At 51, Wayne Gretzky will play in Russia for the first time

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Back when he was in his prime, Wayne Gretzky dreamed of playing against the Soviet Union as part of a new Summit Series.

Gretzky won three gold medals in the Canada Cup, including in 1987 when they defeated the Soviet Union in three games. As the Calgary Sun reported, he felt like the two nations could have play in a new eight-game series with contests spread out among Canada, the United States, Russia, and Europe.

“It really was my aspiration, but I never got the opportunity,” Gretzky said.

Still, he’ll be able to achieve something he never did when he was playing in the NHL. He will join Brett Hull and Mark Messier to play hockey in Russia.

“I was here in ’81 and did a documentary with (Vladislav) Tretiak, but I’ve never played hockey in Russia, and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to come. I never got the chance to play here,” Gretzky said. “This is going to be my chance, although I’m 51 and slow.”

This event has a number of meanings. They will be playing 40 years after the 1972 Summit Series and 25 years after the 1987 Canada Cup. However, it is also a memorial game to honor those who died when a plane carrying the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team crashed last year.

Preseason stats: Five goalies with good numbers, five goalies with…not

Anders Nilsson
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Yeah, yeah, it’s a small sample size and it’s just the preseason, but here are some goaltending stats anyway.

Five goalies with good numbers

Anders Nilsson, Edmonton — zero goals on 53 shots. His solid play a likely factor in the decision to waive Ben Scrivens, who actually wasn’t that bad in the preseason (4 goals on 56 shots).

Martin Jones, San Jose — three goals on 100 shots. The Sharks are rolling the dice on a couple of cheap goalies. Jones and Alex Stalock have a combined cap hit of just $4.6 million.

Jacob Markstom, Vancouver — three goals on 79 shots. Can he finally get over the NHL hump? If so, he could make it a real competition with Ryan Miller.

Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus — five goals on 122 shots. The Blue Jackets have scored a ton of goals in the preseason, but there remain questions about their blue line. Bobrovsky has the ability to make a so-so defense look good.

Anton Khudobin, Anaheim — two goals on 67 shots. A good early sign for the Ducks, who have Frederik Andersen in the starting role and want to give young John Gibson more time to develop in the AHL.

Five goalies with bad numbers

Thomas Greiss, Islanders — 14 goals on 94 shots. Has to be a bit of concern in Brooklyn. The Isles got below-average backup play last season from Chad Johnson. They wanted to fix that with the Greiss signing.

Robin Lehner, Buffalo — 11 goals on 95 shots. Tim Murray paid a hefty price to get the 24-year-old out of Ottawa. With the aforementioned Johnson in the backup role, the goaltending story is worth watching.

Jeff Zatkoff, Pittsburgh — 11 goals on 74 shots. Granted, Marc-Andre Fleury and Matthew Murray weren’t particularly sharp either. The Penguins conceded 28 goals in eight games.

Kari Lehtonen, Dallas — 15 goals on 84 shots. For a Stars team that desperately needs better goaltending, that has to be worrying. Antti Niemi wasn’t a whole lot better either, allowing eight goals on 65 shots. Fair question to ask — how many of all those goals were attributable to poor defensive play?

Pekka Rinne, Nashville — 12 goals on 91 shots. Has earned the benefit of the doubt, but thought we’d point it out anyway.

Flyers waive MacDonald, he of the $30M contract

Andrew MacDonald

In April of ’14, the Flyers signed d-man Andrew MacDonald to a six-year, $30 million extension.

Less than 18 months later, they’re placing him on waivers.

Philly GM Ron Hextall confirmed the move Monday morning, announcing that MacDonald would hit the wire at Noon ET. The decision comes with MacDonald still having five years and nearly $26 million left on his contract.

It’s a tough situation for both MacDonald and the club.

The Flyers acquired the 29-year-old from the Isles at the ’14 trade deadline and, at the time, MacDonald was one of the NHL’s biggest bargains, carrying just a $550,000 cap hit.

Philly thought it’d found a diamond in the rough, even though underlying possession metrics — and pundits that specialize in them — suggested otherwise. After watching MacDonald play just 19 regular-season and seven playoff games, then-GM Paul Holmgren made a big splash to retain his services.

From there, things went badly.

McDonald had a rough ’14-15 campaign, sitting as a healthy scratch on a number of occasions. Following the year, he expressed his dismay with how things went.

“It was disappointing,” MacDonald said, per the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Obviously, it’s not nearly the way I envisioned things going and I was pretty disappointed in myself and my own play, and just felt like things kind of snowballed throughout the year and really just didn’t work out.”

As for the future, it seems highly, highly unlikely MacDonald will be claimed on waivers. Should he clear, Philly will have the option to send him to the AHL, and receive $950,000 in salary cap relief.

That would, however, still leave the team with roughly $4 million of dead money.