Joe Nieuwendyk reflects on James Neal negotiations, Bobby Ryan and Marc Staal also in limbo

nealiceshower.jpgMany of the biggest restricted free agent chips have fallen in the last month or so, with tough-to-compare cases such as Patric Hornqvist’s coming to satisfying conclusions in their negotiations. Still, there are a few scenarios that could linger beyond training camp, with New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal and Dallas Stars power forward James Neal ranking among the top of the list.

Neal’s situation was the topic of discussion between Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk and Craig Custance of the Sporting News today. Nieuwendyk said that he hopes to get a deal done before camp but acknowledges that it could take quite a while to reach a compromise, despite having more comparable contracts to work with than they did in the beginning of the free agent summer.

Nieuwendyk said he has spoken recently with Neal’s agent, Pat Morris, and both sides continue to work on a deal.

Morris works for Newport Sports Management, an agency that has represented many high-profile restricted free agents this summer. Ducks forward Bobby Ryan, another Newport client, is also without a deal.

Newport’s Craig Oster negotiated a three-year, $9.25 million deal for Nashville’s restricted free agent Patric Hornqvist.

Hornqvist put up comparable numbers to Neal’s last season, but Nieuwendyk warned against drawing any conclusions from that contract.

“There are comparables and there are people who belong to the same agent,” he said. “But we do things that reflect where we are . … [Predators GM] David Poile did what he thought was best for his hockey club. We’ll do the same with ours, too.”

Thumbnail image for bobbyryan3.jpgAs you might have noticed from that excerpt, Anaheim Ducks forward Bobby Ryan still hasn’t finalized a deal yet either despite seemingly being on the verge of doing so last week. This summer must have been a protracted and frustrating one for Ilya Kovalchuk and Nikolai Khabibulin’s agent Jay Grossman, but judging from these currently fruitless situations, he’s far from alone in the frustration.

The Stars and Ducks are cash-strapped franchises whose real-life budgets probably fall well below the NHL’s salary cap ceiling. Ryan and Neal are important pieces of their teams’ future – both near and far – so hopefully both clubs need to get something done.

I’m still not sure why another team doesn’t send an offer sheet Ryan or Neal’s way, though. Sure, the Stars and Ducks would probably match it, but why not make them sweat and possibly put them in a tough spot?

I guess it’s not worth a little awkwardness at the next general managers shindig, then.

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    Loss vs. Pens at Stadium Series could push Flyers to sell at trade deadline

    PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 28:  Chris Pryor, Director of Scouting (R), and Ron Hextall General Manager of the Philadelphia Flyers (L) sit at their team table on Day Two of the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 28, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Is a cross-state, historic NHL rivalry not enough to drum up interest in Saturday’s 2017 Stadium Series between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins? Maybe a trade deadline hook will do it for you.

    As the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi reports, Flyers GM Ron Hextall already rules his team out as buyers. That leaves two options, really: standing pat or going into “sell mode.”

    Hextall provides an interesting nugget in that regard: it might just come down to what happens against the Penguins tomorrow, via NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman:

    It seems odd to imagine that the difference between generating zero versus two standings points might dictate a team’s direction, but it also shows the power of parity in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

    Granted, it’s not like Hextall locks himself into one direction based on the result. Still, it sounds like that game could have some power in swaying his decision.

    The Flyers have some interesting trade chips if they do decide to make a move. Michal Neuvirth fears being moved, while Steve Mason at least needs a new contract, leaving their goaltending future up to question.

    There are some other interesting UFAs, particularly in defensemen Mark Streit and Michael Del Zotto.

    Some Flyers fans believe that they should indeed be sellers, though it’s tough to imagine many of them rooting for the Penguins to win just to make it happen.

    Mike Smith is out with illness that is not the mumps, Coyotes say

    GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 07:  Goaltender Mike Smith #41 of the Arizona Coyotes during the preseason NHL game against San Jose Sharks at Gila River Arena on October 7, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Sharks 3-1  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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    The Arizona Republic’s Sarah McLellan reports that she was told Mike Smith is missing tonight’s game because of an illness that is not the mumps.

    You may recognize “not the mumps” as the NHL’s version of letting out a barrage of coughs and then insisting the issue is not contagious.

    Anyway, Smith is out tonight as the Arizona Coyotes visit the Stars in Dallas. With that, Louis Domingue gets the start while the team made an emergency recall of Adin Hill to be his backup.

    A quick 411 on Hill: the 20-year-old goalie was the 76th pick in 2015 by the Coyotes. He’s put together some solid work after being promoted from the ECHL to the AHL this season, managing a respectable .916 save percentage in 26 games with the Tucson Roadrunners.

    It’s been a tough season for Domingue (5-13-1, .895 save percentage, 3.29 GAA), so you almost wonder if the Coyotes are tempted to see how Hill would handle a little relief work.

    Rare wave of injuries for Capitals as Oshie, Orpik are also out

    WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 02: Matt Niskanen #2 of the Washington Capitals celebrates with teammate T.J. Oshie #77 after scoring a third period goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Verizon Center on March 2, 2016 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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    The Washington Capitals have been outright dominant this season, but there’s one opponent they haven’t faced very often: injuries.

    They’ve been healthier than everyone else to an almost spooky extent in 2016-17, yet it seems like they’re dealing with a rash of ailments for the first time in a while.

    The injury list for tonight’s game against the Edmonton Oilers appears to be: Matt Niskanen, Andre Burakovsky, Brooks Orpik and T.J. Oshie.

    We already knew that Burakovsky will miss some time and that Niskanen was injured after colliding knee-to-knee with Radko Gudas. Oshie and Orpik are bigger surprises as far as their lineup goes. It seemed like Oshie took some significant hits against the Flyers in that same game that injured Niskanen, so maybe that’s the issue there?

    Here’s what the Capitals lineup will look like, via the team itself:

    The team labels Oshie’s injury as upper-body related while Orpik and Niskanen have lower-body issues. On the bright side, those three are all considered day-to-day.

    Riley Barber makes his debut with all of these injury absences.

    Predators are a wild card in more ways than one

    NASHVILLE, TN - FEBRUARY 21:  Filip Forsberg #9 of the Nashville Predators is congratulated by teammates after scoring a hat trick against the Calgary Flames during the second period at Bridgestone Arena on February 21, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
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    The Nashville Predators have really earned the “wild card” moniker lately, even beyond holding the West’s first wild card spot.

    Such a label could describe their up-and-down 2016-17 in general, and it might only intensify over the next few weeks.

    Trade deadline players?

    Nashville boasts Filip Forsberg, a guy with rare back-to-back hat tricks, not to mention other quality scorers such as James Neal, Ryan Johansen and diamond in the rough Viktor Arvidsson. (Their defensemen can produce points in buckets, too.)

    But perhaps they can go from sporadically good to regular contender with that extra boost?

    Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman believes that the Predators could be in on talks to acquire Matt Duchene or “somebody big” at forward. Duchene, himself, might be tough to get:

    That schedule, though

    Honestly, the way their schedule looks, the Predators might need a shot in the arm.

    Check out what they’re dealing with during the next few weeks:

    Saturday: vs. Capitals
    Sunday: vs. Oilers
    Tuesday, Feb. 28: at Sabres
    Thursday, March 2: at Canadiens
    Saturday, March 4: vs. Blackhawks
    Tuesday, March 7: at Ducks
    Thursday, March 9: at Kings
    Saturday, March 11: at Sharks
    Monday, March 13: vs. Jets
    Thursday, March 16: at Capitals
    Saturday, March 18: at Hurricanes

    That’s a rough mixture of tough opponents and road games, with even games against non-playoff teams being less than layups (the Hurricanes can beat you when they’re on point, for instance).

    The Predators are in the first wild card spot. They’re also not far behind for the third seed in the Central, as the Blues hold a tiebreaker advantage over Nashville right now with both teams at 67 standings points.

    That schedule could be an issue, however, for a team that’s been vulnerable to hitting highs and lows.

    On the other hand, we’ve also seen hints of the dominant squad many penciled in as a possible contender in 2016-17. In a weakened West, the Predators remain a fascinating team to watch. That could be especially true in the near future.