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Around the rink – Thursday, December 2nd

While most of the sporting world will have their eyes on Cleveland tonight to see what happens to LeBron James, we’ll be busy keeping our eyes on another small-time city in Ottawa. There, Dany Heatley makes his first appearance since being traded by the Senators before last season began. That’s about one of the few things that can drown out the noise in New York when the Rangers and Isles square off. As always, all times listed are Eastern.

7:00 pm

Tampa Bay @ Boston

Steve Stamkos visits Boston and Boston might have a surprise of their own with Marc Savard a possibility to see action tonight for the first time this season. Tampa Bay will be looking to build off their win over Toronto while Boston wants to keep the good mojo working after a shutout win over Philly last night.

Edmonton @ Toronto

Can the Oilers make it three in a row? They’d like to and there’s a chance they’ll be able to do it with three different goaltenders as Nikolai Khabibulin is slated to start tonight. For Toronto, they need to get over their heartbreaking loss in overtime to the Lightning. Knocking the streaking and young Oilers down a peg would be the truculent thing to do.

Montreal @ New Jersey

Jamie Langenbrunner is set to return to the Devils lineup for the first time since the first week of November. Meanwhile, the real battle will be a family battle on the ice as Montreal’s Brian Gionta will face his brother Stephen who will suit up for New Jersey. Meanwhile, Montreal’s ugly loss to Edmonton last night did have some residual effects tonight as P.K. Subban will be a healthy scratch. Subban’s brutal turnover in the third led to the Oilers tying goal. Edmonton won the game in overtime 4-3.

NY Rangers @ NY Islanders

New York’s biggest rivals get to reengage tonight and the bad blood spills over with Brandon Dubinsky and Rick DiPietro trading verbal jabs about greatly disliking each other’s teams. Familiarity does breed contempt after all. Fun part about this game? They get to face each other again tomorrow night at Madison Square Garden.

Atlanta @ Pittsburgh

Something has to give here. The Penguins roll into the game on a seven-game win streak while the Thrashers are winners of six in a row. Both teams have gotten stellar goaltending with Marc-Andre Fleury getting it done for the Penguins and Ondrej Pavelec for Atlanta. The game also features two of the NHL’s stars of November with Sidney Crosby being a scoring machine and Dustin Byfuglien throwing his weight around as well as his name into talk about the Norris trophy.  Expect this one to be the game of the night.

7:30 pm

San Jose @ Ottawa

We’re pretty sure everything you need to know about this game can be found in this post from today. Dany Heatley returns to Ottawa for the first time since being dealt and the Sens will be looking to show him what he’s missing out on.

8:30 pm

Washington @ Dallas

Another game loaded with two streaking teams. Both teams are winners of four straight and the Stars’ strength has been goaltending. Tonight, they’ll give Andrew Raycroft the call in goal while Semyon Varlamov goes for Washington. The Caps looked awfully solid last night and tonight they’ll get their first chance to have newly acquired Scott Hannan suit up for them.

10:30 pm

Florida @ Los Angeles

The Kings aren’t about to have Marco Sturm in the lineup for them, but they’ll be looking to take advantage of a potentially tired Panthers squad that had the Ducks give them all they could handle and then some last night in a 5-3 loss. The good thing for Florida is they finally got off the power play shneid and they’ll have Tomas Vokoun going in net once again. For the Kings, they’re hoping that Florida is the elixir they need to break their four-game losing streak.

Is Rickard Rakell worth $4M per season to the Ducks?

ANAHEIM, CA - NOVEMBER 30: Rickard Rakell #67 of the Anaheim Ducks skates during a game against the Vancouver Canucks at Honda Center on November 30, 2015 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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The Anaheim Ducks have two significant restricted free agents they still need to take care of, and Hampus Lindholm is easily the most important name to cross off the list.

(Seriously, the analytics community pegs him as a budding star, so the Ducks should probably lock him up for as long and cheap as possible.)

While Lindholm is a must-sign, Rickard Rakell‘s situation is more interesting since it presents a murkier risk-reward debate.

Elevated ground

Rakell broke through in 2015-16, scoring 20 goals and 43 points. He blew away all of his previous numbers while logging more than 16 minutes per game.

His agent Peter Wallen told the OC Register that the team and his RFA client “I think we will find common ground for a solid agreement,” yet one must wonder if Ducks management is trembling at the gamble ahead.

That report ponders a long-term deal that would net Rakell around a $4 million cap hit, something that the Hockey News backs up.

Kadri’s six-year, $27-million deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs, which pays an average of $4.5 million per season, is probably the upper limit of what Rakell is set to earn, while Coyle’s five-year, $16-million deal with the Minnesota Wild, an average of $3.2 million per season, is likely the low end. The most likely comparisons boil down to two players, then, with Rask and Backlund each having signed their current deals over the course of the past 13 months.

For a budget-conscious team like the Ducks, betting big on Rakell could be especially risky.

Cushy gig

If the 23-year-old does land a generous deal, he should send Bruce Boudreau a “Thank You” note or three. Rakell began a whopping 60 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone in 2015-16, putting him in a great position to maximize his chances.

His most common skating partners were Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Sami Vatanen and Lindholm to boot.

One shouldn’t penalize Rakell for seizing his opportunities, but with a limited sample size of the young forward being a difference-maker, you have to wonder how much his value has been inflated.

***

The OC Register explains the advantages of locking him up for a longer term (avoiding arbitration years, not having to risk an even bigger deal if Rakell pans out), yet a “bridge deal” might be the better way to go here.

Replacing Boudreau with Randy Carlyle was a polarizing decision, yet that the Ducks face some other tough calls this off-season.

Report: Blue Jackets on the verge of signing Sam Gagner

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Sam Gagner #89 of the Philadelphia Flyers looks on before a face off against the New York Rangers on April 7, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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It sounds like Sam Gagner may determine his destination for 2015-16 in the near future.

The Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline reports that the Columbus Blue Jackets are close to signing Gagner to a one-year, one-way deal. Such an agreement might not be made official until Monday, according to Portzline.

After a bumpy season with the Philadelphia Flyers in which he spent some time in the AHL, Gagner must especially appreciate the one-way nature of his next contract.

The Blue Jackets aren’t the only team interested in the 26-year-old, as his name was also connected to the Vancouver Canucks:

It looks like the still-quite-young scorer will get a clean slate after bouncing around and being defined by a bloated contract originally signed with the Edmonton Oilers.

Remember when he broke one of Wayne Gretzky’s records during an eight-point night?

Gagner’s presence could make life easier for the likes of Boone Jenner:

It’s conceivable that Gagner could enjoy a nice rebound season if used in a specialized, protected role. The Blue Jackets may very well be the right fit.

… And on the other hand, the deficits in Gagner’s all-around game could at least provide some John Tortorella rage and entertainment.

Everyone wins.

Former Sabres forward Jochen Hecht calls it a career

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 01:  Jochen Hecht #55 of the Buffalo Sabres against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on March 1, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
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The Mannheim Eagles announced that German forward Jochen Hecht is retiring from hockey.

(It’s OK to be a little bewildered that he was still playing, just don’t be too mean about it.)

Hecht played 833 regular season games and 59 playoff contests at the NHL level, making his greatest mark as a member of the Buffalo Sabres.

His last bit of NHL action came in 2012-13, when he scored 14 points in 47 games for Buffalo.

Since then, he wrapped up his career with the Mannheim Eagles, a team he’s sporadically played for since 1994-95.

Honestly, it’s weird to see Hecht in any sweater not related to German’s national teams, the Eagles or Sabres, even though the Blues actually drafted him:

Then again, he could also look odd in a certain Sabres sweater.

Apparently he got the NHL 16 Hockey Ultimate Card treatment:

Plenty of Sabres fans and reporters fondly remember Hecht, so here’s to a nice career.

Yes, it’s really happening: Vegas NHL team installs ice for first time

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Sometimes you just need a reminder that a remarkable thing actually is happening.

Saturday presented the latest evidence that the NHL coming to Las Vegas isn’t just a collective fever dream, as the still-nameless franchise noted that they’ve begun the process to install ice at T-Mobile Arena for the first time.

It’s not the prettiest picture, but it means a lot:

While setting up the first sheet of ice is a physical sign that things are coming together, the front office side will dictate the sort of team that eventually plays on it.

For more insight into that process, Puck Daddy takes a look at Murray Craven, who appears to be a key part of bringing things together … even if it’s difficult to nail down a specific title.