Drew Doughty

RFA Watch: Six high-profile restricted free agents are still waiting for deals

We’re just three weeks away from the start of NHL training camp and there are still some big restricted free agents that have yet to get new deals locked away with their respective teams. Being a restricted free agent is a strange thing. Their rights still belong to the team you’re with but there’s always the possibility of signing an offer sheet from another team. The catch there being that their current team can match the deal and keep the player or they can allow him to go and take draft pick compensation.

With the number of high-profile guys we’ve seen get deals worked out already, it’s strange we haven’t seen any team attempt to poach a RFA away from their current team, but that’s another story. Of the six big name guys left to be signed (Drew Doughty, Luke Schenn, Brad Marchand, Kyle Turris, Josh Bailey, and Zach Bogosian) we’ll take a look at what they and their teams are up against as time ticks down until camp.

Drew Doughty – Los Angeles Kings

No news is not good news for Kings fans here. Drew Doughty and the Kings aren’t making any progress in their negotiations and while there’s no supreme rush to get things done, both sides would like to get a long-ish term deal done. With the amount of money needed for a former Norris Trophy finalist who is just 21 years-old, getting the deal right is important for the Kings. After rumors over a week ago that a deal was done were squashed, both sides continue to wait each other out.

Luke Schenn – Toronto Maple Leafs

Another young defenseman in need of a deal but this one isn’t as contentious as Doughty’s negotiations with L.A. Like Doughty, Luke Schenn is 21 years-old and figures to be a cornerstone player on the Leafs blue line. Schenn is a guy that teams have tried to get from Brian Burke in trade offers the last two years, but he’s hanging on to him. Leafs assistant GM Dave Nonis figures that a deal with Schenn will be done before training camp. As for the money he’ll get, expect it to be a sensible deal.

Brad Marchand – Boston Bruins

After Brad Marchand became a holy terror for all of the Bruins’ opponents in they playoffs, Marchand helped put a lot more money in his pockets this summer. While his regular season was great scoring 21 goals and adding 20 assists, his 11 goals in the playoffs and ability to get under everyone’s skin make him a worthy guy to have on any team. Marchand’s agent says a deal isn’t imminent and you have to think the Bruins brass is busy figuring out if this kind of production is something Marchand can sustain over a long career or if he’s a one-year wonder.

Kyle Turris – Phoenix Coyotes

The Coyotes taking their time with Kyle Turris seems a bit silly. The Coyotes are barely above the salary floor and while Turris has shown flashes of brilliance, he’s struggled under Dave Tippett’s system for the most part. He’s been in the Coyotes organization for a bit and while he’s a guy that was drafted during the Wayne Gretzky regime in Arizona, his lofty talent hasn’t landed him a permanent role on the team. That, ideally, should change this season with the Coyotes having a dearth of offensive skill players. Now that Phoenix has Mikkel Boedker signed up for two more years, Turris’ deal should be coming soon. Then again, we were told it was coming soon back on August 6.

Josh Bailey – New York Islanders

Josh Bailey’s situation is a bit strange with the Islanders as well and is eerily similar to that of Turris’ in Phoenix. Bailey appeared primed to have a breakout season last year and did… For a little while. His production, instead, fluctuated and now he can’t get a deal done with the Isles. Chris Botta of Islanders Point Blank points out that Isles owner Charles Wang has a curious protocol that says if an RFA isn’t signed by camp he’s not going to play for them that season and won’t get a deal. The Isles are going to be a good, tough team to play and Bailey is going to be a factor in that. They’ll get something done before camp.

Zach Bogosian – Winnipeg Jets

Zach Bogosian’s deal in Winnipeg is going to be a curious one to see. He’s a guy with a lot of potential still in the NHL but now he’s dealing with new owners, a new GM, and a new location to play hockey in. After being so solid two years ago, he struggled last season but since he’s a defenseman and still very young (he’s 21) he’s still developing his game. The Jets would be wise to keep him locked in for a few more seasons but they’re going to want to be smarter about the money. Bogosian hasn’t broken out big the way Doughty has nor has he made as much of an impact as Schenn, but his future should still be bright.

Hedman still isn’t ready to return for ‘desperation mode’ Lightning

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 23: Victor Hedman #77 of the Tampa Bay Lightning holds his arm against the Washington Capitals during the second period at Verizon Center on December 23, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Whatever “illness” is bothering Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman must be pretty bad, as he’ll miss his third straight game as the Bolts visit the Sharks in San Jose tonight.

Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said the team (which he considers in “desperation mode”) will evaluate Hedman on a game-by-game basis, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Hey, for a squad dealing with as many injuries as Tampa Bay has been this season, it’s probably refreshing to say “game-by-game” instead of “day-to-day.”

To Tampa Bay’s credit, they’ve begun a potentially harrowing road stretch reasonably well, especially considering Hedman’s absence. Let’s look at it as a whole:

Monday: 2-1 win at Kings
Tuesday: 2-1 OT loss at Ducks
Tonight: at Sharks
Saturday: at Coyotes
Tuesday, Jan. 24: at Blackhawks
Thursday, Jan. 26: at Panthers
Tuesday: Jan. 31: begin four-game homestand vs. Bruins

That’s a pretty challenging way to head into March, especially without one of the best defensemen in the NHL. The Bolts have to hope he gets over this sickness (or unspecified injury?) soon enough.

NHL explains new All-Star Skills Competition event

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 13:  Fans arrive for the game between the Los Angeles Kings and the St. Louis Blues at the Staples Center on January 13, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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We wrote yesterday about the NHL’s plans to replace the “Breakaway Challenge” at the All-Star Skills Competition with something called the “Four Line Challenge.”

Today, the league explained how the new event will work:

This event involves four shooters from each team. Each shooter will shoot from one of four shooting positions; near blue line, center line, far blue line and far goal line.

The first shooter from each team takes two shots from the near blue line in an attempt to score goals in either the upper left or upper right corner of the net. Successful shots score one point for their team.

The second shooter from each team takes two shots from center ice in an attempt to score goals in one of the four corners of the net. Successful shots in the lower corners score one point and successful shots in the upper corners score three points for their team.

The third shooter from each team takes two shots from the far blue line in an attempt to score a goal in one of the four corners of the net or the five hole. Successful shots in the lower corners or five hole score one point and successful shots in the upper corners score five points for their team.

The fourth shooter from each team takes two shots from the far goal line in an attempt to score a goal in the five hole. Successful shots score 10 points for their team. Captains can substitute the fourth shooter with a goalie. A successful shot by a goalie is awarded 20 points for their team.

In addition, the first All-Star to score two goals in the five hole from the far goal line will win the new 2017 Honda CRV.

Sounds like fun.

Or at the very least, worth a try.

The skills competition will take place on Saturday, Jan. 28, at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Each all-star will compete in at least one of the six contests: the skills challenge relay, the four-line challenge, accuracy shooting, fastest skater, hardest shot, and the shootout.

Minor-league team involved in rollover bus crash

COLUMBUS, GA - MARCH 13:  Shannon Szabados #40 of the Columbus Cottonmouths watches the action from the bench at Columbus Civic Center on March 13, 2014 in Columbus, Georgia. The Pensacola Ice Flyers defeated the Columbus Cottonmouths 5-0. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
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The Columbus Cottonmouths, a Georgia-based team in the Southern Professional Hockey League, was involved in a rollover crash on Thursday afternoon while traveling to an away game in Peoria.

Per the Peoria Journal-Star, the charter bus carrying the team crashed on Interstate 74 and all 24 passengers — players, coaching and traveling staff — were transported to hospital.

More:

Two had to be extricated from the vehicle and were transported immediately to the hospital, while the others followed later in another bus. Morton Fire Chief Joe Kelley said his firefighters had to cut out holes in the top of the bus to remove the two. The rest were able to get out on their own.

Twenty-three of the bus’s occupants were taken to OSF Saint Francis Medical Center. Three were considered trauma patients and listed in serious condition, though OSF media relations coordinator Shelli Dankoff described their injuries as non-life threatening. The remaining 20 patients were not seriously injured. Some had already been treated at release shortly after 3 p.m. and were waiting for transport to their hotel.

The Cottonmouths have since followed up with a release, confirming all players have been accounted for and that there are no life-threatening injures to players, staff or personnel.

Pre-game reading: About that time Donald Trump considered buying the Panthers

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— Up top, Bob McKenzie discusses Paul Maurice’s status in Winnipeg. Is the Jets’ head coach on the hot seat?

— Did you know that Donald Trump once considered buying the Florida Panthers? He never did buy them, of course, but the Miami Herald’s George Richards recalls the time, “around 2000,” when Trump kicked the tires on the hockey club. The Panthers, oddly enough, are now owned by Trump’s nominee for Secretary of the Army, Vinnie Viola. (Miami Herald)

— From The Journal Star newspaper in Peoria, Illinois: “A charter bus carrying the Columbus Cottonmouths team was in a rollover crash on Interstate 74 on Thursday afternoon as the Southern Professional Hockey League team was on its way into Peoria for a weekend series against the Peoria Rivermen.” Fortunately, there don’t appear to be any serious injuries — just some “bumps and bruises,” according to the team’s co-owner, Bart Rogers. However, two people were reportedly taken to the hospital in an ambulance. (Journal Star)

— The Washington Post spoke to Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer about the new streamlined pants that all NHL goalies must start wearing by Feb. 4. While Holtby isn’t too concerned about the changes, Grubauer had this to say: “I understand you want to get the game more exciting for the fans, but there’s a fine line between making the gear smaller and also keeping the goalies protected. If too many guys get hurt with those, it’s not a good thing. … What do you want to take away next? Goalies without sticks? Without skates?” PHT prediction: They’ll let goalies keep their skates on.  (Washington Post)

— An encouraging update from Bryan Bickell, who was diagnosed with MS in November. The Hurricanes forward has been taking a drug called Tysabri, and the results have been good. “I’m feeling a lot better. I’ve been on the ice a couple times. … Different people react differently to different drugs and I’ve been reacting good and we’ll see how it goes.” (NHL.com)

— The Nashville Predators picked up “another teammate” on Friday, but they’re still not sure if “Mario” will last the season as their good-luck charm. (The Tennessean)

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Enjoy the games!