Around The Rink – October 11

Happy Columbus Day to all of you fortunate enough to have a bank holiday to sit around and watch afternoon hockey. There are three games dropping the puck before the sun sets today while you’re kicking back enjoying some lasagna to celebrate everyone’s favorite 15th Century Italian explorer. All times are eastern because that’s the way Columbus wanted it.

1:00 pm

NY Rangers @ NY Islanders

Nothing says “holiday” like the Rangers and Isles going at each other like cats and dogs on Long Island. It’s their first meeting of the season and, like all other times they meet, should be a slugfest. Look for Derek Boogaard and Zenon Konopka to get to know each other at some point. Henrik Lundqvist will start for the Rangers in goal while Dwayne Roloson will start for the Islanders. Update: So much for Roloson, DiPietro gets the nod.

2:00 pm

Anaheim @ St. Louis

So the Ducks won’t have newly-signed Andreas Lilja in the lineup just yet, but at least they’ll have defenseman to kick around soon. Until then, the leaky defense will have to deal with David Backes and company. Cam Janssen won’t be around to punch people as he’s out for two weeks with a concussion.

4:00 pm

Pittsburgh @ New Jersey

Paul Martin makes his return to New Jersey as a member of the Penguins and he’s expecting to be met with boos. As for the game, the Devils will hope to tighten things up a bit after losing 7-2 to Washington Friday night. That might be tricky to do as they’ll be playing perhaps as few as 18 players. They’ll be without Pierre-Luc Letorneau-Leblond who was suspended. Anton Volchenkov may also miss the game after taking a puck in the visor that broke his nose.

7:00 pm

Chicago @ Buffalo

Buffalo native Patrick Kane gets to show off in his hometown this time without the Stanley Cup or a fire truck crane to get stuck in. Chicago is looking for their first win of the season while the Sabres are hoping they can bounce back after a 6-3 drubbing at the hands of the Rangers on Saturday.

Colorado @ Philadelphia

With Michael Leighton out for up to eight weeks with back surgery, it’ll be the Sergei Bobrovsky/Brian Boucher show in Philly. Bobrovsky looked solid in a win over Pittsburgh while Boucher fared well in an overtime loss to St. Louis. Meanwhile Colorado is riding high after an OT win over Chicago on opening night.

Ottawa @ Washington

The fighting Capitals are hoping to build on the 7-2 win they had over New Jersey on Saturday night that saw the Capitals make like it was the 1980s and both score tons of goals and have everyone drop the gloves. Meanwhile, the Senators are looking for their first win of the season. Coming off a rough 5-1 loss to Toronto gives the Sens all the motive they need to play better.

10:00 pm

Florida @ Vancouver

These teams dealt with each other enough in the off-season and training camp making three different trades with each other. As it happens, Keith Ballard will be all that Vancouver will be bringing to the ice that Florida might recognize, while the Panthers will break out Steve Bernier and Darcy Hordichuk. Look for Hordichuk to find a fighting partner on Vancouver to deal with.

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    Agent: Schultz likes Pittsburgh, but wants to be ‘rewarded’

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    Justin Schultz took a significant pay cut to re-sign with the Pittsburgh Penguins last year.

    He doesn’t begrudge the deal he signed, as the Penguins have been a big part of turning his career around.

    One assumes winning a couple of Stanley Cups has been pretty fun, too.

    That being said, the 26-year-old defenseman wants a raise.

    “We took a one-year, discounted deal to come back from last year and build upon what he did,” Schultz’s agent, Wade Arnott, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “The player took a lot of the risk. The player performed. Now the player should be rewarded.”

    Schultz, a restricted free agent, had a career-high 51 points in 78 games last season. Those 51 points were the seventh most among NHL defensemen — just five fewer than this summer’s biggest UFA, Kevin Shattenkirk, managed.

    Schultz then added 13 more points in the playoffs, as the Penguins managed to win it all without Kris Letang.

    For the record, Schultz wants to stay in Pittsburgh. The question is whether the Pens can afford to keep him, or if they’d be better off selling high in a trade.

    “We’ll probably have some more direction here this week with where we’re going with [a possible extension],” Arnott said. “But we’ve had some good discussions.”

    After Stepan trade, Zibanejad negotiations become even more crucial

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    For a good while, the center position in New York was largely carried by the one-two punch of Derick Brassard and Derek Stepan.

    Now, the Derick & Derek show is no longer.

    Stepan was shipped out during draft weekend in a blockbuster deal with Arizona. Brassard exited a year earlier in a move to Ottawa that brought Mika Zibanejad to the Blueshirts.

    Zibanejad, 24, was acquired by GM Jeff Gorton in the hopes of one day becoming New York’s No. 1 center. He certainly showed he was capable this season — despite missing nearly 30 games with a broken fibula, he put together a fine offensive regular season and then surged in the playoffs, finishing with nine points in 12 games.

    And now, a big negotiation sits on the horizon.

    Zibanejad is a restricted free agent coming off a two-year, $5.25 million deal with a $2.625M cap hit. As we wrote earlier, Gorton is “open to anything” with regards to the extension, saying he’d be willing to go either short- or long-term.

    One has to think Zibanejad has a ton of leverage. His acquisition price (Brassard) was significant, Stepan is now gone, and so too is depth center Oscar Lindberg, who was acquired by Vegas at the expansion draft. Right now, New York’s center depth consists of Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes and maybe some spot duty from J.T. Miller.

    Lias Andersson, taken seventh overall at Friday’s draft, said he wants to make the Rangers this year. But there’s no guarantee he’ll even play in North America this season, as Gorton could opt to send Andersson back to the Swedish League for further development.

    The free agent market isn’t especially inspiring down the middle, unless someone thinks they can land Joe Thornton, and there’s no doubt Zibanejad’s seen the paydays scored by some other good, young, top-line centers. Winnipeg gave Mark Scheifele $49 million over eight years, while Calgary gave Sean Monahan $44M over seven.

    Is Zibanejad at their level? If you surveyed folks around the league, the answer would be probably no. But he could be soon and, what’s more, the Rangers may be forced to pay him as if he already is.

    Sabres bring back defenseman Fedun on two-year deal

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    Taylor Fedun, the Sabres depth defenseman that was set to become a UFA on Saturday, has agreed to a two-year, two-way extension, Buffalo announced on Monday.

    Fedun, 29, appeared in 27 games for the Sabres last year, splitting time between the NHL and the club’s AHL affiliate in Rochester. He was a very productive player for the Amerks, scoring 23 points in 29 games.

    Moving forward, most expect Fedun to continue in the same role he served this year — a guy that can provide veteran stability at the minor league level, and fill spot duty at the NHL level when injuries strike.

    Ottawa extends Pyatt — two years, $2.2 million

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    Tom Pyatt, the veteran forward who enjoyed some success reuniting with Guy Boucher in Ottawa last season, has re-signed with the Sens on a two-year, $2.2 million deal, per TSN.

    Pyatt was a steady contributor for the Sens, scoring nine goals and 23 points while appearing in all 82 contests. He averaged over 15 minutes per night and was a vital part of the club’s penalty kill, leading all forwards in blocked shots.

    He also appeared in 14 playoff games, scoring twice.

    Prior to playing in Ottawa, Pyatt had skated under Boucher in Tampa Bay. They spent parts of two years together with the Lightning, before heading off to Switzerland — Pyatt with Geneve Servette, Boucher with Bern SC.

    Pyatt was set to become an unrestricted free agent on Saturday, but clearly liked the fit in Ottawa. He’ll get a pay bump — up from the $800,000 he made last year — a bit more long-term security, and possibly a bigger role with the Sens moving forward.

    Ottawa has already stated it will cut ties with veteran tough guy Chris Neil, and decisions are still looming on UFA forwards Viktor Stalberg, Chris Kelly and Tommy Wingels.