Negotiations heat up between Gonchar, Penguins

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for gonchar.jpgMy guess – at least during the playoffs – was that Sergei Gonchar played his last game for the Pittsburgh Penguins when the team lost to Montreal in Game 7 of the second round. The chances of that being the case are still fairly high, but Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that the negotiations are heating up a bit.

He is seeking a multi-year deal, and despite publicly stating his desire to remain with the Penguins, Gonchar has not expressed a willingness to take a significant salary reduction — if any at all.

Reaching a resolution with Gonchar is the club’s top offseason priority. He is one of eight players eligible for unrestricted free agency on July 1. Gonchar is likely to be among the most attractive defensemen among a free-agent class considered strongest on the blue line.

Despite having two solid offensive defensemen in Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski, the Penguins powerplay would suffer a serious blow without Gonchar’s impressive point presence.

He logged big minutes in his time with the team, averaging no less than 24 minutes per game and peaking with an impressive 26:34 average TOI during the 2006-07 season. Gonchar produced an elite-offensive half-decade; few blueliners can match his 259 points in 322 regular season games.

I have to admit, I was a little unhappy when the Penguins originally signed the Russian D-man after the lockout (my hope was the team could snag Scott Niedermayer). Clearly, I was wrong about Gonchar, though.

The question, however, is how much longer he can pull it off for. He’s already 36-years-old, so if the Penguins lock him up for a long time they’ll have to deal with the fallout of a 35+ contract. The team has just under $11 million in cap space according to CapGeek.com (assuming the cap goes up), so it’s not impossible to think that the team will retain their crucial veteran defenseman.

It might not be impossible, but would it be smart? That’s a tough call, especially since signing Gonchar would force the Penguins to remain in a familiar place: very, very close to the salary cap ceiling.

Uh oh, Marian Hossa might be injured after awkward fall

Chicago Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa, left, talks to center Jonathan Toews during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Dallas Stars Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.

(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)

Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)

Video isn’t yet available, but My Regular Face’s GIF captures that troubling moment:

It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.

Understatement: Saturday was a rough night for Panthers

Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) checks Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
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If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.

You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.

The pain goes beyond that … literally so.

For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.

(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)

The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.

Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.

Fractured jaw from fight sidelines Chris Stewart for 4-8 weeks

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It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.

The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).

The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.

One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.

Report: Wild will tab John Torchetti as interim head coach

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As many expected, the Minnesota Wild will make John Torchetti their interim head coach, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo.

(He’s not the only one to report as much, as TSN’s Bob McKenzie also stated that he’s likely to take the job.)

The team itself hasn’t made an official announcement about Torchetti, and the reasoning is probably simple enough: he’s coaching their AHL affiliate the Iowa Wild on Saturday night.

Torchetti is no stranger to the NHL, although he’ll probably be frustrated if this opportunity doesn’t turn into a full-time gig. He was also an interim head coach for the Los Angeles Kings and Florida Panthers.

As of this writing, the Wild are in a three-way tie for the first spot outside of the West’s wild card mix, although they could sink a bit depending upon how Arizona and Vancouver handle the one game they have in hand on the Wild.

More importantly, Minnesota’s currently three points behind Nashville for the final wild card spot.

That’s not an impossible goal for Torchetti. For whatever it’s worth, Sports Club Stats gives Minnesota a 34.7 percent chance to make the playoffs.

(Note: photo via the Iowa Wild.)