What lies ahead for new Caps GM MacLellan?

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On Monday, the Washington Capitals promoted Brian MacLellan to general manager, inheriting the role of the man he previously assisted — George McPhee, who was dismissed last month after 17 seasons on the job.

Needless to say, MacLellan has a big job in front of him.

The Capitals are coming off a year in which they missed the playoffs for the first time in six seasons and an offseason in which McPhee and head coach Adam Oates were swiftly shown the door. Former Nashville bench boss Barry Trotz will replace Oates behind the bench — a hire that’s chock full of storylines itself — but for the immediate future, all eyes will be on MacLellan.

On the free agent front, two veteran presences are twisting in the wind: UFA forwards Mikhail Grabovski and Dustin Penner, representing two of McPhee’s last acquisitions on the job. Grabovski sort of fell into Washington’s lap, inking with the club for a reasonable one-year, $3 million deal after getting bought out by Toronto last summer; he had a solid campaign, scoring 35 points in 58 games, but missed a good chunk of the season nursing an ankle injury that limited him down the stretch.

Penner also fell into Washington’s lap — Anaheim appeared to be clearing space for a bigger move that never came to fruition, and moved Penner for a fourth-round pick — but failed to find similar success. The big winger had just three points in 18 games in his first-ever stint in the Eastern Conference. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if Penner was allowed to test free agency again.

In goal, MacLellan has more questions than answers as the only two netminders with NHL pedigree are Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer. Holtby struggled to hold onto the No. 1 gig last season and while Grubauer has impressed in stints, his resume still only consists of 19 big-league contests. One would think Washington’s in the market for a veteran presence to at least compete for the starting gig, and there are those types available (Ryan Miller and Jonas Hiller, most notably.)

At the draft, Washington will select 13th overall, marking just the second time in six years the Caps have picked inside the top-15. It’ll be interesting to see what MacLellan does here — a former pro scout that used to work in the Caps’ player personnel department, he could be keen to select a player at 13…but it’s also possible he’ll look to move the pick in the hopes of acquiring a roster player for a team that, despite last year’s poor performance, is built to win now.

Finally, there’s what MacLellan plans to do with that roster, one he helped construct as McPhee’s right-hand man. Jettisoning players by conventional methods may be tough, as seven core players carry either full or partial no-movement clauses, so it’ll be interesting to see if he uses the club’s remaining compliance buyout (McPhee used one on defenseman Jeff Schultz last year.) Center Brooks Laich, who’s been chronically injured over the last two years, turns 31 in June and still has three years left on his deal at $4.5 million per and is the most likely candidate.

So yes, there’s plenty to be done in Washington. Promises to be a busy summer for the new guy in charge.

Andrew Hammond to start Game 5 for Avalanche

AP
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When the Colorado Avalanche hit the ice in Nashville on Friday night they will be facing elimination. They will also need to rely on their third-string goalie to help get them a win if they are going to extend their season.

The team announced on Thursday that Andrew Hammond will be getting the start, replacing Jonathan Bernier who had to leave Wednesday’s game after two periods with a lower body injury. Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said Bernier’s injury has been a nagging one and that he could still be available off the bench on Friday if needed.

The Avalanche had been starting Bernier because their regular starter, Semyon Varlamov, is out for the remainder of the season due to a lower body injury of his own.

Obviously, this puts the Avalanche in a pretty tough spot. Not only because they have to go on the road against the Presidents’ Trophy winning Predators, but also because they have to turn to a goalie that, including Wednesday’s brief relief appearance, has appeared in just eight NHL games over the past two years. He has faced only 127 shots in those appearances and managed only an .874 save percentage.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

 Hammond’s career has been a fascinating one to this point.

Late in the 2014-15 season he came out of nowhere as a 25-year-old rookie to lead the Ottawa Senators on an improbable late season run (where Hammond put together a 20-1-2 record) to qualify for the playoffs. Nicknamed “the Hamburglar,” his initial run in Ottawa was highlighted by fans throwing hamburgers on the ice to celebrate his wins.  That run earned him a contract extension with the Senators and a bunch of free hamburgers from McDonalds. It was a crazy year.

After that, though, injuries and a decline in his production have limited him to just a handful of appearances in the NHL.

The Avalanche acquired him from the Senators earlier this season as part of the Matt Duchene trade.

Now he has to jump into the crease in an elimination game.

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Predators’ Ryan Hartman to have hearing after illegal check to the head

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Ryan Hartman had a tough night at the office on Wednesday night and will have to answer to the NHL’s Department of Player Safety because of it.

Hartman’s hearing stems from a charging penalty he was assessed after lining up Colorado Avalanche forward Carl Soderberg‘s head with his shoulder at the 4:42 mark of the third period.

Soderberg was forced to leave the game after the play.

Earlier in the game, Hartman tried to line up Sven Andrighetto from a mile out in the second period but missed, prompting the latter to come and give Hartman some business, which included a stick below the belt to Hartman.

The Predators took Game 4 by a 3-2 margin, holding off a third-period comeback attempt from the Avalanche to take a 3-1 series lead.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Seinfeld’s Puddy attends Devils game to ‘support the team’

NJ Devils on Twitter
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The man known affectionately as Puddy (aka actor Patrick Warburton) was in New Jersey last night trying to rile up the Devils prior to Game 4 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You’ll remember Puddy, the face-painted Devils fan from the hit TV show Seinfeld, for such lines as, ‘We’re the Devils… The Devils’ and ‘Don’t mess with the Devils. We can beat anybody.’

That’s pretty much it, but he didn’t need to say much else to become an instant cult classic among Devils fans.

Warburton resurrected the character on Wednesdat night, doing his best to get the Devils and their fans amped up prior to the game.

Unfortunately for New Jersey, the tactic didn’t pay off as the Lightning took a 3-1 series lead on the back of a 3-1 win.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

PHT Morning Skate: Ducks wake-up call; Crosby passes Lemieux

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.
• For Ducks, getting swept should be a wake-up call (Los Angeles Times)

• Takeaways: an unlikely hero emerges as Sharks sweep Ducks (San Jose Mercury News)

Sidney Crosby passes Mario Lemieux for Penguins’ playoff points lead (USA Today)

• The Penguins are still too much for the Flyers (SB Nation)

• Hey, Saint Patrick. It’s a sin you missed how Avs refused to quit in 3-2 loss against Nashville. (Denver Post)

• In defying odds, Golden Knights’ success is not so good for sports books (USA Today)

Marc-Andre Fleury‘s ex-teammates with Penguins happy for his success in playoffs (NHL.com)

• Bodog: Golden Knights are Cup favourites (TSN.ca)

• Foligno brothers savouring first simultaneous NHL post-season (Toronto Star)

Blake Wheeler‘s path to being an elite player in the NHL took a winding road (Winnipeg Sun)

• How a financial advisor became the NHL’s only active black official (Sportsnet)

• Bill Peters has the inside track in Calgary, but there’s a lot of local blood to consider (The Hockey News)

• Von Miller just discovered hockey and he is WAY into it (The Loop)

• Humboldt Broncos tribute concert aims to bring in NHL players, alumni (Sportsnet)

• Town puts ‘giant hockey stick on our porch’ in Humboldt tribute (CBC)

• The case for each Vezina Trophy finalist — and a few snubs (The Hockey News)

• Why the Stanley Cup gets names removed every 13 years (Sportsnet)

• Up top, watch how the Penguins are coming alive in the postseason and the energy being displayed by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin should be worrying their opponents.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck