Petro redux? Blues in no rush to re-sign Schwartz, Sobotka, Berglund


St. Louis has a gameplan in dealing with restricted free agents, and it doesn’t sound like GM Doug Armstrong is going to deviate from it this summer.

“No,” Armstrong told the Post-Dispatch when asked if there was any urgency to sign RFAs Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Sobotka and Patrik Berglund. “I wouldn’t expect the RFAs to get done — just based on history — until July and August, and as we saw last year with Alex [Pietrangelo] into September.”

Ah yes, the great Alex Pietrangelo summer saga of ’13, which gave us the following:

June: Blues: We’ll match any offer sheet to Pietrangelo

July: Blues GM vows to do ‘what is necessary’ to re-sign Pietrangelo

Aug. 4: Blues GM says ‘nothing to report’ on Pietrangelo contract talks

Aug. 6: Blues GM aims to sign Pietrangelo by training camp

Aug. 22: Blues, Pietrangelo might just settle for a ‘bridge’ contract

Aug. 26: Pietrangelo ‘not even thinking about holding out’

Sept. 4: Armstrong: Pietrangelo ‘will be a St. Louis Blue when he plays hockey again’

Sept. 11: Blues negotiations with RFA Pietrangelo ‘broken off for now’

Sept. 11: It’s ‘back to the drawing board’ for Blues and Pietrangelo

After missing the start of training camp, Pietrangelo agreed to a seven-year, $45.5 million deal on Sept. 13.

It’s doubtful any of St. Louis’ current RFAs will have as complex a negotiation as Pietrangelo, a 23-year-old Norris-caliber defenseman represented by Newport Sports’ Don Meehan, who’s client base included two of the highest-profile d-man holdouts in recent memory: Los Angeles’ Drew Doughty (who missed almost the entire 2011 preseason, including five exhibition games) and Montreal’s P.K. Subban (who missed the first four games of last season).

History also suggests St. Louis does occasionally get its RFAs signed quickly. Berglund and Kevin Shattenkirk were extended in June of last year, and the Blues avoided arbitration with Chris Stewart by signing him to a new deal in mid-July.

That said, Armstrong still figures to have some lengthy negotiations this offseason.

Schwartz, 21, had a breakout campaign this year, scoring 56 points in 80 games and looks to be a tricky negotiation given he’s heading into his second NHL contract. Sobotka’s a versatile guy that fills numerous roles for the Blues up front, and is probably looking for a raise on his next deal (having made $1.3 million in each of the last three seasons.) Berglund, meanwhile, has never fully lived up to his pedigree (25th overall pick in 2006) and has seen his offensive numbers dip recently after scoring 21 goals as a rookie and a career-high 22 in 2010-11.

Add it all up, and it could be another long summer for RFAs in St. Louis.

‘It’s absolutely not true’ — Lemieux denies report of ‘big falling out’ with Crosby

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 5:  Sidney Crosby #87 and Mario Lemieux #66 of the Pittsburgh Penguins share a few words during a break in action against the New Jersey Devils in their NHL opening night game at the Continental Airlines Arena on October 5, 2005 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  The Devils won 5-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Well, that didn’t take long.

Just hours after Matthew Barnaby went on the radio and said he’d heard that Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemieux had had a “big falling out,” Lemieux came out and denied it.

“It’s absolutely not true,” said Lemieux, per the club’s Twitter account. “It’s silly.”

Today marked the second time in less than two weeks that the Penguins have been forced do some damage control.

Last week, the Penguins insisted that they weren’t actually “mad at each other,” as Evgeni Malkin had put it after a bad loss to New Jersey.

“He did not mean we are mad at each other,” said Crosby. “He meant we are frustrated.”

Matthew Barnaby has heard that Crosby and Lemieux had a ‘big falling out’

Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel

Every day there seems to be another “thing” about the Pittsburgh Penguins.

We say “thing,” because we’re not really sure how to categorize it. It’s never anything concrete. It’s smoke, without definitive proof of a fire.

But whether it’s Evgeni Malkin saying the Penguins are “mad at each other”…or Guy Lafleur wondering if Sidney Crosby should try and find a new team…or a prominent NHL reporter like Elliotte Friedman talking about the “very tense environment” in the organization…

The clear insinuation is that all is not well in Pittsburgh.

The latest “thing”?

Ex-Penguin Matthew Barnaby has “looked into it” and what’s he’s heard is that Crosby and co-owner Mario Lemieux have had a “big falling out.”

“Now whether that pushes them to move him at some point? Whether he wants to move? That I don’t know,” Barnaby said today on SiriusXM, via Puck Daddy.

Again, it’s all just scuttlebutt at this point. After Malkin’s “mad at each other” remark, the players insisted that that wasn’t true. Malkin said he didn’t mean it that way.

So choose for yourself what to believe.

But despite the winning record, unless this team starts playing the way it was designed to play — i.e. scoring a lot of goals, not the 26th-most in the NHL — don’t be surprised if you hear more “things.”

The Penguins host St. Louis tonight.

Goalie nods: Marquee matchup as Price faces Lundqvist at MSG

Henrik Lundqvist
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Two of the NHL’s premier netminders will do battle tonight in New York, when Carey Price and the Canadiens visit Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers.

Price, who’s played a pair of games since missing extended time with a lower-body injury, has won both of his starts and is now 9-2-0 on the year with a 2.10 GAA and .933 save percentage.

Great numbers, but nothing compared to the King.

Lundqvist — probably this year’s Vezina front-runner, after Price won last season — is a sparking 12-3-2 with a 1.74 GAA and .946 save percentage, posting shutouts in two of his last six starts.

One of those shutouts came in his last outing, a 31-save blanking of the Preds on Monday.

Now… with all that hype, we should tap the brakes. The last time PHT previewed a “goalie duel” was when Lundqvist and St. Louis’ Jake Allen engaged in a battle of the NHL’s two highest save percentages.

The Blues and Rangers then combined for nine goals, with Allen getting the hook 15 minutes into the contest.


Carter Hutton appears ready to give Pekka Rinne a night off in Buffalo, while the Sabres are going with Linus Ullmark once again.

Ryan Miller takes on Devan Dubnyk as the Canucks play in Minnesota.

Anders Nilsson will keep Cam Talbot bolted to the pine when Edmonton faces the ‘Canes. Cam Ward looks likely to go for Carolina.

Michael Hutchinson, not Connor Hellebuyck, for the Jets in Washington. The Caps will start Braden Holtby.

— Another good matchup in Pittsburgh, as Jake Allen and the Blues take on Marc-Andre Fleury and the Penguins.

Sergei Bobrovsky goes for the Jackets tonight, while the Devils counter with Cory Schneider.

— In Brooklyn, Jaroslav Halak starts for the Islanders. The visiting Flyers will go with their No. 1, Steve Mason.

— Sounds like Jonas Gustavsson will go up against his former team when the Bruins take on the Red Wings in Detroit. He’ll square off against Petr Mrazek.

Mike Smith returns from a lower-body injury to get the nod for Arizona. Hard to say what the Ducks are going to do: Frederik Andersen has the flu, Anton Khudobin got yanked last night against Calgary, and John Gibson came on in relief for the win.

Jonathan Quick is likely for the Kings tonight. They’ll be taking on Ben Bishop and the Bolts in Tampa Bay.

Craig Anderson for Ottawa tonight, Semyon Varlamov for Colorado.

Martin Jones, the NHL’s reigning first star of the week, is in for the Sharks against the visiting Blackhawks. Corey Crawford counters for Chicago.

Stars’ Lehtonen (upper body) day-to-day

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The collision that forced Kari Lehtonen from his relief appearance in last night’s loss to Ottawa could keep him off ice four a couple of days, Stars head coach Lindy Ruff confirmed.

Lehtonen, who entered the contest after Antti Niemi allowed three goals on nine shots, was injured just over a minute into the third period when d-man John Klingberg crashed into the Dallas net.

Ruff suggested a goalie would be recalled from AHL Texas in time for the Stars’ next game, which is on Friday against the Canucks.

While losing Lehtonen would hurt the Stars — he’s 9-1-0 this year with a .921 save percentage and 2.41 GAA — the club can fall back on Niemi who, despite the rough outing against the Sens, has been OK this year.

Niemi has a 8-4-1 record, though his GAA (.264) and save percentage (.907) leave something to be desired.