When I looked at the San Jose Sharks’ July 2010 a while ago, it seemed like it had Impending Doom written all over it. I mean, after all, the team had to answer questions about impact unrestricted (Patrick Marleau, Evgeni Nabokov) as well as restricted (Joe Pavelski, Devin Setoguchi) free agents. Not to mention the retirement of Rob Blake.
Yet it seems like the team basically said “let’s keep everyone except that Russian guy who carried our goaltending for the last decade.” There’s no doubt that allowing Nabokov to flee to the KHL in lieu of relatively unproven goalie Antero Niittymaki is a big change, but the rest of their core seems to be in place.
Especially since all signs point to the team locking up some of the remaining stragglers.
Craig Custance reports that the team is close to signing a one-year deal with restricted free agent Setoguchi and also began talks with their leading point producer (and, occasionally, their go-to scapegoat) Joe Thornton. I’ll take a deeper look at Thornton’s situation later, but here’s what Custance had to say about a possible one-year deal for Setoguchi.
Both sides are optimistic it could happen in the next week. In just his second year in the NHL, Setoguchi scored 31 goals. Last season, he had 20 goals in 70 games, along with five goals in the playoffs.
“A kid like him doesn’t mind rolling the dice on a short-term deal,” agent Paul Krepelka told Sporting News. “I’m optimistic we’ll get something done.”
Without knowing much about the salary numbers, it sounds like a solid gamble for both sides. Setoguchi gets a chance to lock-in his value since his 2009-10 season wasn’t quite as explosive as his 31-goal 08-09 campaign. The Sharks are wise to be careful with term regarding Setoguchi, especially after they were burned so badly thanks to the latest beneficiary of the Joe Thornton Effect: Jonathan Cheechoo.
Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk has been the most difficult goalies to score against this season. Leave it to a high-level player like Leon Draisaitl to make it look this, well, “easy.”
Draisaitl scored his 13th goal of 2016-17 by capping this pretty give-and-go play with Benoit Pouliot. You can see the frustration from Dubnyk at the end of the tally, as if he was saying “How was I supposed to stop that?” (though probably with more colorful language).
Draisaitl came into Friday with five goals and three assists in his last five games, so he’s been almost unstoppable lately.
Read more about his rise here.
In his fifth NHL game, intriguing Washington Capitals prospect Jakub Vrana scored his first NHL goal (and point).
Let’s be honest, though; Evgeny Kuznetsov deserves plenty of the credit, as he sent a fantastic pass for Vrana’s tap-in tally.
See it for yourself:
Even if that was mostly Kuznetsov, Vrana has been getting his chances so far.
He generated four shots on goal in two separate occasions so far in his four games of NHL action, so maybe he was due for a chance like this.
Considering he’s just 20 years old, the Capitals could get used to Kuznetsov to Vrana.
Update: The Capitals won 4-1, and Vrana’s first goal wasn’t the only noteworthy “first.” After piling on shots, John Carlson finally scored his first goal of the season:
No one’s going to confuse Dmitry Kulikov with Jack Eichel, but the Buffalo Sabres are likely happy to have him back after a long absence, too.
The Sabres have been on an upward trend lately (5-2-2 in their last nine games), and now they get a key defenseman back against the Washington Capitals on Friday night.
Kulikov last played on Nov. 9 and hasn’t recorded a point in 12 games, making for a tough start to his stint with the Sabres. Maybe he’ll begin to get a little more traction with his new team tonight?
He’s far from the only returning Buffalo player, either, as Josh Gorges and Nicolas Deslauriers are also back in the mix. Kulikov is slated to be on the Sabres’ second pairing with Cody Franson.
Buffalo sent Brendan Guhle to the AHL to make room for these tweaks.
The Columbus Blue Jackets will be without captain Nick Foligno because of an illness on Friday, opening up an opportunity for interesting prospect Oliver Bjorkstrand.
The team tweeted out his linemates as Matt Calvert and Lukas Sedlak as a solid fourth line facing the Detroit Red Wings.
He failed to generate much (zero points, two shots on goal) in three games so far with Columbus this season, receiving about 25 minutes of ice time over that span.
With eight goals and 12 points in 19 AHL games so far in 2016-17, there’s the thought that he could eventually make the next step to becoming a decent contributor for the Blue Jackets.
Perhaps this will constitute his first real step in that direction?
Apparently this is a pretty abrupt situation for the 21-year-old: