Rumor time: Bruins close to acquiring Tomas Kaberle, dealing Mark Stuart to Chicago

The ongoing speculation about where and when Maple Leafs defenseman Tomas Kaberle will be traded has heated up to a level where it feels as if it will be done very soon and will actually happen. Today, TSN’s Darren Dreger reports that the Bruins and Maple Leafs are getting closer to a deal and says that “failing a complete meltdown” in talks Kaberle is all but headed to Boston.

CSN New England’s Joe Haggerty takes things a bit further today saying that the rumored trade package from Boston to acquire Kaberle will consist of Blake Wheeler and a draft pick. What draft pick it is is unknown but the Bruins have two first round picks to work with, their own first round pick and the one they acquired from Toronto in the Phil Kessel deal. The Leafs pick is most likely not available as it could ultimately be a top ten choice while the Bruins’ pick would ultimately be a mid-to-late first round choice.

Haggerty also reports the Bruins may be close to dealing defenseman Mark Stuart to Chicago for a draft pick. That deal would be to gain freedom from Stuart’s contract rather than to help the team. Stuart has been a healthy scratch often of late in the Bruins lineup so it wouldn’t create lineup issues with the team.

Chris Boden from CSN Chicago’s Hawk Talk updates me on the Chicago side of things saying that if the Blackhawks want to acquire Stuart, they’ll have to find a way to move some salary out of there. Stuart has a cap hit of $1.675 and have just about a $1 million in cap space to deal with.

One way around that could be to move Nick Leddy down to the AHL again, but the Hawks like what they have seen in him. Moving Jordan Hendry or Nick Boynton down to the AHL via waivers could also help free up the salary needed to get Stuart on board. This also means that there could be another deal moving someone out of Chicago entirely as well.

Adding Kaberle to the Bruins would be a huge acquisition for them as it would give them a power play quarterback that they haven’t had in a long time. Kaberle would ultimately free Zdeno Chara up from those responsibilities and allow him to be the big shot on the point rather than trying to keep everyone in line on the point.

Giving up Wheeler would also shake the lineup up a bit and with the recent acquisition of Chris Kelly from Ottawa, would help make more sense with how the Bruins line up their forwards. Wheeler has bounced between playing the wing and center this season and while he’s got a load of talent, he goes through bouts of inconsistency in his play. He’s still very young (24 years-old) and can ultimately put it all together but to this point he’s not lived up to the hype befitting a former top five pick in the NHL draft.

Whether or not we’ll see any action on these players soon is unknown, of course, and teams are keeping everything close to the vest but we’ll certainly see plenty of talk about all these players before February 28th’s trade deadline.

Antti Niemi had to make a save with his bare hand

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Antti Niemi made 31 saves in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night, and 30 of them were pretty standard.

The one that wasn’t came in the third period when he lost his glove during a scramble around the net and still managed to instinctively make a save on the puck. With his bare hand.

Niemi said after the game, via the Tribune Review, that he thought the referees would stop the play after his glove came off, and when they didn’t “I just kept playing.”

You can watch the play by clicking here.

Probably not the type of thing you want to see happening because that looks like a great way to break a bone (or the entire hand) and get sidelined for extended period of time. Niemi said the officials told him there will no longer be an automatic whistle for goalies losing a glove or a blocker, but that one will remain for when they lose their helmet.

The Penguins signed Niemi to a one-year contract this summer as a replacement for Marc-Andre Fleury after they lost him in the expansion draft to the Vegas Golden Knights. Niemi is looking to rebound from a tough year in Dallas. He will serve as Matt Murray‘s backup for the season.

‘A good start’ — Stamkos stands out in preseason debut

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The Tampa Bay Lightning and National Hockey League unveiled the 2018 All-Star Game logo Friday.

Far more importantly for the Bolts this evening was the return of their all-star center Steven Stamkos, as he made his preseason debut in what was his first game in 10 months.

His 2016-17 season was abruptly ended in the middle of November because of a knee injury and subsequent surgery, making it the second time in four years his regular season had been disrupted by a major injury.

It may still take a while before Stamkos feels truly comfortable coming back from this injury.But his performance on Friday proved to be a very promising start for No. 91, the Bolts and their fans in Tampa Bay.

He didn’t score, but he assisted on two first period goals, including a nice set-up to linemate Nikita Kucherov, and the Lightning beat the Nashville Predators by a score of 3-1. Stamkos also received a healthy dose of ice time, playing more than 19 minutes, including 5:32 on the power play.

His pass to Kucherov resulted in a power play goal.

“It was exciting to get out there, I was pretty anxious about it… It was a good start, something to build on,” said Stamkos afterward, per the Lightning. “It was nice to just go through a game day, I haven’t done it in a long time… I was glad with how the first one went.”

Golden Knights assign 2017 first-round picks Glass, Suzuki to junior

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The Vegas Golden Knights continue to make roster moves during their inaugural training camp.

On Friday, the expansion club assigned four players to junior. That includes 2017 first-round picks Cody Glass of the Portland Winterhawks and Nick Suzuki of the Owen Sound Attack.

The Golden Knights made franchise history by taking Glass with the sixth overall pick and then selected Suzuki at 13th overall. Both players appeared in two preseason games for Vegas, each recording two points in the exhibition opener versus the Vancouver Canucks.

“Nobody is going to rush (the rookies), that’s for sure,” Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant told the Las Vegas Sun following the club’s 9-4 win over Vancouver on Sunday.

“We are in a position where we want to make sure they are ready to play. They are going to be good players when they’re healthy and strong enough to play in the league.”

Vegas has all three 2017 first-round picks — Glass, Suzuki and Erik Brannstrom — signed to three-year entry-level contracts.

Mitchell signed PTO with Blue Jackets — shortly after getting cut by Blackhawks

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When the Chicago Blackhawks announced their roster moves yesterday, John Mitchell was among the cuts.

His professional tryout with the Blackhawks had come to an end, as it did for veterans Mark Stuart and Drew Miller.

It can be an uphill battle to make an NHL roster for veterans on professional tryouts. But for Mitchell, he quickly received another opportunity to attend a camp and try to land a spot, signing a PTO with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Mitchell, 32, has appeared in 548 NHL regular season games with 70 goals and 177 points.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets are still without forward and restricted free agent Josh Anderson, as the two sides are stuck in a contract impasse right now. It was reported on Thursday that his representatives have been in contact with Hockey Canada about the 2018 Olympics.