Calgary Flames retain Brendan Morrison with one-year, $1.25M deal

From a sheer value standpoint, the Calgary Flames roster is not pretty.

Players who were once bargains are now making market value or better after Rene Bourque and Alex Tanguay received nice upgrades in salary. The Flames’ biggest star Jarome Iginla keeps chugging along even as people make semi-reasonable cases that he should be traded because of his age (34) and cap hit ($7 million per year through the 2012-13). The team is dishing out big money to should-be stars who don’t always fit the bill (Jay Bouwmeester at $6.68 million especially) and aren’t really skimping with their mid-level guys, either.

Some (myself included) would argue that the roster is dotted with mistakes made by former GM Darryl Sutter and current GM Jay Feaster. It’s tough to argue that the future is particularly bright for an expensive team* that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2008-09 and hasn’t won a series since their Cinderella run in 03-04. There aren’t a ton of promising young players who hint at a light at the end of the tunnel, but the Flames seem just good enough not to get dismantled in favor of a rebuilding mode.

With this perceived mistake-prone management in mind, every decent deal seems like a breath of fresh air. It’s an overstatement to say that the Flames are a significantly better team with Brendan Morrison in the lineup, but he was a solid last minute addition during the 2010-11 season. He scored a respectable 43 points in 66 games at a bargain price of $725K. Morrison was also a versatile player for Calgary, averaging two minutes of penalty kill time per game (third among Flames forwards, behind only Curtis Glencross and retired pivot Craig Conroy).

Flames GM Feaster valued his all-around usefulness and occasional scoring prowess, rewarding Morrison with a solid one-year deal worth $1.25 million. His base salary will be $850K but he can also make an additional $400K if he reaches incentives.

Again, Morrison isn’t really a game-changer. There’s also the possibility that his role will be significantly reduced if – though it’s a big if – Daymond Langkow comes back somewhat close to his pre-injury form in 2011-12. Matchsticks & Gasoline points out that the Flames might have been wiser to add a player at “replacement-level” (read: somewhere close to the league minimum) money, but it’s ultimately not an awful move by Calgary.

At least compared to some of their head-scratching transactions from the last few years, that is.

* The Flames currently rank fifth in the NHL in overall payroll and have been one of the league’s bigger spenders in recent seasons.

The West’s next round is now set (and wide-open)

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Saturday was a great day for fans of brevity and revenge.

Three of a possible three series ended on this day, with the Rangers dispatching the Canadiens, the Blues eliminating the “better” Wild, and the Oilers knocking off the Sharks in six.

The Rangers await either the Bruins or Senators and the Penguins face the winner of the Leafs – Capitals series out East, but we now know how the West shakes out.

St. Louis Blues vs. Nashville Predators

Both teams provided some of the upsets of this young postseason. Each features a red-hot goalie in Jake Allen and Pekka Rinne. Interesting.

Anaheim Ducks vs. Edmonton Oilers

There will be a lot of orange. We may also see a ton of goals with Ryan Getzlaf on fire, Oscar Klefbom headlining the list of unhealthy players and Connor McDavid possibly able to really take off against a Ducks defense that is beat up in its own right.

It’s already been a strange season out West, with the Kings missing the playoffs and first-round exits for the Sharks and Blackhawks. Get ready – and giddy – for things to get even weirder as the postseason goes along.

Oilers win first series since 2006 after Sharks fall crossbar short of overtime

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After making the playoffs for the first time since 2006, the Edmonton Oilers weren’t just “happy to be there.” They confirmed as much by eliminating the San Jose Sharks with a 3-1 victory in Game 6, winning the series 4-2.

Yes, those young Oilers just eliminated the team that represented the West in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. Wow.

Ultimately, winning the breakaway battle in the second period indeed made the difference. Leon Draisaitl and Anton Slepyshev scored on their chances in the middle frame while Patrick Marleau could not; Slepyshev’s 2-0 goal ultimately became the series-clincher.

Now, that’s not to say that Marleau was a drag on San Jose. If this is it for one of the faces of the franchise, he had a great 2016-17, including generating the Sharks’ final goal of the postseason.

The Shark Tank was alive after Marleau reduced the Oilers’ lead to 2-1, and more than a few blood pressures rose – both in Edmonton and San Jose – after the Sharks got this close to tying things up.

Wow.

With this result, the West is set. The St. Louis Blues will take on the Nashville Predators while the Oilers face the Anaheim Ducks.

As much as people try to put the training wheels on Connor McDavid & Co., the West is wide-open enough that it’s not so outrageous to imagine a big run for Edmonton.

Beating the Sharks is a pretty nice way of adding an exclamation point to that statement win. And hey … they beat the Sharks last time around, too.

Canadiens sound a lot like Wild after playoff exit (without ‘better team’ talk)

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Much like the Minnesota Wild earlier on Saturday, the Montreal Canadiens are stunned to approach the golf courses so rapidly.

Many of the responses after the New York Rangers eliminated them in Game 6 sound a lot like what the Wild uttered, though there’s no potential bulletin board material like Bruce Boudreau’s line about the better team failing to win four games.

Max Pacioretty viewed this early exit as a “missed opportunity” and never really believed that an elimination was coming.

Claude Julien provided parallel comments to Bruce Boudreau, believing that Montreal generated chances but lacked “finish.”

Brendan Gallagher? He worries that this might have been the Canadiens’ best chance, something the Wild must also worry about with a difficult offseason ahead.

Now, it’s likely that most teams speak about being shocked and expecting better after being booted from the postseason.

Still, these reactions do shine a light on the staggering nature of some of these exits. Will the likes of the Blackhawks, Canadiens and Wild struggle to be in such prime positions in the future? With the Sharks needing a comeback against the Oilers, could the trend continue on Saturday?

The bottom line is that, instead of preparing for a Game 7 after winning the Atlantic Division, the Canadiens are packing up their stuff and worrying about re-signing Carey Price. That’s a pretty stunning turnaround, regardless of the soundbytes available.

Video: Draisaitl, Slepyshev score on breakaways, Talbot spurns Marleau

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Some playoff games or even series come down to something as stupidly simple as one team taking advantage of their opportunities while the other fails to capitalize on chances.

If Game 6 of the Oilers – Sharks series follows the story of the second period, then San Jose may join Saturday’s stream of eliminated teams.

It’s not fair to boil it down to three breakaways, but some might feel that way.

Leon Draisaitl looked like a gritty, strong veteran during his first career playoff goal, bulling his way to the net for 1-0 breakaway tally. About a minute later, Anton Slepyshev was even more alone against Martin Jones, and he scored his first postseason goal to make it 2-0.

That stings for the Sharks, and it doesn’t help that they had a similar chance not long after. This time around, Patrick Marleau couldn’t beat Cam Talbot, so it remained 2-0 for Edmonton.

That’s the same score as the game enters the third period, even with some dangerous late chances for the Sharks.

If the Sharks don’t score at least two goals in the third, their push to return to the Stanley Cup Final could end in the first round.