More than a few people felt like the Pittsburgh Penguins were about to part ways with Tyler Kennedy when they didn’t extend the center a qualifying offer. Apparently that didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, though, as the Penguins reportedly signed Kennedy to a two-year, $4 million deal today. Kennedy was set to become an unrestricted free agent today because of the lack of a qualifying offer but obviously that won’t happen.
Before we discuss Kennedy a bit, it’s important to connect his signing with the Penguins’ decision to pull their reported one-year, $2 million offer to Jaromir Jagr. You never know if the two sides can come to an agreement and make a lot of Penguins fans happy in the process – again, we thought Kennedy might be on his way out, too – but it doesn’t seem particularly likely at this time.
As far as Kennedy’s contract is concerned, it seems like a reasonable deal. The undersized center was a well-liked player among hardcore fans in Pittsburgh, but for his first three seasons, there was the sense that he couldn’t connect on the chances he created with his speed and hockey IQ. Injuries to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin increased his workload with the Penguins through the second half of 2010-11 and he delivered with the best year of his career. He scored a career-high 21 goals and 24 assists for 45 points in 80 game. Kennedy also averaged 14:32 minutes per game, the most of his career.
The Penguins have done a solid job of locking up role players lately, signing Kennedy, Arron Asham and Pascal Dupuis to new deals. Pittsburgh has 21 roster spots covered already with about $3.6 million of cap space remaining, according to CapGeek.com. That should keep the Pens from the few remaining big names in the mix, but they might be able to tweak their team with a solid forward or two.
Brooks Orpik‘s late hit in Game 2 on Saturday might keep him out of Monday’s contest.
At the very least, the NHL Department of Player Safety intends to discuss the matter with Orpik today, per the department’s Twitter feed.
The incident occurred early in the first period when the Capitals forward smashed into Olli Maatta. The Penguins blueliner collapsed and needed some assistance getting off the ice. He didn’t return to the game.
You can see that hit below:
“I thought it was a late hit,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan told CSN Mid-Atlantic. “I thought it was a target to his head. I think it’s the type of hit everyone in hockey is trying to remove from the game.”
The Penguins didn’t have an update on Maatta’s condition immediately following the contest.
The Toronto Maple Leafs may have won the draft lottery, but an argument can be made that the luckiest team last night was the Winnipeg Jets.
After all, Toronto had the best odds to get the top pick, but Winnipeg jumped from sixth to second in the draft order.
“I don’t know if it has sunk in yet,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff told the Winnipeg Sun. “I was doing my scrum at the end (of the show) with the media that was here, I said at one point, ‘Moving from six to two…’ and I had to catch myself and go through the mental notes in my head that it had just really happened.”
It’s likely, though not guaranteed, that the Maple Leafs will take Auston Matthews with the first overall pick. Assuming that’s the case, moving up to the second overall pick means that Winnipeg will have the option of choosing one of the two promising Finnish forwards available: Patrik Laine or Jesse Puljujarvi.
That’s potentially a big break for Winnipeg, especially after this campaign where the Jets went from making the playoffs for the first time since relocating to posting a 35-39-8 record. Through five campaigns in Winnipeg, the Jets have missed the playoffs four times.
The last time this franchise drafted this high was back when the then Atlanta Thrashers took Kari Lehtonen with the second overall pick in 2002. That was the final year in a string of four straight drafts where the Thrashers always had the first or second selection. The previous three years they took Patrik Stefan (1999), Dany Heatley (2000), and Ilya Kovalchuk (2001).
Related: Shanahan: Leafs earned No. 1 pick ‘the hard way’
After the Eastern Conference Game 2s played out on Saturday, we’re getting the Western Conference set today. You can watch the action via NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.
Here’s a quick overview of where specifically you can watch the contests:
St. Louis at Dallas (3:00 p.m. ET)
If you want to watch the game on television, NBC is the channel to do that. If you want to stream the game with the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.
Nashville at San Jose (8:00 p.m. ET)
The game will be televised on NBCSN. You can also stream the contest by clicking here.
Here’s some relevant pregame reading material:
With Eaves injured, Nichushkin will play for Stars in Game 2
Hitchcock, Blues know they need to slow down the Stars … but can they?
Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1
Speed, skill help Stars score late victory to take series lead over Blues
The Pittsburgh Penguins have spoken out against a late, high hit that Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik threw on Olli Maatta early in the first period of an eventful Game 2 on Saturday.
Maatta left and didn’t return. He played only 31 seconds, and the Penguins were reduced to five defensemen for a large portion of the game. Orpik was given a minor penalty on the play, but the league’s Department of Player Safety may see it differently.
The hit occurred well after Maatta had gotten rid of the puck. He struggled on his way to the dressing room for further evaluation.
Based on multiple reports, Orpik wasn’t made available to the media following the game, which went to the Penguins as they earned the split on the road.
But the Penguins have taken issue with the hit.
“I thought it was a late hit,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, as per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “I thought it was a target to his head. I think it’s the type of hit everyone in hockey is trying to remove from the game.”