pavelecandcrosby

Around the Rink – Tuesday, December 28th

Let’s take a look at tonight’s nine games. As usual, all start times are according to Eastern Standard Time (ET).

7:00 pm

Atlanta @ Pittsburgh

While the Penguins have a tenuous grasp on the top spot in the Atlantic Division (and thus, the East’s No. 1 seed), the Thrashers are in danger of slipping to the eighth spot in the conference. Last time these two teams met, the Pens ended Ondrej Pavelec and the Thrashers’ big winning streak. Could a win against Pittsburgh start a new one for Atlanta?

Montreal @ Washington

It’s tough to deny the notion that the Northeast Division is the NHL’s weakest so far this season. For proof, just look at how much is at stake between the Bruins and Habs; the second place team – Montreal – is now in eighth place in the East. The Capitals are in better shape, but will face a tough road to best the Lightning for the Southeast title themselves.

Carolina @ Toronto

With the Hurricanes on a three game losing streak, only four points separates them from the Maple Leafs right now. Unfortunately for both teams, there is no “prize” for winning their race as both clubs are outside the playoff picture right now.

7:30 pm

Boston @ Tampa Bay

It’s too early to know for sure, but these two teams might just be squabbling for the second seed as the season progresses. Of course, they would require division leads to do so, but at the moment they’re at the top of theirs. Each squad presents a contrast in styles, as Steve Stamkos leads the attacking Lightning lineup while the Bruins present a stifling defense. Which approach will succeed tonight?

8:00 pm

Dallas @ Nashville

Both of these teams are on two-game losing streaks, but the Stars still lead the Pacific while the Predators are currently the West’s ninth seed. Every game in the West seems important right now and this is no different.

Chicago @ St. Louis

As opposed to the Stars-Predators game, these two teams are on winning streaks. The Blues will host the Blackhawks for the third game of a five contest homestand in this one – but unluckily for them – Patrick Kane is likely to be one of their guests.

9:00 pm

Buffalo @ Edmonton

Buffalo and Edmonton feature two likable hockey teams, even if their host cities haven’t exactly earned rave reviews. Has Emerson Etem ever been to Edmonton, I must ask?

Anaheim @ Phoenix

The Ducks might have a one-point lead over the Coyotes, but they needed five more games to get there. Phoenix has reason to feel optimistic about its future, with six more contests set to take place at home than on the road.

10:00 pm

Philadelphia @ Vancouver

Tonight’s schedule is full of treats, with Boston-Tampa Bay, Montreal-Washington and Atlanta-Pittsburgh joining this game as elite skirmishes. These teams don’t see each other too often, but doesn’t Ryan Kesler seem like he would fit right in as a Flyers center? Should be a fun one to watch, as the Flyers begin a rugged road trip, with nine of their next 10 games coming away from Philly.

With DeKeyser locked up, Holland still has work to do in Detroit

Ken Holland
AP
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There’s nothing too flashy about Danny DeKeyser‘s game.

“Basically,” he told reporters today, “my game, I just try to move the puck well, play solid defensively, chip in some points or goals here or there when I can, and just try to be a good team player and do things that help the team win.”

For that, the Red Wings gave the steady defenseman a six-year, $30 million contract, avoiding an arbitration hearing in the process. Yes, it’s a significant amount of money for a d-man that doesn’t contribute a ton of offense, but as we’ve already seen this offseason, players like DeKeyser have significant value. The Edmonton Oilers gave up Taylor Hall to get one.

Re-signing DeKeyser is not expected to stop GM Ken Holland from trying to add to his blue line. The Wings have a surplus of forwards, and Holland has said he’d “love to get a top-three defenseman” prior to the start of next season.

If Holland can’t swing a deal, Detroit’s pairings could look something like this:

DeKeyser — Mike Green
Jonathan Ericsson — Niklas Kronwall
Brendan SmithAlexey Marchenko
Xavier Ouellet

It’s not a particularly young group. Kronwall is 35, Ericsson is 32, and Green is 30. The Red Wings chose not to re-sign veteran Kyle Quincey, and so far he has not been replaced. In June, they drafted a defenseman in the first round, but Dennis Cholowski is a ways away from playing in the NHL; he’s off St. Cloud State in the fall. There are a few other young blue-liners in the system, like Joe Hicketts, Ryan Sproul and Robbie Russo, but they all still have some developing to do.

At the very least, Holland now has some cost certainty with DeKeyser. The next step will be getting Petr Mrazek‘s deal done, possibly with the aid of tomorrow’s arbitration hearing. After that, it’ll be working to get that defenseman he covets.

Related: Blues GM says he might just keep Kevin Shattenkirk

Nugent-Hopkins trying to ignore trade rumors — ‘If it happens, it happens’

BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 14:  Ryan Nugent-Hopkins #93 of the Edmonton Oilers skates against the Boston Bruins during the first period at TD Garden on December 14, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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The Ryan Nugent-Hopkins trade speculation may have died down since it peaked at the draft in late June, but it’s not entirely dead.

The 23-year-old former first overall draft pick was asked to address the ongoing rumors Monday at an Oilers charity golf tournament.

“I try not to pay attention too much,” Nugent-Hopkins said, per the Edmonton Journal. “If it happens, it happens. I know it’s definitely a different group than the one we finished with last season.”

Indeed it is. Most notably, Taylor Hall is in New Jersey now, traded for defenseman Adam Larsson. The Oilers also signed Milan Lucic and drafted Jesse Puljujarvi.

What’s still lacking is an offensive defenseman who can run the power play, which is why the names Tyson Barrie (Avalanche) and Matt Dumba (Wild) have been floated as potential targets.

The Wild in particular could use a good, young center like Nugent-Hopkins, and the expansion draft is looming for a Minnesota club that already has defensemen Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, and Marco Scandella locked up in long-term contracts.

Barrie, meanwhile, has an arbitration hearing scheduled for Friday.

Blues d-man Kevin Shattenkirk is another name that’s come up; however, he can become an unrestricted free agent after next season, and whether he’d re-sign in Edmonton is in doubt.

Flyers reportedly avoid arbitration with Manning, sign him for two more years

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Chalk up another arbitration hearing that won’t be required. This time it’s Brandon Manning‘s. The 26-year-old defenseman has agreed on a two-year, $1.95 million deal with the Philadelphia Flyers, according to CSN Philly.

Manning’s hearing was scheduled for next Tuesday. He was the last restricted free agent on the Flyers, after Brayden Schenn re-signed Monday.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman was the first to report the Manning signing.

Manning played 56 games for the Flyers in 2015-16, his first full season in the NHL. He had one goal and six assists while logging an average ice time of 16:32.

Report: Blackhawks, Rundblad agree to terminate contract

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 09:  David Rundblad #5 of the Chicago Blackhawks in the second period at American Airlines Center on October 9, 2014 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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The Chicago Blackhawks are reportedly parting ways with defenseman David Rundblad. The two sides have agreed to a contract termination, according to Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Rundblad, 25, was set to earn $1.1 million this season, per General Fanager. His cap hit was $1.05 million, meaning the ‘Hawks will gain $100,000 in cap space by not having to bury his contract in the AHL next season.

Rundblad was unlikely to make the Blackhawks in 2016-17 — not after the additions of Brian Campbell and Michal Kempny, and also the re-signing of Michal Rozsival.

It remains to be seen where Rundblad will end up. One possibility is back in Switzerland, where he spent part of last season before dressing three times for the ‘Hawks in the playoffs.