Steve Yzerman, Jeff Vinik

Lightning GM Steve Yzerman clears the air over Steven Stamkos

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Steve Stamkos’ status as an unsigned restricted free agent in Tampa Bay is starting to make everyone feel a bit silly these days. With Stamkos still without a new contract and the rest of the summer staring everyone in the face and no real timeline to get a deal done, the idle time in between has led to some creative rumors being spawned saying that Stamkos will somehow be traded so he can be signed elsewhere. Already this summer we’ve heard about Philadelphia’s interest in Stamkos (later debunked by Flyers GM Paul Holmgren) and where there’s an available superstar there’s always the rumors about them going to Toronto as well.

Such is life for Stamkos these days while he and Lightning GM Steve Yzerman try to work out a deal to keep him in Tampa Bay for the foreseeable future. Rumors are what they are but all along we’ve been told that Stamkos will be eventually re-signing with the Lightning and that there’s no way he’s going to be traded.

Thankfully, Yzerman decided to reaffirm those thoughts once again for everyone that’s still having a hard time digesting the reality of the situation. Damian Cristodero of Lightning Strikes gets the scoop from the Lightning GM about just how silly these rumors are.

“I talk to general managers on a daily basis and get asked a lot, ‘How are you making out?’ But that’s about all,” Yzerman said.

Has anyone come up with a proposal? “Absolutely not. I’m not interested in discussing a possible trade. I’m committed to re-signing Steven.”

Has anyone said they would be interested if negotiations broke down? “They don’t have to say that,” he said, laughing. “Every team is interested in Steven Stamkos.”

Bottom line? “I’m confident,” Yzerman said, “we will reach an agreement.”

So to break it down: Everyone wants Stamkos, no one is asking about trading for him, the Lightning aren’t listening to any proposals if they even existed, and they’re going to do everything they can to keep him in Tampa Bay as a member of the Lightning. That seems pretty easy to understand then.

For things to get to the point where the Lightning had to entertain offers for Stamkos he would have to be demanding so much money that there was no way the Lightning would be able to compete with such a huge contract on the books. It’s that or Steve Yzerman gets possessed by evil spirits or Stamkos directly insults all the team executives to their faces would make that possibility happen and he strikes us as a rather polite guy.

The sole threat to Tampa Bay’s efforts to re-signing Stamkos still remains an offer sheet from a competing team, but given how reticent opposing GMs are to going that route to grabbing a player and how Tampa Bay has promised to match any and all offers, it seems like a fruitless endeavor. For now, it’s all about patience for everyone involved from Stamkos and his agent on down to the fans.

Patience is a virtue and many aren’t blessed with that, especially during the summer when the free agent market is scarce of top end talent. If teams aren’t going to force the issue, then we’ll be waiting a bit for things to get done. After all, training camp doesn’t start until September and that’s when it’ll be imperative for Stamkos to be around.  For now, we wait for the league’s latest huge star to get locked up to a big contract whether we like waiting or not.

With Gorges injured, Sabres call up Brendan Guhle from WHL

SUNRISE, FL - JUNE 27:  51st overall pick Brendan Guhle poses for a portrait during the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center on June 27, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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The Buffalo Sabres announced on Friday evening that they have called up defenseman Brendan Guhle from the Prince George Cougars of the WHL on an emergency basis.

Guhle, a second-round pick (No. 51 overall) by the Sabres in 2015, had impressed in Sabres training camp the past two years but just missed out on making the roster each time. He missed making the team in 2015 in large part because of a concussion after he was hit by Dion Phaneuf.

He did end up playing six games for the Rochester Americans in the American Hockey League a year ago, scoring a goal and adding three assists.

Before his call-up on Friday he had spent the first part of the 2016-17 season playing in the WHL for Prince George as well as the Prince Albert Raiders (he was acquired by Prince George on Nov. 19).

In 19 games between the two teams he has five goals and two assists.

The Sabres needed to call up a defenseman because veteran Josh Gorges was injured on Thursday night in the team’s win over the New York Rangers when he was hit in the foot by a shot.

He had x-rays on Friday and the team is expected to offer some sort of an update on his status on Saturday. In 23 games this season for the Sabres, Gorges has no goals and one assist.

What really hurts for Sabres at the moment is they are already playing without defenseman Dmitry Kulikov and Zach Bogosian due to injury.

The Sabres host the Boston Bruins on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. ET.

Report: NHLPA rejects proposal to extend CBA in exchange for Olympics

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 27:  NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman unveils the League's Centennial celebration plans for 2017 during a press conference at the World Cup of Hockey 2016 at Air Canada Centre on September 27, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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The NHLPA has rejected a proposal from the National Hockey League to extend the current collective bargaining agreement by three years in exchange for participation in the 2018 Olympics, according to reports from the Associated Press and Canadian Press.v

The NHL’s participation in the 2018 games in Pyeongchang remains in doubt, mostly due to the cost of insurance and other expenses that go with sending players. In the past, those expenses have been handled by the IOC and IIHF but they are reluctant to foot the bill for the 2018 games.

In recent weeks the NHL presented the NHLPA with an opportunity to participate in the 2018 Olympics in exchange for extending the current CBA through the year 2025, while also eliminating an opt-out clause that exists in 2019.

It was expected that the NHLPA would not be willing to accept that offer from the league.

On Friday, IOC president Thomas Bach said it is in the best interest of all parties for NHL players to participate in the 2018 games, telling the Olympic Channel “all the rational arguments are speaking in favor of participation.”

There is a January deadline set for participation in 2018.

Back in September NHL deputy commissioner said it is possible the NHL could skip the 2018 games and then return for 2022 in Beijing.

NHL players have participated in the past five Olympics dating back to the 1998 games in Nagano, Japan.

There seems to be a desire among the players to participate. Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin, for example,  has repeatedly said he plans on playing whether the NHL goes or not.

Khudobin delivered an encouraging performance for the Bruins

Boston Bruins right wing David Pastrnak (88) and left wing Brad Marchand (63) celebrate with goalie Anton Khudobin after he blocked a shot by Carolina Hurricanes left wing Jeff Skinner to win the game, 2-1, in a shootout during an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
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Anton Khudobin gave the Boston Bruins a much-needed win last night.

He also gave Tuukka Rask a much-welcomed night off.

The Bruins beat the Hurricanes, 2-1, in a shootout at TD Garden. Khudobin made 29 saves, plus two more in the shootout, including the game-decider on Jeff Skinner.

It was an encouraging performance by Khudobin, who returned to the Bruins net for the second time since a conditioning stint in the AHL. It was the first time this season that a Boston goalie other than Rask was credited with a win.

“Very good,” head coach Claude Julien said of Khudobin’s play. “He deserves a lot of accolades tonight, for the way he played, the way he responded after being out such a long time. I think the fact that he went to Providence and played some games there really helped him get back on track. Tonight, he showed that he was ready to play.”

Julien added, “No doubt, there’s a lot of confidence that grew in that dressing room by watching his play and knowing that we’ve got two goaltenders that can play extremely well for us.”

The Bruins did not feel they had good enough backup goaltending the past two seasons, both of which ended outside the playoff picture. And so they bid adieu to Niklas Svedberg and Jonas Gustavsson, bringing Khudobin back into the fold on a two-year contract.

Granted, one win isn’t enough to conclude that Khudobin will be fine. He’s now 1-3-0 with a .902 save percentage, and those numbers could still be much better.

But he’ll be back in there soon enough. The Bruins have 15 more games in December, and Rask isn’t going to play them all.

Blues ‘need more’ from Lehtera, who could be healthy scratched

Jori Lehtera
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Jori Lehtera received one of his lowest ice times of the season in Thursday’s win over Tampa Bay — just 11:21 — and was demoted to the fourth line at Friday’s practice.

If that didn’t send a message, Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock delivered it shortly thereafter.

“We’re going to need more from him,” Hitchcock said, per NHL.com’s Lou Korac. “The position we have him in, we need more from that position.”

Lehtera was signed to a three-year, $14.1 million extension after a solid ’14-15 campaign, in which he scored 14 goals and 44 points in 75 games. His offensive production sagged a bit last year (nine goals, 34 points in 79 games) and he’s gone through some difficult stretches this year.

The 28-year-old Finn had just three points through his first 15 games of the year, but did look as though he’d turned the corner recently. Prior to the Bolts game he had four points in four contests, including his first multi-goal effort of the season (potting a pair in a 4-2 win over Boston).

Clearly, though, Hitchcock thinks there’s more to give.

Per the Post-Dispatch, Hitch said he’s unsure if Lehtera will play on Saturday, when the Blues host the Jets. Nail Yakupov and Ty Rattie both sat out against Tampa Bay, and either one could draw into the lineup.

The Lehtera development comes with the Blues playing some of their best hockey of the year. They’ve won seven of their last eight, and are just four points back of Chicago for top spot in the Western Conference.