Could fallen stars Cheechoo, Kariya and Tanguay be worth a look?

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tanguayshoots.jpgWhile tomorrow’s “free agent frenzy” should provide plenty of splashy moves and interesting deals, there is a slight sense that most NHL teams made it to the buffet table after Overeaters Anonymous already ran wild on the good stuff. Aside from the soon-to-be-rich(er) Ilya Kovalchuk, most of the restricted and unrestricted free agents are far from marquee talent.

So teams in need of offense might have to go to the bargain bin (I mean, unless they wildly overpay one of these guys). It can be awfully risky to hope that a player discovers the Hockey Fountain of Youth, but if a fallen star is willing to take less years and salary to attempt a career re-boot, everyone can win. It usually doesn’t work out that way, but every once in a while you see a situation like Teemu Selanne returning to Anaheim to light up the league.

Let’s take a look at three stars-turned-fringe-NHL’ers and see who might make sense.

Paul Kariya – While people rattle of names like Wade Redden and Cristobal Huet, I noted that Kariya flew under the radar as someone who practically stole money from his team. Kariya didn’t justify his $6 million cap hit during a single season in St. Louis, suffering from injuries and his own indifference in three mediocre campaigns. The small winger doesn’t have any jam to his game and won’t help you on defense, so you basically have to hope that he could score a lot at a low price. He’s also set to turn 36 in the 10-11 season, so a team better not give him more than two years.Thumbnail image for Kariya.jpg

I’m not a Kariya fan, but I guess it’s not impossible for him to flourish if someone talented was “baby birding” him points.

Jonathan Cheechoo – Cheechoo is a member of the “Joe Thornton Millionaire’s Club”, standing alongside such luminaries as Sergei Samsonov. There are two things that explain the winger’s plunge from a 56-goal Maurice Richard season: 1) no longer playing with Thornton and 2) injury troubles. It’s difficult to argue with Ken Warren of the Ottawa Citizen, who says that his career in the NHL is likely over.

Alex Tanguay – When the Tampa Bay Lightning landed Tanguay for what seemed like a frugal $2.5 million, I thought it would be one of the best bargains of last summer. Instead, he languished with a career-worst 37 point campaign. He’s now three seasons removed from being a point-per-game player and, like Kariya, doesn’t bring much to the table when he isn’t producing points. Still, I think if he takes a direction that Kariya should look into (going for a one-year, dirt-cheap retribution deal), he might just rejuvenate his flailing career.

While Cheechoo looks done, Tanguay and Kariya should be able to find at least a couple semi-interested suitors. Should your team go after one of these low-rent former stars? Tell us in the comments.

Pens coach praises Murray: ‘He doesn’t get rattled’

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Hot take: the Pittsburgh Penguins probably won’t deal with a goalie controversy going into Game 7.

(Ugh, that’s a failed hot take … you can’t use “probably” in those things, right?)

Matt Murray was fantastic at times during Game 6, much like his counterpart in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s net in a 5-2 win. Granted, there were some tense moments during the Bolts’ late-game push:

Much has been made about experience, especially from those calling for Marc-Andre Fleury earlier in this series. It’s telling that the praise Murray draws sure sounds like what you’d expect from a “veteran.”

“He has a calming influence,” Sullivan said. “He doesn’t get rattled. If he lets a goal in, he just continues to compete. That’s usually an attribute that usually takes years to acquire that, and to have it at such a young age is impressive.”

Thanks in part to Murray’s efforts in Game 6, he’ll get a chance to prove his resolve in something new: a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Final.

Once again, his teammates seem pretty confident in this elimination situation.

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal

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The Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to sleepwalk through the first two periods of Game 6, and waking up in the final frame wasn’t enough to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins.

On the bright side, at least the Lightning aren’t in denial about that weak first 40 minutes.

It seemed like everyone on the team more or less admitted as much in unison.

Brian Boyle added that he felt like the Lightning tiptoed around this game. Jon Cooper often provides great quips, yet he was pretty matter-of-fact in this case.

Many will linger on this disallowed goal for Jonathan Drouin, which would have provided a 1-0 lead for Tampa Bay in the first period.

Let’s face it; that moment came pretty early in the game. To Tampa Bay’s credit, they’re not pinning the loss on that setback.

Now they must set their sights on competing throughout Game 7 … and maybe earning some bounces of their own in the process.

Read more about Game 6 here.

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

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The Pittsburgh Penguins played with fire late in Game 6, but they also showed plenty of fire in beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2.

With that, this thrilling Eastern Conference Final will go the distance with Game 7 on Thursday.

There are at least a few “What if?” scenarios to consider, especially for the Lightning.

What if that offside goal counted?

Jonathan Drouin played some fantastic hockey on Tuesday, yet his most memorable moment came via something that ultimately “didn’t happen.” An offside call on a goal review kept a 1-0 lead from happening for Tampa Bay:

Instead, the Penguins poured it on during the first period and eventually went up 1-0. They then carried that momentum over through the second period, adding two more goals to go up 3-0 heading into the final frame.

What if Tampa Bay played more like they did in the third period?

The difference between the level of play in the first 40 minutes and the final frame were night-and-day.

Now, you can make a chicken-and-the-egg argument here. Did the Penguins take their feet off the gas with that lead? Maybe Jon Cooper finally unleashed the hounds when the Lightning were facing a big deficit?

Maybe it’s a combination of those factors; either way, the Bolts couldn’t come all the way back even after making it interesting. At one point the game was 3-2 before a Bryan Rust breakaway goal and an empty-netter put things out of reach.

Both Matt Murray and Andrei Vasilevskiy faced plenty of tough chances and came through more often than not. We’ll see if there are any goal controversy rumblings, but each netminder came through at times tonight.

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Now the series shifts back to Pittsburgh for Game 7 with a Stanley Cup Final on the line. Excited and/or nervous yet?

More: Great goals by Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel.

Sidney Crosby scores a superstar goal

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With the Pittsburgh Penguins’ season on the line in Game 6, plenty of eyes are on big guns Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Phil Kessel.

Those marquee names are really coming through so far as they’ve now built a 3-0 lead through two periods against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You likely already saw Kessel’s display of high-end hand-eye coordination (if not, check it here). Kris Letang scored his first goal of the series to make it 2-0 on a very tricky, well-placed shot.

The highlight really might be Crosby’s tally, though. He left multiple Lightning players baffled and beat a very-much-game Andrei Vasilevskiy to beef that lead up 3-0.