Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, David Clarkson

Devils’ off-season questions go beyond Brodeur, Parise

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For some, the New Jersey Devils’ surprisingly deep postseason run revolved around the possibility that this could be a last hurrah for lynchpins Martin Brodeur and Zach Parise. Upon further inspection, it’s clear that those crucial choices are just the headliners in what could be one of the most eventful off-seasons in GM Lou Lamoriello’s lengthy reign.

Really, the team doesn’t have a ton of guys locked up long-term beyond Ilya Kovalchuk and a handful of defensemen.

Taking a look at the Devils’ Cap Geek page, it’s stunning how many players are a) scheduled to become free agents this summer or b) only have one more year left on their contracts. To spare you all that tedious clicking, I thought I’d rattle them off with some thoughts.

Free agents this summer

Parise – As you may know, it all comes down to what Parise thinks. Perhaps the deep playoff run and familiarity in New Jersey will make him a Devil for the rest of his career, but we’ll need to wait and see.

Brodeur – For a long time, it seemed like the Devils were holding all the cards. Brodeur gained quite a bit of clout and leverage with his playoff performances, however, so it’ll be interesting to see if New Jersey ponies up. If you ask me, the sticking point might be term instead of cash.

Johan Hedberg – Interestingly enough, both Devils goalies are unrestricted free agents this summer. It’s tough to imagine seeing two older netminders in New Jersey next season, but Hedberg’s quietly played well for the Devils.

source: Getty ImagesBryce Salvador – Could he parlay a surprisingly productive postseason into a bigger paycheck?

Alexei Ponikarovsky – Will his friendship with Kovalchuk help his chances of finally sticking with a team? Maybe if his asking price is reasonable.

Mark Fayne (restricted) and Peter Harrold – Two fairly young defensemen whose negotiations could be intriguing.

Ryan Carter, Steve Bernier and Stephen Gionta – Hey, remember how excited everyone got about the great play by the Devils’ fourth line? Their agents are probably the most excited.

Petr Sykora – Sure, he’s been a healthy scratch, but it’s amazing he even got this far with the Devils.

Free agents after next season

Patrik Elias – He’s had tough scoring luck in the playoffs, yet he had a stealthily outstanding season. He’ll almost certainly need to take a generous pay cut from his $6 million cap hit, though.

Travis Zajac – One underrated reason why the Devils got this far was that Zajac finally seemed close to 100 percent after struggling to recover from off-season surgery. Something tells me that the underrated pivot would get some of Elias’ money – unless he bolts.

source:  Adam Henrique – Who knows how much more money he can earn for himself in his sophomore season?

Jacob Josefson – Don’t be surprised if a healthier Josefson at least establishes himself as an NHL regular next season.

David Clarkson – One of the league’s better young power forwards could fetch a nice sum if he has a strong contract year.

Marek Zidlicky – Zidlicky is one of the only “wild cards” in a defense that’s locked up or a few more seasons.

Dainius Zubrus – Another underrated fixture in New Jersey.

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Honestly, the Devils’ deep run scores another bullet point for the “greed is good” principle of contract year successes. Once he sorts out Brodeur’s and Parise’s situations, Lamoriello must step back and determine if this core can put together more runs like this. If he leans toward yes, it’ll be costly.

Stars end Capitals’ winning streak, pass Blackhawks for West lead

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For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”

They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:

  • Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
  • This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
  • By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.

Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).

Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.

Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.

Blackhawks fall to Ducks in OT, lose Hossa to injury

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The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.

(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)

Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)

You can see that moment in the video above, while My Regular Face’s GIF also captures that troubling moment:

It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.

Update: Joel Quenneville seems optimistic about Hossa, broadly speaking:

Ryan Getzlaf scored the overtime game-winner as the Ducks won 3-2 (OT).

Understatement: Saturday was a rough night for Panthers

Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) checks Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
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If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.

You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.

The pain goes beyond that … literally so.

For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.

(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)

The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.

Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.

Fractured jaw from fight sidelines Chris Stewart for 4-8 weeks

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It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.

The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).

The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.

One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.