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.

Just for Men: Sidney Crosby

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People love star athletes because they can do amazing things. Even so, people also often love to see the occasional moment of weakness.

Aside from the occasional injury hiccup, Sidney Crosby‘s been as advertised after being a super-hyped No. 1 overall pick. He has that “Golden Goal,” two Olympic gold medals, a Stanley Cup ring and plenty of individual accolades.

… Yet he can’t really grow much of a beard.

Granted, his facial hair is thicker now that he’s “Sid the star nearing 30” rather than “Sid the Kid,” but no one will confuse him for Brent Burns and his living-in-a-cabin-in-the-woods beard.

For some, especially Crosby-haters, it’s fodder for mockery.

For the rest of us, it’s merely comforting to see that people like Crosby are human and actually have a few flaws.

Game 5 will be ‘the most important game of our lives,’ says Caps’ Beagle

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Not many people expected the Capitals-Penguins series to be over in five games, but there’s a chance that could happen before the end of the week. After their 3-2 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh on Wednesday night, the Capitals are one loss away from being bounced from the 2016 playoffs.

The Capitals failed to take advantage of the fact that Kris Letang was suspended for Game 4 because of his hit on Marcus Johansson in Game 3. Letang is now set to return for Game 5 which makes Washington’s task even more difficult.

“We didn’t take advantage of it,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said, per NHL.com. “One thing I said to the guys coming into this, and we talked it about it yesterday, was when Kris got his suspension, is that they’re going to rally. Their whole team, their forwards are going to come back. They talked about they didn’t play their best game (in Game 3) and now they have Letang out and everybody had to step up on their side, and I thought they did.”

If you look back at the regular season, the Capitals were head and shoulders above the rest of the Eastern Conference and the league for a good portion of the season. Washington finished 11 points ahead of second place Dallas in the league standings and it looked like they had the team that would finally take them over the hump.

Although things look gloomy, it’s important to realize that the series is far from over. Many NHLers would tell you that the fourth win is always the hardest to come by in a best-of-seven series, and by no means is anyone expecting the Capitals to wave the white flag.

“Whenever you lose a game, it’s obviously an opportunity missed, but it had nothing to do with them missing some of their players,” said Caps forward Jay Beagle, per NHL.com. “We’re looking forward. Our back’s against the wall and the most important game of our lives is coming up.”

Game 5 goes Saturday night in Washington.

PHT Morning Skate: Shane Doan takes a (friendly) shot at the Miracle on Ice

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Shane Doan took a friendly jab at the the movie “Miracle” and the Miracle on Ice. (BarDown)

–The best of the worst Upper Deck hockey cards from 2015-16. (Puck Junk)

–Here’s a list of the top 50 players in WHL history. (WHL)

–Watch the highlights of last night’s game between the Penguins and Capitals. (Top)

–A sad story about how Chris Phillips feels helpless as his hometown of Fort McMurray burns. (CBC)

–“You want to get back into things right away (but) I think these last four or five months have been good for me.” Former Penguins coach Mike Johnston is ready to coach again. (Local XPress)

–Blues forward Jori Lehtera is in a pretty random commercial:

Penguins push Capitals to brink of elimination with OT win

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The Pittsburgh Penguins ended a long run of playoff overtime struggles on Wednesday … and are now one win away from ending the Washington Capitals’ season.

Many expected the Penguins to crater on defense without Kris Letang (they were 2-8-1 in the regular season without him). While there were shaky moments, Pittsburgh emphasized its speed and other strengths in taking a 3-2 overtime thriller against Washington.

With that, the Penguins’ series lead grows to 3-1.

It was a thrilling, sometimes nasty contest, from Sidney Crosby shaking off an Alex Ovechkin slash, to Evgeni Malkin delivering a hit some thought was over the line and plenty of typical playoff skirmishes.

Ultimately, Matt Murray played another strong game and Patric Hornqvist scored the overtime-winner to put the Capitals in a tough spot.

The Penguins lost their previous eight playoff overtime games, so maybe it was just a matter of time before such a game went their way?

Then again, the history between the two teams is a little different:

If the Capitals want to advance beyond the second round for the first time in the Ovechkin era, they’ll need to accomplish quite the feat against arguably the hottest team in the NHL.