Countdown to awkwardness? Dubinsky, Callahan and Purcell among 22 players filing for arbitration

We’ve already seen some big names file for salary arbitration, as New Jersey Devils standout forward Zach Parise and Nashville Predators stud defenseman Shea Weber filed for what could be some lucrative one-year deals (if they get that far). Today’s signings also helped two players avoid that tense process, as the Columbus Blue Jackets forked over a four-year deal to Marc Methot and the Toronto Maple Leafs made a sensible two-year pact with Clarke MacArthur.

There were 22 players who filed for salary arbitration today*, with the New York Rangers topping the list with four potential hearings (with crucial players in play). The deadline for arbitration filing is July 6 at 5:00 p.m. ET, so there might be some more interesting filings tomorrow as well. Keep in mind that the hearings are set anywhere between July 20-August 4, 2011. Those hearings aren’t guaranteed, though; two sides could hash out an agreement right up to the deadline (which has happened plenty of times before, by the way).

* Technically speaking, Methot filed too, but that was obviously just a formality since he signed with the Blue Jackets shortly afterward.

The NHLPA released a list of the 22 players who filed for salary arbitration today. We’ll give you the 4-1-1 on some of the most interesting names for your own nail-biting/entertainment purposes.

Anaheim Ducks

Dan Sexton – the forward christened “Big Sexy” enjoyed a nice run for a while in the 2009-10 season, but shouldn’t be too tough to sign after 19 and 13 point seasons.

source: Getty ImagesBuffalo Sabres

Andrej Sekera – He averaged a bit more than 20 minutes per game in 2010-11 and scored 29 points in 76 games played. Sekera seems like a valuable piece for the Sabres’ defense but it might be tough to squeeze him under the salary cap after Pegulamania ran wild.

Carolina Hurricanes

Derek Joslin

Chicago Blackhawks

Chris Campoli – I’m not Campoli’s biggest fan, but he does have some offensive talent. Unfortunately he’s also a bit dangerous in his own end; many Blackhawks fans will remember him for the turning the puck over to Alex Burrows, who ended Chicago’s season with an overtime Game 7-winning goal. Their solid off-season additions might make Campoli the odd man out if the cost is too high.

Viktor Stalberg – Stalberg came to Chicago in the Kris Versteeg trade and scored a replaceable 24 points during the season. He played in all seven of their playoff games, so maybe he’ll back if the price is right.

Colorado Avalanche

Kevin Porter

Ryan Wilson

Edmonton Oilers

Andrew Cogliano – He can skate like the wind and seems pretty versatile, but one wonders how long people will wait for him to do much more with speed (35 points in 2010-11).

Los Angeles Kings

Alec Martinez

Brad Richardson

source: APMontreal Canadiens

Josh Gorges – Gorges might be the most intriguing test for the arbitration system of this bunch. Injuries ravaged his 2010-11 season and the Habs survived reasonably well, but he played an important shutdown role during their 2010 Cinderella run. Gorges averaged 20 minutes per game for three straight seasons and received noticeable increases when playoff time rolled around.

Nashville Predators

Sergei Kostitsyn – The most mercurial of the two mercurial Kostitsyn brothers, Sergei experienced a career year with Nashville. They received a nice return on a limited investment after he scored 23 goals and 50 points, but will his one-dimensional style make him expendable in their eyes? Maybe it shouldn’t … after all, someone needs to score for that team, right?

New Jersey Devils

Mark Fraser – A lesser man would make a Kelsey Grammer joke here.

New York Islanders

Blake Comeau – The budding power forward had a career year with 24 goals and 21 assists for 45 points while averaging almost 19 minutes per night. He might be able to get a nice little payday.

New York Rangers

Brian Boyle – The hulking forward showed why he was a first round draft pick, unexpectedly scoring 21 goals and 35 points last season. It wouldn’t be shocking if the Rangers walk out on a too-rich ruling for Boyle after he only put together one strong season.

Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky – I’m putting these two together because they experienced such great chemistry on a line that helped the Rangers make the playoffs. Considering the funny money Glen Sather dishes out to unworthy and/or risky ventures, why not shell out some dough for two heart-and-soul guys who are producing impressive amounts of offense to boot? In a sane world, they won’t make it to arbitration but Sather’s team-building vision isn’t always the clearest.

Michael Sauer – Like Boyle, Sauer boasts a sparse resume but was a genuine contributor last season.

Phoenix Coyotes

Lauri Korpikoski

source: Getty ImagesTampa Bay Lightning

Teddy Purcell – When debating the merits of keeping Purcell vs. Sean Bergenheim, I sided with retaining Purcell. That discussion dissolved once Bergenheim bolted to Dale Tallon’s wacky hockey resort, but it’s worth mentioning that Purcell seemed to have a nice regular season (51 points) before lighting up the playoffs (17 points in 18 postseason games). The Lightning might be wise to avoid arbitration if they want to keep him, because judges might smile upon his impressive contract year.

Vancouver Canucks

Jannik Hansen – He won’t light the world on fire, but Hansen is the type of forward who can absorb spot duty in the top six forwards group, is reasonably proficient in both ends and owns a rare right-handed shot in the Canucks’ winger ranks. Hansen simply might be too expensive, though.

Winnipeg Jets

Blake Wheeler – Wheeler seems like he’s in a perpetual state of negotiations. When he’s not, he’s often getting traded. He’s a decent scorer (44 points in 1o-11) has great size and the pedigree of a first round pick, but teams sour on him at an almost alarming rate. It’ll be interesting to see if the Jets think they have a place for him in their lineup.

Video: Johansen, Fisher join in Predators’ conference title celebration

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After reaching their first ever Western Conference Final, the Nashville Predators topped that in a big way, advancing to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history.

There were a lot of firsts and rarities along the way.

In ousting the Anaheim Ducks with a 6-3 victory in Game 6, GM David Poile’s team advanced to the championship round for the first time in his lengthy time as an executive.

Peter Laviolette also became the fourth coach in NHL history to bring three different teams to a Stanley Cup Final. The Predators are also the first 16th seed to make it this far.

Yep, that’s a long list of milestones (and not a comprehensive one). And, to think, the Predators haven’t even been on the brink of elimination during the postseason yet.

It’s special stuff, so don’t be surprised by the boisterous celebration you can see in the video above this post’s headline.

P.K. Subban: No city in the NHL ‘has anything on Nashville’

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If there’s one thing we can agree upon about the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s that these months have really cemented just how hockey-mad Nashville has become for its Predators.

(Yes, you can call it “Smashville” if you’d like.)

The scene at Bridgestone Arena was as boisterous as ever in the Predators’ 6-3 Game 6 win against the Anaheim Ducks, with legions of fans packing and surrounding the building.

Sights like these have becoming resoundingly normal for a hockey market that was once questioned by media and other fan bases:

Yeah, wow.

As the Predators advanced to their first-ever Stanley Cup Final, plenty of people were making jokes at the expense of the Montreal Canadiens for trading P.K. Subban. Of course, Subban wouldn’t take a shot at the Habs during such a great moment, but his praise for puck-nutty Predators fans says a lot in itself.

“I played in an A+ market my whole career,” Subban said, via Jeremy K. Gover of the Nashville Predators Radio Network. “There’s not a city in the league that has anything on Nashville.”

Whether their opponent is the Pittsburgh Penguins or Ottawa Senators, we already know that Nashville will begin the Stanley Cup Final on the road. That’s OK … Predators fans might need some time to get their voices back and recover from celebrating, so waiting until Games 3 and 4 might be a blessing in disguise.

Ducks’ Cogliano just doesn’t think Predators were the better team

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The Anaheim Ducks battled their way to Game 6 of the Western Conference Final, but Colton Sissons and the Nashville Predators ended their season on Monday.

The Ducks are processing that disappointment – being just two wins away from a trip to the championship round – and some of their reactions might spark a little controversy.

Specifically, it sounds a bit like Bruce Boudreau believing that his Minnesota Wild were superior to the St. Louis Blues despite falling in that series.

Andrew Cogliano, it must be noted, was spurned by Pekka Rinne on some early chances in Game 6. He likely feels as frustrated as any Ducks player right now.

Sisson’s hat-trick goal, making it 4-3 before two empty-netters cemented the 6-3 finish, was the dagger that finally put the hard-working Ducks down.

One can understand some of those feelings from Anaheim, especially considering the frustration of a) getting over Jonathan Bernier‘s early struggles to make a very real game of this and b) occasionally carrying the play in a dramatic way, including in Game 6.

Still, the Predators got the right combination of great stretches of play from Rinne and strong work from the expected and the unexpected, such as Sissons.

For an aging star like Ryan Getzlaf – a player who produced some of his best work late in the season and during the playoffs – you have to wonder how many chances remain.

Predators eliminate Ducks, reach first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history

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Colton Sissons made a serious argument that the Nashville Predators do, indeed, still have a No. 1 center.

At least, he certainly played that way on Monday, generating a hat trick as the Predators eliminated the Anaheim Ducks via a 6-3 win, taking the series 4-2.

In doing so, the Predators advanced to their first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history.

That 6-3 score is very misleading. While Nashville managed 2-0 and 3-1 leads, there was plenty of drama in this one, as the Ducks did not go down easily. Cam Fowler tied it up 3-3 in the third period, briefly stunning a rowdy crowd in Nashville.

Sissons was up to the task, however, settling down a bouncing puck on an otherwise stupendous Calle Jarnkrok pass to score the game-winner, notching a hat trick in the process. Sissons continues to be an unlikely hero for a Predators team dealing with the absence of Ryan Johansen (not to mention Mike Fisher, Craig Smith, and others).

Two empty-netters inflated the score, and they also sapped drama from the closing moments, which must have been quite the relief considering how much resolve Anaheim showed.

Peter Laviolette distinguishes himself as one of the NHL’s most underrated bench bosses, becoming just the fourth coach in league history to take three different teams to a Stanley Cup Final. He couldn’t win it all with the Philadelphia Flyers, but he does have a ring thanks to his time with the Carolina Hurricanes. Perhaps he’ll take another one this spring?

It’s quite the moment for GM David Poile, too, after trading Shea Weber for P.K. Subban and Seth Jones for Johansen, among other pivotal moves.

The Ducks might wonder what could have been if John Gibson played instead of Jonathan Bernier. Bernier struggled early, allowing two goals on the first three shots he faced and generally having a tough Game 6. Pekka Rinne, meanwhile, maintained his mostly great run in the playoffs; he protected a Predators lead even when the Ducks dominated long stretches of play.

Now the Predators get a nice rest, as the Eastern Conference Final continues with a Game 6 on Tuesday (and possibly a Game 7 on Thursday).

They’ll limp a bit toward that final round, but the Predators seem to be embracing new territory. And sometimes new heroes.