Darren Dreger: Penguins might want to trade Malkin instead of Staal if necessary

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Depending on plenty of factors – especially a new CBA and all that entails – the Pittsburgh Penguins’ much-touted center trio of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal might just become a dynamic duo. So which one would you let go if you had to decide as their contracts are set to expire (Crosby and Staal’s in 2013, Malkin’s in 2014)?

Plenty of people will add their two cents on this subject, but few carry the weight of TSN’s Darren Dreger, who thought long and hard about pegging Malkin instead of Staal in this radio interview. After complimenting Malkin’s regular season dominance, he wasn’t so sure about how he played against the Philadelphia Flyers in round one.

“For the most part, he wasn’t engaged; he wasn’t invested,” Dreger said. “[Which] Evgeni Malkin are you getting?”

For what it’s worth, here are the three centers full stats from the series:

Staal: six goals, three assists for nine points, +2, 49.5 percent on faceoffs
Malkin: three goals, five assists for eight points, -1, 52.7 percent on faceoffs
Crosby: three goals, five assists for eight points, -3, 54.8 percent on faceoffs

Perhaps Geno had an off game or three, but his stats are remarkably similar to the two other star centers who seemed to mostly get praise or neutral reviews. We can agree to disagree, but I’d say that it’s probably safer to judge Malkin on his all-world-Crosby-included 2011-12 regular season rather than his still pretty decent series. (Which, by the way, was wacky enough to be pretty unreliable from an “assessment” standpoint.)

Get rid of bad contracts instead

The radio interview also features a bit that hopefully will come to GM Ray Shero’s mind well before he considers trading franchise cornerstones: the Penguins basically have $9 million in poorly spent cap room invested in struggling defensemen Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek. There will also be plenty of players who will come off the cap.

The Penguins can’t bury Martin’s regrettable deal in the minors thanks to his no-movement clause (thanks to Nick Case), but perhaps they can rid themselves of his deal or Michalek’s if the league provides an “amnesty” window after the next CBA goes through. Even if that doesn’t happen, they’ll likely get a chance to trade away cap fat instead of breaking up their core.

After all, if you can trade Scott Gomez and Brian Campbell’s contracts, chances are you can fit Staal, Malkin and Crosby under the same cap ceiling.

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That being said, let me ask: if you had to get rid of one of the three – with all things considered – who would you let go? (I’d vote for Staal.)

Milbury, Jones: Tkachuk walked the walk; Kings’ response was embarrassing

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The Los Angeles Kings got revenge on Matthew Tkachuk and the Calgary Flames on the scoreboard on Wednesday. But was that 4-1 win enough?

Mike Milbury and Keith Jones provided a lengthy “overtime” segment on NBCSN that brought about some really fascinating takes on the situation between Tkachuk and the Flames versus Drew Doughty and the Los Angeles Kings.

Watch the full video above, as it’s worth your time.

A few interesting lines if you’re (tsk tsk) skipping it:

Milbury: Believes that Doughty didn’t “do enough,” noting that star players sometimes have to stick up for themselves. On the other hand, Tkachuk showed that he can “walk the walk.”

He also gave the Kings a “C-, D+ if not worse” for their overall response. “Fight your own battles,” Milbury said of Doughty.

Jones disagreed to some extent, believing that Kings teammates won’t look at Doughty differently. But Jake Muzzin? He believes that Muzzin’s frequent defensive partner (at least over the years, maybe not this season) backing down from a fight was an embarrassment.

Spicy stuff.

For what it’s worth, Drew Doughty has one career fight (against Joe Thornton [!] in 2011-2) while Jake Muzzin’s lone bout came against Andrew Desjardins in 2012-13, according to Hockey Fights. Does that mean they shouldn’t have dropped the gloves on Wednesday? Milbury and Jones seem to believe that they should have answered the bell.

For more, check out a collection of the early violent moments and Tkachuk’s attempted shot at Doughty. The Kings win is summarized in greater detail here.

Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues

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Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.

OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.

It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.

Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.

In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.

Seriously, that fight with Deryk Engelland:

That goal included a bit of luck, but hey …

Iginla was named the first star of the contest, and cameras captured his big smile in enjoying a special night. For all the nastiness of that game, it was refreshing to see such a heartwarming moment.

For more on the violence, check out this post on the early stuff and this one on Tkachuk’s missed missile launch on Drew Doughty.

Kings and Canucks will square off in first NHL exhibition games in China

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It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.

The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?

“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”

The press conference inspired some jokes tonight.

Some of the best bits came in roping in … Kobe Bryant and David Beckham?

Alrighty then.

Click here for more details.

 

Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.