Free Agent All-Star team: Restricted

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Thumbnail image for halak.jpgIn the last post, I put together a First All-Star team of unrestricted free agents. Though restricted free agents tend to attract less attention, there could be some intriguing situations. While I broke down the last list of players into forward positions (left wing, center, right wing), this time I’ll just choose three forwards, plus two defensemen and a goalie.

Forwards

Joe Pavelski, Bobby Ryan and Devin Setoguchi

There’s a big gap between the top forwards and the rest in both the unrestricted (Marleau, Kovalchuk) and restricted free agent forward pools (Pavelski, Ryan). I agree with PHT readers that Bobby Ryan is worth Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry type money, while Pavelski’s situation will be very interesting.

Setoguchi is my guess as the third-best forward, although Wojtek Wolski and Blake Wheeler are also good candidates. I give Setoguchi the nod because he’s younger and therefore might have a “higher ceiling.”

Defensemen

Erik Johnson, Braydon Coburn

I’m not sure how much either of these RFA defensemen will make. Johnson is a No. 1 draft pick ahead of the likes of Nicklas Backstrom, Jonathan Toews and Jordan Staal but has had some lows (the golf cart incident) to go with a few highs. The Flyers robbed the Atlanta Thrashers blind when they traded for Coburn, but will they be able to afford him this summer? It should be interesting to see how much these two receive, but theirs might be the clearest cases in which restricted free agency hurts a quality player’s earning power.

Goalie

Jaroslav Halak

There’s no doubt that Antti Niemi greatly increased his value by winning the Stanley Cup, but I still think Halak impressed people the most. It’s probably more likely that the Montreal Canadiens will retain him than fellow RFA Carey Price, but you never know if someone might throw a huge offer his way. PHT readers voted for him to make between $5-$5.5 million by a small margin, but we’ll have to wait and see what the Slovakian goalie will make this summer.

Capitals accuse Letang of leaving his feet, hitting Johansson in head

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Get this: the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins seem divided on the legality of Kris Letang‘s hit on Marcus Johansson.

(Take a moment to gather your thoughts amid this shocking revelation.)

You can watch the hit over and over in the video above. This post features some takes on that check, which the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly reviewing.

Generally speaking, the three things people discuss regarding the check is how late it might be, if Letang used his feet and if Johansson’s head was the principal point of contact.

Letang told his side of the story:

The Capitals disagree:

While Barry Trotz pleads the Fifth after his previous comments about Brooks Orpik‘s suspension:

No doubt about it, Letang’s status is the top story to follow in this series between Games 3 and 4. We’ll find out soon enough how it all shakes out.

Penguins ride Murray’s masterpiece to 2-1 series lead vs. Capitals

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If Marc-Andre Fleury suiting up bothers Matt Murray, then the rookie goalie channeled those feelings into a masterful performance on Monday.

The Washington Capitals absolutely dominated Game 3, but Murray was even better, stopping 47 shots as the Penguins stole one 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.

(Capitals fans might see some parallels to Washington’s Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers; they fell 2-0 despite a 44-11 shots on goal edge thanks to Michal Neuvirth‘s heroics.)

Murray stopped chance after chance before Alex Ovechkin finally broke through for his first goal of this series. Justin Williams then brought the Penguins’ lead down to 3-2 to make for a hold-your-breath final minute.

A driven Ovechkin and strong overall play from the Capitals (despite this defeat) aren’t the only reasons why Game 4 might present some twists.

First things first: Kris Letang might get suspended for Game 4 (if not for more than one game) thanks to this controversial check on Marcus Johansson.

Beyond that, there could be some bumps and bruises from this contest.

Bryan Rust left during the first period and didn’t return to the game after blocking a shot. Brian Dumoulin seemed shaken up after an Alex Ovechkin hit in the third period. The Capitals might have a player or two to look at, as well.

In other words, the Penguins could really lack for quality defensemen with Letang possibly suspended and possible injury absences for Dumoulin and Olli Maatta.

This series is living up to the hype … and really building up the hate.

Yes, NHL is reportedly looking at Letang’s hit on Johansson

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It remains to be seen if Kris Letang will get suspended for his hit on Marcus Johansson … and if he does, for how long.

(You can read initial reactions and some analysis about the specifics of the check vs. the one that got Brooks Orpik suspended here.)

There are a few things we do know already.

For one thing, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly looking into it.

Another factor that could help Letang avoid a suspension or limit the duration of supplemental discipline: Marcus Johansson returned during the second period.

In fact, Johansson delivered some hits on Letang.

There have been some nasty moments in Game 3, and more might be coming. The Penguins lead 2-0 with a few minutes remaining in the middle frame.

Kris Letang may face suspension for hit on Marcus Johansson

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Update: Reports indicate that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is indeed looking into the hit.

***

As thrilling as this Pittsburgh Penguins – Washington Capitals series has been, it seems like every game presents another controversial hit.

Game 3’s most noteworthy entry (so far?) came when Kris Letang was whistled for interference on Marcus Johansson.

Penguins fans griped that Brooks Orpik didn’t get a major penalty for his hit on Olli Maatta … now Capitals fans likely feel the same about the check Letang delivered.

Watch it in the video above. Also, Stefanie “My Regular Face” has it in GIF form:

Things could get ugly in Game 3:

One factor in a suspension happening – or at least the duration of the suspension – would be what the point of contact was:

Also, lateness of the check:

The Penguins ended the first period up 2-0 against the Capitals, even though Washington played one of its best 20 minutes of the series. Expect more drama.

Update: The Penguins won the game 3-2.

Read reactions to the check here.