Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews

Focus in Chicago turns to Kane, Toews’ contracts

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The Chicago Blackhawks weren’t able to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for a third time in five years, but they have to feel very good about the team they’ve assembled. They’re still relatively young, deep, and most of their key players under control for at least a couple more seasons — with two notable exceptions.

Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews will both become unrestricted free agents in the summer of 2015.

It would be shocking if Kane and Toews didn’t re-sign with Chicago. In fact, it would be eyebrow raising if their extensions weren’t announced by the end of the summer. The bigger question is what kind of raise they’ll demand from their respective annual cap hits of $6.3 million.

Toews and Kane are both elite forwards and clutch performers that can basically name their price, but it isn’t that simple in the salary cap era, especially now that the new CBA killed the old model of signing superstars to heavily frontloaded long-term deals that kept their cap hits down (read: Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith).

Since the new rules came into effect, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Evgeni Malkin, and Claude Giroux have all signed contracts with annual cap hits in the range of $8.25 million to $9.5 million. If Kane and Toews demanded something in that ballpark, the Blackhawks would probably concede. Theoretically, they could try asking for more under the assumption that the salary cap will continue to climb at a healthy pace.

At some point though, it becomes an issue. Pittsburgh has dedicated $18.2 million annually to Malkin and Sidney Crosby and the team hasn’t lived up to expectations in recent years, arguably due to a lack of depth.

Carrying players with high cap hits can be problematic, even if their play seemingly justifies the cost. Of the top 10 cap hit players in 2013-14, only one made it to the conference finals (Rick Nash). That number balloons to four in the top-20, but that’s counting Marian Gaborik and Thomas Vanek, who were trade acquisitions and therefore not the full cap responsibility of Los Angeles and Montreal respectively.

With that in mind, it will be interesting to see what Kane and Toews demand.

Video: Blandisi scores great between-the-legs goal vs. Flyers

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What a story Joseph Blandisi‘s been for the New Jersey Devils this season.

The 21-year-old played in his first NHL game on Dec. 11 and has stayed with the Devils ever since.

It took him five games to pick up his first career point, but he’s done a whole lot more damage since then.

Blandisi came into Saturday’s action with 10 points in his last 12 games and he added to that against the Flyers.

He opened the scoring with this beautiful between-the-legs goal on goalie Michal Neuvirth (top of the page).

That’s Blandisi’s fourth goal of the season.

Some Twitter reaction to the goal:

Bruins’ Bergeron ruled out for Saturday’s game against Wild

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The Boston Bruins will be without center Patrice Bergeron in Saturday afternoon’s matinee against the Minnesota Wild.

It’s unclear how Bergeron suffered the undisclosed injury, but there’s reason to believe it occurred after he dropped the gloves with Jets forward Blake Wheeler (above).

He’s considered day-to-day at this point.

Losing him for an extended period of time would be devastating for Boston.

“You don’t like seeing your star players (fight), but you also understand that it’s an emotional game and that stuff happens and at one point a player says, ‘Enough is enough and I’m going to stand up for myself,’” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said after the game, as per the Boston Herald.

“From what I gathered there was a lot of slashes behind the legs behind the play and stuff like that. He took things upon himself. As much as you don’t like it, you can’t tell him he’s not allowed. He’s a big boy and he can certainly make some decisions on the ice. And it’s not the first time that he’s fought. But I like the fact that he doesn’t fight much.”

After this incident, there’s no doubt that the Bruins will tell Bergeron to keep his gloves on from now on.

Jets will take one more crack at re-signing Andrew Ladd

Winnipeg Jets' Andrew Ladd (16) and Blake Wheeler (26) celebrate Ladd's goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL action in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015. (John Woods/The Canadian Press via AP)
Associated Press
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Jets captain Andrew Ladd still doesn’t have a contract for next season and with the Feb. 29 trade deadline approaching, something’s gonna have to give.

According to TSN’s Gary Lawless, the Winnipeg Jets will make one last push to sign the forward before making him available on the trade market.

Ladd doesn’t want to leave and the team wants to keep him, but after Dustin Byfgulien got an extension earlier this month, there may not be enough money to go around.

At one point, the Jets reportedly made Ladd a six-year offer worth $6 million per year, which he obviously didn’t accept.

Can they top that? Time will tell.

Waiting to trade Ladd is probably the smartest decision.

Keeping the captain around would be great, but if the two sides can’t agree to a new contract, there’ll be no shortage of suitors for Ladd’s services.

Lawless mentions the Penguins, Panthers and Blackhawks as potential landing spots for the 30-year-old.

The Kings have also been mentioned as a potential destination for Ladd.

Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff will have to make some crucial decisions over the next few weeks.

Flyers’ Neuvirth (lower body) will be between the pipes vs. the Devils on Saturday

Philadelphia Flyers goalie Michal Neuvirth (30) of the Czech Republic stops a shot from the Dallas Stars in the third period of an NHL hockey game, Friday, Dec. 11, 2015, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
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Michal Neuvirth will make his first start of the month in Saturday’s game against the New Jersey Devils.

The 27-year-old missed five games with a lower-body injury. He was activated off the injured list earlier this week and served as Steve Mason‘s backup in Thursday’s game against Buffalo.

Neuvirth has an 11-6-2 record with a 2.14 goals-against-average and a .933 save percentage in 2015-16.

He’s put up some solid numbers against the Devils in his career. Neuvirth has a 5-2-4 record with 2.03 goals-against-average and a .927 save percentage in games against New Jersey.

Steve Mason, who’s coming off a 41-save performance in a win over Buffalo, hasn’t been as good against Saturday’s opponent.

Mason is 0-7-0 lifetime against the Devils.

Puck drop is at 1:00 p.m. ET.