Radim Vrbata, Ondrej Pavelec

Coyotes explain why they let Vrbata walk

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As much as the story of Radim Vrbata’s new contract was about the Vancouver Canucks adding a key winger, the other reaction was: who, exactly, is going to score goals for the Arizona Coyotes next season?

That question remains, yet Coyotes GM Don Maloney answered another big question with Fox Sports Arizona’s Craig Morgan: why did they let the 33-year-old forward go?

It certainly doesn’t sound like the Coyotes were glad to part with him like, say, Mike Ribeiro (whom they paid to go away). Maloney told Morgan that he was in contact with Vrbata over texts to try to work something out and seemed to get very close.

The stumbling block was clear: Vrbata wanted a  no-trade or no-movement clause while Maloney and the Coyotes stood their ground.

As Morgan discusses here, Vrbata seemed like he wanted to stay with the Coyotes, yet the Canucks’ deal provided security he simply couldn’t turn down:

Vrbaa and his wife, Petra, had their second son (Oliver) on April 30, so there was plenty of thought given to remaining in Phoenix. They weren’t keen on the idea of uprooting the family at such a delicate time. The couple loves living in the Valley, and Vrbata knows full well that his best years as a pro have all come wearing a Coyotes sweater.

The next question is: will Maloney regret “dying on this hill?”

On one hand, you have plenty of examples of teams struggling to deal a player who wants out but also gets to make the call about where he’ll accept a trade.

On the other hand, would Maloney be better served stating that he won’t give out such clauses to players on long-term deals? One would imagine it’s a little easier to stomach a player who has that power on a two-year contract like the one Vrbata signed, especially if he was willing to take less money with the Coyotes.

Either way, many West teams got much more formidable on paper while the Coyotes did not. At the same time, Maloney & Co. can enjoy more flexibility and hope that the team’s young players can pick up the slack.

Did Maloney make the right choice?

Stars end Capitals’ winning streak, pass Blackhawks for West lead

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For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”

They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:

  • Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
  • This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
  • By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.

Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).

Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.

Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.

Blackhawks fall to Ducks in OT, lose Hossa to injury

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The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.

(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)

Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)

You can see that moment in the video above, while My Regular Face’s GIF also captures that troubling moment:

It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.

Update: Joel Quenneville seems optimistic about Hossa, broadly speaking:

Ryan Getzlaf scored the overtime game-winner as the Ducks won 3-2 (OT).

Understatement: Saturday was a rough night for Panthers

Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) checks Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
AP
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If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.

You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.

The pain goes beyond that … literally so.

For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.

(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)

The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.

Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.

Fractured jaw from fight sidelines Chris Stewart for 4-8 weeks

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It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.

The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).

The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.

One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.