Jim Nill

Could Dallas be a big player this week?

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For all the rumors and speculation being bandied about, things have been awfully quiet out of Dallas over the last week or so.

And perhaps that’s intentional.

Last year, his first on the job, Stars GM Jim Nill let his actions to the talking — he acquired the rights to Sergei Gonchar and inked him to a $10 million deal, orchestrated the Tyler Seguin blockbuster and acquired Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff within weeks of being on the job.

The result? Dallas made the playoffs for the first time in five seasons and Nill received four first-place votes as NHL GM of the Year.

Nill should be watched with great interest as he readies for an encore performance. Calgary GM Brad Treliving has already tabbed this as “volatile of a draft week as we’ve seen in recent memory,” and it’s clear all 30 NHL clubs hold the potential to do something big.

Earlier this week, PHT spoke with Jarret Bousquet of Titan Management, the agent for Dallas defenseman Brenden Dillon and forward Cody Eakin. While he did confirm he’s spoken with Nill about new deals for both clients — Dillon and Eakin are pending RFAs — it sounds as though extensions aren’t imminent as the Stars are intently focused on the draft and UFAs right now.

Makes sense, given how Dallas is positioned at the moment.

Nill’s spent this offseason mostly clearing the decks — he used one of the club’s two compliance buyouts on defenseman Aaron Rome and informed veterans Ray Whitney and Tim Thomas they wouldn’t be brought back. The Stars also made an offer to versatile center Vern Fiddler, which was rejected as he plans to test free agency.

As such, Dallas now has 15 players under contract for next season at around $48 million — meaning it has roughly $22 million in available space. Nill has played coy about what sort of budget he’s working with (“We’re not a cap team or a floor team,” he told the Dallas Morning News) and it’s clear from last summer he’s got the green light to be aggressive and make big moves.

At this point, it’s probably worth mentioning the guy who signs Nill’s cheques — Dallas owner Tom Gaglardi. This past year was Gaglardi’s first full 82-game season as owner since purchasing the club in November of 2011 and while snapping the club’s playoff drought pleased him, Gaglardi sees it more as the first step in turning things around. He hasn’t been shy about doing whatever it takes to accelerate that process — from the new uniforms to aggressive ticket marketing plans to reconnecting with the club’s history (remember the epic Mike Modano jersey retirement ceremony?) — and he re-iterated as much following the team’s opening-round loss to Anaheim.

“It was a special moment, because I know how important it is to make the playoffs, and the fans know that too,” Gaglardi explained. “That’s the first step, and you want to take it as soon as possible, because everything gets accelerated after that.”

So yeah. Maybe keep an eye on Dallas this week.

Raanta rewards Rangers for starts over Lundqvist by blanking Blackhawks

VANCOUVER, BC - NOVEMBER 15: Goalie Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers shares a laugh with teammate Antti Raanta #32 after defeating the Vancouver Canucks 7-2 in NHL action on November 15, 2016 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
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If someone told you that the New York Rangers started a goalie on back-to-back nights, and that goalie wasn’t Henrik Lundqvist, you’d probably wonder if he was hurt or retired.

Nope. It just so happens that Antti Raanta is playing at an incredibly high level, Alain Vigneault noticed, and that decision paid dividends on Friday night. Raanta won both nights of a back-to-back, allowing a single goal (with the Rangers protecting him, being that he only needed to stop 43 of 44 shots during that span).

Raanta and the Rangers blanked the Chicago Blackhawks with a 1-0 overtime win, at least briefly climbing to first place in the massively competitive Metro Division:

1. Rangers – 39 points in 29 games played
2. Penguins- 37 points in 27 GP
3. Blue Jackets – 36 points in 25 GP
4. Capitals – 35 points in 26 GP
5. Flyers – 35 points in 29 GP

Nick Holden ended up scoring the only goal of the game:

Meanwhile, the Blackhawks lost but at least salvaged a standings point and it seems like Patrick Kane is OK after this injury scare:

Raanta improved to 7-1-0 on the season, allowing two goals or less in all but one of his appearances so far this season. That’s the kind of work you’d expect to see if you’re going sit a guy who’s, you know, a living legend.

Blue Jackets remain in thick of things in Metro on tough night for Red Wings

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 01:  Boone Jenner #38 of the Columbus Blue Jackets is congratulated by his teammates after scoring the go ahead goal against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center on December 1, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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As the Columbus Blue Jackets keep rolling, the Detroit Red Wings are probably just happy to get Friday behind them.

For the second straight game, the Blue Jackets beat their opponent 4-1.

They’re now on a five-game winning streak, and like the climbing St. Louis Blues, things look great if you go back a little further. They’re 10-1-2 in their last 13 games and 13-2-3 since November began.

Columbus is now at 16-5-4, giving them 36 standings points. They’re once again in breathing distance of leading the Metro Division when you consider games in hand.

Update: Here’s how the standings look after the Rangers beat the Blackhawks 1-0 in overtime:

1. Rangers – 39 points in 29 games played
2. Penguins- 37 points in 27 GP
3. Blue Jackets – 36 points in 25 GP
4. Capitals – 35 points in 26 GP
5. Flyers – 35 points in 29 GP

That’s a stout division, and the Blue Jackets remain shockingly effective. Then again, with results like these over and over again, it might be time to merely expect such impressive work.

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For Detroit, it was a rough night. Jonathan Ericsson couldn’t play, Mike Green was a little banged up and Petr Mrazek was pulled for Jimmy Howard. This goal summarized some of their struggles:

Blues blaze through Devils, even in New Jersey

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 09: (L-R) Brad Hunt #77, Robby Fabbri #15 and Vladimir Tarasenko #91 of the St. Louis Blues celebrate Fabri's first period goal against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on December 9, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The New Jersey Devils have been incredibly difficult to beat at home. Lately, the St. Louis Blues have been on a roll just about anywhere.

On Friday night, the Blues were the hotter team, handing the Devils their first home loss in regulation in 2016-17. And it wasn’t particularly close, with St. Louis winning 4-1.

It’s a convenient time to note that the Blues rank among the hottest teams in the NHL. Most recently, they’re 5-1-1 in their last seven games, but they’ve been especially impressive since they flirted with .500 at 7-6-3. Beginning with a 4-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 15, the Blues are on a 8-2-1 tear.

This leaves them second in the Central with a 16-8-4 record.

That’s impressive stuff.

This 4-1 win was quite the showcase for Robby Fabbri and Vladimir Tarasenko, in particular. Tarasenko collected three assists while Fabbri scored two goals on Friday night. His second goal was particularly slick:

The Blues are right in saying that this was a pretty fitting opportunity to drop a “Holy Jumpin.”

Oh yeah, don’t forget about Jake Allen, either.

Leon Draisaitl continues hot streak with silky smooth goal (Video)

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Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk has been the most difficult goalies to score against this season. Leave it to a high-level player like Leon Draisaitl to make it look this, well, “easy.”

Draisaitl scored his 13th goal of 2016-17 by capping this pretty give-and-go play with Benoit Pouliot. You can see the frustration from Dubnyk at the end of the tally, as if he was saying “How was I supposed to stop that?” (though probably with more colorful language).

Draisaitl came into Friday with five goals and three assists in his last five games, so he’s been almost unstoppable lately.

Read more about his rise here.

Update: The Wild were able to shake off that goal, ultimately beating the Oilers 3-2 via a shootout.