Yzerman and Stamkos not worried about a contract extension just yet

stevenstamkos2.jpgWhile we’ve paid more than enough attention to the players that are restricted free agents this year, next year one of the biggest names in the NHL is set to become a restricted free agent. Steven Stamkos of the Lightning is in the final year of his entry-level contract and after scoring 51 goals last year, it’s time for the Lightning and GM Steve Yzerman to step up and lock him in for the foreseeable future. The contract process hasn’t begun yet with Stamkos, but as Erik Erlendsson of The Tampa Tribune finds out, neither side seems to be worried about getting something done.

Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman, who has plowed through plenty of other items on his docket in his first summer at the helm, wants to ensure Stamkos never hits the free agent market. Although there have not been any discussions between the Lightning and Stamkos’ agent to this point, Yzerman said re-signing Stamkos remains a priority.

“I haven’t had a chance to really start on that, but once we get into (training) camp … I will start to get prepared and make contact with Steven’s representation at some point,” Yzerman said. “I would prefer (it didn’t linger) but you can never be really certain as to which direction it will go, but he is an important part of the organization and we will make our best effort to get it done as quickly as possible.

“Our goal is to get Steven re-signed and he is an important part of the franchise, which is an understatement.”

Whether a new contract gets hammered out quickly or it takes time to come to terms, Stamkos said the process won’t weigh heavily on his mind.

“There is no rush for me, I’m not pressing on anything to get done on a certain timeline,” he said. “I have thought about it, for sure, but not to any kind of big extent. It’s obviously a big year because it’s the last year of a contract, but … there have been some others in the past who struggle in those years and let it get to them.

“For me, I’m lucky to have great guys on this team to be here with and our team is looking really good. I’m just excited to get the season going, contract or not.”

Must be nice to have a situation that isn’t fraught with anxiousness to get something done and squared away. With what we’ve seen this off-season concerning Bobby Ryan in Anaheim and Marc Staal with the Rangers, having both Yzerman and Stamkos say that they’re not concerned about things and eager to get something done is a nice change of pace. Yzerman has yet to make a seemingly bad move as GM, seeing how he handles a contract extension of this magnitude will be interesting to watch. It’ll also be interesting to see what Stamkos does for an encore following his breakout season.

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    Kyle Connor expected to be healthy scratch for Jets

    WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - OCTOBER 23:  Goalie Cam Talbot #33 of the Edmonton Oilers pushes Kyle Connor #81 of the Winnipeg Jets  during the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic hockey game on October 23, 2016 at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Jason Halstead /Getty Images)
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    Jets rookie Kyle Connor played just 10:09 in Sunday’s outdoor loss to the Oilers, and tonight in Dallas it appears he’ll be a healthy scratch for the first time in his NHL career.

    Connor was not among the 12 Winnipeg forwards taking line rushes this morning. The 19-year-old has just one assist in his first five games as a Jet. He’s a minus-5 and has also struggled in terms of possession, as evidenced by his 38 percent Corsi.

    The 17th overall pick in the 2015 draft, Connor spent one year at the University of Michigan before leaving school to turn pro. He’s eligible to be sent to the AHL this season, something the Jets are no doubt considering.

    Winnipeg has a number of potential call-ups on its farm club, including Marko Dano, Quinton Howden, Andrew Copp, Nicolas Petan, and Jack Roslovic.

    Babcock’s had his fill of goalie questions, thanks

    SUNRISE, FL - JUNE 26:  Head coach Mike Babcock of the Toronto Maple Leafs looks on prior to the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center on June 26, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    Mike Babcock is aware Toronto’s goaltending hasn’t been good this season.

    He’s also aware that Toronto’s goaltending hasn’t been good the last few seasons.

    Thing is, he doesn’t want to talk about it.

    “It’s five games in, isn’t it?” Babcock replied on Tuesday, when asked about the Leafs’ shaky netminding so far, specifically the play of Frederik Andersen. “Let’s just take a deep breath here.”

    And here’s a transcript of what followed (courtesy Sportsnet)!

    Reporter: The guy on Saturday night said the Leafs goaltending has been lousy this year.

    Babcock: Who did?

    Reporter: The guy on Saturday night — Don Cherry.

    Babcock: Oh, OK. Well now that I know where I’m getting my facts from, here we go. Come on. Let’s move on. What’s next here? Holy [expletive].

    Reporter: No, but seriously, it’s been an issue for this market probably since Ed Belfour left, and I’m wondering if there’s anything to that.

    Babcock: But I’m not dealing with that. This is what I would tell you. We think we have a really good goaltender. At the World Cup I had three outstanding goaltenders, and they all talked about how much time it usually takes to get ready.

    Our guy didn’t have that opportunity because of his injury. We’re real comfortable with him. Do we think he’s played as good as he’s capable of playing? No. Do we think he’s going to? Yes.

    Babcock’s right to suggest it’s too early to start grading Andersen. First, there’s the adjustment from playing behind a good team in a small market (Anaheim) to playing behind a “growing team” in a massive, pressure-packed market like Toronto.

    There’s also the additional pressure that came with Andersen’s acquisition price (a first- and second-round pick) and his subsequent contract extension (five years, $25 million).

    The injury suffered playing for Denmark in Olympic qualifying was definitely a setback, as there’s no doubt some games for Team Europe at the World Cup of Hockey would’ve better prepared Andersen for the season.

    Still, it’s hard to look at his numbers — 1-0-3, .879 save percentage, 3.63 GAA — and not be at least a little concerned.

    Unless you’re Mike Babcock, that is.

    Related: The list of struggling netminders is a long one, as it’s been goals galore to start the year

    Elliott gets the start in return to St. Louis

    CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 24: Matt Stajan #18 and Lance Bouma #17 of the Calgary Flames congratulate Brian Elliott #1 after a shootout win against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on October 24, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Flames defeated the Blachawks 3-2 in a shootout. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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    Brian Elliott will be in Calgary’s crease against his old team tonight in St. Louis.

    Even though Elliott played last night in Chicago, it was an easy decision for Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan. Elliott had easily his best game of the season against the Blackhawks, stopping 31 of 33 shots in a 3-2 shootout victory. The 31-year-old turned away all seven Chicago shooters in the breakaway competition, helping the Flames to just their second win of the young season.

    “I definitely wanted that one,” Elliott told reporters afterwards. “We haven’t been playing like we wanted to and the guys came out and had a heck of an effort.”

    Elliott started 164 games for the Blues during his five years in St. Louis. Last season, he backstopped them to their first conference final since 2001. He was then traded to Calgary in June, paving the way for Jake Allen to become the full-time starter in St. Louis.

    Related: The list of struggling goalies is a long one

    Crosby on track to make season debut tonight

    NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 30: Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins waits for a face-off against the 
New Jersey Devils during the third period at the Prudential Center on January 30, 2015 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
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    Yesterday, Sidney Crosby participated in a full-contact practice.

    Today, it appears he’ll make his season debut when the Penguins host the Panthers tonight in Pittsburgh.

    “He had a strong practice this morning,” head coach Mike Sullivan said, per the club. “Everything is pointing in the right direction. If he’s comfortable, he could play.”

    Crosby has missed just six games due to the concussion he sustained during practice on Oct. 7. Given his history with concussions, if he plays tonight, it has to be considered a best-case scenario. Certainly, there had been fear he could be out much longer.

    For the record, Crosby told reporters he’ll be a game-time decision.