Phil Kessel is the NHL’s First Star of the week

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After posting 5G-3A-8PTS in his first three games, Toronto Maple Leafs winger Phil Kessel was named the NHL’s first star for the opening week of the 2011-12 campaign.

Playing on a line with Joffrey Lupul (2G-3A-5PTS) and Tyler Bozak (0G-3A-3PTS) — a line you can watch tonight as Toronto faces Colorado on Versus — Kessel has been a key figure in getting the Leafs off to their best start since…last year, when they started 4-0!

But then they missed the playoffs for the sixth straight season.

But hey, first star of the week!

Moving along…the second star went to New York Islanders C John Tavares, who also posted 5G-3A-8PTS, but over a four-game stretch. The highlight of Tavares’ week was his hat trick against the Rangers (which would’ve been a natural hatty if not for a goal by Brandon Prust). Another highlight for Tavares was almost single-handedly putting P.A. Parenteau into a tie for the NHL assist lead. Seriously — Parenteau has six assists, which is more than Henrik Sedin and Joe Thornton combined. He should buy Tavares a walk-in humidor or something.

Third star went to Dallas netminder Karti Lehtonen, who posted a 4-0-0 record with a 1.48 GAA against the Blackhawks, Coyotes, Blues and Blue Jackets. Great start for a guy that, in the past, has been besieged by injuries, bad teams and a general disinterest in physical fitness (which would explain the injuries, says Dr. Halford).

The Stars are hopeful that, at age 27, Lehtonen is finally ready to make good on the potential that made him the 2nd overall pick at the 2002 NHL Draft. Remember, Lehtonen twice won the Urpo Ylonen trophy (Finnish League goalie of the year award; it’s more prestigious than the name suggests) before he turned 20. Past Urpo recipients include Niklas Backstrom, Miikka Kiprusoff and Tim Thomas, so winning it twice is a big accomplisment.

[Random aside: The top goalscorer in the Finnish league gets the Aarne Honkavaara trophy, and one year it was won by Arto Javanainen. I felt like you needed to know that.]

Panthers officially add Chris Pronger to front office

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Earlier this month, it was reported that the Florida Panthers were talking to Chris Pronger about joining their front office.

Exactly three weeks later, the Panthers confirmed the move during a conference call with GM Dale Tallon.

Dan Murphy of Sportsnet is reporting that Pronger’s official title will be “senior adviser to the president of hockey operations”. So basically, he’ll be working closely with Tallon.

Pronger has been with the NHL’s Department of Players Safety since the start of the 2014 season.

“Chris has spent the last three years working for the League’s Department of Player Safety and is ready to move into a more competitive, executive role,” Tallon said in a release. “One of the most dominant defensemen of his era, Chris’ winning resume and wealth of hockey knowledge will be a great asset to our hockey club. We’re thrilled that he has chosen to join the Panthers organization.”

The 42-year-old is now free to join a team because his last player contract has (finally) expired, and he’s no longer on anyone’s payroll.

This move is hardly surprising considering Pronger has already mentioned on numerous occasions that he’d like to be a general manager one day.

Plenty of trade chatter now that freeze is over

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The NHL trade freeze officially ended at 8:00 a.m. ET on Thursday morning, but we haven’t officially seen any moves. Still, expect some transactions to go down in the very near future.

According to TSN hockey insider Bob McKenzie, there are a few specific names that might find themselves in new cities sooner than later.

Per McKenzie, the Carolina Hurricanes are very interested in new Golden Knights defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk, who they acquired from Chicago during the expansion draft.

The former Blackhawk is 25 years old, and he had 16 points and 29 penalty minutes in 58 games during the 2016-17 season.

McKenzie also mentioned the strong possibility of the Oilers dealing Jordan Eberle at some point, but he also added that a deal isn’t necessarily close. A trade could occur on Friday.

Eberle had 20 goals and 51 points in 82 games, but he was nowhere to be seen during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, as he had two assists and a minus-6 rating in 13 games.

The fact that Eberle comes with a cap hit of $6 million doesn’t help his odds of sticking around in Edmonton. After all, they’ll need all the cap space they can get for Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl‘s extensions.

For over a week now, the Minnesota Wild have been at the front of the line when it comes to trade rumors. The Wild have bodies they can move on the blue line, as they were able to keep Matt Dumba, Marco Scandella and Jonas Brodin away from Vegas.

Now, it sounds like Scandella may be the player most likely to move in the next little while.

Going back to McKenzie’s Twitter timeline, he suggests that Brodin is the player they least want to part ways with, while Scandella is the one most likely to be dealt.

The Arizona Coyotes have already made some noise this week. They traded for Nick Cousins, moved Mike Smith to Calgary and parted ways with Shane Doan. But TSN’s Darren Dreger believes there will be more movement in the desert.

Now all we need is for two teams (or more) to pull the trigger!

PHT Morning Skate: Expansion draft winners and losers

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–As you’ve probably heard, the Vegas Golden Knights put their roster together last night. The Score looks at three takeaways from their initial roster. Landing Nikita Gusev from Tampa Bay was a nice acquisition for GM George McPhee. (The Score)

–Sportsnet’s Luke Fox put together his observations of last night’s NHL Awards ceremony. Mike Babcock just can’t buy a Jack Adams Award, Connor McDavid left with a lot of hardware and actor Jacob Tremblay took a little shot at the Canucks. (Sportsnet)

–Sean McIndoe looks at the five best goalies that have ever been exposed in an expansion draft (prior to last night). People forget, but the Sabres left Dominik Hasek unprotected in the early 90s, but the Anaheim Ducks and Florida Panthers opted not to select him. (The Hockey News)

–Former hockey player Denna Laing suffered a devastating injury on the ice that left her paralyzed. Yesterday, she had the honor of presenting an award and getting a standing ovation. (NBC Sports)

–Some teams took a major hit in the Vegas expansion draft, while other teams made out just fine. The Washington Post breaks down the winners and losers of last night’s expansion draft. It was a pretty tough night for the Panthers and Islanders. (Washington Post)

–Sportsnet did a great feature on top draft prospect Nolan Patrick. Here’s a look at how Patrick became the player he is today:

Vegas has 15 d-men, but won’t keep them all

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The Vegas Golden Knights suddenly have 15 defensemen.

Just don’t expect all 15 to remain Knights for long.

“We’re going to have to move some defensemen,” general manager George McPhee said Tuesday, “because we’re going to claim a bunch.”

So, who might get flipped?

Well, a highly touted youngster like Shea Theodore, acquired in a trade with Anaheim, is unlikely to go. Theodore, 21, could be a core member of the Knights for years to come.

Deryk Engelland probably won’t be going anywhere either. He just signed a one-year contract with the Knights, and he already has ties to Sin City.

But a 32-year-old like Marc Methot? He could be dealt. The Dallas Stars are reportedly quite interested.

A few others could be on the move, too, but we’ll have to wait to find out which ones.

Here’s the full list of d-men that officially became Vegas property today:

Jake Bischoff
Deryk Engelland
Alexei Emelin
Jason Garrison
Brayden McNabb
Jon Merrill
Marc Methot
Colin Miller
Luca Sbisa
David Schlemko
Griffin Reinhart
Nate Schmidt
Clayton Stoner
Shea Theodore
Trevor van Riemsdyk