Pre-game reading: On Daniel Alfredsson, who used to love him some Pop-Tarts

— Up top, rumor has it that Bruins head coach Claude Julien is on the hot seat, but Darren Dreger is hearing otherwise. Boston, to be sure, is enduring a frustrating season, but the team’s underlying stats are actually quite encouraging. That being said, if the B’s miss the playoffs again, Julien could be out.

— The Ottawa Senators will raise Daniel Alfredsson’s No. 11 to the rafters tonight at Canadian Tire Centre. TSN’s James Duthie remembers the first time he met Alfredsson, all the way back in 1995, when the guy they call “Alfie” was an NHL rookie. “Television being television, we needed to get video of the kid doing something — anything — a rookie on his own in a new country would have to do. So we went to the grocery store in the adjacent building to shoot Alfredsson loading his cart with the nutritional necessities of a young hockey player. Those included: Pop-Tarts and, err, well that was actually it. Just a lot of Pop-Tarts.” (TSN)

Artemi Panarin on his two-year extension with the Chicago Blackhawks: “Chicago gave me a chance to play at the very high level. I like everything about the team and the environment here. You can’t earn all the money in the world.” Granted, the ‘Hawks are still in a cap crunch, but Panarin’s extension at least buys them some time to shed salary. Maybe they can unload Marcus Kruger on Vegas, which will need to get to the cap floor somehow. The real key for the ‘Hawks will be for their rookies to keep improving. So far this season, they’ve been too reliant on their stars for scoring. And when its comes to the playoffs, it’s a lot easier to stop a two-line team than a three- or four-line team. (Chicago Tribune)

— Speaking of four-line teams, here’s a good, analytical piece on the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have a guy with 14 goals, Sam Gagner, on their fourth line. “Columbus has kept Gagner down as the 11th-most used forward on the team at even strength, limiting his defensive exposure by having him play against weaker competition for shorter stretches of time. However, when the team goes on the power play, he’s been called upon far more frequently, seeing his usage spike all of the way up to third.” (Sportsnet)

— A story about a memorabilia collector in Toronto whose “1,000-square-foot basement, in a stately three-story home in the Forest Hill neighborhood, houses what is believed to be the world’s largest collection of Toronto Maple Leafs artifacts.” In said basement, “one will find more than 2,000 pieces, including game-worn sweaters from as far back as the 1930s, but also photographs, pucks, sticks, contracts, documents and the original door to the dressing room at the old Maple Leaf Gardens, signed in blue ink by about 60 former Leafs.” (New York Times)

— For the first time in a long time, there are no Newfoundlanders playing regularly in the NHL. And you know what? That’s really too bad. “Look, if you make the NHL from Ontario or Quebec or B.C., it is just not the same impact as a kid from Newfoundland and Labrador making it, because everybody from Newfoundland and Labrador, no matter if they like hockey or not, will follow that kid.” The good news? A couple of kids from St. John’s were drafted in June, one by the Blackhawks, another by the Blues. (National Post)

Enjoy the games!

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    Sheary’s agent — who’s also Dumoulin’s agent — hoping to avoid arbitration

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    Conor Sheary‘s agent is hopeful that an arbitration hearing won’t be needed with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    And that same agent has reason to be optimistic, since he’s also the agent for Brian Dumoulin, who settled at the last minute today.

    “Each (case) is so different,” Andrew Gross told the Post-Gazette this morning. “Ultimately, though, team and player would like to avoid going in that room. It’s not a pleasant experience.”

    Sheary’s hearing isn’t scheduled until Aug. 4. The 25-year-old forward is coming off a 53-point regular season. In his young NHL career, he’s already won two Stanley Cups.

    That said, the Penguins can’t afford to break the bank on an extension. After all, a big reason for their success has been having players like Sheary on affordable deals — a necessity with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, and Kris Letang taking up so much cap space.

    Sheary wasn’t all that productive in the 2017 playoffs either, scoring just two goals with five assists in 22 games, while finishing a team-worst minus-5 for the postseason.

    “We’re prepared to go to arbitration,” Pens GM Jim Rutherford said last week.

    Of course, Rutherford was also speaking about Dumoulin, and the two sides were able to reach an agreement on him.

    You can probably expect a similar outcome with Sheary.

    Just don’t bet the house on it.

    Preds avoid arbitration with Austin Watson

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    Another narrowly avoided arbitration to pass along.

    The Nashville Predators have signed forward Austin Watson to a three-year, $3.3 million contract that will pay him $1 million next season, $1.1 million in 2018-19 and $1.2 million in 2019-20.

    Watson’s hearing was scheduled for today.

    From the press release:

    Watson, 25 (1/13/92), set career highs in goals (5), assists (7), points (12), penalty minutes (99) and games played (77) during the 2016-17 season as he established himself as an integral member of the Nashville roster. The 6-foot-4, 204-pound winger then added four goals and nine points in 22 postseason contests as the Predators advanced to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. Watson also appeared in 57 games for the Predators during the 2015-16 season, recording three goals and 10 points.

    The Pittsburgh Penguins also avoided an arbitration hearing today by signing defenseman Brian Dumoulin to a six-year contract.

    Spooner seeking $3.85 million in arbitration

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    Ryan Spooner‘s arbitration hearing with the Boston Bruins is scheduled for Wednesday. And if it goes ahead, it could be a rather contentious one.

    According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Spooner is seeking $3.85 million on a one-year deal, while the B’s are thinking almost half that at $2 million.

    Spooner, a 25-year-old forward, will certainly be able to sell his offensive statistics. He had 49 points in 2015-16, then 39 points last season.

    “Ryan’s a talented player,” said GM Don Sweeney, per CSNNE.com. “He’s had a lot of success. Our power play is better when he plays as well as he’s capable of playing, and he can really be a good complement to our group.”

    But the knock on Spooner has always been his defensive play. The past two seasons, he’s a combined minus-17. Back in May, it was reported that the B’s were entertaining trade offers for him.

    Spooner’s last contract paid him $1.9 million over two years.

    Dumoulin agrees to six-year contract with Penguins

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    Brian Dumoulin won’t need his arbitration hearing today.

    The Pittsburgh Penguins announced this morning that the 25-year-old defenseman has agreed to terms on a six-year contract with a $4.1 million cap hit.

    From the press release:

    Dumoulin, 25, has been a key component to the Penguins’ back-to-back Stanley Cup championships, as he played in all 49 playoff games in that span, and recorded 14 points (3G-11A). In the 2017 playoffs, Dumoulin had an average ice time of 21:59 minutes, the most of any Penguins skater, and his plus-9 paced all team defenders. He assisted on Carl Hagelin‘s empty-net goal that sealed the 2-0 victory in the decisive Game 6 of the Cup Final against Nashville. 

    Dumoulin is coming off of a contract that paid him just $800,000 in each of the past two seasons.

    With Dumoulin signed, Pittsburgh now has five defenseman under contract for at least the next three seasons, the other four being Kris Letang, Justin Schultz, Olli Maatta, and Matt Hunwick.

    The Pens still have one more arbitration case in forward Conor Sheary. His hearing is scheduled for Aug. 4.

    Related: Without Letang, the ‘simple bunch’ gets it done for Penguins