Today’s Starting Goalies – November 24 (early edition)

Whether you’re interested for fantasy hockey reasons or just want to know which goalie your team is playing in a given day, we thought it might be helpful to share our best guesses (based on various previews from newspapers and Web sites plus our own instincts) on who might start each day.

7:00 PM ET games

Pittsburgh @ Buffalo

Likely Pittsburgh starter: Marc-Andre Fleury – Word is that Brent Johnson was going to get the start, but came down with the flu and is likely to play in the Penguins’ next game instead. (Source: Inside Pittsburgh Sports.)

Likely Buffalo starter: Jhonas Enroth – No Ryan Miller tonight. There’s a slight chance the Sabres might start former Penguins goalie Patrick Lalime, though. (Source: another Inside Pittsburgh Sports Tweet.)

Columbus @ NY Islanders

Likely Columbus starter: Mathieu Garon – The Blue Jackets have enjoyed the work of both of their goalies in their improbable month of brilliance, so don’t expect much – if any – drop off from Steve Mason to Garon. (Source: Aaron Portzline.)

Likely NY Islanders starter: Rick DiPietro – He actually looked pretty good in his last start, so maybe he can help the Islanders end their ugly losing streak? It won’t be easy against the road rugged Blue Jackets (7-1-0 away record). (Source: NY Islanders.)

Washington @ Carolina

Likely Washington starter: Semyon Varlamov – No guarantee at all, but my guess is that this means Braden Holtby’s days are probably numbered. (Source: Katie Carrera.)

Likely Carolina starter: Justin Peters – The Hurricanes have been up-and-down lately, but one common thread is that they’ve only won with Cam Ward. Peters will try to earn his first win of the season the hard way tonight. (Source: Canes Country.)

Detroit @ Atlanta

Likely Detroit starter: Jimmy Howard – He’s been a little off his game lately, but Howard is still the clear starter in Detroit. (Source: Winging it in Motown.)

Likely Atlanta starter: Ondrej Pavelec – It seems like he’s starting to take hold of the “1a” job in Atlanta. (Source: Chris Vivlamore.)

7:30 PM ET games

Los Angeles @ Montreal

Likely Los Angeles starter: Jonathan Bernier – Much has been made of the fact that this is a homecoming for Bernier. Will that mean a high-end performance or a pressure-packed meltdown? (Source: Rich Hammond.)

Likely Montreal starter: Carey Price – I almost feel a bit bad for Alex Auld; he’s actually a pretty good backup. Yet Price has played so well, it’s hard to argue with the Habs starting him once again. (Source: Habs Inside/Out.)

Dallas @ Ottawa

Likely Dallas starter: Andrew Raycroft – Smart move by the Stars, as Kari Lehtonen might have been getting a little worn down and the team has back-to-back games coming up this weekend. (Source: Defending Big D.)

Likely Ottawa starter: Pascal Leclaire – Makes sense after he helped Ottawa get a surprise win over the Kings. (Source: Silver Seven Sens.)

Calgary @ New Jersey

Likely Calgary starter: Henrik Karlsson – A rare non-Kipper start for the Flames. (Source: Roger Millions.)

Likely New Jersey starter: Johan Hedberg – It appears that Martin Brodeur isn’t ready to come back yet. (Source: Tom Gulitti.)

NY Rangers @ Tampa Bay

Likely NY Rangers starter: Henrik Lundqvist – Dare I call it the return of the Kings? Sorry, I guess I did. Not sure if it’s a guarantee he’ll be back, but I’d say the chances are pretty good.

Likely Tampa Bay starter: Mike Smith – Just when it seemed like Dan Ellis had a loose grip on the top job, Smith is now the not-quite-proverbial hot hand. (Source: Mike Corcoran.)

Boston @ Florida

Likely Boston starter: Tim Thomas (Source: Joe Haggerty.)

Likely Florida starter: Tomas Vokoun (Source: George Richards.)

Oilers cap situation is scary, and not just because of Draisaitl, McDavid

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The Edmonton Oilers pulled the trigger – and likely made teams with big RFA headaches like the Boston Bruins grimace – in signing Leon Draisaitl to a massive eight-year, $68 million contract on Wednesday.

You have to do a little stretching to call it a good deal, although credit Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshysnki with some reasonably stated optimism.

Either way, the per-year cap bill for Connor McDavid and Draisaitl is $21 million once McDavid’s extension kicks in starting in 2018-19; that’s the same combined cost that Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane receive … and those two got those paydays after they won three Stanley Cups for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Now, if the Oilers struggle in the near future, plenty of people will heap blame on McDavid and/or Draisaitl. Really, though, the true scapegoats should be a management team with more strikeouts than homers.

(As usual, Cap Friendly was a key resource in studying Edmonton’s salary structure.)

Bloated supporting cast

There are some frightening contracts on the books in Edmonton, especially if a few situations work out unfavorably.

At 29, there’s severe risk of regression with Milan Lucic, even if he enjoys a more stable second season with Edmonton. He carries a $6M cap hit through 2022-23, so he’ll be on the books for all but two years of Draisaitl’s new deal.

Kris Russell costs $4.167M during a four-year stretch, and even now, he has plenty of critics. Those complaints may only get louder if, at 30, he also starts to slip from his already debatable spot.

Andrej Sekera‘s been a useful blueliner, yet there’s some concern that time won’t treat him kindly. He’s dealing with injuries heading into 2017-18, and at 31, there’s always the risk that his best days are behind him. Not great for a guy carrying a $5.5M cap hit through 2020-21.

One can’t help but wonder if Ryan Nugent-Hopkins might be an odd man out once the shackles of the salary cap really tighten. Just consider how much Edmonton is spending on a limited number of players, and you wonder if the 24-year-old will be deemed too pricey at his $6M clip.

Yeah, not ideal.

It’s not all bad

Now, let’s be fair.

RNH could easily grow into being well worth that $6M. Draisaitl may also justify his hefty price tag. McDavid honestly cut the Oilers a relative deal by taking $12.5M instead of the maximum.

The Oilers also have two quality, 24-year-old defensemen locked up to team-friendly deals: Oscar Klefbom ($4.167M through 2022-23) and Adam Larsson ($4.167M through 2020-21). They need every bargain they can get, and those two figure to fit the bill.

Crucial future negotiations

GM Peter Chiarelli’s had a questionable history of getting good deals. He’ll need to get together soon, or the Oilers will really struggle to surround their core with helpful support.

Cam Talbot is a brilliant bargain at the strangely familiar cap hit of $4.167M, but that value only lasts through 2018-19. After that, he’s eligible to become a UFA, and could be massively expensive if he produces two more strong seasons.

The bright side is that the Oilers aren’t locked into an expensive goalie, so they can look for deals. That isn’t as sunny a situation if you don’t trust management to have much success in the bargain bin.

Talbot isn’t the only upcoming expiring contract. The Oilers have serious questions to answer with Darnell Nurse and Ryan Strome. Also, will they need to let Lucic-like winger Patrick Maroon go? Even with mild relief in Mark Fayne‘s money coming off the books, the Oilers might regret this buffet when the bills start piling up next summer.

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Look, the truth is that management is likely to be propped up by the top-end in Edmonton, particularly in the case of McDavid’s otherworldly skills. As much as that Draisaitl deal looks like an overpay – possibly a massive one – there’s a chance that he lives up to that $8.5M, too.

It’s not just about those stars, though.

The Pittsburgh Penguins gained new life by complimenting Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin with the likes of Phil Kessel. The Blackhawks have struggled once they couldn’t afford as much help for Kane and Toews.

You have to mix your premium items with bargains, and one wonders if the Oilers will be able to spot sufficient value beyond the no-brainer top guys. Their recent history in that area certainly leaves a lot to be desired.

Cullen signs with Wild, opting against retirement (and Penguins)

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Matt Cullen is going home, but that doesn’t mean that he’s retiring from hockey.

Instead, the Minnesota native decided to sign a one-year, $1 million deal with the Minnesota Wild. It’s unclear why, precisely, Cullen didn’t ink a deal to try to “threepeat” with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Wild note that his deal also includes $700K in potential performance bonuses.

This will be the 40-year-old’s second run with the Wild. His first run came from 2010-11 through 2012-13, where he appeared in 193 regular-season games and five postseason contests for Minnesota.

Cullen managed back-to-back 30+ point seasons with the Penguins while providing useful all-around play as a veteran center. If he can maintain a reasonably high level of play, this gives the Wild quite the solid group down the middle, even with Martin Hanzal gone.

Oilers ink Draisaitl to monster eight-year, $68 million deal

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The Edmonton Oilers have locked up their cornerstone players for the foreseeable future.

They didn’t come cheap.

Just weeks after signing Connor McDavid to a eight-year, $100 million deal, the Oilers signed fellow forward Leon Draisaitl to an eight-year, $68 million deal. The contract carries a $8.5M average annual cap hit and, combined with McDavid’s $12.5M, will now cost the Oilers $21M annually through 2025.

McDavid certainly warranted his payday. The same can be said of Draisaitl.

The 21-year-old just wrapped his three-year, entry-level deal, and couldn’t have done so in finer fashion. Draisaitl enjoyed a terrific season, platooning between the second-line center position and the wing alongside McDavid, and finished with 29 goals and 77 points.

Then, the playoffs happened.

Draisaitl had a terrific postseason, racking up six goals and 16 points in 13 games. At the time of elimination he was sitting second among all scorers — trailing only Evgeni Malkin — and was downright brilliant in Edmonton’s seven-game loss to Anaheim, finishing with 13 points.

More to follow…

 

Report: Vegas among teams in on Pens draftee Byron

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Will Butcher isn’t the only college free agent garnering interest in free agency.

University of Maine senior Blaine Byron, Pittsburgh’s sixth-round pick in ’13, has passed on signing with the club and can now ink with a team of his choosing. Per The Hockey News, the four “lead suitors” for Byron are Vegas, New Jersey, Ottawa and Buffalo.

Byron, 22, is coming off a great year. He racked up 18 goals and 41 points in 36 games, finishing tied for 18th in the country in scoring. It’s unclear where he would’ve fit in the Pittsburgh organization, though, and one has to think the signing of Northeastern’s Zach Aston-Reese might’ve played a factor in his departure.

In a recent Tribune-Review piece, Byron did make a list of the club’s top-20 prospects, coming in at No. 17.

Yesterday, Butcher — the reigning Hobey Baker winner — announced that he wouldn’t sign with Colorado, the team that drafted him four years ago. Instead, Butcher will parlay a successful senior campaign at Denver University into interest on the open market.