Back to Laco: Slovaks will stick with KHL goalie over Halak, Budaj

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Jan Laco will get his second straight start for Slovakia in Tuesday’s playoff game against the Czech Republic, according to Slovakian news outlet SITA (per Hokej.sk).

Laco, who entered Sochi as the No. 3 goalie behind St. Louis’ Jaroslav Halak and Montreal’s Peter Budaj, was informed of the decision Monday and reportedly earned the start because of his stellar play against Russia in the final group game.

The 32-year-old, who plays for HC Donbass of the KHL, stopped all 36 shots faced in regulation and overtime before losing in a shootout. It marked Slovakia’s best effort of the preliminary stage and provided some optimism after the team conceded 10 goals in its first two games against the U.S. and Slovenia.

After the Russia game, Flyers defenseman Andrej Meszaros praised Laco — who didn’t even dress in the first two games — for turning Slovakia’s fortunes around following a rough start to the tournament.

“[Laco] was amazing. He kept us in the game,” Mezaros said, per NHL.com. “We had some chances but we helped him too defensively. That’s what teams do. The goalie helps us and we help the goalie.”

Halak was hooked in the loss to the Americans after allowing five goals on 25 shots. Budaj replaced him and didn’t fare much better, allowing two goals on eight shots.

Halak was then given a chance to make amends with a start against Slovenia but dropped the ball in stunning fashion, surrendering three goals as the Slovenians won for the first time in Olympic competition. Afterwards, the Blues goalie took full responsibility for the defeat.

“I think the first goal, that was a really weak goal for me,” said Halak, per NHL.com. “I think that kind of set the tone for the rest of the period for us. If we’re going to blame somebody, I’ll take the full blame for this loss.”

Being surpassed by Laco has to be deflating for both NHL netminders but especially for Halak, who played a major role in the Slovaks success in 2010. Although it’s hard to read too much into his Olympic performance given the small sample size, it does give the Blues something to think about as the trade deadline nears.

St. Louis has the potential to go deep into the 2014 playoffs, but only if its man between the pipes is solid.

Kings sign Andreoff to two-year extension

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The L.A. Kings have brought back pending restricted free agent forward Andy Andreoff.

The Kings announced Saturday that they have re-signed Andreoff to a two-year deal worth an annual average value of $677,500.

He appeared in only 36 games last season, spending time on injured reserve, adding two assists. The previous year, however, he played in 60 games for L.A., scoring eight goals with 10 points.

At 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, Andreoff is known more for his physical style and checking abilities than offensive production, with 146 penalty minutes combined over the last two seasons.

Stars hope they got a second-round steal in Robertson

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CHICAGO — His stats jump right off the page.

On a Kingston Frontenacs squad that really struggled to score, Jason Robertson had 42 goals as a 17-year-old. Nobody else on his team had more than 26 goals.

For that reason, the Dallas Stars are hoping they got a steal in the second round of the NHL Entry Draft. Robertson, a winger, went 39th overall Saturday at United Center. A lot of scouts had him pegged as a first-rounder.

So why didn’t he go earlier?

Probably his skating.

“Everyone needs to work on stuff,” Robertson said. “Obviously, for me, I need to work on that. It’s something I’m always going to keep working on.”

But skating didn’t stop Robertson (6-2, 192) from shooting up the prospect rankings in 2016-17. At the midpoint of the season, NHL Central Scouting had him as the 34th-best North American skater. By season’s end, he was 14th.

“I think a lot of it came from confidence,” he said. “I gained more confidence in my game, my skating, my shot. Once I did that in the second half of the year, I really took off.”

He sure did, with 30 of his 42 goals coming in the final 40 games of the regular season. He then added five goals and 13 assists in 11 playoff games.

Robertson was born in Los Angeles, where his dad and grandpa were Kings season-ticket holders. He started playing hockey in L.A., then moved to Detroit when he was 10.

Isles keep dealing, send Hamonic to Calgary (Updated)

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It’s been rumored for days that Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic might be on the move.

And now it’s happened.

Per Sportsnet, the Isles have dealt Hamonic to Calgary. It’s the second significant move of the draft weekend from GM Garth Snow who, on Thursday, acquired Jordan Eberle from Edmonton in exchange for Ryan Strome.

Hamonic, 26, is coming off a difficult campaign in which injuries limited him to just 49 games. That said, he’s still a well-regarded blueliner that will make Calgary’s defense one of the deepest in the league.

There, he’ll play alongside Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton and T.J. Brodie, putting the Flames in the conversation with Nashville for the best top-four in the NHL.

Hamonic had made waves during the ’15-16 campaign, when it was learned he’d requested a trade from the Islanders due to a family issue. That request had since been rescinded.

It’s worth mentioning that Hamonic has one of the more club-friendly deals in the league. He has three years left on a seven-year, $27 million deal, one that carries a $3.857M average annual cap hit. For a top-four defenseman that can log big minutes and post solid possession metrics, that’s a pretty low price to pay.

No word yet on what the return is for New York. The Isles selected a pair of defensemen — Robin Salo and Benjamin Mirageas — with their second- and third-round picks on Saturday morning.

UPDATE: Looks as though the Isles are only getting picks in return.

If Calgary misses the playoffs on 2019, the Isles get the pick that year. That condition stems from an earlier one in which Arizona would get the Flames’ second-rounder in 2019 if the Flames make the playoffs.

Got all that?

There’s widespread speculation Snow isn’t done dealing. The bounty of draft picks acquired could be utilized in a future trade, which would be the likely direction for a club that’s in “win-now” mode.

Jets extend Chiarot — two year, $2.8 million

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Winnipeg has retained some of its defensive depth, re-signing Ben Chiarot to a two-year deal worth $2.8 million.

It’s a $1.4 million average annual cap hit for the 26-year-old, and a nice pay bump from the $850,000 he was making on his previous deal.

Chiarot had a nice campaign in ’16-17, scoring a career-high 12 points while appearing in 59 games. The season ended on a down note, however, as he suffered an upper-body injury in mid-March and was shut down for the year.

Looking ahead, Chiarot will likely continue to serve in a depth role for the Jets. The club is bringing back nearly all of the same defensemen it had last year, and it’s expected youngster Josh Morrissey will take on an even bigger role.