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The Chip ‘n’ Chase: Pens-Bruins, Beastmodo, Miller trade talk, and more

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This is a new thing we’re trying. Every Wednesday, we’ll publish a little back-and-forth we have via email. We’re calling it the Chip ‘n’ Chase. Yes, it’s a terrible name. Enjoy.

Jason Brough: Hey buddy, so Bruins-Penguins tonight. Looking forward to this one. Pittsburgh’s chance for redemption…if that’s possible during the regular season. (It’s not, but the game’s on NBCSN so we’re selling it anyway.) Looking back on the playoffs, I still can’t believe the Pens only scored twice against the B’s in four games. Two goals. That’s it. Kinda reminds me of that Harry Doyle line in Major League: “That’s all we got, one goddamn hit?” Wait, can we say goddamn on PHT? Whatever, let’s run with it. In a related story, do you think we’ll hear about the Bruins’ “layers” before or after this one? We all know Claude Julien loves him some layers.

Mike Halford: Oh man, the layers. How could I forget the layers? Julien spent the entire playoffs talking like his team was a Tex-Mex dip. Anyway, I’m also excited for tonight’s game. What I remember most about that series was the bitterness — Evgeni Malkin fighting Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara punching Sidney Crosby in his surgically repaired jaw — all of which added to Pittsburgh’s patented off-the-charts frustration. It also served as a reminder that, as much as they say they’ve matured, the Pens can still be rattled, especially if you sock ’em, POW, right in the kisser. Oh, and since we’re on the subject of firing shots, Mike Babcock threw one out in advance of another good Wednesday matchup: Detroit at Vancouver. When asked how he’d handle the red-hot Sedins-Kesler line, Babcock replied, “We’ll see who’s handling who.” No need to find the waitress, Vancouver, because you just got served.

MORE: Penguins, Bruins renew hostilities

JB: Did you hear what they’re calling the Sedins-Kesler line? Beastmodo. Get it? Because the Sedins played for Modo in Sweden and Kesler’s a big Marshawn Lynch fan or something. I think a better nickname for that line would be “the first line..and also the second line” line, because those three have been playing a ton under new head coach John Tortorella. In fact, among NHL forwards, only Sidney Crosby (22:52) is averaging more ice time than Kesler (22:38), Henrik (22:28), and Daniel (22:14). Good thing it’s not an Olympic year or anything. And Vancouver has an easy travel schedule, right? I actually don’t have a huge problem with it, but it will be interesting to see how those guys look once the playoffs start. Either way, I can’t wait until Torts has to start answering the fatigue questions every day from reporters. That was always fun when he was coaching the Rangers. Dan Girardi could’ve been face down with seven IVs stuck into his back and Torts would’ve refused to admit his players were tired.

source:  MH: Pretty sure you don’t put IVs into a guy’s back, Hollywood Upstairs Medical College. Can we talk about the Vanek trade for a sec? I know it’s a bit old already, but all these new details keep coming out. First we learned Buffalo retained a bunch of Vanek’s salary. Then we found out the Isles could defer the ’14 pick if it’s in the top 10. I feel like there’s one more hidden clause, some sort of future consideration where Ryan Miller would agree to go to Long Island if the team would 1) win more than one game in a row (it hasn’t yet, by the way) or 2) use its celebrity super-fan network of Ralph Macchio and E from Entourage to hatch a comedic vehicle for Miller’s wife. But in all seriousness, Miller has to go soon, right? I read something about that on a very handsome website yesterday.

JB: I wonder if he’d go to the Islanders. They could definitely use a goalie, and he seems like the kind of guy who’d enjoy Brooklyn’s hipster scene. But rumor has it (and by rumor I mean TSN’s Bob McKenzie) that Miller wants to end up in California. I presume this is because his wife is an actor and that’s where actors live, as opposed to Buffalo, where disappointed sports fans live. Unfortunately for Miller, I just can’t think of a California team that needs a starting goalie. The Kings don’t. The Ducks don’t. The Sharks don’t. Maybe he could try out for the Lakers, but they really need to get younger.

MH: I think Miller’s best hockey fit is in the glitzy and glamorous town of Edmonton (hey, it’s got a film festival). But even if he agreed to go there, I don’t see anything beyond a rental situation, which would only be a band-aid solution to the Oilers’ gaping goaltending wound. I’m glad you brought up the California teams, though, because they’re all playing well, and they all play in the Pacific Division, which should really be renamed the $2 Steak Division because it’s so tough and no worse a name than Metropolitan. Can you disagree with any of this? I don’t think you can.

JB: Don’t forget about Phoenix and Vancouver. Those teams are playing well, too. So yeah, tough division that Pacific Division. Good luck with that, Edmonton and Calgary. Personally, I’ve been really impressed with Anaheim. I thought they’d take a step back this season, but a 10-3-0 start seems to be proving me wrong. (I’m used to it, don’t worry.) Everyone knows about Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, but the Ducks are also getting contributions from lesser-knowns like Kyle Palmieri, Mathieu Perreault, Patrick Maroon, and Nicky Bonino, whose name actually isn’t Nicky, it’s just Nick, but I enjoy saying Nicky Bonino. Fuhgeddaboudit. Until next week…

Who might be the next Artemi Panarin?

LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 22:  Artemi Panarin of the Chicago Blackhawks poses after winning the Calder Trophy named for the top rookie at the 2016 NHL Awards at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on June 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Even in an information age where boundless information lies a few clicks away, talented players slip through the cracks.

Jamie Benn won the Art Ross in 2014-15 and came in second place last season, yet 128 players were selected before him in 2007. No-brainer Vezina Trophy-winner Braden Holtby was selected in the fourth round.

We haven’t even covered quality players who weren’t even drafted.

Artemi Panarin stands as an especially mind-blowing example. He went from undrafted free agent to the 2016 Calder Trophy winner after developing – and eventually breaking through – overseas.

As we learned from Vladimir Tarasenko‘s recommendations to the Blues, Panarin was readily available in the summer of 2015, making his 30-goal, 77-point season burn plenty of executives and scouts.

While there are examples of players who fall through the cracks, Panarin feels pretty unusual. Still, NHL Tonight sets out to name a few international players who could make a Panarin-type impact … and, of course, one of those players could suit up for the Chicago Blackhawks:

Interesting stuff.

If you choose not to watch the video, two of the names highlighted were Michal Kempny of the Blackhawks and Nikita Zaitsev of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

As defensemen, both overseas signings aren’t likely to make a Panarin-type splash on the scoreboard, but they remain interesting names to watch.

Not quite a Panarin parallel, but …

Allow for a comparison that breaks the rules quite a bit: Alex Radulov stands as likely the biggest impact import of all.

As the 15th pick of the 2004 NHL Draft and with a very high profile, he won’t slip in under the radar like Panarin did last summer.

Still, this is a player who already has 102 points to his name at the NHL level (in 154 regular season games), and despite the playoff drama with Nashville, he also has 14 career playoff points in 18 NHL postseason games.

Honestly, the Radulov signing might be the best move Montreal made during a turbulent off-season.

If any other import can compare to Radulov or Panarin, that team should be very, very happy.

Chances are, we won’t know who to expect, but feel free to name your own choices.

Oilers sign defenseman Matthew Benning, nephew of Canucks GM Jim

BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 23:  Matt Benning #5 of the Northeastern Huskies skates against the Boston University Terriers during the first period of the 2015 Beanpot Tournament Championship game at TD Garden on February 23, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Even with Adam Larsson added to the mix, the Edmonton Oilers’ organization is short on right-handed defensemen.

It remains to be seen how long it will take for Matthew Benning to make the NHL jump, but the Oilers took a step in the right (right-handed defenseman) direction by signing him to a two-year deal on Saturday.

In case you have some jokes at the ready … yes, Benning is related to Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning. The occasionally lampooned executive is his uncle. His father Brian also enjoyed an NHL career.

*Nervous laugh*

The Edmonton Journal’s Bruce McCurdy views the move as the equivalent to landing a “free draft pick.” It might be a nice perk for Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli to land Benning being that he was a 2012 sixth-rounder of the Boston Bruins.

McCurdy indicates that Benning, 22, could rank fairly high among the Oilers’ defensive prospects right off the bat, even if scarce options play a role along with whatever the blueliner brings to the table:

This is the fourth free agent signing of an NCAA player by the Oilers this off-season, though the first involving a defenceman. Previously, highly-regarded forward Drake Caggiula had signed along with right winger Patrick Russell and netminder Nick Ellis. All four are in age 22-23 and well-positioned to make an impact on the pro ranks in the near future, even as their NHL potential is an open book. But collectively they add some meat on the bones of a franchise whose organizational depth has been questionable. 

Interestingly, McCurdy notes that the Canucks were in the running for Benning’s services.

(Waits for a few more Jim Benning jokes.)

Seems like the Northeastern University product received a decent deal, relatively speaking:

Flames management enjoys a rare luxury: a clean slate

CALGARY, CANADA - FEBRUARY 27: General manager Brad Treliving of the Calgary Flames address the media before the trade deadline prior to the team's NHL game against the Ottawa Senators at the Scotiabank Saddledome on February 27, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
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This is part of Calgary Flames day at PHT …

During the waning days of the Jarome Iginla/Miikka Kiprusoff years, the Calgary Flames ranked as one of the worst things a sports team could be: both expensive and uninspiring.

There were a lot of bloated contracts connected to those days, but when you look at sites like Cap Friendly or General Fanager, the slate looks a lot cleaner heading into 2016-17.

OK, so maybe you could also argue that there are still a few troubling deals to get rid of.

Dennis Wideman‘s $5.25 million salary cap hit, Ladislav Smid‘s $3.5 million mark and Deryk Engelland‘s bewildering $2.917 million cap hit all expire after next season. Chances are, you have an issue with one or maybe all of those deals, so the Flames must be giddy to close in on all that extra breathing room.

And, yes, there are some deals that Flames GM Brad Treliving may regret. Just consider today’s earlier post about Troy Brouwer.

Still, the point is clear: whatever mistakes or strokes of genius that come, at least those moves will be Treliving’s to make.

Consider some of the important calls that await:

  • Such as, how will they sort out Johnny Gaudreau‘s lingering RFA situation this summer?

The easiest path might be to try to convince him to take a deal that is identical to the one Sean Monahan received, but one or both sides likely want something different.

  • Despite bringing in both Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson, the goaltending future beyond 2016-17 is murky for a simple enough reason: neither netminder is signed beyond that point.

Elliott is receiving a bargain $2.5 million and is currently 31. Johnson, 30, barely comes in behind him at $1.7 million. It’s highly likely that Calgary will spend more money on its goalies in 2017-18, but who might be back?

And how much will the Flames need to see from Elliott and/or Johnson before trying to hammer out extensions?

The good news for Flames management is that they’re not saddled with a goaltending decision they might not have made. The scary part is that, if it doesn’t work out, it’s on them … and could cost someone a job.

  • The Flames ultimately have the power to determine who’s a marquee player and who is a part of the supporting cast.

Gaudreau is key, but it’s unclear if he’ll sign a long deal like Monahan or opt for a “bridge” deal. In addition to Monahan, the Flames signed these players to fairly long deals: Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, T.J. Brodie, Brouwer and Michael Frolik.

Yes, you can quibble with Brouwer and maybe another name, but plenty of teams would be jealous of that list overall.

***

Many general managers must navigate minefields of someone else’s mistakes. There are a lot of challenges to the job beyond that, but Treliving & Co. get to make their own.

It’s a luxury that is unlikely to last, but the Flames stand as an interesting team for armchair (and real-life) executives to follow.

Yahoo’s fantasy hockey position tweaks signal end of a very specific era

WINNIPEG, MB - FEBRUARY 11: Dustin Byfuglien #33 of the Winnipeg Jets prepares for the faceoff in second period action in an NHL game against the Boston Bruins at the MTS Centre on February 11, 2016 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Marianne Helm/Getty Images)
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Few things deepen your hockey geekery quite like playing fantasy hockey.

For sports haters and the sports-oblivious, it’s probably bad enough to see grown adults wearing hockey sweaters out in public. What about when someone is obsessing (and sometimes muttering profanities) about a team that only exists to about 8-15 people?

Still, this is the Internet, where niche obsessions can go really deep. Just fall down a rabbit hole about Star Wars extended universe if you want to get a taste.

Us fantasy hockey nerdy dorks got some understandable but still sad news today: it appears to be an end of an era for Dustin Byfuglien and Brent Burns being considered eligible as both right wings and defensemen.

NHL.com trotted out a list of changes to Yahoo’s popular format on Saturday, and the tweaks generally make total sense.

It’s a bit of a bummer, though, as being eligible for a forward and defensive position provided another example of the unusual natures of both Byfuglien and Burns. Luckily, there are about 1,000 Exhibits for each, especially true oddball Burns.

(The debate regarding where either player should line up has largely died out, though.)

Another thing of interest in NHL.com’s list is the most prominent players who can be placed in all three forward spots. That could be a good thing to keep handy if you’re the last-minute preparation type:

The six tri-eligible players among NHL.com’s top 200, Joe Pavelski of the Sharks, Filip Forsberg of the Nashville Predators, Ryan O'Reilly of the Buffalo Sabres, Tyler Toffoli of the Los Angeles Kings, Patrick Sharp of the Dallas Stars and Jussi Jokinen of the Florida Panthers, have had their eligibilities reduced. Forsberg and Jokinen, who are now only eligible at LW, took the biggest hits from that bunch.

Forwards Robby Fabbri (now C/LW), of the St. Louis Blues, and Sam Reinhart, (now C/RW) of the Sabres, are the two players who have gone from single to dual eligibility in Yahoo leagues.

Check out the full article here.