Eric Tangradi knows how to stick with the Penguins: make life miserable for goalies

erictangradiscreen.jpgBack in the Mario Lemieux Era, the Pittsburgh Penguins were at their greatest when they sported an incredibly deep lineup that included Kevin Stevens, a power forward who enjoyed his best years skating alongside Super Mario.

While the “current” edition of the team already won one Cup with a twilight-years power forward (Bill Guerin) and a hellacious forechecker with suspect hands (Chris Kunitz), the team seems like it misses a certain presence at the forward position. With that quibble in mind, perhaps the biggest wild card for the Pens this season is prized prospect Eric Tangradi.

At 6’4″ 221 lbs., Tangradi knows what he needs to do to crack the Penguins lineup: create havoc, particularly in front of the net. Mike Colligan wrote about Tangardi possibly being a diamond in the rough for The Hockey Writers and might be able to play a role that hasn’t been filled properly since Ryan Malone bolted to Tampa Bay for big bucks in free agency.

The combined length of Tangradi’s goals in this 3:16 AHL highlight reel (via Eric P. of The PensBlog) wouldn’t add up to the length of an NHL ice surface and should remind many Penguins fans of Ryan Malone. Malone had a career year with Malkin and Petr Sykora in 2007-08, scoring 27 goals and landing a 7-year, $31.5m contract with Tampa Bay.

When I asked Tangradi about other NHL players he feels play a similar style, he pointed to two of the premier power-forwards in the Western Conference:

“I think [Tomas] Holmstrom is one of those guys especially and [Johan] Franzen as well from Detroit. They’re skill guys, but they use their big frame to get to the front of the net and they’re able to play with high-level players. As a group they’re very effective because of the big guy driving down the middle to the net.”

OK, it might be a little hasty for Tangradi to compare himself to a true technician at screening goalies (Holmstrom) or a player with scary drive and scarier hands (Franzen), but I think the message is that he’s prepared to crowd the crease to the best of his ability. Such a presence would be especially welcome on the Penguins power play, as the unit has often been a little “too cute” and guilty of making too many passes in the last few years. Screening a goalie is one of those “easier said than done” tasks, but blocking a netminder’s vision can force all those hours of positional training to dissolve into seconds of sprawling desperation.

Tangradi may very well be one of those subtle wild cards for the Penguins, a guy who determines the team’s “ceiling.” If he flourishes as a rookie, the Penguins would have Kunitz, Tangradi and Staal/Malkin as suitable wingers. If he doesn’t then the team will once again rely on Crosby and Malkin to produce nearly all their offense.

He might not be a likely Calder candidate, but Tangradi is nonetheless a rookie to watch in 2010-11.

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    Red Wings sign Tomas Tatar: four years, $21.2M

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    It turns out that Tomas Tatar‘s days are numbered with the Detroit Red Wings by almost 1,500.*

    After a salary arbitration hearing and concerns that he might leave after a single season, “Band-Aid” sort of deal, a wide variety of reporters state that the two sides instead agreed to a four-year deal with a $5.3 million cap hit, which would total $21.2 million.

    Those figures come from MLive.com’s Ansar Khan, the Detroit News’ Ted Kulfan, FanRag’s Craig Morgan, and Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. It will be noted if the Red Wings make the term and/or financial details official.

    Here’s the reported yearly breakdown (cue ominous music for that lockout-protection drop in 2020-21), via Morgan:

    Again, this feels like a change in viewpoint, as even just yesterday it was reasonable to wonder if Tatar would only stick around for 2017-18. Now, it is possible that Tatar might get traded at some point, but a four-year deal is a bit surprising. The forward himself speculated that a one-year deal would be it.

    This contract makes Tatar, 26, the Red Wings’ second-most expensive forward from a cap perspective, trailing only Henrik Zetteberg’s $6.083 million.

    Even with this deal out of the way, Red Wings GM Ken Holland still has some work to do, including re-signing speedy forward Andreas Athanasiou. And the situation is tight.

    * – Four times 365 is 1,460. Get it?

    Wingels fractures foot, but should be ready for Blackhawks camp

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    The good news is that Tommy Wingels is expected to be ready for Chicago Blackhawks training camp. The bad news is that he’ll be limited in his training regimen … although that very regimen caused him issues in the first place.

    Dr. Michael Terry, the Blackhawks’ team doctor, released the following update regarding Wingels:

    “Tommy Wingels sustained a left foot fracture during his off-season training. We anticipate a full recovery in six to eight weeks and in time for training camp. We do not anticipate any long-term issues.”

    It’s unclear what caused the specific injury. Dropped weight? Unlucky fall? Perhaps a stress fracture? Without knowing the exact issue, it’s tempting to picture various painful scenarios.

    (Probably because we’re in the dog days of the hockey summer, too.)

    Wingels, 29, is on a one-year deal with Chicago, carrying a $750K salary and cap hit. He last played for the Ottawa Senators, though Blackhawks fans are most likely to remember him from his lengthy stay with the San Jose Sharks.

    Six-to-eight weeks seems like it wouldn’t give a ton of room for error, so we’ll see if he’ll actually be ready for training camp.

    Dahlin headlines Sweden’s roster for World Junior Summer Showcase

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    Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, potentially the NHL’s first overall draft pick in 2018, will suit up for Sweden at the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Michigan.

    Dahlin, who doesn’t turn 18 until April, has wowed scouts with his skating and puck-moving ability. At the 2017 World Juniors, he participated as a 16-year-old, garnering tantalizing reviews in the process.

    Top-10 picks in the 2017 draft, Elias Pettersson (5th, Vancouver Canucks) and Lias Andersson (7th, New York Rangers), will also be in Plymouth representing Sweden.

    Click here for Sweden’s and Finland’s Summer Showcase rosters. The tournament runs from July 29 – Aug. 5 and also features players from the United States and Canada.

    Among the draft-eligible Finns to watch is 17-year-old forward Jesse Ylonen, who could be a late first-rounder in 2018.

    Related: USA Hockey invites 42 players to World Junior Summer Showcase

    All of a sudden, hope for hockey in Houston

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    Leslie Alexander’s decision to sell the NBA’s Rockets has revived hope for a hockey team in Houston.

    That’s because Alexander is arguably the biggest reason that Houston doesn’t already have a team. The 72-year-old billionaire controls Toyota Center, where the Rockets play. Without getting into all the details, he’s essentially been the only one who could bring an NHL franchise to the city.

    From the Houston Press:

    But Alexander selling the Rockets (and the lease that goes with it), opens up an NHL-ready hockey arena in Houston. And that’s something that Seattle, which the NHL seemed to favor, can’t offer, and unlike Quebec City, Houston offers up a huge media market with many, many large corporations around to buy up luxury seats.

    Houston is certainly a big city. In fact, only four metro areas in the United States — New York, L.A., Chicago and Dallas — have higher populations.

    And Houston is growing fast.

    Jeremy Jacobs, the influential owner of the Boston Bruins, has not hidden his desire to put an NHL team in Toyota Center. Back in 2015, he told ESPN.com, “I would love to see one in Houston, but we can’t get into that building.”

    Perhaps soon the NHL won’t have that impediment.

    FanRag’s Cat Silverman wrote extensively about this topic yesterday. To learn more, give it a read.