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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Video: Simmonds drops the gloves with Wood

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Wayne Simmonds is not only a productive power forward, but he’s one tough customer.

He showed that again Saturday, dropping the gloves with Miles Wood of the New Jersey Devils during the first period.

The fight occurred right after Wood drove Radko Gudas hard into the boards on the forecheck. The scrap didn’t last long, however, with Simmonds landing a few shots and then taking the Devils forward to the ice.

Simmonds was assessed an extra roughing minor.

We have a (minor league) trade to announce

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 28:  Michael Latta #17 of the Los Angeles Kings during a preseason game at Staples Center on September 28, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Chicago Blackhawks and L.A. Kings have made a minor league trade on Saturday.

The Blackhawks acquired forward Michael Latta, who has 113 games of NHL experience with the Washington Capitals, in exchange for defenseman Cameron Schilling.

Latta will report to the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs, according to the Blackhawks. In 29 games this season with the Ontario Reign, Latta has two goals and six points.

Schilling, 28, is expected to be assigned to the Reign, the team said in a release.

In 40 games this season with the IceHogs, Schilling has seven goals and 17 points.

Singing the Blues: St. Louis continues recent skid

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 21:  Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues walks on the ice in game four of the Western Conference Finals against the San Jose Sharks during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on May 21, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Make that three straight losses for the St. Louis Blues, who have only four wins in their last 10 games.

The Blues lost to the Winnipeg Jets by a final score of 5-3 on Saturday. Late attempts at a comeback from four goals down were fleeting and unsuccessful. Once in competition for the Central Division, St. Louis has fallen off the pace in these times of struggle and is now part of the pack fighting for a wild card spot in the West.

In the last three games, the Blues have given up 18 goals. Eighteen goals.

That is highly uncharacteristic of a Ken Hitchcock-coached team, and the Blues have been one of the stingiest clubs in the NHL over the last five years. Jake Allen‘s struggles have been well documented and he didn’t even travel with the team to Winnipeg.

These are difficult times for the Blues, who turned to Pheonix Copley, who had never started an NHL game before today, in goal versus the Jets.

Despite giving up five goals on 29 shots, Hitchcock praised the play of Copley. And he likes the amount of scoring chances his team is producing. But their own mistakes keep piling up, and they keep piling into the St. Louis net at what is now an alarming rate.

The Blues trailed 2-1 entering the third period, but gave up a Bryan Little power play goal just over two minutes later and they fell further behind. It was a critical moment in the game for St. Louis. The floodgates opened from there for the Jets.

“We left the game out there ,” Hitchcock told reporters.

“It’s tough. Quite frankly, we’re allowing too many goals against, obviously. Too many easy scoring chances. We’re getting scored on killing penalties now. If we clean up our own end, both five-on-five and five-on-four, it will help us a lot.”

Desjardins: Horvat is ‘fine’ after taking a slap shot to the head

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Before the celebration of Henrik Sedin reaching 1,000 career points, there was plenty of concern for one of the Canucks’ top young players.

Late in the first period, Bo Horvat was skating behind the Florida net when he was struck in the back of the head by a Nikita Tryamkin slap shot. Horvat immediately hit the ice. He was down for a brief period, but did skate off under his own power.

The good news: He returned to the game after missing a brief time.

On Saturday, the Canucks sent out a photo showing the damage Horvat suffered — a fairly large cut to the back of his head, which required several stitches.

“I would assume he was forced out by the spotter,” said coach Willie Desjardins following Vancouver’s win on Friday. “Whenever you see something like that, you’ll probably check it out, especially if he was bleeding.”

“They took a look at him and he’s fine.”

More good news for the Canucks.

In his third NHL season, Horvat is emerging as a critical component of this team. He’s 21 years old, is tied with Henrik for the team lead in points, with 30 in 47 games, and is on his way to next weekend’s NHL All-Star event. Further to that, the Canucks are in a transition, with a younger core expected to eventually take over from the lasting members of the current core, most notably Daniel and Henrik Sedin, who are both 36 years old.

The Canucks are also in a fight for a playoff spot, and injury to one of their top centers, which Horvat is, would certainly make the hunt for the post-season that much more difficult.

Sitting one point out of the second wild card spot in the West, the Canucks begin a three-game road trip by facing the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday.