Luke Schenn; Jeff Carter

With negotiatons stalling, Luke Schenn’s agent says that new contract might be an ‘August issue’

While teams were chomping at the bit to splurge on unrestricted free agents on July 1, the atmosphere for restricted free agents has been very different.

Tampa Bay Lightning fans agonized over every ridiculous (and even maybe the occasional semi-legitimate) rumor about Steven Stamkos before he was finally re-signed to an “everyone wins” deal. While talks of a stalemate between Shea Weber and the Nashville Predators might amount to his agent’s posturing, there’s a genuine concern that his contract negotiations might hamper the team’s ability to keep its “Big Three” in Tennessee. It’s even tough to praise Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi for his shrewd series of off-season moves because he still needs to sign Drew Doughty to what might be a legacy-defining contract.

One player who might fly under the RFA radar a bit (except in Toronto, of course) is Maple Leafs defenseman Luke Schenn. While Schenn’s game leans far more toward defense (he lead all NHL defensemen in hits during the 2010-11 season with 251 and was the team’s leader in shorthanded ice time) he really captured a lot of hearts when things were especially bleak during his 2008-09 rookie season. Maybe worries haven’t reached a fever pitch because the Leafs signed most of their free agents already and the team showed far more promise in 10-11 – or perhaps because rival general managers simply aren’t sending offer sheets these days – but Schenn’s situation might remain a concern for some Leafs fans.

Then again, when you consider context, Schenn’s stalling situation might have as much to do with his representation as it does with his asking price. Schenn is represented by big-time agent Don Meehan, who has plenty on his plate this off-season since he also represents the likes of Stamkos, Doughty and Zach Parise. (Maybe Schenn needs an agent with a more personal, Jerry Maguire-like approach?)

When asked about Schenn’s negotiations, Meehan told the Toronto Sun that a deal probably won’t get done until next week … or maybe even later next month.

“It’s more of an August issue,” Schenn’s agent, Don Meehan, said on Tuesday.

Leafs assistant general manager Claude Loiselle is probably going to be one of the point men in contract negotiations with Schenn, and he is on vacation.

Considering Brian Burke’s burgeoning fleet of assistant general managers, the Leafs should probably be able to get a deal done sooner or later. They should be able to get a solid deal considering comparable restricted free agents (Meehan probably hopes the name “Karl Alzner” doesn’t come up too often). Yet even if he proves to be a tough nut to crack, the Leafs should have at least $5.2 million in cap space to work with. They’ll want to save some of that for trade deadline flexibility, but the takeaway is that Schenn probably won’t be playing anywhere else anytime soon.

Just for Men: Sidney Crosby

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People love star athletes because they can do amazing things. Even so, people also often love to see the occasional moment of weakness.

Aside from the occasional injury hiccup, Sidney Crosby‘s been as advertised after being a super-hyped No. 1 overall pick. He has that “Golden Goal,” two Olympic gold medals, a Stanley Cup ring and plenty of individual accolades.

… Yet he can’t really grow much of a beard.

Granted, his facial hair is thicker now that he’s “Sid the star nearing 30” rather than “Sid the Kid,” but no one will confuse him for Brent Burns and his living-in-a-cabin-in-the-woods beard.

For some, especially Crosby-haters, it’s fodder for mockery.

For the rest of us, it’s merely comforting to see that people like Crosby are human and actually have a few flaws.

Game 5 will be ‘the most important game of our lives,’ says Caps’ Beagle

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Not many people expected the Capitals-Penguins series to be over in five games, but there’s a chance that could happen before the end of the week. After their 3-2 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh on Wednesday night, the Capitals are one loss away from being bounced from the 2016 playoffs.

The Capitals failed to take advantage of the fact that Kris Letang was suspended for Game 4 because of his hit on Marcus Johansson in Game 3. Letang is now set to return for Game 5 which makes Washington’s task even more difficult.

“We didn’t take advantage of it,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said, per NHL.com. “One thing I said to the guys coming into this, and we talked it about it yesterday, was when Kris got his suspension, is that they’re going to rally. Their whole team, their forwards are going to come back. They talked about they didn’t play their best game (in Game 3) and now they have Letang out and everybody had to step up on their side, and I thought they did.”

If you look back at the regular season, the Capitals were head and shoulders above the rest of the Eastern Conference and the league for a good portion of the season. Washington finished 11 points ahead of second place Dallas in the league standings and it looked like they had the team that would finally take them over the hump.

Although things look gloomy, it’s important to realize that the series is far from over. Many NHLers would tell you that the fourth win is always the hardest to come by in a best-of-seven series, and by no means is anyone expecting the Capitals to wave the white flag.

“Whenever you lose a game, it’s obviously an opportunity missed, but it had nothing to do with them missing some of their players,” said Caps forward Jay Beagle, per NHL.com. “We’re looking forward. Our back’s against the wall and the most important game of our lives is coming up.”

Game 5 goes Saturday night in Washington.

PHT Morning Skate: Shane Doan takes a (friendly) shot at the Miracle on Ice

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Shane Doan took a friendly jab at the the movie “Miracle” and the Miracle on Ice. (BarDown)

–The best of the worst Upper Deck hockey cards from 2015-16. (Puck Junk)

–Here’s a list of the top 50 players in WHL history. (WHL)

–Watch the highlights of last night’s game between the Penguins and Capitals. (Top)

–A sad story about how Chris Phillips feels helpless as his hometown of Fort McMurray burns. (CBC)

–“You want to get back into things right away (but) I think these last four or five months have been good for me.” Former Penguins coach Mike Johnston is ready to coach again. (Local XPress)

–Blues forward Jori Lehtera is in a pretty random commercial:

Penguins push Capitals to brink of elimination with OT win

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The Pittsburgh Penguins ended a long run of playoff overtime struggles on Wednesday … and are now one win away from ending the Washington Capitals’ season.

Many expected the Penguins to crater on defense without Kris Letang (they were 2-8-1 in the regular season without him). While there were shaky moments, Pittsburgh emphasized its speed and other strengths in taking a 3-2 overtime thriller against Washington.

With that, the Penguins’ series lead grows to 3-1.

It was a thrilling, sometimes nasty contest, from Sidney Crosby shaking off an Alex Ovechkin slash, to Evgeni Malkin delivering a hit some thought was over the line and plenty of typical playoff skirmishes.

Ultimately, Matt Murray played another strong game and Patric Hornqvist scored the overtime-winner to put the Capitals in a tough spot.

The Penguins lost their previous eight playoff overtime games, so maybe it was just a matter of time before such a game went their way?

Then again, the history between the two teams is a little different:

If the Capitals want to advance beyond the second round for the first time in the Ovechkin era, they’ll need to accomplish quite the feat against arguably the hottest team in the NHL.