The PHT Nightcap: Thursday, September 2nd

Even in the depressingly hockey-free summer, we expect to be a productive bunch here at Pro Hockey Talk. Sometimes it might be difficult to follow our pace. We understand that. For that reason, whenever we can, we’ll put all of the day’s stories in one convenient post called the PHT Nightcap. Enjoy, hockey fans.

Mario Lemieux will receive the Order of Canada – If there’s one hockey player I will always struggle to be objective about, that person is Super Mario. I’ll go ahead and refrain from gushing here, though.

Oilers’ big three rookies give Edmonton hope for the future – Martin Gerber, Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, Nikolai Khabibulin and Devan Dubnyk do not, though.

Looking at Roberto Luongo’s contract after NHL ultimatum – Oh, but the league denied the ultimatum. Hmmm …

Sharks sign goalie Antti Niemi – Not a well-kept secret, but will it be a wise decision?

NHL gives Chris Pronger’s contract the “thumbs up” – Apparently contracts that fail to exploit a loophole and explode in a GM’s face like one of Wile E. Coyotes’ traps are A-OK with the league.

The league makes waves with social media – So why won’t Gary Bettman be friends with me on Facebook, then? (Oh, because I mock him on occasion? Oh, OK.)

Jordan Staal will miss training camp – That’s some bad news, but the Penguins will probably be satisfied if he plays as many of the 82 games that matter as possible.

Marc Savard’s agent threatens to sue if the league voids his contract– Gotta love the old law suit threat.

2010 Lester Patrick Award winners announced

Canadiens re-sign Carey Price – Pun fans, start your “Price is Right” engines.

Nyjer Morgan was fighting hockey players before he fought minor leaguers – The “hockey players are tougher” crowd will enjoy this.

NHLPA doesn’t even vote to approve or reject Donald Fehr as their leader – Oh, players association. You silly unproductive geese.

How Niittymaki and Greiss feel about Niemi signing – Cliff’s Notes version: Niittymaki is OK and Greiss is a sad panda.

Colorado re-signs Chris Stewart – Pretty solid signing for both sides.

Ken Hitchcock gets the hero treatment for being kind of a hero.

Predators give Boots Del Baggio the boot – This is great news for Nashville fans and the franchise as a whole.

New Blue Jackets coach thinks he can turn things around for Steve Mason, Nikita Filatov – Columbus is definitely banking on the whole “internal improvement” thing.

Sean Avery wants to turn things around next year – He didn’t make nearly enough offensive jokes last season. Slacker.

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    Beard breakdown: Burns vs. Thornton (Video)

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    Sometimes you need to ask important questions, breaking down positional battles and strategies.

    Other times you can’t help but ask “Which guy has the better beard?”

    In the case of Joe Thornton and Brent Burns, the San Jose Sharks boast two players with elite beards to match their elite skills. “Jumbo Joe” drew a lot of attention for his wild facial hair, yet Burns may very well have inspired Thornton to go heavy-whisker in the first place.

    The video above breaks down those two beards, in case you’re itching for a comparison.

    One thing that sparks little debate? Both players’ wives are real troopers.

    Brouwer mulling signing with Canucks in free agency

    PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 21: Troy Brouwer #36 of the St. Louis Blues looks on against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on December 21, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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    Troy Brouwer grew up in North Delta, a suburb of Vancouver.

    We mention this because, on Monday, Vancouver’s News 1130 spoke with Brouwer — a pending UFA — about his plans for the future. And, lo and behold, Brouwer has thought about a return home.

    “I have thought about it, for sure,” Brouwer said. “Family and friends, playing for my hometown, it would be an experience for sure.”

    The 30-year-old added his father is a “huge” Canucks fan and that Mark Messier, who spent two ill-fated seasons in Vancouver, was a “big influence” on Brouwer’s career.

    So, file that one away for the future.

    Brouwer will likely have a number of suitors come July 1. A Stanley Cup winner with Chicago in 2010, he’s been a very reliable goalscorer — at least 17 in seven straight seasons — and is coming off a terrific playoff, in which he scored eight goals and 13 points in 20 games for the Blues.

    The Blues, of course, would probably like to retain Brouwer. They paid a high price to get him — T.J. Oshie, in last summer’s deal with Washington — and used him quite a bit this year. Brouwer averaged 16 minutes per night in the regular season and nearly 19 during the playoffs.

    Problem is, St. Louis might not have the cap space to retain him. Brouwer will almost certainly be getting a raise on the $3.66M he earned annually on his last deal, and the Blues have some other financial decisions to make this summer (like captain David Backes, for example.)

    “Not sure what the Blues plans are,” Brouwer told News 1130. “I’m assuming we will talk with them before July 1st.”

    Bettman: The ‘word’ on expansion should come June 22

    NHL hockey commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to the media, Monday, Dec. 8, 2014, after attending an NHL owners meeting in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
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    PITTSBURGH — Mark June 22 on the calendar. That’s when the NHL’s Board of Governors will meet in Las Vegas, and that’s when we should get word about the league’s expansion plans.

    “That word,” commissioner Gary Bettman said today at his annual Stanley Cup Final press conference, “will probably come in one of the following forms:

    “Whether there will be no expansion; whether expansion will be deferred until a later time in the future; or whether there will be expansion, and if so whether it will be a one-team or a two-team expansion.

    “I am not going to handicap what’s going to happen. But again, when the board meets in Las Vegas on June 22, I am fairly certain that we will know more than we do today.”

    The NHL is currently considering two expansion bids, one from Las Vegas and another from Quebec City. The former is optimistic about its chances, while the latter’s fortunes may have been dashed by the decline of the Canadian dollar.

    On Las Vegas, the commissioner and his deputy, Bill Daly, were asked if the NFL’s potential foray into that market could affect the NHL’s decision. The answer to that question was no.

    The other theme of today’s press conference was the Olympics. Specifically, the IOC’s decision to stop covering millions of dollars in transportation and insurance costs for the players.

    On that, Bettman had a strong message for the IOC and IIHF.

    “I’m pretty sure that our teams are not really interested in paying for the privilege of disrupting our season,” he said.

    In other words, if the IOC and IIHF can’t resolve the “expense issue,” it’s practically a certainty that the NHL will not be sending its players to Pyeongchang‎, South Korea.

    WATCH LIVE: Stanley Cup Final Game 1 – Sharks at Penguins

    PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 30:  Pittsburgh Penguins fans sit outside of Consol Energy Center prior to Game One of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks on May 30, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    The wait is finally over. The 2016 Stanley Cup Final is about to begin.

    Both the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks received some time to lick their wounds after three grueling playoff rounds, so expect Game 1 to be fun, even if there might be a subtle bit of rust here or there.

    The star power is considerable. The beards are burly (at least on the Sharks’ side). It’s time to get cracking.

    Game 1 airs on NBC. You can also stream it via the link below and enjoy some “NHL Live” coverage leading in.

    CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE