Tomas Kopecky, Viktor Stalberg

Tomas Kopecky signs four-year, $12 million deal with Florida to help inch closer to salary floor

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The charmed life of Tomas Kopecky continues to roll on. While a member of the Detroit Red Wings in 2008 he was part of their Stanley Cup winning team. In Chicago in 2010 he helped Slovakian teammate Marian Hossa lift the Cup as Blackhawks. Now he’s been dealt to Florida and while that seems to be not-so exciting, it’s going to pay off in a big way for him.

Kopecky signed a four-year, $12 million deal  good for a $3 million cap hit with the Panthers today to have him be a contributor to the turnaround of the franchise under GM Dale Tallon. Kopecky making that much money seems outlandish and honestly insane because he finally had a solidly productive season last year punching in 15 goals and 27 assists with the Blackhawks. It was the first time he broke 40 points in his career after only scoring 21 and 19 points the two seasons prior.

The part of this deal that makes it so ridiculous is how it’s helping the Panthers reach the salary floor. While some teams are dealing with how to dance around the salary cap and spending too much money, the Panthers have to spend a lot of money just so they can rightfully play hockey. According to CapGeek, the Panthers have 13 players signed up for next year worth just over $26 million. The salary floor for next season is at $48 million and while the Panthers acquired Brian Campbell last week to help them boost their payroll and play defense, Kopecky’s deal seems to be a gross overpayment to help the team get caught up on the books.

Kopecky did get time last year playing on the top line with Jonathan Toews and was able to be somewhat productive while the Blackhawks fought off injuries. In Florida, however, depending on what else they do in free agency or otherwise he could wind up being their second line winger full time. That’s a bit daunting for a team turning things around and banking on a guy who has had just one statistically productive season.

It’s a continual work in progress for the Panthers but as a team that’s not generating a ton of money and being forced to spend at least $48 million on payroll, it’s a rough life as Michael Traikos of The National Post in Canada finds out. Dale Tallon says it’s a challenge he’s eager to tackle.

“We’re excited about this,” Panthers general manager Dale Tallon told reporters. “It took a lot of pain to get ourselves in this position. We’ve earned the right to do what we need to do to get this franchise turned around.”

Sadly for Tallon, the free agent group this year isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. With Brad Richards as the top guy available and the Panthers in need of a goalie should Tomas Vokoun leave town as a free agent, the Panthers have a lot of work to do either in free agency or through more wheeling and dealing. Panthers fans have been down and out of it for a while, but for the first time in a long time they’ve got a reason to pay attention come July 1.

Bolts lose ‘minute-munching defenseman’ Garrison for 3-5 weeks

during Game Two of the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena on June 6, 2015 in Tampa, Florida.
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The Tampa Bay Lightning expect defenseman Jason Garrison to miss 3-5 weeks with a lower-body injury.

Garrison was hurt in Monday’s 5-1 loss to Ottawa. The 31-year-old played just 4:10 of that game, missing the final two periods.

“That’s a tough one too, because he’s a big minute-munching defenseman for us,” coach Jon Cooper told reporters. “A big body and size.”

Garrison has just four goals and three assists in 52 games, but he’s third on the Bolts in average ice time (18:23), second in blocked shots (76), and third in hits (69).

Matt Carle replaced Garrison for Tuesday’s 4-2 loss in Montreal.

Kadri fined $5K for throat slash gesture at Giordano

Montreal Canadiens v Toronto Maple Leafs
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Nazem Kadri‘s “inappropriate gestures” on Tuesday night have left him lighter in the wallet.

On Thursday, the NHL announced that Kadri has been fined $5,000 — the maximum allowable under the CBA — for making a throat slash gesture at Mark Giordano during Calgary’s 4-3 win over the Leafs two nights ago.

The incident occurred after Kadri took exception to a heavy Giordano check. While on the bench, the Leafs forward made the gesture, one the NHL has been cracking down on since 2000.

Former NHLer Nick Boyton was suspended twice for making the gesture, first in 2006 then again in 2010. He was banned one game for each incident.

Report: Detroit interested in Columbus d-man Tyutin

Fedor Tyutin, Ryan White
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From the Columbus Dispatch:

The Red Wings had much brass in the building on Tuesday to watch the Blue Jackets play the Islanders in Nationwide.

GM Ken Holland was there, along with special assistant to the GM Kris Draper, and pro scout Kirk Maltby.

It’s believed the Red Wings were taking a close look at Fedor Tyutin, who is likely to be dealt by the Feb. 29 trade deadline.

Tyutin, 32, has this and two more years remaining on a six-year, $27 million deal with a $4.5M average annual cap hit. One of the longest-tenured players in Columbus franchise history — he’s spent eight years with the Jackets, and played in both of the teams’ playoff appearances — Tyutin has fallen on hard times this year, and has been made a healthy scratch on a few occasions by head coach John Tortorella.

Unsurprisingly, Tyutin’s numbers are way down. He’s goalless with just two points through 43 games, and is averaging just 17:47 TOI per night — the lowest total of his career.

It’s not surprising Detroit’s kicking the tires on Tyutin. D-men Niklas Kronwall and Mike Green are both out of the lineup with knee and groin injuries and, last night versus Ottawa, Danny DeKeyser took a Dion Phaneuf shot to the knee.

 

All eyes on Schwartz ahead of return to sputtering Blues lineup

Jaden Schwartz
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The St. Louis Blues have not played particularly well since around Christmas.

It’s a story that hasn’t received much attention league-wide, because the Blues’ goaltending has been good enough to cover up a lot of their problems. Brian Elliott had a .937 save percentage in January. He’s up to .958 in February.

But there’s a reason the return of Jaden Schwartz, likely Friday in Florida, has the Blues players so excited.

“He’s a guy that brings a lot of energy to our lineup,” captain David Backes told the Post-Dispatch. “He’s a relentless forechecker who hounds the puck and that’s exactly what we could use right now.”

Backes has clearly been listening to head coach Ken Hitchcock, who’s been growing increasingly frustrated at his team’s inability to play in the opposition’s end. In their past five games, the Blues have managed shot totals of 25, 23, 27, 24, and 22, which isn’t very many at all.

“We’ve needed the power play the last two games, thank God, but we just don’t, we don’t compete when we get checked in the scoring areas near as hard as we have to,” Hitchcock told reporters.

Once Schwartz gets back up to speed, he should help. Last year, he finished second on the team in goals (28) and fourth in shots (184).

But he won’t solve everything, particularly with Alex Pietrangelo sidelined now.

In their 20 games since Christmas, the Blues are in the bottom 10 in score-adjusted Corsi (a measure of puck possession), and that isn’t like them at all.

Related: Armstrong wants Blues to get healthy before any trades are made