Poll: Will Washington get back into the playoffs?

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Last year marked the first time in six seasons that Washington failed to advance to the NHL’s second season. Oh sure, the Caps have flirted with missing before — during the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign, they had to go 11-1-1 in April to rally and win the Southeast Division — but actually missing the dance was different, and carried grave consequences.

Coach? Fired. GM of 17 years? Also fired. Those came on the heels of private exit interviews by owner Ted Leonsis — the first time he’s conducted such meetings in private — which strongly suggested the status quo wasn’t an option.

(Remember it was Leonis who, in 2011, said the Capitals “will make the playoffs — as I promised — 10 to 15 years in a row.”)

There’s clearly an organizational mandate to get back in the playoffs, and almost everything the Caps did this offseason reflects that. They believe they addressed their biggest (perceived) area of weakness, defense, by signing Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik. They believe that, in Trotz, they’ve found the ideal head coach — one with an extensive NHL resume, that knows how to win and possesses the ability to implement defensive philosophies and ideas.

But will that be enough?

While the Eastern Conference is weaker and more wide open than the West, Washington will still have its hand full in the Metro. The Rangers are the defending conference champs, Pittsburgh’s still a formidable foe (that ran roughshod over the Metro last year, going 20-8-2 in-division), Columbus is a team on the rise and Philly, while flawed, was a playoff team last year.

What’s more, Washington has a bunch of new parts to implement. Trotz is the fifth head coach of the Ovechkin era and will undoubtedly bring some new things to the plate; Orpik and Niskanen are going to demand ice time which will cause a ripple effect across the blueline.

Up front, it sounds as though the Brooks Laich-at-center era is over — he’s destined for the wing — meaning there’s a trio of young guys auditioning for minute at center: Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky. It’s probably why Leonsis was so adamant about everybody being “in sync” to start the year — the Caps have a lot of moving parts.

“So far, so good on that,” he said in July. “I think that’s a good move in a positive direction to have the organization all singing from the same songbook.”

With that said…are the Caps going back to the dance? Vote away…

Islanders sign 2016 first-round pick Bellows to entry-level deal

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The New York Islanders made a few roster moves Friday. That included sending 2016 first-round pick Kieffer Bellows back to the Portland Winterhawks in the Western Hockey League.

Shortly after that, it was announced that Bellows and the Islanders agreed to terms on a three-year entry-level contract.

The Islanders originally selected Bellows with the 19th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.

The 19-year-old left winger played one year at Boston University, tallying seven goals and 14 points before deciding to leave school to play this season in the WHL, which has a completely different schedule from college.

“Play more games,” Bellows told NHL.com in July. “I think just the 72 games in the [WHL] regular season is the biggest thing. I can’t thank [Boston University coach David] Quinn enough and all the guys on the team. I had an unbelievable first year at Boston University, but I just felt it was best for me to go and play more games.”

Stamkos to make preseason debut tonight vs. Predators

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For the first time since Nov. 15, 2016, Steven Stamkos will be in the Tampa Bay Lightning lineup.

Per Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times, the prolific scorer will play tonight for the Bolts, as they continue the preseason against the Nashville Predators.

Stamkos suffered a knee injury last November. He underwent surgery but didn’t make it back to the lineup for the remainder of the year, marking the second time in four years his regular season was derailed by a significant injury.

“Listen, I snapped my leg in half and came back and was playing the best hockey of my career,” Stamkos told the Tampa Bay Times, referring to his broken leg suffered during the 2013-14 season.

“So this is another hurdle. I’m confident that when you put in the work, you’re going to find ways. It may be different ways. You may have to adjust certain parts of your game. But we’ll handle that when I see how it feels in a game situation. We’ll know more tonight.”

Given such a lengthy time away from game action, it might be wise — at least early on — to temper expectations of Stamkos.

He is one of the league’s most dangerous scorers. But he also hasn’t played a game in 10 months. In a conversation with the Tampa Bay Times, Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise, who had the same surgery in 2010, said it “took probably a year and a half to get back to feeling back to normal.”

It appears Stamkos will center a line tonight with Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov, who should certainly be pleased to be playing alongside No. 91.

Habs place Redmond on waivers — again

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A number of players found themselves on waivers Friday, including Montreal depth defenseman Zach Redmond.

(CapFriendly has an extensive list of players on waivers, which you can check out here.)

Redmond is in the final year of a two-year contract with the Habs, who already had a crowded blue line with eight defensemen signed for this season and Jakub Jerabek making the move from the KHL and looking to earn a roster spot out of camp.

Noah Juulsen was also a prospect defenseman to watch in camp, however, he recently suffered a fractured foot and is out six weeks.

Redmond, who was previously placed on waivers in January, split last season between Montreal and the Habs’ AHL affiliate in St. John’s, where he had 18 points in 26 games.

Now 29 years old, Redmond has 130 games worth of NHL experience with Winnipeg, Colorado and Montreal.

Report: Oilers and potential UFA Maroon talking extension

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The Edmonton Oilers and forward Patrick Maroon are reportedly discussing an extension, according to TSN’s Ryan Rishaug.

Maroon spent a good chunk of the season playing with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, and it showed in his numbers.

The 29-year-old scored a career-high 27 goals (he had never scored more than 11 goals in a season) and 42 points in 81 contests.

Maroon is in the final year of a three-year contract that came with an annual average value of $2 million. You’d have to think that he’s in line for a raise.

“Obviously without those two I wouldn’t have the success I did, but sometimes you’ve got to give yourself some credit too,” Maroon said earlier this month, per NHL.com. “Those two are very tremendous players, and for me I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing to stay with them.

“Obviously [Oilers coach] Todd McLellan had a really big part in that. He gave me an opportunity to play with those two. For me, I’ve just got to continue what I did last year, come [to training camp] in really good shape again, and hopefully good things fall into place again.”