Glen Sather

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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Stars end Capitals’ winning streak, pass Blackhawks for West lead

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For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”

They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:

  • Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
  • This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
  • By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.

Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).

Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.

Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.

Blackhawks fall to Ducks in OT, lose Hossa to injury

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The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.

(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)

Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)

You can see that moment in the video above, while My Regular Face’s GIF also captures that troubling moment:

It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.

Update: Joel Quenneville seems optimistic about Hossa, broadly speaking:

Ryan Getzlaf scored the overtime game-winner as the Ducks won 3-2 (OT).

Understatement: Saturday was a rough night for Panthers

Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) checks Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
AP
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If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.

You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.

The pain goes beyond that … literally so.

For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.

(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)

The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.

Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.

Fractured jaw from fight sidelines Chris Stewart for 4-8 weeks

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It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.

The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).

The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.

One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.