Chicago Blackhawks v Vancouver Canucks - Game Seven

Christian Ehrhoff: the next Dan Hamhuis? Islanders trade his rights to Buffalo for fourth rounder

1 Comment

Last summer, then-Nashville Predators defenseman Dan Hamhuis was the belle of the ball among unrestricted free agent blueliners. The Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins traded for his negotiating rights before July 1 of that year, but they ultimately wasted those assets since Hamhuis elected for free agency (and ultimately signed with the Vancouver Canucks).

Christian Ehrhoff might be the 2011 version of his (soon-to-be-former?) teammate Hamhuis. The New York Islanders sent a 2012 fourth round pick to the Canucks for the chance to negotiate with Ehrhoff today, but the hard-shooting defenseman promptly shot down their contract offers. It seemed like the Islanders would be the laughing stock of the league once again after being rejected by Evgeni Nabokov during the 2010-11 season.

While Ehrhoff’s rejection might still sting, the Islanders saved face tonight by sending Ehrhoff’s rights to the Buffalo Sabres for their 2012 fourth round pick. I disagree with Katie Strang’s conclusion that the Islanders matched their losses from trying to acquire Ehrhoff (at least on the assumption that the Sabres’ fourth round pick is unlikely to be as valuable as the Islanders’ fourth rounder), but it still covers most of the cost.

As far as the likelihood of the Sabres actually landing Ehrhoff, one can only speculate. On one hand, Buffalo might not be an enticing market for Ehrhoff. On the other hand, the Sabres regularly make the playoffs and have a new owner who is willing to spend money to help them transition from “solid but not scary” to “legitimate contender.” It may be a small plus for outsiders, but Ehrhoff might also see some appeal in playing alongside fellow German Jochen Hecht.

Ehrhoff might not be perfect, but he could be a solid fit for the defense-needy Sabres. Buffalo lacks a strong offensive defenseman (no offense to up-and-comers Tyler Myers and Marc-Andre Gragnani) and Ehrhoff scored a career-high 50 points in 2010-11. Buffalo’s defense would probably still be a few strides short of elite even with the addition of Ehrhoff, but having Ehrhoff-Myers-Robyn Regehr as their top three would make life easier for all-world goalie Ryan Miller.

Then again, considering the shrinking market on unrestricted free agent defensemen, Ehrhoff could always play the field even if he likes what the Sabres are selling. Whatever happens, we’ll keep you up to date about all the latest happenings for Ehrhoff and other free agents as Friday’s frenzy approaches.

Stars put Spezza on injured reserve, recall Faksa from AHL Texas

Dallas Stars v Arizona Coyotes
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sitting three points out of top spot in the Central Division and on the eve of an important divisional clash on home ice with the Chicago Blackhawks, the Dallas Stars have placed center Jason Spezza on injured reserve retroactive to Thursday, the club announced on Friday.

Spezza, 32, was injured during Thursday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. The Stars can move back to within a point of Chicago for the division lead with a regulation win on Saturday.

In 52 games this season, Spezza has 18 goals and 40 points, which ties him with Patrick Sharp for fourth on the team in total points.

With Spezza out, the Stars recalled 22-year-old forward Radek Faksa from the Texas Stars in the AHL.

Faksa has 15 goals and 26 points in 28 games this season with Texas. In 18 games with the NHL Stars, he has one goal and three points.

Hitch’s recipe for more goals is a pretty simple one

Ken Hitchcock, David Backes, Dmitrij Jaskin, Paul Stastny, Patrik Berglund
AP
2 Comments

Ken Hitchcock wants the Blues to spend more time attacking and less time defending.

Because hockey isn’t rocket science, that’s why.

“To score and win games in the National Hockey League…you have to spend as much time in the offensive zone as you can,” Hitchcock told the Post-Dispatch.

“When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, you’re forechecking more. When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, the goalie has to make saves. They’re having to defend more. And the opposing team takes penalties on you. So they’re all connected. … What I want to see from us is staying on the puck for longer stretches.”

According to the stats, the Blues have not been spending as much time in the offensive zone as we’re used to seeing from them. In fact, in their last 20 games, they rank in the bottom third of the league in score-adjusted Corsi. That compares to their first 20 games when they were in the top third.

The result is fewer shots, and more importantly, fewer goals. The Blues have fallen all the way to 25th in offense, averaging just 2.37 goals per game. Last year, they finished fifth (2.91).

Yes, some of that may be due to the absence of Jaden Schwartz, and he should be back soon. But there’s a reason people are watching GM Doug Armstrong as the Feb. 29 trade deadline approaches. This team could probably use another piece up front.

The Blues host Minnesota Saturday.

St. Louis has scored just five goals in its last five games.

Goalie nods: Lindback ‘really excited’ for first start in almost three weeks

Anders Lindback
AP
2 Comments

Tonight in Anaheim, Anders Lindback will make his first start for the Arizona Coyotes since Jan. 16.

The Coyotes have been riding rookie Louis Domingue since just before Christmas, but Domingue has allowed five goals in each of his last three starts, including last night’s 5-4 loss to Chicago.

Lindback’s last appearance came Tuesday in relief, when he allowed one goal on 10 shots in a 6-2 loss to the Kings.

Lindback was in goal for one of Arizona’s three victories this season over Anaheim, stopping 33 of 36 shots in a 4-3 overtime win on Nov. 9. However, his .896 save percentage ranks among the lowest in the league.

Frederik Andersen is expected to start for the Ducks.

Elsewhere…

— No word yet on a Penguins starter in Tampa, but Ben Bishop will go for the Bolts.

Cam Ward will start for the Hurricanes in Winnipeg, where Connor Hellebuyck is expected for the increasingly desperate Jets.

— Joonas Korpisalo was solid last night in Vancouver, but the Blue Jackets have not announced their starter for tonight’s game in Calgary. Karri Ramo will be in goal for the Flames.

A ‘pretty solid two-way player,’ Sundqvist to make NHL debut for Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins' Oskar Sundqvist (49) collides with Minnesota Wild's Jason Zucker (16) in the first period of a NHL preseason hockey game in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
AP
Leave a comment

The latest Penguins injuries, these ones to Evgeni Malkin and Eric Fehr, have led to an opportunity for Oskar Sundqvist.

Sundqvist will make his NHL debut for the Penguins tonight in Tampa. The 21-year-old center has five goals and 11 assists in 39 AHL games this season.

“Sunny’s a pretty solid two-way player,” coach Mike Sullivan said, per the Tribune-Review.

“I don’t think he’s going to dazzle you with flashy plays, but I think he’s a guy who plays the game the right way. He’s hard to play against because of his size. He’s got a long reach, and he’s got a good stick.”

Sundqvist was selected 81st overall by the Pens in 2012. He’ll become the fourth player out of that Pittsburgh draft class to make his NHL debut, after Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot, and Matt Murray.

Veteran Matt Cullen will replace Malkin on the second line, skating with wingers Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel.

Related: Nick Bonino out ‘at least a month’ with hand injury