Why Karl Alzner’s signing proves there won’t be offer sheets for Drew Doughty or Steven Stamkos

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When Washington re-signed Karl Alzner to a two-year, $2.57 million deal the most stunning part of the contract was how cheaply it was and with how few years it came attached with it. Capitals GM George McPhee chalked it up as another cap management victory this summer and those watching things around the league were left amazed for a couple of reasons. Not only was McPhee able to keep one of his young stud defensive stoppers, he was able to do it without outside interference in the form of an offer sheet.

Last year we saw one restricted free agent signed to an offer sheet as Sharks GM Doug Wilson tried to take advantage of the Blackhawks poor salary cap situation by signing Niklas Hjalmarsson to a four-year $14 million offer sheet. The Blackhawks didn’t blink at the Sharks move and matched it before they ultimately parted ways with Antti Niemi. While there were no hard feelings between Wilson and Hawks GM Stan Bowman, it makes us wonder why a similar poaching move wasn’t made on Alzner this summer. After all, the Capitals were up against the salary cap and the seemingly small deal they got Alzner locked up to put them over the cap just slightly by over $800,000.

As it turns out, the Caps and Alzner were never too far apart in what they wanted. Katie Carrera of The Washington Post finds out from Alzner’s agent J.P. Barry that the framework was solid between both sides all along.

Barry explained that the team initially cited comparables in a $1.2 million to $1.4 million range for the second year while he sought something in a higher range closer to $1.9 million to $2 million. They ultimately agreed to $1.75 million for the second year, which was combined with the qualifying offer of $826,895 and then spread out over the duration of the deal, Barry said.

“Our valuation of 1.75 puts him in the higher range of guys who have his experience and play those minutes as a shutdown defensemen, so I’m pleased with that,” Barry said. “At the same time, we’re fully aware that we think Karl has an excellent future and if he continues on this path he’ll be in a whole different class” when this contract expires.

Alzner himself said that there were no other teams that made an offer to him. While that’s stunning to hear as Alzner’s a guy with a bright future to go and still just 22 years-old, it leaves us thinking that anyone hoping that either fellow restricted free agents Drew Doughty of L.A. and Steve Stamkos of Tampa Bay will sign offer sheets will be left disappointed.

While Doughty is waiting around for the Kings to make an offer (they reportedly haven’t made an offer to Doughty since June 23) and Stamkos and the Lightning continue to work things out, you have to wonder where other teams are to try and push those teams with offers that could make them face up to difficult salary cap and roster questions of their own. While the Kings have enough cap space to get Doughty taken care of according to CapGeek.com (about $10 million), Tampa Bay could be in a lot of danger if someone ponied up big for Stamkos.

While the Lightning are still about $15 million off the cap with Teddy Purcell yet to re-sign as well, should a monster offer come through to Stamkos the Lightning undoubtedly would match, but owing a ton of money to three players in Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier, and Martin St. Louis would make their payroll questions tough ones in the future.

With the possibility of cap roll backs and other new CBA worries next year getting a smart deal done for both players is important for both the Kings and Lightning. For other teams looking to potentially put the screws to them, it’s a missed opportunity that makes you wonder if there’s some kind of collusion going on not to screw each other over with labor peril and new rules to follow on the horizon.

That’s a lofty and nasty allegation, of course, but with prime talent like Doughty and Stamkos there, potentially, for the taking and seemingly no offers coming in for either player it makes you wonder why opposing GMs wouldn’t be huddling with their own capologists to figure something out to land a premiere young NHL star.

The business side of the NHL is obviously not something us couch jockeys are very savvy with, but boiling it all down to seeing two top talents dangling in restricted free agent purgatory belonging to teams with enough cap space to burn to take care of both players and remaining unsigned with no action from other teams is baffling to us.

We’re not sure if that means former Oilers GM Kevin Lowe made it impossible for teams to feel comfortable signing restricted free agents with any tact after his overzealous work in signing Dustin Penner and Thomas Vanek to obscenely large offer sheets in the past, but Doughty and Stamkos are no-brainer superstars and if a team was willing to sacrifice the draft picks necessary to sign them and pay up accordingly with the money, why wouldn’t a team roll the dice and take a shot?

Apparently these days if you’re not going to take a shot at a guy destined to make up to $2 million per season, going after guys set to make up to or more than $7 million a year is an absolute non-starter. After the kinds of stupid money we’ve seen thrown around all summer, it leaves our heads shaking at the insanity of it all around. With this sort of craziness, the only people that are happy about it are Lightning GM Steve Yzerman and Kings GM Dean Lombardi.

Here’s how the Penguins will line up for Game 1

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PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins are back in the Stanley Cup Final for the second year in a row and are looking to become the first team to win it in back-to-back years in two decades.

Here is a look at how they are expected to lineup on Monday night for the first game of the series.

Forwards

Chris KunitzSidney CrosbyConor Sheary
Scott WilsonEvgeni MalkinPhil Kessel
Bryan RustNick BoninoCarter Rowney
Jake GuentzelMatt CullenPatric Hornqvist

This is based on what we saw from the Penguins in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against Ottawa and based on the practice lines on Sunday. With Patric Hornqvist returning to the lineup on Monday night it is going to come down to Jake Guentzel or Carl Hagelin being the odd man out, and given that Hagelin spent extra time on the ice with the scratches following the morning skate it seems likely he will be the scratch. Guentzel is still the NHL’s playoff leader in goals, but is currently riding an eight-game goal drought.

The Kunitz-Crosby-Sheary line was assembled in Game 7 and produced two of the Penguins’ three goals in their double overtime win.

Defense

Ian ColeJustin Schultz
Olli MaattaTrevor Daley
Brian DumoulinRon Hainsey

While Mike Sullivan has had a tendency to throw his line combinations into a blender during the postseason, his defense pairings have remained relatively consistent as long as he has the same healthy players in the lineup. And they are the ones you see above. Cole and Schultz have spent a significant portion of the season playing alongside one another and have formed a really solid duo. Olli Maatta has had some struggles at times, but over the past couple of weeks has played some of his best hockey in over a year. All of these pairings will get a similar amount of ice time.

Goalies

Matt Murray (starter)
Marc-Andre Fleury (backup)

Murray has reclaimed his starting spot since returning from injury and has won three of his first four starts while posting a .946 save percentage. He is playing in his second Stanley Cup Final even though he is still considered a rookie in the eyes of the NHL.

Related: Here’s how the Predators will line up in Game 1

Here’s how the Predators will line up for Game 1

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PITTSBURGH — For the first time in franchise history, the Nashville Predators will play in a Stanley Cup Final tonight.

Here’s how the Preds are expected to look in Game 1 against the Penguins at PPG Paints Arena:

 

 

Forwards

Filip ForsbergColton SissonsPontus Aberg
Viktor ArvidssonMike FisherJames Neal
Colin WilsonCalle JarnkrokCraig Smith
Frederick GaudreauVernon FiddlerAustin Watson

The big omission up front is Ryan Johansen, the Preds’ No. 1 center who’s been diagnosed with acute compartment syndrome and won’t play in the final. Kevin Fiala was also lost for the playoffs after getting hurt in the second round.

Johansen was acquired last year to give the Preds the type of elite center they’d been missing. Obviously, the timing of his injury couldn’t have been much worse.

“We lost a lot of offense and a big, heavy, strong centerman in Johansen,” said Sissons. “There’s gonna be some big shoes for us to fill.”

Of note, Wilson was absent from this morning’s skate. If he doesn’t play for whatever reason, expect Cody McLeod to take his spot.

Defense

Roman JosiRyan Ellis
Mattias EkholmP.K. Subban
Matt Irwin —  Yannick Weber

This is the strength of Nashville’s roster. Essentially, the Preds have two first pairings at their disposal, and head coach Peter Laviolette deploys them as such.

Penguins center Evgeni Malkin told reporters yesterday that it’s like the Preds have “four Karlssons,” referring to Josi, Ellis, Ekholm, and Subban.

That’s a slight exaggeration, but it’s arguably the best top four in the league.

Goalies

Pekka Rinne (starter)
Juuse Saros (backup)

Rinne has been excellent in these playoffs, compiling a 12-4 record with a .941 save percentage. This after a regular season where his save percentage fluctuated wildly from month-to-month.

“I think we started off really well (in the playoffs) against Chicago, then you gain some confidence, and personally I was playing well,” Rinne said. “Once that ball starts rolling you feel better and better and things start to go your way. I feel the biggest thing is as a team, for a long time in the regular season we were trying to find consistency and at times we didn’t do a good job. I feel like this postseason we’ve been really consistent and solid and playing really good hockey for 16 games now.”

Rinne has been so good that Saros has yet to even play a second of the postseason.

Related: Here’s how the Penguins will line up for Game 1

Sens GM doesn’t rule out possibility of asking Dion Phaneuf to waive NMC for expansion draft

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Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion met with reporters on Monday, and quickly made one thing clear heading into the summer: Craig Anderson will be protected from the expansion draft.

Beyond that, Dorion has a myriad of pending decisions on his plate over the next few weeks — as does every NHL general manager, with the expansion draft for the Vegas Golden Knights approaching.

While Anderson is going to be protected, Dorion admitted he and his staff are still figuring out who on their roster will gain protection. Those discussions, it appears, will include Dion Phaneuf, the 32 years old defenseman with four more years on his current contract and a hefty cap hit of $7 million.

Phaneuf scored nine goals and 30 points during this past regular season, and had one goal and five points during the postseason.

He also has a no-movement clause in his contract, which garners protection from the expansion draft. But there have been rumblings the Sens may ask him to waive that no-movement clause.

“That’s something we’re going to talk internally (about) in the next few weeks. We know we have quite a few good defensemen,” said Dorion.

“If we ever end up losing a defenseman, we know we have guys that can come in and replace him. I’m not sure. There’s a lot of discussions to be had. If ever we were to go that direction, I think I should let Dion know first.”

From the Ottawa Citizen:

The Senators issues have been well-documented, especially on the back end. Asking veteran defenceman Dion Phaneuf to waive his ‘no-move’ clause to allow the club to protect Marc Methot makes the most sense. The Senators don’t want to lose Phaneuf and the guess is they’d get re-assurance from Vegas they won’t.

The Senators do have a solid young prospect defenseman in Thomas Chabot, the 18th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, who Dorion singled out as a player that could challenge for a roster spot when training camp opens in September.

Dorion said he didn’t expect “big radical changes” to this roster next season, but the club also has several players on expiring contracts, including six unrestricted free agents (Viktor Stalberg, Chris Neil, Chris Kelly, Tommy Wingels, Tom Pyatt and Mike Condon).

They also have some key pending restricted free agents to get under contract, as well. Ryan Dzingel emerged as an every-game player, while Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored eight times in 19 games during the playoffs, which is only four off from matching his entire goal production from 82 games in the regular season.

“I will meet personally with Chris Neil and Chris Kelly in the next few weeks to find out what their plans are and if they’re in relation with our plans,” said Dorion.

Both Kelly and Neil are 36 and 37 years old, respectively, and were used sparingly during the playoffs. Dorion will meet with his staff, including the coaches, to determine a plan for that entire group of unrestricted free agents.

“They can’t all be back. It’s just a numbers thing. So we have to look at who fits best — our needs, our mock roster, where we need to go,” said Dorion.

A key decision on that front is likely in net.

Dorion put the onus on pending UFA goalie Condon, saying he will make him an offer and it’s up to Condon to decide whether he wants to sign it and return to Ottawa next season.

In the event Condon rejects the offer, Dorion said Andrew Hammond could come back as the No. 2 goalie to Anderson.

Longtime d-man Ozolinsh named head coach of KHL club

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Sandis Ozolinsh, the veteran blueliner that played nearly 900 games with six different NHL clubs, has been named the head coach of KHL club Dinamo Riga.

Riga made the announcement on Monday, promoting Ozolinsh from assistant coach. It’s been a pretty quick ascension up the coaching ladder for the 44-year-old, who was still playing for Dinamo as recently as three years ago.

Ozolinsh replaces outgoing head coach Normunds Sejejs, who was also serving as GM. The club is coming off a difficult season in which it won just 11 times in 60 games. Riga employs a pair of ex-NHLers in Colton Gillies and Tim Sestito.

A talented offensive defenseman on the Avs team that won the Stanley Cup in ’96, Ozolinsh was named to the NHL All-Star team seven times during his career, and finished as a Norris finalist in ’97.