Washington Capitals v Pittsburgh Penguins

Predators sign defenseman Tyler Sloan, prepare for possible arbitration with Weber

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The Nashville Predators made a minor move on Thursday by signing former Capitals defenseman Tyler Sloan to a one-year deal. Sloan became an unrestricted free agent this summer after the Capitals bought-out the remaining year on his contract that was scheduled to pay him $700,000 this season. Last season, Sloan had a goal and five assists in 33 NHL games as he split time between the Washington Capitals, Hershey Bears, and the press box.

The move gives the Predators more depth on the blueline as they work to resolve a few question marks. General Manager David Poile has already announced that the team plans on auditioning a few of their highly-touted defensive prospects for third-pairing roles behind the likes of Ryan Suter, Shea Weber, Jonathan Blum, Kevin Klein, and/or Brett Lebda. Adding more intrigue to the corps of defensemen—and possibly causing the Predators to sign Sloan for insurance purposes is that Francis Bouillon experienced another setback in his recovery for last season’s concussion. GM Poile explained:

“Things were looking very good. He was exercising at a very high level and his confidence to be ready for training camp was very good. Then he had these headaches. So our medical staff has recommended he back off his workouts.”

Sloan would bring in more depth for a team that is already planning on breaking in a few youngsters into the line-up. Only time will tell if Sloan is comfortable in the role though. It was reported that the Capitals bought Sloan out of his contract because he asked for a trade in order to get more playing time. Here’s what Jeff Helperl (Sloan’s agent) had to say after the Caps parted ways with his client:

“He wanted to get to a spot that he could play. He was always used as a seventh or eighth defenseman.”

Unless he plans on playing more time as a forward or the NHL allows teams to dress eight defensemen on a nightly-basis, there’s a very good chance he’ll wind up in the press box just as often as he did in Washington.

More importantly for the Predators and their fans, the team continues to work towards a deal with their superstar captain Shea Weber. If the two sides are unable to come to an amicable decision on their own, Weber’s arbitration hearing is set for Tuesday, August 2nd. If they can’t work something out before the hearing, an independent arbitrator will rule on Weber’s worth and the team will agree to any of the terms handed down. Realistically, the Predators will sign Weber no matter how expensive the terms would be next week—they’d just like to bring him back at the most cost-effective price. GM Poile talked about their plans over the next few days:

“We are preparing to go to Toronto (for arbitration). Would I like to sign Shea to a longer-term contract vs. going to arbitration? Absolutely.”

Of course Poile would like to sign Weber before arbitration. In other news, the sky is blue and the sun is bright. Bringing in Tyler Sloan for depth purposes will have no affect whatsoever on the Weber negotiations. However, one has to wonder just how bad Bouillon’s concussion really is. After looking like he was going to hit training camp in great condition, now there are questions whether he’ll be healthy enough to start camp on time with his teammates on September 15.

One thing we know is Tyler Sloan will be there—and a much wealthy Shea Weber.

Capitals shine glaring light on Blues’ goalie woes

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 23:  Jake Allen #34 of the St. Louis Blues makes a save during the first period against the San Jose Sharks in Game Five of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 23, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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If you’re reaction to the headline “Something is off about the St. Louis Blues” was “Yeah, their goaltending,” then Thursday only emboldened that opinion.

It wasn’t just that the Washington Capitals bombarded the Blues by a score of 7-3. It’s that they really didn’t need to fire a whole lot of shots on goal to get to seven.

Here’s a harsh rule of thumb: when both of your goalies play in a game and each one barely makes more saves than goals allowed, that’s an awful night. Take a look at what Jake Allen and Carter Hutton went through:

Allen: six saves, four goals allowed in 25:11 time on ice
Hutton: five saves, three goals allowed in 35:49

Allen got pulled from the contest twice, by the way. He’s been pulled from four games since Dec. 30. Woof.

Even before these horrendous performances, the Blues goalies have been shaky. Hutton came into tonight with an ugly .898 save percentage; Allen wasn’t much better with a .900 mark.

Those are the type of numbers that would make Dallas Stars fans cringe, or at least experience some uncomfortable familiarity.

Now, is it all on Hutton and Allen? Much like with the Stars’ embattled goalies, much of the struggles probably come down to a team struggling in front of them.

Even so, if you assign more of the blame to Allen and Hutton, nights like this Capitals thrashing definitely strengthen your argument. Yikes.

Rangers overwhelm Leafs, make life pretty easy for Lundqvist in win

TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 19:  Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers faces a shot in the warm-up prior to play against the Toronto Maple Leafs in an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on January 19, 2017 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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Heading into Thursday, many were wondering how the New York Rangers will handle Henrik Lundqvist‘s struggles. Instead, the focus shifted to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ difficulties, perhaps specifically in dealing with Morgan Rielly‘s absence.

The Rangers handily won this one 5-2, at least giving Lundqvist the win. He wasn’t especially busy, stopping 23 out of 25 shots, so you can probably file his story under “To be continued.”

Lundqvist wasn’t oblivious to his team’s impressive overall play.

Really, it was all about the waves of attackers the Rangers can send at opponents and the trouble that caused for the Maple Leafs. It wasn’t the easiest night for Frank Corrado, in particular, who took a couple costly penalties.

The Rangers’ next two games come in a road contest vs. the Red Wings on Sunday and a home game against the Kings on Monday. Perhaps those matches will serve as a better barometer for where Lundqvist’s really at, as he passed tonight’s test … but it wasn’t a particularly difficult one.

So, is Mike Condon actually really good? He certainly was against Columbus

OTTAWA, ON - JANUARY 8: Mike Condon #1 of the Ottawa Senators stands at the bench during a break in a game against the Edmonton Oilers at Canadian Tire Centre on January 8, 2017 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
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Considering their numbers heading in, many were perplexed when the Ottawa Senators essentially replaced Andrew Hammond with Mike Condon. Now many are perplexed by just how strong Condon’s often been for Ottawa.

Thursday might stand as the prime example that this guy could be better than many expected.

The Columbus Blue Jackets dominated much of the play, generating a 42-28 shots on goal advantage, but Ottawa ended up winning 2-0 tonight.

Condon already came into tonight with a solid save percentage (.915 before this shutout), and he’s now won four of his last five games. Three of his four career shutouts have come this season.

Ignoring his one relief appearance with Pittsburgh this season for the sake of simplicity, just consider his tough times with Montreal last season. He went 21-25-6 with a shaky .903 save percentage.

This marks just his 21st start and 23rd appearance of this season, so it’s not a guaranteee for future results. Still … it’s another example that goalies are as just about as unpredictable as they are crucial to a team’s fate.

More and more, it seems like Condon might just be a difference-maker, and in the positive sense this time around.

Greiss blanks Stars as Isles win in first game of post-Capuano era

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 19:  Doug Weight of the New York Islanders handles his first game as head coach against the Dallas Stars at the Barclays Center on January 19, 2017 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The New York Islanders began the Doug Weight era in the same way Jack Capuano’s ended: with a shutout.

Yeah, it’s easy to forget that the Islanders actually won their last game under Capuano, consider all that’s happened since.

They blanked the Boston Bruins 4-0 on Monday and generated a 3-0 shutout against the Dallas Stars on Thursday. It’s quite a feather in the cap of goalie Thomas Greiss, who owns these back-to-back shutouts.

(It’s worth mentioning that, for all the Bruins’ and Stars’ flaws, they can be very explosive on offense …)

That Monday shutout wasn’t enough for Capuano to save his job, and the Isles still have a long way to go after this encouraging outcome. The East’s second wild card spot still seems like a long shot for Weight & Co.

Even so, the Islanders will take it. They play their next five games at home and seven of eight in Brooklyn, so if there’s ever a time for movement, it would logically come now.

If nothing else, maybe life will be a bit better for John Tavares. He scored another goal on Thursday to add to his beautiful 1-0 tally.

Baby steps, right?