Could the Penguins sign Dan Hamhuis and Sergei Gonchar?


Thumbnail image for hamhuishitsla.jpgTo be honest, when I heard the news that the Penguins traded for Dan Hamhuis’ negotiating rights, I figured that signaled the end of Sergei Gonchar’s days in Pittsburgh. Apparently that might not be the case, though, as the team hopes to sign both. Shelly Anderson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has the story.

It’s a vision the Penguins like. A lot. They will find out soon if they can bring it to life.

They see a defense that includes Sergei Gonchar, Dan Hamhuis, Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski as their top five. They are willing to sacrifice bringing in a high-profile winger or two this offseason to turn it into reality.

“That would be the way we would go with our team, with the strength on defense,” general manager Ray Shero said Saturday. “We would go with the guys we have up front and give some needed opportunity to some younger players.”

At first I thought that was little more than “in an ideal world” talk, but after glancing at the Penguins salary cap situation at CapGeek, they might actually be able to swing it. They have most of the team set already (12 forwards if you count Eric Tangradi, four defensemen and two goalies) and about $11.25 million in cap space. My guess is that would be enough to lock the two blueliners down, plus a few minimum salary reserves.

On the bright side, the Penguins would boast one of of the best defensive units in the East. They’d have a nice mixture of defense-first guys (Hamhuis, Brooks Orpik) and offensive-leaning types (Gonchar, Kris Letang, Alex Goligoski). That’s as versatile as any group in the league.

The negative end, though, is that Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin would have to slum it with weak wingers for yet another season. Then again, the free agent crop isn’t exactly rich this year, so maybe that is a minor quibble.

Of course, there’s no guarantee the Penguins will end up with either Gonchar or Hamhuis. They’re set to hit the free agent market if Pittsburgh fails to sign them by Thursday and it’s quite possible that they’re the top two defensemen available.

What do you think? Should the Penguins sacrifice forward depth to load up their defense? If they only could sign one, should it be Gonchar or Hamhuis? Or should they let them both go? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Animal activists protest Ducks’ Stoner over grizzly bear hunt

Keith Fialcowitz
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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — A small group of vocal protesters gathered outside Honda Center on Monday night to call for the suspension of Anaheim Ducks defenseman Clayton Stoner, who faces charges in Canada of illegally obtaining a license to shoot a grizzly bear.

While Ducks fans entered the rink for their home opener against Vancouver, about 20 protesters held signs and shouted slogans condemning Stoner. He faces five charges related to the 2013 hunt on British Columbia’s central coast.

“Killing is not a sport! Play a real sport!” the protesters shouted in unison. “Shame on the Ducks!”

Judie Mancuso, the president of Social Compassion in Legislation, compared Stoner to quarterback Michael Vick and Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer, whose killing of a beloved lion in Zimbabwe sparked an international outcry.

“The entire globe is against trophy hunting right now,” Mancuso said. “If most of these hockey fans understood that was the issue, I think most of them would be on our side.”

Wildlife groups and First Nations leaders have been outraged by Stoner’s killing of the bear, named Cheeky. Stoner defended his actions at the time when graphic photos of the kill were publicized, but he hasn’t commented recently.

The protesters were serenaded by chants of Stoner’s name by many fans, while others stopped to look at the signs. Mancuso said her group hopes to raise awareness of Stoner’s legal troubles.

“If people didn’t have outrage with the NFL, Michael Vick would have gotten away with it,” Mancuso said. “The only way that anything is going to happen is if we do this. If there’s not public outcry, nothing is going to happen, so we’ve got to try.”

Stoner grew up on Vancouver Island, but hasn’t lived in the province full-time for several years, which authorities say made him ineligible for the hunting license used to take the bear. He played for the Minnesota Wild at the time of the shooting.

Stoner faces two counts of knowingly making a false statement to obtain a hunting license and one count apiece of hunting without a license, hunting out of season and unlawful possession of dead wildlife. His case is set for Nov. 13 in Vancouver.

The 30-year-old Stoner was in the Ducks’ lineup for their home opener, and he fought Brandon Prust in the opening minutes. Stoner is beginning his sixth full NHL season and his second with Anaheim after signing a four-year, $13 million deal as a free agent before last season.

Related: Ducks d-man Stoner charged with unlawful grizzly bear hunt

NHL on NBCSN: Red Wings face Lightning in ’15 playoff rematch

Steven Stamkos, Henrik Zetterberg
AP Photo

NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2015-16 campaign tonight when the Detroit Red Wings host the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can stream the game online here.

The Lightning made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in 2015, but their journey almost ended in the first round at the hands of the Red Wings. Detroit shutout Tampa Bay twice in that series and the two squads were locked in a scoreless tie until the third period of Game 7.

Despite the fact that the Red Wings were a mere hair away from advancing instead of Tampa Bay, the Lightning are often mentioned as serious Cup contenders while Detroit is typically regarded as a good, but not amazing team. However, that gap isn’t entirely unjustified.

After all, Tampa Bay has a very effective core of forwards that features Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, and Ondrej Palat. If the highly regarded Jonathan Drouin, 20, is able to build off of his strong start to the 2015-16 campaign then the Lightning’s offense could be even more dangerous this season.

Detroit certainly has some offensive star power too in Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, but the duo is 35 and 37 years old respectively. On top of that, injuries have been a recurring issue for Datsyuk, who isn’t expected to make his season debut until November after undergoing ankle surgery.

As good as those two forwards still are, the Red Wings have to hope that their younger players will be able to lead the charge sooner rather than later. The good news is that 19-year-old Dylan Larkin‘s campaign is off to a strong start with three points in two games while 23-year-old Teemu Pulkkinen scored twice on Saturday.

The Red Wings have opened the season with back-to-back wins against Toronto and Carolina, but tonight’s game represents their biggest test to date. Meanwhile, the Lightning are similarly undefeated after three games, but this contest will be particularly trying for them given that it’s their third game in four days.