Predators roundtable: Which one of Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne is most expendable?

4 Comments

As we discussed earlier, the Predators are struggling to re-sign Shea Weber. Elliotte Friedman also points out that the team might have a hard time retaining the “Big 3” of Weber, Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne, a subject many people tackled already. It’s no guarantee that the Predators will need to part ways with one of those players (nor is it a guarantee that they will retain any of them), but in the spirit of discussion, we thought we’d ask four of our favorite Predators bloggers a simple yet challenging question:

If you had to let one of Weber, Suter or Rinne go, which one would it be?

Here are their answers.

Buddy Oakes from Preds on the Glass:

I think Friedman’s numbers are a bit high for Suter and Rinne and I’m still thinking that Weber will come in about $7 million since he has told me specifically that he wants to leave money for others to keep the team together.

It’s probably an extreme minority view, but I would let Weber go if I had a choice. He would be the most marketable for a trade and would result in the greatest return. Suter is a better pure defenseman and would have an offensive upside if not paired with Weber. We have seen that Suter plays better without Weber than Weber does without Suter.

Also, the Preds have a good stockpile of young D-men to filter into the system. In spite of having other young goalies, Rinne should have several more years as one of the league’s best and is the true MVP of the team.

Amanda DiPaolo from Inside Smashville:

I fall in the camp of doing whatever it takes, including dumping salary, to keep Rinne, Suter and Weber, but I’d let go of Suter if one was going to leave.

While Suter is a great defenseman, Weber is the face of the franchise and better all around. People like to say that Weber is so good because he has a Suter playing with him – you need the stay at home d-man to allow for the power d-man like Weber to play his game – but it’s a role Blum could play, making Suter more replaceable.

Keeping Weber is also important to the franchise from an outside perspective since the Predators have a reputation for developing solid players and then losing them to free agency. Rinne has continued to improve every season in net. I’m just not ready to hand over the reins to Lindback (or anyone else for that matter).

Dirk Hoag, managing editor of On The Forecheck:

If forced to let one of the Big 3 go, my choice would easily be Pekka Rinne. As beloved as he is here in Nashville, he has a shorter history of elite performance than Weber or Suter, and when you look at the evolution of the goaltending market over the last few years, tying up something like $6 million annually seems like a poor long-term decision.

Besides, the real MVP of the Preds is goaltending coach Mitch Korn; the team has enjoyed superior play in net pretty much every season despite rotating through a number of players after Tomas Vokoun left in 2007. Whether it’s through the maturation of Anders Lindback, or the budget-friendly acquisition of a proven veteran, it would appear that if you need to make a financially-driven decision that least affects the overall quality of the team, Pekka has to go.

Jeremy K. Gover, managing editor of Section 303.

Let’s make one thing perfectly clear: Pekka Rinne is an all-world, elite goaltender (and those don’t just grow on trees). We know this not because he was runner-up for the Vezina, not because he should’ve won the Calder over Steve Mason in 2009 and not because he took fourth in the Hart voting either. We know this because he’s been giving the offensively-challenged Predators a chance to win every single game for the past three years. So Rinne’s out.

Shea Weber is the team captain. He’s the leader on and off the ice. He may not be the best quote in the locker room but he’s the closest thing the Preds have to a face of the league. So he’s out.

That leaves Ryan Suter. As much as he’s the first lieutenant in Weber’s army, he is the most expendable of the three. Nashville has other defensemen in the system who could eventually fill his role. So, while it would hurt (a lot!), the lesser of three evils is Suter.

***

So that’s two votes for Suter and one vote for Weber and Rinne. Personally, I’d lean toward replacing Rinne since the team has such a strong track record when it comes to generating quality goalies (and supporting them with great defense). As you can see from this study, it wouldn’t be an easy choice either way.

The Buzzer: McDavid dominates; Fleury’s unlucky return

Getty
3 Comments

Player Of The Night: Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers have at least started to show some signs of life in recent games. They were shutout on Sunday night in Toronto, but sandwiched around that game were a convincing 6-2 win in Montreal and then a thoroughly dominating 7-2 win in Columbus on Tuesday night that left Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella completely speechless.

Leading the way for the Oilers was captain Connor McDavid as he went off with a four-point night.

The four points are a season high for him and the fifth time this season he has recorded at least three points.

That performance gives him 39 points in 31 games on the season and currently has him third in the NHL scoring race, three points behind Tampa Bay Lightning teammates Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos.

Marc-Andre Fleury Probably Deserved Better In His Return To The Lineup

Marc-Andre Fleury made is return to the Vegas Golden Knights net and looked great, stopping 35 of the 37 shots he faced. Unfortunately that was not enough to get Vegas a win as they fell in a shootout to the Carolina Hurricanes, 3-2.

One of those two shots in regulation that beat him? It was this.

That is unfortunate.

Still, that is another point for Vegas as they continue their push for a playoff spot in the Western Conference during their inaugural season in the NHL.

Highlight Of The Night

The Philadelphia Flyers were 4-2 winners over the Toronto Maple Leafs and have now, suddenly, won four games in a row following a 10-game losing streak.

They picked up the winner on Tuesday thanks to this goal that featured a crazy between-the-legs pass.

Highlight Of The Night Part Two

Now let us take a look at Johnny Gaudreau from the Calgary Flames. This came in a losing effort in the shootout but this is still a slick move. Maybe illegal? Either way, it counted.

Factoid(s) Of The Night

— By stopping all 32 shots he faced against the St. Louis Blues, Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy picked up his 20th win of the season. He is just the sixth goalie in NHL history to win at least 20 games within his first 25 starts of a season. [NHL Public Relations]

Matt Cullen scored his 250th career goal in the Minnesota Wild’s 2-1 shootout win over the Calgary Flames, making him the 29th American-born player in NHL history to reach that mark. [Minnesota Wild PR]

— Carolina Hurricanes goalies Cam Ward recorded his 300th career win on Tuesday night in their 3-2 shootout win over the Vegas Golden Knights. He is the fifth active goaltender to reach that mark. [NHL Public Relations]

Scores

Buffalo Sabres 3, Ottawa Senators 2

New Jersey Devils 5, Los Angeles Kings 1

Philadelphia Flyers 4, Toronto Maple Leafs 2

Washington Capitals 5, Colorado Avalanche 2

Edmonton Oilers 7, Columbus Blue Jackets 2

Tampa Bay Lightning 3, St. Louis Blues 0

Minnesota Wild 2, Calgary Flames 1

Chicago Blackhawks 3, Florida Panthers 2

Carolina Hurricanes 3, Vegas Golden Knights 2

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Vasilevskiy shines again as Lightning take top spot in NHL

2 Comments

Tuesday’s game in St. Louis was a showdown featuring the top two teams in the NHL.

In the end it was the Lightning picking up the 3-0 win to extend their current winning streak to five games and to reclaim sole possession of the No. 1 spot in the NHL.

Their win improves them to 22-6-2 on the season and puts them two points ahead of the Blues despite having played two fewer games.

It was another impressive showing for Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy who has been one of the underrated stars of this year’s Lightning team. Most of the attention has been directed to forwards Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov (and deservedly so!) but let’s not lose sight of the fact that Vasilevskiy, in his first full season as the Lighting’s full-time starter, has been one of the best goalies in the league so far.

Tuesday’s game was his third shutout of the season, and after his 32-save performance against the Blues his .933 save percentage is among the best in the NHL, while his 20 wins (in only 25 starts) are tops in the league. Nobody else in the league has more than 17.

While Vasilevskiy was shining in net again, Kucherov scored his 21st goal of the season to move back into a tie with Alex Ovechkin for the top spot in the league. It was also his 42nd point which moved him into a tie with Stamkos for the league lead.

Brayden Point also continued his breakout season by opening the scoring with his 13th goal of the season. He also added an assist on Tyler Johnson‘s third period goal.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

John Tortorella had no time for questions after blowout loss (Video)

Getty
2 Comments

Since being hired by the Columbus Blue Jackets John Tortorella has seemed to be a kinder, gentler coach.

The blow ups and battles with the media don’t seem to happen as much. We don’t get as many rants.

He just does not seem as angry all the time.

Losing 7-2 at home to the Edmonton Oilers, however, might change a few things.

That it was happened to the Blue Jackets on Tuesday night and Tortorella was in no mood to answer question about the game.

His press conference consisted of him stepping to the podium, saying there is no point in answering questions about the game, then leaving.

Here it is in all of its glory.

The only question we have: Is this shorter than the night he said the New York Rangers “sucked from head to toe?”

(Oddly enough, that game was also against the Edmonton Oilers).

That press conference lasted, roughly, 14 seconds from the time he started talking until the time he walked away (and also included the line “I know you have a job to do”).

Tonight’s comes in at just around 12 seconds. So we might have a record for the shortest John Tortorella press conference of all time.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Former NHL defenseman Zarley Zalapski dies at 49

Getty
2 Comments

CALGARY, Alberta (AP) Former NHL defenseman Zarley Zalapski has died at age 49, according to the Calgary Flames. No cause of death was given.

Zalapski, a native of Edmonton, played 637 NHL games for Calgary, Pittsburgh, Hartford, Montreal and Philadelphia from 1987 to 2000.

He was with the Flames from 1993 to 1998.

“We are proud that Zarley wore the Flames jersey, made Calgary his home following his playing career, represented our alumni executive and we will always remember him as a member of the Flames family,” Flames president and chief executive officer Ken King said Tuesday in a statement.

“This is a terrible loss of a man with great character who truly loved the game of hockey. We express our sincere condolences to the Zalapski family.”

Zalapski was a member of the Canadian team that finished fourth in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.

He had 99 goals, 285 assists and 684 penalty minutes in the NHL. Zalapski was named to the all-rookie team in 1989 and participated in the NHL All-Star Game in 1993.

Zalapski played stints in Austria and Switzerland after his NHL career and appeared in 11 games for the United Hockey League’s Kalamazoo Wings in 2004-05.

He was the fourth overall pick by the Penguins in the 1986 entry draft.