Marc Staal

Rangers to put Staal on LTIR, gain cap space

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Interesting bit of news from the New York Post’s Larry Brooks about some salary cap finagling in the Big Apple. According to Brooks, the Rangers have a series of moves in place to gain an additional $3.975 million of cap space — by putting assistant captain Marc Staal on Long Term Injury Reserve.

It’s believed once the Rangers make the necessary moves to come as close to possible to the cap — including the potential recall of Mats Zuccarello from the AHL Whale in the aftermath of the groin injury suffered by Wojtek Wolski in the first period of last night’s 2-1 shootout victory over the Ducks — they will then sign and register the contract of free-agent defenseman Anton Stralman, who has agreed to terms on a one-year deal worth $900,000.

Once that’s all done, New York will reportedly put Staal on LTIR (which he already qualifies for, having been sidelined for at least 10 games and/or 24 days.) The key for the Rangers is getting as close to the $64.3-million cap as possible before putting Staal on LTIR, because they can only gain the difference between Staal’s cap hit and the amount of cap space available at the time he goes on. Isn’t the CBA fun?

Brooks also notes that Staal’s been plagued by headaches since suffering a concussion on Feb. 22 and that head coach John Tortorella says his status remains unchanged.

So without getting too far ahead of ourselves, let’s drum up a trade rumor!

Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Suter (an impending UFA) is making $3.5-million this season. With the Preds breaking the bank to extend Pekka Rinne (likely putting Shea Weber next on the “to do” list), Suter could be made available. His agent, Neil Sheehy, will resume contract talks with Preds GM David Poile in the coming weeks, but note what ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun wrote today:

“If the Preds don’t have Suter locked up as the Feb. 27 trade deadline approaches, Poile will have a mighty difficult decision to make. He didn’t move pending UFA Dan Hamhuis a few years back and saw him walk away to Vancouver in the summer. If the Preds aren’t in a playoff spot Feb 27, it’s a no-brainer: You move Suter and maximize his asset value.”

Potential hiccups:

1) Poile’s made it clear he wants to keep Rinne, Weber and Suter.

2) Even if Nashville can’t get Suter signed, they might be in a playoff spot/no position to trade him.

3) LeBrun suggests Suter could be looking for “at least $6.5 million” on a new deal, which could be way out of New York’s wheelhouse (the Rangers will already have three players making $6.5-million-plus next year: Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and Henrik Lundqvist.)

4) New York might not even want Suter.

5) This may be based entirely on the fact I really like Suter and would want him on my team.

So there definitely are issues with what’s proposed above.

But hey, it’s always fun to speculate.

Pens coach praises Murray: ‘He doesn’t get rattled’

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Hot take: the Pittsburgh Penguins probably won’t deal with a goalie controversy going into Game 7.

(Ugh, that’s a failed hot take … you can’t use “probably” in those things, right?)

Matt Murray was fantastic at times during Game 6, much like his counterpart in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s net in a 5-2 win. Granted, there were some tense moments during the Bolts’ late-game push:

Much has been made about experience, especially from those calling for Marc-Andre Fleury earlier in this series. It’s telling that the praise Murray draws sure sounds like what you’d expect from a “veteran.”

“He has a calming influence,” Sullivan said. “He doesn’t get rattled. If he lets a goal in, he just continues to compete. That’s usually an attribute that usually takes years to acquire that, and to have it at such a young age is impressive.”

Thanks in part to Murray’s efforts in Game 6, he’ll get a chance to prove his resolve in something new: a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Final.

Once again, his teammates seem pretty confident in this elimination situation.

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal

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The Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to sleepwalk through the first two periods of Game 6, and waking up in the final frame wasn’t enough to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins.

On the bright side, at least the Lightning aren’t in denial about that weak first 40 minutes.

It seemed like everyone on the team more or less admitted as much in unison.

Brian Boyle added that he felt like the Lightning tiptoed around this game. Jon Cooper often provides great quips, yet he was pretty matter-of-fact in this case.

Many will linger on this disallowed goal for Jonathan Drouin, which would have provided a 1-0 lead for Tampa Bay in the first period.

Let’s face it; that moment came pretty early in the game. To Tampa Bay’s credit, they’re not pinning the loss on that setback.

Now they must set their sights on competing throughout Game 7 … and maybe earning some bounces of their own in the process.

Read more about Game 6 here.

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

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The Pittsburgh Penguins played with fire late in Game 6, but they also showed plenty of fire in beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2.

With that, this thrilling Eastern Conference Final will go the distance with Game 7 on Thursday.

There are at least a few “What if?” scenarios to consider, especially for the Lightning.

What if that offside goal counted?

Jonathan Drouin played some fantastic hockey on Tuesday, yet his most memorable moment came via something that ultimately “didn’t happen.” An offside call on a goal review kept a 1-0 lead from happening for Tampa Bay:

Instead, the Penguins poured it on during the first period and eventually went up 1-0. They then carried that momentum over through the second period, adding two more goals to go up 3-0 heading into the final frame.

What if Tampa Bay played more like they did in the third period?

The difference between the level of play in the first 40 minutes and the final frame were night-and-day.

Now, you can make a chicken-and-the-egg argument here. Did the Penguins take their feet off the gas with that lead? Maybe Jon Cooper finally unleashed the hounds when the Lightning were facing a big deficit?

Maybe it’s a combination of those factors; either way, the Bolts couldn’t come all the way back even after making it interesting. At one point the game was 3-2 before a Bryan Rust breakaway goal and an empty-netter put things out of reach.

Both Matt Murray and Andrei Vasilevskiy faced plenty of tough chances and came through more often than not. We’ll see if there are any goal controversy rumblings, but each netminder came through at times tonight.

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Now the series shifts back to Pittsburgh for Game 7 with a Stanley Cup Final on the line. Excited and/or nervous yet?

More: Great goals by Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel.

Sidney Crosby scores a superstar goal

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With the Pittsburgh Penguins’ season on the line in Game 6, plenty of eyes are on big guns Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Phil Kessel.

Those marquee names are really coming through so far as they’ve now built a 3-0 lead through two periods against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You likely already saw Kessel’s display of high-end hand-eye coordination (if not, check it here). Kris Letang scored his first goal of the series to make it 2-0 on a very tricky, well-placed shot.

The highlight really might be Crosby’s tally, though. He left multiple Lightning players baffled and beat a very-much-game Andrei Vasilevskiy to beef that lead up 3-0.