2014 NHL Draft - Portraits

‘No hiccups’ with Nylander’s entry-level deal, says Nonis

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To hear Dave Nonis explain it, there won’t be any problems reaching a deal with William Nylander, the club’s first-round pick (eighth overall) at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.

“We’re moving along on that,” the Leafs GM said, per the Toronto Star. “There’s no hiccups.”

Nylander, 18, is in a pretty curious position. He wowed onlookers at a July prospects camp, prompting Nonis to said Nylander “might be the most skilled player” taken at the draft. While undersized and still very young, he’s got NHL aspirations for this fall — having spent last season playing against men (and with his father, ex-NHLer Michael) in the Swedish league, Nylander is reportedly expected to skip Sweden’s under-20 training camp in September to focus on making the Leafs.

Which is why he needs that entry-level deal.

Whether or not Nylander makes the Leafs remains to be seen, however. They’ve stockpiled veteran forwards over the last few weeks, agreeing to terms with Mike Santorelli, David Booth and, most recently, Daniel Winnik. Combined with earlier acquisitions (Leo Komarov, Petri Kontiola, Matt Frattin), Toronto currently has 17 forwards on NHL contracts, which definitely lessened Nylander’s chances of making the big team.

Canadiens (seemingly?) dodge a bullet with Carey Price

MONTREAL, QC - DECEMBER 10:  Carey Price #31 of the Montreal Canadiens looks on during the NHL game against the Colorado Avalanche at the Bell Centre on December 10, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Colorado Avalanche 10-1.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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A large portion of the hockey-loving population in Montreal let out a big sigh on Tuesday night. Especially worrisome types may still be holding their breath about Carey Price, however.

Many gasped after hearing that Price left pre-game warm-ups early after taking a Paul Byron shot up high.

Video even surfaced of the moment, with Price looking very uncomfortable following the shot. (Byron might have felt uncomfortable too.)

Yikes.

It doesn’t sound like Price is going to miss time because of that incident. Of course, in many cases upon further reflection/once the adrenaline of competition wears off, he might think differently. So we’ll see.

Trade deadline auditions? Quincey, Pateryn in action tonight

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 09:  Greg Pateryn #8 of the Montreal Canadiens in action during the first period of the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on February 9, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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NHL executives, scouts and fans aren’t just watching their teams or the teams they’re jockeying with for playoff position tonight. They’re also likely taking a gander at potential trade deadline targets.

At least two possible defensemen on the move are getting into lineups on Tuesday: Kyle Quincey with the New Jersey Devils (vs. the Senators) and Greg Pateryn for the Montreal Canadiens (against the Rangers).

Will there be a dogged pursuit for Quincey?

Quincey told the Bergen Record that the situation even has his dog on edge (gasp).

“It’s not just me that’s on eggshells,” Quincey said. “It’s the wife and the kids and the dog. You’ve got to uproot your life. But I’m definitely not thinking about it. The only focus is getting some wins because we’re definitely not out of it.”

(Sadly, some cursory searches did not provide insight as to the breed or name of Quincey’s dog. We’ll assume it’s first name is John.)

Quincey’s getting his first bit of action since logging a little more than 23 minutes in a game on Feb. 4. He’s played in 51 games this season, generating 12 points and mediocre (but arguably adequate) possession numbers. At 31, a contender could conceivably target him if the price is low.

Pateryn being shopped

TSN’s Frank Seravalli reports that the Habs are indeed looking to move Pateryn, who returns to the lineup for the first time since Feb. 11 (replacing Nikita Nesterov, no stranger to changing locales).

Pateryn is far less experienced than Quincey, but also has fresher legs at 26.

He has six points in 22 games this season and some solid possession numbers.

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Now, neither of these blueliners are expected to make a big splash. Still, the price to even “rent” the likes of Kevin Shattenkirk could be huge, so teams might consider going after bargains like these two defensemen.

Games like tonight’s contests could very well make or break decisions for some teams, for all we know.

Injury to Burakovsky allows Capitals to evaluate depth

Washington Capitals center Zach Sanford celebrates his goal during the third period of an NHL hockey game as Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson, back, looks on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017, in Washington. It was Sanford's first NHL goal. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
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ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) If there was ever a good time for the Washington Capitals to go through an injury, it’s now.

That’s not a knock on Andre Burakovsky, who was a point-a-game player the last 14 games before a hand injury sidelined him until mid-to-late March. But without the 22-year-old forward, the Capitals get a chance to see what they have in youngsters like Zach Sanford, Jakub Vrana and others in case they’re needed in the playoffs.

Burakovsky was having a productive stretch when he took a slap shot to his right hand on Feb. 9, but his absence gives general manager Brian MacLellan several games to evaluate Washington’s depth ahead of the March 1 trade deadline

“Mac needs to know what we have and how comfortable we are with everybody there,” coach Barry Trotz said last week. “This last (24) games, it’s going to crank up another level. Some guys will thrive in that environment, and some guys will fall off. We’ve got to really try to find that out before the trade deadline. We feel fairly comfortable, but we’d still like to have more info.”

The Capitals lead the Eastern Conference by five points over the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, who are the example for finding silver linings in significant injuries. Last season, injuries to Evgeni Malkin, Beau Bennett and Marc-Andre Fleury opened the door for players like Bryan Rust, Conor Sheary, Tom Kuhnhackl and Matt Murray to get quality NHL ice time and show what they could do under pressure.

Washington has been the healthiest team in the league this season, so opportunities for call-ups have been limited to nine games missed by top-line right winger T.J. Oshie, a handful of precautionary blips and now Burakovsky’s absence. Only 26 players have appeared in a game for the Capitals this season, tied for the fewest in the league, but if that luck runs out, they need to be prepared.

“It’s really important that you have guys who can step in, too, in case something happens to anyone,” said center Nicklas Backstrom, who quietly is fourth in the league in scoring with 61 points.

The Capitals added to their depth on defense by acquiring Tom Gilbert from the Los Angeles Kings last week and stashing him with Hershey of the American Hockey League. Whether MacLellan seeks to make another depth move, especially up front, could depend on how Sanford does in Burakovsky’s place Wednesday at the Philadelphia Flyers and beyond.

The 22-year-old rookie had one point in his first 21 games before scoring in consecutive games upon his return.

“It’s good for a guy like (Sanford) to come in, he scores in back-to-back games, and get his confidence up a little bit because down the line we might need him to come in and be good and help us win,” forward Brett Connolly said. “There’s so many things that can happen. Guys can play poorly in the playoffs and they want to switch it up.”

The best candidates to be the 2017 versions of Sheary, Rust and Kuhnhackl are Sanford, Vrana, Tuesday call-up Travis Boyd, Chandler Stephenson and Liam O’Brien. Alex Ovechkin sees those players as more than capable of filling in if injuries happen.

“We have very good prospects and young talented players in Hershey, so they can jump in right away and play as good as they are,” Ovechkin said. “I hope nobody gonna get hurt, but it’s hockey. It’s a tough sport.”

Trotz said it’s a “next man up mentality” when injuries happen. But that next man has to be ready for the challenge, and Sanford can show that down the stretch and put his early-season confidence issues behind him.

“I think that’ll be huge for me,” Sanford said. “The playoffs are a whole different beast and hopefully when you get there if I get in (the lineup), hopefully the beginning of the season here and what we’re going through now helps me feel comfortable.”

Related: A rebuilt third line has been key for the Caps

 

NHL wants ‘two dedicated weeks’ for bye weeks next season

Montreal Canadiens v Minnesota Wild
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There’s a new plan for NHL bye weeks.

Next season, assuming the new plan is implemented, half the teams will take their bye week one week, then the other half will take it the next week.

“We’re going to try to find two dedicated weeks, and perhaps split the clubs up almost on a 50-50 basis so that each group of clubs will be having their bye weeks at the same time, then perhaps we can schedule a little better out of those bye weeks in terms of clubs who’ve had rest versus clubs who haven’t had rest,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told TSN 1040 radio today (audio).

The fact teams coming out of their bye weeks are 4-12-4 is a clear factor in the change. Hence, the plan to schedule rested teams against rested teams, making first games back a more equitable matchup.

Nine teams — the Stars, Sharks, Canucks, Wild,  Blues, Jets, Sabres, Red Wings, and Blue Jackets — are on their bye week now or start it this week. The Ducks are the last team to take theirs; they’re off from Feb. 26 to March 2.

Teams started taking their bye weeks on Jan. 1.