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.

Penguins’ Guentzel makes ‘kick save’ to stop Capitals

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It doesn’t get much better than a player making the type of save you’d only expect from a goalie. OK, how about this: when it happens amid the high stakes of the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jake Guentzel had already been distinguishing himself with a red-hot scoring start to the postseason, but he made a big difference in a way that won’t show up in the box score (aside from maybe as a blocked shot) for Game 1 against the Washington Capitals.

In one of the few golden opportunities in a notably tight first period, Guentzel made a “kick save” to keep it 0-0. He also managed to avoid giving the Capitals a penalty shot in the process, so this was quite the effort from the impressive rookie.

Video will be added soon. Here’s the moment in GIF form first:

Lundqvist snubs Sens with 21 saves in first (Video)

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You know how goalies claim they prefer to be busy rather than risking rust in seldom seeing shots? If that’s true, Henrik Lundqvist was really, really happy in the first period.

The Ottawa Senators generated chance after chance in a busy opening frame of Game 1, generating a 21-12 shot differential against the New York Rangers. The game remains 0-0 in large part because Lundqvist has carried over his momentum from the Montreal Canadiens series so far.

As you can see from the video above, Lundqvist made some absolutely fantastic saves, especially in somehow stopping Mark Stone.

In a duller game, 21 shots on goal could a team’s entire output.

That’s impressive stuff from what appears to be a “vintage” Lundqvist. We’ll see how much more the Rangers lean on him as this one goes along.

Oh, and here’s a GIF of the best stop of the bunch, because seriously.

Kunitz is in for Penguins vs. Capitals in Game 1

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The Pittsburgh Penguins get a familiar face back in the lineup, as Chris Kunitz is good to go against the Washington Capitals in Game 1.

The 37-year-old has been sidelined since March 31, ending his regular season with just an assist in his final nine games. His last goal came on Feb. 16.

So, in other words … he’s not quite as big of a deal for this series as he had been in the past.

He’ll draw into a solid fourth line with Matt Cullen and Tom Kuhnackl, while Carter Rowney will be a healthy scratch. Check out the Penguins’ line combos heading into Thursday’s showdown:

Foligno, Getzlaf, Giordano vie for Messier Leadership Award

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The NHL announced the three finalists for the Mark Messier Leadership Award: Nick Foligno (Columbus Blue Jackets), Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks) and Mark Giordano (Calgary Flames).

In case you’re curious about the process, the league explains how it works (and how the buck stops with Messier):

Mark Messier solicits suggestions from club and League personnel as well as NHL fans to compile a list of potential candidates for the award. However, the selection of the three finalists and ultimate winner is Messier’s alone. 

So, yes, it might come down to steeliness/60.

Anyway, the most fun part of this award is that Getzlaf and Giordano just engaged in a first-round series, with Getzlaf’s hit on Giordano (see above) being one of the standout moments.

Perhaps Giordano will at least get the best of Getzlaf in this one?