Toronto Maple Leafs v Philadelphia Flyers

Luke Schenn, Maple Leafs resume contract negotiations

With the last Shea Weber-sized domino of salary arbitration down, the NHL off-season is in near-shutdown mode. That doesn’t mean that every agent and GM can kick back and sip on umbrella-adorned cocktails until training camp kicks back up, though.

There are still a number of significant restricted free agents who need new contracts (but don’t have the deadline pressure of a pending arbitration hearing). While Los Angeles Kings phenom Drew Doughty is the most obvious example, Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Luke Schenn also finds himself without a deal for 2011-12.

This would be a far more nerve-wracking situation if NHL GMs possessed the bravado to send offer sheets to opposing teams, but since that isn’t going to happen, this is probably just a matter of time. To give the situation a college student analogy, a world of offer-sheets would make the lingering Schenn situation as stomach-churning as a high school sweetheart spending a semester abroad in Spain.* Without that offer-sheet threat, the stress level is downgraded to “Uh oh, that 10-page paper is due in two weeks, I better at least get started.”

It looks like the Maple Leafs and Schenn’s representatives are starting to type up that outline again. Sean Fitz-gerald of the National Post reports that the two sides have resumed negotiations this week.

Schenn is represented by Newport Sports Management Inc., the agency founded by Don Meehan. Leafs assistant general manager Claude Loiselle handles most contract talks for the team.

“We had a discussion with Claude Loiselle today, and we’re going to have another one tomorrow,” Meehan said Wednesday. “So our discussions are ongoing.”

Because Schenn is not arbitration-eligible, there is no real deadline for a new contract aside from the absolute, worst-case scenario, which requires him to be playing by Dec. 1. If he does not have a contract by then, he would not be eligible to play in the 2011-12 season.

Could Schenn’s contract disputes stretch past that December deadline? I’d put the odds at “Zero x Dan Cloutier’s chances of making the Hockey Hall of Fame.” (Translation: “No, it won’t stretch past that deadline.”)

Schenn isn’t a prolific force offensively, which is probably why his negotiations aren’t getting anywhere near as much attention as Weber or Doughty’s (aside from in Toronto, maybe). Mere scoring stats aren’t the best way to capture his impact on the Leafs, though. It’s his defensive steadiness that makes him a genuine asset; his 251 hits topped all NHL defensemen in 2010-11 and he was Toronto’s leader in penalty kill time. He also became something of a beacon of hope during his rookie season, when Maple Leafs fans didn’t have much of a bright side to look on in 08-09.

It’s hard to say how much Schenn might get paid since defense-first guys can be a little bit tougher to quantify at the bargaining table. The Maple Leafs have plenty of cap space to work with right now, so again, they should be able to get something done … even if it takes an all-night, caffeine-packed cram session.

* – Seriously, I pity anyone who must fight off the mental images of countless impeccably dressed Lotharios wooing their soul mates with their exotic accents. That’s pure stress, folks.

Capitals accuse Letang of leaving his feet, hitting Johansson in head

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Get this: the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins seem divided on the legality of Kris Letang‘s hit on Marcus Johansson.

(Take a moment to gather your thoughts amid this shocking revelation.)

You can watch the hit over and over in the video above. This post features some takes on that check, which the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly reviewing.

Generally speaking, the three things people discuss regarding the check is how late it might be, if Letang used his feet and if Johansson’s head was the principal point of contact.

Letang told his side of the story:

The Capitals disagree:

While Barry Trotz pleads the Fifth after his previous comments about Brooks Orpik‘s suspension:

No doubt about it, Letang’s status is the top story to follow in this series between Games 3 and 4. We’ll find out soon enough how it all shakes out.

Penguins ride Murray’s masterpiece to 2-1 series lead vs. Capitals

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If Marc-Andre Fleury suiting up bothers Matt Murray, then the rookie goalie channeled those feelings into a masterful performance on Monday.

The Washington Capitals absolutely dominated Game 3, but Murray was even better, stopping 47 shots as the Penguins stole one 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.

(Capitals fans might see some parallels to Washington’s Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers; they fell 2-0 despite a 44-11 shots on goal edge thanks to Michal Neuvirth‘s heroics.)

Murray stopped chance after chance before Alex Ovechkin finally broke through for his first goal of this series. Justin Williams then brought the Penguins’ lead down to 3-2 to make for a hold-your-breath final minute.

A driven Ovechkin and strong overall play from the Capitals (despite this defeat) aren’t the only reasons why Game 4 might present some twists.

First things first: Kris Letang might get suspended for Game 4 (if not for more than one game) thanks to this controversial check on Marcus Johansson.

Beyond that, there could be some bumps and bruises from this contest.

Bryan Rust left during the first period and didn’t return to the game after blocking a shot. Brian Dumoulin seemed shaken up after an Alex Ovechkin hit in the third period. The Capitals might have a player or two to look at, as well.

In other words, the Penguins could really lack for quality defensemen with Letang possibly suspended and possible injury absences for Dumoulin and Olli Maatta.

This series is living up to the hype … and really building up the hate.

Yes, NHL is reportedly looking at Letang’s hit on Johansson

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It remains to be seen if Kris Letang will get suspended for his hit on Marcus Johansson … and if he does, for how long.

(You can read initial reactions and some analysis about the specifics of the check vs. the one that got Brooks Orpik suspended here.)

There are a few things we do know already.

For one thing, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly looking into it.

Another factor that could help Letang avoid a suspension or limit the duration of supplemental discipline: Marcus Johansson returned during the second period.

In fact, Johansson delivered some hits on Letang.

There have been some nasty moments in Game 3, and more might be coming. The Penguins lead 2-0 with a few minutes remaining in the middle frame.

Kris Letang may face suspension for hit on Marcus Johansson

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Update: Reports indicate that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is indeed looking into the hit.

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As thrilling as this Pittsburgh Penguins – Washington Capitals series has been, it seems like every game presents another controversial hit.

Game 3’s most noteworthy entry (so far?) came when Kris Letang was whistled for interference on Marcus Johansson.

Penguins fans griped that Brooks Orpik didn’t get a major penalty for his hit on Olli Maatta … now Capitals fans likely feel the same about the check Letang delivered.

Watch it in the video above. Also, Stefanie “My Regular Face” has it in GIF form:

Things could get ugly in Game 3:

One factor in a suspension happening – or at least the duration of the suspension – would be what the point of contact was:

Also, lateness of the check:

The Penguins ended the first period up 2-0 against the Capitals, even though Washington played one of its best 20 minutes of the series. Expect more drama.

Update: The Penguins won the game 3-2.

Read reactions to the check here.