It’s Dallas Stars Day at PHT

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Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Dallas Stars.

For more entries in this series, click here.

Dallas GM Jim Nill didn’t waste any time making the Stars his team and so far they’ve been better for it. His major move last summer, bringing Tyler Seguin as part of a blockbuster trade with Boston, was a big win for him.

Seguin, who had struggled to cement his role with the deep Bruins, was paired up with Stars captain Jamie Benn last season and the duo combined to score 71 goals and 163 points. Seguin and Benn are just 22 and 25 years old respectively, so the two should be playing together for years to come. The former Bruins forward also has five seasons left on his six-year, $34 million, which will be a steal if he continues to play at the level he demonstrated last season.

Of course, it also helped matters that goaltender Kari Lehtonen was able to stay relatively healthy last season. Although he dealt with a lower-body injury and concussion, he still managed to play in 65 games. His solid work between the pipes is one of the reasons the Stars squeezed into the postseason with a 40-31-11 record, ending their drought of five straight campaigns without a playoff berth.

Once there, the Stars were gave the heavily favored Ducks a run for their money before finally falling in Game 6 in overtime.

Offseason recap

For the second straight summer, Nill pulled off a major trade for a center. This time he acquired Jason Spezza from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Alex Chiasson, Ludwig Karlsson, Alexander Guptill, Nicholas Paul, and a second round pick. After developing some on-ice chemistry with Spezza in 2013-14, Ales Hemsky followed him to Dallas by inking a three-year, $12 million contract.

Dallas also decided to take a chance on goaltender Anders Lindback. He showed a lot of promise when he was a member of the Nashville Predators, but he struggled during his two-season tenure with Tampa Bay and after falling hard in the 2014 playoffs, the Lightning weren’t willing to present him with a qualifying offer. Lindback inked a one-year, $925,000 deal with Dallas and is likely to start the season as the team’s backup netminder, although Jussi Rynnas was brought in to challenge him for that role following a strong season in Finland’s top league.

Nill’s work isn’t done yet as Cody Eakin and Brenden Dillon are still restricted free agents.

Rangers make changes after loss in Anaheim

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The scuffling New York Rangers — coming off a 6-3 loss Sunday in Anaheim, and with just two wins in their last seven — are expected to have a slightly different lineup tonight in San Jose.

Up front, winger Matt Puempel is likely to replace rookie Pavel Buchnevich. And on the back end, Dan Girardi will come in for Kevin Klein.

The Girardi-for-Klein switch is no huge surprise. Both d-men have been battling injuries, with Klein only returning Sunday after an extended absence due to back spasms. Head coach Alain Vigneault told reporters that he “didn’t want to put two injured defensemen in at the same time,” so Klein gets the night off tonight.

As for the potential scratching of Buchnevich, that decision would be slightly more controversial. The 21-year-old has two goals and three assists in his last 11 games, but clearly has not gained the full trust of his coach.

Henrik Lundqvist is expected to start in goal after a tough return to the net against the Ducks.

Canucks hint at shutting down injured Markstrom

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It doesn’t sound like Jacob Markstrom will play any more games for the Vancouver Canucks this season.

The 27-year-old goalie has been trying to recover from a knee injury suffered in the Canucks’ skills competition on Feb. 26.

“I don’t think things are great,” head coach Willie Desjardins said today. “We’ve got to make a medical decision on him.”

It has to be frustrating for Markstrom, who was hoping to challenge Ryan Miller for the starting job this year. The tall Swede played well at times, going 10-11-3 with a .910 save percentage — but in the end, he only made 23 starts.

“He’s a good goalie,” Desjardins said of Markstrom. “He can challenge for the number-one spot. Every time he goes in net, I’ve got lots of confidence in him. He’s left his mark this year.”

Markstrom is signed through 2019-20, while Miller is a pending unrestricted free agent.

It’s possible that the Canucks will re-sign Miller and come back with the same netminding tandem next season.

Oilers sign Walter Brown Award winner Gambardella

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Joe Gambardella, the UMass-Lowell senior that scored 52 points in 41 games this year, has signed a two-year, entry-level deal with Edmonton, the club announced on Monday.

Gambardella, 23, captured this year’s Walter Brown award as the top American-born collegiate player in New England. He beat out the likes of Clayton Keller, Colin White, Charlie McAvoy and Tage Thompson for the honor, and joined a distinguished list of past winners.

Rangers forward Jimmy Vesey won the Walter Brown in ’16 and ’15, while Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau won it in ’14.

Gambardella is the first UMass-Lowell player to ever win the award, which has been given out annually since 1953. It capped off a nice year in which he also paced the River Hawks to the NCAA tournament.

An undrafted free agent, Gambarella’s ELC will kick in next season. It’s also worth noting that one of his UMass-Lowell teammates, defenseman Michael Kapla, signed with the Devils earlier today.

 

 

Coyotes to honor Cunningham for his ‘tremendous courage’

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The Arizona Coyotes will honor Craig Cunningham with a ceremonial puck drop on April 8 before their final home game of the season against the Minnesota Wild.

From the team press release:

Cunningham, who survived a medical emergency prior to the Tucson Roadrunners game on November 19, has made a remarkable recovery. Fans will have an opportunity to congratulate him on the tremendous courage, willpower and perseverance he’s demonstrated throughout his rehabilitation.

Cunningham was recently honored by the Roadrunners.

The 26-year-old’s hockey career is unfortunately over after doctors were forced to amputate part of his left leg due to concerns over infection.

True to form, though, he’s maintained a positive attitude.

“Obviously I miss playing every single day, and I miss the atmosphere around the locker room,” Cunningham said, per the Arizona Daily Star. “The guys have been great. From Day 1, they’ve been to see me every day. It’s been pretty incredible.”