Toronto Maple Leafs v New Jersey Devils

Leafs lock-up Luke Schenn for 5 years

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The restricted free agent signing frenzy continued late Thursday night/early Friday as the Toronto Maple Leafs and Luke Schenn agreed on a five-year contract. TSN’s Bob McKenzie broke the news and subsequently sent all of Leafs Nation into celebration. This is all it took:

“Luke Schenn has agreed to terms with the Toronto Maple Leafs. No further details at this point but he will report to camp Friday.”

With the former 6th overall pick in the mix, the Leafs will feature a top 4 with Schenn, captain Dion Phaneuf, John-Michael Liles, and Mike Komisarek. Newly acquired Cody Franson, Keith Aulie, and Carl Gunnarsson will compete over the final two spots—with the loser getting an all expense paid trip to the press box. Oh, hypothetically speaking, there’s Jeff Finger in the mix as well.

Schenn’s stats are never going to blow anyone over. The stay-at-home defenseman only has 12 goals and 53 points in 231 career games. But that’s not Schenn’s job in Toronto. He’s paid (and paid well nowadays), to prevent the other team from scoring, get under the opponents’ skin, and protect his teammates. This is a guy who was compared to Adam Foote when he was a first round draft pick in 2008. Colorado (or Columbus) never paid Foote for the points he was going to put on the board, right?

An important point to factor into the financial terms of the contract is that the five-year deal accounts for one of Schenn’s unrestricted free agent years. The good news for Leafs fans is that he won’t hit the open market after his seventh season in the league. However, the bad news is that he’ll hit the open market when his contract expires after his eighth NHL season.

The extra year on the contract undoubtedly bumped up the average salary per season. Even without solid contract figures, the boys over at Pension Plan Puppets wasted no time figuring out Schenn’s new contract comparables.

“A cap hit between $3.4M and $3.6M puts Schenn among the following company: Rob Scuderi, Johnny Oduya, Kris Letang, Ryan Suter, Roman Hamrlik, Nick Schultz,Willie Mitchell, Cory Sarich, Brent Burns, Matt Carle, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Viktor Hedman.

Now the Leafs (and their fans) can stop worrying about contract negotiations and start worrying about their team next season. With the likes of Schenn, Phaneuf, and James Reimer trying to keep the puck out of their own net, newcomers Tim Connolly and Matthew Lombardi will attempt to help Toronto improve upon the 2.60 goals per game. If both can stay healthy, they should provide a boost to the team that was in the bottom third in the league in scoring.

Scoring woes are a different problem for a different day though. The continued maturation of Luke Schenn will be imperative for the Leafs to improve next season. As much as their offense struggled at times last season, the defense was the weaker part of their overall game. The only teams with worse goals against averages were the Blue Jackets, Islanders, Oilers, Thrashers, and Avalanche. Needless to say, those aren’t exactly perennial Stanley Cup contenders.

It’s Schenn’s job to turn those numbers around—he’ll have five years to figure it out.

Stunner: Team Europe beats Sweden, advances to World Cup Final

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 25:  Marian Gaborik #12 of Team Europe is congratulated by his teammates after scoring a second period goal against Team Sweden at the semifinal game during the World Cup of Hockey tournament at  Air Canada Centre on September 25, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images)
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When the World Cup began earlier this month, Team Europe, a collection of players from eight European countries that did not have their own team in the tournament, was thought to be the weakest team in the field.

Not necessarily a bad team, but one that seemed like it would have trouble keeping up with the hockey superpowers that made up the remainder of the field. That thinking seemed to be confirmed in the pre-tournament games when the North American young stars team skated them out of the building in what the European team admitted was a wakeup call.

All of that is why they still have to actually play the games, and in a short tournament like this anything can happen. 

In this case, anything did happen.

Thanks to their 3-2 overtime win over Team Sweden on Sunday afternoon in the World Cup semifinals, Team Europe has clinched a spot in the World Cup final series and will take on Canada in a best-of-three round that begins on Tuesday night.

It’s been an incredible and almost unbelievable run so far Europe. They frustrated the United States in their opener and shut them out, beat the Czech Republic in overtime, and then on Sunday shut down Sweden to advance to the final. 

The biggest part of their success has to be the play of their goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who has been their best player the entire tournament.

On Sunday, he stopped 37 out of 39 shots and improved his save percentage in the tournament to .946.

The other big star for Team Europe on Sunday was Detroit Red Wings forward Tomas Tatar who scored a pair of goals, including the overtime winner.

After Marian Gaborik scored late in the second period to tie the game at one, Tatar opened the third period with a goal just 12 seconds in when he followed up his own shot and beat Sweden’s Henrik Lundqvist to give Europe its first lead of the game.

Sweden’s Erik Karlsson scored late in the third period to send the game to overtime.

Europe now haas to get ready to face a Canadian team that is 4-0 in the tournament and outscored its opponents by a 19-6 margin.

Canada beat Europe in the first round 4-1.

Sounds like Blues will be more aggressive

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 06:  Head coach Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues watches from the bench during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on January 6, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. The Blues defeated the Coyotes 6-0.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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With their former captain now a member of the Boston Bruins and their coach on year-to-year deals, it’s appropriate to say that the St. Louis Blues are in a period of transitions.

It’s also a convenient choice of words, as it sounds like the Blues are going to change the way they transition on the ice.

That’s the indication given by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and players like Chris Porter approve.

“The play in the neutral zone will fit this team great with the speed and the size that they already have in place,” Porter said. “I don’t think it’s a huge adjustment for the guys, I think it’s just a little tweak here or there.”

Perhaps hiring Mike Yeo had something to do with taking a more modern approach?

Either way, getting more aggressive makes a lot of sense for the Blues, at least on paper.

With David Backes and Troy Brouwer out of town, younger and speedier players get to take more of a role. Some Blues fans will probably view this tweak – big or small – as a long time coming.

Of course, there’s a give-and-take when it comes to situations like these, and becoming more attack-minded sure makes retaining Kevin Shattenkirk that much more important. The underrated blueliner still expects to be moved despite being named an alternate captain, yet you wonder if these changes might prompt GM Doug Armstrong to try to pull some strings to keep him around.

(Giving Alexander Steen a contract extension means that much less room for the likes of Shattenkirk.)

Even if the Blues eventually need to part ways with Shattenkirk, there are some other nice assets who can use this change as a catalyst to push this team up another level.

In an ideal scenario, the Blues would enjoy those improvements and keep Shattenkirk to reap those rewards.

Update: Clarke MacArthur suffers concussion

BUFFALO, NY - OCTOBER 8: Clarke MacArthur #16 of the Ottawa Senators skates with the puck during the game against the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center on October 8, 2015 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Brenner/ Getty Images)
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Update: As many feared, Clarke MacArthur suffered a concussion. The Ottawa Senators announced that he will be “evaluated daily.”

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Rough news for the Ottawa Senators on Sunday: forward Clarke MacArthur needed help off the ice following a big hit during a team scrimmage.

The hit was delivered by Patrick Sieloff, prompting an immediate response from Bobby Ryan, according to The Hockey News’ Murray Pam.

MacArthur has been hoping to return to NHL action after some serious concussion issues, so this is a troubling situation. More than a few people wonder if this might end his career.

Update: Here’s a GIF of the hit.

Robin Lehner certainly has swagger

ANAHEIM, CA - FEBRUARY 24:  Robin Lehner #40 of the Buffalo Sabres stretches during the first period of a game against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on February 24, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Robin Lehner is a big goalie, and barring possible language barrier issues, sure seems to have a pretty big personality.

That at least seems to be the case with the Buffalo Sabres’ top guy, who provided the Buffalo News’ John Vogl with a great quote:

“There’s a lot of pressure on me, and that’s fine. … I know I’m a good goaltender,” Lehner said.

Hey now.

As much as the Sabres feel like a work in progress, acquiring Lehner was one of GM Tim Murray’s boldest moves. Murray was able to observe Lehner in Ottawa, and despite some struggles, the big Swede (6-foot-5, 240 lbs.) was sneaky-good in 2015-16.

Twenty-one games serves as a limited sample size, yet a .924 save percentage seems quite promising. His 107 career regular season games are spread over six seasons, so to some extent, the 25-year-old is still something of an unknown entity.

If nothing else, it looks like he could provide some Bryzgalovian entertainment.

Back in March, Ben Scrivens admitted he was happy to avoid a fight with a guy he called a “bit of a psycho.”

Sounds like a guy to watch.