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.

Jackets re-sign Sedlak, AHL affiliate’s leading playoff scorer

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 20:  Lukas Sedlak #85 of the Columbus Blue Jackets waits for the pass during the game against the Winnipeg Jets on September 20, 2011 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus Ohio.  The Blue Jackets defeated the Jets 5-1.  (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
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Columbus farmhand Lukas Sedlak, who currently sits tied atop AHL Lake Erie’s playoff scoring leaderboard, has signed a one-year, two-way deal, the Jackets announced on Wednesday.

Sedlak, 23, was a fifth-round pick in 2011 that’s spent the last three years in the American League. This season was by far his most successful — in addition to potting a career-best 14 goals, he’s become close to a point-a-game producer in the playoffs, with 11 through 12 games.

“Sedlak has been on a run for us with goal-scoring,” Lake Erie head coach Jared Bednar said, per the Columbus Dispatch. “He’s not a guy who does it for us every night. But he works so hard in all the other areas.”

Sedlak has yet to make his NHL debut, but could be in the mix for a recall next season.

Despite Canadian dollar, Bettman still expects ‘revenue increase’

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman answers a question during a news conference before the NHL All-Star hockey game skills competition, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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The Canadian dollar is trading at around $0.77 USD today. While that’s up considerably from where it was a few months ago, the damage has already been done to NHL revenues.

“If the Canadian dollar was still at par, we would be $100 or 200 million higher perhaps than we may find ourselves,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told Bloomberg Television today.

Having said that, Bettman still expects there will be a “revenue increase” compared to last year, adding that “we continue to grow year after year and set new records.”

More from Bloomberg:

Bettman said that while the NHL’s revenue growth has come across the entire business, the league has seen its biggest boon in its digital platform. The league last year signed a six-year, $1.2 billion contract with Major League Baseball’s interactive media and Internet arm, or BAM, to operate the its digital operations, streaming services and TV network. The NHL got a 10 percent stake as part the deal.

The NHL playoffs are currently in the middle of the conference finals. The NHL’s fiscal year ends June 30.

League revenues, of course, have a direct impact on the salary cap, and let’s face it, that’s the only thing most fans care about.

As of March, the cap was expected to grow from $71.4 million in 2015-16 to $74 million next season.

However, that projection assumed the NHLPA would accept the CBA’s standard five percent growth factor, and with escrow topping the list of player concerns, that’s no given.

The players’ association will discuss and make a decision on the growth factor at some point before July 1.

Related: Bowman noncommittal on Shaw and Bickell, needs to know salary cap first

Devils’ Merrill undergoes shoulder surgery, out four months

NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 04: Jon Merrill #7 of the New Jersey Devils skates against the Detroit Red Wings at the Prudential Center on January 4, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Red Wings defeated the Devils 1-0.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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New Jersey d-man Jon Merrill, who struggled through an injury-riddled campaign, has undergone successful shoulder surgery with an expected recovery time of four months, the club announced on Wednesday.

Merrill, 24, only appeared in 47 games this year, first missing time with an arm injury, then suffering a shoulder ailment late in the year.

There was no clear indication if the two ailments were related, but Merrill’s arm injury was on the right side, and surgery was on his right shoulder.

A former University of Michigan standout taken 38th overall in 2010, Merrill enjoyed solid rookie and sophomore campaigns in New Jersey. His second year was especially solid — 14 points in 66 games, averaging over 20 minutes per night — and he boasts good size, going 6-foot-3, 205 pounds.

Based on the four-month timetable for recovery, Merrill will likely miss parts of New Jersey’s training camp and preseason action.

Max Talbot mulling European options for next season

Calgary Flames v Boston Bruins
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After a 10-year career with over 700 games played and one Stanley Cup, Maxime Talbot could be done in the NHL.

Per RDS, Talbot — who’ll hit unrestricted free agency on July 1 — has “some options in Europe” for next season, and is contemplating a move overseas.

In his prime, Talbot was a gritty, hardworking forward with decent touch around the net. He scored double-digit goals four times, including a career-high 19 in ’11-12.

The 32-year-old split last season between Boston and its AHL affiliate in Providence, scoring seven points in 38 games at the NHL level.

Talbot did acquit himself very well with the P-Bruins — 21 points in 26 games — and has some experience playing abroad, having suited up for Finnish League club Ilves Tampere during the lockout.

Based on how things went last year in free agency, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Talbot land in Europe.

The likes of Maxim Lapierre, Curtis Glencross and Marcel Goc all failed to score NHL contracts last summer — Lapierre and Goc proceeded to sign overseas, while Glencross opted to retire.