John Madden

Assessing the bottom of the barrel: Which remaining unrestricted free agents are worth a look?

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With September training camps just a few weeks away, the game of musical chairs is almost over for the remaining unrestricted free agents out there. Granted, there might be future opportunities during the 2011-12 season itself, but that’s probably not a very appetizing possibility for the guys who are hoping to pull in another NHL contract.

To be fair, there aren’t a lot of no-brainers left. Some might argue that there are none. That being said, if NHL general managers are willing to keep their expectations in order, there are still a few players out there who could help their teams or might at least be worth a shot.

With that in mind, here are a few of the more interesting free agents looking for work. This list is wholly subjective, so if you want a full view of everyone available, click here. If you notice a glaring omission, then it might come down to your own personal taste about a given hockey player. It’s probably worth noting that there are only a couple players whose lack of employment surprises me, though.

Let’s start with the guys who might not make a huge splash, but can do dirty work.

John Madden – This guy might be the most deserving of an NHL job. Sure, he’s getting up there in years at 38, but he shouldn’t come at a high cost and has three Stanley Cup victories (two with New Jersey, one with Chicago) on his resume.

More important than the Cups – to me, at least – is his versatility. He won’t knock your socks off with his offensive output (25 points in 2010-11; 23 in both 09-10 and 08-09), but he can be a moderate threat on the PK and plays a lot of the tough minutes that can open doors for your star players. I wondered if he really dropped off the map that badly in Minnesota, but he was their top forward when it came to shorthanded time per game (2:27 minutes) and only missed six games last season.

source: APAny number of contenders could use a player like Madden if he’s OK with signing a cheapish deal. Mike Grier brings some similar strengths to the table, but I’d take Madden over Grier at this point.

Paul Mara – He’s a limited player no doubt, but there are certain defensemen I like to refer to as “inning eaters.” Mara might not be sublimely talented – and worse yet, he’s injury prone – but teams with thinner defense corps would benefit from his size and experience. And while it might feel like it happened ages ago, Mara does have two 40+ point seasons to his name.

Cory Stillman – It’s a slight bit surprising that the familiarity-centric Carolina Hurricanes didn’t bring Stillman back after he scored a solid 16 points in 21 games after the team reacquired him last season.

J.P. Dumont – Sure, he’s on the decline, but why not give the six-time 20+ goal scorer a chance if he’s willing to sign a  cheap deal?

More talented players with more troubling flaws

Bryan McCabe – Anything bad someone could say about McCabe has already been covered with extra buckets of vitriol by Toronto Maple Leafs writers and fans. Still, he can run a power play well and isn’t afraid to get physical when he’s not committing terrible turnovers.

Sergei Samsonov – Offensively talented, but not enough to camouflage his issues in other areas on the ice. That being said, he seems to do well when he knows it’s time to prove himself; he scored a solid 14 points in the 20 games he spent with the Florida Panthers after being traded.

Chris Campoli – A lot like a younger Bryan McCabe, only if you replaced the hits with superior skating ability. I’m not a huge fan of Campoli, but it seems like someone should give him a shot, right? Maybe?

Fascinating gambles

Pascal Leclaire – Almost certainly a flash in the pan at this point, but seems worthy of at least a two-way contract if Brian Elliott can earn one of his own.

Steve Bernier – Remember when people referred to Jonathan Bernier as Steve’s younger brother? Chances are good that Steve will be a footnote in Jonathan’s career when it’s all over instead.

Other noteworthy names: Marty Turco, Kyle Wellwood, Mike Modano and more.

Feel free to mention any UFAs who might be worth a small gamble for prospective NHL teams.

Will the bad blood between the Canucks and Maple Leafs spill over into tonight’s rematch?

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There will be plenty to keep an eye on tonight when the Vancouver Canucks host the Toronto Maple Leafs.

— There are the extra curricular activities:

Tempers boiled over in the last meeting on Nov. 5. It started when Toronto forward Nazem Kadri delivered a controversial hit to Daniel Sedin, resulting in a fight between Kadri and Jannik Hansen.

There was no suspension to Kadri, which obviously disappointed the Canucks.

Alex Burrows speared Morgan Rielly.

That third period turned into a throwback to a much grittier era in hockey, with Derek Dorsett fighting Leo Komarov and then Matt Martin grabbing rookie blue liner Troy Stecher in the corner, prompting goalie Ryan Miller to leave his crease and grab Martin, resulting in a heated skirmish. The two teams combined for 171 penalty minutes that night.

Canucks defenseman Erik Gudbranson also made a threat to Martin once the game was over. His words were overheard by reporters.

It’s no surprise the league and its department of player safety is paying extra attention to this game.

“It was wrong,” Gudbranson told the Vancouver Sun. “But the number of times I’ve said that (on the ice) is probably higher than most would expect. But do I mean it? No. That’s the honest truth. No, I’m not going to kill the guy. That’s insanity. I was just frustrated at that point, and unfortunately it got taken to a level that I didn’t expect.”

— Two teams with apparently different philosophies of how to build a winning team:

The Maple Leafs are in a rebuild. And while the consistency hasn’t been there this season, they’ve proven on a number of occasions to be an exciting team with a very talented, promising crop of young players.

Auston Matthews is the face of this rebuild.

The Canucks, meanwhile, don’t seem to want to venture down the path of an aggressive rebuild. Did we mention they sit 28th in the overall standings? Did we mention they’ve had difficulty scoring? They’re 29th in that category. Did we mention they’ve had their struggles in goal? They have the 29th-ranked save percentage at five-on-five.

Canucks president Trevor Linden discussed the notion of a rebuild in a wide-ranging interview with Sportsnet, but it still appears the Canucks aren’t in favor of such a drastic step.

“What people fail to realize is the older group of players we had here—the Garrisons and Keslers and Bieksas and Higgins and Hamhuises—which are no longer with us, these are good people. These are leaders. Perhaps in Toronto that wasn’t the case,” said Linden.

“We have Daniel and Henrik Sedin here, who are very important to this organization and icons in the city. They’re not going anywhere. I don’t know how I walk into the room and tell these guys, “Strip it down.” I’m not sure it’s fair to these guys. There’s different circumstances, be it in Toronto or Carolina or Vancouver, that require different routes. It’s not perfect, but I’m encouraged by the young players we’ve introduced, and we’ve got some young prospects.”

Indeed, plenty to keep an eye on between these two teams tonight. Plenty to debate, too.

Sharp placed on IR with concussion symptoms

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 18:  Patrick Sharp #10 of the Dallas Stars during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on February 18, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Stars 6-3.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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The Dallas Stars wrap up a four-game road trip tonight against the Colorado Avalanche, but they will be without forward Patrick Sharp.

It’s unknown when, exactly, he’ll be back in the lineup.

On Saturday, the Stars placed Sharp on injured reserve retroactive to Dec. 1 with concussions symptoms.

“He has concussion symptoms. We don’t know if it is related to the last one,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “He’s going to be evaluated, and obviously he is going to be out. It’s something he missed a lot of time with and something we want to be really careful with.”

Per the Dallas Morning News, Sharp must be out at least seven days, but it’s almost impossible to put a timeline on concussions given their complex nature.

Sharp has already missed time this season — 14 games to be specific — with a concussion he suffered in October.

“Most injuries you can circle a date, but the injury I suffered was a day-to-day thing I thought I had experienced in the past, but never quite like this,” Sharp said recently.

“The type of injury that I had, you hear some scary stories from around the league. … I’m thankful I was able to come out of it and feel healthy and strong.”

Matt Beleskey suffers lower-body injury in Bruins win in Buffalo

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 20:  Matt Beleskey #39 of the Boston Bruins takes a shot against New Jersey Devils  during the third period at TD Garden on October 20, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Bruins defeat the Devils 2-1.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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The Boston Bruins have back-to-back wins, as they held on to defeat the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 on Saturday.

However, there was bad news for the Bruins as forward Matt Beleskey left the game after the first period and didn’t return due to a lower-body injury. The injury occurred as Beleskey was hit by Taylor Fedun as he was cutting across the Buffalo blue line. There was no call on the play.

Beleskey’s right knee collided with Fedun’s hip, as the Buffalo defender pivoted at the last second.

So far, there has been no word on the severity of the injury.

Patrice Bergeron scored the winning goal for Boston.

In 24 games this season, Beleskey has two goals and five points. The Bruins host the Florida Panthers on Monday.

Provorov scores two goals in 30 seconds to lead Flyers over Blackhawks

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 03:  Ivan Provorov #9 of the Philadelphia Flyers is congratulated by teammate Andrew MacDonald #47 after Provorov scored a goal in the second period against the Chicago Blackhawks on December 3, 2016 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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One of the biggest reasons the Philadelphia Flyers should be optimistic about their future is the fact their farm system has produced a couple of potential top-pairing defensemen the past two years in Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov.

We already saw the impact Gostisbehere’s debut made a year ago when finished second in the Calder Trophy voting and was perhaps their most important player in the second half of the season on their way to earning a playoff spot. This year it is Provorov’s turn to make his debut, and while he hasn’t been quite as dominant as Gostisbehere was in his rookie season, he played his best game of the season on Saturday afternoon in a 3-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks.

In just a little more than 20 minutes of ice-time, Provorov scored a pair of goals (both as part of a three-goal second period for the Flyers), recorded four shots on goal, and was a plus-six in shot attempt differential for the day. His two goals came just 30 seconds apart, with the first one tying the game at one, and the second one going in the books as the game-winner.

Have a look at both goals.

Both shots beat Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling from similar spots on the ice. Darling ended up getting the start on Saturday because Corey Crawford was undergoing an appendectomy and will be sidelined for the time being. The Blackhawks had to sign a backup goalie pretty much off of the street to serve as the backup. Coach Joel Quenneville said after the game they could not use goalie coach Jimmy Waite as the emergency backup because he would have counted against the salary cap. It had to be an amateur with no pro experience.

The win on Saturday keeps a couple of streaks going for the Flyers.

First, it was their fourth win in a row and is now their longest winning streak of the season. It is also the 13th consecutive time they have beaten the Blackhawks in Philadelphia during the regular season. You have to go back to 1996 to find the last time the Blackhawks won a regular season game in Philadelphia. We emphasize the regular season part of that because the Blackhawks did win a pretty big playoff game in the city back in 2010.