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.

The Buzzer: McDavid dominates; Fleury’s unlucky return

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Player Of The Night: Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers have at least started to show some signs of life in recent games. They were shutout on Sunday night in Toronto, but sandwiched around that game were a convincing 6-2 win in Montreal and then a thoroughly dominating 7-2 win in Columbus on Tuesday night that left Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella completely speechless.

Leading the way for the Oilers was captain Connor McDavid as he went off with a four-point night.

The four points are a season high for him and the fifth time this season he has recorded at least three points.

That performance gives him 39 points in 31 games on the season and currently has him third in the NHL scoring race, three points behind Tampa Bay Lightning teammates Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos.

Marc-Andre Fleury Probably Deserved Better In His Return To The Lineup

Marc-Andre Fleury made is return to the Vegas Golden Knights net and looked great, stopping 35 of the 37 shots he faced. Unfortunately that was not enough to get Vegas a win as they fell in a shootout to the Carolina Hurricanes, 3-2.

One of those two shots in regulation that beat him? It was this.

That is unfortunate.

Still, that is another point for Vegas as they continue their push for a playoff spot in the Western Conference during their inaugural season in the NHL.

Highlight Of The Night

The Philadelphia Flyers were 4-2 winners over the Toronto Maple Leafs and have now, suddenly, won four games in a row following a 10-game losing streak.

They picked up the winner on Tuesday thanks to this goal that featured a crazy between-the-legs pass.

Highlight Of The Night Part Two

Now let us take a look at Johnny Gaudreau from the Calgary Flames. This came in a losing effort in the shootout but this is still a slick move. Maybe illegal? Either way, it counted.

Factoid(s) Of The Night

— By stopping all 32 shots he faced against the St. Louis Blues, Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy picked up his 20th win of the season. He is just the sixth goalie in NHL history to win at least 20 games within his first 25 starts of a season. [NHL Public Relations]

Matt Cullen scored his 250th career goal in the Minnesota Wild’s 2-1 shootout win over the Calgary Flames, making him the 29th American-born player in NHL history to reach that mark. [Minnesota Wild PR]

— Carolina Hurricanes goalies Cam Ward recorded his 300th career win on Tuesday night in their 3-2 shootout win over the Vegas Golden Knights. He is the fifth active goaltender to reach that mark. [NHL Public Relations]

Scores

Buffalo Sabres 3, Ottawa Senators 2

New Jersey Devils 5, Los Angeles Kings 1

Philadelphia Flyers 4, Toronto Maple Leafs 2

Washington Capitals 5, Colorado Avalanche 2

Edmonton Oilers 7, Columbus Blue Jackets 2

Tampa Bay Lightning 3, St. Louis Blues 0

Minnesota Wild 2, Calgary Flames 1

Chicago Blackhawks 3, Florida Panthers 2

Carolina Hurricanes 3, Vegas Golden Knights 2

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Vasilevskiy shines again as Lightning take top spot in NHL

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Tuesday’s game in St. Louis was a showdown featuring the top two teams in the NHL.

In the end it was the Lightning picking up the 3-0 win to extend their current winning streak to five games and to reclaim sole possession of the No. 1 spot in the NHL.

Their win improves them to 22-6-2 on the season and puts them two points ahead of the Blues despite having played two fewer games.

It was another impressive showing for Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy who has been one of the underrated stars of this year’s Lightning team. Most of the attention has been directed to forwards Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov (and deservedly so!) but let’s not lose sight of the fact that Vasilevskiy, in his first full season as the Lighting’s full-time starter, has been one of the best goalies in the league so far.

Tuesday’s game was his third shutout of the season, and after his 32-save performance against the Blues his .933 save percentage is among the best in the NHL, while his 20 wins (in only 25 starts) are tops in the league. Nobody else in the league has more than 17.

While Vasilevskiy was shining in net again, Kucherov scored his 21st goal of the season to move back into a tie with Alex Ovechkin for the top spot in the league. It was also his 42nd point which moved him into a tie with Stamkos for the league lead.

Brayden Point also continued his breakout season by opening the scoring with his 13th goal of the season. He also added an assist on Tyler Johnson‘s third period goal.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

John Tortorella had no time for questions after blowout loss (Video)

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Since being hired by the Columbus Blue Jackets John Tortorella has seemed to be a kinder, gentler coach.

The blow ups and battles with the media don’t seem to happen as much. We don’t get as many rants.

He just does not seem as angry all the time.

Losing 7-2 at home to the Edmonton Oilers, however, might change a few things.

That it was happened to the Blue Jackets on Tuesday night and Tortorella was in no mood to answer question about the game.

His press conference consisted of him stepping to the podium, saying there is no point in answering questions about the game, then leaving.

Here it is in all of its glory.

The only question we have: Is this shorter than the night he said the New York Rangers “sucked from head to toe?”

(Oddly enough, that game was also against the Edmonton Oilers).

That press conference lasted, roughly, 14 seconds from the time he started talking until the time he walked away (and also included the line “I know you have a job to do”).

Tonight’s comes in at just around 12 seconds. So we might have a record for the shortest John Tortorella press conference of all time.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Former NHL defenseman Zarley Zalapski dies at 49

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CALGARY, Alberta (AP) Former NHL defenseman Zarley Zalapski has died at age 49, according to the Calgary Flames. No cause of death was given.

Zalapski, a native of Edmonton, played 637 NHL games for Calgary, Pittsburgh, Hartford, Montreal and Philadelphia from 1987 to 2000.

He was with the Flames from 1993 to 1998.

“We are proud that Zarley wore the Flames jersey, made Calgary his home following his playing career, represented our alumni executive and we will always remember him as a member of the Flames family,” Flames president and chief executive officer Ken King said Tuesday in a statement.

“This is a terrible loss of a man with great character who truly loved the game of hockey. We express our sincere condolences to the Zalapski family.”

Zalapski was a member of the Canadian team that finished fourth in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.

He had 99 goals, 285 assists and 684 penalty minutes in the NHL. Zalapski was named to the all-rookie team in 1989 and participated in the NHL All-Star Game in 1993.

Zalapski played stints in Austria and Switzerland after his NHL career and appeared in 11 games for the United Hockey League’s Kalamazoo Wings in 2004-05.

He was the fourth overall pick by the Penguins in the 1986 entry draft.