Pittsburgh Penguins v Chicago Blackhawks

Report: Blackhawks, Brent Seabrook close to signing 5-year extension worth almost $30M

While the deal is still far from official, Jeremy Lynn of CSN Chicago passes along a report that the Chicago Blackhawks and Brent Seabrook are close to signing a five-year deal worth a bit under $30 million. For you non-math majors out there, that’s almost $6 million per year, although it’s likely that the year-to-year salary and cap hit might be quite different at times. This would allow Chicago to avoid dealing with Seabrook’s status as a restricted free agent this summer.

Assuming that this deal happens (it’s supposedly going to be announced in “a few days”), this would keep the young nucleus of Seabrook, Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane together for the mid-term future.

Of course, merely glancing at some of the assets the ‘Hawks split with over the years shows that keeping that elite group together comes at a cost. They should have around $11 million of projected cap space after the Seabrook deal.* That sounds great until you consider the fact that the $11 million or so in cap space would need to cover 9-13 roster spots.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the issues that the eternally cap-challenged Chicago Blackhawks could face – at least as they are currently composed – in easy-to-digest bullet form.

  • Both of their goalies – Marty Turco (unrestricted) and Corey Crawford (restricted) – will be free agents this summer. That’s great because things with Turco haven’t worked out, but will Crawford be “The Next Antti Niemi” in a bad way (by skipping town after one nice season at the NHL level)?
  • With Duncan Keith’s cap-friendly contract, Niklas Hjalmarsson’s reasonable but far from cheap $3.5 million annual hit, Seabrook’s expected $6 million and Brian Campbell’s hilarious $7.1 million fee, the Hawks might invest $22.1 million in just four defensemen. Yikes.
  • Just to reiterate an important point, Chicago will only have $11 million to fill 9-13 roster spots, which means their chances of improving upon the team’s declining depth are slim at best.

So GM Stan Bowman once again faces an uncertain cap future. The Blackhawks front office clearly must be hoping that the salary cap ceiling goes up a few million, but even so, they’ll be like a fat guy in a little coat this summer.

That being said, it’s still pretty hard to argue with keeping Seabrook around. He’s a hard-hitting blueliner who plays rock-solid defense but can still contribute on the offensive end (four goals and 29 assists for 33 points so far this season). It’s just going to force another domino effect on the team’s depleted roster.

Such a deal makes one wonder if Bowman has some tricks up his sleeve. Will Campbell become a force in the AHL so the team can bury his ridiculous salary? Is someone else on the way out? Of course, first we need to make sure that this signing actually happens. If it does, then the Blackhawks will once again be one of the most fascinating teams to watch come free agent summer time.

* – I calculated this by taking the Hawks’ 11-12 projected cap space (a bit more than $17 million) before the Seabrook deal minus the approximate $6 million cap hit from this rumored contract extension.

NBC and NBCSN have you covered for Hockey Day in America

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With two games on NBC and then two more on NBCSN, your Sunday should be jam-packed with Hockey Day in America action. A look at the hockey hotbed of Warroad, Minnesota adds a delectable cherry on top, too.

If you need a guide to this party of pucks and patriotism, look no further than this post.

Washington Capitals at New York Rangers, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC

John Carlson, T.J. Oshie and the dominant Capitals take on Ryan McDonagh and the Blueshirts. The Metropolitan Division represents some of the NHL’s upper crust, so don’t be fooled by the Rangers being the first wild card while the Caps are tops in the East; both of these teams can go. Kenny Albert and Brian Boucher will be there to call the action.

MORE: For Oshie, ties to Warroad run deep

Detroit Red Wings at Pittsburgh Penguins, 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC

Mike “Doc” Emrick and Eddie Olczyk will be in the booth for this battle between teams that met in back-to-back Stanley Cup Final series in 2008 and 2009. Along with usual suspects like Sidney Crosby and Henrik Zetterberg, these teams feature American scorers such as Dylan Larkin and, of course, Phil Kessel.

Chicago Blackhawks at Buffalo Sabres, 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN

The action shifts to NBCSN as Patrick Kane and the Blackhawks hope to teach Jack Eichel and the upstart Sabres a lesson or two. The Blackhawks are in playoff position, as usual, while Buffalo is rallying to try to make a push of its own. Gord Miller and Joe Micheletti will be your guides.

MORE: Islanders forward Brock Nelson’s journey from Warroad to the NHL

Boston Bruins at San Jose Sharks, 8:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Hockey Day in America’s coverage closes off with this matchup between David Backes‘ Bruins and Joe Pavelski‘s Sharks. Randy Hahn, Andy Brickley and Bret Hedican will take you through this match between the Pacific Division’s top team and a Bruins team fighting to stick in the East playoff picture.

Barkov’s beautiful goal pushes Panthers into playoff position

SUNRISE, FL - NOVEMBER 26: Aleksander Barkov #16 of the Florida Panthers circles the net with the puck against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the BB&T Center on November 26, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida. The Panthers defeated the Blue Jackets 2-1 in a shoot out. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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The Florida Panthers just won’t be denied as they end the night in the East’s top eight.

It’s fitting, then, that Aleksander Barkov wouldn’t be denied on his game-winner against Los Angeles on Saturday.

Barkov bursts beyond multiple Kings, fights off what would have been an obstruction penalty and then beats Peter Budaj by the narrowest of margins to give the Panthers a 3-2 lead 15 seconds into the third period. They would never relinquish that edge to Los Angeles, winning their fourth game in a row.

In the process, the Panthers – a team that seemed to be fledgling when it fired Gerard Gallant – now find themselves in the East’s top eight. Heck, they’re actually above the wild card fray by a hair.

Before we get to that … just bask in the glow of this Barkov goal:

Again, it was such a small window to beat Budaj, too:

(If the Panthers’ place in the standings doesn’t sway you into taking them seriously, maybe note plays like that and the fact that Barkov has 20 points in his last 17 games.)

OK, so with this win, the Panthers did some serious leapfrogging. They now rank third in the Atlantic Division (thanks to a game in hand on Boston) and have more points than Toronto as far as wild card concerns go, anyway.

Atlantic Division rankings

1. Canadiens – 70 points in 59 games
2. Senators – 68 points in 56 games
3. Panthers – 64 points in 57 games

Bruins – 64 in 58
Maple Leafs – 63 in 47
Sabres – 62 in 59
Lightning – 58 in 57
Red Wings – 56 in 58

From a wild card perspective

Third in Atlantic – Panthers – 64 points in 57 games
Second wild card – Bruins – 64 in 58

Maple Leafs – 63 in 47
Islanders – 62 in 57
Sabres – 62 in 59
Flyers – 61 in 58
Devils – 60 in 58
Lightning – 58 in 57
Hurricanes – 56 in 54
Red Wings – 56 in 58

Everything’s so close that the Panthers can’t pop champagne bottles, but they’re also very much in control over their hopes. While it never hurts to see your competitors stumble, the Panthers can take care of business. They “control their own destiny,” to use silly sports parlance.

And considering how they’ve been playing lately, they might be as tough to handle in the playoffs as Barkov was to stop on that outstanding 3-2 goal.

Stars made Dave Strader’s return to the booth special

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It was a special night as the Dallas Stars beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 in overtime, but the most memorable moment wasn’t the win or Antoine Roussel‘s hat trick.

Instead, it was how the team embraced Dave Strader’s return to the broadcasting booth as he continues to fight cancer.

Don’t be ashamed if his comments to the Dallas Morning News leave you emotional:

“This is the first time, to be honest with you, that for four hours I didn’t feel like I was sick at all,” Strader said after the game. “Maybe it was the adrenaline high, but I really, really feel great right now.”

Again, the team really did some great things to welcome him back, but the highlight was saluting him after the game. Incredible stuff.

“What a gesture by the boys … meant so much to me and my wife! Thank you.” Strader tweeted after the game.

As this post notes, Strader is expected to do play-by-play for four more Stars games.

Add allowing center-ice goal to Brian Elliott’s rough season

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So far, there’s just one goal in tonight’s Calgary Flames – Vancouver Canucks game. And it wasn’t a good one.

The Canucks couldn’t manage a shot on goal for more than half of the first period, maybe putting Brian Elliott to sleep … as Alexander Edler scored the 1-0 goal from center ice on Vancouver’s first shot that actually got on net. Ouch.

It’s already been a tough season for Brian Elliott, who came into Saturday with an .898 save percentage.

Elliott was perfect through the rest of the first two periods, so we’ll see if Calgary can overcome that gaffe.

Update: The Canucks ended up winning 2-1 in overtime. Ryan Miller was the better of the two goalies in this one.