2011 NHL Entry Draft - Round One

Nieuwendyk says ownership issues aren’t affecting the Stars

The Stars will have plenty of adversity to face this season. They’ll look to replace their leading scorer and top-line center. They’ll look to rebound from a season that saw them waste a playoff opportunity on the final day of the season. And they’ll look to do it all while breaking in a brand new coach. All the sudden, the naysayers and doomsday predictors look like they may have a point. It looks like it could be an uphill battle for the boys from Big D.

But one thing that won’t hamper the Stars is their precarious ownership situation. It’s no secret that Tom Gaglardi has every intention of purchasing the Stars as soon as he can get approval from the courts and the debtors that are owned money in the bankruptcy case. All parties involve assume the sale will be settled sometime during the first half of the NHL season—in ownership time, that’s not bad at all. Just ask the Phoenix Coyotes. But until then, there was some concern that GM Joe Nieuwendyk and the Dallas Stars front-office would not be unable to make the moves they wanted to because of the delicate ownership situation. The fear was that the team wouldn’t acquire any additional payroll before the sale was completed and a new owner was in place.

Joe Nieuwendyk is here to ease all fears. GM Nieuwendyk told Fan 960 in Calgary that the drawn-out sale process hasn’t affected the Stars and what they’ve wanted to do this offseason (via ESPN Dallas):

“…Obviously we’re going through this sale process and it is taking probably longer than any of us had anticipated. It is moving. I know that speaking with the league this thing will get resolved this season, prior to Christmas. It’s just been a long process. The good thing is it hasn’t taken away from anything what our team has been able to do. We increased our budget and went after players that could fill roles on our team and help us. We added seven players this summer and I feel really good about our team. We’ve been able to keep our off-ice issues away from the locker room and I think the guys are excited about the upcoming season.”

There’s a difference between a team having their hands tied and being fiscally responsible. No team with an internal budget was going to be able to afford Brad Richards and his contract demands. Not only was it an exorbitant price tag for one player, but it also would have limited the resources for management to piece together a competitive 23-man roster. The Stars weren’t the only team that was out of the Brad Richards sweepstakes before July 1.

Just because the Stars failed to re-sign Richards doesn’t mean that they sat on the sidelines and watched as other teams snatched up free agents. All in all, the Stars acquired six new players to improve the team’s overall depth. None of the newcomers are going to make fans forget about Brad Richards, but they should help the Stars roll four lines for the first time in years. Michael Ryder, Vernon Fiddler, Sheldon Souray, Radek Dvorak, Adam Pardy, and Jake Dowell all were acquired by the Stars to help transform the Stars into the two-way team that new head coach Glen Gulutzen envisions next season.

The bad news is that even though the Stars increased their payroll this season, they still have the 25th ranked payroll in the NHL (they’ll most likely be 26th after Winnipeg re-signs Zach Bogosian). While there are contenders pressed firmly up against the salary cap, the Stars have a full roster and they’re still $14.4 million under the limit. Each team in the competitive Pacific Division has a more expensive payroll—even the budget conscious Anaheim Ducks and Phoenix Coyotes. Again, it will be an uphill battle this season.

GM Joe Nieuwendyk may say that he’s been free to conduct business as usual—but fans in Dallas have to hope the budget will increase once the new owner is in place.

Sheary’s in for Penguins in Game 2; Kunitz is a game-time decision

Pittsburgh Penguins' Conor Sheary (43) is greeted by teammates Brian Dumoulin (8) and Chris Kunitz (14) after scoring his first NHL goal, in the first period of the Penguins' hockey game against the Boston Bruins, Friday, Dec. 18, 2015, in Pittsburgh. Bruins' Brad Marchand is at lower right. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
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Both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals might look a little different in Game 2 on Saturday after that blistering Game 1.

As the team down 1-0, it’s not too surprising that the Penguins boast the more significant lineup questions, although they lean toward health concerns rather than performance tweaks.

Conor Sheary was able to return during Game 1 after Tom Wilson‘s controversial knee-to-knee hit, and he appears to be in for tonight’s contest as well. Chris Kunitz isn’t quite a guarantee, as he’s currently labeled a game-time decision.

For what it’s worth, Kunitz himself believes he’ll be in. Whether he plays on Saturday or not, it sounds like Kunitz is taking extra safety measures going forward.

The Penguins stayed vague with Marc-Andre Fleury, merely claiming that he’s making “progress.”

Generally speaking, Matt Murray has been playing well for the Penguins. Of course, the scrutiny will rise if Pittsburgh loses Game 2 on Saturday.

The Capitals are also considering a tweak. CSN Mid-Atlantic reports that Barry Trotz is pondering replacing Dmitry Orlov with Taylor Chorney.

“They told me to be prepared as if I’m going to be playing,” Chorney said. “We’ll just see how it goes.”

As you may notice, Chorney isn’t the only one in wait-and-see mode heading into Game 2, which you can watch on NBC.

Hitchcock, Blues know they need to slow down the Stars … but can they?

The puck shot by Dallas Stars left wing Antoine Roussel crosses the goal line as St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott (1) and defenseman Jay Bouwmeester (19) attempt the stop during the second period of Game 1 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Western Conference semifinals, Friday, April 29, 2016, in Dallas. The Stars won 2-1. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
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The Dallas Stars only beat the St. Louis Blues by one goal (2-1) in Game 1, but the feeling is that the score was deceptively close.

Blame it on fatigue from that epic series against the Chicago Blackhawks or not; the Blues looked out of rhythm and out of breath against the hard-charging Stars.

At least they’re not in denial about that, though.

“We’re not going to beat anybody giving up 40 shots on goal,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after their Game 1 loss on Friday. “We’re not going to beat anybody giving up the scoring chances we did today.”

Hitchcock added “we’ve got to find the energy to play our game, and we’ve got to find it quickly in the next 48 hours.”

Allowing 40 shots on goal might not be that common for the Blues, yet they leaned heavily on Brian Elliott against the Blackhawks in that series.

Just look at the SOG comparison in that series and in Game 1 vs. Dallas:

Game 1: Blues – 18 SOG, Blackhawks – 35
Game 2: Blues – 31, Blackhawks – 29
Game 3: Blues – 36, Blackhawks – 46
Game 4: Blues – 20, Blackhawks – 42
Game 5: Blues – 46, Blackhawks – 35
Game 6: Blues – 28, Blachawks – 36
Game 7: Blues – 26, Blackhawks – 33

Game 1: Blues – 32, Stars – 42

Such shot comparisons make you wonder if Game 1 provided evidence of a rest advantage or if this might just be the state of affairs for the Blues (at least against two electric offenses).

One area to watch is the transition game. The Stars seemed to tear through the neutral zone while the Blues sometimes struggled to get things going.

“They’re a team that wants to play real fast up the ice and through the neutral zone,” Jay Bouwmeester said, via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Yeah, we didn’t do a very good job of slowing them down. A lot of their chances were off the rush. That’s what you want to take away from them.”

File that under “easier said than done.”

Gather your lucky charms, 2016 NHL Draft Lottery is tonight

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Honestly, it’s tough to blame people for making Edmonton Oilers jokes in regards to the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery.

Really it’s only human nature to drop one-liners about the perennial cellar-dweller that (seemingly) always lands the No. 1 pick.

Will it happen again this time around? We’ll find out soon enough, more precisely sometime around 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

As you can see, the Oilers do not have the best odds to land the top pick … but they’re close:

A reminder: this time around the lottery will determine the top three picks. The NHL discusses that tweak and other changes here:

For the first time, the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery will assign the top three slots in the first round of the NHL Draft – a change from prior years, when the Draft Lottery was used to determine the winner of the first overall selection exclusively.

Want the full lowdown on the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery? PHT has you covered here.

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

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The Stanley Cup playoffs continue with two games on Saturday. You can catch tonight’s games via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

NY Islanders at Tampa Bay (3:00 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 2 will be on NBC. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

Pittsburgh at Washington (8:00 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 2 will also be on NBC. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

Some reading to get you pumped up:

– The Penguins are keeping chatty Marc-Andre Fleury from speaking to the media (reportedly).

Tom Wilson received a fine, not a suspension, for that knee-to-knee hit.

T.J. Oshie was the difference-maker for Washington in Game 1.

– Don’t expect Steven Stamkos to face red-hot John Tavares anytime soon (or at all, maybe).

Read about the Isles’ Game 1 win.