Detroit hands Toronto a crushing eighth consecutive loss

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If the Toronto Maple Leafs came into tonight as a “wounded bear,” then some might feel that the Detroit Red Wings put them out of their misery on Saturday with a 4-2 decision.

Darren Helm generated his first hat trick tonight:

… While Jimmy Howard made some big saves, including this one:

It’s probably unfair to rule out the Maple Leafs altogether, although it’s quite possible that they’ve buried themselves with this eight-game losing streak. Joffrey Lupul went from optimistic to glum after this one.

There are a lot of salt-in-the-wounds notes from this one, even beyond the fact that the Maple Leafs are facing a Red Wings team that is banged up (so Jonathan Bernier not being 100 percent excuses probably fall on deaf ears). For one thing, this collapse has been downright historic:

If that isn’t enough, it appears that Phil Kessel might have gotten injured during the game, possibly when a one-timer pass seemed to hit him in the foot. (He was seen grimacing on the bench but played on while receiving significant criticism.)

And it gets worse

Sorry to pile on, Maple Leafs fans, but just about every other East bubble team (other than Washington) made the situation even bleaker on Saturday.

  • The Columbus Blue Jackets won in overtime.
  • The New Jersey Devils managed a “charity point” before losing yet another shootout.
  • Things obviously improved for Detroit, too.

Here is an East outlook via NBC Sports:

 

source:

Things look pretty grim from both a standings and games in hand standpoint for the Maple Leafs, opening up the possibility that this will be viewed as the night that the Leafs’ playoff hopes died.

Condolences to all Maple Leafs fans, especially the hardest-hitting ones.

Habs sign Mark Streit — is he Markov’s replacement?

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The Montreal Canadiens have signed 39-year-old defenseman Mark Streit to a one-year contract worth a reported $700,000.

This will actually be Streit’s second stint with the Habs. He started his NHL career in Montreal, all the way back in 2005.

Streit split last season between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. In the playoffs, he only appeared in three games for the Penguins, all of them in the Eastern Conference Final against Ottawa when Justin Schultz was hurt.

What the Streit signing means for Andrei Markov remains to be seen. Streit, like Markov, can run a power play, so it’s tempting to conclude that Streit is Markov’s replacement.

That being said, almost all of Streit’s contract could be buried in the AHL if necessary, so that conclusion may be premature. This could even be a move by GM Marc Bergevin to gain leverage and convince Markov to sign.

Markov, 38, remains an unrestricted free agent. The Canadiens want him back, but only at a certain price.

Devils give Mirco Mueller two-year extension

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The New Jersey Devils have signed defenseman Mirco Mueller to a two-year contract extension with a cap hit of $850,000.

Mueller, a first-round draft pick of the Sharks in 2013, has only played 54 NHL games, scoring two goals with four assists. In June, after spending most of 2016-17 in the AHL, San Jose traded the 22-year-old to the Devils.

In New Jersey, Mueller should get a good chance to crack a rebuilding roster.

“Mirco is adding another piece to what we’re trying to build here,” Devils coach John Hynes said, per NJ.com. “He’s a young player, he can play with pace. He’s a very good skater. He’s got size, which is something we need on the back end. He makes a good first pass. He allows you to get out of your own zone because he can break out, he can end plays defensively, get possession, make the pass to be able to transition yourself out of defensive situations.”

The Devils have also re-signed goalie Scott Wedgewood and forward Joseph Blandisi.

Rangers lock up Zibanejad for next five years

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The New York Rangers have locked up a key piece of their future, signing center Mika Zibanejad to a five-year deal with a cap hit of $5.35 million.

Zibanejad had an arbitration hearing scheduled for today, but that won’t be required anymore.

The 24-year-old had 14 goals and 23 assists in 56 games last season. It was his first year in New York after getting traded from Ottawa for Derick Brassard.

With Derek Stepan in Arizona now, Zibanejad is arguably the Rangers’ No. 1 center. Kevin Hayes is in that conversation as well, and perhaps Lias Andersson will be soon.

But getting Zibanejad signed long term was a top priority for GM Jeff Gorton this offseason. Hayes can become a restricted free agent next summer, but that’s a bridge to cross at a later date.

Related: Andersson to get ‘every opportunity’ to make Rangers next season

Avalanche reportedly settle with Nieto, avoiding arbitration

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Matt Nieto won’t need his arbitration hearing on Monday.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Nieto has agreed to a one-year, $1 million contract with the Colorado Avalanche.

Nieto split last season between San Jose and Colorado, which claimed him off waivers in January.

In 43 games for the Avalanche, the 24-year-old forward scored seven goals with four assists.

Nieto was the only Colorado player on this summer’s arbitration list. However, the Avs still have a restricted free agent in Nikita Zadorov, who could be off to the KHL next season.