Anze Kopitar

What will the Kings do without Anze Kopitar?

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Injuries are all a part of the game in hockey, and dealing with season-altering ones are never easy to deal with. We’ve seen the Pittsburgh Penguins do an extremely great job of handling the losses of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin this season and now the Los Angeles Kings will have to do without their top offensive threat Anze Kopitar.

Kopitar’s broken ankle suffered in yesterday’s game against Colorado has him on the shelf for at least the next six weeks which puts him out for the rest of the season and for most of the playoffs. The Kings have to find ways to keep winning to get themselves into the playoffs but how do you replace your best scorer? The Kings will have to do it with what they’ve already got and hope their current lineup can step up their play. Rich Hammond of L.A. Kings Insider shows us what the Kings lines looked like without Kopitar against Colorado.

Penner-Handzus-Moller
Smyth-Lewis-Brown
Ponikarovsky-Stoll-Simmonds
Clifford-Richardson-(double-shifted winger)

The Kings are playing without 22-goal scorer Justin Williams as well as he’s out with a dislocated shoulder, an injury that when he does return could be re-aggravated suddenly and without much effort needed for it to happen. Ideally, the Kings would look for Andrei Loktionov to come up and try to supply the offense needed. The problem there is that he was hurt playing in the AHL and is unable to be called up.

Instead, the Kings might have to either plug in enforcer Kevin Westgarth on the fourth line or use a seventh defenseman in that role. That’s not the most encouraging situation to be in. Instead, the Kings are going to have to hope that guys like Jarrett Stoll and Michal Handzus can step up in their play at center and perhaps get youngsters Trevor Lewis and Oscar Moller to emerge with more ice time.

There’s no doubt that veterans like Dustin Brown and Ryan Smyth need to step up their games and shoulder the burden of carrying the offense, but the Kings could try to take a page out of Penguins coach Dan Bylsma’s book. With the losses the Pens have had, they’ve adapted their style into a much more aggressive forecheck and tightened things up defensively to the point the once run and gun Pens are almost boring to watch. Kings coach Terry Murray always stresses strict defensively tough play and we can certainly expect more of that from them now.

Will it work for them though? It’s tough to tell because so much of the offense ran through Kopitar and while the Kings have fought some offensive inconsistency, Kopitar’s been the one consistent guy. Things can go right for the Kings and they can get hot and make a run in the playoffs, but to win the Stanley Cup, Kopitar is a necessity. If the Kings can make a deep enough run and Kopitar’s condition improves, he might just be able to help them rally to go all the way. As it is for now, the pressure shifts to captain Dustin Brown and coach Terry Murray to help keep their high hopes alive in Hollywood.

Sheary’s agent — who’s also Dumoulin’s agent — hoping to avoid arbitration

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Conor Sheary‘s agent is hopeful that an arbitration hearing won’t be needed with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

And that same agent has reason to be optimistic, since he’s also the agent for Brian Dumoulin, who settled at the last minute today.

“Each (case) is so different,” Andrew Gross told the Post-Gazette this morning. “Ultimately, though, team and player would like to avoid going in that room. It’s not a pleasant experience.”

Sheary’s hearing isn’t scheduled until Aug. 4. The 25-year-old forward is coming off a 53-point regular season. In his young NHL career, he’s already won two Stanley Cups.

That said, the Penguins can’t afford to break the bank on an extension. After all, a big reason for their success has been having players like Sheary on affordable deals — a necessity with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, and Kris Letang taking up so much cap space.

Sheary wasn’t all that productive in the 2017 playoffs either, scoring just two goals with five assists in 22 games, while finishing a team-worst minus-5 for the postseason.

“We’re prepared to go to arbitration,” Pens GM Jim Rutherford said last week.

Of course, Rutherford was also speaking about Dumoulin, and the two sides were able to reach an agreement on him.

You can probably expect a similar outcome with Sheary.

Just don’t bet the house on it.

Preds avoid arbitration with Austin Watson

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Another narrowly avoided arbitration to pass along.

The Nashville Predators have signed forward Austin Watson to a three-year, $3.3 million contract that will pay him $1 million next season, $1.1 million in 2018-19 and $1.2 million in 2019-20.

Watson’s hearing was scheduled for today.

From the press release:

Watson, 25 (1/13/92), set career highs in goals (5), assists (7), points (12), penalty minutes (99) and games played (77) during the 2016-17 season as he established himself as an integral member of the Nashville roster. The 6-foot-4, 204-pound winger then added four goals and nine points in 22 postseason contests as the Predators advanced to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. Watson also appeared in 57 games for the Predators during the 2015-16 season, recording three goals and 10 points.

The Pittsburgh Penguins also avoided an arbitration hearing today by signing defenseman Brian Dumoulin to a six-year contract.

Spooner seeking $3.85 million in arbitration

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Ryan Spooner‘s arbitration hearing with the Boston Bruins is scheduled for Wednesday. And if it goes ahead, it could be a rather contentious one.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Spooner is seeking $3.85 million on a one-year deal, while the B’s are thinking almost half that at $2 million.

Spooner, a 25-year-old forward, will certainly be able to sell his offensive statistics. He had 49 points in 2015-16, then 39 points last season.

“Ryan’s a talented player,” said GM Don Sweeney, per CSNNE.com. “He’s had a lot of success. Our power play is better when he plays as well as he’s capable of playing, and he can really be a good complement to our group.”

But the knock on Spooner has always been his defensive play. The past two seasons, he’s a combined minus-17. Back in May, it was reported that the B’s were entertaining trade offers for him.

Spooner’s last contract paid him $1.9 million over two years.

Dumoulin agrees to six-year contract with Penguins

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Brian Dumoulin won’t need his arbitration hearing today.

The Pittsburgh Penguins announced this morning that the 25-year-old defenseman has agreed to terms on a six-year contract with a $4.1 million cap hit.

From the press release:

Dumoulin, 25, has been a key component to the Penguins’ back-to-back Stanley Cup championships, as he played in all 49 playoff games in that span, and recorded 14 points (3G-11A). In the 2017 playoffs, Dumoulin had an average ice time of 21:59 minutes, the most of any Penguins skater, and his plus-9 paced all team defenders. He assisted on Carl Hagelin‘s empty-net goal that sealed the 2-0 victory in the decisive Game 6 of the Cup Final against Nashville. 

Dumoulin is coming off of a contract that paid him just $800,000 in each of the past two seasons.

With Dumoulin signed, Pittsburgh now has five defenseman under contract for at least the next three seasons, the other four being Kris Letang, Justin Schultz, Olli Maatta, and Matt Hunwick.

The Pens still have one more arbitration case in forward Conor Sheary. His hearing is scheduled for Aug. 4.

Related: Without Letang, the ‘simple bunch’ gets it done for Penguins