With Lundqvist deal done, Sather faces tough questions

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You all know by now that Henrik Lundqvist has agreed to a seven-year, $59.5 million contract extension to guard the New York Rangers’ goal through 2020-21.

There’s no telling how the above will work out, so we’re not going to waste much time hemming and hawing over it. Maybe Lundqvist plays great throughout the term of the deal, and as a bonus the salary cap rockets up and his $8.5 million cap hit ends up looking like a bargain. Or, maybe his play declines with age, or he suffers a bunch of injuries, and the Rangers are forced to buy him out.

All that’s sure is this: the deal is the deal, and the work isn’t over for Rangers general manager Glen Sather. Because if you haven’t noticed, this team has some issues, and with Lundqvist locked up, it’s time to start addressing them.

Here are three questions that Sather needs to answer:

— What are Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi worth? Both can become unrestricted free agents this summer, and it’s hard to imagine the Rangers don’t want them back. That said, Callahan’s lengthy injury log has to be considered. How many years do you commit to a 28-year-old who plays the way Callahan plays? Do you give him seven years? Because there’s almost definitely a team out there that would.

— Is there enough offense on this roster? If Lundqvist plays like he’s shown he can, the Rangers won’t need to be the highest-scoring team in the league, but 2.21 goals per game isn’t going to cut it. Now, to be fair, Rick Nash has only played 11 games, and maybe it’s taken time for the players to adjust to Vigneault’s system. Chris Kreider has great potential, too. It’s still a question that needs to be asked when a team’s offense ranks 25th in a 30-team league. No goalie is that good.

— Where does defenseman Michael Del Zotto fit in the club’s plans? New coach Alain Vigneault hasn’t been particularly impressed with the 23-year-old, that’s for sure. You never want to trade a young player when his value is low, but it’s not like his value has been decimated. They could still get a decent return if he was shopped. If, however, Del Zotto does get moved, Sather will need to bolster the blue line with at least one more puck-mover who can drive some offense. Because Ryan McDonagh can’t do it all himself:

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Leafs pass Bruins for third in Atlantic after gutsy win against Columbus

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It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.

Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:

Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games

This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.

The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.

This game was all about William Nylander‘s brilliant start:

And also Toronto surviving a long penalty kill after that Polak hit:

Nazem Kadri‘s 30th goal really put the game out of reach, helping Toronto nab a significant victory.

The Blue Jackets can wallow in this defeat and Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s injury, either, as they turn around to face the Washington Capitals in a big one tomorrow.

Tortorella was irate after Roman Polak boarded Oliver Bjorkstrand

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John Tortorella was left enraged after Roman Polak delivered a dangerous boarding hit on Oliver Bjorkstrand, and he probably wasn’t too pleased after the Columbus Blue Jackets failed to make Toronto pay for Polak’s misdeeds.

Polak received a game misconduct and boarding major for the hit, but the Blue Jackets failed to score on a lengthy power play. Tortorella played to script, as cameras caught him expressing his anger at the situation.

First, take a look at the hit:

Next, behold Tortorella’s anger:

Again, Columbus couldn’t capitalize on its opportunities, so that didn’t make things any better.

Right now, the Maple Leafs lead the Blue Jackets 3-2. If Toronto ends up winning, this will stand as one of the game’s pivotal moments.

It’s far from the only exciting moment, however, with these goals and big hits also standing out.

Video: Josh Ho-Sang’s creativity gives Islanders a shot in the arm

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Honestly, after 10 games, the question shouldn’t be “can Josh Ho-Sang stick with the Islanders full-time?” Instead, the feeling is … what took so long for him to get this chance?

For all the grumbling about Ho-Sang sporting number 66, he’s provided serious bursts of brilliance and creativity for the Islanders, whether he’s been supporting or even setting up John Tavares.

The video above is some really good stuff, as it walks through his confident comments – and undeniable uncertainty – during the night he was drafted, all the way through him getting his chance with the Isles this season. Some of the best stuff comes from Doug Weight, who raves that Ho-Sang is a “five out of five” from an offensive standpoint.

Leafs’ Nylander puts on show with breakaway goal, assist on Matthews’ 33rd

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This wouldn’t have been worth a chuckle if not for the correction. (Well, maybe a chuckle at Auston Matthews‘ expense.)

On the 33rd goal of his brilliant rookie season, Auston Matthews made it 2-0 for Toronto on the power play. Crusty “act like you’ve been there” types might grumble that he actually celebrated before a goal really happened, only to tap it in for real the second time around. The rest of us, again, get a mild chuckle.

William Nylander‘s pass was nothing to laugh at, however. That one just gets a big thumbs up.

Hnnngmgghh indeed.

That goal could end up being key as the Blue Jackets quickly scored to start the second period, shrinking Toronto’s lead to 2-1 on Wednesday.

Update: OK, so Nylander’s really stealing the show. This is stupendous.