An increase in the NHL salary cap far from a sure thing

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Fehr.jpgWith all of this talk about teams making trades for salary cap
purposes and the hand wringing that is taking place over a team’s salary
situation, it’s important to note a few things.

First, we get all
over our salary information from CapGeek.com, what I feel is the best
source for cap information that can be found on the web. Secondly, all
of this talk about just how far under — or over — a team is relative
to the salary is using the same cap that was in place last season: $56.8
million.

That’s not going to be the same next season. Since we
don’t know exactly what the change will be we can only go by what the
cap currently is. So what will the change be?

The first option is
for the cap to be raised yet again — this time to $58.8 million. That
may not sound like that much, but that extra $2 million is a big deal
for many teams, and could be the difference between a league-minimum
entry-level player and a significant upgrade via free agency.

The
other option is more dire: the cap would actually drop by $200,000,
leaving a number of teams in a lurch. You would think that the cap going
up would be the ideal situation for all involved and especially the
players — not so, says
James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail.

Mirtle paints an
interesting picture as the NHL Players Association gets set to meet in
Chicago on Monday, as the players must vote on whether to raise the cap
without a formal director in place. Donald Fehr will be in attendance,
and there are many who think he’s the right man for the job, but some
say he may decide not to take the position if he sees another bout of
in-fighting within the union.

Says one agent, per James Mirtle:

“He’s
either going to take the position that he’s going to evaluate what
the players decide and that will affect in turn his decision, or he
will urge the players to take the [cap] escalator, extend the
[collective agreement] and then if they don’t go along with that vote,
he knows where he stands and he’ll check out,” said one agent who asked
to remain unidentified.

There’s no doubt that the NHLPA needs a strong
leader, and despite fears that Fehr taking the job would lead to another
lockout he’s experienced when it comes to helping rebuild a player’s
association — and the NHLPA is a mess.

So why would the players
not want to approve the spike in the salary cap? The issue, says Mirtle,
is escrow payments.

If the cap is raised and most teams spend to
that limit, then it’s likely that once again the NHL would outspend
revenues and the players will see another big chunk of change withheld
from their paychecks. If this is the overwhelming fear, then the players
will vote against the cap increase and teams will be forced to dump
salary and not spend as much in free agency.

This is where the
in-fighting comes in and where a director is most needed: the escrow
payments are effecting the players that already have long, expensive
contracts while the drop in the salary cap will seriously impact pending
free agents in a very negative way. Having a director like Fehr in
place would head off these issues at the pass and give the NHLPA the
stabilizing factor it so desperately needs; unfortunately he hasn’t
decided if he wants the job just yet.

Ultimately, it’s in the best interested of the NHLPA to vote for
the increase and extend the CBA, and it’s the consensus among the agents
that this is what is best for the players. Every season another round
of players become free agents and every year another group of players
benefits from the cap increase. Either the players can decide to be
greedy now, or decide on what is best for the NHLPA in the long run.

NBC and NBCSN have you covered for Hockey Day in America

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With two games on NBC and then two more on NBCSN, your Sunday should be jam-packed with Hockey Day in America action. A look at the hockey hotbed of Warroad, Minnesota adds a delectable cherry on top, too.

If you need a guide to this party of pucks and patriotism, look no further than this post.

Washington Capitals at New York Rangers, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC

John Carlson, T.J. Oshie and the dominant Capitals take on Ryan McDonagh and the Blueshirts. The Metropolitan Division represents some of the NHL’s upper crust, so don’t be fooled by the Rangers being the first wild card while the Caps are tops in the East; both of these teams can go. Kenny Albert and Brian Boucher will be there to call the action.

MORE: For Oshie, ties to Warroad run deep

Detroit Red Wings at Pittsburgh Penguins, 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC

Mike “Doc” Emrick and Eddie Olczyk will be in the booth for this battle between teams that met in back-to-back Stanley Cup Final series in 2008 and 2009. Along with usual suspects like Sidney Crosby and Henrik Zetterberg, these teams feature American scorers such as Dylan Larkin and, of course, Phil Kessel.

Chicago Blackhawks at Buffalo Sabres, 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN

The action shifts to NBCSN as Patrick Kane and the Blackhawks hope to teach Jack Eichel and the upstart Sabres a lesson or two. The Blackhawks are in playoff position, as usual, while Buffalo is rallying to try to make a push of its own. Gord Miller and Joe Micheletti will be your guides.

MORE: Islanders forward Brock Nelson’s journey from Warroad to the NHL

Boston Bruins at San Jose Sharks, 8:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Hockey Day in America’s coverage closes off with this matchup between David Backes‘ Bruins and Joe Pavelski‘s Sharks. Randy Hahn, Andy Brickley and Bret Hedican will take you through this match between the Pacific Division’s top team and a Bruins team fighting to stick in the East playoff picture.

Barkov’s beautiful goal pushes Panthers into playoff position

SUNRISE, FL - NOVEMBER 26: Aleksander Barkov #16 of the Florida Panthers circles the net with the puck against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the BB&T Center on November 26, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida. The Panthers defeated the Blue Jackets 2-1 in a shoot out. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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The Florida Panthers just won’t be denied as they end the night in the East’s top eight.

It’s fitting, then, that Aleksander Barkov wouldn’t be denied on his game-winner against Los Angeles on Saturday.

Barkov bursts beyond multiple Kings, fights off what would have been an obstruction penalty and then beats Peter Budaj by the narrowest of margins to give the Panthers a 3-2 lead 15 seconds into the third period. They would never relinquish that edge to Los Angeles, winning their fourth game in a row.

In the process, the Panthers – a team that seemed to be fledgling when it fired Gerard Gallant – now find themselves in the East’s top eight. Heck, they’re actually above the wild card fray by a hair.

Before we get to that … just bask in the glow of this Barkov goal:

Again, it was such a small window to beat Budaj, too:

(If the Panthers’ place in the standings doesn’t sway you into taking them seriously, maybe note plays like that and the fact that Barkov has 20 points in his last 17 games.)

OK, so with this win, the Panthers did some serious leapfrogging. They now rank third in the Atlantic Division (thanks to a game in hand on Boston) and have more points than Toronto as far as wild card concerns go, anyway.

Atlantic Division rankings

1. Canadiens – 70 points in 59 games
2. Senators – 68 points in 56 games
3. Panthers – 64 points in 57 games

Bruins – 64 in 58
Maple Leafs – 63 in 47
Sabres – 62 in 59
Lightning – 58 in 57
Red Wings – 56 in 58

From a wild card perspective

Third in Atlantic – Panthers – 64 points in 57 games
Second wild card – Bruins – 64 in 58

Maple Leafs – 63 in 47
Islanders – 62 in 57
Sabres – 62 in 59
Flyers – 61 in 58
Devils – 60 in 58
Lightning – 58 in 57
Hurricanes – 56 in 54
Red Wings – 56 in 58

Everything’s so close that the Panthers can’t pop champagne bottles, but they’re also very much in control over their hopes. While it never hurts to see your competitors stumble, the Panthers can take care of business. They “control their own destiny,” to use silly sports parlance.

And considering how they’ve been playing lately, they might be as tough to handle in the playoffs as Barkov was to stop on that outstanding 3-2 goal.

Stars made Dave Strader’s return to the booth special

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via Dallas Stars
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It was a special night as the Dallas Stars beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 in overtime, but the most memorable moment wasn’t the win or Antoine Roussel‘s hat trick.

Instead, it was how the team embraced Dave Strader’s return to the broadcasting booth as he continues to fight cancer.

Don’t be ashamed if his comments to the Dallas Morning News leave you emotional:

“This is the first time, to be honest with you, that for four hours I didn’t feel like I was sick at all,” Strader said after the game. “Maybe it was the adrenaline high, but I really, really feel great right now.”

Again, the team really did some great things to welcome him back, but the highlight was saluting him after the game. Incredible stuff.

“What a gesture by the boys … meant so much to me and my wife! Thank you.” Strader tweeted after the game.

As this post notes, Strader is expected to do play-by-play for four more Stars games.

Add allowing center-ice goal to Brian Elliott’s rough season

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So far, there’s just one goal in tonight’s Calgary Flames – Vancouver Canucks game. And it wasn’t a good one.

The Canucks couldn’t manage a shot on goal for more than half of the first period, maybe putting Brian Elliott to sleep … as Alexander Edler scored the 1-0 goal from center ice on Vancouver’s first shot that actually got on net. Ouch.

It’s already been a tough season for Brian Elliott, who came into Saturday with an .898 save percentage.

Elliott was perfect through the rest of the first two periods, so we’ll see if Calgary can overcome that gaffe.

Update: The Canucks ended up winning 2-1 in overtime. Ryan Miller was the better of the two goalies in this one.