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.

Another North Dakota junior goes pro as Blackhawks sign Luke Johnson

Quinnipiac forward Tommy Schutt, left, moves the puck as North Dakota forward Luke Johnson, middle, checks Quinnipiac forward Travis St. Denis during the first period of an NCAA college hockey tournament game Friday, March 27, 2015, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota won 4-1. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)
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Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.

This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

In 43 games with the NCAA champions this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, three off his college career high set the previous year.

Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, bumping the number of players from that program’s junior class to turn pro to four since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.

Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.

Brock Boeser, a 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.

Video: Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1

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Perhaps it’s an ominous sign of bad luck to come, but for which team?

Prior to puck drop between the host San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators in Game 1 on Friday, a black cat hit the ice at SAP Center, taking a nervous stroll along the boards.

Not sure exactly where it came from, although it’s possible someone was feeling extra superstitious before the start of this series.

Official update on the really important story of the evening:

Speed, skill help Stars score late victory to take series lead over Blues

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The Dallas Stars scored a late winner, held on in the final minute and eventually struck first in their best-of-seven second-round series with the St. Louis Blues.

Once again, it was the speed and skill of the Stars that proved to be the difference in the end. Radek Faksa scored with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, breaking the deadlock and giving Dallas a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series lead over their Central Division foes on Friday.

As he entered the zone on the rush, Faksa dished off to a flying Ales Hemsky, who was denied by Brian Elliott in alone. But Faksa followed up, jamming in the rebound to give the Stars the lead, as both St. Louis defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo were caught by the speed of the Dallas forwards on the rush.

The Stars held on from there, as the Blues made a late push to tie the game.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 of 32 shots for Dallas, while Elliott was busy throughout the night, stopping 40 of 42 shots.

Elliott was furious after the Stars opened the scoring in the second period, as Antoine Roussel tallied on a rebound after yet another nice Dallas passing play in the offensive zone.

Stars forward Patrick Eaves left the game early in the third period and didn’t play another shift after being hit in the lower part of his leg with the puck from a point shot.

 

Video: Roussel opens the scoring for Dallas and Elliott wasn’t happy about it

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The Dallas Stars grabbed the all-important first goal in Game 1 against the St. Louis Blues on Friday. And it was agitating forward Antoine Roussel who capitalized in the second period.

Roussel buried a rebound at the end of a pretty passing play from the Stars. Blues goalie Brian Elliott was furious, as defenseman Jay Bouwmeester slid into the crease in an attempt to block the shot.