What a year it’s been for Kevin Bieksa. Last summer, Bieksa fought off rumors of being traded as he was viewed to be the odd man out on a Canucks team that was dealing with salary cap issues. After this season, one where he was rock solid providing consistent play at both ends of the ice and stayed healthy amidst a team mired in injury problems, he proved himself to be one of Vancouver’s best defenseman.
The Canucks opted to reward Bieksa’s play with a new contract and a long-term commitment. Vancouver signed him up for five more years at a cost of $23 million. The deal works out to a cap hit of $4.6 million over the term of the deal and for Bieksa, it takes him off the market which he was set to join on July 1 as an unrestricted free agent.
While the cap hit is still a bit of a bite, it’s not as much as Bieksa could’ve been set to make as a free agent. With the likes of Detroit and other teams looking to reach the salary floor, Bieksa could’ve cleaned house financially. Instead, he locks in in Vancouver while his teammate, Christian Ehrhoff, will likely head to free agency looking for a new team.
For Bieksa, while his point totals didn’t take a drastic jump, he proved to be one of their most reliable defensive players seeing his plus/minus rating jump to a career high +32. His career total before this season saw him as a -20. Thanks to Vancouver scoring the most goals in the league and the team tightening things up defensively all around, Bieksa’s play helped make that possible. His irritating play in the playoffs and snarly nature helped endear him to Canucks fans and made opponents lose their minds.
Vancouver locking up Bieksa also helps them square around on how they’re going to shape up their defense next season. They also have Dan Hamhuis, Keith Ballard, Alexander Edler, and Aaron Rome committed to contracts next season. Ballard was a healthy scratch through most of the playoffs and was even benched in favor of youngster Chris Tanev in the Stanley Cup finals. One would think he’s likely on his way out of town as well while GM Mike Gillis will attempt to work out deals on the free agent market as well as with in-house free agents Sami Salo and Andrew Alberts.
Vancouver’s summer of free agency will be curious to watch, but for now, the guy they once wanted to move out of town in Bieksa is their main man on the blue line for the next five years. It’s a start for a team that’s itching to correct their failure in the Stanley Cup finals.
Here’s hoping that you didn’t take a poorly-timed break in the second period.
For much of Game 7, the Ottawa Senators have been able to slow down the Pittsburgh Penguins, resulting in a contest that went scoreless for what sometimes felt like ages.
Chris Kunitz changed that, long after missing on a golden opportunity shortly after Mike Sullivan decided to put him on Sidney Crosby‘s line. Kunitz finished a nice rush play to make it 1-0 9:55 into the second. Check out that goal below.
Guy Boucher didn’t have to deploy “attack mode” very long, as Mark Stone stunningly tied it up 1-1 just 20 seconds later. That surprising tally can be seen in the clip above this post’s headline.
We finally know the lineups for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.
Pittsburgh’s tweaks are most interesting, which isn’t a huge surprising considering the consistent inconsistency bred by their injury issues.
The Penguins will get Conor Sheary and Justin Schultz back in the mix. Despite showing a lot of energy warming up, Patric Hornqvist isn’t good to go. Here are the full Penguins personnel notes; also realize that this is Matt Murray‘s birthday.
Ottawa places Chris Kelly back in, getting the nod over Tommy Wingels and Colin White. Kelly’s had some experience in these scenarios.
You can watch Game 7 live on NBCSN. The game can also be viewed online and via the NBC Sports App. Here is the livestream link.
The Buffalo Sabres announced the signing of defenseman Victor Antipin* on Thursday, confirming rumors that surfaced more than once this month.
Antipin, 24, enjoyed a solid season in the KHL with Magnitogorsk Metallurg. Even so, the signing might be interesting if it serves as an appetizer for the Sabres bringing in Antipin’s teammate from Metallurg, Chris Lee.
On one hand, Lee is 36 and couldn’t make the jump fromt he AHL to the NHL in previous opportunities (most reently with the Penguins’ farm system in 2009-10). On the other, he had an eye-popping 2016-17 season in the KHL: 65 points in 60 games as a defenseman.
Lee’s previous numbers aren’t as outrageous, but still quite good, at least form a scoring standpoint.
While Lee’s possible addition is a situation to watch, there’s some excitement about Antipin.
“Victor is a well-rounded defenseman who has played in all situations at the pro level,” Sabres GM Jason Botterill said. “His mobility and puck-moving skills make him a perfect match for what we’re hoping to build with our defense corps next season.”
Granted, there’s some debate about his ceiling.
Still, for a Sabres team that badly needs help on the blueline, this addition – or eventually these additions – could provide a nice boost.
* – The Sabres’ releases feature his name spelled “Victor.” Other outlets, including hockeydb, have it as “Viktor.”
Will it be the Ottawa Senators or Pittsburgh Penguins against the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Final? We’ll find out after tonight.
Yes, it’s that time: a Game 7 to see who advances to the final round. The winner will also hold home-ice advantage in the Stanley Cup Final.
Could Erik Karlsson, Craig Anderson, and the rest of the Senators pull off an upset on the road, winning the franchise’s first Game 7? Can Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Penguins give Matt Murray a birthday present with another Game 7 win?
Find out on NBCSN. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App.
Here’s what you need to know:
Ottawa Senators vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (series tied 3-3)
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Network: NBCSN (Stream live here)
Check out the highlights from Ottawa’s 2-1 win in Game 6
—Pretty or not, Sens aim to play their game vs. Pens in Game 7
—Penguins prepare for another Game 7, this time as favorites
—Modern-day Senators have never won a Game 7
—It’s “reasonable” to expect Schultz and Hornqvist will play Game 7