PHT lists #WhyImThankful

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Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Joe Yerdon and James O’Brien, PHT’s two American writers who will be enjoying a day off today, have each come up with a list of five hockey-related things for which they’re thankful. Feel free to add yours in the comments section, and we hope you enjoy the holiday, as well as tomorrow’s Thanksgiving Showdown between the Rangers and Bruins, on NBC at 1 p.m. ET.

Joe:

1. Legends who keep on keepin’ on: How great is it to see Teemu Selanne, Jaromir Jagr, and Martin Brodeur still playing in 2013-2014? Think about all the accolades, all the goals, all the points, and all the Stanley Cups these guys have won and the fact that they’re into their 40s and still at it. Let’s ignore that it’s likely Brodeur’s final year and definitely Selanne’s last season and just marvel that they’re still top-level players now, 20 years (or more) after it all began.

2. Non-stop jersey debates: You need look no further than Twitter to find out what fans think of different jerseys. Heck, look at any of the posts we’ve done here about a team sporting new duds. People fear change no matter how it’s dressed up. Remember when everyone hated the Dallas Stars’ new look? Now it seems to be considered one of the best in the league that’s not from an Original Six team. No matter what a team does, be it a new third jerseysomething for the Stadium Series or Winter Classic, and even the Olympics — people are going to bark about it.

3. Terrible music in warm-ups: If you’ve ever gotten to a game in time to see the teams warm up, you know you’re about to be assailed with some of the most current music out there. Depending on your tastes, that’s either really good or god-awful. For a guy stuck in the 90s like me, it’s mostly terrible. That won’t stop me from developing musical Stockholm Syndrome though. Take this song for instance – it’s what the Maple Leafs, until recently, warmed up to and I’d heard pumping out of the Bruins room after a win.

What’s the lesson here? No matter how stuck in your ways you might be with tunes, you’ll find a way to like something new (and probably bad).

4. Players doing charity: This seems like a no-brainer thing to be thankful for, but how do you not love this? Whether it’s because I’ve matured or I’ve discovered it’s OK to be human and let good works make you smile, seeing teams visit children’s hospitals and doing other good things in the community just makes you feel good. For example, check out what the Detroit Red Wings did recently at Children’s Hospital of Michigan. Is someone cutting onions in here? I need a minute.

5. Players I grew up adoring becoming executives: Listen, it can’t be avoided. We’re all going to get older as time wears on and for all of us that means different things. Being a hockey writer here and at NHL.com, that means getting to talk to plenty of players, coaches, and team executives. In a lot of those situations it means I’m interviewing people whose jerseys I owned or would stay up to all hours to watch on TV to cheer or jeer. After doing the work you have to do, you have to check yourself and say, “Whoa, I just talked to Patrick Roy/Brendan Shanahan/Steve Yzerman/Cam Neely/Chris Chelios/Jeremy Roenick.” Getting the 13-year-old me to stop yelling at me about how cool that is takes some effort.

James:

1. The continued mystery that is the Toronto Maple Leafs: Coming into the 2013-14 season, it seemed like “traditionalists” and “stats nerds” were having a turf war over the Maple Leafs. One side argues they’re a quality team while the other believes they’re riding a locomotive fueled by luck. Through nearly two months, the case study remains delightfully unsettled. If there’s one consensus, it is that Toronto is fascinating to watch. And hardcore hockey fans should be grateful for it.

2. Roberto Luongo’s Twitter feed: Speaking of reliable entertainment, Luongo’s tweets bring the funny on such a steady basis. One great comic tactic is to pour on the self-deprecation. By making himself the butt of many jokes, he doesn’t come off looking like a jerk when he’s dropping barbs on his buddy Tim Thomas. It’s as effective as a stand-up ending a roast segment by flattering his battered verbal victim.Of course, the most important thing is that his jokes are usually really funny. There are other great feeds out there, but Bobby Lou’s takes the gold medal.

3. Olympic goalie debates: That segues nicely into Olympic roster debates, most precisely about goalies. The notion that netminders can be the great equalizer makes for some spine-tingling debates. Should Luongo be Canada’s guy again? Which of the six choices is the best for the United States? Who’s the best option from Finland’s jaw-dropping goalie factory? Being that Ryan Miller nearly willed a scrappy but over-matched American team to a gold medal in 2010, it’s more interesting to discuss who deserves to start instead of, say, who should barely make the roster.

4. Sidney Crosby’s health: Whether you love him or hate him (or just think he’s OK), the NHL is a more interesting and exhilarating place when Sidney Crosby is off the IR. Unfortunately, it’s felt like Crosby has been the hockey equivalent of a cartoon character with an anvil hovering over its head for the last few years. Whether it be concussions or an errant puck breaking his jaw, injury luck hasn’t been on his side, arguably costing him a Hart Trophy or two in the process. Luckily, he’s still just 26, so hopefully he can stay healthy. Even those who can’t stand him might be surprised when they miss him once he’s gone.

5. Tim Thomas and Ilya Bryzgalov, back in the NHL: It feels like bonus time because it was far from guaranteed that either goalie would play in the NHL this season. Thomas is a two-time Vezina winner who was forced to audition for a job with fledgling Florida. The Oilers needed to hit a goaltending glacier before they finally played Bryzgalov’s music. One can only speculate if any of the other 28 teams would have given either one of them a shot.

Report: Coyotes to talk to Todd Nelson about coaching vacancy

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The Arizona Coyotes had a somewhat unexpected shakeup this past week when the team and long-time head coach Dave Tippett mutually agreed to part ways after nine seasons together.

The search for a replacement began immediately and according to Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal the Coyotes will be speaking to former Oilers coach Todd Nelson about the vacancy.

Nelson spent 51 games behind the Oilers bench during the 2014-15 season replacing Dallas Eakins. Nelson was replaced at the conclusion of that season by former San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan. While his NHL head coaching experience is limited to that brief time in Edmonton, he has an extensive track record in the American Hockey League with the Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton’s top farm team) and currently the Grand Rapids Griffins (the Detroit Red Wings’ top farm team).

He has spent the past two seasons in Grand Rapids — replacing Jeff Blashill after he was promoted to the Detroit job — and has had a ton of success, leading the team to the Calder Cup this past season.

Predators won’t trade defense for forward help

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After losing James Neal to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft this past week the Nashville Predators have a pretty glaring hole in their top-six that is going to need to be addressed. Along with that, captain Mike Fisher is an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and is also considering retirement.

Because of those two developments general manager David Poile has made adding a top-six forward a priority for this summer, and he certainly has the salary cap space to get something done.

One thing he is not going to do, however, is trade one of his defensemen to find that help up front.

“We’ve traded enough defensemen in my recent history,” Poile said on Saturday, via the Tennessean. “I think everybody would be pretty much on the same page that our defense drives our team and our corps is as good as any in the league. We will not be touching our defense in the near future here.”

Over the past two years Poile has traded Shea Weber and Seth Jones off of his blue line but has still managed to assemble the NHL’s best defense. The quartet of P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm is so good that Poile made sure to protect all four of them in the expansion draft and leave Neal — a consistent 25-to 30-goal scorer signed for one more year on a pretty good contract — exposed for Vegas to take.

Without dealing one of their top-four defensemen it might be difficult to find an impact winger via the trade route, which might force them to turn to the free agent market.

But even that is going to be difficult because it is such a limited market. Now that T.J. Oshie has re-signed with the Washington Capitals Alexander Radulov would probably be the top winger available, but given his history with Nashville there is virtually no chance of that reunion happening. Justin Williams would be an intriguing veteran option, while Joe Thornton could help fill the void at center if Fisher does not return.

Still, not trading from the defense is the absolute right path for Poile and the Predators to take. Not only is that group the backbone of the Predators’ organization and one of the driving forces behind its success, it is also an extremely young group that is all signed long-term on cap friendly deals.

Even with the loss of Neal Nashville still has a deep group of forwards, while youngsters Pontus Aberg and Kevin Fiala could get an increased role and an opportunity to shine.

 

Rangers GM ‘open to anything’ on new Zibanejad contract

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Along with working to fix his team’s defense, the big issue at hand for New York Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton this offseason is coming to terms with restricted free agents Jesper Fast and Mika Zibanejad.

Following the NHL draft on Saturday, Gorton was asked where things stand in those talks and he said he was hoping to get something done “rather soon.”

What those contracts will look like, however, seems to be a bit of a mystery and Gorton doesn’t seem to have his mind set on any particular structure as far as it being long-term or a bridge deal.

“We’re open to anything as far as Mika. We want to make a good deal.” Gorton said (via the Daily News).

“It could be short-term, it could be long-term. We’re wide open.”

The Rangers acquired the 24-year-old Zibanejad before the 2016-17 season in the trade that sent Derick Brassard to the Ottawa Senators.

His first year on Broadway was mostly a success when he was healthy, scoring 14 goals and adding 23 assists in 56 games. That point per game average would have put him on a 54-point pace over 82 games which would have been a new career high. Zibanejad is just now entering what should be his peak years in the NHL and he’s already proven that he can be penciled in for 20 goals and 50 points every year (he’s been close to the pace for three straight years now). Given that there were only 69 forwards in the NHL that topped both 20 goals and 50 points this past season, that is easily first-or second-line production and a valuable asset.

Following the buyout of defenseman Dan Girardi and the trade of forward Derek Stepan to the Arizona Coyotes the Rangers were able to clear out a significant amount of cap space over the past couple of weeks and currently have more than $20 million in cap space with 17 players under contract for this season. That should not only give them more than enough space to re-sign Zibanejad and Fast, but also perhaps take a run at a free agent like defenseman like Kevin Shattenkirk. They only have eight players under contract for next season.

NHL teams can begin talking to pending free agents today

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After completing the NHL draft on Saturday the offseason rolls on for the league’s 31 teams on Sunday.

That is the day pending free agents can begin talking to teams around the league to gauge their potential interest in one another. Obviously no contracts can be signed until July 1, and technically there is to be no discussion of contract terms, but the window is open for discussions to begin.

T.J. Oshie re-signing with the Washington Capitals on Friday already removed one of the big-ticket players from the market. But several of his teammates will be available, including forwards Justin Williams and Daniel Winnik and defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk and Karl Alzner.

Shattenkirk is probably the top free agent available on the market and headlines a weak group of defensemen. He is expected to draw heavy interest from the New York Rangers as they look to reshape their defense.

Up front there is Alexander Radulov if the Montreal Canadiens are unable to come to terms on a new contract with him, while it could be the end of an era in San Jose as Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are eligible for UFA status on July 1.