In less than one week, NHL players and their respective teams will begin salary arbitration hearings. While those cases are often a necessary evil for restricted free agents who cannot agree to a new deal with their current franchises, those processes can often be brutal. Some hockey players have even been left in tears after their teams made a case against them getting a big raise.
One of this year’s most interesting potential cases could occur between Teddy Purcell and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Purcell is far from a household name, but while Sean Bergenheim received a lot of attention for an unexpectedly productive 2011 playoff run, Purcell was better. He scored more points in the postseason (17 to Bergenheim’s 11) and seems like less of a one-hit wonder when you compare his 51-point regular season to Bergenheim’s 29 points in 2010-11. One other heartening thing about Purcell is that he didn’t seem to get too much crazy “puck luck” either; his regular season shooting percentage was a pedestrian 8.7 percent. (Not that he’s a big-time goal scorer anyway, but the point is that he might have a better chance to sustain his productivity than a guy whose shots managed to find the net at an unusual rate.)
That being said, the bottom line is that Purcell’s resume is still very limited. Purcell scored just 34 points in 110 games during the his three other seasons spread between the Lightning and Los Angeles Kings.
Purcell represents the medium-sized issue of two important remaining questions for Lightning GM Steve Yzerman, who must also tend to the prickly process of re-signing young restricted star Steven Stamkos. With the July 20 salary arbitration hearing looming, Yzerman admitted that he’s not certain that he could re-sign Purcell before that deadline. Yzerman still seemed confident that the two sides can work something out eventually, though. Here’s what he told Damian Cristodero of the St. Petersburg Times.
“I don’t think it’s out of the question,” Yzerman said of getting something done before the July 20 arbitration hearing in Toronto.
Yzerman still would not say “with 100 percent certainty” he would live with whatever might come out of a hearing because “we don’t know what an arbitrator will rule. We think we do.” But he did sound a positive tone overall.
“I fully expect to see Teddy in the lineup in September and have a contract done,” Yzerman said. “Whether it’s through the arbitration process or before that, we’ll have a contract in place next week.”
It’ll be intriguing to see what kind of deal Purcell would get if he makes it to arbitration. It doesn’t seem crazy to anticipate a reward in the $2.5-$3.5 million range, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Is it all Vladimir Tarasenko‘s fault that the St. Louis Blues are on the brink of elimination?
No, of course it’s not.
It seems we have to clarify this every time a star player comes under fire for not producing. Hockey is a team game, and the Blues — as a team — have not been as good as the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final.
Still, it was interesting to hear St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock talk about Tarasenko yesterday, because the criticism was pointed, even if it was delivered in an empathetic manner.
“What happens with goal-scorers when they get frustrated is they look to hit home runs. We need him just to act like a worker,” said Hitchcock.
“What he’s doing is he’s looking to try to catch fast breaks, he’s looking to catch the other team napping. But when you play against guys like [Marc-Edouard Vlasic], you’re not going to catch him napping. He’s just got to feel comfortable playing within the system, playing within the framework.”
Hitchcock added, “I think it’s a natural tendency with younger players who have this heightened sense of urgency to do what they do well, which for him is score goals. He’s gotten too far away from the play. He’s got himself too stretched out. We just need him to come back to the puck a little bit more.”
As we noted yesterday, Tarasenko has been held pointless in five games against the Sharks. In his last three games combined, he’s managed just four shots total. This from a guy who scored 40 of the Blues’ 224 goals during the regular season, then put up 13 points (7G, 6A) in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
We’ll see tonight if the “hard lessons” continue for the 24-year-old, or if he can find a way to help get his team back to St. Louis for Game 7.
It’s been another successful spring for Tyler Johnson.
Johnson, the most diminutive member of Tampa Bay’s vaunted “Triplets” line, is racking up the playoff points yet again. He has 17 through 16 games — tied with Joe Thornton for sixth-most in the postseason — and, depending on how far the Bolts go this year, could best last year’s total, when he had 23 in 24.
Not bad, considering the physical pounding Johnson has taken.
At just 5-foot-9 and 182 pounds, the playoff grind has certainly taken its toll over the last two years. Johnson was rendered all but ineffective in last year’s Cup Final versus Chicago due to a broken right wrist and, this year, dealt with an upper-body injury in the opening round and a puck to the face just prior to Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final.
Not that it slowed him down any.
Johnson scored the game-winning OT tally in Game 4, getting his body in front of a Jason Garrison shot to deflect home past Marc-Andre Fleury. That earned high praise from Lightning head coach Jon Cooper, who heaped superlatives on his undersized star.
“He’s a winner — that’s what winners do,” coach Jon Cooper said of Johnson, per the Tampa Bay Times. “They don’t back down. And when there’s a challenge ahead of you, you’ve got to find a way to meet the challenge. There’s a lot of coaches that had a front row seat to see how this kid plays and how he competes.
“And it’s not always the size of the player, it’s the size of the heart, and that’s Tyler Johnson.”
The Pittsburgh Penguins were able to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday to force a Game 7, now the St. Louis Blues will try to do the same against the San Jose Sharks tonight. You can catch Game 6 via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.
St. Louis at San Jose (9:00 p.m. ET)
The television broadcast of Game 6 is on NBCSN. If you want to stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.
In the meantime, here are some relevant links:
On the brink of elimination, Blues turn back to Elliott
The Blues could sure use a goal or two from Tarasenko
Feeding frenzy: Sharks send Blues to the brink of elimination in Western Conference Final
Stanley Cup Final to begin Monday
After establishing himself in the Swedish league, Anton Lindholm will head to North America.
The Colorado Avalanche announced that they have signed the 21-year-old defenseman to a three-year, entry-level contract. They selected Lindholm in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
More of a defensive defenseman, Lindholm only registered four assists in 30 Swedish league games with Skelleftea AIK in 2015-16, but he also had a team-high 85 hits despite missing a chunk of the season due to injury. During the playoffs he helped his team reach the SHL Finals by leading them in both hits and blocked shots.
That was his second full campaign with Skelleftea AIK. The next step for Lindholm will likely be for him to continue his development in the AHL.