Who knew that when you saw that the Tampa Bay Lightning and Minnesota Wild were slated to face off tonight on Versus (7:30 p.m. ET) that you’d be seeing a showdown between the first place Wild (they were atop the NHL as recently as this past week) and the defensively struggling Lightning. After all, if you figured anyone was going to have a hard time being consistent in winning games, it’d be Minnesota, right? Not so much these days.
While the Wild have cooled off in their last couple games, they’re still atop the Northwest Division and they’ve got Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley to thank for it offensively. Koivu is the guy that NBC’s Pierre McGuire called “the most underrated guy in the league” and he’s showing the way in Minnesota. More impressive for the Wild is their goaltending tandem of Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding. Sure the Wild aren’t scoring tons of goals, but they’re keeping the wolves at bay.
Tampa Bay, meanwhile, has seen Steve Stamkos bust out a bit lately with five points in his last three games and 24 points in all this season. Of course, Steve Yzerman has worries about the Lightning’s depth and considering their top scorers, it’s a prime worry. The Lightning will need that offense to continue to counteract the troubles in goal Tampa Bay had before facing Florida over the weekend.
Mathieu Garon may have turned things around against the Panthers, but unless Dwayne Roloson can get things figured out, the Lightning might be in the hunt for a starting goalie somehow. Roloson could be in line to start against one of his former teams in the Wild and giving Guy Boucher a shot to see how he responds.
With the Wild having dropped two in a row and Tampa having won their last two, this match-up sets up to be a curious one. One thing’s for sure, we won’t have to sweat out that whole 1-3-1 thing Tampa does as the Wild will look to move the puck up the ice and get Heatley and Devin Setoguchi moving and hopefully scoring more goals.
Over the weekend, reports suggested that Toronto and RFA blueliner Frank Corrado were close to agreeing to a new contract.
On Monday, the two sides sealed the deal.
The Leafs announced they signed Corrado to a one-year contract, with Sportsnet reporting it to be a $600,00 pact, of the one-way variety.
Corrado, 23, was scheduled to go to arbitration tomorrow. His ask was $900,000, while the Leafs countered with a $625,000 figure on a two-way deal, and $575,000 on a one-way.
So Toronto was nearly spot-on with its valuation.
The former Canucks draftee took a while to make his Leafs debut last season — he sat 28 games after they claimed him off waivers — but when he did get into the lineup, he fared reasonably well. Corrado finished with a goal and six points in 39 games, averaging 14:27 TOI per game.
This marks the second player Toronto avoided going to arbitration with. Prior to signing Corrado, the Leafs inked center Peter Holland to a one-year, $1.3 million deal.
The Philadelphia Flyers are hoping Brayden Schenn hasn’t finished improving. The former fifth overall draft pick signed a four-year, $20.5 million contract today, after posting career highs in goals (26) and assists (33) in 2015-16.
It took a few years for Schenn, 24, to start justifying his draft position. John Tavares, Victor Hedman, Matt Duchene, and Evander Kane were selected with the first four picks that year. Oliver Ekman-Larsson was taken sixth overall.
So there was pressure.
“I think sometimes when you draft a player top five you tend to think he’s going to develop a little quicker than other guys,” Flyers GM Ron Hextall said Monday, per Flyzette. “When you look at Brayden, has he been a fast developer? I would say probably no. Has he been a slow developer? I would say probably no. He’s probably been average.
“The good thing is he’s gotten better every year and he’s a hard worker. He’s starting to figure out the intricacies of the game. He obviously had his best year to this point so hopefully he continues to build on that.”
Hextall reportedly danced around a question about Schenn being part of the “core” group, so there’s still some proving to be done. The Flyers have already committed long-term to forwards Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, and Sean Couturier. Wayne Simmonds and Michael Raffl have three years left on their deals, and Dale Weise signed a four-year agreement on July 1.
As for Schenn, he knows he needs to justify the Flyers’ trust in his ongoing development.
“I feel like I keep getting better and better,” he said. “I expect nothing else next year.”
If the Buffalo Sabres can sign Jimmy Vesey, they may be more willing to trade winger Evander Kane.
That’s what TSN 1040 (Vancouver) radio host Matt Sekeres has been hearing, and what he’s hearing does make a lot of sense.
Kane, whose off-ice issues are once again making headlines, has two years left on his contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent. He plays the same position as Vesey, 23, who’s currently Buffalo property but can sign with any team he chooses on Aug. 15.
Even if the Sabres can’t convince Vesey to join them, Kane could still be traded. GM Tim Murray has already conceded that his patience is wearing thin with the 24-year-old that he acquired from Winnipeg not long ago. Alex Nylander, drafted eighth overall in June, plays the same position as Kane, and Murray has said it’s possible the teenager could make the jump to the NHL next season.
Buffalo, Boston and Toronto have generally been considered the favorites to land Vesey. Chicago and Pittsburgh have also been mentioned.
Related: Cue the Kane-to-Vancouver speculation
The Toronto Maple Leafs won’t require arbitration with forward Peter Holland. They’ve signed the 25-year-old to a one-year deal worth a reported $1.3 million.
Holland had a hearing scheduled for today. Last week, the Leafs sent a message by putting him on waivers, which he cleared.
Holland had nine goals and 18 assists in 65 games last season. With him signed, the Leafs have only defensemen Frank Corrado and Martin Marincin as restricted free agents. Corrado has an arbitration hearing scheduled for tomorrow; Marincin’s is next Tuesday.
Related: Corrado and Leafs aren’t that far apart