The NCAA today announced two future dates for college hockey’s Frozen Four and if you’re living in the northeast you may want to start gearing up to spend a lot of time in the Quaker State come 2013 and 2014.
The NCAA has awarded the 2013 Frozen Four to Pittsburgh and the 2014 event to Philadelphia, marking the first time each site has been selected to host college hockey’s signature event.
It’s the first time the Frozen Four will be in the same state in consecutive years since 1973 and 1974, when the tournament was in Boston.
“The number of quality bids submitted made the process of choosing the host sites extremely difficult for the committee,” Bill Bellerose, chair of the Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Committee, said in a statement. “We are extremely pleased with every aspect of both winning bids — from the venue, to the community support to the cities themselves, everything will be first-class. We are confident both sites will put forth the ultimate championship experience for the student-athletes and fans alike.”
Choosing Pittsburgh is an inspired selection as the Pittsburgh Penguins have gotten the city excited about hockey once again but also the host school, Robert Morris University, has hosted a college hockey showcase at the Igloo the last few years to drum up interest in the sport there. Having it be at the new Consol Energy Center with all sorts of new amenities therein helps make the choice a no-brainer.
Philadelphia is a bit more of a curious selection as no college hockey program is located in eastern Pennsylvania. With the ECAC as the host for the 2014 event, it’s clear that the league’s ties to Atlantic City for their tournament and Princeton University in northern New Jersey are helping make it a bit more logical. Then again, the NCAA hasn’t worried about team locations much in the past having held it the Frozen Four in Anaheim and St. Louis and will hold it in Tampa Bay in 2012. At least next year’s Frozen Four makes sense as it’ll be at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The mention of Massachusetts being the last state to host back-to-back Frozen Fours is at least a little eyebrow-perking on its own because the city of Boston hasn’t hosted a Frozen Four since 2004. Before that it was 1998 when it wasn’t even referred to as the Frozen Four. Considering that Boston is the home of three major college hockey programs (Boston University, Boston College, Northeastern University) and Harvard University is across the river in Cambridge it might feel logical to have it there more often than not. Now, it’ll be at least until 2015 until Boston gets another shot to host.
The New York Islanders made a splash on Friday, signing veteran forward Cal Clutterbuck to a five-year, $17.5 million extension — one that carries a $3.5 million average annual cap hit through 2023.
Clutterbuck, 29, has two goals and nine points through 25 games this year, while averaging 15:26 TOI per night (his highest average since joining the Isles four years ago). As per usual, he leads the club in hits — one of the staples of his game — and serves as one of the club’s alternate captains.
This new contract represents a nice raise for the former Minnesota Wild man. His last contract, set to expire in July, was of the four-year, $11 million variety, and carried a $2.75 million cap hit.
This contract also resembles the one GM Garth Snow gave another of the club’s role forwards. This summer, Casey Cizikas signed a five-year, $16.75 million extension — one with a $3.35 million hit — despite the fact he’d never scored more than 30 points in a season, or averaged more than 14 minutes of ice time.
This style of spending — along with splashes made for free agent disappointments Jason Chimera and Andrew Ladd — is sure to raise some questions. The Isles opted not to spend that money on retaining two of their key players from a season ago, Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo, and the club has struggled to find its form through the first quarter of this year.
Don’t expect a big jump in next season’s salary cap.
“We’re not going to give out any numbers now,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said yesterday, per Yahoo Sports. “The cap could range from where it is now to a couple or so million up, but we’re all going to have to focus on what makes the most sense moving forward.”
The salary cap only went up slightly for the current season, from $71.4 million to $73 million. The only slight increase was due to the lower Canadian dollar, which negatively impacted last season’s league revenues by “$100 or 200 million,” Bettman said earlier this year.
The loonie has been holding relatively steady for around half a year. It’s currently worth $0.76 USD and has been helped by the recent oil rally.
A flat salary cap would be bad news for big spenders like the Chicago Blackhawks, who still need to get Artemi Panarin signed to an extension. The Los Angeles Kings could also be forced to make some tough decisions, as they’ve got Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson in need of new deals. Ditto for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have key RFAs in Brian Dumoulin, Justin Schultz, and Conor Sheary.
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Henrik Lundqvist has set such a high bar that his 12-8-1 record with a .912 save percentage is cause for great concern these days in New York.
That his backup, Antti Raanta, is 6-1-0 with a .932 save percentage only contributes to that concern, because if Raanta can manage those numbers, what’s Lundqvist’s excuse?
“I feel like I’m tracking the puck well, moving well,” Lundqvist told the Daily News. “It just comes down to some bad decisions at times that cost me.”
Indeed, December has not started well for The King. He’s allowed 10 goals in three starts for a save percentage of .894. In Tuesday’s 4-2 loss to the Islanders, his decision to poke check a loose puck led to the winning goal by Andrew Ladd.
But while this month has been a struggle, it should be noted that Lundqvist was mostly excellent in November. He finished with a .925 save percentage, including that 40-save victory on Black Friday in Philadelphia.
Which is to say, he has more than earned the benefit of the doubt. Since 2008-09, Lundqvist has not finished a season with a save percentage below .920, and that is a remarkable achievement.
Raanta was solid again last night in Winnipeg, where the Rangers beat the Jets, 2-1. A starting goalie for tonight’s game in Chicago has not yet been announced, but Lundqvist is a good bet.
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Kyle Connor is on his way to the minors.
On Friday, Winnipeg announced that Connor — the former Michigan Wolverines star taken 17th overall in 2015 — has been assigned to the club’s AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose.
Connor, 19, had just one goal and four points through 19 games this year, struggling to adjust to life at the professional level.
He’d been a healthy scratch for each of the Jets’ last six games and, prior to that, missed five games with an upper-body injury after getting nailed into the boards by L.A. forward Kyle Clifford.
The Jets are getting healthy up front, which further explains why Connor is on his way to the Moose. Bryan Little and Mathieu Perreault both recently returned from injury.