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.

Talbot torments Ducks as Oilers take 2-0 series lead

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Those who vehemently argued for Cam Talbot being a Vezina finalist likely felt vindicated tonight (even if postseason results don’t factor into the voting).

In Game 1, Leon Draisaitl stole the show. Talbot was the standout of Game 2, snubbing a steady Ducks threat as Edmonton won 2-1 on Friday.

And, just like that, the Oilers are up 2-0 in their second-round series against the Anaheim Ducks. Better yet for this young group: the venue shifts to what’s likely to be a rowdy scene in Edmonton for Games 3 and 4.

The tone was set when Andrej Sekera scored just 65 seconds into the contest. That said, the Oilers could have sulked when a would-be 2-0 goal was called off (and they had to kill a penalty). Instead, they just kept battling, even after Jakob Silfverberg ended Talbot’s shutout bit with a laser beam on the power play.

Speaking of the power play, the Oilers managed to match the Ducks (1-for-4 each on the PP), even as Talbot faced 12 shots on goal during Anaheim’s power-play opportunities.

Talbot ultimately made 39 of 40 stops, and while the Ducks kept Connor McDavid from scoring, number 97 sure looked speedy and dangerous at times in Game 2.

Anaheim came into the second round with home-ice advantage through the West side of the playoffs, seemingly enjoying a golden opportunity when other conference powers fell. Instead, it’s looking like the Oilers might just have a chance to prove that they’re big-time contenders, too.

Game 3 airs on NBCSN at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream.

Latest goalie interference mess: Oilers get penalty, not goal

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Ah, goalie interference. Does the fun ever start?

Arguably the most irritating facet of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs reared its pesky head once again on Friday, as the Edmonton Oilers saw a would-be 2-0 goal disallowed in the first period of Game 2 against the Anaheim Ducks.

The goal wasn’t just disallowed, either, as Mark Letestu was given a minor penalty.

One would imagine that there are opinions for or against the goal (and penalty counting); there are also many who are just getting a little worn out by the uncertainty surrounding such calls. Tomas Holmstrom is nodding his head so hard right now, everyone.

Here’s one unhappy take:

Moments after this post went up, the Oilers made it 2-0 for real this time. Check out the game here.

Math may help build Vegas Knights, but biggest aim is not being boring

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Unlike Pierre Dorion, it sounds like Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee would rather listen to analytics-minded people rather than … you know, hit them.

As McPhee readies for the expansion draft, he told The Star’s Kevin McGran in Q&A that they’ll at least be factored into decisions.

I’ve been really fascinated by how revealing that data can be. You have these kids speaking a different language. But I’m convinced it has a really important place in this game. You have to pay attention to it, and you have to use it.

Naturally, the real question with McPhee and other executives comes down to how much they will lean on analytics. Some teams seem to pick and choose when to listen to such voices, ending up with an odd mix of moves that please and unnerve the “fancy stats” community.

Owner Bill Foley gave a good idea of how much they’ll lean on stats vs. more traditional approaches in an interview with the Vegas Hockey Hotline back in February, which was transcribed by The Hockey Writers’ Keith Scheessele.

“Analytics is not going to drive how we draft,” Foley said. “Analytics are going to supplement what the scouts are seeing. We’re going to rely on the scouts and what they recommend.”

(Foley also spoke of rating players in 10 different categories, which started to make one think about how old sports video games could only quantify skills in so many ways. Anyway …)

So, it sounds like McPhee & Co. will take a modern approach – a mixture of the old and the new – rather than going full-on bold and revolutionary like, say, the Cleveland Browns or Golden State Warriors.

Considering the mystery of roster quality one faces with the Vegas Knights, it honestly might be most important that McPhee is repeatedly stating that he doesn’t aim to put together a boring hockey team.

Hey, if it takes a while to be good, at least the Vegas Knights might fit with their environment and put on a show.

Tarasenko’s two goals help Blues tie series with Predators

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One of the (many) remarkable things about the St. Louis Blues dispatching the Minnesota Wild was that they didn’t need a ton of production from Vladimir Tarasenko. He didn’t score a goal until the clinching game of that series.

The Blues needed more from him tonight, and he responded with two huge goals to help St. Louis win 3-2 in Game 2, tying the second-round series at 1-1.

Tarasenko scored the opening goal on that major power-play opportunity from the Vernon Fiddler knee on Colton Parayko, while Joel Edmundson wisely got out of the way to let Tarasenko nab the game-winner.

That ended up being the decisive factor as the Nashville Predators finally lost their first game of the postseason.

St. Louis must be breathing a sigh of relief for a number of reasons. The series shifts to Nashville for Games 3 and 4, so going down 2-0 might have been lethal.

Even beyond that, the Blues had some breaks go their way that likely won’t repeat to the same degree in future contests. The Predators didn’t receive a single power-play opportunity while St. Louis spent significant chunks of the contest on the man advantage, going 1-for-5 (but again, that includes a major).

The Blues also won despite what must have been a frustrating start. They only managed a 1-1 tie after the first 20 minutes despite holding Nashville to a mere three shots on goal.

The Predators also managed leads of 1-0 and 2-1, yet the Blues kept fighting to get back in this series. Game 3 will air on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App (Click here for the livestream link).

* – That said, he made a lot of commotion to set up Edmundson’s overtime game-winner from Game 1. That connection continued on Friday, as you likely noticed.