Three (News) Stars of the Week: Torts, Ovi on the bench, Raffi as Jay-Z

“Three (News) Stars of the Week” will run every Friday. It’s our way of acknowledging the week’s big NHL stories that gave us lots of page views, thereby increasing PHT’s attractiveness to advertisers.

Third star: Busy John Tortorella

The fiery coach’s frustration with his sluggish team peaked Saturday when the Rangers blew a three-goal, third-period lead at home to the Senators. Soon after came news Sean Avery was being recalled from the AHL. Yes, the same Sean Avery that Tortorella cut after training camp. But with Mike Rupp on the shelf, Torts had no other choice but to bring back Avery, who will make his debut Saturday at MSG. Tortorella also had strong words for San Jose captain Joe Thornton, who opined that the Rangers were soft after losing to said soft team on Monday. Tortorella in turn raised the fact Thornton hasn’t won a Stanley Cup, so maybe he should keep his mouth shut. Upon further reflection, Thornton agreed.

Second star: Bruce Boudreau doesn’t choose Alex Ovechkin

When the Capitals were trailing the Ducks by a goal late in Tuesday’s game, Bruce Boudreau played a hunch and didn’t send Ovechkin over the boards. This displeased Ovechkin, who was caught on camera saying something disparaging about his coach. Even though Boudreau’s hunch was correct and the Caps tied it up and won in overtime, the decision to leave one of the NHL’s most prolific scorers on the bench at such a crucial moment caught the attention of reporters, who asked the coach why he benched the superstar. But did he really “bench” Ovechkin? Boudreau doesn’t think he did. He simply chose to use other players at that particular moment. No big deal. Let’s move on.

First star: Raffi Torres is Jay-Z

The Phoenix forward went to a team Halloween party dressed as rapper Jay-Z. Not being a black man, Torres painted his face to look the part, and when teammate Paul Bissonnette tweeted a picture of Torres as Jay-Z, opinions were shared. Some said it was racist. Others said it wasn’t racist, but it was insensitive. Most said it was a great costume. People argued about morality on the internet for a while, then everyone forgot about it because there were games to be watched.

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    Habs sign Mark Streit — is he Markov’s replacement?

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    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.

    Devils give Mirco Mueller two-year extension

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    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.

    Rangers lock up Zibanejad for next five years

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    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

    Avalanche reportedly settle with Nieto, avoiding arbitration

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    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.