’t even play the same position
and aren’t even on the same team.”

Stay with me on this one.

Headed
into tonight’s Game 1 between the Montreal Canadiens and Pittsburgh
Penguins, I started to think of the keys to victory for each team. Based
on first round performance, my thoughts would turn to Sidney Crosby for
the Penguins and Jaroslav Halak for the Canadiens. There’s no doubt
that each player was instrumental in their semifinals success, but which
player is more important to their team at this very moment in this
series.

It’s a tough debate, especially considering that they play
different positions, figuring which team can least afford their player to
stumble.

Despite the incredible numbers put up in Vancouver and
Detroit, there’s no doubt in my mind that Crosby was the best player in
the first round. When the Penguins looked as if they would continue
their inconsistent ways against the Senators, Crosby took over each game
and became the leader of his team en route to a convincing series win.

Can
the Penguins afford Crosby to stop producing, if for some reason he
slows down against the Habs? The Canadiens showed they know how to shut
down the best players in the NHL if given the chance. With Crosby, the
Penguins also have a number of players capable of stepping up in Evgeni
Malkin and Alexei Ponikarovsky (among others), but we’ve seen this
season that the Penguins go as Crosby goes.

Obviously, if
Halak starts to stumble the Canadiens will falter. The Habs relied on
his out of this world goaltending to surprise the Capitals in the first
round, but they also proved they have the team defense, shot blocking
skills and opportunistic offense to be able to take down the best teams
in the NHL. So if Halak is unable to continue his incredible run of
stellar play in the past three games, do the Habs even have a chance at
winning? The last three games of the series were won based on incredible
goaltending, and some great defense.

For me, you’d have to think
that the Habs would suffer most if Halak started to fall apart, rather
than the Penguins if Crosby fell to earth. I know it’s tough to compare
the two, but the Canadiens feed off the play of Halak in goal, and now
all eyes are on him to perform. The Penguins know what it takes to win,
they’ve been there; if Crosby were to stumble you have to think there
are players on that team that know when and how to step it up.

Halak
or Crosby, who’s most valuable? You have to go with Halak in this one.

Sabres re-sign Robin Lehner to one-year, $4 million deal

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The Buffalo Sabres avoided salary arbitration with goalie Robin Lehner, as they inked him to a one-year, $4 million contract on Tuesday morning.

Lehner and the Sabres were scheduled to have their hearing on July 27, but that obviously won’t be necessary anymore.

The 26-year-old played a career-high 59 games in 2016-17. He finished the year with a 23-26-8 record, a 2.68 goals-against-average and a .920 save percentage.

There’s no doubt that he’s a talented netminder, but he’s had his share of struggles when it comes to staying healthy and being consistent. Of course, the team in front of him hasn’t been very good either.

Both of Buffalo’s goalies (Lehner and Chad Johnson) will have something to prove this season because they’re both on one-year contracts. When their deals expire next summer, Lehner will be a restricted free agent again, while Johnson will be free to test the market on July 1st.

The Sabres now have just over $10.9 million in cap space with RFAs Zemgus Girgensons, Nathan Beaulieu and Evan Rodrigues still needing new contracts.

A huge extension for Jack Eichel is also on the horizon, but his new salary won’t count on the cap until 2018-19.

PHT Morning Skate: What will Ryan Johansen’s next contract look like?

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–Hall-of-fame goalie Tony Esposito joined the guys on NHL Tonight to talk about his illustrious career. He talked about being named to the NHL’s Top 100 list, how he was one of the first goalies to use the butterfly style and more. (NHL.com)

–It looks as though NHL players definitely won’t be playing in the next Olympics, which means certain players on AHL contracts could crack their country’s rosters. The Hockey News looks at eight minor leaguers that could find themselves at the next Olympic. Tom Kostopoulos could be an interesting player for Team Canada while Chris Bourque could be an option for the U.S. (The Hockey News)

–Nashville Predators GM David Poile has had a relatively good offseason, but he still needs to figure out a way to get Ryan Johansen under contract. The Score takes a deeper look at what his next contract could potentially look like. Johansen will never be the highest paid skater on his team (P.K. Subban makes $9 million), but second isn’t out of the question (that rank is currently held by Filip Forsberg at $6 million). (The Score)

–BarDown put together an interesting list of seven once popular equipment advancements that aren’t so popular anymore. Anyone remember Curtis Curve goalie sticks or aluminum shafts? (BarDown)

–We all know what a shark is, but why did the original ownership group in San Jose settle on that name for their hockey team? Here’s one of the reasons: “The Red Triangle is (obviously) a triangle-shaped region that spans roughly from north of San Francisco to Big Sur. It hosts seven species of sharks including Great White, Leopard, Mako, Seven-Gill, Blue, Soupfin, and Spiny Dog. Notably, it is home to one highest concentrations of Great White Sharks in the world. With so many sharks in the water, it made sense to put them on ice.” (NHL.com/Sharks)

–Everyone knows Sidney Crosby as an ultra-focused hockey star, but the little things separate him from the rest. Here’s a really cool story about him helping a Canadiens fan:

Canucks avoid arbitration with Boucher, Horvat remains RFA

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The Vancouver Canucks still have some work to do this summer, but at least none of their players will take part in salary arbitration hearings.

After coming to an agreement with Michael Chaput, the Canucks reached a one-year, $687,500 deal with forward Reid Boucher on Monday.

Boucher, 23, has 112 regular-season games under his belt. He spent most of his career (82 of 112 games) with the New Jersey Devils before bouncing to the Nashville Predators (3 games) and then the Canucks (27 games) last season. He averaged a little more than 12 minutes per night with the Canucks, much like with the Devils in 2016-17.

While the arbitration hearings are covered, the Canucks face two lingering RFA situations: Brendan Gaunce, and most importantly, Bo Horvat.

Coyotes sign Langhamer, so only Duclair needs a deal

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The Arizona Coyotes handed a one-year, two-way contract to goalie Marek Langhamer on Monday.

Langhamer would be paid $660K at the NHL level and $67,500 in the AHL, according to AZ Sports’ Craig Morgan.

Langhamer turned 23 on Saturday. He got about the smallest cup of coffee you could ask for with the Coyotes last season: he appeared in one game for 16 minutes, allowing a goal on eight shots.

It was quite the year for the Czech-born goalie, who played seven games in the ECHL and 25 in the AHL along with that brief NHL appearance. He also played in the AHL and ECHL during the 2015-16 season, so he’s been bouncing around.

As a seventh-rounder (184th overall in 2012), Langhamer likely doesn’t take opportunities for granted.

The netminding situation is interestingly fluid in Arizona. Both Antti Raanta and Louis Domingue stand ahead of Langhamer – at minimum – but those two only have one year remaining on their current deals. If nothing else, there’s likely a “prove it” vibe at multiple levels now that Mike Smith is in Calgary.

With Langhamer settled, the Coyotes only have one RFA left to sign, but it’s a tricky one with forward Anthony Duclair. When it came to Duclair, GM John Chayka kept it pretty vague with the Arizona Republic’s Sarah McLellan.

“We’re still trying to determine the best value for the player and the team moving forward,” Chayka said.