Blue chip prospect Jacob Markstrom looks sharp for Panthers

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Ever since Jacob Markstrom set the Swedish Elite League on fire after his 2008 draft year, scouts and pundits have eagerly awaited his arrival in the NHL. The 6’3” netminder was the first pick in the second round in 2008. In retrospect, there are plenty of teams who wish they could take a mulligan and pick the Swedish goaltender before letting him slip to the second round. He has all the makings of a guy who will be able to play in the NHL—and play very well.

In his first full seasons with Brynas in the Swedish Elite League, he put up an impressive 2.38 goals against and .917 save percentage—all while sharing time with a goaltender NHL fans may have heard of: Andres Lindback. The next season he exceeded all expectations by putting up even better numbers with Brynas. When a goaltender puts up a 2.01 goals against and a .927 save percentage, he’s dominating no matter what league he’s playing in.

But something happened on his way towards his coronation in the NHL. The talented Markstrom started the season with Florida’s AHL affiliate in Rochester and showed that his game still had a little maturing to do. He played 37 games with the Amerks before a knee injury knocked him out for the remainder of the season. For anyone who was worried about how a 21-year-old would recover from a serious knee injury, fret not. Panthers’ goaltender coach Robb Tallas was more than impressed with the Swede’s progress:

“I think you can see a huge difference in him from last year. You can see the confidence. And this from a guy who hasn’t played a full game since [February]. I’m real happy with how he played. He tracked the puck well, the goals that beat him were good shots.”

Even better news from the Panthers point of view is that they won’t be forced to rush him to the NHL. By signing Jose Theodore to split time with Scott Clemmensen, the Panthers bought another year of development for their prized prospect. Of course he’ll be available in the event of an injury, but otherwise he’ll be able to work on his game and improve on his pedestrian numbers from a season ago. If all things go well, he’ll be ready to challenge for the starters job in 2012-13.

Keep in mind, despite all of the moves the new-look Panthers made this offseason, there are those who think that Florida will still struggle to string enough wins together for a playoff spot. If they’re out of the race by March, Markstrom could get an extended look at the end of the season to prove to the organization that he’s ready for the full-time job.

One thing is for sure—the Panthers do not want to rush Markstrom. Most people agree that goaltenders take longer than skaters to fully develop their game to an NHL level. They’ve shown great patience thus far, as they let him play a couple of seasons in Sweden before adjusting to the North American game. If they can resist the temptation to throw him into wolves this season, they could have a goaltender for the next decade.

As the long season rolls along, we’ll see how much patience they can demonstrate.

Brendan Smith still talking to Rangers, ‘trying to make it happen’

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It’s only a few days until July 1 and defenseman Brendan Smith still doesn’t have an extension in place with the New York Rangers.

Not to worry, says his agent. It doesn’t necessarily mean that Smith is going to sign elsewhere.

“No one should read anything into the fact that we don’t have a deal yet,” Anton Thun told the New York Post. “You’re never really close until it’s done, but both sides are trying to make it happen. We’ll have to see.”

Thun told the Post a month ago that Smith, an unrestricted free agent, was “open” to returning to the Rangers.

But there’s also been speculation that the Blueshirts will pursue Kevin Shattenkirk in free agency, which would probably mean less money available for Smith.

It remains to be seen if the Rangers will, indeed, make a big push for Shattenkirk. The addition of Anthony DeAngelo in the Derek Stepan trade may have lessened their urgency in that regard.

“He’s a puck-moving right-handed defenseman that can run the power play and shoot the puck,” GM Jeff Gorton said of DeAngelo, per Sporting News.

Which sounds a lot like Shattenkirk, no?

Smith, 28, was traded to the Rangers from Detroit on Feb. 28.

Sens extend McCormick — two years, $1.3 million

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Looks as though forward Max McCormick has a future in Ottawa.

On Tuesday, the Sens signed McCormick to a two-year extension worth $650,000 annually — and, perhaps most importantly, it’s a one-way deal in the second year.

McCormick, 25, also has a $250,000 guaranteed AHL salary next season.

The deal comes after he set a career high and tied for the AHL Binghamton team lead in goals last year, with 21. McCormick also appeared in seven games for Ottawa — this after playing 20 in ’15-16 — and emerged as a high-energy guy with an edge to his game.

Despite not being overly big (5-foot-11, 188 pounds), McCormick fought seven times for Binghamton last season, and led the team in penalty minutes. The year prior, he scrapped 12 times between the Sens and Baby Sens.

A spot at the NHL level could soon materialize. The Sens have already announced they’re moving on from free agent forward Chris Neil, and the futures of fellow UFAs Viktor Stalberg, Chris Kelly and Tommy Wingels remain uncertain.

Carolina re-signs Chelios, Brown

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The ‘Canes retained some organizational depth on Tuesday, agreeing to terms with defenseman Jake Chelios — the son of Hockey Hall of Famer Chris Chelios — and forward Patrick Brown.

Brown’s contract is a one-year, $650,000 extension, one that will pay $160,000 at the AHL level, with a guarantee of $190,000.

Brown, 25, split last season between Charlotte and Carolina, appearing in a career-high 14 contest with the ‘Canes. The Boston College product scored 12 goals and 28 points in 66 games with the Checkers.

Chelios, 26, has yet to make his NHL debut but is coming off a strong season with Charlotte. He served as an alternate captain and had a strong offensive campaign, with 32 points in 76 contests. That led all Checkers d-men in scoring, and he was the only player on the team to appear in every single game this season.

Like Brown, Chelios’ deal will pay $650,000 at the NHL level. It’s $85,000 at the AHL level.

Report: Sens tried to get Methot back from Vegas

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The Ottawa Senators did their best to make sure they didn’t lose Marc Methot in the expansion draft.

They attempted to get Dion Phaneuf to waive his no-move clause so they could keep Methot, but that didn’t work out.

On Monday, TSN hockey analyst Pierre LeBrun reported that the Golden Knights and Senators had been talking about a potential trade back to Ottawa.

In the end, Vegas GM George McPhee preferred to ship him to Dallas for 2017 seventh-rounder Dylan Ferguson and a second-round pick in 2020.

According to beat reporter Bruce Garrioch, Vegas’ asking price to allow the Sens to protect Methot before expansion was a 2018 first-round pick.

Methot has averaged at least 19:49 of ice time during his five seasons in Ottawa.

In the end, all this means is that the Senators will need to find someone else to play on the top pairing with Erik Karlsson next season.

During training camp, Ottawa put top prospect Thomas Chabot with Karlsson. They opted to send Chabot back to junior, but that could be an interesting combination if they think he’s ready to be a regular in the NHL.