Edmonton's Taylor Hall shoulders the franchise's future, takes Kevin Lowe's number

taylorhall2.jpgWhile last year was one to forget for the Edmonton Oilers, the future is shaping up to potentially great. Today, the Oilers introduced three of their rookies who could be the cornerstones of the next wave of Oilers greats in Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi and Jordan Eberle. One of those three will be wearing a number that’s been worn by only one other player in Oilers history.

With eyes fixed on the future, the Edmonton Oilers reached into their storied past Wednesday as president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe presented Taylor Hall with jersey No. 4.

In a symbolic and timely gesture, Lowe, the Oilers’ first-ever draft pick and only player to wear the number since Edmonton entered the NHL in 1979, passed his No. 4 to Hall, the centrepiece of a full-scale rebuild in Edmonton and the franchise’s first No. 1 overall draft pick.

“It’s a very cool number,” Hall said. “It’s just kind of passing the torch, you know?

“He’s been a big part of this organization for a very long time and I realize that. At the same time, they feel I’m a player who can come in and make an impact. Maybe wearing this No. 4 is going to do that.”

Hall wore No. 4 with the Windsor Spitfires in the OHL and after being drafted by the Oilers, most fans wondered if he would get to wear his number. With Lowe being an executive with the Oilers and being the only guy to wear the number, some thought it might not happen even though the number isn’t retired. Instead, Lowe gave Hall his blessing to wear it. Clearly, the Oilers aren’t worried about putting any pressure on Hall.

It’s expected that all three players in Hall, Paajarvi, and Eberle will start the year in Edmonton and stick there and why shouldn’t they? The Oilers were brutal last year and while Ales Hemsky and Sheldon Souray were out for most of the season and Nikolai Khabibulin’s back wouldn’t allow him to play, hopes are high in Edmonton and while it may not pay off immediately, the amount of fun young talent there will eventually pay off. This is just the beginning.

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    Markov, Habs officially part ways

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    Andrei Markov‘s run of 17 consecutive seasons in Montreal is over.

    On Thursday, the Habs announced that Markov — who’s played all 990 of his career NHL contests with the Canadiens — wouldn’t be brought back for the 2017-18 campaign.

    The news comes after months of rumblings about Markov’s contractual status. It was initially believed the 38-year-old UFA was looking for $12 million over two years, and there was a brief flirtation with the Flyers (which, it later turned out, was simply Markov’s interest in going to Philly, not the Flyers actively pursuing him).

    Montreal GM Marc Bergevin stated on several occasions he wanted to bring Markov back, but only at the right price and term. That’s because Bergevin knew Markov still played an important role — despite appearing in just 62 games last year, the Russian rearguard was offensively productive, with six goals and 36 points, and averaged nearly 22 minutes per night.

    That said, Bergevin also knew the financial realities. He dished out big bucks this offseason — a combined $154.8 million for Carey Price, Jonathan Drouin, Alex Galchenyuk and Karl Alzner — and just didn’t have the money left to give Markov a big ticket.

    Instead, Bergevin played it conservative in rounding out his defense, which included Tuesday’s one-year, $700,000 deal for Mark Streit. Some saw that deal as the writing on the wall for Markov in Montreal.

    Looking ahead, it’ll be interesting to see where Markov ends up. If he lowers his asking price, there’s no doubt an NHL team would be interested. If he doesn’t, he could angle for a KHL deal and the opportunity to represent Russia in the upcoming Winter Olympics.

    Malkin wants to see Ovechkin win a Stanley Cup

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    Evgeni Malkin‘s career is far from over, but he’s already accomplished so much.

    The 30-year-old has won three Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe Trophy, a Hart Trophy, two Art Ross Trophies and a Calder Trophy.

    Fellow countryman Alex Ovechkin has also won a number of individual awards, but he hasn’t been as fortunate when it comes team awards and playoff success.

    There always seemed to be a rivalry between the two Russian forwards, but that doesn’t mean Malkin isn’t rooting for Ovechkin to take home a championship before his career is over.

    “I was a bit luckier than (Ovechkin), that’s why I won those cups,” Malkin said, per Sports-Express’ Igor Eronko. “He has everything ahead of him. I wish him to win the cup.”

    How do Penguins fans feel about that?

    Malkin was also one of the more controversial omissions on the NHL’s “Top 100 Players” list. The Pens forward was disappointed about being left off the list, but hoisting Lord Stanley again seems to have erased that sting.

    “I was a little bit disappointed when I wasn’t included in the list of 100 greatest players,” added Malkin. “But I won the cup and am happy.”

    PHT Morning Skate: 9 rookies that could win the Calder Trophy in 2017-18

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    –This year’s offseason is a lot more quiet than last year’s offseason (P.K. Subban for Shea Weber and Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson were two major stories last summer). So Sean McIndoe dug up seven storylines that still need sorting out. Somehow, the Avs have failed to trade Matt Duchene, John Tavares hasn’t signed an extension with the Islanders, and the Golden Knights still have a lot of defensemen. (Sportsnet)

    –Sam McCaig of The Hockey News put together his free agent All-Star team, and there were some pretty big names to chose from. Mike Fisher, Jaromir Jagr and Thomas Vanek were all on McCaig’s first line, while Andrei Markov and Fedor Tyutin were on the top pairing. (The Hockey News)

    –The San Jose Sharks lost Patrick Marleau to the Maple Leafs this offseason which means that they’ll need to replace his production. Don’t be surprised if players like Mikkel Boedker, Jannik Hansen and Tomas Hertl are asked to do more in 2017-18. (NHL.com)

    –Devils rookie Nico Hischier has to be considered one of the front runners to win the Calder Trophy in 2017-18, so NJ.com came up with a list of eight other players that will push him for that crown. Fellow 2017 draft pick Nolan Patrick could be a legitimate contender for top rookie too, but so can Coyote prospects Clayton Keller and Dylan Strome. (NJ.com)

    –The person running the Golden Knights’ Twitter account has been incredibly funny throughout the summer, and that didn’t stop yesterday. The account took a nice little jab at some Canadian friends:

    –Here are some interesting numbers from last season regarding scoring by defensemen. Obviously, Brent Burns played a big part in San Jose being at the top of list:

    Penguins’ Letang gains more than just funny videos from Terrell Owens

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    Off-season training is probably tedious at times … maybe even more tedious than the hockey-free months of the summer. Perhaps that explains why athletes love to mix things up, even if it means bringing in stars from other sports (and even if that calls for an embarrassing moment or two).

    Kris Letang provided some background information surrounding that “ankle breaking” moment with former NFL star receive Terrell Owens during an NHL Network interview, which was transcribed by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Josh Mackey. Letang also noted that others were faked out to an even greater degree.

    The most important stuff, really, comes from what he looks to gain from these workouts … and also how close Letang might be to full-strength.

    “I’m trying to get better all the time,” Letang said. “I think I found that I can improve my footwork.

    “We have that at the gym twice a week. We have a sprinting coach. ‘TO’ has been working out with us. He’s an unbelievable guy to be around. He’s teaching us a lot of little things.”

    Later on, Letang stated that ‘we’re on the path to starting training camp and being fully healthy,” according to Mackey’s transcription.

    That sounds great, though that doesn’t sound like an outright guarantee that he’ll be ready by September. If nothing else, the Penguins and their star defenseman are used to this kind of thing.

    Now, in case you missed it in the Morning Skate, here’s that bit of schooling from Owens:

    And here’s “the proof” that Letang wasn’t alone in getting beat:

    Now to solve the mystery of the other fakee