Washington Capitals v Anaheim Ducks

Varlamov wants to stay with the Caps, only if the price is right

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It’s no secret that the Washington Capitals have been negotiating with restricted free agent Semyon Varlamov to work out a contract extension. The 23-year-old former 1st round pick is finishing up his 3-year entry-level deal that was worth approximately $2.5 million. All parties involved agree he has earned a raise for his second contract—the terms of the raise is where the two sides disagree. To complicate the situation, there are rumors that Varlamov could head back to Russia and the KHL if the Capitals don’t present him with a suitable contract.

Varlamov recently talked about the Capitals and his desire to stay in the NHL in an interview that appeared in the Washington Post:

“My chances of staying in the NHL are high. I would really like to sign a deal in America. Yes, even if it’s for less money than what I am offered in Russia.”

That’s great news, right? So what’s the problem? Here’s the follow up question and answer:

When pressed on how big a pay cut he would be willing to take, Varlamov replied: “Not a really huge one.”

Yeah. So that could be a problem. Rumor has it that SKA St. Petersburg would be offering a contract in the neighborhood of $4 million per season (with significantly lower taxes). In DC, the Caps are likely to offer a contract similar to Michal Neuvirth’s 2-year, $2.3 million deal. To be clear, that’s only $1.15 per season while the KHL could be offering $4 million. If the Capitals expect him to stay for another season, they’re going to need him to take a substantial pay cut.

“According to sources within the KHL, SKA may offer Varlamov a multi-year deal worth in the vicinity of $4 million per year. SKA is notorious as the league’s top spender, and it had made waves last year by acquiring former San Jose goalie Evgeni Nabokov, who was subsequently cut from the team in mid-season. SKA is also, for all its lavish ways, a notorious under-achiever, having never won a championship, and this offseason, with a new coaching staff (which includes goalie coach Jussi Parkkila, Varlamov’s personal mentor), the pressure is higher than ever.”

Usually in these situations, the player has most of the leverage in the negotiations. The team desperately wants to keep the player, yet the player has options. Yet in this case, both sides have alternatives. Yes, Varlamov can take the opportunity to bolt to the KHL for his payday. But at the same time, the Capitals are currently sitting on three talented young goaltenders with room for only two on their roster. Here are their numbers last season:

  • Michal Neuvirth: 27-12-4 with a .914 save percentage and 2.45 GAA
  • Semyon Varlamov: 11-9-5 with a .924 save percentage and 2.23 GAA
  • Braden Holtby: 10-2-2 with a .934 save percentage and 1.79 GAA

Take a quick look at their statistics and it’s easy to see why the decision will be difficult for Caps GM George McPhee. Braden Holtby clearly has the best statistics—but he also has an incredibly small sample size. Looking at his careers statistics, he’s steadily improved his game each time he’s jumped to a higher league. In the AHL last season, he owned a 2.29 goals against average and a .920 save percentage. The only stats better on his resume were during his 14 game cameo in the NHL. He certainly looks like the type of prospect who is ready for his shot.

Michal Neuvirth gained the trust of head coach Bruce Boudreau last season and the Caps rode him to a spectacular second half. It’s easy to see why Boudreau was so quick to believe in the rookie netminder as well. Neuvirth won back-to-back Calder Cups with the Hershey Bears and was voted the NHL’s Rookie of the Month in October to start the 2010-11 season. He’s a proven winner and has shown he’s capable of being the #1 goaltender on a team expected to win (in the regular season).

Then there’s Varlamov. He had better statistics than Neuvirth—yet his record was pedestrian at best. After his spectacular play against the Rangers in the 2009 playoffs, the hockey world was waiting for him to takeoff. In the 2009-10 season, Varlamov earned the starting role before he was injured. Worse than anything, he’s teased Washington fans with flashes of spectacular play. He shows signs of a goaltender that can carry a team on his back for months at a time; yet he also shows signs of a goaltender that will frustrate fans if they ever truly depend on him.

We’ll find out over the next few weeks which direction the Capitals chose to go with their future. Right now we know that Varlamov would like to stay in the NHL and he’d like to be compensated handsomely for his efforts. In that respect, he’s just like any other player.

Unfortunately for the Capitals, if they don’t come up with decent proposal, Varlamov and SKA St. Petersburg could make their goaltending decision for them.

Wild didn’t just get Hanzal — they kept him away from the rest of the West

GLENDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 25:  Martin Hanzal #11 of the Arizona Coyotes during the NHL game against the Anaheim Ducks at Gila River Arena on November 25, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Ducks 4-2.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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In acquiring Martin Hanzal on Sunday, Minnesota built itself a formidable quartet of centers — Hanzal, Eric Staal, Mikko Koivu, Erik Haula — but also did something else in the process.

It didn’t let Hanzal go to a competitor.

This, perhaps, is equally important to what the 30-year-old brings to the team. Hanzal’s big, he’s physical, he’s got sound defensive awareness and good offensive instincts — the kind of attributes you want heading into the playoffs.

And the kind you don’t want your rivals acquiring.

In Sunday’s trade call, GM Chuck Fletcher acknowledged as much when asked if he made trades with other teams in mind. In the case of Hanzal, the question was asked specifically about Chicago — a team that had been occasionally linked to the ex-Coyotes center, and one with a history of swinging for the fences at the deadline.

“Obviously everyone knows Chicago has won three Stanley Cups over the last six or so years,” Fletcher said, per the Star-Tribune. “Clearly in the West they’re always the team you have to go through and you have to beat to get anywhere you want to go to.”

To be fair, Fletcher — like his counterpart in Chicago, Stan Bowman — also has a long history of wheeling at the deadline. The Hanzal trade didn’t come out of the blue. This marks the fifth consecutive year the Wild have gone out and acquired a forward, acquisitions which have ranged from minor pickups (David Jones, Chris Stewart) to prominent ones (Jason Pominville).

In each instance, Fletcher’s goal was to make the team better. But this year, things were a little different. Whereas acquisitions likes Jones and Stewart were designed specifically to impact the Wild and only the Wild, yesterday’s trade took something significant off the table for other teams.

Fletcher realized the Western Conference is wide open and that Hanzal, arguably the most impact player available, would be a difference maker.

And not just in Minnesota. The reverberations of this trade will be felt.

“Of all the guys with expiring contracts, we thought he, at forward, would have the biggest impact on any roster,” Fletcher explained. “So certainly our goal was to have him play for us, and also to keep him away from other teams in the West.”

After perfect road trip, Panthers drop third straight at home

Ottawa Senators center Kyle Turris (7) celebrates after scoring against the Florida Panthers in the second period of an NHL hockey game, Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
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SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) There’s a reason Craig Anderson is often at his best when he faces his former team.

Kyle Turris scored the tiebreaking goal in the second period and Anderson stopped 37 shots to lift the Ottawa Senators over the Florida Panthers 2-1 on Sunday night.

Anderson played for the Panthers from 2006-09 and is 14-7-2 against them.

“This has always been kind of home for me. It’s a little more emotional for me when I play here,” he said. “You seem to get up for those types of games when you have friends and family in the stands.”

Anderson was coming off a 3-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday.

“You just have to get back on that horse and start riding it again,” he said. “If you have a bad memory I think it works to your benefit.”

Zack Smith scored an early short-handed goal for the Senators, who have won four of six. Erik Karlsson had two assists.

Anderson was out from Dec. 7 until Feb. 11, a span of 26 games.

“Andy is an outstanding No. 1 goalie,” Ottawa coach Guy Boucher said. “We missed him for a long time. You saw what a difference his experience made tonight.”

Jonathan Marchessault scored for Florida, and James Reimer made 31 saves. The Panthers have lost three straight after sweeping a five-game road trip, and dropped their last four home games overall.

The Panthers, fifth in the Atlantic Division, trail the second-place Senators by six points and missed a chance to gain ground.

“This was a four-point game right here,” Marchessault said.

Turris put Ottawa ahead when his wrist shot went over Reimer’s glove at 9:58 of the second for his 21st goal of the season.

“We’re right in the race with Ottawa right now,” Florida center Aleksander Barkov said. “We need to win these close games. We played well but that’s not enough.”

The Senators took a 1-0 lead on the short-handed goal by Smith. Reimer blocked a shot from Karlsson, but Smith grabbed the rebound and poked in the puck at 6:28 of the first. Smith has 12 career short-handed goals.

“It was just a great play off the pass. It was right on my stick,” Smith said. “It was nice to get one short-handed and get a little momentum.”

Marchessault tied it on his power-play goal with 2:47 left in the first. He took a feed from Jonathan Huberdeau in the left circle and put the puck high into the net.

 

NHL on NBCSN: Wild and Kings square off after making big trades on Sunday

TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 15:  Martin Hanzal #11 of the Arizona Coyotes gets set to take a faceoff against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on December 15, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Coyotes defeated the Maple Leafs 3-2 in an overtime shoot-out. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 campaign tonight when the Minnesota Wild host the Los Angeles Kings at 8:00 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

The Wild and Kings didn’t play on Sunday, but that didn’t stop them from stealing the show, as both teams made major trades.

The Kings acquired goalie Ben Bishop from the Tampa Bay Lightning for a modest package. The timing of the deal appeared to be a little odd because starter Jonathan Quick made his long-awaited return from injury on Saturday afternoon and he picked up a shutout in the process.

But during a conference call on Sunday, Kings GM Dean Lombardi admitted that there are a “number of concerns” regarding Quick’s ability to handle a heavy workload.

“You’re never sure how well a guy who’s been out this long — is he going to have his ‘A’ game, so to speak, or not? These type of injuries, which are fairly serious, the history of comebacks can go either way,” Lombardi said of Quick.

Los Angeles could still use another guy to put the puck in the net, but they’ll have to hope that the acquisition of Bishop will give them a shot in the arm (they could sure use one).

If the playoffs started today, the Kings wouldn’t be participating in them. They currently sit three points back of the St. Louis Blues for the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. Both teams have played the same number of games, but the Blues also have one more regulation/overtime win.

On a positive note, the schedule sets up nicely for Los Angeles. They’ll play back-to-back road games in Minnesota tonight and in Calgary tomorrow, but they’ll follow that up with seven straight home games from Mar. 2-16.

Minutes after the Kings made the first splash of the day, the Wild felt the need to increase their depth by adding forwards Martin Hanzal and Ryan White from Arizona.

Minnesota paid a hefty price of three draft picks, including a first rounder in 2017 to get their hands on Hanzal and White, but the top team in the West now boasts a one-two-three punch of Eric Staal, Mikko Koivu and Hanzal down the middle.

According to GM Chuck Fletcher, both players will suit up in tonight’s game.

After dropping a pair of home games to Chicago this month, the Wild have a one-point lead over the Blackhawks for the Central Division lead, but Minnesota has three games in hand.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Wild come out of the gate tonight, as this will be their first game back from their bye week.

Report: Sens add forward Chris DiDomenico from Swiss League

LONDON,ON - SEPTEMBER 14:  Chris DiDomenico #49 of the Chicago Black Hawks skates with the puck in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the NHL Rookie Tournament on September 14,2010 at the John Labatt Centre in London,Ontario. The Hawks defeated the Penguins 9-5. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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The Ottawa Senators haven’t made a trade yet, but they have reportedly added some forward depth.

According to reports out of Switzerland, Chris DiDomenico will be leaving the Swiss League’s SCL Tigers to join the Sens immediately. The Swiss team’s president says DiDomenico’s new contract is a one-way deal for this season and a two-way deal for next year.

DiDomenico was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the sixth round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.

After stints in both the AHL and ECHL, he moved to Italian side Asiago HC in 2012. He spent  two seasons with them before joining the Tigers.

The 28-year-old has 10 goals and 28 assists in 48 games in Switzerland’s top division this season.

The move was an inconvenience for the Tigers, but they didn’t want to hold him back from making the leap to the NHL.

“From a sports point of view, the timing of this decision is highly unfavorable. For the SCL Tigers, the most important stage of the season is the (playoffs),” said the release. “Chris DiDomenico has nevertheless insisted on contract resolution to pursue his dream of the NHL.

“The board of directors of SCL Tigers therefore felt compelled to release Chris DiDomenico.”

Those who follow the World Junior Hockey Championships will remember DiDomenico from Team Canada’s 2008 roster, which won gold in the Czech Republic. He had two goals and five assists during the tournament.

It’s no secret that the Senators have been looking for forward depth for a while, but with the potential cost of a trade being so high, it looks like they’ve gone the Euro route in stead.

The acquisition of DiDomenico doesn’t mean Ottawa GM Pierre Dorion won’t acquire an NHL forward between now and Wednesday’s deadline, but maybe they aren’t as desperate as before.