Around the Rink – Saturday, November 6th

Here are previews of tonight’s hefty 12-game slate. As usual, all times are Eastern (ET).

7:00 pm

Chicago @ Atlanta

What’s the best way to give your sagging attendance a little lift? How about playing against the defending Stanley Cup champions, especially as they struggle so you might even earn a win? It should be an interesting reunion, too, as Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager and Andrew Ladd play against their former Blackhawk teammates.

St. Louis @ Boston

Two dominant defensive teams go head-to-head tonight, as Jaroslav Halak (or Ty Conklin?) and the Blues takes on Tim Thomas (or Tuukka Rask?) of the Bruins. Both teams are off to strong starts so far this season, so this could be a good barometer for each team.

Philadelphia @ NY Islanders

This is a contest between two Atlantic Division teams on divergent paths; the Flyers are on to of the division thanks to a five-game winning streak, while the Islanders are tumbling their way back to the cellar thanks to a six-game losing lull.

Ottawa @ Montreal

The Senators are getting their acts together after a tough start to the season, winning five of their last seven games. They were possibly the streakiest team in the league last season so this isn’t much of a surprise. The Canadiens have had their act together more or less all season, so they will provide a nice test for their division rivals.

Florida @ Carolina

The Hurricanes have to hope that their end of the home-and-home back-to-back series is more successful, as they lost 7-4 last night. Then again, Tomas Vokoun probably hopes for a different outcome – at least if he starts tonight – since Vokoun was pulled from Friday’s game.

Buffalo @ Toronto

This is one of those “well, someone has to win it” games. Toronto lost their last four games while Buffalo is on a five-gaming losing streak, with the Sabres being especially hopeless. Perhaps one of these two teams will use this contest to rebuild their momentum?

Minnesota @ Columbus

The Wild seem like they straightened things out, but one misleading fact is that they only played three of their 12 games on the road (1-1-1). The Blue Jackets are keeping pace in the highly competitive Central Division, with Mathieu Garon on quite the hot streak.

9:00 pm

Pittsburgh @ Phoenix

It seemed like the Penguins righted the ship with a four-game winning streak, only now they are 1-4-1 in their last six games. The Coyotes haven’t been very good lately either, going 2-3-2 in their last seven.

Dallas @ Colorado

The Stars finished their six-game homestand dominating their last three, including a thrashing of the Coyotes on Friday. While the Stars have been pretty hot, the Avalanche are growing a little cold, going 2-3-1 in their last six games.

10:00 pm

Nashville @ Los Angeles

It’s a match between two responsible defensive teams on different paths. The Predators have lost their last three while the Kings are on a three-game winning streak. Should be a gone one.

Detroit @ Vancouver

Two Western Conference division leaders – and genuine contenders – go up against each other in this one. The Canucks have won five in a row while the Red Wings are on a three-game winning streak, including a 3-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers last night.

Tampa Bay @ San Jose

The Sharks haven’t scored a goal in their last two games and things aren’t going to get any easier, as captain and leading scorer Joe Thornton will face a two-game suspension. The Lightning have been strong so far this season, but the Capitals have the Southeast Division lead. Will this game involve a not-particularly-emotional reunion between Sharks goalie Antero Niittymaki and his former team?

‘Nothing’s different’: Dale Tallon says he still has final say in Panthers’ personnel decisions

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 28: Dale Tallon, General Manager of the Florida Panthers, speaks on the phone on Day Two of the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 28, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Despite having a terrific season in 2015-16, the Florida Panthers made a number of changes to their front office. Some of the moves include: Tom Rowe being promoted to general manager, Dale Tallon being named the director of hockey operations and Eric Joyce and Steve Werier serving as assistant general managers.

There’s a lot of confusion as to who gets to make the final call on player personnel decisions in Florida, but Tallon tried to clear that up during a radio interview with 560 WQAM on Thursday.

“It allows me to focus on what I do best,” Tallon said of the front office changes. “And that’s evaluate, travel, scout and give us information on players that will help us win a championship and keep us as a top team for the next 15 years.

“I have a lot to say. I’m a stubborn guy, I have opinions, I have strong opinions and I let them know where I stand and I let them know how I feel. That’s the way it is. The bottom line is what’s best for the team.”

When asked if he still has the final say on personnel decisions, Tallon said: “yes, I do”.

When pressed on the issue, Tallon said this:

“Like I said, it’s by committee, we do it together. We’ve always done that. Nothing’s different. We’ve got great support and things are terrific. We’re really excited about our future, we’re excited about having a chance to win this year.”

It seems curious that the Panthers made all these changes after finally having success and qualifying for the playoffs, but they appear to have strong, committed owners, who are willing to do whatever it takes to put a winning product on the ice. We’ll soon find out if the changes were for the better or not.

To listen to the full interview, click here.

Update: Coyotes sign Connor Murphy to six-year extension

GLENDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 18:  Connor Murphy #5 of the Arizona Coyotes during the NHL game against the Washington Capitals at Gila River Arena on November 18, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona. The Capitals defeated the Coyotes 2-1 in overtime.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Coyotes GM John Chayka is putting the finishing touches on a productive off-season. Chayka was able to acquire Alex Goligoski, re-sign Shane Doan, sign Jamie McGinn, he improved his position in the draft by acquiring Pavel Datsyuk and also signed former King Luke Schenn.

Now, it sounds like he’s close to locking up another piece of the puzzle. Connor Murphy‘s agent, Brian Bartlett, believes that his client will have a new deal with the Coyotes by the end of the week, according to Arizona Sports 98.7. 

UPDATE: The Coyotes announced that they’ve re-signed Murphy to a new six-year contract reportedly worth $23.1 million (3.85 AAV).

“We are extremely pleased to sign Connor to a long-term contract,” said Chayka, in a team release. “At only 23, Connor has established himself as a very good NHL defenseman. He’s a great skater, a fierce competitor and he has an excellent work ethic. We look forward to him taking the next step and having him on our blue line for many years to come.”

Murphy is coming off his entry-level deal. He scored six goals and 17 points in 78 games with Arizona last season. The 23-year-old was the Coyotes’ first round pick, 20th overall, back in 2011.

The Coyotes now have two restricted free agents to sign before the start of the season, as defenseman Michael Stone and forward Tobias Rieder also need new deals.

Stone and the Coyotes are scheduled to go to arbitration on Aug. 4, while negotiations between the club and Tobias Rieder don’t seem to be going very well.

Marchand might be ‘obnoxious,’ but he helped convince Backes to sign in Boston

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Brad Marchand is one of those players that you hate to play against, but you love him if he’s on your team. That much is fairly obvious.

But last month, Marchand (as well as teammate Patrice Bergeron) proved to be effective recruiters for at least one free agent. David Backes admitted that the phone calls he received from the two veterans definitely helped him settle on the idea of joining the Bruins.

“Talking to [Marchand] a little bit during the interview process before July 1, I hung up the phone and kind of had to take a deep breath and say, ‘Is that the little disturber, pain-in-the-butt? He’s actually a pretty good guy,” joked Backes, per the Bruins’ website.

In an exclusive interview with CSN’s Joe Haggerty, Backes reiterated that both Bergeron and Marchand are a “pain-in-the-butt” to play against, but he quickly added (with a smirk) that Marchand is more ‘obnoxious’ (click the video at the top of the page for the full interview).

So what exactly did Marchand and Bergeron say to Backes during the phone calls?

“Those guys are the best teammates when you get them on your team,” Backes said of Marchand and Bergeron. “When they talk about sharing critical ice, and hard ice, and hard minutes with a couple of lines, to me that’s what you need in this league.”

Backes has always been known for his physical style of play, but at 32-years-old he may not be able to do all the dirty work for much longer. It sounds like both Marchand and Bergeron convinced Backes that the heavy lifting will be a team-effort, as opposed to a one-man or one-line thing.

Of course, the five-year, $30 million contract the Bruins gave Backes was also an effective recruiting tool.

Flames say there’s still ‘no real update’ on contract talks with RFA forwards Monahan, Gaudreau

CALGARY, AB - JANUARY 7: Johnny Gaudreau #13 (L) of the Calgary Flames confers with his teammate Sean Monahan #23 during a break in play against the Detroit Red Wings during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on January 7, 2015 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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NHL training camps open in September and although most teams have done the bulk of their off-season tweaking, there’s still at least one team that has some serious work to do.

The Calgary Flames are still working on signing forwards Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan to contract extensions. Both players are currently restricted free agents.

“No real update there,” said general manager Brad Treliving, per the Calgary Herald.  “We’ll continue to work away at it.”

The Flames have just under $15 million in cap space remaining, according to General Fanager. There’s a good chance both RFA forwards will take a deep bite into those remaining dollars.

Monahan already said he’d be willing to take less money to get a deal done, but that doesn’t mean he’ll come cheap. The 21-year-old scored 58 goals and 125 points in 162 games over the last two seasons.

As for Gaudreau, he’ll cost a pretty penny as well. The 22-year-old is coming off a season in which he scored 30 goals and 78 points in 79 games.

Here’s an excerpt from the Herald regarding these two players:

With 11 weeks until the regular season begins, here is what we know:

• Both players are restricted free agents and received qualifying offers from the Flames earlier this month. Talks are ongoing.

• Both are expected to receive whopping raises.

• Both are seeking long-term contracts, expressing that they’d like to play together for the foreseeable future.

• Both could be getting paid in the neighbourhood of between $6-million and $7.5-million for between six and eight years (if you use the com parables of Vladimir Tarasenko, Filip Forsberg, Seth Jones, Aleksander Barkov, and Nathan MacKinnon).

Thankfully for Calgary, they’ve done a decent job of managing their roster and the cap. Gaudreau and Monahan are the only two players on the roster that still need new contracts. The rest of the team is locked up for at least one more year.