Don’t call it a comeback for the defending Stanley Cup champions, but they’re getting their act together finally in the Western Conference. With coach Joel Quenneville back behind the bench after missing a few games with a bleeding ulcer and Corey Crawford once again in goal, the Blackhawks came out motivated and away with a 3-0 win. For Crawford, the shutout is his third of the year and he had to make 31 saves tonight to earn it. Mission accomplished for the rookie netminder as it gives him his 21st win on the season and merits him some discussion in the race for the Calder Trophy.
Patrick Sharp had an empty net goal, his 32nd goal of the year, and an assist on Tomas Kopecky’s goal that kicked off scoring in the first period. Marian Hossa also added a goal, his 14th of the year. It was Hossa’s first non-empty net goal since January 23rd, a span of nine games.
The loss temporarily knocks the Predators out of the Western Conference’s top eight and vaults Chicago into it. Doing this brand of playoff watch in the West will make fans of any of the eight teams within range of the final four spots in the conference reach for the antacids daily. The key here is to just make sure your team keeps winning. Just last week we were talking about how dire things were looking for Chicago and now they’re back into the mix. Perhaps by mid-March we’ll get a better handle on things.
For now, we can say that the death of the Stanley Cup champions’ playoff hopes were greatly exaggerated. By next week we could be back to burying them. Enjoy it for the time being.
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
Just like Jimmy Vesey, Thomas DiPauli appears ready to test the open market.
DiPauli, a Notre Dame forward taken 100th overall by Washington at the 2012 draft, will reportedly hold out past the Aug. 15 deadline to sign with the Caps and head to unrestricted free agency, per ESPN.
A 22-year-old that’s spent the last four years playing for the Fighting Irish, DiPauli scored 14 goals and 32 points in 37 games last year, finishing as the team’s offensive MVP while earning honorable mention Hockey East All-Star honors.
DiPauli was a notable absence at Washington’s recent prospect development camp. More on that, per CSN Mid Atlantic:
[DiPauli] has attended previous Caps development camps, so the club decided not to invite him this summer.
According to a team spokesman the Caps remain interested in signing DiPauli by the NHL’s Aug. 15 deadline.
ESPN corroborated DiPauli’s interest in signing with the Caps, but it’s not surprising to hear he’s looking for opportunities with another organization.
Washington is fairly loaded at forward, and still has a handful of young prospects in the system — including ’14 first-rounder Jakub Vrana, recent Boston College signee Zach Sanford and 24-year-old Russian winger Stanislav Galiev, who was stuck in healthy scratch limbo for long stretches this season as the club didn’t want to lose him on waivers.
As mentioned above, DiPauli could play the open market like Vesey plans to later next month.
Though Buffalo traded to acquire his rights from Nashville, the reigning Hobey Baker winner has a shortlist of other teams he’s interested in signing with.