Boston Bruins v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Four

Tampa Bay Lightning close to re-signing defenseman Eric Brewer

The Tampa Bay Lightning are inching closer to re-signing veteran defensemen Eric Brewer to an extension. Brewer was a mid-season acquisition for the Lightning when he was acquired from the St. Louis Blues in February for a 3rd round pick and Brock Beukeboom. He must have enjoyed his four months with the organization if he’s considering a deal before becoming an unrestricted free agent on July 1.  Likewise, the Lightning must have liked what they saw down the stretch of the regular season and during their playoff run to the Eastern Conference Finals.

According to both Lightning GM Steve Yzerman and Brewer’s agent Don Meehan, negotiations are going well and both sides are optimistic. Erik Erlendsson of The Tampa Tribune has quotes from both sides:

“Our discussions have been most productive and we are optimistic in relation to concluding a contract with Erik and the Tampa Bay Lightning,’’ Meehan said in an email.

Yesterday, Yzerman said this: “With Eric Brewer, I’ve met with Newport Sports and we’ve had some discussions and I’m encouraged with how discussions have gone.”

He signed his last contract before the 2007-08 season for $17 million spread out over 4 seasons. It’s likely he’ll sign a contract with similar a similar $4.25 million cap hit per season. The 32-year-old would be lucky to get another 4-year deal, but $4 million per season is certainly within the realm of possibility.

For the Lightning, the move will help solidify their top six defensemen going into next season. As it stands today (without Brewer signed), Tampa Bay only has Victor Hedman, Mattias Ohlund, Pavel Kubina, and Brett Clark signed for next season on the blueline. Brewer would give their defensive corps another veteran presence—not to mention a veteran leader in the locker room as well.

From the Brewer’s perspective, Tampa Bay looks to be a perfect fit for the former 5th overall pick. He’s an ideal match for a contender as a 2nd or 3rd pairing defenseman that provides great depth. If a team is looking for a blueliner to bring 25 minutes a game and 30-40 points throughout the season, then Brewer isn’t the kind of player they’re looking for anymore. Some will tell you he never was that kind of player—even though the Blues and Oilers paid him as though he was. Bottom line: he’s never going to be the type of player you trade Chris Pronger for. Too soon?

Instead of being forced to carry the load on the ice, Brewer will be able to play his well-rounded game that has made him a valuable NHL player for more than a decade. He’ll net a few goals as a second pairing power play performer, he’ll kill penalties, and he’ll provide the type of leadership in the locker room that made him a captain in St. Louis.

When used property, he’s the type of player ever team could use on their team. Sounds like the Lightning already know it.

The Panthers are healthy scratching Bolland, and he is their highest-paid forward, but they insist they’re not sending a message

Dave Bolland, Derek Nansen
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It feels like there’s a story brewing in Florida, where Dave Bolland — the team’s most-expensive forward, at $5.5 million a season — has been a healthy scratch for three consecutive games.

But according to head coach Gerard Gallant, there’s nothing to see here. Move along.

“There’s nothing to talk about,” Gallant said, per the Miami Herald. “He sat out, our team is playing well. There’s nothing more than that. We have to sit two guys and I like the way we’re playing. The next game is a different game. We may change something up, who knows.”

Bolland had just one goal and five points in 18 games prior to getting parked in the press box. Well, technically he got dropped to the fourth line before hitting the press box, but you get the idea. He’s not exactly in Gallant’s good graces.

Not helping Bolland’s case is the fact that, as Gallant pointed out, the club is playing pretty well without him. The Panthers have rebounded from a rough start to November by winning back-to-back games against the Islanders and Red Wings, which set them up nicely for the remainder of this current five-game road swing.

Florida has games still to play in St. Louis, Nashville, Columbus and New Jersey. It’ll be interesting to see when — or, if — he draws back into the lineup.

In closing, a reminder that Bolland’s in the second of a five-year, $27.5 million deal.

Canucks rookie Virtanen exits with upper-body injury, won’t return

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After sitting out Friday’s game in Dallas, Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen had to be excited at drawing back in for tonight’s game against the Ducks.

Unfortunately, the excitement didn’t last long.

Virtanen suffered an upper-body injury after playing just 1:45 in the opening frame, and was ruled out of the contest during the intermission. It’s unclear exactly what happened, but it looks like Virtanen was injured on a hit by Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf.

Virtanen didn’t take another shift following the incident, and Getzlaf was given a minor penalty on the play.

While we don’t know what the injury is or it’s severity, losing Virtanen for any length of time would have ramifications for the Canucks and this year’s Canadian entry at the World Juniors. There has been talk of Virtanen possibly being released by the Canucks to participate in the tournament; last year, he was part of the team that captured gold in Montreal and Toronto.

Virtanen has played in 18 games for the Canucks this year, scoring one goal and four points while averaging 10:17 TOI per night.

McLellan sounds off on Oilers after shutout loss in Toronto

Todd McLellan

Edmonton lost for the fourth time in five games on Monday, a 3-0 defeat in Toronto that marked the second time in a week the Oilers have been shut out.

Needless to say, the head coach wasn’t happy.

In a fairly blunt and harsh assessment aimed at a variety of players, Todd McLellan had some choice words for what he called a “disappointing” effort.

Some of the more choice quotes:

“I didn’t think we were a very hard team. I didn’t think we stood over a lot of pucks. I didn’t think we won a lot of battles along the boards. I didn’t think we were competitive enough in a lot of areas.”

“When I look at the trip as a whole, we had some key, key people really under-perform on the trip. Significant minus numbers, not hitting the score sheet. It can’t always be the [Leon DraisaitlTaylor Hall line] that provides that.”

It’s fair to suggest that last one was directed at Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.

Nugent-Hopkins has just two points and zero goals in his last five games, with a minus-8 rating. Eberle is pointless entirely, and also at minus-8 over the same stretch.

They’re hardly the only Oilers not pulling their weight at the moment, however. Edmonton has lost 15 times in its first 25 games, a figure that suggests there are more problems that just a couple of underachieving forwards.

Just ask McLellan, who all but admitted his team has issues matching up.

“We’re not where we need to be,” he said. “We’ve got work to do as a team, work to do as an organization to get bigger, stronger, harder, and physically win more battles than we lose.”

Roy: Avs ‘need, expect more’ from Varlamov


The tough times continue for Semyon Varlamov.

After another unsuccessful outing on Monday — allowing four goals on 27 shots in a loss to the Islanders — Varlamov was subjected to a familiar refrain: Patrick Roy saying the Avs need more from their No. 1 netminder.


You can hear all of the head coach’s comments in the video above but, for brevity’s sake, here’s the Varlamov stuff:

“It’s not easy for him. Obviously we need that extra save and we didn’t get it on the road. It’s hard to win if you’re giving four goals on the road.

“We just need more from him. He’s our No. 1 guy and we’re behind him, but we need, we expect more from him.”

There has to be serious concern about Varlamov right now, if there wasn’t already.

His save percentage through seven games in November (.891) is marginally better than it was through seven games in October (.889), and that’s not the only alarming stat. Varlamov’s yet to record a shutout this year, yet to record back-to-back victories and has given up at least three goals in six of his last seven starts.

Not good.

Compounding things for Colorado are the standings. The Avs are now 9-14-1 and mired in the Central Division basement, meaning that — if they have any hope of going on a tear and getting back into playoff content — they’ll need to do it soon.

Which means they might not have the time, or the patience, for Varlamov to find his game.