Tomas Vokoun gets to start tonight’s game against Tampa Bay for the Washington Capitals (7 p.m. on Versus). If we’d have told you that were going to be a big deal before the season, you’d probably tell us we were crazy. Instead, it’s part of the season’s most surprising controversy.
Bruce Boudreau’s choice to start Michal Neuvirth in the Caps’ season opener against Carolina caught not just Vokoun off guard but the rest of the NHL world as well. After all, when a player is brought in to be the team’s starting goalie and they don’t start the first game, that’s going to be questioned.
Boudreau has a lot of pressure heading into this season and with the additions the Caps made in the offseason, the one position that figured to be without drama was goalie. Now, it’s the biggest story of the early part of the season for Washington and one that has Caps fans rushing to defend Boudreau while outsiders raise more questions about what he’s doing behind the bench.
Neuvirth had the more impressive preseason while Vokoun struggled. Rewarding good play is something a coach should be commended for. Instead, Boudreau is under fire for not being able to manage personalities the right way. Whether there’s a controversy as to who the starter is or not (those on the inside say there isn’t one), it’s going to be a story line that hangs around all season long.
Where Boudreau is getting things right is getting these issues figured out early in the season rather than having them pop up late in the year and potentially derail a playoff run. For Boudreau’s sake, he’d better hope that things do get figured out by the time the playoffs roll around, or else it will be his job that’ll be on the line.
It’ll be on Vokoun to show that Boudreau made a mistake by beating the team that took Washington out of the playoffs last year. Is Bruce Boudrean a mad genius or mad man? We’ve got all season to figure that out.
The Montreal Canadiens have signed 39-year-old defenseman Mark Streit to a one-year contract worth a reported $700,000.
This will actually be Streit’s second stint with the Habs. He started his NHL career in Montreal, all the way back in 2005.
Streit split last season between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. In the playoffs, he only appeared in three games for the Penguins, all of them in the Eastern Conference Final against Ottawa when Justin Schultz was hurt.
What the Streit signing means for Andrei Markov remains to be seen. Streit, like Markov, can run a power play, so it’s tempting to conclude that Streit is Markov’s replacement.
That being said, almost all of Streit’s contract could be buried in the AHL if necessary, so that conclusion may be premature. This could even be a move by GM Marc Bergevin to gain leverage and convince Markov to sign.
Markov, 38, remains an unrestricted free agent. The Canadiens want him back, but only at a certain price.
The New Jersey Devils have signed defenseman Mirco Mueller to a two-year contract extension with a cap hit of $850,000.
Mueller, a first-round draft pick of the Sharks in 2013, has only played 54 NHL games, scoring two goals with four assists. In June, after spending most of 2016-17 in the AHL, San Jose traded the 22-year-old to the Devils.
In New Jersey, Mueller should get a good chance to crack a rebuilding roster.
“Mirco is adding another piece to what we’re trying to build here,” Devils coach John Hynes said, per NJ.com. “He’s a young player, he can play with pace. He’s a very good skater. He’s got size, which is something we need on the back end. He makes a good first pass. He allows you to get out of your own zone because he can break out, he can end plays defensively, get possession, make the pass to be able to transition yourself out of defensive situations.”
The Devils have also re-signed goalie Scott Wedgewood and forward Joseph Blandisi.
The New York Rangers have locked up a key piece of their future, signing center Mika Zibanejad to a five-year deal with a cap hit of $5.35 million.
Zibanejad had an arbitration hearing scheduled for today, but that won’t be required anymore.
The 24-year-old had 14 goals and 23 assists in 56 games last season. It was his first year in New York after getting traded from Ottawa for Derick Brassard.
With Derek Stepan in Arizona now, Zibanejad is arguably the Rangers’ No. 1 center. Kevin Hayes is in that conversation as well, and perhaps Lias Andersson will be soon.
But getting Zibanejad signed long term was a top priority for GM Jeff Gorton this offseason. Hayes can become a restricted free agent next summer, but that’s a bridge to cross at a later date.
Related: Andersson to get ‘every opportunity’ to make Rangers next season
Matt Nieto won’t need his arbitration hearing on Monday.
According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Nieto has agreed to a one-year, $1 million contract with the Colorado Avalanche.
Nieto split last season between San Jose and Colorado, which claimed him off waivers in January.
In 43 games for the Avalanche, the 24-year-old forward scored seven goals with four assists.
Nieto was the only Colorado player on this summer’s arbitration list. However, the Avs still have a restricted free agent in Nikita Zadorov, who could be off to the KHL next season.