Christian Ehrhoff

Christian Ehrhoff turns down big offer from Islanders, will head to free agency

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The Islanders took a chance yesterday when they acquired the rights to Canucks defenseman Christian Ehrhoff. Ehrhoff was set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and after the Isles failed to land both Paul Martin and Dan Hamhuis to play defense for them last year, GM Garth Snow took a shot at acquiring Ehrhoff’s rights ahead of July 1 to work out a deal with the German defenseman.

As it turns out, Ehrhoff seems dead set on becoming a free agent as he rejected the Islanders offer to sign with them (subscription required) and the two will part ways on Friday. Newsday’s Katie Strang reports that the Islanders made a significantly larger offer than the Canucks made for Ehrhoff (an offer similar to Kevin Bieksa’s five-year, $23 million offer) and Ehrhoff still said no.

With the premiere free agent options on defense being limited in the open market on Friday, Ehrhoff is poised to be the player most likely to cash in in a big way. The Islanders being a struggling team over the past few years but with reasons to hope big for the future, they still have to throw around heaps of cash to try and woo free agents to join them. Whether Ehrhoff was just determined to become a free agent or was flat out declining the Islanders we won’t know for sure until he signs.

When Ehrhoff becomes a free agent on Friday, any team will have the chance to sign him and while the Islanders could continue their support, Chris Botta of Islanders Point Blank says the team and Garth Snow should just turn their attention elsewhere.

He could always come back to the team over the weekend, but if the Islanders are smart, proud, confident and have learned anything, they should close the door and keep aiming higher. Much higher.

Oh well. ‘Twas a valiant try by Charles Wang, Garth Snow, Doug Weight and the Islanders. Ehrhoff, without question, would have made the Islanders a better team in 2011-12. Ehrhoff is also not the villain here. All he owed the Islanders were his ears. He listened. He has decided to consider his options with every team in the league and may possibly accept less money to sign elsewhere. Paul Martin…Dan Hamhuis…Christian Ehrhoff…Ryan Smyth…this is their prerogative.

But really now, big friggin’ whoop.

The Isles are poised to become a more dangerous team in the coming seasons and with the return of Mark Streit, Mike Mottau, and Mark Eaton from injury next year, their defense will be better. Adding that big free agent piece would’ve done wonders for them in the meantime, but winning games will help bring the names in eventually. It’s a set back for the Isles, but not a soul crusher. Garth Snow did his part to try and improve the team and it didn’t work out. He’ll find a way around this and do better.

Ehrhoff will get the deal from the team he’s looking for and surely teams like Detroit will be in the mix for his services. For how much money he ends up signing for remains to be the big question. There are teams out there looking to hit the salary floor that could back up the Brinks truck for Ehrhoff but if he’s convinced he wants to win a Stanley Cup with a proven team, he’ll have to likely set his salary aims a bit lower than what he could get.

‘It’s absolutely not true’ — Lemieux denies report of ‘big falling out’ with Crosby

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 5:  Sidney Crosby #87 and Mario Lemieux #66 of the Pittsburgh Penguins share a few words during a break in action against the New Jersey Devils in their NHL opening night game at the Continental Airlines Arena on October 5, 2005 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  The Devils won 5-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Well, that didn’t take long.

Just hours after Matthew Barnaby went on the radio and said he’d heard that Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemieux had had a “big falling out,” Lemieux came out and denied it.

“It’s absolutely not true,” said Lemieux, per the club’s Twitter account. “It’s silly.”

Today marked the second time in less than two weeks that the Penguins have been forced do some damage control.

Last week, the Penguins insisted that they weren’t actually “mad at each other,” as Evgeni Malkin had put it after a bad loss to New Jersey.

“He did not mean we are mad at each other,” said Crosby. “He meant we are frustrated.”

Matthew Barnaby has heard that Crosby and Lemieux had a ‘big falling out’

Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel

Every day there seems to be another “thing” about the Pittsburgh Penguins.

We say “thing,” because we’re not really sure how to categorize it. It’s never anything concrete. It’s smoke, without definitive proof of a fire.

But whether it’s Evgeni Malkin saying the Penguins are “mad at each other”…or Guy Lafleur wondering if Sidney Crosby should try and find a new team…or a prominent NHL reporter like Elliotte Friedman talking about the “very tense environment” in the organization…

The clear insinuation is that all is not well in Pittsburgh.

The latest “thing”?

Ex-Penguin Matthew Barnaby has “looked into it” and what’s he’s heard is that Crosby and co-owner Mario Lemieux have had a “big falling out.”

“Now whether that pushes them to move him at some point? Whether he wants to move? That I don’t know,” Barnaby said today on SiriusXM, via Puck Daddy.

Again, it’s all just scuttlebutt at this point. After Malkin’s “mad at each other” remark, the players insisted that that wasn’t true. Malkin said he didn’t mean it that way.

So choose for yourself what to believe.

But despite the winning record, unless this team starts playing the way it was designed to play — i.e. scoring a lot of goals, not the 26th-most in the NHL — don’t be surprised if you hear more “things.”

The Penguins host St. Louis tonight.

Goalie nods: Marquee matchup as Price faces Lundqvist at MSG

Henrik Lundqvist
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Two of the NHL’s premier netminders will do battle tonight in New York, when Carey Price and the Canadiens visit Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers.

Price, who’s played a pair of games since missing extended time with a lower-body injury, has won both of his starts and is now 9-2-0 on the year with a 2.10 GAA and .933 save percentage.

Great numbers, but nothing compared to the King.

Lundqvist — probably this year’s Vezina front-runner, after Price won last season — is a sparking 12-3-2 with a 1.74 GAA and .946 save percentage, posting shutouts in two of his last six starts.

One of those shutouts came in his last outing, a 31-save blanking of the Preds on Monday.

Now… with all that hype, we should tap the brakes. The last time PHT previewed a “goalie duel” was when Lundqvist and St. Louis’ Jake Allen engaged in a battle of the NHL’s two highest save percentages.

The Blues and Rangers then combined for nine goals, with Allen getting the hook 15 minutes into the contest.


Carter Hutton appears ready to give Pekka Rinne a night off in Buffalo, while the Sabres are going with Linus Ullmark once again.

Ryan Miller takes on Devan Dubnyk as the Canucks play in Minnesota.

Anders Nilsson will keep Cam Talbot bolted to the pine when Edmonton faces the ‘Canes. Cam Ward looks likely to go for Carolina.

Michael Hutchinson, not Connor Hellebuyck, for the Jets in Washington. The Caps will start Braden Holtby.

— Another good matchup in Pittsburgh, as Jake Allen and the Blues take on Marc-Andre Fleury and the Penguins.

Sergei Bobrovsky goes for the Jackets tonight, while the Devils counter with Cory Schneider.

— In Brooklyn, Jaroslav Halak starts for the Islanders. The visiting Flyers will go with their No. 1, Steve Mason.

— Sounds like Jonas Gustavsson will go up against his former team when the Bruins take on the Red Wings in Detroit. He’ll square off against Petr Mrazek.

Mike Smith returns from a lower-body injury to get the nod for Arizona. Hard to say what the Ducks are going to do: Frederik Andersen has the flu, Anton Khudobin got yanked last night against Calgary, and John Gibson came on in relief for the win.

Craig Anderson for Ottawa tonight, Semyon Varlamov for Colorado.

Martin Jones, the NHL’s reigning first star of the week, is in for the Sharks against the visiting Blackhawks. Corey Crawford counters for Chicago.

Stars’ Lehtonen (upper body) day-to-day

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The collision that forced Kari Lehtonen from his relief appearance in last night’s loss to Ottawa could keep him off ice four a couple of days, Stars head coach Lindy Ruff confirmed.

Lehtonen, who entered the contest after Antti Niemi allowed three goals on nine shots, was injured just over a minute into the third period when d-man John Klingberg crashed into the Dallas net.

Ruff suggested a goalie would be recalled from AHL Texas in time for the Stars’ next game, which is on Friday against the Canucks.

While losing Lehtonen would hurt the Stars — he’s 9-1-0 this year with a .921 save percentage and 2.41 GAA — the club can fall back on Niemi who, despite the rough outing against the Sens, has been OK this year.

Niemi has a 8-4-1 record, though his GAA (.264) and save percentage (.907) leave something to be desired.