Tyler Seguin’s move to the wing, added PP time could help him break through

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People love to throw around the term “Sophomore slump,” but what about all the players who make big jumps after struggling as rookies?

Some will reasonably state that Barry Melrose misused Steven Stamkos during his brief run at head coach, but either way, “Seen Stamkos?” turned into a short-lived joke when he struggled in his first season. After scoring 46 points, Stamkos exploded in 2009-10 to score 51 goals and 95 points. He certainly isn’t the first high draft pick to see such a jump in year two, but that turnaround prompts hockey writers to look even deeper for the next Stamkos sophomore.

Since Taylor Hall was more than solid in his first year, it’s natural for people to shift their focus to 2010’s second overall pick Tyler Seguin – especially after he tantalized audiences with his brief but blazing run of offense during the Eastern Conference finals.

Seguin hopes to prove himself this season after failing to convince head coach Claude Julien that he deserved to play during the first two rounds of the playoffs. His teammates and the Bruins’ staff  told USA Today’s Kevin Allen that the learning experience should serve him well this season.

“He learned from sitting and playing in the playoffs,” Chiarelli says. “He knows the sacrifices that need to be made to win a Stanley Cup. … I don’t know if there are other players who have seen what he has seen at his age.”

Boston goalie Tim Thomas says Seguin, 19, benefited from learning how to play in the NHL without being asked to do too much.

“The way he was brought in, he got to avoid all of that pressure that gets put on those kids at an early age. And I think that could be helpful in the long run,” Thomas says. “There will be a time when he does face that pressure — the Taylor Hall-type of pressure. Some guys thrive on it. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane thrived on it. Maybe Tyler Seguin would have, too. But this is a way to let Tyler Seguin grow up a little bit.”

Putting Seguin in a position (literally and figuratively) to succeed

Julien received his fair share of criticism for the way he handled Seguin as a rookie, but his system isn’t exactly friendly to mistake-prone players. (Phil Kessel found himself in the doghouse on numerous occasions, for example.)

People look at drool-inducing numbers generated by the likes of Jeff Skinner and Michael Grabner, but those players earned those added opportunities because their teams had the openings. Logan Couture got my imaginary Calder vote for fitting in on a legitimate contender, but few rookies had the deck stacked against them like Seguin in Boston.

There are two ways that the team can work Seguin into the lineup in a more comfortable and productive way.

First things first, CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty reports that Seguin will start the season at wing position. While that seems like a natural progression considering the Bruins’ underrated center combo of David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron – not to mention the loss of wingers Michael Ryder and Mark Recchi – it also gives Seguin less defensive responsibilities. In addition to that, Haggerty points out that he’ll be encouraged to shoot more, which is never a bad thing for a right-handed player with Seguin’s skill.

The second change is based on conjecture: Seguin should get more time on the power play. Recchi averaged 2:41 PP minutes per game and Ryder enjoyed 2:04, while Seguin logged 1:21 in 2010-11. Bumping Seguin up to a level between Recchi and Ryder could pay big dividends for the Bruins next season, even if he only scored one goal and three points in man advantages during his rookie campaign.

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With those adjustments, Seguin could make a nice step forward next season. The question is: will it be a leap instead? I’d say it will be more of an incremental improvement, but both Seguin and Julien will play a hand in determining his impact in 11-12.

Penguins GM confident they can find third-line center with Bonino gone

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August is nearing, and the Pittsburgh Penguins haven’t made a trade or signing to replace Nick Bonino, their outstanding (but former) third-line center.

On the bright side, the Penguins have remarkable breathing room considering their status as repeat Stanley Cup champions. Cap Friendly places their 2017-18 room at about $10.38 million.

That robust space likely explains why GM Jim Rutherford seemed fairly calm about the whole situation, as Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

“I do feel confident that, by the start of the season, we’re going to have a third-line center that we’re comfortable with,” Rutherford said. “Whether it’s one of those guys on the list or one of the guys that I could go and get right today.”

Rutherford (jokingly?) said that he had a list of “hundreds of names” as options, although it’s difficult to top Mackey’s suggestion of Phil Kessel‘s buddy, Tyler Bozak. After all, Bozak is a competent player who carries a $4.2 million cap hit that Pittsburgh could comfortably absorb (and the Toronto Maple Leafs might need to shed). It doesn’t hurt that Bozak’s contract expires after 2017-18, so the Penguins wouldn’t be on the hook if things don’t work out.

Of course, Matt Duchene is another name worth considering. It almost feels a little strange to ponder that speedy Avalanche forward being a “third-line center,” especially if Pittsburgh would want to get the most out of him.

MORE: Duchene might begin next season with the Colorado Avalanche

After that, though … the pickings could be much slimmer than Rutherford indicated to Mackey.

Shallow pool

Take a look at this current list of forwards who are unrestricted free agents.

There are some potential bargains here (P.A. Parenteau, Jiri Hudler, anyone?), but the situation gets significantly shakier if you’re picky enough to look only at centers. The likes of Daniel Winnik and Ryan White are reasonable roster additions, but the drop-off from Bonino could be pretty drastic.

What about other trade possibilities?

That’s a shaky group, too, especially if you apply Bozak-like terms as far as guys who only have one year left on their current contracts.

Honestly, the Penguins’ best bet in looking at that list would probably come down to an in-season move with a team that realizes it’s not a contender or simply understands that a player won’t be back.

Maybe the Calgary Flames would want to cut bait on Matt Stajan or (less realistically) Mikael Backlund? Would the Ducks move speedy, versatile sometimes-center Andrew Cogliano? There are other remote possibilities, such as the Leafs instead trading Leo Komarov (or especially unlikely moves in Paul Stastny or Tomas Plekanec).

Even if the above list seems enticing, how many of those teams would really want to move those players now, especially the bigger difference-makers?

If you’re the Penguins, you’re probably hoping that a Bozak deal could take place. And maybe you’re sweating this situation more than you let on.

(Note: There’s also the slight possibility that the Penguins might identify a replacement from within, though a contending team like Pittsburgh might not be so comfortable with that approach.)

Blues have ‘wiggle room’ after locking up Parayko

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The St. Louis Blues didn’t break the bank to keep Colton Parayko for five more years, and that’s important since they don’t believe the NHL’s salary cap will rise significantly in the next little while.

Parayko’s cap hit came in at a manageable $5.5 million, as the two sides narrowly avoided an arbitration hearing that was scheduled for today.

“You like to have as much wiggle room as possible,” GM Doug Armstrong said, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Now we view the cap will stay flat for the foreseeable future. We’re content with the space we have. We’ll move forward and get ready for training camp.”

The Blues now have a number of key players locked up long term, including Parayko, Alex Pietrangelo, Vladimir Tarasenko, Alex Steen, Jaden Schwartz, Patrik Berglund, and Jake Allen.

For Armstrong, the next big decision could involve Paul Stastny, the 31-year-old center who can become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

But a decision on Stastny doesn’t need to be made now, or even before the season starts. It’s the trade deadline that could be the real pressure point, akin to the Kevin Shattenkirk situation this past year.

Per CapFriendly, the Blues have just over $3 million in cap space, with one roster spot left to fill.

‘Highly unlikely’ Suns will pursue shared arena with Coyotes

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The Arizona Coyotes appear to be on their own in pursuit of a new arena in the Phoenix area.

That’s because Robert Sarver, the owner of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, says it’s “highly unlikely” he’ll pursue a shared arena with the Coyotes.

Instead, Sarver is focused on upgrading the Suns’ current home (and Coyotes’ old home) in downtown Phoenix, Talking Stick Resort Arena.

From the Arizona Republic:

Sarver said building a new arena would have “maybe made more sense” four or five years ago when the cost estimate was $450 million to $500 million. The costs now, Sarver said, are “significantly higher.” Thus his focus on upgrading Talking Stick, which soon will be the second-oldest arena in the NBA.

“I think it’s the most economically viable alternative for the city and us,” he said. “I like downtown Phoenix. That’s my first preference. I think the NBA is more of an urban game. That’s our demographic.”

Talking Stick Resort Arena, formerly called America West Arena when the Coyotes played there, was designed for basketball and isn’t ideal for hockey. In that way, it’s a lot like Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which hasn’t been a great fit for the Islanders.

The Coyotes recently hired a new president and CEO, Steve Patterson, whose top priority is finding the team a new home in the Phoenix area.

Crosby to celebrate 30th birthday with Stanley Cup in Nova Scotia

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HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (AP) Sidney Crosby will mark his 30th birthday by once again parading the Stanley Cup in his province.

In tweets sent out by the Sidney Crosby Hockey School, Crosby said he would hoist the trophy in the streets of Halifax and Dartmouth as part of an annual civic parade.

“Get ready, the Stanley cup is coming to town!” Crosby confirmed in the tweet sent late Tuesday night. “I will be taking Lord Stanley to the streets Monday August 7th in the Halifax-Dartmouth Natal Day parade.”

The parade, part of annual events that celebrate Halifax’s birthday, also happens to fall on the Pittsburgh Penguins captain’s 30th birthday.

Natal Day chairman Greg Hayward said he expects another 25,000 people will be lining the parade route on top of the roughly 40,000 usual attendees.

“It’s extremely exciting to think that we’re going to have Sid and the Cup in our Natal Day parade,” Hayward said Wednesday.

Crosby has shown off the Stanley Cup twice before in his hometown of Cole Harbour, just outside Dartmouth, in 2009 and 2016.

Last July, Crosby carried the Cup in the back of a pickup that made its way to an arena in Cole Harbour as thousands of cheering fans looked on in sweltering heat.