Always wanted to play in the NHL? Good news — it can still happen

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Mike Sielski of the Wall Street Journal has written a great piece on the collective bargaining agreement clause that keeps our hopes and dreams alive: The 24-hour Amateur Tryout Offer.

An obscure provision in the NHL’s labor agreement allows its franchises to replace an injured player on its roster by offering a 24-hour tryout to an amateur player.

NHL teams operate under a salary cap, so if they were to sign a professional player to cover them during an emergency, the money would count against their limit.

This rule allows teams to avoid that inconvenience by hiring a temp, so long as he agrees to play for free.

“It’s kind of a fantasy-hockey thing,” said Jim Nill, assistant general manager of the Detroit Red Wings.

We recently saw the ATO put to use when Minnesota signed 51-year-old embroidery store owner Paul Deutsch to a one-day deal. Deutsch was a stopgap solution after Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom (personal reasons) and AHL callup Matt Hackett (stuck traveling) were thought to be unable to attend that night’s game. Deutsch didn’t end up getting to dress for the game — Hackett made it to the rink after the pregame shoot-around — but his story garnered quite a bit of attention.

So much attention that Sielski did some digging. Turns out there have been 16 players to join the NHL via ATO since the start of the 2007-08 season, according to Stats LLC. The most notable is Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader, who parlayed his one-day deal into a three-year contract (which he signed the next day) though traditionally, the contracts mostly seem to go to goalies.

Goalies like Torrie Jung, who cleaned himself up and became an Edmonton Oiler:

Having just finished morning practice with his junior team on Nov. 21, 2009, Jung—a goaltender—was planning a quiet afternoon of movies and videogames. Instead, his coach called to tell him that Edmonton Oilers’ goalie Nikolai Khabibulin had hurt his back, and the team needed an emergency sub for a home game against Chicago. Jung, then 20, ate a quick lunch, showered, put on his favorite shirt and tie and “did my hair up nice” before hustling over to Rexall Place for the game—a 5-2 Edmonton loss.

“I wanted to make sure I didn’t have bed head or anything,” said Jung, who plays for the minor-league Laredo Bucks. “I didn’t want to look like a bum walking into an NHL rink.”

Ahhh, to be 20 again. The only time you worry about having bed head in the late afternoon.

Jets’ Enstrom undergoes second knee surgery in 12 months

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There’s not much left for Winnipeg to play for — just five regular-season games left, and no playoffs on the horizon — so today’s news that Tobias Enstrom has undergone season-ending knee surgery isn’t a crippling development.

Can’t be good, though.

Enstrom’s had a difficult year health-wise and, at the time of surgery, was dealing with a concussion suffered on a Tom Sestito hit back in early March. Prior to that, he missed time while attending to a family matter in his native Sweden and, prior to that, was shut down late last season to undergo knee surgery.

It’s unclear if today’s procedure was related to the one Enstrom had last March.

It is worth noting that, at the time of last year’s surgery, head coach Paul Maurice noted the 32-year-old had been dealing with the injury for months.

“He’s been able to get through it because of blocks of days off. If he can get a two day block, he’d get a little better and it’s just getting worse,” Maurice said, per Global News. “It got to the point that he’s not recovering and he hasn’t been. He hasn’t been for almost a month now. He’s not recovering enough on his days off for the pain ever to subside.”

All told, Enstrom appeared in 60 games this year, scoring 14 points while averaging just under 22 minutes per night. Next season will be the last of a five-year, $28.75 million deal that carries a $5.75 million cap hit.

Lundqvist will start four of five remaining games

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Henrik Lundqvist has had two tough starts since returning from injury.

The 35-year-old allowed five goals in his first game back, a 6-3 loss to Anaheim Sunday, and five more in his second game, a 5-4 OT loss to San Jose Tuesday.

But Lundqvist is still the No. 1 in New York, and for that reason he’s scheduled to start four of the Rangers’ five remaining regular-season games, with the hope he’ll be able to play his way back into form in time for the postseason.

Lundqvist was not happy after Tuesday’s loss to the Sharks, even though the point the Rangers gained earned them a playoff berth.

“I’m extremely disappointed right now,” he told reporters. “I’m glad we’re in, but I want to get the job done. I want the win. We found a way to lose this one at the end.”

With the loss, Lundqvist’s save percentage fell to .911 on the season. If it finishes at that number, it would be the lowest save percentage of his NHL career.

Antti Raanta‘s save percentage, meanwhile, sits at .922. In his last start, he shut out the Kings in Los Angeles.

The Rangers host Pittsburgh tomorrow and Philadelphia Sunday. Next week, they’re in Washington Wednesday, Ottawa Saturday, and then they close out their schedule at home to Pittsburgh Sunday.

Raanta will start one of the final two games.

The Rangers are likely to face Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs.

Reinhart suggests benching was a stretch

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Two days after Sam Reinhart was bolted to the pine for the entirety of Buffalo’s 3-1 loss to Columbus — his punishment for showing up late to a team stretch — Reinhart discussed the incident, and didn’t sound overly thrilled about how it played out.

“It’s a coach’s decision. It’s a management decision,” Reinhart said, per the Buffalo News. “From my perspective, I would have rather battled it out with my teammates.

“I don’t think five minutes in the morning is going to influence my preparation for a game, but it was a team stretch and I should have been there on time.”

Reinhart also had this to say:

Discipline of this nature is pretty common, though the way Reinhart’s played out was a bit more dramatic. Rather than park him in the press box as a healthy scratch, the Sabres — who didn’t have an extra forward, as Kyle Okposo was out sick — dressed the 21-year-old, then sat him for the entire 60 minutes.

The Buffalo News said the move “would seem to send a deeper message than merely being scratch,” adding that “there has been friction between players and [Sabres head coach Dan] Bylsma throughout the season.”

In the club’s defense, Reinhart is hardly the first young player to be punished for lateness. Nikita Zadorov had repeated issues with punctuality and, after being suspended, was eventually traded to Colorado. Evander Kane was parked for a game last season after sleeping in and missing a practice.

Of course, each situation is unique and some will argue showing up five minutes late for a stretch isn’t on par with what Zadorov and Kane did. Which is fair. That could be why Bylsma said the club might consider a policy change.

And that could by why Reinhart’s teammate, Jack Eichel, tried to put things in perspective.

“We’re obviously not going to hold it over his head here,” Eichel said, per the News. “He didn’t really do too much wrong.”

North Dakota’s Poolman turns pro, signs with Jets

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Another day, another North Dakota departure.

Having already lost freshman Tyson Jost (signed with Colorado) and sophomore Brock Boeser (signed with Vancouver), the school has now learned that junior blueliner Tucker Poolman has signed an entry-level deal with the Jets.

Poolman, 23, was taken by Winnipeg in the fifth round (127th overall) at the ’13 draft. From the Free Press:

UND’s top defenceman was playing between 25 and 30 minutes per game and was the fourth-highest scoring blue-liner in the NCHC. He finished the season with seven goals, 30 points, 14 penalty minutes and a plus-18 rating in 38 games.

Poolman’s final campaign ended on a sour note. He suffered a shoulder injury during the NCHC championship game and was unable to play in North Dakota’s season-ending loss to Boston University in the NCAA championships.