Red Wings sign goalie Joey MacDonald to two-year deal; Is he the new backup?

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Last season in Detroit, Joey MacDonald carried a burden he didn’t expect to before the season began. When you’ve got Jimmy Howard and Chris Osgood set as the goalie tandem, after all, you can’t really expect to get much work in at the NHL level. Osgood’s injury-plagued season and some of Howard’s own minor dings changed MacDonald’s plans and got him a full-time backup gig in Detroit with the occasional run as the starter.

MacDonald apparently did well enough in that role last season to earn a new two-year contract with the Red Wings. With that now in his pocket, is it possible he winds up being Jimmy Howard’s full time backup this season? The Wings and GM Ken Holland have been on the hunt for a new backup after Osgood’s contract expired and with the Wings consistently never breaking the bank on goaltending in the salary cap era, it’s an honest question to ask.

Last season in 15 games, MacDonald went 5-5-3 with a 2.58 goals against average and a surprising .917 save percentage. For a guy that’s been a journeyman in the NHL and spent more time in the AHL than in the big leagues, those are solid stats but his play still left Wings fans a bit edgy when he got the rare start. At 31 years-old MacDonald is about as good as he’s ever going to be in goal, but if he’s the guy Detroit is going to lean on then the pressure on Jimmy Howard to be at his absolute best is sky high.

Ted Kulfan of The Detroit News says that MacDonald’s signing likely makes him #3 on Detroit’s goalie depth chart and he’ll serve as a mentor for young guys like Thomas McCollum and Jordan Pearce in the AHL. The question then becomes, who does Detroit get to be #2?

Do they bring back Chris Osgood who missed most of last season with injuries or should they dip into the free agent pool and take a shot with veterans like Pascal Leclaire, Ty Conklin, Marty Turco, or Ray Emery? It’s a fascinating set of questions that Holland is going to need to figure out as bringing in a guy that can spell Jimmy Howard to keep him rested and ready in the playoffs is vital to the Wings’ success.

If the Wings do go outside the organization for help (meaning no Osgood and not giving the #2 spot to MacDonald), Leclaire would bring the same injury risks that Osgood would, Turco’s history in Detroit against the Red Wings is terrible, Conklin has been through Detroit once already and is coming off a rough season, and Ray Emery has a checkered injury past of his own but might be the best of the bunch. It’s hard to believe that MacDonald will get the call to be Howard’s backup but if the Wings do go for another free agent, the choices will bring their own fair amount of drama on their own.

BREAKING: Isles acquire Eberle from Edmonton for Strome

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Everyone knew this was going to be a massive offseason for Islanders GM Garth Snow.

And Snow has now responded in kind.

Per TSN, the Isles are on the verge of acquiring Jordan Eberle from Edmonton. No word yet on what’s headed to New York in return. Sportsnet has confirmed the move, saying all involved parties are being informed of the move.

Update: Ryan Strome headed to Edmonton in exchange, per Darren Dreger.

The move comes after weeks of speculation about Eberle’s future with the Oilers. He had a solid regular season in Edmonton, with 20 goals and 51 points through 82 games, but struggled mightily in the postseason. He went scoreless through 13 games, finishing with just two points while watching his ice time dwindle to 14:32 per night.

Eberle is still a quality offensive talent, though, and should be thrilled about the prospect of playing with Isles captain John Tavares. Tavares, in turn, will undoubtedly be pleased with Snow’s bold move to bring in additional scoring up front, which could go a long way towards signing an extension with the Isles.

It’s safe to assume Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli will feel some heat for this deal. While he did get out from under Eberle’s contract — $6 million annually for each of the next two years — Strome is coming off a disappointing year, and was exposed by the Isles at last night’s expansion draft.

That said, Chiarelli does have bigger fish to fry. Connor McDavid is eligible to sign an extension this summer, as is Leon Draisaitl.

Needless to say, those contracts are going to be expensive.

Losing Neal to Vegas was a ‘pretty big price to pay’ for Predators

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The Vegas Golden Knights named their team on Wednesday, and it was no surprise that James Neal was among their selections in the expansion draft.

Why not? Since entering the league in 2008, Neal has scored at least 20 goals in each of his nine seasons, hitting the 40-goal mark in 2011-12 as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

But after coming up two wins shy of a Stanley Cup this spring, Neal was left unprotected by the Predators.

Predators general manager David Poile had reportedly been in talks with Vegas GM George McPhee, but a deal couldn’t be achieved.

“With how well we played in the playoffs, I’d certainly like to bring everybody back, but the prices [to make a deal with Vegas] were very high,” Poile told the Predators website.

“[McPhee] was looking for younger players or high draft picks, and at the end of the day, I just felt that we had to do what the Expansion Draft was set out to do and that was to lose a player. In this case, we lost James Neal and that’s a pretty big price to pay.”

Neal has one more year left on his six-year contract that has an annual cap hit of $5 million, before he’s a pending unrestricted free agent at the end of next season.

Nashville has about $22.7 million in cap space, per CapFriendly, but five pending restricted free agents — Austin Watson, Frederick Gaudreau, Pontus Aberg and most notably Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson — in need of contracts. In Arvidsson’s case, he’s due for a significant raise from the $640,000 he made in NHL salary last season, in which he scored 31 goals and 61 points.

“James had a much bigger contract and he only had one year left before he was an unrestricted free agent. We didn’t have any negotiations, but there was no guarantees that we would be able to keep him. It really was a business decision. It was as simple as that,” Poile the Tennessean.

Caps re-sign Christian Djoos, who could get his NHL shot next season

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The Washington Capitals have re-signed defenseman Christian Djoos to a two-year, $1.3 million contract.

It’s a two-way deal in 2017-18, and a one-way deal the following season.

Djoos, 22, is expected to push for an NHL spot next season, along with Madison Bowey and possibly Tyler Lewington.

That’s because Karl Alzner and Kevin Shattenkirk, both unrestricted free agents, aren’t expected to re-sign with Washington.

On top of that, the Caps lost d-man Nate Schmidt in yesterday’s expansion draft.

Djoos, a seventh-round pick in 2012, had 13 goals and 45 assists in 66 games for AHL Hershey this past season.

It was his second full season in the AHL.

Bettman says NHL will call more slashes next season

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Commissioner Gary Bettman says the NHL will look to enforce slashing penalties more next season.

Following the league’s board of governors meeting, Bettman said pointless slashes to players’ hands will be called more. Ottawa’s Marc Methot and Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau were among the players to miss time last season with hand injuries from slashes.

Related PHT coverage:

Gaudreau (finger) out six weeks, Treliving says Staal slash the culprit

— Flames made ‘mountain out of a molehill’ over Gaudreau slash

— Methot ‘out for weeks’ after suffering a shattered finger from Crosby slash

— Melnyk blasts ‘whiner’ Crosby, who won’t face hearing for Methot slash