Steve Yzerman

On Yzerman, the Lightning plan and new scout Callahan

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Gotta love it when a plan comes together.

On Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Lightning made a big free agent splash by bringing aboard two key members to the Rangers’ Stanley Cup run — center Brian Boyle and defenseman Anton Stralman.

And, per the Tampa Tribune, a prominent ex-Blueshirt played a big role bringing them aboard:

[Lightning GM Steve] Yzerman said he solicited information on Stralman and Boyle with Lightning forward Ryan Callahan, who was captain of the Rangers and played with both players before being dealt to Tampa Bay at the trade deadline in March, .

“We got (Callahan’s) thoughts on them, make sure that what we see of them as players is correct and get the character reference and if they will fit into our locker room,’’ Yzerman said. “So, he was a wealth of information for us.’’

No huge surprise. The Callahan-Boyle-Stralman trio spent parts of three years together in New York — for Boyle and Callahan, it was five — and as the free agent market began to unfold, it was clear the Lightning were freeing up money for UFA targets (which, hindsight being 20/20, were guys Callahan provided valuable intel on.)

On Sunday, Yzerman made a flurry of moves designed to land said targets, first shipping Teddy Purcell to Edmonton for Sam Gagner, then flipping Gagner and B.J. Crombeen to Phoenix for a draft pick. Shortly thereafter, Yzerman sent gritty forward Nate Thompson to Anaheim for a pair of picks — and when the dust settled, the Lightning GM suddenly had $9 million in cap space.

The moves were in lockstep with the plan Tampa Bay executed throughout the offseason: clear cap space and roster room.

Previous transactions also freed up money (like the compliance buyout for Ryan Malone) so the club could spend dollars to improve areas of need — notably on defense, where, in addition to Stralman, ex-Canuck Jason Garrison was brought aboard.

The plan also called for Yzerman to clear roster room so his young forward prospects could make the leap to the NHL. It worked last year with Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat — who put forth Calder-worthy seasons — and the Bolts are hopeful it’ll work again now with the likes of Jonathan Drouin (3rd overall, ’13) and Brett Connolly (6th overall, ’10).

Overall, Yzerman finished his work — “I don’t see us doing a whole lot [more],” he said yesterday — sounding pretty happy with how it all came together.

“We like the moves that we’ve made,” Yzerman said. “I’m cautiously optimistic and I like what we’ve been able to do and I’m pleased.

“And the end of the day on July 1, we feel OK.”

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.

Video: Kuznetsov sets table for Vrana’s first NHL goal

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 27:  Jakub Vrana of the Washington Capitals poses for a portrait during the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 27, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
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In his fifth NHL game, intriguing Washington Capitals prospect Jakub Vrana scored his first NHL goal (and point).

Let’s be honest, though; Evgeny Kuznetsov deserves plenty of the credit, as he sent a fantastic pass for Vrana’s tap-in tally.

See it for yourself:

Even if that was mostly Kuznetsov, Vrana has been getting his chances so far.

He generated four shots on goal in two separate occasions so far in his four games of NHL action, so maybe he was due for a chance like this.

Considering he’s just 20 years old, the Capitals could get used to Kuznetsov to Vrana.

Update: The Capitals won 4-1, and Vrana’s first goal wasn’t the only noteworthy “first.” After piling on shots, John Carlson finally scored his first goal of the season:

Kulikov returns to increasingly healthy Sabres lineup

CALGARY, AB - OCTOBER 18: Dmitry Kulikov #77 of the Buffalo Sabres in action against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on October 18, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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No one’s going to confuse Dmitry Kulikov with Jack Eichel, but the Buffalo Sabres are likely happy to have him back after a long absence, too.

The Sabres have been on an upward trend lately (5-2-2 in their last nine games), and now they get a key defenseman back against the Washington Capitals on Friday night.

Kulikov last played on Nov. 9 and hasn’t recorded a point in 12 games, making for a tough start to his stint with the Sabres. Maybe he’ll begin to get a little more traction with his new team tonight?

He’s far from the only returning Buffalo player, either, as Josh Gorges and Nicolas Deslauriers are also back in the mix. Kulikov is slated to be on the Sabres’ second pairing with Cody Franson.

Buffalo sent Brendan Guhle to the AHL to make room for these tweaks.

With Foligno out sick, Columbus gives Bjorkstrand another shot

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 13:  Oliver Bjorkstrand #28 of the Columbus Blue Jackets lines up for a face-off during the game against the Boston Bruins on October 13, 2016 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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The Columbus Blue Jackets will be without captain Nick Foligno because of an illness on Friday, opening up an opportunity for interesting prospect Oliver Bjorkstrand.

The team tweeted out his linemates as Matt Calvert and Lukas Sedlak as a solid fourth line facing the Detroit Red Wings.

He failed to generate much (zero points, two shots on goal) in three games so far with Columbus this season, receiving about 25 minutes of ice time over that span.

With eight goals and 12 points in 19 AHL games so far in 2016-17, there’s the thought that he could eventually make the next step to becoming a decent contributor for the Blue Jackets.

Perhaps this will constitute his first real step in that direction?

Apparently this is a pretty abrupt situation for the 21-year-old: