Brooks Laich

Brooks Laich re-signs with Washington for six years, $27 million; Free agent pack thins out more

With free agency kicking off on Friday, the Washington Capitals were set to be in a fight to try and retain their heart and soul forward Brooks Laich. Laich is loved across D.C. for his gutsy play and his serious attitude about winning games. That blue collar mentality with a penchant for scoring big goals would make him a hero in just about any city.

The Caps decided today that they didn’t want to see him become just that anywhere else as they’ve inked Laich to a six-year, $27 million contract to lock him into Washington and avoid free agency.

The last four years in Washington, Laich has missed just four games and has averaged over 21 goals in that time (85 goals, 112 assists). He’s been the guy that’s done the dirty work on a team loaded with flashy stars. Laich has been killing penalties and defending against some of the better forwards they’ve faced off with.

The $4.5 million cap hit seems a bit stiff and the Caps will have to hope that there won’t be a salary cap rollback in the future when a new Collective Bargaining Agreement gets worked out as that number might get uncomfortable for them if that happens. As it is now, with the cap ballooning every year, it’s a price that won’t cripple the team and George McPhee potentially got a discounted price for him considering how much Laich could have commanded on the open market.

For the Caps, keeping Laich around made all the sense in the world. He is much loved in the city by the fans and his competitive fire is the kind that can help infect the rest of the team. He’s also a great community member as he’ll also help you change a tire after a Game 7.

Laich re-upping in Washington does have another effect on things as it takes a guy who would’ve been hotly pursued off the market for July 1. Laich would’ve seen a lot of attention as he’s an ideal contributor for a team looking to get that complimentary piece to put them over the top. Now, July 1 shapes up to be all about Brad Richards, Tomas Vokoun, and potentially Jaromir Jagr as well. The rest of the unrestricted free agent pool isn’t overly inspiring.

That doesn’t matter much to Washington now though as they’re keeping their guy. While they’ll still be prowling around for help for the team come July 1, they’re hanging on to the one guy that everyone else wanted to have on their team and that can’t be bad.

Eichel makes everyone look silly, Varlamov gets the early hook

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You know, with Connor McDavid hogging so much attention, it’s about time that Jack Eichel provided us with another awesome goal.

That tally came at the Colorado Avalanche’s (and especially Semyon Varlamov‘s) expense as that was the Buffalo Sabres first shot of the game.

Patrick Roy apparently felt like this just wasn’t Varlamov’s afternoon, as Colorado’s head coach decided to pull him after Varly allowed two goals on as many shots. Evander Kane nabbed the other goal for Buffalo.

You can watch the goal in the video above, which reminds us that “Eichel Tower” might not be a unique pun.

Another shot of it:

Check out Kane’s goal, too:

To be fair to Varlamov, Calvin Pickard has already allowed a goal as well. The Sabres are currently off to a 3-0 lead, and maybe a small roll considering how well they played against Montreal on Friday?

NHL on NBC: Red Wings, Bruins fight for Atlantic positioning

Detroit Red Wings center Dylan Larkin (71) keeps Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara (33) from the puck in the second period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015 in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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Both the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins are finding new ways to win these days, and while they might not be as obvious contenders as they once were, each team can still be dangerous.

Sunday’s NBC game proves enticing for plenty of reasons, yet the most obvious is that if the postseason began today, these two squads would face off in an intriguing first-round matchup.

The Bruins have taken the first two games between these teams in 2015-16, but they might be forced to face the Red Wings without crucial forward Patrice Bergeron, who may have been injured during an unlikely fight with Blake Wheeler.

Detroit features Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk as usual, although Dylan Larkin is a new, ultra-speedy forward who is worthy of plenty of attention in his own right.

While Jeff Blashill continues to establish himself following up Mike Babcock, Claude Julien recently hit a milestone with his 500th win and earned plaudits from CSNNE.com as one of the best coaches in the league.

(Speaking of milestones, Brad Richards is expected to play in his 1,100th game.)

Boston currently holds the second spot in the Atlantic with 66 points in 55 games played, but Detroit is right behind them with 65 in as many contests. With the Tampa Bay Lightning hovering nearby, each team likely recognizes this as an important game.

Goalie nods: Backups battle as Kinkaid faces Enroth

Los Angeles Kings goalie Jhonas Enroth, of Sweden, deflects a shot off the stick of a Colorado Avalanche player in the first period of an NHL hockey game, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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The New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings prefer to lean on workhorse goalies Cory Schneider and Jonathan Quick respectively, but Sunday presents a change of pace.

In the Kings’ case, Jhonas Enroth is playing in part because of (what Los Angeles hopes is) a minor injury to Quick.

It’s true that the under-sized goalie sports a mediocre 4-4-1 record, but he’s given the Kings legitimate chances to win games considering his impressive (especially for a backup) save percentage of .925. Perhaps he can earn a few more reps if he plays well in what may be a tight game?

Speaking of earning more reps, Keith Kinkaid must continue to work to prove that he’s able to make the jump from AHL goalie to at least an NHL backup. The Kings aren’t likely to make it easy for him, either.

Elsewhere …

Avalanche at Sabres: Semyon Varlamov vs. Robin Lehner

Bruins at Red Wings: Possibly Tuukka Rask vs. Petr Mrazek

Blues at Lightning: Best guess – Brian Elliott vs. Ben Bishop

Flyers at Rangers: Steve Mason vs. (possibly) Henrik Lundqvist

Fight video: Someone other than Evander Kane beats up Alex Petrovic

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Bummed out on this holiday? Look on the bright side: at least you’re not as sore as Florida Panthers defenseman Alex Petrovic likely is right now.

Not long after suffering three defeats at the hands/fists of Evander Kane, Petrovic likely lost another bout to Nashville Predators tough guy Anthony Bitetto.

(Note: some might consider this more of a draw, for what it’s worth. You can watch that latest fight in the video above.)

Hey, at least Bitetto didn’t taunt Petrovic after their fight …

It was a rough night for the Panthers overall, as they suffered a gruesome injury or two and fell to the Predators by a score of 5-0.