Poll: Should the Sharks fire McLellan?

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Now that San Jose’s gone down in infamy — just the fourth team in Stanley Cup playoffs history to blow an 0-3 series lead — one big question hangs over the organization:

Will Todd McLellan be shown the door?

The 46-year-old — who, earlier this year, became the franchise’s all-time leader in games coached — could be out of a job soon. While the collapse to L.A. falls on the players, McLellan did take a big risk by parking longtime starter Antti Niemi in Game 6 in favor of playoff rookie Alex Stalock, which didn’t pay off, and then went back to Niemi in Game 7, though many figured the damage was already done by then.

Why? Well, possibly because the decision wasn’t all about goaltending.

It might’ve spoke to McLellan’s overall comfort level (or lack thereof) with the series on the whole. Niemi wasn’t great in Games 4 and 5, but was he really the issue? San Jose only managed three goals over those two losses after scoring 11 in the previous two wins, and the club’s vaunted power play fizzled in the second half of this series, going 0-for-15.

Parking Niemi also came at the same time Marc-Edouard Vlasic, the team’s best defensive defenseman, was ruled out of action…making it even tougher to explain why McLellan would make another significant lineup alternation.

As such, it’s worth asking — was putting Stalock in for Niemi a panic move? Or one designed to wake up the Sharks?

If yes, that could be an issue. Remember that, at the time of said yanking, the Sharks were still in reasonably OK shape; they held a 3-2 series lead and a pair of close-out opportunities, in a series almost everybody picked to go six or seven games. What’s more, McLellan’s comments after losing Game 7 — y’know, ones about why the Sharks collapsed — had nothing to do with goaltending.

“Our problems got progressively worse as we went along. We were awful off the rush. … Every day we came to the rink and we tried to stress that about giving outnumbered rushes,” he said, per CSN Bay Area. “We were never able to fix it. It’s frustrating, because during the year we were pretty good in those areas.”

He wasn’t done there.

“[Another] problem we ran into was getting them to understand that those 6-3, 7-2 games weren’t going to keep coming,” McLellan said of his team’s early victories over the Kings. “They’re too good a team for that.

“They were the better team. That was quite evident.”

The counter argument to firing McLellan is that he’s regarded as a very good coach and, should he get turfed, would almost instantly shoot to the list of likely candidates for vacancies across the league (Vancouver has been on McLellan watch for a couple days now.) Coaches with career winning percentages of .654 don’t become available very often and let’s re-iterate what was said at the onset of this post — the players are the ones that lost that series, not McLellan. Also, patience can be a virtue in these instances. Boston didn’t fire Claude Julien after its 0-3 collapse to Philly in 2010 and, a year later, he led the B’s to a Stanley Cup.

With all this in mind, we’ll turn it over to you:  Should McLellan stay, or should he go?

Zibanejad looking for $5.35 million from Rangers in arbitration

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The New York Rangers and restricted free agent forward Mika Zibanejad are scheduled for an arbitration hearing on Tuesday if they can not come to an agreement on a new contract before them.

On Sunday, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported the numbers both sides are looking at heading into that hearing and they don’t seem to be too far apart. According to Friedman, Zibanejad is seeking a $5.35 million salary while the Rangers have countered with an offer of $4.1 million. If the two sides were able to meet in the middle that would be in the neighborhood of around $4.7 million per season, which probably seems about right given Zibanejad’s performance and some of the contracts that have recently been signed by the likes of Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat (both will make a little more than $5 million per season, while both have been more productive).

Zibanejad, 24, is coming off of his first season with the Rangers after being acquired from the Ottawa Senators in the Derrick Brassard trade.

He was limited to just 56 games due to injury, scoring 14 goals to go with 23 assists. He scored at least 20 goals in each of the previous two seasons.

With Derek Stepan gone to Arizona Zibanejad figures to take on a bigger role this season for the Rangers.

The Rangers still have $8.4 million in salary cap space to work with, via CapFriendly.

New addition Thompson thinks Senators are ‘ready to win’

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Even after reaching Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2016-17 there is still probably some skepticism as to how good the Ottawa Senators will be this upcoming season and whether or not they can repeat that success.

They didn’t do much to add to that roster over the summer outside of the addition of gritty forward Nate Thompson on a two-year contract from the Anaheim Ducks.

Thompson is excited about the opportunity to join the Senators and believes the success of the team last season was not a fluke.

“This team now is ready to win,” he told Ken Warren of the Ottawa Sun this past week. “I don’t think this was a Cinderella team, it was the real deal. They have a pretty good window to win games and hopefully do something even more special.”

It’s going to probably be a little more difficult this season given some of the improvements that have been made by teams around them (Tampa Bay and Toronto should be better than they were a year ago; Montreal and Boston will still be fierce contenders as well) and the fact the Senators themselves might see a bit of a regression in the standings if their overall play doesn’t change much. Keep in mind, for all of the success they had in the playoffs this was still a team that gave up more goals than it scored during the regular season. That is not typically a recipe for long-term success.

Thompson, who will turn 33 at the start of the season, will be relied on primarily to fill a bottom-six role and perhaps help in the faceoff circle. He is coming off of a 2016-17 season in Anaheim that saw him be limited to just 30 games, scoring one goal and adding one assist before recording six points (two goals, four assists) in the playoffs for the Ducks on their run to the Western Conference Finals. He spent the past three seasons playing for the Ducks and also has experience playing for Senators coach Guy Boucher during their time together in Tampa Bay.

Preds GM Poile still has work to do, with Johansen in need of a deal

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David Poile got some work done Saturday.

The Nashville Predators re-signed Viktor Arvidsson on the day the two sides had an arbitration hearing scheduled. The new deal? Seven years at a total of $29.75 million — an annual average value of $4.25 million for a player that just scored 31 goals while playing on the top line with Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg.

The Predators made a run at the Stanley Cup last month, doing so with great goaltending from Pekka Rinne, a top-four group of defensemen that you can argue sets the standard around the league and a talented group of forwards — a number of them with age on their side.

They didn’t win it all, but Poile was recognized for his work by claiming General Manager of the Year.

This is likely among the reasons why.

Roman Josi still has three years left on his deal, while Mattias Ekholm, who was a valuable and reliable top-four d-man playing alongside P.K. Subban, has five years remaining on his deal.

With the Arvidsson contract completed, the priority is now to get Johansen — a restricted free agent — signed. At age 24, he’s Nashville’s No. 1 center coming off a 61-point season, which completed his three-year, $12 million deal.

He was also in the midst of a terrific playoff performance before he suffered a thigh injury and postseason-ending surgery. He’s in line for a significant raise from the $4 million AAV he made on his last contract.

The Predators have about $14.5 million remaining in cap space, per CapFriendly.

Vegas GM doesn’t appear to be in any hurry to move extra d-men

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The Vegas Golden Knights currently have 10 defensemen under contract — and that is without Nate Schmidt signed.

Schmidt and the Golden Knights have an arbitration hearing scheduled for Aug. 3, so there is still plenty of time for them to negotiate a new deal for the restricted free agent blue liner without having a neutral third party decide the matter.

Schmidt’s agent, Matt Keator, told the Las Vegas Review Journal that talks with the Golden Knights have been positive, which lends to optimism that perhaps the club and player will avoid this whole process with a deal.

A new contract between Schmidt — left unprotected by Washington in the expansion draft — and Vegas would put the Golden Knights at 11 d-men less than two months before training camp opens.

Granted, that number is considerably less than what Vegas had following the expansion draft, when they stockpiled 15 defensemen and eventually moved players like David Schlemko, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Marc Methot.

While it seems more moves are likely on the back end for Vegas, general manager George McPhee doesn’t seem to be in any particular hurry right now, per the Vegas Review Journal.

“We’re at a manageable number right now,” said McPhee. “We’re pretty close to where we want to be and we’re comfortable with the roster we have.”

Their blue line also includes five players — Jason Garrison, Luca Sbisa, Clayton Stoner, Brayden McNabb and Deryk Engelland — that are pending unrestricted free agents at the end of next season. As far as Vegas’ defensive group is concerned, this could mean future trades during the season as other clubs, perhaps playoff bound, look to possibly add a rental late in the year.

One thing McPhee has made clear in the past: He planned on keeping Schmidt and fellow d-man Shea Theodore (only 21 years old). Now, they just have to get Schmidt under contract.

Related: Vegas has more ticket revenue than Boston, Philly and Pittsburgh, says Foley