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.

Tarasenko needs to start ‘playing within the system’: Hitch

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 19:  Vladimir Tarasenko #91 of the St. Louis Blues and Marc-Edouard Vlasic #44 of the San Jose Sharks fight for control of the puck in game three of the Western Conference Finals during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on May 19, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Is it all Vladimir Tarasenko‘s fault that the St. Louis Blues are on the brink of elimination?

No, of course it’s not.

It seems we have to clarify this every time a star player comes under fire for not producing. Hockey is a team game, and the Blues — as a team — have not been as good as the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final.

Still, it was interesting to hear St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock talk about Tarasenko yesterday, because the criticism was pointed, even if it was delivered in an empathetic manner.

“What happens with goal-scorers when they get frustrated is they look to hit home runs. We need him just to act like a worker,” said Hitchcock.

“What he’s doing is he’s looking to try to catch fast breaks, he’s looking to catch the other team napping. But when you play against guys like [Marc-Edouard Vlasic], you’re not going to catch him napping. He’s just got to feel comfortable playing within the system, playing within the framework.”

Hitchcock added, “I think it’s a natural tendency with younger players who have this heightened sense of urgency to do what they do well, which for him is score goals. He’s gotten too far away from the play. He’s got himself too stretched out. We just need him to come back to the puck a little bit more.”

As we noted yesterday, Tarasenko has been held pointless in five games against the Sharks. In his last three games combined, he’s managed just four shots total. This from a guy who scored 40 of the Blues’ 224 goals during the regular season, then put up 13 points (7G, 6A) in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

We’ll see tonight if the “hard lessons” continue for the 24-year-old, or if he can find a way to help get his team back to St. Louis for Game 7.

Video: Johnson pays the price for Tampa Bay

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It’s been another successful spring for Tyler Johnson.

Johnson, the most diminutive member of Tampa Bay’s vaunted “Triplets” line, is racking up the playoff points yet again. He has 17 through 16 games — tied with Joe Thornton for sixth-most in the postseason — and, depending on how far the Bolts go this year, could best last year’s total, when he had 23 in 24.

Not bad, considering the physical pounding Johnson has taken.

At just 5-foot-9 and 182 pounds, the playoff grind has certainly taken its toll over the last two years. Johnson was rendered all but ineffective in last year’s Cup Final versus Chicago due to a broken right wrist and, this year, dealt with an upper-body injury in the opening round and a puck to the face just prior to Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Not that it slowed him down any.

Johnson scored the game-winning OT tally in Game 4, getting his body in front of a Jason Garrison shot to deflect home past Marc-Andre Fleury. That earned high praise from Lightning head coach Jon Cooper, who heaped superlatives on his undersized star.

“He’s a winner — that’s what winners do,” coach Jon Cooper said of Johnson, per the Tampa Bay Times. “They don’t back down. And when there’s a challenge ahead of you, you’ve got to find a way to meet the challenge. There’s a lot of coaches that had a front row seat to see how this kid plays and how he competes.

“And it’s not always the size of the player, it’s the size of the heart, and that’s Tyler Johnson.”

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

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The Pittsburgh Penguins were able to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday to force a Game 7, now the St. Louis Blues will try to do the same against the San Jose Sharks tonight. You can catch Game 6 via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

St. Louis at San Jose (9:00 p.m. ET)

The television broadcast of Game 6 is on NBCSN. If you want to stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

In the meantime, here are some relevant links:

On the brink of elimination, Blues turn back to Elliott

The Blues could sure use a goal or two from Tarasenko

Feeding frenzy: Sharks send Blues to the brink of elimination in Western Conference Final

Stanley Cup Final to begin Monday

Colorado inks defensive prospect Anton Lindholm

LAKE PLACID, NY - AUGUST 07: Anton Lindholm #5 of Team Sweden skates against Team USA during the 2013 USA Hockey Junior Evaluation Camp at the Lake Placid Olympic Center on August 7, 2013 in Lake Placid, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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After establishing himself in the Swedish league, Anton Lindholm will head to North America.

The Colorado Avalanche announced that they have signed the 21-year-old defenseman to a three-year, entry-level contract. They selected Lindholm in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.

More of a defensive defenseman, Lindholm only registered four assists in 30 Swedish league games with Skelleftea AIK in 2015-16, but he also had a team-high 85 hits despite missing a chunk of the season due to injury. During the playoffs he helped his team reach the SHL Finals by leading them in both hits and blocked shots.

That was his second full campaign with Skelleftea AIK. The next step for Lindholm will likely be for him to continue his development in the AHL.