Corey Crawford

Bowman: Securing Crawford was key, not potential cap implications

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Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman took a risk when he signed 28-year-old goaltender Corey Crawford to a six-year, $36 million contract, but he feels it was “an easy decision,” given the confidence they have in Crawford after his strong performance in the team’s 2013 Stanley Cup winning campaign.

If Crawford’s rough 2011-12 season proves to be an outlier over the course of his career, then that $6 million annual cap hit will look reasonable. Either way, it means that the Blackhawks already have a little over $55.6 million committed to just 13 players for the 2014-15 campaign.

That fortunately includes most of their core players, but a number of young forwards are scheduled to become restricted free agents next summer, including Jimmy Hayes, Jeremy Morin, and Andrew Shaw. How they do this season will obviously be the X-factor, but Shaw at least seems to be on a trajectory to get a good raise following the completion of his entry-level deal.

The summer of 2015 will be a big test for Chicago though. Another two young pieces of the puzzle, Brandon Saad and Marcus Kruger will need new contracts and the latter will have the option to test the unrestricted free agent market. More importantly, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews’ current contracts will both expire. The two-time Stanley Cup winners come with matching $6.3 million annual cap hits as it is, but they could certainly command significantly more than that if they wanted to.

“The cap is something you have to certainly plan for and think about as an organization, but that’s not the focus right now. The reality is, we need to have a top-notch goaltender in our organization and we have it with Corey,” Bowman said, according to CSN Chicago. “There are a lot changes from year to year. We don’t have all the knowledge of where the cap will be in two years but we know we’ll have a great goaltender.”

Video: Rangers shut out red-hot Sidney Crosby and the Penguins

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The New York Rangers are likely too far behind the Washington Capitals to take any legitimate run at the Atlantic Division down the stretch.

But winners now of four straight, the Rangers have opened up a bit of a gap between them and other Eastern Conference teams in the playoff race. New York scored a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, winners in six of their last seven games, on Wednesday.

In the process, they held a red-hot Sidney Crosby off the score sheet, which has been a difficult, sometimes impossible task for opposing teams since about the middle of December. He entered this game with a seven-game scoring streak.

(In fact, New York held No. 87 to without a shot on goal in the entire game.)

Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout.

Kevin Hayes gave the Rangers the lead in the first period, before Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast put the game away in the third.

Pittsburgh remains in the second Wild Card spot in the East. The Rangers now move three points clear of the rival Islanders for second in the Metropolitan.

Video: Wideman hearing ‘a tricky case’ as NHLPA hopes to get 20-game suspension reduced

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There is no certain timeline for when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman might rule on Dennis Wideman‘s appeal, according to a report from hockey insider Darren Dreger on NBCSN, as the Calgary Flames defenseman hopes to get his 20-game ban for hitting linesman Don Henderson reduced.

“Now, ultimately what they’re hoping from a Wideman perspective and the Players’ Association is that commissioner Gary Bettman will rule and he will reduce the number of games suspended down from 20,” said Dreger during a segment on NBCSN.

“Is he going to reduce it by three games? Five games seems a bit of a stretch. And when might he do that? There’s no timeline on this.”

Report: Coyotes shut down Vitale (concussion) for the season

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Joe Vitale will not play again this season.

The Arizona Coyotes have shut Vitale down for the remainder of the 2015-16 campaign due to “concussion-related issues,” according to a report from Sarah McLellan of azcentral sports on Wednesday.

Vitale, a 30-year-old veteran center, appeared in only one game for the Coyotes this season. That was back on Oct. 17, when he suffered a concussion and broken orbital bone in a fight with Kevan Miller of the Boston Bruins.

Sens announce Frattin, acquired in Phaneuf deal, will stick with AHL Marlies

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Matt Frattin was traded by the Leafs to Ottawa yesterday as part of the Dion Phaneuf blockbuster.

But for now, he’s staying in Toronto.

On Wednesday, Sens GM Bryan Murray announced that Frattin will remain with the Leafs’ AHL affiliate — the Toronto Marlies — on loan, but will be available for selection should Ottawa require his services down the road.

Frattin, 28, has spent all of this season with the Marlies, scoring nine goals and 22 points in 47 games. His last NHL appearance came during the ’14-15 campaign, with the Leafs.

Prior to that, the former North Dakota standout had spent time in Los Angeles and Columbus.