Max Pacioretty, Zdeno Chara

Montreal Canadiens re-sign Max Pacioretty to two-year deal reportedly worth $3.25M

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It’s been a big week for Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara. He helped his team win its first Stanley Cup since 1972 last Wednesday and will find out if he will receive another Norris Trophy this Wednesday. His name will come up in another bit of fairly big news this week, as the Montreal Canadiens announced that they signed Max Pacioretty to a two-year deal that Renaud Lavoie is reporting will be worth $3.2 million.

(Lavoie reveals that Pacioretty will earn $1.5 million in 2011-12 and $1.75 million in 12-13.)

As you probably know, Pacioretty was a victim of that notorious Chara hit into a stanchion. In a way, this signing should be relief to both Habs fans who were worried about Pacioretty’s bigger picture health as well as Chara’s own conscience.

Of course, the $3.2 million question is whether or not Pacioretty can properly heal from those injuries and contribute to the Canadiens for the next two seasons. He scored a career-high 14 goals and 24 points in 37 games in 10-11, indicating that he might be a legitimate contributor to the team, but then that ugly moment made many wonder if he would ever play hockey again. Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier seems confident that Pacioretty will be healthy enough to resume his ascent up the team’s ranks, though.

“We are very pleased to have reached an agreement with Max Pacioretty who is one of the most promising young players in our organization. A power forward with skills, Max showed that he can help our team and make a name for himself in the NHL. We are confident that he will have recovered fully from the injury that kept him out of the line-up for the last month of the regular season and the playoffs,” said Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier.

It would be fantastic if Gauthier ends up being correct. We will provide updates about his rehabilitation process whenever they are available as training camp approaches in September.

Here’s hoping 3-on-3 doesn’t degenerate into a boring ‘game of keep-away’

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Are coaches going to ruin 3-on-3 overtime?

It’s been the one, big worry since the NHL decided to change from 4-on-4 to 3-on-3 as a way to reduce the number of shootouts.

Via TSN’s Bob McKenzie, here’s a quote from an anonymous coach (talking about 3-on-3 strategy) that won’t exactly quell that worry:

“Really, it’s a game of keep-away, that’s what it is and the longer you can keep it away from the other team, the more likely they’ll break down. So I say let’s slow it down and hold onto that puck for as long as we can.”

Now take that a step further and imagine there’s a team that’s really good at shootouts. If you were coaching that team, might you tell your players to rag the puck for as long as possible to try and get to the skills competition?

Granted, five minutes is a long time to rag the puck. Not sure any team could play “keep-away” that long. Plus, there will always be teams that aren’t very good at the shootout; theoretically, those teams should be more willing to take their chances in 3-on-3.

But just remember that more time and space doesn’t always lead to more goals. Look at international hockey, which is played on a bigger ice surface. Canada won gold in Sochi by beating Latvia, 2-1, the United States, 1-0, and Sweden, 3-0. It was hardly firewagon hockey.

While nobody’s quite ready to suggest that 3-on-3 will actually lead to more shootouts, it will be interesting to see how things evolve, and if there are any unintended consequences.

“I don’t know if anyone’s figured it out completely yet,” Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said Saturday after losing in 3-on-3 overtime to Vancouver.

“The big thing is, you want to control the puck as much as you can. It’s 3-on-3, so there’s lots of room and space out there. You don’t need to give it away. I think it’s smart to just wait, take your time, and wait for a good opportunity.”

Oilers go captain-less, name four alternates instead

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Edmonton’s made a fairly significant shift in its leadership group.

The big news is the Oilers won’t have a captain this season, as Andrew Ference will relinquish the “C” he’s worn for the last two years.

Ference will, however, remain part of the group and wear an “A” as part of a four-man alternate captain collective, one that also includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

The news of Ference being removed as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The veteran d-man is a well-respected leader, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup every night this season.

The decision to go without a captain, though, is something of a surprise, especially given what new head coach Todd McLellan endured during his final season in San Jose.

The Sharks’ captaincy issue — stripping Joe Thornton, then going with four rotating alternates — was an ongoing problem, something that players, coaches and GM Doug Wilson had to repeatedly address until it blew up in spectacular fashion.

That said, the circumstances in Edmonton are quite different.

It’s believed the club’s intentionally keeping the captaincy vacant, on the assumption that Connor McDavid will evolve into a superstar and, subsequently, the club’s unquestioned leader.

Finally, McLellan noted that with Eberle currently sidelined, a fifth Oiler would be added to the leadership group — veteran forward Matt Hendricks, who will serve as a temporary alternate.