Kings make “major offer” to restricted free agent-to-be Drew Doughty

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This summer of free agency could shape up to be another one fraught with high-level pursuit for the Los Angeles Kings. Last summer, they pursued and failed to attain Ilya Kovalchuk and this summer it’s likely they’ll be in the hunt for Brad Richards. They’ve got some other business to attend to first and getting soon-to-be  restricted free agent defenseman Drew Doughty signed to a long-term deal is at the top of the list.

Last season’s Norris Trophy finalist is set to cash in in a major way and with a few teams set to have a lot of cash to spend and salary cap room to play with, taking a chance on having Doughty hit the restricted market isn’t too appealing. While the Kings are set to have plenty of cap space themselves, leaving it up to other teams to set the stipulations isn’t too appealing.

Rich Hammond of L.A. Kings Insider says that the Kings are taking the steps to make sure they get Doughty taken care of on their own terms.

Within the past few days, the Kings have made a “major” offer to Drew Doughty’s agent. Lombardi has made two trips to Toronto — location of the office of Don Meehan’s, Doughty’s agent — within the past four weeks, and the Kings would like to get a deal done before the draft, if possible. Lombardi said he is certainly aware of the risk of an offer sheet to Doughty but is not overly concerned.

A major offer would likely mean that it’s a long term deal worth money that will make sure to have him be the highest paid defenseman on the team and one the top paid in the league. If you’re looking for some framework to start from you can go with the extension his teammate Jack Johnson signed during the season. Johnson signed a seven-year, $30.5 million deal, one that works out to a cap hit of just over $4.3 million per year.

While the Kings have no real threat of salary cap trouble this summer, getting Doughty taken care of is a major priority. The Kings currently have over $47 million committed to the cap with 16 players signed. With the cap believed to go up to around $62 million next season, the Kings don’t have to take the steps Nashville and New Jersey took in recent days taking Shea Weber and Zach Parise to arbitration to prevent other teams from taking a shot at signing them.

There’s no doubt that the Kings will get Doughty taken care of, the only question is just where will his salary set the bar for other young blue liners.

Antti Niemi had to make a save with his bare hand

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Antti Niemi made 31 saves in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night, and 30 of them were pretty standard.

The one that wasn’t came in the third period when he lost his glove during a scramble around the net and still managed to instinctively make a save on the puck. With his bare hand.

Niemi said after the game, via the Tribune Review, that he thought the referees would stop the play after his glove came off, and when they didn’t “I just kept playing.”

You can watch the play by clicking here.

Probably not the type of thing you want to see happening because that looks like a great way to break a bone (or the entire hand) and get sidelined for extended period of time. Niemi said the officials told him there will no longer be an automatic whistle for goalies losing a glove or a blocker, but that one will remain for when they lose their helmet.

The Penguins signed Niemi to a one-year contract this summer as a replacement for Marc-Andre Fleury after they lost him in the expansion draft to the Vegas Golden Knights. Niemi is looking to rebound from a tough year in Dallas. He will serve as Matt Murray‘s backup for the season.

‘A good start’ — Stamkos stands out in preseason debut

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The Tampa Bay Lightning and National Hockey League unveiled the 2018 All-Star Game logo Friday.

Far more importantly for the Bolts this evening was the return of their all-star center Steven Stamkos, as he made his preseason debut in what was his first game in 10 months.

His 2016-17 season was abruptly ended in the middle of November because of a knee injury and subsequent surgery, making it the second time in four years his regular season had been disrupted by a major injury.

It may still take a while before Stamkos feels truly comfortable coming back from this injury.But his performance on Friday proved to be a very promising start for No. 91, the Bolts and their fans in Tampa Bay.

He didn’t score, but he assisted on two first period goals, including a nice set-up to linemate Nikita Kucherov, and the Lightning beat the Nashville Predators by a score of 3-1. Stamkos also received a healthy dose of ice time, playing more than 19 minutes, including 5:32 on the power play.

His pass to Kucherov resulted in a power play goal.

“It was exciting to get out there, I was pretty anxious about it… It was a good start, something to build on,” said Stamkos afterward, per the Lightning. “It was nice to just go through a game day, I haven’t done it in a long time… I was glad with how the first one went.”

Golden Knights assign 2017 first-round picks Glass, Suzuki to junior

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The Vegas Golden Knights continue to make roster moves during their inaugural training camp.

On Friday, the expansion club assigned four players to junior. That includes 2017 first-round picks Cody Glass of the Portland Winterhawks and Nick Suzuki of the Owen Sound Attack.

The Golden Knights made franchise history by taking Glass with the sixth overall pick and then selected Suzuki at 13th overall. Both players appeared in two preseason games for Vegas, each recording two points in the exhibition opener versus the Vancouver Canucks.

“Nobody is going to rush (the rookies), that’s for sure,” Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant told the Las Vegas Sun following the club’s 9-4 win over Vancouver on Sunday.

“We are in a position where we want to make sure they are ready to play. They are going to be good players when they’re healthy and strong enough to play in the league.”

Vegas has all three 2017 first-round picks — Glass, Suzuki and Erik Brannstrom — signed to three-year entry-level contracts.

Mitchell signed PTO with Blue Jackets — shortly after getting cut by Blackhawks

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When the Chicago Blackhawks announced their roster moves yesterday, John Mitchell was among the cuts.

His professional tryout with the Blackhawks had come to an end, as it did for veterans Mark Stuart and Drew Miller.

It can be an uphill battle to make an NHL roster for veterans on professional tryouts. But for Mitchell, he quickly received another opportunity to attend a camp and try to land a spot, signing a PTO with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Mitchell, 32, has appeared in 548 NHL regular season games with 70 goals and 177 points.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets are still without forward and restricted free agent Josh Anderson, as the two sides are stuck in a contract impasse right now. It was reported on Thursday that his representatives have been in contact with Hockey Canada about the 2018 Olympics.