Vancouver Canucks v Montreal Canadiens

Habs secure Andrei Markov for 3 more years, $5.25 million cap hit

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A busy day around the NHL got a little bit busier as the Montreal Canadiens have agreed to terms with star defenseman Andrei Markov for the next three years. Markov will be compensated handsomely as the Habs will put $17.25 million into his bank account for his three years of service. If the unrestricted free agent can stay healthy, it will be a great deal for the Habs and their fans.

Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier is pleased to keep Markov in a Habs sweater:

“We are very pleased that Andrei has made the decision to pursue his career with the Montreal Canadiens. A player drafted and developed by our organization, Andrei brings a high level of talent and leadership to our team. We look forward to having him back in our lineup for the start of the upcoming season”

Re-signing Markov was huge for the Habs this offseason. When he’s on the ice he’s one of the most important players to the Canadiens. Unfortunately, staying on the healthy roster has been Markov’s biggest challenge over the last two seasons. He only played 45 games in 2009-10, and then only played 7 games last season before exiting stage left in mid-November for the rest of the season. If there was any surprise with the contract, it was that Montreal was willing to commit to the injury plagued 32-year-old for the next three seasons.

Despite questions about his health after two reconstructive knee surgeries, he’s been an absolute beast for the Canadiens when he’s right. He’s put up statistics that rank him near the top of the league in defensive scoring since the lockout. In his last two healthy seasons (2007-08 and 2008-09), Markov put up 58 and 64 points respectively. Each would have put him in the top five in defenseman scoring this season. Clearly, there’s a reason the Habs are willing to take a risk on a player of Markov’s caliber.

Montreal still has some work to do with their defensive corps now that their alternate captain has been re-signed though. Yannick Weber is a restricted free agent, while James Wisniewski, Paul Mara, and Brent Sopel are all unrestricted as of July 1. Gauthier knows he’s in a rare position as the Habs had 11 defensemen by the end of the season and said, “it’s a puzzle and we need to make choices.” He explained to Pat Hickey at the Montreal Gazette that the organization is looking to build around some of the players already in town:

“If you look at our team, we had only five players who were with the team three years ago. We ranked 23rd in the league in terms of experience as a team and I think one of our goals is to build on what we have.”

 

Signing Markov answers one of the biggest offseason question marks for the Canadiens. If they can find a way to get James Wisniewski under contract, they’ll have two defensemen capable of scoring 50+ points from the point next season. Add in Hal Gill and PK Subban, the Habs will have the foundation for a strong blueline.

That is if Markov can stay healthy.

Pre-game reading: Bruce Boudreau has some thoughts on the ‘Die Hard’ franchise

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— Up top, relive last night’s overtime between the Capitals and Sabres. That was a pretty long shift by Marcus Johansson, but good thing for Washington he didn’t change.

— Bruce Boudreau knows his movies, and he’s got some opinions. “The first ‘Die Hard’ was great. After that, they became phonier and phonier. By the fifth one, when they’re going up a ramp in a car and it’s hitting a helicopter, Yeah, right. I can understand kids loving that, but I look more for the story now that I’m older.” The Wild’s new head coach recently saw “Hell or High Water,” which is really good, by the way. (StarTribune)

— Dispatch columnist Michael Arace on the hottest team in hockey: “This is a new storyline for the Blue Jackets. They have had small sips of success in the past — the distant past, it seems now. Forever, the problem has been summarized as having to do with the culture. There is a sizeable enough sample through 24 games to say they may be in the throes of change.” (Columbus Dispatch)

Henrik Zetterberg is leading the Detroit Red Wings with 19 points in 26 games, and he’s doing it at 36 years old. “Z has been real good all year,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “He is one of those funny players that, the more ice time he gets, the more juice he has in his legs.” (Detroit Free Press)

— The Maple Leafs have been piling up the shots this season. “After their young offense pumped 40 shots at the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday, Toronto moved up to third in the NHL in shots per game at 32.6.” Too bad for the Leafs that they’re also allowing 32.6 shots per game. Only the Arizona Coyotes (35.4) have allowed more on average. Toronto is sure fun to watch, though. (Postmedia)

— A Q&A with Jack Eichel, who will play against Connor McDavid and the Oilers tonight in Buffalo. Here’s a good bit of advice that Eichel has for young players: “Just make sure you enjoy the game. Don’t get caught up in being stressed over what you’re going to do. I’ve seen so many kids who kind of overthought it. Hockey’s a game. Go to practice every day and try to get better. I’m a big believer that if you want success, it’s up to you. Your own success is all in your own hands.” (ESPN)

Enjoy the games!

Jets sign towering prospect Stanley to entry-level deal

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Logan Stanley celebrates with the Winnepeg Jets after being selected 18th during round one of the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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One of the biggest — literally, biggest — prospects taken at this June’s draft has been signed to his entry-level deal.

Logan Stanley, the 6-foot-7, 231-pound rearguard taken 18th overall by the Jets, inked a three-year contract with an average annual value of $1,137,500, the club announced on Tuesday.

Stanley, 18, is currently with OHL Windsor, though he did have a brief cameo with Winnipeg during training camp. He, along with another first-round pick — Jack Roslovic — were dropped from camp in early October.

“[Stanley] is a guy that is going to continue to grow, grow into his body, grow into his frame, grow into his game,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff told NHL.com. “There’s lot of room for development, and that’s what makes him a really exciting prospect.”

Stanley has shown a bit more offensive upside this year, his third with the Spits. After scoring just 17 points in 64 games last season, he already has nine through 20 games this season.

The Jets actually traded up at the draft to get Stanley, sending the 22nd and 36th overall selections to the Flyers in exchange for the 18th and 79th overall picks.

Blues place Bortuzzo on IR, he will miss at least six weeks

DALLAS, TX - APRIL 03:  Robert Bortuzzo #41 of the St. Louis Blues at American Airlines Center on April 3, 2015 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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The St. Louis Blues are going to be without defenseman Robert Boruzzo for more than a month due to a lower body injury that he suffered in their most recent game against the Winnipeg Jets.

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong announced on Tuesday that Bortuzzo has been placed on injured reserve and that he will be re-evaluated in six weeks.

Bortuzzo has only appeared in 11 games for the Blues this season but has played well when he has been on the ice, mostly in a third pairing role. He only has two points on the year, but offense has never been a big part of his game. He is mostly more of a stay-at-home defender and his defensive numbers this season have been mostly impressive. The Blues have allowed just 1.31 goals per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play with Bortuzzo on the ice this season (the best mark on the team) and only 48 total shot attempts per 60 minutes (third best on the team).

With Bortuzzo heading to injured reserve, the team also announced that Joel Edmundson has been activated from IR after he missed the past 12 games with an upper body injury. Edmundson has one assist in 13 games this season for the Blues.

The Blues acquired Bortuzzo from the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2014-15 season in exchange for Ian Cole.

In 64 games with the Blues since the trade he has four goals and three assists.

Goalie nods: Habs start Montoya for first time in over two weeks

MONTREAL, QC - NOVEMBER 02:  Al Montoya #35 of the Montreal Canadiens looks on during the warmup prior to the NHL game against the Vancouver Canucks at the Bell Centre on November 2, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Vancouver Canucks 3-0.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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And for the eighth game, Carey rested.

Tonight in St. Louis, Al Montoya will be in goal when the Habs take on the Blues at Scottrade. The decision will end Carey Price‘s streak of consecutive starts at seven, and give Montoya his first nod since allowing three goals on 18 shots in a loss to Carolina on Nov. 18.

Since then, it’s been all Price, all the time.

The former Hart and Vezina Trophy winner closed out November in style — finishing the month with a .944 save percentage — but could definitely use a break, especially after a wild game on Sunday in which he beat the Kings, 5-4, in a shootout.

It’ll be really interesting to see how Montoya does tonight.

He was infamously left in for every goal during a 10-0 destruction in Columbus on Nov. 4, and things haven’t been the same since. The journeyman was terrific going into that Columbus game (3-0-1, .955 save percentage, one shutout), but has found it difficult to reclaim that form, and has lost each of his last two starts.

For the Blues, Jake Allen goes tonight.

Elsewhere…

Cam Talbot, coming off a 33-save win in OT against the Ducks on Sunday, goes for the Oilers in Buffalo. The Sabres are going with Anders Nilsson after Robin Lehner started the last two.

— Vancouver’s turning to Jacob Markstrom after Ryan Miller started each of the last three games. The Canucks will face a familiar foe in ex-Vancouver netminder Cory Schneider, who starts for the Devils.

— Tonight’s Battle of New York will see Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers take on Jaroslav Halak and the Isles.

James Reimer gives Roberto Luongo the night off in Philly (or, he’s expected to, given Luongo played last night). The Flyers are going with Steve Mason, the NHL’s reigning first star of the week.

Semyon Varlamov will look to snap a three-game losing streak when the Avs visit Nashville. Looks as though the Preds are going with Pekka Rinne.

Petr Mrazek, who has played well since Jimmy Howard went down to injury (posting a .935 save percentage), will start in Winnipeg. The Jets counter with Connor Hellebuyck, who beat the Red Wings earlier this season on the strength of a 30-save effort.

— It’s Mike Smith versus Scott Darling as the Coyotes take on the ‘Hawks in Chicago.

— Calgary will keep rolling with Chad Johnson when it takes on the Stars in Dallas tonight. Lindy Ruff has confirmed that Kari Lehtonen, fresh off his first shutout of the year on Saturday against the Avs, will be back in goal.