Adam Oates, Alex Ovechkin

McPhee didn’t want to talk about Ovechkin or Oates

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As we noted earlier, George McPhee “honestly” believes the Washington Capitals can win a Stanley Cup sometime in the next few years.

However, it’s the topics the ousted general manager didn’t comment on today that made the big headlines.

From the Canadian Press:

Of all the subjects raised with George McPhee at his on-the-way-out news conference after being told he’s done as the Washington Capitals’ general manager, the two most vital to understanding the team’s future and recent past involved captain Alex Ovechkin and fired coach Adam Oates.

And those were two topics McPhee did not want to address Monday, two days after the Capitals announced the 17-year GM’s contract would not be renewed.

“I don’t really want to answer questions about individuals. I’m going to duck those,” McPhee replied when Ovechkin’s name was first brought up.

Like McPhee, Oates won’t be back with the Capitals next season. But Ovechkin is signed through 2020-21, and questions are rightly being asked about the likelihood of a team winning it all with a one-way winger that takes up almost $10 million in cap space.

For all the goals Ovechkin scores — and nobody scores more — it’s Selke Trophy-type forwards like Jonathan Toews, Patrice Bergeron, Anze Kopitar and Pavel Datsyuk that have led their teams to championships in recent years, not to mention Norris Trophy-caliber defensemen like Duncan Keith, Zdeno Chara, and Drew Doughty and Nicklas Lidstrom.

That’s not to say offensive wingers can’t win Cups. Patrick Kane isn’t going to get a Selke nomination anytime soon, and he’s an extremely valuable part of the Blackhawks. But Kane’s cap hit is $6.3 million, not an NHL-high $9.5 million like Ovechkin’s. Plus, Kane has Toews, Keith and another elite two-way forward in Marian Hossa as teammates.

Bottom line: blaming Ovechkin for all the Caps’ woes is misguided. The team around him wasn’t nearly good enough this season. But that doesn’t mean he can’t work to improve his shortcomings. Forget how much he’s being paid. Great athletes are constantly looking to add facets to their games, and being a winger doesn’t mean he’s helpless to contribute defensively (see: Hossa).

“Of course I have opinions,” said McPhee when asked about Ovechkin, “but those issues are for the next guy.”

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

Stanley Cup
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There’s nothing better than a Game 7, especially when a spot in the Stanley Cup Final is up for grabs. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins will battle in a do-or-die game for the right to play the San Jose Sharks with Lord Stanley on the line. You can watch the game via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh (8:00 p.m. ET)

The television broadcast of Game 7 will be on NBCSN. To stream the game using the Live Extra app, click here.

Here’s some reading material to get you ready for this one:

Penguins, Lightning prepare for ‘roller coaster’ Game 7

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal

Video: Brouwer was big for Blues

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Troy Brouwer made quite an impression in his first year with the St. Louis Blues. After being acquired from the Capitals for T.J. Oshie, the 30-year-old scored 18 goals and 39 points in 82 games during the 2015-16 season. His eight goals and 13 points during the playoffs weren’t too shabby either.

Brouwer took on more of a signficant role in the postseason. His points-per-game increased, his ice time increased and he was more productive on the man-advantage (3 goals in 20 games). While the Blues were fighting for their playoff lives in Games 4 and 5 of the Western Conference Final, Brouwer contributed three goals.

Now, the Blues will have to find a way to keep him around. His playoff success likely means that he’ll be expecting a substantial raise between now and the end of the league year on July 1st. Brouwer is set to become an unrestricted free agent on that day.

Brouwer came with a cap hit of $3.66 million and it wouldn’t be surprising to see that number climb higher, especially if he hits the open market.

The Blues also need to work out deals with other pending free agents like captain David Backes and Jaden Schwartz (RFA). There isn’t a ton of money left under the cap in St. Louis, which means that GM Doug Armstrong will have to get creative this summer.

One of the things Armstrong and head coach Ken Hitchcock liked about Brouwer was the way he seemed to fit in right away.

“He was on the team for a month,” Hitchcock explained earlier this week, per the Vancouver Sun. “I think my meetings were a little bit too long.  He told me it would be best if I kept them a little briefer.  So I knew he had a bite on the team right away. It didn’t take him long to get comfortable with us, which is great.”  

How much will comfort count for in the off-season negotiations between club and player? We’ll find out soon enough.

PHT Morning Skate: Jim Craig doesn’t regret selling ‘Miracle on Ice’ memorabilia

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

–These parents named their baby girl after Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov. (ABC News)

–The  hockey card that helped inspire a Tragically Hip song. (Puck Junk)

–The fan who promised to get a tattoo of Gary Bettman if LA and Chicago were eliminated in the first round kept his word. (Bardown)

–Watch the highlights from last night’s game between the Sharks and Blues. (Top)

–Jim Craig doesn’t regret auctioning off most of his “Miracle on Ice” memorabilia. (Yahoo)

–A Q & A with former Quebec Nordiques forward Peter Stastny. (ESPN)

–Former Flyers coach Craig Berube breaks down Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. (NHL)

Hitch: ‘I see the devastation in our locker room’

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Despite a late comeback attempt, the 2015-16 season came to an end for the St. Louis Blues, as they lost the Western Conference Final in six games to the San Jose Sharks.

And with Wednesday’s loss, the off-season will settle upon the Blues. It will be an intriguing one in St. Louis, starting with their head coach Ken Hitchcock. He’s on a one-year deal and he has already outlined that he’s fine with taking short-term contracts. But is an appearance in the conference final enough to solidify his place behind the St. Louis bench for next year?

The Blues have, according to General Fanager, five pending unrestricted free agent forwards, including Scottie Upshall, Kyle Brodziak, Steve Ott, and most notably Troy Brouwer and David Backes.

Backes, 32, is the team’s captain and coming off a 21-goal, 45-point regular season, which is a decline from the numbers — 26 goals and 58 points — he posted the year before. Brouwer, 30, enjoyed the best post-season of his career, with eight goals and 13 points in 20 games, and he could potentially cash in on that this summer.

However, while there are questions ahead for the Blues, the emotional toll this loss took was clear.

“I see the devastation in our locker room right now. Guys aren’t even able to speak. I’m more worried about our guys right now, to be honest with you. We got some guys that are pretty shook up right now,” said Hitchcock to reporters.

“I’m not going to talk to them for a day or two. They need their space with each other. They’ve bonded together here better than any team I’ve coached in the last 10 years. They need their time together. They don’t need me interrupting them right now. We’ll talk at an appropriate time. But right now they need to be with each other.”