Eric Belanger won't name the team he signed with, inspires toothless rumors

Thumbnail image for ericbelanger.jpgWhile he’s far from a big name or impact player, Eric Belanger is still one of the better centers remaining on the free agent market. Sources say that he’s chosen the team he’ll sign a one-year contract with, but cannot name that team just yet because his future employers need to clear up some cap space.

Kathleen Lavoie has the story (here’s the original link, here is a rough translation of that story via Google Translator.)

A quick search of “Eric Belanger” on Twitter yielded all kinds of wacky rumors; some either refuted or solidified the idea of him landing with the Toronto Maple Leafs while others claimed he would sign with the Edmonton Oilers.

Rather than running with one or the other, we’ll elect to wait until an official announcement. There is no telling when that time will come, but we will keep you updated once it happens.

After all, you want a guy who will pull out a tooth for you.

(H/T to TCY from Fear the Fin.)

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    Habs may lean more on Montoya to keep Price refreshed

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    The Montreal Canadiens committed money (a lot of money) and term to Carey Price with his contract extension at the beginning of this month.

    He is the backbone for this team, for its success.

    He’s also about to turn 30 years old next month, with 509 career games in the NHL, entering the league in 2007-08. For as great as he has been, the Habs may place added responsibilities on the shoulders of their back-up, a title currently held by Al Montoya.

    In an interview with the Habs’ website, the club’s goaltending coach Stephane Waite said that, in his mind, the days of starting goalies playing 65 to 70 games are done. It’s too tall an order in today’s NHL.

    Price has, on three occasions, breached the figures in that approximation during his career. He approached the lower end of that with 62 starts in 2016-17. Montoya, meanwhile, had 18 starts and 19 games, posting a 8-6-4 record (20 points for Montreal in the standings) and a .912 save percentage.

    He was the victim of one awful game, allowing 10 goals to Columbus on Nov. 4. But seriously, the entire Habs team was awful that night, essentially leaving their No. 2 goalie out to dry in an embarrassing effort from everyone.

    Beyond that, Montoya was able to put together some nice starts, including shutouts against Pittsburgh and Edmonton, two teams well-equipped with dangerous offensive talent.

    “We’re not afraid to put Al in goal against any team in the league,” said Waite.

    “We don’t look at who he’ll be playing, we just look at the schedule that we make at the beginning of the season. Our priority is to give Carey the right days off at the right times.”

    The Habs signed Montoya to a two-year extension in January. That’s a vote of confidence in their back-up.

    Maintaining that confidence with a good season would certainly help the Habs accomplish the objective of keeping Price rested and refreshed.

    Rangers are ‘right on the cusp,’ says Shattenkirk

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    Since missing the playoffs in 2010, the New York Rangers have made it to the Eastern Conference Final three times, and to the Stanley Cup Final once.

    A championship, however, has eluded them. Instead, they’ve lost to the L.A. Kings in the final and watched their division rivals from Pittsburgh win it twice in a row, even losing to the Penguins in the first round in 2016.

    This summer, however, has brought considerable change to the Blueshirts through a blockbuster trade with Arizona, buyouts and a retirement.

    Derek Stepan — gone.

    Dan Girardi — gone.

    Kevin Klein — gone.

    Antti Raanta — gone.

    Oscar Lindberg — gone.

    There has been substantial change on the blue line. The Rangers went after prized free agent defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk with a four-year contract worth $26.6 million. They re-signed Brendan Smith, a late-season acquisition. They brought in Anthony DeAngelo in that deal with Arizona.

    Read more: Optimism replaces pessimism after changes to Rangers defense

    No surprise here, but Shattenkirk had an optimistic outlook when describing the Rangers, a team he believes is “right on the cusp,” according to a conversation with NHL.com.

    “I think we have that capability of playing with a team like that,” Shattenkirk recently told NHL.com.

    “We have great goaltending (Henrik Lundqvist). Our defense is fast and we can make plays, but I also think we have a little bit of edge as well. Up front, I’m sure we’re one of the fastest teams in the League. You look at how Pittsburgh is built, and that’s the way that they’ve won. We have some great depth on our team, and I think that’s what it really comes down to at that point of the season: How deep are you?”

    Their success next season may also depend on which teams rise and fall in the Metropolitan Division.

    Columbus took a big step forward with a franchise record-setting season and will look to replicate that beginning in the fall. The Penguins were the Penguins, advancing past Washington and Ottawa in seven-game series despite a plethora of injuries before besting Nashville in the final. One has to wonder how much of a toll the grind of two Stanley Cups will take on that club. The Capitals won the Presidents’ Trophy but faltered in the playoffs, ushering in change to their roster with all the unrestricted free agents — including Shattenkirk for the playoff run — they had.

    Can the Islanders get back into the playoffs? Same question for the Flyers. Will Carolina, with Scott Darling in net, get the necessary upgrade at that position and take the next step toward the playoffs? What will New Jersey, with an upgraded offense in addition to Taylor Hall, be capable of when the season begins?

    The number of changes to teams in the Metropolitan may be enough to shift the balance of power in that division this upcoming season. The Rangers have seemed like a team on the cusp at least three times in the last seven years.

    Shattenkirk mentioned goaltending, as well, calling it great. That’s an accurate description of what Lundqvist has been for many years in New York. However, at the age of 35, he’ll need to bounce back from what was a down season for him in 2016-17.

    “I think everyone’s probably all going to judge [the window] based on Lundqvist, and everyone is talking about, ‘Well, how long does he have left?'” continued Shattenkirk. “We have a lot of young players on this team, though, to counterbalance that.”

    Jayce Hawryluk could be intriguing prospect for Panthers this season

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    Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon has talked extensively this offseason about giving young players an opportunity to play and trying to create a faster, more up-tempo, aggressive roster.

    One of the young players that might get an opportunity to make that sort of an impact is 2014 second-round draft pick Jayce Hawryluk.

    Throughout his junior days in the Western Hockey League, Hawryluk developed a reputation for being the type of player you to have on your team and absolutely hate to play against — in other words, a classic pest. But one that can also play. Really, really well.

    “We have high hopes for him,” Tallon said, via the Panthers’ official website this past week. “He’s a kid who plays with a lot of passion, a lot of energy. He’s got not only speed and skills, but he’s got a lot of grit.”

    The speed and skill part is what really makes it all work for him as a prospect.

    He was consistently a point-per-game player for the Brandon Wheat Kings and in his last year with the team exploded offensively with 47 goals and 59 assists in only 58 games. He made his pro hockey debut this past season with Springfield of the American Hockey League where he scored nine goals and added 19 assists in 47 games.

    Had it not been for an injury early in the season he probably would have already made his NHL debut for the team. Given the makeup of the roster at this point, especially after the exits of veteran players Jaromir Jagr and Jussi Jokinen this summer, there should be plenty of opportunities for him to make the roster this season.

    Obviously until he plays in the NHL we won’t know for sure what he is capable of but if he can turn out to be a Brendan Gallagher type of player (or a poor man’s Brad Marchand) that would be an extremely valuable asset for the Panthers both in the short-and long-term.

    Red Wings would like Jimmy Howard to play 50-55 games

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    Due to injury and losing his starting job, Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard has appeared in just 63 games the past two seasons, starting only 57 of them. For a goalie that was once one of the better starters in the league it has been a difficult couple of years.

    Based on some recent comments from goalie coach Jeff Salajko, the Red Wings not only seem prepared to give Howard his starting job back at the start of this season, but also would like to see him nearly match his games played total from the past two seasons.

    Here is Salajko talking about the team’s goaltending situation — including the expected roles for Petr Mrazek and Jared Coureau — to Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press.

     “We’re very comfortable with Jared as a third. I have no problem with him being the backup goalie, either. If we can keep Jimmy Howard healthy to play 50-55 games, I was comfortable with Jared in a role like that. But we obviously have Petr back – Vegas didn’t have interest in him, so I’m hoping he comes in with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove.”

    Mrazek entered this past season as the Red Wings’ starter but really struggled in that role. The Red Wings were reportedly frustrated with his attitude and ended up leaving him unprotected in the expansion draft, but the Vegas Golden Knights opted not to select him.

    When Howard was healthy this past season he played some of the best hockey of his career, finishing with a career-best .927 save percentage. It represented quite a bounce back for him after three consecutive years with a below league average save percentage.

    Howard returning to that level of play would certainly be a boost for the Red Wings. Not only because their roster is probably the weakest it has been in decades and is going to need great goaltending to compete, but because between him and Mrazek they have more than $9 million invested in the position. For a team that is already pressed to the limits of the salary cap getting anything less than above average play out of that duo would be pretty devastating to their chances this season.