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

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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.

Ovechkin shrugs off Caps’ Game 1 loss in very Ovechkin way

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You know, it happens. Maybe not always in those exact words.

The Washington Capitals carried the play during portions of their 3-2 Game 1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and even down 1-0 in the series, just about every player seemed happy with their overall game.

(Granted, Braden Holtby picked apart two of the three goals he allowed, and so on.)

Still, Alex Ovechkin shrugged off the disappointment in a way that wasn’t quite Rated R, but probably ranks in the PG-13 range:

The penalty element is interesting, though.

When asked after the loss about the lack of power plays, Matt Niskanen merely offered a “no comment.”

The Penguins experienced some sprawling moments, yet they avoided taking a penalty each time. Often, when a team carries long sequences of play, they’ll go on the PP (especially with home-ice advantage) … but not the Capitals in Game 1.

via Natural Stat Trick

It’s a situation to watch as the Capitals hope to even the series against the Penguins with Game 2 coming on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. (You can watch online, via the NBC Sports App and follow the livestream here).

Holtby takes blame for two big goals in Caps’ loss to Pens

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It’s just about a consensus that the Washington Capitals believed that they generally played a strong game despite falling 3-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Braden Holtby‘s teammates likely wouldn’t agree with his assessment that the Game 1 loss is on his shoulders, but the perennial Vezina candidate took the blame for Sidney Crosby‘s first goal of the night and Nick Bonino‘s game-winner.

Noting that the Penguins are a dangerous rush team – making them a different threat than the Toronto Maple Leafs – Holtby believes that he should have had his glove in position to stop the 1-0 goal. He said he’s capable of making such a stop and “will next time.” Check out Crosby’s two goals below, with Holtby having a beef with the first one:

It’s really difficult to place too much blame on Holtby for giving up Nick Bonino’s game-winner, as it seemed like a great rush play that few goalies would be able to stop.

Judge for yourself in the highlights:

The Penguins were ultimately able to take a 1-0 series lead, but the Capitals seem capable of shrugging off questions about frustrations, even with naysayers starting to gain confidence in claiming that there will be more than the same.

If Washington’s going to get over this big hurdle, Holtby is likely to be a big part in doing so.

Fleury, Penguins hang on for Game 1 win against Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins pulled off a 3-2 Game 1 win against the Washington Capitals, but Thursday’s thriller probably prompted a sigh of relief.

(Washington, meanwhile, might have uttered a sigh at such unpleasantly familiar feelings.)

The first period ended 0-0 in part thanks to Jake Guentzel‘s sprawling “kick save.” Business really picked up in the second after Sidney Crosby raced off to two quick goals, only for Alex Ovechkin to give Washington a shot thanks to a booming goal and some physical play.

It sure felt like this one might head to overtime, especially after Evgeny Kuznetsov was tying things up and flapping his arms like wings. That was not to be, however, as Nick Bonino took advantage of a pretty area pass to beat Braden Holtby for the decisive tally.

Now, it was only decisive because Marc-Andre Fleury was at the top of his game. Oh, and also because the Penguins did a collective Guentzel impression in frantically denying a tying tally.

Makes you want to wipe some sweat from your brow, eh?

The Capitals dominated by just about every statistical measure … except, of course, goals on the scoreboard. Pittsburgh will gladly take that 1-0 series lead, then.

Expect a desperate Washington team in Game 2, which airs at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can watch it online and via the NBC Sports App (click here for the livestream link).

Karlsson makes difference for Senators vs. Lundqvist, Rangers

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Swedish superstars Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson were both stupendous in Game 1 between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators.

Still, it was Karlsson’s game-winning goal (from a seemingly impossible angle) against Lundqvist that made the difference as the Senators beat the Rangers 2-1 on Thursday. With that, the Senators are up 1-0 in the series.

That Karlsson goal really deserves a special look.

Whether you blame that 2-1 tally on Lundqvist or not, the Rangers would be foolish to do anything but praise their red-hot franchise goalie. He stopped all 21 Senators shots in the first period and ultimately made 41 out of 43 stops in defeat.

Craig Anderson was strong in his own right, mind you, stopping 34 out of 35 shots (including all 28 at even-strength) to help Ottawa take that tight contest.

Anderson’s strong play highlights the fact that Rangers – Senators doesn’t merely come down to Lundqvist vs. Karlsson … but even so, both Swedish superstars really did stand out in this one.

Game 2 airs on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream link.