2010 NHL Free Agency: Anton Stralman's salary arbitration could cause a mess in Columbus

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antonstralman.jpgWhile the Chicago Blackhawks (salary cap purging), Detroit Red Wings (simply re-gaining Jiri Hudler) and St. Louis Blues (adding Halak) made waves in the Central division this summer, it’s been disappointing to see GM Scott Howson and the Columbus Blue Jackets stand pat. It’s often the sign of a cash-strapped club to do just that, so reports of the team’s hopes of bandaging its financial wounds with casino money might explain why the team isn’t making many moves.

Still, you have to spent money to make money (and wins) in the NHL and the Blue Jackets might find themselves in a perilous position when it comes to their already anemic powerplay. If the team finds Anton Stralman’s salary arbitration finding too rich for their tastes, they might be in a bit of a puck pickle according to Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch.

Imagine if Kaberle and Bieksa are traded in the next few days, and then Stralman is awarded $2.5 million (or more) in arbitration. Enjoy Rostislav Klesla on the power play, Blue Jackets’ fans. At that point, the Blue Jackets may be forced to go in a direction they’d rather avoid — perhaps a play for Edmonton’s Sheldon Souray or a free agent a crack at, say, Marc-Andre Bergeron.

What would the Blue Jackets part with to acquire Bieksa or Kaberle? Compelling question. Both Vancouver and Toronto have too many defensemen — hence the trade — and neither team needs a goaltender.

It was surmised in this space a week or so ago that left winger Nikita Filatov could be dangled as bait. We still believe — from talking to numerous sources — that it’s a possibility. However, the Blue Jackets have strengthened their confidence in Filatov ever since development coach Tyler Wright traveled to Russia.

If I’m a Blue Jackets fan, I’m pulling for Kevin Bieksa rather than Sheldon Souray. Both players are injury-prone and have their faults, but Bieksa is about five years younger, a bit cheaper and has a bit less baggage. Don’t forget that Souray is already sulking in a losing environment in Edmonton. Why would he want to be a part of another struggling franchise?

Either way, I’m not sure if it’s time to pull the plug on Nikita Filatov. While it’s just as likely that Filatov could be Nikolai Zherdev 2.0, the team is still pretty short on high-end scoring wingers. If he could get his head on straight, Filatov would bring a unique blend of flashy skills to the table.

Salary arbitration should bring intriguing – and sometimes quite intense – stories to the table. Watching these situations play out is a lot like rubbernecking to witness the fallout of a highway accident; you feel a little dirty for doing it but it’s tough to look away from the wreckage. Could a bit player such as Stralman make a big impact on the Blue Jackets’ off-season plans? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Goalie nods: Backup extraordinaire Montoya gets the call versus Wings

Florida Panthers goalie Al Montoya watches game action against the New Jersey Devils' during the second period of a NHL hockey game in Sunrise, Fla., Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
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The Florida Panthers have had no problem giving Roberto Luongo the odd night off this season. That’s because Al Montoya has been one of the best backups in the league.

Montoya (8-2-1, .931) will get the call tonight in Detroit, with Luongo (23-13-5, .930) expected to start tomorrow in Buffalo.

The Panthers have the highest team save percentage in the NHL, at .926 (which includes empty-net goals).

“They both give us a chance to win every night,” Panthers d-man Brian Campbell told the Miami Herald recently. “Both make huge saves for us at times. You need consistent saves every night and they both bring it. Montoya gets put into a tough spot a lot of times and nothing seems to change.”

Beyond Montoya, other NHL backups with particularly good numbers include the Flyers’ Michal Neuvirth (.933), the Kings’ Jhonas Enroth (.931), the Blues’ Brian Elliott (.930), the Islanders’ Thomas Greiss (.929), and the Wild’s Darcy Kuemper (.928).

Petr Mrazek will start for the Red Wings. He used to be Detroit’s backup, but he’s since surpassed Jimmy Howard for the starting job.

Elsewhere…

Cory Schneider for the Devils at MSG, versus Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers.

John Gibson for the Ducks in Pittsburgh, versus Marc-Andre Fleury for the Penguins.

— Andrei Vasilevskiy for the Lightning in Ottawa, versus Craig Anderson for the Sens.

Blues put Pietrangelo on IR with knee injury

Pietrangelo-Coyle
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Not good news for the St. Louis Blues — the club announced this morning that defenseman Alex Pietrangelo has been placed on injured reserve with a right-knee injury. He’ll be re-evaluated in three weeks.

Pietrangelo suffered the injury Saturday in a knee-on-knee collision with Minnesota’s Charlie Coyle.

Based on the timeline provided, the Blues will be without their leader in average ice time (26:40) until at least the end of the month. St. Louis plays 10 times between now and Feb. 29, which also happens to be the trade deadline.

The big question, of course, is whether Pietrangelo will be ready to go upon re-evaluation.

The first day of the playoffs is April 13.

Update:

Related: Armstrong wants Blues to get healthy before any trades are made

“I wonder if that’s Crosby, what happens?’ — AV upset after McDonagh concussed by Simmonds

Alain Vigneault
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Alain Vigneault took another shot at the NHL’s Department of Player Safety today.

This time, the Rangers head coach was upset about the lack of supplementary discipline for Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds in the wake of Saturday’s altercation with New York captain Ryan McDonagh.

“An All-Star player gets sucker-punched, goes down,” Vigneault said, per The Record. “I wonder if that’s (Sidney) Crosby, what happens? What are the consequences? And, on top of that, a player breaks his stick, throws it at the referees. In the rulebook, that’s automatic. It’s three games. Nothing happens. It’s not even on the sheet after the game.”

Simmonds’ punch left McDonagh concussed and unable to play tonight versus New Jersey, with no timetable for his return.

Earlier this season, Vigneault voiced his frustration with the league after Rangers center Derek Stepan suffered broken ribs in Boston on a hit from Bruins forward Matt Beleskey.

Vigneault felt the hit was late.

“I remember Aaron Rome in this building, .6 seconds late, getting suspended four games in the Stanley Cup Final,” the former Vancouver Canucks coach said, recalling the contentious 2011 final.

Beleskey was not suspended.

Crosby, Karlsson and Trocheck are NHL’s three stars of the week

Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby celebrates his goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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Penguins center Sidney Crosby, Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, and Panthers center Vincent Trocheck have been named the NHL’s three stars for the past week.

From the NHL:

Crosby led the League in goals and points (5-3-8) in three games as the Penguins (26-18-7, 59 points) earned four of a possible six points to secure the second Wild Card position in the Eastern Conference.

Karlsson led the League in assists and ranked second in points (0-7-7) in three games as the Senators (24-23-6, 54 points) won one of three starts for the week.

Trocheck notched six points (3-3—6) in three games, helping the Panthers (31-15-6, 68 points) widen their lead atop the Atlantic Division to six points.

Related: Red-hot Crosby could make Pens a flawed (but dangerous) dark horse