Looking ahead to 2011 free agency

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joethornton.jpgSo you’re left feeling flat and anguished by the slow, methodical process of the 2010 free agency season. It’s understandable that with Ilya Kovalchuk just having two known suitors chasing after him and other secondary free agent prizes holding tight and not rushing to go anywhere else just yet that you, the fan, might feel let down.

While your thoughts have already turned to how your team is going to do next season, are there reasons to get excited about next year’s free agency brand of Supermarket Sweep? You bet there is, and not everything will turn out to be a can of prunes either, there’s some prime pieces of steak to be had.

Anaheim: Todd Marchant, Aaron Voros, Ryan Carter, Curtis McElhinney

Atlanta: Todd White, Chris Thorburn, Eric Boulton, Brent Sopel

Boston: Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Michael Ryder, Marco Sturm, Mark Recchi, Mark Stuart

Buffalo: Tim Connolly, Mike Grier, Rob Niedermayer, Cody McCormick, Craig Rivet, Steve Montador, Patrick Lalime

Calgary: Alex Tanguay, Curtis Glencross, Steve Staios, Mark Giordano, Adam Pardy, Staffan Kronwall, Henrik Karlsson

Carolina: Erik Cole, Sergei Samsonov, Jussi Jokinen, Chad Larose, Pat Dwyer, Joni Pitkanen, Anton Babchuk, Jay Harrison

Chicago: Tomas Kopecky, Marty Reasoner

Colorado: Milan Hejduk, David Koci, Scott Hannan, Adam Foote, Craig Anderson, Peter Budaj

Columbus: Chris Clark, Ethan Moreau, Andrew Murray, Jan Hejda, Mathieu Garon

Dallas: Brad Richards, Brian Sutherby, Brandon Segal, Trevor Daley, Karlis Skrastins, Brad Lukowich, Jeff Woywitka

Detroit: Kris Draper, Patrick Eaves, Drew Miller, Nicklas Lidstrom, Jonathan Ericsson, Derek Meech, Chris Osgood, Jimmy Howard

Edmonton: Ryan Jones, Steve McIntyre, Jim Vandermeer, Jason Strudwick

Florida: Cory Stillman, Radek Dvorak, Chris Higgins, Bryan McCabe, Nathan Paetsch, Tomas Vokoun

Los Angeles: Michal Handzus, Justin Williams, Peter Harrold, Erik Ersberg

Minnesota: Chuck Kobasew, Antti Miettinen, Andrew Brunette, Josh Harding

Montreal: Mathieu Darche, Andrei Markov, Roman Hamrlik, Hal Gill, Alex Auld

Nashville: Steve Sullivan, Joel Ward, Marcel Goc, Jerred Smithson, Jamie Lundmark, Wade Belak

New Jersey: Jason Arnott, Jamie Langenbrunner, Andy Greene, Johan Hedberg

New York Islanders: P.A. Parenteau, Zenon Konopka, Trevor Gillies, Radek Martinek, Milan Jurcina, Dwayne Roloson

New York Rangers: Vaclav Prospal, Donald Brashear (yes, he’s still there), Steve Eminger

Ottawa: Alexei Kovalev, Jarkko Ruutu, Ryan Shannon, Chris Phillips, Pascal Leclaire

Philadelphia: Simon Gagne, Nikolai Zherdev, Ville Leino, Riley Cote, Sean O’Donnell, Brian Boucher

Phoenix: Radim Vrbata, Scottie Upshall, Petr Prucha, Vernon Fiddler, Andrew Ebbett, Ed Jovanovski, Ilya Bryzgalov, Jason Labarbera

Pittsburgh: Pascal Dupuis, Maxime Talbot, Michael Rupp, Eric Godard, Craig Adams

San Jose: Joe Thornton, Scott Nichol, Niclas Wallin, Kent Huskins, Jay Leach

St. Louis: David Backes, Jay Winchester, Cam Janssen, Eric Brewer, Nathan Oystrick, Ty Conklin

Tampa Bay: Mike Smith

Toronto: Fredrik Sjostrom, Tomas Kaberle

Vancouver: Darcy Hordichuk, Tanner Glass, Rick Rypien, Joel Perreault, Kevin Bieksa, Sami Salo, Christian Ehrhoff, Shane O’Brien, Andrew Alberts

Washington: Alexander Semin, Mike Knuble, Brooks Laich, Matt Bradley, Boyd Gordon, Tom Poti, John Erskine

Mind you, these are just the guys who are slated to become unrestricted free agents after next season. There’s plenty of guys who are set to become restricted free agents as well including some already huge stars in the league, but you have to presume that more often than not they’ll get deals worked out with their parent clubs somehow.

This list, however, has a lot of hope for an exciting off-season in 2011 with names like Joe Thornton, Tomas Vokoun, Brad Richards, David Backes, Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara sitting out as possibilities. If by some freakish stroke of magic all of these guys become free agents next year, we’ll have more than enough spice to keep next summer busy with rumors and speculation.

As it is, we live in the now and right now things are quiet and rather unexciting. But next year… Next year shows great promise for free agency hijinks.

Look at what Rangers are up against right now

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You have to really squint to find bright sides to look on if you’re the New York Rangers.

The Rangers are currently on a five-game losing streak and have one shabby win to show for their first eight games of 2017-18, and they’ll shortly face a challenge in the Nashville Predators, who are riding a five-game point streak (4-0-1 after losing their first two games).

With six of those eight games coming at home, the Rangers are really squandering opportunities in the malicious Metro. About the only positive things you can say boil down to: a) scrapping two “loser points” out of the past two games and b) the team at least saying the right things, as Rick Nash notes according to the New York Post’s Larry Brooks.

“The bad teams I’ve been on, guys get away from the game plan, they don’t give the effort and there’s finger-pointing, whether in the room between guys; from the coach; or in the media. That’s what happens when things get away from you as a team.

“None of that is happening here,” Nash said. “We’re together and we’re focusing on taking this one step at a time.”

They might be wise not to look at the divisional standings. Just consider some of the teams they’re up against:

Devils (12 points in 8 games): New Jersey currently has a perfect road record and a fleet of young legs, something the transitional Rangers must envy. Even if they’re likely to slip (being blanked by the Sharks could be an early sign of regression), the Devils figure to be a tougher out this season.

Penguins (11 points in 8 games): Not much needs to be said, though it’s worth noting that they’ve won three in a row.

Blue Jackets (10 points in 7 games): All signs point to former Rangers coach John Tortorella’s group being very much the threat that once surprised us.

Capitals (9 points in 8 games): Finding ways to win, and scrappy in particular on the road so far (3-1-1 away record).

Flyers (8 points in 7 games): Might be better than their record indicates, at least judging by their +9 goal differential. Philly has the potential to at least be a pesky “bubble” team.

Hurricanes (7 points in 5 games): Light early schedule might keep them under the radar, for now.

Islanders (7 points in 7 games): Mixed results might not help the Islanders retain John Tavares, but a competent Isles team would only make it tougher for the Rangers.

Yeesh, kind of discouraging, right?

The Rangers currently sit at four points in eight games played, and like this post argues, they really need to wake up soon. They’ve already played six home vs. two road contests, and they face a similar saturation of MSG going forward.

Counting today’s game hosting the rising Predators, the Rangers play the next three in a row at home. After that, they play three of four on the road, but then enjoy a three-game homestand.

So, by Nov. 11, they’ll have played 13 games at home and just five on the road.

One gets the sense that the seat is getting hotter for Alain Vigneault by the day. Fair or not, it might feel like it’s boiling if the Rangers are still a wreck in mid-November.

(If he still has a seat at the table, at all.)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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Devils fans help singer who forgot words to national anthem (Video)

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The biggest save of the night at Prudential Center on Friday didn’t come from either goaltender, but rather New Jersey Devils fans in attendance for their game against the San Jose Sharks.

Lauralie Mufute began singing the national anthem but midway through forgot the words. That’s when the crowd of 14,381 picked up where the 14-year-old left off and finished the song.

A great job by the crowd in what certainly was a terrifying moment for the young performer.

These flaps happen, as we’ve seen many times before in different situations. It’s always good to know the crowd can act as backup singers in times of need.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

The Buzzer: Ovechkin’s blast lifts Capitals in OT, Sheary speeds by Panthers

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Player of the night: Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

Alex Ovechkin has already reached double digits in goals scored in this new campaign. The Capitals’ star recorded his 10th goal of the season on Friday and it counted as the overtime winner against the Detroit Red Wings.

The Capitals trailed late in the third period, but T.J. Oshie scored the tying goal and Ovechkin won it on a power play less than two minutes into the extra period, as he deployed that famous one-timer slap shot from his off-wing. This time, Petr Mrazek was victimized by the wicked slapper.

Ovechkin is now only two goals behind the entire Montreal Canadiens team — in the same amount of games.

Highlight of the night:

What a weapon speed is in today’s National Hockey League. Conor Sheary illustrated that once again, as he saw a little bit of room down the left side and flew around Alex Petrovic before making a move to the backhand on James Reimer. That goal counted as the eventual winner, as the Penguins defeated the Panthers 4-3. Earlier in the third period, Sheary and Roberto Luongo came together near the Florida net, causing Luongo’s right hand to get caught against the post, injuring the Panthers’ netminder.

Factoid of the night:

It was a milestone night in Winnipeg for Blake Wheeler and coach Paul Maurice.

Scores:

Vancouver 4, Buffalo 2

San Jose 3, New Jersey 0

Washington 4, Detroit 3 (OT)

Pittsburgh 4, Florida 3

Winnipeg 4, Minnesota 3

Anaheim 6, Montreal 2

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Video: Price takes out his frustration, as the Habs were crushed again

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It’s gone from bad, to worse, to an absolute nightmare for the Montreal Canadiens.

A three-game trip through California is never fun for opposing teams, but this was misery for the Habs. They were outscored a combined 16-5 in three games against the Sharks, Kings and Ducks, with few, if any positives beyond the second period in a 6-2 loss in Anaheim on Friday.

Montreal hasn’t won since its season opener on Oct. 5, and is now on a seven-game losing skid, unable to generate much offensively with a league worst 10 goals scored through seven games before tonight, while giving up plenty of goals at the other end.

That is a recipe for disaster and even though it’s still early in the season, this has to be a major concern for coach Claude Julien and, in particular, general manager Marc Bergevin.

Read more: Is there a trade to be made between the Penguins and Canadiens?

Down by three after the first period, Montreal had 30 shots on goal during the middle frame and managed to trim Anaheim’s lead down to one heading into the third period. And then, just when it seemed like maybe they were on a path toward an inspirational comeback on the road, it all fell apart.

Three straight goals for Anaheim, with journeyman forward Derek Grant scoring the first two goals of his NHL career — in game No. 93.

As you can probably tell from the clip below, Carey Price was visibly irritated, as he whacked his goalie stick against the post after the sixth Anaheim goal.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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