Pittsburgh Penguins v Boston Bruins - Game Three

Interesting parallels between Seguin, Neal trades

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Every now and then, a move seems oddly familiar, even if different teams are involved. One could make the argument that there are some interesting/amusing/possibly inane parallels between the trade that sent Tyler Seguin to the Dallas Stars in 2013 and the move that shipped James Neal to the Nashville Predators in 2014.

(Feel free to disagree with any of these comparisons in the comments, though hopefully without weird anger.)

A) Seguin and Neal

There are some parallels between the players themselves, beyond the fact that both have been paid by the Stars at some point in their NHL careers.

1. Both drew vague criticisms about their attitudes

Seguin (now just 22, somehow) received some heat for supposed partying and other issues. Neal, 26, has had more than a few run-ins with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. One might assume such “character” concerns expedited their departures from Boston and Pittsburgh respectively.

MORE: Neal: “I have to change and be better for it”

2. Each leave East contenders that may still be competitive without them

The Bruins won the Presidents’ Trophy last season. For all the turmoil in the Penguins’ organization, many would probably argue that they’re a contender for the Metropolitan Division title, if not aiming higher.

3. Higher ceilings

However you might feel about the packages the Bruins and Penguins received, most would agree that Seguin and Neal probably have more “upside.” Actually, you’d have to strain quite a bit to claim that Loui Eriksson, Joe Morrow, Reilly Smith or Matt Fraser have higher ceilings than Seguin after he jumped another level with Dallas.

Seguin is quite a bit younger and probably creates more offense on his own, yet it’s easy to forget how dangerous Neal can be; not many 26-year-old’s boast a resume that includes one 40-goal season and five other 20+ goal seasons.

4. Disappointing finishes

Despite solid playoff runs, both went out of town struggling individually in the postseason. Neal only managed two goals and four points in 13 playoff games in 2014 after scoring 10 in 13 playoff games in 2013. Seguin only scored one goal and eight points in Boston’s 22-game run to the 2013 Stanley Cup Final.

5. Cheap deals

Seguin’s $5.75 million cap hit puts him alongside the likes of John Tavares and Victor Hedman as one of the best bargains in the NHL, especially since that deal doesn’t expire until after the 2018-19. Neal isn’t far behind with a $5 million cap hit through 2017-18.

B) Solid Swedes and prospects

The Bruins and Penguins received nice packages for their young forwards, fueling more than a few quantity-over-quality arguments.

Eriksson suffered a rough season in 2013-14, yet the Bruins think he can slide into a first-line role next season. Much like Eriksson, Hornqvist is a very nice player who often gets lost in the shuffle.

He quietly scores plenty of goals, and people are reasonable if they picture him generating even more offense playing in Pittsburgh than he did in Nashville. Hornqvist has one 30-goal season and three 20+ goal seasons, including a 22-goal, 53-point campaign with the Preds in 2013-14.

In other words, the Penguins didn’t exactly get chopped liver, especially if Nick Spaling helps out in solid ways like Reilly Smith has for Boston.

C) Random stuff

  • Both Neal and Seguin relocate to “nontraditional” markets with no state income taxes, which probably makes them feel a little better about the bargain deals they’re signed to.
  • Neal and Seguin are basically “new toys” for incoming new head coaches.
  • Each could represent the beginning of a big change. Seguin’s acquisition preceded the Spezza – Hemsky additions in Dallas while Nashville GM David Poile seems keen on adding more to the mix with his team.

***

There are plenty of ways these two deals aren’t alike. For one thing, Neal must prove that he can produce without an elite passer making life easy for him; few wingers get blessed with a center group that included Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Brad Richards (at or near his peak).

Even so, it’s interesting to ponder the parallels between the two moves. If you’re a fan of the Predators, you may also start to expect too much …

Capitals pushed by ‘that hurt’ from playoff letdown

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 10:  Nick Bonino #13 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates his game winning overtime goal against the Washington Capitals in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 10, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) When Matt Niskanen contemplated skipping a trip to the gym over the summer, he remembered what happened in May.

As the offseason went on, Niskanen thought less and less about the Washington Capitals’ loss to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Instead, he let the memory of the second-round playoff exit fuel him from time to time.

“That hurt, it lingers, and I think you can use that as motivation,” Niskanen said. “That kind of stuff creeps into your mind and it pushes you.”

Now several months removed from another painful playoff loss, the Capitals came to training camp ready to harness whatever energy they could from that while also preparing to move past it and focus on another run at the Cup this season. Almost the entire roster is back from the Presidents’ Trophy-winning team that ran roughshod over the NHL during the regular season, and with Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and goaltender Braden Holtby in their primes, there isn’t time to waste on reflection and hindsight.

“You need to see where things went awry and try to rectify it,” said veteran winger Justin Williams, one of several players with one year left on his contract. “We set a standard with having successful teams, a team every year fans can look at and say, `You know, we legitimately have a chance to win it again.’ As players we embrace that and we respect it and we know that these opportunities that we have in front of us aren’t forever.”

Along with Williams, winger T.J. Oshie and defenseman Karl Alzner could be unrestricted free agents July 1. Restricted free agent center Evgeny Kuznetsov will get a big raise on a new deal, and Washington’s salary cap picture will get more difficult as the years go on.

Ovechkin also just turned 31, and while he led the league in scoring last season, there’s no certainty as to how long his Hall of Fame-caliber production will keep up. After winning the division by 16 points and losing in the second round – again – general manager Brian MacLellan doesn’t think there’s a bigger burden on winning this year with so many unknowns on the horizon.

“I think there’s pressure every year,” MacLellan said. “Last year we were a contender, there’s pressure. Same pressure this year. We have a goal of winning a championship. We know we’re close and we need to pursue it and we’ll do everything we can to get there.”

Alzner was just starting to get over the early exit when pictures of the Penguins celebrating with the Cup filled up his social media feeds. The ironman whose groin injury forced him out of the deciding Game 6 and led to sports hernia surgery scoffed at the notion that Pittsburgh winning makes the loss easier to take.

“It’s worse, in my opinion, because then you really think, `OK if I could have got past that team then the Cup was ours,”‘ said Alzner, who’s still working his way back to 100 percent. “I think that all of us in the room thought that we were going to win that last year.”

Being great in the regular season and losing in the first or second round has become the Capitals’ reputation over the past decade. The 2015-16 team was perhaps the best on paper, which made the late stumble into summer that much more confounding.

As more top players continue to trickle back into town after playing in the World Cup of Hockey, associate coach Todd Reirden expects the staff to impart lessons about last season on the full group. Early in camp, the mood is light with players eager to make a fresh start and learn from losing to the Penguins.

Asked what the Capitals can do to improve, Williams deadpanned: “We can finish the season with a win. That’s it.”

That’s a challenge that can’t be accomplished until the spring. Players, coaches and fans may want to fast-forward until then, but Washington has to again get there first.

“You’ve got to be patient,” center Jay Beagle said. “The game has to develop. We’ve got new guys, so we want to go into this year making sure we’re playing our best going into the end of the year and in the playoffs.”

Follow Stephen Whyno on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SWhyno .

Plenty of betting options for World Cup final round

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 24:  Patrice Bergeron #37 of the Boston Bruins checks Marian Hossa #81 of the Chicago Blackhawks in Game Six of the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on June 24, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
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Bovada released a wide array of betting options for the best-of-three final round of the World Cup between Canada and Team Europe on Monday.

Naturally, there are the run of the mill matters like game lines:

Europe vs. Canada (World Cup of Hockey Finals)

Europe +575 (23/4)

Canada -1000 (1/10)

Total Goals Europe vs. Canada (World Cup of Hockey Finals)

Over/Under 6

Interesting over/under, huh?

Things get more fun as the prop bets get stranger/more specific. Personally, the head-to-head player bets rank among the most fascinating:

Who will record more points in the game?

Sidney Crosby (CAN) 2/3

Anze Kopitar (EUR) 11/4

Draw 5/2

Who will record more points in the game?

Patrice Bergeron (CAN) 1/1

Draw 2/1

Marian Hossa (EUR) 9/4

Who will record more points in the game?

Brad Marchand (CAN) 4/5

Draw 9/5

Mats Zuccarello (EUR) 3/1

Hmm, maybe Marchand wouldn’t be the greatest bet. He’s probably feeling pretty fat and happy after signing that $49 million contract extension, after all.

At least one outlet finds Europe to be an enticing gamble thanks to Jaroslav Halak‘s hot play, for what it’s worth.

Jacob Trouba’s agent expands on trade request

UNIONDALE, NY - OCTOBER 28: Jacob Trouba #8 of the Winnipeg Jets skates against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on October 28, 2014 in Uniondale, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Jacob Trouba‘s agent Kurt Overhardt repeatedly shot down certain questions as “private” matters regarding a very public trade request from the Winnipeg Jets, yet his interview on TSN’s Hustler & Lawless spoke volumes about the impasse.

From the sound of things, it would be tough for the Jets to get Trouba to change course and sign a deal with the team.

Trouba seeks a spot as a top two defenseman, or at least one of a team’s top two options on the right side, something Overhardt firmly believes cannot happen in Winnipeg. He quickly deflected hypothetical scenarios regarding Dustin Byfuglien moving to the left or Tyler Myers getting bumped down the Jets’ depth chart.

“None of this is happening on a whim,” Overhardt said. ” … This has nothing to do with money.”

This excerpt from the Trouba press release hit a lot of the same points:

There has been no negotiation regarding the terms of a contract between our client and the Jets over the course of the last several months. The situation is not about money; it is solely about our client having the opportunity to realize his potential as a right shot NHL defenseman.

To the Jets credit, the club has two outstanding right shot veteran defensemen and our client simply wants the opportunity to have a greater role. As a consequence of the Jets depth on the right side, we believe it is in both parties’ best interest to facilitate a mutually advantageous trade.

You can read the team’s response in this post. Overhardt made it a point to mention that “several teams” would love to have Trouba’s rights, and would be able to give him the opportunity he craves.

Interestingly, he dodged a question about Trouba possibly sitting out the 2016-17 season, if it came down to it.

The full radio appearance is available here.

Lightning sign their other Nikita (Nesterov)

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - APRIL 07:  Nikita Nesterov #89 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on April 7, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the New Jersey Devils 4-2.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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The Tampa Bay Lightning signed their second-most important Nikita on Monday, inking Nikita Nesterov to a one-year, $725K contract.

The 23-year-old defenseman has to appreciate the fact that this is a one-way deal, as the Lightning blueline isn’t the easiest group to crack. (That will be especially true if James Wisniewski makes an impression with his PTO.)

Nesterov has been battling for ice time the past two seasons and was also a member of Russia’s World Cup team. It’s super-important to note that he wears No. 89, which is a little unusual for a defenseman.

(Only the important tidbits here.)

Now, onto the tougher challenge of signing that other Nikita