Florida Panthers v New York Rangers

Helping the enemy? Florida trades Cory Stillman to Carolina for Ryan Carter and 5th round pick

The NHL trade deadline helps create some strange partnerships in deals. Today Southeast Division rivals Florida and Carolina came together on a deal that sends Cory Stillman from the Panthers back to the Hurricanes in exchange for Ryan Carter and a fifth round pick in 2011.

Stillman is a power forward that used to play for the Hurricanes, winning a Stanley Cup with the team in 2006. Through his career he was a steady 20-goal, 50-point per season player. Lately, his health has gotten the better of him reducing the number of games he’s gotten to play. He hasn’t played more than 70 games in a season since 2007-2008 when he split time with Carolina and Ottawa. This season, he’s played 44 games and has seven goals and 16 assists.

It’s also not the first time that GM Jim Rutherford dipped into the Hurricanes past to bring back a guy that’s helped them out in the past. Joni Pitkanen, Erik Cole, and Anton Babchuk were all reclamation acquisitions for Carolina in their recent history. It’s just all proof that once you’ve been in Carolina, you can always go home again. I guess you can always go home again.

What he’ll provide the Hurricanes with is a veteran presence familiar with how things are done in Raleigh. With the lack of wing depth they’ve got in Carolina, he’ll help them out. He’ll also give them a veteran leader should the Hurricanes make the playoffs. Stillman won Stanley Cups in consecutive seasons with Tampa Bay in 2004 and Carolina in 2006.

For Florida, GM Dale Tallon clears out a veteran forward in order to give more of the Panthers young guys ice time and brings in a checking forward in Ryan Carter who now joins his third team this season. He started the season in Anaheim and was then moved to Carolina in exchange for two minor league players. Now he heads to Florida where he’ll figure to get a better shot at ice time there.

While rumors swirl in Sunrise, Florida about what may or may not happen with the likes of Stephen Weiss, David Booth, and Tomas Vokoun, it’s Stillman who is the next to go. Florida recently dealt Michal Frolik to Chicago for Jack Skille and as the Panthers fall back further in the Eastern Conference playoff race, teams are circling hoping to pick off useful players for their own playoff pushes. Dale Tallon is a guy with a plan, but for now things appear to be down in the dumps for Panthers players and fans as the deadline approaches.

The next few days might be trying ones for fans in South Florida, they’ll just have to hope that Tallon’s plan pays off the same way his plan in Chicago paid off for the Blackhawks last season. The fifth round pick acquired gives the Panthers nine choices in the 2011 draft. With other players still potentially set to be traded, that number figures to go up before the end of business on Monday.

Plekanec named Czech World Cup captain

Tampa Bay Lightning v Montreal Canadiens - Game One
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The Czechs are going with a familiar face to spearhead their leadership group at the upcoming World Cup of Hockey.

Tomas Plekanec, who captained the team at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and the most recent world championship, will wear the “C” this fall, the Czech Ice Hockey Association announced on Monday.

Plekanec, 33, has a wealth of leadership experience to draw on, having also served as an alternate captain in Montreal for the last two seasons. He’s expected to be a key catalyst for an underdog Czech team at this tournament, especially in the playmaking department — last year, Plekanec’s 40 assists came within five of a career-best for helpers in a single season.

It’ll be interesting to see who the Czechs eventually add to their leadership group next to Plekanec.

One would assume that David Krejci — who’s been an alternate in Boston for the last three years — should be in the mix, along with Coyotes center Martin Hanzal (an alternate in Arizona since 2011).

It’s Tampa Bay Lightning day at PHT

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 15:  Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning takes a break during a off-day practice session prior to Game Two of the Eastern Conference Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 15, 2016 at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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On paper, the 2015-16 season was a less impressive version of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s impressive 2014-15 run.

They made a deep run, but they couldn’t quite get to the Stanley Cup Final another time. The Bolts finished second in the Atlantic Division once again, but only with 97 standings points instead of the outstanding total of 108 from 2014-15.

In reality, the Lightning finished the year with a lot to be proud of, though.

They weathered some serious storms last season, most clearly with injuries to Ben Bishop and Steven Stamkos, not to mention endless questions about Stamkos’ future with or without the team.

All things considered, there were a lot of positives to take from pushing the eventual champs to a Game 7.

Off-season

If you weren’t impressed by the Lightning’s work during the season, maybe an impressive off-season did the trick?

GM Steve Yzerman answered to huge questions in the affirmative by re-signing Stamkos (eight years, $68 million) and Victor Hedman (eight years, $63 million) to long-term contracts at very reasonable rates.

Along with those massively important contracts, Yzerman locked down other important players in Andrei Vasilveskiy and Alex Killorn. He still has a tough nut to crack in re-signing Nikita Kucherov, but he’s laid the groundwork for that to happen.

If hitting all the right buttons with Stamkos and Hedman wasn’t enough, the Lightning made some very nice value moves.

There’s a chance Cory Conacher could re-discover some of the brief magic he enjoyed before Tampa Bay traded him for Bishop. Handing James Wisniewski a PTO could leave the Bolts with one of the deepest defenses in the NHL (or at least provide a nice Matt Carle replacement).

There’s still work to do, but overall, the Lightning’s outlook is very sunny. PHT explores the team’s biggest questions on Monday.

San Jose Sharks’ defense looks very promising

SAN JOSE, CA - JANUARY 03:  Alexander Steen #20 of the St. Louis Blues and Brent Burns #88 and Marc-Edouard Vlasic #44 of the San Jose Sharks go for the puck at SAP Center on January 3, 2015 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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In the long term, there are some questions about the San Jose Sharks’ defense.

For one thing, Brent Burns is due what could be a raise almost as big as his Burt’s Bees beard.

What’s even more troubling is, like the Sharks’ forwards, the defense’s upper ranks might see Father Time nipping at their heels. Burns is 31, Paul Martin is 35 and three defensemen are 29 in Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Justin Braun and newly signed blueliner David Schlemko.

This isn’t to say that the Sharks will age as rapidly as Melisandre, but that group prompts more questions about how long San Jose’s window might be hope.

Quite a promising present

So, maybe it won’t be a strength forever … but wow, this group sure looks promising on paper heading into next season.

Burns gets the most attention thanks to his booming shot, strong all-around skills and bizarre presence, yet Team Canada isn’t oblivious to Vlasic’s subtler brilliance. Paul Martin might be slipping a bit, but he’s still a useful player.

The signing of Schlemko really ties the room together, though.

The point isn’t that Schlemko is a star or better than the likes of Jay Bouwmeester. The very different nature of their roles makes a comparison a little risky.

Instead, it argues that Schlemko is the sort of supporting cast player who can push the Sharks closer to having a quality defenseman on the ice during every shift.

Beyond those four blueliners, the Sharks have some interesting options. Braun enjoyed some nice playoff moments. Brenden Dillon has his flaws, but perhaps he’d flourish if used in more protected situations.

With Mirco Mueller and Dylan DeMelo among those waiting in the wings, it’s not as though the Sharks are totally devoid of young talent on defense.

In an age where it almost feels like teams would give up vital organs for difference-makers on defense, San Jose’s group looks primed to rank among the elite. After struggling when the likes of Roman Polak were caught in bad situations, the Sharks have a great chance to trot out a remarkably balanced group in 2016-17.

Let’s argue about EA Sports’ NHL 17 player ratings

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EA Sports released top player rankings for NHL 17 about a week ago, but it isn’t too late to needlessly argue about them.

The top 50 overall ratings is probably the best place to start, but EA also shared top 10 lists for centers, defensemen, goalies, left wings and right wings.

Now, it’s important not to take this stuff too seriously. There are plenty of things to cool down any diehards who feel like Their Guy was disrespected, but do note that ratings sometimes get tweaked.

Still, there are some fun observations and debates that can come from pouring through these rankings, especially if you’re … well, bored.

Shea Weber vs. P.K. Subban

Did Michel Therrien and Marc Bergevin chime in on the debate? /Scratches chin

Weber came in with a blazing 94 rating:

 

Weber wins the digital battle with Subban, who lags behind as a 91. To the naked eye, EA seems to disagree with the analytics-based argument that Subban is the better all-around player than Weber at this juncture:

Here’s the thing, though: if you break both down rating by rating, each guy looks pretty great in NHL 17. Perhaps the real debate comes down to whether Weber really is that great defensively or not.

Then again, maybe EA just has a blind spot for Nashville Predators past and/or present? Pekka Rinne‘s high rating is sure to ruffle some feathers:

91rinneea

To give you some context, that 91 rating ties Rinne with Cory Schneider and places him ahead of the likes of Ben Bishop, Corey Crawford and Tuukka Rask.

Some other debate-starters

Need some other fun ones to bicker about? Sure you do:

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Again, take it easy with this stuff. None of these choices are “Mike Richards being higher-rated than Anze Kopitar” bad.

You can have a lot of fun batting around different observations, as these player rankings often provide an interesting window into the way the hockey world sees things.

And, hey, at least Dustin Byfuglien‘s getting some much-deserved recognition.