Extension talks continue between Callahan, Lightning

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The clock is ticking for the Tampa Bay Lightning to sign Ryan Callahan to a contract extension before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Even so, GM Steve Yzerman seemed optimistic about that prospect, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

“We still have some time,” Yzerman said. “We’d really like to keep Ryan in the organization, and we’re going to continue to work. I’d like to get a deal done before he reaches free agency.”

Yzerman said he’s had some “really good discussions” with the versatile 29-year-old.

There are some interesting competing forces at play here for Yzerman.

On one hand, he might feel some added pressure to ink Callahan because he was a key piece in the Martin St. Louis trade, even though the Lightning also netted two first-round picks for their trouble.

There are some significant risks to signing Callahan, however … particularly long-term.

  • The Lightning are bursting with an array of up-and-coming young talent, especially at that forward position. The likes of Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Drouin are affordable now, but if Callahan wants a longer deal, second or third contracts could present added challenges down the line.
  • It’s reasonable to wonder if Callahan would be worth a steep price in Tampa Bay. His do-everything, shot-blocking style worked well when John Tortorella was running the Rangers ship, but his 2013-14 season didn’t go well. Injuries certainly factored in, yet he went pointless in the playoffs and only managed 36 points in 65 games between the Rangers and Lightning. Those aren’t unacceptable numbers, yet they don’t exactly scream “big, long-term investment,” either.
  • Speaking of injuries, players approaching their thirties tend to be more injury-prone to begin with, but those risks only increase with guys who put their bodies on the line like Callahan does.

Ultimately, it would likely come down to finding the right compromise, which might be difficult in a small window of time (Yzerman’s optimism notwithstanding).

In seemingly even less likely Lightning re-signing news, the Tampa Bay Times also reports that Yzerman said that Anders Lindback is “in the mix” to get a new deal. That’s a bit surprising considering the fact that the big goalie’s been a flop in Tampa Bay – especially in being swept by the Montreal Canadiens – yet the Lightning gave up a significant set of assets to nab him via a trade, too.

Isles sign Northeastern captain Stevens

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John Stevens, who just wrapped a four-year career at Northeastern University, has signed a two-year, entry-level deal with the Islanders, the club announced on Monday.

Stevens, 22, went undrafted but emerged as a valuable player for the Huskies, culminating with a senior season in which he served as captain and averaged better than a point per game (28 in 25 contests).

Stevens is the son of longtime L.A. Kings associate coach John Stevens, who formerly served as the bench boss in Philly.

A third member 0f the Stevens clan, Nolan, also played this season at Northeastern — his junior campaign — and was taken by St. Louis in the fifth round of last year’s draft.

McElhinney to start for Leafs tomorrow

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Curtis McElhinney will start in goal for the Maple Leafs when they host Florida tomorrow.

Which means Toronto’s regular starter, Frederik Andersen, will not.

Andersen, hurt Saturday in Buffalo, only lasted 20 minutes of practice this morning. The Toronto Star, citing a Leafs source, is reporting that Andersen “took a blow to his jaw from a player in Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the Sabres.”

McElhinney is 4-5-0 with a .919 save percentage in 10 appearances for the Leafs this season. He told reporters that tomorrow will be the biggest start of his NHL career.

It remains to be seen who will back up McElhinney against the Panthers. The Leafs have recalled goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL on an emergency basis. All three netminders were on the ice today.

Update:

Expect Sparks to be the back-up tomorrow.

Toronto has a three-point playoff cushion, with eight games remaining.

The Leafs also recalled forward Kasperi Kapanen, the 22nd overall draft pick in 2014. Kapanen, 20, has 18 goals and 25 assists in 43 games for the Marlies this season. He’s expected to replace Ben Smith on the fourth line, alongside Brian Boyle and Matt Martin.

Habs sign d-man Mete, who ‘does everything’ for junior team

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Victor Mete, Montreal’s fourth-round pick at last year’s draft, has signed his three-year, entry-level deal, the club announced on Monday.

Mete, 18, is in his third year with OHL powerhouse London, and finished this season with 15 goals and 44 points in 50 games. He’s developed a reputation as a terrific skater, and often plays alongside fellow Knights d-man Olli Juolevi, who the Canucks took fifth overall at last year’s draft.

London assistant coach Dylan Hunter had high praise for Mete this season.

“When it comes to little nuances of his game, stick on puck, knowing when to make a play and when there isn’t a play to just get it out, he’s one of the best there is right now,” Hunter said, per the London Free Press.

“He does everything for us.”

Mete has one year of junior eligibility remaining, so it’s likely he’ll be back in London next season. At 5-foot-10 and just 180 pounds, he’s undersized and could use another year of development before turning pro.

 

After ‘great’ senior year, Pens sign Union standout Taylor

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Pittsburgh wasted little time in getting Jeff Taylor in the mix.

Taylor, the Union College senior defenseman who had his collegiate career end over the weekend, signed a two-year, entry-level deal on Monday, and also inked an ATO to join the club’s AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Taylor, the club’s seventh-round pick in 2014, enjoyed a career year at Union, helping the Dutchmen advance to the NCAA Tournament by setting career highs in goals (9) and points (33) in 38 games.

Back in December, Pens assistant GM Bill Guerin spoke glowingly about Taylor’s last collegiate campaign, saying he was in the midst of a “great” senior season.

“This is a kid we’ve been looking forward to getting since we drafted him,” Guerin said, per the Post-Gazette. “I remember his first development camp, everybody was like, ‘Oh, wow, look at this kid. He can move the puck, he can skate, he’s quick. He thinks the game well.’ And it hasn’t stopped.

“He’s an undersized guy, but he has the ability to get himself out of trouble because he’s got great feet and he thinks the game well.”