New York Rangers v Montreal Canadiens

Report: Rangers, Nash are not interested in a trade

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The New York Rangers parted ways with one splashy-move-turned-struggling-playoff-performer this offseason by buying out Brad Richards, but the New York Post’s Larry Brooks reports that there’s no push to trade Rick Nash.

To be more precise, neither Nash nor the Rangers want to make a deal, according to Brooks:

But I’m here to tell you that a trade is not happening. Nash has a no-move clause in his contract in force through the end of this season that management has no intention of asking him to waive and No. 61 has no intention of volunteering to forfeit.

Indeed, Cap Geek notes that he has a no-movement clause through 2014-15 that softens to a no-trade clause from 2015-16 through the expiration of his $7.8 million cap hit in 2017-18.

Short-term fit

Considering the turnover the Rangers have experienced during this summer, it’s understandable why they would want to keep their most dangerous goal-scoring threat in the mix, even considering another miserable playoff run for the power forward.

Rather than any talk of “choking,” the Rangers might be more concerned with aging, however. Nash turned 30 on June 16, and it’s well-documented that the “Big 3-0” can be very unfriendly to scorers.

Nash’s 26 goals last season were nice – especially considering being limited to 65 regular season games – yet he actually generated more points (42 to 39) in the lockout-abbreviated 2012-13 campaign. He’s seen his point totals decline steadily since the 2008-09 season, although the Rangers would probably be OK with that if he can still be a threat to score 30 tallies (which he generally has been, despite missing that mark in two short seasons* with the Rangers).

What about next summer, though?

Long story short, the Rangers are justified in keeping him for this season, but would a trade down the line make sense if Nash was OK with it? Ignoring the prominent players who still need deals this offseason, just take a look at some of the players who are scheduled to be free agents as of this writing (cap hits in parenthesis):

Martin St. Louis ($5.625 million)
Derek Stepan ($3.075 million)
Carl Hagelin ($2.25 million)
Marc Staal ($3.975 million)

The fact that Stepan and Hagelin are RFA’s softens the blow a bit, but it’s conceivable that all of those players might want a raise. (Yes, St. Louis is aging, but he’s also been a nice bargain for most/all of his career and might seek a big payout to wrap up his NHL days …)

***

Nash has a hammer to swing even when he “only” has an NTC, yet that could be an interesting story to watch, especially if his season ends on a sour note once more. For now, though, it seems reasonable to believe that the power forward will stick in the Big Apple.

* The 2012-13 season throws off a lot of stats, doesn’t it?

Capitals, Penguins nearly perfect at stopping third period comebacks

Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) and Washington Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen (2) chase down the puck during the first period of Game 2 in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinals Saturday, April 30, 2016 in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
AP Photo
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Pittsburgh only won by a single goal in Game 2 on Saturday and that deciding marker came with 4:28 minutes remaining in the third, but that contest had the potential to be far more one-sided.

The Capitals were outshot 28-10 through 40 minutes and were consequently leaning on goaltender Braden Holtby to keep things close.

“First two periods, I thought they were way better than us,” Washington coach Barry Trotz told CSN Mid-Atlantic. Or has Justin Williams put it, the Capitals “were getting embarrassed out there” during the first 40 minutes.

Washington did rebound in the third period, though it wasn’t enough to prevent the Penguins from evening this series at 1-1. That puts the pressure on Washington to take at least one game in Pittsburgh before the second round’s over.

Starting the game off strong is always going to be important, but that’s particularly true when talking about the Penguins and Capitals. Pittsburgh was 39-0-0 in the regular season when leading after 40 minutes while Washington was 37-0-1. So far in the playoffs, both teams are 4-0-0 when they have the lead after two periods.

Hemsky finds his groove on third line

DALLAS, TX - APRIL 11: Ales Hemsky #83 of the Dallas Stars handles the puck against the Nashville Predators at the American Airlines Center on April 11, 2015 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)
NHLI via Getty Images
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When the Dallas Stars inked Ales Hemsky to a three-year, $12 million deal, the hope was that he would be a valuable secondary scorer and help round out their top-six. Things haven’t gone as predicted, but Hemsky has emerged as a significant player for Dallas lately.

Hemsky is now playing on the third line with Radek Faksa and Antoine Roussel and he’s gone on to record 15 points in his last 16 regular season games as well as another four points in seven playoff contests.

“We had hard conversations about how I felt the game needed to be played, where I felt his game needed to go,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff told the Dallas Morning News. “Did it always go his way? No. But from his defensive responsibilities to really buying into shooting the puck a little bit more, I think he’s been a real good asset for us this year.”

The Morning News goes into much more detail about Hemsky and his resurgence, but taking a step back from that, having a third line that’s both impactful without the puck and capable of chipping in offensively is important, especially as we get deeper into the playoffs. There’s no question that the Stars have big time players on their roster, but that’s obviously not all you need in the playoffs.

A lot of the time when talking about the Stars’ areas of concern, their defense and goaltending come up and understandably so given that Dallas allowed more goals in the regular season than any other team that made the playoffs. But the value of a strong bottom-six shouldn’t be understated and perhaps Hemsky’s recent resurgence will play a role in the Stars having that going for them throughout the playoffs.

Dallas has taken a 1-0 lead over St. Louis in the second round and has an opportunity to build on that in Game 2 this afternoon (3:00 p.m. ET).

NHL schedules hearing with Orpik over Maatta hit

Maatta
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Brooks Orpik‘s late hit in Game 2 on Saturday might keep him out of Monday’s contest.

At the very least, the NHL Department of Player Safety intends to discuss the matter with Orpik today, per the department’s Twitter feed.

The incident occurred early in the first period when the Capitals forward smashed into Olli Maatta. The Penguins blueliner collapsed and needed some assistance getting off the ice. He didn’t return to the game.

You can see that hit below:

“I thought it was a late hit,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan told CSN Mid-Atlantic. “I thought it was a target to his head. I think it’s the type of hit everyone in hockey is trying to remove from the game.”

The Penguins didn’t have an update on Maatta’s condition immediately following the contest.

‘I don’t know if it has sunk in yet,’ Jets GM Cheveldayoff gets lucky with draft lottery

Kevin Cheveldayoff, general manager of Winnipeg Jets, speaks to members of the media after winning the second selection of the NHL hockey draft lottery in Toronto, Saturday, April 30, 2016. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
The Canadian Press via AP
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The Toronto Maple Leafs may have won the draft lottery, but an argument can be made that the luckiest team last night was the Winnipeg Jets.

After all, Toronto had the best odds to get the top pick, but Winnipeg jumped from sixth to second in the draft order.

“I don’t know if it has sunk in yet,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff told the Winnipeg Sun. “I was doing my scrum at the end (of the show) with the media that was here, I said at one point, ‘Moving from six to two…’ and I had to catch myself and go through the mental notes in my head that it had just really happened.”

It’s likely, though not guaranteed, that the Maple Leafs will take Auston Matthews with the first overall pick. Assuming that’s the case, moving up to the second overall pick means that Winnipeg will have the option of choosing one of the two promising Finnish forwards available: Patrik Laine or Jesse Puljujarvi.

That’s potentially a big break for Winnipeg, especially after this campaign where the Jets went from making the playoffs for the first time since relocating to posting a 35-39-8 record. Through five campaigns in Winnipeg, the Jets have missed the playoffs four times.

The last time this franchise drafted this high was back when the then Atlanta Thrashers took Kari Lehtonen with the second overall pick in 2002. That was the final year in a string of four straight drafts where the Thrashers always had the first or second selection. The previous three years they took Patrik Stefan (1999), Dany Heatley (2000), and Ilya Kovalchuk (2001).

Related: Shanahan: Leafs earned No. 1 pick ‘the hard way’