Pittsburgh Penguins v Dallas Stars

Dallas signs Lehtonen: five years, $29.5 million

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If this morning was any indication, the next two days should be plenty busy as teams race to ink players before the lockout.

One such instance occurred in Dallas, where Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk announced a five-year, $29.5 million contract extension for goalie Kari Lehtonen.

Lehtonen, 28, had one year remaining on the three-year, $10.65 million deal signed in 2010, but it was clear both he and the Stars wanted to ink a long-term extension under the current CBA terms.

The new contract keeps the Finnish netminder in Dallas until 2017-18.

“Kari Lehtonen has worked extremely hard in his time with the Dallas Stars to establish himself as an elite goaltender in the NHL,” Nieuwendyk told the Stars website. “We believe that his best days as a goaltender are ahead, and that his work ethic and leadership will help guide this team into a perennial Stanley Cup contender.”

Lehtonen had one of his finest seasons in 2011-12, finishing with a career-high .922 save percentage and career-low 2.33 GAA. He became the first goalie in franchise history to win seven games to start a season and finished just as strong, allowing two goals or less in 37 of his 59 games.

The new contract means Lehtonen will be paid $5.9 million annually (beginning in 2013-14), putting his average annual value on par with fellow Finns Miikka Kiprusoff ($5.8 million) and Niklas Backstrom ($6 million).

The term should allow highly-touted goaltending prospect Jack Campbell — 20 years old, the 11th overall pick in 2010 — to slowly climb through the ranks and challenge for a starting gig after a few years of seasoning at both the AHL level and as a backup in the NHL.

Bolts lose ‘minute-munching defenseman’ Garrison for 3-5 weeks

during Game Two of the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena on June 6, 2015 in Tampa, Florida.
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The Tampa Bay Lightning expect defenseman Jason Garrison to miss 3-5 weeks with a lower-body injury.

Garrison was hurt in Monday’s 5-1 loss to Ottawa. The 31-year-old played just 4:10 of that game, missing the final two periods.

“That’s a tough one too, because he’s a big minute-munching defenseman for us,” coach Jon Cooper told reporters. “A big body and size.”

Garrison has just four goals and three assists in 52 games, but he’s third on the Bolts in average ice time (18:23), second in blocked shots (76), and third in hits (69).

Matt Carle replaced Garrison for Tuesday’s 4-2 loss in Montreal.

Kadri fined $5K for throat slash gesture at Giordano

Montreal Canadiens v Toronto Maple Leafs
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Nazem Kadri‘s “inappropriate gestures” on Tuesday night have left him lighter in the wallet.

On Thursday, the NHL announced that Kadri has been fined $5,000 — the maximum allowable under the CBA — for making a throat slash gesture at Mark Giordano during Calgary’s 4-3 win over the Leafs two nights ago.

The incident occurred after Kadri took exception to a heavy Giordano check. While on the bench, the Leafs forward made the gesture, one the NHL has been cracking down on since 2000.

Former NHLer Nick Boyton was suspended twice for making the gesture, first in 2006 then again in 2010. He was banned one game for each incident.

Report: Detroit interested in Columbus d-man Tyutin

Fedor Tyutin, Ryan White
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From the Columbus Dispatch:

The Red Wings had much brass in the building on Tuesday to watch the Blue Jackets play the Islanders in Nationwide.

GM Ken Holland was there, along with special assistant to the GM Kris Draper, and pro scout Kirk Maltby.

It’s believed the Red Wings were taking a close look at Fedor Tyutin, who is likely to be dealt by the Feb. 29 trade deadline.

Tyutin, 32, has this and two more years remaining on a six-year, $27 million deal with a $4.5M average annual cap hit. One of the longest-tenured players in Columbus franchise history — he’s spent eight years with the Jackets, and played in both of the teams’ playoff appearances — Tyutin has fallen on hard times this year, and has been made a healthy scratch on a few occasions by head coach John Tortorella.

Unsurprisingly, Tyutin’s numbers are way down. He’s goalless with just two points through 43 games, and is averaging just 17:47 TOI per night — the lowest total of his career.

It’s not surprising Detroit’s kicking the tires on Tyutin. D-men Niklas Kronwall and Mike Green are both out of the lineup with knee and groin injuries and, last night versus Ottawa, Danny DeKeyser took a Dion Phaneuf shot to the knee.

 

All eyes on Schwartz ahead of return to sputtering Blues lineup

Jaden Schwartz
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The St. Louis Blues have not played particularly well since around Christmas.

It’s a story that hasn’t received much attention league-wide, because the Blues’ goaltending has been good enough to cover up a lot of their problems. Brian Elliott had a .937 save percentage in January. He’s up to .958 in February.

But there’s a reason the return of Jaden Schwartz, likely Friday in Florida, has the Blues players so excited.

“He’s a guy that brings a lot of energy to our lineup,” captain David Backes told the Post-Dispatch. “He’s a relentless forechecker who hounds the puck and that’s exactly what we could use right now.”

Backes has clearly been listening to head coach Ken Hitchcock, who’s been growing increasingly frustrated at his team’s inability to play in the opposition’s end. In their past five games, the Blues have managed shot totals of 25, 23, 27, 24, and 22, which isn’t very many at all.

“We’ve needed the power play the last two games, thank God, but we just don’t, we don’t compete when we get checked in the scoring areas near as hard as we have to,” Hitchcock told reporters.

Once Schwartz gets back up to speed, he should help. Last year, he finished second on the team in goals (28) and fourth in shots (184).

But he won’t solve everything, particularly with Alex Pietrangelo sidelined now.

In their 20 games since Christmas, the Blues are in the bottom 10 in score-adjusted Corsi (a measure of puck possession), and that isn’t like them at all.

Related: Armstrong wants Blues to get healthy before any trades are made