Brian Burke: It's not automatic Jeff Finger will be sent down for salary space

jefffinger1.jpgA few teams have some salary cap issues to address before the season starts. The Rangers have already gotten a jump on things by putting Wade Redden on waivers. Other teams, like the Toronto Maple Leafs, still have some questions of their own to answer as far as what they’ll do to get under the $59.4 million cap.

While fans and some media alike are suspecting that defenseman Jeff Finger and his $3.5 million cap hit will be put on waivers, James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail finds out that Brian Burke thinks a bit differently.

“This speculation that Jeff Finger has been earmarked for assignment, I don’t think is fair to Jeff,” Burke said on a conference call announcing 21 training camp cuts. “It’s not what a professional athlete who signs as a free agent is entitled to.

“I think he’s entitled to a fair look. You can’t come in with a preconceived notion that that’s how you’re going to solve your cap issue. That’s not fair to the player. You start doing stuff like that then players aren’t going sign with your organization.”

A lot of this discussion is coming up because the Leafs are currently over the cap and with the glut of defensemen the Leafs have to choose from, someone will have to go to the AHL one way or another. The Leafs do have players with options that can go down (Carl Gunnarsson for example), but unfortunately for them, those guys are playing well and putting the pressure on Burke and coach Ron Wilson to make the best moves talent-wise and financially for the team. It’s a delicate balance to say the least.

How Burke plays this will be fascinating because he’s done nothing but give the appearance of being honorable towards the players when it comes to keeping their rights and commitments in mind while under contract. If the Leafs move to send Finger to the AHL, how Burke handles the attention brought by that will be interesting. Perhaps getting Garth Snow on the phone to talk about their recent opening on the blue line with Mark Streit out for six months wouldn’t be a bad idea.

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    Stars end Capitals’ winning streak, pass Blackhawks for West lead

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    For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”

    They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:

    • Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
    • This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
    • By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.

    Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).

    Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.

    Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.

    Blackhawks fall to Ducks in OT, lose Hossa to injury

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    The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.

    (Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)

    Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)

    You can see that moment in the video above, while My Regular Face’s GIF also captures that troubling moment:

    It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.

    Update: Joel Quenneville seems optimistic about Hossa, broadly speaking:

    Ryan Getzlaf scored the overtime game-winner as the Ducks won 3-2 (OT).

    Understatement: Saturday was a rough night for Panthers

    Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) checks Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
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    If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.

    You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.

    The pain goes beyond that … literally so.

    For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.

    (Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)

    The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.

    Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.

    Fractured jaw from fight sidelines Chris Stewart for 4-8 weeks

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    It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.

    The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).

    The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.

    One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.