Flyers will not extend offer sheet to Steven Stamkos

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There have been rumors over the last week that the Philadelphia Flyers were going to extend an offer sheet to Tampa Bay Lightning restricted free agent Steven Stamkos on July 1. A day before free agency opens, the rampant rumors can finally be put to bed once and for all. After three days of intense discussions within the organization, the Flyers will not submit an offer sheet for Stamkos.

Not that there’s been any confusion on the matter over the last few days.

Flyers’ GM Paul Holmgren told CSN Philly’s Tim Panaccio that the organization strongly considered the Stamkos option, but they have chosen to go in a different direction:

“We’re not going to do anything on it. We explored it and decided it’s not the way for us to go at this time.

“We’re excited about the additions we made and the direction we’re going right now. We’ll explore things tomorrow [when free agency begins] but a restricted free agency offer sheet is not the way we will go.”

People can make the argument that the real story is that the Flyers were so strongly considering the offer sheet to begin with. Sure, the organization has a reputation for throwing away first round draft picks like they were confetti, but there would have been plenty more to signing Stamkos this summer. Obviously, the first cost for Philadelphia would have been their next four first round draft picks if they were acquire the 21-year-old Ontario native. But as Holmgren intimated in his comments, the Flyers would probably have to move two more players to clear out enough cap space for Stamkos. Considering they’ve already moved would-be franchise centers Mike Richards and Jeff Carter over the last week—and want to re-sign Ville Leino for next season—there would be a lot of moving parts for one player.

Not to mention the fact that Tampa Bay already announced they’d match any offer sheet.

Since the lockout, extending an offer sheet to a restricted free agent has been breaking an unwritten rule. Kevin Lowe was criticized when he went after Thomas Vanek and then-Ducks GM Brian Burke hammered him when he signed Dustin Penner to an offer sheet. Sharks GM made great use of offer sheets a year ago when he put the Chicago Blackhawks in a situation where they choose between Niklas Hjalmarsson and Antti Niemi. GMs have always been free to use offer sheets; but they understood that they used them at their own peril.

If any player were worth an offer sheet, Steven Stamkos is certainly in the running. The former #1 overall pick in 2008 was 2nd in the league last year with 45 goals and 5th in the league with 91 points. In 2009-10, he won the Maurice Richard Trophy by leading the league with 51 goals. No one in the league can match his 96 goals over the last two years—and he just barely hit the legal drinking age in February.

The Flyers can now turn their attention to other pressing matters. Since they are not going after Stamkos, there are already rumblings that they could make a play for Brad Richards when free agency opens at 12:00 ET on Friday. They still want to lock-up Ville Leino to an extension and need to come to terms with two new restricted free agents of their own in Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek. No doubt there’s still plenty to do in Philly to keep GM Paul Holmgren busy.

For the Lightning, they’ll continue to negotiate with Stamkos and his agent until a deal is reached. According to Damian Cristodero at the St. Pete Times, the two sides have already met today and plan on meeting again tonight. Once the two sides agree on fair compensation for an NHL superstar coming off of his entry-level deal, GM Steve Yzerman will be able to turn his attention to the rest of his team that was only 1 goal away from the Stanley Cup Final.

Keeping Stamkos around is obviously the first step to getting back.

Video: AHL goalie Jonas Gustavsson scores his first career goal

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He didn’t shoot, but Jonas Gustavsson still scored.

The former NHL netminder, now with the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL, scored his first career goal Friday, as part of his team’s victory over the San Diego Gulls.

From the AHL:

With San Diego goaltender Dustin Tokarski on the bench for an extra attacker and the Gulls working on a power play, Gustavsson made a save before an errant San Diego pass slid down the length of the ice and into the vacated net at 16:56 of the third period.

Gustavsson is the fifth AHL goaltender to be credited with a goal without actually shooting the puck into the opposition net. In addition to his goal, Gustavsson stopped 30 of 31 shots in the Condors victory.

Bolts and Islanders both win, which is bad news for Bruins

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The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning each had to work overtime to decide their separate games, but when they ended, both clubs were victorious.

And that makes things even more interesting in the Eastern Conference wild card race.

With their shootout win in Pittsburgh, the Islanders tie the Bruins in points but take over the final playoff spot for now with fewer games played. The Lightning, despite an abundance of injuries all season, are just a point back of Boston and New York.

Nikita Kucherov scored the winner for Tampa Bay against the Red Wings. He’s up to 38 goals, which is second most in the league behind Sidney Crosby, currently at 42 goals.

Sellers leading up to the trade deadline, and without Steven Stamkos since the middle of November, the Lightning are in the thick of this race, even if others may have counted them out.

“Once again, people counted us out,” defenseman Victor Hedman told the Tampa Bay Times. “But we showed a lot of character. And we’re right back in it.”

The Bolts don’t play again until Monday, when they host the Chicago Blackhawks — only one of the hottest teams in the league.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s busy slate of games includes a showdown between the Bruins and Islanders. For Boston, it’s a chance for redemption after a particularly costly third period against Tampa Bay on Thursday.

What is wrong with the Sharks?

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Not that long ago, the San Jose Sharks appeared well on their way to winning the Pacific Division title.

On March 14, they had a seven-point lead on both Anaheim and Calgary. Gone is that advantage. Not only have the Ducks surged back into the fight for the division, but the Sharks have lost five in a row and are having a terrible time of late creating any offense.

The Ducks defeated the Jets on Friday, moving into a tie with the Sharks at 91 points.

San Jose’s struggles hit a new low Friday with a 6-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, a team with its own flaws and nowhere close to a playoff position.

At one point midway through the second period, the Sharks trailed the Stars by four goals and had only six lousy shots on goal. During this skid, San Jose has scored only five goals.

Earlier this week, members of the Sharks said they weren’t terribly worried about this losing streak. The losses, they had said, were in close games, which is true: San Jose lost three consecutive one-goal games.

“When I look at the losing streak, we dominated some of those games for long periods and found ways to lose. You never like to lose, but I’m not that concerned,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “We’ve got to obviously end it. We’ve got to get healthy. I don’t see a bunch of symptoms of a team that can’t get this fixed pretty quickly.”

This, however, was a blowout. Adam Cracknell recorded the hat trick, pushing his single-season career-high in goals to 10.

The performance at one point forced DeBoer to take a timeout, in which he expressed his displeasure.

Making matters worse for the Sharks: Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game early in the third period and was put under further evaluation. He didn’t return.

The Sharks visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Halak and the Islanders defeat Penguins, move into wild card spot

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Quite a hockey game between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

It offered plenty to enjoy — Phil Kessel‘s dominant but unfruitful shift in overtime, a combined 86 shots on goal between both teams, a showcase of skill from the likes of John Tavares and Sidney Crosby, and two strong goaltending performances from Jaroslav Halak and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, which is just fine in the eyes of Mario Lemieux, set up Brock Nelson‘s goal in the second period.

The Islanders and their fans probably aren’t hung up on style points at this juncture of the season. They just care about wins and points in the standings, and those are exactly what New York accomplished with a 4-3 shootout win in Pittsburgh.

Anthony Beauvillier and Tavares scored for the Islanders in the shootout. Halak made 37 stops, including a game-saver in overtime off Matt Cullen. Halak trapped the puck, which was right on the goal line, between his legs on a chance from in front. The play was reviewed but no goal.

The win gives the Islanders 82 points, which is the same total as the struggling Boston Bruins.

However, the Islanders, with one game in hand on the Bruins, take over the final wild card spot in the East for now.