Alex Ovechkin

Alex Ovechkin tries to rally Capitals: ‘It is not over. We’re going to win’

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If you want to test the validity of a Washington Capitals critic right now, the simplest way is to ask them about Alex Ovechkin. If that person says that he’s “choking,” there’s a solid chance that person hasn’t witnessed a single game in the series.

Simply put, Ovechkin has been willing his team to near-victory in their first three games. He has two goals and one assist for three points in Washington’s three losses and nine points in eight playoff games, overall. If there’s a valid criticism, it’s that he occasionally tries to carry the team on his back. There’s also the possibility that coach Bruce Boudreau might be stretching him a bit thin; NHL.com reports that Ovechkin played 5:45 of Game 3’s final 11 minutes.

You won’t confuse Ovechkin’s statement as the second coming of Joe Namath’s Super Bowl III guarantee, but he still provided what could be a rallying cry (of future punchline) when interviewed after Game 3. (You can also watch video footage of his responses here.)

Q: How would you describe what you’re up against now. Is this still winnable?

A: It is not over. We won’t give up. We’re going to win.

(snip)

Q: Did you think after the second period that you guys had things under control?

A: I think we’ve had all three games in our hands, but we lost all three. It is hockey and it is hockey. Again, it is not over. They win three. We can win three. It is going to be a battle.

One thing that cannot be overlooked – although spotlighting it might make those losses hurt even more – is the fact that all three games have been very close. Throwing out one empty-net goal, all of the Lightning’s wins were by one goal.

That indicates that Tampa Bay has been better in tight games, for sure, but it also should bolster the Capitals’ confidence that a breakthrough might turn things around.

The thing is, Ovechkin’s been throwing his body around and creating scoring chances this whole time. If Washington hopes to come back, they’ll need some of their other players to step up. (We’re looking at you, Nicklas Backstrom.)

Coyotes’ defensive makeover continues with Luke Schenn signing

SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 20:  Luke Schenn #52 of the Los Angeles Kings in action against the San Jose Sharks in Game Four of the Western Conference First Round during the NHL 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on April 20, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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While Brayden Schenn hopes to hammer out a favorable deal with the Philadelphia Flyers, his brother Luke Schenn inked a two-year contract with the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday.

Arizona didn’t confirm these details, but the cap hit looks to be $1.25 million, according to reporters including Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

“We are very pleased to sign Luke to a two-year contract,” New Coyotes GM John Chayka said. “He’s a good, young defenseman and we feel we can optimize his performance here. He will be a solid addition to our blue line.”

Chayka is making some significant changes to the Coyotes’ blueline, even if Oliver Ekman-Larsson is still the star of that group.

The Coyotes traded for and then signed Alex Goligoski. They possibly grabbed a falling star in the draft, too, as they selected Jacob Chychrun. Adding Schenn might not be the last move, either.

Schenn isn’t necessarily an analytics darling, but a two-year, $2.5 million deal is reasonable even with some flaws. This contract seems even more reasonable when you consider the five-year, $18 million deal that just expired.

Report: Maple Leafs, Holland are about $1M apart

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 11: Peter Holland #24 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates up the ice during NHL action against the Montreal Canadiens at the Air Canada Centre April 11, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
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Peter Holland‘s submitted salary request for arbitration is reportedly more than double what the Toronto Maple Leafs proposed.

With that in mind, Monday’s pending hearing serves as a challenging deadline.

Holland’s asking for $2.1 million in 2016-17 while Toronto is offering $900K, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

This comes a day after the Maple Leafs placed Holland on waivers, advancing the argument that he’d be worthy of a two-way deal. He cleared waivers today.

Granted, the Globe & Mail’s James Mirtle wonders if Holland would clear waivers under normal circumstances:

Holland is a solid player, generating 27 points in 65 games with Toronto last season. He’s a nice enough piece, but with the Maple Leafs in rebuild mode, they’re not exactly anxious to pay supporting cast members more than necessary.

With such a context in mind, it should be intriguing to see how much either side will budge.

At the moment, the Maple Leafs seem to hold the advantage.

Report: Flyers, Schenn disagree on money, term with arbitration looming

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Brayden Schenn #10 of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrates his goal in the second period against the New York Rangers on April 7, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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It sounds like the Philadelphia Flyers have some work to do if they hope to avoid an arbitration hearing with Brayden Schenn.

The session would take place on Monday, so the clock is ticking.

While the differences in opinion aren’t outright enormous, the Flyers still need to clean up their cap situation, so every $1 million counts. That – plus the length of a deal – seem to be the issue for the 24-year-old forward and the Flyers, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman:

With the Flyers aiming for a two-year agreement while Schenn just wants one, it’s not quite as simple as merely saying “split the difference.”

Then again, that general logic could prove helpful. Perhaps the best path to a deal would be for the Flyers to edge closer to $5.5 million while convincing Schenn to sign for two years rather than one?

Of course, the Flyers could also offer Schenn more security in exchange for giving up some UFA years:

The physical forward really started to show why he was the fifth pick of the 2009 NHL Draft last season, setting career-highs in goals (26), assists (33) and points (59).

He’s coming off of a two-year, $5 million contract, so Schenn can take heart in realizing he’s heading toward a healthy raise even if he doesn’t get everything he’s asking for.

Wild, Schroeder settle on two-way deal

UNIONDALE, NY - MARCH 24: Jordan Schroeder #10 of the Minnesota Wild skates against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on March 24, 2015 in Uniondale, New York. The Wild defeated teh Islanders 2-1 in the shootout.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Jordan Schroeder might be a depth player for the Minnesota Wild – at least when he’s with the big club – yet his situation provided a decent dollop of drama.

The two sides avoided salary arbitration by settling on a deal on Saturday, but not before the Wild “sent a message” by putting him on waivers.

That message was received, as Schroeder’s one-year contract is a two-way deal.

CBC’s Tim Wharnsby has the details regarding how the salary works out:

Schroeder has 107 regular season games under his belt, yet he’s played more games with the Iowa Wild than the Minnesota Wild since joining the organization.

He might not like it, but a two-way deal makes sense considering his standing with the team.

Granted, there’s the outside chance he’ll flourish under Bruce Boudreau; Schroeder is still just 25 and was the 22nd pick of the 2009 NHL Draft.

If he unexpectedly blossoms, he’d have a lot more leverage next time around.