Tomas Fleishmann

Capitals trade Tomas Fleischmann to Colorado for defenseman Scott Hannan

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The Washington Capitals are toughening up the blue line. The Caps traded frustrating centerman Tomas Fleischmann to the Colorado Avalanche for physical defenseman Scott Hannan.

When Fleischmann is on his game, he’s an instant injection of offense to the lineup. Last season, Fleischmann broke out during the regular season with 23 goals and 28 assists. When the playoffs came around, Fleischmann struggled and earned the ire of many Caps fans for being a soft player unwilling to get into the dirty areas to score and battle for pucks. He’s a fast skater though and in Colorado he’ll fit in fine with Joe Sacco’s speed attack system. He’ll also help fill in offensively while Chris Stewart is out the next 4-6 weeks with a broken hand.

When the Avalanche acquired defenseman Matt Hunwick from Boston yesterday, it gave the Avs quite the logjam on the blue line, injuries or not. Losing Hannan will allow Ryan O’Byrne to pick up the slack defensively and with Kyle Quincey back in the lineup and Adam Foote’s return on the horizon, Hannan was the odd man out. Having a salary cap hit of $4.5 million also makes his departure more sensible. Hannan did have a no-trade clause in his contract, but waived it to go to the Capitals.

For the Caps, Hannan is just the kind of guy they need on the back line. Hannan is a prototypical defensive-defenseman. He’s positionally sound, delivers thumping hits on occasion and isn’t afraid to mix things up with forwards that get a bit too daring crashing the net. Hannan also comes with the full approval of Alexander Ovechkin who once referred to Hannan as the “toughest defenseman to play against.”

This is a deal that, on paper, looks to be a winner for both sides. Hannan’s results won’t be noticeable for the team until it’s time for the playoffs. He’s a guy that’s meant to be a problem solver for the team when dealing with the likes of Sidney Crosby and Mike Richards. Fleischmann steps into an immediate need in the short term for Colorado and gives them an older presence amongst a pack of very young forwards. Fleischmann isn’t old himself, but he’s had more NHL time than a lot of guys they’ve got. It’s fun to see a deal like this work out for both sides but we’ll see if Scott Hannan is the answer the Caps need on defense and if Tomas Fleischmann can find his scoring touch again in Denver.

Some tough decisions await the Blues

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Yet again, the St. Louis Blues failed to achieve their ultimate goal.

And boy does it hurt right now.

“We’re all hurting,” coach Ken Hitchcock said last night after getting eliminated by the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final.

“You don’t want this to be our best opportunity. You want this to be a building block. In this game, in this era, in this cap world, you don’t know where you’re going to be a year from now.”

Indeed, GM Doug Armstrong has some tough decisions to make this offseason.

At the top of the list is whether to bring Hitchcock back. Yes, the Blues did better than 26 other teams, and yes, they finally got past the first round. Still, there are people who believe this will be it for the head coach, that a new voice could help. Overall, Hitchcock has done a great job in St. Louis. But then, so did Todd McLellan in San Jose. Sometimes, change can be good.

Then there are the unrestricted free agents. Both captain David Backes and winger Troy Brouwer need new contracts. The former is 32, the latter 30. The former had seven goals in the playoffs, the latter eight. How much money will they want? How much term? The second question might be the most important.

On the back end, it’s Kevin Shattenkirk that will garner the most attention. He’s signed through next season before he can become an unrestricted free agent. Just 27 years old, and considering the demand for what he does, he’ll be very expensive to keep. And with the emergence of Colton Parayko, trading Shattenkirk could probably be justified, especially if the return is good. A team like the Boston Bruins might be willing to pay up.

Right now, the pain is still fresh for the Blues.

“It’s so hard to win in the league right now,” said Hitchcock. “It’s so hard to win a series. So hard to just get in the playoffs. When you get this far, you get this close, you think you got the opportunity.”

The challenge for Armstrong will be to give his team another opportunity next season. And with the draft less than a month away, all these tough decisions will need to be made very soon.

Goals of the Week get tougher as Cup Final approaches

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The Stanley Cup Final is almost upon us and picking the very best Goals of the Week is a tough task. See how we did on this edition!

Just for Men: Mike Commodore

RALEIGH, NC - JUNE 14:  Mike Commodore #22 of the Carolina Hurricanes warms up before game five of the 2006 NHL Stanley Cup Finals against the Edmonton Oilers on June 14, 2006 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Maybe one would argue that time hasn’t been kind to the 2006 Stanley Cup-winning Carolina Hurricanes (at least compared to the pedigree of other winners), but Mike Commodore’s incredible red afro and beard rank as one of hockey’s most timeless combinations.

Seriously, just take a step back from your monitor* and bask in the splendor of that carrot-topped Commodore.

Even then-President George W. Bush remarked on Commodore’s bushy hair and beard (or its tragic absence) when the Canes visited the White House:

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. Have a seat. It’s a pretty big deal for a guy that doesn’t know how to ice skate — (laughter) — to welcome the Carolina Hurricanes to the White House. We appreciate you coming. You know, I’m not sure what is prettier, the Stanley Cup, or Mike Commodore’s hair. (Laughter.) A little disappointed you got a haircut. (Laughter.) But, welcome.

Good stuff.

And it really is kind of disappointing any time you see Commodore relatively clean-shaven. It’s like Superman without a big “S” on his chest or Metallica with short hair or any number of not-quite-right sights.

* – If you’re doing the Rumsfeld-style “standing at your desk” thing then … kneel for a second maybe?

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

Stanley Cup
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There’s nothing better than a Game 7, especially when a spot in the Stanley Cup Final is up for grabs. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins will battle in a do-or-die game for the right to play the San Jose Sharks with Lord Stanley on the line. You can watch the game via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh (8:00 p.m. ET)

The television broadcast of Game 7 will be on NBCSN. To stream the game using the Live Extra app, click here.

Here’s some reading material to get you ready for this one:

Penguins, Lightning prepare for ‘roller coaster’ Game 7

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal