Let’s take a look at today’s six games. As always, we’ll use Eastern Standard Time (ET).
Detroit @ Columbus
Logical people will blame the Blue Jackets’ struggles on a top-heavy roster that relies too much on the admitted brilliance of Rick Nash and the questionable talents of Steve Mason. Yet a zanier (and more fun) person might wonder if the Red Wings’ dominance of the team during a home-and-home series crushed the fragile spirits of the Columbus kids. Either way, Detroit hopes to continue the Central Division of their kid brothers tonight.
Vancouver @ Washington
The Capitals are struggling a bit, but considering the talent on both sides of the ice, it’s not crazy to wonder if this could be a Stanley Cup finals preview. Vancouver is coming off a 1-0 loss to the Rangers, so Washington has that added advantage. Add the fact that the Caps are still pretty dominant at the Phone Booth (15-4-5) and this game could be awfully interesting.
Calgary @ Ottawa
Hey, look: it’s Struggling and Semi-Hopeless Canadian Team West visiting Struggling and Semi-Hopeless Canadian Team East. The Senators (Hopeless Canadian Team East) just broke a six game losing streak while the Flames have lost four games in a row. Try hyping this one up, ticket scalpers in Ottawa.
New Jersey @ Tampa Bay
The Devils upset the Lightning the last time these two teams met, so Tampa Bay needs to win this one. (Especially considering the fact that they might be able to widen their Southeast Division lead as second-ranked Washington faces the NHL’s best team.)
Philadelphia @ Atlanta
These two teams share some kindred threads, at least in the way they are built to be tough. The Flyers carry that Broad Street Bullies reputation while Thrashers GM Rick Dudley hopes to create a similar vision in Atlanta. Philadelphia might be a little worn out after a tough loss against Boston, but the Thrashers should get a taste of an angry team tonight. Philly doesn’t want to drop another 1-2 points while Pittsburgh plays without Sidney Crosby for who knows how long.
Colorado @ Minnesota
The difference between these two teams is almost comical; the Avs scored 144 goals so far this season while the Wild only have 108 to their credit. Minnesota head coach Todd Richards might bristle at trap talk, but this game might cast the Wild as dour and the Avalanche as young and fun if these two teams follow their trends this season. Sounds like this game will alternate between entertaining and watching grass grow, but we shall see.
The Detroit Red Wings didn’t need Petr Mrazek‘s arbitration hearing either.
The day after the Wings avoided the process by locking up defenseman Danny DeKeyser, they agreed on a two-year deal with Mrazek, with a reported cap hit of $4 million.
Mrazek, 24, went 27-16-6 last season with a .921 save percentage. Those numbers compared favorably to Jimmy Howard‘s (14-14-5, .906); however, GM Ken Holland has argued that keeping Howard could be best for Mrazek’s development.
“It could possibly be detrimental if we put Petr in a situation where we’re just going to throw him out and play 70 games and no matter how you play, we’re going to keep putting you out,” said Holland.
Granted, it may be that Howard is simply untradeable. He’s 32 years old, hasn’t put up solid numbers the past three seasons, and has three years remaining on his contract with a cap hit of just under $5.3 million.
If Howard remains, the Wings will have just under $9.3 million in cap space allocated to their goaltenders next season, one of the highest totals in the league.
Mrazek, by the way, will still be a restricted free agent when his new contract expires in the summer of 2018.
With new majority owners and now talk of a new arena, the future of the New York Islanders has been a popular topic lately.
Not surprisingly, it’s led to plenty of discussion about the future of captain John Tavares, who can become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2018.
Ownership has insisted that it won’t get that far, that Tavares will be re-signed. The Isles will have “no financial constraints,” owner Jon Ledecky promised.
But what about Tavares? What does he think?
“I think I’ve always showed my commitment, my appreciation and my desire to play on Long Island,” the 25-year-old told Sportsnet 590 radio on Tuesday, per NHL.com. “I would love for that to continue for the long haul. I think you look at some of the greatest players in the game have been able to spend their entire career somewhere. I hope I’m in that same position.”
As for the speculation he could sign in Toronto?
“I would not count on that,” he said.
So start the countdown to July 1, 2017. That’s when Tavares can officially start negotiating an extension with the Isles.
Perhaps by then we’ll even know where the team will be playing its future games. Will it be Brooklyn or somewhere else?
Only 18 NHLers have scored more goals than Mike Hoffman has over the last two seasons.
Today, the Ottawa Senators signed the 26-year-old sniper to a four-year contract with a reported cap hit of $5.1875 million.
Hoffman had an arbitration hearing scheduled for Aug. 4. The breakdown of his new deal, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman:
His contract done, Hoffman can now focus fully on next season, which he’s excited about.
“New coach coming in, Guy Boucher, I had him in junior when I played in Drummondville of the Quebec League,” Hoffman said recently. “Very good relationship with him, we won a championship together. So definitely looking forward to working with him this year.”
As for Sens GM Pierre Dorion, he’s still got some offseason work to do. Defenseman Cody Cedi is a restricted free agent, and there’s no arbitration date to encourage a settlement in his case. While Dorion is confident that something that will get done with the 22-year-old, what remains to be seen is if it’s a short- or long-term deal.
The Carolina Hurricanes may have missed the playoffs in each of Bill Peters’ two seasons behind the bench, but GM Ron Francis is clearly pleased with the job his head coach has done.
Today, the ‘Canes announced that Peters has been signed to a contract extension through the 2018-19 season.
“Bill is a talented, young coach in the National Hockey League,” said Francis in a release. “We are happy that he has made a commitment to the Hurricanes, and that he will be a major part of the team continuing to grow.”
The ‘Canes still won’t be a popular pick to make the playoffs in 2016-17, but with all the young talent that the organization has amassed, Peters will certainly be expected to get them there before his contract expires. (The ‘Canes were actually a pretty solid possession team last season, but were let down by their goaltending and inability to convert scoring chances.)
Carolina last made the playoffs in 2009.
Related: ‘Canes enjoying stronger ticket sales, but ‘fence-sitters’ still need convincing