Leafs assistant GM Dave Nonis optimistic about Luke Schenn and Matthew Lombardi

Even with the limitations of a salary cap ceiling, the NHL’s richest teams still enjoy some advantages thanks to their superior resources. When it comes to the Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers, they have the money to make their worst contract choices (such as Cristobal Huet, Wade Redden and Chris Drury) go away. The Toronto Maple Leafs and their GM Brian Burke haven’t taken frequent advantage of CBA loopholes like some of their deep-pocketed peers, but they enjoy the unusual advantage of employing a handful of former NHL general managers as assistants.

That group includes former Atlanta Thrashers executive Rick Dudley and former Vancouver Canucks GM Dave Nonis, who discussed two important issues on TSN 1050 today: Luke Schenn’s contract negotiations and the status of recently acquired center Matthew Lombardi.

Nonis said that he expects the team to come to terms with Schenn before Toronto’s training camp begins on September 16. Schenn is represented by agent Don Meehan, whose clients have been the focus of many of this off-season’s critical contract talks.

“Contracts sometimes take a little longer to get done,” Nonis said in the one-on-one interview. “This isn’t the first one that’s gone into late August.

“When [your] starting point is the player wants to be here and the team wants to have him, usually you find a way to get it done.”

For a little more about Schenn’s negotiations, check out his optimistic outlook on the discussions and another update that focuses on his contributions to the Maple Leafs.

As usual with players dealing with concussion-related injuries, Nonis didn’t give a clear timeline for Lombardi’s return to NHL action (he played just two games in the 2010-11 season). That being said, he seemed optimistic about the situation and even downplayed the concussions issues, pointing to the other issues Lombardi is dealing with.

“We’re very comfortable that he’s on his way back, that the concussion isn’t an issue at this point,” explained Nonis. “But there’s a lot of things that happen when you have that kind of injury; there’s neck issues, there’s nerve issues and those all have to be addressed.

“With Matthew, there is no timetable. He’s getting better. He’s been feeling very good. His workouts have increased in duration and intensity, but he won’t be playing for us until he’s ready to play. So whether that’s a month or six months, who knows when that’s going to be. We’re not going to rush him, but we’re going to be pushing as hard as we can to get him ready and prepared.”

Lombardi might not be a star player, but he’s a speedy, versatile center. His murky health is one reason why the Leafs’ group of centers seem primed to be both fragile and exciting in 2011-12. Keeping their sturdy young defenseman Schenn in the picture wouldn’t hurt, either.

Lightning storm back against Blackhawks, finish one point out of playoffs

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Who would have thought that the Tampa Bay Lightning would rally back from a 4-1 deficit tonight? Then again, who expected them to be so close to a playoff spot mere weeks ago, when they were sellers at the trade deadline?

The Lightning continue to show that they won’t just roll over and die, scoring four unanswered goals to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 in overtime on Monday.

While Jonathan Drouin was a catalyst for the second-period rally, it was an unlikely scorer who clinched the victory, as Yanni Gourde ended a thrilling run of 3-on-3 chances with the overtime-winner.

Really, it might have been fitting. Things looked glum when Tomas Jurco scored his first goal of the season against the Lightning, then the mood was totally flipped when Gourde’s second tally of 2016-17 grabbed a huge win.

With the Islanders losing to the Predators, the Hurricanes only managing a “loser point” against the Red Wings and the Bruins idle, Tampa Bay is a breath away from a playoff berth:

Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

Yes, all of a sudden, a long-shot postseason run seems quite attainable.

Maybe the Lightning would prefer it if we kept counting them out, though?

Hurricanes’ Lack taken off on stretcher after collision on Red Wings’ OT goal

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The Carolina Hurricanes fell short of a win on Monday, but their thoughts likely revolve around the health of goalie Eddie Lack instead.

Lack was taken off the ice on a stretcher after a collision┬áduring Andreas Athanasiou‘s game-winning goal in overtime. Officials reviewed that the goal counted, giving the Red Wings a 4-3 overtime victory against Carolina.

While it’s been a tough overall season for Hurricanes goalie, Lack has been an integral part of Carolina’s push for a postseason spot. PHT will keep an eye out for updates regarding his condition after this scary collision.

The Red Wings stayed on the ice as Lack was taken off, a nice gesture after an unfortunate accident.

Drouin triggers second-period rally for Lightning vs. Blackhawks

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Just when you think it’s time to count the Tampa Bay Lightning out, they rally back.

It’s been happening overall in 2016-17, and that pattern carried over into Monday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Lightning decided to put Andrei Vasilevskiy back in the net in the second period after he gave up three goals on eight shots in the opening frame … and at first, that looked like a mistake that would do them in. Chicago went up 4-1 and things looked dire.

But, again, the Bolts followed the script when it comes to flipping the script, with Jonathan Drouin triggering a resounding rally in the second.

Droun’s first goal came 11:45 into the second period, followed about a minute later by an Anton Stralman tally. Less than four minutes later, Drouin hit the 20-goal mark with the 4-4 marker on the power play.

First, check out Drouin’s first goal, which began the rally:

Next, witness the 4-4 goal, also by Drouin:

And … just like that, the Lightning┬átied things up. Wow.

Apparently Drouin created more offense than just his two goals, too:

Impressive. Remember when he seemed like he was out the door last season? Now that feels like another reminder not to give up on this group, no matter how ugly things look at times.

Video will be added when available.

Lightning give Vasilevskiy the (brief) hook after very rare Jurco goal

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By just about any measure, Monday’s been lousy to Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.

He was pulled with a few minutes remaining in the first period after Chicago Blackhawks built a 3-1 lead, scoring those three goals on just eight shots on net.

You could summarize Vasilevskiy’s awful start by those numbers, or by how rare the 3-1 goal was for the scorer.

Tomas Jurco failed to score a goal or an assist in 16 games with the Red Wings, then went pointless in nine more games with Chicago before finally scoring his first goal of the season on Monday.

Now, Jon Cooper didn’t pull Vasilevskiy because Jurco scored that tally. Still, it rubs a little extra salt in his wounds all things considered.

Here’s the Jurco goal:

Patrick Kane‘s 2-1 goal might have hurt the most, actually, as it quickly dissolved a tying tally by┬áOndrej Palat:

Update: The Lightning decided to put Vasilevskiy back in net to begin the second period. Interesting.