This year’s arbitration cases could bring problems for Rangers and Sabres

The last hurrah of free agent season is upon us and it’s not when the last man standing signs on the dotted line. Instead it’s when salary arbitration hearings are had and those players get their new contracts squared away. While many players will look to get a deal done before their hearings go off, sometimes the two sides can’t come to an agreement.

The uncomfortable part about arbitration comes when the team argues against the player over why he shouldn’t be worth what he wants. It’s an awkward arrangement and can sometimes lead to bad feelings between player and management. This year, there are more than a few interesting cases to be settled out and for a few teams, they’re likely hoping that their court date doesn’t come to fruition. The NHLPA released the list of arbitration dates and some of the bigger cases will have a few more weeks to wait to be settled. Arbitration kicks off on July 20 and runs through August 4.

July 20: Teddy Purcell (TB), Lauri Korpikoski (PHX), Viktor Stalberg (CHI)

July 21: Andrew Cogliano (EDM), Brad Richardson (LA), Brandon Dubinsky (NYR)

July 22: Ryan Wilson (COL)

July 25: Andrej Sekera (BUF), Brian Boyle (NYR)

July 26: Kevin Porter (COL)

July 28: Josh Gorges (MTL), Ryan Callahan (NYR)

July 29: Jannik Hansen (VAN)

August 2: Shea Weber (NSH)

August 3: Chris Campoli (CHI), Blake Wheeler (WPG), Zach Parise (NJ)

August 4: Mark Fraser (NJ), Dan Sexton (ANH), Blake Comeau (NYI)

The New York Rangers have the most intriguing summer ahead of them should all three of their cases go to a hearing. With Dubinsky, Callahan, and surprise 20-goal scorer Boyle all potentially going to battle with Glen Sather, the Rangers’ current $51 million payroll could see quite a boost.

Obviously all eyes are going to be on the likes of Shea Weber and Zach Parise. Parise has said he’d take a one-year offer to avoid going to arbitration and having to deal with Lou Lamoriello in an argument. You can’t blame the guy for wanting to avoid that. The thought of that alone makes us cringe.

The guys to really wonder about in their cases are defensemen given how crazy the market for defensemen has gotten. One in particular, Andrej Sekera, could wind up getting a decision that makes life very uncomfortable for the Buffalo Sabres. If you remember last year, the Sabres had an awkward time with forward Tim Kennedy in which Kennedy won his case for $1 million, but not a large enough victory for the Sabres to walk away from. Buffalo wound up getting rid of Kennedy on waivers days later after being unhappy with his contract. Such is life in arbitration and a good reason why both sides like to avoid having the courts settle things out.

Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.

Blackhawks bolster Central lead, shine harsh light on Penguins’ struggles

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Blame it on injuries if you want, or emphasize the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall hot finish to the season. Either way, Chicago scorched the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 5-1, a contest that felt more or less over by the time the first period ended 4-0 in the Blackhawks’ favor.

The Blackhawks scored by committee on Wednesday, with Artemi Panarin (goal, assist) and Patrick Kane (two assists) being the headliners. Meanwhile, former Penguin Marian Hossa has quietly climbed to 25 goals on the season.

Meanwhile, the Penguins limped through this one and have now lost four consecutive games.

With this result, the Blackhawks look like close to a lock to win the Central Division title. Meanwhile, the Metro crown is virtually unthinkable for Pittsburgh, and the Penguins might also need to accept the likelihood that they may not enjoy home-ice advantage in the first round.

They’d probably accept that more easily if they can get healthier and get back on track. Wednesday was a little worrisome in those regards.

Video: An early taste of the Tkachuk-inspired violence in Kings vs. Flames

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BREAKING: the Los Angeles Kings really don’t appreciate Calgary Flames rookie-pest-forward Matthew Tkachuk thanks to that elbow on Drew Doughty (and the fallout from all … that).

Tkachuk responded by critiquing Doughty for “complaining to the media,” so there was testiness from the start.

There was jawing before the game. Then Jake Muzzin rebuked Tkachuk’s kind offer for a fight. Finally, Keith’s son dropped the gloves with Brayden McNabb:

It wasn’t the only bout of the opening frame, and there could be more blood to come beyond this Jarome IginlaDeryk Engelland feud:

Players from both teams better keep their heads up (and on a swivel) tonight. The Flames have to hope that this doesn’t result in injuries, judging from what happened to Johnny Gaudreau.

Avalanche sign Toews-like first-rounder Tyson Jost

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Things have been pretty bleak for the Colorado Avalanche this season, but at least they can look to a high pick in the next draft … and maybe dream about how their top pick from 2016 may pan out.

The Avs signed Tyson Jost, the 10th pick of the 2016 NHL Draft, to an entry-level contract on Wednesday. Colorado notes that he’ll jump right into some NHL action to close out this season.

It’s a nice sneak preview, as NHL insider Bob McKenzie noted on an NBCSN appearance (see above) that doing so will not burn the first year of Jost’s entry-level contract. Nice.

Even nicer? McKenzie also compares Jost favorably to … (drum-roll, though the headline spoiled it) Jonathan Toews.

Most obviously, the two both starred at the University of North Dakota. For the sake of fun, here are their numbers in their final years in the NCAA:

Jost: 16 goals, 35 points in 33 games, +17 rating (2016-17)
Toews: 18 goals, 46 points in 34 games (2006-07)

Naturally, Toews enthusiasts in particular will tell you that points aren’t everything … but maybe there are some shades of the two-way Blackhawks center there?

The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy raved that Jost has “man-strength already” back around the 2016 NHL Draft, as you can see in this profile.

“Jost oozes confidence and already looks like NHL captain material for the future.”

Hey, that does sound at least somewhat Toews-like, doesn’t it?

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In other signing news, the Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington reports that the Buffalo Sabres signed UMass-Lowell’s CJ Smith. More on that below.