PHT Morning Skate: Jonathan Toews has to wear a team USA jersey

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— Team USA took home the World Junior Championship this past week with a shootout win over Canada in the gold medal game (featured in the video above).

That result meant Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, a regular on the Canadian national team over the years and a two-time gold medal winner at both the World Juniors and Olympics, had to pay up on his bet with teammate Patrick Kane and put on a Team USA jersey.

He does not look thrilled about it.

— The Colorado Avalanche made a waiver claim this week when they picked up forward Matt Nieto from the San Jose Sharks.

There was apparently at least one other team that had an interest in adding Nieto. That team: The Ottawa Senators. According to Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Citizen the Senators put in a claim on Nieto in an effort to add some forward depth to their roster but lost out on getting him because the Avalanche had the top waiver priority. Nieto has zero goals and two assists in 17 games this season with the Sharks and Avalanche. [Ottawa Citizen]

— St. Louis Blues goaltender Carter Hutton found a new and very interesting use for the batting cages at Busch Stadium. [St. Louis Blues]

— Another look at the declining number of enforcers in the NHL. [Associated Press]

— Former Boston Bruins great Milt Schmidt passed away this past week at the age of 98. At the time of his passing he was the oldest living former NHL player. That title now belongs to Chick Webster, a former member of the New York Rangers. He is 96. [The Hockey News]

— After not playing in an NHL game since the 2014-15 season Liam O’Brien might get an opportunity to play for the Washington Capitals against the Montreal Canadiens. His strong play in Hershey (18 points — five goals, 13 assists — in 28 games) earned him a call-up to the NHL. [Washington Post]

— The California Golden Seals were honored in San Jose over the weekend on the 50th anniversary of their entrance into the NHL at the start of the 1967-68 season. They were one of six teams to enter the league that year along with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues and Minnesota North Stars. [NHL]

— The Minnesota Wild were 2-1 winners over the Ducks in Bruce Boudreau’s return to Anaheim. Check out the highlights.

Hurricanes give Di Giuseppe a two-way deal for 2017-18

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The Carolina Hurricanes signed forward Phil Di Giuseppe to a one-year, two-way contract on Thursday.

The team announced that Di Giuseppe’s deal is worth $725K at the NHL level and $125K in the AHL in 2017-18.

Di Giuseppe, 23, was the 38th pick of the 2012 NHL Draft. He’s been getting some looks at the NHL level with Carolina:

2015-16: 17 points in 41 games
2016-17: seven points in 36 games

He’s also been splitting time between the AHL and NHL lately, so a two-way deal works well enough.

Carolina doesn’t have much more to do on the free agent front, but that doesn’t mean that their off-season is wrapped up, as there’s still that whole ownership situation to settle.

Habs president Molson pens glowing farewell letter to Markov

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Another bold move by GM Marc Bergevin, another statement from Montreal Canadiens president/CEO Geoff Molson.

However Molson actually feels about the franchise’s decision to let Andrei Markov leave for the KHL, he provided quite the goodbye letter regarding the 38-year-old defenseman. One can’t help but wonder how Molson feels about Montreal’s overall makeover, whether you believe Mark Streit is really “replacing” Markov or not.

Anyway, that will need to wait. In the meantime, here’s the very kind statement from Molson to Markov:

“On behalf of the entire organization, I would like to thank Andrei for his great contributions during his 16 seasons as a proud member of the Montreal Canadiens. Arguably one of the best defensemen in franchise history, Andrei was a model of dedication to the great game of hockey. A respected figure around the league and among his teammates, Andrei demonstrated leadership both on and off the ice. Andrei’s commitment to our franchise was second to none, proven by his overcoming three serious and potentially career-ending injuries. I would like to wish Andrei the best of luck in the next step of his career, and happiness with his family.”

Speaking of Canadiens all-timers, Larry Robinson had plenty of nice things to say about Markov, too.

Related

Markov, Habs officially part ways.

Markov is headed to the KHL.

Sabres re-sign Eichel’s buddy Rodrigues for two years

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The Buffalo Sabres might have signed Evan Rodrigues back in 2015 in part because he enjoyed so much success as a college linemate with Jack Eichel at Boston University, but the undrafted forward seems like he’s making a case that he’ll be a part of their future in his own right.

The Sabres handed Rodrigues a two-year deal that is two-way in 2017-18 and one-way in 2018-19. Whenever he’s at the NHL level, it’s worth $650K per season.

Rodrigues debuted in 2015-16, scoring a goal and an assist in two games. He managed to play in 30 regular-season contests for the Sabres last season, collecting six points.

He’s shown quite a bit of improvement at the AHL level, in particular. After collecting 30 points in 72 games for the Rochester Americans in 2015-16, he scored 30 again in 2016-17, although he only needed 48 contests to do so. Rodrigues isn’t quite Matt Moulson to Eichel’s John Tavares just yet, but it’s possible that he might at least develop into a regular NHL player.

Buffalo’s work isn’t done for the summer just yet, as RFAs Zemgus Girgensons and Nathan Beaulieu still need deals.

Andrei Markov opts for KHL after saying goodbye to Canadiens

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Andrei Markov wanted to play his entire career with the Montreal Canadiens. With that option officially off the table, Markov announced that he’s headed for Russia and the KHL.

“I didn’t see myself with any other NHL team,” Markov said during a conference call wrapping up his lengthy stay with the Habs. “I didn’t see myself wearing another jersey.”

(At least not the jersey of another NHL team.)

The 38-year-old also noted that he hasn’t closed the door to a return to Montreal. That makes sense since it seems like it was largely the Canadiens’ decision to part ways with Markov, essentially replacing him with Mark Streit at a heavily discounted rate.

Beyond the comforts of home, Markov was almost certainly motivated to play in the KHL because of the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The veteran blueliner did not mention which KHL team he’ll end up playing for. There were some rumblings that Markov might sign with the Florida Panthers, but that turned out to not be true.

If it’s a one-year deal, a return to the Habs is at least feasible in 2018-19. Considering his age, it sure seems like this is the end of Markov’s lengthy run with the Canadiens, though.