Bruins off-season still incomplete, drastic decisions lie ahead?

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Savard2.jpgThe Boston Bruins off-season hasn’t been lacking on intrigue. From the quest to pick Tyler Seguin at #2 overall in the draft, to the rumors about where centerman Marc Savard could end up to the pressing need to get their salary cap in better functioning order, the drama has been at a high this year. Bruins beat writer from The Boston Globe, Fluto Shinzawa, still sees some big moves ahead and his thoughts on what could be done to help get things straightened out are worth taking note of.

The first question is, what to do with Marc Savard? This off-season leading up until the start of free agency was ripe with rumors about Savard being traded to either Toronto or Ottawa because Savard’s no-trade clause got tighter on July 1. So what can the Bruins do if they get too frustrated by the no-trade clause and want to make room for Tyler Seguin?

But the Bruins could widen the scope by taking a drastic route: threatening to place Savard on waivers, thereby giving 29 teams, starting with Edmonton, a crack at claiming the center and rendering his no-trade irrelevant. It would be a last-resort move that would see a point-per-game center walk for nothing, with cap relief being the only benefit.

This would be a shocking development and add another level of eyebrow-raising fascination to this situation if it played out this way. After all, Savard took a below-market contract extension with the Bruins rather than become a free agent this summer because he wanted to finish his career in Boston. If the Bruins got so desperate to move him that they put him on waivers just to avoid his no-trade clause, the after-effects this would have on the Bruins organization would be drastic. Look at it this way, if you’re a player looking to sign with a team as a free agent and you want a no-trade clause in your deal, would you want to go to Boston knowing that they rather dishonorably found a way around Savard’s NTC? I don’t think so.

On the other side of things, the Bruins have $4 million tied up with right wing Michael Ryder. His streaky play and inconsistent goal scoring ability are sources of frustration for Bruins fans and brass alike. The Bruins are a bit hard up against the cap with still a few more restricted free agents to get signed. Fluto’s got the plan to help free up some money the hard way.

Assign Michael Ryder to Providence. Because [Blake] Wheeler and [Greg] Campbell filed for arbitration, there will be a second buyout window later this summer. But the Bruins will not buy out the $4 million remaining on Ryder’s contract. That would be $1.33 million of dead money applied toward the cap in each of the next two years. Far more palatable cap-wise to send Ryder to the AHL, much like the route Peter Schaefer took two years ago.

Obviously, if Ryder went to the AHL, he’d be there to stay because trying to bring him back up would cause a couple of problems. He could be claimed by another team and then the Bruins would be paying Ryder $2 million to score goals for someone else or he gets brought up and the Bruins cap situation potentially gets re-blown up by having him there. If you’re a Boston fan and you’re worried that the off-season has been boring, just hang on for a while, business might just pick up a bit.

Eddie Lack expects to be released from hospital on Monday night

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As scary as the situation was for Carolina Hurricanes goalie Eddie Lack, the good news continues to pour in.

First, the Hurricanes provided an update that he had “full feeling in his extremities” while under observation at a hospital. This followed the promising sign that he was able to give a “thumbs up” gesture while being taken off the ice on a stretcher after the Hurricanes’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

The best news came late on Monday night, however, as Lack himself tweeted that he expects to head back home as early as this late evening/early morning:

That’s fantastic news. Video of that scary collision with Andreas Athanasiou can be seen in the video above this post’s headline.

Blues, Flames take care of business (Islanders … do not)

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For a while there, it seemed like the idle Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs would be Monday’s “winners.” That changed when the Carolina Hurricanes salvaged a standings point and the Tampa Bay Lightning stormed back to beat the Blackhawks.

Still, there were some teams who came through (beyond the Lightning) and those who fell flat, so let’s cover some of the results in short.

West teams get it done

Unlike their counterparts out East, West teams jockeying for position avoided “unforced errors” in losing to non-playoff teams.

The St. Louis Blues beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-1 while the Calgary Flames topped the Colorado Avalanche 4-2. Johnny Gaudreau generated his 200th point (and 201st) in Calgary’s win, while Alex Steen generated four assists. (Vladimir Tarasenko also enjoyed a three-point night.)

This keeps the Blues and Flames in position to advance. St. Louis is one point behind the Nashville Predators for third in the Central while the Flames are a point behind both the Sharks and Oilers for second and third in the Pacific (while remaining in shouting distance of the division title).

East teams stumble, some get over it

Again, the Lightning fought through hurdles to win and the Hurricanes managed that “charity point.”

Overall, East teams struggled. The New York Islanders fell to the Predators by a score of 3-1. Your mileage may vary on the Florida Panthers’ chances, especially after they fell 4-2 to the Buffalo Sabres.

Brian Gionta scored in his 1,000th game as Buffalo won, by the way.

Here’s what the race for the final spot in the East looks like after tonight:

Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

Victor Hedman might just force his way into the Norris argument

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For quite some time this season, the Norris Trophy race felt a bit like “Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson and [insert token finalist].” As it turns out, Victor Hedman is making it a pretty interesting three-horse race.

With Burns and Karlsson idle on Monday, Hedman continued to go on the best offensive tear of his already-impressive career, contributing three assists to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 5-4 overtime win against the Chicago Blackhawks.

As much credit as forwards Nikita Kucherov and Jonathan Drouin deserve in pushing Tampa Bay in Steven Stamkos‘ absence, Hedman has been an all-world blueliner for a Lightning team with a defense that isn’t really surrounding him with great talent.

He’s serving as a workhorse when his team needs him the most:

Now, when you look at the numbers, it’s probably fair to say that Hedman comes in third among the likely finalists in simple categories:

Brent Burns: 27 goals (!), 72 points in 75 games, +16 rating, 24:52 time-on-ice average

Erik Karlsson: 14 goals, 67 points in 74 games, +7, 26:53 minutes per game (fourth highest average in the NHL)

Victor Hedman: 15 goals, 65 points in 72 games, +2 rating, came into Monday with average of 24:15 minutes per game.

Looking at those breakdowns, you might wonder why someone wouldn’t just flippantly hand Hedman the “bronze medal” and a pat on the back … but things get more interesting if you ponder the all-around impact of those three.

Now, traditional-thinkers who slam risky defensemen for their mistakes often overstate such arguments. Both Burns and Karlsson tilt the ice in their teams’ favors, usually to profound degrees.

Still … Hedman locks opponents down to a truly elite degree and scores at a similar rate. Hedman could very well own the “two-way” argument; you could perhaps see his case most clearly when you compare his “HERO” chart to those of Burns and Karlsson, especially from the perspective of conceding shots.

Again, Burns remains the likely winner, and he would be a deserving one. You could make a solid Hart Trophy argument for Burns, in addition to tabbing him as the Norris frontrunner.

Even so, voters would be wise to take Hedman’s case seriously, especially as the Lightning continue their improbable playoff push.

Lightning storm back against Blackhawks, finish one point out of playoffs

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Who would have thought that the Tampa Bay Lightning would rally back from a 4-1 deficit tonight? Then again, who expected them to be so close to a playoff spot mere weeks ago, when they were sellers at the trade deadline?

The Lightning continue to show that they won’t just roll over and die, scoring four unanswered goals to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 in overtime on Monday.

While Jonathan Drouin was a catalyst for the second-period rally, it was an unlikely scorer who clinched the victory, as Yanni Gourde ended a thrilling run of 3-on-3 chances with the overtime-winner.

Really, it might have been fitting. Things looked glum when Tomas Jurco scored his first goal of the season against the Lightning, then the mood was totally flipped when Gourde’s second tally of 2016-17 grabbed a huge win.

With the Islanders losing to the Predators, the Hurricanes only managing a “loser point” against the Red Wings and the Bruins idle, Tampa Bay is a breath away from a playoff berth:

Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

Yes, all of a sudden, a long-shot postseason run seems quite attainable.

Maybe the Lightning would prefer it if we kept counting them out, though?