Nightly recap – Saturday, October 30th

It’s the busiest night of the year. I look at it as the NHLs way of preparing for Halloween since everyone wears masks all the time anyway. Anyhow, lots of action to cover so here we go.

NY Rangers 2 – Toronto 0

The Leafs offense continues to sputter, meanwhile Henrik Lundqvist gets the benefit of a 36-save shutout for his efforts. Brian Boyle had a goal and Ryan Callahan scored on a penalty shot for New York. Toronto had plenty of shots, just no luck getting one by Lundqvist.

Florida 3 – Montreal 1

Tomas Vokoun spoiled the comeback of Habs defenseman Andrei Markov by making 40 stops in the win for Florida. Vokoun out-dueled Carey Price to earn the win. Shawn Matthias had a goal and an assist for Florida in the win. Markov played 23:03 and registered five shots on goal for Montreal in his first game back since injuring his knee last season.

Boston 4 – Ottawa 0

Tim Thomas continues to be the man in Boston. Another shutout for the goalie leads to his goals against average falling to an unreal 0.50 this season. Thomas stopped 29 shots in the win and is turning heads all over the league with his play. Meanwhile, Milan Lucic scored his fourth goal of the year and rookies Jordan Caron and Tyler Seguin each scored their third in the win.

Philadelphia 6 – NY Islanders 1

An all-around ugly game for the Islanders ends up being a destructive effort out of the Flyers in a 6-1 romp. Chris Pronger had two goals for Philly, while Sergei Bobrovsky made 30 saves in the win. Things got a bit ugly in the third period as the teams exchanged scrums, questionable hits, and fights leading to two game misconducts, and 61 penalty minutes. 114 penalty minutes in all and three players were kicked out of the game in all as Trent Hunter, Trevor Gillies and Daniel Briere all had their nights end early. Expect there to be repercussions for Briere’s cross check.

Pittsburgh 3 – Carolina 0

Brent Johnson continues to make life hard on opponents as well as Marc-Andre Fleury after pitching a 33-save shutout. Pascal Dupuis did the heavy lifting for the offense scoring twice while Max Talbot scored as well. Getting the offense going was important for Pittsburgh as they were without Evgeni Malkin.

Detroit 5 – Nashville 2

No Jimmy Howard, no problem for the Red Wings as they’ve got Pavel Datsyuk around to make up the difference. Datsyuk had two goals and an assist while Chris Osgood stopped 23 shots en route to the victory. Nick Lidstrom and Ruslan Salei added two assists each for Detroit while Joel Ward and Kevin Klein had a goal each for the Predators.

St. Louis 4 – Atlanta 3 (F/SO)

Jay McClement ruined the comeback game for Ondrej Pavelec. With Pavelec playing his first game since passing out on the ice opening night, McClement made sure to make the night more memorable for himself netting a hat trick. Pavelec had a solid outing nonetheless stopping 32 shots in the shootout loss. Jaroslav Halak saw his shutout streak end at 160:13 in the first period when Rich Peverley scored.  Halak made 25 saves in the win.

Chicago 3 – Minnesota 1

Troy Brouwer and Duncan Keith each had a goal and an assist in the game while Marty Turco stopped 25 shots in the win. Marek Zidlicky scored Minnesota’s lone goal, meanwhile Niklas Backstrom saved 29 shots in the loss.

Dallas 4 – Buffalo 0

Another stinker of a game for the Sabres, this time on the road in Dallas. Andrew Raycroft stopped 34 shots earning the shutout. Brad Richards lead the offense with two assists while four different Stars players chipped in goals. Things are going the wrong way for Buffalo who might be in need of a shake up. Patrick Lalime did save 37 shots in the loss.

Colorado 5 – Columbus 1

Chris Stewart’s hot season continues as the young power forward had his ninth goal of the year and added an assist in Colorado’s romp over the Blue Jackets. Paul Stastny also had a goal and an assist while Peter Budaj saved 33 shots in the win. Derick Brassard had Columbus’ lone goal in an otherwise sorry effort for the team.

Tampa Bay 3 – Phoenix 0

Perhaps there’s something to the Tampa Bay Lightning after all. Dan Ellis stopped 23 shots in earning the shutout. Meanwhile, Steven Stamkos scored his ninth goal of the season in helping to lead the Lightning to victory in front of an announced crowd of just over 8,000 fans in Arizona. Coyotes captain Shane Doan picked up an instigator penalty for starting a fight with defenseman Pavel Kubina after Kubina was busted for a kneeing penalty.

Washington 7 – Calgary 2

What started off well for Calgary being up 2-1 after the first period, ended horribly after giving up six goals in the second period including two quick ones to Alexander Ovechkin and an own goal courtesy of Cory Sarich. David Steckel also had a penalty shot goal after being hauled down on a breakaway by Mark Giordano. The Flames have now allowed six-plus goals in back-to-back games.

Los Angeles 3 – New Jersey 1

Another offensively challenging game for the Devils, only this time Martin Brodeur couldn’t save them. Meanwhile, Jon Quick was stellar in stopping 39 shots in the win for L.A. Justin Williams, Michal Handzus, and Jarret Stoll all scored for the Kings while rookie defenseman Matt Taormina scored his third goal of the season for New Jersey. As for Ilya Kovalchuk, he was booed every time he touched the puck and held without a point. You win this round, Los Angeles.

San Jose 5 – Anaheim 2

Another bad night for the Ducks as backup goalie Curtis McElhinney had his hands full in dealing with a Sharks team that was too fast for Anaheim’s defense. To make matters worse, the Ducks couldn’t even win the battles with their fists. Five different Sharks players, including Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau scored goals while Antero Niittymaki held strong in goal to hold things down in net stopping 22 shots. For Anaheim, it’s another bad game for them, one that makes you think their season is going to be a consistent roller coaster of mayhem all year.

Wild GM wants long-term deals for Granlund, Niederreiter

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Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher admits that contract negotiations are “plodding along” with RFAs Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter. Even so, Fletcher noted to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo that salary arbitration hearings might serve as just the sort of deadlines the Wild need with the two rising offensive talents.

As a reminder, Niederreiter’s hearing is slated for Aug. 3 and Granlund is scheduled for one day later, on Aug. 4.

Fletcher told Russo that he expects something similar to what Viktor Arvidsson worked out with the Nashville Predators, at least when it comes down to figuring out a fairly long deal around the time of a hearing.

“We’re open to any angle,” Fletcher said, referring to a term of three, four or five years. “I guess anything’s possible, but somewhere in that three- to five-year range would probably work well for everybody. That’s not to preclude a longer deal, but that’s not where the focus has been on our end.”

Plenty of recent deals for comparison

It’s easy to imagine Fletcher crossing his fingers that the Granlund and Niederreiter deals echoed Arvidsson’s from a cap perspective; Arvidsson’s only getting $4.25 million (though for seven years), while Russo notes that Granlund and Niederreiter are at least asking for more than $6M per year.

Of course, when it comes to hearings and really other negotiations, the asks from players tend to be high while teams tend to go low.

A realistic number is likely to fall somewhere in between, and if nothing else, the sides have a decent array to work with. It remains to be seen if the Wild aim for something more like Arvidsson’s $4.25M, Mika Zibanejad‘s $5.3M over five seasons, or a different dollar amount + term.

Pondering their value

Naturally, both forwards bring different arguments to the table.

Niederreiter is riding three consecutive 20+ goal seasons, setting new career-highs with 25 goals and 57 points in 2016-17. Granlund, meanwhile, is a bit more like Arvidsson in that he greatly improved upon previous career bests; in Granlund’s case, he scored 26 goals and 69 points. While Niederreiter has a longer track record, some might view Granlund as a higher “ceiling” guy.

The bright side is that the Wild have some cap space to work with. Cap Friendly estimates their cap space at $15.79 million before signing Granlund, Niederreiter, and Marcus Foligno as RFAs. As a team aiming to contend, they’ll want some wiggle room to work with, but at least the situation isn’t too dire.

Let’s look at Rangers’ contracts after Zibanejad signing

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The New York Rangers are no strangers to big off-season (and trade deadline) changes, and this summer has been no different.

Phew, that’s quite the series of changes, and it’s not necessarily covering every single facet.

So, that leaves us with some questions: what are the Rangers left with, and what does the future look like beyond 2017-18?

Spending on players in their own zone

When checking out the Rangers’ salary structure at Cap Friendly, it’s clear that the Rangers’ long-term commitments lie in Henrik Lundqvist ($8.5 million cap hit through 2020-21) and the defense in front of him.

Shattenkirk, 28, is the highest-paid blueliner of the bunch … at least for now.

His $6.65M cap hit is more manageable than some anticipated, particularly since the term isn’t too risky at four years. Shattenkirk, Marc Staal (30 years old, $5.7M), and Brendan Smith (28, $4.35M) all see their contracts expire after the 2020-21 season.

Shattenkirk may not be the most expensive Rangers defensemen for too long, as Ryan McDonagh is due for a raise quite soon. The 28-year-old’s $4.7M cap hit is a bargain, but his deal runs out after 2018-19. McDonagh would hit unrestricted free agency if the Rangers can’t figure something out there.

As mentioned before, the Rangers are trying to shake Holden’s $1.65M cap hit (a deal that only runs through 2017-18), but either way, he likely won’t be part of the mix for long. Brady Skjei, on the other hand, stands as an especially intriguing consideration. His rookie deal expires after next season, and with it that $925K cap hit. It will be intriguing to see how much he gets, and when the Rangers aim to sign him (as they technically could do that now if they’d like).

Staal’s $5.7M is a problem, especially going forward. Otherwise, the Rangers seem to be spending their money reasonably wisely on the blueline.

The goalies behind that defense should be fascinating to watch, as Pavelec has plenty to prove after years of Raanta giving Lundqvist very valuable breaks.

Uncertainty beyond Zibanejad?

It’s one thing to have three defensemen locked down for at least three seasons; it’s another to see that the Rangers only have three forwards with at least three years of term remaining.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, yet it’s a bit of an eyebrow-raiser for a team that once made a lot of shaky bets on long-term deals for scorers.

Right now, these are the three Rangers forwards who are signed through 2019-20 or later:

Zibanejad: 24, $5.35M, expires after 2021-22 (would be UFA)
Chris Kreider: 26, $4.625M, expires after 2019-20 (UFA)
Jesper Fast: 25, $1.85M, expires after 2019-20 (UFA)

Those deals are good-to-great, and the best news is that those players are in the thick of their primes.

It’s fascinating to note some of the decisions that are looming, though.

After a long stretch of being a trade rumor magnet, Rick Nash, 33, will see his $7.8M cap hit evaporate after 2017-18. That could come in handy as the Rangers will see noteworthy forwards (and also Skjei) like J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes, and Jimmy Vesey become RFAs. Desharnais is slated to be a UFA, and most importantly, Michael Grabner is too … and will almost certainly command a significant raise from his dirt-cheap $1.65M.

Some interesting deals only have two years remaining, including Mats Zuccarello‘s $4.5M and Pavel Buchnevich‘s ELC.

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All things considered, the Rangers are in pretty good shape. It’s up to GM Jeff Gorton to keep it that way.

Report: Hobey Baker winner Butcher won’t sign with Avs, will test free agency

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It looks like the NCAA’s Hobey Baker Award winner won’t sign with the NHL team that has his rights … again.

Last year, Jimmy Vesey rejected the Nashville Predators’ offers in a very public way, ultimately signing with the New York Rangers. Defenseman Will Butcher will test free agency on Aug. 15 instead of agreeing to an entry-level contract with the Colorado Avalanche, as his agent confirmed to BSN Denver’s Adrian Dater.

“We informed the Avalanche of that decision,” Butcher’s agent, Brian Bartlett, told BSN Denver. “We appreciate what Colorado has done, and we’re not ruling out the Avalanche as a potential destination. But we just feel there will be other opportunities that should be explored too, and therefore we’re going (to the 15th).”

Those who’ve followed Butcher’s situation probably aren’t too surprised by the news.

It became clear as early as 2016 that the Avalanche weren’t interested in signing Butcher, a high-scoring defenseman they selected in the fifth round of a disastrous 2014 draft class.

This disinterest came even as Butcher generated 32 points in 39 games for the University of Denver in 2015-16, and he topped that last season, generating 37 points in 43 contests to take home the Hobey Baker. Butcher also enjoyed team success in 2016-17, helping Denver win a national championship.

At 22, he’d sign a cheap entry-level deal, only getting more expensive bonuses if Butcher excels, which would be worth it for just about any suitor. He’s likely to draw plenty of interest, whether he takes the Avalanche’s offers seriously or not.

Pension Plan Puppets provides an argument for why the Toronto Maple Leafs should be interested, while Second City Hockey went in-depth on the pluses for the defense-challenged Chicago Blackhawks, just to name two possible destinations that could make sense for Butcher.

Sharks add assistant Barr as ‘eye in the sky’

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The San Jose Sharks added experienced assistant Dave Barr to Peter DeBoer’s coaching staff on Wednesday.

The team noted that Barr will serves as the Sharks’ “eye-in-the-sky” during the 2017-18 season.

DeBoer has experience with Barr, as he served as an assistant during the New Jersey Devils’ run to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final. Barr was also part of that mess with the Florida Panthers last season.

Beyond that, Barr is quite experienced, as you can see from the team’s summary of his recent coaching travels:

Barr has spent the past nine seasons coaching in various capacities in the NHL, serving most recently as an associate coach of the Florida Panthers during the 2016-17 season. Prior to his time in Florida, Barr served as an NHL assistant coach for eight seasons, with stops in Buffalo (2015-16), New Jersey (2011-15), Minnesota (2009-11) and Colorado (2008-09). Barr was a member of Peter DeBoer’s coaching staff during his four-year tenure with New Jersey, helping the team reach the 2012 Stanley Cup Final. 

The 56-year-old Barr spent four seasons as the head coach and general manager of the Guelph Storm in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) from 2004-08, where he was named the Matt Leyden Trophy winner as the OHL’s Coach of the Year in 2005-06. In addition, he was selected to coach Canada’s National Summer Under-18 Team at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in 2007.