Maxime Talbot

Rivalry renewed: How the Flyers set the Penguins on fire in just two signings

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The Flyers and Penguins have never been known to play peaceable hockey against each other. The teams dislike each other, they have a host of Pennsylvania state pride on the line when they face off, and the kind of burning hate that’s carried these two teams through the last 30 + years in the NHL.

With free agency day providing drama of its own all over the NHL, the arms race the Philadelphia Flyers got in when they unloaded Jeff Carter and Mike Richards and acquired Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, and Ilya Bryzgalov was already well under way. What they did today proved to be a direct shot at their cross-state rivals in Pittsburgh in the most painful of ways.

For the last few weeks, the Penguins were engaged in talks with their own future unrestricted free agent-to-be in Maxime Talbot as well as former Penguins legend Jaromir Jagr. The talks with Jagr were especially fascinating in that there were reports even as late as last night that a deal could be imminent. When word broke today that the Penguins were pulling their offer for Jagr, many Pens fans were heartbroken to see that their former star wouldn’t be coming back to Pittsburgh. What they didn’t expect was what happened next.

Word came down this afternoon that Jagr did reach an agreement on a one year, $3.3 million deal with a team and that team was none other than the rival Flyers. With that news tearing open a wound with Pens fans that made them instantly go back to hating Jagr, word broke shortly after that that Talbot too had signed with the Flyers, this time on a five-year, $9 million deal.

To say that Penguins fans are unhappy about this would be a wild understatement. From the guys at Pensblog, they’re short and sweet to the point.

They wanted the money and they got it. Ray Shero is too smart to overpay a 39-year old and a fourth liner, even if those players are two of the most legendary and well-known names in franchise history.

No one will ever forget Jagr in the 90s and Talbot in the 2009 playoffs. But they wear orange now so they’re dead to us. On to the next one.

The Penguins did their part to fill the day with their own news in signing forward Steve Sullivan away from Nashville on a one year deal, but the missed opportunity in getting Jagr and then losing Talbot both to the Flyers is something that strikes a nerve. It instantly makes the first matchup between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia on December 8 in Philadelphia must-see TV. Even more remarkable yet, their first game in Pittsburgh takes place on December 29 when HBO’s 24/7 cameras will be following the Flyers around leading up to the 2012 Winter Classic in Philadelphia on January 2.

Picture that scene: The former Penguins legend Jagr makes his first return to Pittsburgh since 2008 when he was with the New York Rangers after an offseason that saw him cozy up to and then deny his former team. With Talbot in tow and, we’d hope, both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin back on the ice for the Penguins in what will be a wild atmosphere in CONSOL Energy Center… Let’s just say we’d like to get tickets to that game as well as a complimentary riot shield.

For a rivalry that was already a boisterous one in the NHL, today’s signings by Philadelphia help turn it into a powder keg of emotion. About the one way the Penguins could try to get one back on the Flyers would be to sign Simon Gagne, but even that doesn’t compare to having two of the guys that were instrumental in different ways in winning the Penguins’ three Stanley Cups trade in their black and gold for orange and black. All we know for now is that things just got a lot more fascinating in Pennsylvania and we’re counting down the days until December to see these two go after each other.

Report: Potential Shattenkirk trade fell apart over contract talks

TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 9:  Kevin Shattenkirk #22 of the St. Louis Blues waits for a faceoff against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on February 9, 2017 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Blues defeated the Maple Leafs 2-1 in overtime. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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Kevin Shattenkirk‘s name has been floating around the NHL’s trade rumor mill for sometime now, and according to reports from TSN’s Bob McKenzie and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the Blues came very close to dealing him six weeks ago only to have the trade fall apart when the new team and Shattenkirk were unable to reach an agreement on a new contract.

It is not the first time that has happened over the past year.

According to reports from TSN’s Bob McKenzie and Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Blues recently had a Shattenkirk trade in place with an Eastern Conference team that was believed to be the Tampa Bay Lightning. But when Shattenkirk turned down a long-term contract extension with the team that would have paid him $42 million over seven years, the trade fell apart.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman mentioned on Thursday night that the Arizona Coyotes also had permission earlier this season to speak to Shattenkirk about a new contract but were unable to reach a deal. A similar situation unfolded in the offseason when the Edmonton Oilers also tried to acquire the veteran defenseman.

The Lightning would make a ton of sense as a trade partner for the Blues here because they have been in desperate need of another big-time defenseman to add to their blue line along with Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman. They also have several restricted free agents (and a pretty tight cap situation) to deal with this summer that could have been part of a return in a Shattenkirk trade.

If the reported contract terms are correct, it’s a pretty good sign that Shattenkirk thinks he can get a massive payday on the open market this summer as a free agent. And he is probably not wrong. Since the start of the 2011-12 season Shattenkirk has been one of the most productive defensemen in the NHL, currently sitting 10th among all blue-liners in points (241) and posting dominant possession numbers.

A $6 million per year cap hit would put him in the same salary range as Mike Green, Johnny Boychuk, and Erik Johnson.

He outperforms all of them.

Even though Shattenkirk is one of their top players, and the Blues seem on track to make the playoffs, the team still seems determined to move him before the deadline rather than risk losing him for nothing over the summer.

Blackhawks keep rolling with another dominant offensive performance

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Another night, another hat trick, and another dominant offensive showing from the Chicago Blackhawks.

On Thursday night it was Patrick Kane becoming the second Blackhawks forward in as many games to record a hat trick — following the three goal (and five point) effort Jonathan Toews had on Tuesday night — to help lead the Blackhawks to a 6-3 blowout win over the Arizona Coyotes.

Along with Kane’s three goals, Toews picked up two more assists to continue his recent scoring surge that has seen him pick up 23 points in his past 15 games. Keep in mind he only had 21 points in the 37 games prior to that.

Even more than Toews is the fact the entire Blackhawks team is clicking right now offensively.

Their win on Thursday is their eighth in the past nine games and every one of those wins has been a display of total offensive dominance, scoring 40 goals during that stretch. That is more than four goals per game. Everybody is contributing to it at this point as seven players (Toews, Kane, Richard Panik, Artemi Panarin, Nick Schmaltz, Artem Anisimov and Duncan Keith) all have at least eight points during this run.

It’s a stretch that has helped the Blackhawks gain some ground on the Minnesota Wild in the Central Division race, as they now sit three points back of the top spot.

Just about the only bad news for the Blackhawks on Thursday night was defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson leaving the game with what coach Joel Quenneville described as an upper body injury.

The Blackhawks knew he wasn’t 100 percent going into the game and dressed a seventh defenseman, Michal Rozsival, as a precaution in case Hjalmarsson could not finish. After skating just four shifts in the first period — a first period that saw the two teams combine for six goals — he exited the game and did not return. Rozsival ended up playing a pretty significant role in the game scoring his first goal of the season just two minutes into the second period for what ultimately prove to be the game-winner.

Lundqvist stays hot as Rangers move ahead of Blue Jackets

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 11:  Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers laughs as Kevin Klein #8 misses an attempt at a hattrick during the third period against the Colorado Avalanche at Madison Square Garden on February 11, 2017 in New York City.  The Rangers defeated the Avalanche 4-2.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Remember those few weeks earlier this season when Henrik Lundqvist was struggling, he was losing playing time to Antti Raanta, and everybody in the NHL was freaking out about the Rangers’ goaltending situation?

At this point it seems like an eternity ago.

Lundqvist has been on an absolute roll over the past month and has helped the Rangers finally gain some ground in the Metropolitan Division.

After his 32 save performance — in the Rangers’ 2-1 shootout win in Toronto on Thursday night, the Rangers are now in the third spot in the Metropolitan Division, moving ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets who for the time being move down to the top Wild Card spot. The Rangers are now just two points back of the Pittsburgh Penguins for a spot that would get them home ice in the first round.

Leading the way lately during this recent surge has been Lundqvist as he plays his best hockey of the season. In his past 13 starts the Rangers own a 10-2-1 record, while Lundqvist is carrying a .938 save percentage.

Even though the Rangers took huge steps over the summer to improve their forward depth — and it has absolutely paid off — it is still a team that is weak on the blue line and is only going to go as far as Lundqvist can carry it in the playoffs.

But with the way he is playing right now, and with the way the Rangers can roll four solid lines and score (3.28 goals per game, fourth best in the NHL) this could be a potentially scary team come playoff time.

Islanders shut out Canadiens for huge road win

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 18:  Thomas Greiss #1 of the New York Islanders in action against the New Jersey Devils on February 18, 2017 at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Islanders 3-2.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
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Overall this season the New York Islanders have really struggled away from the Barclays Center, a point of concern when you consider how many road games they have down the stretch as they try to overcome their miserable start to climb back into the playoffs.

Their current nine-game road trip is off to a promising start with wins in the first two games, including a 3-0 shutout win over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night to improve their record to 12-4-2 under new coach Doug Weight.

The Islanders received goals from Anthony Beauvillier, Anders Lee and John Tavares in the win, while Thomas Greiss stopped all 24 shots he faced to record his third shutout of the season.

With the win the Islanders hold sole possession of the second wild card spot in the East for the time being, two points ahead of Florida and Boston (the Bruins are in action right now) and continue their stunning second half turnaround.

But while things are going great for the Islanders right now, the struggles in Montreal continue.

With their loss on Thursday they failed to put any extra distance between themselves and the rest of the Atlantic Division that has suddenly closed the gap on them. They remain just two points up on Ottawa and only four points ahead of Toronto. The loss also continues what has been a particularly brutal stretch over the past couple of months that has seen the team win just seven of its past 20 games.

It’s probably too early to start fully panicking in Montreal, but given the way the end of last season went this can’t be a promising development for Canadiens fans.