Getty

Goalie nods: Leafs give Bibeau second career start

1 Comment

Antoine Bibeau is hoping his second-ever NHL start will go better than the first.

Not that he played badly against the Avalanche on Dec. 11 — Bibeau stopped 26 of 28 shots, good for a .929 save percentage. But the Leafs lost that night, and Bibeau’s counterpart, Colorado netminder Seymon Varlamov, put forth a brilliant 51-save effort in the win.

Tonight, Bibeau will have a shot at his first career win in Tampa Bay, facing a Bolts team that rallied for a comeback OT win over Montreal last night. He should have a reasonable crack at the W — Toronto is surging right now, having won four of its last five, and currently boasts the NHL’s seventh-best offense.

For the Bolts, Andrei Vasilevskiy gets his second nod in as many nights, after stopping 22 shots in Wednesday’s win over the Habs.

Elsewhere…

— After making 40 saves in a win over Detroit on Tuesday, Robin Lehner is back in for Buffalo. No word yet on a Boston starter.

Keith Kinkaid gives the struggling Cory Schneider a night off in Washington. The Caps will go with Braden Holtby, who has played well of late despite losing three of his last four starts.

— Speaking of nights off, Carey Price and Roberto Luongo each get one in Florida. The Panthers are going with James Reimer, and the Habs are going with Al Montoya.

— The Wings will give Jared Coreau his third career start when they take on the Sens in Ottawa. Mike Condon is in the other net.

Sergei Bobrovsky and the red-hot Jackets are in Winnipeg tonight. Bobrovsky is looking for his 11th straight win and the Jackets are looking for their 13th in a row. For the Jets, Michael Hutchinson starts.

— Coming off a win against Washington on Tuesday, Jaroslav Halak is back in goal for the Isles, who visit Minnesota. No surprises from the Wild, who will continue to ride Devan Dubynk. Dubnyk is looking for his 10th win in a row.

Corey Crawford has played well in both of his games since returning from an appendectomy, but failed to register a win. He’ll look to change that in Nashville this evening. Looks as though the Preds are going with Pekka Rinne.

— Colorado is still without the services of Semyon Varlamov (groin), so Calvin Pickard starts again. He allowed six goals on 31 shots in his last outing against Calgary on Tuesday. Pickard will face Kari Lehtonen, who is playing well of late, allowing just four goals on his last 68 shots faced.

Chad Johnson is back in goal for the Flames, who had started Brian Elliott in three of the last four. He’ll be up against John Gibson.

— The Kings are on the second of a back-to-back, and played Peter Budaj in Vancouver last night. They’ve yet to announce a starter. Edmonton will start Cam Talbot for the 33rd time this year.

— Henrik Lunqvist is still out with illness, so Antti Raanta makes a second consecutive start for the Rangers. The Coyotes, as per usual, are going with veteran Mike Smith.

Report: Predators avoid arbitration … with Marek Mazanec

Getty
Leave a comment

The Nashville Predators avoided salary arbitration in at least one case on Thursday, but it wasn’t the biggest name they were worried about.

FanRag’s Craig Morgan reports that Marek Mazanec settled for a one-year deal worth $650K at the NHL level and $100K in the AHL.

That two-way split is quite relevant, as Mazanec probably comes in fourth on the Predators’ goalie depth chart behind Pekka Rinne, Jusse Saros, and Anders Lindback. Actually, with Matt O’Connor in mind, Mazanec may even come in at fifth.

One interesting wrinkle is that Lindback gets the same $650K at both levels while Saros and Mazenec see different salaries depending upon where they are, according to Cap Friendly’s listings. From a sheer financial standpoint, that might give Lindback some fuel to push as Rinne’s backup, though Saros is already pushing for starts after strong showings in 2016-17.

It’s not the easiest situation for Mazanec, but credit Predators GM David Poile for giving his team plenty of options in net. Both Mazanec and Lindback saw elevated action when Rinne was hurt in 2013-14, so these situations can change quickly at times.

Mazanec was the least crucial of the Predators’ three salary arbitration situations, as Viktor Arvidsson‘s hearing is scheduled for Saturday (July 22) while Austin Watson is set for Monday (July 24). Arvidsson emerged as a legitimate first-line winger last season, so that will be a significantly trickier situation for the Predators.

For more on Arvidsson’s situation, click here.

Penguins GM confident they can find third-line center with Bonino gone

Getty
1 Comment

August is nearing, and the Pittsburgh Penguins haven’t made a trade or signing to replace Nick Bonino, their outstanding (but former) third-line center.

On the bright side, the Penguins have remarkable breathing room considering their status as repeat Stanley Cup champions. Cap Friendly places their 2017-18 room at about $10.38 million.

That robust space likely explains why GM Jim Rutherford seemed fairly calm about the whole situation, as Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

“I do feel confident that, by the start of the season, we’re going to have a third-line center that we’re comfortable with,” Rutherford said. “Whether it’s one of those guys on the list or one of the guys that I could go and get right today.”

Rutherford (jokingly?) said that he had a list of “hundreds of names” as options, although it’s difficult to top Mackey’s suggestion of Phil Kessel‘s buddy, Tyler Bozak. After all, Bozak is a competent player who carries a $4.2 million cap hit that Pittsburgh could comfortably absorb (and the Toronto Maple Leafs might need to shed). It doesn’t hurt that Bozak’s contract expires after 2017-18, so the Penguins wouldn’t be on the hook if things don’t work out.

Of course, Matt Duchene is another name worth considering. It almost feels a little strange to ponder that speedy Avalanche forward being a “third-line center,” especially if Pittsburgh would want to get the most out of him.

MORE: Duchene might begin next season with the Colorado Avalanche

After that, though … the pickings could be much slimmer than Rutherford indicated to Mackey.

Shallow pool

Take a look at this current list of forwards who are unrestricted free agents.

There are some potential bargains here (P.A. Parenteau, Jiri Hudler, anyone?), but the situation gets significantly shakier if you’re picky enough to look only at centers. The likes of Daniel Winnik and Ryan White are reasonable roster additions, but the drop-off from Bonino could be pretty drastic.

What about other trade possibilities?

That’s a shaky group, too, especially if you apply Bozak-like terms as far as guys who only have one year left on their current contracts.

Honestly, the Penguins’ best bet in looking at that list would probably come down to an in-season move with a team that realizes it’s not a contender or simply understands that a player won’t be back.

Maybe the Calgary Flames would want to cut bait on Matt Stajan or (less realistically) Mikael Backlund? Would the Ducks move speedy, versatile sometimes-center Andrew Cogliano? There are other remote possibilities, such as the Leafs instead trading Leo Komarov (or especially unlikely moves in Paul Stastny or Tomas Plekanec).

Even if the above list seems enticing, how many of those teams would really want to move those players now, especially the bigger difference-makers?

If you’re the Penguins, you’re probably hoping that a Bozak deal could take place. And maybe you’re sweating this situation more than you let on.

(Note: There’s also the slight possibility that the Penguins might identify a replacement from within, though a contending team like Pittsburgh might not be so comfortable with that approach.)

Blues have ‘wiggle room’ after locking up Parayko

Getty
1 Comment

The St. Louis Blues didn’t break the bank to keep Colton Parayko for five more years, and that’s important since they don’t believe the NHL’s salary cap will rise significantly in the next little while.

Parayko’s cap hit came in at a manageable $5.5 million, as the two sides narrowly avoided an arbitration hearing that was scheduled for today.

“You like to have as much wiggle room as possible,” GM Doug Armstrong said, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Now we view the cap will stay flat for the foreseeable future. We’re content with the space we have. We’ll move forward and get ready for training camp.”

The Blues now have a number of key players locked up long term, including Parayko, Alex Pietrangelo, Vladimir Tarasenko, Alex Steen, Jaden Schwartz, Patrik Berglund, and Jake Allen.

For Armstrong, the next big decision could involve Paul Stastny, the 31-year-old center who can become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

But a decision on Stastny doesn’t need to be made now, or even before the season starts. It’s the trade deadline that could be the real pressure point, akin to the Kevin Shattenkirk situation this past year.

Per CapFriendly, the Blues have just over $3 million in cap space, with one roster spot left to fill.

‘Highly unlikely’ Suns will pursue shared arena with Coyotes

Getty
8 Comments

The Arizona Coyotes appear to be on their own in pursuit of a new arena in the Phoenix area.

That’s because Robert Sarver, the owner of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, says it’s “highly unlikely” he’ll pursue a shared arena with the Coyotes.

Instead, Sarver is focused on upgrading the Suns’ current home (and Coyotes’ old home) in downtown Phoenix, Talking Stick Resort Arena.

From the Arizona Republic:

Sarver said building a new arena would have “maybe made more sense” four or five years ago when the cost estimate was $450 million to $500 million. The costs now, Sarver said, are “significantly higher.” Thus his focus on upgrading Talking Stick, which soon will be the second-oldest arena in the NBA.

“I think it’s the most economically viable alternative for the city and us,” he said. “I like downtown Phoenix. That’s my first preference. I think the NBA is more of an urban game. That’s our demographic.”

Talking Stick Resort Arena, formerly called America West Arena when the Coyotes played there, was designed for basketball and isn’t ideal for hockey. In that way, it’s a lot like Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which hasn’t been a great fit for the Islanders.

The Coyotes recently hired a new president and CEO, Steve Patterson, whose top priority is finding the team a new home in the Phoenix area.