PHT Morning Skate: NHLers react to Sunday’s thrilling Super Bowl finish

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–Wayne Gretzky and Anze Kopitar first met a few years ago on a golf course, and they continue to be friends to this day. Kopitar, who has named captain of the Kings over the summer, has counted on Gretzky’s experience to help him adapt to his new leadership position. “What I do is try to fish for some stories on how he would have done things, how he handled stuff. I try not to impose too much. He’s so gracious…I don’t want him to feel I’m taking advantage by any means. He’s the one guy…when he talks, everybody listens.” (NHL.com)

–Former NHLers Scott Fitzgerald, Brian Bradley, Scott Mellanby, Andrew Brunette, Ray Ferraro and Doug Wilson were, at some point, all selected by teams as part of the expansion to the Sun Belt. Each player has some pretty interesting stories about playing in non-traditional hockey markets. “There was a hotel in Burlingame, Calif. One of our famous trainers Tommy Woodcock lived out of the hotel,” said Wilson. “There was a little sports bar in there called Knuckles, and he would hold court in there. A lot of the fans would come there after games, and we as players would go there after. Here we are sitting and drinking and talking hockey, and with our fans that were just at our games. That happened a lot.” (The Hockey News)

–The Montreal Canadiens have been one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference this season, and with under a month remaining before the trade deadline, TSN’s Darren Dreger reports that Marc Bergevin will be “all-in”. Dreger also touched on the Blues and their willingness to deal a guy like Kevin Shattenkirk, who is a pending UFA. Interestingly enough, he mentions that coaches and general managers around the league view Shattenkirk as more of a power play specialist than a top four defenseman. (TSN.ca)

–On Sunday, the Washington Capitals continued showing why they’re one of the powers of the NHL, as they dismantled the Los Angeles Kings by a score of 5-0. Philipp Grubauer made 38 saves in the shutout win. You can watch the highlights of the game by clicking the video at the top of the page.

Lawson Crouse’s father, Mike, was pretty fired up after watching his son drop the gloves in Saturday night’s game against the San Jose Sharks. Dad even waved a Coyotes jersey (with his family name on the back) like it was a flag. This is pretty funny stuff. (The Score)

–Former Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Joe Watson is organizing a series of hockey games in Russia, including an outdoor contest on Moscow’s Red Square. One of the people invited to play against the Flyers, is Russian president Vladimir Putin, who had eight goals in an exhibition games against NHL alumni back in 2015. “They never release Putin’s schedule until 24 hours before because of security reasons, so Putin, if he’s around, he wants to play the game against us.” (USA Today)

–NHL players reacted to yesterday’s thrilling Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons:

Video: Whoa, this is one sweet Mike Hoffman backhand goal

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Monday’s game won’t help the Ottawa Senators defy critics about last season running on luck, at least in that it doesn’t count in the standings.

Senators sniper Mike Hoffman didn’t seem to care.

Hoffman owned last night’s pre-season NHL highlight reel (sorry Nico Hischier), scoring two very different goals.

The best one can be viewed in the video above this post’s headline, as he burst through the Maple Leafs defense for a ridiculous backhander on the rush. Wow.

His first of the night was memorable for a different reason, as Hoffman shook off a near-miss (eventually) to score this goal.

Weird/cool/good, indeed.

Prediction: Hoffman will score a lot of goals that will “count” in 2017-18, too.

Wild extend captain Mikko Koivu’s contract for two years, $11M

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Minnesota Wild fans fearing that the 2017-18 season could be Mikko Koivu‘s last can breathe a sigh of relief, and that suspense didn’t even carry into opening night.

Instead, the Wild signed Koivu to a two-year contract extension worth $11 million.

That $5.5M cap hit kicks in during the 2018-19 campaign and ends after 2019-20. It represents a minor cut in pay for Koivu, as he’s entering the final year of a deal with a $6.75M cap hit.

Koivu, 34, enjoyed a strong first season under Bruce Boudreau, becoming a Selke finalist for the first time in his underrated career. He’s been Minnesota’s captain since 2008-09.

Koivu’s deal would qualify as a 35+ contract, according to Cap Friendly.

The Finnish forward likely valued stability, maybe taking a little less in AAV for the sake of peace of mind.

This continues a busy week-or-so for the Wild, who also broke their impasse with RFA Marcus Foligno by handing him a four-year, $11.5M deal.

Opinion: this Koivu deal is a much, much easier decision to justify, even taking into account his advanced age.

Predators captain announcement looming; they have some great options

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Multiple reporters* indicate that the Nashville Predators will name their captain (and alternates) on Wednesday.

Mike Fisher briefly held the title, and before him, Shea Weber wore the “C.” Both were safe, obvious choices; this time around, there are some intriguing options. The Tennessean’s Adam Vignan reports that the Predators themselves realize that there are quite a few logical captains in their midst (which probably isn’t a bad problem to have).

“It’s totally different this time around,” Pekka Rinne said. “I think Mike last year, I think everybody saw that coming. Everybody agreed. Everybody was really comfortable with it. I think now we have, in my opinion, at least four great options to choose from.”

Note: the Predators would be wise not to pull a Canucks with Roberto Luongo as captain experiment, even if Rinne’s easily one of the team’s leaders.

Some of the most obvious options include young-yet-veteran defenseman Roman Josi, big-dollar-center Ryan Johansen, and star blueliner P.K. Subban.

(Honestly, though, it’s difficult to imagine Subban wearing the “C” after all the weird, Listerine-scented stuff with the media happened during the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.)

As strong as those options are, it sure feels like Josi is the favorite, especially since he’s been around longer than Subban, Johansen, and Viktor Arvidsson.

Vegas oddmakers agree:

And so do reporters covering the team on a day-to-day basis:

One moment of devil’s advocacy, though: Subban, Johansen, Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg, and Mattias Ekholm all have more term on their contracts than Josi, who is a bargain at $4M for three more seasons.

OK, that’s kind of a weak argument, but hey … sometimes it’s a pain to have to deal with captain questions so often, and you never know if the team might determine that Josi is expendable, considering their deep war chest on the blueline.

Nah, Josi’s probably the easy and correct choice. Right?

* – Including Cory Curtis of WKRN-TV and Justin Bradford of 102.5 The Game.

Duchene dusts off ‘one day at a time’ for Avalanche trade questions

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The Denver Post’s Mike Chambers posted an exclusive video interview with Matt Duchene, who was verbose …

… Compared to the terse statement he provided, without questions, last week regarding what must seem to him like ubiquitous Colorado Avalanche trade rumors.

Check out Duchene’s comments in the video below, which seem to mix saying a lot of the right things – and finding a new way to use the “one day at a time” cliche – with a little bit of edge that makes you wonder how well he’ll contain his frustration in other situations.

How often will he be available for such questioning on the road, particularly in big media markets and/or around reporters covering teams who’ve long been connected to Duchene?

Either way, Chambers’ video is another reminder that, for all the times people roll their eyes at canned responses during press conferences and locker-room interviews, reporters can get less-guarded moments where you can parse out greater truths.

(And, hey, it’s nice to give Duchene a chance to make faces that seem a little less … depressed?)

Chambers transcribes an especially intriguing part at the end of the interview (click here for more transcriptions from Chambers at the Denver Post, if video isn’t an option or your preference).

What if he’s not traded? “I’m not looking that far (ahead),” he said. “I’m taking one day at a time.”

Hmm, interesting, right?

/Refreshes the #FreeDuchene hashtag.