Stars still negotiating with RFAs James Neal and Matt Niskanen

jamesneal2.jpgWhile other teams are getting the last of their restricted free agents into camp, the Dallas Stars continue to plod along with negotiations of their own. There are just four restricted free agents left to be signed this off-season and Dallas has two of them in James Neal and Matt Niskanen (the others are Bobby Ryan of Anaheim and New York’s Marc Staal).

Stars fans are likely getting nervous about things but Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News says that negotiations are ongoing with both players.

The agent for Niskanen, Neil Sheehy, said he expects to meet with the Stars Tuesday in Traverse City, Mich., where the Stars prospects are participating in an eight-team tournament. The agent for Neal, Pat Morris, said he continues to have talks with the Stars.

“We will continue to negotiate with the goal to getting a deal done that is representative of James’ progress and stature as the 2nd leading goal scorer for Dallas last year and over the last 2 seasons,” Morris wrote in an e-mail.

The Stars are swimming in cap space, but it’s apparent that their internal budget is what’s slowing things down in a big way to get both of these players signed. Other restricted free agents haven’t had budget-busting deals made for them this year, and the handful that did score big contracts did so to get some of their unrestricted free agent years bought out.

We don’t know what the specifics are with both Neal and Niskanen’s negotiations are, but if the quibbles are over incremental amounts of money, that’s enough to make anyone in Dallas nervous about the state of the franchise while they wait for a new owner to step up.

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    Kuznetsov, bad breaks baffle Flyers in loss to Capitals

    PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 22: Evgeny Kuznetsov #92 of the Washington Capitals celebrates his first period goal against Michal Neuvirth #30 of the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on February 22, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Here’s what went right for the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday: the Florida Panthers lost. Yep, that’s about it.

    Otherwise, it was a pretty lousy time, as the Washington Capitals beat them at home 4-1 tonight.

    Washington’s big names came to play here, highlighted by Evgeny Kuznetsov scoring two goals. T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom enjoyed one-goal, one-assist nights while Justin Williams and Alex Ovechkin both grabbed two assists.

    The Capitals won their first game after a bye week (following two losses), improving their Metropolitan Division lead to five points and Presidents’ Trophy edge over Minnesota to three.

    The Flyers fail to make up some ground in the Eastern Conference wild card race, staying at 63 standings points in 60 games played. The Panthers are tied with the Islanders and Bruins at 66 points, though Boston can change the picture ever so slightly against Anaheim (still in action) tonight.

    The bottom line, again, is that the Flyers failed in a chance to get a little closer to that logjam for the last East spot.

    Of course, plenty of Flyers fans will grumble about missed opportunities and iffy calls. Mike Milbury broke down the early setbacks that made life that much tougher for Philly:

    Philly couldn’t overcome the Capitals and that bad luck, making their playoff hopes a little dimmer as the trade deadline approaches.

    Oilers win on rare Russell goal, Panthers fall out of second wild card spot

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    The Edmonton Oilers’ 4-3 win against the Florida Panthers might end up being costly if Andrej Sekera misses significant time.

    But, hey, at least it was a win.

    The two rising squads engaged in a back-and-forth game, with the Oilers winning in regulation. Maybe fittingly with Edmonton leaking defensemen lately: Kris Russell was the guy to score the game-winner, set up by Connor McDavid‘s blazing speed and a nice pass by Leon Draisaitl.

    It was Russell’s first goal in more than a year.

    The Oilers will remain in the second spot in the Pacific at the end of the night whether the Anaheim Ducks beat the Boston Bruins or not. Interestingly, this puts them in a reasonable position to catch the Sharks for first place in the division, too.

    1. Sharks – 77 points in 60 games
    2. Oilers – 74 points in 61 games
    3. Ducks – 72 points in 61 games (in progress vs. Boston)

    The Oilers likely had some fans out East tonight, as this loss pushes Florida down the wild card rankings. They’re actually out of the second spot thanks to tiebreakers.

    Second wild card spot: Bruins – 66 points in 59 games, 30 wins and 28 ROW (in progress)

    Islanders – 66 points in 59 games, 28 wins and 27 ROW
    Panthers – 66 points in 59 games, 28 wins and 25 ROW

    The Isles would move into the second spot if Boston loses in regulation, underscoring just how congested this situation is. But either way, the Panthers won’t be in the East’s top eight at the end of the night.

    With Gibson out, Ducks recall interesting goalie: Enroth

    TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 11: Jhonas Enroth #35 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Air Canada Centre on November 11, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Flyers 6-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    One player’s injury is another player’s opportunity.

    Considering how much the Anaheim Ducks lean on John Gibson, it’s troubling that he’s day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

    Even so, it’s interesting to note that such a situation prompted the team to recall Jhonas Enroth, who will back up Jonathan Bernier during Wednesday’s game against the Boston Bruins.

    With the way Bernier’s been playing at times, it’s not impossible that Enroth could play as soon as tonight. But if he doesn’t you have to wonder if the Ducks might feel compelled to throw a start his way in the next week.

    The trade deadline is coming, and while the goalie market is really cold, some of that slow movement likely comes from how cap-unfriendly netminders like Ben Bishop might be.

    But what about Enroth? His cap hit is $750K this season, and while he thoroughly unimpressed Mike Babcock with rapid speed in Toronto, he was fantastic as a backup in Los Angeles last season and has been outstanding lately for the AHL’s San Diego Gulls.

    All things considered, it’s almost a little surprising the Ducks aren’t throwing him right into the deep end tonight. If you’re a team with poor backup goaltending like the Edmonton Oilers or any number of other teams,* why wouldn’t you give the Ducks a call?

    Maybe they need to see him in action in the NHL before doing so, making this an intriguing scenario to follow.

    And, hey, maybe the Ducks themselves might decide that he’s a better option behind Gibson than Bernier. Stranger things have happened.

    * – The Leafs might qualify, honestly … but again, Babs doesn’t seem to be an Enroth fan.

    Another defenseman down: Niskanen won’t return for Caps tonight (Video)

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    Uh oh.

    There are only three games on the docket for Wednesday, but injuries are a factor in all of them. The Washington Capitals must now worry about underrated defenseman Matt Niskanen after he left tonight’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers with a lower-body injury.

    Niskanen took a shift to end the second period, only not to return, much like Andrej Sekera did in tonight’s Edmonton Oilers game.

    The Capitals blueliner got hurt after falling awkwardly following a collision with Radko Gudas, as you can see from the video above.