Paul Stastny

UFA of the Day: Paul Stastny

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Check PHT each weekday for the first four weeks of June for a new pending unrestricted free agent of the day. Today’s UFA of the Day is…

Paul Stastny

Arguably the biggest impact player available (potentially) in unrestricted free agency. Stastny is only 28 years old — young, compared to most UFAs — and he’s one of the better two-way centers in the NHL.

In 2013-14, Stastny had 25 goals and 35 assists while playing out the last year of his five-year, $33 million contract with the Avalanche. If he stays in Colorado, it’s likely he’ll have to accept a hometown discount. Possibly he’d even have to take a pay cut, given his expiring cap hit was $6.6 million and Matt Duchene is signed through 2018-19 for a cap hit of $6 million.

It’s expected talks between Stastny and the Avs will start shortly.

“We believe Paul wants to stay as an Avalanche next year and we think there’s a good chance he can sign with us,” Colorado coach Patrick Roy said a while back, per the StarTribune. “How it happens, that will be up to [executive vice president] Joe [Sakic] and [Matt Keator, Stastny’s] agent to discuss. I think Paul has the Avs in his heart, he loves to be in this town and he loves these fans.”

The thing is, on the open market, Stastny wouldn’t be out of line to ask for $7 million-plus per season. Think that’s high?  Take a look — there are no UFA centers under the age of 30 that are of Stastny’s caliber. The closest is Mike Santorelli, who isn’t very close at all. And remember, there are teams with cap space this summer.

Where could he go?

Well, if the Toronto Maple Leafs aren’t interested in Stastny, they should be. The Leafs haven’t had a true No. 1 center since Mats Sundin left.

The Anaheim Ducks should be interested. So should the St. Louis Blues. And the Dallas Stars. We’re not saying any of those destinations are likely, but Stanley Cup champions typically (not always) have two excellent centers. (Think Anze Kopitar/Jeff Carter this year, and Patrice Bergeron/David Krejci in Boston.) If the Chicago Blackhawks didn’t have Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane in line for big new deals, we’d say they should be interested too.

Back to the Avs, who have another interesting situation with Ryan O’Reilly, who’s none too pleased with being taken to arbitration by the club. We suggested in January that they consider trading O’Reilly (the blue line could use some bolstering) and re-signing Stastny. And we stand by that, because losing Stastny for nothing would be a big blow to a team that’s finally back on the radar in Denver.

Pavelski’s late goal helps Sharks grab 2-0 series lead over Preds

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The San Jose Sharks became the only team in the second round to jump out to a 2-0 lead in their series. The Sharks did it by beating the Predators 3-2 in Game 2 on Sunday night.

San Jose opened the scoring in the second period when Logan Couture buried a rebound by Preds goalie Pekka Rinne. Brent Burns took the initial shot from the point and extended his playoff point streak to four games.

The Predators finally got on the board at the 12:56 mark of the third period when Mattias Ekholm tied the game at one.

Here’s the goal:

Nashville’s good fortune didn’t last very long. Sharks captain Joe Pavelski gave San Jose a 2-1 lead less than five minutes later.

Pavelski also picked up two assists in the game. The 31-year-old has at least one point in six of his seven postseason games in 2016.

Joe Thornton then added an empty-netter in the final minute of play before Ryan Johansen scored with four seconds remaining.

Despite the loss, Preds head coach Peter Laviolette wasn’t too disappointed by the way his team played.

The Predators outshot the Sharks (39-25), they outhit San Jose (46-26), but they just couldn’t outscore them.

Like the old saying goes: “you’re not in trouble until you lose a game on home ice.” The Preds still haven’t done that, which means they’re not done yet.

The series now shifts to Nashville for Game 3, which will be played on Tuesday night.

Video: Marc-Edouard Vlasic saved by his visor after taking Shea Weber shot to the face

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It’s a scary night for players getting hit in the head with pucks.

After Brian Elliott was hit in the head by a Jason Spezza slapshot, it was Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s turn to narrowly avoid disaster.

In the third period of Sunday’s game against the Predators, Vlasic took a puck to the face. The end result could have been catastrophic had Vlasic not had a visor.

You can see the incident by clicking the video at the top of the page.

It’s nice to see that Vlasic was in a joking mood after the game:

Hockey Twitter breathed a collective sigh of relief after Vlasic got back up:

It sounds like Olli Maatta won’t be ready for Game 3

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You’ve all seen it by now (if you haven’t, click the video at the top of page). Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta was forced to leave Game 2 against the Capitals after taking a late hit from Brooks Orpik. Not only was the hit late, but Orpik also caught Maatta in the head.

After the Penguins’ optional skate on Sunday, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan wasn’t optimistic about Maatta’s chances of playing in Game 3 on Monday night.

“Olli’s being evaluated as we speak, so I don’t have any real update as far as his status is concerned,” Sullivan said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s being evaluated today, we’ll probably have more information in the morning.

“I don’t have a lot of sense of his availability. I’m probably not optimistic, though.”

After the game, Capitals coach Barry Trotz stood up for his defenseman.

“We’ll let the league handle it,” Trotz said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “If you know anything about Brooks, he plays hard, he plays clean. He’s not a dirty player.”

And the league certainly did handle it, as they suspended Orpik for three games.

Related:

Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta

Brooks Orpik suspended three games for hit on Olli Maatta

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Brooks Orpik has been suspended for three games for his hit on Olli Maatta (top). The Caps defenseman will be forced to miss Games 3, 4 and 5 of the best-of-seven series against the Penguins.

Orpik delivered a late, high hit to Maatta in Game 2. The Penguins defenseman was wobbly getting off the ice and he was unable to return to the game.

Here’s how the Department of Players Safety saw the play:

“Orpik steps up to pressure Bonino, who quickly moves the puck to Maatta. Orpik peels off Bonino to pressure Maatta, who releases a shot from the top of the circle. The two continue on their path toward the goal line, as the puck is kicked into the slot. A full second after Maatta releases the puck, Orpik delivers a high, forceful hit making significant head contact. This is interference.”

To watch the NHL’s Department of Player Safety’s full explanation, click the video below.

This is the third time Orpik’s been suspended in his NHL career.