It’s not time for Isles fans to panic about Josh Bailey, right?

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NHL teams are about three weeks away from training camp and there are a few restricted free agents that remain unsigned. One of the interesting situations is out on Long Island where Islanders GM Garth Snow continues to negotiate with young forward Josh Bailey. Almost from the moment the organization selected him with the 9th overall pick in the 2008 Entry Draft, his career has been marred by missteps and mismanagement. As the season inches closer, it should come as no surprise that Bailey is enduring yet another speed bump in his young career.

Of course, there’s plenty of time to sign Bailey. The 21-year-old center is a restricted free agent without arbitration rights; and it’s not like teams are knocking down his door with offer sheets. Chris Botta from Islanders Point Blank outlines three specific reasons why it’s way too early to worry about the Islanders and Josh Bailey’s contract negotiations:

1. Josh Bailey, 22 on Oct. 2, loves being an Islander and appreciates the opportunity the organization has provided him since he was drafted 9th overall in 2008. The Islanders like the forward just as much, see him as part of their nucleus, are confident his skills will lead to major contributions on the ice and respect his maturation away from the playing surface. Both sides want to get a deal done.

2. Although Garth Snow did a masterful job getting the older and more accomplished Michael Grabner and Kyle Okposo under long-term contracts with cap-friendly terms, Bailey is in a different boat. The first contract after his just-completed ELC will likely be for a shorter term.

3. Several RFAs have yet to come to terms with their clubs on their second pro deals, including Drew Doughty, Zach Bogosian, Luke Schenn, Bruins playoff hero Brad Marchand and skilled Coyotes rush-job Kyle Turris. It is worth noting that Doughty, Schenn, Marchand and Bailey are all represented by the respected Newport Sports Management.

As Botta later points out, owner Charles Wang has a policy that if a player is not signed by training camp, “he will not play for the Islanders and will not receive a contract for the season.” For those keeping track at home, the Islanders are set to open training camp in 23 days on Saturday, September 17.

Dominik at Lighthouse Hockey makes a very convincing argument that Bailey deserves a better contract than Mikkel Boedker’s recent 2-year, $2.2 million (total) deal. Whether the Islanders end up paying him anywhere from $1.1 – $1.8 million per season, they’ll do so without the limitations of a salary cap. The only way Josh Bailey’s contract could pose significant salary cap problems is if they offered him a contract in the neighborhood of $1 trillion (that may or may not be an exaggeration).  Then again, that may be a slight overpayment for a player who has put up 88 points in 211 career games.

In the absence of extenuating circumstances, the negotiations come down to Bailey’s view of his self-worth vs. the Islanders view of Bailey’s worth. Early last season he showed the organization that he can produce at a strong pace when put in a position to succeed. He was healthy. He was paying with talented linemates. He was scoring. Of course, all of that changed when he was injured and the Islanders sent him down to Bridgeport while they still had the chance to move him to the AHL without waivers. Yet the fact remains that he flourished when he was given the tools to thrive.

Like so many second contracts, the debate comes down to paying for potential vs. paying for productivity. In this case, the Islanders are as much to blame for Bailey’s lack of productivity over his first three seasons because of they rushed him to the NHL when he really should have been sent down to continue his development. Instead, the Islanders threw him into the fire and watched a youngster struggle in a situation that he was ill-equipped to handle.

We’ll see who’s going to pay for that mistake. Will the Islanders bite the bullet and pay for the NHL potential that Bailey still possesses? Or will it be Bailey who pays the price for the Islanders mismanagement? Either way, it sounds like we’ll find out in 23 days.

A ‘weird game’ and a tough loss, but Preds feel good about their chances

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PITTSBURGH — “It was a weird game,” said Pekka Rinne, pretty much nailing it.

The Nashville Predators had just lost, 5-3, after keeping the Pittsburgh Penguins without a shot for almost two full periods of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Rinne, the Conn Smythe Trophy favorite heading into the series, only saw 11 shots the whole night. Four of them beat him, including one that bounced off his own defenseman to put the Preds down, 3-0, in the first period.

Nashville eventually battled back to tie it at three, thanks to a couple of power-play snipes and an even-strength tally by Frederick Gaudreau. But Jake Guentzel‘s goal at 16:43 of the third, on a shot that broke the Penguins’ unfathomably long stretch without one, proved to be the winner. Minutes later, an empty-netter sealed it for the defending champs. 

“At the end of the day, my job is to make the save,” said Rinne, “and at the end of the game I’m disappointed I couldn’t help my team. We showed a lot of character. I thought that we played a great game. I think we have a lot of things that we can take away from this game, a lot of positives.”

Captain Mike Fisher had no idea that his Preds had held the Penguins shotless for 37 minutes, a stretch that went from 19:43 of the first when Nick Bonino‘s one-handed pass bounced off Mattias Ekholm‘s pads into the net, all the way to Guentzel’s winner.

“I knew they weren’t getting too many chances and we were playing pretty strong,” said Fisher. “We found a way to get back in it, but it wasn’t our night.”

Defenseman P.K. Subban, who had a goal called back in the first period after video review determined that Filip Forsberg was a hair offside, was characteristically positive afterwards.

“That’s hockey,” said Subban. “That’s just what it is. And if we just play the way we did, minus some of the mistakes that we made, I like our chances. We’ll be better next game, that’s for sure. I’m sure they’re going to be better. … This is going to be a long series.”

Penguins avoid collapse, beat Preds in crazy Stanley Cup Final opener

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PITTSBURGH — The game of hockey can be crazy at times.

Then you have nights like Monday, when it gets really crazy.

In a game that often made no sense at all, the Penguins built up a 3-0 lead, blew that lead, then rallied late to beat Nashville 5-3 in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

So, uh, where to even begin with this?

Let’s start with the game-winner. Jake Guentzel, who was on the verge of being a healthy scratch for tonight’s affair, scored with less than four minutes remaining to snap an eight-game goalless drought.

Now, consider the circumstances under which this goal was scored.

Guentzel was facing tremendous pressure to get his offense going. And the shot he scored on was Pittsburgh’s first in 37 minutes of action. During that time, the Pens recorded the first zero-shot playoff period since NHL began tracking SOG in 1957-58.

Guentzel’s goal also came after Nashville had staged a furious, wild three-goal rally to even things up.

Ryan Ellis, Colton Sissions and Frederick Gaudreau scored for the Preds, with Sissions and Gaudreau finding the back of the net less than four minutes apart in the final frame. Gaudreau, who up until a few weeks ago was playing in the Calder Cup playoffs, looked as though he was primed to become the next unlikely postseason hero.

But it wasn’t to be.

Because there were other equally unlikely developments on the night.

Heck, we haven’t discussed the first period yet. Evgeni Malkin, Conor Sheary and Nick Bonino scored in a span of 4:11 in the opening frame, a flurry filled with fortuitous bounces and breaks. Malkin’s tally came on a 5-on-3 man advantage, after Calle Jarnkrok and James Neal were whistled for simultaneous penalties. Bonino’s marker was an own goal, knocked in by Preds d-man Mattias Ekholm.

Oh, and there was that disallowed marker.

Perhaps you heard? It was an ignominious start for the NHL on its biggest stage. Seven minutes in, the Preds looked to have taken a 1-0 lead when P.K. Subban‘s blast beat Matt Murray. But hold on. Pens head coach Mike Sullivan quickly challenged and, upon review, it was deemed that Filip Forsberg entered the Pittsburgh zone illegally.

More, from the NHL’s situation room blog:

After reviewing all available replays and consulting with the Linesmen, NHL Hockey Operations staff determined that Forsberg preceded the puck into the attacking zone, nor did he have possession and control before crossing the blue line.

This ruling came just hours after NHL commissioner Gary Bettman defended offside challenges in his state-of-the-league address.

Crazy is right. And fitting, given what transpired tonight.

Video: Guentzel, Penguins regain lead after 37-minute shot drought

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Luck keeps going the Pittsburgh Penguins’ way in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

The Nashville Predators kept firing away at Matt Murray, holding the Penguins without a shot on goal for a whopping 37 minutes and managing to tie the contest 3-3 after falling behind 3-0.

It was a ridiculous display … and then Pittsburgh got its next shot.

Jake Guentzel scored on that attempt, roofing it past a struggling Pekka Rinne. It’s the sort of thing you can’t even dream up.

Pittsburgh also added an empty-net goal, so Nashville needs an epic final 30 seconds if they hope to avoid a crushing Game 1 loss.

Predators hold Penguins without a shot in second, now down 3-1 in Game 1

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There’s little sense denying the Pittsburgh Penguins’ luck through 40 minutes against the Nashville Predators in Game 1.

Through the first period, some favorable calls and a lucky bounce or two helped Pittsburgh generate a stunning 3-0 lead. Pittsburgh ended the opening frame with a burst of activity after a strong start to the Stanley Cup Final by Nashville.

The Predators regained their composure and confidence in the second, resulting in a dominant display on the ice (if not on the scoreboard).

The Penguins only managed couldn’t even manage a single, measly shot on goal against Pekka Rinne during the middle frame, but unfortunately for Nashville, some dominant puck possession only resulted in a goal by Ryan Ellis.

A 3-1 deficit is digestible, if frustrating, for Nashville. We’ll see if they can get back into Game 1 in the third period.

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