Russia's Viktor Tikhonov, left, and Enver Lisin celebrate the team's second goal scored by Lisin during the EHT Karjala Tournament match against Sweden in Helsinki, Finland, Saturday Nov. 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Lehtikuva, Jussi Nukari) FINLAND OUT

PHT’s Pressing Olympic Questions: Who are these guys?

2 Comments

The Winter Olympics are a chance to showcase the best hockey talent the world has to offer. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll see stacked lines duels against superb defensemen and elite goaltenders.

But it’s not just a series of NHL All-Star Games with medals on the line — given it’s an international event, the Olympic talent pool extends beyond North America’s top league. In fact, there will be be plenty players with little to no NHL experience playing significant roles.

With that in mind, we’ve handpicked a few worth learning about before the puck drops:

Viktor Tikhonov (Russia) — Odds are the name sounds familiar even if you can’t quite place it. Tikhonov was named after his grandfather, best known for coaching the Soviet Union to three gold medals (the final in 1992 was with the short-lived Unified Team).

The younger Tikhonov is a 25-year-old winger that grew up in California, holds dual American and Russian citizenship, and was taken in the first round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft by the Phoenix Coyotes. He had eight goals and 16 points in 61 games with the Coyotes in 2008-09, but he split the next season between the AHL and KHL and eventually settled on European hockey in 2011-12.

Over the last three campaigns with SKA St. Petersburg, he has scored 46 goals and 88 points in 129 contests. He’s someone that has established himself beyond his family name, but that doesn’t mean his history isn’t important to him.

“It’s kind of funny to think about it, but the last time Russia won was 22 years ago, when (my grandfather) was the coach,” Tikhonov told the San Jose Mercury News. “Maybe it’ll come full circle and we can go from Tikhonov to Tikhonov. That would be kind of cool.”

Reto Suri (Switzerland) — Suri has spent his entire professional career in the Swiss league, but that nearly changed over the summer. After a strong 2012-13 campaign with Zug, the skilled forward helped lead Switzerland to a silver medal in the 2013 World Championships and tied Nino Niederreiter with a team-high five goals.

Along the way, Suri netted two shootout goals in a 3-2 upset over Canada in the round robin phase. You can watch his second marker below (skip to 1:47):

It was the first time Switzerland had ever won a medal in the tournament and not long after that, reports began to surface that Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman was trying to sign him. Suri couldn’t head to the NHL, though, because the Swiss Federation lacked a transfer agreement with the NHL and vetoed the proposal.

The Lightning are still very interested in Suri, likely because he continues to shine in the Swiss league. He’s notched a career-high 36 points to tie for eighth place in the National A League scoring race.

Jori Lehtera (Finland) — Lehtera’s never played in the NHL, but certainly had the option to. The St. Louis Blues took him in the third round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft but, after a seven-game taste of the AHL during the 2008-09 campaign, he went back to Europe and hasn’t looked back.

Lehtera led Finland’s SM-liiga in 2009-10 with 69 points and earned the league’s MVP award. The following campaign, he decided to take his talents to the KHL where he has quickly established himself as one of the league’s top players.

This year, the 26-year-old forward is tied with Ilya Kovalchuk for ninth place in the league’s scoring race (40 points).

His success hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Blues, but they haven’t been able to lure him over.

“At the end of the day he does not want to play in the NHL,” Blues GM Doug Armstrong said in June. “We offered him a one-way, seven-figure deal. Can’t force guys to want to play in the NHL.”

It’s worth adding that Lehtera is capable of playing up the middle, which makes him a very valuable commodity for Finland after they lost centers Mikko Koivu and Valtteri Filppula.

Ivan Baranka (Slovakia) — Baranka was selected in the second round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Rangers and in his third season as a pro in North America, he got his big chance.

The Rangers summoned him and he made his NHL debut on Nov. 21 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He made the most of his 12:44 minutes of ice time by setting up the game-winning goal by Colton Orr in the 2-1 victory.

And he never played in the NHL again.

Following that campaign, he decided to take his talents to the KHL where he has emerged as one of that league’s top defenseman. He’s a physical blueliner, but also contributes offensively. Playing for the Omsk Avangard this season, he’s tied for 20th place among defensemen with 18 points in 47 games.

He was part of Slovakia’s 2010 Olympic team, which finished a surprising fourth. He didn’t play a big role in that tournament, but he was a major factor on the 2012 World Championships team that earned a stunning 4-3 victory over Team Canada in the Quarterfinals. Slovakia went on to win the silver medal in that competition.

With Lubomir Visnovsky sidelined, Slovakia has just four NHL defenseman on their roster. They’ll be counting on Baranka to once again stand up to the NHL’s elite.

With Blues in ‘precarious playoff spot,’ it was time for Shattenkirk to go

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 21: Kevin Shattenkirk #22 of the St. Louis Blues in action against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on December 21, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

If the St. Louis Blues were enjoying another season like they enjoyed last year, they wouldn’t have traded Kevin Shattenkirk.

But in the words of GM Doug Armstrong, the Blues are currently “in a precarious playoff spot,” so yesterday Shattenkirk was dealt to Washington for a haul that included a first-round draft pick in 2017 and 22-year-old forward Zach Sanford.

“It just felt that where we are and where we need to go, it was time to make a move,” Armstrong said.

“I think when we got through last year’s playoffs, knowing that we were going to be entering unrestricted free agency with a number of players over a two- or three-year span, we wanted to turn the tide over to a different core group of players, and this just continues down that path.”

Armstrong listed Alex Pietrangelo, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Colton Parayko, and Robby Fabbri as parts of the new core.

“There’s change in this game,” said Armstrong. “All organizations go through it.”

The Blues enter tonight’s game against the Oilers just two points clear of the Kings for the second wild-card spot in the West.

 

Sens are ‘ecstatic’ to add Burrows

Vancouver Canucks' Alex Burrows celebrates his goal against the Colorado Avalanche during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, British Columbia, Thursday, March 28, 2013. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck)
AP
Leave a comment

The Ottawa Senators made Alex Burrows‘ contract extension official this morning.

The day after acquiring the 35-year-old forward from Vancouver, the Sens announced that Burrows had signed a two-year, $5 million extension with a 10-team no-trade clause.

Ottawa gave up 19-year-old prospect Jonathan Dahlen to get Burrows from the Canucks.

“I think we’ve become a tougher team to play against and with the acquisition of Alex Burrows we’ve become an even tougher team to play against,” said GM Pierre Dorion, per the Ottawa Sun. “We all know how games are at this time of the year and, hopefully, when our team gets in the playoffs, how they’re grinding, difficult games.

“Getting someone of Alex’s character is something we couldn’t turn (away from). Our players have done exactly what we’ve asked of them. They’ve played hard, they’ve played a system and we just felt it was time to add another piece. In Alex Burrows, we’re ecstatic to have that piece.”

After last night’s 5-1 loss in Tampa Bay, the Sens only have a four-point playoff cushion, so there’s still work to be done down the stretch.

Ottawa hosts Colorado Thursday.

Related: Canucks GM says he isn’t done after trading ‘heart and soul’ guy Burrows

‘Hawks sign Rozsival, Tootoo to one-year extensions

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 20: Michal Rozsival #32 of the Chicago Blackhawks passes against the San Jose Sharks at the United Center on December 20, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Sharks 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Getty
5 Comments

Chicago re-upped with a pair of veteran skaters on Tuesday, agreeing to one-year contract extensions with d-man Michal Rozsival and forward Jordin Tootoo.

At first glance, these deals certainly appear to be expansion draft-related. The Sun-Times notes this will allow ‘Hawks GM Stan Bowman to protect former first-round pick Ryan Hartman, who’s enjoying a breakout campaign with 15 goals through 57 games.

Rozsival, 38, has been the more active of today’s signees, appearing in 51 contests while notching a pair of points. He’s won a pair of Stanley Cups in Chicago.

Tootoo, 34, was signed last summer and has appeared in 36 games. He’s gone scoreless while racking up 21 PIM.

Rozsival’s current deal pays $600,000, while Tootoo’s is at $750,000. Terms of their extensions weren’t released but it’s fair to suggest the dollar figures will be similar, given Chicago’s pressed right up against the cap ceiling.

UPDATE:

Bowman certainly seems to be getting his house in order ahead of the aforementioned expansion draft. Last week, he inked journeyman goalie Jeff Glass to a two-year deal, another move that appeared to be with Vegas in mind.

Welcome Valtteri Filppula to the trade rumor mill

TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 18:  Valtteri Filppula #51 of the Tampa Bay Lightning backhands a shot against Florida Panthers during the overtime period at the Amalie Arena on October 18, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
Getty
3 Comments

Having already dealt away Ben Bishop and Brian Boyle, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman could be on the verge of moving another veteran out of town:

Valtteri Filppula.

Fippula, 32, is in the fourth of a five-year, $25 million deal with a $5M average annual cap hit. He’s had a nice bounce-back offensive campaign, with 34 points through 59 games — last year, those totals dipped to 31 in 76 — and has been a dependable, defensively responsible center during his time in Tampa Bay.

So, why might he get moved?

Yzerman has plenty of business to attend to this summer. Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Drouin are all pending RFAs requiring new deals, and it’s going to be expensive trying to keep all three in the fold.

It’s also worth noting that Victor Hedman‘s monster extension kicks in next year and, per ESPN, Yzerman is still searching to add a top-four defenseman to the mix.

McKenzie notes it’s unclear if Filppula has agreed to waive his NTC. If he does, though, teams would undoubtedly be interested in acquiring an experienced middle man, with tons of playoff experience.

Filppula’s appeared in over 150 career postseason contests, winning a Stanley Cup with Detroit in 2008.